questionable decisions made this week

Poor people supposedly have poor decision making skills. I might be demonstrating that well.

Like going back to college. Poor people are told that they need to get themselves educated, so this seems like a brilliant idea. I did indeed apply. I’m already “educated” and have a paper degree that says I learned some things but that’s beside the point. I decided I needed to go get another degree after seeing countless jobs I wanted to apply for recently that I didn’t have the right degree or qualifications for. Funny though…I usually had enough experience, although most of it is unpaid & volunteer work.

So, I’m going back to college, even though I’m poor AF and can’t even help my daughter pay her monstrous tuition (she goes to one of the most expensive colleges in the country and does get a massive fin aid & scholarship package but STILL….ugh) . I also can’t get a loan, so that should be interesting. Maybe those annoying people who tell us poor people that “If there’s a will,there’s a way!” are right and I’ll figure it all out by sheer will.

In September I will be here asking for math help and crying about what a horrible idea it was to even think I could do it. You’ll see.

I also cancelled my life insurance policy this week because I needed the cash surrender amount for pay bills and the last 2 months, that insurance payment has caused my bank account to be overdrawn and cost me $50 in bank fees that I didn’t have.
This means I can’t ever die now, which would be fine with me but if I’m going to live forever, I’d like to not be poor. How do vampires live such opulent lifestyles?

But really, I knocked on wood which should keep me safe from death and anyway, all I want is to be cremated in a cardboard box . Frugal to the end.

On a lighter note, I’m currently on duckling and gosling watch here on our rented homestead. No signs yet. Grown up geese and ducks have been quieter than usual, so maybe that’s the calm before the fluff?
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They’re nesting on the island in the middle of the pond (or lake,if you ask the neighbors)

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My coffee drinking, waterfowl watching bench . This is the extent of my good decision making lately.

All photos courtesy of my daughter and stolen from her instagram.


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food we ate, april 4 til now

Well,honestly – this isn’t ALL the food we ate. I forget to take pictures or I’m too tired or my house is chaosville. Most meals were  made w/ things we got at the food pantry 2 weeks ago . We did do minor grocery shopping for basics. I had two crying meltdowns that were food related – one because the ground beef from the food pantry was spoiled and the other because bread dough (honey wheat oat…the one I make the most) didn’t rise.

About the crying – I never cry. Maybe once or twice a year. The advantage to this is that people who know me know that when I’m crying, it’s super important. Lately? I cry over every damn thing. Dearest says, “It must be hormones.” And I said, “No, I think this is who I am now.” To his credit, he didn’t even flinch. I notice this has been a gradual thing as I’m getting older. I cry if something is impossibly cute or beautiful or horribly sad and tragic. Bread dough not rising and spoiled meat  are probably not the most tragic things but it was in my world on the days it happened.

Anyway…on to the food.

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This was something I’m calling Loaded Potato Casserole. I diced potatoes, rinsed them, then coated them in a packet of “chili seasoning” that I found in the pantry. I added a can of pinto beans and baked the whole thing for 25 minutes or so. I threw cheese on at the end. The chives on top are super fresh. I harvested them from the garden…. the day after we got 6 inches of snow.

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Poor chives. They were looking pretty sad after the snow but have bounced back since.

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Basic spaghetti loaded with chunky onion tomato sauce. This was where I cried. I wanted to make meatballs but the ground beef wasn’t good. I DON’T EVEN LIKE MEAT. What the hell?

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I’m calling this one Eggroll Bowl. I guess it’s “Deconstructed Eggroll” but ugh, hipsters and their deconstructed ethnic foods. What happened here was I thought I had 2 packages of eggroll wrappers so I went ahead and made eggroll filling before realizing there were no eggroll wrappers. No crying over this for whatever reason. I just cooked it and put it in bowls over rice.Hubby had made a pork roast for a fantasy baseball thing he went to and I put some of the leftover pork in the mix.

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“Baja Fish Tacos”. This was a taco meal kit from the food pantry. Well, the seasoning and tortillas was. The fish was from the food pantry,too. The fish we get there is frozen pollock and it’s not terrible. I’ve found it’s ideal for things like tacos or sandwiches.

The tomatoes and lettuce are from this tiny produce shop near us. It’s literally in an addition on this man’s house on one of the more traveled back roads here. His prices are great and most things are pretty local. He also has eggs, both local small farm and more factory farmed. The latter were reduced this week because he had too many so we picked up several cartons for 75 cents each. We’ve been eating a lot of breakfast-for-dinner meals.

And we still have a ton of these frozen pancakes left. When I first served them, my littlest thought I was handing him a plate of small cookies. Yeah, they do look like that.

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One of the most memorable things I made recently that I didn’t take pics of was Jim Lahey’s Potato Pizza .Because potatoes, which we have a lot of right now.
I loved it but I got mixed reactions from the rest of the family.

“It’s …..interesting.”- Husband

“I just don’t know how I feel about this.”- 15 yr old

“Don’t call it pizza. It has no sauce.” -11 yr old

“Nope.”- 5 yr old

I wish my other kids had been home. I think they would have appreciated it.

My 11 year old is an incredibly picky eater (sensory issues. No, “if he’s hungry enough,he’ll eat” doesn’t quite work here) . We accidentally discovered that he loves those stupid chunky campbell’s soups – Loaded Baked Potato,specifically. I HATE buying soap in a can because I can make it so cheaply at home. I have tried feeding him various homemade potato soups and he’s rejected most. FINALLY, I made one this past week that he loved. Bye, campbell’s chunky soup.

Used homemade broth for it,of course.
I don’t remember what I did with that chicken. Garlicked and baked,maybe?
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I still have a bazillion carrots to use. I’ll get on that this week.
I’m sure it’ll also still be pretty potato intensive.


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Pantry Anarchy: Hot Dog & Cabbage Soup (plus how to make veggie stock or broth)

Pantry Anarchy: Hot Dog & Cabbage Soup (plus how to make veggie stock or broth)
Because recipes were made to be broken when you’re broke.

 

You have no idea how much I hate hot dogs. Ask anyone,especially my boys. When they get to have hot dogs, it’s like a holiday. And of course, they love hot dogs. Lucky for them, the food pantry has hot dogs. Hooray.

One of my favorite soups is Cabbage & Sausage, so I decided to pretend hot dogs are a really lovely chorizo and make soup with them.

For this soup, I only needed onion,cabbage,potatoes,tomatoes,and hot dogs. Oh,and soup stock.

I didn’t have any pre-made broth or stock or even homemade in the freezer, so I had to make a batch of veggie stock. Veggie stock is easy to make but you just have to have a little bit of extra time to make it. I usually make a large batch at once and freeze what I’m not going to use right away. You can also can it with a pressure canner.

Instead of composting all my veggie scraps, I will add them to my veggie scrap bag in the freezer. I try not to add too many brassicas (broccoli,cabbage,etc) because they tend to overwhelm the flavoring but everything else is fair game. Potato skins,carrot peels, stems,leaves…..whatever. When the bag is full, it’s time to make stock. To make stock, you just throw all your scraps into a pot,add enough water to cover the veg, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Honestly, it’s that simple.

If you want to make broth instead of stock, saute onions,carrots,herbs in oil FIRST, and then add your veggies and water.

Broth is seasoned , stock is not. That’s the difference.

Ok, back to my Pretend Chorizo and Cabbage Soup.

To make the soup, I sauteed onions, then put 4 or 5 cups of stock in a pot with the onions. Added ¼ head of cabbage,chopped and 3-4 potatoes,diced and not peeled. Tossed in a can of crushed tomatoes and a smattering of whatever herbs I had on hand . Basil and garlic,mostly. (I am running extremely low on herbs and spices). Next, I added the hot dogs. I boiled them ahead of time to….get the nitrates out? Is this a myth that actually works? I have no idea (and can’t google right this second) but it made me feel better to do it.

And this is why I love making soup. You just throw things in a pot and pretend you know what you’re doing.

All the ingredients I used except herbs were from the food pantry but this would be a low cost meal if you’re buying ingredients. I wish there was an app that told me if I’ve mentioned something multiple times already elsewhere on the blog because I’ve probably said this a million times but during a usual shopping trip, I always buy a cabbage because they’re usually inexpensive and I can stretch it through several meals plus they dont go bad quickly. (obviously,not going to be a good tip for those in food deserts w/ little or expensive produce. Apologies.)


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Pantry Anarchy: Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas

Because recipes were made to be broken when you’re broke.

My inspiration and guidance for this recipe came from Feasting at Home’s recipe for Butternut Mole Enchiladas.

The ingredients for the original recipe are:
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To start off, I had one lonely butternut squash and a can of black beans, so in my mind I had the basics and I could wing the rest.

I did not have:

  • tortillas of any sort
  • tomato sauce
  • garlic cloves
  • chipotle chilis or adobo sauce
  • cumin – JUST finished the last of what I had
  • coriander -HILARIOUS considering the amount I grew last summer. Guess that means I have to grow even more this year
  • tahini
  • dark chocolate squares

But I DID have:

From the food pantry –

  • the aforementioned butternut squash
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • an onion
  • peanut butter

On hand-

  • garlic powder
  • colby-jack cheese
  • tap water; clean,flowing, and free of contaminates
  • soy sauce
  • a packet of “Mexican” spice mix
  • an assortment of other dried peppers and chili powders
  • salt & pepa
  • a partial bag of ghiradelli dark chocolate chips that my daughter’s boyfriend gave to her for her birthday with strawberries. I took a handful that I thought about equaled 2 oz. Shhh. Don’t tell her.
  • flour
  • oil

Enchiladas are not really enchiladas if you don’t have tortillas, so while the squash was roasting, I threw together 2 cups flour,3/4 c water,1/2 tsp salt, and 3 tbls oil in to a bowl. My youngest likes to do the kneading part (and he doesn’t even have to be reminded to wash his hands first anymore!). The dough doesn’t need to be kneading too well like yeast bread would. Just about a dozen tosses. After letting it sit for 10-15 minutes, kiddo divided it into 8 little balls. He was my “flattener” ,rolling the balls into something that looked tortilla shaped. I use a cast iron skillet to cook them in a little bit of oil. I’m probably terrible at explaining this but I bet if you go to youtube, someone has a video of how to make them.

Ahhh…like this! Although they use lard in their recipe. And I don’t have a nice tortilla warmer like that. I never even knew I wanted one until right now.

I followed the recipe for the Quick Mole Sauce substituting crushed tomatoes for tomato sauce, garlic powder for cloves (1/8 tsp for every clove), and the seasoning mix & spices in lieu of chipotle chilis. I used peanut butter instead of tahini which I thought was going to be super weird but it turned out awesome. I omitted the soy sauce entirely because my soy-sauce-hater daughter was looking over my shoulder and I knew I wouldnt get away with even a dribble of it in there.

End result:

A delicious mess on a plate.

For those who don’t know their squash varieties, this is butternut. One of my kids isn’t a fan of squash but she’ll eat (and like) butternut if it’s in something. It’s versatile and has a pumpkin-ish taste…but different. Sweeter.

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Pantry Anarchy: Oatmeal Pancakes

Pantry Anarchy: Oatmeal Pancakes
Why “Pantry Anarchy”? Because recipes were made to be broken when you’re broke.

 

I have an abundance of Maypo oatmeal packets. Judging from reactions when I showed a picture of them before, a lot of people relying on a food bank are familiar with these oatmeal packets.

Fun and useless trivia: MTV’s branding was inspired by Maypo’s ads in the 50’s. I guess they had a kid saying, “I want my Maypo!”. MTV’s 80’s version was “I want my MTV!”


There’s an unfortunate thing about these….

They don’t taste great. Even dressed up w/ jam or sweetened with brown sugar. It’s a bit of a texture thing as well as a taste issue. Did Maypo taste better in the 50’s or did they just pay that kid a lot of money to be that happy about eating it? Or maybe packets from the food bank are stale? I’m not sure what’s happening here.

Now, there’s the viewpoint that it’s better than nothing ( especially when it’s free) but as one of my favorite comic book writers Gail Simone said recently, ‘Just because something is “better than nothing” doesn’t mean it’s any good’. True story.

Still, I have a bunch of them and when life gives you oatmeal packets, throw them in a bowl and make something out of them.Or something like that.


I took my trusty oatmeal pancake recipe from The Joy of Cooking ( if you find a copy of this at a yard sale ,snatch it. It’s one of those must-have cookbooks) and futzed around with it and came up with this:

 

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Another thing I get plenty of at the food pantry is canned , unsweetened applesauce. It’s very thin and finely puréed. It’s excellent for baking and cooking. Eggs are something we don’t always have , so I try to substitute when I can. 1/4 cup applesauce = one egg.

Here is part of my highly technical process in action:


My dearest ones said they were the best pancakes I’ve ever made and were surprised the Maypo packets were in them.


The best looking pancakes were eaten by the time I got to take a picture but what I’m really showing you here is the plate. I am a super klutz and since moving, I’ve managed to break all but two of the plates we own. It’s actually a good thing I only buy second hand or get things from free piles/Freecycle.

Our food pantry has a “Give and Take Closet”. It’s a room with clothing,dishes,housewares,etc. If you need something,take it. They are very clear that if you need something, absolutely take it and don’t worry about giving something in return but I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to clear out clothing and other things from our own house when I do take something. So, these plates were something I brought home and so far, I’ve managed to not break any. Go, me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Bread Baking Economics

 

[content notes: food privilege,being broke, classism,poorsplaining, food insecurity]

We ‘ve been buying store bought bread. I used to make most of my own but when we lived in the house with no heat in most of the rooms and a 30 year old oven that didn’t work so well, I stopped doing it and never got back into the habit.

Yesterday morning we ran out of bread and there was exactly zero cents left to buy any after scraping together the rent money. Good thing I bought flour last week and have yeast and salt on hand,eh?

I was in a terrible mood because of the general circumstances of the day but then it was made worse by Pinterest. We all know Pinterest is a life ruiner. Somehow Pinterest seemed to know the exact buttons that needed pushing and placed as their “recommended for you” posts all things that had to do with “Bake Your Own Bread To Save Money!” and holy hell…. “Eat Real Food Even When You’re Poor”.

Lizzy McGuire

 

Ok, great…good for you for baking your own bread to save some money but I’m not baking bread because I’m trying to save money! I’m baking bread because I don’t have any freakin’ money in the first place!

What if I hadn’t had flour and yeast? I could make pretend bread. That would probably taste great if I put my mind to it and have a lot less calories. Really,though… I am certain some of these people don’t understand that cooking things from scratch like homemade bread requires ingredients and sometimes you don’t even have the money for the ingredients. Then what? Well, then you just go without. Like…you just don’t have that thing at all. Really. That’s a thing that happens.

And time! I work at home. I’m home all day. I am busy but I do have time I can work with. I think back to those days when I was a single mom working full time outside the house and I can just not imagine how I would have baked bread everyday with all that was going on.

Other things needed to bake bread: a working oven or bread oven, the economic ability to pay for  the utilities, the physical ability to do it.
So,then after thinking about all that,  I was mad about having to bake bread even though I LIKE baking bread. I even like kneading it, which is the one thing people seem to want to cut out of the process. It’s really therapeutic and I developed this whole routine to go along with it. I made a playlist with songs that are all 7-10 minutes in length and that’s how I measure the amount of time I need to knead. It helps keep me focused (ADHD brain here) and makes the time enjoyable.

I also went through that thing where when you don’t have money and you keep thinking back on all the things you bought that you could have done without or spent less money on. Like bread. I even did math. I quit before I had the answer to what I was trying to figure out but that’s beside the point.
I did manage to figure out that the cheapest loaf I can bake at home is about 35¢. It takes two of those loaves to equal the $2 loaf we buy. So, 70¢ for homemade versus $2 for storebought. But we tend to eat more of the homemade because it’s SOOO good (really, it’s much better), so I’m  not convinced I should have major remorse about the money spent on storebought bread.

Food pantry is open this Monday. There will probably be bread. There usually is. Bakeries and stores throw a lot out . There’s nothing wrong with it. I’ll take it.

I did make bread after all yesterday. It was awesome,thankfully.If anything had gone wrong, I probably would have flipped tables.
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My day ended up improving. I sold something, made some egg ,butter,milk money (we ran out of all 3 yesterday,too. Sheesh). Started the day with zero cents ,ended with more than zero plus good bread. Still annoyed at how the people telling poor people how to cook and spend their money don’t really get it sometimes. This morning I was listening to one of my usual podcasts and a woman introduced as a frugal foodie was on it explaining(poorsplaining) how to eat well even when you’re broke. The woman’s bio does not entail an impoverished life. Yes, bread was mentioned. The universe is determined to piss me off by putting these people in my ears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No Food Wasted: Leftover Spinach Salad= Greek-ish Omelette

The phone rang and I have ADHD, so my omelette scorched , then plain just fell apart but you’re not here for pretty food photography, right?

This is the reason I prefer to make salad with spinach than lettuce (besides that spinach has more nutritional value) .I can recycle spinach salad far easier into other foods than I can lettuce. You can throw it in wraps, pasta dishes,bake it on fish or meat… lots of possibilities.

One negative: spinach tends to be more expensive BUT I find that I can stretch a package of spinach throughout several meals and I just don’t get that with lettuce.

Both are really easy to grow if you can do that, so there’s that way of handling the whole cost issue. Still, even growing my own I would end up buying some occasionally because my small garden was not a farm that could keep up with my ridiculous family who likes to eat lots of spinach.

If I do have a salad made with lettuce, I will use up the leftover on a sandwich. But meh…