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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cheap Chicken Turning Tricks

I have not blogged in awhile and last night while I was cooking dinner I wondered why.  Maybe it is because I didn't carry my project into winter.  I have not been to a farmer's market in some time.  I never canned or froze the food I had set out to in the beginning of all this.  Do I feel like a failure?  Not really.  It was a big project, especially for someone who lacks a green thumb like I do.  I learned some valuable lessons in food along the way, opened up my eyes to consumer waste, and met some great people along the way.  I hope to continue and develop my journey more this coming spring and summer.

But here we are in February, where the cold winter days and grayness that surrounds tends to take their toll.  We have had a mild winter for the Midwest and evenings that are usually filled with comfort foods like chili, casseroles, and soups haven’t made it to the plate that often.

I can’t blame the dusty Crockpot this winter completely on the mild weather days.  In part it has been to an uneasy stomach through the first 5 months of a pregnancy.  I would be much better off if I was feeling this lousy when there are fresh fruit and vegetables available down at the market because that is what I seem to do best with.
With the planning and prepping for a baby comes a close look at your budget.  The farmer’s market is a great place to get reasonably priced goodies, but the grocery store this time of year it becomes costly.

In my desire to cut costs I have been hitting up stores like Save-A-Lot and Aldi’s.  I am not knocking either of them.  They have some great items at lower costs then my main grocery store, Hy-Vee.  Like, for example, bananas.  I found them at Hy-Vee for 49 cents a bunch.  They aren’t organic, but either are the ones at Hy-Vee. 

What made me decide to blog last night was my second attempt to buy and cook chicken. I have been buying pretty exclusively organic chicken for the past year.  I wait for there to be a sale on Bare Naked or Smart Chicken and buy it up.  I looked at the prices at Save-A-Lot and didn’t resist the temptation to buy 3lbs of chicken for $4.89.  I could barely look at the extra large plumped up breasts, swimming in chicken fluid, when I took it out of the package and threw it in the pan.  I imagined the 40 pound chicken going to slaughter (because to get breasts this size it would almost have to be).  It took forever for it to cook, but I was able to get two meals, feeding three adults out of the package.  The taste…? It just wasn’t there.

So here I am with my dilemma.  I know that the chicken isn’t going to kill me, the extra sodium I could do without but American’s buy it day in and day out.  Am I compromising a value to save a few bucks?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Jeremy, pass me the salad pot please"

After losing a lot of great Farmer's Market weekends with an injury that laid me up for weeks I have been very disappointed in what little of my experiment I accomplished.  In April I had big dreams that by down my freezer would of been stocked and our basement pantry shelf would be lined with goods. Maybe that was a dream a little too out of reach, I have never tried to properly preserve or freeze foods before.

I am not completely down on myself.  For all the weeks I was not out of town or injured I made it faithfully.  Twice in the rain and once on crutches....and even more times with a hangover, getting up earlier than I ever would want to on a lazy Saturday.

Looking forward, I am still not at a place I can devote the attention I need to a fall garden nor the skill level.  Not sold on CSA's yet, I love the idea but not the limitations on food selection in fall/winter.  One thing I am going to attempt is growing some different salad greens in some plant pots.  Won't be a full investment in gardening, but it might be a nice trial run  to see if I have any sort of green thumb.  www.bhg.com has some great container ideas, including pots (that I have failed to grow flowers in) that might be enough to keep the rabbits out and get a healthy side item on the dinner table each night.

Lettuce was one of those things that was hard for me to keep up with at the farmer's market.  I always got some much of it and then trying to wash it and keep it non-wilted by the end of the week to get a few lunches out of it wasn't working for me.  maybe going out and plucking off a meals work will.  We will see!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why did the chicken cross the road?

After reading a frightening article on how much saline is pumped into chicken breasts, such as Tyson (those chickens are some 34- DD's) I haven't been so quick to fall for a $1.99 per pound sale.  If you don't believe me, check for yourself.  Pick up a thing of Tyson or your store brand and compare it to the organic brands-big differences in the sodium content.

You will notice a taste difference as well.  The chicken cooks cleaner.  It might not look as if you are getting a lot for your money, but per pound you are paying for water with the other brands.  My favorite brand is Just Bare.  A neat feature of buying their brand is you can trace the package back to the farm the chicken came from.

In my efforts to buy as much local products as I can, chicken is one that I can get locally but will not be making the switch to.  First of all, it is very difficult to find local chicken already broke down (or cut up).  You can primarily buy it whole. The processing for a farmer to have it be butchered is very expensive, so that cost will be your costs as well.  I would love to say I had more of a reason to not buy whole chickens and break them down myself but my reasoning is pure selfishness.  For one, I have an almost irrational fear of raw chicken.  I am surprised I can cook with it at all, but usually if I can slide it from its packaging on to a plate and then use tongs I am good to cook with it.  Getting all up in one's cavity would probably have me scrubbing myself and my kitchen for days.  Which leads to the 2nd reason, time.  I don't have time to process chicken.

Buying organic chicken will raise the cost of your grocery bill but be on the look out for sales.  Just bare usually runs $4.99-$6 a pound at Hy-Vee.  I try to pick up 3 or 4 packages when it goes on sale.  It still isn't ever a $1.99 but it is worth the difference in taste and texture.

So now that you had to read through this boring blog just to finally have the eternal question of why the chicken crossed the road answered I guess I will let you in on the fact I already have.

To get breast implants.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Breakfast at Sunrise

The following weekend I surprised Jeremy with a farm fresh breakfast.  We found an awesome guy at City Market that we try to always buy from.  I got eggs from him.  I had been very weird-ed out by eggs that aren't refrigerated but decided to go for it, started out by only cooking with them (adding them in recipes that called for eggs).  I finally got up the courage to make some omelets.  I was so ecstatic to see the bright and beautiful shades of yellow & orange of my finished omelet. It was as beautiful as the morning sky was that same spring day!  In the omelet, and also from the market was: grilled zucchini, tomato, and green onion.  On the side some turkey bacon and a tall glass of Shatto milk.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I would walk 500 miles....

Actually I wouldn't.  No way, wouldn't make it.  I barely make it 3 miles in this heat.  I don't feel bad about it, our two dogs want to take a rest after a 3 mile walk in June.

I will however buy and cook food grown within 500 miles of where I live.  I was very pleased two weeks ago to finally have made an almost complete meal from locally grown foods, and I did much better than the 500 mile DGD (day-goods-distance) allowance.  Everything from the milk, herbs, and vegetables are were grown within a 2 hour drive from my house.  The only thing I didn't get locally was the chicken but it was organic.  here is what was on the menu:

Honey broiled chicken (honey was local)
smashed red potatoes and turnips (Shatto milk used)
Sauteed snap peas

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wooden Money

I found myself at the market and without cash on Saturday.  I know better than to head down without getting some cash first but my mind was not in it Saturday (Memorial weekend).  Even though I didn't want to think about the ATM fee's I tried it anyways but the ATM was out of order.

Then I remember reading on some promotional flier that you could use your ATM card and in exchange get these wooden tokens that the vendors would take.  I was pretty excited about this!  For one, it only charged me a dollar, much cheaper than the ATM would charge.  Two, I know there has been a big push for people on food stamps to eat healthier and they started this program so they could swipe their food stamp card for these wooden tokens. As someone who works with the poor each day at a place with a food pantry I am always pushing for healthier eating amongst my clients.  I have told several of them already about this program without knowing how it works myself.

The wooden tokens are sold in $5 increments so I got $20 worth.  (If I am planning and don't get carried away this is about what I spend.).  The first vendor I went up to wouldn't take my token and he looked at me a little irritated I would even offer.  I went up to the next booth and asked if they would take it and they did, no problems.  I found myself needing to explain that I wasn't poor but the ATM was broken and that is why all I had to offer was wooden money.  I continually found myself needing to explain it to every other booth I went to. One lady frowned at me and said "I guess", begrudgingly taking the round piece no bigger than a half dollar. The only person who smiled when taking it was a long haired, skinny man reminding all of us we are addicted to Monsanto and don't even know it.  He actually seemed delighted in the form of currency.

I made it through my $20 finally, even getting $3 back in green paper money to spend elsewhere.