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Archive for the ‘Meals’ Category

How Does Your Garden Grow

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This morning when I woke up it was 5 degrees in the Midwest.  So like all crazy mid-westerners I thought today would be a great day to start planning our garden.  We moved last summer, so this year we will start from scratch at our new home.  As we are planning the new garden space, the very first thing we need to do is call about where all of the underground cables are on the property.  Anytime you are starting a new garden space, this needs to happen so you don’t accidently hit a utility line.  You can call 811 from anywhere in the United States to get this information.  Once this is done, we will plot out where the garden will be.

We will have two distinct garden plots.  The first plot will be our vegetable garden.  For this plot, we will have an “early” garden.  The early garden will consist of lettuce, radishes and onions.  We sow the lettuce and radishes directly in the ground.  We will buy the onion sets.  These are great early vegetables as they prefer the cool nights we have in the spring.  I found this great chart online with a calendar for planting in your particular area http://www.burpee.com/gygg/growingCalendarNoZipCode.jsp.

Soon, we will also start some seedlings inside for transplanting later in the Spring when they will be ready. We did this last year for the first time and had some success.  I am planning on starting some herbs (basil and cilantro), peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.  We did not have great luck with tomatoes so we will likely go to the local greenhouse and buy the plants.

The second garden area will be my herb garden.  This will be our fourth year for an herb garden and I finally have the basics.  I am starting to do more on a personal level with herbs and natural remedies, so I will expand.  In the meantime, I know we will at a minimum have basil, cilantro (lots of cilantro), rosemary, and oregano.  I have begun researching other herbs that have historically grown well in our area and will expand.  At our previous home, I did the herb garden as a raised bed and thrived.  The picture at the top of the post was my very first herb garden right after it was planted.  I will probably do the same thing here.  We will also need to figure out some squirrel deterrent as there are tons of squirrels in our new neighborhood.

As the days grow longer, I know there won’t be too much more brutal weather like we are having now. I am looking forward to the warm sunshine and getting my hands in the dirt again and seeing my garden grow.

Meal Planning — Spending Less

menu planAs part of my concentrated effort to pay off my car, my dear husband and I are going back to basics of saving at the grocery store.  The first thing we did was go through the freezer and make sure our freezer inventory was up to date.  There a several ways to keep track of your inventory.  The easiest is probably to just keep it in a handwritten notebook and update as you use up the contents.  This gives us a starting place.

With the inventory in place, I now begin the week’s plan.  Normally on Sunday, we will have a larger piece of meat.  We will then take the leftovers of this and reuse in a different meal later in the week.  In this way, we don’t waste the leftovers and it doesn’t feel like we are eating leftovers every other day.

For instance, this week I am going to make roasted chicken and vegetables for Sunday’s dinner.  On Tuesday, we will take the leftovers of the chicken and make a chicken vegetable soup.  Roasted chicken is one of my favorite leftovers as there are so many ways to reuse.   This week we are making chicken vegetable soup, but we could have also used the leftovers to make enchiladas, grilled chicken for salad, chicken tacos.  The chicken I choose is a six pounder, so we will likely have enough to freeze even after we make the soup.  Any leftovers of the soup will also be frozen and I will take them in my lunch in the next 6 to 8 weeks.  Because it is still cold, we will also have chili this week.  When we make chili we make a huge pot.  My dear husband shares with friends and relatives, we will eat leftovers and we will freeze some for later.

At our home, we plan the menu together and make our grocery list based on the plan.  We also keep a list on the fridge of staples we are low on so we don’t forget, or worse get to the grocery and say “do we need _____” and end up overspending buying stuff we don’t need.  If there is a really good deal on a staple we love, we will stock up a bit.  However, we try not to have too much more than we will use in a month’s time.  We like to shop together, as this makes us more accountable.  We never ever go hungry — we always overspend when we are hungry.

During the week my dear husband does all of the cooking, following the plan. Using a dry/erase marker, I put the menu on the fridge for him.

I made a magnetic border for the fridge using duct tape and magnetic strips.  I don’t think it is Pinterest quality, but it does the job.

tools for menu board

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Harvest Yummies

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It finally stopped raining here long enough for us to get into the garden and start reaping some of our bounty.  The radishes look so yummy.  We are planning on having them and the fresh onions later today as a snack.  I also love them in a nice lettuce salad.  Although our planted lettuce is not quite ready, but with the warm weather we are supposed to have later this week I expect we will have lettuce by the weekend.  We are also going to cut some fresh cilantro shortly and make up a little salsa.

Although we are lucky and have a nice patch for our garden, you really don’t need a lot of space.  We have a lot of our garden planted, as most of the danger of frost is past (although last night it was close).  We are going to plant a few more tomatoes, peppers and broccoli today.

If you would like to give a try at container gardening, I am including a link to a great website I found for urban gardening:  http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/random-acts-of-gardening/7-container-gardening-tips.aspx.

Get out enjoy the sunshine and this beautiful Spring day we have today.  Summer is just around the corner.

 

 

What Earth Day Means to Me

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Everyone has different views about Earth Day.  Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, Earth day used to mean “hippies”.  Now that I am older and wiser, I know it means having a great respect for Mother nature.  I am very fortunate, as I grew up in a farming community very close to a big city.  So I really have had the best of both worlds.  Growing up with farmers taught me not to take food for granted — it does not just magically appear on your store shelf.  Growing up with lots of opportunity to go to the City taught me there are a lot of other people in the world with different food tastes other than just meat and potatoes.

When I was growing up, my grandparents lived in the City so there wasn’t much of a garden.  However, I do remember we did only get fruits and vegetables that were local to our area and they were always very fresh.  When I was in my early 20’s I had the opportunity to learn from a wonderful woman how to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables.  I learned how to can tomatoes and green beans.  I learned how to preserve strawberries (which grow very nicely in our area and are delicious fresh off the plant).  I learned how to make homemade jelly (you can’t buy anything at the store like homemade). From my grandmother, I also can make a killer pie — nothing is better than a cherry pie made with the tart cherries grown around here.  By the way, the Midwest grows pretty good apples too.

Now that I am in the second chapter of my life with my new husband, I plan to get back to my early adulthood a bit.  This year, my dear husband and I plan to expand our garden a bit more and can all those wonderful vegetables we are growing (some from seed).  We are also planting more heirloom vegetables than we have in the past.  We are going to expand our herb garden and I am going to really try to dry more of those wonderful herbs this year.  We are also going to create a real compost pile this year.  It won’t be anything fancy, it will not be expensive — but it will get the job done.

We are going to expand the beautiful flowers in our yard.  This I am doing all by seed.  Yesterday, we dug all his old bird feeders out and filled them to treat our feather friends.

Our plans for the summer and fall include canning tomatoes, salsa and pasta sauce with vegetables grown from our garden.  This year I AM going to figure out how to keep cilantro and basil through the winter….

We also love to take Saturday morning and visit our local farmers market.  If we are really ambitious, we will drive up towards Michigan and stop at the great local places along the way (particularly during blueberry season).  Both of us have done many of these things in the past, but with the two of us working towards the same goal we will be so much more successful.

So to bring this all back to my original topic — Earth Day probably means something different to everyone.  For me it is to respect the land, respect our food.

What’s for Dinner Sweetie?

How often do you hear “what’s for dinner sweetie”?  Over the last few months, we have begun meal planning.  We were looking for a way to save on our grocery bill, as it seemed like were spending a lot on groceries and not really getting much bang for our buck.  Not only do we always know “what’s for dinner,” we are saving lots of money. 

The first thing we did was do an inventory of our freezer.  Because I’m a bit of a nerd, I put it in a spreadsheet to keep better track.  You don’t really need to go that far, just putting it on paper and marking out as you use it will work just fine. This will be your best friend for your meal planning. I am planning on inventorying the pantry next. 

The first month we did this, we only spent about $100 for groceries for two people.  Now, each Saturday we sit down and plan out our meals for the whole week.  We incorporate any fresh food we have, as well as meat and other food already in our freezer.  We really try to cook as much from scratch as possible. There are many things you can cook in under 30 minutes with good planning. 

Because it is just the two of us, we end up with leftovers.  For chili, soups and stew, we freeze leftovers into single-serving containers and one-meal sized containers.  We can then pull these out of the freezer and pack in my lunch, or have a quick meal.  Today for instance, Larry worked away from the house.  At 5:00, we decided we would have chili and sandwiches.  Because we had it in the freezer, dinner was ready in about 30 minutes with no mess. 

We do buy fresh fruits and vegetables and incorporate them in our cooking.  Depending on your area, and the types of fruits and vegetables you buy, going to grocery once a week is probably enough.  When you go to the grocery, make sure you have a list and just enough cash for what you need so you don’t buy extra.  We are trying to buy less “junk” food which is not only bad for you, but can be expensive.

Look forward to sharing some of our delicious meals soon.

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