Saturday, June 04, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Some ramblings about summer cooking and Stock Up Day

Well, at least I am now getting dinner on the table without staring at the refrigerator shelves too long.  The older I get, you can kind of hear the brain squeaking like a screen door that needs some oil added to the hinges.  It takes time but eventually I can move into summer mode.

I have made a list of summer meal ideas as I think of them and it is surprising how many ideas pop up when making time to concentrate on them.  I have already had to change the way I've been budgeting for food as food prices escalate.  For instance, it is now cheaper for me to purchase a pound of rare roast beef from the deli section of Meijer that will make multiple sandwiches than to buy two fast food hamburgers (and much healthier).

Eating out has always cost more than making the same thing at home.  I know for nice dinners out it begins at twice the cost and goes up from there the pricier the restaurant.  Recently, we went out to breakfast with our son and his family and the cost for my husband and me was over $32.00, not including the tip.  For breakfast at a diner.

I have decided to revert back to what my daughter and I used to do for fun when she lived at home.  We would try to figure out how the entree we were enjoying at a restaurant was made and quite often, we could duplicate it at home the same or even better.  I think I am going to purchase my favorite breakfast skillet meal from the diner "to go" and take note of how it is assembled.

For evenings when I am particularly tired, I have begun to keep packaged salads to make for dinner, adding extra fresh vegetables. Sometimes I grill chicken breasts or tenders on the stove top grill and make enough extra for salads and other meals.  If I know we are going to have a busy week, I will also purchase a package of vegetables put together especially for stir fry meals.  If I have extra chicken, I add it to the veggies just before serving.

All of this is to be prepared to cook at home so I am not tempted to spend money on restaurant food and the gas to get into town.  These days, we only want to go to a restaurant if it is to be a special meal and not just because I am too tired to cook.  Fortunately, the hot dogs at our local drive in are still inexpensive and since they are only open in warm weather, they are still a treat to be picked up on my way home from a late appointment.

I'm still writing down warm weather quick meal ideas so I can keep the ingredients on hand.  For instance, I have a package of ground beef patties in the freezer as well as a package of hamburger buns.  I already had bacon in the refrigerator when I went to the grocery store so I bought a few tomatoes for BLT sandwiches (sometimes without the lettuce).  

My husband has been requesting fish for dinner so I purchased a bag of tilapia at Aldi last week for quick dinners.  The pantry is stocked with canned goods and other items that can be used to turn simple protein into other meals should I want to take more time making dinner.

I am purchasing the sliced sourdough bread at Aldi again but I freeze half of it when I arrive home to protect it from molding in the humidity before we can eat all of it.  It is ready for sandwiches, although I do still bake bread.

I made bread in the bread machine again last week.  As usual I set it on the dough cycle and finished it in the oven but this time I put the dough in a loaf pan instead of shaping it into a round and baking it on a sheet pan.  I like the way it gets nice and brown over most of the surface when baked on a sheet pan but I was out of sandwich bread.

Making bread in a bread machine is so easy, even for people who have fatigue issues.  Not to mention it tastes great.  Now that my favorite Aldi sliced sourdough bread is in the bread box, the rest of the homemade bread will be cut thick... Texas toast size... and used for French toast.  Hmmmmm... Texas French toast.

This week on the two Stock Up days, my "pantry purchase" was extra meat for the deep freeze.  I have some ground beef that needs to be used so I bought chicken breasts and chicken tenders.  They were shrink wrapped already and all I had to do was date the package with the date they were purchased and slip each package in a gallon size Ziploc bag to protect against freezer burn.  

I reuse the Ziploc bags for a long time by taking the package of meat out of them before placing on a plate and defrosting in the refrigerator overnight.  I have my used Ziploc bags held together with a large clip (the kind that keeps potato chip bags shut) and ready for when they are needed.  The only gallon size Ziploc bags I throw away are those that came into contact with raw meat.

Each month for awhile now, I have been trying something new that I may want to put in the pantry.  I have been keeping cans of whole potatoes in the pantry for a long time to use when I am out of potatoes and they are needed for soup.  

However, while watching a cooking show recently, the cook said she keeps cans of diced potatoes on hand for various skillet recipes.  I was curious so I purchased one can last week and I will try it soon.  It would be a good way to stretch some dishes if it is good and not watery like some canned potatoes can be.  I like the idea of them being cubed already.

We are living in different times than we are used to in so many ways.  I never thought a gallon of gas would be $5.00 (well, $4.99!) or that a bag of potato chips would sell for $5.49... the regular size, not the family size!  It is getting harder for many families to put food on the table, much less to put some extra items in the pantry.

However, God does supply all of our needs according to His riches in Glory! I really do believe that God also gives us creative ideas to help us make tasty and healthy meals with less money.  So many countries that have had serious times of poverty... often caused by war... have learned to create delicious meals out of the simplest ingredients.

Sorry about another rambling post instead of writing this out in a way that is perhaps easier to read.  However, it was a busy week and I tried to write today's blog post ahead of time but here it is mid-day on Saturday and I am just now getting it written.

This is how my brain works, for better or worse.  Fortunately, I usually have a little more time to try to put words in better order.  Thank you for understanding (I hope!).


Connie said...

Great post as are all of yours. You certainly shouldn't apologize.

Vee said...

I love your ramblings. ☺️

Angela said...

I like the way your brain works! 😊❤

Good post!

Tracy said...

Working out how restaurant or supermarket pre-prepared meals are made and recreating them at home is one of our favourite things to do too. We have several family favourites that have originated from doing that and, as you say, it is good fun!

Anonymous said...

I love the “rambling” and the ideas for summer
meals. Would like more ideas and menu suggestions.
I can make a half pound of ground go a long way with
just the two of us. Trying to beat the economic crunch!
Blessings, Sharon D.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great suggestions. I find eggs scrambled with veggies make a good quick meal on a hot day sometimes.

Ann said...

Love all your posts even when I don't comment. It's hard to provide content for a blog every week if you're having a busy week, are tired or stressed, etc. Whatever you post is always "food for thought" and enjoyed.

Alison said...

I'm a WFH p.a. and have been for seven years. I'm not getting any younger and arthritis is making itself felt more lately so I relate to your comments on fatigue very much. I find by the end of the day, mealtime is often a real chore and unfortunately, I never seem to get on top of meal planning like I should. I appreciate the tips in your post about basing a meal around salad and veg for the Summer months and will try that.

Jane said...

I like to work out how a particular dish has been made in a restaurant, too!

USA petrol is relatively inexpensive (I don't say cheap). Here in Scotland, 1 litre is £1.62 or more. That's nearly £8 a gallon. Or approx $10. We think carefully about how we use it, and try to make each trip out one which achieves multiple errands.

But my husband and I are taking note of Luke 12, where in the KJV margin, it says 'live not in careful suspense'. The Lord knows what we have need of, and He will (continue to) supply our every need. So, although we will still be sensible, we can rest assured that everything we really need will be provided. Jane

Keri Brown said...

Is it weird that I kind of enjoy the times that I fall behind on reading you blog, so that I can then sit down and settle in to catching up? I guess you could call it "Bingeing Brenda!" :-) At any rate, I enjoy a rambling post like this one, so no need to apologize -- at least, to me -- for not writing something more organized.

My takeaway from this post is to try canned potatoes too. I don't know if I've ever even noticed their existence in the canned goods aisle.

I will also add that one way I've disciplined myself to save money on restaurant foods is actually in the area of restaurant beverages. My weakness is iced, sweetened beverages, whether tea or coffee, but whether I get them at Starbucks, Panera, Chic-fil-a, or a local coffee shop, they're just too pricey to continue buying. I've learned that I can replicate almost all of my favorites at home for a fraction of the price, and I don't have to use any of that $4.99 gas to drive somewhere to buy them!

Debbie V. said...

I somehow lost track of blogs I once loved and yours is one of them.
I've aged a lot these last few years and it's nice to see that you include little phrases that let me know you understand when we are not quite "up to par" as my mom used to say.
I actually enjoy the challenge of shopping for specials and "beating' inflation by finding ways to create new meals - as I think you do too. I have been to Aldi a few times and I need to go back.
Thank you for blogging your thoughts.