Use It Up

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Food is one of the less obvious things you need to consider when planning to move house. This is not a major issue if you are moving down the road or even across town but it is definitely a consideration when moving further afield.

We are moving to a different state and while jars of dry goods can be packed in boxes as with other household items the contents of the refrigerator and freezer are a different story.

It is still about 7 weeks until we depart but it is never too soon to consider how best to use the contents of the refrigerator and freezer. I am fairly aware of what I have available and will be working towards using this up. Of course, I will still be buying fresh fruit and vegetables.

Yesterday I made a big batch of Eggplant & Bean Curry. This vegan and gluten-free dish is definitely one of our favourites.

EGGPLANT & BEAN CURRY

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon Massaman curry paste
1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
500ml water
1 can light coconut cream
2 large potatoes, diced into 1cm pieces and cooked until tender
600g eggplant, diced into 1cm pieces
300g green beans, prepared and cut into 2cm lengths

METHOD

Prepare the vegetables as per the ingredient list. Heat the oil, add onion wedges, curry paste and spices, toss until well combined and the onion is softened. Add the diced eggplant, combine and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the water and stock powder. Simmer until volume is reduced slightly. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add more water if required. Stir in the coconut cream and simmer to reduce slightly if required. Finally, add the beans and cook for about 5 minutes.

I serve this with a small quantity of brown rice. You do not need to add too many carbs as there is already potato in the curry.

NOTE: The quantities are based on what I had available and the desired level of spiciness. You can adjust according to your own tastes. I use this basic curry sauce for of curry dishes. It is particularly good with a dish based on cauliflower, too.

This made a total of 8 serves (4 meals) for GMan and I. We had one for dinner and the remainder was portioned up and went into the freezer. That is 3 more meals I will not have to prepare in the next 7 weeks.

No Spend January?

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Over a number of years I have heard of many people choosing to do ‘no-spend’ days, weeks, months or even a year. It seems that there are as many different ‘rules’ as there are people undertaking this idea but the general premise is to not buy excess food and try to use what you have on hand but most importantly to eschew discretionary spending.

I have never consciously tried to not spend for a specified period of time but since we are halfway through January I thought it might be timely to review what I have spent this month. It is a relatively easy process as we track everything we spend.

We track our regular, fixed expenses on one spreadsheet. This allows us to see what subscriptions, insurances etc are due each month and we make sure there is money set aside for those.

The other spreadsheet is a month by month record of our variable spending. Some of this is discretionary such as eating out, books or clothing purchases but others are what I regard as essential. This category includes things like groceries and fuel.

This January certainly does not look like ‘no spend’ as our expenditure for the first 16 days of the month has been a little over $2000. So, let’s examine where the money has gone.

  1. Our fixed expenses for all of January are $627.
  2. We had planned and budgeted for an interstate holiday for 2.5 weeks which concluded when we arrived home on 6th January. Costs for the January portion of the holiday were $503.
  3. In the 10 days since we arrived home we have spent $912.
  • $195 – Groceries
  • $148 – Fuel
  • $285 – Pet expenses
  • $100 – Health expenses
  • $134 – Home maintenance expenses
  • $50 – Entertainment expenses

Yes, the entertainment expenses are definitely discretionary and if I was strictly following a ‘no-spend’ regime that would have been foregone. Other than that and the holiday spending at the beginning of the month, everything else was necessary.

On balance, I think that our method of accurately tracking and recording our spending works well for us. I don’t feel any real need to try to artificially reduce our spending by pushing spending from one month into the following month.

Do you do ‘no-spend’ months? What are your ‘rules’? Do you feel that it makes a difference to your overall spending?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

Eggplant Everywhere

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For the past few years I have grown eggplant pretty successfully with minimal effort. In our climate it grows without supplementary watering, is generally resistant to pests and vagaries of the weather and, most importantly, the fruit mature gradually and I don’t end up with a massive glut of produce.

It is definitely a crop worth growing as they are generally $6.95/kg at our greengrocer.

I think eggplant are quite underrated. Here are some of my favourite dishes that I have made recently.

Roasted eggplant slices on a vegetarian pizza.

Ready to pop in the oven to roast.

The finished pizza.

Eggplant and Bean Curry

Sauteed eggplant and some leftover spicy chicken with a bit of tamari and served with cauliflower in cheese sauce. There is no photo of this one.

Eggplant often does not look particularly spectacular but I think it is definitely worth trying.

Staying on Track

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I know that there are many and varied opinions of ‘to do’ lists. I have used them in differing guises and with varying degrees of success over the years.

Now that I am retired there is really not a great deal pressure to get things done. My lists are simply a memory aid more than anything else. I jot down things I think of in the notes section on my phone and while I do not follow it exactly, I do refer to my notes each morning. There always seem to be plenty of things that get rolled over to the next day (or week).

One of the things I had been meaning to do for some time was to make another pair of sock protectors for GMan. Last night I cut out 2 pieces of fabric.

This morning I joined the seam, hemmed the bottom edges and turned a casing and added elastic. It took about 15 minutes of my time and they were done.

Another item ticked off the list.

My list is also very flexible. For example, I had intended to clean the kitchen windows today, however, we woke to high humidity, drizzling rain and low cloud which meant that we could barely see the backyard. It does not seem like the ideal conditions for cleaning windows so I am off to work on tidying my sewing room instead.

How do you plan your day?

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Making the Most of Everything

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At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Bagging a Bargain

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Most of us are trying to make the most of our grocery budget as food prices seem to be increasing on an almost daily basis. Extreme weather events driven by the impacts of climate change along with global conflicts are combining to disrupt supply chains.

This is the background upon which shoppers are doing their utmost to spend their food budget wisely.

There are not many, if any, items which can regularly be purchased for $1/kg. So, when I spotted Roma tomatoes for $1/kg at our local greengrocer, I took advantage of the bargain. Although the tomatoes were loose on a display stand, I discovered that I could purchase an entire 10kg box for $10. This was too good to pass up.

Here is my haul.

Of course, a bargain is only a bargain if there is no wastage. I have spread the tomatoes out on the kitchen bench and there are no soft spots or blemishes – all absolutely perfect.

Tonight we will have slices of fresh tomato on our pizza. Tomorrow I will make salsa to have with our bean tacos and I am sure they will feature in other meals over the next week. Other than that, I may dehydrate some, make pasta sauce and bottle or freeze them whole.

Making the most of seasonal and often cheaper produce makes good sense as we try to stretch our budget a little further.

Some New Toys

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I know that plenty of people aim for a “No Spend January”, however, that is definitely not the case here at the moment.

It seems as though we have been spending at every turn but it has hardly been frivolous.

Yesterday we picked up a new dehumidifier that we had ordered. There is no real end in sight to the recent extended spell of wet and humid weather. Mould is a constant battle where we live and I decided that I really needed an additional dehumidifier. We have had one for well over 10 years and it can definitely make a difference.

Today the new fridge arrived. This will be in addition to the main refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen and an upright freezer.

We have had this knife block and knives for many years and they have served us well. GMan sharpens the knives when required. A few weeks ago we had a mishap when he was using the point of one of the knives to separate 2 slices of frozen bread. There were no injuries sustained, however, about 1 cm of the tip of the knife broke off. Some research revealed that we could order an identical replacement knife which we collected from the Post Office today.

The old knife has been relocated to downstairs where it can be used when harvesting vegetables such as broccoli and celery.

Our other major purchase in the past month was a new laptop computer. It is to replace the old desktop computer and also means that we now have 2 portable devices. We both have volunteer commitments and meetings for which these will be useful.

All of the purchases will support our lifestyle and were carefully considered and planned.

Spring has Sprung

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Here in the southern hemisphere it is springtime.

The romantic ideal of spring promotes images of renewal, growth and new beginnings, however, the reality can be somewhat different.

We have very few deciduous trees in our climate so we enjoy being able to witness the changing seasons through the liquidamber tree in our garden. Here it is looking magnificent and covered in new leaf.

Spring serves to remind us all that we never know what is around the corner.

In the past 6 weeks we have had wild thunderstorms, ferocious winds and a couple of heatwave days all interspersed with some glorious and moderate weather. The extremes and sometimes violent weather events are becoming more frequent as the climate changes.

A couple of days ago we heard creaking and cracking. Upon investigation we discovered that a couple of the lower limbs had come off the liquidamber tree. I suspect this was as a result of the wind we had experienced in recent weeks.

Time to clean up the debris.

Being prepared is not just something for the Boy Scouts. We should all be prepared for whatever might happen. Whether it is driven by the weather, linked to the pandemic or of global origin out of our control, there are plenty of things that could immediately and suddenly disrupt our comfortable lifestyle.

As the seasons change we need to prepare ourselves for the shocks that natural and other events may have.

Storms and bushfires are our main threats in the coming months. If you are in the northern hemisphere and approaching winter, what are your risks? Blizzards? Storms? Flooding?

I am interested in what your seasonal risks are and how you prepare yourself and your family.

Take care and stay safe, wherever you are.

A Step Ahead

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Before I begin on the actual content of today’s post, I have a bit of general news about the blog.

I have been absent for 3 weeks. Part of this was due to us being on holidays for a portion of the time but the remainder of my inactivity has been while I reassessed my general online presence. There are limited hours in the day and it is not all devoted to online activity. Therefore, I have decided to alter some of my priorities and this blog will be the main spot where you will be able to engage with me. The content will generally be shorter and more frequent – possibly daily. I look forward to your comments and interacting more fully with my readers. If you are not already following the blog, please consider doing so so that you don’t miss anything.

So, dear readers it is back to the real stuff that happens here every day.

This morning I whipped these 2 takeaway food containers from the freezer. One is vegetable curry and the other is rice. Therefore, dinner tonight is all ready to heat and eat.

My cooking style is pretty much a constant cycle of stocking up the freezer while using from it at the same time.

In that vein I have done a spot of cooking this afternoon. I always do more than one thing if I am turning the oven on.

6 gluten free pizza bases partly cooked and ready to freeze for later use.

Zucchini quiche which used the last of the packs of frozen zucchini from last summer’s harvest. I have about 3 different dishes I can use for making the quiche but this one that belonged to my mother is a new favourite.

The recipes for the pizza bases and zucchini quiche can be found checking the recipe index – click on the tab ‘Recipes – Food’ at the top of the front page of the blog.

Please share your prepared meals or glut of produce stored for future use. 🙂

A Lucky Find

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This morning we went out to do a couple of errands including picking up a few items from a nearby fruit and vegetable stall. Occasionally, there are boxes of cheap produce so it is worth keeping an eye out for a bargain.

Today I stumbled upon an amazing bargain. A box of passionfruit for FREE!! A quick look revealed that almost all of them had soft or rotten patches on them but I thought it might be worth seeing what I could salvage. I asked about whether I could have the whole box and my enquiry was greeted wholeheartedly. Here they are when we arrived home.

It was clear that I would need to process them straight away to prevent any further deterioration.

I simply cut them and salvaged the pulp from those that were OK. A small number were completely unusable.

The final haul was 2.5 litres of passionfruit pulp which is now in the freezer.

The trick is to be able to deal with bargains like this as soon as possible.