Monday, December 31, 2012

That time of year, again

It's 4 am and I'm awake due to a food allergy. It seems that I get to start the year, again, with a new food allergy. Honestly, I thought I had something with a hint of dairy in it. Not enough to make me fully sick, but enough to let me know to never, ever eat that again. Whatever "that" is. However, everything I ate yesterday was stuff I made.

I made bread, cake, cookies - all with ingredients I hand picked out. However, the bread I made was with a new recipe.

Honey Oatmeal Bread sounds good and it is! I ended up making two wonderful loaves. I froze one and started to pick at the other before I went to bed. Here's where the food allergy came into play - I didn't use just rolled oats. I used a 7 grain rolled oats plus barley, spelt, wheat, and a few other grains.

I looked up information on my food allergy symptoms to see if a grain allergy could be confused with a dairy allergy and yeap, it totally can. *sigh* Now, of course, this doesn't mean that I can't have bread anymore - just not the rolled stuff I used. Whole wheat and bread flour are still perfectly fine. My guess is that it might have been either the spelt or triticale or maybe the grain itself was exposed to milk and the company just didn't put that on there for some reason. Who knows! All I know is I really hope the allergy pills take effect soon.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I should be sewing...

First Chocolate Peppermint Martinis!!! I must try this. It's a vegan recipe which means it's great for those of us with diary allergies.

Second, I'm watching extreme couponing and getting ideas. One of the episodes had a vegan lady on the show - who clearly didn't actually follow the vegan diet despite her tattoos (sorry, m'dear, but Ranch dressing? Buttermilk. Not vegan.). However, she did have some really good advice on how to coupon when you are on a specialty diet. I've spent most of the afternoon signing up for coupons from my favorite brands of sugar, flour, and other staples. I probably won't go for $2000 worth of groceries for $25 (I don't have the room!) but saving a few bucks would be nice.

Third, I should be sewing. I know I should. I should be cutting stuff out. I should be working on either one of my friends' outfits, Mom's dress, or my Catherine Parr gown. I have a ton of stuff to sew but no motivation whatsoever. Blah. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Well, there goes that

I had to end this particular food experiment early. It wasn't that doing the $30 a week wasn't possible - it was- it was that the headache I was literally getting from not having caffeine in my system didn't let up in the 12 days I had been doing this. It would be manageable after the first three or four days but I think that was mostly due to the chocolate brownies I had on hand. Yesterday, it got so bad I realized it was ridiculous to let this go on while being in physical pain like that.

Yes, this means I should lower my caffeine intake - but gradually. Now that I've had a Pepsi in my system I feel 100% better. No headache! And I'm not grumpy! Yay! :-) (For those that know about my millions of allergies, we have Pepsi Throwback at work. It makes me happy.)

Oh well, I did learn a lot in the past 12 days beyond the whole caffeine thing. I do need to think a lot more when going grocery shopping and manage that aspect of the budget better. I need to plan out my meals at least four days ahead of time and keep a list of what I need and what I have in my house already.

Tonight is still beef stroganoff. :-) And I might actually work on Christmas Cards or sewing or both! Yay!!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Yay! Money!

I went grocery shopping today and got olive oil, a big jar of yeast for all the bread I keep making, eggs, mushrooms, onion salt, and tried to get ground beef.   Unfortunately, even after I figured out that 85% would do (I prefer 93% lean) I saw two blue dots on the meat.  Of the many colors I have seen on meat, the same color as my bedroom walls is not one I have seen before.  I handed it to the cashier who agreed, that ain't right.  :-)

Anyway, the total this week thus far is $24.08.   (I got flour and chocolate chips yesterday)  I have enough to get some ground beef elsewhere for beef stragonoff this week but today, I got a lovely little check from my local grocery store.   My grocery store is a co op so if you have a membership, you get to share in the profit.  yay!  My share is very small (it is just me) but still, I have a check for $22.48.  Now, the question is, should I use it while I'm doing this $30 a week or wait until next week before I go to New York to use for snacks?

Oh, and I'm waiting for the bread to rise now.  :-)   Whole wheat this time. 

Maybe I should end this experiment early...

I tried to make bread with the natural leavening I had been working on and...yeah.  No.  So I don't have bread today.   This could mean no lunch.   However, I do have some stew left and some soup so maybe I should just take that in?  I suppose that will work and I can stay on this $30 a week plan.   I did spend $6 last night on flour and chocolate chips.  I need to make cookies for this week tonight.   :-)

Tonight's plan:

Go grocery shopping
Cut out dress for friend and start sewing it up
Bake bread
Bake cookies!


...Yeah, I doubt the last one will happen either.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I cheated, sort of

So, today is Sunday meaning it is a "feast" day.  And man, I feasted.  Okay, so part of the reason is I went to Harpers Ferry.  This meant eating out which isn't the big feasting part.  The big feasting part is that the Antique Candy Store is still there!  They just moved but they do still exist and, of course, I bought EVERYTHING.  Sugared rose petals, sugared violets (yes, Jenny-Rose, I got some for you!), my bubble gum, maple candy, candy canes, vanilla sticks, peppermint sticks; every single candy I love.

Now, of course, a lot of this is actually for Christmas and I'll probably only bring out pieces on Sundays for Advent and once Christmas gets here.  Or, really, Dec 20th because I'm going to NYC that day and that's when this latest project will end. 

Oh well, going to bake some bread for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mid Week report

I'm technically $1.59 over budget. I'll take it out of next week's total allowance. Darn olives! However, I think I needed the iron (black olives) badly after the lovely caffeine withdrawal headache. I was not a happy camper on Monday.

Living off of $30 a week for food is not easy but it's not impossible either. I've been having fun using up a lot of my kitchen stock to make various things. Today, I'm making bread (ran out this morning after making a sandwich for work) and vegan brownies. I had to use 1 cup of raw sugar and 1 cup of white sugar rather than a full 2 cups of white sugar because I ran out. Oh well. One of the things to add to the list. The batter for the brownies tasted delicious so I'm very hopeful for how they will come out.

I plan on taking a couple with me to work for my lunch. That plus a sandwich should be fine as well as my thermos of water I've been using. I think the hardest part of limiting myself to only $30 a week has been not being able to grab that soda or juice. Right now, I'm limited to water. I plan on making some iced tea which might help. However, not having the caffeine from the soda was painful this week. Literally.

For the bread, I'm basing it off of this recipe but with a slight bit more water and less flour since I don't have a bread machine. We'll see how it works out. The dough is "resting" on top of the fridge until I decide it's big enough to cook. :-) Then, I'll throw it into the bread pan and cook it up for a half hour or so. Hopefully, this will end up being a good recipe to use! Otherwise, I have no idea what I'll use for a sandwich tomorrow...

EDIT: The brownies? fail. I mean, they are edible - being vegan and all- but rather than gooey - they just aren't cooked. The edges are cooked to the point they are almost burnt but the center remained...doughy. I have been eating them and they taste good so I'm tempted to change up the recipe like a lot of other have and use less oil or use applesauce instead.

The bread? PERFECT! I mean beyond delicious as well. I ate the nub the second it came out of the oven and oh my! I think this might become my favorite go to recipe for now on when I need a loaf of sandwich bread. It tastes great with my simple oil and Italian spices dip as well.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First day of Advent

Yesterday afternoon, I made bread. See?

homemade white  bread

This is something I started right before Thanksgiving because finding good bread when you are allergic to both milk and corn is difficult. It's also expensive. Given how cheap bread flour is, I've given up on buying bread and decided a couple of weeks ago just to make it myself. Glad I already had a glass pan for bread my Mom gave me a while back. ;-)

The bread recipe I used can be found at the simple dollar. I made only a few minor changes due to my allergies. First, I used olive oil rather than butter. Second, I used original, unsweetened, Almond milk rather than milk. Third, I dipped the spoon I used to stir the yeast and water together in honey. Yeast loves sugar. I do too. :-)

The bread itself is basic white bread. It slices really well and tastes like white bread. It's nothing special but it is excellent for sandwiches.

Today, I went grocery shopping after Church. Although I'm not supposed to spend more than $30 in a week, I had to give myself a slightly higher threshold today only because I used cash. So, I couldn't spend more than $20. (I probably could spend more than that but I have to pick up Ginsie's meds tomorrow and I need the rest of the cash I had on hand to pay for those so...)

NOTE: If you are squeamish about seeing raw ground hamburger or hot dogs, speed past the next picture. Don't worry, it's still in the package but I did want to put a warning.


I actually had to think about what I wanted to eat this week when I entered the grocery store. Normally, I go in, grab whatever looks good with the thought that "Hey, I can freeze that!" or I can throw it away if I don't eat it in a certain amount of time. According to one report I recently saw, Americans throw out 40% of the food they buy because it just rots. I know I am one of those that does that, sadly.

Since I need to actually eat whatever I end up buying, I figured my beef stew would be a good, wholesome, and oh so delicious with the bread I made meal for dinner. I typically make enough to last for four nights. Since I have cut up chicken in the freezer and chicken noodle soup in a can (OMG! A soup without corn! I found it!), I can probably figure a way to get by the rest of the week without buying that bacon that was calling to me.

Unfortunately, as the picture does show, I forgot to buy olives. D'oh! Oh well, the grand total came up to $17.36 so I'm sure I can stop by and get olives tomorrow after buying Miss Ginsie's meds. (The reason I'm using cash is it makes me think about how much I'm spending. Unlike with the cards. Of course, during the next couple of weeks, I'll used the cards for Christmas gifts but not for food. It just makes it easier for me to consciously track my spending by watching it leave my wallet.)

The apples are for dessert. I have a ton of honey and this very interesting sunflower almond granola that might make a yummy topping for an apple tart/pie/pasty concoction. The red onion is for when I fry up some potatoes and probably some carrots too. Yummy! I might need to get more mushrooms but those are for the stew.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


During the middle ages and today, Advent is the time leading up to the birthday of Christ. It's meant to be a time of joy but also of reflection. Because of that, in the middle ages, they had "fish days" and "feast days" through out the Advent season. Unlike with Lent, during Advent, fish days simply meant no meat. Milk, cheese, and eggs all seem to still be on the menu.

Although I do plan to try a couple of "fish day" recipes during Advent, what I thought might be more interesting is an attempt to live more simply when it comes to food. I've been spending the equivalent of almost half of my monthly mortgage payment on food. Yes, it's pretty ridiculous. So, going with the "reflection" theme, I thought it might be a good idea to try to live the "food stamp" way as many politicians and activists have been pledging to do.

For me, this is NOT political but just something I see as a personal challenge. In Maryland and VA, the average person can get around $130 per a month in food stamps. That means about $28.88 a week for my area ($130 divided by 4.5 weeks). For simplicities sake, I'm going to try to spend absolutely no more than $30 on food per a week, leading up to Christmas. This is meant only to see if I could actually do this myself given I know many people in my area are living off of food stamps.

Anything I have in the house currently won't count towards the weekly total. Also, this means I'll be a grouch because no more sodas until Christmas (unless I don't buy them. If I'm offered a soda, it's fair game.). I've already decided I'm baking my own bread. I absolutely love the bread I've been baking and figure it's a good way to save money as well. I've already started on my first medieval bread experiment. I started a natural leaven pot three days ago. It's been growing and bubbling like it should. Only a week more to go before I can dry it and use it rather than yeast. (I'll also be doing a medieval bread with modern yeast versus medieval bread with natural leaven test that will be interesting, hopefully!)

This will also force me to take my lunch to work -something I've been trying to do anyway- and bake a lot more. It's far cheaper to cook your own food than to have someone else do it for you.