wallwalker: Venetian mask, dark purple with gold gilding. (Default)
Every bit of advice on saving money on food says, "DON'T EAT OUT." Some of them throw "EVER" in there, but most of them stop at the first three words. I would like to follow that advice. And they make it sound so easy - throw together some leftovers, and viola, lunch.

But right now my only leftovers in the fridge are the pizza that someone else got for dinner last night (after I basically said, "Sorry, I'm not cooking after a ten-hour shift, can you deal with dinner please?" Not that I was reasonably expecting this particular person to make a home-cooked meal after saying something like that, but honestly, it would've been nice and I should've specified that,) some home-made mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving (but not the rest of the meal - thanks to said shift we had to leave before leftovers could be portioned out) and some spaghetti and meat sauce that's maybe a week old, because despite my best efforts and the efforts of both of the people I live with, we just can't seem to finish eating stuff like that. Maybe I cook too much at once. I don't know how else to do it; if I don't cook it, we won't end up cooking it and we won't eat it anyway! Either way I end up wasting food. I really just can't seem to win.

[I am NOT going to say that the math and science courses I took in school were a waste of time, because they weren't. But I will say that given my current job and my current fortunes, a course on how to effectively keep a household budget, how to keep a pantry, how to store food properly, and so forth would have given me skills that are a lot more relevant to how I must live this life today. And in all honesty, why isn't that course required for everyone? Even scientists and mathematicians need to eat! And given the number of science majors I've known in my life who basically and literally lived off of ramen and the occasionally takeout, these are obviously not ingrained skills.)

I suppose I'll take the spaghetti and mashed potatoes to work, and take my chances (and hell, after this week having an excuse to leave early would be a relief, in a way.) I'd take the pizza instead, but the pizza is a lot more likely to get eaten if I don't take it with me, and the chances of the spaghetti getting eaten by anyone but me at this point is practically nil. I hate wasting food.

(I'm mostly joking. The spaghetti is probably fine if I heat it properly. I've done this before.)
wallwalker: (flowers)
(Yes, this is crossposted.)

I've been reading How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I recommend it to the people here who want to learn to cook; the recipes that it contains are largely very simple, and it doesn't assume that the reader already knows a lot about cooking. Also this is the book that's convinced me that I really should pick up a food processor at some point. (Apparently there's a revised 10th anniversary edition, and I want to try to find it next time I have enough money to spend on a book; I'd really like to own this one.)

A lot of what Bittman tries to do in this book is steer people away from "convenience foods" - things like, say, boxed mac and cheese or canned soups or potato flakes - in favor of cooking from scratch. He prefaces a recipe for pancakes with this quote: “Americans must have been sadly alienated from the kitchen for pancake mixes to ever have gained a foothold in the market, for these are ridiculously easy to make.”

I'm not so sure it's alienation from the kitchen that's the problem, though. Not for pancake mixes, anyway. They do take some effort to prepare, and if someone was really just trying to avoid spending time in the kitchen they'd buy frozen microwavable pancakes, or go to a restaurant. There's a much smaller chance of burning them then. (Yes, I speak from experience. Pancakes give me trouble sometimes.) My opinion is that it shows an alienation from the pantry.

Think about it. The pancake recipe that he gives requires salt, sugar, flour and baking powder, all of which take up a lot more room than a simple box of pancake mix. And that's just the dry stuff. I know that technically those are staples, and we're supposed to have them on hand all the time anyway, but I typically don't. I think that a lot of people, myself included, either never learned to build a pantry in the first place, or never learned to use what they have in a timely enough fashion to avoid wasting food. I know I never did.

I actually enjoy cooking, you see. If you were to put me in a furnished kitchen with all of the ingredients I need, I'd probably learn how to cook from scratch pretty easily. But in the situation that I'm in right now, I'm feeling stuck. What I need is a resource that helps people keep their kitchen stocked in such a way that helps them keep the things on-hand that they need to cook good meals from scratch, even with limited space, and use them in a timely fashion so that waste is minimized. And that includes leftovers. Most of the resources that I've found for this sort of thing have recipes that feed four to six people. Most of the time I'm cooking for two, and the second person has the smallest appetite I've ever seen. We'd have a fridge just full of leftovers, and I'm sure at least some of them would never be eaten.

That's why I'm starting to think that my habit of reading lots of cookbooks is bad for me. I always see recipes I want to try, but that require ingredients that I don't have at the time. So I'll go out and buy them, but I'll end up with more than I need, and then I won't use them again. I think that I just need to learn the basics, and then go from there.

...it's ironic that I'm posting this after finishing a meal of boxed macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes made from flakes, I know. But my boyfriend had a lot of this kind of thing on hand, mostly from his mother. I can't just throw it all away; that would be a huge waste. So I'm just trying to prepare and eat all of it as fast as we possibly can, so that I can start over, hopefully. My goal is to eventually be able to cook what we eat at home from scratch as much as possible; eating out sometimes is still fine with me, but I want to learn how to cook, and to do it in such a way that I'm not feeling like I'm spending all day in the kitchen when I do it. It'll take a while, but hopefully not that long.

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wallwalker: Venetian mask, dark purple with gold gilding. (Default)
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