Week 2: Action Plan Checkup

I’m still working on my October Challenge learning how to cook. I’ve actually done a decent job with my goals, though I did shop for groceries entirely too much. Boo. Let’s see how things went:

  • 3/7 entirely fresh dinners – I actually think I did this. I kept things simple this week and stuck with rice and a side item or whatever. There were lots of leftovers, but not a lot of packaged food.
  • Try one random veggie. – I bought eggplant. Sadly, it’s still sitting in my refrigerator. I’m not even sure if it’s good now. If so, it gets cooked up tonight!
  • Create a shopping list with EVERYTHING I need. – Nope. This greatly contributed to my “hit stores once” fail.
  • Prep and cook all veggies and fruit for the week. – I didn’t really buy anything that needed to be prepped. If I had I would have.
  • Try to only hit the store once. – Great, big, fat FAIL. I went shopping almost everyday in some form or fashion. What a waste of time and money.
  • Figure out what other tools will make my kitchen experiences easier – So far, I think I have everything that I need. I think I would like a food processor, but I’m not sure that it’s necessary.

Now, despite the fact that I went to the grocery store everyday, I don’t really have a lot of great options for meals. It seems when I do that, I’m not really buying with any thought about what I need for food.

So, this weeks action plan is simple: Only go to the grocery store once this week and try to eat all of the weird/random food that I’ve bought over the past week. There will be a lot of very odd dinners.

Do you have any food goals for this week?

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Needs v. Wants

Sorry for the inconsistency here. My laptop died and I have to use my desktop. Which isn’t bad. I just find that I don’t like to sit here unless I’m really working.

Generally speaking I’m not much of a consumer. Outside of my problem with needing to go to the grocery store often, I don’t do a lot of shopping. I have never been one to just go shopping or randomly wander through stores looking for stuff to buy. (My mom does this. She loves to “shop”.)

Due to this shopping aversion (it might be more of a “spending money” aversion) it seems that I’ve let a lot of things pile up and now I want/need a whole bunch of bigger ticket items. Some of the things are NOT necessary. They’re just things that I want.  In order to get all of the important items I need to sit down and figure out what’s a “need” and what is a “want”. I have a pretty good idea.

For instance, I NEED a new pair of glasses. I should have gotten them last year and just really have not gotten around to heading to the eyeglass place and picking out a pair. (I’m thinking of ordering them online. I’m kind of scared, though.)

I WANT a bunch of new clothes, boots, a new TV, a netbook, etc. The list goes on. None of that stuff is necessary. Sure they’re all nice to have but I can continue without them as I always have.

I NEED a coat. Florida does not usually have coat wearing weather. Last year it got in the 30’s and I FROZE. I have a huge parka for hiking but nothing for in the city. I also have 0 sweaters or hoodies. (Yes. I’m a Floridian. Seriously.)

Over the next few weeks I will be doing some shopping and taking care of some of these needs v. wants. Hopefully, I don’t just go out and spend like crazy.

Are you a shopper? What’s on your “need” list and what’s on your “want” list?

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Mark Bittman Interview on How to Save More Time in the Kitchen

As we all know, I think Mark Bittman is awesome. His cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has pretty much changed the way I cook and eat. I wish I knew about him sooner. He does not think that everyone needs to be a chef or that food has to be complicated. He’s realistic about some of the challenges that many of us face in the kitchen and does not preach snobbery. Like others that I don’t really care for. (Starts with a P. Ends with an N.)

I was thrilled to read this interview with him on Lifehacker where they discuss more ways to save time in the kitchen. Exactly the type of thing that I love to read since I think that ALL time spent in the kitchen is a waste. (I have so many things that I would rather be doing, but one must eat.)

Are you a foodie? Do you love everything about cooking or do you just cook to eat?

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Week One: Action Plan Check Up

This week just blew by. I had some pretty aggressive, yet important goals to get me on the “learning how to cook” train. Let’s see how I did:

  • Get a real chef’s knifeDone! I bought a VERY nice Henckels. It was not cheap. (I was amazed at how easy it was to chop onions.)
  • Get a better chopping boardGot a cheap wood one for $7 at Target.
  • Make a shopping list based off a loose meal plan This one I kind of did, but could have done better. I just went to the grocery store knowing I was going to cook one specific dish. I should’ve also planned for the other days.
  • Prep as much food as possible right after shoppingI didn’t buy a lot that needed prepping this trip.
  • Only go to the grocery store once Epic fail!!! I didn’t make a proper list for all of the other stuff I would need or want for the week. I wound up going to the store twice. As well as to get Gio doggie food.
  • Make 2/7 dinners entirely fresh I’m going to make this green even though I used canned tomatoes which the recipe called for. Otherwise, the entire meal was fresh. I need to do another meal tonight to make it 2. Though, I’ve been eating meal 1 all week. (I’m officially sick of it.)

Overall, I would say that week one went very well. I’m happy to have gotten a real knife. I didn’t realize how dull mine was and how cheap my others were.  I do think in the future I will make half recipes of stuff. Here’s what I made this week:

It’s a simple baked ziti with mushrooms. It came out great and was more than enough food for the week. (I’m not even half way through it.) Next time, I will only make half. I’m actually sick of it.

Since my Action Plan went well this week. Let’s advance it a bit.

Week 2 – Action Plan

  • 3/7 entirely fresh dinners – Hopefully, we get this number up to 6 or 7 and then start tackling my lunches. (I usually eat a quick veggie burger or something.)
  • Try one random veggie. – Just grab something and figure out what to do with it. (I might be doing that tonight. I bought swiss chard.)
  • Create a shopping list with EVERYTHING I need. Even Gio.
  • Prep and cook all veggies and fruit for the week. – Due to my post yesterday, I now think I could stand to eat even more fresh fruit and veggies. I’m going to work on that.
  • Try to only hit the store once. – This is so hard for me.
  • Figure out what other tools will make my kitchen experiences easier – Apparently there is a lot that I don’t have in the kitchen. My pots are hand me downs, too. It’s time to start reviewing and figuring out what I need to make cooking easier for me.

Once again, all of these items are manageable, but will slowly move me towards feeling more comfortable in the kitchen.

Do you have any other items that you would suggest I invest in to make life in easier in the kitchen? What is your favorite tool?

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Americans Not Eating Vegetables

According to this article in the New York Times, despite a push to get Americans to eat more vegetables many still don’t. According to the Center for Disease Control, only 26 percent of us are getting three servings of vegetables every day. The actual recommendation is for 4-5. What surprised me further is what is considered a serving of vegetables:

Please note the definition of a serving: half a cup of cut-up or cooked vegetables, one cup of fresh greens, half a cup of cooked dried beans, or, if you must, six ounces of vegetable juice.

That’s not really a lot is it? A small side salad would boost most people’s vegetable intake.

The bigger question here is WHY aren’t people eating more vegetables?

I know that some just don’t have access or can’t afford them. I understand that, but the problem I have with that excuse is that MOST of us can afford them and do have access.

When I was growing up, we had a salad with every meal. This was usually an extremely simple salad. Some greens, tomatoes, radishes, chickpeas, broccoli, carrots. Whatever was around really. At the time, I didn’t understand that this was my mom (and dad’s) way of making sure we got some sort of vegetables everyday. This was not really an issue for me. I loved vegetables from an early age.

I didn’t even know that there were grownups that still refuse to eat vegetables until I met my mom’s boyfriend. He flat out refuses to eat them. He basically eats hunks of meat and carbs. This man has also had numerous health issues as well as a recent heart attack. So, there’s that.

My theory on why American’s don’t eat more vegetables? Because at some point we stopped thinking that vegetables were “food”. I know many people that do not consider a dish a meal unless it has meat in it. When presented with pasta and broccoli with a nice meatless sauce they will still look for and insist on meat.

Don’t believe me? Look at the kerfuffle that Chelsea Clinton’s vegan wedding stirred up. It was debated quite a bit whether it was “offensive” to not offer guests meat. As if someone would NOT survive the evening without eating meat.

Do you eat vegetables? How do you think we can change American’s attitudes towards vegetables in general?

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Quick Hit: Can I Recycle My Toothbrush?

The other day, I realized it was time for me to replace my toothbrush. This got me to thinking: Is my toothbrush recyclable?

I honestly had never thought about this. I did a little bit of research and it seems like the answer to my question is a big-fat no. My Oral-B toothbrush is not recyclable. However, there are toothbrushes made out of recyclable materials and that can be recycled themselves.

I’ve got to do a bit of research on this. My dentist actually recommended the Sonicare electric toothbrush. I used to have the Oral-B plaque remover and loved it, but how environmentally and financially sound are they?

Do you recycle your toothbrush? If so, what brand are you using?

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October Challenge: Learn to Cook

Wow is time flying. I can’t believe that it is already October. Last month, I attempted to clean up my eating. That did not go so well. The only thing that I really did on my list was kill off the dairy. My stomach feels so much better for that.

The other day while standing in line at the grocery store, I noticed that almost everything that I bought was packaged. I’m not exactly eating hamburger helper or anything. I’m eating organic frozen foods like veggie burgers, organic tater tots, frozen pizza, precut and packaged fresh broccoli, etc. Honestly, I have no issues with that BUT that should be a once a week thing or something kept on hand for a quick lunch. (I come home for lunch, so sometimes that quick veggie burger is perfect to get me in and out of here.)

My biggest issue when it comes to eating better is that I can’t cook. I seriously hate doing it. I can think of a million things that I  would rather be doing than cooking. Fortunately, since I bought How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I’m slowly learning some techniques but I still struggle. Until I become more comfortable in the kitchen, I’m always going to reach for packaged foods. I need to  make a commitment to learn to cook. I don’t want to be a chef or a foodie. I do want to be able to produce simple, easy food from scratch most days of the week.

I think the best way to go about this is to break it down into tiny obtainable steps for each week. If more time is needed I’ll revamp.

Week 1 – Action Plan

  • Get a real chef’s knife – My knife can’t even chop a sweet potato. I tried to sharpen it and it didn’t even seem to help. I think it was sharp at one time. I know it’s a decent knife. What I did not know is that you’re not supposed to put them in the dishwasher.
  • Get a better chopping board – Mine is glass because I read that was better. It turns out that it dulls your knife. See number one.
  • Make a shopping list based off a loose meal plan – I’m not a planner, so this might be difficult. In the long run it’ll save me money and time, though.
  • Prep as much food as possible right after shopping – I waste a lot of food because I never get around to prepping it. If it’s chopped and ready to be tossed into a stir fry then I’ll use it.
  • Only go to the grocery store once – This has to do with me just getting organized.
  • Make 2/7 dinners entirely fresh – No frozen, processed, or canned foods.  Cannot just be a giant salad. Can be yummy leftovers, though. Taking baby steps here. I don’t know how to make sauces or anything.

I think that those are decent enough things to get me started. There will probably still be some frozen food still in my freezer, but I’d like to slowly cut back on that. I’ll still used a few canned things here and there. This is all about baby steps.

Do you cook from scratch? Do you have any tips for me?

Posted in challenges, food, sustainability | 2 Comments