Sunday, March 23, 2008

Playing Chicken with the Grocery Store

["Spinach and Mutton Curry," jetalone]

I moved eight times before I turned eighteen. My parents were very organized about moving, as they were about almost everything. They had a household inventory. They had a comprehensive checklist. We never had to scrounge for boxes at the last minute because we always had just enough.

When we were getting ready to move, at a certain point we would start buying fewer groceries. First, we’d stop buying spices. Then we’d start questioning purchases of flour and baking powder. In the meantime, we tried to use up the things left in the cupboards at home: the long-neglected oatmeal, the container of rock salt, the wheat germ. Mom called this process “playing chicken with the grocery store.” The week before a move was often a culinary adventure, combining strange leftovers and unexpected junk food binges when Mom decided we had to get rid of the ice cream or the popcorn.

In an attempt to meet my $100 food budget, I am now officially playing chicken with the grocery store. Yesterday, I ate a garlic-butter fish entrée from Aldi. It wasn’t to my taste—I had to force it down with an improvised tartar sauce made of sour cream and pickle relish. But when I finished it, I was still hungry, so I ate the other one, too.

Today, I made something that resembled saag paneer with canned spinach and feta cheese. The feta melted instead of toasting and I never quite got the sauce creamy enough, but it wasn’t bad. Not bad at all. The leftovers are going to be my lunch tomorrow.

I went to the grocery store today and bought $2.00 worth of vegetables—broccoli and a big head of romaine. That plus the vegetables and fruit I still have around the house (a few tomatoes, a ridiculous amount of cauliflower, and frozen strawberries, plus a few other sundries) should take care of my vitamins for the week.

For tomorrow night’s main course, I have some chicken. The night after that will be hot-dog night. After that, I’ll have to get creative. I better start watching old episodes of Stump the Chef for inspiration.

If I get really desperate, I kind of have the ingredients to try Early Retirement Extreme’s “Cooking for 6 Days in 30 Minutes for Less than $4.” I wonder if it works without a pressure cooker?

Anyone have any idea what to do with hearts of palm? Three-quarters of a cup of lentils? A bag of kasha?


Jacob said...

DW and I split our cooking so she does one week and I do the next week. I try to get by on whatever we have in the cupboards during my week. I build most of my meals out of staples though ... have a 25lbs bag of rice, a 10lbs bag of potatoes. I just add whatever tomatoes, pepper, whatever is in the fridge/freezer to that.

Not sure that you can cook lentils in less than 15-20 min without pressure. Put a pressure cooker on your wish list. The savings in time and gas/electricity are huge. For instance, when I cook rice, it takes about 10 minutes out of which the gas is on in maybe 5 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Might you consider allowing yourself more money for food and skipping the waxing? (Settle for a razor or make the capital expenditure on a permanent hair removal solution?.. seems silly to fork out $70 every month)

Scarlett said...

@anonymous: the waxing is a pretty new thing, after many years of torturing myself with razors. But I should consider a permanent solution one of these days...

Scarlett said...

@jacob: 10 minutes for rice? You've convinced me...it's on my list (which of course means I'll get one in about a year).

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