Showing posts with label In the Kitchen - Menu Planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label In the Kitchen - Menu Planning. Show all posts

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Meal Planning

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

Around 10 years ago whilst working in pharmacy, a work friend introduced me to meal planning. Every Friday she would come to work with a handful of recipe books and food magazines. She would sit with her books, a notebook and pen on her meal breaks and write out the menu for the following week, along with a shopping list for anything ingredients she might need. I found this weekly event quite interesting and inspiring and I attempted myself to do the same, but I only did it on and off and for a couple of weeks at a time. At the time I thought she was very organised, a dedicated cook and someone that liked to try new things all the time. I didn't think much more of it than that. But now I see the bigger I understand just how much this simple tool can change your life!

I have started meal planning again and these are my thoughts on it now:
  • I can see it will save us money
  • I can see it will save food from being wasted
  • I can see it will assist in using ingredients that we already have in the freezer or pantry
  • I can see it will inspire us to try new foods
  • I can see it will encourage me to 'stretch' ingredients and be resourceful with leftovers
  • I can see it will save me time
  • I can see it will stop the "What on earth am I making for tea tonight" experience that overwhelms me every now and then
  • I can see it will encourage more involvement from our family as to what we are eating and what we can make together as a family
  • I can see it will encourage me to use ALL of my cookbooks
  • I can see it forming a major part of my 'job' as a homemaker to plan and be organised

What I can't see is that I will stop this time. I am excited about meal that a little weird? I love having my little 'weekly menu' up for our family to see with references to cook books and pages so I know where to find the recipe for each day. I love knowing that I can balance our meals out for the week in advance and I love the feeling of being in control and organising this important part of our lives.

Tuesday's meal of homemade ricotta gnocchi with a tomato, mushroom and baby spinach sauce

Do you meal plan? How has it worked for you?

Amanda x

Friday, 17 February 2012

Meal Assembly

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Back in early January, a friend called with an invitation to a fun little "party." The set-up was kind of like Tupperware or Mary Kaye cosmetics - a girls get-together to learn about a product, no requirement to buy, some wine and snacks and socializing - the women readers here know what I'm talking about. This "party' was an intro session at a local dinner meals assembly place. We'd have the place to ourselves for that evening, she was bringing a couple bottles of wine, she'd get to prepare a free meal as hostess, we could make ourselves one meal at the "party" price, with the option to prepare additional meals from a reduced menu at regular price.

Even though the place is only two blocks from my home, I'd never been inside. There are about 16 dinner-meal menu items, different each month. A customer schedules an hour-long session once a month, pre-ordering a minimum of 12 meals (in the 3 or 6 serving size) she wants to prepare during that time. Moving from station to station, where everything is set-up for that particular meal, she follows the prep recipe - measuring the ingredients for the sauce into one freezer baggie, putting together the side dish items in another baggie, packaging the meat portion, various baggies, and the cooking instructions all together in a gallon bag, puts that in her section of the guest refrigerator, and on to the next station. When finished, she places her order for next month, and has a least 12 "meals-in-a-bag" to take home and put in her freezer - to thaw and cook as needed.

It made for a fun evening, but the concept wasn't really something compatible with my lifestyle (nor that of most of the readers here, I'd guess. But bear with me, I do have a point to make here eventually). I only have the freezer compartment of my refrigerator, and it's pretty-much full - half with bags of fruits and veggies from my garden and orchard, the other half with white freezer-paper packages of meat I buy in the cost-saving club packs and re-package at home into meal-size servings for the two of us. Our chickens provide our eggs. I grow and dry many of my herbs. I patronize a grocery store that has bulk bins for grains and legumes, and there's another one a block from my home I can walk to when I'm out of milk. I already know how to cook, and usually without a recipe.

So I made my $5 3-serving meal, and bought a couple more pre-made ones from the freezer with my half-off party coupon. One of the employees working that evening was an old acquaintance I hadn't seen in years. So as we were playing catch-up, she told me she'd just gotten a full-time job offer, had given her notice, and that they needed someone to fill her part-time on-call position. I ended up with the job, working a couple of sessions a week - set-up before, clean-up after, cleaning and refilling stations between customers, and just general friendly customer service stuff. It's pleasant enough work, short and flexible hours, and nice to earn a bit of extra spending money.

Now this isn't an advertisement. I purposely am not using the name of the franchise. And even though I now could buy meals with an employee discount, I haven't done so (really - no room in the freezer). The cost of the meals is reasonable - a bit more than my usual home-cooking from scratch, less than a comparable meal in a restaurant. But I find the concept interesting, and I've been talking with the customers quite a bit - asking how long they've been coming there, what they like about it, why they keep coming back. I've been thinking about what they've said, thinking a bit more about the concept in general, and am feeling a bit of a paradigm shift beginning.

Allow me to digress just a bit now: thirty-some years ago, I was living in a rather remote mountain town. The only food store was a big chain franchise, with the standard pre-packaged and over-processed stuff, ingredient lists I couldn't even pronounce. A bunch of us locals got together and started a bulk food-buying co-operative. At first, it was just pitching in for a monthly buying trip to an alternative foods warehouse supplier, splitting up the order in someone's home. We outgrew that and found a small storefront to rent, with members volunteering time in the "store." We outgrew that, ending up with a real store with somewhat regular hours, a small paid staff, tiers of membership options, and a surcharge for use by the general public. Everything was still pretty much bought in bulk, and everyone knew to bring their own bags, jars, and bottles to reuse when shopping. It really was a rather "green sustainable-living" set-up, and gave the whole town access to minimally-processed, pesticide-free food options, whole grains, vegetarian, and alternative food-stuffs not easily obtained back then.

And now, back to the present, where alternatives now abound - Farmers Markets, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, health food stores, internet shopping, etc. And when, as an article written in 2008 (here) says, more than a quarter of food available for consumption ends up being thrown out - spoilage, expiration dates, too much prepared, inadequate storage, and on and on. And I'm  starting to look at this meal-assembly process in a new light.

Maybe it's the food co-op for a new generation. Menu items are bought in bulk, so less individual packaging (although lots of plastic freezer bags - wonder what they'd say if someone wanted to bring in their own reusable freezer containers each month?). Timely use of ingredients - who out there has partially-used spice containers more than a year old? ten years old? Saves money, packaging, food waste - say you only need a teaspoon of turmeric, or a quarter-cup of coconut milk. Saves time too - all the chopping, slicing, and dicing is already done.

It is home-cooking. It is real food. Customers can tweak the ingredients when they're putting each meal together, according to their own family's preferences (say, if you want to leave out the bell peppers or garlic). Healthier alternatives, such as whole-grain pastas, are available to try, without committing to whole bags of something your family won't eat. Some working mothers like that it's all in one bag, with instructions easy enough for dad or the kids to cook. Some empty-nesters have told me that between these meals and a monthly trip to a big warehouse store, they haven't shopped at a supermarket in years - and their food bills are lower.

So it's an interesting experience, and has given me some new concepts to ponder. Besides, I'd say anything that gets families to sit down to dinner together has got to be a good thing.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Organising Days

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Last month, I posted about Organising Information.  Following on from that I'd like to describe how I use tools to organise our daily lives...

We are a busy family with one adult who works full-time (shift work) and plays in a band, myself with a home based business and lots of volunteer/community commitments, and six children, five of whom we homeschool.  One daughter works 5 days a week and is studying, two daughters work at least 2 shifts each week and have busy social lives including sport and rehearsals, and three younger children with various classes, excursions and friends to meet up with here or out and about.

Diary - I choose a week-to-an-opening diary which is opened flat on my desk at all times.  My family can look at it, write down their commitments, check if we're busy before accepting a shift at work or invitation someplace etc.  Because I look at my diary often, and write events in there by hand as soon as I find out they're on, most things stick in my mind.  I tried using my phone so I could respond to invitations and make appointments when out and about, but the downside was that the whole family couldn't access the info like they can with a paper diary on my desk.  If I'm out and need to book something, I usually just make a tentative date and check when I'm home.  On the rare occasion the tentative booking doesn't work, I'll phone and change to a date/time that does suit.  I have also tried Google calendar and various software tools because I use my computer daily, but again, the paper version won out and we're sticking with the diary.  Garden-themed diaries and Moon diaries are my preference, and you can buy diaries from the very simple generic version at your local newsagent to one themed to almost any area of interest!

Menu Plan - My first ever post here at the co-op was about menu planning, and I use the same method today! 

I always have a sheet of paper on the side of the fridge listing all meals for the week, who’s cooking, baking to do, outings, birthdays, work shifts and other reminders for the whole family.  A lot of this info is transferred from the diary on my desk.

On Sunday night I take one of these sheets of paper (they’re printed from a Word doc on the computer with days of the week etc and spaces to hand write all details)… After writing the next week’s outings, visitors etc on the list, I begin planning meals. On the days we have busy afternoons or are home late, I choose a meal from the freezer (I cook in bulk and freeze), or a quick meal. Then I think about what fresh produce I have from the garden, markets or co-op to use up. We have these meals early in the week so that nothing spoils in the fridge.

Next I think about what’s already planned and choose other types of meals to slot into the plan - we divide our usual meals into lists depending on what they’re based on: egg, legumes, rice, potato, fish/meat or bread. At times I challenge myself to include new recipes, other times I try to use up a lot of frozen homemade meals and pantry basics to save a bit of money. Overall, the menus are well-thought out so they work.

If you’d like a helping hand to get started with menu planning, I recommend Mealopedia and Menu Plan Mondays at Org Junkie for inspiration. Some good advice can also be found on this page of the Hillbilly Housewife site.

Lists -  My lists have been the subject of a few giggles within my family over the years - packing lists, shopping lists, To Do lists and so on.  Sometimes I stop making so many lists and guess what?  Not very much gets done!  I forget things and feel a bit harried not knowing exactly what it is I have left to do.  I guess I am not a naturally efficient person - I never feel obliged to do housework and don't have rhythms like "Monday is cleaning day, Tuesday is baking day etc".  I also wear many hats - so while I'm busy teaching algebra, it doesn't come to mind that I have a phone call to return or need to start a sourdough loaf today...

Having a list and crossing items off is a sanity-saving tool for me!  I write my To Do lists in an exercise book which sits with my diary on my desk.  I also write bits and pieces of phone messages and other things in this book, and it's amazing how many times I have needed to go back and check on something.  When I use scraps of paper, they flitter around everywhere and I end up losing my lists - and part of my sanity!  I do write my shopping lists on scraps of paper (and sometimes lose these) but by the time I've done the menu and noted the ingredients required for the week, I normally know my shopping list anyway.  Again, phones and computers have apps and software for list-makers like me.  I've tried to use these tools, and also the whiteboard and eraser, but nothing compares to crossing out completed tasks with a firm blue line from a pen!

I am hearing whispers about the festive season here and there lately...  If you want to be more organised this festive season, you may make use of a how-to article such as, Organized Christmas?  I think Christmas is a perfect time to flex your organising muscles... The perfect warm-up to a stress-free, planned and productive 2012!

Please leave a comment describing your favourite daily life organising tool - do you favour apps or a calendar on the wall?  Or do you have an excellent memory and barely use lists?  Or maybe you just prefer to wake up and see what the day brings?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Weekly Rhythms Which Help

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

After a few weeks which left me feeling positively disheveled, I've been taking some time to commit to getting back into a rhythm which helps me lead a simple, green & frugal life even among the chaos of life! And for me, right now, those essential rhythms include...

:: A weekly walk, preferably repeated each day ;)

:: Homemade soup, perfect for a winter's eve - or for tackling summer allergies & sinuses

:: Weekend cooking sessions so meals are healthy & simple during the week - this week roasted trout, brussel sprouts, cooked sweet potato, roasted lemony carrots and broccoli salad

:: A few sessions with the needles - the perfect way to unwind

And when I take the time to incorporate a few little activities which help me lead a simpler life, I find that I'm learning an important lesson. A lesson in understanding no matter how busy, there is always a choice. A choice to rest, a choice to be in that moment, a choice to let go of the distractions and instead take a few minutes to focus, to be, to let go. And in that very moment - even if in the background there is noise and lists of things to do, I see the beautiful! And when I find that beautiful, even just a few minutes each day, it helps me set the tone for a relaxed and simple week.

What activities do you incorporate into your life which help you lead a simple, green or frugal life?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Creative Ways To Save Money On Food

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

We've all heard some of the best ways to save money on food include: shopping with a list, planning your meals, taking a lunch to work, bringing cash to the supermarket and rarely eating out. All of those have lowered my own grocery budget significantly. But recently I wanted to cut my grocery budget by another 35% in order to live on an "Extreme Frugality" budget in this season of my life. I wasn't sure how I would do it, but I've found a few creative ways which have made a huge difference & are saving me time and money.

1. I remembered how important it is to shop at home first. I have a small kitchen and for a few weeks I skipped this step and it showed in my grocery spending. Shopping at home first works because I don't purchase items I already have, I'm more aware of what I'm low on {and therefore able to look for good deals to stock up}, I'm able to cut down on food waste & I can visibly see how much I already have to use up and plan my meals around!

2. I've completely cleaned out my fridge, organizing it so that everything is clearly visible and organized. No more thinking I don't have enough to stretch, because I can actually see that I have a lot I can use up. I've found this also helps me see what I can substitute. I may not have leeks for a soup, but I have celery. A clean fridge really has helped much more than I thought it would.

3. I've learned that I need to focus on what is right in this season of my life. I blogged recently that I felt this overwhelming guilt {for about 10 minutes} that I don't make my own ketchup. But in my household, ketchup is probably used less than 5x a year, so it makes no sense to make it. Remembering to think about the time/money balance has really helped me focus on what I can do which will have the biggest impact on my food budget.

4. I've enjoy slow cooker Wednesdays & soup night! Generally these are both very frugal veggie recipes making use of lentils, chickpeas & veg that needs using up. What's more they pretty much provide my lunches for the week and add to my freezer stock pile!

5. I've joined a lunch co-op group in my building at work. We basically all bring a salad ingredient and make a massive healthy salad one day per week. Generally I contribute about $1 worth of food {radishes, cucumbers, onions etc} and have a really lovely salad to enjoy & good company to boot! If your work/building doesn't have a lunch club, think about starting one.

6. When friends suggest eating out, I suggest a pot luck. It's a great way to socialize & spend time with friends, without having to come up with the money to eat out.

7. I'm in the process of joining a food co-op, I donate 2 hours of labor a month and I get a significant reduction on locally sourced foods.

8. Where possible I try to buy eggs from people who have chickens. Where I currently live this is nigh on impossible as people aren't allowed to raise chickens, but where I used to live I was able to source local eggs and support local hobby farms while saving money. It was a win-win-win situation.

What creative ways do you use to save money? Do you have any tips to share?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Reducing Food Waste

by Gavin, from The Greening of Gavin

Recently, I read that over 30% of all household garbage is food waste; peel, plate scraps, rotten food, tea bags, etc.  Now this figure does not include food waste from Supermarkets, agriculture and the food industry in general.  In landfill these organic scraps become buried under tonnes of other waste and earth in an oxygen deprived environment.  As they breakdown they produce methane which is 25 time more potent than CO2 as a Green House Gas.  Not to mention the pure arrogance of being able to throw away food when over a billion people across the world don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  It makes me feel sick and sad.

So if this issue is so big, what are some of the solutions?  Well a few that I can thing of that can help you to divert food waste from landfill are really common sense and easy to implement   The most obvious is to reduce food waste at the start of the cycle.  By this, I mean when you go grocery shopping.  Here are a few tips;

  • Take a list.  By using a list you will most probably only buy the food items you really need, and in compiling the list you would have checked upon your existing stores at home and just be topping up.
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach.  From personal experience, you buy more food when you are hungry, and usually it is food that you just don’t need.  It is like impulse buying that kicks in due to hunger pains.
  • Grow your own food.  Plant a vegetable garden and reap the rewards, financially, physically and mentally.  It has been proven that people that grow their own waste very little of their own produce.  Maybe it is pride, or the thought of all that effort you took from seed to table.
So by limiting food waste at the beginning of the cycle reduces waste overall. 
During the storage phase, there are other solutions to minimise waste.  Here are some thoughts that might help
  • Menu planning.  Planning each meal may sound a bit anal, but it helps you to utilise the food you have at hand.  Each item in your fridge (where most food spoils) will be accounted for and will usually be used before going furry.
  • Use the crisper.  Your fridge has different compartment for different types of food.  The crisper is the best place for fruit and vegetables and usually last at least two weeks longer than in other parts of the fridge.
  • Use stuff on hand.  Before you go opening another jar of jam, check to see if you have one already open in the fridge.  No use breaking the seal to find that you still have one that is three quarters full.

Finally, what to do with leftovers?  Leftovers are one of my favourite meals.  They can be put into containers and frozen for lunches during the week.  They can be used in other meals.  Cooked too many vegetables?  Try making a bubble and squeak.  Too much Christmas Ham?  Make a pea and ham soup, or freeze chunks of it for use in a few months time when you crave some hammy goodness.  Cooked too much soup?  Well freeze it so you can enjoy it later.  There are so many things you can do with leftover food. 

If worst comes to worst, at least your pets can enjoy a good feed, or maybe even the chickens can have a nosh up if you keep them.  Nothing goes to waste around here at my house.  If the dog won’t eat it, the chooks, or worms or compost bins probably will.  The only organic things we throw into the landfill bin are small bones, but only after we have used them to make a stock!

In summary, using some of these methods will help you to reduce your organic waste, and save you a few dollars in the process.  Waste not, want not! 

Friday, 7 January 2011

Use It Up

By Bel
from Spiral Garden

I menu plan every week, without fail. When writing my plan I always consider what's in the garden, the fridge, the freezer, the pantry and try to use what we have at hand first. But some weeks we just seem to have accumulated a lot of excess food. For those weeks, I plan what I call a Use It Up week. More than ever I plan the meals around the leftovers, the produce gluts and the tired things in the freezer and pantry, which really need to be eaten soon!

On Use It Up weeks I try not to buy groceries at all. We are blessed with some homegrown fruit and veg, and fresh milk from our house cow. I always have bulk flour to make bread, and other pantry staples are stored in bulk too (like rice and lentils).

Use It Up weeks occasionally run into a couple of weeks and not only do they encourage inventive recipes, very local eating habits and a good clean out of my kitchen, but they save us hundreds of dollars on groceries for our family of eight. I normally use this money saved for a bulk shop to replenish the stockpile of anything which is low.

These past two weeks were Use It Up weeks. We had a lot of family staying for Christmas, and they left behind bits and pieces of food to be used up. First we tackled the fresh food because we didn't want it to spoil, and then we moved on to the more obscure ingredients. But we ate so well!

Some of the meals we enjoyed were crustless quiches, pasta sauces and curries (with all sorts of vegetables hidden inside), jacket potatoes, salads and all sorts of 'peasant food'!

The crustless quiche has to be my favourite as we almost always have an abundance of eggs from our chickens. This week I made three shallow quiches one night when we had nine to feed in the evening, and some slices were enjoyed cold for lunches the next day.

One contained defrosted shredded ham, mozzarella and some herbs. Not many of us eat ham, but our visitor and those who do, thought it was delicious! The second one contained some very finely chopped mushrooms, cubed various cheeses and more fresh herbs - it was my favourite! And the third was a basic mixed vegetable quiche, with some mozzarella and herbs for flavour.

To make these crustless quiches, I rub pie dishes with butter and pour in the vegetables etc mixed together with herbs and cheese if I'm using it. Then I whisk together a lot of eggs (about 5 per pie), some yoghurt or cream, some stock powder or paste, any herbs or spices not yet added, a dash of milk, some plain flour (I use wheat or spelt, wholemeal or unbleached) and a pinch of baking powder. This mixture is only slightly more runny than pancake batter. I pour it over the vegetables etc waiting in the dishes, and top with sliced tomato if I have some.

The quiches are baked at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and firm throughout. How long they take depends on the size and depth of your pie plate. I prefer shallow, small plates so they cook faster and I can make more than one variety at a time.

We serve the quiche slices with a big green salad and homemade dressing.

Do you have a favourite Use It Up recipe? If so, please share!

Friday, 19 November 2010

A Thanksgiving Timetable

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I'm the oldest of five children, so learned early how to cook for a crowd (in fact, I had to learn to cook all over again, for one, when I moved out on my own). Although there are just the two of us now, Thanksgiving Dinner at my house is usually for at least six, and sometimes even more. Over time, I've developed a timetable schedule that lets me get everything ready and on the table at once, with a minimum of stress. The menu doesn't vary much - we pretty much stick with tradition for this meal.

Things get started the weekend before Thanksgiving. The turkey needs to be out of the freezer and into the refrigerator by Saturday to thaw - it will take at least 3-4 days. I use my timetable as a reminder when making out my shopping list that day too (should you wish to refer to mine, clicking on the picture below should bring it up in a more-legible size).

By Tuesday, the turkey has thawed enough that I can get the giblet bag and neck out (when my sister first cooked TG dinner for the family, she didn't realize that those extras were inside. Mom discovered them, cooked inside, when she went to carve the bird) to use for making stock for gravy and moistening the stuffing. I submerge the bird in a bucket of brine, in the refrigerator, until Wednesday, and then let it air-dry, also refrigerated until time to get it into the oven on Thursday.

With the brining bucket out of the refrigerator Wednesday, I can start getting some of the other items prepped and in. I'd rather cook from scratch instead of out of cans when possible. Although the timetable says pumpkin, I prefer either a pink banana or butternut squash for my pie. Any of them will work, but where pumpkin pie can have a greenish cast to it, squash pie tastes the same but with a nice brown color instead. Whole sweet potatoes cook at the same time, later to be peeled and sliced into a casserole dish. Bread for the dressing, either cornbread or french bread, is baked, cut into cubes, and left out on the counter overnight to dry. I use the "day before" list pretty much in order for the most efficient use of my oven.

The "Make" list, I might leave until my sister arrives. I always have a "guest apron" or two available, and we enjoy the chance to talk, wait for the local radio station to play Alice's Restaurant, maybe drink a toast to the harvest, and work together preparing the dishes we've had on Thanksgiving since we were children.

For "The Day" I have two sets of serving times in the left margin. If my husband has the day off work, we can eat in the afternoon; if he's working (Nevada casinos are 24/7, so getting the day off is never a certainty), TG dinner becomes an evening meal. Since there is only enough room in my oven for the turkey, everything else goes in when the turkey comes out. The side dishes cook while the turkey rests; gravy is stirred and potatoes mashed; husband carves while everyone else gets their choice of beverage. Then everyone helps get the meal on the table. And then we all sit down together. I hope you and your families are similarly blessed this holiday season.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Fifty Ways To Save Money For The Holidays

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

With the holidays looming, many people fear that the extras aren't possible within their income level or budget so the additional "needs" get dumped on the credit card! There are so many teeny tiny greener changes we can make over the next 8 weeks which will save you hundreds of dollars and maybe pay for the turkey, trimmings and presents :)

1. Stop buying books and magazines and start using the library instead!
2. Don't buy cleaning products and instead invest in vinegar and baking soda [see the Down To Earth blog for tips]
3. Only wash clothes that are dirty, don't wash simply because you've used them
4. Hang your clothes to dry
5. Shower instead of bath and put a timer on
6. Swap childcare with friends
7. Eat vegetarian meals 3 nights a week - eating less meat is certainly greener!
8. Set yourself no spending days begin with 2 a week for the first month then add in another!
9. Use low energy light bulbs
10. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
11. Turn off all lights in empty rooms
12. Put a sweater and socks on so you can keep the heat lower.
13. Turn down the water temperature.
14. Pack snacks
15. Practice freezer cooking once a month so you have frugal meals handy!
16. Don't use things that are disposable like water bottles
17. Stop buying paper towels
18. Plan a weekly menu
19. Have breakfast for dinner once a week
20. Only shop once a week maximum
21. Try to buy direct from local farms and co-ops
22. Limit or ditch the cell phone
23. Schedule a long walk each weekend (great frugal family activity)
24. Pick your own - in some areas apples are still available!
25. Use what is available free - does your gym have showers and shampoo you can use instead of showering at home?
26. Wash your clothes at lower temperatures
27. Establish a change jar
28. Set yourself no driving days - if you need your car for work, nominate one day at the weekend where you aren't allowed to use it.
29. Set yourself the goal that if you could walk somewhere within 30 minutes you shouldn't take your car.
30. Write down everything you eat.
31. Write down everything you buy
32. Cancel the newspaper subscription
33. Don't eat out. Maybe challenge yourself and see if you can not eat out at all between now and the holidays!
34. Nominate one night a week to be soup night
35. Commit to cutting your grocery bill by at least 10% [I cut mine by 75%]
36. Stop buying soda, juice and alcohol
37. Ditch the cigarettes
38. Have a movie night at home.
39. Rent movies from the library - in most countries that means they are free.
40. See if you can get what you need for free by making use of local adds and enquiring if friends or family are looking to get rid of what you need.
41. Join a book group - usually a free way to have a night out.
42. Turn off all electrical equipment
43. Get back to nature [photographing squirrels is free, green & fun!]
44. Make your own shampoo
45. If you want to purchase something, make yourself wait 48 hours and examine whether you need it or want it.
46. See if what you need you can purchase second hand
47. Wait to do dishes until there is a full load [by hand or machine!]
48. Watch your portion sizes
49. Be your own beauty therapist
50. Ask for the necessities for holiday gifts

Taking a minute to reflect on this list, it is obvious that many of these money saving measures are actually green choices too! I've always found being greener doesn't need to be expensive despite what media reports often say! There are hundreds of every day little steps you can take to green your life, reduce your carbon footprint, enjoy a simpler life and live within a budget!

Have you got any green tips which help save money? Do you find being green expensive or frugal?

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Spring Cleaning the Pantry

by: Chiot's Run

Spring cleaning not only applies to the house, but also to the pantry! This is the time of year when I start to make a concerted effort to eat up goods the goods I preserved last summer. Soon enough I'll be pulling out the canning pots and filing jars with this summer's bounty and packing the freezer with fresh berries. This means I must start preparing now. The last thing I want is to end up with jar and jars of stuff from years past and have to throw some of it away. I'm not one to waste food, especially food that I spent time and energy growing and preserving.

This is the perfect time of year to start using up pantry goods. With the coming of warmer weather comes the feeling of optimism. I no longer feel the need to conserve my food resources to make sure they last through the long winter. Those feelings give way to the hope of summer bounty and I finally feel safe eating up the last few jars of tomatoes. I know that in a few months, my tiny tomato seedlings will be producing pounds of fresh summer fruit that will be eaten fresh and canned for next winter.

I find myself often in the pantry looking over jars of goods deciding what I want to make for dinner. If I spot a few jars of tomatoes, pepper relish, fire roasted red & jalapeno pepper, and a few jars of chutney, I'll make a big pot of chili. From the freezer I'll add some ground venison, beef stock and some frozen beet greens or spinach. If I'm lucky I'll have a bottle of beer as well to add for good measure. A few heirloom beans will also get added to the pot if there are any left in the pantry. If we have some frozen milk left from our winter stores, I'll make some fresh mozzarella, and who doesn't love a sprinkling of fresh spring chives on top of any dish this time of year?

If I find myself with a lot of extra tomatoes, I'll make up a big batch of marinara. This will top fresh homemade pasta, or even a pan of lasagna if I have the time and energy to make cheese and noodles.

Not only do all these dishes help clean out the pantry of last year's bounty and make way for the new, they help save me time during this busy season in the garden. A big batch of of chili can be eaten on for many days as can a big pan of lasagna (and they get better with age). If I make an extra big batch I'll freeze it in meal sized portions for quick meals during the busy days of spring and early summer. My goal is to have most of the jars in the pantry empty by tomato canning season and to have most of the berries eaten from the freezer before the strawberries come on.

Do you make a concerted effort to eat up items in your pantry to make way for the new season's bounty?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Menu Planning with Leftovers ($70 a week menu plan with ethical meats)

Eilleen (Consumption Rebellion)

Pizza ingredients. Photo by J Colman
Hello everyone!

Well, its been awhile since I posted here at the co-op. A combination of things really - time, net problems and conflicting priorites. I have been reading here though! And its good to finally be back contributing to this blog again.

I've been noticing many of the food related articles here lately. I particularly enjoyed Kate's "Going Meatless" post and can relate to many of her (and readers') views regarding the consumption of meat. Like many readers here, I try to buy free range and/or organic meats when I can.

When people in my day-to-day life find that I buy free-range and/or organic meats many of them often ask me how I can afford it. And when I tell them that my weekly grocery budget is about $70 a week, most are postively shocked.

So I thought I'd elaborate on how I menu plan and hopefully this will give you ideas on how to either incorporate your values into food consumption and/or cut your grocery bill too.

Some things about me first - my menu plan is to feed 3 people - my two children (aged 5 years and 7 years) are big eaters (as well as very very active) and so I've learnt to count their meal portions the same as mine. My daughter and I are the more adventurous eaters. My son is not adventurous at all and takes some coaxing. As a result, I have learned to keep "adventurous" meals down to maybe one meal a week or to keep it to one side dish a week.

My food values are this - cocoa products (coffee, chocolate etc) must be fairtrade as I can not abide by child-slavery. All my meat products must either be humanely raised and killed OR organic.

So here is what I do:

1. At the start of the week, I look at *any* leftover food in the fridge or pantry and make ONE meal from leftover ingredients in the fridge or pantry.

2. Write down 1 other dinner that I would like. Write the ingredients for that meal.

3. Review the ingredients for that meal and now write down another meal that uses many of the same ingredients from that first meal - eg ingredients for a stew are often very similar to say a stir-fry or savoury pie. Repeat till you have 4 dinners. What you should now have is a list of meals that allow you to buy ingredients in bulk.

4. Review all dinners and ingredients for the dinners and see if you can expand the ingredients to include lunches and breakfasts - eg. if the ingredients for 4 dinner will use up "6 eggs" and you know that you probably will buy a dozen eggs, then you know that you probably have enough to make omelettes for at least 2 breakfasts or 2 lunches. By doing it this way, you can now buy in bulk with a purpose (as opposed to buying in bulk but never really using it all up).

5. Write down any other ingredients you may need for the breakfasts and lunches.

6. Now that you've written 4 dinners and (hopefully) 7 breakfasts and lunches, you should now review what you can do with any of the leftovers from the above. (Think of it as a "Masterchef challenge" :P). I've found that by having 4 dinners, 7 breakfasts and lunches, then I can always come up with atleast 2 more meals using leftovers.

7. And so that makes 6 dinners, 7 breakfasts and lunches AND the 1 dinner using just existing ingredients in the fridge/pantry.

8. (Optional tip) If you are in the habit of getting takeaway (food to go), then PLAN that in your menu plan!! You would be surprised how many people actually throw away leftovers from their takeaway food. When the kids and I splurge on takeaway (the Ethiopian restaurant near us has a GREAT takeaway menu), I plan any leftovers from that too.

So, as you can see, I put a lot of emphasis on leftovers. When I first started this journey, I found it difficult to incorporate leftovers. That was for 2 reasons:

1. I didn't have the skills to think about leftovers creatively.
2. I didn't recognise "leftovers" to begin with - that is, I didn't know I was wasting food - I just thought it was "normal" to throw it away.

To address my first reason, I started slowly - just using vege leftovers to make one side dish instead of a main meal etc - nothing really flash, just little "experiments". The more I did this, the more confident I became with how to do it. And the more confident I became, the more creative I got with cooking. I tried not to beat myself up with mistakes either!! If it didn't work, then I learned from it and tried to not make the same mistake next week. Remember its not a race!!

For the second one, I have to admit this came as a shock to me. I didn't think that I was wasting food at all until I met up with people who used every bit of food they had. If I had not met amazing people like these, then I would probably not realise how much I can "extend" my food.

Here's an example of what I do to use up every last bit of food...

Night 1: Make roast chicken. My roast chicken has a stuffing consisting of 1 chopped tomato, 1 chopped onion, garlic and soy sauce.

Day 1: Have leftover roast chicken sandwiches - include a bit of the stuffing as part of the sandwich.

Night 2: Using what should now be the carcass of the roast chicken, make chicken stock. Set aside any leftover stuffing. After making chicken stock, it time to throw away the bones. (Eat something else ;) )

Night 3:
Using the chicken stock, make rice. When rice is just about cooked through, use the leftover stuffing to flavour your rissoto even more. Add any other ingredients for your rissoto (hopefully the ingredients are also leftover ingredients from other meals).

So the leftovers from the roast chicken meal ended up becoming 1 lunch and 1 extra dinner - that's 3 meals using pretty much the same ingredients!

Now, prior to me seriously menu planning, I would've made roast chicken and then *maybe* used bits for a sandwich BUT I would've thrown away the carcass and the leftover stuffing thinking I couldn't do anymore with it. But as you can see, its possible to actually make more meals with it.

Anyway, I hope you can see now why my grocery bill is as low as it is. If you have any questions, or more ideas on how to get your grocery bill down, then please let me know! (I can always improve).


Some great sites you may want to visit:

- helps you with a menu plan! You choose your tastes and they give you recipe ideas, complete with a list of ingredients at the end to print out and use.

Love Food, Hate Waste
- lots of food facts, including what expiry date/use by dates mean, lots of recipe ideas for leftovers, and portion control.


I hope you have had a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Organization and Frugality

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

When I was working full time in the corporate world, I struggled to get organized. Yes I was perfectly able to present at conferences, organize and manage national projects and run a team, but I would come home and just feel like I was in a constant mess. It was not that my home was messy, to the naked eye I seemed to have it all put together - I had a good job, a nice clean flat in central London, career prospects and a great quality of life. Oh how wrong they were. Behind the scenes I was never sure what food would be on the plate come dinner time, what I had in the freezer, what my weekends would look like (for example would I be tucked behind a laptop and unable to do more than a quick 20 minute walk to the shop for a frozen meal to heat up), was so busy that it was easier to buy than mend, I didn't have the time for so much as a quick chat with friends let alone volunteering or enjoying hobbies. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed daily. Looking back, I was spending money purely because I couldn't get organized, I didn't have the time, energy or inclination. Eventually I knew I needed to make some changes, I knew the dream was to give up the corporate world and downshift, but I also knew I shouldn't and couldn't go on living the way I was until I was in the place for big changes. I thought I'd share some easy, small steps that really helped me get organized and become more frugal thereby making the dream of downshifting all the more possible!

1. Budgeting - However much I didn't want to address this, I knew I had to. I set up a realistic budget which allowed me to complete a good grocery shop, have healthy foods ready to eat when I returned from a 14 hour work day and thereby saving me a good $20 a week and giving me more energy. Please note, I started my grocery budget higher than it is now, I knew I needed to make small changes so I would increase my confidence and skills. £30 a week allowed me to buy good food and stop running to the take-away!

2.Meal Planning - I know I'm highly motivated by what I "feel like" and I'd always found that meal planning didn't work for me because I was often home later than anticipated, meaning starting to cook was the last thing on my mind. So I created a menu plan that worked for me - I would simply list 7 main meals that I had the ingredients for, they were a mix of easy meals such as homemade soup with a roll and veggie sticks to more complex meals like homemade kale & potato bake with homemade meatballs and peas. Having a small list of 7 meals to choose from made menu planning work for me.

3. Scheduling exercise - I love to exercise, I would say that it helps me eat healthy, feel less stress and keep a good emotional state. Only I would have all these ideas of hitting the gym, but end up running 4 hours late due to meetings which over-ran and missed trains and the gym would then be closed or I was simply too exhausted. I started by scheduling walking to work 2 mornings a week - the walk took 75 minutes, but I found there was less that could interfere and it was a plan I could work around. I could choose the mornings that fit into my work schedule and within a very short time frame I found it made a difference.

4. Baking & Food Prep Day - I began once a month spending 1/2 a day at the weekend making a few baked goods and several meals which helped, during the busy weekdays, keep my healthy eating on track! I started with small goals; I remember month one I made homemade soup (and froze it into 4 portions), homemade chili (which gave me 6 portions), cut up fruit & veggies to keep in the fridge for healthy snacks and finished off by making homemade biscuits and homemade rolls. Instantly I felt less stressed!

5. I gave myself a "general goals list" each weekend - This motivated me to find some time to learn something new, spend time budgeting, get some exercising in and yet still understanding the limitations in this season of my life! My general weekend list included:

Phone 1 friend to catch up
Get together with a friend for coffee or a drink or meal/walk/cinema
Spend 1 hour doing paperwork or balancing checkbook
Grocery Shop
Plan 7 Meals
Get at least 2 hours exercise
Spend time enjoying a hobby (reading, knitting, photography)
Do something for someone else

This general list allowed me to prioritize things that were important to me, while still understanding that in this season of my life I was often working 5-7 hours each day at the weekend.

I have to say, as soon as I got organized and became more frugal, it gave me the confidence to really turn my life around, the skills to plan and the tools to get out of debt! Together these new found skills got me out of the corporate world and allowed me to really start living my life. I've never felt better and my frugal tools seem to increase daily!

I'd love to hear from you, what easy organizational skills do you use to help you make frugal choices? Have these impacted on your quality of life and lifestyle?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Saving Money on Food (the No Compromise Way)

by Colleen from

There are lots of ways to save money on groceries, but often along the way something is lost. We all have our ideals and our lines we don't want to cross, but when saving money becomes very important, compromise often seems necessary.

However, there are ways to save money on food without compromising flavour, freshness, or the ideals of local, sustainable, organic, etc. Here are some strategies I apply with my grocery budget. The result is that we eat well (flavour, nutrition, etc.) without spending a fortune, and we feel good about what we eat too.

(One caveat is that these are Strategies, not Rules. Nobody is perfect, but if you have guiding principles that operate most or even much of the time, you are probably doing pretty well. I am far from perfect, and have even been known to order a pizza once in awhile! Gasp!)

Strategy #1: Plan Meals

Yes, the "organized housewife" blogs are right: planning meals is your first step in saving money on food. It's a good idea to develop a system. I use the following categories to cover five nights out of seven, and then plan for leftovers the other two nights: meat (this could be red meat or poultry), fish, beans, vegetarian, pasta. The bean and pasta recipes can include meat in them, but preferably as a flavouring agent, not a main note. Each week I write my meal ideas in my Moleskine Weekly Notebook with the shopping list on the "notes" side. That way I can reference past weeks' meals to inspire me.

Strategy #2: Cook from Scratch

The principle here is to shop for ingredients, not processed foods. So I buy flour, yeast and salt instead of bread. I buy ground beef, canned tomatoes and chili powder instead of a taco kit or frozen burritos. I buy chicken, onions and pasta instead of chicken noodle soup. It does take extra time, but I really enjoy cooking and baking. I enjoy the challenge of learning to make new things like tortillas, and of finding simpler and more delicious bread recipes. It's a very frugal hobby as long as you follow the next principle.

Strategy #3: Keep it Simple

These days, food porn abounds, but it turns out Gordon Ramsey is right: the truth is, fresh high-quality food prepared simply will taste fantastic and doesn't need fancy distractions to make it a good meal. There are many ways to implement this strategy. For example, we often have soup and toast for dinner, and don't feel lacking for it. I love pan sauces, but try for recipes that use things I have on hand. (Unfortunately) I've cut way back on my consumption of fancy cheeses, especially since Parmesan has skyrocketed for some reason, but it means that when I do get a chunk, I really really enjoy it. Keep it simple and let the food speak for itself, and you won't end up with expensive herbs & condiments languishing in the fridge. Which brings me to . . .

Strategy #4: Reduce Food Waste

It doesn't matter how much you saved on that loaf of bread, or how cheaply you made that soup; if it ends up in the garbage, you are throwing money away. This hit home for me a few weeks ago when I looked in my fridge after a week away and saw it was nearly full--of rotting vegetables and infested leftovers. Eating up leftovers promptly has been an important part of this strategy--if they aren't enough for the next day's dinner, I make a point of packing them for lunch. My freezer is another great help. If something is nearing its best-before date, I can slip it into a Ziplock baggie and put it in the freezer for inclusion in some future soup, sauce or casserole. The point is, look at any food thrown away as dollars in the garbage, and you will find the motivation to reduce food waste.

These four strategies help me to save money on food without compromising my ideals or the quality of what we eat. They can apply whether you shop at a big chain store, your local farmer's market, or your own backyard. They may take time, but then again, so does couponing! For my own part I would rather spend my time with my hands in some dough than searching down coupons and trading them online.

What other strategies or guiding principles do you apply to save on groceries? Let me know what I've missed!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Lunch Box Post

Heather Beauty That Moves
Today I am bringing you a post from my personal blog archives, it was written last October as a collaboration between some of my readers (they sent me many ideas) and myself. This post also contains my everyday bread recipe which many of you have asked for. :)

Although the calendar does not currently mark the beginning of a school year for any of us right now, we still all eat lunch each and every day! Whether you are mid-school year and in need of refreshment, pack a lunch to take to work, or you are on summer vacation and packing many, many picnics to take on your daily activities, creatively packing a home made lunch is economical, generally treads lightly on the earth, and is always tastier! Okay, here we go...
Here we are, stepping into October. There is very little that is more beautiful than October in New England.

Most of our children have been back to school for about a month now - and you know I've been trying to collect some good information to formulate one (as it turns out very long) blog post about packing lunches. I'm finally getting to do that and I hope you are still in need... I do believe whether your children attend public, private or home school - making lunch an interesting, likable and fresh experience is somewhat of an art form. I have a lot to learn myself and your links and suggestions have been a tremendous help. I'll be sharing each and every one here. I'll also be sharing a few recipes and ideas from my own kitchen, but mostly this post has been written by each of you! Sorry it's taken me so long to place it all here in one easy spot.

Cropped 1

It is fitting that a lunch post from this household starts off with chocolate. You could say it is part of our daily lives. Have you ever made your own chocolate sauce? Does your little one (or you!) love chocolate milk with their lunch? You will never buy the throwaway land-filling bottle again once you make this recipe, and you will know each and every ingredient that goes in. Makes a mama feel good.

Homemade Chocolate Sauce

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
1 cup sugar (we use evaporated cane juice crystals)
splash of vanilla extract

Sift cocoa and sugar into saucepan, add water. Heat, whisking often until it comes to a boil. Let it simmer for a couple minutes. Add vanilla, turn off heat and stir. Cool for a bit and bottle it up! Store in the refrigerator and shake before each use. I haven't done the math but my guess is that this costs less than .50 cents per bottle to make. Pretty economical and easy as can be.
I've tried many, many bread recipes with the hopes of finding a good, soft sandwich bread. One that would stay soft for longer than a single day... it's been important to me that I replace store bought (nice and soft) wheat bread for one that we could make here and Emily would go for... I came up with this recipe, it fits the bill perfectly. And again, I know what goes into it. Let's just say that is my lunch-making mantra.

Our Sandwich Bread
2 cups warm water (110F)
1/2 cup agave nectar (honey or sugar is fine)
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup light vegetable oil (your preference)
4 cups all purpose white flour (we use organic white whole wheat, germ still in)
2 cups whole wheat bread flour

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the agave in the warm water, add yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam, about 10 minutes.
2. Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Work in 6 cups of flour. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Use a little more flour if needed. Place in well oiled bowl, and turn once to coat the entire surface of the dough with oil. Cover with a clean damp cotton cloth. Allow dough to rise until double in size., about an hour.
3. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves and place into two well oiled 9x5 loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
4. Bake in a 350F oven for 25 minutes. When you thump the top of the bread it should sound hollow.

TIP: My house tends to be on the cool side, even in the summer. I turn my oven on 200 and allow the bread to rise on the stove top. Works really well.

For a buttery crust, brush hot loaves with butter. Cool on a rack and enjoy!

Ideas From My Kitchen

  • fruits and veggies are tastiest when pierced through a toothpick or wooden skewer. an assortment on a single stick is even tastier and keeps the kiddos from getting bored with one veggie.
  • leftover pasta tossed with a little pesto is always a big hit.
  • i tell emily to eat her fruit and/or veggies first and then she won't have to worry about it. she somehow listens to this. if i don't suggest it each morning though, she will not remember to practice it.
  • sandwiches made with the cut-n-seal are a huge favorite. the crust provides our pup with a rare human food treat. this tool is also great for making mini-fruit pies. use regular pie dough, fill, crimp and bake. really hard to eat just one!
  • i keep my freezer pretty well stocked with an assortment of baked goods that are pre-portioned and wrapped in packages appropriate to a weeks worth of lunches for adam and emily. for instance: recently i made a texas sheet cake (chocolate zucchini style). we can't finish a 15x10 sheet cake before it turns stale... i froze about 2/3 of it, all cut up, in a few packages. i can then just go into the freezer on sunday and select a few different baked goods for the week. it works really well. i have a pretty good rotation going and nothing sits in the freezer for more than a few months.
  • the above idea is also great for when you quickly need to provide something for a playdate or get together with friends. many professional bakers agree the freezer is the most under-utilized tool in the kitchen.
  • quesadillas. i make them in the morning and let them cool to room temp before packing up. eaten at room temperature they are still yummy.
  • the moosewood vegan chocolate cake is my go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes. these also freeze beautifully (frosted even) and can be taken one at a time from the freezer for an occasional treat. they will thaw by lunchtime.
  • i try to set an example of being a good earth steward by having minimal to no packaging in the lunch box. if it isn't picked from a tree, or baked at home, we try to make our snack selections from the bulk bins at the co-op. emily's current favorite salty snack is flaxseed corn chips.
  • homemade leftover pizza - huge hit!
  • a thermos of homemade soup or macaroni and cheese.
  • overall, emily is a pretty plain eater (as many of you know by now) and thinks simple things are better. i think her favorite part of lunch every day is the note i slip into her lunch box. i know she looks forward to it and it only takes but a moment to do. i keep paper, stickers and pens in a drawer right next to where lunch is prepared. i never forget, and she saves every single one. the daily note is perhaps the most important lunch ingredient.
  • smoothies! current favorite is strawberry/banana/chocolate.
  • bagels and cream cheese - even cuter if min-bagels are used.

Ideas From Your Kitchen

  • Cyndyava: A thermos filled with warm chicken rice soup, or broth and pastina! She's a soup girl. She also gets a lot of great ideas from this great food blog.
  • Jessica: I make a pot of soup on Sundays and then put it into crocks to eat at lunch time at work. Every week I try a different soup so it doesn't get too boring. I add fresh veggies to dip into dressing or salsa (I'm a dip person as well!) and a piece of fruit leather or an apple. I'm pretty seasonal with my lunches so in the fall there's apple sauce and in the spring lots of fresh salads.
  • Amy: I like to roast a turkey breast on Sunday and have slices of turkey for lunch during the week. Sometimes it turns into turkey salad with grapes and or dried cranberries (we're not into nuts here, but I think walnuts would be nice also)
  • Sarah: I make two meals for each girl so they have a hearty snack as well. I used to serve porridge every day for the first "meal" but now I serve porridge for breakfast every day, so need something new.
  • Iris: I love talking lunches...dread making them each day though. New ideas are KEY. Now that Jonas is almost 10, I have him involved with side-by-side preparation of lunchmaking (I still do most of the work for the 6 y.o.'s lunch). We do this at night (can't face any more morning details than absolutely necessary, plus Jonas sounds quite different than Emily...He sort of meanders around a bit in mornings, though he is an early riser. I find my boys like smaller amounts of food, but with greater variety. So I think about lunch food as a bunch of small and healthy snacks...Nuts and dried crans, half of a sandwich, crackers and cheese, Pirate Booty (a favorite), some kind of homemade power bar, fruit slices, veggie sticks and dip, goat cheese with a tiny spreader and rice crackers, etc. etc. My boys are NOT into thermos items, no way no how. One friend uses Sundays to whip up some "deli" type items, like soups and salads that her four children can avail themselves of come the lunch-making week. The whole lunch thing can kind of get maddening. I hate it when lots of food comes home to me uneaten and wasted (or for chicken food!). I also hate having someone come home and tell me I didn't pack enough. So getting their input has helped this somewhat. Woah, maybe I better do my own lunch making blog post! Yikes! Hope this helps...
  • Elizabeth: I haven't had to prepare a lunchbox since I made my own when I was a kid, but in those days the best best thing to have for lunch was a cream cheese and olive sandwich. Cream cheese slathered on wheat bread with sliced green olives.
  • QT: There is a blog I go to everyday that you should check out for your lunches. I usually just look on in envy - Lunch In A Box.

Web Inspiration

I hope you were able to find an idea or two within this post, I really appreciate all your help in putting it together (just sorry it took so long). Please feel free to continue this post within the comments, it really is a never ending subject. I for one would love to hear even more!