Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 16-18, going off the plan

Plans, especially food plans, are a great thing to have. Ours has worked out really well so far. But if there's one thing that's true about them, is that they "gang aft aglae," as the man said. Since we're going to be gone or with my folks for most of the last week of March, my plan was to simply do a one-week food plan instead of the typical two weeks, shop for it on Monday (Monday is when both Kroger and Meijer have their new sales posted), and go from there. I made up the plan and everything. 

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, stuff happened, Bella got sick, we took her to the vet first thing Monday morning, and the vet bill came to a heartstopping three hundred dollars. That's a lot of money at any time, and when you're only pulling down 1100 a month, well, you get the idea. We had just a little emergency money socked away, which is gone now, and we're not looking good for this month's budget. So the shopping trip was scotched, and the plan was necessarily scotched as well. Can't make spaghetti without tomato sauce, etc. 

That's not to say that we're going hungry, though. We have enough food, I just have to be a bit more creative. On Monday  for lunch, we had a boxed mix of cheesy broccoli rice, to which I added the remains of the ham chunk I used the night before in the soup. When fried up and stirred in, it added protein, a lot of flavor, and enough bulk to turn the side dish into a satisfying lunch. Monday afternoon brought another unpleasant shock when M realized he had lost all the work he'd done the day before on his paper. Forget Friday the 13th, we got all our bad luck three days late. He spent the afternoon and evening and much of the night at school to rewrite what was lost, and by the time he was ready to come home, we were both ravenous. I made tangy tomato soup chicken again, once again with roasted potatoes. Our potatoes are getting soft, so it's important to use them while the using's good. I didn't have the onion soup mix, so I used garlic salt, onion powder, pepper, and a little bit of the pork fat I rendered off the ham. That stuff is versatile and flavorful, if not exactly healthy. It turned out just fine, especially once I poured the sauce from the chicken over top my portion. As usual, I made two extra chicken breasts for lunch the next day. We ate and watched four episodes of Star Trek all in a row, M's reward for hard work. Thanks, public library! 

The next day I went back to the yarn shop and knitted again while M fooled around in the house. He's got one more paper to write and an exam to proctor, but other than that he's  done for the term. And I didn't think I could take any more Star Trek for a little while. Lunch was tangy chicken sandwiches, where we cubed up the chicken breasts and put the pieces in a bowl, grated mozzarella cheese on top, and then microwaved it and put the hot mess on toast. It's very good. Supper was a very simple Tuna Helper that I dressed up with a bit of shredded cheese and the last of the sour cream. It was okay, but I've been cooking such nice stuff lately, it was anticlimactic. All food is good, though! 

Today was a busy day for me. We're hoping to leave Saturday for M's parents, which means a week-plus of not having to cook, but also the house needing to be cleaned for the petsitter. I spent much of the day doing laundry, because there was a ton. It's been well over a month since we last went to the laundromat, and even with my handwashing, it's hard to keep up. I finally gave in and went to the laundry room in our building. I've discovered an interesting property of our dryers. To start a dryer and do its default 45 minute cycle is 1.25. Ouch. But if the dryer is going, you can add time to it, and fifteen extra minutes only costs one quarter. I realized I could save a lot of money by A) not drying all the way, and B) gaming the dryer. When I finished loads in the washer, I tossed the wet clothes into a plastic bin next to the dryer, and every twenty minutes, put a new quarter and a new batch of clothes into the dryer. The damp clothes got hung up to dry. Between the spin cycle and the dryer, there was far less water in the clothes than if I'd handwashed, and each load cost 1.50 instead of 2.50 or more. What full load of clothes dries fully in 45 minutes, after all? There are clean clothes hanging everywhere in my house, from the doorway to the bathtub, but it was worth it. 

While I was doing all this laundry, I was also cooking, through the magic of crock-pot! It took two days to thaw my turkey breast in the fridge, and it still had an ice cube in the middle today. But a turkey breast has enough meat on it to see us all the way through the weekend, so it's perfect for our needs. I put it in with a stick of butter in the cavity, poured two cups of white wine over the top, and sprinkled the whole thing with minced onion. I was supposed to use a real onion, but I didn't have any. The lid also wouldn't go down all the way with the turkey breast in there, so I piked a couple towels on top. It did the trick. Because it needed seven hours to cook, we had a late lunch/lupper of chicken-bacon-artichoke pizza, a family favorite. A packaged pizza crust, ranch dressing sauce, dressed with one cooked and cubed chicken breast, chopped artichoke quarters, bacon bits, and mozzarella cheese. It was very satisfying and I was totally going to take a picture but I forgot. 

The turkey ended up being  finished around 8pm, after making the house smell extraordinary all afternoon. I'm sure the neighbors were envious. It was so tender that the breastbone slid right out when I tried to use it to remove the turkey from the pot. We had simple sandwiches of turkey and buttered bread, and it was great. Tomorrow I'm going to have to bake some bread, because we are all out. But I have big plans for this turkey. The overall plan may have failed, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up. Now, more than ever, I need to get creative! 

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