What We Spent and What We Ate: Surviving Grade School

We spent about $220 this week–but we have more excuses.  I won’t go into them here.  I made my usual mistake of letting Pat go to the grocery store and buy all kinds of ridiculous and expensive food items.  Better luck next week.

This week was back-to-school week.  I’ve been busy freezing dinners I can pull out on hectic nights and I’m back in the habit of prepping the week’s vegetables.  I try to slice cucumbers and peppers, string and cut the celery and wash the tomatoes as soon as I get back from the farmers’ market.  I never pre-wash lettuce or greens—they tend to wilt.  I’ll serve some of the sliced vegetables the same day, and save the rest for lunches the next few days.  As soon as I need an onion, I’ll chop all I have—it’s much easier to do it all at once.   I also like to serve steamed broccoli and/or cauliflower early in the week.   I can pull out half when it’s only lightly steamed and reserve it for lunches and snacks during the week.


Sunday I made roja vieja, which means “old clothes.”  It didn’t taste like old clothes, but it was unremarkable.  I liked the Epicurious.com explanation: “Ropa vieja, or ‘old clothes,’ describes the shreds of meat, peppers, and onions resembling a mess of colorful rags. Robust stews such as this Cuban specialty are at the heart of West Indian cuisine.”

The stew meat from our steer was great.  I dredged it in a little flour and browned it before I put it in the dutch oven.

I tried making squash chips on Sunday night.  The boys like them and I wanted to send them in their first lunches.  One tray was covered in little black circles of charred squash.  Why didn’t I take them out earlier? you ask.  Because I couldn’t see them under the tray of soggy, overly salted squash that refused to brown, that’s why.  I ate the top tray to make myself feel better–it only kind of worked.

My squash chips before I ruined them.

The eight squash chips that made it.



Isaac and I made Mark Bittman’s easy whole wheat crackers on Monday.  We had chicken soup, the boys’ favorite, for dinner in honor of the first day of school.  I used the broth I’d frozen from a couple of weeks ago when we barbecued those two chickens.  It was smoky and rich and perfect.  I added carrots and onion.  If I’d had my wits about me, I would have served it with lime wedges.  But it was still good old fashioned comfort food.  We put egg noodles in them, but next time I think I’ll make matzo balls.


Tuesday, as usual, was curry.  This one was fun.  We decided on green curry when we looked in the fridge and saw purple bell peppers, green beans and okra.  I love green and purple–it was pretty.  Next time I’ll use Japanese eggplant for more purple.  I shouldn’t have cooked the pepper very long–the deep purple fades quickly.



Pat works 12 hour shifts 4 days a week, so on those nights I eat with the kids and with Pat when he gets home.  I don’t mind eating two dinners, but I don’t want to make two dinner.  Anything in a slow cooker works: stew, lentil, beans, chili, green chile.  As long as you get everything in the pot before noon, you’re fine.  This week’s crock pot dinner was scarlet runner beans.  I thawed out a giant ham bone from a baked ham we had at some kind of family function a couple months ago and used a container of frozen chicken broth (see Monday night’s dinner).  It was perfect.  The skins on the beans are a little tough–we had to cook them three hours longer than the 6 hours we’d planned.

The next day I made dip and the following day I made a bean salad.



Thursday was stuffed tomatoes. I got some great tomatoes from the farmers’ market–there were pretty green and red ones, but we ate them before I could take a picture.  These are the easiest thing in the world to make, but you have to make sure to turn the scooped out tomatoes upside down to drain for 15 minutes or so.  Save the extra juice for pasta sauce later in the week.

I fed the boys and, since Pat was working, put two in the fridge for later.  I’m always looking for things I can make ahead and then cook (or heat) in separate servings.  I had to bake Pat’s a little longer because they were cold.  I served them with couscous, which takes about 8 minutes to make.

When school starts, we have to make meals that make good leftovers for lunch.  Chicken, meatballs, lentils  and beans (my kids love lentil madras lentils or pureed beans as dip).

I like to make quinoa or couscous once or twice a week.  I make a lot.  You can add anything to couscous and quinoa and come out with a good salad.  My kids like dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts and little vinegar and oil.  If I have leftover stock, I cook the couscous in that.



Tonight we had the lamb kabob I got Wednesday from JH Grass-fed (at the Wednesday Town and Country Market).  It was spectacular.



My favorite thing this week was dessert:  fresh figs drizzled with honey and Organic Valley whipped cream (with a little sugar and vanilla whipped in).


This weeks receipts.

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