Friday, March 7, 2014

Food Waste Friday and True Food Confessions--Mar. 7, 2014

It's time for Food Waste Friday, when the Frugalgirl encourages us to post pictures from the previous week of wasted food from our household. This accountability hopefully will help us to be more careful with our food and maybe save some money. Also, I am using this public forum to encourage us to eat out less which includes better meal planning. You can follow how we are doing in this endeavor by reading True Food Confessions. (Thanks to Jo from Simply Being Mum for sponsoring FWF this week.)

This Week's Food Waste 

None. Yea!!

I saved mushrooms and carrots by adding them to some fried rice. I've never made fried rice before, but I'm happy to report that it turned out well. I'll be using this in the future as another way to use up expiring food besides soups and casseroles.

This Week's True Food Confessions

Lili asked a couple of weeks ago how our food preparations have changed now that we have an empty nest. (An empty nest post is coming soon.)

We had leftovers from Shepard's Pie we had this week.

Short Answer:
We cook about the same, but now we have leftovers so we don't have to cook as often.

Long Answer:
When I was thinking about how things have changed, I'd say the biggest change is that we now have leftovers. For the last 20-some years, leftovers have been nonexistent. Or I should say, leftovers never lasted more than 8 hours. I may have gone to bed with leftovers in the fridge, but they would be gone the next morning with nothing left but an empty dish in the sink. Then I thought even further back about how our food habits changed throughout the years.

When we were first married, Ward and I lived in New Orleans. You may have heard that New Orleans is a city with great food and that is very true. It's just not its world famous restaurants. It is a place where a sandwich from a grocery store counter to cheesy fries from corner bar maybe the best you've ever had. At that point in our life, we had no kids and lots of money. That meant a lot of eating out with friends and learning to love turtle soup, shrimp Poboys, and crawfish. When we weren't going out, we worked a lot of overtime. Eating at home was catch as catch can.

The next chapter was when we had Wally and moved to Houston. Three years later, we had Theo. At this point, we both had full-time jobs with overtime. Usually by the time we got home, we were all tired and cranky. The question was did we want to go out to a restaurant where we had to wait for our food with fussy toddlers or did we want to eat at home where we rarely had anything prepared. The restaurants often won out. In Houston we learned to love Tex-Mex food from our frequent trips to the local restaurants. I am not exaggerating when I say there was a Mexican restaurant on every corner in our neighborhood.

As the boys got older, I quit my job and only picked up some occasional part-time work. I did more cooking at home and became a very good grocery shopper as far as getting the most for our money. Sometimes, I would have meals planned for the week or month and sometimes, I didn't. We still enjoyed eating out, but the frequency was less than before. Much of our eating out involved visiting Ward for lunch at his work cafeteria. Afterwards, we would take a walk and feed the ducks at a pond outside his building.

As the boys got still older, they became more and more involved in the food preparations. That might mean making applesauce with all of the neighborhood kids or leaning how to make chili. They were still young enough (preschool and early elementary ages) that they thought this was all fun.

When they both were in elementary school we moved to Maryland where we live now. I continued to involve the boys in more and more of the food preparations.  We would plan menus together as a family and sometimes each family member would plan them for the week or month. We discussed balanced nutrition and cooking times and methods that would fit into the schedules. The whole family read cookbooks to look for easy recipes and food prep was very much a family activity. We started adding a Maryland favorite of Old Bay Seasoning to many of our dishes.

Move ahead a few more years to when the Wally and Theo were in their teens. By this point, they were often in charge of the evening meals. During summer breaks, if they didn't have a job, they would be entirely in charge of suppers. Ward and I had our jobs outside of the house and they had their job inside the house is how we looked at things. I helped with shopping for the food if they were not yet driving. However, they needed to make up the grocery list. I was trying to teach them good life skills as well making sure that they understood the responsibilities of being a part of a family (or any group.) I learned a few things from them as they ran the kitchen. (i.e. Wally loaded the dishwasher more efficiently than I ever had.)

Now we're up to the last few years. This is when I started to worry about eating out too much for both financial and health reasons. I had not magically learned to like cooking, so this was a struggle for me. We ate at home a lot more with simple but nutritious meals. Theo got very interested in cooking at this point because he was getting tired of the same old things we were having. He improved the quality of our meals a lot during this time. However, the novelty eventually wore off for him when he realized how much work was involved with much of what he was interested in eating.

Where do we stand today? How do Wally and Theo cook now that their cooking involves only themselves? Wally is very happy to eat a peanut butter sandwich everyday. He has always loved peanut butter so this is actually a pleasure for him. However, he does cook occasionally when he thinks he should be fitting some vegetables in.  Theo still likes to experiment with flavors and cooks mainly at home. His main motivation for this is to save money. However, sometimes he is so busy with school that he enjoys a takeout pizza. How about here? Ward does not like to cook and does not feel at home in the kitchen. However, he is willing to help with food preparation and clean up. And even more he is willing to eat out. I still struggle with cooking at home most of the time and when I'm tired or stressed, cooking is the last thing I want to do. Planning is key for me to forge ahead during these times.

Has you cooking style changed over the years?


  1. That's a very interesting summary of your cooking and eating styles over the years. I think teaching your kids to cook is essential, boys and girls. It's a life skill all people should have. I'm envious of all the eating out you were able to do in New Orleans.

    For our family,, the biggest change has been in time. When my twins were small (and I also had an older child at home, too), I had zero time to fix dinner. It was all very quick, basic food. We frequently had oatmeal, raisins and milk for dinner. Another favorite was canned tomato sauce over pasta, with TVP for protein. Anything I could make in under 10 minutes was what we ate. As kids grew up I had more time to cook, but I'm not inclined to make gourmet quality dinners on a regular basis. We like simple but flavorful food.

    I do wonder how dinners will work out after the kids move on to their own lives.

    1. You have said that you like spending time in the kitchen. I wonder when your kids move out if your dinners will get fancier as I assume that you will have more time and more money.

  2. Great job on the no food waste! We had a few bits not finished by the dog that went out to the birds, but other than that all leftovers were worked into meals.

    It is funny how life stages change and the habits that exist in those stages change to match. I love to cook and enjoy experimenting. However, when I am extremely busy I find myself more motivated to find something quick.

    Love that you made fried rice!

    1. I can tell that you love to cook and experiment by all of the delicious things you show on your blog. Congratulations on no waste. I'm sure the dog and birds were happy to help you with that.

  3. Wow! I love your "food autobiography". My eating habits have also changed drastically over the years. At first it had to do with who I was hanging out with... but the big dividing line for me was the onset of food allergies (or, I guess, the diagnosis of food allergies would be more accurate.) I used to LOVE to eat out, but after food allergies it changed from being a relaxing "oh goodie, I can have whatever I want" experience to something more like "let's see... is there anything I can get that they might be able to alter enough so it won't send me to the emergency room." So learning how to cook was a real necessity for me.

    Anyhow, I think it's just fantastic that you taught your boys how to cook, and also that you gave them chores in the kitchen. My mother always felt that it was somehow "not proper" to ask boys to do domestic chores. I resented it enormously at the time, but looking at it through adult eyes, it seems like it also left my brother ill-equipped to deal with life on his own. Anyhow, KUDOS to you for getting beyond those sexist stereotypes.

    1. I understand about the allergy thing. My mother developed allergies in her adulthood. She spent a year slowly introducing foods starting with just rice to see what she was allergic to. It turns out that additives were the biggest problem for her. That was a time that health food was not popular, so it was hard to find things at the grocery store for her to eat. We had always done a lot of freezing and canning from our garden, but it stepped up at this point. Our meat always came from my father's deer hunting or butchering a cow with a family friend who raised them. It was a lot of work, but boy did our food taste good.

      As far as teaching boys home skills, it never occurred to me to do anything differently. I had to do a lot of chores growing up and thought my kids needed to learn and do the same. However, I will admit that they had it easier than I did as far was home responsibilities. My best friend growing up was in a family of two boys and two girls. The girls definitely had more home chores than the boys. The divide went all the way to college. The girls got two year degrees and the boys got four year degrees (one subsequently became an MD). Their father thought that girls didn't need anymore education than that. Thankfully, my parents didn't feel that way.

    2. Wow... I think my father and mother were sorta split on these sorts of issues, and ironically it was my dad who was the feminist. My mom came from a very conservative family (Mormons and Mennonites) and even though she had rebelled against it all, some of the views obviously stuck.

      Since Dad didn't live with us, Mom's views on home life took precedence. But I definitely felt caught in the middle. Dad expected me to achieve academically, which I did... but for some reason it always seemed like it "didn't count" compared to my brother's achievements. Of course, my family had a lot of other craziness mixed in there too.

      But, when I'm able to remove all of my emotions from it, and the family dysfunction, and just look at my experience objectively, I think it's almost a microcosm for where women in our culture are in general. We're expected to achieve like men, but it doesn't really "count" in the same way, and we still end up doing most of the chores at home.

    3. My parents had a practical approach. They said that you had better get enough education to be able to support yourself and a family. They said that you never knew what might happen in the future. That was the bottom line. Of course, they expected us to do well and we did. I didn't have brothers, so I don't know for sure, but I never thought that there were any fewer expectations of me because I was female.

      In my father's family when he was growing up, his experience the reverse of the male/female expectations that we are discussing. Because he was a strong boy, he was often not allowed to go to school when there were farm chores to be done. He ended up dropping out of school before he graduated high school. Many have thought that this was a shame since he was a very, very smart man. On the other hand, my aunts not only graduated high school, they went on to become registered nurses.

    4. Wow... your dad's experience sounds vaguely similar to my grandmother's - my father's mother. She was the eldest daughter in a large family, and I guess the Italian tradition was that the eldest daughter's job was to stay home and help with the housework & childcare duties. So she was forced to drop out of school after about the 6th grade while all of her brothers and sisters got to continue. As it turned out her sisters both married men who supported them throughout their lives while she ended up a single parent who really would have benefited from the education. Perhaps that's why my dad was so strident about wanting me to do well academically.

      Societal and familial expectations notwithstanding, I think we're pretty darned lucky to live in the time and place that we do.

    5. Agreed. We have so many opportunities today that were not available to our parents and grandparents..

  4. Interesting subject to think about. Lets see....
    In my early 20's (married) I was a vegetarian for a while and was into whole and natural foods. I was also in to competitive sports. I travelled a lot out of town and odd hours for field work in geology so my healthy eating devolved into canned beef stew heated on the manifold of a core drilling rig, moon pies and cokes. That phase lasted for a while into my 30's (now divorced) and early 40's. Things really didn't change much until I remarried in my early 40's and we "retired" to the farm and were very isolated from any restaurant food. So we cooked almost every meal. Much of that was from things we grew. That evolved into canning and freezing our garden produce, dehydrating, having laying hens, and foraging for wild edibles (shrooms, berries nuts etc). Now we have a home dairy and our goats provide all our milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir. Nearly all meals are eaten at home. We treat ourselves to a lunch out now and then. Our goal is greater self sufficiency.

    1. Beef stew, moon pies, and Coke. That was interesting phase. :) Do you get much food from foraging these days?

    2. Not this time of year but soon!


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