Thursday, February 25, 2010

freezer madness

For years I have wanted a stand-alone freezer, and even gave serious thought to whether it would be possible or practical to haul a little chest freezer up the stairs of my last apartment. When I was getting ready to buy a house, one of of the first non-essential things I wanted to get for it was a stand-alone freezer, but then I got lucky and the house I bought came with a freezer in the basement. Like everything else in the house, it is old and inefficient, but it still does the job.

I haven't gotten brave enough to learn to can things yet (this year for sure!) so most of my food preservation thus far has been through freezing, and in the basement right now I have three half-pints of crabapple butter, three or four pints of applesauce, one half-pint each of raspberry jam, lemon curd and lime curd, a little bit of diced cayenne and a little bit of pesto, and at least one loaf of homemade bread. I also have leftover soup, curry, cooked beans, packaged frozen fruits and veggies that I stocked up on when they were on sale, and some half-priced baked goods from 3rd Street Bakery. I love visiting my freezer, it's like having a grocery store right in my basement, and last fall when I was bringing down an armload of applesauce I felt downright homesteady.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count

Attention nerds and treehuggers: The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up this coming weekend, February 12-15. This is an annual event where citizen scientists (that's you) can help provide data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to help them track bird populations. Here are two posts I made about it last year: Birds, Climate Change and Citizen Science and My Un-big Day.

I don't get a lot of birds in my own backyard yet--I need to plant for trees and shrubs so that they have some cover--so I'll probably only do a tiny count at home and will do another count out in the city somewhere. Last year I counted at a bus stop for 15 minutes and scored a Merlin. I don't think I'll be quite that lucky this year, but even if I only see a few chickadees and a downy woodpecker, it's still a worthy contribution.

Monday, February 1, 2010

organic grocery costs

Up until recently I worked at the local co-op, where I got a lot of free food and got an employee discount on the rest. Now I'm working full time as a freelance writer and have to actually, like, budget out how much I spend on groceries. So I kept my receipts for the month of January and tallied them up. Subtracting HBC and household stuff ($16.92) and cat food ($48.33 to feed two cats canned food plus organic raw chicken and turkey) I spent $168.05 on groceries this past month for one person, which comes out to $5.42 a day or $1.80 a meal. According to the USDA, that falls somewhere between "thrifty" and "low-cost."

I buy all my groceries at the co-op, so this is all organic, local and/or natural food. And I should say, I eat very well for $5.42 a day, and I don't feel like I am scrimping and saving. My food budget include indulgences like maple-roasted cashews or a lump of gouda or fresh tomatoes in January (they are local hydroponic/greenhouse tomatoes, but still) and even very occasional packaged/convenience food. I do make most of my food from scratch, including bread and other baked goods, and my groceries mainly consist of perishables like soymilk, yogurt or fresh produce, plus stocking up on whatever non-perishables are on sale. I like to keep a well-stocked pantry, and it's pretty rare that I pay full price for things like pasta or or coconut milk or frozen fruit. The conventional wisdom for saving money on groceries is to make a menu plan and stick to it, but whenever I tried that my grocery costs shot way up. I save a lot more money by buying whatever's on sale or what looks good and is in season, and working around that, and I think it makes me a more creative cook, too.

Still, I think I can get this lower, and it'll definitely be lower in the summer when I have my garden up and running and can go to the farmer's market. If anyone's interested I could post monthly updates as to what I'm spending on organic/natural groceries.