Category: Feeding Families

Crushing on Food Show Hosts and Why I don’t believe in “Superfoods”

Warning – Kinda ranty post with lots of research-y link things where I pick on quinoa and kale (a lot). If you’re offended by this click away now…

A typical weekly Scrap House “Superfoods” haul from the greengrocers.

Okay, I’m going to admit it… I spend far more time than I tell my family binge watching Food Network. Not only that, I then go off and stalk the show hosts I like on the interwebs.  

In doing so over this past few months I have developed a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain. Not the kind of teenage-girly-mid-life-crisis-leave-your-husband kind of crush, but one of those crushes when someone out there just “gets” ( obnoxiously swearingly agrees with) the way you think about stuff and then takes it a bit further and more think-y-er. (His recent essay on sexist kitchen culture has made him just that bit more interesting and attractive).

In short, I have an intellectual food-crush on this guy (she says adding him to the ever-growing list of food crushes … Sarah Wilson, Rachel Khoo, Maggie Beer, Rick Stein and that River Cottage Guy are just a few others. It’s getting pretty long). He’s not more special than any of the other chefs, cooks or obnoxious opinionated food lovers I follow on the interwebs. I  actually don’t know that much about his foody history, but I do like his no-BS commentary on the places he visits.  In particular like the attitude he shows towards food in his TV shows.

Yes, he visits “classy” “trendy” places and tries out all the fancy overpriced weird crud they offer, but the best bits are where he eats “real food” (and compares it to politics and stuff). The kind of food street vendors and somebodies Nona have been making for centuries (sometimes longer). And guess what… none of the stuff he rates as awesome is over-processed food chain or trendy “superfood” cafe fare. 

I actually cringe a little every time some hipster -wanna-be food guru uses the term “super-food”.

I feel more than a little miffed that all the so-called “experts” have treated us “ordinary” people like we’re just a little dim. I also feel a tad guilty that over the years, I too have been known to succumb to the hype spouted by popular and scientific media (yes scientists are hype-y too… they want you to believe that their research is better and more right-er than the other guys).

Take for example kale.

Yes its good for you, but, and I hate to be the one to tell you, kale is not new. I remember it in my own Nan’s garden in the 1970s (yes I’m that old) and there’s a bunch of WW2 era recipes out there that list it as a major ingredient (check out this recipe for Kale and Potato Soup). It grows just as easily as spinach or silverbeet, has the same kind of nutrients (there’s a table with all the numbers here for those who like that sort of thing). So quite frankly you can cram your $7 kale smoothie up your proverbial jacksy even if it is delicious. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Theres a whole bunch of bloggers out there that tell you how to make your own and avoid the ridiculous Cafe prices (okay I lied theres just that one ). Even so, last time I went to the local greengrocer a bunch of kale was priced somewhere around $5. That’s still an expensive smoothie.

Same goes for those trendy quinoa salads (pronounced in our house key-noh-ahh) and chia (Chee-ahh) seed pudding slops. Okay, so I’ve tried them both. I’ll admit I did kind of like the pudding, it wasn’t abhorrent and I’m actually trying to use up the last of the chia seeds I brought months ago today by adding them to a beef casserole- kinda weird but its working.

I will also admit that I do love almond milk (used to make the pudding slop) which is both easily accessible here and not expensive. Almonds are grown on a farm near our house so I make the almond milk, mainly because I have an intolerance for the regular cow stuff, I’m not allergic it just makes me gag most days.

Yes, quinoa, chia seeds or your fancy dried frankle-frugen-berries are okay. Yes, they’re nutritional dynamite, but so is just about any fruit or vegetable if you don’t process the crap out of it. If you have food allergies and such they’re fab, but things like chia seed or quinoa are hard (almost impossible) to get un- plastic-packaged here in rural NSW, and often are transported in from overseas. Even if they are grown here in Australia are quite frankly overpriced for a lot of us feeding families on a budget. Quinoa costs approximately $14 per kilo here. Its currently around $2 per 100 grams at Woolworths, as opposed to  brown rice which is around 27 cents per 100 grams. Yes, quinoa beats brown rice for protein and a few other things but really they’re not all that different nutritionally, there’s a comparison diagram here.

Even “ordinary” foods have skyrocketed in price since being given the “super” label. Berries are the best example I can think of… blueberries here are $5 for a 200 gram punnet on a good day. That’s Australian dollars which equates to about 2 pound 50 or somewhere around $3.50 US depending on exchange rates and that’s just your un-organic supermarket variety, organic is (as always) a lot more. Frozen are often a lot cheaper (not to mention convenient) but again the plastic bag and transport.

Yeah okay so I made the frankle-frugen-berries up earlier, but you get what I mean….

In short, all these foodstuffs, and a whole lot of others are extremely un-family- budget or zero-waste friendly. Unless you have access to fantastic bulk stores locally, its hard to find most “superfoods” packaged in anything but plastic bags or other environmentally unfriendly containers. Yes they’ve got great nutritional stats, but so does almost every single unprocessed food (think whole grains, fruit, veg, dairy, meat). 

Add to that, the majority of recipes call for extra speciality ingredients that are equally ridiculous in price for families on a budget and get used once, thrown in the cupboard only to be forgotten and then thrown out next time you spring clean.

I have a suggestion for all of us that have succumb to the “superfood” hype at one time or another… it might not be a popular idea, but how about we forget it. Forget “superfood” altogether and eat “real” food instead. You know the stuff you can get at your local butcher, greengrocer, bakery or supermarket. If you have a green thumb or are lucky enough to live with someone who does, the stuff you grow yourself (hint-hint Mr Scraps, Grandad Scraps) and the stuff you can make in your own kitchen.

It’s better for you. “They” proved it in the 1940s (particularly in England) when people ate far less meat, less fat and less sugar than we do today due to rationing. It probably wasn’t the worlds most exciting diet most days (you had to take what you could get – there was a war happening) but on the whole people were fitter and healthier than they had been before or have been since. Give it a look-see on Dr. Google, most information is from England but here’s an SBS show about it . It was by no means perfect (nothing ever truly is, is it?) and food may have required a lot more preparation than today without our modern conveniences like refrigerators, microwaves and food processors, but it kept people, on the whole, fed and produced far far less waste than we do today.

For me personally biggest bonus to no longer buying into the “superfood” hype is that it saves sooo much time, mainly because its been done before. In the Scrap House we eat things like carrots, pumpkin, beans, mince beef and sometimes even…shock horror… white potatoes!

Why?

Because they’ve been done before. I don’t have to spend 14 hours trawling the internet trying to find out how the heck to cook that supa-dippity-do-dah ingredient after a day at work with a hungry 4-year-old at my feet. If you don’t slather most whole real food stuffs in fat or sugar they have nutritional values on the same levels as your expensive “superfood” varieties.  The biggest bonus is however, that NO ONE in the Scrap House turns their nose up at a humble baked spud or meatloaf full of hidden grated veg, they will however leave the kale chips to go limp on the bench  and that quinoa salad with laboriously extracted pomegranate seed embellishments to fester in the back of the fridge….

….. and it would of too, but I ate that stuff for lunch for a week just so it didn’t get thrown to the Immortal Chicken.

 

 

 

Saturday Semolina

We’re moving house soon so I’ve been trying to use up all those bits and pieces in the pantry so we don’t have to shop before we relocate. We’re only moving a few kilometres up the road but the fewer boxes the better. Our pantry is fairly organised compared to most but even I have some skeletons in my cupboard, or rather strange jars in my pantry. I’ve found all sorts of interesting and forgotten things in there. Half a jar of brown sugar from before we embraced a low sugar life, some two-minute noodles of death that came in a gift hamper I’m not sure when…they may have moved house with us more than once…scary. 

But there have also been some treasures, like the jar of semolina I had left from my last round of pasta making.

I have fond memories of semolina. When I moved to the big smoke (aka downtown Adelaide) in my early twenties with new baby in hand, hospitality job that saw me working unnatural hours and an often absentee and in hindsight, abusive husband (no, definitely not the current Mr Scraps) it was semolina that saved my sanity.

Or  was it the tiny Greek lady two doors down, the one with the knotty fingers and hearty laugh who brought it to my door in all its glutinous protein glory one Saturday morning. We’d met only  briefly a few days before when I caught her “stealing” the grapefruit from our tree that overhung the old pairing  side fence. She had thought I “looked a bit worn out”, so here she was pot in hand to make my day easier.

Saturday semolina became a thing. Sometimes  it was flavoured with nothing more than a little brown sugar, sometimes it swam in warm milk, others it was piled high with sliced banana or berries and their syrupy juice. And always there was thick, home-brewed black coffee. Sometimes we chatted and sometimes,  if my baby was sleeping we just sat silently slurping in glutinous goodness, washing it down with thick black goo. When we did chat,  we discussed nothing really,  the weather,  children, husbands and sometimes she went home with fruit from our trees,  sometimes she brought me olives from hers. They were some of the best conversations I ever had. It didn’t matter what time I crawled home after dinner service on Friday, or how many times the baby woke after I did,  I was always up bright and early Saturday morning waiting for the lady with the pot.

Eventually she showed me how to make my own as well as many other things. We eventually moved away, but I stayed in contact, if somewhat sporadically over the years. Sadly my Saturday Semolina lady passed away a few years ago at the ripe old age of 98. I’d like to think she’s out there somewhere, supervising ( and probably shaking her head, waving her hands and laughing) every time I make this…

Saturday Semolina 

This makes one really large serving or two small ones.

1/3 cup semolina
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp brown sugar (we substitute this for Rice Malt Syrup although if you use whole creamy milk you don’t really need any extra sweetener at all).
1/4 tsp salt

Put the semolina, milk, water, brown sugar and salt in a small saucepan.

Cook over a medium heat, stirring, until it is as thick as you want it. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Serve in a bowl or mug with a little milk, and a sprinkling of cinnamon, sliced banana, nuts, a handful of  berries or whatever takes your fancy.

How Scrap family reduces food waste and saves some $$$

9 ways the Scraps family has reduced food waste and saved some money

Australian’s throw away thousands of $$$ worth of food a each year. That’s THOUSANDS! I don’t know about your family, but ours definitely doesn’t have thousands of disposable dollars laying around to waste on food that we don’t get to eat.

We’re by no means perfect or even experts but we do manage quite well on what I consider a very lower middle-class income. I’ve had lots of questions about it lately via face-lurk,  especially when I post about saving on groceries or put up recipes that feed the fam for next to nix. So today I’m going to share the principles we follow to reduce (mainly food) waste and save a few $$$ especially when the budget’s a bit tighter than usual.

1. Know what’s in the pantry

By knowing what’s in the fridge, freezer and  cupboards—fresh fruit N veg , canned stuff, dry herbs and staples like flour or rice—the less likely we are to return from the shops or to get home and realise we’ve already got one (or more) of something. On weeks when the budget’s really tight shopping the pantry first can be a real lifesaver. We often find enough for at least half a weeks meals are already there. The teens are really good at coming up with creative ideas for whats in the cupboard….they’re not always great ideas, but they are creative….

2. The List Abides

Writing a shopping list based on what’s at home and what we plan to cook during the week means we avoid buying more than whats needed and don’t purchase items we can go without. (Although I  do try to include at least one small “indulgence” each week like a little chocolate or the extra ingredients for a special desert or Lunchbox snack). I actually loathe shopping (of almost every kind) so having a list makes this a much faster and less painful task and thankfully, our greengrocer delivers!

3.  Check the expiry date

We check expiry dates when we’re shopping and try to buy things like milk, cheese, dry and tinned goods, with the longest shelf-life remaining possible. We position older items at the front of the fridge or cupboard, so they get eaten first (actually Mr Scraps  is much more vigilant about this than I am). If fruit and veg start to go a bit soft, we also look at ways to incorporate them into soups, sauces and desserts. If we’re short on time, we freeze them for later (which reminds me …I have a bunch of squishy fruit in the freezer that we can use for smoothies this week).

4. Portion control

No, I don’t mean we put the family on a diet. But we’ve found out the hard way that if there’s only three of us at home on Thursday but my meal plan looks more like something for when there’s five or six  of us, we end up tossing A LOT of uneaten food to the Immortal Chicken. We try to buy and cook only what we need. And if I’m  making extra,that it’s something that can be easily frozen for later. Every now and then I do this on purpose so there’s some individual servings of whatever in the freezer for lunches or those nights when something unexpected crops up and we can’t cook (or I just plain don’t want to).

5. Storing food

Airtight containers,  fridges and freezers all play a part in prolonging the shelf life of certain foods. So, if we’ve got meat in the fridge that we’re not going to eat this week,we  put it in the freezer. Same for fruit and veg. For example green beans are on special at the greengrocer this week so I’ve ordered a box full to be delivered.  After work today I plan to blanch and freeze most of them for later ( unless of course Mr Scraps channels his inner kitchen fairy and has it done already by time I get home).

6. Leftover nights

If we make more food than we can consume, rather than throw it out, we pack it for lunch or save it for dinner the following night. The bonus is I don’t have to cook again the next day. I try to have a Leftover night written into our Meal Plan once a week.

7. Keep a Container

In the car, bottom of the pram or your bag. If Mr Scraps and I or one of the Scrap kids can’t finish  our  restaurant meal, we ask to take it home. If we can stretch one meal into two – we not only  reduce waste and the second meal is essentially free so we save a few $$$$.

8.  Compost or find a chicken…

We don’t actually compost because we have the Immortal Chicken. Chickens are great for recycling things like fruit and veg peels (except onions and citrus) and all manner of scraps. If you don’t have a chicken of your own (or a neighbour who does) compost bins  and worm farms will break down food scraps and at the same time create natural fertiliser for plants. If you’re lucky (like people in our area) your local council has commercial compost facilities, but also check out your local schools or community gardens if you can’t (or don’t want to) compost at home.

9. Grow your own

Okay, so I’m not so great at this (I’m told I have a “black thumb”) but saving money is one of the biggest reasons people grow food at home. Having a stash of herbs and vegetables means  always having access to fresh ingredients and just the right amount. I have had some success regrowing veg like celery and carrot tops from the scraggy end bits we usually cut off and throw to the Immortal Chicken, but it takes a while and I’m too impatient.

S

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Talk Groceries!

When you live in rural New South Wales, you can’t buy much in your own Mason jar.

I kept seeing pictures like this posted by people I Insta-Stalk & Face-Lurk and felt sad that my grocery hall so rarely looks as pretty as this.

In fact, until I read Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home and Amy Korst’s The Zero Waste Lifestyle, I didn’t actually know what a Mason Jar was. But they made it all seem so easy.

Just shop for groceries at your local bulk store with reusable containers and bags, and you’re set! Unfortunately, our little Australian village (population approximately  2,500) is not nearly as advanced as San Francisco when it came to shopping options, no bulk stores.  The only local bulk store local to us is a 30-40  minute drive away.

For years we’ve use calico bags when grocery shopping and I’ve always brought our veg from farmers markets or loose from the supermarket when ever I can, but in other areas  I’ve  struggled to minimise my family’s packaging waste, sometimes driving long distances between farms, markets, and small businesses in neighbouring communities to seek out minimal or refillable packaging. All that driving isn’t terribly sustainable and it took up huge chunks of time.

Most of all, it was discouraging. I was reading all these eco- friendly-sustainable-zero-waste-money-saving- organic-hippy- blogs and to be honest, felt like either I was completely useless, or that they were completely out of touch with the real world! All these amazing urban bloggers I was following really didn’t  grasp how challenging zero-waste living can be for rural dwellers here in Australia, and probably everywhere else too. In fact, sometimes it felt like they were being quite preachy or condescending.  I hate that. It makes me angry.

Then I found a blog post by Zero-Waste guru  Kathryn Kellogg.

I just wish that more of the zero-waste conversation considered that the majority of us actually don’t live in areas where Zero Waste is an easy option. If only everyone could be so encouraging and try to help everyone figure out alternative solutions that lower our waste (both food and packaging) without either a putting major dent in our budget or increasing our environmental footprint by driving all over the earth to find un-packaged goods.

Not everyone is going to be able to achieve a  ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, but we can all still be make a difference and influence our community retailers to move in a greener direction.

So, what should you do if there are no reusable-friendly bulk stores around?

According to Kellogg, you start by asking yourself some questions:

1. Can it be made from scratch?

There are a lot of things we buy automatically in stores that are easy to make at home, such as pasta sauce, hummus, guacamole, pancake mix, vinaigrette, bread and muffins. Learn how to make them. If you live in the country making up a batch of muffins takes less time than driving to the store, and it’s cheaper too.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with ducking into the local bakery with your old pillow case or calico bag and buying a fresh loaf of bread or yummy muffin. We actually have an awesome little country bakery down the road so I do this often myself. And of all the stores I’ve ever tried to buy “zero-waste” from, bakeries have definitely been the easiest.

2. Can you buy it in a returnable container?

Some dairies offer milk and yogurt in returnable glass containers. You pay a deposit up front that’s reimbursed or transferred to your next purchase. Usually these are smaller-scale, privately-owned dairies that sell a better product. I haven’t found one here, but there’s an olive farm up the road that refills my 4 Litre oil tin every few months (we actually have two tins, one in the cupboard and an empty in the car that we fill when whenever we happen to be passing that way).

3. Is it available in compostable packaging?

Always go for paper if you can because it’s biodegradable. This is especially easy for baking supplies, like flour, sugar, chocolate, and cornstarch. Some pasta and chip brands come in cardboard.

4. Does it come in paper, glass or metal?

Kellogg is a big fan of glass, since it’s entirely recyclable – and it’s one of those few items that’s so costly to produce that recyclers and companies are willing to pay for recycling  (sadly it may have become so expensive here in Australia that a lot of it doesn’t get recycled at all so we’re now trying to avoid or reuse glass jars instead of dropping them in the recycling bin. If glass is recycled in your area though, you can buy most condiments, oils, and vinegar in glass bottles. I recently also found sliced beetroot at the local IGA supermarket in glass.

Metal is also a better option than plastic, as it’s more readily recycled. Just be cautious of BPA (plastic) in can linings.

We tend to buy things in paper or cardboard whenever possible because its not only recycled here, but is compost-able. We buy our flour, pasta, sugar (very, very rarely), baking soda and oats in boxes or paper packaging in the largest quantity we can find or comfortably store. Boxes go in the recycling and paper gets shredded for the Immortal Chicken’s bedding before becoming compost. Just watch out for hidden plastic bags inside food boxes. If you give the box a bit of a shake or gentle squeeze you can usually hear if there’s one in there, but I’ve been caught out a few times with speciality flours and cereals.

5. Can you buy it in bulk?

Buying in bulk is always a good idea to save money (as long as you can eat it), but it’s especially smart if plastic packaging is the only option. Buy the biggest bag you can, like Kellogg did: “We bought a 25lb bag of rice when we first moved to California that lasted two years. That alone saved 25 plastic-wrapped rice bags!”.

We do this for things like cheese, nuts, coffee beans since they keep for a while either in airtight jars or the freezer.

The important thing here is not to let perfection impede your progress.

There are ways to reduce waste, even if they’re not as picture-perfect as the book authors and bloggers  world would like you to think. I mean, if it was really sooo easy everyone would be doing it and they wouldn’t be selling any books would they?

So for today’ s challange:

No matter where you live, next time you go shopping try and swap at least one item that you buy on a regular basis for a less waste producing option.

For example, we started buying a different brand of dry pasta some time ago because it comes in a cardboard box instead of a plastic bag. Bonus is, it actually tastes better than the other brand and doesn’t cost anymore than what we used to buy when its “on special”. We also like cheese and as a family eat quite a lot of it , so I stated buying it in 1kg blocks and cutting it into quarters for the freezer (or I wrap it in a beeswax wrap and pop it in the back of the fridge) instead of buying just enough for the week. Again it costs less, but it also means that instead of 52 plastic wrappers per year being washed and going off to Redcycle, there’s only about 12 and I always have some on hand when I need it.

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Day 4, Let’s Do Lunch!

Argh! Lunches! 

I actually hate packing lunches. I HAVE to do them the night before or it’s just utter chaos in the Scrap House of a morning. Silly really, I’ve been packing lunch for myself and others ever since I first left Grandma and Grandad Scraps house at  18. You’d think it’d be a doddle by now.

Thing is… work or school lunches are probably one of the easiest places to lower waste and save some monies.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I went to work one day  and didn’t pack my lunch because I have decided that just for one day a month I will treat myself and buy lunch from one of the cafe’s near the office. I budgeted for it out of my “mad money” (I might blog about how we budget one day) so it wasn’t a shock at all, but lunch cost me about $12. It wasn’t a fancy lunch either. A chicken schnitzel sandwich and a drink. It was nice. I was full afterwards and didn’t feel the need to snack at all between lunch and dinner. The archaeologist I work with also brought her lunch (a toasted wrap, some fries and a drink) for around the same price. We decided to take our lunches back to the office and eat in the conference room, so the woman at the cafe wrapped our schnitzel sandwich and toasted wrap in paper and put the fries in a bag (we both carry reusable coffee cups so no disposables there).

Not so bad I thought … but…. together our lunches cost about $25. I worked it out that if I worked 5 days a week (at the moment I’m only doing two but that will change next month when Uni finishes) and brought my lunch from a cafe every day at $12, thats $60 a week. Multiply that by 50 weeks and that’s a whopping $3,000 a year! Even more if Mr Scraps was doing the same… and more still if the Teens brought lunch from the Caf at their school every day!

I actually know families who do this. No wonder they’re broke despite earning decent wages.

Not only did it cost money but buying our lunch and bringing it back to the office also  left us with paper wrapping and paper bags. I know, paper is recyclable and compostable but….

When I bring my lunch from home in my own reusable container and make a coffee at work in my own cup it costs less than $5 (sometimes as little as $1 depending on what I pack). It also produces no packaging waste. That’s Zero Waste. 

Plus (if I’m doing it properly) it’s usually A LOT HEALTHIER than a schnitzel sandwich (I’m not giving them up completely though… I still love a good schnitty).But I quickly get bored of sandwiches and so do the Teens and Mr Scraps.

My work is actually great for zero waste lunches (I’ve blogged about our zero waste office before …you can read it here) and taking leftovers from last nights dinner is great but sometimes it’s nice to have something “special” just to break up the day. It makes the school or work day so much nicer if you know you have a great lunch to look forward to and you don’t have to worry about how much it’s going to cost you. So these are my must-haves for a great zero waste pack-up (I do ours the night before because … well you know…. mornings…) and at the bottom are some links to my current favourite pack-ups.

  • Drink/water bottles –  These are a must! I have a glass one because it sits on my desk but the Scrap kids have BPA free plastic ones because they get thrown about in school bags and dragged around the school oval at lunch time or during sports. I have a couple of spares tucked away in the back of the cupboard for those days someone forgets to bring theirs home.
  • Lunch Boxes –  I pack them up the night before. We have a collection. Plastic ones, wooden ones and metal ones. I like the Bento style ones with the little compartments. They get used for all sorts of things around here not just lunch, but we have lots because I like to cook extra stuff for the fridge or freezer so we can just grab-n-go. You don’t need a fancy box to put your lunch in though, just use whatever you have, an old Tupperware container  or reuse a takeaway box. The only rule about containers I have for the Scrap House is NEVER reheat anything in plastic (put it on a plate before you pop it in the microwave).
  • Jars – I’m really into food in a jar at the moment. So many things you can put in them Noodles, Oats, Salads, Soups and they look so pretty on Insta-stalk, That Pin Stuff  site and Face-lurk. It’s a good idea if you’re going to eat straight from the jar to have one with a wide mouth. They don’t have to be fancy mason jars either. We reuse old salsa and sauerkraut  jars. But anything you can put in a jar, you can put in an old Tupperware container…except maybe the soup (unless you’ve got a good lid).
  • A Thermos – we have a couple of those wide-mouthed ones and a tall skinny one for hot coffee or tea. A thermos for me is a must for fieldwork days and trips to the park with the Threenager. They’re awesome on cold winter days, but most people forget they’ll keep thing cool too! Just about anything you can put in a jar or lunchbox (that’s not a sandwich… although I haven’t tried it, maybe there’s a way) you can put in a thermos. Just remember if you’re going to eat straight from the thermos that you’ll probably need long-handled cutlery.
  • Beeswax or Vegan Wraps and Cloth Napkins – you can buy expensive wraps or make them yourself. I usually find that a napkin does the job, but beeswax or vegan wraps will act a bit more like cling-film. You don’t really need them if you have reusable containers. Its just handy to have something to wrap that sandwich or muffin in. I found the wrapper your butter comes in (wiped clean of course) is also a good alternative for small things.
  • Cutlery- You can get some lovely little “to-go” packs. The bamboo ones are cute, but the Scrap kids and I just grab flatware from the drawer. I brought some extra spoons and forks from the local op-shop a while ago (because someone will always leave one at school in their locker or in the dish drainer at work – although my work now has their own for us to use so I don’t need to take my own to the office anymore).

So  besides last nights leftovers, what do you pack in these things other than sandwiches?

There’s lots of “Lunch in a Jar” articles on the interwebs,and they’re not all for salad or noodles.Try here or here for ideas. And remember that anything you can put in a jar you can put in another container. But the jars look so damned pretty.

For times when I have access to a microwave, I like to cook up lasagne in small glasslock style containers. Just pop on the lid on when they’ve cooled and throw them straight in the freezer and pull them out on your way out the door. They make great “TV dinners” too for those nights when my meal plan doesn’t work, something unexpected comes up or I just can’t be bothered. Lasagne sheets are one of the few really cheap pasta options we can get here in a cardboard box, sometimes we make our own but we don’t always have the time (or the energy).

I also make pies for the freezer. I can get away with feeding the rest of the Scrap household almost anything if I wrap it in pastry. From scratch  I fry off some mince and onion, add some finely chopped veg and a little gravy then pop into pastry in the pie-maker that Mr Scraps found at a garage sale a few years ago (it makes four pies at a time before that I baked them in large muffin tins in the oven). More often though I make them from leftovers like vegetable curry, beef stew or homemade pasta sauce.

For winter,  soup is great for the thermos and it’s mega cheap if you make it at home! It does need to be heated up in the morning before popping it in the thermos though (unless you’ve got a super-duper on. I used too but the lid broke and I haven’t managed to find a replacement). There’s lots of soup recipes out there on the interwebs. I like to use up leftovers and veg scraps to make soup like my Carrot Top Soup. You can find a recipe here. Or I just throw some Scrap Stock in a pot, add veg and some shredded chicken, season well and you have chicken and veg soup.

For snacks (that aren’t fruit) we like – a little pot of dip or salsa with flatbread or veg like carrot or celery cut into sticks, Scrap to Snack MuffinsNot little Bear Biscuits, Banana Bread or  No Bake Museli Bars,

In an ideal world we’d have time to make everything from scratch and completely zero waste. it’s not an ideal world though so if you don’t have the time to cook from scratch (or your family are fussy eaters or  just plain out won’t eat homemade lunches) you can still do lower waste, cheap lunches. Just buy things in the biggest packets you can find to minimise packaging and keep the cost down. I sometimes do this with nuts or corn chips. Just dish them out into reusable containers  as  individual serves and recycle the packaging.

The challenge for today:  is to do a recipe book or internet trawl and find yourself (and anyone else you pack lunches for) some appetising pack-ups. Even if you are a stay at home mum without school kids and you’re packing snacks for a trip to the park with your baby or toddler, it doesn’t have to be boring.

 

Web Errors, War Rations and BOB Cabbage Pasta

It’s been an interesting week so far and it’s only Wednesday!

Those of you who visit here regularly and follow along on face-lurk may have noticed that there are several post missing from the site.

It seems we may have been hacked (either that …or an update went wrong …or  I pushed the wrong button somewhere along the line…which is entirely possible) and Kitchen Scraps went down. I thought for a moment (well, a whole day) that I’d lost her forever. But a clever IT person showed me how to restore a website from old data, and we’re back online… minus a few recent posts. I’ll try and get those rewritten from my notes and re-posted.

It’s taught me a valuable lesson – BACK UP & PROTECT YOUR DATA!

It’s one we all know and should take heed of but in this techno-gizmo world, seem to ignore or just plain forget about. It was (only) a blog that I almost lost forever, but imagine if it was something really important or of huge sentimental value, like your entire collection of family photos, your next best selling novel or all your financials…

Sadly, one of the posts that went bye-bye birdy was the one I wrote about putting my family on War Rations. If you left a comment or saved the link, I’m sorry to say it’s gone now… but a big thank you. There were so many thoughtful and helpful suggestions, it really is a shame they’ve evaporated into the cyber-ether.

The gist of it was that a lot of my favourite (as in the ones I face-lurk and insta-stalk) food gurus and bloggers believe (like me) that we shouldn’t be wasting food. They also believe that it shouldn’t be as ridiculously difficult or expensive to feed our families healthy nutritious meals.

One of my favourite blogs is written by Carolyn Eakins who recreates authentic World War 2 meals. It’s called the 1940s Experiment (my all time favourite modern era) and uses the principals of English wartime rationing to help control her weight and keep herself healthy. She’s not the only one calling for a return to the culinary habits of our immediate ancestors either Sarah Wilson, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall are just three others that come to mind.

Leonora Green  1941. Coupons Required.
Leonora Green 1941. Coupons Required. Image from the collection of the Imperial War Museum London.

The short of it is WW2 rationing saw people eating less sugar, less meat, less fat and more veg. They had to use everything because there was only so much available.This went for everything, not just food. In short, people were healthier,were far more frugal and wasted very, very little.

It sounds almost exactly what we’re trying to do here, right?!

While we’re not at war (although I’m guessing there’s a few world leaders who’d like us to be) and there’s no shortages of food here, I’ve really been embracing the principals of rationing this past few weeks. More veg, less meat and making sure we stick to a meal plan, shop only when really needed and (except for staples like rice, flour and dried beans,peas and lentils etc) using things up completely before running out to buy more.

As a result, I’ve come up with a few new “BOB” recipes (BOB stands for – BACK OF BOAT – those quick, simple, inexpensive  yet  totally delicious meals that can be eaten with one hand or out of a high sided bowl with just a fork or spoon while sitting on deck and lazily drifting on the ocean).

BOB CABBAGE PASTA

This is my take on the old braised cabbage that your mum or grandma might have made. Cabbage was big in England in WW2 because it could be grown at home. The Ministry of Food even issued instructions to housewives on how to cook cabbage in the most economical way. It was pretty much a staple here in Australia too because its cheap, nutritious and like other veg, wasn’t rationed.

Ministry of Food How to cook cabbage WW2 instructions
During WW2 England’s Ministry of Food issued leaflets informing people of the most economical way to cook cabbage.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a recipe for boiled cabbage. In fact there’s no boiling water required. Except for some chopping of ingredients, this literally takes minutes to make. It’s economical too. This makes enough to feed 6 of us as a main meal (or 4 with leftovers). It uses very little meat and only a little oil or butter. You can add additional veg or change out the bacon or chorizo for chicken, pork or you can leave it out altogether.

1 head of cabbage. shredded to the thickness of fettuccine or spaghetti noodles.

1 Onion finely sliced.

2 rashers of bacon finely diced

1 chorizo sausage finely diced

2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (I like to use a tablespoon of each).

A sprinkle of chilli flakes or one finely diced chilli.

Any other veg you’d like to add finely shredded with a grater (zucchini is great, so is carrot or capsicum)

Salt and pepper to taste.

A large pan (I make this in the 20 Litre stainless steel pot I use to make stock, soup and stew. It has a tight fitting lid and if there’s leftovers, it fits straight onto the bottom shelf of our fridge).

Heat the oil/butter in the pan and add the bacon, chorizo, chilli and onion.

Saute a few moments until the onion is a little soft and starts to go translucent.

Add the cabbage and stir over a low heat until well combined and cabbage has softened but still has a little crunch.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve just put a generous serving in a bowl.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Scraps – I’m Famous! And No Bake Muesli Bars

Well that’s another week done and dusted. I had two days at work (which I wrote a little about here), a meeting with my thesis supervisor on Friday that went well and was treated to dinner on Thursday night (roast beef and veg with a lemony desert from a restaurant in town).  The Elder Teen has just finished his first week at shearing school on a local farm and Mr Scraps has finally started photographing some of our shed junk to list on Ebay.

My dishwasher tablet recipe was re-blogged twice this week. Once by someone who has been reading my posts here and once after I was approached by someone through Facebook after I left a comment on a post in a sustainable living group. Mr Scraps informs me that I am now officially famous and should start offering my services as an “expert” on TV talk shows You know like those people they get on to tell you how to feed your family for $10 a day on what equates to $50 worth of corporate sponsored ingredients.

I think I might just stick to archaeology a while longer before I start asking for a dressing room with my name on it.

I didn’t keep exact track of what we all ate this week as the Elder Teen was fed by the shearing school,  the Younger Teen had three days of cooking for Food Technology at school  and we ate out Thursday night. Between this and sports training running later than usual two nights this week I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking and we mainly ate the meals I had stashed in the freezer.

HINT:  for busy families the freezer can be your best friend.  Whenever there’s leftovers  divide them up into meal sized portions and stash them in the freezer. It’s great for really busy  days, when something unexpected crops up and your meal plan goes out the window, that week when you can’t (or don’t want to) get to the shops or just when you can’t be bothered cooking. Just pull out of the freezer, heat and eat. We call it Dinner Bingo! Our version of the old frozen TV dinners, but yummier and without the packaging.

We had both the Eldest and the Uni Student home for the weekend which was lovely.  To keep everyone feed I made a quick pot of Veg Soup Friday night using whatever veg was hanging around in the bottom of the fridge (this week it was carrots zucchini, onion and cabbage) and two containers of our homemade Scrap Stock from the freezer flavoured with the rinds from some Parmesan cheese I had saved. The cheese rind  was suggested by the Archaeologist I work with and she was right, it was delicious.

I also whipped up a batch of these yesterday.

They literally take ten minutes ( plus some time to set) and if there’s any leftover they’ll go into school / work lunchboxes during the week.

I make them low sugar by using rice malt syrup, really dark chocolate chips (which is really 85% cocoa chocolate chopped up small and kept in a jar in the pantry) and this time just a sprinkling of sultanas because I found some hiding forgotten in a container in the back of the cupboard but you can literally add whatever you like or even leave them plain.

I love a versatile, throw it all in the bowl and mix recipe. These are  dairy and egg free and could easily be gluten free if you made them with gluten free oats.

No Bake  Muesli Bars

2 tablespoons chia seed

6 tablespoons water

1 & 1/2 cups oats

1 cup oat flour (this is just oats ground until fine and powdery. I use my mortar and pestle but you could use a blender).

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew etc)

1/4 cup rice malt syrup ( or you could use honey or maple syrup)

1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

1 cup of add-ons  –  for this batch I used 1/2 cup of chopped cashews & almonds, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips & sultanas, but you can use anything you like.

To make mix the chia seeds with water and let sit while you pop the oats, oat flour and coconut into a bowl and mix well.

In a saucepan over a low heat warm your coconut oil, rice malt syrup and nut butter until melted and we’ll combined. Let cool for a few minutes then stir in the chia seed/water mix. Mix into your oat/coconut mix adding your cup of add-ons.

Once well combined  pop the mix into a tray lined with paper (or I use a wax wrap). Press down really firmly and pop into the fridge for an hour or so to set (or the freezer for half an hour if you have a Threenager/ Teens/Mr Scraps who don’t like waiting).

When firm, slice into bars. This made  12  about the same sized as those commercially made individually wrapped muesli bars but you can cut them any size you like.

These will last at least two weeks in a container in the fridge. They are quite soft but will hold up okay in a lunch box as long as the weather isn’t too warm ( coconut oil has a tendency to return to liquid on a hot summer day).

Hints: This is really versatile – add a splash of vanilla,  any chopped fruit you desire or even some chopped marshmallows. You could add things like fresh berries or other fruit  but just be aware this will shorten the shelflife of your bars a little and you may need to add a few more oats to soak up any excess moisture.

Sunday Scraps – How we prep for the week ahead and what we ate this week

A big part of living low and slow is having routines, rituals and habits. No we don’t run around naked in the woods making sacrifices to the Slow Gods (although that might be fun) but we do have some things that we do on weekends that make life just a little bit simpler for the rest of the week. 

The last two weeks have been school holidays here so I must admit that routine did pretty much go out the window but we’re getting back on track now.

Our Weekend Routines

It’s tempting to sit around and be lazy over the weekend, especially when the weather is really nice (or particularly awful) but we I find that if we perform a few little rituals we can handle just about anything the coming week throws at us.

The Bed Sheet Ritual. 

Change all the bedsheets. We don’t necessarily wash them the same day but at least get them all changed so we start the week fresh. This only takes about 20 minutes if everyone does their own bed.

The Ritual Cleaning of the Sports Uniform

Takes a second or two to dump all the sports uniforms and training gear in the machine and five minutes to hang them up ( inside on a clothes horse if the weather is bad).

The Uniform Ritual

Goes hand in hand with the Cleaning of the Sports Clothes. We check everyone has clean uniforms and work clothes, organise any repairs if necessary and hang them all ready to grab and go each morning. This way you don’t have to hunt for socks or shirts or in my case, spend 30 minutes choosing which of the two work jumpers you own goes best with the blue shirt.

The Lunchbox Ritual

Takes about 10 minutes to check what’s in the fridge, freezer, pantry and fruit bowl. I make sure there’s enough for lunches and make a list which I stick on the fridge so the Teens know what they can snack on and what has to be left available for lunches

The Meal Plan Ritual 

This one also only takes about another ten minutes.  I usually already have a fair idea of what’s for dinner for the week but I do a quick double check that we have all the necessary ingredients on hand and if not I try and adjust the plan rather than run out and buy stuff. I plan mainly on a scrap of paper but I have put together and excel spreadsheet version as well. Here’s a printable version for those of you who would like to give it a try.  Weekly meal planner1

The Prepping of the Food

This one can take a little longer depending on what meals we have planned for the week. I usually spend about half an hour doing things like precutting veg or stacking the required fresh ingredients for a meal together in the fridge. I also like to pull  any meat we’ll be eating for the next few days out of the freezer and put it on plates on the bottom shelf of the fridge to thaw ( this way I don’t have to defrost it last minute in the microwave and the chance of it going bad by thawing on the bench is alleviated). Sometimes I also make up a batch of flatbreads to be used that week or put in the freezer.

If we’re home I tend to do a little baking (bread or a slice for snacks), but the bulk of our cooking gets done as needed throughout the week to avoid waste.

The Ritual Checking of the Bills & Notes

This one should probably go at the top of the list. Sometimes it takes several requests before school notes are produced or Mr Scraps remembers that the car is booked in for servicing on Thursday (this for us is also an important Ritual as we have only one car and live in the country so it needs to be kept in good condition). There’s nothing worse than a last second scrounge for a few dollars change for a note produced the morning of the school excursion or worse a phone call from the school to say your child is being left behind at school unsupervised while everyone else goes to the museum so either come pay for them or pick them up. This Ritual ensures that a) I have a chance to set aside the correct monies for any upcoming trips/bills and b) that if one of the Teens misses out on a school activity it’s because they didn’t hand over the appropriate papers when asked ( and I don’t have to rush around after them or feel guilty when I say, sorry but you’re going to have to miss out this time).
We have lots of other little things we do as well, like making sure the kitchen is clean before we go to bed Sunday night and the Threenager and I both wash our hair, but the ones above are the ones that really do make the week run smoothly.  None of these take too long. Most weekends it’s under an hour and can be done between other activities. If you have any rituals you perform over the weekend to make your week run smoothly I’d love to hear them.

What We Ate This Week

(the makings for Friday night’s Fridge Bottom Burgers) 

We were away last weekend and got home Monday night  and I had work Tuesday and Thursday plus a tonne of university work to do so we’ve had a couple of Fake-Away meals this week.

Monday: on the road home from Lakes Entrance we had toasted Ham and Cheese rolls for breakfast, stopped at a bakery (most bakeries are awesome if you are trying to avoid plastics or go zero, they use tongs to pick up pies and pop them on a real plate, into paper bag or your own containers) for beef and mushroom pies at lunch, then stooped at Rosedale for what turned out to be an undrinkable coffee (I drink my coffee black and sugarfree so might be a little more picky than the average latte drinker but this coffee was bitter and burned).Dinner was ham and tomato rolls I made before we left the cabin. Snacks were veggie sticks apples and bananas as well as some lemon slice.

Tuesday: I had toast for breakfast and packed myself a sandwich for my work lunch as well as some fruit and yoghurt. The Threenager and Teens ate Weetbix for breakfast. Mr Scraps and the mob at home ate pumpkin soup from the freezer as well as fruit and yoghurt. Dinner was Chorizo & Tomato Pasta Fake-Away.

Wednesday:  The threenager had Weetbix for breakfast. I had toast and Mr Scraps had beans on toastI made pumpkin scone bread for snacks. The Eldest Teen spent the night at a friends house so wasn‘t home for breakfast.  The Younger Teen slept in past breakfastThe Threenager had veggie sticks and yoghurt. We all ate toasted sandwiches for lunch made with cheese and veg from the fridge and dinner was baked chicken and vegetables

Thursday:  Breakfast was toast for me and Weetbix for the threenager (Im pretty sure when I’m at work Mr Scraps and the Teens skip breakfast)For lunch at work I took leftover FakeAway from Tuesday night. Mr Scraps and the mob ate toasted sandwiches, everyone had fruit and  pumpkin scone bread for snacks. Dinner was Leftovers Lasagne from the freezer

Friday:Breakfast was eggs on toast, lunch was pumpkin soup, dinner was  fridge bottom Burgers and homemade potato chips

Saturday:  For breakfast I attempted homemade crumpets. They tasted good but were nothing like the crumpets I remember my Nan making for meThe threenager and I stayed home while Mr Scraps and the Teens went to netball and foot. We had toast for breakfast, veggie sticks for snacks and boiled eggs for lunch. dinner was beef sausages and mashed potato and I made a pear and Apple flan which we ate with yoghurt for desert.

Sunday: Lunch was homemade potato chips and the last of the Leftovers Lasagne. For dinner tonight I’m making vegetable curry and rice which should have enough leftover for a few lunches during the week.

Fake-Away Chorizo & Tomato Pasta

What’s a  Fake-Away?

No it’s not pretend food or meals where you tell the family they’re eating one thing but you’re really serving them something else. (Remind me to tell you the four-legged chicken and decoy cake stories one day).

Fake-Away meals are the meals you make in less than ten minutes after a really draining day or when something really unexpected disrupts the menu plan instead of dropping in to the local takeaway. They’re our version of “convenience” food or “fast- food”. Instead of picking up take-out through the drive through (not that there’s one here anyway), one of us will run into the local supermarket and grab some stuff (if we don’t happen to already have the required ingredients already in the pantry).

Fake- Aways are fairly healthy, low cost, low waste and filling meals. They’re great for holidays when you have access to a kitchen but would rather spend your time exploring rather than cooking (I took the makings of this particular fake-away on our trip last weekend). They’re also great for those CCB (“can’t be bothered”) nights or summer evenings when you don’t want to spend an hour over a hot stove heating up the house.

To Qualify as a Fake-Away for us they have to:

1. use things that can be easily brought plastic free (once you know which brands to buy) from most supermarkets.

2. be prepared in less than 10 minutes

3. be something every family member will happily devour

4. not require any “weird” or “one-off” ingredients

Chorizo & Tomato Pasta Fake-Away

1 jar/bottle of passata (any brand will do, but we go with the ones that have no added sugar, organic if available and are just tomatoes with a little salt and citric acid. You could also use a couple of cans of tomato puree but I find the ones available here are made mainly from tomato paste/concentrate,not whole tomatoes so they tend to be a bit overpowering plus most cans are plastic lined these days and we try to avoid plastic if wherever we can).

1 box pasta (if I haven’t already got some dried homemade pasta in the pantry I buy the “Barilla” brand because it’s the only reasonably low priced brand I’ve found that comes in a box instead of plastic for anything other than lasagna sheets, although recently they added a little cellophane window to some of the the boxes).

2- 3 Chorizo Sausages (from the deli, not the plastic wrapped ones or you can use any other kind of sausage or meat you like, leftover roast chicken is good).

A pinch of salt. 

A Sprinkle of Herbs to taste.

Pop your pasta in a pot of boiling water and while it cooks chop your chorizo into bite sized pieces and brown lightly in a hot pan. Add the passata, salt and herbs to taste (we like oregano, basil or rosemary).

As soon as your pasta is aldente (cooked but still a tiny bit chewy), drain it and stir through the Chorizo & Passata sauce. Serve in bowls with a little grated cheese & a chunk of bread.

It takes about 8 minutes for the pasta to cook and you can have the chorizo and passata sauce done easily in that time, so this Fake-Away really does take less than 10 minutes.

Variations: I’ve already mentioned that you really could use just about any meat you like. You might like to add an onion or a few sliced chilli’s to the sauce. You can also throw in some grated vegetables, or leave out the meat completely and make it with mushrooms or eggplant. Serve with homemade garlic bread (mince a clove or two of garlic, stir it through some butter and spread on thick slices of bread. Pop them in the oven for a few minutes or even under the grill and they’re done).

 

Sunday Scraps – A New Job, An Extra Mouth To Feed and What We Ate This Week

The University Student moved back home this week, so she will be eating at home more often (and bringing her friends with her).

I started a new job as a Research Assistant for an Ecology and Heritage Consultants in the Big Town about 30km up the road. I spent some time last week doing a little training and had my first official day on Tuesday. It’s only two days a week (plus some days in the field here and there) but it’s given me an excuse to pull out a few new slow cooker recipes that I’ll try over the next few weeks.

It’s also given me the chance to test out the Glasslock containers we got to replace some of our very old (I’m talking 1970s era) Tupperware containers.  In short, they work.  I’m still a little dubious about how long the snappy plastic thingamajigs on the side will last especially with the kind of use they’ll get from the BHG and the Teens, but I’ll try and reserve judgement for now.

My grocery spend this week was $89.20. This included some  meat, most veg and dairy as well topping up three bulk items (flour, oats and salt), the ingredients to make our own French Onion Soup Mix ( which will be enough for about 6 casseroles) and a tub of ready-made whole egg mayonnaise which is the Younger Teens favour and has a low Sugar content  but is only brought when “on special” as I usually make it myself.

This is what we ate this week.

Most of the dinner meals had some leftovers which I popped straight into containers and into the fridge and freezer for handy lunches, emergency meals for those days where life gets in the way and our version of TV Dinners (no prep. heat and eat in the loungeroom front of a movie – watching  a movie or a few episodes of a TV series on a wet weekend or winter weeknight is one of our favourite things to do as a family )

Mon: Leftovers Lasagne – made with last week’s spaghetti bolongnaise sauce – this also made several TV dinners and a freezer meal large enough for four if served with a salad (for one of those nights when one or both the Teens are off doing their own thing).

Tues: Chicken Schnitzel with Potatoes and Salad

Wed:  Italian Beef Casserole

Thurs: Slow Cooker Braised Lamb and Rice

Fri: Slow Cooker Chilli with Rice and homemade flatbread

Sat: Country Chicken Casserole and Mash Potatoes (This is a family favourite and is great for using up scraggly veg. I make it in a lidded casserole dish in the oven while I bake bread and other things. Made with chicken pieces, the last of the veg from the fridge crisper – this week it was a couple of carrots, some cauliflower, a few mushrooms, 4 Brussels sprouts , half a zucchini cut into chunks and a handful of greens from the freezer, covered with a double serve of French Onion Soup Mix and 1/2 cup of water baked with the lid on until chicken was tender, then I stirred in 2 teaspoons of arrowroot mixed with about 1/4 cup of water and returned to oven without lid until liquid reduced by about half).

Sun: Leftover Country Chicken Casserole with Sweet Potato Mash.

Breakfasts: Eggs on Toast, Cheese and Tomato or Avocado on Toast, Baked Beans on Toast, Oats, Weetbix

Lunches:  included leftovers, my No Pastry Ham and Egg Pie with Salad, toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, Homemade Flatbread salad wraps and homemade noodles

Snacks: Fruit, Low Sugar Chocolate Slice, Homemade Hummus and Homemade Crackers, Nut Butter Dip and Veggie Sticks.