Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cake Walk

I shall try to cook, save and covet something - all in this post, to make up for almost a week of silence.

Let's begin with some saving.

H. and I went to Target yesterday for some early morning coupon-usage.

Wow! Lots of coupons - most of which I didn't use because they didn't have what I wanted at Target. Seems unlikely, doesn't it? Not to find what you want at Target? I know. H. hates Target, and I hate it on weekends - but it turns out nobody goes there before 11am on a Saturday. Nothing else in Atlantic Terminal is open yet (except McDonald's), so I guess the appeal of just Target isn't strong enough for the crowds. It is for me though.

I did learn something else very important - Target has the cheapest organic milk of anywhere I've seen. $2.99 last week while on sale (and the true impetus for a visit to Target), but regularly only $3.49. Poor H. is doomed to many more trips to Target. Have a I really come to this? Blogging about the price of milk? Yes.

I'm also reduced to getting absurdly excited at those "You saved" bits at the end of my receipts:


Wheee! $6.84 in savings! I will now post a video of watching paint dry. Not really, don't worry.

For lunch over the next few days I made these delightful (delightful!) salmon cakes from the Whole Foods email I signed up for. They're delicious, though kind of salty - my fault. H. and have been discussing what kind of sauce we could eat them with - tartar might be obvious, but neither of us are keen. I'm going to try mixing a cilantro chutney with good old Merve from last week. Merve gets around. I think that might be good.

Here's me cakes:

Want more? Yes please!

Time to covet. With my birthday only 12 days away, my coveting is truly in overdrive. Was that a shamless plug for my birthday? Absolutely. February 12 - write it down. Anyway, here's something small that I love. These adorable bird prints from Lumadessa

I've almost bought them a number of times. They're pretty cheap, I know. And I could probably spare the $20 - but I can't buy just one. I want lots of them. I won't buy any until I can buy lots. Lovely lovely lovely.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Δευτέρα

It was raining cats and dogs today! So I decided not to go to work. Completely legit, don't worry - I didn't fake sick or anything. I have a few comp days owed to me from working some weekend conferences recently. And who wants to go to work in the rain? Definitely not me.

After a lazy morning, waiting for the rain to slow down, I headed out to run some errands in the afternoon. I decided to first hit up the local Duane Reade drugstore, where they have a weekly special on dish soap ($0.99!), so I loaded up (and saved $3.19). That was nice. I had decided that I would make some spanakopitas for lunches this week. I've never made them before, but I had a freezer full of spinach, some feta in the fridge, and an adventurous spirit. All I needed was some phyllo.

I walked down to the Key Food next to Sunset Park - I had never been to that one before, but it was close to the Duane Reade so I thought I'd investigate the goods. And what a treat! Compared to my closer grocery stores, it was huge and stocked full of organic things. They even carried H.'s favorite chocolate sorbet, so I stocked up. I am a good wife, despite an occasional joke suggesting I would burn the works of Dostoevsky.

But here was a brief failure: I didn't look at the price tag on the phyllo dough until I got home. $4.59! Highway robbery. I happened to notice at the Turkish grocery store on the weekend that phyllo ran about $2.50, so I won't be buying it from the Key Food again anytime soon. Bleh. So much for all that saved money at the Duane Reade...

Anyway. I made my way home, soaked and also sweating (it was 60 degrees out), through the streets of umbrella carnage (it was also very windy), and I tried to take a nap. But I couldn't, because I had already taken a nap earlier in the day (what's wrong with two naps?), so I got to work on my spanakopitas.

And they were easy! Except for the phyllo dough, which is a pain in the ass. Maybe I'm too forceful with it, but it always tears apart. I don't have a delicate touch for dough. Oh well. My spanakopitas were a little more like spanaburritos -are they supposed to be triangle shaped? I didn't bother trying that, since the phyllo was not cooperating. And as I rolled my spanaburritos, the sun came out and shone onto them. And I had to take a picture.

Isn't it lovely? I took another photo:

And they were delicious! Here's one in the process of being eaten. It's quite a sultry photo.

I even made my own tzatziki! Fancy. It is so, sooo, soooo good. I used this recipe, and she's right, it is the world's best. And it was easy. Remember Merve, the yogurt from the other day? Here's a photo of Merve being strained.

Fab. I didn't take an after picture of the tzatziki, because I was too busy licking the bowl. So good!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Caturday

You know who never has coupons, or sales?

Oh well. They do have all variety of Turkish groceries, including the always delicious Turkish cookies. Not sure what they're called in Turkish. Cokoprens Turta? Something like that. They're delicious, and I highly recommend everyone run out to their local Turkish grocery store and stock up on these babies.


But that isn't the point today. And, in fact, I didn't buy any of these today. I just wanted to think about them for a minute. Mmmmm.

H. and I headed over to the butcher to pick up some lamb for nihari. Nihari has yogurt in it, and since we were at the Turkish store we bought some Turkish yogurt. Meet Merve:


Not organic, but I should probably clarify something about the dairy experiment. I'm only trying to avoid rBGH, so I look for organic dairy because I know it doesn't have synthetic hormones - but things don't necessarily have to be organic to not use milk from cows treated with rBGH. Ben & Jerry's, for example, only uses milk from cows not treated with synthetic hormones. And this Turkish yogurt does not have any rBGH milk in it.

In fact, rBGH is banned in the European Union, so I can freely eat cheese in all member countries. It's also not used in Canada - though milk products like cheese can be made from dairy sourced in the U.S. and therefore potentially synthy hormonal. Here in the U.S., unless it's marked otherwise, I have to assume the dairy comes from treated cows. Isn't that weird? That so many places ban it, but not here? Unsavory.

I also learned today that Starbucks doesn't use any milk from treated cows. Isn't that interesting? And good for me to know, if I need some kind of fancy coffee. Of course, that would be in direct opposition of my goal of saving money. But good to know, just in case.

And finally, here is the result - H.'s delicious Nihari:

Completely unrelated, I'm going to watch this video over and over and over again. Always.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back to coveting for just a minute...

I really want this particular credenza (or media stand, or whatever you'd like to call it):

I don't know why this one has won my heart. Unlikely that it will still be available come May though, sadly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A dozen uses for turkey - and it's not even Thanksgiving.

You know what's cheap? Turkey.

It's cheap because it's ugly. That's my economic assessment at least.

Last night H. and I cooked up a storm (sorry California)! While H. slaved away over our dinner (more chanay! And other potatoey and parsnippy treats), I made a turkey and portobello mushroom meatloaf - adapted slightly from this recipe at Epicurious - to make our delicious lunchtime sandwiches this week (portobellos on sale). Here's a photo of my 'loaf - which, admittedly, looks kind of gross with those carrot chunks:

But it was delicious! And, with the exception of those cheap portobellos and the turkey - I had everything else needed to make it. And it's soooo much more exciting than a plain old turkey sandwich.

But the 'loaf isn't the only use for that cheap meat - I also made a huge vat of turkey chili, which I've frozen for a future occasion. I'm always thinking ahead! Or at least I've been thinking ahead since 2010. Here's my vat:

Remember all those beans from last week? They're in there. Excellente.

As for not spending, I've been very well-behaved. A few days in Boston and all I've come away with is a Boston snowglobe (some things must be purchased). I did have a very near-splurge experience in a lovely antiquarian books & prints shop - a certain 19th century drawing from "Turquie" of your typical Turkish man (think along these lines) wooed me fiercely. One day I'll go back for him, but for now I'm sticking to my husband and the old moneymoon.

Also - kudos to the Boston Convention Center, which offers organic food in it's food court! I'm used to hot dogs and chicken fingers in these things, but I had an excellent selection of organic sandwiches, salads as well as vegan and macro treats! Wow. But, I did eat some mashed potatoes knowing full-well there was milk or cream in them, so I wasn't perfect.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This One Goes Out to the One I love

And here is the one I love:

I've just stuffed myself with a very delicious burrito from Chipotle - a spending-money treat before I board a train up to Boston. Hopefully I'll board before just as my burrito coma sets in.

One of the things that makes Chipotle so great is that I can fill it with cheese and sour cream, because Chipotle only uses dairy that doesn't contain rBGH - making it safe for my dairy experiment (which about avoiding hormones). And it's so good. Chipotle, you're my burrito-y hero.

Anyhou, I'm off to Boston and will be computer-free until Monday. Wish me luck avoiding those hormones!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Frills

There's a much-loved anchor on NY1 who has an oddly obsessive fanbase, and whenever he is interviewed (which is a lot) he talks about his Canadianness. This week he is interview in the Village Voice food blog where he talks about importing boxes of Shreddies from Canada, because - apparently - you can't buy them here. He was also interviewed when Tim Horton's opened shops in NYC - I guess he is the go-to Canadian.

Anway, one thing I miss about Canada, especially when I'm trying to save lots of money, are the No Frills. I never fully appreciated how cheap it was, but damn! And just now to get that link to their website, I'm amazed at how nice their website is, and our dealish their weekly deals are. A package of naan bread for $1! One Canadian dollar!

Spending Money

I did spend a little money today. I donated a small sum to a relief organization for the Haitian earthquake - it's probably more important than whatever it was I was going to spend that money on.

I found my charity organization through the always fascinating Charity Navigator.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cool Beans

Ah, it's nice to be home - even though it required a very chilly night on an airplane. I arrived at 6am, was home by 7 and in my bed for a 4-hour nap at 8.

Since I wasn't going to go into work today, my plan was to do some grocery shopping and then make something delicious that I could have for lunch this week, and freeze some for later. But after the 4-hour nap, I wasn't feeling up for any serious cooking. Also, I'm leaving for another conference on Thursday, so I only need lunch for three days this week. Luckily, H. was cooking up a storm all weekend, and he made one of my favorite H. treats:

Chanay! Which just means chick peas in Urdu, I'm told. But it's more than chick peas - it's also onions and tomatoes and other delicious things, and it's delicious and perfect for on-the-go food, like a packed lunch! It's delicious with some pita, and filling, and very cheap too. Like pizza, I love it hot or cold. Also like pizza, I love it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yummy.

I did go to grocery shopping though. While I was dying of boredom in San Jose, I went through the weekly circulars for the local grocery stores and made a list of deals to take advantage of. How's that for planning? Sometimes I amaze myself. First I went to the Met, where they were selling 4 cans of beans for $3. And I took advantage:

A rainbow of beans! Beans for chili, beans for red beans and rice and beans for more chanay! All for $6.

And that's not all!

Since I was going to meet H. in the city after work, I thought I'd go in early to hit up Whole Foods - remember those 10 yogurts for $5? They're mine. I was also going to go to a third grocery store to buy some organic milk that was on sale for $3.99 (as opposed to $5.69 at the Pioneer near me), but at Whole Foods I noticed their organic store brand milk is only $3.69. Yay for me. So now I'm well stocked in organic dairy products, and um, a lot of beans.

All in all, with my beans, yogurt, milk and one other un-noteworthy sale item, I saved $10.32 today. Bank.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Yuck

Some horrible little place in the San Jose, CA airport calls itself "Fresh Attractions" but only sells pre-made sandwiches that are made in Bethesda, MD. Can't be too fresh, then, can it?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Skeletons

I love this vintage French skeleton poster from this eBay store. But, le sigh, $90? Sacre bleu.


This seller often has great vintage French posters, if you're ever in the market. God I want this.

The Devil and Cake

$10 moved into savings.

When given the opportunity to eat a piece of tiramisu - without thinking - I ate it, and only thought about the delicious marscapone cheese wickedness until it was half eaten. But it was worth the sin.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Whoo-hoo Foods!

One of the biggest problems I find with cutting coupons and looking at the weekly circulars for deals at the supermarkets is that they're almost always for pre-fab, over-processed foods that I don't eat. I avoid them because I know they're not good for me, not because I don't like them - I actually like them way too much, in the way that I really love eating McDonald's food, but I let my head make decisions and not my stomach. Sometimes.

But I've just discovered that Whole Foods has a weekly circular you can subscribe to - with coupons! AND this week you can buy 10 organic yogurts for $5. Hallelujah!

I don't usually shop at Whole Foods, because I am not made of money, but I have to keep watching for dairy deals there during my experiment. There isn't a Whole Foods near us - or anywhere in Brooklyn for that matter (at least for now), and organic foods are pretty rare in our neighborhood, so I've subscribed to their email list for one of the Manhattan stores. I'm willing to travel for affordable organic food.

Tickle Me

Random: I tell H. that I wouldn't live in California because of earthquakes. But after my first real earthquake, I think it tickled my feet in a charming way. Is it so bad to be tickled by nature?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Pot of Gold, Part 2

After our night in a train, we'll wake up in Venice - dreamy.



What is there to say about Venice? Canals.

We're splurging on a room on the Grand Canal for 5 nights, so this will be the most expensive part of the whole trip. And to be honest, I don't what else there is to say about this part - it's Venice. We'll find something to entertain us.

After 5 days we board another train for Cortona, which is allegedly one of the hilliest hill towns in Italy, where we've rented an apartment for a week. According to Wikipedia, it is a "twin town" with Athens, GA, so I hope we can find the Italian REM and the Italian B-52's there!

We thought it would be a cheap way to spend a week - self-catering in an apartment. And, yes, the apartment is very inexpensive, but for real: are we really going to cook our own food in Italy?! I will have to discuss this impossibility with H.

What else? H. has a vision of renting a car and zipping around Tuscany for the week. I have a vision of eating as much mozzarella as a human can endure. Impossible to say which vision is the more inexpensive of the two.

I would swim in this river:


Anyhou, that sums up my reasons for saving all my pennies, and every time I want to buy something I will just have to remember that river of mozzarella and think about why I need to not buy things.

The end.

Unrelated postscript - I felt an earthquake today!

The Pot of Gold

The reason I need to scrimp and save is to go on my delayed (better late than never) honeymoon.

First stop: Paris




For a weekend with friends and cheese and butter and all the good things that the French have to offer (dairy experiment: on hold). This part shouldn't actually be too expensive, because we're staying here. Yeah, it's a Hyatt. And why stay at a Hyatt when you're in Paris? Because we're using Hyatt reward points! Sweet. All those days and nights of conferences in Hyatts are finally paying off. It's way fancier than some Hyatts, especially some of the Hyatts where I've spent some serious conference time.

And then we'll board an overnight train to Venice, which I expect to be something like this:

'Cause H. and I are sophisticated as all get-out. Here's us on our last train trip together:


Once we arrive in Venice, the real honeymoon/expense/cheese-eating contest begins. More on that next time, I have to go to work now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rhymenocerous

I love these nursery rhyme prints from the sub-studio design store:

I've been watching them for months.

Sin Averted

I'm on my way to California for a conference, with a stopover in Dallas for three hours. I was thinking about how the importance of saving will go down over the next few days, and the difficulty of finding organic dairy on-the-go would go up. I'll be on the company dime while traveling, so I don't have to worry about spending money buying lunches. But avoiding dairy becomes an epic battle with my willpower – and one that I nearly lost.

This morning at LGA I thought I would buy a pre-made sandwich to eat on the plane, instead of buying a $10 sandwich on the plane. And, having traveled through LGA many times, I know there are some pretty ok choices in the main terminal. However, on arrival, and once through security (which, from what I can tell was no different than the usual LGA security – despite the news accounts that they’re beefing it up), I realized that all the food options I remembered are in the C Gates – and I was leaving from the D Gates! Problems! So, I had two food options – Auntie Anne’s Pretzels (no) and a café – so I chose the café. But they only had two sandwich options – Caprese (yummy, mozzarella and tomato) and Cubano (ham and cheese). I thought about it, and bought the Caprese, knowing full-well that it would mean $10 into the savings account, on account of not being organic – but I had no choice. I had to buy a sandwich, or risk airplane starvation.

On the plane, I started to feel really guilty about it. A few non-organic lapses are to be expected and the $10 into the savings account would have been a good thing, but it’s only January 6 – meaning I haven’t gotten very far into the new year and I’m already slipping and making excuses to eat delicious hormoney cheese. So, I ate almonds through the flight and thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it, and before I knew it were landing in Dallas. Survival! In Dallas I bought and ate a non-dairy lunch. Or, rather, the company bought me a non-dairy lunch. Bingo! Savings in place, hormonal dairy out of me.

The Caprese is still in my bag, and I will probably throw it out. I know that’s wasteful, and I should give it to some starving homeless person or something. But there are no homeless hungry people at the Dallas airport.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Target, you little minx

What's this in my mailbox? Coupons from Target! It's like they know.


Sadly, most of these are for bulk items and things I don't need, or bulks items I don't need enough to stockpile while living in an apartment (even if it is an awesome giant apartment). But two useful ones:

Toothpaste! But TWO toothpaste coupons? For those people who resolve to brush their teeth this new year?

Anyhou. A question from one of my two readers on the 2010 Dairy Experiment - why organic dairy, and why not organic meat? Organic, grass-fed meat is too expensive for a girl trying to save money to go on an expensive vacation. Also, even though it hurts my soul, I can easily order dairy-free meals in restaurants, but am not willing to go vegetarian in restaurants for the experiment. And can you imagine dairy and meat free restaurant meals? Ew.

I am locked in a fur store but I believe you want to steal me

The first expensive thing I'm going to buy when I get back from my expensive honeymoon? A credenza. O god I love so many things it will need years to take them away one by one.

genius idea

Monday, January 4, 2010

To start

I made chicken salad for lunch for a few days. It's easy, and cheap (made cheaper when the register lady put in my chicken at $0.40 instead of $4.20 - I didn't set her straight), and delicious. I'm only in the office two days this week before heading to a conference on the west coast, so I won't get sick of it and H. can finish it off.


Hopefully our brown bag lunches will get more exciting with time, and inspiration. We also bought some yogurt to keep in the office fridge (organic for me!). Far away from bored evening snacking.


For some savings - how about a trip to Target - with coupons!

And finally, an idea about savings and organic dairy. Perhaps for every willing non-organic dairy product I let myself eat, I'll put $10 into the old savings account. It's worth a try.



Wherein

I hesitate to say resolutions, but I want to use this blog to motivate me to keep some goals.

1. Saving money.

First I need to save money to go on an expensive honeymoon. Once I go on the expensive honeymoon, I need to save money to buy some expensive things. This will be accomplished in three ways:
i) Don't buy so many things. Or even so few things. Don't buy things.
ii) Become a better grocery shopper. Use coupons, and look for deals.
iii) bring my lunch at least three times every week, which means I should think of exciting things to make for my brown bags.

2. Continue the 2009 Dairy Experiment in 2010, only last longer this time.

The 2009 Dairy Experiment involved eating only organic, hormone-free dairy. This is much harder than you would think. Also: expensive. Goal #1 and goal #2 will be difficult to achieve simultaneously.
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