I guess I really should have posted this two days ago, but I've been so caught up in traveling and accepting the fact that classes start soon, that I haven't had a second to set goals. After some thought, and discussion with Mike, here are some food-related goals I will try to implement this year:
1. Cooking only dried beans
I have been so bad about doing this. I have pounds and pounds in my pantry, but I never cook them. It's usually a "I don't have time thing", which is silly because in reality, this is easier and cheaper. Here's the breakdown:
-1 can (15 oz) of beans are typically anywhere between $0.89-$2 depending on where you get them. Sodium can be sky-high and no-salt beans are usually a little more expensive. These take no time to cook, BUT:
-1 pound of organic dried beans can cost anywhere between $2-$4 depending on where you get them. NO sodium, unless you add them to your cooking water. You can even add seaweed (kombu) or a bay leaf to make them more digestible. You soak them for 8-12 hours (aka before you go to bed), so that's like 1 minute prep. Then drain, rinse, put them in a pot with fresh water and cook for up to 2 hours. In those 2 hours, you can do homework, check your email, hell you could even shower! Or you can cook them between 5-7 hours in a slow-cooker while you're gone.
But what am I going to do with the leftover beans?
That's the awesome thing. You freeze them so you always have some on hand! So dried beans are just a win-win situation.
2. Buying frequently used items in bulk
I can't tell you how much it irks me when I have to go out for just one thing. I hate it because it's such a waste. Here's how to prevent that: about 85% of the recipes I make always have onions. So I bought this bag of about 12 onions for $1.77, which is insanely cheap. I also bought a 5lb bag of potatoes for $4. I use potatoes to add bulk to dishes, soups, baked potatoes, home fries or mashed potatoes. You can always have a meal with potatoes in your pantry. This also includes dried beans and grains for me. I always have: lentils (green, black, and red), dried pintos, dried chickpeas, dried black beans, etc. you get the idea. I also have quinoa, brown rice, basmati and jasmine rice too. These will all last for quite a while in the pantry. If you really want to win, cook up some batches of rice and beans and freeze them for months for easy meals!
3. Cook from my cookbooks every week and choose recipes wisely
Alright y'all, if I haven't made this clear already, cooking during the school year is almost always a nightmare for me. Especially now, with 15 credit hours and being on campus til' 6:30 PM two nights a week, I am panicking. But I'm trying not to. Here's how:
-Reminding myself that food should never be a stressful situation for me, which is why I never eat out unless its an emergency
-Keeping a stocked pantry of vegan/gluten-free emergency meals (just in case)
-This year, I'm planning my meals one month at a time to reduce school time stress. I picked meals that work with my schedule, choosing slow-cooker recipes for the days I'm on campus late so that Mike can go home and turn it off, and voila! Dinner is done
-Keeping in mind that I should look forward to cooking because it's a chance for me to not have to read/speak/write in French or read/write something about english literature (which is almost always a blessing)
4. Do dishes everyday (no matter what)
This is a big one for me. I keep telling myself if I do a little bit everyday, they won't pile up (which is common sense, I know). But I get lazy and debate between doing homework or dishes and deciding which one is more important, which usually ends up in me watching Archer to try and calm down. So this year, I vow to keep my kitchen and sink (and hell, my entire apartment) neat and tidy. Again, a great way to shut my brain off from school, which I very rarely can do.
5. Try making homemade sauces instead of store-bought
It's silly how expensive salsa, pasta sauce and pizza sauce are. Mike and I talk all the time about it. I wish I could stay home and just pickle, preserve and make all kinds of sauces with an overflowing freezer of them. However...if I choose one little project a month to do, then it will add up. Here is homemade pizza sauce from Vegan with Vengeance, which was amazing by the way. I'm going to freeze it in muffin tins, then pop it in a freezer safe bag. Some other things I would like to make are: ginger beer concentrate, pasta sauce, jam, pumpkin/butternut puree, and salsa. Harissa and sriracha would also be fun to make!
6. Explore new gluten-free grains
I get so stuck on my usual rice and quinoa bandwagon that I forget about the ridiculous amount of GF grains: millet, amaranth, red rice, black rice, green rice! I mean, the possibilities are endless. I get dizzy standing in the bulk aisles of Deep Roots or Whole Foods just looking at all the options. But I always opt for the easy quinoa or rice, that both cook in my handy-dandy little rice cooker. Oh and I highly recommend a rice cooker, if you don't have one! I use to burn rice all the time, and this totally prevents that! You can also leave cooked grains in there for up to 4 hours plugged in and it switches to "warm" automatically. It's amazing.
7. Drink plenty of water daily
This is probably my biggest problem, and it makes me feel pretty stupid. I mean, who doesn't drink enough water? With some quick research, however, I found that 75% of Americans are perpetually dehydrated. Well, damn. I don't feel so bad. But with someone who has chronic digestive issues, I need a lot of water. Being dehydrated only makes my digestion problems worse, but drinking lots of water makes me feel better. It can also give you more energy and a sense of clear-headedness. It's been said that sometimes when people are tired or hungry, or even have a headache, they are really just dehydrated. I suffered from serious spontaneous nausea for months last year, that didn't make sense to me. I increased my water intake significantly, and it went away. I bought this very helpful app, because I am mostly just forgetful about drinking water, called "Water your body". It has reminders for how much water you need to be drinking. Above, it calculates the amount needed based on exercise and body weight.
8. Shop smartly and locally (when possible)
One thing we are trying this month is to only get produce from the farmer's market and dry items from Trader Joe's, because they are the cheapest place around us. I'm now trying to make lists by the month, which I divide into: farmer's market (by week), TJ's (by month), and miscellaneous (by week) which is for items we cannot get at the market/TJs. I am hoping this will not only prove to be cost effective, but stress reducing as well. I also really love going to the farmers market and supporting them, although I wish the ones near us were a little better with variety. We went to the market a couple of months ago, spent $25, and ate off of that produce for 2-3 weeks. It only makes sense to shop there, plus its local, which is always awesome.