Inventory, Part 3

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Today I figured out the value of the inventory of my pantry dry goods. I putzed around google and amazon for costs, and where applicable I used about a 20% discount on things I know I got at Whole Foods with my employee discount. Hence, the rough estimate really will not be all that rough.

The area that I really averaged an estimate, however, was spices. In terms of spice inventory, I am going to say the average spice in my cabinet cost $2.50. Most of those standard sized McCormick bottles out there go for about that price, but my spices range from free stuff I scored through work, trade shows, mom’s pantry and gift baskets, to some high quality stuff I splurged on (hello, saffron and vanilla). With 51+ spices, that’s $127.50, and I think that is a very fair estimate.

Looking ahead, I plan to omit spices from the exact cost factor in my recipes, similarly to how restaurants and food service establishments do when they cost out recipes. Instead, when I cost out recipes I will use a blanket seasoning cost estimate, which will probably be pennies per recipe, maybe $.03 – $.10. Think about it, let’s say I spent $3 on a 1.25 ounce bottle of Italian seasoning. The bottle probably has about 30 teaspoons of seasoning in it, so about $.10 per teaspoon. Some recipes will use a dash, some will use tablespoons. I’m going to drive myself crazy thinking about what I spent on that, and again, the financial aspect of this project is more of an exercise on money I am saving moving forward, not what I have already spent. Plus, and I know I’m beating a dead horse here, it’s more about creativity and making use of what is on hand.

So you want to know the full value of my dry goods inventory, what is has probably cost me? $904. The average cost of each individual item (218 in total) is about $4.16. This ranges from about 15 non-spice items that were definitely free, to pricey supplements that cost about $50 (hello, Green Vibrance). $904. I think that’s fascinating. I don’t even know how many meals and dishes and snacks I will create from all this, but knowing that I usually drop $40 – $100 when I go out to a nice dinner with friends, it is beyond foolish not to cook at home when you want to save money. Plus what I have to work with will not mean meals of ramen, plain spaghetti, and PB&J.

Next up in the project – freezer and fridge inventory, figuring out my average grocery costs before now, and figuring out on average how much I have been spending on food. Oh, and of course, what I have cooked so far. Stay tuned!

Late Night Snack – Pretzels and Cheese Sauce

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While I work on my on-hand food inventory and cost, I’m also doing the fun part of this project, which is getting creative with what I have to make some yummy food!

The latest experiment was making Auntie Anne’s Pretzels from a kit I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. For years, an Auntie Anne’s pretzel has been my favorite mall fare – a quick snack to refuel on shopping excursions. Plus with cheese being my favorite food, I would also get a packet of cheese sauce to go with the pretzel. Granted, that cheese sauce was more of a chemically processed cheese food that could survive nuclear holocaust and will probably be sitting in my system years after I am dead, but it really was a satisfying snack.

On my own, I make a good cheese sauce because I love Bechamel, cheese, mac and cheese, etc. Depending on my needs I am not as diligent in the classic mother sauce preparation as I was in my youth. I still love the whole pomp and circumstance of an onion cloute and straining the milk mixture before blending it with the roux. But tonight was about snack time and pantry depletion, so shortcuts happened and the results (in my opinion) were still quite scrumptious.

I followed the instructions that came with the baking mix. It was pretty easy to follow, but the process was definitely time consuming, as is any sort of bread baking. From when I started to when I was snacking was probably about an hour and a half to two hours, and it yields a hefty number of pretzels. Much of that time is active time, too. Other than the half hour you allow the dough to rest so the yeast can do its thing, you are working a lot and quickly. I made the mistake of wanting to make my cheese sauce while the pretzels were baking, but the baking time was short and active, and I do not have the counter space to work around that.

Overall lesson learned – making the pretzels at home was fun and cost saving, but DEFINITELY not convenient and time saving.

Here’s my adventure, followed by the cheese sauce recipe

CHEESE SAUCE

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (can use any milk, nonfat is what I had on hand), ideally warmed to room temperature
3 cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash each of nutmeg, white pepper, onion powder, Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon maple sugar (any natural sweetener works, again, what I had on hand and I love maple)
1 cup shredded cheese (I used Clothbound Cheddar and Landaff that were going to go bad if I didn’t use them)

  1. Over low heat, whisk the flour and butter together, cooking about 5 minutes until roux is blonde in color – do not overcook
  2. Slowly whisk in milk, continue to cook over low flame, whisking constantly. Mixture will thicken within a couple of minutes
  3. Add seasonings, cook about three more minutes to incorporate flavor. The sugar is used to balance out the saltiness of the cheeses
  4. Whisk in cheese and continue to stir until fully melted and incorporated. Sauce should be smooth and creamy, not stringy
  5. Serve immediately, but be sure to pick out the cloves so not to choke or get an intense hit of spice. Sauce can be cooled and reheated, but best to reheat over slow heat and mix in extra milk to prevent curdling
  6. Recipe yields about 2 cups of sauce, about 4 servings

RECIPE COST (for me based off my pantry items):
$9.85 for 10 pretzel servings and 4 sauce servings
$8, pretzel mix
$.40, butter
$.75, seasonings, sugar, flour
$.70, milk
$0, cheese (was from a gift basket)

In Case of PMS, Break Glass – Edible Cookie Dough

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Actually, in case of PMS, break open glass. Now sometimes we women have cravings. Tonight I was in the mood for cookie dough. Luckily, thanks to my Accidental Pantry Project, I knew I had all the ingredients, and this snack took little more effort than me running to the store for ready made dough. Plus, even though it’s not a low-cal snack, by making it myself I know exactly what is in it. And anything in a mason jar is just fun. (Thanks, Pinterest.)

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Thanks to my microwave, that I used to soften the butter and the rock hard brown sugar, this was put together in about 10 minutes. And thanks to no egg, no salmonella!

I used milk chocolate and butterscotch chips, both because I have them on hand, and because I love butterscotch chips/flavoring in many desserts. Definitely feel free to experiment with your mix-ins.

SNACKING COOKIE DOUGH
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips

  1. Using either a hand mixer or stand mixer set to low, cream together butter and sugars until smooth.
  2. Add milk, oil, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix until well incorporated.
  3. Slowly mix in flour, keep beating with the mixer until smooth. Taste and adjust any flavoring (e.g., more vanilla or salt).
  4. Fold in chips.
  5. Dough is now ready to eat. If you have the willpower, store in the container of your choice in the fridge for up to two weeks (though it is doubtful it will last that long).

Inventory, Part 2

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Oh man…still have to figure out cost factor, but I have put together what I have one hand. Quantities are listed in a system I understand, I do not have exact weights and measurements, so it not going to necessarily be foolproof for someone who may look at my list and cross reference it to what I have on hand.

I have copied and pasted this from an excel sheet, so it can be searched and filtered in a bunch of different ways. This is just my dry goods. I still have to go through my fridge condiments (i.e., items with a long shelf life) and my freezer. Continue reading

Inventory

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I’m not feeling well today, so I’m not moving very fast. I have gotten through about 60% of my dry goods storage and have filled five pages in my journal. I still have baking goods, spices, and condiments to go through. This is a pretty eye-opening exercise, but I think I’m drained from it!

Oh crap, I have my freezer, too.

Oh well, this is why I described it as one of the phases of the project.

Thai Chicken and Pineapple Fried Rice

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As I get the Accidental Pantry Project underway, I made my first dish tonight with stuff in my pantry and fridge. Recently I went  a Thai restaurant with some girlfriends and fell in love with the Pineapple Fried Rice. I tried to recreate the same at home. Overall I am pleased with the dish, but the rice turned out stickier than I would have liked. Next time I am going to cook the rice itself (meaning single ingredient, not whole dish) with a bit more oil and let it cool before mixing it into the stir fry.

My project is still in its early phases, and I have not taken full inventory of the food I have here at home, but I will add the food cost/savings at a later date.

THAI CHICKEN AND PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE

1 cup Thai-style Jasmine rice
1 pound chicken, cut into strips or cubes
2 cups frozen pineapple chunks, thawed and chopped into smaller chunks
1/2 onion, diced
3 scallions, chopped – white divided from green
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1 tablespoon red curry paste
2 tablespoons ginger paste
1/4 cup sesame oil, divided
1/4 cup liquid aminos or soy sauce
2 eggs, raw

  1. Prepare rice according to package directions, set aside to cool
  2. In a wok or large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, add chicken and stir fry until browned and about 75% cooked (do not overcook because it will get cooked again later). Remove from skillet and set aside
  3. In same wok, heat about another tablespoon of sesame oil. Add onions, white scallions, and garlic. Cook until lightly browned
  4. Add cashews, ginger paste, and curry paste. Cook about another minute
  5. Add rice, rest of oil, liquid aminos, and chicken. Stir fry mixture about 3-4 minutes until rice starts to take on a golden brown color. Adjust seasonings to your preference
  6. Crack eggs above mixture and stir into the rice, cooking about one more minute
  7. Garnish with green scallions. Dish serves 4

INTRODUCING….The Accidental Pantry Project

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The Accidental Pantry Project!!! This project is going to be more of a practice than a project, and it will take a few phases to really get it going. Bear with me because as I get my thoughts out, this may read a bit more stream of conscious than a regimented program.


MY FOOD ADDICTION

First things first…I have an addiction to food and food shopping. I have worked in some form of a food based business for nearly 19 years, and most recently I work for Whole Foods Market. One of my favorite things to do is to go to a store and just pore over everything in the aisles. I love seeing what is trendy, what is new, and getting inspiration for my next or future meals. I loved when business is a little slow and I can explore what was new and different. Through my obsession (and employee discount and knowledge of the best sales), I built quite the pantry. Translation – I am a borderline food hoarder. There is food in several different nooks and crannies throughout my condo. Continue reading