Not Martha Stewart……But You Can Still Be Well Fed

Wednesday as I drove home from a morning trip I heard a snippet on public radio about the book “What She Ate”, by Laura Shapiro.     The book description offers this:

” A beloved culinary historian’s short takes on six famous women through the lens of food and cooking – what they ate and how their attitudes toward food offer surprising new insights into their lives.”

Hmmmm.   I’ve known for years the power of food within families and among friends.  It can draw people together.  It gives a window into our childhood.  But her take on food and dining habits takes such generalizations to an entirely new level.

Tuesday is grocery shopping day for the Titus 2 ladies.  I hand them their EBT cards and off they go to Walmart for once a week food needs.  I collect the EBT cards afterwards and return them to the office and review their receipts.  I am checking how well they are doing in eating healthily and managing their $194 monthly allocation from this Florida State benefit they are eligible for as part of our recovery program.  This past week one new lady had just gotten her card.  Her receipt was filled with prepared microwave dishes, several ice cream items, several bags of chips, etc.  There were no fresh vegetables, no meat department purchases, no canned goods.  I told her that it appeared I would need to go with her next week and give her a lesson in grocery shopping.  She said she knew how to shop.  A few minutes later she apologized and said she would definitely do better next week.

I have been organizing a Life Skills curriculum notebook for our students.  I’ve taught some of these things here and there, as needed, but I think it’s time for a more comprehensive and intentional schedule for our students.   I also need to add some quick and easy tips on preparing fresh foods for easy meals, buying on a budget, stretching your food dollars, etc. 

I am not a Martha Stewart-kind of cook.  I want to see quick results.  I don’t have all day every day to spend in the kitchen.  So I have adopted some short cuts.

Saturday is my cooking day.  I generally prepare a few things to make getting through the weekdays easier and to spare myself having to cook on Sunday, too.  

Here are some of my short cuts that make doing that so much more time efficient. 

I like to serve twice-baked potatoes for family or company. I found Friday’s potato skin appetizers on sale one day, bought 4 boxes of them.   We also had discovered the prepared mashed potatoes in the meat department from Winn Dixie when I happened to find them on sale on day. Using the two of them I can whip out some nice Duchess Potatoes in a matter of minutes.  But when I have time on a Saturday  I can cook up a bag full of fresh potatoes, season and mash them, spoon them into the potato skins, add cheese and put them in a flat freezer container.  Twice baked Duchess Potatoes can be ready anytime in a few minutes.  Remove from freezer. Cover with foil, bake on low until heated through….or microwave.  Add additional cheese, chives, or bacon bits to serve.  A quick and easy side dish or a whole meal with a little chopped ham and broccoli spooned over it!  I often have cooked and seasoned ground beef in the freezer in small bags, too, for such meals and private label frozen veggies to add in.

I buy chicken tenderloins on sale, cook and dice them, and put them in quart freezer bags for easy and quick chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, or just to put over a green salad. 

I make chili and freeze it in single serving containers to enjoy with hot dogs or to eat on a cool day as a lunch entrée. 

I chop and freeze onions and assorted colors of bell peppers and keep them in quart freezer bags, too.  When I cook fish filets (purchased generally BOGO1F at Winn Dixie in the vacuum-sealed single serve packs, I can dress them up with the onion and pepper mix.   Just pop a scoop full in the microwave, add some seasoning, drain, and spoon it over the broiled or pan-seared fish with a little butter and lemon juice.

I like keeping banana nut bread mixes on hand and also one or two prepared sweet breads in the freezer.  Add some fruit and cool whip for dessert or serve with cream cheese for a coffee break or breakfast with a scrambled egg and some bacon.  Stock up on bread mixes, muffin mixes, brownie mixes, etc. when reduced price. 

Shop meats on sale….get what’s on special…….ground beef, chicken, corned beef, turkey breasts, roasts.  Cook them……meat loaf…..roast….turkey breast….for dinners and to slice for lunch sandwiches.  Buy loaves of favorite breads on sale and store in the freezer.   Buy fresh vegetables when they are reduced and freeze them…..yellow squash, potatoes, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.   Or shop the frozen section and buy them on sale.

Titus 2 has a nice upright freezer, just like the one I have at home.  There is no reason that these ladies shouldn’t learn to be better shoppers, better cooks, and better money managers.  And be more fit and healthy, too!