Category Archives: Food

Just Threw a $300 Dinner Party

When I exclaimed to my roommates “let’s have a dinner party!”… I certainly wasn’t thinking about cost. Last night, we had about 15 people over (including us) who we fed and entertained for the evening. It was a really lovely gathering, a holiday event dubbed the J-Food Dinner party were we served a mix of Jewish food and Japanese food (don’t ask.)

But the bill came out to be way more than I expected. Not that I thought that through when I decided to have a dinner party, or when my roommate and I invited enough people to have to feed a small country.

Problem with throwing dinner parties is that you’re never sure how many people are really going to make it. You need to invite a few extras just to make sure you’re not sitting alone with all the food you make.

So between all the dishes we made, it cost about $300. I ended up buying $50 worth of frozen blintz at the last minute because I ran out of time to cook, and sadly bought the ingredients to actually cook them fresh as well – but that was only a few extra eggs and a lot of creme cheese, like $10 worth.

My boyfriend also decided to cook up this mushroom tart that we learned how to cook at my work’s holiday party the day before. It was a Whole Foods cooking party, which was awesome, but of course they used expensive ingredients and in order to recreate our delicious tart he had to buy all these things… pastry shells, wild mushrooms, Camembert cheese, sherry… all of that added up.

And then there was the hummus and baba ganosh for an appetizer and bread, and the two bottles of wine (not to mention the other two bottles we already had) that got served. And a few bottles of martenelli’s cider for the non alcohol drinkers. And all the latke ingredients, which my roommate bought, that I owe her for… about $60 worth (that’s included in the $300 total).

Ultimately $300 for a party of 15 people isn’t that bad, I guess. But it’s still… $300. The same $300 I’m not making this month because my uncle’s marketing firm had to cut back on its freelance budget. Yea, exactly $300.

Well, at least I’ve made $75 thus far in my posts for that tech blog I’m writing for about twice a week. I’m going to have to really turn up the posting on that so I can make up for lost costs. My next paycheck is going to rent, paying my boyfriend back (I owe him about $900 now including the cost of food for this party, he charged it since my credit card is missing), bills, taxes, and that’s about it. I hope people don’t mind that this Christmas I’m going to be a bit short on gifts. At least I bought my one really good friend a dishwasher for her birthday earlier this year (split with my boyfriend as a gift for her new kitchen) but still – she can’t complain that i’m not getting her a gift. I should get my roommates something but… that might have to come with the next paycheck.

My “stable” job is still on the rocks. It’s looking ok… but I’m not sure. They’re letting go all the contractors besides me, which is really sad for those contractors and rather uncomfortable for me. My contract isn’t up until the end of Jan, so at that point they’ll have to decide how valuable I am to the team. I think I’ve proven my dedication – I’ve been there for over a year now, but in this economic climate anything is possible. And I’m a little worried. I’m hoping for a full time job with health benefits (!!!) but expecting the worst. And the worst case scenerio is that I can write up to 5 posts for this tech blog a week, making about $500 a month, which covers a large chunk of rent. Then I seek out other freelance positions… since the full time job market seems non-existent in my field at this point.

Probably not the best time to throw a $300 dinner party, huh?

March Groceries — $169.90, now on my new Chase Freedom card

My Chase Freedom and American Express Blue Cash cards both arrived in the mail today. While I’m terrified of credit cards, I’ve decided it’s about time to really start building my credit score. I have a bunch of open credit cards and according to a recent credit check I’m in the 730 range, but I still want to up that credit score so one day when I want to buy a house (or condo) I can get a good mortgage rate.

Anyway, I finally gave in and got these two credit cards. I don’t know if they’ll help or hurt my credit score, but I’m going to start spending on them each month and paying off my balances at the end of the month. I’ll only buy what I can afford. Period.

So I went food shopping today. At the “cheaper” (aka non-organic, non fancy) supermarket in town. Safeway. I spent $169.99. I supposedly saved $41.34 on buying things one sale w/ my “club card.” I did spend extra time picking out things on sale.

I went a little overboard on buying spices this month, but I don’t really have any spices and if I’m going to start cooking more, I need some more spices. I tried to buy ones that were on sale! Thank goodness for credit cards.

Without further ado, here’s what I got for that $169.99

$1.39 – Jumbo Taco Shells
$1.11 – Canned Corn
$3.89 – Cooking Spray (non brand Pam)
$3.69 – Paprika (spice)
$3.29 – Bread Cracker Stuff
$3.27 – Spice Island Mustard (spice)
$3.75 – Thyme (spice)
$3.99 – spinach tortellini
$3.99 – three cheese tortellini
$3.73 – garlic powder (spice)
$2.71 – basil (spice)
$3.00 – butternut squash soup
$5.00 – 4 Tuna Salad Lunch
$.99 – plastic spoons
$1.66 – steamed vegetables (frozen)
$5.29 – kashi lime shrimp frozen dinner
$4.99 – liquid egg whites
$2.50 – shredded cheddar cheese
$2.69 – fat free milk
$4.49 – cottage cheese
$2.49 – lowfat yogurt
$5.49 – frozen strawberries
$4.50 – frozen blueberries
$3.49 – frozen quesadillas
$3.00 – frozen veggie bites
$9.00 – three boxes of morningstar frozen meatless buffalo wings
$1.39 – banquet fish stick meal
$6.76 – four cheese and beans burritos (frozen)
$5.00 – two cheese quesadillas (frozen)
$3.99 – a fitness magazine. To inspire me to workout.
$3.39 – bread
$4.00 – frozen fried fish
$2.50 – frozen fish
$2.50 – frozen fish
$5.99 – stuffed salmon frozen
$6.23 – Rockfish Fillet (not frozen)
$3.45 – five kiwis
$2.45 – three sweet potatoes
$2.00 – raisin boxes
$2.00 – two bags of baby carrots
$2.99 – bag of four avocados
$2.99 – veggie turkey slices
$7.98 – two boxes of veggie buffalo wings (non frozen)
$3.00 – blueberries (non frozen)
$3.99 – vegetable mix
$3.50 – cheese whole wheat tortellini

Don’t Let Me in a Grocery Store Again, Ever.

Aisles upon aisles of tantalizing packaging torment me until I can’t help but spend on edibles that I may or may not need.

How is it that I go into a grocery store planning on picking up eggs, milk, perhaps a few apples and a sweet potato, and leave with a $70 bill?

I’ll tell you how…

$2.69: Milk, 1/2 gallon
$4.79: Flaxseed Meal (to try putting in a shake. Or to bake with. If i ever learn how to bake.)
$2.13: two red garnet yams (yum)
$5.99: String cheese (a good snack. i ran out of string cheese a while back. i needed more)
$2.99: bath salts (yea, I know, I don’t need these, but… they smell so pretty, and they were only 2.99!)
$14.99: vanilla whey protein powder (i’m experimenting with protein powders. i got a small sample of this brand the other day and liked it. so i decided to buy more.)
$2.91: two pink lady apples (who can resist a pink lady?)
$3.99: figs (they were on sale. They have fiber. They called to me.)
$1.19: one sweet potato (well, my third one, counting the red garnet yams)
$19.99: a strainer. (I needed a new one since I keep burning myself trying to pour hot water when I cook pasta. This one is special. You can boil things in it.)
$2.69: yeast… in case I ever want to use the bread tin I bought the other day.
$2.99: frozen peaches (for a shake?)
$2.89: liquid egg
$2.24: four kiwis (i say a kiwi a day keeps the doctor away.)

________

$72.47
+ CA sales tax of $3.13

Grand Total: $75.60

Gah! I’ve spent so much money on groceries this month. I’m trying to be good and not go out to lunch and dinner always, but I think I’m actually spending more now that I’m going to the grocery store on a weekly basis. Even though I am eating healthier…

In other quasi food-related news…
I bought three shares of McDonald’s stock today. My gold ETF is up and my small cap risk is way down. I decided to put $3000 in my Roth IRA for 2008, so when I’m ready for retirement, at least I can say that I tried to be smart and I put in $7000 before I turned 25. I’ll see if I can get the other $2000 in sometime over the year. More on that later.

Who Needs $90 Wine?

Apparently the price of wine heavily influences how much people enjoy it. A team of researchers at Stanford and CalTech set out to prove this, and gave testers two glasses of wine to try. One was a “$90” glass of wine, and the other a “$10” glass of wine. What the subjects didn’t know was that these two glasses of wine were actually identical.

“Specifically, the researchers found that with the higher priced wines, more blood and oxygen is sent to a part of the brain called the medial orbitofrontal cortex, whose activity reflects pleasure,” reports CNET.

Whole Wheat Pasta = Great for Living Alone

Living alone and cooking usually sucks because recipes have you make 6-12 servings and you end up having tons of leftovers that go to waste (or you force yourself to eat the leftovers and get so tired of the food that you’ll never make it again!)

Up until a few weeks ago, my diet consisted of cereal and microwavable dinners for just that reason. But now I’m experimenting with fresh cooked meals that won’t leave me with tons of leftovers.

That’s one reason I love pasta. You can make as much or as little of it as you need. Feel like a half serving? Go for it, just measure it out and bam, there’s your half serving. The rest of the pasta can stay in its packaging for whenever else you feel like eating pasta again. Also, whole wheat pasta is actually pretty healthy, as long as you eat the right portion size. I’m in love with Whole Foods’ 365 Organic whole wheat pastas. Here’s some pics of what I’ve made thus far…

1/2 serving of the rolly kind of pasta with 365 Organic fat free tomato sauce (35 calories a serving… I used a half serving of it since I’m not a big tomato sauce fan, but it’s much healthier than the cream alternative I used to use). I also fried some pre-flavored tofu in 1 tsp of oil (it got nice and crunchy… prob overcooked) and threw that in for protein and texture. It was pretty good.

A week or so ago I made another pasta dish with linguine, steamed broccoli & cauliflower and fried tofu. I added a little salt and pepper and it tasted amazing!

(Note: I made two servings of this because I cooked dinner for me & my boyfriend.)

Got any other suggestions for quick and healthy pasta meals?

I Am a Failure at Cooking

So in case you’re wondering, the Yam came out about half edible. I ate more than that half, because I’m behind in my calorie count for the day (sheesh.) I’m not sure what I did wrong. I “buttered” the sweet potato (with smart balance light spread), poked it with a fork a few times, wrapped it in aluminum foil, and put it in the oven on a baking tray. I left it in for 45 minutes, then checked on it. Hard. Left it in for another 15 minutes, still hard. After 15 more minutes I took it out and gave up.

I cut the Yam in half, as it seemed the other half of this gigantic yam might be better suited for this recipe I found online for making mashed sweet potatoes out of baked sweet potato leftovers. Just add a little bit of butter and a bit of milk, some cinnamon and after some heavy-duty mashing, viola, mashed sweet potatoes.

Here’s what I got:

Maybe I used too much milk?

Now the mush of milky yam clump soup is in my freezer. I’m freezing it because I don’t want to throw it out, and the freezing will prolong its ability to be reheated almost indefinitely, or at least until it starts growing weird freezer mold.

Why is cooking so damn hard?

The Cost of Being Healthy

I recently decided that in order to be happy and healthy, I need to revamp my entire life. No more starving myself all day (out of laziness, not anorexia) and eating giant meals at night… or paying for a $46.99 a month gym membership that I used once a year.

In order to be healthy in the coming year, I signed up for another gym membership. This one is at a gym a bit closer to my house, and it’s only $27 a month. That’s still a lot of money if I never use the gym, but I’m going to force myself to go at least three times a week in order to make sure I get as much bang for my buck as logistically possible.

The gym membership isn’t what is going to cost me the most, though. That would be the cost of buying fresh produce and healthier options when I eat out. Since I don’t eat red meat or chicken, my health options are usually fish dishes, often the most expensive at a restaurant. I’ve been to the grocery store about three times in the past month to purchase apples, kiwis, cauliflower, and so on. I keep finding these great healthy (yet expensive) alternatives to things I might eat… like Flax Jacks instead of pancakes (their delicious, easy to make (just add water) and pretty damn healthy) — but cost-wise, Bisquick is the better option.

Now, I’m also focusing on actually eating what I buy, instead of letting it go to waste. Living alone, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of food purchased or made. Most recipes just assume you live with a family full of hungry people, and help you make 3-6 servings of food. If I make 3-6 servings of food either I’ll eat it all (not healthy) or it will just end up in the trash – or worse, stinking up my refrigerator.

Last week I started tracking my diet closely on SparkPeople.com, that site I found when searching for free workout videos on YouTube. It’s actually pretty cool – it’s free (always a plus) and it helps you track everything you’ve eaten and figure out how many calories and other nutrients are making it to your digestive tract.

What I learned this week is how fast calories add up when you’re eating out, and how slowly they add up when you’re eating a small, healthy meal or snack every two hours.

My goal is 1200 calories a day. I’m 157lbs right now, which at 5’3 is not acceptable. I’ve also let myself get so out of shape. I’ve never been the fitness type, but I also tended to weigh in at 145 to 150 without any extra work. Two years ago I was down to 127lbs, my lowest since I was a kid, and I did that by biking to work five days a week (30 minutes each way) and then, well, getting depressed and eating very few calories per day. I don’t want to do that again, exactly, but I’d like to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle for good.

That means I have to throw emotional eating out the door. I haven’t been that bad lately — I don’t think I’ve downed an entire box of Oreos in one sitting since college. Still, I was shocked to find out just how many calories is in one Baja Fresh Nachoes meal — (1890!!!). That’s probably with meat, but still. That’s way more than I’m supposed to eat in a day, let alone one meal.

Another typical meal I’d eat in my “old days” (aka, last month) would be what I’d pick up on a trip to Taco Bell…

$3.14 for…

-A Bean Burrito (370 calories)
-A vegetarian taco (unclear how many calories since I get beans instead of meat, but the reg. crunchy taco is 170 calories)
-The cheesy fiesta potatoes (290)
-A Large Pepsi (100 calories per 8oz, large = 32oz, so that’s 400 calories, maybe a little less given that they put a lot of ice in there, I’ll say 350 calories)

So that $3.14 meal didn’t cost me much in the piggy bank, but it cost me a good 1150 calories. That’s about how much I’m supposed to eat in a day.

Which makes me think that it’s good I generally ate only one meal a day in my, uh, past life, because otherwise I’d be a balloon right now.

The thing is, healthy eating is no longer an option for me, it’s something I have to do. I’m at high risk for so many different problems later in life due to having PCOS, and I’d rather eat healthy now than have to deal with everything down the line. Meanwhile, like any other girl, I just want to feel beautiful and desirable. I don’t have unrealistic expectations, I don’t want to be skin and bones, but… I’d give anything, ANYTHING, to be able to wear a bikini and feel proud of my body.

How much will it cost me? I can’t do fast food anymore, apparently (or — I could do Taco Bell, I just need to get ONE of those items instead of all of them. But it’s probably better I stick to healthier foods that are more filling and avoid the fast food altogether.) The good news is, I’ll be saving money here and there on drinks, since I’m cutting drinks besides water and milk out of my diet for now. I’ll have an occasional glass of red wine with dinner, but no more beer, or cocktails, or soda or juice. All of that has got to go if I want to be able to fit into those size 6 jeans I bought the last time I lost weight!

But the cost of buying healthy food is going to add up too. The vitamins alone are pricey, but I know my body needs them. I wish health insurance would take into consideration my diet, and perhaps accept me as long as I keep eating healthy. It seems I’d be of higher risk to them if I wasn’t do anything about my diet or lifestyle. Well, that would only make sense, and as we all know, the health insurance system in this country doesn’t make any sense at all.

With that, it’s time for my mid-morning kiwi. Did you know that you can eat the skin of the kiwifruit? In fact, the skin is the healthiest part of the fruit, with tons of fiber! Amazing, right? I was always afraid of kiwi skin. It is kind of fuzzy and brown, but if you close your eyes it just seems like the skin of a peach or something. It doesn’t have much flavor, and it’s a total waste to not eat that part of the kiwi.