Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The liberation of disposable clothing

A horse used my shirt for a napkin the other day at the 4-H fair, drooling green grassy slime all over my shoulder. The stain didn’t come out the first trip through the washer, so it remains to be seen whether this is a napkin of the reusable or disposable variety.

The bad news: It was a brand new shirt. I literally cut the tags off just before I put it on that day.

The good news: Thanks to the “no new clothes” vow (and my rapidly changing clothing sizes as I cut weight), I’ve developed an “easy come, easy go” attitude about my wardrobe. (Though this really was a brand new shirt, with its original tags intact, I bought it at Goodwill.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Micro meals: A “frugal fuel” experiment

Last week I wrote about the weirdness of learning to accept my frugal fuel needs even while living in a super-sized society -- realizing that my body type, underneath all that padding I’d accumulated before losing 60 pounds in six months, is actually much closer to an economy car than an SUV.

Well, in an attempt to make the most of a day’s worth of fuel, I decided to try an experiment: Taking in my 23 allotted Weight Watchers points one at a time over the course of the day.

For those of you not familiar with the points system, use this for reference: A McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese and medium order of french fries equals 20 points. So it’s rather easy, eating the typical American diet, to blow through your allotted points in a single meal if you aren’t careful.

But you can also take the opposite perspective, and marvel at some of the delightful things you can eat for only a single point: A cup of grapes or blueberries or strawberries, for instance. Half a cup of fat free refried beans with salsa, using carrots instead of chips for dipping.

By eating only one point at a time, I’d essentially be eating 23 snacks and mini-meals all day long. Hard to feel deprived doing that. And I didn’t. For the record, here’s what I ate the day of the experiment:

1. 1/2 thin whole-wheat bagel
2. 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (eaten from the measuring spoon)
3. 1/2 cup skim milk
4. 1/2 thin whole-wheat bagel
5. 1/2 slice American cheese, melted over mushrooms in the microwave
6. 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (see above)
7. 1/2 thin whole wheat bagel
8. Fiber One 90-calorie bar
9. 1 cup blueberries
10. 1 plum (at only 35 calories, this item is only half a point)
11. 1/2 cup fat free refried beans, eaten from the measuring cup with a spoon
12. 1/2 cup baby carrots dipped in two tablespoons of salsa con queso
13. 1/2 banana
14. the second half of the banana
15. 1/4 cup rice and beans
16. Fiber One 90-calorie bar
17. 1/2 slice bread with 1/2 tablespoon jam
18. 1/3 cup bran flakes with 1/4 cup milk
19. 1/2 cup fat free ice cream
20. 4 tortilla chips with 1 tablespoon chili conqueso
21. 1/3 ounce swiss cheese
22. 1 sugar free popsicle (at only 15 calories, this item has zero points)
23. 1/4 cup rice and beans

Total snacks and micro meals: 23
Total calories for the day: 1,370
Total Weight Watchers points for the day: 21.5

As you can see, that’s quite a lengthy list of food. No single thing took very long to eat, but because one of the rules I made up was that I had to consume each “point” separately, as its own meal or snack, I felt like I was constantly eating. And I was: If you average 23 snacks or “fuel stops” out over the approximately 18 hours I was conscious last Thursday, then it was meal time every 47 minutes. Yet I never did use up all the points I was allotted, coming in 1.5 points under my limit.

The most amusing part of this experiment were the “micro meals” I came up with: that three-bite serving of cereal, for instance, or the tiny plate of nachos.

And then there were those tasty 1-point items I completely forgot about: A 12-ounce bottle of Miller Genuine Draft lite beer (only 64 calories), a three-egg white omelette with veggies and salsa or ketchup, a 3-ounce baked potato with salsa or ketchup.

Oh well, maybe next time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cassie's clutter craft

I really hate recycled crafts that call for you to buy a bunch of stuff to complete the project. So when Cassie wanted to make this treasure keeper frog we saw in Family Fun magazine, we decided to look around the house for a spare 12-inch zipper rather than going to the store.

We found just what we needed in an old sweatshirt from Cassie's toddler days. It was in a pile of stuff headed for Goodwill, but the rest of the sweatshirt will still be put to good use -- we'll make hot pads or some other rag rug project.

We did buy googly eyes, though we could have just as easily made the eyes (to cover one end of the wine cork eyeballs) out of small circles of white fabric and smaller circles of black fabric.

By the way: This project works out a whole lot better if you use a hole punch to make the holes on the 2-liter bottles, rather than the push pin the magazine recommends.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grocery thrifts, as a species

Another scratch-and-dent grocery has sprouted along one of my usual driving routes. You’d think stores like these would be as unique and individual as their often eccentric owners, but in my experience there are far more similarities than differences. It’s almost like going into a chain store, only without a unifying branding and color scheme. 

The prices were about exactly what I expected: Canned food, with its long shelf life, isn’t much of a bargain in stores like these. Cereal, a bit more fragile (though not as much as you might think), was priced just low enough -- $1.50 -- to make me consider pulling the trigger. Mostly I bought cereal bars, a good enough deal at $1 a box, especially when I needed to restock our snack container.

I didn’t ask, but I find myself wondering: Is the uniformity dictated by suppliers that operate somewhat like multi-layer marketing outfits, providing (or perhaps even demanding) specific layouts and strategies? Or are these just natural characteristics of a certain species of business that have evolved over time?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bottomfeeder Pie

In the supermarket ecosystem, I’m a bottomfeeder. My eyes are calibrated to zero in on those orange stickers indicating food that’s nearing its expiration date. And one of my favorite things to look for, when I’m trolling grocery stores, is bagged spinach.

I never pay full price for fresh spinach, because at one of the stores I frequent there‘s almost always a bag or two that’s been marked down. But unlike bagged lettuce, which looks like a goner by the time it gets its orange sticker, bagged spinach can be used up to a week after its expiration date. It may not be crisp enough to go in a salad, but you can always put it on a pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich, or in a cheesy baked concoction I call Bottomfeeder Pie.

This isn’t a pie in the conventional sense, because there’s no crust. I call it that because I like the name and I usually make it in a pie pan. The funny thing is, Bottomfeder Pie shares 98 percent of the same DNA as Delectable Spinach, an elegant party dish in the local Unitarian Church’s cookbook. But whereas I once spent nearly $10 buying the ingredients to make Delectable Spinach for a holiday party -- uncharacteristically shopping at the last minute -- Bottomfeeder Pie is practically free.

The reason: This dish is like a sponge I use to clean out the fridge and freezer compartment. Whenever I detect a buildup of partially used old cream cheese containers and mushrooms that look like they’re getting ready to walk out to the compost heap on their own, I gather up my collection of half-full bagged spinach from the fridge and/or freezer, dump it in a greased baking dish, and shake whatever’s hiding in the bottom of the oldest shredded cheese bag on top. Delicious. Delectable, even.