Friday, April 30, 2010

The coupon game

I'm not really a coupon person. I love a good sale and get a dozen promotions from various apparel and home stores in my email weekly. But when it comes to groceries, I don't even make a list when I go to the store much less plan out what coupons to use.

I worked at a newspaper for almost four years and of course subscribed (well, it was required), and every few weeks I'd get inspired and cut coupons. But when I'd go to the grocery store on Monday, I'd think I had to use all of my coupons that day or I would forget and they would expire. But I would also get carried away and buy things I don't normally buy because I had a coupon. This approach really didn't save me any money and might have even cost me money.

But I've seen people that play the coupon game very well, my friend Jawan is an expert. And when I was home for Easter, I discovered my younger sister has also mastered couponing as she pulled out item after item and told me she got all of them for free.

My sister is letting me on her secrets, although really the secret is The way to play the game is to collect coupons and then use them when the stores are also running specials, so you are saving dollars instead of 50 cents here or there. Southernsavers sorts through the weekly ads and pairs up items with coupons (both in the newspaper and online) and allows you to print a grocery list.

I have to admit I was intrigued but still not ready for the challenge. I needed to do some major grocery shopping this week, and my sister had been telling me how jealous she was that one of the stores here was tripling coupons this week. So I decided this was the week to take the plunge and try out her system. She was very helpful and even sent me a list from Southernsavers and talked me through all of the lingo.

On Wednesday night, I ventured to Harris Teeter (if you live near one, you have until Wednesday, May 5, to triple your coupons) armed with my list and some coupons. Because I have not been faithfully clipping coupons, I didn't have all the ones from previous weeks that would have worked. But I found my shopping to be more efficient even though it was an unfamiliar store. I had a list, and when I got to the right aisle I knew exactly what brand and size to buy of whatever the item was.

Now I clearly missed this warning on Southernsavers:
This is the long awaited triples week, so get your coupons ready. For triples, if you have never done this before you need to go early. Very early. If your store is open all night many will let you start checking out at 7 am.

The item I was most excited about and fought with my printer over was cheese. It was buy one get one free to cut it down to less than $2, and I had a coupon for 75 cents off that would be tripled, thus making it FREE. Well, the specific kind of cheese I had to buy was completely gone, and I felt like I didn't get my reward.

But all things considered, I do think I saved more than usual. I needed everything I bought and almost all of the items were somehow discounted, so although I wouldn't say it was a total success, i.e. nothing was free, it was a better experience than expected and I only forgot two things.

With the co-op, I am trying to avoid the grocery store as much as possible, but there are things I do have to go to the store for so I might as well save some money there. But I think my main goal right now is to be more aware of what I'm buying and how much I'm paying for it. But ultimately, I'd like to start play the coupon game well enough to pay for my Sunday newspaper subscription, which of course supplies the coupons but I also love reading the paper on Sundays.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I've been eating

So based on my first pick-up, you might guess that I’ve been eating a lot of salad. I’ve eaten salad with shrimp, salad with turkey and salads with just lettuce and dressing salads. Yes, it’s been a lot of greens for me, but I have to say the Bibb lettuce is way better than any bag of salad I’ve ever had.

I did make a salad dressing to go on all of these salads. Here’s the recipe:
Honey Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
  • 2 sm. cloves garlic (I used minced garlic because I had it, but I see the advantage the cloves.)
  • 3 3/4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. oregano
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
Mix first 6 ingredients very well. Whisk; add oil. Mix again. (Also, lesson learned, this is not a dressing that is stored in the refrigerator.)

I had all this watercress, and my mom pointed me to an entire chapter in a cookbook full of watercress. But I ended up using this recipe for watercress pesto because I had all the ingredients, and it's excellent.  I put it on some pasta, and I think I will use it as a spread on my turkey sandwich today. I halved this recipe because I didn’t have enough cheese:
Watercress Pesto
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3 ounces watercress, rinsed and dried (I have no idea how much 3 oz. is, I just used what I had.)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Place the garlic, walnuts, watercress, Parmesan cheese, and mayonnaise into a food processor or blender. Pulse until a finely chopped paste has formed.

I also attempted to saute spinach based on the recipe in the link above. Total failure:

My weekend away put me a little behind on cooking, so I haven’t cooked the chicken. It’s defrosting for me to cook this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

From dreaded to exceptional

Tag this under “other adventures” because I have to post about my weekend, and I don’t have a single cooking experience or recipe to share.

I traveled to Atlanta to meet my mom and sisters for a Beth Moore conference over the weekend. I have a done a few Beth Moore Bible studies and heard her live a couple of times, and I was looking forward to the event. But going into the weekend, I was extremely negative. I felt like something was going to go wrong or it would be such a short trip, I’d be exhausted and spend most of the time in airports or the car and not get much time with my family.

This is a time in the year when I can’t take off work, so I couldn’t make a longer weekend out of it and Atlanta is no longer just a quick drive for me. So I had to take a non-direct flight late Friday night, and I am not a fan of flying. I do it because I enjoying visiting new places, but I hate the hassle of airports, security, delayed flights, etc. I am always convinced something will go wrong.

This anxiety is not without cause. Just ask me about the time I sat on a curry-scented plane for three hours before an international flight, missed my connection in the U.S., was detoured to another city and spent the night with my parents in a small hotel room without earplugs. Or the time a quick weekend trip to Tennessee from Missouri landed me in Peoria, Ill., for an unplanned overnight stay.

But anyway, for the two weeks leading up to this trip, God had been teaching me about anxiety and worry through several outlets. As I described this trip to a friend earlier in the week, I heard how negative I sounded and realized this was the opposite of what God had been teaching me. I needed to let go of my anxiety and trust Him to get me there, or if not, allow me to see His glory in delays or detours. So my prayer going into the weekend was that I would be able to let go of this anxiety, trust God and be able to keep my heart and mind open to hear His message to me.

And you know what, He didn’t just get me there, He blessed the whole weekend. My flights went smoothly and I even landed early in Atlanta. We had to get up early Saturday morning to get to the venue, but it was an easy drive with no traffic (a rarity in Atlanta) and we arrived early. The all-day conference was great. I love being in worship at an event like that. It's just amazing to be in a room where 10,000 women are worshiping God.

Then Beth’s message on insecurity was what I needed to hear. It was somewhat of a continuation of what God has been teaching me, in that it is about controlling my thoughts and filling my mind with God’s Word and not my anxious and insecure thoughts. We also got to hear a short question and answer with Beth and her daughter in a smaller venue.

Leaving the venue in the chaos of 10,000 women and a huge parking lot took a while. It was late afternoon and we were planning the rest of our evening as we sat in traffic. The longer it took, the hungrier we got. We ditched our plan to shop first and headed to a restaurant my mom wanted to take us to. We walked in the door, and there was Beth Moore waiting for a table with her daughter and son-in-law. My sister got the courage to walk us up there and talk to her, and she was so kind and real. She didn’t just say hello and turn back to her family, instead she wanted to know our names and give us each a hug. It was a brief encounter but capped off an already great day.

After some shopping, we headed back to the hotel completely exhausted and were asleep by 10 p.m. I slept so well, I was wide-awake by 7:30 a.m. This meant I got to spend the rest of the morning just talking with my sisters and mom, something I had been afraid we wouldn’t have much time for. The storms from Saturday cleared, and we had a beautiful day. After a successful shopping trip, I had the easiest trip through security at the Atlanta airport. (They’ve apparently opened a new security checkpoint since I was last there a year ago.)

I am writing this in the airport, so assuming my flight does actually leave and land in the right city*, this weekend has exceeded anything I could have hoped for. And even with something as simple as a weekend getaway, God was faithful and reminded me that He is worthy of my trust with not just this but everything else I allow myself to worry about and obsess over.

I don’t like giving up my control, even to an airline for a weekend trip, but God is showing me that life is much more enjoyable when I do loosen my grip and trust Him.

* As of this posting I am back home.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My first pick-up

I picked up my first share during my lunch break yesterday. Since I've been thinking about this for a while, I was ready to actually get my stuff. It's still early in the season so we aren't getting a lot of stuff right away, but here's what I came home with this week:
  Fresh spinach
Bibb lettuce (two heads)
Watercress and green onions
And a chicken, it's frozen and still wrapped but I felt like I needed to provide a visual of the size.

I also got honey and a loaf of homemade bread that did not make the photoshoot. 

But you can probably guess that I had a salad for dinner tonight. I actually left work in time to actually come in my house before Bible study (a rare thing in the last couple of weeks), and I managed to mix up a honey vinaigrette dressing for my salad. I'll share the recipe next week, it was really good.

I'm accepting suggestions for what to do with watercress, right now it's just an addition to my salad.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What happens when I don't have a recipe

I wrote before about my cooking personality. And while I can deviate from a recipe, mainly because it calls for something I don’t consider a staple, I do actually need a recipe to get started. Some people can look in the fridge and make a fantastic meal in 30 minutes without ever following a recipe. My older sister is an expert at this. But me, I need somewhere to start.

I have a collection of cookbooks on my shelf, with my current favorite being Pioneer Woman’s cookbook. And I rely on AllRecipes and basic Google in a moment of desperation. But my favorite and most successful recipes are from my mom. She put several in a cookbook for me when I was first starting out on my own, and I also have a collection of printed emails that serve me very well.

But sometimes I get cocky and start to think that since I basically created a new recipe from one that already existed, I can surely make something without a recipe. But for me, this is a recipe for disaster (sorry I just had to go with the pun).

A few weeks ago, when I had not done very well planning for food that week, I decided to make up a recipe: Crock-pot spaghetti chicken. You might imagine what this entailed. I had chicken and had just opened a can of spaghetti sauce that I wanted to actually eat before it went bad (in case you didn’t know, it does). I work some long days, so when I use my Crock-pot I usually walk home at lunch and throw everything in, which is what I did on that particular day. But work dragged on and I was determined to make it to the gym. When I walked in the door at 8 p.m., I had a sense my experiment had failed. I opened the top of the Crock-pot to find this:

I’m not sure if it was the fact that I used thinly sliced chicken or I cooked it too long or maybe I needed some more liquid in there, but this was not the meal I walked home from the gym looking forward to. I did salvage what I could, threw it over pasta and had a decent dinner, but I was still disappointed.

So I have to ask, what are your tips for cooking without a recipe?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Okra and grits

You have all been patient reading about my ramblings and rants, and today, I’m finally giving you a couple of recipes. You might consider these to be Southern dishes, but even if you live in the Midwest, the Northeast or out West, there is nothing wrong with good cheese grits and fried okra.

One of my favorite side dishes is fried okra, but I’ve never considered it something I would make in my own kitchen. It’s one of those messy, time consuming things, plus frying things on my own makes me nervous. But when you don’t live in the Deep South, good fried okra is not available at many restaurants. But I’ve discovered an easy version from Southern Living (via Kelly’s Korner). Click the link to get the full recipe, but here’s my modified, cooking for one version:

  • I keep frozen cut okra in my freezer to use, but I’m sure fresh okra would be better. I throw in however much okra I actually want to eat in hot olive oil on the stove. I let the okra cook for at least five minutes, and then shake on breadcrumbs (whatever I find at the store). I coat the okra pretty well to make sure there’s some crunch to it and add on parmesan cheese. I let that cook for a few more minutes, flipping around the okra, and then serve it to myself hot with a side of ketchup.
I modified this last week to give me a full meal in one pan by adding shrimp. I was not thinking about the order I was cooking in, but I wish I had put in the okra for a few minutes before adding the shrimp. Shrimp cooks much faster than okra, and I like the okra to have some crunch. You can probably come up with some other vegetables to add to the mix as well.

Sunday nights tend to be breakfast for dinner for me. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, but I don’t spend much time on breakfast these days, so making it for dinner means I actually have time to make some of my favorite foods. Some weeks it is pancakes or French toast, but this week it was eggs, grits and biscuits.

Now if you were not raised in the South and have never tried grits, you need to try this recipe. Even if you have tried grits and hated them, try them prepared this way. As someone who loves grits, I am always disappointed at Waffle House, iHop or Cracker Barrel when I order grits, so don’t base your hatred of grits on a bad restaurant experience.

This is not so much a meal for one dish, but it is a favorite at potlucks and once you confirm you like grits this way, you can modify it to make one serving.

  • 1/2 cup of quick grits
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 a block of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook grits in water with salt in saucepan until thick. Cut butter and cheese into small pieces and add to the grits when they are still hot. Add in garlic. Stir until butter and cheese melts. Beat eggs in measuring cup and add milk to make 1 cup, add to grits. Pour mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish. Bake 35-40 minutes.

When making grits for myself, I cook whatever one serving is of quick grits and add a smaller portion of cheese, butter and garlic. Stir until it is smooth and serve hot, skipping the baking process. These are much creamier than the casserole version but still achieve the cheese and garlic flavor in a singe serving.


Friday, April 16, 2010

This might turn into a bit of a rant

I came home late this evening and found a new magazine in the mail. Even though my work is online now, I am still a print person at heart. I’ve been getting Time magazine since I was 14, and right now I’m struggling to make a decision about my newspaper subscription. My mom has also found some great magazine deals and sent Southern Living my way as well as this new magazine, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.

First of all, let me say in a quick skim through the magazine I’ve already marked pages and even torn out some recipes. I mean this issue gives me step-by-step instructions on how to spatchcock a chicken, which I had never heard of until reading this.

But the first page I turned to had a heading: Cooking for One, which of course excited me (and I knew it might give me a blog topic). Then the name of the recipe is “10-Minute Shrimp and Tortilla Soup.” But as I read the recipe, I counted 10 ingredients, six of which had to either be diced, peeled, minced or chopped. Now the cooking time all adds up to 10 minutes, but what about the chopping and dicing time? There’s no way I could finish this recipe start to finish in 10 minutes. But why do they tease me like that? I would like to see the person that could make this recipe in 10 minutes and maybe have them become my resident chef.

I’m not saying this is a bad recipe or that I’m not willing to try it, if only because I’m on a shrimp kick. Granted it requires 10 ingredients and my cut-off, excluding spices I already own, is usually five when cooking for myself, but I might be willing to move past that on this one. The amounts required are clearly designed to make a soup with just one or two servings (1/4 of an onion, 1 ear of corn, 4 ounces of shrimp), and I appreciate that they have already done the math for me.

I have a similar issue with a famous cooking personality who markets “30-Minute Meals.” I strongly believe if every ingredient was already chopped and measured, I could make those meals in 30 minutes the same way she does on TV. But I don’t have a prep person in my kitchen, and I only find myself frustrated watching these shows.

The thing is I am willing to invest time in a recipe. The advantage of cooking for one is not having some hungry person lingering in the kitchen waiting for you. But I don’t like having an expectation of how much time it is going to take and then realizing halfway through that it is much more time consuming than I planned for.

How do you judge how long a recipe will take?

(Note: I was searching for the recipe online but can’t find a link. If I do actually try it, I’ll post the recipe and give you my review.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


When I was 13, I had the opportunity to travel to Switzerland for three weeks with my aunt and uncle and four cousins (all under the age of 7 at the time). This trip really sparked my interest in traveling, and while I did help out with my cousins, my aunt and uncle made sure I had lots of opportunities to see the region where we stayed.

Anyway, my uncle is from Holland, and the trip was a vacation and an opportunity to see his family. For most of the time we were there, we stayed in a mountain house near his brother’s family.

Before we left, my mom spent a lot of time talking to my aunt and getting as many details as possible. After one conversation, my mom started talking about how my aunt was worried about the first day and not having staples at the house. My mom continued talking, and I sat there, completely confused about why staples were so important to have. This was before Sept. 11, so surely my aunt could carry on this box of staples she needed.

Well, I finally asked my mom to explain this to me, and she informed me that staples in this sense meant the basic food essentials — bread, milk, cereal, etc. (At 13, I should have known this term, but this tells you how much I distanced myself from the kitchen as a kid.)

Of course, my uncle’s family was well prepared, and staples were provided.

But years later, I remembered my confusion over staples when I was in my new kitchen and kept going to the cabinet looking for things that should be in every kitchen that weren’t in mine. I realized that you really do have to buy things like flour, sugar, salt, pepper and all those spices that just exist in my mom’s kitchen. I dragged my feet on spending my grocery money on many of these kitchen essentials, only buying them when I needed them for a recipe. I even managed to go months without ketchup, and I was the kid that doused everything in ketchup.

I got a spice rack for Christmas one year, and at some point I had cooked enough that I usually found what I needed in my kitchen cabinets but it took a while to reach that point.

And then I moved and it was like starting over. I had the spice rack, and I was no longer afraid of buying the big container of vegetable oil or flour but it is still starting with an empty kitchen, in need of some staples.

Now as I get closer to getting my first share (next week!), I am trying to think about what I need to have in my kitchen to turn my share into a meal without a lot of trips to the grocery store. 

What are the staples you always have on hand?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Herb garden

First of all, it is spring, and there are beautiful tulips all over town. I am loving seeing everything in bloom and the warm weather is amazing.

Back to the topic of this post. I’ve never had much of a green thumb or even really cared that much about keeping a plant alive to begin with. When I moved into my dorm room, my mom bought me a plant, apparently to make it seem a little less like a freshman dorm room. It was dead a week later, and I let it sit on a shelf for the rest of the year before throwing it out just before I moved out.

But one of my favorite recipes is my mom’s tomato basil soup (I’ll post the recipe soon), which of course requires basil. Buying basil at the grocery store is not cheap, and I never used it all before it went bad, you’ll notice that that is a theme for me. So when I was in Georgia, I decided to grow some basil on my small porch. And it was amazing. It actually grew, and even when it looked dead, I could water it and it would come back to life. Nothing I did or didn’t do killed it.

Not long after I moved I set up my pot with basil on my deck and expected immediate growth. Since it was actually outside I figured the rain would water it for me, and I wouldn’t have to think about it. But my placement was a bit off because I actually had the pot underneath the roof overhang and gutters, so it got little to no water. And it was pretty much in the shade 90% of the time, which didn’t help the situation either. After an incident with the leaf blower, there was no chance of bringing this basil back to life.

This spring I have decided to take a new approach and bought a planter that would hang over the railing of the deck in the sun and be free to get some rain. 

Saturday is market day in my town (add that to the list of reasons why I love living here), and I headed over this weekend to pick up some herbs. 

I expanded my selection from just basil and bought some rosemary, thyme and parsley. Assuming I can keep them alive, I will have a selection of fresh herbs to add to my dishes.

Do you have a herb garden? And is there anything I should know about growing the rosemary, parsley or thyme?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Making something out of nothing

I was out of town two weekends in a row and decided that for the week in between I could skip the grocery store. I did go by the market near my house for milk and a prepared meal once, but other than that I was digging through my pantry.

When I got back in town on Monday, I knew there was no avoiding the grocery store since by that point it had been about two weeks. I’m sure I will delve into this in another post, but I’m not good at grocery shopping. I rarely make a list because it seems like when I do I don’t actually make it into the store with the list, which defeats the point. But without a list I almost always forget something and I come home with something I already have three of in at home.

Anyway after eight hours in the car, this day at the grocery store was particularly random. Here’s what I came home with:

Ground beef
Taco seasoning
Clorox wipes
Sharp cheddar
Bagel Bites
3 muffin mixes
Pizza crusts
Mozzarella cheese
Granola bars

(Clearly I intended to eat tacos this week, but I got home and realized that while I have five packets of taco seasoning in my cabinets, I don’t have any tortillas, nor did I buy lettuce for a taco salad. I also forgot contact lens solution.)

With this random collection plus what was already in my house, I didn’t have a clear plan for dinner on Tuesday. As I walked home from work I used my  AllRecipes iPhone app to find a recipe. 

I put in shrimp as a main meal (because my mom showed me that it can be a non-leftover meal), and I landed on Angel Hair Pasta with Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli and proceeded to leave out everything I didn’t like or have. But I came out with a pretty good meal that I just made in a smaller portion and therefore only had to eat once.

Here’s what I ended up using, sorry I didn’t actually measure anything a rare thing for me:
Heavy Whipping Cream
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
Angel hair pasta

The final product:

I wish I could say that I came up with something great Wednesday and Thursday as well, but I had things to go to in the evenings and I resorted to cereal and Bagel Bites. Maybe next week I’ll pull together tacos.

What do you make when you seem to have nothing or nothing that goes together?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The dinner table

My whole life, I dreamed of the day I would get to live by myself. I am one of four children and fall in the middle (the younger two are twins so yes there is a middle of four). While I love my siblings and really enjoy being part of a family of six, I never had my own bathroom. 

The four of us shared a bathroom until my older sister was a teenager when she moved to the bedroom in the basement. Once she left for college, I only had three years left before I was off too, and since my brother (the only boy) had shared a bathroom with his sisters for so long it only seemed fair that he should get the basement. So my sister and I were still left upstairs sharing a bathroom. (You should note that at some point my other three siblings all had their own bathroom while living at home. I’m not complaining just stating the facts.)

After all this sharing, the community bathroom in the dorm and sorority house wasn’t horrible. In fact, it meant (almost) never waiting for a shower and knowing it was cleaned by someone else on a daily basis. But after 22 years of sharing a bathroom, I was ready to have my own apartment with my own bathroom. Imagine my delight when the perfect apartment I rented in Georgia had not one, but two bathrooms. Yes, I used both of them daily.

So living by myself, even four years in, is still a dream come true for me and not just for the bathroom. But I think it has played a part in my less than ideal eating habits. I grew up in a house where we sat down for dinner as a family at least five nights a week. In the midst of our busy schedules, my mom made it a priority for us to sit down and eat together. It often meant eating in my soccer attire before practice or not making it to the table until almost 8 p.m. But it brought us together and established consistent time together as a family and encouraged healthy eating.

In college, I found comfort in sitting down for dinner at 5:30 p.m. every weekday night with my sorority sisters. I never had to worry about what I was going to eat, and I loved the social aspect of eating with friends.

After graduating, I remember one of my first nights off from work where I cooked dinner for myself in my new apartment. My apartment had a dining room, so I bought a table from Kmart to fill the space. I sat at the table to eat, and it was a moment when I felt both grown-up and alone. I didn’t realize how much I would miss something as simple as dinner with friends or family

For me, food became less important when there weren’t other people involved. I’ve never been a “foodie,” my picky eating post makes that obvious. But until the social aspect disappeared, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t the food I enjoyed so much, it was the company.

I am appealing to my competitive side with this challenge, but it doesn’t always have to be a solo thing. My friend Andrea has both demonstrated and reminded me that this is a great opportunity to open my home and share meals with friends.

Hopefully, I can make some dishes that are worth sharing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter weekend

Easter is one of those holidays that can be hard to go home for, but it's one of my favorites to be there for. I never made it back home for Easter during college, but once I graduated and moved closer to home I started going back for Easter even when it meant driving in after work on Saturday night or working from my parents' house on Easter. 

I figured it would be a stretch now that I'm further from home, but when I found out my office was closed for Good Friday, I decided to take off two extra days and drive home for the weekend. It was a long trip, but totally worth it to start off Easter Sunday with this:

(Photo courtesy of my sister)

And I have to say the rest of the weekend was pretty great as well. I got to see family I don't see very often, have dinner with a friend from high school, hang out with my brother and sister, and enjoy some wonderful time outside in the gorgeous weather biking and hiking.

I also got to indulge in Sonic a few times, one of the things I've missed since moving. It also made 16 hours in the car a little more bearable.

My mom also provided some inspiration in the kitchen with the amazing meals she served all weekend, including Panera's Broccoli Cheese Soup, Pioneer Woman's Mashed Potatoes and my favorite broccoli casserole, all of which I intend to make sometime soon.

I'm exhausted from the road trip today and need to work on getting my life at home back in order. At least I only have four work days this week!

Friday, April 2, 2010


Recently, I had to clean out my refrigerator. The reason: I was out of Tupperware. I don’t own tons of Tupperware, but every piece I own was holding leftovers of something, sometimes it was unrecognizable.

One of my struggles with cooking for myself is that I hate leftovers. My Tupperware situation was evidence of that. I had dutifully put the chicken or taco meat or vegetables in Tupperware containers after making whatever it was the first time, put them in the fridge and let them sit there for weeks. OK, I do eat them at least once more, if not twice, but I never seem to finish off whatever it is. It's often the third night that I talk myself out of it somewhere between work and my kitchen. And so the food goes bad sitting in my Tupperware, taking up space in my fridge.

I still can’t quite figure out exactly why I don’t like leftovers, but I never have, it was one of the things that drove my mother crazy. Growing up, Sundays after church were frequently leftover lunches. My dad would pull out everything we had eaten over the last week, and everyone was responsible for deciding what they wanted and reheating. I typically sulked at the table before finally fixing a sandwich to avoid eating the leftover casserole from the Thursday before.

But those days of complaining about leftovers coincided with a time when I ate the same thing for breakfast every day — Honey Nut Cheerios and banana nut bread with plain cream cheese. I was so tied to having that every day that my mom used to panic when she realized we were out of one of those things. Plus, I am not a morning person so even speaking to me, much less messing up my breakfast, was a scary thought to my family.

But if it’s not about eating the same thing every day, then maybe it’s the reheating process because I seem to see baked goods and sandwiches differently than dinner meals. 

Although these days I feel like it is more about the fact whatever I cooked the first night wasn’t that good to begin with, so the second and third nights are even worse. And I don’t plan ahead to cook something else with what’s left. Honestly though, even if I was prepared with some other ingredients, I’m not that comfortable creating something without following a recipe in some form.

I know that getting over this hatred of leftovers and getting creative with what I have is going to be my biggest challenge in this. So how do you avoid leftovers? Or turn them into something different on the second night?