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Grotto

Minimalism vs. cookery

There are challenges floating around all the minimalism and frugality blogs circling around clearing all the food from the house.

I'm clearly not the target audience of a minimalism blog anyway, but the two themes tend to go hand-in-hand, so I stumble over a lot of them. But I find this particular challenge just perplexing. From the standpoint of being a cook - who wants an empty pantry??

I don't buy or consume a whole ton of nonperishables - in cans, it's mostly evaporated milk, pumpkin, coconut milk, and tomatoes - in terms of dry goods, it's pastas, rice and grains, sugars, flours (and cornmeal and coconut flake). And then flavorings: spices, herbs, dried mushrooms. I have gotten better about finding ways to squeeze nonperishables into healthy meals, but on the whole I'm happier eating fruit and meat and occasional veggies. Until eggs got stupidly expensive last winter, I was on a largely egg-based diet.

Friday I served up a venison shoulder stew from last year's tiny doe. Cinnamon and cardamon and some of the turkey stock I made off May's turkey (I spent $3 in groceries for May - for carrots and celery for that endeavour). I'm in the process of using up the broths and things I've had frozen in the direction of being able to... make more broths; I have a handful of empty yogurt containers being cleared of previous contents, ready to make bone broths and stock from both the doe and a jillion chicken and turkey carcasses and 'bits'. Fortunately I now have a decent stockpot with an inbuilt strainer pot and this will mean eventually that I have room in my freezer again. Which is good because I think my boyfriend would like to get the remaining critter out of his - while my kitchen is huge for an apartment, his was house-sized when I needed to dismantle a deer.

I am proudly averaging under $90/mo. for groceries right now, which means I'm averaging under $3/day. Today I have had homemade venison stew, homemade vanilla frozen yogurt, homemade strawberry tea, mangoes, mostly-homemade turkey tortellini soup (I bought the pasta), and I'm contemplating the homemade tortilla soup in the fridge because I'm somehow still hungry (the "somehow" probably having to do with eating absolutely nothing yesterday for no particular good reason.) I eat like royalty and I spend less than almost anyone I know. I don't even spend that much time cooking, it seems like; I always feel sort of wistful and sad when I contemplate recipes, like "if I ever get around to it." But there are nights when I'll just throw down and make up two entrees and a side at a time.

I have often-restaurant-quality food at a tenth the price and with far better nutrition - my homemade ice creams have real fat and fractional sugar, my enchiladas use copious cheese but little enough salt; I make a lasagna variant with squash and zucchini instead of noodles and no added sugar or salt and even without meat it's to die for. I need to get a better system of freezing down - I'd like more convenience in my food, pizza and pie crusts, bread rolls and muffins at the ready. If ever I move into a private home or have an indoor closet that would accommodate, I'd like to have an extra freezer - being able to whip out some rosemary rolls and a venison joint and pitch it all in the oven at once and go play some Elder Scrolls XV until dinner's ready would be awfully cool.

It's the first time in an awfully long time that these dreams have felt real. I got slapped with the ugly end of reality after graduation from university and nothing really solidified until over a year after my father's stroke. I sort of vanished as an identity until 2014, actually, because I sank so quickly and with such relief into having work - I took over THREE EXTRA MONTHS' WORK of overtime in 2013, trying to crawl out of the hole I'd found myself in during 2009 and again in 2011. Over SIXTY FULLTIME DAYS. (While I'd love to be able to handle that again for another couple years from a budgetary standpoint, I think my general survival as a human requires I don't attempt it. I've taken less than a hundred hours this year so far as of July, maybe as little as fifty. Maybe I can set a more reasonable goal of "one year's living expenses less rent" per annum. I did put in some pretty good hours after I splurged on my gorgeous new Sandlar boots, and I've gotten great use out of them.)

I guess it highlights how very little it takes to get so very much done, provided it's done consistently over time. I've set loose goals for myself and then doubled or tripled them. If I could do this with my artwork there'd be nothing left to accomplish.

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