The Farewell Post

(Glad you stopped by. Enjoy this blog and then visit me at my main website,!


Our idea was to stick it out until May 5th (the  one month mark) and then buy groceries, but the kids insisted on continuing our experiment until forever.

(Kids amaze me. They will be as happy and well-adjusted to life as you are, and  will believe what you tell them. To date, this is still a “fun” experiment for our kids, no matter what feelings I harbor about it on the inside. Never underestimate the power of positive talk with your children.)

Here are some examples of the “whatevers” we have had for dinner lately:

Some kidney beans were included in the “grocery blessing” from the last post, but we were out of ground venison.  Normally I would have added “hamburger” to a grocery list in order to make chili, but in this case, I was forced to experiment with venison breakfast sausage. Also, I didn’t have enough tomato sauce and had to supplement with what little ketchup we had, which made for a very thick chili–too thick to serve as the soup-like chili I normally prepare. So I cooked up some more instant Elmer’s glue-rice to put under it.

I served this to dinner guests and they raved about it. If I may say so, it may have been some of the best-flavored chili I have ever made.

Pictured above is some kielbasa donated by my Polish mother-in-law and super-smoked by my smokin’ hot father-in-law. 🙂 It is topped with his homemade tangy-sweet red sauce. Being out of wholesome butter, we had to use some donated margar*@%, which word is a profanity in our household, for the way it clogs arteries. But a hydrogenated bread-spread is better than no bread-spread at all, and we were extremely grateful.

My kids normally snub celery for its menacing strings (I hardly blame them), but this was a rare opportunity to eat a fresh green other than dandelion leaves. They stuffed it with a Mediterranean cashew butter spread (a forgotten condiment in the fridge door) and scarfed it down with gratitude.  Same with the cucumber (left behind by dinner guests), which I soaked in sugary vinegar.

I mentioned that I have had more dinner guests lately than I ever did when we were buying groceries. (One discovers, during an experiment like this, that people crave community more than gourmet cooking.) Here is Suzette sautéing a bag of frozen spinach with some dandelion leaves, garlic and olive oil. It was tasty! We were able to throw together a nice meal for eleven of us with an abundance of “whatevers.”

On a recent rare sunny evening, we enjoyed these tuna melts on the back deck. They were made with some shriveled-up grape tomato rejects that I would have thrown out in the past. I also used the fresh scallions and chives I have growing outside, and seasoned the tuna with dried dill. It was served on toasted baguettes from the freezer. The kids placed this meal as one of Mom’s top five:

Alas, we ran out of fresh vegetables and whole grains (I drew the line on dandelion when I tasted the gritty flowers. We finally mowed our year’s worth of salad away.). After two weeks, I began observing my children for signs of Scurvy. I wondered if they were getting pockets in their colon (a condition once pronounced upon me by a reflexologist as he pinched my left Achilles tendon with all his might; when I hollered, he advised more fiber in my diet.).

I began to complain to Dave about the malnutrition we were forcing upon ourselves. He missed the bright colors on our dinner plates as well. When he deposited the following items on the kitchen island three days ago, I knew our full-fledged food-buying freeze was officially over:

I want to thank those of you who supported me throughout this project. I have heard from many people who have chosen to “make do” before running out to the grocery store for a missing ingredient. Some of you have begun your own spending-freeze experiment. For those that commented on the posts or on Facebook, thank you. I know the effort it takes: you have to actually move the mouse, click “like”, or even type a few words. The time and energy you spent to provide feedback kept me going, and has made me want to be a more generous commenter as well (The golden rule for bloggers: “Comment unto others as you would have them comment unto you!”).

For those who have encouraged me in person or by email, thank you.

I feared that this blog would project me as a made-from-scratch food snob. Please know that we eat what is set before us with gratitude–preservatives and all. If you invite us for dinner, serve up your cooking with pride.

Our door is open and our table is spread. Come on over.  Bon appetite!


Day 21-28, A Setback

A recent commenter was kind enough to let me know that this blog  “is boring.” She was a bit premature; this post, in fact, may be the most yawn-inducing piece of literature you will ever read. You may want to save it for your next case of insomnia.

That is because last week a friend of mine deposited a truck-load of groceries in my kitchen (Take warning, you who have expressed interest in conducting your own such experiment. You may want to keep it a secret, unless you’re a “words of affirmation” girl like me. This is the risk you take.). I couldn’t find it in my heart to send them back, because she drove one and a half hours to do so. I won’t have your kids eating dandelions while my kids eat anything they want, she said. (Don’t bother me about the missing quotation marks; it’s a literary style I’m trying out.)

Now I have told her repeatedly that this is a voluntary, happily conducted experiment, but some people are hard of hearing:

So that night we enjoyed green-beans-that-were-green and steamed to perfect crunchy-tenderness so that they squeaked when you chewed them; grilled chicken; baked potatoes (with butter and sour cream); and salad with primary colors. See? Boring. No roadkill to write home about.

Before my experiment-interrupter arrived, I’d brought a couple of forgotten favorites to the table, for use with the leftover Easter ham:

My Hellfire Chipotle Corn Chowder (I was sure I saw smoke coming from Dave's ears. He only complained a little.)

Scalloped Potatoes and (Grandpa's smoked) Ham

Have I mentioned that I have had more dinner guests since starting this experiment almost a month ago than I have had in the past several months? One of the benefits (besides the food they bring and leave) is what you can learn. A friend clued me in to the fact that I should have been using powdered milk in recipes all along (as in the case with the above two recipes, the first of which I’d normally use cream; the second, 2% milk). I cringed when I realized that all these years I’ve been dumping five cups of precious liquid cow’s milk into a pot to make mac-and-cheese sauce, when I could have saved money by using powdered milk and no one would have known the difference.)

It may be a while before I have anything of interest to post. My fridge runneth over. For now we are having “whatever nights”–whatever meat you want to eat: Leftover chicken, ham, venison breakfast sausage, or kielbasa.

Of course we need our greens, and the donated salad disappeared quickly. So tonight I dragged out the dreaded canned olive-green beans. (The brand is Aldi’s “Happy Harvest,” which I’ve been referring to as “Hoppy Harvest” ever since a friend of mine found a frog in one of the company’s packages of frozen vegetables.)

Determined to make them more “eatable” (think Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka), I decided to prepare them the way Mamaw always did: Cook the already-dead beans to more death with some diced onions and a little oil (I only have olive oil left.). Simmer them until every last vitamin is cooked out. Then eat. I always loved them as a kid, for some reason. My kids weren’t as appreciative.

Creativity abounds with an experiment like this. Here’s Ruthie and her venison breakfast sausage on a homemade burger-bun (cut out from two slices of white bread). She added Hellveeta to it, which I believe the FDA should outlaw:

Finally, a confession. I went into a convenience store today (free coffee) and saw a bin marked $0.25. I spent twenty-seven cents on food I only like once a year:

Reverend Mother, I have sinned.

Day 17-20, Dandelion Salad and Candy Dinner

Don’t get me wrong. My reason for wanting to quit has nothing to do with pickiness. I’ve never been a “foodie.” I eat to survive (and dark chocolate is a survival food). I force myselft to finally eat when everything suddenly goes dark and sounds fuzzy; then I reluctantly leave my laptop and go eat a cheese stick. The problem with having Speedy Gonzales metabolism and a type A personality is that I basically view eating as a complete waste of time. So I get a lot of headaches and am often near to fainting.

I am not wanting to quit this experiment in order to please my palate. I simply want more color on our plates. More color means more nutrition. And that means that we will add an extra three months to our lives. So last week I took it upon myself to go to the store and buy some colorful food for dinner:


Before Easter came and we were blessed with one of “Grandpa’s” famous smoked hams, we ate creative odds and ends. One dinner was leftover “spaghetti sauce” (remember those two canned tomato treasures?) on a bed of white rice, which is nothing more than empty-calorie bowel bulk. I miss iron-, fiber-, and B-rich brown rice.


Another night we had home fries with diced pepperoni. Not too bad.

I mentioned  before that we are out of ground venison. But be reminded that we have a freezer-full of enough deer steaks to feed the Union Army. One of our favorite uses for them is “spedies.” This is a regional food that originated in Johnson City, New York. They actually have a Spedie Fest every year, and sell spedie marinade in local grocery stores (italian dressing works just fine). Basically, you cube meat (beef, chicken, venison), marinate and grill it on skewers, and serve it rolled up in a buttered slice of italian bread. Yum.

Some caring friends told me about the health wonders of dandelion leaves. So we enjoyed a rare salad last night, drizzled with Newman’s Own cranberry walnut dressing:


Anna has just boiled herself some Wheatena for lunch. The girls always hated that stuff.

While I was helping Sarah rummage through the pantry in search of a spare jar of peanut butter, we came across a lone fortune cookie. It contained this message:

Do not let what you do not have prevent you from using what you do have.

Day 14-16, Almost Giving Up

Let’s just say that “Crisco” (organic vegetable shortening) and bagels do not belong on the same plate together.

The girls are packing matzo cracker sandwiches and tortilla chip fragments in their school lunches.

We held a family council  to decide whether we should continue the experiment, and one of us voiced the desire to quit. Now I’m not in the business of making others look bad, so I won’t reveal who it was. But I can tell you that it was not Dave or any of the kids.

We are not eating fresh fruit or vegetables. I’m concerned that without broccoli and dark green leafy things on our plates we will die of cancer soon.

I found these two treasures in the basement doomsday stash two days ago:

I added the last package of ground venison to it and served it over pasta for the last two nights.

On top of spaghetti

NOT covered in cheese…  ♫

Every time it is suggested that we quit the experiment, the girls look at the person who suggests it like she’s–er, like that person–is crazy. They continue to amaze me.

Day 11-13, New Use for a Bean Bag

Someone gave me this at church this morning:

He said that they are “for the kids, for Easter.” Which was very nice. But I don’t think kids need this many eggs to boil, color and let rot under a tree until August, do you? Eggsactly. I can taste tomorrow’s breakfast already.

On Friday I looked in the fridge and realized we had just enough fixin’s for our last taco salad dinner, and I used the second-to-last package of ground venison. We really had to stretch the reds and greens, but everyone had plenty to eat.

Sarah turned 13 on Saturday and we agreed to pause the experiment for the occasion. I went to Wegmans, my home-away-from-home, to buy her birthday dinner. When Gloria, who works in the  floral department, saw me, she said, “Where have you been?” The way she responded when I told her about our experiment will be forever etched on my heart:

“That sounds fun!” she beamed.

Only someone who has ever done a total food-buying freeze for an extended period of time would understand how much that meant to me. I wanted to hug her.

I bought everything Sarah wanted to eat on her first evening of being a teenager: hot dogs (I buy nitrite-free dogs, which costs per pound what gas costs per gallon, but at least my kids won’t die of a stroke any time soon), buns, chips, baked beans, salad (Admittedly this was not Sarah’s choice, but hey, I made her day of birth possible, with a little help from Dave, of course. We deserve a salad.), and all the ingredients for a Mississippi mud pie.

Until today, the only thing I ever did with a bag of dry white beans was tote it around on my shoulder as a kid, pretending it was the pet kitten I was never allowed to have. The only thing I ever did with a can of carrots was store it on a basement shelf and occasionally walk by and call it a few bad names.

But early this morning kitten and carrots came together in the crock pot with some leftover hamuccine ham (unused) and chicken stock, to make what Dave dubbed “albino black bean soup:”

Our “adopted college student,” Carrie, gave it her thumbs up. I keep telling myself it’s not just because she’s used to campus food.

Day 9, 10–The Secret of the Stew

There was no duck egg by the pond yesterday, so I assumed Jasmine had laid a teaser egg and promptly entered menopause. Thankfully, I was wrong; the kids found another one this morning.

What do you take to a potlock dinner during an experiment like this? That was my dilemma last night. So I rummaged through the basement doomsday stash and found two cans each of Campbells Beefy Mushroom and Tomato soup. I decided that would be my base for a stew.

A couple pounds of meat, red wine, garlic, herbs de provence, worshy sauce, beef boullion, potatoes and carrots later, I had this savory meal simmering and ready to share with our friends:

(And I might add that the cooking experience was curiously, quite possibly, almost positively, dare I say–fun.)

Now. I received a few compliments on the stew, which were appreciated (I thought it needed more salt.). And when asked what the meat was, I told them “venison.” But here I must confess a truth:

The secret of the stew was, in fact, woodchuck. You see, I’d forgotten to thaw the deer steak in time, and Dave had finally gained the great pleasure of shooting the menacing rodent that recently darkened the dawn of our long-awaited spring.

I do say, if properly seared and seasoned, woodchuck loin is indeed favorable for a hearty stew. The compliments confirmed it.

(Just kidding! Good thing, because there are leftovers. Guess what’s for dinner tonight.)

Day 8, Welcome to the Outhouse Steakhouse

Yesterday Anna found a treasure on the bank of our small pond; one of the ducks decided it was time to lay an egg. We’ve added it to our collection, and if Jasmine’s generosity persists, I shall happily resume my protein breakfasts.


Green hamuccine isn’t so bad left over if it’s suffocated by melted cheese. I’ll be eating that for lunch until Easter.

For some reason Dave was especially anxious for me to photograph last night’s dinner:


Welcome to the Outhouse Steakhouse

House or Caesar Salad and fresh bread not included with any entree. What do you think this is, the Outback?

All entrees include your choice of starch from the root cellar: red potato, yukon gold potato, russet baker potato. We take the sprouts off first.


Tonight’s Special:

Tender medallions of Venison Loin delicately seasoned with McCormick Chicken Rub and grilled over an oakwood fire in a 20 inch steel rim.

Frozen fresh garden sweet corn

Add $.50 for dab of butter on potato, $3.00 for sour cream

Unlimited refills of water


This meal was as delicious as the chef was sexy. But we’ll be eating it several times a week until the next presidential election. I am grateful, so help me God.


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