Friday, December 11, 2015

Living Without a Proper Kitchen: Adventures in Microwave Cookery and Office Pantry-ing.

Living without a proper kitchen and it being winter therefore DARK by the time I get home and when I leave home, I'm not cooking much at my place.
I end up cooking at work.  We have a microwave.  So I'm learning to microwave cook.  I'm not a big fan of radiating food, but one works with what one has.  I tried to avoid it for a while but that meant the only hot meals I got some weeks were when I went to a restaurant.  That is not frugal and not terribly healthy.

I am buying organic/natural soups when possible to have a bit of a pantry stock rather than buying a meal at a time.  This is helping me get back on frugal track.

I have in the pantry (meaning a file drawer and a small portion of the work fridge) at the moment:

Almond milk (they are selling it at the Dollar Store right now...good brand, nonGMO, not sugary)
Cereal (don't normally eat this but it is organic, high fiber, no added sugar, and was 99cent for 8 servings at the Grocery Outlet)
Organic peanut butter
Natural almond butter
Chia fruit spread (like jam, but made with chia seeds instead of pectin, found on cheap sale)
Protein bars for emergency food needs
A few hazelnuts and almonds
Soup, canned and boxed, mostly organic
Salsa (mostly used as salad dressing and on eggs)
Miso paste
Coffee (pre-ground)
Tea bags and loose tea
Rolled oats, organic
A few spices
Mustard (my homemade stock because I didn't want the jars to freeze/thaw at home)
Green chilies (because they make crappy soup edible)
Fake cheese (found on sale, a rare buy)

I just finished the salad greens or I'd have that too.
Also will bring in a few zevia sodas to battle the mid-afternoon sugar cravings as needed.

So it's a serious stock of food.  I could live in the office for a couple of weeks and not lose much weight given the calorie stores.

Some meals are cold sandwiches, cereal, etc.
Main sandwiches are pbj and tuna salad which I make with my mustard instead of mayonnaise (saves buying mayonnaise and tastes better anyway).
But, I like a hot meal.  Hence eggs.  You can make OK scrambled eggs with stuff in them in the microwave.  They are a bit rubbery, but edible especially with salsa on them. I'm going to try the 2-eggs-1-banana recipe that works in a frying pan.  With the cinnamon and nutmeg from the spice stash it should be edible.

Plenty of microwaved soups.  Boring but edible.  Better when I've got an avocado to slice into them.  Those are also good in the eggs and help correct the rubbery texture.

It's fairly simple eating but not bad at all.  Other than salads and greens, I end up not eating many veggies other than things like beet soup, squash soup, and the bits in chunky soups.  I think I should work on that.  Maybe add sweet potatoes.  Or mixed veggies with a can of diced organic tomatoes and call that soup or stew...if I threw in a can of tuna it would taste awful but be very healthy.

I'm also trying to brew water kefir in the office as I have no stable-temperature area at my house for fermenting.  We'll see.  It seems to be going slowly so I'm getting impatient.

Solar cooking in the summer was one type of "limiting factor" or "learning opportunity" so I'm looking at this the same way.
I've also cooked a bit on the wood stove I use for heat and the little butane burner.  More on that anon.

Friday, December 4, 2015

10 Frugal Air Travel Tips

For the first time in YEARS I'm traveling for the holidays.   Flying. Through Minneapolis.  My mantra will be "at least it's not Chicago."  Sometimes you do these things.

Anyway.  I saw on my favorite frugal website, The Dollar Stretcher, an article titled "10 Things to Make Travel Easier" and was stunned that it was basically 10 things to BUY to make a flight or road trip more pleasant.  Uh...hello people..frugal!  NOT!  Don't buy stuff.  Repurpose and/or think ahead.

So here are 10 things I've done to make travel easier/frugaler:

1) Bring a refillable water bottle.  Buying water is for punks (nothing against punks).  I have 2 stainless steel water bottles.  I take one of them.  Bring it through security empty (because no liquids) and fill it up at a drinking fountain.  Many airport drinking fountains now have a water bottle filling station like this:
IMG_5142 filling up water bottle
If you don't have a refillable bottle for the love of all that is thrifty DO NOT BUY least not retail.  I used to travel with an enamelware cup carabinered to my backpack.  That works too though you really must take it off the carabiner to use it.  You can use an old pop bottle, the left over bottle from your purchased water.  You COULD use a mason jar but traveling with a glass jar is not the world's best idea.  Anyway, you get the picture.  Bring something to drink out of.  Then don't buy drinks.  Use the vessel you brought.

2)  Pack in a single carry on item.  EVEN if there is a free checked bag, you are going to have to wait for that and it's weight and hassle you don't need.  You can also bring a personal item like a purse, brief case, or laptop in bag on most flights.  Do check ahead.  I have a purse that goes totally flat and can jam inside my single carry on bag.  I usually carry on the backpack I use all day every day for everything.  To achieve this plan ahead and pack light.  No, even lighter.  I wear the bulkiest items which is a pain for about 2 minutes during security screening when I take off my coat, my giant sweater or hoodie, and lace up boots, revealing a hefty turtleneck or long sleeve tee-shirt, thick wool socks, and a belt.  The belt of course must come off.   Sure, the first layer gets a bit sweaty but you can take off the coat and sweater once on the plane if you must.  I usually just open up that tiny vent fan thingy in the ceiling and hope for the best.  I do remove the coat. 
In winter I usually pack, in addition to what I'm wearing 2 pairs of wool socks, jammy pants (hopefully something tatty that I want to throw out or put in the ragbag anyway...these will be abandoned at the destination), 4 pairs of undies, a bra (again, pack or wear undies and bras you want to throw out anyway, avoid the painful wedgie makers though or you'll ruin your trip), a few long sleeve t-shirts, a thin button down shirt, one more heavy overshirt like a sweatshirt or sweater.  All the clothes more or less go together and it's cheaper to grab an item at a thriftstore if an unanticipated need comes up, than to check a bag.  And of course, I pack toiletries, just a toothbrush, any meds I might be on or need like immodium, a comb, and a hairbrush.  When is the last time  you were somewhere without the possibility of getting shampoo and soap and toothpaste on arrival? Liquids are a hassle and waste space.  In the summer my clothes are usually thinner and I can sometimes jam in a pair of shoes so I can switch off.  If you pack shoes, fill them with the socks, undies and bras before putting them in.  Leave no airspace in anything.   A carry on, like nature, abhors a void.
This trip, I will want my laptop so I'll need to cram that in .  I may end up taking the carry on I got from  Rick Steve's website  rather than my backpack. Easier to get the laptop in with that one.

3) Bring a snack with you!  Seriously.  I like to carry nuts, jerky, whole fruit, and/or a boiled egg.  Jam those in the carry on.  You can do it!  You freed up all that space by stuffing the underpants in your shoes.  Nuts to not take up much room.   Also nice to mix dried fruit into the nuts.  A bit of that and some water from your bottle and you will save time, money and potential stomach distress (which will save carrying that extra pair of undies for when the airport food makes you poop your pants).  On my last flight I had locally made jerky and the other suckers in economy class were super jealous. 

4)  Use that giant sweater or hoodie you are wearing as your neck pillow.  You do not need to buy or lug around a neck pillow.  Or any stupid pillow.  Just roll up an article of clothing and brace your neck/head with it, or stuff the hood of the hoodie you are at that moment wearing under the side of your head and nap on it.

5)  Always pee an extra time before you get on the plane.  When they announce preboarding, which you won't be doing because you bought the cheap ticket, head to the turlets and pee again.  Not having go get up and flail your way through the overcrowded economy class cabin simplifies your life.  If you must you must, but do what you can to avoid it.

6) Keep your entertainment item SMALL if you must bring one.  If  you are incapable of occupying your mind without outside stimulation, bring something small.  A magazine (that you can throw out once you've read it), a book from a tiny free library to return to a different tiny free library at your destination, an ipod.  I don't know how many times I've watched people drag out enormous tomes to read or multiple items of electronics.  Meanwhile, there I am playing solitaire on my ipod, or even more likely, looking out the window or people-watching (and obviously judging) the others on the flight. 

7) Be kind to ALL airport and airline staff.  I always thank the janitors if they are cleaning an airport bathroom.  I've been a janitor.  It was like I was invisible.  People completely ignored me.  Weird.  I truly appreciate a clean airport toilet so I thank them.  Same with the flight attendants.  If you want your free cola with a gobbit of spittle or a dose of anger, by all means be a high maintenance twat.  But when it's time to put someone in the vacant exit aisle, they are going to go with the nice one, not the persnickety whiner.  Also, why make someone's day crappy?  Just no point to it.  Life is easier if you are polite.

8) At each layover, and you bought the cheap ticket so there will be at least 1, walk around.  Since you packed light, you can do this.  Get a drink.  Have a pee.  Get the  blood out of your legs before you get back in the fetal position in your economy seat.  You won't be quite as exhausted upon arrival.

9) Put your tiny carry on under the seat in front of you if at all possible.  This saves time on the way into and out of the seat.  You're more likely to catch that bad connection that saved you 100$ on the ticket.  You can jam your toes under it for a while, then rest your feet on it for a while during the flight.   You can have your coat in your lap or use it as a pillow once the flight is in the air.  Maybe practice taking it off and putting it on in the confined space of an airline seat.  Punching your seatmate in the face while getting comfy is not a way to have a pleasant trip.

10) Pee again and fill your water bottle before you leave the airport.  The taxi/bus/train/friend taking you to your final destination may get waylaid along the route in construction, a traffic jam, who knows.  If you have a full water bottle and an empty bladder, this situation won't be nearly as trying.  Hopefully you also still have a wee bit of jerky or a few nuts to share.