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Sunday, July 22, 2012

perusing the pantry

How is it possible to lose weight while on vacation in France? Despite a daily four-o-clock "gouter" with coffee and dark chocolate, and frequent ice cream stops while visiting beautiful medieval villages, and a nightly "apero" with snacks and drinks before the meal?

I'm not sure by what magic it occurs, but it does, and I'm not complaining. Actually, I think I do understand the phenomenon. What happens is a sort of re-setting of habits, being away from familiar triggers, and influenced by a whole different set of customs around mealtimes and eating. Delicious foods and drinks, but consumed in a slower and more ritualized manner, in smaller quantities, with more people and more conversation.

Whether this happens because of being in France, or being on vacation, or being with Minou's family, I'm not sure...but it is so different from our regular family weeknight during the school year, with a starving adult (me) returning late from work, and starving kids (them) after ballet and basketball at the Y, and hurry-hurry-hurry let's eat dinner because there is homework to do and showers to take and story reading to occur. You parents may know this routine.

I want to keep some of this intentionality to meals. Since I returned home alone, it's a little easier to eat when and how suits me best right now than if I also had to take the needs and desires of three other lovely folks (who I can't wait to see this upcoming FRIDAY) into consideration. I also thought that this might be a solo opportunity to get creative with the contents of the pantry and keep the grocery bill as low as possible this month.

My original plan was to see if I could make that grocery bill nonexistent, but two things interfered with that: an overwhelming craving for milk and fresh fruit and the need to have 10 debit purchases to continue getting a higher interest rate on our checking account. So with frequent stops at the grocery store to pick up one item at a time, my spending has been pretty minimal and my diet pretty healthy since I came home. It's amazing how much food some of us have squirrelled away in our freezers, can cupboards, and pantries! And how easy it is to overlook it and just go buy some more! And how much more slowly one adult trying to eat consciously reduces it than two consciously eating adults and two rapidly growing teenage boys!

I am lucky in that although we didn't really get a garden in this year, many friends did and I have been gifted with amazing bounty of fresh zucchini, lettuce, bok choi and kale. The now-eight Ladies are laying a storm of eggs (farewell to poor Petunia and Blackbeard), and the eight mature blueberry bushes are covered with blue deliciousness.

With those needs taken care of, I have been enjoying breakfasts of cereal (of questionable date, but fine), flax seeds, walnuts and raisins, dinners of frozen salmon patties, frozen freezer veggies, and steamed fresh garden vegetables with soy-sesame-ginger dressing, and lunches mostly composed of interesting canned items I probably wouldn't usually look twice at. Example: a salad made of canned green beans, canned beets, canned corn, and canned salmon (it might not sound good, but actually was). Another day: soup made of canned diced tomatoes with basil combined with canned black beans. And I discovered that (I know, its shocking to say) instant coffee isn't really bad when mixed with a spoonful of brown sugar. Spending in the last 11 days: $22.00, but that included using the debit card to start stocking up for when the boys return.

I haven't had to resort to some of the meals I imagined for myself, of endless toast (I still have a loaf of bread I bought in the train station at Rennes in the fridge, hmmm...) with jam (we somehow have six large jars of marionberry jam), fried eggs, and doesn't sound too bad! I will however draw the line at those unidentifiable freezer items....

What are you eating these days? Have you ever had an empty-the pantry challenge?

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