Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shrink Ray Spaghetti

I am a tad peeved tonight. I made spaghetti – “real” spaghetti, with store-bought spaghetti noodles. I’ve gotten pretty darned good at making homemade pasta when we’re talking about fettuccini-width or wider, but anything thinner is a tad advanced for my skill set at this point. (The last time I tried it, I ended up with weird globs of mushy stuff that resembled nothing edible this world has ever seen before. It was weird. Almost like ‘glass’ noodles, but…not…quite…) (I tried passing it off as a delicacy. I failed. So I made fettuccini instead and we ate dinner quite late that night.)

Oh, and for sauce, I’m totally cheating: Costco has these enormous tubs of basic tomato sauce for three bucks, right? It’s about forty pounds worth of tomatoes in each of those cans, boiled down to the right consistency for sauce but utterly lacking in, you know, flavor and character.

So! I take one of those big food-service sized cans, add my own garlic, onions and herbs from the garden and simmer it all together for an hour or so, then portion it out into four containers – one for that night, three to go into the freezer for other applications.

Next year, I’m hoping the micro-farm will provide enough tomatoes to lay down actual for-real homemade-from-scratchy-scratch sauce. But for this year, I’m grateful for the almost-free pass on it.

Now, given that I buy flour in bulk and such, it’s about impossible for store-bought pasta to be cheaper than what I make at home – it costs me about $0.27 a pound to make it.

BUT, I had a gift card and it was on sale and I said, “Won’t it be nice to make what the kids still consider to be ‘real’ spaghetti for a change! And without all the cleanup!”

Then I went to make it tonight and guess what? The grocery shrink ray totally got me. I assumed I was buying one-pound packages, because this is what I’m used to the packages being. One pound, or 500 grams (which is slightly over a pound), take your pick.

Not twelve ounces, which is four ounces shy of a pound, which means that when I dumped two packages of spaghetti noodles into the pot I wasn’t getting the 36 ounces that is enough for the family but rather 24 ounces which is not nearly enough.

Suddenly, the 2-for-$1 deal wasn’t so great.

And what have we (re)learned today, Tama?

Always, always check the price per unit, not per package. Especially in Times Like These, where bottom lines are being squeezed everywhere, just because a package looks about the same as it always has doesn’t mean it actually is the same size.


Meanwhile, it is quickly becoming all too clear that I am going to have to rethink how we’re handling dinner. Our timing is just a bit too tight, and too easily thrown completely off by even small things like a train being ten minutes slower than expected, or an email from a client we didn’t expect to hear from needing something now! we never thought they’d be interested in hearing about again, or a testy phone message from a medical provider who would very much appreciate receiving their three million and fifty bucks now, please.

…wait…didn’t we pay that? I’m pretty sure we did…hang on a second, how much? No, that’s not right, I’m sure that’s not right, but I’ll have to find the EOB on it…{three hours later} See! It so wasn’t three million and fifty!

It was five million and fifty…geesh, get your account right, people…!

While I’m frankly not feeling the love for putting together a once-a-month cooking day (both because I’m already feeling like every day has been an all-day cooking ordeal for, like, the last two months, and because of the recipes calling for things I’m really not feeling the joy of recreating from scratch SO I’ll probably end up just buying six packs of Cream of Something soup and forty-seven carrots [maybe even pre-diced from the freezer section] and a whack of bottles of sauces and oils and unguents because I am not going to try to figure out how to manufacture my own soy sauce right now thank you all the same), well…

It is the psycho-busy-frugal-cook’s best friend.

So…I’ll spend some quality time with the recipe books and weekly circulars for my local supermarkets and see what I can come up with to fill up that freezer with weeknight meals for now through the end of December – because ohmygah, people, is it sinking in for you guys that Thanksgiving is next week, which means Christmas decorating starts next weekend, which means that we are officially heading into the deadly skid of party-party-party-gift-gift-gift-obligatory-appearances-ho-ho-HOLY-CRAP-HOW-MUCH-DID-WE-JUST-SPEND-ON-ALL-THIS?!?!


I hate this part of the holidays. The pressure to be all things to all people in your life, in all the expected places (from Grandma's house to the office holiday party), lest they think you don't care about them can be a bit overwhelming, can't it?

Ah well. It's also a really joyous time, especially if you can let go of all that aforementioned garbage. We love, we laugh, we live, we go on...even if we burn the turkey, forget how to get to Aunt Maude's house and buy the nephew the absolute WRONGEST DS game ev-ah...


Anonymous said...

Hey Tama! The fourth quarter is a wild ride for my family too, especially since one of us is out of work (and looking like a maniac because unemployment isn't going to last forever. We're good until February, I think) and the other one (that would be me) is working three part time jobs to make up for it. (What do you get when you add two 20-30 hour jobs and one 15 hour job together? Tired and it rhymes with "itchy")

Anyway, our crock pot SAVES OUR LIVES. Literally. We'd have gone all Lord of the Flies/Survivor months ago without it. With your crew, you might want to get more than one... But Ravelry (remember Ravelry? That cool yarny place where one can kill HOURS at a time, provided the hours you have aren't allready laying whimpering on the floor...) has got a crock pot cooking group with all sorts of recipes in it.

Anyway, I tend to plan our meals on Friday; on the weekend we shop and I slice or dice or whatever, and then use a high tech notification system (sticky notes on the fridge, black sharpie on the tupperware-written on tape) to remind me of what and when goes in the pot before I leave for work.

Sorry for the parenthesis abuse... And the ventage. It's not that I don't enjoy my jobs because I do. It just gets a little intense.

Lon said...

Oh Ghu yes, the Crock Pot! There's only three of us, and I'm not particularly working at any level of self-sufficiency, but I'd be insane without my crock pots - all four of them.

Yes, four. The 6- and 4-quart ones were rather big for a family of three with self-control issues, so I also have 3- and 1.5-quart models.

Anything sauce or soup/stew-ish generally goes in all day on low - spaghetti sauce (made the way you do with the store-bought base), chili, soup, stew, corned beef, stroganoff, saurbraten, bratwurst & onions in beer, I do them all in the crock pot.

RobinH said...

I must join the chorus of crock-pot lovers!

And my husband invented a super-quick meal the other night-- we had precooked chicken (we get the big family packs on sale and cook it all ahead) and rolls, so he halved the rolls, put sliced chicken on them, covered them with pasta sauce and cheese and stuck them under the broiler. Open-faced chicken parmesanlike sandwiches- yum!

We don't usually get home until 7 and we're starving, so we tend to keep pre-cooked meat on hand- if it takes more than 30 minutes, chances are we aren't going to eat it on a weeknight.

Anonymous said...

I'm so thinking that one of Tama's Christmas presents ought to be the pasta attachment for the KitchenAid. Also for the post holiday turkey sales, check out the November Martha Stewart for beautiful directions on how to spatchcock (sounds naughty, doesn't it?) a turkey so that it can be cooked in just little more than an hour in a pan that would allow cooking 2 at a time in an average oven. We have no freezer, but I intend to help fill up a friends ...

ChrisinNY said...

A Year of Crockpotting is a great site. She a has "best recipes" list. She does use some prepared foods (salsa, canned beans) but the recipes I used were good- if you beef up the spices a bit.

Steph B said...

Okay, I had something fairly coherent to say until I read about "spatchcocking" turkeys, and now it's gone. Just gone. Gotta figure out just what that means so I can throw it around in casual conversation this weekend and watch the horrified incomprehension on friends' faces.

....I really need a hobby.....

Anonymous said...

So how much garlic, onions and whatnot do you add to the big tin of tomatoes - am thinking that I need to try this.