Kitchen Keeping Tips #1 -- Mindfulness

Ok, ok. "Mindfulness" is a totally granola, Oprah, new-agey word. I got it.

But when it comes to kitchen keeping, the first step is just that -- being aware, mindful, of what you already do, and becoming aware of the areas where you most need to change. I had an acquaintance who spent $500 or $600 per month on food for just two people. I'll give you Aussies a sec to do the conversion there, but can we all agree it's way too freaking much money to spend on food?

And why did she spend that much money? Because she had no idea how much she was actually spending or what she was going to do with what she bought. She just wandered into the grocery store, looked at her list, and threw things into her cart. She never looked at a price tag, never compared prices, found the best deal, or substituted a lower-priced item for a higher one. And then at home, she just cooked whatever she wanted to eat without planning to use leftovers, so she wound up throwing food away every week.

Don't be like that.

Become aware of what you buy. If you think your grocery budget could stand a trim, go through the grocery store and, as you pick up items on your list, ask yourself: Why am I buying this? Is it just a habit (I always get bananas when I grocery shop, etc.) or do I have a plan to make sure I use it before it goes bad? Is this the best use of my money?

Become aware of the true cost of things. Not just the price per ounce (or gram, perhaps?), though that is also extremely important, but the cost to Creation and to your body as well. A cheap cut of meat that comes from an animal that was raised on a super-polluting factory farm, treated cruelly, pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals, slaughtered inhumanely, and butchered carelessly is not as "cheap" as it seems.

Become aware of how you cook. Do you find yourself spending money to buy recipe ingredients that you never use again? Can you improvise with what you have in your cupboards and fridge, or are you chained to a cookbook every time you step into the kitchen? Can you creatively re-use leftovers or are you constantly either repeating the same meal or throwing out old food?

Become aware of scraps. Seriously. I mentioned my "stock bag" in my last post. It's full of the odd bits of vegetables that I would otherwise have tossed-- onion and garlic skins, parsley stems, carrot ends, celery tops, etc. -- plus the giblets and neck from the last chicken I roasted. When the meat gets picked off that chicken, his skin and bones will go in the stock bag too. When the bag is full, I'll soak the bones in acidic water to get the calcium and magnesium to dissolve, and then I'll cook the veg ends along with the chicken bones and skin to make a rich, nutritious stock. Why should all that goodness go in the landfill? And what else are you throwing out that could have another use?

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