Several Weeks in My Kitchen: November 18
Truth, guys? I fell off the budget wagon a bit. I’m embarrassed to admit it, since I really am gung-ho about the whole thing, and because my challenge isn’t really that challenging at all (compared to the budgets lots of people have to stick to). I thought about pretending everything was just ducky (forgive me?), and then realized that besides being totally dishonest, it’s actually completely beside the point. The point is not to set goals and achieve them (or pretend to) perfectly every time. The point is to learn, to develop a habit bit by bit. And anyway, I should maybe just get over myself a bit – it’s not like I’m creating world peace over here!
So I’m rising from the ashes of Tuesday’s happy hour, Saturday’s trip to Whole Foods, and the whole weekend of my birthday to admit that I’m so far from perfect, and commit to trying again.
For the record, it sounds like I blew my budget out of the water. I didn’t. I planned my meals, didn’t go too overboard with groceries, and brought my lunch every day. The few dinners out happened while I was travelling, or were bought for me on my birthday. But I was consistently over-budget, didn’t plan for being out of town, and this week I honestly didn’t even keep track.
The real problem for me seems to be social events. My friends and colleagues all live across the Bay Area, so most socializing happens with dinner or drinks in the City after work. I didn’t realize just how often this happens until I was faced with the prospect of saying no to preserve my budget. Which clearly I didn’t. I’m really reluctant to cut this stuff out, since it would mean cutting out time with friends who aren’t in the habit of visiting my (comparatively out of the way) neighborhood. But I can definitely choose to sometimes stick with water instead of a $10 glass of wine (which, by the way, is an absolutely atrocious amount to charge for the cheapest wine on the menu), meet for coffee instead of a whole meal, and be better about inviting folks to my house, inconveniently placed or not. (And some measure of self-control is a virtue, right? It’s certainly one of the hardest lessons of adulthood for me.)
I’ve also been thinking that a monthly budget makes more sense than a weekly one; I’ll allot the same amount of money ($160 per month instead of $40 per week), but this way there’s more flexibility: quiet, under-budget weeks can offset busy, social weeks.
So, with the uncomfortable ‘fessing up out of the way, here are some things I’ve really been enjoying over the past few weeks:
– Lots of salad, usually with feta cheese, pistachios, roasted beets, and pomegranate seeds.
– Mujadara: and a good thing I LOVED this, since I accidentally bought enough lentils from the bulk bins to make it 12 times. (See unfortunate trip to Whole Foods, above. I tend to lose my head in that place. How much I wish there was somewhere else nearby to do bulk shopping!)
– Hummus and pita, both from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. A very satisfying and tasty project, cursing at the blender notwithstanding. Leftovers of both in the freezer.
– The simplest broccoli soup ever, from Apples for Jam, which is on about a monthly rotation around here during the chillier months. Wonderful cookbook, but there’s a slight adaptation of this recipe at SouleMama.
– Ina Garten’s Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash. I scrimped a bit on the saffron and butter, and it’s still delicious.
– Best Cocoa Brownies, from Smitten Kitchen. I made these specifically to bring to a friend with a new baby, but selfishly kept a few. My new favorite I-need-chocolate-and-refuse-to-go-to-the-store cure-all. I always have cocoa powder on hand. 🙂