The Week in Review: Weeks 46 & 47, 2018

Thanksgiving was clearly the big event in the past two weeks.  Everything else went fairly smoothly.

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For one, the dishwasher got fixed before Thanksgiving.  It turned out to be a broken washer in the overflow valve.  This is not good, Kitchenaid, since the dishwasher is only two years old.  On a separate note, unlike when our previous dishwasher leaked around the door gasket, the water from this leak never did appear in front of the dishwasher.  Instead, the floor warped.  And, not a little bit since each time it ran it leaked multiple cups of water.  Now that it’s fixed, the wood is drying out and will hopefully return to normal.  But, it caused me to wonder why there is no pan installed under dishwashers like there is under washing machines now.

  • Winter baseball practices, swimming, and gymnastics continued for the relevant kids.  Actually, each kid has one of those activities.
  • The fifth graders went to math mornings.
  • As a member of the winning Majors team, we were invited to the Little League awards dinner.  It was a nice night out and it was good to see all the kids together again.
  • I had my last round of parent-teacher conferences.  At the middle school level there are multiple conferences.
  • We had one dentist appointment.
  • We had one doctor appointment.
  • We attended one birthday party.

We had our first snowfall of the year.  They forecast was for two inches and we got more like nine which led to a two hour delayed opening.  This was on middle school conference day so my oldest was bummed that he lost two hours of home alone time.

  • I got the two travel soccer players registered for the spring.  We’d been debating what to do with our oldest as his baseball commitments grow.  But, with the end of Little League, they’re actually down again so we decided to go for it.
  • After Thanksgiving I made 10 quarts of turkey stock and a pecan pie (the dessert bringer didn’t provide one of those).  Since we cooked two turkeys I still have lots of bones left with which to make more stock.  I’m trying to decide whether it makes more sense to store broth or bones.  It’s rather nice to set up an assembly line to churn through the broth making.

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Grocery Update & What We Ate: Week 47, 2018

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I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and a relaxing weekend.  We hosted a total of fourteen people, which went remarkably smoothly.  And, it left us with not a crazy amount of leftovers.

Because I had pre-shopped last week, I didn’t have to buy too much this week.  My only pre-Thanksgiving stop was to pick up our Farmers to You delivery on Wednesday.  That totaled $197.15 with two 16.5 lb turkeys (not pictured).  The pickup is usually on Thursday, but was moved for the holiday.

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So, why did I choose the above items?  The sage, cider, onions, and Brussels sprouts were for Thanksgiving.  The Asian pears were on special.  We enjoyed the first bag so I got another.  The tomatoes were also on special and we have many tomato eaters.  They turned out to be fine, but mine prefer the campari or heirloom varieties.  The bread and butter were nice splurges for the holiday weekend.

I had hoped this would get me through the weekend, but we ran out of milk very quickly with so many people here.  So, on Friday I spent another $95.21 at Wegman’s.  That brought the total for the week to $292.36.  Entirely tolerable with the holiday spread.

I can already tell that milk will dictate when I next go shopping.  I expect to be at BJ’s (monthly shop with coupons) and Stop & Shop (a few sale items) this week.  I may go to Wegman’s depending on what I decide to do for meals next weekend.  Apart from milk, we’re all set through Friday.

And, what did we eat this week?

Monday:
Pasta with Sunday sauce, spinach salad
I used the beef sausage from our meat delivery this time.  It worked ok, but folks preferred the spicy Italian in this recipe.

Tuesday:
Green tea poached salmon with soba noodles, cut peppers
I thought folks who wanted could put the peppers in their soup, which did work.  They also added some color interest.  Right now Tuesdays include swimming and baseball so while a split dinner is not required, a somewhat fast one is.

Wednesday:
I can’t remember.  I know it wasn’t snacky, but it also wasn’t complicated because Thanksgiving was coming up.

Thursday:
For Thanksgiving we had apple cider and herbs de provence turkeys.  We also had two types of stuffing, Brussels sprouts, green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, butternut squash, braised leeks, prunes and apples, and cranberry sauce.

Friday:
Early: Macaroni & cheese, spinach salad
Late: Homemade pizza
I took a break.

Saturday:
Turkey soup

Sunday:
Roasted pork belly with sage & apples, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Grocery Update & What We Ate: Week 46, 2018

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This was a week of many stops, largely because I’d like to avoid the grocery stores next week.  I will have a Farmer’s to You pickup this Wednesday (moved from Thursday because of Thanksgiving), but hopefully I’ve planned well enough to get through to next weekend otherwise.

I started out on Tuesday with a trip to Stop & Shop.  I would have preferred to go to Wegman’s and save this for later in the week, but that window closed when my haircut took longer than expected in the morning.  But, I needed milk so I had to go somewhere.  Thus, I ended up at Stop & Shop during the boys’ swimming lesson.  Milk is a little cheaper at Wegman’s so I got three gallons (not pictured) and waited on the rest for my Wegman’s trip.  The trip totaled $64.23 and, apart from milk, was mostly sale items.

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So instead, I spent $87.85 at Wegman’s on Wednesday.  More milk and rather a lot of produce.  The apple crostata was my free item of the month and it was very well received.

As luck would have it, Wegman’s was out of hot dog buns.  And, I realized we were out of juice, so I went back to Stop & Shop on Thursday.  While there I did find the green beans we wanted for Thanksgiving and so checked off another item.  The total was $45.58.

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Also Thursday, I picked up my Farmer’s to You weekly order.  This week I spent $48.90 on day boat white fish so I didn’t take a picture.  We’re all pretty certain it was cod, but it wasn’t actually labeled.

On Saturday, I spent $34.01 at Shaw’s.  My primary reason for going was pizza cheese, but everything you see was on sale.

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Finally, we spent $85.71 at Wegman’s on Sunday morning.  It was definitely crowded, but not terrible for the weekend before a major food holiday.

That brought the weekly total to $366.28!  As I said at the top, ideally this will last us through the weekend.

Despite evening sports coming to a close, this was another week of many split dinners.

Monday:
Unfortunately our dishwasher started leaking over the weekend.  Equally unfortunately, the repair guy didn’t show up until just before 5:00 pm and it was just the evaluation to order parts.  Thus, I reverted to take-out pizza.

Tuesday:
Our oldest was invited to the Little League awards dinner since his team won last season.  Three of us went to that, while the younger kids stayed home with chicken nuggets and carrot sticks.

Wednesday:
Husband was late and two kids were at a play date.  So, the rest of us ate leftover pizza.

Thursday:
Early: Hot dogs and spinach salad
Late: Homemade pizza

Friday:
Cod with braising greens and potatoes.  A riff on this because braising greens were in my box last week.

Saturday:
Two kids ate at a birthday party.  Therefore they youngest three had chicken nuggets and carrot sticks, while us oldest three had homemade pizza late.

Sunday:
Pork loin roast with broccoli soup and dauphinois potatoes.

Are We Accumulating Proteins?

This post contains affiliate links.  However, I chose to try the meat share and paid for it myself after hearing about it from friends.  If you live in the greater (like an hour+) Boston or New York City area, you can give them a try and get $10 off your first order.

Two weeks ago I wrote about our first delivery from Walden Local and gave an update of what proteins (really meats/seafood) we had on hand.  The “data” was from actually from a month ago so I thought it would be worth giving an update after our second Walden Local delivery.  They deliver monthly and that seems like a reasonable interval to update such things.

So, first of all here’s what we got:

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So, from left to right we have:

  • Four each of two kinds of sausage: bacon bratwurst and chorizo with bacon & cilantro
  • Four pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground pork.
  • Six boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • Three bavette steaks
  • Four NY strip steaks
  • One bottom round roast

The total weight this time was 20.7 lbs.  I had also changed up our settings a bit this month.  I kept the weight and number of people the same, but allowed chicken.  I was rather hoping for some chicken breasts to try to see if they’re better than the grocery store.  I was also hoping for some ground pork as I wanted it for a recipe so I set up my preferences to hopefully encourage both those things.  Bavette steaks are new to us, but apparently they’re like small flank steaks and make good fajitas so that’s my plan.

So, how were the items from the first delivery:

  • Boneless pork belly – Haven’t cooked this yet.
  • Two boneless pork shoulder roasts, about 1.5 lbs each – These were very good.  And, I used a recipe off their website which was excellent.
  • Three beef flat iron steaks – We made fajitas with these.  They were fine, but I wouldn’t choose them again.
  • Eight blueberry breakfast sausages – I know it sounds odd, but they were pretty good.  Would I go out of my way to by them, no.  Would I eat them if I get sent them again, yes.
  • Three hot Italian sausage – I don’t do spicy, but the folks who ate these said they were excellent.
  • Three “pastrami”-style beef sausage – Haven’t cooked this yet either.
  • Six pork chops – These were nice and moist.  We used one of the two recipes they sent and it came out well.
  • Two beef chuck roasts, about 3 pounds each – I used the other recipe they sent and the pot roast was excellent.

To summarize, we like most everything, most quite a bit.  We have pork belly and four beef sausage left.

I think we did pretty well eating the rest of the proteins also.  I did buy a few during the month, most of which we ate, and I’m not sure we have less than a month ago (which would actually be fine), but I don’t think we have more.  Green means we used some/all of that category up.  Black is no change.  Red is new.

Breakfast:

  • 21½ boxes of breakfast sausage
  • One ½ box of bacon = two one meals for us

Beef:

  • Two one 2-lb bags of browned 80% ground beef
  • Eight NY strip steaks
  • Beef bones; one stock set
  • 8-10 hamburgers worth of 80% ground beef (not shaped)
  • One package of bone-in beef shanks

Pork:

  • Leftover pulled pork; enough for one meal for the kids
  • Four pounds of pork loin chunks
  • Eight sweet Italian sausages
  • Three half pork loin roasts

Chicken/poultry:

  • Four three packages of chicken thighs with bones and skin; one package = one meal for us
  • Four 1.33-lb packages of ground turkey; two packages = one meal for us
  • Six packs of thin-sliced chicken breast; 4-5 packs = one meal for us
  • Four packs of boneless/skinless chicken thighs; 4 packs = one meal for us
  • Seven chicken leg quarters (from Farmers to You); 8 = one meal for us

Seafood:

  • Some salmon filets
  • Some tilapia filets
  • One bag of shrimp; 1 bag = one kids meal

The Week in Review: Week 45, 2018

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It was an interesting week with some school holidays and the end of the fall soccer season.

The public school kids didn’t have school on Tuesday, but preschool was open.  On Thursday though they were back at school and preschool was closed for conferences.  So, I had someone home every day.  There was also no school on Monday for Veteran’s Day.

We had the crossing of the seasons in sports:

  • The first week of baseball winter workouts thankfully didn’t conflict with the last week of soccer.
  • Our oldest had three baseball practices, one soccer practice, and two soccer games.
  • Between the next few we had two more soccer practices and three soccer games.  It was rainy and cold for the last Soccer Saturday.  The older ones finished out their seasons on Sunday which was colder, but not rainy.
  • Our youngest went to gymnastics class.
  • The middle four went to swimming lessons.

Most other things were standard events for us:

  • We had another math night (there is one per grade per year).
  • The twins went to math morning (weekly).

I’m slowly finishing up those things I postponed until preschool started.  This week it meant I got a haircut for the first time since March!

I also took some of the boys to use their birthday gift cards, which had the added bonus of giving me Christmas ideas.

I continued cleaning out. Look at all these WikiStix creations!

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On the downside, the dishwasher sprang a leak (photo at top).  They came out once to assess and are scheduled to be back today with the part to make the repair.  Hopefully now the wood floors underneath will dry out and re-flatten.

Grocery Update & What We Ate: Week 45, 2018

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I made a few stops, but nothing huge.  In fact my biggest spend was the farm share pickup, which included a number of items that will last us at least another week if not more.

I started the week with two stops on Tuesday.  First, I spent $66.51 at Wegman’s.  There were two gallons of milk that didn’t make the picture.  Unlike the farm share, these items were largely for this week.

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Tuesday afternoon I spent $8.97 at Stop & Shop for a few sale items.

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I picked up my farm share on Thursday.  At $76.49, it was bigger than last week, but should have us covered for veggies for a while.  As of now we’ve eaten half the turnip and an Asian pear.  I put the chicken in the freezer to go with the chicken left over from the previous week’s order.  We still don’t have enough for one meal for us though so I’ll need more before we eat it.  It’s part of the exercise of leveling the amount of money spent on the farm share each week.  That being said, there are plans for most of this between now and Thanksgiving.

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Finally, I stopped at the farm stand on Friday, primarily for the tomato, apples, and green beans.  But, I brought the total to $26.73 by buying salsa, avocados, and black beans so I didn’t have to make an additional stop at a grocery store.

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That brought me to $178.70 for the week, way under usual!

I’m still trying to focus on the proteins in the freezer.

Monday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and applesauce
Late: Homemade pizza

Tuesday:
Pasta with Sunday Sauce and spinach salad

Wednesday (ate the same thing at multiple times:
Chili with corn bread

Thursday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and carrot sticks
Late: Tuna noodle casserole

Friday:
Early: Leftover pasta with Sunday Sauce
Late: Homemade pizza

Saturday:
Texas carnitas with black beans, Mexican rice, roasted corn, and avocado slices

Sunday:
Chicken pot pie

The Week in Review: Week 44, 2018

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Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

It’s transition time here with a week off between fall and winter baseball.  It’s also been colder, rainy, and blustery so some soccer has been cancelled.  That made for an odd weekend as we had nothing on our schedule.  Can’t think of the last time that happened!

So sports are a little light this week:

  • Gymnastics for the youngest.
  • Two soccer practices and no games.  What?  Yes, everything else was cancelled for either Halloween or rain.

But school was busier:

  • I had three parent-teacher conferences.
  • Our oldest went on a field trip to see a musical.
  • Our youngest had pajama day (at preschool).
  • The twins had math morning.
  • I went to a school start time meeting.

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And then, of course, there was life:

  • Halloween.  Can’t skip that one.
  • We had one Dr. appointment.
  • I took my car in for service.
  • I registered the youngest for the next gymnastics session.
  • I registered one for spring baseball.

I’m working towards my November goals.  I made an appointment to get my haircut.  And, in the spirit of Christmas that is coming, here are the first six days of the 30 day cleanout:

By the end of November, these were made to leave:
Six pumpkins glowing,
Five expired helmets;
Four hanging dresses,
Three canned goods,
Two sippy cups,
And a broken kids lawn chair.

October 2018 Grocery Review

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Let’s start with the October spending.

October TOTAL: $1,247.54

  • Stop & Shop: $176.24
  • Wegman’s: $507.24
  • BJs: $125.84
  • Local: $276.71
    • Walden Local: $234.00
    • Other Local: $42.71
  • Other: $161.51
    • Star Market/Shaw’s: $121.56
    • Target: $39.95
    • Other: $0

So, even with the meat share we’re inline with where we have been.

And, how did that translate to this week.  Well, it was a big week.

On Tuesday I made a big stop at Wegman’s – $121.98.  Heavy hitters were milk, other drinks, and fish.

On Tuesday I made the monthly trip to Shaw’s for oatmeal and pizza supplies.  English muffins were buy 1, get 2 free so I picked up a set of them also for a total of $48.15.

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On Thursday I spent $29.26 at Stop & Shop in the first of two smallish trips for the weekly sale items.

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I also picked up my other new CSA-type box on Thursday.  I like the concept of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), but we’ve had two problems with the CSA we tried and the others I have researched since. First, while we’re ok to eat many things, beets and kale are not among them and they play a dominant role in all the CSA offerings.  Now, the one we did do let you swap one item out per week, but I would really love a program that enabled you to have a few “No Thank You” items.  Second, we have eight people.  A small CSA gives us the correct amount of local produce, but it is typically designed for 2-3 people.  The large CSAs don’t offer additional quantities as much as additional varieties.  So, for example we are still stuck with six ears of corn when we actually need sixteen.

So, I’m trying Farmer’s to You.  It’s sort of like an online farmer’s market in that you go online and order what you want, with a minimum dollar amount each week.  They have produce, dairy, meats, pasta, etc. just like a farmer’s market would.  But, because you order on Sunday for pickup on Wednesday or Thursday, the farmers just prep what’s been ordered.  The slight downside is that it’s a year-round program and we don’t have so much produce available here in New England in the winter.  As you can see I tried the chicken the first week; it was really good, to the point where the boys commented unprompted.

Because of a sign-up incentive this was only $10.94.

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On Thursday I spent $23.10 during my second trip to Stop & Shop.

Finally, on Sunday we spent $108.06 during the monthly trip to BJ’s.  Hopefully this will take us past Thanksgiving because BJ’s gets really crowded at the end of November.

That brought me to $341.49.

What we ate was driven by two factors this week.  One, late night soccer is still on meaning we eat split dinners multiple days a week.  And two, I’m trying to focus on the proteins in the freezer.

Monday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and carrot sticks
Late: Leftover take out pizza or leftover homemade macaroni & cheese

Tuesday:
Cod, rice, and tossed salad

Wednesday (Halloween):
Early: Leftover beef barley soup and beer bread
Late: Homemade pizza

Thursday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and carrot sticks
Late: Takeout Chinese

Friday:
Early: Macaroni & cheese with spinach salad
Late: Homemade pizza

Saturday:
Roast chicken with bistro potatoes and tossed salad

Sunday:
Beef fajitas

Corporate Fails – Real Simple has Lost Me

I had a few for this post, but I started ranting and it got long so this might become a bit of a series.

I’m fairly sure I’ve never had a subscription to Real Simple, but I have read it from time to time when I come across a copy.  It’s been a while, but I know I’ve liked some of their recipes and every now and then an article just pops out at me.  So, when I saw the September issue was about decluttering and meal prep I decided to take a look.

Never again.  I don’t know if I’ve wised up, if this was a one-off, or whether the magazine has just changed.  But, it’s now an oh-so-typical bunch of ads written as articles.  To top that off the elitism just oozes out of the pages.

I admit that I only got halfway through before I couldn’t stop thinking about the main issue I’ll discuss here.  There was a really good idea about setting up a joint parent email that gets all the kids messages so you see all of them and their associated responses without forwarding constantly.  But, first one was hit with all the things to buy to achieve the organization they were recommending.  I’m sure there are plenty of things most folks can do to be more organized without spending a cent.

Then, what I can’t get out of my head was their treatment of the laundry room.  First, let’s be clear, most folks don’t have a laundry room.  Hopefully they have a washer (and likely dryer), but it might be in the basement, a closet, a bathroom, the kitchen, etc.  One has to have space to have an actual laundry room.  Full disclosure, we do have one in our current house.  But, in previous homes we’ve had shared laundry, laundry in a foyer closet, laundry in a basement bathroom, and laundry in the kitchen.

So, what got me so about the laundry room?  I’ll discuss in reverse order.  On page 104 they recommend to “fold your laundry in the laundry room,”  ie. don’t get distracted by moving the laundry elsewhere.  Well, while I do have a laundry room, it is basically big enough to go in and close the door with a few bins and the machines.  It has no windows.  This is not a space to spend lots of time nor a place I stand any chance of sorting eight people’s stuff. Plus, they explicitly recommend against watching TV while folding laundry.  Really?

Backing up, page 40 is about organizing and decorating the laundry room.  When you pass it the first time you think really, this is unnecessary: hanging artwork, clear glass containers for one’s laundry pods, and fancy pendant lighting.  But, the magnitude of thought of the magazine as a whole doesn’t hit you until this is combined with the idea that one should spend a lot of time in the laundry room.

This is a functional space.  I admit I didn’t even spring for stainless machines because, really, who but me will see them and I am not a huge stainless fan.  They do recommend storing supplies like light bulbs and cleaning products in your laundry room.  Completely agree if you have space.  Although, if you’ve swapped for modern LED light bulbs it almost doesn’t make sense to store any since they take so long to go.

The last recommendation on the page was for a folding drying rack.  Completely agree here as you probably don’t need it all the time.  I just wish there had been more of this practical stuff vs the fluff.

Maybe the second half of the magazine will offer more.  I haven’t gotten to the recipes yet, for example.  But, I don’t know if I’ll be picking up a copy (from the library) again anytime soon.

What Protein do we Have on Hand?

This post contains affiliate links.  However, I chose to try the meat share and paid for it myself after hearing about it from friends.  If you live in the greater (like an hour+) Boston or New York City area, you can give them a try and get $10 off your first order.

Our first Walden Local delivery arrived on October 16.  This is a meat share program.  You sign up for the level of the program – everything from grind only to custom, types of meat you want to receive (beef, pork, chicken, and lamb), any dietary restrictions, the number of pounds per week (roughly 5-30), and the number of people you are feeding.

We went with a 20 lb custom mix of beef and pork for six people.  As it turns out six is the maximum you can sign up for on their website, but we eat like 5-6 adults currently so that works for now.  Custom still doesn’t mean we get to choose exactly what we get.  We choose the categories we would be happy to receive and they send a mix of those things.  I’m told they are very responsive to emails and other specific info.

So, what was in our first delivery?

They sent a cardboard sheet with some guidelines, a small notebook, and two recipe cards.  Apparently they send 1-2 recipes per month that go with your meats.  We tried and liked both.  It’s all packed in a large reusable cube with two interior liners and dry ice.  The cube, liners, and guidelines get returned for future use at the next delivery.

 

Our delivery totaled 21.5 lbs (yes, the bag is marked):

  • Boneless pork belly – I’ve never cooked this so it will be an adventure.  I’m not sure we’ve ever eaten it either, but maybe at a restaurant.
  • Two boneless pork shoulder roasts, about 1.5 lbs each – This seems small for us.  I’m not yet sure whether I’ll cook what we got and hope I’m wrong or break it down and braise it with some loin chunks I have on hand as I would usually do with pork shoulder (normally without the loin chunks though).
  • Three beef flat iron steaks – This is another cut we don’t have at home.  But, I can see fajitas calling to me here.  Ideally we’d grill them outside, but we’ll have to see how the weather goes.
  • Eight blueberry breakfast sausages – We weren’t sure what to make of these, though apparently they are very popular.  We tried them last weekend and were pleasantly surprised.  I wouldn’t order extra, but I’m not going to put them on my not deliver list either.
  • Three hot Italian sausage – We could grill these or cook them inside.  Given the time of year, my leading idea is to make a Sunday pasta sauce with meatballs and sausage.
  • Three “pastrami”-style beef sausage – The options are similar to the Italian sausages.  If we cook them inside it will be two separate meals so I can keep track of them.  Not everyone in our house likes spicy.
  • Six pork chops – We don’t often have pork chops at home because they are dry.  These were thicker and nicer than typical grocery store options.  We cooked them using the recipe card and they came out quite nice.
  • Two beef chuck roasts, about 3 pounds each – These screamed pot roast, which we do from time to time in the winter.  I used the recipe card (except Instant Pot instead of slow cooker) and it was very tasty.  We did have some leftovers which I used for sandwiches for the kids later in the week.

All in all, it was a good variety.  We wouldn’t normally eat this much sausage so I’m going to have to see how that is going forward and likely come up with some new things to do with them.  But, what we’ve tried so far was indeed tastier than similar products bought at the grocery store.

Now, for better or worse our freezer was already pretty full when the Walden Local delivery arrived because the fall meat sales have started.  So, this needs to be eaten down also and not lost among the new goodies.  I’m not going to go through all the proteins as I buy them each month, but until this comes down a bit I’ll let you know everything we have on hand each time a Walden Local delivery arrives.

 

First, we had chicken nuggets and meatballs.  We will continue to have these available, though I hope our chicken nugget consumption will go down shortly when soccer season comes to an end.

Breakfast:

  • 2½ boxes of breakfast sausage
  • One box of bacon = two meals for us

Beef:

  • Two 2-lb bags of browned 80% ground beef
  • Eight NY strip steaks
  • Beef bones; one stock set
  • 8-10 hamburgers worth of 80% ground beef (not shaped)
  • One package of bone-in beef shanks

Pork:

  • Leftover pulled pork; enough for one meal for the kids
  • Four pounds of pork loin chunks
  • Eight sweet Italian sausages
  • Three half pork loin roasts

Chicken/poultry:

  • Four packages of chicken thighs with bones and skin; one package = one meal for us
  • Four 1.33-lb packages of ground turkey; two packages = one meal for us
  • Six packs of thin-sliced chicken breast; 4-5 packs = one meal for us
  • Four packs of boneless/skinless chicken thighs; 4 packs = one meal for us

Seafood:

  • Some salmon filets
  • Some tilapia filets
  • One bag of shrimp; 1 bag = one kids meal