Actually, the first P that came to mind this week was "Price"...(and not because the Canadiens have been winning...the other kind of Price, that comes on a tag)...Why? Because about two weeks ago, when I went out on a Sunday afternoon to do "a quick shop" (the kind that makes sure there is bread for sandwiches, milk and cream and coffee, and fruit for lunches and snacks), I ended up "stalled" in the cereal aisle for about 5 minutes. I had heard someone mention that grocery prices were going to go up; including the comment about watching MacDonald's market share rise in proportion (sure enough about three days after that comment, the Macdonalds "coupon" book arrived with the mail). But up until that moment, I hadn't noticed much going up beyond the fresh produce section. It was the box of Rice Crispies on the bottom shelf, the Jumbo (2 bag) box, that was on sale for $4.99 again that week. I had purchased one the week before for the same price. What was different about it was the REGULAR price...The week before the regular price had been $6.99. On that day, the regular price was $9.49!!!!! Now, understand, I was not shopping for cereal that day. But the startling price change led me to scan the rest of the shelves...Quaker Harvest Crunch that went to $5.99 regular price about 18 months ago...was now ON SALE for $5.99, regular price was $6.99...Cheerios, again the big double bag boxes, were now $8.99 and $9.99, and not on sale...I could go on and on! But I think you get the picture.
When food prices go up, the way they have, consistently since 2008, then all those little things that you do to shave a bit here and there from your grocery bill become all for naught. In the end, we all have to eat, and when the price hikes move away from the processed foods (and that is where they start), it becomes harder and harder for the thrifty to continue being so thrifty!
There is however, one way to combat the rise in the grocery bill. Eat what you own. According to the "word on the street", the average Canadian family (which I am guessing would be two adults and two children between 7-12?) throws away approximately $500.00 worth of food each year. Obviously this happens in dribs and drabs, and not like throwing away three free range turkeys, 17 boxes of oreos, 12 gallons of milk, 20lbs of cheese and a standing rib roast to big enough to feed 24 people. It is the half eaten box of stoned wheat thins that went stale before you could finish them, and the avocado that went moldy faster than you expected it to. The specialty flavoured ice cream you bought for a treat that no one really liked, and then of course, there is the back of the fridge...Or how about the vegetable "crisper"? The carrots that now bend, and the limp lettuce, the mushrooms that got a little dry, and then the bag of potatoes that seems to have seeded itself on the bottom shelf of the pantry? Oh, and those peppers. They were so beautiful when you bought them and now, well, they would be all right in spaghetti sauce but that is about it.
Potage (Pureed vegetable soup)
The solution to vegetable crisper "backlog" in our house is "Potage" (pronounced "Poh taj")...
How do you do it? First, figure out what you have...you want to have some onion family (about 2-3 lbs)...this could be onions, garlic, green onions, leeks...Any combination of these, chopped fine.
Next, root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, about 5 lbs, peeled and cubed (about 1 inch size), any combination.
Third: broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, zuchinni, mushrooms, any of the softer veggies 1-2 lbs, coarsely chopped.
Last: the leafy stuff: chards, spinach, lettuce, bok choy (put the harder parts with the broccoli and such), cabbage. About 1 lbs, coarsely chopped.
What to do with it?
Take your large saucepan (the one you would use to make a big bot of pasta in, or your stock pot if you have one) with a lid, and add about 4 TBSP of butter (or you can use Earth's Best or some margarine, olive oil is a bit too strong), and melt it over medium low heat.
Once butter is melted, add the onion family and stir until coated in butter, then let cook over medium low heat until soft (the less you stir the onions, the sweeter they will be), stirring only occasionally to keep from burning.
Note: if you burn the onions, start over again, or it will be very bitter...speaking from experience!
When onion family is soft and fragrant, add root veggies and about 1/4 cup of water or stock (veggie or chicken), stir and then cover and cook over medium heat until a low boil. Remove lid and stir. Replace lid and continue cooking until all the root veggies are soft. Add broccoli-cauliflower mixture and continue cooking 5-10 minutes, adding a little bit of stock or water as you go. Add leafy veggies and another cup of water or stock. Stir well. Replace lid and continue cooking until all veggies are soft and fragrant (maybe 20-25 mintes). Season with salt and white pepper. Once all veggies are cooked, stir well and thenremove pot from heat.
Using hand blender, slowly pulse through the soup (be careful not to splash yourself, it is HOT!) until it has been well pureed. If it is thick at this point (too thick for your liking) add more water or stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. You may need to put it back on low heat to increase the temperature if you have to add a lot of water or cold stock. If you do this, stir constantly, so it doesn't burn. Enjoy your soup with some tasty bread or some homemade biscuits, and maybe a little bit of cheese. The trick to getting your children to eat this too? Get them to help make it. My kids love that it has lettuce in it! And the leftovers make delicious lunch!