Tag Archives: cooking from scratch

Costco and Aldi Grocery Delivery

costco groceries
I could not contain my excitement when I learned about Costco and Aldi grocery delivery in my area. I immediately checked it out and gave it a try. Instacart is the service used by Costco and Aldi here in Southern California. Ralphs, Stater Bros., Smart & Final, and Petco are also available through Instacart here, but I don’t really shop those stores.

costco instacart

Cost

Much like Fresh, I was able to choose my delivery time. There is no option for attended or unattended, so you probably want to be there when your groceries are delivered. Items are packaged in store bags, for which you will be charged here in California. Costco items are as is or in boxes, just like at the store. Drivers are independent contractors, so tips are appreciated but not required. Mine did a super job and I want them to keep on doing it, so I tip. This is where there is a big difference with Fresh. Instacart delivery is $5.99 for orders over $35, or $9.99 for under, plus a 10% “service charge”. I tip another 10-15%. There are monthly plans for various amounts of free delivery.  The Starter plan, for $79 a year, offers 2 free deliveries over $35 per month. TheBasic, at $149 per year, includes 4 free deliveries over $35 per month. For unlimited free deliveries over $35, choose the Unlimited Plan, for $199 a year.

aldi groceries

Personal Shoppers

One thing I like about Instacart is the personal shoppers. I get a text when they start and when they are on the way to deliver. If the store is out of an item, I get a text that it was refunded. I can then approve that and request a substitute. I can also text my shopper if I feel I need to clarify anything. My shoppers did an excellent job of picking out produce. My only complaint is that the ice cream was a bit melted. So one thing to be aware of.

aldi instacart

Bugs

One thing that can be confusing on the site is the way you order your produce. Be very careful in reading the description. I don’t have it completely figured out yet. If produce is loose and priced per pound, sometimes they will put a price per piece at the top and per pound in tiny numbers underneath. This is where I have trouble. I think you just order per piece. Bagged produce is priced per bag, with a reference to what the per pound price is. You cannot break up a bag, so that is simpler. I am doing most of my fresh produce at the local farmer’s market now, anyway. Delivery of my other items frees up the time for me to walk over and enjoy the market.
As with Fresh, most items are marked up a bit. There are items on sale and coupon items. The advantage is that you can check it all out as you shop online instead of driving from store to store. You can also get rewards points that count towards cash back and free delivery.
No, I am not getting any compensation for this review. But if you would like to try Instacart for yourself, we can each earn $10 if you sign up through this link: Instacart and enter referral code: RDOLAN19F11D.

 

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Easy Potato Soup

easy potato soup

Cooking from scratch is easy! Throw this Easy Potato Soup in the crock pot in the morning and it’s ready for dinner when you get home from work. Or whatever.

easy potato soup me

When we filmed The Potato Soup Movie for YouTube, it seemed to only make sense to put it here in writing, as well. I am including a number of things here that clarify and add to the info in the video. Proportions are for a 6 quart crock pot.

chopping potatoes

Easy Potato Soup

8 large (about 5 pounds) potatoes, any variety

1 large onion

5 large cloves garlic

2 quarts bone broth or chicken stock

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or fat from bone broth

water to cover ingredients

milk, heavy cream, or half and half (enough to thin blended soup to desired consistency)

chopping onions

Dice potatoes into bite-sized pieces and put them in the crock pot. I leave the skins on but you can peel them if desired. Add bone broth, set crock pot to high. Peel and slice the onion very thin or dice. Peel and coarsely chop garlic. Saute onion and garlic in butter until translucent. It is okay for it to be slightly browned or caramelized. Add to crock pot. Add water to cover all ingredients. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.

sauteed onions

 

When potatoes are soft, turn off the crock pot. Soup will stay very hot for at least an hour.

potato soup in the pot

You can eat the soup just as it is or make it creamy.

making cream soup

 

To cream the soup, ladle or spoon potatoes and a bit of broth into blender container. Fill about half way. Be careful, as you don’t want to shock a cold container and have it crack or shatter. Let the potatoes cool a minute or so and slowly add about a cup of milk or cream. Place lid on blender container and blend at high speed about 30-60 seconds, until creamy. Return mixture to crock pot and repeat until soup is as creamy as you like. If you run out of milk or do not like dairy, chicken broth or water can be used. Use less milk if soup is not thick enough. Stir well and serve.

grandpa approved

One important thing I left out of the video: add-ins. Some of these could even be added into the soup while it is cooking. Sour cream, chives, and bacon make a particularly nice “Loaded Baked Potato Soup”. Put some of these on the side for people to choose from.

Add-ins:

  • Sour Cream

  • Chopped, cooked bacon

  • Chopped green onions

  • Shredded cheese

  • Salsa

  • Chopped tomatoes

Eat fresh and stay healthy.

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How to use Cloth Produce Bags

cloth produce bag

Cloth produce bags are an old idea whose time has returned. They are simple and sanitary. You can keep a dozen on hand and they take up barely any space. Produce stays fresher and mold-free for longer. They can be used damp or dry, depending on what you are storing. They go in the fridge, on the counter, in the pantry or cupboard.

Cloth produce bags reduce packaging waste and let produce breath so it doesn’t spoil so fast.

cotton muslin bags

They can be washed, bleached, sun-dried, or dried in the dryer and used over and over again. Cloth produce bags are so versatile, you will wonder why you didn’t think of using them before.

How do you use Cloth Produce Bags?

Cloth produce bags come in many sizes. You can even make them yourself and customize your size. You can use a cotton kitchen towel and forget all about the bags. But we’re focusing on bags, here. On the homestead, wherever we happen to be, we use plain muslin bags, with no ties, approximately 12″x14″.

  • wash bags in hot, soapy water and air or tumble dry

  • insert produce

  • place in fridge or cupboard

  • when empty, turn inside out and wash in hot, soapy water…

That’s it! For leafy greens, you may want to keep the bag damp, depending on your storage conditions. I find that keeping greens in a damp bag makes them stay crispy longer. I usually wash them and put them in the (dry) bag, still wet. Then I dampen it under the faucet when it dries out.

muslin potato bag

What kind of produce can you keep in a produce bag?

Any kind! Okay, just about. Berries are kind of messy and should be kept in a bowl. Cut tomatoes, beets, prepared salads, and such should probably also be kept in bowls. Most whole fruits and vegetables can be kept in cloth produce bags. Unless the fruit flies are about, I keep most whole fruits in a large bowl on the counter. A basket in the pantry holds potatoes, onions, hard squash, and garlic. Greens and most other veggies go in the produce bags in the refrigerator.

 

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Homemade Vitamin C

homemade vitamin c

Homemade Vitamin C was today’s project. The urban homestead has a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree, so we have lots of raw material. We have never used any pesticides on the trees, so this stuff will be all organic! I have always felt wasteful throwing all those peels away. To find out I could have been making Vitamin C, among other things, out of them, made me very happy.

The Ingredients

We eat grapefruit every morning, so afterward, I take the peels and scrape out the remaining fruit and membrane, leaving the white pith.

The Process

drying grapefruit peels

Then I slice the peels very thin and lay them on a baking sheet. When I have a full sheet (not more than a day or two) I turn the warming oven on to 150F and dry them for an hour or 2. Then I turn the oven off and leave them in there while it cools. After all that, if the peels are crispy and snap when I break them, I go on to the next step. If not, I repeat the drying process.

Here in Southern California, the humidity is such that if the peels sit for too long, they start to mold. So drying them in the oven is a must.

Next, the dried peels are placed in the high-speed blender and ground as fine as it will get them. This is fairly powdery, but there do remain a few chunks. I put the powder into a pint or quart jar and add a paper napkin or small piece of paper towel, to absorb any moisture.

 powdered vitamin c

Potential Problems

This is a new project, so I am not sure if mold is going to be a problem. My sources say the powder should last about 3 months on the shelf and 6 months in the freezer. Hopefully, I will get enough made to last from final harvest to the following season’s first fruits.

powdered vitamin c

The Results

I stir a teaspoon of this into my carrot juice in the morning. Sometimes 2t if I have a cold. Seems to work great. The rest of the family is not excited about the taste, so I am going to mix it with some raw honey and make little pills for them to try.

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Juicing in the Real World

canned tomato sauce

Most of us don’t have time for fruit and veggie prep, juicing and cleanup every day, several times a day. The gurus tell us to drink freshly juiced vegetables right away to get all the health benefits. True, this is the ideal.

You mothers who breastfeed and pump your milk at work understand how this works. You store and freeze your milk. It loses some vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. But your baby is still getting far more benefits from your breast milk than from formula. Even when that milk is reheated. We can’t always reach the ideal, but we do the best we can.

This is how I juice. Some enzymes, vitamins, and minerals do get lost in the storage and freezing process. But this is the real world, and I have other things to do besides be a slave to the juicer all day.

I go to the farmer’s market once or twice a week. If I can’t make the market I will buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the store, but the greens look fantastic at the farmer’s market lately, so I usually try and hit them up first. Usually, on farmer’s market day, I will come home and juice right away. The old stuff first, then the newer produce. I always save out enough for salads, snacks, and cooked veggies, then juice the rest.

I pour the fresh juice into canning jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace for freezing. If you are going to try this, make sure you are using canning jars, not reusing mayonnaise jars or some other jars you got jam or something in. Canning jars are tempered to withstand temperature extremes. Every non-tempered jar I have tried freezing or canning with has cracked. That’s a lot of glass, food and hard work to throw out.

I keep about a quart of juice in the refrigerator at a time. When I thaw my juice, I do not use the microwave. The nutritional qualities of fresh juice are very delicate, and the freezing process has already destroyed some of them. So I let my juice thaw naturally, even if it means skipping a day of juice. It just takes some planning ahead. I will thaw frozen bone broth in the microwave, however.

Despite missing the ideal, I still realize enormous health benefits from juicing. I have more energy and am able to consume more fruits and veggies because of it.

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