Grocery Shop and Menu, vol. 1

I used to love make-up and clothes hauls, but now grocery and household hauls are all the rage for me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting old or because my consumption focus has shifted to food, but… yeah. Here’s what I bought this week, and what I intend to cook with it.

What I Bought

Hellooooo, fresh produce. Always the star of the show. Here we have tomatoes, cucumbers, and patty pan from my father’s neighbours, and fruit (peaches, nectarines, bananas, and a melon) I bought at the supermarket. I might end up buying some more fruit and fresh veg throughout the week.

Some frozen veg, because buying these fresh (except for carrots, those are for pure convenience, I rarely get them) would be more expensive, plus I probably wouldn’t use them all up in time, and they would go to waste. Here we have baby carrots, green beans, spinach, button mushrooms, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Protein and dairy. Cat (not a recent purchase; not for consumption), minced chicken, eggs, oat milk, and plain yoghurt. Usually I buy more protein, but I a) have been cutting out meat to save some money; b) did not find the brand of chicken I usually buy (GMO feed and antibiotics (probably not…) free). I also think I finally found a brand of eggs I’m happy with. They’re more expensive, but it looks like they treat their hens better. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think they frolic in the fields, but they get better feed at least.

Condiments and carbs. Rolled oats, buckwheat, quince marmalade, spices (three types peppers, some mixes, granulated garlic), and two boxes pasta (was 1/3 cheaper than usual, might actually go back and buy some more to stock up).

Bread, beans in tomato sauce, chickpeas, cat (still not for consumption).

And here’s some household and personal care things, because why ever not. Hypoallergenic detergent, dish washing liquid (says it’s eco, but I’ve never used it before and haven’t researched the brand, so I can’t vouch for that – bought it because it was the cheapest ‘green’ one on the local market), Frosch fabric softener (my favourite to date), toothpaste (haven’t tried before).

I’m working on making a transition towards all ecological/ biodegradable household products, but it will be a while in the making, because these things are 3+ times more expensive than the usual fare. I started with dish washing liquid. Actually, I started with fabric softener ages ago, because Frosch is the only one I can use, others are too strongly scented and give me headaches.

What’s Cooking

I’m working on meal planning to reduce food waste (both for the purposes of economy and ecology), but for now these tentative lists of meals will have to do.

Breakfast

  • eggs
  • toast with marmalade
  • oat porridge (probably water-based)
  • buckwheat (with milk if I can be arsed to buy it later in the week)

Snacks

  • fruit
  • oat porridge
  • semolina porridge (again, if I can be arsed to buy milk or make some from the powder milk I have at home – or maybe I’ll use sweetened condensed I already have opened, we’ll see)
  • pancakes (need to use up some milk and kefir that’s gone off a bit)

Dessert & Drinks

  • compote
  • oat milk
  • tea, decaf coffee
  • banana nice cream
  • smooooootthiiieeessss
  • pancakes with fruit and condensed milk
  • pancakes with berry syrup (have some frozen berries that need using up)
  • peaches quickly fried with butter served with yoghurt
  • vanilla & cocoa cake in the microwave

Lunch

  • chickpeas with veg
  • green beans with lemon and garlic (this)
  • bread with veg salad and boiled egg
  • pasta with tomato & chicken mince sauce OR chicken meatballs, not sure yet
  • stir-fry from frozen veg and shrooms over rice
  • something with potatoes (have some in the fridge from last week’s shop, need to use up)

Supper

  • beans on toast
  • spinach omelette
  • fried courgette (have some in the fridge) and patty pans
  • courgette fritters
  • potato/ carrot/ orzo/ chicken stock soup (I’ve got all of that in the fridge/ freezer, need to use up)

Breakfast and snacks (and sometimes dessert) are usually interchangeable for me, and so are lunches and suppers. So I might end up eating courgette with buckwheat for lunch, for example, and pasta or stir-fry for supper.

The hardest for me to plan are usually breakfasts and snacks, because they need to be easily transportable and preferably consumable at my desk at work, which sets some limits on them. Like, yoghurt is easy to transport, but I can’t eat yoghurt at my desk (we’re not allowed), and toast with marmalade is a pain to transport. So although toast with marmalade is easier to make than, say, porridge, I usually go for porridge, because that can be made the night before and then eaten hot or cold in the office kitchen 3 minutes before my shift starts, which gives me 10-15 additional minutes of free time in the morning.

How to Get Out of a Reading Slump

May was spent participating in a bookstagram photo challenge and also buying books, sorting books, and reading about books in hopes to add some more interesting titles to my TBR – not that mine is short and in need of any new additions. As a result, I found myself in an epic reading slump, and thought of the ways to drag myself out of it. Here’s what I came up with – maybe it will help you as well?

(photo by Oxana)

Limit your choice

Choice is good, but when it’s wide, it’s hard to focus on something. If you have a lot of books, pick several for your TBR pile, and pretend that you’ve got nothing else.

Stop buying books

This tip will not work for everybody, as there are sensible people out there who are meticulous in only buying books they intend to read immediately – but I ain’t one of ’em. Thanks to my parents, my grandparents and the humble ole me, my library is huge. I know it won’t be getting any smaller, but I should certainly control how many books I buy. There is a strong correlation between me buying a lot of books and not reading anything. The more time (and money!) I spend in bookshops, the less time I spend actually reading. Perhaps you’re the same? Then stop buying, and get to reading!

Shop your shelves

Stand in front of your bookshelves and imagine yourself in a library or in a bookshop. Pick a book and recall why you got it in the first place. Then ‘take it home’ to read. 😀

Go for your favourites

Whenever I feel stuck in my reading, I pick up a book by my favourite author or in my favourite genre – or both! Agatha Christie, I’m looking at you.

Explore a new genre

But perhaps you like shaking things up a little instead? Explore a new genre then. If you’re a romance reader, pick up a mystery; if you like mysteries, take a look at fantasy, etc. If your reading is pretty much across all genres, look for a subgenre or for a category that you haven’t touched in a long time.

Join a readalong

I’ve never been in a readalong before, but I hear it’s fun and motivating. We’ll see how I fare in June, with a Wilkie Collins one. 😉

Join a readathon

Now these, I’ve done. Even if it won’t kick you out of your reading slump indefinitely, you’re bound to get some reading done! I’m not the most prolific readathoner in the universe. I think the best I’ve done was three rather short books. Nevertheless, it was enough for me to become caught up with my reading goal for that year – and it did kick me out of my reading slump.

Set a timer

Set a timer for 10, 20, 30 minutes, and get going. When the time is up, stop. But I guarantee you, you’ll want to continue.

Aim for 20 pages a day

20 pages a day is not a lot. An experienced reader could easily get through that amount, so even if you feel uninspired, you’ll be able to do it. When you’re done with 20 pages, stop. Chances are, though, just like with the timer point above, you’d want to get going after your 20 pages are done.

Change your setting

If your usual reading place is in your bedroom, move to another place in your house. If the weather permits, go outside. I love reading in the park on a good weather day. Another popular choice is a cafe or a coffee shop.

A post shared by Alex (@readanythingonce) on

Make your setting

I find that I read (write, sleep…) better if I have a dedicated space in the house to do so. I don’t have one now, and I do believe that it affects my reading mood. If you feel like your reading joy has dropped, perhaps find a corner in your house to make deliberately bookish?

Drop it

Do you make it a point to finish all books that you start? Life’s too short to waste it on bad print. If you feel inclined, skim the remaining pages to get a rough idea of how it pans out – then drop that mother, together with the habit of digging through pages and pages of bollocks.

Take a break

If all else fails, just take a break. No one can perform at 100% capacity all the time. Perhaps it’s time to take a break and digest what you’ve read before. Some books overwhelm you, give you a reading hang-over, or even put you in a reading coma. Give yourself a few days to think through what you’ve read, then slowly pick out your next read, and begin again.

How has your reading been going? Any advice on how to get out of a reading slump?

Honest Food

I love food, and I love cooking, but one thing I often forget is I can’t eat like normal people. I had hepatitis (the light form) as a child, and I damaged my pancreas and gallbladder as an adult with my stupid diet choices, so now we have what we have. If I want to have a slice of pizza, I need to prepare for that with weeks of light eating. My favourite drink, coffee, is a special treat that I can indulge in no more than several times a week, and only if I stick to my strict eating plan for a while, so that I am stable. I can’t grab breakfast on the go, because most options are a no go. Work lunches, so conveniently catered to us at our company and generally healthily prepared, are also an indulgence and an exception.

What’s healthy for others is a world of digestion trouble and pain for me. I can’t eat big leafy green salads. I can’t eat legumes. My dreams of going vegan are forever just that – dreams. I can eat certain grains only sparingly. Some vegetables are out of the picture. Most cooking methods are avoided. I can’t just pick a cookbook or a recipe from Pinterest and follow it, because most of the time I would have to substitute at least something.

This isn’t a sob story, though. I know there are people out there who have it way worse than I do when it comes to their diets and digestion. This is an explanation as to why I am hesitant to share what I eat and what I cook – for the sheer boredom and formulaic simplicity of it.

But the other day I thought that this is exactly the trouble with people like me and foods we eat. We don’t think about sharing recipes from our kitchens and talking about our food patterns, because they are so irrelevant to the standard Instagram fare of food-styled flatlays of buddha bowl avocado toast matcha frappuccinos of what the hell ever or 21-day fitness food prep with the abundance of raw greens and veg, tofu, and Cruciferae.

And when I go on the internets to look for meal inspiration?

I find nothing.

Which is ridiculous, because I know I am not the only special snowflake with a capricious pancreas who has to stick to certain food patterns and products. But where are we all? Healthy meals plans are overtaken by paleo gluten-free raw vegans. I’ve nothing against these people, but their healthy is not healthy for me.

I ramble.

I wanted to fill this void at least slightly by starting a series of honest recipes and general food posts. Think of it like a food diary. If you are a person with a sensitive digestion or a problematic liver/ gallbladder/ pancreas, then I’m sure I don’t have to warn you that what works for me might not work for you. Even the least offensive grains out there (ohai white rice, ohai oatmeal, ohai buckwheat) can be problematic if eaten at a wrong time or in a wrong combination.

Everything I cook is cooked and processed thoroughly, but as light as possible, with minimal oil. My main cooking methods are steaming, boiling, and microwaving. I usually overcook grains, and give veg a lot of time to become soft. I would bake often, but I have no oven. There aren’t a lot of spices, as most of them are aggravating. Salt is minimal, and so is sugar, which is often substituted by fruit sugar, or Huxol, or stevia, or honey (all in moderation).

Etc., etc., etc.

I am not yet sure how often I am going to share posts like that – perhaps at first they will be nothing more than Instagram digests.

(Pictures in this post are the basic ingredients of one of my most favourite foods ever, okroshka. As much as I love it, I have to be careful with it, lest my stomach sends me into a special kind of hell.)

Is there anything you’d like to see in this series?

Bare Bones Skincare Routine – Did I Like It?

Some time last year I decided to strip my skincare routine to the very basics of washing, toning, moisturising, and occasional peeling and masking. It was not so much out of boredom/ for fun, as it was because I didn’t have the money to spend on anything extra. One could argue that skincare is not a necessity at all, aside from basic hygiene and sun protection. One would be right, but one would also be wrong.

So here are my basics.

Chapstick Hydration Lock Lip Balm

Over the years I’ve accumulated quite the collection of lip balms. I’ve been slowly going through them all, and this Chapstick was just next on the list. It certainly did not give enough moisture and protection during winter. Chapstick did OK in the spring time, and now that it’s summer, I don’t see much difference. The ‘day’ end has SPF, which is good. But I don’t feel like my lips are conditioned and soft unless I actually have this balm on my lips. There’s no comfort in between wears, so to say. I hear that’s an issue with nigh all Chapstick products. Once it’s gone, I will not buy it again.

Oriflame LoveNature Purifying Oily Skin Face Lotion

This is a basic oily skin moisturiser. I’ve been using it on and off for years. It’s no miracle worker, but unless your skin is especially dehydrated, it moisturises a decent amount. I like its light texture, and I really like its slightly medicinal herbal scent. I will buy this again, as it’s pretty much a staple.

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Eye Lifting Serum

This was a gift, and a next (and last!) one in my stash of eye creams. I have sensitive eyes, and Olay Regenerist Regenerating Eye Lifting Serum has some microglitter in it. I thought I would not be able to handle it (e.g. I couldn’t handle Avon’s Anew one), but it’s fine. This cream (serum?..) is lightly yellow in colour, but I noticed no colour correcting properties. I suppose it does diffuse the light just a bit and it moisturises a decent amount, but I noticed no effect on my fine lines.

Faberlic Botanica Face Tonic with Cornflower and Pomegranate

I was broke and I needed a face toner, and this one was free with my purchase of other things, so into my basket it went. I can’t claim this Faberlic Botanica Face Tonic does a whole lot, but it does something, so to say. I can’t skip the toning part more than two-three days in a row, as I begin to break out. Faberlic Botanica Face Tonic is, like the rest of my current routine, basic. I find it non-drying, but it’s not hydrating or particularly refreshing.

Avon True Nutra Effects Micellar Cleansing Water

I think this is the… fifth? Maybe sixth micellar water I’ve tried. Avon True Nutra Effects Micellar Cleansing Water is scentless, gentle, and fares up rather nicely to, say, the Garnier one, which is my favourite budget micellar water. I’m almost at the end of this bottle, and I already purchased a huge-arse 400 ml bottle as back-up. Good stuff.

Neutrogena The Transparent Facial Bar

I bought this recently as a replacement for my beloved Pears. Unfortunately, I don’t like it as much, though usually I am inclined to quite like Neutrogena. Neutrogena The Transparent Facial Bar has a strong perfume, which is also of a kind that I have come to associate with male-oriented cosmetics. I suppose these are the remnants of sexism in me, but yes, I’m a bit particular when it comes to scents. But that aside, Neutrogena Facial Bar is much more drying than the Pears soap I’ve been using prior to that. I’d buy a Pears bar in an instant, but unfortunately it’s not usually sold where I live. I snatched two bars on the grey market by pure chance. There’s a tiny bit left, but it doesn’t give me enough suds for a proper face wash.

Yellow Sponge Thingie

I’m pretty sure it’s not its proper name. 😀 This is a generic one I bought for like 60c per two. I like using it, but next time I’m going to pay a bit more and get a softer one from, say, Oriflame. This one is a little harsh on my skin, so I only tend to use it on my nose and my forehead.

The Grand Question: Do I Like This Routine?

You may have already guessed the answer, but… No. There are certain things that I enjoy about the basic skincare routine. It’s short, straight-forward, economical, and more or less efficient. Also, since I haven’t been experimenting with different moisturisers and cleaners that much, I’ve been getting less breakouts.

Actually, that could be the Pears soap. If you suffer from acne, do give Pears soap a go.

But I’ve also noticed that my skin isn’t as plump, and there are many signs of dehydration beneath its usual oiliness. Also, the frown line on my forehead has become much more prominent. There are, of course, other contributing factors to less plumpness and more dehydration. Three prominent ones are stress, the office AC, and the fact that I’ve aged about a year. However, my epic multi-layer skincare routine that I’ve adhered to before helped me keep the effects of those factors on my skin at relative bay. The bare bones one I’m doing now is fine, but I want more from my skincare. Step up that retinol, mate!

I’m still at an awkward point financially, so it’ll be another several months at best until I’ll be able to go back to my multilayered long-arse day and night skincare routines. I’ll still be using the basic skincare routine described above with light variations of moisturises and lip balms and toners, and once I’ve finished the Neutrogena Bar, I’m going to switch to a different face washer. Aside from that, I’ll be relying on masking for hydration and cleansing in the interim.

Regardless, it’s good to know that I could fall onto a basic skincare routine like this one and still be more or less satisfied with the appearance of my skin.

What’s your skincare routine like?