Monthly Archive: February 2016

Subpar Sub Rolls

Things have been grim here financially, and then I got sick and we had a blizzard warning on top of it. I’d bought two big packs of on sale ground beef at Market Basket, super fresh and tasty 85%, and the first of them had been partly used and partly frozen. The other sat in the fridge until the day after I’d normally have preferred to use. With everyone having suffered through fending for themselves the day before, and the burger needing to be used unless it had gone bad, I decided to make meatballs. Universally loved by all five of us, but not a meal I consider very frugal. The burger turned out to be as fresh as if you’d just bought it at an ordinary store. Given that it was well over 3 lbs, the amount that normally goes into meatballs, and that it wasn’t right on the edge, I made a big patty to freeze and at least got some freezer fodder out of it. While I was sick, with a blizzard expected, the wife went to the store and got a couple bags of ice to top off the freezer and help it keep should the power go out. Also, as a preventative to losing power, which worked. The alternative to meatballs was chili, but I could have done that on a pound of burger.

When I make meatballs, I usually make gravy and either egg noodles or potatoes. Neither were on hand. Sometimes we have them as meatball subs, for anyone who wants them that way, with red sauce (or just ketchup) and optional cheese. But there were no rolls, either! And not much bread, for that matter. I haven’t been buying sub rolls because I haven’t been buying cold cuts, because that’s expensive. When I could afford it, every 2-4 weeks we’d have subs for supper. If I’d planned the meatballs and been able to time a trip to Market Basket appropriately, I could have bought sub rolls, but would probably have bought egg noodles or potatoes instead.

Well, I’ve been experiementing with making bread, and in one case dinner rolls, so why not sub rolls? I focused on two recipes I came across, comparing what they involved if you made the batch size the same. This one looked tasty but looked like it might be too crusty compared to the result I wanted. This other one purports to be a way to match the rolls you would get at Subway. Now, I don’t know from Subway, but the picture looked like what I’d buy at Market Basket six for $1.50. With some trepidation about the volume of oil and lack of sugar compared to the other recipe and other breads I’ve made or looked at, I went for it.

This was not an entirely smooth process, given that I forgot to melt the butter before everything else was in the bowl, and that I don’t have a stand mixer. I could make a case for always moving on from recipes that assume you have a stand mixer. I usually do, but how hard could it be to just do things the old way?

Everything through the first rise and dividing the dough into eight rolls went fine. It rose enthusiastically enough not to provoke concern. The rolls, though… they would have taken hours to rise to where I thought they should be, at the rate they were going. After an hour and a half, I put them in the oven.

They tasted OK, if more like sourdough than the bread and rolls I am used to. You could definitely tell the lack of sugar. They were flat, though, completely unsuited to being a sub roll, especially for meatballs. Their best use seems to be as garlic bread, or cheesey garlic bread. Because it didn’t rise fully, the texture is pretty heavy.

I won’t make that recipe again, at least not without modifying it into something of my own. I don’t have enough bread making savvy yet to parse what went wrong without researching. Which, come to think of it, I had meant to do right afterward. “Why does second rise fail” or something like that fed to Google might give me insight. Or perhaps something on the science/principles of bread baking. That’s how I learned gravy. Best thing I found was something that described the principles of what you were doing, rather than trying to be an exact recipe, and gave insight into various types of gravy. Sometimes I have an imperfect batch, but in general I have never had gravy as good as what I make.


I’ve been neglecting things basically since work got intense during our peak season, then haven’t picked it back up now that work is unusually light. Between that and having spent through our tax refund and what savings I had, largely to supplement the grocery budget, we’re in a particularly tight spot. Voila, stuff to write about! Stretching the money is the whole point, here.

I’ve done some baking and meals I hadn’t normally done, and even taken a few pictures. But this post is about money itself, and tracking what we’re spending.

I started a Google spreadsheet for this year to track grocery purchases. It’s cruder than I’d like, since many purchases are mixed. Partly I can filter by figuring if it’s taxable, it’s not groceries. There are some items that are neither.

January is over, and the grand total came to $626.85. We’re a family of five. Mind you, this amount made everyone feel like they were put upon compared to normal, which suggests to me that our spending had been running a couple hundred a month more. Given that back when we were getting SNAP of about $500, I was supplementing it by about $300, that fits. The thing is, what I spent this past month was at least $100 more than I could afford.

The metric of taxable items and tax coming off for a measure of actual food makes it $543.86, but the receipts contain over $30 in non-taxable non-grocery necessities. Call it about $510, then. I’d say that we depleted the cabinets somewhat, but there’s stuff that’s been added to balance it out. Still, while cranberry sauce was inexpensive, I accumulated cans of it, and when the dust cleared there were 14 cans. We’ve used two, and probably won’t need to buy any for a few months, depending how often kielbasa or roasting chickens are on sale. The main uses are for sweet and sour kielbasa or as a side with roast chicken.

Today was the first entry for February; $68.55 total, of which $27.30 was meat on sale. Pork loin for $1.69/lb for the win. It was a trip to get cheese and butter where the price is lowest, frozen veggies for the lowest price and that are also the best, and ingredients like flour and sugar at the best available prices. Flour at the two loacal stores is $1.99 and $2.49, versus $1.69. I’d run out entirely, making bread multiple times.

We’ll see how it goes. I’d like to have the family on board with keeping this up, even when funds are more available.