Thursday, March 11, 2010

No Oven, No Problem. Well...

So today I started making a list of all the things I want to eat when I go home in July (things like steak, coffee, chocolate cake, and Caesar salad). Not that I couldn’t buy or make those things here, but without an oven or a grill or even an outlet in my kitchen, it’s probably not going to happen. I was thinking about this today as I made my grocery list for the week and tried to think about tonight’s dinner (should we have spaghetti for the 5th time or Mexican for the 4th time?) and a meal plan for the rest of the week.

There are a couple factors involved in my choice of meals. First, my selection of groceries is somewhat limited – not only by the lack of variety in the store, but also by the prices of certain items. I’m thankful to have an IGA in town. They have a lot of familiar brands of food, such as Kraft cheese, Mueller’s pasta, and Prego spaghetti sauce, and a lot of American cereals. And I recently discovered a store called Food Fair, where the prices are a little lower than at IGA. But after spending a couple hundred dollars on our first few trips to IGA, I decided we would be frugal and just buy necessities and whatever was cheap. Plus, we needed to be on more of a healthy diet anyway. So for the first few weeks we had Kashi Go-Lean cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch (I broke down and bought deli meat), and some sort of pasta or Mexican meal for dinner. However, after more than a couple nights of me complaining because I was STARVING at 8:00 at night and Ryan wanting something to snack on most of the day, I had to rethink our supply of food. Let me say, though, that I am blessed to be married to a wonderful guy who really is okay with eating the same thing every day. He is not the least bit picky about what we eat – as long as there is something to eat, he’s fine. He asks for spaghetti almost every night, anyway. So a couple weeks ago we stocked up on some snack food during our normal grocery run. He got some crackers, juice, and apples. I bought popcorn, hot chocolate, and pudding. (Can you tell how my diet is going so far?) But the good thing is I can make things last a long time – I’m not eating it all in one week. I’ve only had one cup of hot chocolate so far! It just makes me feel better knowing those things are in the cabinet.

The other problem, though, is the cost of the food. Here is a sample of our receipt:
Yogurt - $1.10 each
Kraft Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese - $4.91
Prego Spaghetti Sauce - $5.36
Florida’s Natural Orange Juice - $7.44
Mueller’s Spaghetti – $2.90
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Liter) - $14.32

On top of that, Grenada now charges a VAT (value added tax) of 15% on everything except things like milk, bread, meat, and most produce. And they don’t have buy one get one sales like I’m used to at Publix! At IGA, they only stock the store once a week, usually Wednesday. And things like milk and the good kinds of bread go fast! They’re usually gone by the next day or so. I think produce may be stocked on Thursday – I haven’t quite figured out the routine yet (if there is one). With that said, even shopping on Wednesday doesn’t guarantee they’ll have what you are looking for. So my meal planning has kind of been non-existent. I’ve tried to stock up on non-perishables when they are available and then supplement with what is in stock. But even buying meat has been a problem. One time I saw dolphin (which someone told me is actually Mahi Mahi) and chicken feet. On occasion I find something I can use. We have had hamburgers, chicken breasts, and beef tips.

Even if I could buy all sorts of good food at amazing prices, I think our meals would still lack variety and creativity. The reason for this is my kitchen. We have a two-burner stove and a microwave . . . and no oven. I have exactly 6 cabinets and 1 drawer. And a total of maybe 8” of counter space. Here are a couple pictures of my little kitchen:

So preparing meals has been a challenge, to say the least. In addition, we have 1 sauce pan and 1 small skillet. If I want to make anything involving more than one pan, I have to put the food in a bowl, wash the pan, and then reheat all the food when we’re ready to eat. After scorching a couple chicken breasts in the skillet and over-cooking pasta (because it cooked in about 5 minutes on medium-high heat), I finally realized my stove is a lot hotter than I’m used to. But tonight’s meal was somewhat more of a success, mostly because it didn’t involve spaghetti or salsa. I had some beef stew meat from the store and found a recipe online that used things I already had on hand. I sautéed some onions, browned the meat, and then added water, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. After bringing it to a boil, it was supposed to simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours. I had it on low, but after about an hour, the liquid was almost gone and the bottom of the pan was turning black. So we ate a little earlier than I was planning. And since I didn’t have time to scrub the pan before dinner, I cooked the brown rice and broccoli in the microwave. It turned out pretty good. Ryan already wants it again, which is always a good sign.

So my goals for the next few weeks (months) are to plan more creative meals, try new recipes, and try to find the best prices on groceries. Someone told me they baked brownies in their microwave last week. Maybe I should give that a try!


  1. Being creative with dinner is really a part of the experience here! haha... the dinner you had tonight sounds good!
    I put a lot of our meals on my blog, if that could give you ideas... and I google recipes a lot!
    & I totally understand the thing about feeling better just because there are snacks in the cupboard you could eat, even if you don't eat them! haha.
    we eat a lot of the freezies they have at IGA, they're only 5.50EC!

  2. This is too funny! I had just asked you about your kitchen situation and then you post this. You know how I love to cook and I love to improvise. Well, I knew that you had some culinary limitations (equipment-wise) so I have already been thinking of some recipes for you. I hope you don't mind.

  3. Oh Sarah. I am just picturing your face while you write this. You have a sparkly crown with "microwave" on it awaiting you in heaven girl. =)

  4. Wow, I can't believe how expensive the food is! I can definitely imagine your shock after being used to Publix B1G1 sales! :) Do you have a crockpot? Oh, but I guess that would be a pain without an outlet in the kitchen. You certainly have your work cut out for you! :) You could google microwave recipes or one pot meals.

    Loved all the pictures from your previous posts...gorgeous scenery!


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