Monday, January 18, 2010

Stretching our Kroner

Bobby and I have discovered something you might have already guessed: Living in Copenhagen is expensive!! We moved here knowing that Scandinavian countries are pretty pricey (in fact, Copenhagen is often listed in the top 5 most expensive cities to live in); we expected rent and restaurants to be higher than even Paris. What we were not expecting, though, is for groceries to be so expensive! The price of many food items is about 30% more than similar items in Paris, and around 50% higher than in California! With this in mind, we have set up a tight monthly budget and I (Carla) am learning how to best stretch our food Kroners.

To begin with, we are cutting back on meat. That seems like it would help, expect when I went to buy frozen vegetables, I discovered that a bag of frozen peas costs 30 Kroner (4 euros, or $5.80)! So much for being well-fed vegetarians. But don't worry, this week a local grocery store is having a sale. Armed with the sale catalog, I walked to the store today to load up on discounted meat, vegetables, and pantry items. One way I plan on stretching our Kroner is by buying fresh vegetables in bulk then freezing them myself. With carrots and bell peppers on sale, I loaded up my shopping bag. I think it only fair to mention that my shopping bag (a large bag we bought in Nice, France, 2 1/2 years ago, that we use every time we shop... yeah for saving plastic bags!) weighed 29 pounds, the grocery store is 3/4 mile away, it was snowing, and we live on the 6th floor without an elevator... 75 very steep steps of hell.

Once I lugged the bag up to the apartment, I set up station in front of my laptop. While watching American television online, I peeled and chopped 2.2 pounds of carrots and 1 yellow bell pepper. Following these nifty health guidelines, published by Iowa State University, I parboiled the carrots, blanched them in an ice bath, then froze them. The peppers were a bit easier; I just washed, chopped, and froze.

Frustrating as the high prices might be, I am very excited to cook in our apartment because there is an oven! One recipe I've been wanting to make for a long time but haven't been able to (due to a lack of proper cooking facilities in our Parisian apartment) is lasagna. I've got a great recipe from Gloria, my dad's partner, and I was very excited to cook a big batch of it last night. Bobby and I will be in lasagna heaven for the next few days!

Another dinner we've had is a traditional Danish meal of Frikadeller (Danish meat balls), mashed potatoes, home-made gravy, and pickled cabbage! This dinner reminded us of the great meals we had in Solvang, a chintzy Danish town north of Santa Barbara. Bobby and I used to drive up to Solvang to buy salty licorice (a Scandinavian specialty that we have inflicted upon many of our friends and family members), and we would stay long enough to have lunch in Bit o' Denmark, stuffing ourselves silly with the smörgåsborg (think Danish buffet). We would then spend the 45 minute drive back to Santa Barbara enjoying our salty licorice.

Today was also Bobby's first real day at the university! Here he is in his new office. Notice his clothing... it seems that Denmark has a very casual work environment. Jeans are normal, though Bobby promises me he won't wear them the days he has to teach. I baked him a batch of Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies to celebrate his first day. We may be broke, but I'll be damned if we go without something sweet... and some vegetables, too!

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