Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

I have gotten a bit behind in my grocery posts with the holidays. So, this post is meant to update from the last time I purchased groceries. :)

Health Food Store:
Honey $4.19
Organic Valley Milk $4.99
Organic Valley Half/Half $2.69
Namaste Pizza Crust mix $10.69
Namaste Biscuit/Pie crust/etc mix $10.99

Total: $33.55

Dollar General:
2 frostings for $1.80 ea
Nutella $2.95
Trident $1
Santa Coal for Stockings $1

Total: $8.55

Amount left after last grocery shop: $54.01 - 33.55 - 8.55 = $11.91 left for the rest of the  month.

I can't believe we made it to today, the last day of the month, with money left over! The kids complained here and there about the dwindling snacks and the lack of macaroni and cheese, but we dealt fine with it, and there's still food in the house. :)

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

(oops, posting this one a bit late---must have forgotten in the holiday hubbub last week!)

After making my menu plan for the rest of the month, I went back to the store (been doing a lot of that this month for some reason...not planning as well, I suppose).

Local Grocery:
3 pkg of large flour tortillas for burritos $6.27
1 family pack of small tortillas $2.59
S 2 loaves whole wheat bread $4.78
bag of mini pretzels $2.29

S 2 bags corn tortilla chips $5

S 2 pints Daisy sour cream $4
S Rediwhip (for the Elderberry cobbler I plan on making) $2.29
LaCreme Hazelnut coffee creamer (shhhhh) $2.59

S Nestle chocolate chips $2.50
Nutella (big jar) $7.29
Skippy Natural Peanut Butter $3.89

Bananas $1.80
Mushrooms $1.00

Trident $1.29

Total came to $50.67

Total from last update: $104.68 - 50.67 = $54.01 left for the rest of the month.

I anticipate needing to purchase milk, possibly eggs, and produce before the end of the month.
We'll see how it goes! :)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 2011: Menu Planning for the remaining month

With just under $105 left in my grocery budget for the rest of the month, I am sitting down and writing a menu/snack plan. Smart idea, as the kids will be home for their school break.

Breakfast Options:
  • Cold Cereal
  • Hot Cereal
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Biscuits and Gravy (need to find a GF biscuit recipe)
  • Muffins
  • Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas (maybe, if I can manage to do a GF version AND a regular version)

Lunch Options:
  • Leftovers
  • Various canned soups I've had on hand "just in case" that need to be eaten and restocked
  • Sandwiches-nut butter and jelly, tuna/salmon, egg
  • Spaghetti

Snack Options:
  • Apples, Oranges, Carrots
  • Popcorn
  • Cereal mix with odds and ends from the pantry: cereal, marshmallows, chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts
  • Cookies...if we do some baking in the next few days...
  • Zucchini brownies...still have a few bags of zucchini in the freezer
  • "cheesy tortillas"
Supper Options:
  • Ham & Beans and Cornbread
  • Curry/Dahl over Rice
  • Turkey Soup
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Sausage/potatoes/other veggie
  • Pizza
  • Turkey and noodles?
  • Burritos (refried bean? black bean and sweet potato?)
  • Enchiladas (need to make masa flour tortillas)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

Went to the grocery and the health food store the other day.

box of Stash tea (free w/coupon)
2lbs Great Northern Beans $2.79
S 2 bags Old Fashioned Oats $2.98
2 cans Ortega green chilies $3.18
S 2 jars Ortega salsa $4.00
Total came to $12.95

Health Food Store:
1/2 Gallon Organic Valley milk $4.99
Organic Valley half 'n half $2.69
Tea $3.59
2 dozen eggs (yeah!) $6.70
Total came to $17.97

Total from last shopping trip $135.60 - 12.95 - 17.97 = 104.68 left for the rest of the month.

Menu/Snack plan here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW: Better Batter Gluten Free Flour and GF Snickerdoodle Recipe

I recently got some Better Batter Gluten Free Flour from a friend. At first I tried using it 1:1 in my regular recipes that called for wheat flour, but that didn't work well for me. Not sure why.

So, tonight, after depriving myself of holiday cookie cheer on a few fronts this week, I decided to try making some GF cookies.

I decided on the recipe for Snickerdoodles on the Better Batter website.

I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of using Spectrum palm shortening instead of "regular" (GMO soy) shortening.

They are delicious! I seriously just ate about 6 of them! They will be perfect for having with tea a couple times a day! (hehe) :)

I look forward to trying the Better Batter Gluten Free Flour in other recipes. :)


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

Felt the need to go to the store.

Sour cream $2.79
S 2 lbs butter $5.98
eggs $1.79
S 3 cheese for 3/$5

S 5 bags frozen veggies $5
2 Nestle cocoas for $1ea
2 bags tortilla chips 2/$5
2 single serve chips to keep the kids happy $1 total

Cauliflower $3.99

Total came to $32.55

So, total from last shop $171.15 - 32.55 = $135.60 left for the rest of the month

Monday, December 12, 2011

REVIEW: Nature's Highlights GF Pizza Crust

I've been hunting for a good GF pizza crust. One that didn't leave my eye twitching and my nose itching, that didn't gum up as I ate it, and that didn't leave me feeling like I'd eaten a ball of dough an hour after I ate.

I picked up a box of 2 Nature's Hilights brand Brown Rice Pizza Crusts the other day at the health food store. I made one of them last night and so far they have been the best option I have found.

They cost just over $6 for a pack of 2 crusts. I ate a whole one, though I could have stretched it out to two meals if I had something to eat besides just pizza the other night.
The instructions say to defrost first, but I put the frozen crust in the oven while my family's pizza was baking and followed the instructions after that and it turned out great!

It's not a "thick crust", but it's not exactly a thin crust pizza either. Once assembled, I baked it on the oven rack and it turned out wonderfully crispy on the edges and not very gummy in the middle (I could have baked it a bit longer to fix the slight gumminess in the middle--now I know for next time).

The toppings I used to make my pizza this time were: 2 cubes of Basil from my freezer, olive oil, a blend of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and nearly a whole 8oz package of fresh sliced mushrooms sauteed with some sliced onion and a large clove of garlic, sliced, and a sprinkling of sea salt. YUMMY!

Ingredients on the crust are listed as: Whole Grain Brown Rice, Potato. Since there is a simple ingredient list and no yeast, I think this might be a possible corn-free product. At any rate, due to the simple ingredient list, I would classify this as a Real Food.

The company doesn't have a website as far as I can find, but they do have the following contact info:
Nature's Hilights, Inc.
P.O. Box 3526
Chico, CA 95927

12/30/11 Note: Based on others' experience with this crust, you might want to overcook the crust/pizza a bit (longer than the instructions on the box suggest to minimize the "gummy" factor). Do watch it closely, though, so it doesn't burn!

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

Today I made my list of things I will need between now and the end of next week and went to the local grocery and the local health food store.

The health food store is still out of eggs (and now peanut butter--not surprised due to stuff I've seen on the news). I may have to hit up a neighbor to see if their chickens are laying...

Local Grocery:
2 pkg tortillas $2.09 ea
S 3 blocks cheese $2 ea
Daisy Sour Cream $1.65
Eggs $1.89

S Frozen peas and frozen mixed veggies $1/ea
S Ice cream $3.99

S/C 2 boxes Chex cereal, $2.99 on sale but I had a coupon for $1 off that makes them $2.50 ea

2 bags Gala apples $2.99 ea
Mushrooms $1.98
Baby Carrots $2.88

Total: $36.33

Health Food Store:

2 half-gallons Organic Valley Milk $4.99 ea
2 Organic Valley Pastured butter $4.59 ea
1 Organic Valley Half and Half $2.59

Local Pork Sausage $5.88

Apricots (unsulphured) $3.91
Sunflower oil $8.49
Spectrum shortening $5.99
Sea Salt $7.29
Cinnamon (bulk-enough to fill my spice jar and more) $1.50
Garlic granules (bulk-enough to fill my spice jar and more) $1.77

Black tea $3.99
Black decaf tea $3.99
Celtic tea (I love Irish Breakfast tea--hoping this is similar) $5.49

Total: $70.05

Total left from last week's shop: $277.53-$36.33-$70.05= $171.15 left for the rest of the month.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GF RECIPE: GF Oatmeal Buckwheat Pancakes

In my quest for nutritious GF breakfast fare, I found a recipe online that fits my needs, plus it follows the concept of soaking grains: Gluten Freely Frugal's Favorite Gluten Free Pancakes/Waffles. (By the way, I have been finding Gluten Freely Frugal to be very helpful in my endeavor to eat Gluten Free on the cheap.)

I pretty much followed the instructions, with the exception of substituting a heaping 1/2 cup Buckwheat Flour for the 1/2 cup Buckwheat Groats the recipe calls for and subbing butter for oil. I adjusted my liquid as needed and followed other instructions as listed.

Here's the recipe with my alterations:

GF Oatmeal Buckwheat Pancakes
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • heaping 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1TB butter or oil (I used butter this time)
Put the above in your blender and blend for 2-3 minutes, adding a bit of water if needed to keep a vortex going. Leave on your counter at room temperature overnight. (The yogurt makes the grains more digestible and nutrients more accessible to the body.)

In the morning, add the following:
  • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    Blend for a minute or two until combined thoroughly, adding water as needed to keep a vortex going in the blender.
    Heat your griddle and cook.
    Serve with maple syrup and butter or your choice of toppings.

    The kids ate without complaint until I asked how they were, and of course they said that their aunt's pancakes were better (from a mix). I need to learn to quit asking and assume that if they are eating it, it's acceptable!

    This recipe was enough to feed myself and the three kids breakfast before school, but if it was a Saturday morning and my hubby was eating them too, it wouldn't have been enough by itself. Still, it worked great and I can very easily double the recipe! I'm thinking next time I will see how well it works for waffles!

    Here's to Real Food!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    GF/Top 8 Allergy Helps:

    When someone is newly diagnosed with food allergies/sensitivities/intolerances/what have you, they often start with a "I can't have XYZ." outlook as they think about what they will be eating from day to day.  Today's food stores are packed to the brim with food, but if someone has a list of ingredients they can't eat, shopping can quickly become a discouraging chore as many foods are taken off the plate. I know that I often felt very deprived during my year of avoiding so many foods and found it to be quite depressing.

    I would like to encourage the thought of "I can't have XYZ." to become more like "Look at all these things I *can*  have!", because that thought is much more positive, and opens up a realm of possibilities.

    Awhile back, I found a helpful source of information that has opened up some new food options:  I'm not sure why I waited this long to share it!

    I would recommend sitting down with the list and making your own list of foods that you *can* have, and working from there to add some interesting flair to your diet. 

    Multiple Food Allergies?
    When striving to eat Gluten/Top 8 Allergen Free, it can be hard at times to read food labels and know for certain whether a product contains something you are trying to avoid--there's just so much to watch out for, it's overwhelming! One way to simplify things is to avoid processed foods (and even then it's still hard to avoid certain things), but it's also nice to have a list of safe items to have on hand for a change of pace.

    One excellent resource I have found is the Meijer website,  Meijer offers many helps to those of us who are dealing with food issues, the most helpful to me being the Meijer Brand Allergen List.

    Although Gluten is not technically a top 8 allergen, it is included on the Meijer Brand Allergen List, along with each of the top 8 allergens, Starch, and Phenyl.  Meijer has generally been responsive to me when I've contacted them with questions regarding specific products in relation to allergies and derivatives (unlike some other store-brand attempts to find answers), but this listing simplifies the process.

    Of course, if you have allergies beyond the scope of the chart, you would still need to contact the company. And do still pay attention to labels, because they can change without notice.

    The way to get to the Meijer Brand Allergen List (rather than the link above) is to go to  Scroll down to the bottom of the page and under Do More, click Healthy Living.  Then under Special Diets, click Meijer Brand Allergen List, and then click View the List here.

    Only Avoiding Gluten?
    If you are only looking to avoid Gluten, you can simplify your search by going to the Meijer Brand Grocery Gluten-Free Products List.  There is also a Meijer Brand Gluten-Free Drug Store Product List.

    If you don't have a Meijer store in your area, you are probably thinking you read this post for no reason. Have no fear--it's not all for naught! Peruse the Meijer site a bit further and Under Special Diets is a Gluten Free Resources listing, as well as a National Brand Gluten-Free Product List (last updated March of 2011).

    Many thanks to Meijer for making this information available to us!

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RECIPE: GF Cereal Snack Mix

    This mix has been a staple for me since the weather has cooled (and the cereal has gone on sale and I've had coupons).  I altered the Kellogg's Crispix Mix recipe to make it Gluten Free.

    Here's how I make it:

    GF Cereal Snack Mix
    • 7-8 cups Rice or Corn Chex (or other suitable GF cereal--Corn Chex is likely GMO but I haven't found a substitute for it other than to use only Rice Chex)
    • 1 cup Gluten-Free Pretzels (I have used Glutino's, but am open to trying other options)
    • 3 TB butter, melted
    • 4 tsp GF Worchestershire Sauce (Meijer brand is GF, as is Lea and Perrin's)
    • 2 tsp Lemon Juice (I used Lime juice today)
    • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
    • 1/4 tsp onion salt (I only  have garlic and onion powder so I use 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp each garlic and onion pwd)

    1. Heat oven to 250*.
    2. Put cereal and pretzels in a 9x13 pan.
    3. Mix remaining ingredients, pour over cereal and stir.
    4. Place in oven for 20 mins, stir, then put back in for about 30 mins, stirring after about 15mins. 
    5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
    6. Store in airtight container.


    Monday, December 5, 2011

    RECIPE: GF Crockpot Beef Stew

    Tis the season for a bowl of comfort food. For me, that means Beef Stew.

    Here is the way I make it in the crockpot (spice blend curtesy of my mom's recipe).

    GF Crockpot Beef Stew
    1. Fill crockpot about 3/4 full with about a pound of beef stew meat(ground beef works in a pinch--brown it first) and a mixture of potatoes, carrots, onion, celery and garlic.

    2. Add the following ingredients/spices and stir into veggies/meat:
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
    • 1 tsp GF Worchestershire Sauce (Meijer brand is Gluten-free, as is Lea & Perrins)
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (I want to try smoked paprika sometime!)
    • dash of cloves or allspice

    3. Cover with water or GF broth--I used chicken or turkey bone broth from the freezer (or, depending on how much liquid you like, don't cover completely with water--but do add at least a cup or so of liquid), put lid on and cook on high for 4 hours or so(or longer on low). 

    4. If you would like to thicken your stew, mix about 1/4 cup gluten-free flour mix (the more starchy ones come in handy here) with a bit of cold water and stir into stew and let cook a bit longer until it thickens up. A different starch would work too (such as corn starch)--just be sure you don't use wheat flour or another gluten-y flour.

    Serve and Enjoy!

    Pic to come!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    Posting about my grocery purchases has kept me rather accountable, so I plan to continue keeping an online record for a while longer.

    In the interest of saving gas money (and avoiding impulse purchases), I opted to shop at our local health food store and grocery rather than to drive 20-30 mins to the larger stores.

    Head Lettuce: 1.49
    Celery .99
    5 3lb bags of apples(most of which I plan to dehydrate) 2.99 each
    Mushrooms 1.50
    4 red peppers 1.00 ea
    4 bags frozen mixed veggies $1 ea
    2 bags frozen broccoli $1 ea

    9 8oz pkgs various cheese, on sale for 3/$5
    Daisy Cottage Cheese $2.99
    3 half-gallons rbgh-free milk $1 each
    Amish Smoked Cheese $4.29 (this is my splurge item--for snack this week-real smoked cheese, not "smoke flavored")

    Bacon $2.49 (to help me vamp up breakfasts)
    Meat Valu Pack- $19.99 Not great health food and not an awesomely healthy purchase, but I figured it was a good way to have backup food in case we are snowed in this winter or the electricity goes out and we need some quick to prepare meats: 2 packages sausages, ham slice, bacon, hot dogs

    3 pkg burrito tortillas $2.09 ea
    1 pkg fajita tortillas $1.59
    2 loaves WW bread $2.39 ea
    Baker's Chocolate $3.49
    Freeze Pops for the sick kid $.50
    2 Hunt's Snack Pack puddings $1 ea
    2 Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce $.98 ea
    1 pkg WW Spaghetti $1.79
    Brown Sugar $1.50
    5 cans pumpkin $1 ea
    2 cans evap milk $1 ea

    Total came to $114.16

    Health Food Store:
    (No eggs :()
    Beef stew meat $6.71
    Beef ground 5.89
    GF Pizza Crust $6.65 (to be posted about soon!)
    GF Tortillas $3.59
    2 loaves Udi's bread $3.99 ea
    Tea 3.39 and 3.59
    Rice noodles $2.69 (new to me--going to try with fish sauce, below)
    Fish Sauce $3.49 (new to me)
    Tinkyada pastas $3.59 and $3.19

    Total came to $50.76

    Since the HFS didn't have eggs, I ran across the street to Family Dollar and got:
    2 dozen commercial eggs $2.40 ea
    1 carton Egg Nog (dh's favorite--I try to get it at least once/year for him) $2.75

    Total came to $7.55

    Grand Total Spent: $172.47

    So, $450-172.47= $277.53 left for the rest of the month

    Menu plan for the month is Here.

    December 2011: Menu Planning

    Having gone through my food stores to see what I still have on hand, I made up a rough menu for the month of December.

    Since I chose to shop local, I decided to only shop for this coming week and not to do a lot of stocking up unless stuff was on a good sale. Having done my menu plan and knowing what I have on hand gave me a pretty good idea of what to put on the list.

    Rather than give you a precise schedule of what I put on what day of the week, I'll just give you a list of what we plan on having for dinner. Because I often change it up a bit, but usually pick something on the plan since I have the ingredients handy. :)

    • Pizza X 2 (purchased 2 GF crusts for me, regular deli pizza/making wheat crust for the fam)
    • Sandwiches for supper X 2 (Udi's bread for me, 100% Whole Wheat without hfcs for the fam)
    • Black Beans and Rice for the fam(because my allergies acted up for some reason when I was cooking this, I made a pot of GF Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup for myself and to share for lunch this weekend)
    • Beef Stew with GF biscuits if I can find a good recipe to use my Namaste or Better for Batter flour mix in...or just with garlic toast (regular for the fam/Udi's for me).
    • Roast Duck (in the freezer that really needs to be used), Beets (from the garden--Must Harvest!), Pie (made from Butternut Squash from the garden--> GF Crustless Pumpkin Pie style)
    • Beef Liver (that I have yet to figure out how to cook, lol), Homemade Mac and Cheese of some sort because I doubt the liver will go over well (hehe), Broccoli, Potatoes?
    • Regular Spaghetti (read: the kids want tomato based, not white sauce or chicken spaghetti, lol)....something else for dh and I, probably leftovers from another meal
    • Chicken Fingers and fries (maybe--if I can suck it up and buy the mega-spendy GF ones....or maybe I'll eat leftovers and the kids will get cheap ones--this is planned for a Family Movie Night instead of the usual *yawn* pizza )
    • Beans (cooked w/Ham Hocks) and GF Cornbread
    • Salmon Patties or Loaf and veggies, maybe some sort of pasta
    • Chicken/Turkey Soup X 3 (especially w/the abundance of turkey bone broth and the illnesses going around!)
    • Enchiladas (need to make corn tortillas w/the Masa Flour I purchased-way less additives than storebought corn tortillas and since the Masa is made of white corn, I think it's less likely to be GMO)
    • Hamburger Stroganoff and veggies(sauteed green beans/onions/mushrooms)
    • GF Chicken Spaghetti-knockoff from Pioneer Woman's recipe
    Breakfasts will be what's left of the cereal, Bagels from the freezer, eggs and bacon, pancakes, Oatmeal/other hot cereal.
    The kids generally eat school lunch, and dh and I generally have leftovers for lunch. I may also have a nut-butter sandwich and an apple or whatever I happen to find around the house. :-)
    Snacks are: Carrots, Apples and Cheese, Oranges, Popcorn, Granola Bars, Chex Mix (that I need to make from cereal left from last month), and maybe some Muddy Buddies/Puppy Chow made from Chex as a treat. Monster Cookies, when I get around to making those. Pudding cups or homemade tapioca pudding or maybe rice pudding.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Farm Fresh Egg Shortage?

     I went to the local health food store to pick up some of their pastured chicken eggs (which I love). The eggs they carry are from a local farmer and well worth the extra $1 they cost when compared to "regular" storebought eggs.  Turns out that the chickens have quit laying, though! The farmer even bought more laying hens to help remedy the problem, and those hens have also quit laying!

    It's a bit early for chickens to quit laying, especially with our so-far very mild and warmish weather for this time of year.

    In talking further with one of the health food store workers, their chickens had also molted early and are not laying much at all. She had thought this was due to not having heat/light on in the coop, but her friend's coop has light and heat and even she is having this problem.

    Also, it seems an Amish family semi-locally has observed this same problem. It seems that the chickens molted not too long ago, had a little break, but now are molting yet again (and laying hardly at all).

    I think I got the right details with the right people up there. At any rate, this is a strange thing to have happen to so many different flocks at the same time!

    I wonder if possibly..
    ~the warmer weather and rain has led to the chickens not laying,
    ~the chicken feed companies are cutting back on their protein in the feed and that's causing the chickens to back off on the laying,
    ~or if they're doing an animal survival thing of reserving their energy for the (supposed) long winter ahead?

    Just some thoughts....
    Has there been an farm-fresh egg shortage in your local area?

    A pic from Memory Lane....back when I had chickens...and my own eggs!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    November 2011, Week 4+: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    Well, folks, I did it! I was stubborn and refused to go to the store since my last shop, so I ended the month with $2.63 to spare. Even though I "needed" some things, I was able to make do with what we had for the rest of the month. (Having sick kids for a day or two also helped give me incentive to stay home.)

    Of course, hubby says "there's nothing to eat". We aren't anywhere near going hungry, though. We just don't have much easy-to-grab-and-eat stuff around. And I'm out of easy proteins for him, such as cheese sticks.  Being "out of regular food" isn't bad overall, though. If we're truly hungry, we can eat an apple, orange, carrot, bowl of cereal(hot or cold), popcorn, nut butter or tuna sandwich...etc.  To me, that is still food.

    For breakfast, my son requested pancakes. I am out of eggs and most "regular" I googled an eggless pancake recipe and subbed in GF flour (only because I didn't have enough regular flour left). Had to add a lot more milk, but it worked ok. Actually, it went over much better than did the oatmeal I served the kids for breakfast yesterday(the boys resisted, Ivy gobbled it up happily). :)

    Looking forward to going to the store, though! But not today as planned...sick kiddo.
    Menu planning for next month and hopefully shopping soon.

    Has anyone found these postings helpful? 
    Is there any other info that you are curious about pertaining to the topic at hand? 

    Please comment below! :)

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    RECIPE: GF French Fried Onions

    Growing up, I remember always having the classic Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I decided to bring it to Thanksgiving if I could figure out how to do it Gluten-Free.

    I was directed to Gluten Free Mommy's Green Bean Casserole, which looks very promising.  I think I will use it to work off of, using my Pacific Foods Cream of Mushroom Soup that is gluten-free instead of making soup from scratch. I think I will still saute some mushrooms to add to the green beans though. And I'll use a gluten-free soy sauce...maybe...not sure I will need it really.

    The other problem I had to solve was the substitute for French's Fried Onions (man, I loved those things!), since they have gluten in them.

    I read the instructions by Gluten Free Mommy as to how she makes French Fried Onions and went from there.  I refuse to go to the store for more oil, so I was stuck using Ghee (expensive, but I've been wanting to use it up this month anyway...). I got out my smallest skillet and only did one onion, sliced thin. The flour I used was the end of the package of Bob's All Purpose Flour Mix and Better Batter Flour Mix, salt and pepper.

    Let me tell you, these things are delicious! It's all I can do to NOT to eat them before making the casserole tomorrow! I better hide them from the hubby and kids!

    Here's some pics:

    Sizzling in the Ghee:

     Final Product: French Fried Onions!


    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    November 2011, Week 3: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    So, last week I was left with $48.17 left for the month.

    Well, I had to return the Black Jewell popcorn I purchased earlier this month. I popped some up for myself and the kids, and it had an odd smell to it....turns out it was moldy or something. At first it smelled like corn on the cob smells when you are shucking it...but it got worse when it was popping...on closer inspection of the kernels left in the container, there were little white hairy things around the tips of the popcorn kernels. Ick!  I've purchased this popcorn in the past and not had any problems. I'm not sure what happened. At any rate, it belongs to the store now.

    So, I returned the popcorn, which raised my total to $55.66 left for the month.

    And....then I went shopping. With a list. And it came to $53.03.

    Insert Deep Breath here.

    Here's what I got at the local grocery. (S= Sale item)

    ~S 8 half-gallons of non-rbgh milk for $10 (I rummaged through and made sure to get the dates furthest away, which happen to be Nov 29)
    ~S 1 1/2 lbs of Shredded Cheddar Cheese for $5.99
    ~S 3 bags frozen Bird's Eye broccoli, 2 bags Freshlike green beans, 1 mixed veggies, 1 peas for $.98 each
    ~S 1 turkey for $11.83 (I believe they are on sale for $.58/lb w/$15 food purchase--this one wasn't actually On The List, but I couldn't pass up a deal---this bird will be in many meals!)
    ~2 heads garlic $1.08
    ~Romaine $2.19
    ~Mushrooms $1.98 (I saw on Dr. Oz the other day how you can sub chopped mushrooms for half of your ground beef 1:1 and it's an extender and good for you. I'm going to try it! I've read that mushrooms can be a food source of vitamin D and we definitely need that up here in often-overcast OH!)
    ~Bag onions $4.99 (drat, I think I grabbed the wrong bag!)
    ~S Sweet potatoes $.67/lb--$1.91 to make sweet potato fries/add into roasted veggies or for a quick lunch for me
    ~Honeycrisp apples (ok, these were a splurge--tired of Red/Golden Delicious blahness) $6.20 for 5 apples (!) but better than soda, chips, or fast food, right?

    Total came to $53.03

    Which leaves me with $2.63 for the month.

    I think the only thing I may absolutely NEED to get before the end of the month is eggs. The pastured eggs cost more than what is left of my food allowance for the month, so I may end up going to the local grocery and getting a dozen to tide us over. That is, if my  husband and I eat through the 10 eggs we have in the fridge between now and the end of the month. And if I do any baking.

    Although, this may be a good time to try some egg substitute options.

    We shall see...

    The ironic thing is that I have purchased 2 turkeys this month to the tune of about $23.45. I didn't NEED them for this month, and probably won't actually cook them this month. They were purchased as sort of an investment for the future months, if that makes sense.  I'll cook them on a cold, snowy day in the wintertime.  If I'd not gotten those turkeys, I'd have plenty of money left for eggs! (still, not very sorry I got the turkeys. Some things are just worth it in the long run!)

    I am still going to strive to stay within my budget. I will endeavor to persevere! :)

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    November 2011, Week 2: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    As promised, I am updating with my menu plan, as well as another shopping trip to "big town" while I happened to already be there getting some other needs (why does softener salt have to be so expensive in the town closest to me?).

    3 cans refried beans .89, 2@1.29
    Diamond Almonds 1.09, 5.99
    Juice 2.79
    Gum 1.39
    2 Stonyfield yogurts @ 3.79 ea
    2 rice pasta 3.99 ea
    gf tortillas 4.49
    Ham shanks 4.78 (one for the beans in the menu, one to freeze for later)
    OG milk 6.29 (picked one with the most distant use by date)
    2 burritos(my lunch) 2.19 ea
    Daisy Sour Cream 2.29
    Cershey dark cocoa 2.69
    2 large boxes OF Oats 5.98
    6 frozen orange juices @ 2.$3
    2 sherbets@ 1.50 ea
    3 cans of olives $1 ea
    large bag string cheese (got the light kind so the kids would stay out of them, hehe--they're for hubby mainly) 5.99
    Walnuts 6.49
    cashews 6.99

    Total came to 95.66

    Last total: $143.83 - 95.66 = $48.17 left for the month

    I have pretty much everything I need for the main menu for the rest of the month. I suspect I will need to buy milk, lettuce, and perhaps eggs by the end of the month. And maybe some loss leaders if I feel I might have enough for that.

    Menu for Nov. 14-30

    • Chicken in the oven with roasted veggies and mashed potatoes
    • Enchiladas (with leftover chicken from above, or beef)
    • 3 x Tuna Sandwiches with apples/cut up veggies on the side, pickles and perhaps chips
    • Ham and Beans and Cornbread
    • Cheeseburger Pizza
    • (Crockpot?) Chicken Spaghetti OR Macaroni and Cheese, veggies on the side
    • Liver and Onions(we'll see how this goes over...), Mac and Cheese as a cop-out side dish...broccoli
    • Turkey Veggie Soup?
    • Crockpot Beans seasoned and mashed to make Burritos with our many tortillas(and my GF tortillas above for me)
    • Biscuits and Gravy(going to try using a standard recipe with some GF flour mix)
    • Chicken done some new way, veggies, Rice

    November 2011, Week 2: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    Here are my purchases at the local grocery and the health food store:

    Local grocery:
    2 ice creams $2.98 each
    10 bags frozen veggies $1 each
    3 boxes Chex for $5
    3 packs pudding cups $.88 each
    2 bags white tortilla chips $2.59 each
    2 packages chicken parts, $4.64 and $5.28
    Pork sausage $3.18
    2 heads lettuce $.88 each
    2 5 lb bags apples $3.99 ea
    pack mushrooms $1.98

    Total came to $53.60

    Health Food Store:
    4 boxes tea $3.39, $4.25, $4.29, $3.59
    2 half-gallons Organic Valley milk $4.89 ea
    Fermented Pickles (Bubbies) $5.49
    Pastured Butter $4.49
    Raw Honey $3.58
    Cacao Nibs $2.58

    Total came to $41.44 left from last shop $243.87 - $53.60 - $41.44 = $143.83 left for the month.

    I will work on my menu for the rest of the month and post it soon!

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    November 2011, Week 2: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    Updating today on spending since the last post on this topic.

    I went to the health food store, Dollar General, and the deep-discount grocery store.

    Health food store: $42.81
    Grassfed Ground beef and beef liver 5.72, 3.63, Namaste GF flour $10.99, 2 dozen eggs 3.35 ea, 5# bag carrots $5.99, 2 half-gallons milk 4.89 ea

    Dollar General: $8.74
    3 bags Fritos (buy 2 @ $2.95/get 1 free), Cocoa Pebbles $2.50, Trident $1
    (Incidently, I printed off and used a $5 off $25 coupon from the Dollar General site--helped trim down household expenses a bit! They seem to offer these on a regular basis.)

    Deep Discount Grocery Store: $42.43
    This store doesn't label the items on the receipt and I just put stuff away w/o writing it all down. Off the top of my head, we got: 4 boxes granola bars, 3 bags Lenders bagels, 4 bags mini whole wheat bagels, 2 boxes LIFE cereal, 3 jars of organic juice, a pound of butter, 5 8oz bags shredded cheese, box of frozen corn dogs, 3 lbs dried black eyed peas(for hubby to plant next spring), soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, 1 small can Bush's Baked Beans, 2 lbs brown sugar(Domino), 2 pkg Kraft Singles (though I thought I'd put 3 in my cart, as well as a can of Ready-Whip), mini marshmallows, and a can of International House of Coffee mix.

    Last tally: $337.85- $42.81-8.74-42.43= $243.87 left for the month

    There are some good loss-leader deals at the local grocery that I might pick up this week, along with Tortilla chips... and I will probably need to get more milk by the end of the week as well.

    My dinner menu for the week looks like this:

    Monday: Venison Roast(may cut into steaks), mashed potatoes or fries, sauteed cabbage and onions, maybe salad
    Tuesday: Ground Beef (or maybe venison from roast above) stir-fry with broccoli, carrots and rice
    Wednesday: Sandwiches-nut butter, Fritos, cut up apples or carrots
    Thursday: Hamburgers, Coleslaw, Carrot sticks, homemade freezer pickles
    Friday: Beef Nachos-seasoned browned ground beef over white corn tortilla chips (that I need to buy still)
    Saturday: Pizza?

    Snacks: Dried/fresh apples, homemade popcorn, zucchini brownies, granola bars, "cheesy tortillas", pb bagels
    Breakfasts: eggs, oatmeal, granola, cereal, "cheesy tortillas", bagels with nut butter
    Lunches: leftovers, eggs and sauteed veggies/rice depending on what's in the fridge, nut butter sandwich

    RECIPE: Another Healthy Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

    Last year, I posted a recipe for Healthier Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix.
    Today, I am posting another recipe that I think I like even better--especially since I can't find the Ghirardelli Hot Cocoa Mix now.

    In my experience, most homemade cocoa mixes seem to not mix up very well in the cup, and little bits of stuff end up floating around and leaving a mess in the cup when you are finished drinking.

    I have been making this particular recipe for hubby since January, using regular cocoa and Splenda instead of sugar for his low-carbness (I know, *sigh*).  When I made it the last two times I used the Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa (more antioxidants and all that jazz). Hubby informed me that his cocoa no longer had clumps--I am glad he informed me, or I would have never known to share!

    This morning, I made myself an experimental cup using sugar instead of Splenda and it came out wonderfully!

    So here it is:

    Another Healthy Homemade Hot Cocoa
    1 cup powdered milk
    1/2 cup sugar (I use cane sugar)
    1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder

    Measure the above into a suitable storage container (I used an old cocoa container). Put the lid on and shake to combine. 
    Use about 3 TB per 12 oz. cup, or to taste.

    I like to measure my dry mix into my cup, fill the cup just over halfway with hot water and stir it up, then top off with milk to make it creamier.

    Alternative recipe--If you want to try it before you commit to making a full container:
    Combine 4 teaspoons powdered milk, 2 teaspoons Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, and 2 teaspoons of sugar in your cup, add hot water (and milk, if desired). Stir and enjoy!


    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    November 2011, Week 1: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    It's the start of a new month! Let's see if I can manage to feed my family of 5 for $450 this month!

    I have gone through my cupboards and written a rough menu for the next two weeks.
    I have looked through the sales flyer for the local grocery store and written down the best deals for our family.
    I have written the grocery list with the items from the sales flyer that I plan to get, as well as the other items I need to fill out the menu.
    I went to the grocery store today. I will probably go to the health food store later this week/early next week to get a few items that I can't get at the local grocery store.

    Here's what I got at the local grocery store: (S=sale item)

    S-1 block muenster cheese, 2 blocks sharp cheddar $7.50 (should have gotten more at last week's sale!)

    6 packages of tortillas $11.94 (oops, these were supposed to be the 10/$10 ones-gotta pay attention at the register!)
    9 grain bread $3.99
    100% wheat bread $2.39
    12 grain bread $3.99 (I plan on doing a taste test with the 3 breads to see which one the kids like best)
    Whole grain hamburger buns $1.69 (passed up the sale $1 buns for these)

    Black Jewel popcorn kernels $7.49
    Jalapeno mustard $1
    S-Domino sugar $2.99
    box English tea $3.19
    Unbleached flour $3.69

    S-5 packs of Handi-Snacks pudding $5
    S-2 packs of Nestle hot chocolate $2

    large jar of Nutella $7.29
    S-1 can olives $1
    S-2 cans spinach $2
    S-3 cans yams $3
    S-3 cans of pumpkin $3
    markdown can of Bush's beans $1

    S-Turkey (88c/lb) $11.62

    Bananas $1.46
    head cabbage $2.09
    head lettuce $1.49
    S-mushrooms $1.50
    S-5# onions $2.50
    Sweet potatoes $1.34
    S-16 lbs potatoes for $4

    S-12 bags of frozen veggies $12

    Total came to $112.15

    $450-112.15 = $337.85 left for the month

    Menu for the next two weeks:
    Breakfasts: Eggs, Oatmeal, Cereal left from last month, toast with peanut butter/nutella, "cheesy tortillas", zucchini or Spinach Quiche if I get around to it
    Lunches for me/dh(kids do school lunches): Leftovers from Supper, regular/sweet potato with toppings, almond butter on Udi's bread...
    Snacks: pudding, bananas, apples(fresh or dried), tangerines, popcorn, frozen peas/carrots, Chex mix, cheese, Halloween candy (hehe)
    ~Mexican Pizza (tortillas, refried beans/salsa/cheese/olives/sour cream)
    ~Roasted Chicken Thighs/beets/squash from the garden/mashed potatoes?
    ~Lentils/Rice or some sort (Dahl?)
    ~Runzas/Runza guts for those of us gf/low-carb, probably with a salad
    ~Homemade Pizza (pepperoni/mushroom/basil from freezer-I will use the remaining Udi's crust I have left from last month for me)
    ~Enchiladas (chicken or beef, haven't decided yet, have masa harina in the freezer to try making corn tortillas with fewer questionable ingredients)
    ~Stir-fry, probably beef with broccoli and carrots, over rice
    ~Sandwich night-probably peanut butter or tuna or hummus
    ~Hamburgers, mac 'n cheese, Tailgate salad or cole slaw
    ~Beefy Nachos (need to buy tortilla chips before I make this)
    ~Venison roast(possibly made into steaks/stew meat instead), mashed potatoes, corn
    ~Beans/cornbread-maybe a Green Chili?
    ~Chicken noodle soup--perhaps something intentionally made more immune-boosting like Ginger Mushroom Chicken Soup made using frozen veggies I purchased today, pasta I have on hand, and homemade chicken broth from the freezer
    ~One weekend meal will probably be a canned soup, since I have some in my stash that we need to use up

    Allergy Update November 1, 2011

    Since today marks the beginning of a new month, I decided to update my readers on how I am feeling allergy-wise since my last BaxAura appointment.

    I feel very good lately! I am still doing the gluten-free and tomato-free thing, and I feel that it is paying off and helping my body to further heal.  I am trying to stay on top of taking a probiotic (preferably in the form of homemade kefir) fairly regularly, and have also been taking digestive enzymes when I feel the need, which do wonders.  I even ate out last weekend and did not have any repercussions!

    So there you have it, my little positive update. :)

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    RECIPES: Gluten-Free Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

    With the cooler temperatures and fall weather, I have been craving comfort food. I have heard rave reviews recently on Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti, and decided to try making a gluten-free version.

    Since this is an experiment, and it's only me and my little girl here for dinner tonight, I halved Pioneer Woman's recipe.  Here is what I did:

    Gluten-Free Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
    ~1 1/2-2 cups of cooked chicken (I used what I had taken off of the chicken last week and frozen in some homemade broth made from the same chicken)
    ~half a package of Tinkyada brown rice pasta, broken into 2-3 inch pieces
    ~1 box Pacific Foods Condensed Cream of Mushroom soup(you could use Cream of Chicken instead)
    ~1 8oz block of cheese, shredded (reserve enough to top off the casserole)
    ~1/4 cup + diced green pepper
    ~1/4 cup diced onion
    ~1 cup or so of chicken broth
    ~1/2 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt 
    ~1/16-1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
    ~Salt and Pepper to taste
    ~A sprinkling of paprika (because I don't stock pimentos in the house, and thought I needed some red color to add pizzaz)

    1. Boil your spaghetti until a little al dente (because you will be cooking it further in the oven), preferably in homemade chicken broth (unsalted or lightly salted) or in a mix of commercial stock cut with water to reduce salt content in your cooked noodles.
    2. Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except for reserved cheese for the top). 
    3. Add spaghetti noodles once they are cooked, and add enough water to allow the mixture to stir easily.
    4. Pour into greased casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.

    5. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is a bit browned.


    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    October 2011, Week 4: Can I really feed a family of five for $450/month?

    After 3 days of being homebound with a sick child, I finally made it out to run to the store. I've really been holding out for the health food store, as they carry the foods I do best with. They are open Monday nights, but somehow that didn't work out so I had to wait until today to go.

    I decided to go ahead and use up the remainder of my $450 for the month. Some/much of this I will be using next month.

    Here's what I got:

    Health Food Store
    3 dozen eggs $3.35/dozen
    2 half-gallons Organic Valley milk $4.89 each
    huge bag of gf oatmeal $9.51
    Udi's bread (the kind with millet/chia) $5.49 (had a 1.50 coupon for this one!)
    2 pkg of pastured ground beef $5.35 and $5.89

    Total came to $44.56

    Local Grocery
    3 cheeses @ 2/$3
    La Creme coffee creamer marked down to .79
    package of whole wheat tortillas for the kids $2.69 (bummed that they don't carry ones w/o partially hydrogenated oils)
    4 bags frozen broccoli $1/ea
    1 bag frozen peas (son #1 will be thrilled) $1

    Rice Chex $3.99
    ground beef $3.05 and $3.16

    2 heads lettuce $1.28 ea
    bulb of garlic $.56
    bag of onions $1.99
    3# bag of tangelos $2.99

    -2.50 store coupon

    Total came to $28.78

    So....from last shopping trip, I had $72.99 to work with. 

    $72.99 - $44.56 - 28.78 = -$.35

    Ok, I went over. Should have not gotten that impulse coffee creamer, huh?

    But, it's pretty close, and I can almost say I did it! I don't plan on another trip to the store before the end of the month.

    With my oats, I can now make next month's GF granola. With the Chex, I can make another batch or two of GF Chex mix (I still have some GF pretzels from earlier this month).  I suppose I could have waited until next month to get these things, but it's rainy today and I feel like turning on the oven and making something! :)

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    October 2011, Week 4: Can I really feed a family of five for $450/month?

    Well, it's week 4. :)
    Last Friday I went to the store and got the following:

    2 Gallons rbgh-free milk $5
    2 packages of cheddar cheese $3.29 ea
    4 tubes of Grand's Biscuits (couldn't pass up at 50 cents/each!)
    Marshmallows $1.89
    3 cans baked beans $2.15 ea
    Trident 1.29
    Can olives 1.59
    pork sausage 2.05
    18 lbs apples for $15
    Head lettuce $1.49
    2 jugs cider $3.99 each
    pack of mushrooms $1.98

    I had $1.55 in coupons.

    Total came to $51.75

    So....Last week's total left: $124.74 - $51.75 = $72.99 left for the month

    I plan to dry most of the apples I bought. Used much of the baked beans/marshmallows/cider in a weekend gathering.

    I had a sick kiddo yesterday and she's home again today, so that makes me essentially homebound from going shopping (especially at the health food store, which closes before hubby gets home). I do want to pick up a few things...probably use the rest of my alotted amount up there as we are near the end of the month.

    The menu for this week looks like this:

    Monday: Biscuits and gravy (took advantage of the cheap biscuits and milk...for me, I had sausage, some leftover green beans/mushrooms from the fridge, and some canned peaches from the pantry. Had my little miss not been sick, I would have gotten some more GF baking mix and made myself some GF biscuits and used a GF thickener in the gravy and had biscuits and gravy with the rest of the family...).

    Tuesday: Hamburgers, Salad, perhaps Tailgate Salad, Garlicky Pasta (to help fend off the sickies)

    Wednesday: Sandwiches, cut up apples or Apple Salad?, Cole Slaw?

    Thursday: Pinto Beans and ? (Tamale Pie?), Tortilla Chips?

    Friday: Maybe leftovers, since the kids will likely be away that night...we'll see. I do have chicken and broccoli and carrots in the freezer...and rice, if I do need to make a full meal...

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    October 2011, Week 3: Can I really feed a family of 5 on $450/month?

    So it's Week 3 of my little trial.

    On Monday, I re-evaluated my menu and wrote a short list of things I needed from the store for this week.

    I purchased the following from the health food store:

    4 boxes of herbal tea $3.49-$3.59 each
    2 half-gallons of Organic milk $4.89 each
    half pound of pastured butter $4.49
    Dozen local pastured eggs $3.35
    Total came to $31.88

    So....last week's tally showed I had $124.74 left for the month.

    $124.74-$31.88= $92.86 left for the month

    The breakfast selection is narrowing a lot, which is causing some of my kids to balk. Oh well, they still have options (which I don't really deem a necessary thing to provide) and they haven't chosen to go hungry yet! ;) I may make some muffins for the kids today...

     Rather than hamburgers last Thursday, I made a sort of enchilada casserole using a recipe working from the bag of corn tortillas, some cheese, ground beef, a can of green chilies, leftover sour cream/chipotle sour cream that was begging me to use it up...and a box of my gf Pacific Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup. It was a hit! (and no tomatoes!)

    ~Monday night we had the MuShu Beef(actually, venison) and Cabbage over Rice
    ~Tonight is Roasted Chicken and Roasted veggies (planning on making bone broth with the carcass)
    ~Wednesday night is Tuna Sandwiches, cut up apples and oranges, and part of our token bag of potato chips (Probably Tuna and GF crackers for me since I only have one slice of Udi's regular bread left...for some reason I don't think Tuna salad would be good on cinnamon raisin bread!)
    ~Thursday night is going to be Hamburgers, maybe a Tailgate salad (which I might double for our gathering on Saturday) and I'm thinking about making a big pot of baked beans to go with it or even have instead of the hamburgers--especially if I get around to making cornbread!
    ~Friday is Nachos, using the other pound of venison/onions I browned last night
    ~For our Saturday gathering, we are contributing a cold dish and a hot dish... still brainstorming, but am thinking maybe a white/green chili utilizing the leftover chicken meat, and Tailgate Salad? Or maybe instead of tailgate salad, I will bake a cake with one of the boxes of regular cake mix I still have around here...or...GF Crustless Pumpkin Pie?

    So, that leaves a few things to work with for next week's menu:
    ~Venison Roast
    ~Chicken thighs
    ~Beans/Lentils and Rice/Cornbread
    ~Something Simple with quick clean-up --Church Game Night

    My garden is offering up the following for me to incorporate into our menu: Beets, Butternut Squash, Chard, Kale.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Help Support our Scouts! (And our Military!)

    Our two sons are in Cub Scouts and are currently selling Trails End popcorn products to raise money for their various activities.

    Now, you may ask "Why would I, a ______-allergic person, buy this stuff?" don't have to bring the stuff into your house. Instead, you can give money towards popcorn that will then be sent to our Military. Support the Scouts AND our Military troops? Sounds like a plan!

    Or, if you are one of the fortunate and don't have to worry about food allergies, you can certainly order some popcorn and it will be delivered to your door! :)

    Either way, if you are interested, the details are in the links below:

    Son #1: Webelo

    Son #2: Bear Scout

    Thanks for your support! :)

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    RECIPE: Crustless Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

    I don't particularly like to make regular pie crust, much less try to figure out how to make one Gluten-free.  At least not at this stage in the game.  For me, pumpkin pie is all about the pumpkin flavor mingling with all those spices.The following recipe satisfies that craving.

    I was going to type out the recipe I've been using, but then realized that I am using it exactly as I found it. I don't want to plagiarize/steal someone's recipe, so...

    Here's the link to the Crustless, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie.  Many thanks to Shirley Braden for sharing her recipe and her awesome blog! :)

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    October 2011, Week 2: Can I really feed a family of 5 on $450/month?...Week 2, Shopping Report

    According to my last grocery shopping post, I have $176.97 to work with for the rest of the month.

    I went to the local grocery recently, and purchased:

    ~Wheat Sub Rolls (for "fancy" sandwiches) $2.99
    ~2 loaves of whole wheat/high fructose corn syrup-free bread $4.78

    ~box of marked down (but not expired) Gluten-Free Chex cereal $2.00
    ~bag of marshmallows $1 (thinking of maybe inventing a Chex marshmallow crispy treat - the Cocoa Pebbles treats worked great for camping/hiking last weekend)

    ~2 bags of white corn tortilla chips $5 (for nachos or taco salad or dipping in homemade Hummus)
    ~bag of popcorn (seeds) $1.49

    ~2 Gallons rbgh-free 2% milk $6.98

    ~2 heads of cabbage $1.66 and $1.70
    ~2 bags of carrots $3
    ~Celery hearts $2.69 (less waste)
    ~Romaine Salad mix $2.49
    ~head of Garlic $.52
    ~3-3lb bags of apples $8.97 (going to dry 2 bags of them and eat the others fresh)
    ~1 head Romaine $1.99
    ~box of mushrooms $1.98
    ~bag of oranges $2.99

    Total came to $52.23

    So, previous total of $176.97 - $52.23 = $124.74 left for the rest of the month!

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    October 2011, Week 2: Can I really feed a family of 5 on $450/month?...Working on the menu

    Here is what was/is on the menu for last week and this week.  Saturdays are either leftover days or something cheap like a pot of beans and a side of cornbread. Sundays we often go to the in-law's for a big lunch and then in the evening I serve up things like sandwiches, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, cut up fruit/veggies....and often pop popcorn to share as we watch a show together.

    Breakfasts are either cereal or bagels that we were able to get relatively cheap, or eggs....hubby and generally have oatmeal.  It's rather crazy on school mornings getting everyone ready to go out the door on time, and I am not a morning person, so I generally put a selection of stuff out on the table so I can do Ivy's curly hair w/o having to police breakfast. Breakfast isn't an everyone-at-the-table-together meal around here.

    So, that leaves the weeknights.

    Last Week's Menu:

    ~Turkey Burgers, Roasted potatoes, Sauteed green beans and Romaine Salad
    ~Crockpot Beans and GF Cornbread
    ~Sandwiches (Mine on Udi's Bread, kids on whole wheat bread) and potato chips
    ~Beef Stew, garlic toast (made from all the end pieces of bread that the kids turn their nose up at-I save them in a bag in the freezer for such a time as this, hehe)
    ~My plan for this night was to make "Big Sandwiches", using homemade/deli bread....but we ended up going camping and didn't eat this this night. However, I brought most of the ingredients for this meal on our camping trip and we ate it then. :)

    This week's menu:

    ~Monday--got back from camping and tired and putting away and etc.--Mac 'n Cheese for the kids, Romaine Salad for hubby and I, Brats/half pack of hot dogs (still had leftovers), and a sweet potato w/butter/sour cream on the side for me.
    ~Crockpot Broccoli Beef over Rice
    ~Sandwiches--may be peanut butter, or tuna...have to see how much lunchmeat we have left
    ~Hamburgers or Brats, Salad, Pumpkin Pie, Ice Cream (for hubby's Birthday)
    ~Pizza (mine will be w/an Udi's GF crust, kids/dh will be homemade crust). Pepperoni and mushroom, banana peppers if there are any left in the garden. Maybe I will try butternut again (though hubby won't eat it...Ivy will, though!)

    For the remaining 2 weeks, these are the meals that I have stuff for already...will have to go to the store again to fill it out- () is what I need to buy still...

    ~Crockpot Venison Roast and Veggies (Carrots, Garlic, Celery)
    ~MuShu Beef & Cabbage over Rice (Cabbage)
    ~Runzas/Runza "pie"/Runza guts over rice (can't decide/haven't figured out how to do a good GF Runza) (Cabbage)
    ~Brats/Hot Dogs, Mac 'n Cheese for kids, Salad, Sweet Potato with butter/sour cream for me and whoever else will eat it
    ~Sandwiches X 2
    ~Hamburgers (buns/bread) and Tailgate Salad (celery)
    ~Nachos/Taco Salad (Tortilla Chips, Lettuce)
    ~Roasted Chicken/Roasted OG Potatoes....(Salad)
    ~One more meal...

    I need to go to the store today and pick up Milk and some produce.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Octover 2011, Week 1: Can I really feed a family of 5 on $450/month?...Continued

    I went to the local health food store to get the items to fill out the other chunk of my grocery list.

    Yes, the food there is Expensive. But it's local, and it's stuff I can't get anywhere else!

    Here is what I got (I may have some of my bulk item prices mixed up, as my receipt doesn't label the bulk stuff):

    ~Whole Pastured Chicken $14.91--yes, that's for 1 bird. After raising our own from chick to dinnerplate, I almost don't blink at the price here, though.  Pastured=a bird that contains omega 3. Besides, I plan on using this bird for at least 3 meals. $5/meal for meat for a family of 5 isn't half bad.
    ~2 pkg pastured beef stew meat $6.71, $7.10
    ~2 dozen pastured eggs $3.35 ea
    ~Parsley $.73
    ~Organic cornmeal $3.11
    ~Extra Virgin coconut oil $9.89
    ~Raw Organic Pumpkin seeds $1.10
    ~Dry Garbanzo beans $1.11
    ~Udi's bread(GF) $5.29
    ~Udi's pizza crust(GF) $5.29
    ~Tub of honey $3.56
    ~Olive Leaf tea-to drink/give to family if they're fighting something $6.99

    Total: $72.49

    So, previous total of $249.46 - $72.49 = $176.97 left

    I will post my Menu Plan soon! (Maybe by the week...we'll see!)  :)

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    October 2011, Week 1: Can I really feed a family of 5 on $450/month?

    As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I want to keep track of what I buy for a month and see if I can do it for our family of 5 for $450 or less this month.

    I will give lots of boring details, like lists of what I bought, because the details do matter(to those who care). :)

    1. I made a rough menu with what we have on hand in the house. Not sure this is cheating, but it's what I do every month...and I didn't go over last month (had $1.05 left over even, hehe) it's not like I bought a ton in September to make October's food bill look like less, know what I mean? 

    2. Make a Shopping List I like to use the Real Simple Weekday Meal Plan and Shopping List to assist me with my menu planning, and to make a shopping list of what I still need(ed) to buy in order to make those meals.

    For our family, we tend to eat the same things for breakfasts (oatmeal, cereal bought at a good price, yogurt, bagels bought at a good price, eggs), and lunches tend heavily towards leftovers, so I plan mainly for the main meals and tack the breakfast items and snack items we may need onto my grocery list at the end (the Miscellaneous section of the list above is a good spot for this).

    3. Go Shopping.
    The whole family went to Walmart this weekend. This is a rare occurance, as we rarely go grocery shopping together, especially at the overcrowded Walmart on a Saturday. But it is what it is. I'm being rather transparent here. :)

    Except for the rare awesome deal, stick to your list! This is imperative!

    Here is the food I got so far:


    Rice Chex (to make homemade Chex mix) $2.28
    Pretzels(GF-for my portion of the Chex Mix) $6.523 large boxes Old Fashioned Oats $2.48 each
    Crackers (GF) $2.98
    2-2lb bags brown rice $3.14 each

    Pumpkin Seeds $1.98
    Sunflower seeds $1.24

    2 pkg Oscar Mayer Nitrate-free hotdogs $2.38 each
    4 pkg Brats (yeah, I know, real healthy! /sarcasm and I'm not sure they are GF) $2.50 each
    2 bags frozen 85/15 hamburgers $7.98 each
    Pepperoni for pizza $3.24

    Ice Cream- $3.48, $2.98, $2.88 for upcoming birthday party
    Ice Cream Cones $1.38

    1 jar Salsa $1.98
    Baked beans $1.38
    Baked Beans $1.98

    Dark Baking Cocoa $2.78
    Regular  Baking Cocoa $2.48
    Chocolate Chips $7.58
    Extra Light Olive Oil $6.48

    2 quarts organic yogurt $3.24 each

    2 gallons Organic milk $6.18 each
    Sour Cream $1.58
    Whipped topping $3.48
    Sliced cheese $2.28
    Muenster $2.68

    Cheese $2.28

    2 cans frozen OJ w/Calcium  $1.08each

    Potato Chips (planned for lunches) $1.98
    4 loaves Arnold bread (hfcs free) for lunches $1.98 each
    Hormel Naturals Salami, 2 Turkey, Ham lunchmeat $2.50 each
    Pickles $2.64

    Romaine hearts $2.78
    Gala Apples $4.84
    Mushrooms $1.78
    Sweet potatoes $2.07
    Organic Potatoes $3.48

    Smurf "animal" cookies for school class $1.50 on closeout

    3 Lunchables for the kids $3.48

    Lays .98
    Skittles 1.18
    3 bowls ramen (impulse buy for kids) $.50 ea
    Jenni-O Turkey Burgers (bad impulse purchase--but they are GF at least...) $6.28
    Pepperoni snacks $2.98 
    Total came to $194.19

    Dollar General (a few days later):
    Cocoa Pebbles(one of the few GF mainstream cereals...not health food, but will make into 'rice crispy' treats for upcoming camping trip) $2.50
    Craisins $1.85
    Pretzels (for the kids' portion of the Chex mix) $1.00
    Gum $1.00

    Total came to $6.35

    So.....$450-194.19-6.35= $249.46 left
    As you can see, I gave in to the Impulse Monster at Walmart ($13 worth!). *sigh*

    And...I won't say that brats and hot dogs and turkey burgers are "healthy"... I think I should have shopped local and gotten meats closer to the original form...but I'm being transparent and this is what it's looking like so far. I will be doing more shopping, and will strive for Healthier then (and will note again this reminder of why I try not to shop at Walmart-because I give in to the "deals" and buy junk, lol!)

    4.  Make your Official Menu.
    Here's the menu plan I have for the next few weeks.  As you can see, it's still a work in progress.

    I like to put it on a calendar so I can just look at the calendar on the wall to see what I will be preparing for the meal of the day. Loose papers tend to get lost around here, what with all the school papers that come in our door!

    I tend to check off the meals as we have them. This allows me to "change it up" a bit if I so desire and not wonder whether we have the needed items for the meals.

    BaxAura and General Gluten-Free Update

    My allergies have generally been pretty good. Sunday I had a little bit more intermittent enviro(I think-it was usually when I was in our vehicle)-induced throat itching, but overall I am doing very well in that department.

    I am still getting over the "Glutening" from last week. It's rather weird, but I have gotten a hiatal hernia that has decided to present itself possibly as a result of my gluten exposure.  This happened to me last year as well, and the chiro was able to adjust me and I was fine until a few weeks ago. Yesterday I went in for a chiro adjustment and she adjusted me again and it was great for the rest of the day... I wonder too if it might be a response to something environmental at this time of year....

    I had brought in something I had suspected might be a trigger food(and wasn't), and my polarity was blocked again! Ugh! It was an easy fix, but I still wonder why the blocking?

    So there it is, my little update. :)

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    BaxAura and General Gluten-Free Update

    Last week, I went in for my BaxAura appointment, to see how I was doing. My allergies are very minimal now, thanks partly to the weather being rainy (although others are still complaining about allergies) and partly due to my homeopathics actually working. My polarity was just fine this time around, and my allergies are very minimal. She ran my bottle through the machine and told me to finish it up and I didn't need to make another appointment unless I felt the need.

    So, I am dutifully finishing my bottle--3 sprays, 3 times a day.  Sometimes I forget, unlike those few weeks where I was desperate for it to work...

    On to my Gluten-Free Update...
    I seem to be doing pretty well with the gut healing, Gluten-free eating. Unfortunately, I ate something this weekend that did not agree with me, and it's taking a few days for my system to recuperate.  So many places to watch for Gluten when it's not all under one's control/in one's own kitchen! Aah!

    Also, I have slacked off on drinking my kefir daily, AND had a few cups of coffee last week that weren't really doing me any favors. How quickly I forget...(but it *was* great coffee!)... And on top of this, spicy food is not my buddy poor gut!

    SO...As of this Monday, I am back on the Gluten-free thing, after my unintended "test" on Sunday. I am drinking homemade Kefir daily (which goes a long way in how I feel and how my gut deals with what I eat), and have made myself a huge pot of beef soup based on the GF Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup recipe I posted recently. Bone broth is also my friend. :) And taking digestive enzymes certainly aren't hurting anything!

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Drying Mushrooms and Onions

    I love the rich, earth taste of mushrooms in a homemade soup or stew. Canned mushrooms are just not the same as fresh, and sometimes fresh mushrooms aren't the easiest thing to have around all the time. So, I'm dehydrating 3 containers' worth of Baby Bella mushrooms I got on sale last week, and since I have two extra trays begging to be filled (and I'm using the electricity anyway), I also chopped up 2 onions and put them on to dry! They are also great for use in soups and such!

    RECIPE: GF Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

    Last year, a dear friend brought over a pot of Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup, a recipe from Taste of Home's Quick Cooking. I decided to try re-vamping it and making it Gluten-Free and see how it turns out.

    I think it is a success! (many thanks to my local Food Store ordering the Pacific Foods Condensed soups for me!)

    GF Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
    1-2 TB oil
    Chopped 1/2 onion, stalk celery, clove of garlic

    1 cup or so carrots and peas
    1 quart homemade chicken broth or stock
    1 quart water
    2 teaspoons sea salt (because I don't always use a lot of salt in my homemade chicken broth)

    2 cups of your GF noodle of choice (I used Tinkyada shells - the 6 1/2 cups of egg noodles in the original recipe seemed a bit much and the 2 cups of Tinkyada was plenty)

    2 boxes Pacific Foods GF condensed Cream of Chicken Soup, undiluted
    3 cups cubed chicken (I used most of a 28oz can of canned chicken)

    1 cup Daisy full-fat Sour Cream
    A sprinkling of dried parsley

    In soup pan, pour in oil and saute veggies.
    Add chicken stock, water, and peas and carrots and bring to a boil. 
    Add noodles and cook, uncovered, until tender. Do not drain.
    Add soup and chicken. Heat through.
    Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.
    Sprinkle with parsley.


    RECIPE: Gluten-Free MuShu Beef with Cabbage and Carrots

    Having a head of cabbage hanging out in my fridge, and a bunch of ground beef in my freezer, I pored through my cookbooks yesterday to come up with a new-to-us recipe that sounded good.  In my Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes, there is a One-Dish Dinners section that has the recipe for Mu Shu-Style Beef & Cabbage Wraps. This was my starting point and inspiration.

    GF MuShu Beef with Cabbage and Carrots
    ~1-2 TB oil (depending on how lean your beef is)

    ~1 pound ground beef
    ~1/2 cup of chopped onion (more or less to taste)
    ~1 clove chopped garlic
    ~1 medium head of cabbage, shredded or cut otherwise according to preference
    ~2 carrots, peeled and shredded
    ~1/4 cup GF Hoisin Sauce (more or less to taste) From what I read online, Dynasty brand is GF, as is Kame brand. Or you could make your own, but I haven't tried yet. 
    ~brown rice

    1. Start your brown rice to cooking (quantity will depend on your family size-we currently use 1 1/2 cups brown rice:3 cups water and it takes 30-40mins depending on rice variety)
    2. Pour oil into pan, along with beef, onion and garlic and brown.
    3. Add shredded cabbage and carrots and cook, stirring ever so often, until tender.
    4. Pour Hoisin Sauce over meat/veggie mixture and stir to combine. Heat through.
    5. Serve over Brown Rice.

    Here's my bowl with the rice mixed in!

    Everyone but my suspicious-of-new-and-different-foods second child ate this with no complaint. Hubby even had seconds and is taking leftovers for lunch today, and there's enough for lunch for two later this week!

    I think this one is a keeper.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Food Journal 9-19-11

    ~PG Tips Loose Leaf Tea with local honey and Organic Valley Half 'n Half
    ~Brown Cow Vanilla Yogurt with Homemade Granola


    ~GF Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup (recipe to come tomorrow!

    ~Coffee with demerara and Organic Valley Whole Milk
    ~2 GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

    ~White Tortilla Chips with Homemade Hummus
    ~Apple Cider

    ~MuShu Beef/Cabbage/Carrots over Brown Rice
    ~A couple of homemade Sweet Freezer Pickles
    ~1 scoop Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

    Does it Really Cost More to Eat Healthier?

    When faced with information showing that people in lower income brackets tend to have more health problems than people in higher income brackets, the comment is often made that this is because the poor can't afford healthy food. That they must resort to cheap, processed "filler" food to feed their families because "Healthy Food is Expensive".

    I realize that there are areas in the United States where there are no grocery stores available, and without the means to drive out of their neighborhood, the people living in these areas are forced to eat from convenience stores/gas stations and fast food joints. This is what has been termed as a Food Desert.  The available "food", while it fills the belly, is not good for the body and everyday consumption is not promoting good health.  The problem here is Availability, and not Cost (because we all know convenience store food is not cheap!).

    Another slant that is not altogether included in the topic of this post is the specific issue of food allergy/intolerances/sensitivities.  I know from personal experience that food allergies and avoiding food allergens (particularly ubiquitous soy and corn) wreak havoc on the food budget. This post does not necessarily include those avoiding corn and soy (and whatever else), but still, some points may be taken from this and later posts to help cut the food budget.  After all, it's partially those allergies that were a driving force to get me to where I am today.

    I would like to present the idea that, given a handful of grocery store/food retail options, it doesn't have to cost more to eat a healthier diet of Real Food.

    But, people will have to change their food choices, curb their old buying habits, not buy in to "deals" that aren't truly deals.  One can't expect a change in their food bill if they don't make changes in their buying habits. :)

    My goal each month is to spend about $450/month on food for our family of 5, which works out to about $100/week. According to the most recent Official USDA Food Plan of July 2011,  my goal/reality is well under the $172/week that the USDA says the average family of my size/ages would(should?) be spending when adhering to their cheapest "Thrifty Plan".  (Frankly, I am boggled by how much the USDA says we should be spending, and don't know what else we would be buying....maybe eating out a LOT more? Not sure. In any case, spending more is not an option in this household.)
    As an aside, here is the link to the USDA's Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals. (though I don't necessarily recommend all of the recipes and guidelines, it can be a help)

    Anyway, so far this month, I am on track. I will be honest and say that some months I do go over my goal. Still, I don't usually come very close to the Thrifty Plan spending, so I think we are still doing well.

    I would like to share my methods of trying to stick to my goal in future blog posts.

    Coming in later to add: I came across an article on WiseGeek today by an author that explains how her family does much the same thing! Thought I would share!