Frugal Meals

So I was hoping to be able to do a post of what my shopping trip was like and what we ate this past week. That is just not going to happen. The fruits have been sick, so Mr Vine and I have been dashing to the store when we can, but not any real formal shopping trip.

I thought that I would share some of the ideas that we typically use.

Breakfast: Oatmeal (made fresh that morning or overnight in the crock pot), homemade granola (lightly doused with milk or a dollop of yogurt), pancakes, dutch oven pancakes, coffee cake, toast, or french toast (on rare occasions).

Lunches: Leftovers, soups, pasta, loaded baked potatoes, pbj, hummus sandwiches, quesadillas w/ re-fried beans and rice, grilled cheese, homemade pizzas, breakfast for lunch, hot dogs, dal and rice, and lunch meat sandwiches (rare occasions)

Dinners: pasta, tacos, fajitas, chili. chicken and rice casserole, bean/ sausage/ spinach soup, lasagna soup, taco soup, white chicken chili, 2 meal roast (split into 2 meals 1 pot roast other bbq beef, or Asian beef w/ noodles), chicken Caesar salad sandwiches, Egyptian Lentil Soup, Sausage w/ peppers & onions (served w/ rice or couscous),Swedish meatballs, risotto, gnocchi, philly steak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, and blts.

Snacks: fruit, yogurt, veggies & dip, cheese, bread w/ butter, popcorn, and homemade cookies

Meal Planning

I’m going to be up front and honest, I hate meal planning. It is so laborious. I am not the type A person, I can be to some extent, but I love to have the freedom to go with the flow. The freedom to give in to the whims of my cravings. When those cravings come a knockin’ it’s hard for me to ignore. This has been one of those weeks, nothing has sounded good. I’ve slugged my way through the week, and to be honest I have slipped up big time this week. Oh well, today is a new day to start fresh.

So when I do meal plan I give myself grace, I think that is where I failed this week. Having a few ready to go meals (preferably homemade, so much cheaper!) stocked in the freezer or pantry help when the day gets away from you or your original meal no longer sounds tasty.

I use a method which is referred to as reverse meal planning, when I am not on a kick to clean out the freezer and pantry (more on how I adjust for that). I use to meal plan by picking all these fabulous meals, that would call for gobs of ingredients I didn’t have on hand (thanks pinterest!). I would dutifully write out my grocery list, filled with items that I would only use a fraction of (spices, exotic veggies/ fruits anyone?) Then after a week or so these moldy odds and ends would get pitched or the spices shoved in the back of my spice drawer to be forgotten. My grocery bill was crazy! So I tried a new plan.

On Sundays I get the circulars of the local grocery stores delivered (free!) to my house. After church I take a few quiet minutes to peruse them. I jot down all the food that we like that is on sale and at what store. Now for those of you that hate shopping at multiple stores, I don’t blame you, but sometimes (when your budget is tight) you have to. Thankfully I can typically go to 1 store and get everything I need. Once I find the sales, I look at what I currently have to see what I can make based on what I have and what is on sale. I make a meal plan based on this. I do take to pinterest if my creative juices get clogged (I guess you redeemed yourself here pinterest!)

That is it! So basically unless an item is an absolute staple (i.e. milk, butter, eggs, etc.) I will not purchase it if it isn’t on sale. For example: I hardly ever pay more than $1.99/ lb for chicken breasts. In fact I know that if I am patient enough I can get chicken breasts at my favorite store for $1.77/lb. When they run that sale, I stock up baby! I love grassfed beef, but it is so EXPENSIVE! Again at the same store they will run it on sale for $3.99/lb (everywhere else sells it for $6/lb), I even was able to get it for $2.99/lb once ūüėÄ I won’t pay more than $2.99/lb for roasts (beef), but I live for when they put it on sale for $1.99/lb.

This is where knowing what items typically cost when not on sale, and what the typical sales are, comes in handy. Again I am not a type A personality. I love lists, lists do not love me. In fact they typically run away from me….er get lost…or thrown away or destroyed by the fruits. So if you are like me and you are blessed to have a smart phone, take a picture. Sounds nerdy I know, but it works. Someone recently asked me if the organic maple syrup at Costco was cheaper than the regular maple syrup at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know! I hadn’t looked at their maple syrup in a while, in fact I hadn’t been to Trader Joe’s in a few months. As fate would have it I need to go to TJ’s a few weeks later. I took a picture of the maple syrup with the price listed below. Then on my next trip to Costco I compared the price. Costco was $2-$3 cheaper! I was so glad that I took that picture because I had run out of maple syrup that week.

So what do you do when your money is really strained or you just need to come up with a little extra cash? Cut the groceries of course! Typically you have to cut money some where (or make more income) and groceries (when you are already on a bare necessities budget) is what gets cut. I sat down and meal planned 4 weeks worth of meals based on my freezer and pantry, then allotted myself $50/ week. It is similar to the above, but the emphasis is on using what you have 1st before buying the sale items. Typically I have my meal plan already written out based on what I have before I even look at the sales. So my grocery list is mainly staples (milk, eggs, etc.) and then only fruits and veggies that are on a great sale. As a sample here is what I purchased this past week:

12 lbs chicken breasts ($1.77/lb!), asparagus, peppers, lettuce, peaches, 2 pineapples, bananas, onions,  3 boxes of pasta, 1 rotisserie chicken, soda (yeah bad habit that needs kicking), and baby food.

My total was $60 for this week, I allowed myself to go over because of the sale on chicken breasts. I only had enough food to get through the 4 weeks on $50, but I really needed to get through 6 weeks. Purchasing the extra chicken will allow me to do that, thankfully my wallet also had the room to allow it. Wait! No milk?  I have cut down on the amount of milk that I serve my children per day, so now I can make a gallon of milk last longer than a week. They each get one small cup a day and we might have to skip a day of milk, but they will live! They still get plenty of calcium from cheese and yogurt that they eat throughout the week. Again cheese is bought in bulk from Costco, so I only need to purchase 1x a month and the yogurt is every other week deal.

I think that about covers it! How do you do grocery budgeting? Do you meal plan?

Hungry, Hunrgry Sourdough Tutorial

Yesterday I raved about my new New England Sourdough. I also shared how I am terrible with following written instructions, so I thought to share a tutorial. Now your sourdough starter will undoubtedly come with instructions of it’s own. Please read them carefully incase they are different than the ones from Cultures for Health. Here is a basic tutorial on how to feed your baby sourdough starter. Like all babies they are hungry, hungry, hungry!

For this tutorial we will stick with a 1/2 cup of sourdough starter.

For this tutorial we will stick with a 1/2 cup of sourdough starter.

Place your starter in a non-reactive bowl.

Place your starter in a non-reactive bowl.

Pour in 1/2 cup of room temperature water. The water can be slightly warm, but not hot or cold. The extremes can kill your starter.

Pour in 1/2 cup of room temperature water. The water can be slightly warm, but not hot or cold. The extremes can kill your starter.

Stir the starter to incorporate the water. It will look like a sloppy, cloudy mess.

Stir the starter to incorporate the water. It will look like a sloppy, cloudy mess.

Add a scant cup of flour to the water sourdough starter.

Add a scant cup of flour to the water sourdough starter.

Stir again to incorporate all the flour.

Stir again to incorporate all the flour.

Now the starter will look wet and lumpy.

Now the starter will look wet and lumpy.

Cover with a paper towel or a tea towel and place in a warm area. It should be at least 70 F, but no more than 85F . Trying to save money on heating? Place the bowl in a cold oven and turn on the light. The light from the oven should keep it sufficiently warm.

Cover with a paper towel or a tea towel and place in a warm area. It should be at least 70 F, but no more than 85F . Trying to save money on heating? Place the bowl in a cold oven and turn on the light. The light from the oven should keep it sufficiently warm.

New England Sourdough

After my last post, I received my New England Sourdough Starter from

Cultures for Health. Now I’ve tried sourdough a few times before without success. I researched trying to find the easiest, most forgiving sourdough, because face it I had all but thrown in the towel. Finally I found this starter and was encouraged by the reviews. I have found it to be everything that the reviewers claimed. Now on a side note, I did manage to kill this sourdough, through no fault of it’s own. Thankfully I had some starter saved back in the fridge and was able to make a new batch.

So my starter arrived in the mail in this cute little box with instructions. I have to admit, I was hooked. Unfortunately I am not one for following directions, somehow something always seems to get lost in the translation. I did great the first couple of days. I discarded everything but 1/2 cup of starter 3 times before I realized I didn’t have to do that every. single. time…..see lost in the translation! Thankfully I had set the excess aside in the fridge. My goal was to use the excess to make sourdough pancakes and sourdough crepes . However my plans were for naught.

The night before I was going to make the pancakes, I started hemorrhaging from my miscarriage (it wasn’t complete at that point) and had to be rushed to the hospital. Thankfully after almost 24 hours, a procedure in the ER, followed by a surgery, I was allowed to go home. Unfortunately I lost a lot of blood and was suffering from acute blood loss anemia. So I spent the rest of the week in bed. Finally on Friday I felt strong enough to venture into the kitchen and much to my dismay the starter was dead. Now before you judge me, I had at that point known we lost our baby 4 weeks prior. I had time to adjust and mourn our loss, and at that point needed some normalcy for my own sanity. I wasn’t very hopeful that anything could be salvaged. I scooped out some of the reserved starter and fed it. Much to my amazement it grew!

Refrigerated sourdough starter

Refrigerated sourdough starter

Now I know everyone deals with grief differently, but for me the sourdough has been very therapeutic. I have to nurture the starter for it to grow, and experiment with it to produce anything worthwhile. In turn it allows me to nourish my family, which somehow produces a sense of satisfaction. It is something that I can control, when so much in my life has been beyond my control lately. The children have also really gotten into it and love helping me feed the starter or bake with it. Sourdough has become a family affair!

Into the oven (no heat, but oven light is kept on)!

Into the oven (no heat, but oven light is kept on) we go!

While I have yet to try the pancakes or crepes, I have tried other delicious recipes with success. I can’t wait to share them with you! I hope that you enjoy them as much as we have. Do you like sourdough? Have you ever tried growing your own starter or baking with one? I would love to hear your experiences or try your recipes!

6 hours later we have a beautifully fed sourdough, ready to be used!

6 hours later we have a beautifully fed sourdough, ready to be used!

The Concrete Serengeti ~ Part 1 on Frugal Mealtimes

Today at graftedvine we are going to observe the lioness as she stalks her prey.

As of late there has been a scarcity of food, and increase in hunting parties, crowding into her domain. She has to always be on guard.

Alas she see her prey! She stealthily moves on  padded feet careful not to draw attention to herself.

Then she waits for that opportune moment, settling her weight on her haunches. Muscles tightly coiled ready to spring into action.

That moment comes and in her full glory she pounces on her prey!

Satisfaction wells up within her as she carries her prize back to her cubs.

So does that happen in real life? Sure it does! The main thing missing is the lioness doesn’t hunt alone.¬† If you’ve ever watched a hunt, they always travel in a pack! Right now the headlines are trumpeting the drought that is happening in the US. The economists are saying that we are going to start feeling the effects of the drought in our wallets and our bellies. Have you started to feel that yet? Today we venture into the concrete¬†Serengeti to try to figure out ways to effectively save money, while getting the most nutrition for our $$.

1. Coupons– well duh! Grafted you are a little behind the times here, super couponing¬†has been the rage for a few years now! Or then I get the other side….well¬†we only eat organic foods. Did you know that most organic¬†companies have coupons on their website? Check it out!¬†I love getting coupons from Applegate and other brands. The down side to couponing¬†is that you can actually spend more with coupons if you aren’t careful….whoa…whoa!¬†Wait a minute here! Back up the crazy train! Spend more using coupons? The whole point of coupons is to SAVE money. Well stop for a minute and look at that coupon that you just clipped for the razzle dazzle cereal. If you didn’t have the coupon would you have bought that cereal anyway? No? With the coupon is it cheaper than what you would normally buy? ¬†I think as consumers, especially here in the states we are sometimes¬† make that a lot of times sucked in by the idea of getting a deal that we don’t stop to really think about the big picture.

2. Shop only the perimeter of the store. ¬†You’ve probably heard this before, but the food on the perimeter of the store is a lot healthier for you. All that stuff in the middle? Cheap convenience food, which when you get right down to it, is not cheap. Say what?!?! You heard me, it isn’t cheap! If the vast majority of the world is able to live with out that food, and live healthy lives, can’t you? Yes it is yummy, but most of that stuff is full of non food items. Powdered coffee creamer…silicone with your coffee anyone? Um, no thanks I’ll pass! Most of the stuff you find in boxes or cans are filled with fillers. When you take out all those fillers and preservatives, there isn’t much left. So the whole crux of the matter is you are actually spending more money, while being led to believe that you are spending less. True there are exemptions to the rule i.e. rice, beans, canned tomatoes, rolled oats, nut butters. No I am not listing broth, cereal, or other canned veggies.

3. Manager Specials. So how else can you save by shopping the perimeter of the store? Most supermarkets have mark down bins/ shelves on the outside. Apples for $0.29/ lb? $0.99 for 4 LARGE russet potatoes, etc. Typically there is nothing wrong with these items. I spoke to the produce manager at my store, he said that there may be 1 bad or bruised apple in the bag. They can’t sell it that way, so they remove the 1 apple, repackage it and sell the rest for $0.99. So that bag of apples that way $1.99+ is now half price because of 1 apple. I’ve gotten bags of clementines for more than half off because the skin was slightly mottled. The fruit was still perfectly good, it just didn’t LOOK pretty. Of course you have the meat markdowns¬†and markdowns¬†in the milk and cheese section. Did you know that you can freeze all that stuff? Ask your manager when they do the markdowns, they’ll be happy to tell you what day they mark stuff down. After all they’d rather sell the stuff at a lower price than to have to chuck it, making no money at all. It economics people….supply and demand! I personally love the scratch and dent section at our local grocery store!

4. Bulk buy, but only when it makes sense! So you were hunting for those elusive mark downs that I was telling you about. Uh huh! Caught you, you savvy shopper you!¬†On your hunt you found several bags of onions marked down to an irresistible price. What’s a savvy shopper to do? You know that you can’t use them all up right away, so what’s a girl to do? Well if you have freezer space available that is one option, depending on the produce you could can the item. Or even do it the old fashion way and ferment it. When in doubt it is better to pass up any items that you can’t reasonably use before they go bad. After all, it wasn’t much of a deal if you have to throw the food away.

Up next….getting cultured! Great DIY foods that you can make at home and save $!

Making Progress~ Baby Step 1 complete!

So after starting Financial Peace University at home in the beginning of December we have met our $1000.00 emergency fund! Woot Woot! Time to cancel all those credit cards! Wait already done~ well except 1 card, hubby needs to call that one in. Either way, the cards are still gone.¬† It is sooooo¬†freeing to not even have the temptation anymore. Buh-Bye Mastercard….you will not be my master anymore!

On the debt front we are working on baby step #2 The Debt Snowball. I paid off 2 medical bills today (high-five!) and we’re working on the next one. We started off with a total of¬†7 creditors and $45k in debt. This is credit card, student loans, and medical. We are now down to 5 creditors ūüôā Yippee! The goal is to by the end of January be down to 4 and by tax return time be down to 3.

Littlest Fruit

However there is a slight glitch in the plan…..littlest fruit has to go see a neurologist¬†soon. She has been recently having a few issues caused by something that happened at birth. It is no big deal as far as her health goes. Everything will be fine and the problem should be treat-able. Now we are staring down another medical¬†bill that we didn’t know was coming. Her umbilical cord was too tight against her spine as she came out¬† which we were told could cause a pinched nerve. It doesn’t always happen and just to keep an eye on her. A few days before Christmas we started noticing a few of the signs that they told us to watch for. Unfortunately hubby’s medical insurance has a LARGE deductible that has to be met before they will pay even 80%. Given that he also just got a smallish raise, we have decided to have that amount put into our HSA¬†pre-tax to help cover any new medical expenses.

This is disheartening on so many levels. I want my baby to be healthy and whole. We were relieved as she was hitting developmental milestones without a problem and even a few early. I am so thankful that we caught this problem right away and that it shouldn’t (other than financially) be a problem to correct. It is also frustrating on another level to feel like we are getting somewhere with this debt only to have more future bills that are going to delay our goals. Don’t get me wrong I will pay ANYTHING to help my baby or any of my other kids. My top priority is their health, education, and happiness. I also recognize that this is also our fault for not putting more into our HSA¬†to begin with. My mentality is that in general we have a very healthy family so what was being put in the account would have been sufficient. Aside from the occasional ear infection, we don’t need to go to the doctor unless I’m pregnant. We have been praying asking the Lord to show us things we can sell or ways to make extra money so we can stay on track with our goals and ¬†be able to pay off the new medical bills is full when we receive them. Our God is faithful and I believe that since we are acting in accordance to His will, in regards to paying our debt, that He will provide a way! We would appreciate prayers in this as well!

Living Like No One Else

It’s that dreaded time of day again. Maybe you have put it off yesterday, but today you begrudgingly¬†put one foot in front of the other.¬† Why does this short distance seem to take so long? Finally you are there. It’s like ripping a band-aid off, right? Just get it over quickly. You open the door, close your eyes, and reach in. Grabbing a stack of envelopes, you slam the mailbox closed and hurry back inside.

One step done, but your stomach twists inside, hurriedly¬†you riffle through the mail and sigh in relief! There are no bills today. Then you gather your courage to login to your bank account. Your stomach drops and¬†tears start to well up. The balance is dangerously low and you don’t know how you are going to make it to the next payday. Flip on the radio to drown out all the tumulus thoughts screaming in your mind. Then an ad plays for Financial Peace University. What a crock, finances and peace? Uttered in the same sentence?

Yes my friends it can be done! You can be in control of your finances, tell your money where to go and what to do. Maybe you don’t have debt or don’t live paycheck to paycheck. Have you saved up for a rainy day? Have you invested in your future? Have you started leaving an inheritance to your children’s children? Do you know the joys of being able to bless someone else? Maybe you have all that, but you and your spouse aren’t on the same page, or nobody has ever taught you how God wants you to handle your money.

Financial Peace University is a Biblically based program about how to handle money. Did you know that God gave us a manual in the Bible on what to do with our money? Rules and guidelines? I’m sure I’m parroting everything that I have heard. I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey for quite sometime now. Currently I am getting ready to help lead the class at my home church. I am going through the program at home before leading the class. I assure you that it is NOT dull or boring, Dave is very funny and makes it interesting.

So why am I taking FPU? Well my husband and I grew up in different types of households, which affect our view on money. When one person is in charge of the money it is too restrictive, when the other is in charge it’s too free spirit. This has caused us to miss step in our finances. It isn’t one person’s fault, it’s both our faults. So we are taking the class to get on the same page, find balance, and re-direct our financial course. I am excited to start this journey and I hope you can join me on it.

Dave breaks down the key to financial success into what he calls 7 baby steps. The 1st step is to have a $1000 emergency fund. I am excited that as of tomorrow we will have that fully funded! Then on to step 2 debt snowball reduction.

Do you have financial peace? Do you have a budget and how does it work? What successes or trials have you faced?

While I am leading a FPU class I by no means am paid/compensated for this post. It is a program that I fully believe in and I am excited to share with you. If you would like more information please visit https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu

Free E-books of the week-1

Who doesn’t like free? Here’s this week’s picks for free e-books.

Christian Romance

Daughter Brides Culdee Creek

Historical Romance novels praised by Lori Copeland and Robin Lee Hatcher

Child of the Mist

The 1st book in a Highland Trilogy of love. I personally enjoyed it!

From A Distance

Another great read!

Gardening
How to Grow Your Own Potatoes!

Potato Gardening for Complete Idiots

Cookbooks

The Whitehouse Cookbook (1887) Cooking, Toilet and Household Recipes, Menus, Dinner-Giving, Table Etiquette, Care of the Sick, Health Suggestions, Facts … Cyclopedia of Information for the Home

Hope you enjoy!

$$$ saving tips

Ok, so by now there are about a million posts out in the blogosphere about how to save money at the grocery store.

Yeah. This is not one of those posts…

If you aren’t open to thinking outside the concrete maze. Or the card board box.

This post probably isn’t for you….then again, maybe it should be.

By now you’re extreme couponed to death. I know the grocery stores are!

Ha! My local grocery store is now putting limitations on coupons.

I guess they got tired of owing people money! ROFL

And it’s not new news that you can purchase meat on clearance that needs to be frozen,

same with veggies and fruit. Yes, even those bananas that are turning brown.

Throw them in the freezer (peeled, wrapped, and then sealed in your vehicle of choice)

Then when you want a smoothie, throw that bad boy in there! No need for ice or really

sweetener for that matter. It defies logic, but for some reason bananas are sweeter when frozen!

Any who, back to what I was saying…. this is not one of those posts.

Here’s my tips:

1. Become a farmer. Uh, well maybe not really. But I venture to guess that most people have a window that gets some¬†sunlight. A few small pots and some seeds can get you started. Oh and don’t forget the water! Depending on space and sunlight there are a variety of things that you can grow. If you don’t have a ton of space, but are very excited to get started check¬†out pinterest. There are a lot of great ideas to maximize space to grow food indoors. ¬†Say what? You’ve never grown anything before? Not even in elementary school for earth day? Oh well. Start with something simple, say a herb or even lettuce. I highly recommend butter crunch for lettuce, oregano, or thyme for herbs. I’ve killed a lot of stuff over the years and those seemed to have held up well despite the blunders that I have made while learning. This coming from the girl who grew up in a family where a vegetable garden was the norm. If I wanted a snack, I went out back for berries, or to the front yard for apples. Yeah. I still killed stuff despite¬†my “experience”. Enough about me, back to you.¬†The nice things about the butter crunch lettuce is that if you leave say an inch on the plant when you cut it, it’ll grow more. But keep up on cutting it so that it doesn’t go to seed.

What does go to seed mean? Basically the plants at the end of its life cycle and is going to “reproduce” by providing more seeds. It’ll send up a tall(ish) shoot (on lettuce) and flower. The flower thing is the same for herbs btw. You don’t want to eat it once it has done that, tastes very bitter. blech! Even if you can’t use it right away, don’t throw it away! Give it to someone else ūüôā Which leads to…

2.¬† Be a good steward. All right, I’ve got the first point down pat. Don’t believe me? Scroll back up! That pic at the beginning was all produce that I grew! But back to reality. I may grow all that stuff, but I’m not necessarily a good steward of it. So according to some article on Yahoo!, yes Yahoo! Americans are terrible about throwing their food away. This is where I. AM. GUILTY! Sigh. Ever since reading that article I have been *trying* to do better. Hold on a minute…….

Sorry ’bout that! Thinking about that article reminded me I picked a bunch of basil today to make/ freeze pesto. Had to take care of it before I needed to toss it ūüėČ

Try to be very deliberate about what you purchase or grow. Make sure it is something that you will eat quickly or stores well. Found the deal of the century on onions? Chop those suckers up (don’t cry on me now!) and portion it out to freeze. Veggies looking like they are almost on their last leg? Don’t look at me all crazy. ¬†You know what I mean, those ones that were hiding in the back of the fridge that you forgot about ūüėČ Don’t throw them out, make a soup! Bought chicken breasts in a pack of 5 but there are only 4 in your family? Cook them all and immediately put up the largest. Sweet mother of pearl, I have been able to take 1¬† large chicken breast¬† and turned it into shredded chicken tacos for my entire family too many times to count! Actually it’s one of my family’s favorite meals ūüôā

3. Prep not plan. I know the big push is to meal plan. Sorry not going to happen. At least not for me, I’m not a meal planner. I may be a sahm, but I’ve got 3 little kids and I home school the oldest. Anyone that has had children knows stuff comes up. It’s getting close to dinner time, I’ve started getting things together. Then WAAAAHHHHH! Little fruit decides it’s milky time, and she likes milky time. It takes her a while, not because she’s a slow eater, but because she eats so much! Or middle fruit didn’t tell me he needed to go potty, so now he needs to be changed. Big fruit¬†decides to¬†pick a fight with middle fruit. Screaming and yelling then ensues. I have to put down a now crying little fruit (who wants her milky back) to stop the argument between big and middle fruit, before there is blood…er juice.

You get the picture, life happens. You just gotta learn to roll with it. In a matter of minutes or hours your meal plan goes flying out the window because something happens. Keeping a well stocked pantry and freezer can help with that. Buying items that use frequently in bulk can help with this. Some other good ideas is to have pre-cooked rice or beans in your freezer. It’s much cheaper for you to buy these dry and cook them yourself, then freeze. Although if you are not one of those people, you by all means can buy the rice that way in the freezer section and can beans. Keeping items on hand that you can quickly throw together with the few spare minutes you have is key. Go through the recipes you have under your belt. Which ones do you make well? Which ones take the least amount of time? Make sure you keep the ingredients always in stock at your home. Try to do any prep work that might save you time, i.e. frozen chopped onions, cooked rice, etc.

The last and quickest way to keep from picking up the phone for pizza, is to make sure you have completely cooked meals in your freezer. Making chili this week? Double the recipe and freeze it. Grilling chicken? Well you get the idea. In a pinch I have been known to fall back on scrambled eggs, pb&j, or pasta. I try not to make a habit of it, so when it does happen I refuse to feel guilty.

4. Get out of that concrete maze! Farmer’s markets are a great resource. 1st of all, the longer a fruit or veggie sits before it gets to you, the less nutrition and flavor it has. Local farmer’s market (not all but most) consist of produce that was grown near you. Most of which was probably picked that morning or the day before. You may discover you have a love of carrots. I’ll never forget the day I served big fruit a raw carrot from our garden. She thought it was cooked because she hates raw carrots. This carrot was good! So it had to be cooked! It took a while to convince her that it wasn’t. Her question…why don’t all carrots taste like this? Good point! There’s the obvious: different varieties of carrots. However nothing beats a carrot just pulled from the ground or a tomato just plucked from the vine. The flavor is incredible! My hubby hates apples bought from the store. He claims that they must suck all the flavor out of them before they hit the store. Why and how the stores does this he doesn’t know, but he wants his apples from the local orchards. Which means eating seasonally, that also helps lower costs. Do you realize that the tomato you bought in Decemeber doesn’t grow here in winter? It had to be shipped (typically) from another country. Before it was ready to be picked? Also that because it isn’t local that is why it is so expensive?

Another benefit of farmer’s markets? The people and the wealth of knowledge. Don’t know what to do with those little ity¬†bity¬†green cabbage like things called brussel sprouts? Chances are the farmer can give you several good recipes to try. After all they more than likely eat what they grow! See an unusual fruit or veggie? Farmers love to share that kind of thing. If it’s something that can be eaten raw, they may even give you a small one to try right there. At the end of the day markets will start marking down their produce. Typically stuff that they don’t think will sell well the next day. You can save a lot of money this way! Now please note not all markets allow their sellers to do this, why I don’t know. So try to contact whomever is in charge of organizing it before you go. I’d hate to see you get your hopes up for nothing.

5. Go directly to the source. So by now you are (hopefully) getting excited about checking out your local farmers market. Your taste buds are tingling in anticipation that they will finally know what foods¬†are supposed to taste like! How about taking it a step further….go to the source. If you have a deep freezer, or have room for one (space and budget wise) you may want to consider this. While your mouth is doing a happy dance over all the new produce, there is another world waiting for it to discover! Do your research, get to know the farmers. Some of them also offer meat and dairy products. While I haven’t found the dairy products cheaper, the meat can be. This is where your deep freeze comes in handy.

Wow! A lot of beef huh? To be precise it’s a 1/4 of a cow. Which will keep my family well fed for the year. How much does it cost? Well there are a lot of factors that figure into that. Location, conventional vs. organic, grass-fed vs. grain fed etc. This beef is organic and grass-fed. So it’ll be more $$ but it still beats buying organic grass-fed from the store. Where I live 1/lb of this ground beef would go for $6. I got every cut for $4/lb, every cut (yes that includes sirloin, new york strip, and filet mignon). So with that kind of savings on organic grass-fed you can imagine the kind of savings for conventional, since it’s always costs less. 1/4 cow too much of an investment? Find someone to go in with you to split the beef and the cost. ¬†Just please, please research the source if you decide to go this route.

Don’t know where to start? Check out www.localharvest.org

More tips coming soon! What are some ways that your family tries to save?

Rooware Cup Review

This is a Rooware cup my friend from www.Lollibeans.com gave to try, and then give her feed back. Let me 1st say that I love the concept of this cup. I like the handles for the little hands as they are trying to get use to holding a cup and that they are detachable as they get older. I like the thickness of the cup and the contours of the cup for easy holding. That being said here are my issues…

1. There is a flaw in the production of the handles.

See where the handles come down to the white base? That is how it attached¬†to the orange cup. On the inside of the white base there is a flaw in the plastic where it isn’t completely smooth*. That rough patch in the plastic¬†doesn’t allow it to attach securely. When I gave the cup to my son to try, he enthusiastically put the cup down. The orange cup bounced out of the handles and spilled milk every where….what a mess! I have to give it to them though the white lid (which is hard to see in the picture) stayed on. Which brings me to my next point….

2. This is a trainer cup!

It really isn’t an issue, but the package on the cup says that it can be used starting at age 6 months….I personally don’t know any baby that has ever been ready for a trainer cup at age 6 months. A trainer cup (for those that may be new to the parenting scene) is different from a sippy cup. Think of the type of lid that is put on coffee cups (particularly Starbucks). It’s a whole lid with a little hole where the beverage comes out. So it doesn’t offer much in the way of control over the flow of the liquid. Hence the big mess when the cup bounced out. Again it’s not a problem, it’s just something I think you should be aware of before purchasing.

3. It’s a plant-based¬†plastic (primarily corn)

But it’s made from a vegetable! Yes, but the cup isn’t labeled organic….most of the US corn is gmo¬†thanks to Monsanto. But they aren’t eating it! Yes,¬†BUT¬†it is still a plastic and plastic still breaks down. Just like BPA and all the other chemicals that we as parents worry about, you¬†have to¬†consider what may leach into their beverage from the gmo.¬†For¬†more information on plant-based plastic visit:¬†http://seriouslythatsmylife.blogspot.com/2012/07/plant-based-plastic-worst-idea-ever.html

So I give this a 2 out of 5 vines ~ I love the concept, but not enough to purchase it for myself or as a gift.

*In fairness I contacted Lolli Beans to let them know of the flaw in the plastic, the other samples had the same flaw. I was assured that Rooware would be contacted to know about the problem so that they can fix it.