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

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!

$$$ 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 🙂 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 😉

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 😉 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 🙂

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?

The Wolf

His minion came running in excitedly “Master, Master! I have something you must see!”

Irritated the Wolf looked at him “This better be good, for you to bother me!” The minion shoved an article under Wolf’s nose. Quickly he scanned what was on the page

Pay attention*** Mary had a little lamb. His fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went. The Lamb was sure to go. He followed her to school each day. It was not even the rule. He made the children laugh and play, to have a lamb at school. And then the rules all changed one day, illegal it became; to bring the Lamb of God to school or even say his name. Every day got worse and worse. And days turned into years. Instead of hearing children laugh we heard gun shots and tears. What must we do to stop the crime that’s in our schools today? Lets let the Lamb come back to school and teach our kids to PRAY!!!

The Wolf just chuckled, wadded up the paper, and threw it to the floor.

“But Master, shouldn’t we be afraid?” asked the minion.

Wolf gave him a tolerant look, and started putting on his suit. Then he began patiently explaining his plan.

” This battle is as old as time, but I finally came up with a plan not so long ago. You see these people seem to have forgotten that it is written in their law that church and state should not be mixed at all! So what did I do? I whispered in some people’s ears that wouldn’t it be grand, to offer free education across the land? The thought spread like wildfire even though some resisted. For those I allowed the lamb in, to wave away their fears. It was my plan all along, and the Shepherd knew this too. I slowly began to exclude the lamb from everyday. The people didn’t notice as I was ever so subtle….”

“But Master they are noticing now!” cried his underling!

“I’m getting to that!” growled the wolf as he sat down at his dressing table. Picking up a brush he continued, “It was so subtle that by the time they realized it, it was too late. To stop my plan that I had put into place! There were more who followed me, than believers in the school. Oh they protest, complain, and sometimes pray. However they don’t understand I have them just where I want them!”

“Where is that Master?!?!” asked the minion excitedly!

“Why it is simple! They are completely dependent on me to teach their children! So much so that they are blind to what the Shepherd has warned! They don’t worry me in the least! There’s another group that has me concerned!” murmured the Wolf.

Eyes wide with concern the minion questioned “Who are they Master?”

“They are the ones, that have allowed their eyes to be open….and are no longer content to send their children into my training camp. They’ve seen through me and know me for who I am. They take the charge to teach their child seriously and heed the Shepherd’s call not to be unequally yoked. They know that I am who I am and refuse to partner with me in the upbringing of their children. I’m concerned that they will sound the alarm for others to see.” With that the wolf rose and turned his transformation complete. Before the minion’s very eyes his Master suddenly looked like a sheep!

Week 1 of grain free diet

Well I am not much of a meal planner so I have a lot of food at my finger tips, to suit my whim 🙂 I had a rough night last night with not being able to sleep. While I am going gluten-free I am trying to cut back on soda, and stop drinking it completely. That didn’t seem to work last night **sigh** So while my kids are playing I am debating lunch and dinner. I have leftover chicken and salmon from this weekend. Also in the freezer is leftover (grain-free) minestrone. One of those will suffice for lunch, so in the mean time that leaves dinner. Perhaps another soup, or meat sauce over spaghetti squash, or bbq ribs. The possibilities are endless. How do you decide what to make? Are you a meal planner or do you fly by the seat of your pants (or your taste buds)? Again with the accountability here are my foods from yesterday and I will probably update with the foods from today.

Sunday Bfast– sauerkraut, banana lunch– grilled chicken, garlicky broccoli, & honey glazed carrots Dinner– Chicken salad- lettuce, grilled peppers & onions, chicken, diced salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole Snacks– sauerkraut, apple, cheese stick, carrots & almond butter

Today Bfast– Applegate sausage links, banana, cheese stick

Notice anything?? I am addicted to Bubbies Sauerkraut!!! Best sauerkraut ever, in fact I have never liked sauerkraut until I ate Bubbies at a friend’s house. In addition to taking probiotics I am trying to eat fermented foods to heal my gut 🙂 So as I go through this journey I will keep this blog updated. Again I am trying the grain-free diet until Oct 1. At that time if I am not feeling better I will be trying the gaps diet to heal my digestive tract. I will admit from starting this journey this past Friday my mind feels clearer (even though I lost sleep last night), I do not feel nearly as bloated, and I have lost 5 lbs (woo hoo!

Grain Free Diet

It’s been a while since I have posted. There have been many things going on including my new blog for our MOPs group! Check it out http://www.montgomeryagmops.wordpress.com I am so thankful for all the help that I have received. My garden had a great year, I put up many pickles, relish, etc. The freezer is full of (freezer) pickles, tomatoes, green-beans, and sugar snap peas.

Also I have been eating gluten 😦 Unfortunately I have been having digestive upset and weight gain. So yesterday I started back, but not only am I gluten free, I am grain free (with the exception of soy sauce). Getting rid of gluten helped last time, but didn’t solve all my problems. So here we go with grain-free 🙂 If I don’t see enough of a change in how I feel then I will try the gaps diet. This will be boring to you but I am listing my food as accountability to myself. So here we go:

YesterdayBfast: fruit, Lunch: hotdogs & greenbeans, Dinner– Grilled Chicken & asparagus- pepper salad Dessert– apple snack– lunch meat

TodayBfast: Leftover Chicken & Cheese, Lunch– grilled ginger-soy salmon & sauteed kale & asparagus, Dinner– open-faced grain free tacos (check http://www.marksdailyapple.com and search for tortilla if you want the recipe) Dessert– grain-free peach crumble w/ homemade whip cream (sweetened with stevia)

New Adventures in Food-Part 2

Discovered a local cup-cakery that was apparently apart of food network’s cupcake wars. I don’t know if they won or not, but those cupcakes were the best!! To make it even better was they sell gluten-free cupcakes 🙂 Since the last time I posted I’ve tried to make a gluten-free Quiche crust. That didn’t turn out so well 😦 so I made a crustless Quiche which turned out great!

I have been reading more and learning a lot. So here is the kicker…I need to start eating gluten again! I am finally starting to feel better. I’m still run down, but I no longer feel like my head is foggy. The problem is that I have learned some more things that have given me cause to be concerned that perhaps I may potentially have celiac disease. I’m not really concerned with it, because I will be going gluten-free no matter what, it just means that I will have to be even more vigilant about gluten. So what is celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten. Unfortunately all too often people do not know that they have it, even if they try to get help it often gets misdiagnosed. Then they are fed a bunch of medicine that treats the symptoms, not the actual problem. This can lead to more serious diseases. So due to family history (and my history) I feel I definitely need to find out if it is an intolerance or celiac. Unfortunately the testing won’t give accurate results if I am not eating gluten. So back to the gluten until I can get in and have my blood drawn. For more information about celiac disease or gluten free cooking check out my new links!

New Adventures in Food

So since the last time I posted there have been some changes that I have made in my life. I have been soda free for several weeks now (yea!). I found that drinking cold water helps wake me up. I have also been drinking tea, herbal coffee, and lemonade as substitutes when I really just want a soda. I want to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet, but first comes first. I’m not the kind of person that can tackle several new challenges at once. Now that I have got the soda thing under my belt, the next big thing is to go gluten-free.

So what is gluten you may ask? It is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, rye, etc. Where can it be found? Well obviously bread, bakery items, pasta, soy sauce (unless labeled otherwise), some salad dressings, marinades, and basically most pre-package food. These grains are considered great “fillers” so you have to watch it, even if it says that it has no wheat, it may have dextrin in it, which is a form of gluten. Unfortunately it can also be found in makeup and medicine.

Now why am I going gluten-free? No this is not just a fad, it is going to be a lifestyle for me. I have rosacea, migraines, and some digestive issues. When I started researching what could cause all these things, there was a common theme that I found throughout all of these things and it is gluten. I am not saying that I have celiac disease, because I don’t believe that I do. I do believe that I have an intolerance to gluten.

So now I am embarking on a new adventure learning how to cook with new flours! For pasta I am buying tinkyada or sometimes deBoles (rice). Now I have to warn you there are a lot of rice pastas that are out there and they don’t taste very good and get gummy. These pastas (when cooked to al dente) are great. I have been using them for over a year now as I have a friend that has already made the switch to gluten-free. I am currently working on a new recipe for lemon coconut muffins. I have a few tweaks that I need to make, but should hopefully be posting soon!

Way to Save on Produce

There are farmer’s markets all over the place if you just look. They are fairly easy to find, I can name about 4 around where I live. While these are great resources, unless you go at the end of the day, the savings (if any) are minimal. I would like to introduce the concept of a CSA. There are different kinds of CSA’s. My friend belongs to one where she pays a fee to be in it, and then depending on what is in season (and the amount of produce) she receives a portion of what is being harvested. One of the local farms that I go to has CSA, where you pay a fee, but then also must put in so many volunteer hours per season. They have a pickup every week where you come get your share of veggies. This CSA fills up quickly as it is a great way to get veggies for a low price (and they are organic)! In fact when I enquired they told me they have about a 2 year waiting list. Thankfully they offer another alternative that you can do volunteer hours during the week(ends) and in exchange receive produce as well. I would love to share their information with you, however it seems their website is currently down. If you would like more information let me know and I’ll be happy to share. If you aren’t in the Ohio area, stop by my links to check out Local Harvest, they are a great resource to help you find CSA’s where you live. Hope you find this helpful!

Beef, should it be for dinner?

Over the years it has been much debated as to how healthy it is to eat beef. I propose that it isn’t so much as if beef in general is healthy, but the type of beef. As most of you know I am for organic produce and meats. But here are 6 reasons why grass-fed is better than grain-fed beef.

1. TASTE- If you have ever had a steak or roast from a grass-fed cow, I don’t see how you could possibly ever go back. There is so much more flavor in grass-fed beef. If you have never tried it, you don’t know what you are missing!

2. LESS FAT- Grass-fed cows are healthier than grain-fed cows. Grass-fed cows are allowed more space to wander and eat healthier. It use to be that you would be hard pressed to find a grain- fed cow, but with the way of economics, farmers have found a way that helps them keep up with the great demand. As an example, if I cook 1 lb or grass-fed ground beef, I have just enough fat to keep the meat from sticking to the pan. The meat is by no means greasy, I have also not asked for a lean type of beef. That is just how it is with the grass-fed. However with grain-fed, to get the same results you must order lean ground beef, which is utterly devoid of all the flavor of the grass-fed, leaving much to be desired.

3. HIGHER IN VITAMINS- On average grass-fed beef contains more vitamins than grain-fed. It is also well know that beef in general has a high amount of iron.

4. OMEGA 3- Studies have been done to show that grass-fed beef has up to 5 times the amount of omega 3 in it than grain-fed beef. Omega 3’s are heart healthy and have many physical benefits.

5. CLA-conjugated linoleic acid. I won’t pretend that I understand everything about CLA, but what I do understand is positive! Like omega 3 it is a healthy fat, that is still being researched to find out all the great benefits that come from consuming it. I look forward to all the new insights that will be coming out in the next few years and have great hopes that it will be the “in thing” for health as omega 3’s.
For more information on this new healthy fat please visit:
http://www.eatwild.com/cla.html

6. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT- It is much more humane for the animals than grain-fed beef. Cows were not meant to be kept in feed lots, standing in their own manure with no way to get out of it. Grain is no doubt more cost-effective, it lacks the essential nutrients for a healthy cow. Corporate farms feed cows this grain because it is cheaper, they can get more cows per acre, and they get more at market because the cows are fatter. We as a society understand that eating junk food all the time is unhealthy and can kill us. Why do we then not understand that eating animals that are essentially fed (for them) junk food, is not only unhealthy for them, but for us as well? If you have ever watched Food INC. , you would come away with the understanding that most of the beef on the market today (had they not been slaughtered) would have still died soon there after because of the way they were fed.

*For more information please visit http://www.eatwild.com or if you wish to see where the food you buy in the supermarket really comes from, I encourage you to watch Food INC If you have a Netflix account you should be able to stream to your computer or tv.