My Daughter’s 1st Slumber Party

Boy was it fun!

No, I’m not joking, we had a blast. The guests seemed to have a great time, as well. The slumber party was originally the idea of my newly 5-year-old daughter. At first I thought, HELL NO, but after a few days to think about it and inquiring with other parents, I realized we could be smart about this and make it the best party ever.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

Slumber parties, to a 5-year-old, mean lots of snacks and movies and makeup and ALL THE FUN! My 5-year-old invited 2 friends and her sister (wasn’t that kind of her?) and I extended the invite to one of the guest’s big sister to even out the ages. My sister wished me luck getting through the night without belly aches but I was already ahead of the game on that one. Just like thinking ahead at the holidays, I wanted to do this party right by these little girls and give them a great experience, not an unhealthy one.

I decided to start the party off with cake and presents and get the biggest unhealthy obstacle out-of-the-way. This year, I allowed each of my daughters to pick out a decorated cake from the grocery store. It wasn’t gluten-free, sugar-free, or paleo… it was a conventional, decorated, birthday cake. The only thing I decided on was a whipped topping instead of the super-sugar-heavy icing, but it is what it is: a quarter sheet of junk. We sang Happy Birthday, blew out as many candles as I could find, had cake, opened presents and moved onto all the fun things the girls thought a slumber party should include.

Snacks included a tray of popcorn, grapes, Stretch Island Fruit Snacks, UNREAL 41 (M&Ms) & a 77 (peanut butter cups) for each girl, a bowl of apples, a dish of sunflower seeds and glasses of ice-cold water! The girls were so happy and excited. It was a joy to see their sweet faces smiling as we jumped from activity to activity all while enjoying good choices and special treats! Yes, they even ate the apples. They didn’t hesitate to help themselves throughout the evening to more popcorn, seeds, juicy grapes or more water. The best part: their manners were IMPECCABLE. “Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me”s all night long. Good job mom & dad!

  • Stretch Island is a special treat in our house. 1: They are a NON-GMO verified company; 2: No artificial additives; 3: REAL fruit puree; and 3: I get coupons for $.75-$1 off at my local grocery store; plus they taste great!
  • UNREAL candy is made with REAL ingredients and NO GMOs. They taste amazing and are available locally at CVS, Rite Aid, and Target. Though their peanut butter cups have half  the sugar content of Reese’s, I still limited the girls to 1 cup each since they were enjoying their candy coated chocolates (40% less sugar then M&Ms) at will AND they just had cake.

After choosing their desired sleep location, 2 in the top bunk and 3 on the floor, I read the girls a story and closed the door at midnight. They weren’t up much later than that and I made sure to eavesdrop for a bit at the door. Their conversations were to die for! I awoke this morning at 8:07am and heard them chatting in the room still, door closed. GOOD GIRLS.

74413_10200353214824650_1170600616_nAs soon as they heard me in the kitchen, the girls all scurried out in their pj’s and I quickly began preparing breakfast-to-order as they dove right into playing with LEGOS and art supplies. The initial order doesn’t reflect all that the girls ended up eating, as most had a 2nd serving of a different choice, but pastured local eggs, uncured bacon, gluten-free waffles and cereal, fresh fruit, grass-fed butter and dark syrup were among the options. I figured if I’m sending home tired kids, I may as well pump them full of premium fuel.

  • Van’s Natural Food is a GMO free company plus they have gluten AND wheat free options. This is a special treat in our house as I rarely buy frozen waffles/pancakes since I have a great coconut flour recipe I like to make and freeze the leftovers for a quick morning meal. But there is something to be said for the convenience of Van’s.
  • Barbara Bakery products are also GMO and gluten-free. My husband and kids enjoy the Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Puffins. This particular morning, the ladies requested cinnamon (40% less sugar then Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and one guest mentioned “I really like dat cereal” when she was all done.

I didn’t plan this party to be a ‘healthy’ sleepover, but I decided to share our celebration to inspire others to offer good choices, mixed with special treats, that aren’t all that bad. Especially when it comes to children, who typically have a special menu of crap at restaurants and an array of junk fed to them at parties. Life is meant to be lived and I indulge, as do my children, from time to time but control is taught through repetition. My daughters had a wonderful 1st slumber party filled with activities and movies and fun! I can only hope they are learning about food choice and control through example and experience. They are currently napping.

What do you typically serve to kid-guests during parties, playdates or special occasions?

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Week 7: Menu & Receipt

Lately, I’ve been able to stretch my 7 day meal plan and shopping to 8 or 9 days. Whether it’s because I just don’t have the time or I’m force-feeding leftovers to the family, I’m grateful since we’re still in a tight financial spot, as so many of us are, and need to conserve every penny.

That being said, the 4-year-old who named this blog, turned SIX on February 23rd and her younger sister turned 5 yesterday. We aren’t outrageous with gift-giving but when the yearly “Birthday Extravaganza” comes around we celebrate our daughters from one birthday to the next, as any proper celebration should play out. 30(ish) days of extraordinary fun! The little extras add up fast and I’m honestly looking forward to re-tightening our pocket.

photoThis week’s menu was thrown together just for the blog. I went shopping Tuesday morning while my little one was at preschool. Upon my husband’s request, I picked up a roast, I also went for the organic chicken club pack which cuts the cost per lbs from $7.99 to $6.99 and includes portions for 2 dinners instead of one. Chicken thighs and wings seem to be a staple these days because 1) they’re a cheap option, 2) my family devours them and 3) they’re easy to make, bake and the leftovers are bangin!

Incidentally, a friend recently suggested a way to save money was to skip the organic chicken breast and go conventional. I won’t argue a monetary savings here and have typically suggested the same.  He added “Almost every article I read says that the nutritional benefit over regular chicken breasts is negligible. Most impurities and toxins are stored in fat and chicken is so lean that only trace amounts would even exist”.  He is an intelligent and trusted friend, with killer hair, so I stored this info in the ole’ brain and went for a sale on conventionally raised chicken drumsticks a few weeks ago, not breast meat, I realize. I roasted and served them to my girls for dinner. They didn’t gobble them up, as usual, but I didn’t give it much thought as appetite has ebbs and flows. The following day, I served myself a few for breakfast and nearly spit it out before I could get a napkin. The taste was so obviously inferior, it made me feel sick. Bad batch? I don’t know but it reminded me that choice does matter and organic chickens always taste better! I threw the rest away.

You’ll notice Tuesday starts off with chicken (cooked with onions and peppers) and noodles. I finally found a gluten-free, GMO-free noodle option at my local grocery store: TruRoots. After reading the website, I see they claim an ‘al dente’ texture after cooking. My husband, however, says he over cooked his first batch and they were a little mushy, but decent enough to eat. I didn’t warn him they were ‘different’ then his regular noodle variety so it doesn’t’ surprise me that it overcooked. Regular noodles could boil for much longer then required and still not become mushy. Imagine that sitting in your gut… just chillin. Despite over-cooking, he said he’d eat them again and that’s a win for me since we rarely have noodles and now we have some in stock.

photo-2Another exciting find I made was on thursday morning when I stopped by the grocery to pick up some taco shells for my now-5 year old’s requested birthday dinner: Bearitos. This little gem of a company is also non-GMO (found through my non-GMO app) and for a corn meal/chip company it was thrilling discovery since 85% of the corn in our country is genetically modified and that creeps me out. I suspect it’s mostly gluten-free as well, but they do not follow the testing practices for gluten so they do not claim it. They were delicious and had a more authentic taste then the cheaper, standard taco shells. I will now only buy GMO-free tortilla chips, as well. We’ve found and tried 1 or 2 other brands at my local store, my husband says they’re good but aren’t salty enough and I’m okay with that.

During this quick trip to the store, I decided to check the organic meat section for sales while I was there. Often you can find a few items marked down in yellow to add to your freezer and low and behold, I DID! 1 package of organic pork sausage (I often cut up and use sausage in my soups along with another protein) and 2 lbs of organic ground turkey breast were marked 50% off, so I snatched them up. That means you’ll have to add $4 for the taco shells and $12 for the extra organic sale-meat to my receipt for the week. Worth it!

I think I’ve covered everything from this week. My last request: Your favorite recipes including chicken thighs and ground turkey. Please comment here or add them to our Facebook page and you may see them on next week’s menu! Also, I added the spice combination I used for our taco seasoning to the Facebook timeline. Check it out & share with friends!


Week 6: Menu & Receipt

I don’t have a lot of time today so let’s keep this short and sweet, I hit a total of $109.06. If I were shopping at one store, I would have put back a pack of wings or thighs, or perhaps a bag of apples. Instead I put back my baking essentials of honey, vanilla and something else at the 2nd store, in order to stay closer to the budget of $100. It’s not a hardship to be without stock for cookies or muffins. Choice!

It's a learning curve shopping at 2 stores with this budget so bare with me while I work out the kinks!

It’s a learning curve shopping at 2 stores with this budget so bear with me while I work out the kinks!

This week’s menu was made after I went shopping based on the available funds, sales and meat choices that were in the stores. If you noticed, I used a $1 off coupon for some nitrate free pepperoni – just check Applegate’s website!

Our fries are fresh cut from sweet potatoes and/or organic white potatoes. My sandwiches are on lettuce. And real chili doesn't have beans! Ask a Texan.

Our fries are fresh-cut from sweet potatoes and/or organic white potatoes. My sandwiches are on lettuce… And real chili doesn’t have beans! Ask a Texan.

What are you having for dinner this week? Leave a comment or join us on Facebook to chime in on another topic.

To check out previous $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


What’s for Lunch?

I had a follower on Twitter recently ask “what are you eating for lunches??? I read your menu and see leftovers on the menu for dinner. Just curious.” GREAT QUESTION.

@evroman
I was posting my lunches to our Facebook page pretty regularly while I was in Barber School and I think people enjoyed that. It allowed them to see, I really AM eating a lot of leftovers and salads with a side of carrots and guac or a banana, as I say, “ALWAYS MAKE EXTRA”. A few other things as my lunch go-tos are:

  • (Grass-fed from a local market) Hotdogs & kraut
  • Mixed greens, sliced veggies, hard-boiled eggs and leftover protein (salad, duh) sprinkled with Annie’s Oil & Vinegar, the brand is nonGMO and also has a great taste to it, unlike a few other organic O/Vs I’ve tried
  • Scrambled eggs, onions, & cayenne paper, sometimes I’ll add Boar’s Head lunch meat to the scramble or leftover protein
  • Leftover protein (think meatloaf) with a dippy egg on top – YUM
  • Boar’s Head sliced turkey/chicken/roast beef/London broil (or other nitrate free, gluten-free lunch meats) rolled up with any medley of cucumbers, carrots, apples, grapes, etc dipped in mustard

I follow my hunger cues and usually don’t eat the standard 3 meals a day, instead I eat when I need to fuel up or replenish my fuel. Breakfast has never been my forte and after reading a nice article on How To Start Your Day by Mark Sisson, I first drink a giant glass of water, followed by my morning coffee (I usually have another cup when I get to work around 3pm). I tend to eat before heading into work (think, filling my gas tank) and that could range between 11am and 3pm. This is what I call Lunch.

Real food gives you real energy.

Real food gives you real energy.

Now that I’m finished with school (daytime) and moved onto my new career in hair (a lot of evenings), I continue to plan out our Dinner menus that I usually prep for my husband who finishes cooking for himself and the girls. I tend to bring leftovers for my work-Dinner (think, gas station pit stop on your way to the beach) from the day before. When I get home from work, I always eat again. This is my after-work Dinner (think, filling tank after a long trip). While I am on my feet and hustling at the salon, I use and maintain a balanced level of energy which is so very important in customer service. I can thank my diet for that! Energy is VITAL in this industry but really it is vital to my life in general; mother, wife, household, preschool, kindergarten, career, it gets intense. I’m certain you have a similar story.

In short, I pick my food based on the fuel I’ll need for the day. A slow day like today? A sunday where I’m going to be prepping food, hanging with kids, attending a birthday party and having dinner with the fam – I won’t need as much fat/protein as I do on, say, a Tuesday when I am running back and forth all morning between preschool and kindergarten, cleaning house, doing laundry, prepping meals, working 6-9 hours on my feet, calculating, thinking, planning, etc. This is something I’ve learned over the years and after paying close attention to how my body feels with the fuel/food I’m choosing.

What do you typically have for lunch? Leave a comment of add to the conversation on Facebook!

 


Week 5: Menu & Receipt

Today was also prep day, which means I’ve been in the kitchen getting meals and food ready for both dinner and the week to come since I got home from the grocery. While one daughter laid down for a while then enjoyed a bath, the other played Operation and Clue Jr. with her daddy at the kitchen table. It was a lovely day.

Now, for this week’s menu.

There's nothing on here that isn't Paleo and it's all grass fed meats. $100 budget.

There’s nothing on here that isn’t Paleo. $100 budget.

And now for the receipt.

Notice I entertained two grocery markets today… a sunday… what was I thinking? However, I wanted to give Wegman’s a chance. Local friends are typically split between the two largest competitors in the area and I have to say, I’m sticking with GIANT for the majority of my shopping. I will continue to use Wegman’s to stock up on grass-fed proteins though. Their variety is to-die-for compared to what GIANT is currently offering and their prices are not insane. I was also a bit blown away by the Gluten Free section, although as I perused, I realized it was just more processed crap that I’d rather not eat. They had a few lower prices on certain items like Almond Flour, but their Coconut Flour inflation made up for it. Also, their gluten-free, non gmo cereals were priced at or higher than GIANT. Since I knew GIANT had Barbara’s brand on sale, and their organic apples (#1 on the Dirty Dozen) were dollars cheaper, I made up my mind that I would stop by on my way home… since it is on my way home.

Kudos to Wegman's for their compact receipt. I spent 70% of my budget there and got 30% less paper.

Kudos to Wegman’s for their compact receipt. I spent 70% of my budget there and got 30% less paper.

I went over budget by $10.61 today, the most I’ve ever gone over. I only have myself to blame, of course, deciding to ask my husband if he wanted lunch meat when I got to GIANT. His response was “No. Bread, soda and chips.” DARN!  The soda and chips alone were $8.19 and I bought my daughter a new pack of hair bands for $2.96. Without these items I would have spent $99.46 between 2 stores.

From the meats I purchased, all were Wegman’s Organic Brand . I also made sure to buy meats that would prepare well for more than one meal. For example, I knew I could use the leftover chicken quarters for a salad addition, we’d have roast beef for lunch and/or a leftovers dinner as well, OR I could use it in a stew. Always make leftovers!

Prep day went something like this:

  1. Chicken wings marinated in Frank’s Hot Sauce, onions, bell peppers, butter, salt and pepper. Baked for dinner at 350 for 45 minutes, turned and brushed twice. 
  2. Chicken quarters baked at 350 for 70 minutes with butter, salt and pepper. Turned and brushed twice.
  3. 4 large meatballs, 8 medium meatballs and a heart-shaped meatloaf made from 2lbs of ground beef and 1lb of ground lamb. Added to the mixture: 2 eggs; 1/4(ish) cup of coconut flour; (in the food processor) carrots, onions, celery, dates;  salt, pepper, thyme and savory seasoning. All sprinkled with garlic salt.
  4. A salad for my work-dinner tomorrow night was prepared while I made dinner salads. I added some of the extra roasted chicken to it after dinner was complete.
  5. Mashed white (for husband) and sweet potatoes.
I shaped my meatloaf into a heart to send my love to the fam while I am working. Thanks to Liz for the idea!

I shaped my meatloaf into a heart to send my love to the fam while I am working. Thanks to Liz for the idea! It’s her Valentine tradition.

After making a whole lot of dinner to satisfy each of our cravings (not my typical m.o.), we have half a dozen wings, 1 quartered chicken plus part of a quarter, and extra mashed potatoes for daytime meals and/or leftover night. Tomorrow, while I am enjoying my protein packed salad, my family will enjoy a meatloaf. I hope to have some leftover meatloaf with an egg Tuesday morning!

I forgot to boil eggs. They are such an important addition to my work-meals because of the protein and fat content. They fill me up and keep me going while on my feet. So, I’ll make time in the morning to boil a few.

What is on your menu this week? Leave a comment and let us know, or join us on our Facebook page to further the conversation.

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Week 4: Menu & Receipt

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out of order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we're dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out-of-order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we’re dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

IT’S BACK.

The past few weeks have been hectic as I am knee-deep in a new career. After being in school all day for 12 months my routine of leftover lunches has now become leftover dinners because I typically work in the evenings. My family is left to fend for themselves (with the help of my menu planning and preparation, mind you) while I work 3-5 evenings each week. My house hasn’t been this organized in a year and we’ve been checking off the Pinterest ‘to do‘ list at lightning speed. Life is good. My weekly shopping trip, however, has been chopped into spurts.

I don’t mind shopping in spurts, but I received a lot of positive feedback on the weekly menu & receipt posts so my intention has been to continue doing a weekly $100 grocery trip and meal plan (you know, to keep myself busy) so, HERE I AM.

I put a few things back this week, like a 2nd box of k-cups ($5.99), in order to afford a few treats. I also decided against the organic butter (4.29) because we have some butter in the house and my sister recently picked us up 2 jars of Trader Joes Coconut Oil, which I have been using more of recently.

  • Budget: $100
  • Meal Plan: 1 week
  • Final purchase: $92.61

Eating As A Family on a Tight Budget

During my hiatus, I will note, we were not living it up, it was quite the contrary as a matter of fact. My girlfriend, Jodi, recently asked “Without pasta or a starchy filler is it difficult to stretch (a dollar)?” and my immediate answer was “no”. We maintain our eating habits, as much as possible because we are committed to health. It’s almost better for us to spend our money elsewhere 😉 We (/I) are nowhere near perfect. Paleo is the goal and we live as close to it as we can. Sometimes, we don’t want to. 🙂

1. Snack less; It is a privilege, not a right

2. Pack meals with protein – no counting calories or controlling portions (within reason). EAT.

3. Cook with coconut oil instead of butter – it adds more fat to our lessened amount of food. Fat = energy and we all need energy to keep our brains and bodies working well.

4. Use more eggs – added protein and fat for a good price

5. Drink (even more) water.

6. GET BUSY and/or NAP – our bodies work best in these conditions

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips, flavored coffee, crackers & cheese and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips. PRIVILEGE.

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips for the husband, flavored coffee for me, crackers & cheese…for me, and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips for all of us. PRIVILEGE.

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Week 3: Menu & Receipt

This week, there were several grass-fed meat sales I wanted to take advantage of so I did things a little differently. Instead of creating a base menu from the proteins I had in stock and then buying to fill in the recipes, I started by creating a shopping list based on the weekly circular sales I hoped to get in on. It was 90% meat which will help build protein stock, to then cut costs over the next few weeks. Follow me?

After eyeing up my hunt, I then looked at my presumed financial total and decided which produce we could use to roast, soup or salad easily. Those easy produce choices for my family are carrots (I could have skipped them this week but grabbed a bag since I was at budget) $2.49, onions (1 of the cleanest non organic option) $2.99, (always) organic bell peppers $3.99, cucumbers 2/$1.98, a tub of organic greens $4.99 and to top it off, bananas $.49/lb and (always) organic apples 5lb/$4.99. There were a few sales in that mix of produce, but I found better deals on some items after reviewing the Dirty Dozen App while shopping. One of these days I should start remembering which plants are on which list, but I find I  have the opposite of a photographic memory: as I see it, I forget it.

I predicted $100.03 and the final bill was $99.07.

I predicted $100.03 and the final bill was $99.07.

A few choice notes: I bought a bag of coconut flour because it was on sale AND in stock, a rare sequence of events $5.15. I also bought 2/$10 k-cups and a box of EnviroKidz Leapin Lemurs (my kids’ favorite) because they are Gluten Free AND Non GMO Verified $3.79. Although, I usually wait to buy EnviroKidz brand cereals when they go on sale for $2.99. I’ve also taken notice to the additional varieties of free range, VEG FED eggs in the regular refrigerated section and one brand was on sale at 2 dozen/$5. I was paying $2.99 for half a dozen when I wasn’t able to buy from the local market on Thursdays. WIN. Other than that, I spent the bulk of my budget on meat.

After the days bounty was put away, I saw down with my laptop and used Supercook.com to come up with some ideas to use all this meat, a lot of it ground, in a variety of ways throughout the week. This site allows you to enter what ingredients you have and then recipes containing those things are displayed in order of adherence to your list. GREAT tool for folks who aren’t able to eat certain foods likes eggs, nuts, etc.

menu

Saturday: Meatloaf Balls and Roasted Veggies (use an egg, OR NOT, add puree and/or chopped veggies, maybe wrap a few in bacon! I like to make a ton so I have leftovers for breakfast or lunch plus some to freeze for a quick and easy option for the kids. You can make them as big or small as you like.)

Sunday: Sausage and Peppers with salad (I’ll cook peppers and onions in a skillet with the sausage.)

Monday: Shepard’s Pie (we stayed with friends during Hurricane Sandy and my daughters fell in love with this delicious cold weather food. To paloe-ize, instead of mashed white pots, use mashed sweet OR mashed cauli. And as Uncle Corey reminds: Remember to paint it with butter. No problem! Also easy to make ahead of time.)

Tuesday: Pulled Pork with salad and biscuits (There are so many good pulled pork recipes. I think I’ll use one that involves cinnamon and coffee grounds. I used this great recipe for sweet potato biscuits on Thanksgiving.)

Wednesday: LEFTOVERS, we’ll have plenty between Shepard’s Pie and the pulled pork.

Thursday: $5 Pizza and salad (I’ll probably have more leftovers or cook up some bacon and scallops and eat them out of a bowl with a spoon)

Friday: Turkey Veggie Soup (found it on Supercook! I’ve also seen ways to make it with a chicken broth or a tomato base for the soup – whatever your pleasure!)

Saturday: Pork and Onion Casserole (I wish I could spell that word without spell check.)

I always like to throw a few random ideas for my husband and the kids at the bottom as a reminder. I know it’s annoying. We made Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eat Like A Dinosaur today. As my 5 yo puts it “Mama’s famous chocolate chip cookies!” She even brought them in for her class snack once. The girls are looking forward to having 2 small cookies for breakfast tomorrow. Ha. Less sugar and more protein than standard cereal or pancakes!

Tomorrow I’ll prep a variety of items including meatballs, omelet muffins, hard-boiled eggs, guacamole, and perhaps I’ll prep some more pancakes for my dear little 5yo towards the end of the week. She loves them and they keep her fueled on school days. Plus it’s so convenient to have them in the freezer.

What are you favorite budget saving tips?

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