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 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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There’s an App for that!

I’m on my iPhone all the time. Whether I’m looking up a word in the dictionary, scheduling my calendar, posting to Pushups and Carrots on Facebook or using it to log my workout, everything I want or need is handy! I’m not a junkie, however. I have 1 page of apps. And I’m not a gamer so everything I download is a tool with a purpose.

Here are a few of my favorite apps that help keep me focused, motivated, and in shape. AND THEY’RE FREE.

 

  • dirtydozenDirty Dozen – Simply lists the 12 most contaminated fruits and veggies. 5 servings from this list will bring no less than 14 different pesticides into your body a day. YUCK. You’ll want to buy these 12 plants organic whenever possible. The app also offers a Clean 15 list which you can find deals on since you’re not committed to organic-only options. It’s an easy go-to when I’m in the produce section. They even have a list of 53 fruits and veggies ranked in order of most pesticides. Apples are #1. I believe 5lb bags of organic apples are on sale this week at GIANT. Just saying.

 

  • nongmononGMO – I’m the asshole standing in the organic aisle just staring at her cell phone. I promise I’m doing something valuable, not texting my girlfriends. Typically, I’m comparing brands via my nonGMO app and finding the brand who doesn’t use genetically modified organisms in their ingredients. I am especially interested if this is a non-paleo item, as I want it to be as clean and wholesome as possible for my 4 and 5 year olds’ bodies. Just because something is labeled organic, does not mean it is the best choice. Research your food.

 

  • workoutsWorkouts – This takes the guess-work out of what exercise routine to perform when I’m running behind, only have 30 mins and can’t think straight because I just rolled out of bed. Choose your target area ie; abs, arms, butt, legs, cardio or full body, then choose your length of time 10-30 minutes. Only have 5 minutes? Make it count. The app provides a count down during each exercise so you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it also shows a video of the movement along with posted tips for best form and technique. EASY PEASY. Remember to stretch.

 

What are your favorite apps? PLEASE SHARE!


Week 2: Menu & Receipt

Here it is! Don’t make fun of my bad paint job.

Image

Our basement door, just off the kitchen.

Menu

  • Saturday: Tacos (seasoned ground beef and salsa on greens with carrot peels, cucumber slivers, chopped onions – check the bad pic on Facebook)
  • Sunday: Kabobs (chicken, pork, steak with peppers, onions, sprouts and bacon) with Brussel Sprout and Bacon Speared
  • Monday: Pork Chops with a salad and mashed (sweet) potatoes (and certainly applesauce)
  • Tuesday: Burgers with salad and fries (or burger ON salad, hold the fries)
  • Wednesday: Chicken Soup (broth, chicken breast, bag(s) of frozen soup vegetables, chopped and peeled additional carrots and onions, seasoned in the crock pot)
  • Thursday: Steak (mmm, steak) with baked (sweet) potatoes and a salad
  • Friday: $5 PIZZA NIGHT (or leftovers)
  • Saturday: Jumbalaya (broth, peppers, onions, garlic, chicken, shrimp and sausage, seasoned in the crock pot)

My shopping list tallied at $100.33 according to my calculator, before check out. That was after I decided to put a few things back to swap out for more proteins; one of the 2 frozen pizzas my husband requested $3.99; the entire stock of k-cups because (I had a coupon for a buy 2) I can get through exactly enough days with the coffee and tea I have $11.98; I put back grass fed hot dogs and resolved to not take short cuts when feeding the kids (besides we have sliced chicken, eggs and there will be plenty of leftovers for lunch options) $5.99; I decided against another jar of olives since I blew through the last one (munchies) and I have guacamole and celery in the crisper I can crunch on instead $2.29.

Choices.

recept

The cashier presented me with the grand total of $102.55. Not bad. Mind you, that also includes $44.44 in NON Paleo foods or housewares items. HOLY SHIT. Imagine if we just ate Paleo.

I’ll also be making hard-boiled eggs for snacking and salad, cookie bars (grainless granola like concoction, basically nuts and honey) and I have apples and bananas to turn into yummy breakfast or dessert options for the girls. That makes a week worth of (almost) Paleo eating.

Some more thoughts on Paleo being as affordable as you want to make it:

  • Robb’s rant, he will always hold a spot in my heart for opening my eyes to the power I have over my own health.
  • I follow Paleo On a Budget on Facebook
  • A quick google search (if you really want to know something, you can find the answer yourself) and here is a nice rundown on ways to cut the budget from the Lean Machine and 15 Tips for Eating Paleo on the Cheap from Following my Nose
  • Now harvest your own information. If you want something, you’ll make it work. Don’t blame anyone but yourself.

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A Cheap & Healthy Perspective – Week 1

I hear it all the time, “I’m on a tight budget, I can’t afford to eat like you.” Well, I too am on a tight budget. $100/week for food, in fact. I have a family of 4 and this budget also includes non-paleo foods for my (amazing) husband because again, this is my journey and I won’t pressure him into it, nor will I sabotage myself because of his preferences.

A few things:

  • Is grass fed meat better? YES. Does that mean it’s all I eat? NO. I buy meat that is on sale. Some of it is grass fed (YUM) and some of it is not. From the sale meat, I create my weekly dinner plan.
  • When not fresh, frozen or canned veggies? FROZEN. Freezing vegetables will help lock in the nutrients but also doesn’t allow it to sit and soak in sodium until consumed.
  • Cooking serum? Coconut oil or butter. Real, unsalted, raw butter – THE best. Although I’m attempting a Whole30 right now so I’m sticking with coconut oil or bacon fat. Butter is a dairy.
  • Fast & easy? Sure, there are lots of fast and easy ideas I can and will share, but eating plants & proteins does require preparation and forethought. It’s a lifestyle CHANGE, so all you fast paced, eat-on-the-fly, no time for prep folks, take a deep breath and reevaluate your priorities. Is health one of them?  …Always make leftovers so you have them for breakfast and lunch options …bake some eggs in muffin tins and freeze for easy access …soups and stews in the crock pot are a lifesaver! …whole fruit and veggies are a sweet and crunchy snack option. SIMPLICITY in food brings forth a simpler life.

paleo-food-pyramid

With that being said, I’ve decided to share my shopping list and meal plan to help folks get started. Also because I’m a simple girl with simple tastes and my recipes/meals are far from fancy. I think most of you can relate to having small children or spouses who aren’t always adventurous with their palates. Also, they are not on a Whole30, I am, so I will post my variations to anything for my own plate. Here we go:

Sunday: Leftover Stew – In a crock pot on low, I tossed leftover roast and meatloaf, frozen veggies of our liking, and broth together. After seasoning to taste, I checked back at dinner time! To serve, I added a dollop of pre-prepared mashed cauliflower to a soup bowl and scooped some soup on top. One of my daughters enjoys soup in a bowl, the other enjoys soup on a plate sans liquid. Wa-la.

Monday: BBQ – 1lb ground beef and a can of Manwich. I had my husband dish out my portion of beef first, before adding the Manwich. The family had it with fries and apples, I enjoyed it on top a bed of greens and carrots.

Tuesday: Pork & Kraut (OF COURSE!) – In a crock pot on low, I added a layer of sliced onion, a layer of sauerkraut, pork loin, and a final layer of kraut. Checked back at dinner time and added some pre-prepared mashed sweet potatoes and apple sauce to my plate. MY FAVORITE MEAL.

Wednesday: Chicken with Onions & Peppers – My husband pan cooks the chicken and sautes onions and bell peppers. I enjoyed that atop a bed of greens, carrots, cucumbers, radishes and celery. The rest of the bunch had some noodles with their chicken.

Thursday: Leftovers for the family – There wasn’t anything ‘clean’ leftover so I enjoyed some frozen Tilapia, sweet mash and crunched bacon sprinkled on top. I keep a stash of frozen fish, shrimp and scallops for myself to enjoy on nights the family decides on pizza, spaghetti or other grain based choices.

Friday: $5 Pizza night for the fam ala Little Caesars. I will be enjoying a Large salad (1, because I don’t want the greens to go bad before eaten and 2, because I’m craving a big salad) with roasted chicken on top.

Saturday: Bacon wrapped turkey with roasted vegetables and salad.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week's bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week’s bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food for the Mr.

My method of shopping and meal planning is to create the first few meals of the week from items we HAVE in the fridge, then write a list of items we would like in the house (veggies and fruit, etc). Once I am at the store, I keep a running calculator of each item I put in the cart, remaining super selective on the items I choose, even if on my list. For instance, this week I knew we still had 6 eggs so I passed on another dozen because I didn’t have an egg heavy menu planned. I complete all non-meat shopping first, THEN I go to the meat department and check out what they have for sale, spending the rest of the budget on protein that will pair with any/all of the produce we have in the cart.

Easy peasy.

I don’t enjoy sharing my entire menu (I find it quite boring) but if you find it valuable please let me know by commenting here or on our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

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What Did You Eat Today?

As a 30 day Better Body Challenge gets underway at Crossfit717, I thought it would be a good idea to catalogue what I’m eating to help others as they become accustom to a new way of thinking about food. Whether you decided to eat based on Paleo or Zone, you can’t go wrong with the ideas you’ll find below.

Remember, don’t over think Paleo. Prepare food ahead of time so you’re not left starving without a quick snack while you cook dinner. Cook an extra piece of protein with each meal so you’ll have leftovers for breakfast, lunch or snack the next day. Utilize a crock pot on hectic days to make soup, stew or chili that can last all week.

Protein. Plants.

BREAKFAST: Today I enjoyed leftover pancakes that I made for my daughters yesterday. This is a rarity for two reasons, 1, I don’t typically eat breakfast because I’m not hungry in the morning and 2, I don’t actually like pancakes. But Paleo pancakes I can get down with. I warmed them up for 15 seconds and enjoyed their delight with a little butter and coffee. I then tossed back a few pieces of sirloin from last night’s dinner for a boost of energy and protein. And because I love steak.

Hardboiled eggs are great to have on hand for a snack or to add protein to a side or dinner salad.

After our meeting at the Box, I stopped by the grocery to pick up a few items that we eat daily: tub of greens, cucumbers, peppers, fruit for the kids as well as a few items for this week’s food prep: eggplant and yams. I also checked out the meats and picked up a great deal on Nature’s Promise whole chickens, uncured bacon, store brand pork loin and nitrate free lunch meat for my kids and husband.

COOK DAY: Typically Sundays and Thursdays end up being “cook days” in my house to maintain fresh options for quick meals and snacks or sides. Today I have a roasted chicken, hardboiled eggs, mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato chips to go with the roasted eggplant dip I’m prepping, cantaloupe and pineapple. Incidentally, did you know you can grow a pineapple by simply lopping off the top, soaking in water and replanting after it begins to root? In a mere 24-36 months your plant will produce it’s very own pineapple from the middle of its leaves. This also works with celery and chives, both of which I have growing in my playroom and both of which grow at a much more rapid pace than the pineapple. Once I cut the pineapple, I will not hesitate to begin growing my own.

Roast a chicken for snacks, salads or breakfast options, then use the carcass to make your own broth and soup.

LUNCH: I had cole slaw, 2 drumsticks and chicken breast from the roasted chicken.

DINNER: We will be having the pork loin I just bought, mashed sweet potatoes and a large side salad including mixed greens (the greener the more nutritious), cucumbers, onions, carrots, egg.
If this is a helpful idea, I’ll be happy to update this post occasionally with more menu items from our household. It would be fantastic if you shared what you are enjoying today as well. Please post a comment with your day’s menu by clicking the ‘comment’ link at the top of this post. Inspire and motivate others!

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January 16

LUNCH: Tuna on greens with carrot slices, celery and hardboiled eggs. A dribble of raspberry vinaigrette.

DINNER:  Chicken with sautéed onions and peppers. Side salad with cucumbers, carrots, radishes, celery, onions, red peppers. A little too much variety for my taste, but I ate it because I didn’t have to cook it.

January 17

LUNCH: Leftover sirloin with sauerkraut (source of probiotics which seems to keep my skin clear). I actually shelled and ate a hardboiled egg while I heated up my lunch too. Yum.

Not sure what we’ll have for dinner tonight but a girlfriend emailed me that she’s found relief in scheduling 2 days a week with the same meal. She says it’s taken the ‘pressure’ off coming up with new and exciting dinners every night. Whatever works!

(We ended up having meatloaf, roasted onions peppers and celery, and almond stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. YUM!)

January 18

LUNCH: Shrimp and bacon.

DINNER: I hate to say it, but we’re making pork again (hey, it was on sale AND it’s delish) so I may resort to my favorite dish in the whole word: Sweet potatoes and sauerkraut with apple sauce. Delightful. However, I know my family will not entertain this meal again so they will probably have noodles and salad. *sigh* Paleo is MY choice. I can not force another to adhere.

Paleo is a new way of eating and you may find yourself questioning new habits. It’s going to be okay. What did you eat today?