Now that Valentine’s Day has passed (and I’ve thrown away my girls’ stash of classroom candy exchanges, minus the few lollipops they enjoyed) we are coming upon St. Patrick’s Day and right around the corner is…EASTER.
As one might assume, Easter is not an edible celebration in our house. My husband and I have always treated this holiday as a welcoming of Spring. I always say our backyard is the reason we bought our house, where a previous owner erected an above ground pool, we have a great big circle of sand/dirt, which makes for hours of dirty play and fire pits. Two things we enjoy together as a family. Keeping that in mind, on Easter morning, our daughters awaken to a reload of shiny new outdoor toys including buckets, shovels, pinwheels, seeds, nets and we’ll probably include bike helmets this year since their big heads keep getting bigger.
The first year we celebrated, my husband and I were sitting around our sand pit while the girls took naps. We discussed the impending holiday and decided to take turns running down to the local Dollar Store, spend $6 each, pick out 3 things for each kid, than surprise each other with the items once we were done shopping. It was fun for us, and them, and has become a tradition for all of us!
Holiday doesn’t mean sugar rush or wheat feast for me. It means family, celebration, special memories. It means tradition. You have the power to create any type of tradition you choose. Memories will mean more than a chocolate bunny to your children when they become adults. Sure, I look forward to nibbling around the food table at my sister’s house on holidays, but you can guarantee it’s loaded with fruits and veggies and some kind of delicious meat, deviled eggs, olives, and whatever treat we add to the spread. There are usually a few things that spark my non-paleo interest, but with all the yummy(ier) options, it’s become no big deal.
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.
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.
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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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.
- Dirty 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.
- nonGMO – 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.
- Workouts – 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!
Today was spent prepping dinner, which was sausage, steak and chicken kabob. They were speared with onions, green peppers and carrots. On the side, I had Brussel sprouts and bacon sticks and a salad heavy with mixed greens, cucumber, onion, carrot, celery and hard-boiled egg. Oil and vinegar for the dressing and I was full before my plate was empty. Therefore, my lunch is already packed for tomorrow: leftover kabob emptied out onto a bed of mixed greens.
I know I’ve mentioned my love of Brussel sprouts and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading about it, but they are my favorite. I love how they grow and every time I pick up a stalk at the grocery, I inevitably have 1 or more strangers ask what it is. Great conversation starter, who knew?! I think I planted brussels last summer just to see that gorgeous stalk in my own back yard. Of course, homegrown taste EVEN MORE delicious. I hope to have success again this summer.
I’m currently awaiting the finished product of a little snack we like to refer to as “Cookie Bars”. It’s like a grainless granola bar without weird ingredients, but more of a protein bar, if you ask me! Plain and simple, it’s a recipe that can be varied in so many ways. Once you make them, it’ll be a go-to treat for the kiddos, if not for yourself.
In a food processor add
- 5-7 Medjool pitted dates and handful of other dried fruit of choice (we used banana tonight)
Process till the dates start breaking down then add
- handful of pecans
- handful of whole almonds
Process till the really big chunks are gone then add
- handful of crushed walnut
- handful of coconut powder
- a big squeeze of honey (probably 1/4 cup)
Pulse till mixed around a bit and add 1/4 cup or less of maple syrup, grade B preferably. Pulse till mixed. Must be sticky enough to lump together, if not add a bit of honey and syrup till satisfied.
Once the mixture is fully combined – sometimes, I put it in a larger bowl and use a spatula to smash it around some more, but did fine with just the processor tonight – line a baking sheet with parchment paper and flatten the mixture to an even thickness of about 1/4 an inch or your likeness. I then sprinkle it with cinnamon.
Bake at 325 for approx 20 minutes. I check on mine every 10. Timing depends on the thickness and for thicker bars, I usually flip the entire thing after 20 minutes and bake it off for 10-20 more.
Once the bar is browned, I add some sort of chocolate to the top. Sometimes a high cacao dark chip, melted in the microwave and spread on but tonight I used Enjoy brand chocolate chips because that is what I had. I sprinkled them lightly across the bar, placed it back in the oven for 1 minute then removed, spread the chocolate in a very thin layer then removed the parchment paper, with the cookie bar on top, from the sheet to cool on a rack.
As it cools, it will harden. Once cooled, I break it apart by attempting to cut it into rectangles. Sometimes it cuts well and other times, it’s more of a break line that I create.
If you use the same recipe, slightly less honey and syrup, you can toss the mixture while roasting and create a delicious cereal to be enjoyed with some milk of you choice. Warm it for an oatmeal like sensation.
My husband couldn’t wait to get his hands on one of these. While I was getting the girls dressed after bath, and before they were cooled entirely, he went ahead and cut them. Warm and delicious! A comfort treat. The girls had one before bedtime tonight. Yet, they are entirely acceptable for breakfast.
Once cool, I store them in Tupperware, with parchment or wax paper between layers in the fridge and the girls help themselves when they wake up or feel a little hungry. I’ll also grab a few and toss into a ziplock bag when we’ll be running around all day. Easy pick-me-up and a delicious treat.
Savings note: Use the ‘candy bins’ at the grocery store to bag your own nuts. It ends up to be more like $2 or less for more than enough compared to $6 for the prepackaged nuts. This is why we always have a variety in our house.