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!


Basic Recipes & Local Treats

I often turn my nose at the idea of “paleo-izing” items from modern food culture. Bread, brownies, pancakes, noodles… attempting to recreate these items doesn’t allow you to fully change your habits. One of the first rules of new habits: Set yourself up for success. Not failure.

In my head, I either change or don’t change. Eating paleo bread makes me want to choose regular bread when there isn’t a paleo option. While I’m pretty black and white for myself, I understand folks may be easing their way into this lifestyle change or, perhaps, look to such food items for comfort or tradition.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

That said, I’ve been known to bake chocolate chip cookies from time to time. You can find my Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in Paleo Parent‘s first book “Eat Like A Dinosaur” along with an arsenal of approachable go-to’s for families or people with a traditional palate including freezable chicken nuggets, fruit roll ups, waffles and more. I respect their copyright and would encourage you to check out the book for yourself, it’s been one of the most used recipe books in our house! Not to mention, there is a children’s book, their familiar back story of (un)health and an easy-to-read allergy index included on every single page.

Now that I got you all amped up on the idea of a delicious chocolate chip cookie, I’ve got great news for my local friends! Betsy’s Bakery created their first prototype! As soon as I saw their Facebook post about Paleo cookies, I grabbed a kid and headed right over. As the story goes, Betsy has Celiac disease and her bakery is entirely gluten-free! She also has dairy free, vegan and now (the most healthy of all) paleo options!

Betsy's Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten free repertoire.

Betsy’s Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten-free repertoire. Remember to support local commerce for the things you want in your life or don’t complain when it’s lacking.

When we chatted briefly about her chocolate chip cookies, future recipes and marketing to the audience of these sweet morsels, she thought Fridays would be a great day to offer fresh Paleo items. I agreed! As a used-to-be Crossfit’er I know how focused I was during the week, but by Friday it was definitely time for a reward. What better way to celebrate then with a naturally sweetened, protein and (good) fat packed dessert that tastes like a cheat, but isn’t! Remember to refrigerate paleo baked goods – fresh ingredients stay fresher when chilled.

ROASTED VEGETABLES

Paleo eating is easy and shouldn’t overwhelm anyone with ‘how to cook’. I am not, repeat, AM NOT a ‘good cook’. In fact, I didn’t begin really cooking, or understanding how to cook, until I decided to eat paleo. Plants and protein, so EASY. I typically roast or crock pot large proteins, I’ll pan cook smaller portions of proteins, and sauté or roast veggies. The creativity comes in the spice blends, medleys and pairings.

Roasted-Brussels-Sprouts-Carrots-and-Leeks-1.jJPG_.jJPG_-1000x288
To roast veggies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Add a dollop of coconut oil or grass-fed butter to a baking sheet
  3. Place in oven till oil is melted
  4. Toss chopped veggies onto sheet
  5. Season to taste (salt, pepper and garlic are my go-to’s, be as simple or creative as you’d like with your spice)
  6. Toss veggies every 10-15 minutes until desired  – typically around 25-30 minutes for most of my vegetables – the softer the veggie the faster it cooks so I may wait to add onions to a sheet until half way through, etc
After greasing the pan, dip your veggie fries in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours with preferred seasonings.

After greasing the pan, dip your fry-cut veggies in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours and preferred seasonings. It’s definitely a special treat in our house. Who has time for dredging?

Alternatively – and a great way to cook ‘fries’ (sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, etc):

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Chop vegetables to even sizing, add to bowl
  3. Pour melted coconut oil or grass-fed butter on top
  4. Season with preferred blend
  5. Mix
  6. Add to baking sheet
  7. Toss every 10-15 minutes until cooked

CHICKEN on the bone

I get asked how I roast my chicken a lot. I forget how something so simple can feel so scary for a new cook. It wasn’t 3 years ago that I cooked less than 10% of the time and now I do most of the cooking/preparing. Paleo food is EASY and that’s the whole point. While I roast/bake most of my chicken the same way (350 and flip/marinate every 20 minutes till cooked – whole birds I flip every 40 minutes) the wings I made for dinner tonight were too good not to share. I only regret I didn’t take a snapshot, but they were gone before I gave it a thought. Moist and crispy. They were a flavor so delicious the whole family enjoyed them.

I bake my wings and other chicken parts atop a cookie cooling rack, over tin foil on a baking sheet. Sophisticated.

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place wings on rack apparatus mentioned above, or something similar
  3. Brush with coconut oil or grass-fed butter
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Savory Spice Shop‘s Red Rocks Hickory Smoke Seasoning: Hickory smoke salt, Hungarian and California paprika, roasted garlic, toasted onion, black pepper, hickory smoke flavoring and oregano OR ANY OTHER SPICE/MARINADE YOU CONJURE UP
  5. Bake for 20 minutes
  6. Flip wings and repeat steps 3, 4 then 5
  7. When timer goes off the 2nd time, flip wings as you place them onto the tin foil covered baking sheet
  8. Wrap wings – I use an additional piece of foil for leaking and insulation – place in oven
  9. Turn heat up to 450
  10. Bake for 10 minutes
  11. Flip foil package and turn off oven – this is when I make salads, get the table set, etc.
  12. ENJOY!
A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! I haven't made them since I originally posted this photo, perhaps I'll make a batch for an impending slumber party.

A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! It’s been some time since I made a batch, perhaps I’ll whip some up for a certain (about-to-be) 5 year old’s slumber party. A special treat packed with protein!


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.


Yet Another Holiday…

heartNow 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!

Not my kids, but super funny, right? And pretty much what our first Easter looked like.

Not my kids, but super funny, right? And pretty much what our first Easter looked like.

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.

Happy holidays!

Find recipes for naturally dyed eggs when you click the photo. Neat!

Find recipes for naturally dyed eggs when you click the photo. Neat!

 


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!


Sprouts and Cookie Bars

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.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found this idea on Pinterest.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found and re-pinned this idea on Pinterest. Click the photo for original publication.

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.

brussel-sprout-540x380

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.
Cookie Bars

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.

They were so eager to eat tonight's bars that the chocolate isn't even dry in these photos!

They were so eager to eat tonight’s bars that the chocolate isn’t even hardened in these photos!

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.