Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cost Cutting: 2- Make it from scratch

Not only is making everything from scratch healthier, it will almost always be cheaper. I have always been a firm believer that anything they (big business, industry) can do, I can do better (No you can’t, yes I can, no you can’t, yes I can, yes I can, yes I cannnnnnn…. Sorry, little Annie, Get Your Gun). Anyway, where was I. Oh yes, make it at home…
I will always utilize great sales on key ingredients to process my own foods at home, that I will inevitably need in the future. Great example: applesauce. Unsweetened applesauce is a staple in my house. Between my children, my baking, using as a topping on pancakes, we use a lot of applesauce. I recently took advantage of a great sale my local grocery store was having where they had Organic Fuji and Braeburn apples for $.88/lb. Yes, that is right, $.88/lb. Crazy, right. Hello, stockuportunity!!!!!!
Over the week of the sale I purchased about 20lbs of apples, and was able to can 15 jars of organic applesauce, for under $18 in total.  I worked it out that each jar was actually less than $1 each because of apples eaten raw, eating applesauce as we worked, and I had a small bowl left over that we used during the next week that never made it to the jars. Was it work, yes, but will it be worth it over the next couple months when I have my own applesauce, with exactly what I know is in it, to feed my family for much cheaper than I can purchase it? ABSOLUTELY!!!

Another great example: sausage. I talked in CC:1 about grocery store’s reduced meats. Well, when you find those great deals on ground meats, take advantage of them in 2 ways. Freeze some for use in meals, and make some into sausage. It is so hard, and even more expensive, to find good quality paleo sausage meat. So, I make my own… I know what I put in, so I know what I will get. I was recently able to make 10 lbs of sausage, 6lbs breakfast and 4lbs Italian for less than $14. That is right, quality, guaranteed Paleo sausage for pretty much the cost of the cheapo, crud-filled excuses for sausage in the grocery store. My freezer is now stocked for breakfasts, dinners, and everything in between, for a great price, and it took me maybe an hour and a half in total.

These are just 2 examples, but the theory works on almost everything! Here are some more:
1.       We are getting into berry season in most areas. Make a day of it with your family and pick a ton.  Freeze them up and eat off them for months at a fraction of the cost of store purchased fresh/frozen.
2.       When a good beef sale come along make a ton of jerky. If prepared correctly it can last a good amount of time, and is SOOO much cheaper than purchasing, let along purchasing strict Paleo.
3.       Almond Butter- Stock up on nuts when you find a great sale, and grind it fresh or into jars as you need it. I can make it for at least 2/3 the cost of store bought, and when you bake a lot you can go through it fast!
4.       Yogurt- I know not everyone Paleo does dairy, but for those that do. Look into making your own. I have been doing so for years, and the savings is absolutely unbelievable, and it is so easy with a Crockpot. I love giving my kids yogurt and knowing exactly where it came from, from farm to table and nothing but my hands in between!
5.       Flavored vinegars- You can make incredible salad dressing by flavoring regular old (cheap!!) white vinegar with fresh herbs from the garden. Just soak herbs in the vinegar in a mason jar for a couple days, and you will have incredible stuff. Try chives (a great use for the flowers as well), dill, parsley, basil, or any combo you like. So inexpensive (especially if you have your own garden) and adds great flavor to salads, stir fry and any dish you like.
6.        Fruit leathers- My kids love fruit leathers. They are so easy to make at home. I simply use a jar of homemade applesauce (though you could use purchased), spread it on a silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet and bake on 225 for an hour or so, depending on how thick you make them. No added sugar, no wasted packaging, and I have healthy snacks for my family. 1 large jar of applesauce makes about 2 cookie sheets of leather, so you can see the incredible savings there!
I hope this was of some help, and I hope to continue to add more as I think of them!

Eggplant and Chicken Stew

I know the east coast is in the middle of a heat wave, but here in the Pacific Northwest heat is still a far off fable only seen in dreams and tanning booths. In an attempt to accept my surroundings I decided to come up with a Stew for dinner tonight. I am trying to make dinners that accommodate multiple schedules. My husband, during the week, has to eat 'dinner' around 3:00 before he goes to school, the kids eat around 5, and on nights I play soccer I eat after I play, so anywhere from 7-9. This stew is perfect. It was great when it was first done for my hubby, good a couple hours later for the kids, and as I eat is right now reheated it is still wonderful. I will be making this again!

Eggplant and Chicken Stew
1 Large Eggplant
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 of 46 oz can organic tomato juice (more or less depending on how soupy or stewy you want)
1/4 C coconut milk
Italian seasoning
garlic powder
onion powder
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 500. Dice eggplant and place in large roasting pan. Mix with olive oil and spices until well coated. Roast in oven for 10-15 minutes till the eggplant has softened and slightly crisped around the edges. While eggplant is cooking, brown the ground chicken in olive oil and the same seasonings. In a medium sauce pan, combine tomato juice and coconut milk, along with even more of the seasoning (can you tell I believe in layers of flavor?). Once meat and eggplant is cooked, add into tomato mixture and allow to simmer together for 10-15 minutes to really combine before serving. Gets even better with time, so perfect for lunch leftovers the next day!

I've made it to the big time...

Ok, so not really. But I kind of feel like it, for just a minute. One of my recipes was featured as the 'Recipe of the Day' on FastPaleo.com. I'm so proud! This is the perfect dish to bring along to the upcoming backyard barbecues and picnics.
Here it is!

Summer Pasta Salad
  • 1/2 spaghetti squash

  • 2 cooked chicken breast, diced

  • 1 12 oz bag frozen green beans, thawed

  • 4 oz pepperoni or cooked bacon if you don't do pepperoni

  • 2 tbs dry dill

  • 1/2 tbs onion powder

  • splash of lemon juice

  • olive oil to desired wetness

  • pinch sea salt

  • In pressure cooker, steam ½ spaghetti squash for 15 minutes. It should still be slightly crisp when you take it out as it will absorb some of the olive oil and seasonings (and not turn to mush) better this way.
    While it is cooking, mix together all other items in a large bowl. Once squash is cooked, allow it to cool enough to handle and scrape it out with a fork. Mix all together and add additional olive oil as needed. Allow to meld in the fridge for a couple hours.

    Breakfast: Paleo Burrito

    These little babies I like to call Paleo Burritos. They have all of the wonderful flavors of a good Mexican dish, and packed with protein and veggies. I used 2 leftover hamburgers from last nights dinner, but you could use any kind of meat you have left in the fridge. This is probably my favorite breakfast, so good! You can easily change it up with different veggies or different meat.

    Paleo Burrito (serves 2-3)
    1/2 lb ground meat
    coconut oil
    1 shredded zucchini
    1 shredded carrot
    chili powder (or cayenne if you like hotter)
    onion powder
    garlic powder
    4 eggs- whisked
    1 avocado

    In large skillet cook ground meat till no longer pink. Remove from pan and cook zucchini and carrot in coconut oil for about 5 minutes until they soften. Add meat back in and add seasonings to your desired flavoring/heat. In separate small fry pan, add coconut oil and cook about 1/3 of the eggs at a time, allowing one side to become solid before flipping. Once flipped, add in 1/3 of the mixture and fold eggs over. Serve with a side of fresh avocado or fresh salsa.

    I love my husband...

    I do have a wonderful husband who I am so thankful for. He was so wonderful, he made this wonderful dinner for us, with very little input from me. Yeahhhh!!
    Here is the wonderful meal we had, and since he is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy, there were no recipes involved, so you only get to drool over the picture.

    Loralei and I did prep and season the zucchini for the grill while Steven was outside tending the fire. We used extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and onion powder.

    Treat Time

    I love being able to make 'treats' for my kids that do not necessarily send them (and therefor ME) into crazy, sugar induced, tornadoes. Anyone who knows my 3 year old will attest, she needs no added spring to her step, she does not stop moving from morning to night. Add some sugar and a little food color and you have uncontrolled chaos. These are a special treat that I can make her without the dreaded consequences!

    This recipe is my modification of these little gems.
    1/2 C Homemade applesauce (unsweetened)
    1/2 C Coco powder
    1/3 C melted coconut oil
    2 Eggs
    1/3 C Honey
    1/2 C Almond Flour
    1/3 C Coconut Flour
    Pinch Salt
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350. Cut parchment paper to line an 8X8 pan. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk eggs until frothy white and add in honey, applesauce, coconut oil and vanilla. Add wet into dry. Spoon into parchment lined pan and bake for 30ish minutes or until the brownie is set to the touch.

    Verdicts from the kids:
    Loralei- Can I go potty on the big girl potty again so I can have another special treat?
    Colton- well, as you can see, it is gone!

    Blueberry Honey Muffins

    Just to be clear, I do not enjoy the flavor of honey. To be honest, it kind of nauseates me to smell it. That being said, my oh-so-wonderful husband could (and lets be honest, does) drink honey straight out of the jar. I made these for him. The only issue that he had with this muffin is that I used a coconut flour that has a courser grain to it, and these could have been improved by using a finer grain. That being said, this was voted an overall keeper!

    Blueberry Honey Muffins
    3 Eggs
    3 Tbsp Melted Coconut Oil
    4 Tbsp Coconut Milk
    4 Tbsp Honey
    1/2 Tsp Vanilla
    1/4 Tsp Salt
    1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
    1/2 C Coconut Flour
    1/2 C frozen blueberries

    Preheat oven to 375. Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. In another bowl combine all wet ingredients except blueberries and stir into dry ingredients. Gently fold in blueberries and spoon into 8 prepped muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until done. Enjoy (of if you don't like honey, give to someone who will enjoy)!!

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Dinner tonight

    Yumm, great dinner. This is one of our favorite ways to enjoy chicken. I got the idea from a friend of mine who worked at Chic-fil-a during high school. She told me the 'secret' to their great tasting, moist chicken was that they marinade the chicken in pickle juice before breading and frying. I loved the idea, and we have been making this super simple, super moist, super yummy chicken ever since. So, SO good!

    Spinach Balsamic Salad:
    Baby Spinach
    Hard Boiled Egg
    Bacon Bits
    Fresh Cracked Pepper
        Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

    Pickle Juice Chicken:
    Marinade Boneless Skinless Chicken breast in Dill pickle juice for 8 hrs. I make my own pickle brine that I use to make pickles. If you buy a store bought be sure to read the ingredient label so you can make sure they are paleo.
    Grill till done, and enjoy!

    Paleo Slaw
    1/2 Head Cabbage- Shredded
    1 Carrot- Shredded
    1/4 Head Purple Cabbage- Shredded
    1/4 C dill pickle juice
    1/8 C Paleo Mayo (homemade)
    Pinch Sea Salt
    1 Tbs Dill Weed

    Mix together Cabbages and carrot. In small bowl, mix together all other ingredient. Pour over cabbage/carrot mix and stir to combine. Let sit in fridge for at least 3 hours to come together.

    Cost Cutting:1- Reduced Meats.

    Everyone knows, fresh, local, organic and grass fed meat is best. That being said, I do not have the money to be buying that way for all of my families' meals. There is no possible way for us to live the Paleo lifestyle if I had to stay within those parameters. Some day I hope to be at the financial place to do that, but I do the best I can on the budget I have. This is one of the instances where I do what I can, and I have to call it good. I have to remind myself, it is a far better option then giving my kids blue box Mac and Cheese or Corndogs every meal, right.

    One way in which I do cut cost in the meat department is by looking for the reduced meats. Grocery stores mark down meats when they are getting close to their 'Sell By' dates in order to not loose all the cost of the product. There is nothing wrong with the meat, it is just getting close to the point they are not able to sell them anymore. Here is a great link for more on reduced products at the grocery store. http://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-09-2010/savings_challenge_saving_tip_on_salvaged_groceries.htmlIf you get to the grocery store right after they have marked down, you can usually score some great deals on great products. I can bring them home, throw them in the freezer, and have great meat to pull out for meals at a fraction of the retail cost. There are even times I will find great organic meats marked way down!
    My freezer's current stock.

    If you will notice from the picture, the majority of what I have in my freezer, stocked from reduced meat, is low to no fat poultry products. There is a reason. When meats are not organically raised, the residual pesticides concentrate in the fat of the meat. If you don't have the money to purchase all organic meat, concentrate on buying the fattier cuts of meat organic. For me, I do not bother buying by Boneless/Skinless Chicken and the like Organically, as there is very little residual. I will spend my money on purchasing my fattier cuts of beef Organic, and save the money on the lower fat stuff. Make sense? (I  will find some of the sources I have read on this issue and come back to post.)

    One of my favorites is Jenny-O Turkey products. I can generally find a good amount of mark down for about $1.99/ 20oz package.  In addition, I have e-mailed the company several times, expressing how much my family likes their products and asking if they offer any coupons. I have been sent a lot of $1/off coupons that I can combine with the markdown meat, bringing my totals down to $.99/20oz of good quality meat. Is it the absolute best option? For my family on a small budget, YES!

    Isn't that a lot of money??

    Another really common questions that goes a long with the Paleo lifestyle has to do with the cost. Isn't it expensive to eat Paleo? Well, yes and no. 

    Yes, it is more expensive than some other options. If you use coupons to purchase cart fulls of processed, pre-packaged crap filled with chemicals, then yes Paleo is going to be expensive to you. There are popular television shows out now that show people purchasing hundred and hundreds of dollars worth of 'food' for just cents. Is that frugal to me? NO! I would not choose to put those chemicals in my family if you paid me. You are purchasing no nutritional value, so no it is not frugal, it is a waste of time, money (even if very little), the environment and worst of all, is destroying people's bodies!

    The other side of the coin, is Paleo expensive? It does not have to be. What do I mean by this? Well, there are ways to cut grocery costs without filling your family with garbage. One of my goals with this blog is to highlight some of the cost cutting measures I use to feed my family nutritionally sound foods without spending thousands a month. I will be highlighting a series of simple cost cutting measures that can be employed by anyone to help cut the sting at the check-out counter.


    One of the sets of questions I get asked most about living Paleo has to do with sweets, and how we have 'given them up'. To be honest, we just haven't. There is a way to sweets without putting yourself into a sugar coma. Sweets have become a part of almost every aspect of American life. We use cakes to celebrate special occasions and achievements, we use ice cream to drowned a bad day and hard emotions, we use cookies to bond with our children and we use candy to show romance and love between a couple. These have just become ingrained in our culture. While I love candy, the way we as a society have done this has brought us to the point we are at, with the highest levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes ever recorded.

    So, why not take these moments and revise them. Still have the treats, but make them treats that are actually fueling your body with nutrition instead of empty calories. One of my goals is to give my family a full life, and to me that means not cutting out all these moments i have talked about. One of these is baking cookies with my 3 year old, and still making them delicious. This recipe I am sharing was one of my first attempts at Paleo sweets, and it turned out pretty good. I hope to continue to share my revisions as I go.

     I hesitate to call these snickerdoodles, b/c they really don't have that same mouth feel that snickerdoodles do. That being said, the actual flavor is right on! These are something I just came up with in my kitchen, and I think they are a winner, at least for me, as far as a treat goes. They aren't all that sweet, but they certainly are good!

    1 1/2 C Almond Flour
    1 C Coconut Flour
    2 Tsp Cream of Tartar
    1/2 Tsp baking soda
    1/2 Tsp salt
    3 Tsp Cinnamon
    1/4 C Raw Honey
    1 Stick softened butter
    ~1/3 C Water

    Mix all ingredient together and taste. Add more honey or Cinnamon as you see fit. Spoon onto a cookie sheet and press down slightly to flatten. These will not change shape in the oven like conventional cookies would, so make them as uniform as you can for baking time purposes. Bake at 350 for  about 10 minutes, give for take 3-5 minutes, depending on size.

    Here I go...

    After prompting from several friends, i've made the decision to start a blog. This will be my place to share recipes, frugal/healthy home ideas, and more than anything keep track of myself. I need a place to keep up with what I have done, what I want to challenge myself to do, and keep accountable for the goal I set out to meet.

    I'm writing this blog for myself! I don't expect anyone to read this, rather I'm looking for personal accountability as well as a means to save my progression, recipes and findings.
    I'm also doing this to show how Paleo is doable as a  Main Street lifestyle, that is on a budget. I'm not rich, I have $300/month to spend on groceries for my family of 4, period. With our impending career change saving every penny is key! I have found ways to make Paleo work on that budget, and I hope to begin sharing those in order to keep my ideas fresh!