Becoming more self sufficient 

Last year we were able to bring down our grocery bill to $100 a week. That is feeding 5-6 people 3 meals a day plus snacks. Last week I reached our next milestone of $80. It’s in part to growing more food and a more diverse assortment of food this year. This is our meal list for the week:

Breakfast:

Pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, buttermilk biscuits, and bacon.

Lunch: 

Zucchini fritters, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese, veggies with hummus, grilled veggie sandwiches, leftovers, pasta

Snacks:

Popcorn, sweet breads (pumpkin, zucchini, banana), Granola bars, macaroni and cheese

Dinners: 

Chicken pot pie (made with leftover chicken from the week before), spinach and mushroom white pizza, spaghetti squash marinara with roasted squash and garlic bread, veggie lasagna, tacos (we have tacos every Tuesday), tofu Tikka Masala, squash stuffed with Italian sausage. 


My grocery list:

Eggs ($1.09×2), flour ($3), butter ($3×2), mozerella ($5), buttermilk ($3), tofu ($1.69), milk ($4), Popcorn ($2.5), linguine ($1.25), tomatoes (2 cans x $.99), Annie’s Mac and cheese (on sale 3 X $1), .25 lbs chorizo sausage ($.98), bacon ($7.39), Simply lemonde (on sale 3x$2), organic lemon juice ($7.29), sour cream ($1), cocoa ($3.19), natural sugar ($1.99), cheddar cheese ($2.77), granola bars ($3.67, $3.29), bananas ($1.13). 

Total: $72.30. I also bought lunch for $5 and toilet paper which takes it up to just under $80. 

What I don’t need to buy and what it would cost to buy it from the farm or the store (*denotes something I already had bought) 

Spinach* ($1), spaghetti squash ($4), 3 yellow squash ($3), 3 zuchinni ($3), black beans* ($2), peanut butter* ($2.5), jelly ($2), hummus* ($2). That would bring it up to $100 for the week!  

The cleanse: daaaaaay 4

It’s not as bad as it was the last time I cleansed, because I already had mostly cut them out, but omg am I craving white bread and sugar. If I can get through the next 24-48 hours I’ll be home free. 

Another issue you have to get used to is portion sizes. Whole Foods fill you up faster and you stay full longer.  I’m used to eating at least two fairly large meals a day but now I find that I’m not hungry during the day much.  as long as I eat a nice size breakfast I can basically have two snacks and two small meals and I’m good the rest of the day.  

Breakfast:

I decided to break up the monotony of eggs for breakfast by indulging in whole wheat honey banana pancakes with maple syrup. My 2 year old was SUPER excited about this. 

All that I was missing for this was:

Honey (free, but if you aren’t fortunate enough to have your own hive I recommend buying a jar of local honey from a farmers market)

Banana ($1.50 for a bushel) 

Maple syrup ($8)

For lunch I took my kids to a local cafe. My 5 year old has 3 hours of therapy for his cp on Wednesdays. There is a local café that also does pay what you can Wednesdays so I can feed me and my kids for about the same as I would spend on crappy meals at like McDonald’s.  It’s a win-win.  Plus they specialize in natural whole foods sonindont have to worry about not being able to eat anything.  I had chicken salad in lettuce. Total : less than $10 for me and the kids. 

Dinner i let my husband make dinner for us. He is a really good cook but after 30 minutes in the grocery store was getting a bit frustrated at me over my inability to eat any salad dressing. We finally decided I would make it. We had the second nights worth of steak, sweet potatoes with blue cheese butter, and a Caesar salad (sans croutons for me). I requested we not have large amounts of meat for a little while. It’s a bit too much for me. As for the dinner We were short:

Anchovy paste ($3)

Lettuce ($3)

Croutons ($3) 

Total: $18.50 (plus less than $10 for lunch). Plus we have maple syrup and bananas for later. 

The cleanse: day 3

Day 3 is much harder. I’m starting to hit the brick wall of “There is nothing I can eat that I want”. 

Breakfast:

2 cheese and egg whole wheat breakfast burritos. 

Then I had to take my 5 year old to the doctors which ended up taking almost all day and of course I brought snacks for the kids but not myself. I didn’t get back home to eat until after 3. I was a bit cranky to say the least. 

Lunch:

Tuna salad with walnuts (I thought I wanted tuna salad until I was eating it, very disappointing.) 

Snacks:

Buttered popcorn from the day before. Slice of Brie

Dinner:

C spoiled me with dinner. He made steak with blue cheese butter and sweet potatoes. Totally made my night, especially with how dissapointed I was with lunch. 

Today’s grocery list:

Tuna ($2.50)

Mayo (free, I make it myself with ingredients already on this weeks grocery list) 

Bulk raw Walnuts ($4)

Steak ($13, it was in super sale and there was enough for 2 nights worth)

Sweet potatoes ($5)

Blue cheese ($4)

Shallot ($.50)

Total: $29 and still a bunch of stuff we can use for later meals (sweet potatoes, blue cheese, walnuts)

I think the rest of the night I will be working on tomorrow’s meal plan so we don’t have another tuna incident. 

The cleanse: day 2

I started the day with a big breakfast (after almost cheating on the first day). I had a craving for a snack last night and almost grabbed a handful of Cs pirate booty. Instead I had some raisins. Today I am going to make Parmesan and butter popcorn to have to snack on when I need it. The challenge there will be to not eat it all in one sitting. 

Anyway!  The big breakfast.  I wake up somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30 everyday (depending on Cs schedule). I get up, make him breakfast and lunch, get the kids ready, take my kindergartener to school, then come home and make breakfast for me and the two littles. 

Today was:

2 Scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, a homemade whole wheat tortilla with Brie, and a plain Greek yogurt. Coffee and my lactation tea. 

It was delicious and mostly free

Lunch is usually small with a snack in between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner.   

Lunch:

Zucchini fritters with sour cream and Parmesan. 

Snacks:

Raisins, Parmesan and butter popcorn

Dinner: fajitas with black beans 

Grocery list for the day:

Pasture raised eggs (free, the joy of having chickens)

Hormone free Cheddar cheese ($4)

Tortilla (whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, water, olive oil) ($8 for the olive oil) 

Brie ($3.50 in the sale bin)

Plain Greek yogurt ($1)

Zucchini (free)

All natural Sour cream ($1.50)

Raisins ($2) 

Popcorn ($4) 

Steak for fajitas ($17.50, but it’s 2 large strip steaks that I cut into 4 meals worth of steak fajitas)

Bell peppers ($2.50)

Can of black beans ($1)

Total: $45 with 3 frozen fajita meals, popcorn, Brie, raisins, sour cream, and oil I can use for later. I call that a win! 

The cleanse: day 1

I need to feel like I have more control over my life. I’ve been progressing into a downward spiral of depression and self doubt (which will be a later post). I have been telling C that once we get approved for food stamps I will start my 10 day cleanse. We have had them since the 9th so it’s official:
3pm today started my official food cleanse.
Here are 3 truths about my food cleanse

1) it’s not really a cleanse, I mean it is, but it’s not. I am cutting out all processed foods for 10 days, which basically means I am cutting down on breads and the breads I am eating are ones I make out of whole wheat flour, absolutely no sugar, and only expeller pressed oils. Also no more splurging on junk foods or fast food restaurants. 

2) even though I say this is to “feel like I have more control over my life” it’s in no way an eating disorder. I have been looking forward to this cleanse for a while and I’m excited to get started. Also I’m not dedicated enough to ever have an eating disorder. My goal is to make it 10 days. The last time I did this I had more energy, felt so much better, and lost weight. I am looking forward to all these things.

3) for those of you who are worried about me because I am breastfeeding, don’t. This is so much better for me and the baby. You will see why as we continue on with this. 

So here are the rules: everything I eat must be able to be purchased at a grocery store or farm and not created in a lab. This includes all ingredients in every packaged food. All wheat must be whole wheat. No sugar, only honey and maple syrup, and only expeller pressed oils or butter. 

Here is the menu for tonight :

Whole wheat beef and mushroom hobbit hand pies. 

Broccoli and onion sautéed in lemon dill butter. 

I made enough hand pies to freeze another meals worth. Her is the grocery list for today:

1.5 sticks butter ($3.50 for a lb of butter)

Mushrooms ($4)

Spices I already had (salt, pepper, paprika, dill, thyme) ($0)

Whole wheat pastry flour ($5)

Onion ($3 for a bag)

Garlic ($.50)

Organic lemon juice ($7.50 for a large jar, we use lemon juice a lot)

Broccoli ($2 or so) 

Total $23.50 plus whole wheat flour, butter, onions, mushrooms, and lemon juice we have for later meals. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s meals!  

Meal Planning Part Deux

I have had a request for a blog on my meal planning. Let me preface this by saying that I am FAR from being a type A personality. I have high anxiety which gives the perception that I’m a type A, but I’m not. I plan just enough to ease my anxiety, but I’m still pretty flexible.

I like to plan our meals for 2 weeks, but I am also in the time of the year when I do my yearly meal planning as well. I plan for 2 weeks so I know exactly how much we need to buy when C gets paid to give us 2 weeks of meals. In terms of our yearly planning I store everything that we grow in some form or another. Pickles are a snack, not a mandatory food item so I only made enough to give us 1 quart of pickles every month. If we run out and find we want more I will just keep more next year, not a big deal. The zucchini I cut up with the squash so we have some to pan fry or put in stews, but the majority I shred for casseroles and bread. The two really big ones are the poblanos and the tomatoes. One of our favorite meals is stuffed peppers. I stuff enough peppers with either bean and cheese or beef and beans for 26 nights worth of meals. That gives us one meal every 2 weeks. The tomatoes I save at least a quart of either stewed for roasted tomatoes for a 2 week period. My intention is to have a quart per week, but i’m not sure our tomatoes are good for that this year. If they are then I am also going to can some salsa. There are so many things I make that have a tomoato base, it’s so versatile. The rest of the pablanos I chop up and freeze to use in things instead of green peppers (they have the same flavor but with a nice bite). I slice and freeze my eggplant that I use later to make eggplant casserole or fried eggplant sandwiches. C dries all his peppers and makes ground red and green peppers and also really amazing hot sauce. The jalapenos and banana peppers we pickle and make jalapeno jelly. I am currently trying to get together my fall garden but it’s not growing so well. I’ll update you on that later.

Today I had C go shopping at the restaurant store. He picked up 3 kinds of cheese (two of which should last the month), baking powder, 10lbs of ground beef, a big bag of sausages, and sour cream. The total came to $90, which I’m totally good with. This is what my meal planning looks like for the next 2 weeks:

pork chops with tomato rice Mon 1
chili rellenos with fried green tomatoes Tues 1
grilled cheese with tomato soup wed 1
squash lasagna thurs 2
spinach and mushroom quiche Fri 2
quesadillas sat 2
ranch taco salad Sun 2
blackbean burgers with cole slaw and jalapeno poppers MON 2
chimichangas TUES 2
grilled veggie sandwiches with friend onions WED 2
cornbread fritters with cucumber tomato salad THURS 1
pizza FRI 1
Nachos SAT 1

We still need to pick up lettuce, cabbage, milk, cream, and buttermilk to complete the meal planning. Breakfasts and lunches are thrown together from eggs, bread, cheese, leftovers, etc. I don’t worry so much about those. Everything else, the veggies, breads, sauces, etc I make or pick from the garden. The groceries we still have yet to buy will cost about $15. That makes $105 spent for at least 2 weeks of meals, plus we are working to not have to go to the grocery store more than once a month after the new year.  All but one of our chickens were killed so no chicken until next summer (we are buying another 25 or 50 in the spring), C is going deer hunting when the season is upon us, and we will have bacon again starting in Feb.  I am very much looking forward to that.  We will have a years worth of bacon plus some to sell.  The thing that is hurting us the most is not having much meat, but we are surviving.  We eat a lot of beans.  A lot of beans, but things continue to get so much better.  We were having issues feeding ourselves at this time last year, now we have a quarter of a freezer full, and with the addition of a deer, or two or three, we will have plenty of meat.  The key is to store as much as we can in some sort of usable form.  It’s exhausting now but I will have much more time on my hands in the winter.

Hope this was helpful!

More meal planning

Now that summer has officially hit and we are starting to harvest some of our garden crops I am once again really excited about meal planning.  We have been doing really good at planning our meals and staying within a $150 budget for 2 weeks, however…. things are about to get real!

We splurged a bit this week and spent $60 at lucky’s.  We bought 2 nights worth of teriyaki steak kabobs for $16!  I nearly had a heart attack until C reminded me it was for 2 nights.  We also bought the milk, cream, and buttermilk that we prefer but can’t justify buying because it’s almost twice the price of the cheap stuff but it’s so much better for you because it’s low-temp pasteurized and un-homogenized.  You can definitely tell a HUGE difference in that vs the cheap stuff.  We also bought butter, oatmeal, veggies that we need that we either aren’t growing this year or havent come in yet.  We got cabbage, bananas, sweet peppers, and organic onions and potatoes.  We have decided we are no longer buying root vegetables that are not organic.  We really want to get the most out of our food and until we either are growing everything we need or can buy all organic we are slowly moving towards what we feel is most important, and after reading about the soil quality of potato farms after the dirty dozen list came out we decided to make the change.  We also bought some spices, cheese, and drinks for us.

Today C is going to the restaurant store.  He is buying yeast, flour, corn meal, butter, and cheese.  My guess is he will be spending about $50.

Here are our meal plans for the next 2 weeks:

Dinners:

bean stew MON 1
teriaki beef kabobs with rice and naan TUES 1
pizza WED 1
chili THURS 2
buffalo chicken cornbread with blue cheese salad FRI 2
cornbread sliders with green beans SAT 2
spinach and mushroom quiche SUN  2
calzones MON 2
Chicken enchiladas with rice and salsa TUES 2
baked cabbage and ground beef WED 2

Breakfasts:

frittata, fruit oatmeal, omelete, fruit pancakes, scrambled eggs, breakfast burrito, pork buiscut sandwich

Lunches:

chicken sandwiches, feta and spinach fritters, steak sandwiches, curried chicken salad, stir fry veggies with rice, veggie roll ups, leftovers, homemade fish sticks

and snacks:

Bananas, banana bread, zucchini bread, oatmeal cookies, veggies with homemade ranch dressing, cheese cubes,

Now I know what you are probably thinking: “Wait a minute, you didn’t buy a lot of those things”, and you are right, but as you may recall 1) we are growing a lot of our own food 2) we have been slowly buying bulk meat and putting it in the freezer, and 3) we have both meat and egg chickens.  I have also been figuring out a preliminary dinner plans for the NEXT 2 weeks:

here is my shopping list:

restaurant store: yeast ($2), olive oil ($16), steak ($35), cheddar cheese ($12) = $65

lucky’s/ kroger: fish ($5), onions ($5), peppers ($4), chocolate chips ($3), kale ($2), raisins ($3), potatoes ($5), lettuce ($5), beans- dried black and pinto ($4), cream ($8), milk ($4) = $48

Now these things may change because I’m not sure we will need cream, and i’m going to try to find steak for cheaper than $35, and I tend to overcompensate for the price of things so that if C decides to splurge on a few things I’m not freaking out.  So right now we are looking at about $110 for 2 weeks of food.  and this is what it looks like:

thai curry fish with rice THURS 1
chicken tikka masala with rice FRI 1
stuffed pablano peppers with beans and rice SAT 1
rolled steak with cucumber tomato salad SUN 1
grilled cheese with zuppa toscana MON 1
ranch taco salad TUES 1
beef stew with beans and veggies WED 1
stuffed cabbage rolls with fried green tomatoes THURS 2
pizza FRI 2
chicken pot pie SAT 2
veggie fajitas SUN 2
green beans with pork and fried green tomatoes MON 2
grilled cheese with homemade tomato soup TUES 2
tortellini WED 2

I dont know about you but i’m pretty hungry now.  The beans slow cooking on the stove aren’t helping.  yummmmm

The Great Chicken Massacre

Around the same time we purchased our 10 laying hens A bought 50 Cornish Rock chicks to slaughter. Our hens grew up with them and I helped take care of them because of that. Fast forward now almost four months later and here we are. Its time for the slaughtering of the chickens. We have been slowly taking down about 10 a day about twice a week. I became certified to slaughter chickens to sell last year but haven’t had an opportunity to actually slaughter any until now. These wont be sold but I still got some great practice in, and i’m now super excited to slaughter mine in another 4 months. Which i figured out wont be until November or December, which isn’t ideal but its better than nothing. Next year I’ll have to order them earlier in the year. I’ll also order 50 next time (if I like them).

I think the hardest part for me is actually killing the chickens. She doesn’t have a stunner (which knocks them out before you kill them). I think I’m going to have C buy me one before November so I’m not as squeamish about it. I really don’t like the idea of killing something while it’s conscious. We first put the chickens in some sort of a cone. She uses old detergent bottles that have been completely cleaned. know a lot of people use traffic cones. You stick the birds in upside down, then shock them and slit their throats. Once they have bled out you either skin them or scald them in boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the feathers and pluck their feathers. Once that is done the other person takes over and takes out their insides. A keeps the heart and gizzards while we take the livers. C really likes some fried liver. I haven’t had any yet. We will fry some up soon though. Then we throw them in a cooler of ice water until we are done and can take them back to the house to put in the fridge for a day or two before finishing the processing and vacuum seal them and throw them in the freezer. A is giving us a few for helping her process them all. She also has another 50 to do in another 4 months.

She does hers very differently than we do ours but they are still better than what we get at the grocery store, and a lot cheaper. Ours are pasture raised. We are putting together our run in the next few days so I’ll post pictures of that once we get it up. The way it works is you move it once a day to the next section of pasture so they aren’t in their own feces for longer than a day and they get fresh bugs and grass every day. I like this method better than any other.

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Stuff is growing!!!

Our garden is doing really well.  I am so proud of it.  The house is still currently at a standstill, but I should hopefully be getting the sewage permit this week, or at least getting the perc test complete.  I’ll feel better once we really get the ball rolling on this.  In the meantime we are diligently working on the garden!  We have been weeding at least every other day.  We have 20 poblanos that have actually started growing.  That doesn’t count the HUGE number of buds and flowers on each plant!  There are also hot banana peppers growing, and there are buds on at least 1/4 of the tomatoes and two habanero plants.  I have to start planning what I am going to do with them so that I’m not scrambling to put stuff together and letting vegetables go to waste like I did last year.  We also picked 3 pints of black raspberries yesterday and are hoping to get at least another 3 pints before the end of the season.  The blackberries should be starting to ripen in the next week or two and we have at least 20 times more than we have raspberries (although C has said I am not allowed to sell anything with blackberries since they are his favorite).

raspberries

Also once the farm gets an address, which is any day now, we will be setting it up as an official farm, business license and all.  I will also be taking the class that the state offers to allow me to start selling my canned goods.  It’s only $50 and one afternoon and I’ll be able to, which is very exciting!!  Here are my thoughts so far: I would like to can a BUNCH of sweet relish.  It’s impossible to find sweet relish that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it.  Here is my plan for selling the canned goods: We will charge a $1 jar deposit which we will waive if you bring us a jar (or bring your jar back).  The cost of the goods will be different depending on what is inside but most everything will only cost about $2.  Preserves will be closer to $3-$4 because of the amount of effort it takes to collect the berries (since they are wild and have thorns, tons and tons of thorns).  I will also be selling baked goods like sweet breads, doughnuts, artisan breads, and french bread, all for about $2-$3 each.  I know I am not asking much for these things but the amount I am putting into them isn’t much and the whole goal of the project is to show people that you can eat really healthy for the same, if not cheaper, than what you are currently spending on food.  It’s not going to make us rich, but that isn’t our goal anyway.  We want people to start making the switch away from processed food to good healthy non-man made chemical foods.  We use organic cane sugar (if we dont use our honey), unbleached unenriched flour, sea salt, etc.  Plus everything we make is low sugar so that also helps.  I can’t wait until we start selling our processed chickens too.  once we really get going (our five year plan) my goal is to be selling about $500 a month through the farm.  That will pay for supplies and all of our bills.  We have a long way until we get there though.  One step at a time.

Grocery Shopping

We totally overspent yesterday.  We knew we would, and I know it’s going to save us a ton of money in the long run, but it still sucks.  How did we overspend?  Thanks to some awesome friends of ours (you know who you are!) we discovered a restaurant supply store right next to Cs work.  This is where C bought the 50lb bag of flour for $14 the other day.  we bought butter, 10 lbs of flat iron steak, 10lbs of ground beef, 10lbs of pork chops, a huge jug of the good Worcester sauce, 3lbs of Mozzarella, and a large piece of Parmesan cheese, oh and enough olive oil to last us about 6 months.  We spent about $145.  I just about had a heart attach, but after thinking about it a LONG time i realized we are actually saving ourselves a lot of money.  If we send $20-$40 every month on meat we will be buying at least 10-20 lbs of meat, will have a huge repertoire of meat to chose from, and we will only be buying veggies at the grocery store (that is until ours come in).  We currently have about 10 weeks of meat in our freezer.  that’s pretty darn good i would say!! Plus we wont be buying more meat until next month.  our freezer is so full.  We need to get the deep freeze from Cs mom soon, especially before our 25 chickens are slaughtered.  We have enough food to feed us for over 3 weeks.  I’m pretty excited about all this, and NOTHING is from a box or “processed”.  It’s gonna be great once the veggies come in.  We will be spending probably about $50 a month on food if that.  I don’t think we have ever had this much food before.  ever.  We had trouble closing our freezer.  It felt pretty darn good.  Just to think that only three months ago we were striving to live on food stamps.  God is good!  We have a long way to go but we are so much better than we were when we started.