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!

Daydreaming and role models

I don’t have much time during the day for things like daydreaming, so unfortunately I daydream at bad times, like when I am driving (which causes me to turn when I mean to go straight, oops), or when I am talking to people (which is really bad because my mom says I am not as good at multitasking as I think I am and have a hard time formulating coherent sentences when I have so much going on in my head). I just have so much going on right now and I need to daydream to keep it all straight (because my daydreams are mostly figuring things out for the future).

Right now I am trying to figure out our brand. What exactly do we want the farm to stand for and how to we get this out to people and make sure that the steps we are taking are the correct steps in this process. Well, we know that our main stance is to help people break away from the corporate greed that has so many of us enslaved. Currently I would say we have large companies that control the wealth of the country, and because they control the wealth they also control the government and every aspect of it. These companies are insurance, pharmaceutical, packaged foods, oil, utilities, and banks to name a few, I am sure I am missing some but these are the big ones. We dish out most, if not all, of our money every month to almost every single one of these guys. Very few people do not have one of these industries taking money out every month. We want to help break this cycle by showing people how they can lower their carbon footprint. The second thing we want to do is show people that eating an “organic” lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive. We pay more for food that is good for us because we think we have to, but we don’t. The third thing we want to do is show people what good food really is. What different food labels mean, why it’s important to be able to visit the farms that grow your food. I encourage people to visit our farm, see what goes into the soil, how the chickens are raised, what the cows eat, whatever they need to see to make them feel better. We shouldn’t have to hide what we are doing, If we do then we know what we are doing is wrong.

This also got me thinking about my role models in this field we are getting into. The two that stuck out in my mind the most are Ed Begley Jr. and Joel Salatin. When I was first introduced to the work of Ed Begley Jr he was always being portrayed as the crazy environmentalist actor who runs his kitchen appliances with a bike. I am very impressed with his work though. I am impressed that he can step away from the life a “traditional actor” would lead to follow a position he feels very strongly about. He lives in a modest house with renewable energy sources, drives an electric car, and even rides a bike to the Academy Awards. He has books and gives talks about the importance of maintaining a low carbon footprint. Heck him and Bill Nye are competing for who can have a lower carbon footprint. That’s so cool.

I know I have talked about Joel Salatin before but he is definitely my role model in building the food part of the farm. I greatly respect his ideas that a farm should build on itself, and that animals should be animals. If you take care of your farm the right way there really should be no need for non organic soil additives, mass produced chicken feed, even silos. Everything on his farms builds on each other. The cows “mow” the grass, his chickens eat the bugs in the grass that the cows “mowed” for them, It’s all very cool.

What we want to do is take these same ideas and mesh them together with the idea that neither one has to be expensive.  We dont care about being a million dollar farm, or build a $200,000 home because our goal isn’t how much money we make or spend, it’s how many people we help.  If we can show people that they can build a house with a low carbon footprint and renewable energy sources and grow or buy  really good natural food while living at or below the poverty line then we have reached our goal.

I would love to hear these two speak in the near future, but more than that I would love to meet them someday. When I say I want to meet them I don’t mean in a “I’m gonna stand in line and spend a second shaking their hand or having them sign a book” kind of way. I mean that I would like to meet them because we are involved in some sort of activist thing together. Be that a talk, or a film, or whatever. I want to meet them as a colleague, not just a fan, if that makes any sense. I want to publish books and give talks, and have real conversations with people who are already in it. This gets me excited. This is what I have wanted to do my whole life. Now I just have to get our building permit….

Who needs the gym

I am not a workout person.  I tried joining a gym when I was in college.  I went once.  I have been thinking about working out ..again? or at all? since having the baby.  The thought of it makes me cringe though.  Last night however, as I was working in the garden I came to the realization that this is an excellent workout, actually running a homestead in general is a workout, constantly.  Who needs to spend $30 or more a month on a gym membership when they can grow their own food and get the daily workout for free?

In the past two days I have finally built my chicken run and moved some of my chickens into it.  The run has to be moved every day to ensure the chickens get adequate nutrients and aren’t living in their own filth which can make them sick.  The run itself is upwards of 75-100 lbs and i have to lift and drag it about 6 feet every day.  Some of our roosters are about fryer size so we may also start taking down some of the bigger guys.  Have you ever killed, plucked, and processed multiple chickens in a day?  Its hard work.  My arms and back are killing me by the time I’m done.

Then there is the garden.  Everyday we go out and pick everything we have and check on what isn’t ripe yet.  It’s probably at least 30 minutes of squats.  Then I do another 30 minutes of weeding.  We bought a hoe which makes weeding SO much easier.  Last year we weeded without a cool tool and we hated it.  In fact, I don’t think we weeded at all after June.   I go through the garden and hack apart all the larger weeds with the hoe.  It’s quite a workout on both the arms and the legs.  Add in chasing after the kids and housework and It’s no wonder I am tired all the time.

Once we get the house done, or done enough to be able to start putting animals out on the farm, we will be getting our milk cows and goats.  That will add that much more work.  Plus there is the processing of all the food we bring in.  It’s hard work but it’s totally worth it!!

Talking about being tired, i think it’s a two coffee morning.

Living as a Community

One of the most important things I find about the homesteading lifestyle is the importance of working together to help each other achieve your goals.  I think in life we don’t help each other enough, but as a homesteading community altruism is a much more desired trait.  There is a lot more trading of goods and services than you would ever find in everyday life.

A perfect example of this is our good friends A.J. and Aimee.  They have been homesteading for much longer than I have (I would say we but C grew up homesteading).  They have goats, chickens, ducks, and even a very friendly pot bellied pig.  They also have one of the largest backyard gardens I know of.  They have helped mold my views on affordable food prices as well.  In years past he has set up in small farmers markets with some of his goods and I have come away with loads of potatoes, peppers, carrots, onions, and kohlrabi all for about $10. Their aim is that real, organically, home grown produce can cost the same as the crap you get a walmart or kroger.  You can and should be able to eat well without going broke doing it, which is exactly what we are doing.  In the past few years he has taken his pepper business to the extreme.  He grows some of the hottest peppers in the world, along with the rest of his garden, and sells them online.  It’s a pretty amazing business.  If you like hot peppers check out his site: Peppers by Mail.  Mention you found him because of us!!

  
C loves hot peppers.  He finally was able to grow habaneros this year which he is very excited about.  He was going to buy some plants from A.J. this year so he could grow the hotter peppers but they went fast and we were unable to obtain any.  That’s where the “working together to help each other” awesomeness comes in.  We have about 24 squash plants and 12 zucchini plants.  Needless to say we have an overabundance of yellow squash and zucchini.  They were unable to grow their squash and zucchini this year but really wanted some.  So we struck a deal!  We are now doing a produce exchange once a week.  They are giving us red potatoes, onions, carrots, and occasionally the hot peppers (like they did today), and we are giving them squash, zucchini, honey, and anything else they want out of our garden.  It’s a great deal and allows for homesteaders to be able to focus on fewer types of plants yet still get a good variety.  it’s really important to utilize your strengths yet still help others around you.  Imagine what would happen if C and I were stingy and kept all the squash and zucchini for ourselves.  I think we would probably get really sick of them pretty fast. 

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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