Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Food Challenge Week 3 and 4

Monday, March 30th, 2009

March’s food challenge has been quite different then I had expected.  While having the flu for a week unexpectedly cut some cost from our grocery bill, it also emphasized the most important part of staying on a food budget: organization.  A week without it really made a difference.  While I dislike the effort it takes to map out all of our meals for the week, it saved both money and time.  Planning meals and making a grocery list on Sunday saved many shopping trips during the week.  With three children, that is a big time saver.  I was able to save money by maximizing on sale items by featuring them in our weekly menu, or cooking in bulk and freezing meals. I also learned to appreciate knowing what I had to prepare each day.  It saved a lot of time and energy – both physical and mental.  

Being frugal about things that I hadn’t in the past wound up saving my family quite a bit of money.  I eliminated (for the most part) prepackaged snacks and breakfast cereals.  Not only does this save money, but it is certainly a healthier option.   I took a closer look at what was actually in some of these foods. When I really looked at the amount of sugar and other garbage is in many super processed foods, I realized that we all would be a lot better indulging in things we previously rarely ate.  Although that meant starting from scratch, I often doubled recipes to save future time and money.  I found some great recipes and inspiration for snacks and breakfasts at www.vegweb.com

I found a balance in where I did my shopping too.  For the most part I our got produce and eggs from the SPUD delivery service.  I have found the quality and sources to be good and I feel very strongly about buying quality produce.  I look forward to shopping for fruits and veggies from the farmers markets and my own garden soon.  Trader Joe’s seems to be the best bet for dairy.  Their organic milk comes from Sunshine Dairy in Oregon.  It may not be my perfect choice, but for the price, I find it to be the best option.  This month I have also kept a closer eye on sale in more mainstream stores.  Often the brands that you find at Marlene’s, or Metroplitan Market are significantly cheaper at a store like Fred Meyer’s.  I have also been using Costco more then before.  But, I always keep a close watch not to get carried away.

I ended the month having spent $490.00.  It was satisfying to notice a significant drop in our recent credit card statement.  I had hoped to come out a little closer to $400…but there is always next month.

How did everyone else do?

March 2-6 (Food Challenge)

Friday, March 6th, 2009

My SPUD order did not come until the evening on Tuesday.  If I was almost completely out of fresh produce (among other things), this wouldn’t have been such a big deal.  But, by 5:00 pm I was worried that I would have to completely start my weekly shopping over.  Again, no big deal if I hadn’t spent many, many…many moments of my free time logging back in to the site to fine tune my order to get it near my budget goal.

I have gotten over my snobby ways this week.  I went to Safeway to buy Quaker Oats (on sale 2/$5) and to the Orowheat outlet on 6th for buns (8/$1.25) to accompany my homemade veggie burgers.  This week I am starting to learn when it makes sense to make my own from scratch (granola and veggie burgers) and when it doesn’t (buns for the burgers).  Being at home a good portion of the day helps too.  Waiting for bread to rise and bake takes some scheduling, but it isn’t such a big deal for me since I am often  home anyhow.  For those who work, it obviously is not so simple.

On Monday I spent about 1/2 hr. preparing two loaves of bread.   Since I would have bought high quality bread if I were to purchase it, I figure that it saved me about $8.  For me saving $8, serving hot bread with dinner and having quality bread for sandwiches was worth my 1/2 hr.  However, if I worked outside of the home, it would not have been possible

On Tuesday Jack and I made a big vat of granola.  This has been a fun activity for the two of us to do while his big sister is at school and the baby naps.  Jack gets to help create and name the recipe. For about $3.50 we made enough cereal to feed us all breakfast for two weeks (not that we care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Actually, Jack and I send the bulk of it to work with my husband (who does care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Jack, Amelia and I will use it for snacks with yogurt and for the occasional breakfast.  Granted, we would not have bought this much normally, but we would have spent money on cerealor other snacks instead. It should last us for a while.

 

   

Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

On Thursday, I created 3+ meals worth of lentil and okra veggie burgers all for about $3.00.  If I would have bought them it would have probably cost about $12 for the same amount.  The added benefit was the lack of questionable or unrecognizable ingredients found in most mainstream versions.  The freshness doesn’t hurt either.
I am pleased to see that as I write this on Friday morning, I still have food in my refrigerator.  I am now optimistic that I can get through week 2 on $125.  Maybe even less???

Frugal Feeding Week #1, March 1

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

 

By the end of the first day of the first week I have already used up $118.00 of my $125.00 goal.  While the goal is monthly, I was hoping to at least have a little wiggle room.  Things are already looking tight.  

Last month I began planning out a dinner menu for the week to help me stick to a strict grocery list. Although it was a pain to do this every Sunday, it was really nice to know what kind of preparation I would need to do each day.  It also eliminated multiple shopping trips to grab the last minute item….that often turned into more money spent on nonessentials.  This week I made my first order with SPUD (www.spud.com).   SPUD focuses on local and organic products.  I love that the miles traveled by each item is noted as well as links to all of the company/farm info.  I plan to buy my most eco-conscious purchases here and supplement with more affordable alternatives elsewhere.  I love that I can order everything online, and adjust my meals based on local availability and price.  It is nice to know exactly what I am spending before I get to the checkout.  I also made a tedious trip to Costco. It is always a challenge to get out of Costco without spending at least $100.  But I did!  Among other things,I picked up a giant bag of almonds (non-organic), NW blueberries (also non-organic), Earthbound organic salad greens and baby spinach and a box of cherry tomatoes (non-organic).  I left having spent only $65 on food.  Most of this should carry over at least until the second week, the almonds will last for more then the month.

March’s Frugal Feeding Challenge

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Last month, in an attempt to get a better handle on our monthly budget, I began collecting and tallying all of our family’s grocery receipts.  I have never thought much about what I spend on food.  We very rarely eat out and don’t do take out,  I don’t buy prepackaged meals, and try to limit processed and convenience foods.  So, in looking at our monthly budget, $650 seemed like a more then generous allocation for food for one month.  By mid-February, I was nearing the $600 mark.  All of this while I was actually monitoring and tightening my spending.  I was stunned to think of how easy it would be spend over $1,000 on groceries every month.  I am sure that I have many times before.

Providing wholesome, quality food for my family is a priority for me.  However, I am certain that there has to be a way to do so without spending quite so much.  So, I have decided to see if I can feed my family of 2 adults, 3 children and 2 dogs for less then $500 a month.  If you have had similar thoughts or experiences, and would like to set a goal for your family, or simply start taking a closer look at your habits, please share them.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: February Discussion Notes

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

I have yet to speak to anyone who was not impressed with Michael Pollan’s book.  To me, the reason we have been so affected by the information in his writings is largely due to the lack of access to such elsewhere.  A lifetime of corporate and government marketing informing us about what our food choices should be has left impaired our judgement.  We are left alienated from what producing and consuming food is really all about. Many thanks to Sandy and Kyle for sharing your thoughts and insights and inspirations.  Here are some major points and ideas that arose during our discussion this month:

Corn, corn, everywhere:

It was shocking to learn that on average 1/4 of all food sold in a super market contains corn.  Why?  The government has created, sustained and managed a surplus.  Sometimes the motives have been good, sometimes questionable (or worse).  Regardless, now our economy is tangled in it.  We all pay the price, farmers and consumers alike.

 In the United States, Pollan makes clear, we’re mostly fed by two things: corn and oil. We may not sit down to bowls of yummy petroleum, but almost everything we eat has used enormous amounts of fossil fuels to get to our tables. Oil products are part of the fertilizers that feed plants, the pesticides that keep insects away from them, the fuels used by the trains and trucks that transport them across the country, and the packaging in which they’re wrapped. We’re addicted to oil, and we really like to eat.

Oil underlines Pollan’s story about agribusiness, but corn is its focus. American cattle fatten on corn. Corn also feeds poultry, pigs and sheep, even farmed fish. But that’s just the beginning. In addition to dairy products from corn-fed cows and eggs from corn-fed chickens, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup make up key ingredients in prepared foods. High-fructose corn syrup sweetens everything from juice to toothpaste. Even the alcohol in beer is corn-based. Corn is in everything from frozen yogurt to ketchup, from mayonnaise and mustard to hot dogs and bologna, from salad dressings to vitamin pills. “Tell me what you eat,” said the French gastronomist Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, “and I will tell you what you are.” We’re corn.

Each bushel of industrial corn grown, Pollan notes, uses the equivalent of up to a third of a gallon of oil. Some of the oil products evaporate and acidify rain; some seep into the water table; some wash into rivers, affecting drinking water and poisoning marine ecosystems. The industrial logic also means vast farms that grow only corn. When the price of corn drops, the solution, the farmer hopes, is to plant more corn for next year. The paradoxical result? While farmers earn less, there’s an over-supply of cheap corn, and that means finding ever more ways to use it up.(taken from wasingtonpost.com)

 What can we do?  Read labels, if there is no need for corn in the product that you are buying, don’t buy it.

 The American Feedlot:

In taking a closer look at where most meat comes from, one cannot look away unchanged.  Pollan purchases and follows the life of a feedlot cow.  In the process, he uncovers the environmental and ethical horrors of the process.

 What can we do?  Know where your meat comes from.  If cost is a factor, eat it less often, but buy the good stuff.  Buy from local, trustworthy sources such as Dave’s Meat and Produce on I St.  or The Meat Shop of Tacoma (www.meatshopoftacoma.com), or my personal favorite option: don’t eat meat.

Know Your Alternatives:

The picture isn’t entirely bleak.  There are farms and communities that are getting it right.  Call it the slow food revolution, the organic lifestyle or living locally, there are many names for bringing food back to the basics.  Pollan closely follows farmer Joel Salatin to see farming is it was meant to be.  At Polyface Farms in Virginia Salatin follows the Principle “All Flesh is Grass”.  Joel considers himself a grass farmer or even more appropriately a sun farmer.  Ultimately, this is where all energy and life that grows for consumption is created.   To learn more about these amazing, pure and commonsense practices visit their website at www.polyfacefarms.com.

Foraging

For most of us, other then picking blackberries from the roadside during the summer, the idea of foraging for food isn’t practical.  However, Kyle came up with a great idea for urban foraging. During the warm weather months, we all pass homes in our neighborhood (or elsewhere), that have saturated fruit trees that appear to be unattended.  Why not approach these home owners?  Maybe even offer to harvest their crop in exchange for a share.  In addition, plan a swap or share with friends and neighbors that you already know.  To take it one step further, contact a local farm and offer a work for food exchange.  There is free food to be found!

A Vegetarian Halloween

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

On October 31 as we celebrate Halloween, we also celebrate the last day of world vegetarian month.  If you haven’t given the vegetarian diet a try yet this month, here are some festive recipes to give it a try.  After all, with all of the sweets floating around on the 31st, it wouldn’t hurt to make an effort to prepare some hearty, healthy, meat-free meals for your family.Here are a few idea’s…… Super Easy Pumpkin Soup from about.com

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the margarine for 3-5 minutes, until onion turns clear. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!   A Little More elaborate (and Vegan Too!) From Vegan Lunch Box “Lunch Box of the DAMNED”

 

 

Cue the scary music and ghost sounds, because it’s time for theHalloween Lunch Box! It’s a ghastly Mummy Calzone on a bed of mummy wrappings (torn paper towel), with a bucket of blood(pizza sauce) .Two gruesome shrunken heads (a baked apple with clove eyes) rise up from a swamp of blackberry applesauce, and a little paper pumpkin holds dessert.

 

 

 

I saw this clever calzone in a Halloween recipe booklet at the grocery store. I veganized it by using my recipe for Broccoli Calzones inVegan Lunch Box. I divided the wholegrain pizza dough into five pieces instead of eight, in order to roll out each piece and trim them into triangle shapes. I used a pizza wheel to cut the sides into strips, then filled the center with broccoli and tofu “ricotta”. I rounded the top strip of dough into a head and overlapped the dough strips all the way down to form the mummy body. Bits of black olives are the eyes.For dessert, a little pumpkin filled with candy and confetti is a nice way to make a small amount of candy feel like a very special treat. Just wrap one or two pieces of candy and some Halloween confetti or toys in a circle of orange tissue paper. Twist the top and seal with a bit of green floral tape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

The “Dirty Dozen” for 2007

Thursday, June 14th, 2007


For those who are just starting to buy organic produce, the price tag can be daunting. If you aren’t ready to make the complete cross over, below is a listing of non-organic produce to stay away from. After testing 43,000 non-organic produce items, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that the below foods have the highest level of pesticide residues.

The “Dirty Dozen”

  1. Strawberries
  2. Cherries
  3. Peaches
  4. Imported grapes
  5. Nectarines
  6. Pears
  7. Apples
  8. Sweeet Bell Peppers
  9. Lettuce
  10. Spinach
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

This listing of was found in PCC’s newsletter, “Sound Consumer”