Grocery Savings Challenge: Week 2

I’m actually finding grocery shopping a little more fun when I have challenged myself to eat good and healthy meals on a smaller budget. This week was a little harder, though, because I purchased splurge items for a Valentine’s Day dinner and dessert, and we were also out of expensive items like cheese, olive oil, and almond butter.

The Stores and their Deals
The Meal Plan
The Grocery List
The Final Cost

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Eating Healthy Whole Foods on a Budget

If you are starting to eat clean, whole foods on a budget, you may be having some sticker shock. Despite so many people saying “eating organic doesn’t cost more,” sometimes it does, especially if you are not used to buying bell peppers for $3 each instead of $3 a pound. Or hamburger for $5 a pound versus $1.20 a pound. Some things are just more expensive.

The good news is that organic, fresh, clean, and whole foods generally have more nutrients and are better for you than the other choices, so they leave you fuller on less. If you cut out all the processed junk in your diet, you will find that it is actually easier to eat less, since most of the processed foods are only empty calories anyways.

I’m going grocery shopping today. It will be a test to see if I can actually cut down our grocery bills and be a smarter shopper. In keeping balance of saving money and eating healthy and organic foods, there are some things I don’t want to skip buying because they are expensive, and some things I am willing to compromise on.

 

Whole Milk: We buy non-homogenized organic milk that comes from pastured cows from a dairy that is fairly near to us, that is sold at the store. It’s not ultra-pasturized like all the other milk (including organic) and it’s the only milk, other than raw milk, that isn’t homogenized (that I have ever seen).
Cost: $4.59 for a half-gallon. In two weeks we go through 2-3 bottles.
Where to save:  Drink less milk, eat less boxed cereal (which isn’t healthy anyways), and eat more of their whole milk yogurt instead.

Harder decisions:

Butter: we really enjoy the butter from the same brand as our milk (Strauss). It’s grass-fed, local, and organic butter. It is used mainly for cooking and when I make french toast.
Cost: $7.79 for a pound of butter, we go through about a pound a week.
Do we go for the non-grass fed butter? I feel that grass-fed dairy offers so much more than the other stuff, like more vitamin E and Omega 3’s.
Where to save: Perhaps we can buy 1 box instead of two, and cook more with other healthy fats.

Eggs: We have had a hard time finding local and pasture-raised chicken eggs, so we buy the organic eggs that come at least from our state, and claim to be pasture-raised.
Cost: $5.49 for a dozen. Or close to $8 a dozen in our CSA box. We go through about a dozen a week.
Where to save: We go through so many eggs, I think we will go back to regular grocery store eggs that are on sale for $1.80 for 18. Since being pregnant I can’t stomach a runny egg yolk, so must of our eggs are cooked on higher heats (which destroys a lot of the extra nutrients) anyways. There is a local egg place that sells flats of eggs as well – we need to look into that.

Produce: Some fruits and vegetables get sprayed with pesticides more than others and are more effected by chemicals. Certain produce products should be bought organic, but not all of them need to be. The “Dirty Dozen” include:

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes

What can you buy non-organic? Here is the “Clean 15

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Sweet Peas
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Papaya
  12. Watermelon
  13. Broccoli
  14. Sweet Potato
  15. Tomato* – on the clean list this year, but has been on the dirty dozen before, so I might exclude this one.

Other ways to save on produce: Buy local, and and buy in season! Where we use to live, the farmers market was huge and you could get a variety of organic and non-organic produce at super cheap prices (you could save $1-3 a POUND on produce!). But we now live in a different town where the farmers market is only during the summer and organic produce is hard to find. Luckily some of our grocery stores sell local (which they should, since we live in CA, and surrounded by all kinds of different produce all year round, yet there is still lots of produce from South America… even though we grow some of the same produce!). Buying at the farmers market usually ensures that you are supporting the farmer as well, not the big corporations.

Wondering what’s in season? A quick Google search will help you out, but our old CSA supplier has an awesome website where you can look up both produce and recipes by the season – visit them HERE.

Meat:  Grass-fed and pasture-raised meat products are again, much more expensive than other meat. Items I will continue to buy from pasture-raised animals: whole chickens and ground beef. If you make broth with animal bones, they should be from grass-fed animals as well.
Cost: a pound of grass-fed ground beef costs approximately $5. A whole chicken costs around $10-15
Where to save: Buy more bone-in poultry products and cheaper cuts of meat. We can also not go heavy on the meat everyday and substitute some of it for beans and extra veggies. Stew, soup, and chili dishes are great for making a little bit of meat go a long way.

Other money saving tips:

Make a meal plan before going grocery shopping: a plan will help to avoid those impulse buys, and on a related note, don’t go grocery shopping hungry!

When making a meal plan, chose meals that have similar ingredients and ingredients you regularly use: If you are trying to save money, you are sabotaging yourself if you have to buy an expensive spice or ingredient to make one meal. I’m not saying not to try new things once in a while, but I can tell you that the $8 bottle of fish juice in the back of my refrigerator went bad before I used it for the second time.

Don’t buy junk food: Skip purchasing juices and sodas and packaged products that seems cheap, but are empty calories and only leave you hungry (or sick).

Don’t Waste Food: If buying pershible items in bulk only leads to it going bad before you can use them, either don’t buy in bulk, or prep and freeze the extras. Many of us are guilty of wasting food, which is sad for our wallets and for a world stricken with starvation.

 

How does everyone else grocery shop?

 

 

18 Days Until Christmas: A Gift for the Toddler

I’m becoming kind of a toy snob. I searched around quite a bit for an appropriate and safe toy for my adorable Godchild, Addison, who will be just shy of 1 years old come Christmas. I wanted to stay away from plastic and be as earth and baby friendly as possible.

I came across Dandelion’s Organic, Little House Shape Sorter.

Although I am not a huge fan of pastels, and I think that if they went with bright colors this could be better suited for both genders, I think this will be a great gift for Addison.

  • She can safely put any of these pieces into her mouth (which she does with everything anyways)
  • Machine washable
  • Different shapes for learning
  • and each shape has a unique property that should entertain her as well

Dandelion House Shape Sorter about to get wrapped for my Godchild!

You can purchase this toy from Dandelion’s site . I bought mine from Amazon.

This week’s meal plan

Last week we fell off the wagon a little bit. Starting with my husband’s birthday, I consumed far too many grains and it made itself known. I broke out with these really annoying bumps on the backs of my arms and legs. Plus I felt icky all week.

Back to business!

I have a ton of squash and peppers in my fridge right now from my CSA box. I think I am starting to grow tired of the summer squash! I’ve been craving beets and sweet potatoes lately and couldn’t pass them up – especially since they were local and on sale!

All the fish we bought was wild caught and all the meat and chicken we purchased was organic and 100% grass fed. All of our produce was from local, organic farmers as well.

Also on my list to make is hummus to dip peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. I have all the ingredients, just need to blend them together. Plus I still need to make that delicious-looking tomato pesto!

This week’s dinner menu:

Monday:
Pan grilled Mahi Mahi
Served with mashed sweet potato and green beans

Tuesday:
Lemon-pepper chicken in the crockpot
served with summer squash and a beet salad

Wednesday:
Stir-fry beef with onions, peppers, garlic, and squash
served with quinoa

Thursday:
Cauliflower Crust vegetable pizza (experimental)
served with a beet salad

Friday:
Hamburger patties with bacon and avocado
served with baked sweet potato fries

Saturday:

BBQ pork chops
served with fruit salad and spinach salad

Pesto Please! What to do with all that basil

Basil is in season and if you have recently planted it in your garden the fragrant herb is probably trying to take over! I have a planter of it on my balcony and I still have plenty of it to make lots of yummy things.

Number one thing to make with basil? Pesto of course!

Classic Pesto Recipe from Food Network:

Ingredients

Directions

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Now, what to do with all of that pesto?

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A natural choice for birth control

Years ago when I was beginning to think about birth control options I felt uneasy about hormonal birth control. I personally didn’t like to take medications or take hormones to alter a perfectly working system. I resigned to the fact that maybe I would just use the ring or an IUD if it came down to it because I figured it would be easier and assumed the hormonal impact would be less.

When my husband and I first began dating (um, yeah, we may be high school sweet hearts…) his cousin was in the seminary and he sent me a book called Life Giving Love by Kimberly Hahn. The book was quite influential in two things: my spiritual life and my sexual one. Much of the book was about Natural Family Planning. Later on, Marc (the husband) and I also had attended a conference by Chris West on the Theology of the body and it reaffirmed some of my newly founded beliefs. But this post isn’t about religion; it’s about birth control (although they were entwined for myself).

There are several birth control options for couples these days. Natural Family Planning or the Fertility Awareness Method, are symptom-thermal methods of birth control. THIS IS NOT THE RHYTHM METHOD! The rhythm method makes the assumption that everyone ovulates on the same timeline – not true. Your doctor may say that NFP is the rhythm method and then tell you that if you want to conceive you should have sex around day 14 (which is actually the assumption of the rhythm method -how ironic). With NFP/FAM you chart your waking temperatures (thermal) and cervical fluid (symptom) observations to determine your fertile window and act accordingly when you are fertile (to either abstain or not). This week is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week so I wanted to highlight my experience and how it works.

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Natural and Healthy Moisturizer

In my search for eliminating toxins and chemicals out of our food, home, and bath products I found something that works better than any store-bought moisturizer I have ever tried. I was hesitant to try at first; I was leery of the texture it would leave on my skin and afraid it would make my skin breakout. The verdict? I will never go back to the moisturizers I tried before! What do I use now?

Safe, simple, and effective

I use organic extra virgin coconut oil. I use it on my face and body – and while I cook. You can even add it to your shampoo or use it as a hair mask. It goes on like oil but it doesn’t leave an oily or greasy feeling on your skin (unlike some lotions and facial moisturizers). The coconut oil pictured above – Aunt Patty’s, also has a very light coconut scent which I find quite pleasant. My skin has lovely glow, I don’t breakout, and I no longer have some dry spots.

This is my favorite moisturizer. Better yet, it doesn’t have any harmful chemicals!

A jar costs about $8-12 – very comparable to any moisturizer you will find in the stores.