Monday, September 20, 2010

Marathon Cooking & Camping Food

1 minivan
1 pop-up camper
4 kids across 6 states and back in 7 days
how many meals is that?
1 very busy mama!   

Yep, we've got a big trip coming up in a few days and I've been cooking up a storm in preparation.  No menu plan this week...I'm winging it since we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get everything ready!  I've done some marathon cooking today and we've got lots of freeze-ahead goodies to show for it.  Here's a peak...

A batch of regular whole wheat buns,

Homemade breakfast cereal,


11 hamburger patties.  

All of this went into the freezer along side a beefy enchilada bake, a magnificent casserole, a couple of toaster oven sized pre-baked sourdough pizza doughs, and pizza toppings that were already in there (I've doubled a few meals lately to have extra for the trip).  Whew!  Now, we've just got to figure out how to fit all of that food into the van! 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Menu Plan 9/12-9/18

Sourdough tortillas

 We're in the midst of a gospel meeting, so Sunday's menu is a little different.  We have a fellowship meal after evening worship when we kick off a series of meetings, so I have a simple lunch on the menu plus dishes for the evening fellowship meal.  The meeting will last through Wednesday night, so I'm keeping it simple on those nights:)     

Sunday, 9/12
Soaked oatmeal
Sourdough english muffins, eggs, grits (lunch)
Chicken and dumplings, rolls (for fellowship meal) 

Monday, 9/13
Sourdough banana muffins
Beef stroganoff (homemade sourdough noodles), broccoli 

Tuesday, 9/14
Sourdough skillet pancakes
Chicken and smoked sausage jambalaya, baby limas 

Wednesday, 9/16
Cinnamon-apple baked oatmeal
Beef stew, homemade bread 

Thursday, 9/17
Toast, eggs
Beef burritos (sourdough tortillas), black beans, fixings

Friday, 9/18
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Chicken fried rice

Sourdough skillet pancakes
leftover buffet

Monday, September 6, 2010

Running Behind Menu Plan 9/5-9/11

I mentioned in another post that I enrolled in the Sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS, and I am loving it!  I've always used my sourdough starter at least a couple of times a week, but I'm inspired to use it even more now.  This menu plan reflects that!  Even if you don't have a starter, check out this eCourse; the first lesson will show how to start and care for one. 

Sunday, 9/5
Soaked Oatmeal
Pork chops, rice, gravy, sweet potatoes, GBC (a.k.a. green bean casserole)

Monday, 9/6
Organic grits, bacon
Chicken divan, sourdough bread

Tuesday, 9/7
Strawberry Banana sourdough muffins
Beefy pitas, hummus

Wednesday, 9/8
Sourdough English muffins, eggs 
Beef pot pie, baby limas

Thursday, 9/9
Baked oatmeal
Chicken noodle soup (made with homemade sourdough noodles), sourdough bread

Friday, 9/10
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Mini pizzas, sourdough spice cake (bi-weekly bible study time again!)

Saturday, 9/11
Sourdough pancakes
Leftover buffet/sandwiches

Friday, September 3, 2010

9 Tips for Eating Well on a Budget

A few people have expressed to me recently that they'd like to change the way they feed their families, but a) they don't know where to start, and b) they're afraid it will be too expensive.  These are legitimate concerns that many of us have had at some point.  I've thought a lot about the "where to start" subject and I have a few suggestions, but first I want to address the cost of nourishing food.  We live on one modest income and we eat pretty well, so I feel fairly qualified to advise in this area.
  •  Menu plan and budget!  This is first and foremost.  Eating well on a budget absolutely requires planning, especially if you're just starting out toward healthier eating.  Once you get into it and have a good healthy meal rotation, you can afford to be more general in your planning, but I really believe that you need some sort of system when trying to stretch quality foods and your dollars.  I won't go into any depth on money management, but if you don't already have a budget, take the time to make one and stick to it.  You won't regret it!  I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.
  • Swap the bad for the good.  High quality food may seem expensive, but if you consider the soft drinks, processed snacks, and boxed foods you won't be buying, $4-5 a pound for a pastured chicken probably won't bust the budget.  Start by swapping those expensive, chemical laden cold cereals for nourishing and frugal old fashioned oatmeal or eggs for breakfast (check out this blog post for tips on how to replace breakfast cereals in your kid's diet and why you should do so NOW).
  • Focus on frugal, but nutrient dense food options.  These include homemade bone broth, eggs, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and organ meats (such as liver...I know, I know, I'm still trying to talk myself into that one, but it is very nourishing and very inexpensive).  Another great option is wild game.  If you're blessed to have a family member who hunts, you have access to frugal, pastured meat!  Just try to convince your hunter that "baiting" his game with Round-up corn is not a healthy practice (seriously, Dad, bad idea!).
  • Meat:  Choosing quality over quantity and making it stretch.  Quality over quantity is especially important with meat and dairy purchases...It can also be really hard for those of us who pride ourselves on bargain shopping.  Before I knew the dangers of meat/dairy/eggs of unknown origin, I loved stocking the freezer with "bargain" meats from supermarket sales (read about the hidden costs of industrial food).  I didn't have to think much about stretching my meat because it was so cheap!  Now, I roast one pastured chicken every Saturday, debone it, use the meat for two meals during the week, and make a few quarts of broth from the bones. Similarly, you could stretch your grass fed beef by using half a pound of ground beef in chili or casserole recipes and compensate with extra beans or veggies.   
  • Make it yourself.  Cooking from scratch saves a lot of money!  However, if you're new to cooking from scratch, don't overwhelm yourself.  Start by learning to make one thing that you would normally buy packaged.  Homemade bone broth is something that anyone can do and it offers so much nutritionally (The Benefits of Bone Broth).  Consider learning to make soaked whole grain tortillas.  They're frugal, easy, delicious, and much better for you and your little ones than the store bought kind.  Once you've mastered a few recipes, you can graduate to learning to bake bread.  Believe me, unless you were somehow blessed with innate baking skills, it can be a frustrating process; when faced with bread failures, take a breath, take a break from trying if you need to, but do try again.  I've made my fair share of bricks and I've got a freezer full of bricks-turned-bread crumbs to prove it!  If you're already an experienced baker, consider purchasing or starting your own sourdough starter.  Sourdough breads provide for optimal digestion and bio-availability of nutrients from the whole grains, plus not buying yeast means saving even more money.  I highly recommend GNOWFGLINS Sourdough E-course if you're ready to go sourdough (no pre-set fee is charged for the course, but they accept "pay as you can" payments).  I've just signed up this week, and I've learned so much already!  
  • Make your own household cleaners.  There are so many reasons to do this; homemade natural cleaners are better for you and your family than chemical ones, they free up more money that you can put toward good quality food since they cost next to nothing, and it's so nice not having all of those bottles of products that are just for one specific cleaning job.  There's not much that plain white vinegar, baking soda, or a combination of the two can't clean.  I occasionally use oxygen bleach (OxiClean), but I don't have even a fraction of the cleaning product clutter that I used to have.  No chemicals or fumes to breathe is also a major plus if you or your kids have allergies or skin sensitivities (not to mention, you can put those little helpers to work with a cloth and a bottle of vinegar solution with no worries!).  So many pros and I can't really think of any cons, can you?  Get started with these articles for recipes and tips for frugal, natural cleaning:  Top 5 Homemade Cleaners and Simple Routines for Homemade Green Cleaners.
  • Look to the Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen.  If you can't afford all organic (I can't), The Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen is a great guide for buying produce (there's even a handy iPhone app).  Stick to conventionally grown items from the clean fifteen, but avoid non-organic items from the dirty dozen.   
  • Prioritize.  Make the health of your family a priority.  What's more important, a fancy gadget, a new beauty product, or nourishing food that will keep your family well?  When I'm tempted to buy another cute outfit for one of the girls or a kitchen gadget that I can live without, I have to remind myself of all the good food that I can buy with that money.  It may be hard at first, but in time it will become second nature to avoid buying "stuff" so that you have more money to invest in your family's wellness (the doctor's bills you won't be paying will be further motivation!).
  • Don't stress.  Finally, don't stress about the things you may not be able to change right away, or even at all.  Do what you can when you can and rest knowing that even the smallest changes can improve your family's health in big ways.      
So, these are some of the ways that we make real food work with our budget.  If you follow some of the links to other blogs that I've included and browse around, I'm sure you'll find many more.  I realize that what works for me might not work for you, but I hope that at least something in this list causes you to have a "Hey, maybe we can manage this!" moment!  I'll follow up with a post that addresses where to start when you're ready to take the real food plunge!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS.