Jumping Back In

It’s clear I took a long break from writing about eating whole food on a tight budget. During that time, I went on a very strict diet, which included cutting out all grains to correct some health issues. I then became pregnant and had a beautiful little girl who is now 9 months old. My husband also returned to a low carb lifestyle, which just works better for him.

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Due to our increased family size and the reduction on grains in our diet, I had to increase my weekly budget to $125. I know it’s a large jump from $80 a week, but when pasta is just not an option and the consumption of meat and cheese has increased, it was totally necessary.

So here I go. Back at it. Finding deals on whole food, using what coupons I can, and coming up with healthy inexpensive meals to feed my family and stay in budget.

Eating Seasonally with Beet Oven Fries

I picked up my amazing weekly CSA box today. I always go online and find out what will be in the box before I get it so I can do my menu planning. I usually do really well at coming up with a plan for everything in the box, but this week I really struggled with the beets. Beets are not something we grew up eating and I just don’t really see the appeal in them…except for coloring Easter eggs. As I was searching for a recipe I had an appifanny. I figured out why my Grandma liked things like Beets, Turnips, and Rutabegga so much, it’s what there was to eat in the colder months. Her generation ate seasonally, because there wasn’t really much choice. If they wanted to eat it in later months they canned it, but they could really only get fresh produce in season.

So for the love of seasonal produce I found a simple root vegetable oven frie recipe and only used beets. This recipe is once again from one of my baby food cookbooks.

Beet Oven FriesDSC_0939

  • 4 medium sized beets cut into 1/4 in sticks
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp dried Sage
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 500. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil and oil the pan. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Once Beets are well coated with seasoning, arrange in one layer on the baking pan. Bake for 20-25 min  or until the fries are tender in the middle and start to crisp on the outside, making sure to flip them at about 10 min.DSC_0948

I enjoyed them for the most part, but my kids devoured them! I will be making them again for sure.

Budget Buster!

I have always had a problem coming up with lunch ideas. I’m fine with pulling some random stuff together  for lunch (a piece of fruit, some cheese and crackers, and a few nuts), but my husband needs something more substantial, and so do my kids. My husband can typically count on left overs two or three lunches a week, and is able to pull something together the other days. Last month however, the leftovers must have been in short supply as there was a need for him to run to the store and buy lunch on several occasions. It’s crazy how quickly $5 here and there adds up. And what’s the point in sticking to budget in one area if it just causes you to go over in another area.DSC_0932

So after discovering the issue I had to come up with a solution quick! I don’t like buying microwave dinners as they typically have junk in them and cost a crazy amount for the ones that don’t have junk. Even at Grocery Outlet, the Amy’s frozen entrees are $2.99, and that just doesn’t fit in out tight $80 a week budget. So after taking a quick inventory of the freezer, fridge, and pantry, I came up with a few microwave meals of my own. Here’s what I came up with.

Something like a tex-mex casserole. It had brown rice, canned pinto beans, frozen corn, fresh cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese and hot sauce. I was able to make 2, 2 cup servings

Enchilada casserole. It had leftover corn tortillas, canned pinto beans, frozen corn, sour cream, grated cheese, and a very small amount of enchilada sauce. 1 serving

Butternut squash zitti. It was made from left over homemade butternut squash ravioli filling, ricotta cheese, Italian herbs and whole wheat penne. 3, 2 cup servings

Curry. This was made from brown rice, organic frozen peas and carrots, organic lentil curry soup, additional curry powder, and fennel seeds. 3, 1.5 cup servings

A couscous dish made with whole wheat couscous, canned chick peas, organic spinach, Italian seasoning, lemon juice, 4 greek olives with additional juice, and a very small amount of feta cheese. 3,2 cup servings.

So by getting creative and spending an hour or two I managed to make 12 frozen lunches ready to just grab and go. Hopefully this will supplement all of this month and I can actually plan some out for next month.

Garden Planning and Seed Coupon

I have been planning my garden for a couple of months and am REALLY excited to get all the summer veggies planted. Not only is it totally rewarding watching your food grow, and teaching your kids where food comes from in a really practical, fun, and dirty way, it saves so much money. (If you think you need lots of water and expensive garden boxes, watch Back to Eden. This guys methods really work, even if you don’t agree with his theology. We have a good month or two of 115 degrees and we only need to water every 7 to 10 days in the heat of summer.) So far this year planted lettuce, carrots and radishes (first fruit pictured below) in February. Then onions, strawberries, and raspberries in March. Today I planted some peas and plan to plant some corn and pumpkins later this month. Then in May and June I will really kick it into gear and plant most of the veg we will be enjoying through the summer and early fall.

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I’ve been thinking about what this means for my CSA box. I don’t see a need to get a weekly box if I can go out the back door and gather the food I want for dinner. So I plan on setting my box to “Vacation” when things start coming on. I can tell you I will miss out on many good things from the box that I will not have space to grow on my own, so I may occasionally get a box, as well as visit the farmers market for things like stone fruit…Yummmm.

So what am I going to do with the extra money…Save it of course. My hope is that we can go 2 months without the box being able to  save at least $175. With that I would like to buy good bulk meat (a quarter of a cow or something) for my husband and kids. They really deserve good meat more than we have it now (once or twice a week), and this would go a long way to helping that happen.

If you are planning a garden as well, don’t overlook deals on seeds. I was at Walmart today and saw a rack of Seeds of Change Organic seeds for $2.18 each. I remembered I had 2 Seeds of Change coupons for $1.50 off any Certified Organic Product, Making the seed packets $0.68 each! That’s a whole lot of Organic Produce for $0.68! Here are the links to a couple of Seeds of Change coupons.

$1.50 off any 1 Certified Organic Seeds of Change Product (See this post on how to get it at Coupons.com) Note that if you printed the coupon in March it has Reset for April, so you can print it again!

$1.50 off any 2 Certified Organic Seeds of Change Product

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls

I don’t really buy cabbage, but once a year for St Patrick’s Day. One of the reason I love my CSA box sooo much, is that I get things I would not normally buy. This requires me to be creative and look for new and different recipes. So this week I tried a Vegetarian Cabbage Roll recipe that I found online. I tell you, it was amazing! I really didn’t think my kids would eat it as the filling was basically Bulgur and veggies and it rapped in “a leaf”. So I made them a portion that was more like a casserole, with a cabbage layer on top and bottom and the filling in the middle. I correctly assumed that they would not do will with the cabbage, but they each had seconds and thirds of the filling!

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Here is the original recipe. I adapted it to make it even cheaper.

  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 8oz can Tomato Sauce

In a large saucepan, combine the first 8 ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; let stand for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook cabbage in boiling water just until leaves fall off head. Set aside eight large leaves for rolls (refrigerate remaining cabbage for another use, but I think you’d be surprised at how little is left). Cut out the thick vein from each leaf, making a V-shape cut. Overlap cut ends before filling. Stir 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and lemon juice into vegetable mixture.
Place a heaping 1/3 cupful on each cabbage leaf; fold in sides. Starting at an unfolded edge, roll to completely enclose filling.
Pour 1/3 cup Tomato Sauce into a 2-qt. baking dish. Place cabbage rolls in dish; spoon remaining sauce over top. Cover and bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Yummm. I will make this again for sure.

Weekly coupons

There were some really great coupons out there this week. I was even able to get some more free stuff at The Dollar Store. Here are the coupons I found in the past week:

Coupon network

  • $1.00 off 9.5 oz or larger Shredded Wheat (Use this at The Dollar Store to get free cereal)

Earth Bound Farms

Westsoy

Van’s

Target

  • $0.50 off 2 Annie’s products (The boxes at Target also had a $0.50 off 2 pealy coupon that you could use with the Target web coupon) Also EcoBonus has a deal through the end of the month to get a free herb growing kit with the purchase of two Annie’s products
  • Hunt’s FREE diced Tomatoes with purchase of Hunt’s Tomato sauce Terra Pack (Use with Hunt’s coupon from Coupons.com com below)

S & W Beans

Coupons.com

  • $0.55 off 2 Hunt’s canned tomatoes
  • $0.75 off French’s Dijon or Honey mustard
  • $0.50 off 3 S & W canned Tomatoes (Only redeemable at WinCo)
  • $0.75 off 1 Kraft Sour Cream or Cottage Cheese

These are also Coupons.com coupons, but you first have to go to print.coupons.com and enter Zipcode 94107 (link provided by thekrazycouponlady.com) then go back to coupons.com

  • $1.50 off any Seeds of Change Organic product
  • $0.50 off 3 6.5 oz Tillamook yogurts
  • $0.55 off Imagine Soup, broth, stock, or gravy
  • $0.75 off 16oz Tillamook Sour Cream
  • Buy one Get one FREE 6.5 oz Tillamook yogurt
  • $1.00 off Hinode rice

Valentine’s Dinner

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You really can have fun with Valentine’s day without eating a bunch of junk. All you really need are some heart shaped cookie cutters. I cut my son’s toast into a large heart for breakfast, heart shaped bananas and strawberries with lunch, and heart shaped veggies on our salads with dinner. I had these amazing watermelon radishes in our veggie box that were perfect for a fun addition to our salads. I make whole wheat chocolate brownies for my husband to take to work topped with hearts of raspberry preserve and coconut.

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For dinner I made a slow-cooker brown rice and butternut squash risotto. This recipe was actually originally a weight watchers recipe.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil DSC_0670
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 6 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 1/2 cp vegetable broth
  • 1 cp brown rice
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • pepper
  • parmigiano-reggiano, grated

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent and soft.

Add garlic, cook until fragrant, then add mushrooms. Add salt and continue cooking, stirring often until mushrooms release their liquid.

Put onion mixture into a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Stir in butternut squash, broth, rice, thyme, and pepper. Cover and cook on high 3-4 hrs.

Turn off slow cooker and let risotto sit undisturbed, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in cheese and serve.

DSC_0678My son had a party at his pre-school today and for that I made strawberry banana fruit leather…of course cut into heart shapes. This was just one thing of strawberries, one banana, and a tbsp of honey blended and dehydrated in the food dehydrator for 7 hrs.