Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekly Menu

I love summer.
I don't know what to put on the menu!
I guess I took my own advice from last week: we have plenty of meat in the freezer. But I do need to buy some vegetables. I'll go to the store quickly tomorrow. We didn't eat the brussels sprouts. We had both some impromptu and planned house guests (at different times) so we didn't follow the plan exactly. I ended up making slow cooker carnitas 2 times, once with beef and once with pork. So enough of that for a bit. Although we aren't really tired of them….

On to this week. I'm not going to plan the menu out through the 4th, only the first part of the week.

Breakfasts:
bananas, almond butter, dried coconut (for the boy)
full fat plain yogurt with gluten free granola (for the girl)
eggs, salsa (for the adults)
coffee, cream

Lunches:
leftovers
salami
peaches (48¢/lb. at Sprouts)

Snack:
smoothies

Dinners:
main: grilled pork chops, burgers, brats - we have a friend who makes them and we buy them :)
sides: kale salad, brussels sprouts, greens w/ dressing, potatoes

*I asked the kids for their requests for their camp lunches.

I was super pumped that kombucha was on sale at Whole Foods this weekend so I stopped in. I should have bought 12 and saved an additional 10%.

Sunday "clean out the fridge" lunch-


Alright, gotta go. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

How to Paleo Menu Plan on a Budget

I decided to dedicate a post to this topic since Ashely brought it up here. My biggest worry when we began eating this way was how would we ever afford it? Some people spend less money eating paleo versus conventional, but considering we were already eating unconventionally (mostly whole foods, from scratch) our grocery spending did increase when we cut out grains and added more meat (we already ate a good amount of fruits and vegetables). However, as with most things, after 4 years of practice, it has become easier to predict and control spending.

To talk dollars for a second…
I know this varies according to all kinds of factors, but here's where we are…

I aim to spend $165 a week for our family of 4. I have a husband and a 7 year old and a 5 year old with healthy appetites. We hardly ever eat out, so I don't include that money with this. Also worth noting is we don't have desk jobs where we sit 5 days a week.

We always spend more on food in the summer. I'm not sure if that is because we just eat more or what, but it is true. I often spend closer to $200 a week in the summer. This is being proven true again as we did well through April, but have consistently been spending more as of late. $200 sounds like so much to me (almost frivolous), so I kind of hesitate to put it out there. However, that comes out to $28/day or $7/day per person.* No wonder I get disgusted when we do choose to eat out and I spent $20 on a fast food fresh-mex lunch for just the kids and I. Ugh.

I consider feeding my family an investment in our mental and physical health as well as part of stewardship, so I just try to do the best I can and am always learning.

I can lower this number if needed (we aren't made of money over here) and sometimes do… it just means meal options are more limited, but that's OK. And probably good for us :)

Anyways. Here are some rules I try to follow when planning our meals out for the week.



1. Don't buy many nuts. Why? Because in our house an $18 3-lb. bag of pistachios will be gone in less than a week. Screw that. Disclosure: I have started buying almond butter again at Costco, though. One a week is the limit and I don't go every week so it is actually less. And it has to be used as a condiment, like a dip for bananas or apples.



2. Only bake for special occasions. I do bake. I know some people have issues with this. But for us, it helps us stick to paleo long term if we can make a fun breakfast or something on the weekend, or a dessert for movie night. I typically stick to things that use tapioca starch, coconut flour, and some potato starch. These are easy for me to find and more economical that nut flours. I honestly just don't want to spend my time baking anymore.

an old photo from the raw milk days

3. Get enough meat and eggs. I build my menu around the meat. I decide what and where I'm going to shop mostly based on the meat on sale (or not on sale). I check the Sprouts ad first. If nothing is on sale, I get the organic beef at Costco. We don't love chicken, but sometimes get boneless chicken thighs when they are $2/lb. (because hello, $2/lb!) and roast them until crispy. Or $1.69/lb. pork butt for the smoker. I have price points in my head. For example, I don't buy $7/lb. bacon. And $15/lb. fish is just out of the question. If I'm going to buy $7/lb. meat, it is going to be the centerpiece of a meal, like some grass fed beef, not just for a boost of flavor. Speaking of bacon, I did buy some last week for the first time in a couple months because Sprouts bacon (which I know we like) was on sale for $2.99/lb. And regarding eggs, my husband says, "There is no excuse to ever run out of eggs…"



4. Balance out expensive and inexpensive meals throughout the week. Also, balance out expensive meat with cheaper side dishes - this is essential when our dinners usually involve 2 lbs. of meat, because that adds up fast. When cooking for a crowd, use cheaper meat if you need to. I usually do chicken, pork, or a roast on sale for company. While I'd love to be idealistic in sourcing all of our food, I gotta make choices.

Here's an example of estimated costs of dinners from this week's menu:




5. Make simple but large meals. Make it easy to get enough to eat. Don't be afraid to include some starch (like potatoes) in there if you have super active people or kiddos. But make sure they eat their meat and veggies. Keep a list of meals your family likes and keep them in the rotation.



6. Aim to not snack. (see #5) Kids will want to snack. Limit options. Am I mean? You'll find out quickly if they are hungry or bored. (Here's a old list of cheap and easy snack ideas I made.) I don't like spending money, time, or energy on snacks. That said, it is always good to have something around to keep people from going crazy. If my kids need something (usually around 4pm), they must have a good amount of fat and/or protein in their snack. Since it is summer, our go-to is coconut milk smoothies. (I suppose I should turn some into popsicles and they'd be pre-made and save me from washing out the blender continuously.) Or if they are having only carbs (raisins, applesauce, fresh fruit), mealtime must  less than an hour away. Because if they snack just on carbs (even if it is fruit/veg), they will still get hungry/hangry very soon. Also, I try to avoid buying other dehydrated or prepackaged snacks, even if paleo (jerky, fruit leathers, bars) because they are pricey, although I will buy them for traveling.



7. Remember the fat! Or everyone will be miserable. Make sure it is in every meal. For us, veggies are almost always consumed with fat (butter, olive oil, salad dressing, coconut oil, or even dairy sour cream or ranch). Also, some good salt. Don't be shy with it if you aren't getting it anywhere else (like from processed foods.)



8. For specialty items, only buy in season. For example, you won't catch me buying fresh mangos when they aren't on sale. Cookbooks are great for inspiration, but I don't use them that much. Usually they involve too many or too expensive of ingredients for me. Keep it simple (see #5). Sidenote: we use a lot of frozen vegetables because I don't like prepping them, and they are good and not expensive if you figure out the best places to get them.



9. Estimate how much you'll spend before you go to the store and edit your list according to what you can spend. Whittle it down to the essentials if needed. Use cash if it helps keep you in check.



10. Go to more than one store if it is worth it. I hate that I'm giving this tip. Who likes to run around doing errands? But if an hour spent shopping at another store saves me $50, well, that's a worthwhile return for my hour spent. If you know you are going to have to go shopping again before the week is up, set some money aside for that, don't spend it all in once place.

OK, that's a brief look into my ever-evolving process. What other guidelines help you?

*According to this, we are right in line with the low-cost plan, which I guess is not bad when you consider we are mostly avoiding the subsidized crops.

Mango Pico de Gallo



I'd never eaten a mango until like 2 years ago. And the first time I tried it, I didn't like it. Turns out it wasn't ripe. Now we all like it. And when they are on sale, I buy them, and we make mango pico de gallo, chunky mango salsa, or whatever you want to call it.

You've heard that homemade (mild) pico is just an three-way 1:1:1 ratio of tomato, onion, and cilantro with some lime juice and salt over top, right?

Replace the tomato with mango and voila!
Mango pico de gallo.
One of our current summertime favorites.
Takes carnitas or tacos or whatever you have to a whole nother level.

Here's what I use:

  • 2 large ripe mangos, chopped (google how to cut them if you don't know how)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • lime juice to taste
  • salt to taste


(I prefer heavy on the mango, lighter on the onion, plenty of cilantro and lime, and saving the salt sprinkling for the final touch during taco assembly.)

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Coconut Milk Orange Julius Smoothies



Serves 2.

1/2 can coconut milk
1 banana
1 generous scoop orange juice concentrate
1 splash vanilla

Blend.

Add a bunch of ice. Blend until smooth. Enjoy.

Straws suggested but not required.

This is a flexible recipe. Feel free to adjust ingredients according to your taste.


Weekly Menu


breakfasts:
eggs, bacon, spinach, tomatoes (aka BLT frittata)
banana, almond buttter, dried coconut
yogurt & blueberries
coffee, cream

lunches:
roll-ups (turkey, salami, spinach, mustard, banana peppers)
tortilla chips
broccoli or mini peppers & ranch
or
leftovers

snack:
coconut milk smoothies

dinners:
Sunday - empanadas, salad with dressing
Monday - hash
Tuesday - meatballs, zoodles, sauce
Wednesday - brats, coleslaw (cabbage mix, olive oil, mix of vinegars, celery seed, pinch of sugar)
Thursday - burgers, roasted brussels sprouts, potatoes
Friday - tacos with mango salsa, gf birthday cake with real buttercream frosting

Comings soon: ideas for helping to keep the paleo grocery budget in check.
And, 4 (four!) recipes I want to share.
Have a  good week.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Weekly Menu

Sometimes when I'm not feeling like thinking but need to make my grocery shopping list, I ask my family members what they'd like to eat the next week. My husband said he'd be fine with a repeat of last week's menu. So there's going to be several repeats. But it won't be an identical repeat because that would be too easy (and boring.

Breakfasts:
same as recent…
kids - yogurt with gf granola or banana w/ almond butter and dried coconut
maybe lemon blueberry waffles on the weekend
adults - eggs, leftovers
coffee, cream

Lunches:
kids - lunch at camp or gf mac and cheese, bell pepper strips, lemon poppyseed muffin, apple

Cool treats:
orange julius coconut smoothies, watermelon-coconut-lime ice, cantaloupe

Dinners:

  • chili (because it is easy)
  • roasted chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, kale salad kit
  • carnitas (in the crock pot)… with optional mango/red onion/cilantro/lime juice/cabbage/salt/corn tortillas (as long as I chop the onion, mango, cilantro, and ahead of time, and used bagged coleslaw mix… we can look forward to this being ready to go when dinnertime arrives. It is a bit of prep, but so worth it because we all LOVE it and especially if I make enough to last 2 meals.)
  • leftovers
  • grilled sausages, sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts
  • primal pizza (with beef and bell peppers)
Happy cooking.
Have a  good week!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Like List

Two library reads I've enjoyed recently. (Well, one to read, and one to "look at for ideas.")


I feel like I know and appreciate her more after reading this book.
(But don't read it if you find her humor offensive.)


I like the simple style of these projects.

Affiliate links for the books here and here.

I have a bike, but if I didn't and was buying one, I'd give these a look. They are pretty.




Intriguing (but not surprising) when it comes to bass in your playlist… (sometimes I need all the help I can get - ha - so perhaps that explains why I like it.)

A good reminder:
via etsy 

Have a good rest of the weekend!
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