Menu Plan for the Week (a real one this time)

Yay, this week I’m making an actual meal plan! The past two weeks have been a blur of fun and hard work as we fed the YC ladies soccer team, had them help us paint, sent Matt off for three practices each day with the team – all while trying to keeping up with regular daily work and school.

I’m tired.

But, we are now able to settle back down into a routine, and as long as I continue with my morning quiet time, all will be well. I’m also really focusing on asking my boys to help more. Sometimes I find myself in a rut of feeling that it will be easier if I just do a job myself instead of calling a boy to help out. Why do I do that? Silliness.

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The end of last week, a couple of us headed to Lincoln for appointments. While we were there, we got to go to Trader Joes. See the bread?? And the hamburger buns? While I usually make those myself, picking some up at Trader Joes will help me put together some easier meals since this week is very full. (Let’s see, quiet time with God or kneading bread this week? I’m picking God time. Thank you Trader Joes.)

And now on to our menu plan for this week:

Sunday, August 25
Breakfast cake, raspberries
Sloppy joes, strawberries, baby carrots, green beans
Picnic with church youth group families at park

Monday, August 26
Creamy orange cooler, toast
Spicy avocado dip, chips, strawberries
Bbq meatballs, crock pot baked potatoes, peas

Tuesday, August 27
Baked oatmeal cups, blueberries
Easy noodle stir fry with carrots, broccoli, and zucchini
Taco salad

Wednesday, August 28
Quick mix pancakes, peach syrup
Tuna salad sandwiches, fresh tomatoes, strawberries, carrots
Italian cream cheese chicken over pasta, asparagus, tossed salad

Thursday, August 29
Breakfast burritos, clementines
Taco corn fritters, fresh peaches
Homemade pizza, tossed salad

Friday, August 30
Scrambled eggs, fruit salad
Salmon patties, steamed broccoli and carrots
Grilled burgers, sweet potato fries

Saturday, August 31
Homemade grape nuts cereal, blueberries
Leftovers
Baked three cheese chicken pasta, tossed salad, green beans

Is It Expensive to Eat Healthy Food? Part One

As we dive into our No More Excuses series, I decided to first tackle the excuse that it is “expensive to eat healthy food”. This one seems to be the most popular complaint among those of us who are working to eat and feed our families a healthy diet. I ended up with so much to say on this topic, I divided the material into three separate posts that I will be sharing throughout the week.

To begin part one of these posts regarding the thought that “healthy food is too expensive”, let me just start out by saying, “I hear ya!”. That was my biggest complaint too, my loudest excuse, and one of the main reasons I didn’t think eating a healthy diet was possible for our family. After all, I’m the girl who used to get everything for free or cheap with coupons. The thought of actually spending money on food was painful to me when we started our healthy eating journey. I had no idea where the extra money for healthy food would come from in our already very tight budget.

After lots and lots of research, experimentation, and tweaking of our budget, we finally figured out how to make this work for our family. Ultimately, I had to surrender and let go of the idea that spending money on food was bad, and instead embrace the truth that spending money on good, nourishing food is a wise investment for our family.

But still, it is a fact that coconut oil and olive oil cost more than canola oil and crisco. Real butter costs more than margarine. Whole wheat pasta and real cheese costs more than a box of mac and cheese.

So, does that mean that healthy eating is indeed expensive? I think it’s a matter of perspective. Our grocery budget has definitely gone up since we began our healthy eating journey. The way I cook now is completely different than the way I cooked when I bought processed and unhealthy foods with coupons, but does that mean that our healthy food should be considered expensive?

Pardon my geekiness spewing forth, but just as I did a few years ago, I did a new break down of what it costs to feed my family on an average day. I think it’s very interesting to take a nitty-gritty look at what it costs us to feed one person per day, and to analyze that number to see if in fact I could or should cut back our budget in any way.

We currently spend about $600/month on food. Because there are six in our family, this means that we spend about $100/person/month. This divides into an average of $3.33/day/person, which means that it costs about $1.11 per person per meal.

I don’t think $1.11/meal/person is very expensive, but that’s just my opinion, and as I said earlier, it is a matter of perspective.

As always, remember that there is no comparing or guilt allowed. If you spend more than $1.11 per meal per person – great! If you spend less than that – great! If you could come help me clean my house – great! Oh wait, sorry. I got carried away there for a second. ;)

Above all, we all need to remember that we are all humble people, working to do the best we can with what we have. I feel like there’s a lot left unsaid in this post regarding the expense of healthy food, so stay tuned! In part two of this mini series on Wednesday, I’ll share thoughts on the following three points:

1)Transitioning to Healthy Eating is a Process. 2) There’s Not a “One Size Fits All” Plan for Eating Healthy. 3) God is in Control and He Knows Your Heart

Then, I’ll wrap up the week by sharing some practical ways to eat a healthy, whole foods diet while keeping your costs low.

For today, I’d love to hear a little about your grocery budget break-down. Join my geekiness and do the math. If you care to share, how much do you estimate that it costs to feed one person in your household for each meal?

If you’re concerned that you may be spending too much on food,
I’d encourage you to read this post:  Do You Need to Cut the Grocery Budget?

I’d also like to encourage you to check out Once a Month Mom’s Get Real 2012!

Should I Eat Organic Food? (part four)

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Be sure to read Part One and Part Two and Part Three of this mini-series if you missed them!

If you’re new to healthy eating, I’d probably recommend that you SKIP this post! :)  It can be a bit overwhelming to think of making all these changes. Instead, I encourage you to follow this link, then scroll down to the very beginning of this section of posts where you will find very basic tips on starting to eat a healthier diet!

Today, I’d like to share the foods I feel should be a higher focus for organic purchasing and eating. Please be reminded of my Organic Food Disclaimer and how I don’t think non-organic farmers are evil and all that stuff.

First let me share the list of Produce I try to purchase organically if possible. According to Organic.org, the produce which contains the HIGHEST amounts of pesticides are:  Peaches , Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (imported), Spinach, Lettuce and Potatoes. Fruit Wash does help remove some pesticides, but it is my understanding that the pesticides are not only on the skin of the fruit or vegetable, but also inside the fruit or vegetable, especially in the above listed foods.

Other fruits and vegetables I do purchase organically if possible, but if I don’t have a ready source, I don’t sweat it. I almost never buy organic bananas, avocados, watermelon, oranges or pineapple because their skins are so thick and they are quite low on the pesticide list!

Beyond produce, I highly recommend that you look into organic Milk and Meat and Eggs from sources you trust. Our family prefers to drink raw milk from cows that are pasture fed. We also prefer our meat and eggs to come from animals that are allowed to roam freely on pasture.

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Why? Well, most conventionally raised cows are fed a less than stellar diet of GMO grains, when really, their stomachs were designed to eat grass.   In addition, they are usually raised in crowded feedlots and given several rounds of antibiotics to help them survive those crowded feedlots. They are often also given steroids to make their meat more tender. Those antibiotics and steroids become a part of the milk or meat, which means that if we eat (or drink) from these sources, we are ingesting them too. (Here is an article with great information about why Grass Fed is best.)

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Conventionally raised chickens are usually cooped up in tight quarters and never allowed to free roam and peck around and do all the normal things God created chickens to do (including but not limited to attacking their egg gatherer – ah, what a memory).  Chickens are also often given antibiotics to protect from infection due to their living conditions.  (source)

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Last but not least, let’s talk about Grains. If at all possible, I encourage you to find organic or “chemical free” grains. Conventionally grown grains are almost always genetically modified (GMO), making them a completely different food than their original little selves. Legumes fall into this same category. Of all the organic food I place as a priority, Grains are the highest. Organic grains are not GMO, making them much safer to eat. I found this page on Seeds of Deception to be very helpful in talking about which foods are usually GMO and best to avoid.

It’s important for me to note that not all organic farmers have an organic certification. The farms around here where I purchase my milk, beef, chickens and eggs are actually NOT “certified organic”. It costs quite a bit of money to acquire and maintain an organic certification, so some farmers choose not to go that route. However, after visiting with these farmers I purchase from, I know that all of them are truly organic, just without the label. It saves them money and it saves me money for them to not have the “organic label”. Does this make sense? (Local Harvest is a great resource for finding locally raised, healthy animals.)

This wraps up my Should I Eat Organic Food? series. I’ll now be moving on to share more about my pantry and freezers, compiling big lists of all my favorite foods to buy. Plus, I plan to share more about how I buy food in bulk, store my bulk food and afford bulk food.

Are there some other questions you have regarding organic food that I forgot to talk about? Did you ever read about my very scary  free range rooster encounter? I’m still not over it.

 

Should I Eat Organic Food? (part three)

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Disclaimer:   I know and love many farmers who do not raise their crops or animals organically. I do not think these people are evil, so there. I’m not going to say that eating organic food is the ONLY WAY and the BEST WAY.   I’m just sharing a bit of my knowledge based on research, but not based on my own expertise. The only thing I’m an expert on is running into walls when I’m tired. So read these posts and do with them whatever you want to do with them. Research organic practices on your own before reaching any conclusions. And be sure to watch out for walls when you’re tired.

Be sure to read Part One and Part Two of this series if you missed them!

What does the “Organic” Food label mean, anyway?

Organic foods are foods that:

Why do I feel like eating organic food is important?

I like knowing that much of my food has been raised in a safe environment. I appreciate that organic farmers are being careful to sustain healthy soil and water. I appreciate that the food I offer my children is less toxic than some non-organic foods. I like knowing that our food is non GMO, as in, our food is real. Genetically modified food is scary and our bodies don’t like it. In addition, I like knowing that my food has not gone through the process of irradiation, which is essentially done to make it last longer on the shelves and to kill bacteria. Ever had fresh vegetables last forever in the fridge without changing colors or getting yucky? Chances are it was irradiated. (Fresh food is supposed to spoil, not last forever in your fridge, by the way.)

Is it worth it to pay more money for organic food?

That depends on what it is, and I’ll talk more about that in the next post. BUT, I guarantee you that raising food organically costs more than raising food conventionally. Therefore, if you trust the provider of your food, and are convinced that you need to eat an organic variety of that particular food, then YES it is usually worth it to pay more for organic food because you are paying for much higher quality food. For instance, I don’t mind paying more for Organically Grown Nuts. We actually visited Braga Farm, our favorite source for organic nuts,  and learned about their practices and saw how they do things. After this tour, their prices seemed completely reasonable to me. We can’t expect someone to work extra hard and not be compensated for it. I also don’t mind paying more for our eggs, meat and milk because I trust the people raising these animals and the quality of the food we get from them is excellent!

When is it NOT worth it to pay more for organic food?

Well, as organic food has become more popular and more “in demand”, I see more and more “organic processed foods”. It’s pretty tough for me to pay $3.75 for a package of six Organic Cookies. Most of these organic processed foods do at least contain better ingredients than their non-organic counterparts, but not always. Just because something has an organic label doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.   Healthy-er, maybe. But offering much nourishment? Maybe not.   Might it be a fun option for a treat sometime? Sure. But don’t get sucked into buying something just because it’s organic.  ;)

Do your homework. Don’t pay more or buy into the “all natural” or “organic” label always being better. There’s this little tool called the internet that is very helpful in researching companies to see what they stand for. Hey, what a great time to use the Swagbuck search engine. :)  Or, if it’s a local farm you’re looking to buy from, ask lots of questions about how they raise their crops and animals before you decide if it’s worth it to pay more for their food.

Coming up next in this series:  Which foods are the most important for organic purchasing (and which ones can I skip)?

Should I Eat Organic Food? (Part Two)

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If you recall, I am writing a series within a series to explain my thoughts on eating organic food, while encouraging you to take simple steps toward healthy eating. In addition, I need to discuss an issue within an issue, which is very important to cover in this series within the series. ;)

What I need to emphasize is this:  Whether or not you ever decide to eat organic foods, whether or not you ever feel like organic food is a priority, whether or not you feel like you can afford organic food, no matter where you land on the organic food issue…

None of that is as important as focusing on eating REAL FOOD.

I do feel like it is important to look for healthy food sources. I do feel like organic food is best in many instances. I do feel like we should be wise stewards with the bodies God gave us and work to treat our bodies with great care. I’m writing about eating organic foods because it is obviously important to me.

But if  you come away with after reading any of my posts feeling like the definition of “eating healthy” means that “you must eat organic food”, then I haven’t done a very good job of explaining myself.

My reasons for writing these posts about organic foods is simply to answer questions you’ve had about whether or not organic food is important. I think it IS important…but not as important as all of us learning to skip processed, dead, nutrient void food and learning to eat real food.

What am I really trying to say here? If all you change about your diet is to eat out less and eat fewer of the processed foods that are slowly destroying your insides, then you are very much on the right track. If at the very least, you stop eating so many nutrient void “foods”, and start eating more real, whole foods – organic or not – you are going to be so much healthier.

Yes, in my big priority list of Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating, “buy and eat organic food” doesn’t rank nearly as high as my advice to “just eat real, whole foods”.

If my family was in a situation where there was no organic food available or accessible at all, if there were no grass fed or free range animals, if I couldn’t order food off the internet, if my options were completely limited…I’d simply focus on feeding my family basic, real foods. I’d probably go easier on the meat and dairy (because I really only feel good about eating/drinking animal products from healthy sources), but otherwise, we’d just focus on eating real foods:  fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, grains, meat, dairy and pasta. (And coconut oil. I’d really break my back to get some coconut oil.)

I wouldn’t love it and I wouldn’t feel great about it, but if truly that’s all I could do, that’s what I would do.

More important to me than eating organic foods is to avoid high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, food coloring and artificial flavors.

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Homemade Chewy Granola Bars – easy to make, made with real foods, super delicious!

So there you go. Those are my thoughts.

Now, if you do have organic, free range, grass fed, locally grown, yada yada food available to you (and I would venture to say that most of us do) then I encourage you to look further into these options. That’s what this series within the series is about after all. :)  But overall and above all and absolutely positively, focus first on eating Real Food.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Coming up next week in this series:  What does “organic” mean – Why I feel like organic food is important – Is it worth it to pay more for organic food?

 

 

My Exciting Grocery Posts for the Week: In Which I Received a Lot of Bonus Groceries

I may have forgotten to place my Azure Standard order, but just wait until I tell you about all the great food that has been delivered to my doorstep during the last few days!!! 

I often order organic groceries from Amazon, using my saved up Swagbuck earnings, or simply when I find great deals on food we are sure to use. Remember when I told you about these great deals on Maple Syrup and Cereal? I cashed in on those too, because that was a great deal on Maple Syrup!

Anyway, when I order from Amazon, I’m never quite sure when to expect the food to come in. Some of this food was ordered several weeks ago (and I’d almost forgotten about it). Isn’t God cool?    Suddenly, it’s all been coming in right during my organizational hooplah…as well as right at the time I felt like I was missing out on a few item.  I’ve been able to get all of these great groceries put away neatly in my “new” storage room, as well as expand our menu a bit since I have a little more to work with!

I’ve been having a great time playing with new grains like millet, and I just can’t tell you how much fun I’m having making these Coconut Flour Muffins. I have new coconut flour muffin varieties to share with you soon (because yes, I’ve been playing!). I’m excited now to have a nice supply of coconut flour on hand. A little goes a long way, which makes the investment in this healthy flour very worth it!

Here are a few snapshots of my UPS man deliveries:

Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour, Organic Brown Rice,
Nature’s Path Honey’d Cornflakes, 25 Pounds of Organic Millet

I’d also ordered several packages of organic nuts from Braga Farms so I can make more Larabars. LOVED it when that box came! Gluten Free Oats came in that same day from Amazon.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats, Pistachios, Almonds and Cashews from Braga Organic Farms 

Here’s my syrup, along with some organic popcorn…

Arrowhead Mills Organic Popcorn and Grade B Maple Syrup

I happily used some of the freshly washed plastic containers I’d found during my clean-up in the storage room. I filled a big container with popcorn for the storage room, then filled a jar with the rest to keep in the kitchen to grab easily. 
(Here’s a full post about how I store and use my bulk food purchases.)

This last picture I have is of my trip to Walmart last weekend. I usually order quite a bit of produce and frozen veggies from Azure Standard, but since I forgot to order this month, we had to have some sort of fresh fruits and veggies. I filled my cart (most of this has been eaten already!). I compromised a little bit on some of these items. I don’t normally like to feed my kids apples that aren’t organic. But, they weren’t an option this month, so I bought a couple of bags of regular ol’ apples. Better than no apples, right? I think. Maybe. What are your feelings about compromising on non-organic foods?

The grocery store run purchase included:  broccoli, bananas, cantaloupe,
asparagus, pineapple, carrots, lettuce, apples, cheese sticks and Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta.

I hope you had fun looking at my grocery pictures.  I mean, it’s a total blast staring at a 25 Pounds of Organic Millet, in which you can’t even see the millet inside the bag. I’m sure you all got a big kick out of that.

Final storage room pictures are coming up Friday…can’t wait to show you the progress! 

How’s your cleaning coming? Wanna tell me about any of the groceries you got this week?