Grocery Budget - Organic/Natural Foods - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 06:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, if you read my last post, you know I am trying to figure things out if my hubby gets a principal job and I can then stay home.

 

It's going to take about $1900/month from our current two income family.

 

Of course the easiest place to look is our food bill. I buy almost all organic. I do not want to change this. However, I do buy a lot of organic convenience foods such as: cereal, granola bars, crackers, canned beans, bread, fruit leather, juice boxes, bottled water, frozen french fries, frozen ravioli. I have been shopping for a month at a time and when I look at just the convenience foods, it is almost $150 right there.

 

This budget also includes all toiletries, wine and beer, and soda. We usually spend about $900-1000/month for everything. However, obviously a large part of buying all of these convenience foods is because I work as well. Breakfasts are usually in the car, and any help with dinner is appreciated :)

 

So, mamas, help me try to tackle this food budget and bring it down to 600-700 (maybe 700 for a couple of months and then 600). What are all of the convenience items we can make ourselves that will SERIOUSLY reduce our budget...I am sure many of you are already so good at this :)

 

-bake my own bread

-cook dry beans

-make granola bars/cereal bars

-make fruit rollups with dehydrator (or eat fresh fruit/dried fruit)

-no more little juice boxes/bottled water for lunches - buy a thermos

-make own oven fries with potatoes

 

 

-ideas for cheaper wine/beer??

-we already make our own laundry soap

-make shampoo and body wash

-make dishwasher soap

 

(edited to add that I also buy quite a lot of organic frozen fruit for smoothies)

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#2 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 09:53 AM
 
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It's a little thing, but I'd try to phase out juices and stick with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Cut soda out entirely.  You could also make your own granola -- way cheaper to get your own oats, etc., and you can control the added sugar (we'd leave it off entirely for DH).  Maybe consider home brewing.  Do you have the possibility to garden?  Buy in bulk when you can.  If rice is a less expensive option, then perhaps add that.  If you eat meat, consider decreasing or phasing out.  Can your keep chickens for eggs?

 

I'm guessing you already line dry your laundry, but just had to pitch that as well even though it's off topic.  It has saved us a ton.

 

Good luck!


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#3 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 10:15 AM
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We have a deep freezer, and freeze lots of bread, pizza crust, pie crust, casserolles, soup, granola, etc... so that I have to make it less often. I do once a month cooking, which saves us a ton of money. We are veg, so I also keep home-made veggie burgers and fries in the freezer for when we are out of food, instead of stopping at the grocery store for convienence foods. Basically, making convienence foods in advance and freezing them saves us money and time. If I had to make bread every week or twice a week (we eat a lot of bread), I would go nuts and just end up buying a loaf. Same with granola.

 

Also, we have chickens, but we spent so much on the coop I don't think it saves us any money. But we did shift breakfast to eggs instead of granola, etc., which saves us $.

 

I also cut down on milk a lot! We only drink it (almond milk) at dinner, whereas we used to drink it all day long. A half gallon now lasts us a week, which is half of what we used to drink.

 

We also eat almost all organic.


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#4 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 10:32 AM
 
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Quote:
-ideas for cheaper wine/beer??

 

 

I don't know where you are at my in my state - organic wines run about $9.00 a bottle, same as most reg. but in neighboring states I am able to buy a case and get a discount (can't do it in my state)- beer (again in my state) can be bought in a growler direct from Whole Foods or local brewer and that saves, cases are always cheaper too

 

my local health food stores offers discount on bulk items (beans, flour, etc) and also they have buyer day specials each month

 

it really depends on how you eat, certain convenience organic foods with coupon and sales are a better deal in the long run when you figure in cost of cooking

 

certain things I never buy---beans, NEVER! always dry and make my own

 

 


 

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#5 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 11:00 AM
 
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Brewing, definitely. Maybe try mead, it's easy to make and really good. The fermenter bucket and carboy and siphon hose are a bit of investment but you can make 10 wine bottles worth with $20 worth of good honey.

 

Meal plan if you don't already, choose meals you know won't get too expensive and buy only what you need. Use up everything.

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#6 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 03:52 PM
 
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Reducing juice/wine/beer/coffee consumption.  Instead of 2 beers with dinner, maybe share one with your dp.  Liquids other than water are so expensive and easy enough to cut back on.  In smoothies, I use inexpensive organic apple cider and quite a few bananas from the freezer.  Then it just takes a cupful of more expensive marionberries to make it a delicious smoothie.

 

Making your own bread or raising eggs will not necessarily get you those thing any more cheaply.  More important to the bottom line is to source your food at the best possible places.  Unfortunately that means fewer dollars thrown to your local store/coop but in our case they are still part of the loop.  The prices on some items are just so expensive there!  So, that just has to be considered, unfortunately in this day and age.  That doesn't necessarily mean heading to Walmart-- I still have my personal opinions regarding that-- but I think I would shop there before I ditched organic.  Maybe not the vegetables or bulk foods, but Walmart and Costco simply have better prices for coffee, beer and wine and other things like cereals and crackers.  

 

Since cereals and crackers and chips are so expensive, I would start with baking those before baking bread, again just looking just at the bottom line and assuming you have a good, nutritious bread available to you at the store.  Pop your own popcorn instead of pulling out the corn chips.  Cooking methods can have a big impact.  Cooking styles that lean heavily on added fats (roasting, frying, etc.) are way more expensive than stews and baking.  Fats are really expensive, relatively.  And really monitor how much butter you spread on that bread if you want to stick with organic.  I am in the same spot, not wanting to give up that Organic Valley Pasture Butter.  For cooking our organic, pasture-raised chicken I stew it gently and get a ton of really tasty chicken broth to make into soups.  Also, pasta can be pretty expensive compared to plain grains.

 

And, of course, we've stopped eating out almost entirely, including coffee stops (de rigeur in our region).  We've gotten that budget down to under $20 per month or less.  Also, we watch the ice cream and candy.  DH and I love the candy from the store, but it is so expensive for organic treats we just have to watch that, and it's better for our waistline.

 

And just watch the prices.  In the bulk section, by the 1.15/lb "California Long Grain" rice instead of the 2.15/lb Texmati.  I know that's not so big compared to meat prices, but you should watch all the prices.  Nickels and dimes do add up!  Make brown sugar syrup with organic dark brown sugar (ordered in 25lb bags if you use it a lot) and water (1 part sugar to 1 part water).  It's just as delicious as maple syrup in its own way.  

 

Again, source your food.  We will pay more for honey, buying expensive local honey, but in 5 gallons buckets that last us 2 years or more (I make granola to sell occasionally and use a lot).  And never stop sourcing it.  

 

Lastly, watch what you eat.  Don't overindulge, especially on the expensive stuff.  You do get used to it even though it can be a rough adjustment at first.


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#7 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all!

 

SweetSilver - I will say that I am almost positive that I can bake organic bread for less than the $3.95 a loaf I am paying! It's just the time factor...several hours when all I feel we do is run, run, run!

 

Thank you for the other great tips though...I love the brown sugar syrup idea! 

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#8 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 06:07 PM
 
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Tackle convenience foods first.  I would avoid anything individually-wrapped so that's a lot of pricey snacks and packaged drinks.  I would skip all fruit juice and fruit leathers, personally, as I consider concentrated fruit items too sugary anyway.   (I buy bulk nuts and dried fruits to make our own trail mixes, which is our  top kids' snack choice.  Other snacks for us are baby carrots or an apple.  The price difference for organic for these is smaller than with some foods.)  I would not bother replacing granola bars with homemade ones as for me that's too labor-intensive.  I would instead get used to eating other items that meet nutritional needs cheaply and require little preparation.  If I had to make imitations of so many convenience foods I could hardly ever get a break from the kitchen, and I'd give it up quickly.  I make my own "granola" but because we minimize grains it is based on nuts with only puffed rice to fill it out.   

 

I would not even consider making my own dishwashing detergents or body wash, as most of what I've heard has been that it's not enough savings and the dishwashing detergents aren't very effective.  But we use very, very cheap unindulgent toiletries and they are not organic.

 

Ravioli and alcohol and soda and fruit-sweets are pretty much all pricey luxuries that can be completely skipped or reduced to any degree depending what you are willing to do.  When it comes to fruit I would also skip luxury fruits like berries.  Our Berkey was the best buy in having clean water for us BTW, making it so we could always bring water from home and saved a lot of money from the water we were purchasing (and using gas to transport twice/week).

 

 


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#9 of 30 Old 02-27-2012, 08:02 PM
 
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Buy in bulk (esp. with things like frozen veggies, fruit etc.) to get a lower price per oz. of food and learn about couponing and combining coupons with sales. Around here there are lots of coupons for organic products, as well as online. Just my two cents. Best of luck!


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#10 of 30 Old 02-28-2012, 07:42 AM
 
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Previous posters have given tons of great advice. As far as buying in bulk check out the company Azure Standard if you're on or near(ish) the West Coast. Also check out Bountiful Baskets for produce to see if they have a drop site in your area. A big basket of organic produce is only $25. Then they have add ons such as whole grain breads etc. for about $2.50 a loaf. Oh & this week they had Raw Honey 12 lbs. for $32 ( a really great deal for my location)

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#11 of 30 Old 02-28-2012, 07:50 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bethiana View Post

Previous posters have given tons of great advice. As far as buying in bulk check out the company Azure Standard if you're on or near(ish) the West Coast. 

Second Azure Standard.   We just got our delivery today.  I don't buy everything from them, but their prices on some things are so good I have a regular list for them every month.  They have also been so easy to work with, and I've been ordering from them for 6 years.  I think they deliver beyond the west coast, so check out their website.  They have only a $500 minimum per drop site, and only $40 minimum per individual.

 

Also, you might be able to volunteer at your local coop and get a discount.  I know at our local one,  I occasionally see kids helping their parents stocking the shelves and babies on the backs of the cashiers!
 

 


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#12 of 30 Old 02-28-2012, 11:59 AM
 
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My only advice would be to start small, and set attainable goals. If I went from eating even 50% convenience foods, to trying to make do with zero overnight - I would fail. Miserably. Maybe you are a better woman than I (I know many are!!), but I think you'll find that being a SAHM is not so different from being a WOHM - always busy, more on your to-do list than fits in the day, and run run run. Your time constraints will be different, and you will be able to arrange your time according to your needs, but it will still be busy busy busy!!

 

You can definitely cut your grocery budget down, but I would start slowly - like start soaking beans rather than buying canned first. Start using the freezer to store certain things, but one thing at a time until it becomes routine, and then add something else. You don't want to set yourself up for failure!

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#13 of 30 Old 02-28-2012, 01:24 PM
 
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And don't go crazy buying bulk in huge quantities.  Because as sure as shootin', as soon as you commit to 50lbs of oats, one of the kids is going to develop an oats allergy, or the flour will hatch a generation of bugs despite every attempt to store it well, or the brown rice will go rancid, or the 3-color quinoa never cooks up right and no one wants to eat it now and everyone wants the golden quinoa back.

 

I have been trying to get our bill under control, but dh does most of the shopping since he is the one in town nearly every day.  Organic is super important to me, and now I have drilled it into him so much yesterday he brought home organic hamburger priced at nearly *$10* per pound!  Whoa!  I totally would have passed.  But he didn't even look at the price.  *Sigh!*  Or I'll miss the Azure order and have to buy organic cheese at full price (Yikes!  Luckily only dh and I eat cheese.)  That happens with all kinds of things.  One of these days..... one of these days I will get this under control!


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Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

And don't go crazy buying bulk in huge quantities.  Because as sure as shootin', as soon as you commit to 50lbs of oats, one of the kids is going to develop an oats allergy, or the flour will hatch a generation of bugs despite every attempt to store it well, or the brown rice will go rancid, or the 3-color quinoa never cooks up right and no one wants to eat it now and everyone wants the golden quinoa back.

 



Seriously!! I buy in bulk no more than a months worth. It saves me some money, and it all gets used - that way if the next month I don't feel like eating it I can get something else.

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#15 of 30 Old 03-01-2012, 11:42 AM
 
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I've set our budget at $700 but we often only spend $600.  I like having the extra $ built in to spend on stocking up when the price is right.  Know what you have on hand in pantry, freezer, fridge, look at sales flyers once a week & try to make a meal plan that will use up what you already have.  Write your plan down & make lists for ingredients that you need to get.  I like to have my cookbook or laptop close by to look for recipes that will use the best deals I find in the flyers.  I don't use coupons because I find that they are often for items that we do not eat.  Look for gas incentives and other programs offered by the store to make your dollar stretch even further.     

 

I cook our meals from scratch.  I make homemade granola, granola bars, lara bars and bread now just when we are having it with dinner.  I stock up on the whole wheat sandwich bread that my family likes when it goes on sale & I keep it in the freezer.  I can't make decent whole wheat sandwich bread that is soft and tastes like the store bought so I gave up.  I utilize the bulk bins for all my dry goods, soak & cook beans in large batches& then freeze, oats for hot breakfast and granola & bars, brown rice, raisins, nuts, seeds, flour, barley, Sucanat, bread crumbs... .A breakfast for dinner night, soup night and vegetarian night can also help.  Have planned leftovers or use a crock-pot for busy nights when you know you will be tempted to call for a pizza!  I used to keep a price book which is a good idea, but now I know what a good price is & I've memorized what I'm willing to spend for each item.  Good luck it can be a fun challenge!   


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#16 of 30 Old 03-01-2012, 03:20 PM
 
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Honestly, how much you want to save depends on how much time you are willing to be in the kitchen. 

 

Make lots of soups.  make meal starts to put in the freezer for quick meals later.  Anytime you see a sale on produce you eat, buy alot and dehydrate or can or freeze it.  Garden--any amount you can will help.  Really, the more I am in the kitchen the more we save.


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#17 of 30 Old 03-02-2012, 05:19 AM
 
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Can you wean yourself down to drinking alcohol less frequently as a special treat?

 

My most frugal meals are soup (made with whatever we have on hand, leftovers, whatever is on sale, etc) and "rice and stuff" (brown rice plus some kind of veg plus some kind of protein plus tamari).

 

If you don't already do this, get yourself and your family used to not throwing any "good leftovers" away.  Half a fried egg can be refrigerated and chopped up in last night's rice-and-stuff for lunch or a snack.  A half-eaten apple can have the brown bits cut off and be put into smoothie.  A half-eaten banana goes straight into the freezer for smoothies.  Get used to mixed-up food.  Also get everyone in the habit of offering their unwanted leftovers around to see if someone else might want them, before deciding whether to refrigerate or compost.

 

For soup, I have some good seasoned salt, and either a bit of chopped meat or simply some pan drippings for flavor, and whatever else is on hand that seems like a good combo.  Definitely save your pan drippings. 

 

If you eat meat, buy whole birds (turkeys, chickens) and roast them, then cut up the meat and freeze it to throw in soups or stews or rice, and throw the bones in a crock-pot overnight to make broth.  A big turkey yields enough bones/fat for me to do more than one batch of broth.  You can use the bones twice for a thinner broth the second time (good for egg-drop soup or other light soup).

 

If you do get more expensive or coveted treats sometimes, keep them under lock and key and ration them out carefully so the kids don't blow through them in one sitting.

 

Plain popcorn.  It's cheap and healthy and we eat it all the time.

 

Meat and dairy should be for flavor and excitement, but not the focus of the meal.

 

So many good ideas in the archives here.  Just change what you can at first without being overwhelmed, and then a little bit more as time goes on.


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#18 of 30 Old 03-02-2012, 08:10 AM
 
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Might seem counter-intuitive, but wash your hair less often with shampoo.  Consider buying a "shampoo bar" next time you need to refill; or try "no poo".

 

For dishwasher soap, try reducing the amount you use.  You can also make commercial soap go longer by following this ratio: 1 part washing soda, 1 part Borax, 1 part commercial dishwasher soap. 

 

Can you cut your utility expenses by unplugging things when not used?

 

What about reducing toiletry expenses: replace toilet paper with "family cloth", replace paper towels with cloth, replace kleenex with handkerchiefs, etc

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#19 of 30 Old 03-02-2012, 12:03 PM
 
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I'm back with more tips...

 

Stock up on sales; understand frequency of your grocery sales and what makes a "really good sale"

Eat seasonally/locally

Preserve what you can; start canning this summer/fall - jam and apple butter are easy; freeze produce you pick up at sales price (or during peak season)

Consider shopping at Costco if available; you have to be careful and justify each purchase (understand your usage and the sales price at your regular grocery store); Costco carries a variety of organic products - depending on your location (for example: there are more organic products at Costco in Portland, OR than in Milwaukee, WI - I know from personal experience)

 

Comparison shop a few local stores and then buy the cheapest there of your regular staples (for example: one store sold bulk steel cut oats at $0.99/lb and the other was $1.89/lb)

 

Grow your own vegetables; or at least your herbs if you use heavily; greens (spinach, chard, kale and collards) are particularly pricy organic yet relatively easy to grow - start with these since they also have a long season (but they prefer cooler climate)

 

Make your own yogurt if a staple (this is very cost effective if you buy organic yogurt)

 

Make your own stock; save animal bones if you eat meat, save all raw scraps from these vegetables and freeze until you have enough to make stock: celery, carrots, onions, parsley stems, other misc veggie scraps (avoid greens and broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage); I keep 1 qt plastic bag in freezer and add to it as scraps are created.  I make veggie stock with 1 qt veggie scraps and 1 qt water, with some dry thyme, peppercorns, and bayleaf.

 

 

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#20 of 30 Old 03-04-2012, 07:30 AM
 
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We just had an awesome stir-fried rice last night made up entirely of leftovers plus onion and garlic.  I guess I'm really picky about my soups and prefer my leftovers this way!  Korean sweet-and-spicy BBQ sauce is increasingly easy to find, but I have also use Thai curry paste.  


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#21 of 30 Old 03-05-2012, 07:55 AM
 
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I have made some of my very best soups on "clean out the fridge day"!  Just made one the other night, as a matter of fact.  It had onions, garlic, bell peppers, zucchini, butternut squash, kale, spinach, mushrooms, celery, carrots, and chicken.  It was delicious!  I never make a soup the same way, lol.


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#22 of 30 Old 03-05-2012, 10:34 AM
 
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If you are a meat-eater, can you buy a share of beef or pork before you quit your job?

I'd lose juice and soda immediately.

Other ideas I have are already listed. Meal planning has helped me considerably.

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#23 of 30 Old 03-07-2012, 08:32 AM
 
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Trader Joes has 3.99/bottle wines that aren't too bad.(I haven't cut out wine entirely, you can tell)


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#24 of 30 Old 03-11-2012, 07:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Mamas, you are all AMAZING! I can't thank you enough for all the ideas smile.gif I love cooking, but I am so tired at night after work that often I sabotage myself with convenience foods. I am trying to do once a month cooking and that seems to help. I will try maing my own yogurt...I buy about six of the large containers a month!

As far as the booze goes, I just need to have cheaper wine...whole foods has their new three buck chuck like trader joes ( we don't have tjs yet)
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#25 of 30 Old 03-13-2012, 05:10 PM
 
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Have you seen Rachael Ray's "Week in a Day" show?  I've caught it Sun mornings & there are some great ideas for prepping ahead of time.


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#26 of 30 Old 03-16-2012, 02:31 AM
 
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I saw that frozen berries for smoothies got mentioned... Not sure where you are OP, but instead of cutting the berries out (frozen storebought organic berries are PRICEY), look in to you-pick options in your area. We LOVE smoothies in our house too... By picking your own berries, you can usually cut the price dramatically. Freeze on cookie sheets and then put into ziplocks in the freezer. Same with jams and jellies. I didn't make nearly as much jam this summer as I usually do because I was veeeery pregnant and feeling far too big to pick berries all day and can all day the next, but we are literally paying for it now. It costs me more than twice as much to get jam at the store vs. Picking/canning my own, and mine is so much tastier.

Wife to DH geek.gif, mom to DS (4/09), and DD (8/11)fly-by-nursing2.gif, and crafty and hardworking in my own right!  In my parenting journey I've  delayedvax.gif, signcirc1.gif, familybed2.gif, h20homebirth.gif, andcd.gif.  To each family their own!!

 

 

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#27 of 30 Old 03-25-2012, 03:40 PM
 
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re: wine... when you get to Trader Joe's, skip the Three Buck Chuck. It's AWFUL and for $5 you can get a really good organic merlot (TJs house brand -- they have a couple of varieties but I've only had the merlot so far).

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#28 of 30 Old 03-31-2012, 03:03 PM
 
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You can try to make just about everything from scratch. You can make bread in a bread maker. If you want a crustier crust, take the bread out of the bread maker a little before it is done browning. Put it in a 400 degree preheated oven for 5 or 10 minutes, until it is completely done. You can make a lot of your own mixes or just make from scratch things such as pancakes, waffles, scones, piecrust, cakes, puddings , pies and custards. You can make your own yogurt, granola, vanilla, mustard, pickles, jams, syrups. Make iced tea and iced coffee. Make your own bread crumbs and croutons.
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#29 of 30 Old 03-31-2012, 05:54 PM
 
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We love the Whole Foods 2.99 Chardonnay.  :-)  For everyday wine, or bulk wine for a party, or a white sangria or the cabernet for a red sangria.  The Whole Foods right near us doesn't have wine, but the one uptown does and it's worth the trip to stock up!  

 

Also, a WF rotisserie chicken is good to have on hand for a quick dinner the first night with rice and salad, then leftovers can be soup (put bones in the crockpot), sandwiches, enchiladas, tacos, etc.  My son just loves having cooked chicken around to snack on.  

 

Always pick up the coupons on the way in!  I only buy the convenience foods that are on sale and/or with a coupon, or the organic store brand.  I can keep it at $100-120 for 3 people with 2 FT workers and not a lot of cooking time that way.  

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#30 of 30 Old 03-31-2012, 07:34 PM
 
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Try setting aside one day a week where you make all the "convenience" foods for that week.  Every Saturday while my girls are visiting their dad I spend a few hours in my kitchen making the snacks for the week.  Usually I make these:

 

LaraBars: http://enlightenedcooking.blogspot.com/2008/02/home-made-lara-bars-energy-bars-part-3.html    a double batch for my daughter who needs to gain weight for after her swim lesson

 

Granola Bars: http://www.anotherlunch.com/2010/05/recipe-chocolate-chip-granola-bites.html  quick snacks and school lunches

 

Bread: http://crunchycatholicmomma.blogspot.com/2011/09/rhythm-of-our-week-monday-baking-day.html  One loaf for us for the week and one for my parents who are kind enough to take my youngest to school twice a week so I may meet a volunteer commitment.

 

some version of these Banana Oatmeal muffins(sometimes with bits of leftover strawberries, sometimes chocolate chips, etc.  I switch it up): http://half-bakedbaker.blogspot.com/2009/01/guilt-and-gulten-free-oatmeal-banana.html

 

Granola(I like the granola bars but the above recipe is way better): http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/06/16/recipe-connection-homemade-granola-and-granola-bars/  Make about 1-2times a month.

 

Crackers: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/02/05/finer-things-friday-homemade-cracker-recipe-at-long-last/  Again, I make a double batch maybe 1-2times a month.  They are kinda labor-intensive.

 

 

Realistically, I think it takes me maybe 4hours of active work in my kitchen to prepare all the snacks for the upcoming week.  I do have other recipes for treats and we do switch it up a bit.  I'll make a batch of cookies for after-school snack or whatever but these recipes are the staples in our house.  Those are our "convenience foods."  And we do things like yogurt and applesauce and whatever in the crockpot so it's 5 minutes of active work puttng it in the pot and 10minutes later on packing it up in jars and washing the crockpot so that's doable on a week night.  But I find that taking one day and putting a few hours of work in in my kitchen is the best system for me.  It keeps our costs down, it's healthier for my kids, and I feel good about giving them homemade treats that mom made with love.  

 

 

 

 


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