Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tacos for the win!

It's been a busy week, so I just wanted to check in real quick with everyone and make a super quick, hopefully useful post.

It's about tacos. My kids love tacos. And we usually eat beef tacos because we eat a lot of chicken otherwise and not nearly as much beef. And a nice thing about tacos is that there's not a lot of actual meat necessary, so it's good for the budget and it's 'healthy'(assuming you're doing it right).

Good is good, but better is better, right? I also knew I wanted to make extra taco meat to freeze for a quick meal later. So I started with two pounds of ground chuck. Browned it, then added two packet's worth of taco seasoning(I made it from scratch). Then, for no particular reason whatsoever, I added two 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes, one with jalapeƱos and one without, both drained. Then I added a rinsed, drained, can of black beans. And I simmered it all together for 10 minutes.

The result? Both kids ate their tacos(Kadin had seconds, which I expected). I asked if they were good, they said yes. I asked if they noticed anything different, they said no. Success! It also stretched things out that it's basically three meals' worth of taco meat. So that's a heck of a savings right there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This week's grocery list, how liberating!

I'm doing things a little bit backwards this week. I'm going to buy some basic food staples based on what's on sale this week, and then I'll plan my meals around what I have. I think that'll be easy enough, and I expect to save some money this way. It's also easy because I have a lot of things on hand from Trader Joe's and so all I need to buy are perishables. I also have the space now to freeze quite a bit of meat and things. So... I'll share my list with you!

Gala apples(5 lb. bag)
Local sweet potatoes
Green bell pepper(4)
Tangerines(3 lb. bag)
Broccoli(2 bunches)
Red bell pepper(2)
Hot House Tomatoes(4 lbs.)
Bagged salad(2 or 3, depending on expiration dates)
Red potatoes(5 lb. bag)
Potatoes(5 lb. bag)
White onions(3 lbs.)
Red onions(3 lbs.)

Whole chicken(2 or 3)
Chicken breast(probably about 10 lbs.)
London Broil
Bottom Round
Sirloin Tip

Milk(2 gallons)

Canned beans, black specifically(I hate making black beans from dry beans, the others don't bother me as much).

Lima beans(2 lb. bag)

I'm a little curious about how much this will add up to! Only time will tell I guess.

ETA: I'm guesstimating about $120 plus tax. We'll see!

Cereal debate, fail.

Did anyone see this about the cartoon characters on cereal boxes? There was a proposal to ban them, but, the government has dropped it.

I wish they hadn't. I wish the ban had happened. I don't understand why we need to entice kids to eat food with cartoon characters. Why can the food not speak for itself? Will kids really NOT want to eat frosted marshmallow cereal if you take the leprechaun away? Or the tiger? Will they suddenly want nothing but All Bran if you do that? Oh! Geez. Would THAT be so bad?

At this point, we don't eat much breakfast cereal. We do eat some, mostly as a snack. And we buy it at our natural food store or at Trader Joe's when we make it there. Almost none of the cereal at Trader Joe's has cartoon characters on the packaging, and there's certainly no commercials for it. The one exception on the characters is this brand, Nature's Path Envirokidz. And you know what? My kids ALWAYS ask for those ones. I don't buy them because they're more expensive and they're gluten free, and we don't have gluten issues so I don't see the point in paying more. But once I tell my kids 'no,' they're more than happy to pick out Strawberry Yogurt Os or Crisp Rice.

I guess that's where I fall on this. Parents should be able to say no, and they should say no. But why not make that easier for them? And make it easier on the kids to make good decisions.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yay baby!

First off, big hugs to a friend who's in the hospital right now about to have her baby Charlotte! Lots of love ya'll's way! So excited for you!

I've been down for a couple of days, fighting off some kind of sickness that fortunately never completely surfaced. I think I caught it early enough I was able to sleep it away, thank goodness. I'm really grateful my kids are old enough that I can put a movie on, set the house alarm, and go lay down without worry. Of course, they never actually sit through a whole movie and do come to ask me things, but that's ok. I survived.

This is going to be a busy weekend for me because I have a test to take on Tuesday, and I have a lot of studying and preparing to do.

I also need to confess that these past two days, while I've been sick, I haven't stuck to the meal plan. On Wednesday I ordered pizza and that's basically what we ate the last two days. Failure on my part, no question! So we're back on the wagon today. Pretty excited about it, actually. I also need to get the house whipped into shape.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting about our backyard chickens, my chore chart, and probably a recipe or two, we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This week's meal plan

Um, oops. I just realized that I didn't even know what we were going to eat for dinner tonight, let alone what we'll be having the rest of the week. It usually helps to figure these things out, at least in my life. I'm so over the, "What should we have for dinner?" question at 5 o'clock.

I'm trying to make my way through some of the stuff we already have. I don't think I'll need to go shopping until next Monday, hopefully. That'll be nice.

Tuesday: Seasoned salmon fillets, garlic and herb pasta, and steamed broccoli.

Wednesday: Crunchy garlic chicken, rice pilaf, and mixed vegetables.

Thursday: Loaded baked potatoes and vegetable blend.

Friday: Spaghetti with sausage.

Saturday: We might have plans, but if not, frozen TJ's pizza and salad.

Sunday: Pork steaks, mashed potatoes, and vegetable blend.

What a pilgrimage means to me

I am not a religious or spiritual person, so for me, what falls near and dear to my heart is different than what others might find is dear to them. We used to live in a large metropolitan area with a ton of various resources available to us. It was easy to come by organic foods, or natural products, or a community of like-minded people. About two years ago we moved south, to an area that still has a "city," but it is much smaller and the vibe is a lot different. I found myself struggling to maintain the same type of healthy lifestyle we were accustomed to.

One of the things I found myself missing most was Trader Joe's. You have to understand.... I LOVE Trader Joe's. And where we lived before, it wasn't an issue of whether there was a Trader Joe's, it was a matter of which one was closest to your home and which one you most frequently drove past as you went about your life. So I frequented four different ones, and I had my favorites.

And then we moved. And there was no Trader Joe's, and I was sad. When my parents came to visit, my mom would bring me some things from Trader Joe's. Once she even mailed me Trader Joe's things! And when we went to a city near-ish by that had a Trader Joe's, we would go there and bring things back. And when we drove up north to visit family, we'd stop by Trader Joe's and bring things back. But when your vehicle is already loaded with four people and a horse of a dog and all their things, you can only bring so much back. Add to that a 10 hour drive and you're pretty limited.

But as mentioned in my last post, I bought a chest freezer. And with all that freezer space comes all kinds of options. So what else could I do this weekend but drive to Athens, Georgia and hit Trader Joe's?! I mean, really. What else could I have possibly done with my day? It's not like I have kids or school or anything else. Geez.

So off we went. Coolers in the back, rear seats folded into the floor, we were ready! And we got there, and oh holy saints alive, it was amazing! It was like being home again! People with dreadlocks, Birkenstocks, and tattoos! And happy employees! And teeny tiny carts!(why do they do that??) I had a list in my head of a couple of things friends had asked me to pick up for them as well, because of course everyone I know understands the wonder that is Trader Joe's, even here in the deep south.

We made it, literally, down one aisle before I had to get a second cart and recruit Kadin to push it. The wonderful thing about Trader Joe's is that nothing they sell has HFCS or food dyes, so as far as avoiding these for Ansel, I didn't have to check a single label. (FWIW, the same is also true for the store I shop at here, Earth Fare.) But the plan was to stock up on things that I, first off, love, and secondly, that are cheaper at Earth Fare than elsewhere, so that I would be 'stocked' on these things for three months. Which means my next pilgrimage is planned for January! Woot! I can hardly wait already!

It's worth noting that a few things happened.... The two carts were piled so high Kadin couldn't see over either one, and I had to direct him. We also killed their cash register... it freaked out and froze, the receipt was too long to print and we killed their printer, and two guys had to each push two carts full of bagged items out to our car. On the way out, the one guy asked, "Do you have a Mac truck for all this?" To which I replied, "Nope! Just a minivan." Trader Joe's employees being awesome, they even helped me dig out frozen items to load into my coolers.

Was it worth it? Oh heck yes! All $528 of it! (No lie, really.) It was summed up almost immediately upon driving away, when each child was given a fruit leather to enjoy. Ansel said, "I like this candy!" I didn't protest, even though it's not candy at all, and is only fruit, no added sugar. Why should I argue?

As we drove away. Kids have fruit leather, I acquire coffee, and I bask in the awesomeness of all that I purchased at the beautiful place. If you have one near you, appreciate it.

When we got home, I had to take a picture of it all. The other angle just didn't take in the magnitude of it.

Excuse the weird orbs that happened with my phone pictures. I'm quite sure my house isn't haunted. It's just glare. Really.

It's a good thing my counters were clear when I got home.(Because I cleared them before I left, no magic cleaning elves here! Or ghosts.) There were a lot of wonderful things to sort.

I don't like their white cheddar popcorn at all. Why do you ask?

No, I do not dream of their amazing frozen pizzas on really busy nights when I don't have time to, or energy to, cook anything more labor intensive. Ok, fine, I do. Pair this with a quick side salad and it's a great dinner for us. Next to it, you can kind of see some frozen fish. I bought enough for us to have these once a week until January. Amazing!

Phew! That was fun. I am so excited! So far we've finished a bag of the popcorn, the kids have eaten about half a box of squeeze yogurts, and we're working on a box of amazing cereal bars that taste like real things! And aren't fluorescent colors!

Oh, and I feel like I need to say... The bags will not be wasted. I use their bags for my paper recycling storage until I go drop it off at the recycling center. Yes, I do usually use reusable bags, but Trader Joe's has always been my exception to get the bags for recycling.