“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. In our mad rush for progress and modern improvements let's be sure we take along with us all the old-fashioned things worth while.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Small Steps

Big gains. 

It's hard to remember shopping with store coupons for ready made food products.  Our food bill was about double what it is now.  The change to eating whole foods started off slowly and has snowballed.  A little step here and there has added up to a total makeover with more changes to follow.  Having a set amount of cash to shop with each month, slowly stocking up on single item pantry/freezer goods (flour, eggs, veggies, meat .. etc) .. makes for quick meal preparation and planning.  Purchasing went from several times a week to once or twice a month.  Honestly .. yesterday was big shopping day for the month of November.  Our budget is $400 cash (family of four); this does not include much meat as that is separately budgeted and purchased from a local ranch each summer and kept in a chest freezer.  Having a well stocked pantry, I came home with only four bags of grocery staples.  Milk, cheese, spices, potatoes, tea, chips, etc. leaving me $220 until the end of the month.  Over the summer, the garden and local u-pick farm supplied fresh produce, much of which has been frozen, canned or dried for winter's use.  Buying and growing locally usually ensures better quality.  Getting to know the farmer and their farming practices helps when making choices outside of your own garden.  Separate freezer space allows for extra gallons of milk to be stored until needed, eliminating that dash to the market (that turns into a $20 shopping spree).  Milk and hard cheese both freeze beautifully.  Just remember to pour a little out of the carton to allow for expansion; the extra can be put in a wide-mouth labeled mason jar and frozen.  When we are out of milk it's nice to have a few cups in the freezer to tide us over until shopping day.  Learning to budget food has taken about six months.  Eliminating convenience foods has freed up dollars to buy good quality staples such as flour, oil, milk, produce, etc.  With the exception to canning and bread making, cooking from scratch takes no more time than ready made convenience food with practice.  Adapting our favorite family recipes to be more nutritiously prepared has won over my family to eat better. 

photo by Mrs. Mac
Yesterday's lesson:  Everyday I try to learn something new in the kitchen.    My husband and daughter still prefer those yummy-foo-foo sweetened (FAKE) creamers.  Thinking outside of the BIG BOX store mentality, (and not having the money in the budget for their 'desires') I purchased half-and-half and doctored it up, making it a little less sweet and without all the FAKE chemicals.  We call it Autumn Carmel Spice Coffee Creamer, they're hooked :)  .. I'll drink mine black or with a splash of milk.  You can make flavored creamers using a similar method and your flavor of choice.

Autumn Carmel Spice Coffee Creamer:

1/2 pint good quality half and half (the only ingredients should be cream and milk)
1 Tablespoons organic sucanant (unrefined sugar)
2-3 Tablespoons organic raw sugar
dash of cinnamon
small pinch of sea salt
1 Teaspoon good quality pure vanilla flavoring (watch the ingredients .. they should all be pronounceable and familiar ones:)

Put a few tablespoons of half and half in a small sauce pan.  Add the sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt.  Stir over medium heat for just a moment until the sugars dissolve.  Do not let it come to a boil or the butterfat will separate and float on top of your coffee (bleck).  Slowly add the additional half and half and the vanilla.  Stir until well mixed.  Cool and pour back in the carton .. marking it as flavored coffee creamer.

The road to better nutrition is as individual as each family.  Do you have a favorite shopping strategy?


LynnS said...

I suppose our food strategy is homesteader-style which includes preserving and stockpiling. We to try and grow most of our edibles ourselves but we order our grass-fed beef and I'm trying to convince my husband that it's time to grow our own steer. (He rolls his eyes...) If we need to purchase a food product, we buy as much in bulk through our health food store. I try to keep a close watch on foods that might run low so I don't get caught without.

Have you started to stockpile more foods yet? You might look into bulk purchases of flour and rice since it's less expensive if you can buy locally and not have to pay shipping.

Monday's Child said...

I love your blog! I have a question about freezing milk. It seemed like you were pouring out of the carton so it would have room to expand. But then it sounded like you weren't freezing the carton, you were freezing the poured-off part. I got confused. There's only me at home right now, so freezing the larger amount would be great for me if I can freeze directly in the carton. I haven't tried to freeze mason jars before, and am worried about expansion in there - would that escape through the lid? Thanks for your help! This is a tip I'll be trying this very week!

Mrs. Mac said...

Monday's Child .. yes, freezing in the carton that has been emptied a bit into another container .. and if you use mason jars .. use the wide mouth ..leaving about 2 inches of head space for expansion. The narrow necked bottles will crack (from experience;)

Cindy said...

That's a great idea for creamer.

My best stragegy these days is to always plan out my menu and grocery list before shopping and I use cash which helps me stick to my list so I don't overspend. I go once a week and that's it.

My grocery/household budget is $140 per week but that includes meat plus personal care and household items as well as gas for my car. I probably spend $100 just on food.

I also include a few stock up items on my grocery list each week to keep the pantry stocked with extras.

I also only go to the grocery store in a nearby town instead of Walmart so I'm not tempted by things not on my list.

Mrs. Mac said...

Cindy .. I hear you about not wanting to step foot in Sprawlmart .. and shopping with cash makes it a bit more 'painful' to part with money not designated with a purpose.

Lynn .. I have been stockpiling most everything but whole grains .. waiting to save up for a grinder before I buy any in bulk. I do buy organic brown rice from Costco. I too noticed how the price of butter has jumped up .. I'll have to start noting the price of coffee. I just switched to a local roasting company .. and they are more expensive than say Folgers or Yuban .. but much fresher.

Mr. H. said...

We have been stockpiling grains and coffee as well. Everything I read points to possible price hikes on both products for various reasons mostly weather related. Other issues like the massive fires in Russia that damaged so much of their wheat crop could affect us as well.

Ruralrose said...

We procure food the same way. In my mind it is the right way. Yesterday I thought I ran out of rice, but found a 20 pound bag in storage - must be doing something right! Again, you are only sharing truths with people, bravo! Peace