Grocery Shopping Once a Month; 4 Things We Do NOT Do; and The 13 Things We DO




How My Family of 6 Grocery Shops Once a Month and You Can Too! How to Save Money and Time
Your probably wondering how a wife and mom of four young kids only shops at the grocery store once a month- seriously, who really likes going there weekly? There are several different things that we have become accustom to over the years in our home-things that have become our “newish” norm for shopping-none of which involve my going to a physical store and some are well, just flat out unconventional and I’m o.k with that.

How We Grocery Shop Once a Month and You Can Too

(in no particular order)

The 4 Things We Do Not do-

We do not coupon– I know my sister is dying as she reads this (she is a huge coupon lover). She already knows we do not coupon but here is the reason why-it takes time. Time I straight up do not have and even with all the handy coupon web-sights available today it still takes a lot. I know, I used to do it. Not only that, my family can’t eat 98% of what is being offered or we don’t use the products. I am not anti-coupon I love a good deal just as much as the next guy or gal-but, the time I was putting in hardly was worth the pay out. If I coupon it is to get free items to donate or an email caught my eye that is such a good deal I simply cannot pass it up. I advise shopping according to your needs- don’t shop just because it nearly free.

We rarely shop  at the local grocery store- I may have stepped foot in the local grocery store twice in the past 6 months-and, honestly it was probably for something my husband asked me to grab last minute. We have a Trader Joe’s not far from us and that is where I typically do our once a month grocery shopping (if we had a Whole Foods) closer to us that would be my first choice.

We do not buy tons of processed food – Honestly, I can’t even bring myself to do it. The more I educate myself the more the thought alone makes my stomach hurt. Yes, I will buy fruit snacks, chips, and an occasional box of cookies but I keep just enough on hand for emergency “snack-and-go” trips that I may not have planned accordingly for.

We do not even look at the sales ads- I used to be tempted to look at what was on sale- and, this did take some time to get used to. Very similar to the “I do not coupon” category I was like a fish swimming in the lake – all it took was a little “bait“, hook-line, and sinker- if I saw a “good” deal I might be tempted to run out and buy that particular item-and maybe a few others-or even worse, I would go buy “items X, Y, and Z” that were on sale but now I still have nothing for dinner and instead I have 12 bottles of shampoo, 4 barbecue sauces, and 6 bags of Chex-mix (which again my kids can’t eat and it is terrible for you anyways). Not to mention that I just ran my poor kids all around town, messed with our school day (yes, we homeschool), and I have wasted gas running all over.

How to Grocery Shop Once a Month, Save Time, and Save Money - How my family of 6 makes it work and you can too!

13 Things We Do 





We do budget and forgo other things to eat healthy and enjoy the conveniences at our finger tips-
I will forgo just about anything to see that my family is eating a healthy minimally processed diet. We cut our kids hair, I have been known to skip a haircut or two, we mom2mom shop for the kids clothes, I have no problems picking up a shirt at a second hand shop for myself, and point blank without our health none of those others things really matter- after all when your sick do you really care about those super cute shoes you just bought?

We do shop at warehouse stores (Costco specifically)– The warehouse stores sometimes can get a bad wrap because of the quantities you have to buy and the ever so clever marketing throughout the store. Yes, it is tempting. Yes, it takes a bit of self control. Know what you are going in for- buy it and get the heck out of there. As for the quantities we are a family of 6 so that really is not a problem, but for smaller families buying in bulk and repackaging is a great money saver. For example you may not need that big 5 lb  bag of rice all at once but by dividing it up in smaller family sized portions and then storing it in tightly fit storage containers-it is the equivalent to 5 boxes of high sodium prepackaged/boxed rice and you did a majority of your shopping in one day.

We do order food online– I am not a big online shopper and I never in a million years thought I would shop for groceries-but, it is awesome! We basically buy the same brands of products week after week and since ideally (yes, I too fall off the wagon-don’t beat yourself up-just get back up and do it again) my meal plan is set-it is seriously as easy as looking at my meal plan and clicking a button. We mostly order from Vitacost and Amazon. <—- {thanks for using our affiliate links}

We do have a weekly produce delivery service-we order from Door 2 Door Organics almost weekly. Fresh produce to our door you can’t beat it. Now, I will add the amount that we go through verses what I get in a box does not always match up-so, if the budget is tight I will resort to frozen veggies for dinners and only order fruit-or, I will make a stop on my grocery day at an area produce store. I highly recommend looking for an area produce company that delivers- or at a minimum join a CSA (we have done that too)

We do order fresh meat from a near by farm-we are spoiled. I stumbled upon an area farm that delivers to your door. The meat can be fresh or frozen upon arrival. I can call them anytime and verify ingredients. The animals are humanely raised and grass-fed. The prices keep increasing but aren’t they everywhere? I can not emphasize enough how important this farm is to my family- it really is the second best thing to owning my own farm. If you don’t have an area farm that delivers- I would encourage you to call around to area farms and order (whole, half, and quarter animals-stored in the freezer you are set for the year) Yes, we have also done that. We ordered a 1/4 cow for years and even 1/4 pig.

We do shop at farmers markets- there really is nothing like going to a little stand to get your produce. I love it. Meeting the farmers and discussing their practices-it truly is a humbling experience–they are such hard workers. These stands are not always organic but they are certainly fresh and cost much less than your produce at the grocery store-not to mention the 100’s of miles your produce has just endured to get to your table when not purchased locally.

We do buy mostly gluten-free – I do not make separate meals. We do not all require a gluten-free diet but cooking separate meals is a lot of work. I no longer buy regular pasta, rarely buy potatoes, and our snacks are pretty limited too-as my ears can not endure the endless amount of whining that will occur from those children that can’t have “_______” food.

We do buy organic whenever possible- I know that there has been some controversy over the years as to whether organic is necessarily better- my personal opinion is; yes it is. We have done “experiments” on some of our produce at home over the years- food should not rot on the inside and look perfectly fine on the outside- the chemically laden produce has a finely coated outer shell giving it a “fresh” appearance. Now, I will add buying solely organic for a family of six is quite costly so I am selective – typically I will used the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 15” as my guide. If I can financially buy more in a given month then I will.

We do grow a garden- Growing a garden is not only friendly on the bank account but it is very rewarding. Plant a variety of foods- including those that freeze well; green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, lettuce, kale, peppers, and tomatoes. Pick your produce at its optimal ripeness or blanch and freeze for later use. Check out my “totally diggingit” board on Pinterest

We do can – One of the things I was determined to learn how to do was can-and guess what? It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The initial investment of the jars, lids, and canning tools was a bit pricey but by the 2nd year canning the investment is well worth it. I especially like making my own jam. There is no guessing what ingredients might have been added to our food- I know where it came from and exactly how it was preserved. Check out my “because we can” board on Pinterest.

We do cook/bake in bulk and freeze- I wish I did this more- but, there are certain foods you will likely always find in our freezer. My typical stock up foods are; broths, sauces, muffins, cookies, meatballs, pancakes, and waffles.

We do plan – Whether it is weekly, monthly, or every six months…having a plan can save a lot of money and a lot of headaches! See why meal planning needs to only be done twice a year

We do have ample amount of freezer space -We have 3 fridge/freezer combinations, one full stand up freezer, and one pantry. We do not always store food in the outside fridge/freezer as it is used more for drinks- but, the others are all quite full.

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15 Simple Time Saving Kitchen Tips

15 Simple Time Saving Kitchen Tips

Sharing 15 Simple Time Saving Kitchen Tips today to help you work smarter not harder. I can honestly say, I have never met someone who wasn’t looking to save time or money- myself included. Even as a busy work at home, homeschooling mom of four the one place I could certainly spend the most time is in the kitchen — does anyone else have kids with hollow stomachs?

I am always looking for kitchen tips and ways to cut a corner or two in the kitchen: but, most importantly without putting my family’s dietary needs at risk and without compromising our healthy living lifestyle. Cooking gluten-free, dairy free,and nightshade free has certainly had a learning curve of its own. However, like anything once you have your routine down and a good plan –the shopping, cooking, and clean up can be streamlined allowing more time with family and less time spent slaving over the stove.

Kitchen Tip #1) Keep a well stocked pantry, freezer, and fridge….see how my family of 6 shops once a month here. 

2) Organize Your Shopping List – whether you organize your list based on the layout of a specific store or if you simply do it like myself — which is, by store location (Trader Joe’s, Costco, Farmers Market, Etc.). Regardless of how you do it, the key is knowing exactly what, how much, and from where you will need to purchase a particular item(s).

3) Bake and cook in bulk- Why should waffles and pancakes only be served on the weekend? Why make one meat loaf when you can make two? While you have the griddle or waffle iron out double or in our case triple your favorite recipe, make extras, and freeze the rest for later. Once they are cool place in gallon sized zip-lock bag and freeze. Those busy school mornings that were once filled with heavily processed convenience waffles from the grocery store are now spent enjoying a homemade family favorite. We take the homemade waffles straight from the freezer and pop them directly into the toaster–no thawing necessary–grab, toast, and enjoy.

Soups, stews, stocks, and sauces are the perfect big batch cooking items.Take my tomatoless sauce recipe for example a batch made on a Sunday afternoon can be froze in individual size portions and used for weeks to come. Make the mess once and enjoy the fruit of your labor for weeks to come.

15 Simple Time Saving Kitchen Tips- From a busy work at home mom of four...

4) Pre-cut, dice, chop, and freeze produce that is used regularly.Buy onions and peppers in bulk– prepare and freeze in quart sized freezer bags for later use. I can not emphasize enough how much time this step alone saves–no more cutting onions for chili, meatloaf, and sauces–it’s a one time deal. Buy, cut, freeze, measure out what you need, and refreeze the rest. (Do not thaw the entire bag– just measure out the desired amount for use).

5) Dinner and Lunch Salads in a Flash — no excuses. Making salads admittedly although, one of my favorite things to eat is not my favorite thing to make– too much washing and cutting for this girl. I have found buying lettuce, giving it a quick wash, a rough chop, a spin through the salad spinner, and then proceed to line the spin basket which contain your mixed greens with paper towel it is there that you can safely store them for future use (I have kept washed and prepared greens for up to a week using this method of storage).

6) Keep a garbage bowl on the counter for all the peels, wrappers, and scraps that our not needed for your meal. A large bowl or container on the counter during your food prep can save a fare amount of time walking to and from the garbage can– hey, every bit helps, right?

7) Clean as you go — I have experimented with this several times, but I still feel I save the most amount of time when I clean as I go. Who really likes cleaning a pile of dishes at the end of a meal prep? I work better when I start and end with a clean space. A sink full of soap can be a great start for soaking dirty pots, pans, and utensils–a spray bottle of vinegar water can be a life saver for keeping the counter tops clean and crumb free eliminating any potential gluten cross contamination issues.

8) Ice cube trays don’t only make ice – make batches of frozen basil, mint, and coffee cubes for all of your future recipes. Fresh basil frozen into cube form is the perfect fit for a pot of homemade soup. Add a thawed coffee cube to your favorite brownie recipe–and mint, oh’ how I love thee–from teas to flavored water there is nothing quite like it.  

9) Cook ground meat in large quantities in your crock-pot. Yes, if you have never done this your missing out. Simply put a bulk amount of raw beef, turkey, etc. in your crock-pot (it can still be frozen) cook on low/medium heat. Cook until heated and cooked through. I find in our crock-pot I can cook 3 lbs in 2-3 hrs–a quick rough chop with a spatula, let cool, and freeze in recipe size portions for future dates.

10) Buy chicken, beef, and pork in bulk, prep, marinate, and freeze. Let’s make something clear–I do not like cleaning meat. So any opportunity to make the process a one shot deal I’m going to jump at it.

11) Make that 5 lb bag of fresh chicken breasts your new best friend–trim of all fat, prep for kabobs, chicken nuggets, chicken strips, fajitas, and just plain marinated breasts. I like to prepare any marinades in advance and then add to the gallon zip-lock bag of prepared meat. While the meat thaws it is marinating in all of those juices adding extra flavor and moisture to your dish.

12) Wash grapes and strawberries in those perfect colander like hole containing packages. Make what you have work– there is no need to dirty another kitchen gadget if the freebie one it came with will work. Spray, wash, and rinse your produce in the package.

13) Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel-spouts, and other stem like produce can be cut directly off the stem straight into a colander. There is no need to cut it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife and holding one end of the stem cut away from you with a downward motion (this works best if you do it over a sink) cut the produce off directly into the colander where it will then be washed, rinsed, and used.

14) Portion out snacks when you first arrive home from the store. Whether you are separating out baby carrots in snack sized bags or pretzels. Those few extra minutes of prep when you first get home can make a world of difference when packing lunches or when temptation for a convenience snack should arise– be prepared and plan ahead.

15) sign up —-> for your free copy ofThe Homestead Daily” for meal plans, tips, tricks, and freebies.

Although, the kitchen certainly does take up a good deal of our time– it doesn’t mean there aren’t a few areas we can cut some corners–whether, you are a newly wed, a half crazed mom like myself, or a seasoned veteran in the kitchen the recipe is the same- work smarter not harder.

I would love to hear some of your kitchen saving tips–share them in the comment section below.  I love hearing from you.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Gluten Free Label Reading 101






 What is gluten anyways? How to Read a Gluten Free Label - Join Us as we walk you through label reading 101

 How to Read a Gluten Free Nutrition Label

Gluten-free and label reading-are like “peas and carrots” they just go together. The word “gluten” is not a labeled ingredient on food labels so it requires a bit of consumer knowledge. It is “where” and “in what” listed ingredients gluten hides that a gluten-free consumer must educate themselves. Label reading truly becomes second nature as manufacturers are constantly changing ingredients, the source of these ingredients, and their manufacturing practices. Just because your favorite cookies were gluten free 6 months ago does not mean that these same cookies are still free of wheat, rye, barley, oats and all their known derivatives today. Always read the label and when in doubt call the company with any specific questions you might have. I have called more 1(800) numbers from the grocery store in the past 3 years than ever before. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask a question – it’s your health / family’s health that is on the line.

Since the passing of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in 2004, identifying wheat has become significantly easier. The top 8 allergens that are required by law to be labeled in the US are – milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, shellfish and soybeans. Wheat and its derivatives are among the most heavily eliminated in the celiac diet. The food allergen consumer protection act has worked in our favor since there are presently no labeling requirements for gluten free products. Although, this will be changing as of August 2014 when all manufactures and food handling businesses offering gluten free options will be required to abide by the 20 PPM (parts per million) allowed. This amount is deemed safe for most celiac persons to consume – it is also among the smallest accurately measured unit as there is no such thing as a 0 PPM.

It is safe to say that most processedfoods with a flour base likely contain wheat flour or one of its derivatives as its base. Some of the more common and obvious products containing such bases are – cakes, cookies, breads, cereals and pastas. Many of these glutinous flours and starches also serve as good thickeners in many of our everyday foods – soy sauces, canned soups, cornbread, muffin mixes, lunch meat, yogurt, sour cream, hot dogs, sausages, broths and condiments.
Remember, just because a product is labeled “wheat free” does not necessarily make it gluten-freesince labeling of rye, oat, and barley are not required.

Learn it – “BROW” Barley, Rye, Oat, and Wheat – DON’T Eat

Barely is typically used as a flavor enhancer or thickener in soups, broths, cereals and protein bars (malt being the most common). Barley is not typically used in baking but many items containing “malt flavoring” such as syrups, cereals, beers and malt vinegars do contain it – always question the source by which “malt” is referring to. 

Rye fortunately is not often used in many items other than breads and crackers.

Oats themselves are not problematic for most celiac and gluten sensitive individuals. Oats are not in the same gluten containing family as rye, wheat, and barley. However, they are often cross-contaminated near-by wheat fields and/or during the manufacturing process – therefore, purchase oats that have been processed in a gluten free manufacturing facility. I have found Bob Redmill makes a safe alternative.

Potential Sources of Gluten – This is a generalized list of foods that may contain gluten. Frequently manufactures will lump a bunch of ingredients under one word not specifying its source unless necessary.

The following are gluten containing sources;

·        Bulgar (a form of wheat)
·        Couscous (a form of wheat)
·        Hordeum vulgare (barley)
·        Malt (sometimes made for barley-also see below)
·        Secale Cereale (rye)
·        Triticum Spelt (spelt, which is a form of wheat)
·        Triticum vulgare (wheat)
·        Wheat Protein / hydrolyzed wheat protein
·        Wheat Starch


Always try to find the exact make up or source of the following

Food “starch”– typically this means corn however, there is no guarantee unless specified. Although corn is gluten free and therefore gluten safe – if it were ‘potato‘ starch it would be problematic for someone with a nightshade intolerance.

Carmel color –“gluten containing ingredients are no longer used in North America and in Europe. Although the glucose syrup used is a gluten derivative, but it is highly processed containing no gluten in its final form.” (2 )My word of caution is always know the source, as each country has different processing regulations – in general caramel color should be 100% safe. (1)  

Dextrin – this can be made from wheat- although, then it would be required to be listed on the food label as being so based on the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act

Maltodextrin – this typically means corn, potato or rice in the US. Again, although gluten free, this does not necessarily mean nightshadefree.Foreign food manufactures may sometimes use wheat based ingredients.

Vinegar – Most vinegars are safe (apple cider, rice wine and balsamic) just to name a few. Be aware that malt vinegar is often derived from barely and therefore, not gluten safe. Distilled white vinegar can be from a variety of sources ranging from corn and grapes to wheat. If you are uncertain of the source call the manufacturing company to confirm.




Resources
(1) CanadianCeliac Association
(2) CSACeliacs.info

Photo Credit; Nicholas Raymond-stockvault.net