Suburbanmomcooks’s Weblog

August 3, 2008

Week 3 Starts…

Filed under: grocery,Recipes — by CarrieK @ 5:23 pm
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I’m off to the grocery store on my bike today. The hardest part about getting there is getting past all the garage sales!

I’m past the worry of last week and feeling good about our grocery budget. I found amazing fish at Costco; bought 5 meals worth of salmon (wild caught only!) and halibut (wild caught only!) for about $26. Pretty cool. We are camping at the end of the week, so I have to get really creative with The Menu and The List. I will probably go over budget a bit, but I figure that’s OK….we are camping with 2 other families and we are all bringing extra food.

Last night we had leftovers; salmon with green beans and rice, I had mashed potatoes with chicken, the kids had…..bagels of course. L had some smashed beans with cheese too. Tonight I’ll roast some broccoli to add to our Annie’s Soup. I will save some for the Broken Lasagna on Tuesday night.

Using the cash envelope for grocery money is working well. My goals for Week 3 include:

*tracking exact expenses; how much each item cost

*post my weekly menu

*start tracking bulk food and non-food costs; homemade jam, fish, peanut butter, cleaning supplies etc.

*post more pictures!

I think it will be a few months before I have a better idea of bulk food costs. Gotta start somewhere. I have to say though, I don’t feel like we are doing without or eating boring food. I am getting creative with storage and leftovers, we are eating well, and I’m still blogging!

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Day 21

Filed under: Demarle,grocery,Recipes — by CarrieK @ 4:54 am
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Lovely dinner tonight. Poached chicken in the Flower Mold with the Octagonal Silpat, sauteed green beans, and a pot of organic long grain brown rice. Lots of leftovers. Very economical.

We are doing great this week grocery-wise. I am up $15 because my DH bought the wrong bread and wrong beans at Trader Joes. He also missed a couple of items that I clearly don’t miss! Well, that’s not true. I was missing my sourdough bread yesterday.

Been working on The Menu and The List for next week. I am riding my bike to the grocery store on Sunday. I’m holding on to my excess grocery money for our camping trip next weekend. Hmmm, beer? S’mores? Maybe both!

Planning on blueberry picking Monday and “jamming” that afternoon. I picked up more of that amazing raw honey from the Farmer’s Market today. Man that stuff is gooooood! My goal is to pick about 7 pounds of blueberries and can about 9-10 half pints of jam.

Since I reorganized my pantry, it’s looking even more bare. Oddly, I’m not as panicky about it this week. I’m holding off until my Meal Planning and Grains class with Monique from Sustainable Budget on the 13th. I am hoping to get some info on bulk food that night. I really want my Menu Plan to include healthy food, easy food, real food. I am curious about grinding my own grain for making my own bread.

July 30, 2008

Catch Up (with Hot Dogs)

Filed under: budget,garden,grocery,Recipes — by CarrieK @ 5:06 am
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I’ve got some catching up to do. Here’s days 16-19.

I’ve been obsessing over the grocery list. With only one day to go until my next shopping trip, last Saturday I revised The Menu and triple checked The List.

I rode my bike to the grocery store Sunday morning. I stopped at the bookstore to pick up a gardening book, then headed over to not shop ’til I drop. I did my bit of shopping, (found some fabulous salmon on sale for just under $8 a pound! Bought some for next week too…) then sat down to have some lunch and look over my new gardening book. I rode home with great satisfaction that I had spent only half our weekly budget ($50.01 to be exact!) and I got it all home on my bike.

We’ve gotten to a slow start on our garden. We started taking down some trees and we are discussing how to get the cement up. I’ve designed our garden in the potager style; a kitchen garden that is an extension of your home. I am having a grand ‘ole time working on the design. I’ve been reading about heirloom vegetables, how to incorporate beneficial flowers and herbs, and how to grow espaliered fruit trees.

Let’s not forget, I’m not living on acres in a rural area, or in the city where I can grow stuff on my balcony or roof, I live in a very typical, average suburban neighborhood on a small lot. It’s an older neighborhood with lots of grown trees and too much shade. The soil here is mostly impacted clay. The only plants that survive here are rhododendrons, azealas, pines, doug firs, hostas and ferns. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Creative work, the best kind.

So, back to the task at hand…I’m supposed to be keeping track of how my menu is going. Saturday night we had broken lasagna in the Fluted Square Mold for dinner. Sunday night we had friends over so I splurged a bit (but didn’t count it towards my weekly budget)…we BBQed burgers and hot dogs. I served fresh picked raspberries, homemade guacamole with tortilla chips, beer and a rolled up angel food cake with raspberry syrup and whipped cream made on the Flexipat (so easy!!). It was delicious. I admit though, in my attempts to be frugal, I did not serve enough food. *how embarrassing!* Next time I will serve some potato salad or bean salad or salad…something!

Last night we had quesadillas with beans on the side. I mixed together a can of black beans, a can of refried beans (yes, organic) and some grated cheese (raw, organic jack) and served it on the side. Quick and easy and nutritional. The kids even ate it.

Tonight we had Breakfast for Dinner. Yum! A real favorite with my kids. L and C helped me make the biscuits on the Roul’pat, then we baked them on the Silpat, I made scrambled eggs and sausages too. Served it all up with homemade raspberry jam and fresh raspberries.

I seem to be doing fine with the Menu Plan. It’s somewhat flexible, allows me some creativity and keeps our grocery budget under control. So far, so good. A nice side effect of all this, we hardly have any garbage! For the second week in a row, I’ve put out a half empty garbage can. We recycle like crazy and I put all kitchen scraps in the compost pile. And still our garbage out put is shrinking like crazy. Yay!

July 26, 2008

Day 15 One more day…!

Filed under: Demarle,grocery — by CarrieK @ 6:16 am
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Tonight I poached 2 chicken breast in my Demarle Fluted Square Mold. I sauteed some beautiful green beans with chopped sweet onions and garlic. Yum! I made a loaf of challah on my Silpat too. I didn’t give it enough time to rise so it wasn’t as fluffy as I like it to be. I divided the batch of dough into 2 parts. I made “challahettes” with the second part of dough, they are sitting in my Demarle Muffin Tray in the freezer right now. When I am ready to cook them, I’ll let them defrost/rise for a couple of hours and then bake them right in the muffin tray in a preheated oven.

I’m working on my grocery list for next week. I’m going to ride my bike the Farmer’s Market tomorrow (a day early, but the market only comes once a week!) I am working on a way to track bulk/staple items v.s. weekly eating items. Since I am baking more items (muffins, biscuits, cookies) I am going thru butter like crazy. I am also getting really low on raw milk, and since I spent over $60 on it just 2 weeks ago, I’m wondering how to justify buying more so soon. I did make 2 batches of cream cheese with it; I still have a lot of it left. But I really want to make my own yogurt. And kefir. And possibley butter. Time to start working My Costs page.

Day 14 I’m not worthy!

Filed under: Demarle,grocery,Recipes — by CarrieK @ 6:16 am
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Ok, it’s Thursday and I am jonesing for a trip to the grocery store. I do have $14 left in my grocery budget for the week and I do need cheese. So, on my way back from a meeting I stopped at the store and ended up getting ricotta cheese for the Broken Lasagna, raw mild cheddar for the burritos and ….a loaf of bread and a package of bagels. And in a weak moment, 2 boxes of crackers for my hungry kids (it was 5:30).

I went over my $100 weekly budget by $13 😦

I fixed Broken Lasagna for dinner tonight. It was yummy with the ricotta cheese. I didn’t have any leftovers for it so I improvised and used canned marinara, fresh chard, no boil noodles, some frozen broccoli and the ricotta cheese I picked up at the grocery store. I cooked it in my Demarle Fluted Square Mold.

I can already tell my grocery list needs revision. We can’t get through the week with one loaf of bread or 1 package of bagels. I am out of butter and only have 3 eggs left. One day left…one day left….one day left…

July 23, 2008

Days 10 and 11 Creative Nutrition

Filed under: grocery — by CarrieK @ 5:42 am
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I have started Week 2 of my new Menu Plan/Grocery Budget. I am enjoying the challenge. Last night dinner was boring but I got nutritionally creative. We had leftovers: soup, homemade bread – kneaded on my Roul’pat, baked on my Silpat – (an OK recipe, not great, probably won’t post it) leftover hummus, pickles, fresh picked blueberries. Not bad. Heathly.

Tonight was breakfast for dinner. Scrambled eggs, maple chicken sausage and homemade biscuits – kneaded on my Roul’pat, baked on my Silpat – with homemade blueberry jam. I really enjoyed eating the biscuits with blueberry jam. It was delicious and very satisfying. (Usually I don’t like to eat what I cook. I wonder what is different now?) Dinner tonight was delightful. L learned how to use a knife properly, and C actually ate! I told the kids that dinner was my favorite moment of the day 🙂 We were all laughing and smiling. No tv, no tantrums. Everyone was dressed and stayed at the table for the whole meal. It was a miracle.

I started the week with $100 cash. I spent roughly $50 at 2 different Farmer’s Markets over the weekend; bought chicken, butter, honey, meat, fish, eggs and veggies for 3 meals. Today I took $48 cash to Trader Joe’s for the rest of the week’s groceries. I did it! Almost…I went over by $1.02. Not bad huh? I am very proud. So, except for some cheese I need later in the week, we are set for groceries for the week. It was very liberating to leave Trader Joe’s with only one big canvas bag of groceries, having spent 1/3 of what I usually spend. One trip from the car to the kitchen, no extra bags to store.

One thing I am struggling with is how to factor in bulk food. For instance, I bought blueberries, honey, lids, jars, pectin and lemons to make blueberry jam. I am not going to count $16 worth of blueberries and $14 worth of honey, along with the other jam expenses towards my weekly budget. Once I figure out how much a jar of blueberry jam cost me to make, I will figure it into my monthly budget. So, that means I have about $14 left in this week’s grocery budget….because I used grocery cash to buy the honey on Saturday. Cheese, here I come!

Tomorrow I am making raspberry jam…having picked 7 1/2 pounds of them today. I think I will use smaller jars, a pint of jam is a lot! I hope to yield roughly 8 pints or 16 half pints. I’ll try to start posting my costs soon. Numbers are hard for me….getting up with C every few hours for the last 2 years has cost me some brain cells, among other things.

July 20, 2008

On to Day 9, Accidental Dinner

Filed under: Demarle,grocery,Recipes — by CarrieK @ 4:45 am
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We had a lovely dinner with friends last night; salmon marinated in a ginger sauce, fresh salad, challah, and fish sticks for the kids. They loved the blueberries. It was so good, we had the same thing for dinner tonight!

Just kidding, it was a complete accident.

I rode my bike to the Farmer’s Market today. Very busy, very crowded. I bought 3 lbs of honey for the blueberry jam I’m making tomorrow, a nice rib eye (grass fed only of course) some chicken (breasts only, I’ll roast a whole chicken and make stock next week) and the most beautiful sockeye salmon I’ve seen in a llllloooooonnnnngggg time. I poached it in a little bit of water and sea salt in my Demarle Flower Mold with the Octagonal Silpat on top for a lid. WOW! It was wonderful. I made a cold side dish of leftover long grain brown rice with green onions and Oriental Salad Dressing from Nourishing Traditions. Yum! Instead of a vegetable, I put out a bowl of blackberries with the last bit of creme fraiche. Very colorful meal. The kids ate fish sticks.

I’m soaking whole wheat flour in kefir tonight for pancakes tomorrow….I just remembered I have no eggs! UHG! Well, I was planning on going to yet another Farmer’s Market tomorrow for eggs and veggies. Guess the pancakes will be for brunch. The kids can have the granola bars I made today for breakfast instead. No real plans for dinner tomorrow….probably soup and bread. I’ll need to make the bread in the morning so it has a chance to rise…I’m still getting good at bread making. Gotta find a recipe tonight.

So, I am at the end of the first week (plus 2 days) of my new Menu Plan. So far so good. I did go to the grocery store once for picnic items (paid cash), other than that, I used what we already have. Not sure yet if that is a crutch or not. I’m using up our stores of food…the cupboard is very bare and I can see the back of the fridge. On the bright side, we are eating much healthier, I’m using leftovers more creatively and we are throwing away less. This is one of the pitfalls of suburbia; food is easily accessible. You can run to the store whenever you want. You don’t have to have an extra store of food in the suburbs. It’s not sustainable, it’s not self sufficient. Another goal of mine is to figure in stored food; buying bulk is next on the list. And possibley an extra chest freezer, although it’s expensive to run.

My big challenge for next week is using cash for groceries based on the Menu Plan. I picked up some staples (butter) and meat, and some things that are part of long-term consumption; I spent about $25 on blueberries, $40 on canning supplies and $14 on honey for the jam I’m making tomorrow. Depending on how many jars that makes, I could save us an extra $10 a month on jam. That’s $120 a year! DH wants an accounting of all this, he’s worried I will start buying things outside of the grocery list. Hmph!

The blueberry jam breaks down as follows:

2 packages of Pomona Pectin

5 lbs of blueberries

4 cups of honey

# of lids (?)

# of jars and bands (both are reusable!)

OK, I have some more research to do…I’ll get back to you. It’s late, I’m off to take a lavender bubble bath and read a good book….will it be Erma Bombeck or Clive Cussler tonight?

July 19, 2008

Day 6: Salmon Burgers with Rice and Salad

Filed under: food,grocery,Recipes — by CarrieK @ 6:34 am
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It’s Day 6 of my new menu plan. I’m halfway thru the week and my kitchen is practically empty. (OK, I admit to a small, quick visit to the grocery store today – don’t tell my DH! – and I used cash, way less than I have spent in the past!) Today, for our trip to the zoo I stopped at New Seasons and picked up lunch for me (salmon and avacado sushi and Kombucha) and for the kids I got string cheese, Veggie Booty, fresh blueberries, and Z bars. And water. Tomorrow’s lunches will be interesting….PB and J for sure, leftover Veggie Booty, more blueberries, more cheese…Ok, well that doesn’t sound too bad. There’s some hummus in the fridge, I could toast some bread to go with that for me. And carrots, I know I saw carrots in the fridge too.

I’ve been reading a great blog about Bento lunches (is that redundant?) Check out Lunchinabox.net. She’s got great ideas for lunches (Ok, so my kids won’t eat octopus or skate, but rice balls and mini jello cups sound great!) I especially like her preparation times. She gives you a good idea of how long these lunches take to pack. Not long at all. She utilizes leftovers like no one I’ve ever seen; she finds a way to use even a tablespoon of food. She relies very heavily on plastic and microwaving (I don’t use either) but her pictures are pretty and she is a great resource for everything Bento.

So, on to the Salmon Burgers with Rice and Salad. Originally, it was with Chard, but I used that in the Turkey Meatloaf Patties and then again in the Broken Lasagna. Not a bad dinner tonight, very healthy, fairly quick to make. Leftovers included an extra salmon burger for DH’s lunch tomorrow and LOTS of rice. Good rice too, it’s organic, long-grain brown rice. Yum! What shall I do with it? Maybe fried rice? No, I’ve only got 2 eggs left until Sunday and I’m making blueberry muffins tomorrow. Plus I’m out of veggies. I’ll have to come up with something else….

Salmon Burgers

I purchased a package of premade salmon burgers from TJ. I grilled them on the stove top in my iron skillet. (They are also great on the BBQ) I served them on toasted sourdough bread with Garlic Dill Mayo

The salad I served tonight was a combination of creativity and desperation. Well maybe not desperation, but I am seriously running low on food. It’s not like we are going to starve, but flavor and variety will not be around for long. Is it Sunday yet?

Day 6 Salad

2 hearts of Romaine lettuce, chopped

1/4 cup crispy walnuts (recipe follows)

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup homemade croutons

1/3 cup Oriental Dressing from Nourishing Traditions

Add all ingredients, toss well.

Combatting the $900 Grocery Bill

Filed under: grocery — by CarrieK @ 5:30 am
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After months, no years, of outrageous grocery bills (to the tune of $800-$900 per month for 2 adults and 2 small kids) I have finally come up with a plan for lowering our food costs. I usually cook pretty nice dinners; I’m always trying new recipes and looking for new flavors. In the past I was always running out to the store to pick up this ingredient or that, and coming home with an extra $60-$80 worth of groceries, on top of my normal weekly grocery run. I don’t want to give up healthy eating; I will not eat processed foods, I will not eat produce from foreign countries, I will not give up healthy eating. So, the new plan includes 10 different dinners that we eat roughly 3 times a month. I will start each week with a grocery list and $100 cash. Extra cash at the end of the week will go towards beer, wine, eating out or next week’s groceries. The grocery list will include items for breakfast and lunch. My DH’s lunches will mostly be leftovers from the night before. I plan on prebaking much of our breakfast; waffles and pancakes (from my favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions), muffins, and occaisionlly, eggs.

The big question is, can I actually do this. The eggs I like to buy are $6 a dozen. The meat and fish we eat is $7-$28 a pound. We really need a garden. And we really need laying hens. *sigh*

A big motivator for me is that my husband agreed to let me spend the first “extra” $450 or so anyway I want. That’s a lot of money to me. I’ve been home with the kids and haven’t had a paycheck for over 5 years now. With $450 I could buy that Dyson vacum cleaner I have my eye on. I could use it for the girl’s retreat my friend A is planning for this fall, I could fly to LA to see my Aunt. I could buy clothes (nah, nothing fits or looks good). I could hire a babysitter, go to a spa, see a movie and have lunch. I could save it for our garden, and the hens I’ve been dreaming about. Too many choices…

Here are the 10 meals I have in rotation for each month:

The Menu Plan

burritos/quesadillas

soup w/bread

pasta

pizza (homemade)

lasagna

chicken w/veggies and potatoes

beef w/ veggies and rice

fish w/ veggies and rice

breakfast for dinner (sausage, eggs, pancakes or waffles)

hot dogs and hamburgers

Some of the meals look larger than others; consider that in lasagna, you have protein, veggies and a carb all mixed together. Some of the meals will take longer to make than others (chicken for instance, I usually roast a whole chicken so I can make stock with it too), some are quick and easy. Some will be great with leftovers in them. I have some space for creativity; this week I had to get pretty creative with lunches and snacks for the kids. I’ll say this, we are eating healthier!

July 17, 2008

Life in the Suburbs is under attack!

Filed under: Demarle,garden,grocery,Recipes,sustainability — by CarrieK @ 6:34 am
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Ok, here goes….my first blog. I have no idea what I am doing, so I’m just going to go for it. I am writing this blog to help me keep track of changes we are making in our lifestyle. Life in the Suburbs in under attack! With the mortgage crisis and high gas and food prices, life in the suburbs is becoming much more difficult. It’s one thing to dream about wide open spaces on a farm or easy access to everything living downtown, but life in the suburbs has it’s perks too. Our little slice of suburbia includes great neighbors, lots of kids, full grown trees, a 4th of July parade, easy walking and biking, sprinklers in summer, and very little traffic. We are walking or biking distance from 2 parks, 2 grocery stores, 2 books stores and Jamba Juice. It’s a nice life. But as it is, it’s not necessarily sustainable.

This blog is going to help me track progress on a new menu plan to help us save money, organize new recipes and help me plan our “Victory Garden. I want to keep track of how I use Demarle at Home baking/cooking products, and how it all fits together in a sustainable lifestyle. I think my journey towards healthy food, sustainable living in the suburbs and self sufficiency is worth sharing with other families living and struggling in suburbia. I hope this becomes a forum for exchanging ideas, information and resources.

I have been selling and using Demarle at Home Flexible Bakeware for over a year now. It has cut my time in the kitchen down, saved me time washing and helped me prepare healthier food for my family. Demarle’s flexipans are made of very high quality, food grade silicone. The thing that really sets the flexipan apart from other flexible, silicone bakeware is the woven glass. Sandwiched in between the silicone is woven glass. It’s brilliant because glass is a very good conductor of heat, so your food cooks very evenly. Because the outside is silicone, nothing sticks to it, not lasagna, not cake, nothing. You don’t need any spray, extra butter or flour in your flexipans. You plop the food right in and it slides right out.

Another big point for me is the reusability and safety of Demarle bakeware and cookware. There is no chemical transfer of any kind when you bake in a Demarle Fleixpan. It’s safer than nonstick or aluminum and easier to use. All the black flexipans have a lifetime warranty. You will not need to replace them. Can you say that about your current bakeware?

Most of the recipes I’ve been using in my Demarle Bakware are from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. It’s a remarkable book with waaaaay toooooo much information about nutrition, the politics behind food and ways to prepare food in a more healthy and sustainable way. My favorite recipes to date are the waffles and pancakes (absolutely the best I’ve ever had), chicken stock(it was very hard to add the chicken feet the first couple of times….!), rice pilaf, Kombucha (Wow! I could drink this stuff all day and it’s so easy to make), cream cheese (yup, cream cheese, from whole, raw milk no less!) and crispy nuts. I’ve tried to start out slowly and make changes a few at a time. Each recipe has gotten easier over time; it’s really more of an attitude shift. I spend my time soaking grain, fermenting Kombucha, straining whey from milk instead of standing in line buying dead/processed foods, unwrapping it all and throwing half of it away. I don’t think I spend anymore time in the kitchen that I did before I started reading Nourishing Traditions. Using Demarle bakeware makes prepping and clean up easier. It’s a nice marriage: whole, real food cooked and prepared in reusable, safe bakeware.

My next step is a garden. We are going to cut down some sickly trees in our backyard in the hopes of bringing some sunlight into our very shady NW yard. I am going to reuse the cement chunks (it’s actually really beautiful aggregate) we pull up from around the sick tree to build the garden beds. I think we have room for about 3 beds measuring 4×10 or so. I want to have room for 2 blueberry bushes, some rasberry canes (from my neighbor) and some blackberry bushes (replanted “volunteers” left behind by the squirrels). I have been looking at a website called Squarefootgarden.com that teaches you how to divide up and plant in square foot areas. It discusses plant rotation and soil too. It’s the first website I’ve been to that explained things in a way that I could understand. Come fall, I should have some winter crops in the ground. I will miss frequenting the Farmer’s Market, but my priority is to get our grocery bill down. And I want my organic produce!! It’s all about self-sufficiency.

So, the bakeware, the food preparation and the garden are all my way of creating and maintaining a more sustainable lifestyle in the suburbs. That and being prepared for anything. It’s a nice feeling to be able to depend on yourself for food.

My future dreams include at least 2 laying hens, a booming garden with year round produce, and a group of like minded people to meet with, share ideas with and possibly barter with. I am creating a sustainable, suburban lifestyle.

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