Day 363–Our Year In Review

budget

What is going on with the time? It seems like the months are moving in warp speed. It is hard to believe our year experiment is almost up! I’ll be reworking the blog a bit (and hopefully not crashing everything!) and returning on January 1 to start again, this time with a new challenge and a slightly different twist.

This is the time of year when everyone is doing some kind of retrospective on the past 12 months and since we started out with a year challenge, it seems fitting that we will do this, too.

The goals of our family challenge were threefold:

  • Eat at least 75% of our food from local and/or sustainable sources
  • Spend no more than $100 per week on groceries
  • Increase our walking destinations.

How did we do?

Well, we did pretty well for our first time out! Overall, we kept our average spending to just under $100, but missed our mark of 75%. Here’s how the numbers break down for the 43 weeks that I recorded our budget and menu (I’m missing 9 weeks due to schedule craziness, vacations, and whatever else was going on, but I believe those weeks would probably even out to about the same numbers).

  • Total amount spent on groceries:          $4,199.51
  • Grocery $$ spent on local food:             $2,684.91
  • Percent of food budget that was local:  64%
  • Average spent per week:                            $97.66

That averages included our Christmas and Christmas Eve feasts, which were way over budget (but also supremely awesome). I did not include trips to Whole Foods as local, although they were organic and sustainable, because they did not reflect a direct payment to farmers. So for the year, almost $2,700 of our food budget stayed within our community. I’m pretty proud of that!

Where we have not done so well is increasing our walking to local destinations. That is definitely going to be on the agenda for next year.

I personally had some good health outcomes this year. I dropped 15 pounds, lowered my overall cholesterol by 17 points and raised my good cholesterol by several points.

More importantly, I have met some wonderful new people, reconnected to eating seasonal foods, reignited a love of cooking, learned how to can my own food and all around, just had a great time!

What’s next?

Here are some goals for next year:

  • Work on my food photography skills
  • Incorporate more plant-based dishes into our diet
  • Visit our local farms and include our experiences outside the farmer’s market

What would you like to see in this blog for next year? More recipes? Fewer recipes? More research-based information?

I’ll see you back here in 2013–just a few short days away. Have a happy and safe New Year!

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Day 353–Starting Week 51–Budget and Menu

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We’ll be harvesting some of our own Swiss chard for dinner this week!

The holidays are almost upon us and while I am not at all ready, I am sprinting to the finish line of 2012. Later this week I will post some of our traditional holiday recipes and how we are using local ingredients to improve our standard Christmas Eve and Christmas menus. As for this week, we are keeping it simple and trying to have fun in this last rush before Santa arrives.

Our budget is $77.93 for the week. Here is what we spent:

Budget

  • Walker Farm (ground bison): $8.50
  • Mae Farm (ground pork, pork tenderloin, bacon): $28.00
  • Rare Earth Farm (eggs, buttermilk): $6.00
  • The Mitchell’s pantry (sticky fig jam, strawberry jam, green beans, corn, applesauce, tomatoes): $12.00
  • Trader Joes (cheese, bread, frozen fruit, steel-cut oats): $23.43

Here is what we are having this week!

Menu

  • Sunday–Bison meatloaf, roasted cauliflower, kale
  • Monday–Angel hair pasta with roasted tomato sauce
  • Tuesday–Whole wheat reindeer pancakes and homemade applesauce
  • Wednesday–Sauteed Swiss chard topped with eggs
  • Thursday–Grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup
  • Friday–Leftover buffet
  • Saturday–Pork tenderloin with sticky fig jam, summer green beans, corn

Day 343–Starting Week 50–Budget and Menu

Although winter is just around the corner, we are still experiencing daily temperatures in the 60s and 70s. The farmer’s markets are still offering a wide variety of fall and winter vegetables, no doubt helped along by the unseasonable weather! This week’s budget is $63.46, far below our $100.00 limit. While I would love to say this reflects some creative frugal spending on my part, we have two evening events to attend this week, so that’s two fewer nights for me to cook dinner. On a real plus side, I found two NC farmers/ranchers who are raising bison and we will try some bison burgers as our celebratory meal after the Reindeer Romp 5K next Saturday!

Budget

Mae Farm (bacon): $8.40
Rare Earth Farm (eggs): $4.08
Farmhand Foods (small steak): $5.00
General farmers market (sweet potatoes, kale, onions, cauliflower, brussel sprouts): $13.50
Greenland Farm (bison): $8.60
Trader Joes (burger buns, spiced pecans, soy milk, cheese, sour cream): $23.88

Here is what we’re having during what I hope is our last super busy week before the holidays!

Menu

Sunday–chipotle steak and sweet potato quesadillas, kale
Monday–quiche lorraine with brussel sprouts
Tuesday–Evening event
Wednesday–leftover quiche, roasted purple cauliflower
Thursday–evening event
Friday–pasta con sarde (prep for the Reindeer Romp 5K)
Saturday–bison burgers, mashed cauliflower, kale

Day 336–Starting Week 49–Budget and Menu

Those of you who have children or grandchildren know that May and December seem to be the craziest months of the year. Every recital, performance, ceremony and exam seems to be crunched into these two months, as though February weren’t sitting there, all forlorn without any major holidays except Valentine’s Day. So this week will be a busy one, with PTA meetings, a winter band concert and a major holiday event for me at work. I’m planning to cook ahead on Sunday so we can have easy, quick (but healthy and local) dinners all week!

Our food expenses this week are $46.58 although one meal will be out since I’ll be working, so that figure is not indicative of our total spending.

Budget

  • Mitchell’s freezer (roasted tomato sauce, frozen tomatoes, frozen jalapenos, frozen yellow squash): $11.00
  • Mae Farm (ground beef, Italian sausage): $20.00
  • Trader Joes (manicotti noodles, cheese, chili powder, canned organic beans): $10.58 (
  • Farmer’s Market (lettuce, cucumber, broccoli): $5.00

Menu

  • Sunday–Veggie manicotti with local cheese, salad
  • Monday–leftover manicotti and salad
  • Tuesday–Chili and yellow squash muffins
  • Wednesday–Leftover chili
  • Thursday–State Tree Lighting (dinner at a food truck)
  • Friday–Stuffed butternut squash
  • Saturday–Shrimp and roasted red peppers with Melina’s spinach fettucine

Day 327–Starting Week 48–Budget and Menu

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Ellie making stuffing, which we are still enjoying!

This week following Thanksgiving is a “use up what we have” week. We have lots of leftover bits of things–vegetables, turkey, ham, bread–and this week is going to make good use of them rather than spending more money on groceries! Thankfully, my family loves turkey leftovers 🙂 By mid-week, I should have a fair amount of turkey stock put up in the freezer to use later as well! Since I’m trying to really use just what we already have, I’m making some recipe substitutions here and there and hope that in the end, it will all work out 🙂

Our spending for this week is low–$31.54! That includes “paying” ourselves back for stock up vegetables that we froze over the summer!

  • Trader Joes (tortillas, cheese, noodles, onions, Greek yogurt): $16.54
  • Mitchell’s freezer (green beans, jalapeno, tomatoes, field peas, corn): $15.00

What are we having? Here is our post-Thanksgiving week leftover festival 🙂 Recipes to follow.

  • Monday–Turkey and sweet potato hash with egg (a variation of THIS recipe) and broccoli
  • Tuesday–Ham and field peas, sweet potatoes
  • Wednesday–Scout night–everyone’s on their own
  • Thursday–Southwestern turkey and veggie casserole
  • Friday–Leftover casserole
  • Saturday–Turkey noodle soup, grilled cheese

What is your favorite way to use up holiday leftovers?

Day 322–Our (mostly) Locavore Thanksgiving

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I am really excited about our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow! And I am thankful that I am not doing all the cooking! Thanksgiving dinner just makes me happy all over–the incredible aroma of a roasting turkey, setting a lovely table, having my family around me and, yes, a weekend of football. You can have the Black Friday shopping, I’ll be sitting on the sofa with a turkey sandwich. And maybe my laptop so I can do some online shopping during commercials…

This year, I am thankful for so many things and I thought I would share some of them:

  • I am thankful that my family is all happy, healthy and that we can be together
  • I am thankful for my farmer friends and all their hard work that brings local food to our table
  • I am thankful for my warm house, my little garden and my snuggly pets
  • I am thankful for everyone who reads this blog and even more so for those who respond with questions or ideas
  • And I am thankful that I live in a country where, even though we don’t always get it right, we keep trying

Here is our menu for Thanksgiving (you can also see it on our chalkboard wall above). We are featuring a heritage breed turkey raised by a wonderful local farmer. I’ve never cooked a heritage breed turkey, so I’m looking forward to the experiment and will report back!

  • Roasted turkey (Bourbon Red heritage breed) from Homestead Harvest Farm with rosemary butter
  • Honey mustard glazed boneless mini ham from Mae Farm
  • Sausage pecan foccacia stuffing (sausage from Mae Farm, homemade chicken stock, NC pecans)
  • Roasted Brussel sprouts with onion and bacon
  • Mashed sweet and white potatoes with maple syrup
  • Carrots glazed with local honey and thyme
  • Deviled eggs with local farm eggs
  • Great Harvest Bread Company Virginia rolls with local honey butter and homemade jam
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Salted caramel and pumpkin ice cream pie (not local, but Trader Joes pumpkin ice cream is crazy good, so I hope it makes a good pie!)
  • Buttermilk and chocolate chess pies

Get ready for lots of locavore leftover recipes! And everyone, please have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!!!

Day 315–Starting Week 46–Budget and Menu

Well, here we are in the big lead up week to Thanksgiving! I can’t wait! I love Thanksgiving–love having my family together, love my house smelling like roasted turkey, love cooking up a storm. I have ordered a local turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm and will pick that up next week. Otherwise, I’m still planning! Until then, though, I have a great week of recipes that will lead us up to the big day!

Sadly, this is our last week of Produce Box delivery, so I’ll be back at the farmers markets pretty regularly after this. I like the markets, though, so it’s worth the effort and time it takes to get down there! Since it is our last week, I ordered extra, so our Produce Box bill is a bit larger than usual. Still, our weekly food bill is $92.17–under our projected budget for the week. Mostly, this is because I cooked so much last week that we are still eating leftovers! We are determined not to waste the food we purchase and are committed to getting the refrigerator cleaned out before we pick up the Bird!

Here is how our budget worked this week:

  • Produce Box (apples, double broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lettuce, rutabegas, butternut squash, double purple Irish potatoes, apple cider): $36.75
  • Mae Farm (pork loin roast, ground beef, fresh eggs): $29.00
  • Farmers Market (carrots, onion): $4.00
  • Trader Joes (pumpkin ale, frozen fruit, oatmeal, canned pumpkin) $22.42

Our menu this week looks like this:

  • Wednesday–Scout night; leftover sweet potato quesadillas
  • Thursday–Tom’s birthday leftovers
  • Friday–Spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce, salad
  • Saturday–Drunken pumpkin chili, homemade cornbread
  • Sunday–Pork loin roast, purple mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower
  • Monday–Purple potato pancakes and leftover pork roast
  • Tuesday–Leftover chili

Day 308–Starting Week 45–Budget and Menu

What a fun week we have ahead of us! It’s making for some challenging meal planning, but we are going to enjoy it! Our farmer’s market is chock full of squash, sweet potatoes, kale, collards (which are better after a frost, so we’re leaving them for now), Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Apples are in supply, but pricier than usual. In preparation for Thanksgiving, I have ordered our heritage breed turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm and have a small, boneless ham from Mae Farm as well. But in the weeks before Thanksgiving, we are still managing to eat well and make the most of our fall crops!

Our budget this week is $94.82, but we are eating out one night (Tom’s Birthday!!!), so that’s one dinner that is not on our menu (and I can guarantee it will cost more than $5.28), so we’re not really ahead food-wise, but we will have fun celebrating. Also, Tom #besthusbandever surprised me with tickets to my first ever NFL football game to see my beloved Broncos play in Charlotte (awwwww!). Since food at the stadium costs a small fortune, we are planning to save money by emptying our fridge tailgating with our pork roast leftovers and some other yummy homemade foods! I figure we are probably saving about $1,000 $50 not buying food at the stadium, so we are technically ahead this week, right? Right? I think this is why I am not an accountant.

Regardless of how you count your pennies, have a healthy and happy week!

Budget

  • The Produce Box (chestnuts, carrots, broccoli, apples, purple potatoes, grape tomatoes, cilantro, spinach, cauliflower, Swiss chard, apple cider, sweet potatoes): $29.00
  • Mae Farm (pork roast, Italian sausage, chorizo): $26.00
  • Rainbow Farm (chicken thighs): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (rice, rolls, cheese, tortillas, frozen fruit, soy milk, dried cranberries)$26.82
  • The Mitchell Pantry (canned marinara sauce, peach salsa): $6.00

Menu–Here is what we’re having this week!

  • Wednesday–Sweet potato/Swiss chard quesadillas w/homemade peach salsa, quinoa
  • Thursday–Chicken-veggie stir fry with rice
  • Friday–Slow cooker pork roast w/apples, cider and thyme; roasted potatoes, squash
  • Saturday–Out for Tom’s Birthday Celebration!!!
  • Sunday–NFL Tailgating Special–Pulled pork w/cider slaw on rolls, broccoli salad, apples, and sweet potato pound cake
  • Monday–Baked pasta with homemade marinara sauce and Mae Farm Italian sausage
  • Tuesday–Leftover pasta

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Day 301–Starting Week 44–Budget and Menu

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! (Photo credit: eschipul)

Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has a terrific holiday. As much as I would love to give out Play-dough or apples to our trick or treaters, I have to say that in the name of time and budget, I caved and bought candy. Give the people what they want is the mantra of the day 🙂

Our budget this week will hopefully make up for some candy transgressions. We have a diet heavy in fall vegetables and hearty fare like pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes. Our budget is great! At $98.43, we are just a bit under our target of $100.00. We are “paying” ourselves back for field peas and kale that we bought, blanched and froze earlier since those stock up items were not included in our weekly budget.

This week’s budget:

The Produce Box (lettuce, broccoli, apple cider, butternut squash, apples, tomatoes, potatoes): $23.00

  • Trader Joes (peas, frozen fruit, soy milk, yogurt, orange juice): $28.43
  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $10.00
  • Mae Farm (mini boneless ham): $15.00
  • Rainbow Farm (chicken thighs): $12.00
  • Maple View Farm (buttermilk): $4.00
  • The Mitchell’s Freezer (field peas, kale): $6.00

What are we eating this week? Here is our menu!

Menu

Wednesday–baked sweet potatoes, leftover quiche, salad

Thursday–Curry chicken and potatoes

Friday–Shrimp and broccoli over rice, salad

Saturday–Baked ham, field peas, kale, biscuits

Sunday–Ham, pea and broccoli pasta

Monday–Leftovers

Tuesday–Stuffed butternut squash with apples, pecans and ham

Have a wonderful week and enjoy all those great fall veggies!

 

 

Day 294–Starting Week 43–Budget and Menu

English: Taken by Bart Lacks

Steel cut oats are fueling us during these chilly, fall mornings!

I think I can…I think I can…I think I can…That was my mantra the past few weeks as I worked my way through some stressful and hectic days at work and at home. Most weeks, I manage to create a very healthy work/life balance, but every once in a while one side of that equation dominates the other and I find myself sprinting through each day, feeling frazzled and wishing I could cross some invisible finish line. That was the past two weeks. The good news is I survived and life will be on a more even keel after this week is over. I’m glad because I really miss cooking for my family, exercising the way I should, and feeling present in the moment when I am with my family. The lack of all three of those has made me pretty darn grumpy lately.

This week’s menu is a reflection of my transition back to a more regular routine. I have some easy meals for busy nights and more satisfying dinners for the weekend. I’ve been loving steel-cut oats with a scoop of crock pot applesauce in the morning for breakfast. Yum, yum! If you haven’t tried cooking steel-cut oats in the crock pot, give it a try. It definitely brings a healthy breakfast in reach during a busy week!

Our budget this week is $100.02, right at our goal of $100.00.

  • The Produce Box (lettuce, cucumbers, yellow squash, apples, field tomatoes, sweet potatoes, Spanish radishes, peanuts): $23.00
  • Homestead Farms (eggs): $4.00
  • Farmhand Foods (beef roast): $15.00
  • Trader Joes (soy milk, frozen fruit, oatmeal, cheese, organic tomato soup, half and half, pie crust, butter): $58.02

What are we having for $100.02? Here is the menu for the week.

Menu

  • Wednesday–Green salad with apples and pecans
  • Thursday–Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  • Friday–Working all night–leftovers?
  • Saturday–Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, squash casserole, salad
  • Sunday–Leftover roast and vegetables
  • Monday–Cheese quiche, baked sweet potato fries
  • Tuesday–Leftover quiche, whatever vegetables are left!

Hope you are enjoying some lovely fall weather and visiting your farmer’s markets, which still have a great variety of produce available!!!