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 113–Starting Week 16–Budget and Menu

This week, the farmer’s markets were just teeming with people and chock full of wonderful strawberries and spring vegetables. I didn’t buy as much at the market as last week because we now have our weekly Produce Box delivery. Still, it was great to be out seeing the farmers so busy after a quiet winter. Our total for the week was $101.65–just $1.65 over our weekly goal. Not too bad!!

  • The Produce Box (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, strawberries, cucumbers): $22.00
  • Rainbow Farms (roasting chicken): $13.00
  • Farmhand Foods (kabob beef): $15.00
  • Farmer’s Market–various (onions, sugar snap peas, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes): $18.00
  • Trader Joes (organic soy milk, rice, frozen fruit, bananas, mushrooms, Ezekiel bread, cous cous): $33.65

What are we having this week for $101.65? Here is our weekly menu:

  • Sunday–Roast fresh chicken, sweet potato wedges, roasted asparagus spears, buttermilk biscuits, strawberry cobbler
  • Monday–Curry chicken and spinach over whole wheat cous cous
  • Tuesday–Pasta salad with roasted vegetables
  • Wednesday–Sandwiches with leftover pasta salad
  • Thursday–Veggie stir fry over rice
  • Friday–Leftover cleanup night
  • Saturday–Grilled beef and vegetable kabob with whole wheat cous cous

Have a terrific and delicious week!

Day 64–Starting Week 10–Budget and Menu

Well, we are beginning week 10 of our journey with lots of good eats and with an eye toward spring and all the delicious fruits and vegetables that will be coming our way in another 4-6 weeks! So rather than look at sweet potatoes as “sweet potatoes…again??” we’re looking at them a bit nostalgically, knowing that it may be another 5-6 months before we see them again. Here is how we did at the market–a pretty typical week by this point. We went $4.00 over, but I splurged on two fresh, pasture-raised chickens, which just seemed too tempting to let go!

  • Heaven on Earth Organics (sweet potato, tomatoes, broccoli, onion, greens): $16.00
  • Mae Farm (chorizo): $8.00
  • Rare Earth Farm (local buttermilk): $4.00
  • Rainbow Farm (fresh chickens-2): $28.00
  • Lowes Food (pastry): $5.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, limes, grated cheese, organic sugar, peppers, lettuce, etc.): $35.00
  • Earps Seafood (NC shrimp): $8.00

Our total for the week: $104.00

So what’s to eat this week? We have a mix of hearty home cooking and fresh spring dishes–that seems to match our weather as well! In honor of National Pound Cake Day, I’ll be making a lemon pound cake–yum!

This week’s menu

  • Sunday–Roast, fresh chickens, sweet potatoes, sautéed kale, whole wheat buttermilk biscuits
  • Monday–Chicken and chorizo taquitos, multigrain mix, salad
  • Tuesday–Leftover taquitos
  • Wednesday–Roasted broccoli and shrimp over brown rice
  • Thursday–Chicken pot pie, salad
  • Friday–Leftover pot pie and greens
  • Saturday–Chicken noodle soup and biscuits

 Have a wonderful, healthy and delicious week!

Day 52–The Sweet Potato Experiment

Sometimes things that seem simple and straightforward are, upon further contemplation, the very things that rock my world. So today, rather than a didactic posting about how our food supply is corrupted on so many levels and how concerned I am about what we are putting into ourselves and our children, I thought I would share this video with you. On the surface, it is a cute science experiment conducted by a little girl and her grandmother. Dig deeper and it is really about what food is available to us in the grocery store, even those foods labeled “organic”.

The video isn’t long, so I hope you watch it. It really reinforced to me the importance of our family journey, and gave me some extra motivation to keep going!

Day 26–A Locavore’s Lunch–Big Ed’s

Honey

Honey. If you are the kind of woman who hates being called “Honey” then by all means do not eat at Big Ed’s in Raleigh. Big Ed’s is one of those wonderful restaurants that has become an institution in and of itself, serving up large plates of locally grown vegetables and blue plate specials of NC pork, catfish and chicken pastry. And the waitresses WILL call you “Honey.” Or Sweetie.
Or Sugar. My advice? If you’re averse to such nicknames, suck it up and deal with it. Why? Because it’s meant in the nicest way possible (not in that creepy, condescending way that salesmen and politicians use), the service is amazing and friendly and the food is really good. Gut busting good. Paula Deen needs to come down here and learn herself a few things (and that, I promise, is my last Paula Deen reference).

Southern, homestyle food is not coated in sticks of butter, fried to within an inch of its life and drown in sugar, no matter what celebrity chefs say. True southern cooking is has its roots in necessity, practicality and, in some cases, poverty. Most southern cooking depends on lots and lots of vegetables. Why? Because in our agricultural state, vegetables were more plentiful and affordable than meat. Meat is more often used as a seasoning, stretching out what folks had for as long as possible. And people ate seasonally because, well, you ate what you had. Even desserts rely mostly on local, seasonal fruit (the exception is banana pudding, but that is sacred territory).

If you want to taste true southern, homestyle cooking and you can’t go to your mama’s house, Big Ed’s is a great place to try. All the vegetables at Big Ed’s are purchased from the State Farmer’s Market a mile or so down the road, so the vegetable selection is not only local, but seasonal (don’t ask for strawberries in January). The pork and most other meats are sourced to NC as well. When I asked about the vegetables, the cashier looked nostalgic and said, “Sam even grows some of the vegetables in his own garden. Oh, you should taste those green beans. We sell out fast on those days.” She had such a happy look on her face that I made a note to definitely COME BACK in green bean season. And at $6-$7 dollars for a plate (meat, two vegetables, biscuits, drink and dessert), this is locally sourced food at an affordable price.

My lunch was delicious pulled pork barbecue (NC pork), collard greens, black-eyed peas, biscuit, fresh cabbage slaw and a piece of yummy sweet potato cake. You can also get breakfasts made with local pork sausage and local farm eggs. Or pancakes as big as your head (and I am not kidding).

I’m glad that my town celebrates local eating and locally sourced food both on the high-end and at the homestyle end of the eating spectrum. Because after all, locally sourced food should be available to everyone, honey.

Day 19–The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

English: A sign warning about pesticide exposure.

“Action expresses priorities.”–Mohandas Gandhi

Our intent with our family journey toward a more sustainable, less toxic life, was to put our priorities (healthier lifestyle, support of local farmers, reducing environmental toxins, eating cleaner) into action and document the results. But sometimes there is a tension between intent and reality. Namely, that we can’t go broke buying groceries and we can’t always find what we want from an organic or locally produced source. And sometimes there are unintended consequences (see below) So, what’s a girl to do? Seek information and pick her battles, that’s what.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested the most common produce sold in the U.S. and developed a list of the produce with the highest pesticide levels (The Dirty Dozen) and those with the lowest pesticide levels (The Clean 15). Pesticide levels were measured after washing the produce to simulate a typical home environment. They turned this information into a handy list anyone can use while shopping.

So, what about the unintended consequences?

The EWG developed this list after finding that residual pesticide levels in children have been increasing over time. Interestingly, this increase is seen at higher levels in middle class families with college educated parents. Why? Because those parents, who are responding to the obesity crisis in children and who have more discretionary income to spend on food, are more likely to forego chips and processed snacks for fresh fruit and vegetables. So an unintended consequence of well-meaning parents (like me) getting our children to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables is that their children are showing higher levels of the pesticides used on those crops in their bodies. YIKES!

Realizing that many families don’t have the financial ability to purchase all of their produce organic, the EWG produced a list of the worst and the best, giving parents and other consumers a tool to use when making food choices.  I put this app on my phone so I can refer to it at the farmer’s market when I’m shopping (I know I won’t remember the piece of paper). While the EWG list is not comprehensive, it’s one more tool I can use to express my priorities through actions in a financially efficient way.

So, what’s on the list? You can download the list at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/ but here it is in summary:

Dirty Dozen

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines (Imported)
  • Grapes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Lettuce
  • Kale

The Clean 15

  • Onions
  • Sweet corn**
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet peas
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe (Domestic)
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Mushrooms

**Because sweet corn is often genetically modified and the FDA does not require that GMO corn be labelled as such, the EWG recommends that anyone concerned about GMO products buy organic sweet corn.

What do you think about the list? Is this something you would use? How do you budget for greater health?

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