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!

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Day 78–Starting Week 12–Budget and Menu

I can’t believe we are beginning the third month of our family locavore challenge! This year seems to be speeding by–this is probably helped by our exceptionally warm weather. We were fortunate to start our journey during what we we call “The Year Without a Winter.” Our farmers have had an extended growing season, and I haven’t had a week yet, when I left the market empty-handed or disappointed (well, except for the “Broccoli Incident”).

So, what have we learned in 3 months? Here is a sample:

  1. Eating locally in NC is not difficult, but it does require an adjustment of behaviors.
  2. I like having a social friendship with our farmers and meat producers.
  3. Local, organic produce tastes so much better, we feel like we are being spoiled.
  4. We have been on budget–or close–for most weeks in our challenge so far.
  5. We will never go back to buying store eggs.
  6. Fresh food, cooked creatively is so good that we have dramatically cut down the number of times we go out to eat. Our food tastes better, so why look elsewhere?

Depsite not finding broccoli this week, I did find some beautiful swiss chard at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market. I love chard–it has such a fresh, light flavor that is a welcome respite from our kale and collard diet over the last few months. Lettuce and spring onions are out and other spring veggies are right around the corner! We are very excited that all of our area farmer’s markets crank up In 2 weeks and our Produce Box delivery starts soon as well!

How did we do on spending this week? Our budget this week looks like this:

  • Rainbow Farm (organic, ground lamb): $10.00
  • Farmhand Foods meatbox (pork chops): $12.00
  • Rare Earth Farm (Maple View fresh buttermilk): $2.50
  • State Farmer’s Market (onions, carrots): $3.50
  • Locals Seafood (rockfish, flounder): $32.00
  • Ben’s Produce (organic lettuce, organic swiss chard): $6.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Greek yogurt, baby brie): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, soy milk, mushrooms, shallots, pita, tortillas, organic mayonaise): $25.39

Our total spent is $98.39! Just a hair under our budget of $100. I actually feel pretty good about this because we are eating a lot of fresh seafood and salads, which fit in perfectly with our 85 degree days! The only red meat we are eating this week are grilled lamb burgers, so that should shake things up a bit!

Menu for the Week

  • Sunday–Spicy marinated rockfish tacos with chipotle slaw, quinoa
  • Monday–Cornmeal dusted summer flounder, collard greens, quinoa
  • Tuesday–Eggs nested in sauteed swiss chard and mushrooms
  • Wednesday–Salad-pa-looza!!
  • Thursday–Grilled lamb burgers in pita with cucumber yogurt sauce, kale, rice
  • Friday–Out for grandmommy’s birthday
  • Saturday–Grilled pork chops, kale from the garden, beans

Thank you for reading our blog and for being a part of our journey. We have learned a lot about our community and ourselves and it just gets better as we go along!

Day 67–There’s An App for That

My phone knows where my food comes from. That seems like crazy talk to me. Wasn’t it just yesterday I was using my brother’s super fast Commodore 64K to play Space Invaders?

I don’t think I can say it enough, but I love my iphone. My poor little laptop is becoming more of a doorstop as I marvel at the possibilities of my phone. The number and variety of apps continually amazes me, even if most of them are fluff. And as much as my daughter loves Plants vs. Zombies, I tend to favor those apps that help me get through my days in a more practical way. My newest find is HarvestMark, an app that actually tracks the source of your food. For reals.

There are limits, of course. Your food has to include a bar code or QR code, which does limit the possibilities. But for me, food with a bar code is where I have more concerns. I typically know where my whole foods come from–the processed and pre-bagged foods are more of a mystery. The database of bar codes is still improving, so while some things like canned soup are not listed yet, others like packaged fruits and meats, are. It isn’t perfect, but it is the start of something exciting. Another tool to help me be an informed consumer.

I’m enjoying using the tool, but trying not to irritate other shoppers in Trader Joes by becoming one of “those people” who blocks food access by busying myself on my phone. Lord knows, I am usually the person not-s0-patiently tap, tap, tapping my foot while waiting for someone to back away from the Greek yogurt. So for now, you will find me in the empty aisle by the fiber supplements, scanning my food. I am not playing Plants vs. Zombies. Probably.

Day 50–Starting Week 8–Budget and Menu

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...

It’s hard to believe we’re at Day 50 of our sustainability challenge already. Starting our eighth week of sustainable eating and healthier living, many of our changes like shopping at the farmer’s market, carefully reading the labels of those things we buy from the store, and cooking meals at home have become part of our regular habit. We have detoxed our cleaning supplies and replaced our plastic food storage with glass. And we have changed some of our health and beauty products to kinder versions without phthalates and parabens. What we need to work on is walking more, but I think that will improve when the weather is consistently warm.

This week, we did well on eating what we purchased. We have some beets that might not make it, but that’s it. I’m getting better (I think) at anticipating how much food we will eat. That was a bigger problem before we had a budget. I was so tempted by all the beautiful vegetables at the farmer’s market that I would over buy and then feel frustrated that we were basically composting money! In truth, we eat a lot less than I would have thought and it has taken me a while to adjust my buying to what we will really eat, not to what looks appealing. Knowing I am accountable to my budget each week has definitely made me a more careful shopper!

Here is how our shopping budge worked this week:

  • Coon Rock Farm (carrots, sweet turnips): $6.00
  • Locals Seafood (fresh monkfish): $17.00
  • Farmhand Foods meat box (beef braising ribs): $15.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (fresh Greek yogurt): $4.00
  • Whole Foods (ground bison): $12.97
  • Trader Joes (Ezekiel bread, zinfandel, burger buns, soy milk, frozen fruit, broth, harvest grains, etc): $39.97

The total for this week is $94.94! A tad under budget this week! And what are we eating for $94.94? Here is the menu for this week:

Sunday–Zinfandel braised beef ribs with rosemary, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed kale with pine nuts

Monday–Pan seared monkfish with lemon, risotto with leftover butternut squash, sweet turnips

Tuesday–Carryover ribs and potatoes, broccoli

Wednesday–Scrambled egg tortillas, leftover risotto, leftovers

Thursday–Bison burgers, harvest grain cous cous

Friday–Broccoli pesto pasta with pine nuts

Saturday–Homemade pizza night, salad

Here’s to another great week!

 

Day 38–Fresh Fish Tacos

Fish taco stand

It took me years to wrap my brain around the concept of a fish taco. First, the control freak in me despises crunchy taco shells–they shatter and make a mess. In my mind, if I’m going to eat a taco with a fork, it may as well be a salad. Second, the tacos of my childhood were pretty typical 70s fare: seasoned ground beef in an El Paso taco shell topped with Kraft cheese and maybe some baked beans on the side. Yes, Boston baked beans. Hey, don’t judge–that was “ethnic” food in 1970s suburbia. So in my mind, taco = ground beef. NOT fish. That was just unnatural.

Then, on one particularly inspired day, I visited a local restaurant and threw caution to the wind. I ordered the fish tacos. They were amazing. Warm, soft (soft!) tortillas filled with grilled catfish and a spicy cabbage slaw, they were delicious and (at least for me) revolutionary. I have been hooked ever since.

Armed with a pound of freshly caught NC catfish, I took the next culinary step this week and made fish tacos for my family. I had a recipe for a great sounding marinade that involved a lot of spices, but arrived home too late and too tired to put a great deal of effort into it. So, I ditched the recipe and made a few substitutions. In the end, it was still delicious, although I wish I had taken the time to make a chipotle cabbage slaw. The ‘tween in my house loved the tacos and I liked it a lot. My husband, who is way too nice to criticize my cooking, probably would have preferred more stuff in the taco than just fish (not a fan of avocado), but said it was good. Note to self: pack more yummy stuff in the tacos.

Here is my after-work-get-dinner-on-the-table-quick version of fish tacos. I’m including the chipotle slaw recipe, too. Next time, I’ll make this the night before so it’s ready quickly, because I think it would really be delicious.

Chipotle Cabbage Slaw

  • 3 c. chopped or shredded red cabbage
  • 1/2 c. organic mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. (or more to taste) of chipotle adobo sauce

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Quick Fish Tacos

  • 12 small corn tortillas (about 3 per person)
  • 1 lb. locally caught mild white fish (cod, tilapia, catfish)
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix (we used Trader Joe’s taco seasoning packet)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup queso fresco or organic sour cream
  1. In a glass bowl, mix canola oil and taco seasoning together. Add fish, turn several times to coat, and let marinade for about 20 minutes.
  2. While fish is marinading, cube avocado and reserve in a bowl.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Put some olive oil on a paper towel and wipe the pan with oil. Add tortillas, one at a time, and warm them in the pan, turning once. Keep the tortillas warm in a piece of foil or wrapped in a warm tea towel. You could also microwave them, but I think they taste better warmed in a pan.
  4. When tortillas are warmed, increase the heat to the pan a bit. When pan is hot, add fish fillets to the pan. The marinade on the fish will serve as the oil, so you will not need to add more.
  5. Pan sear  fish until browned, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Fish is done when it flakes easily. Flake fish in the pan with the remaining marinade.
  6. Plate the dish by filling each tortilla with a few pieces of fish and cabbage slaw. Serve with avocado and queso fresco.

Day 22–Starting Week 4–Budget and Menu

Well, Week 3, despite my less than stellar shopping experience, ended up a great success. Pizza challenge night and “breakfast for dinner” with our farm fresh eggs were both popular events that we’ll repeat! We even made our 75% challenge! The shopping experience went much more smoothly this week, although we have a TON of greens. We will definitely be getting our fresh greens in! We also picked up our first meat box from Farmhand Foods. The box included a braising cut (2 beef shanks), a grilling cut (hangar steak) and a roasting cut (mini boneless ham) all from local farmers. Since that’s a lot to eat in one week, we’ve frozen the steak and ham and are having the shanks this week. To make budgeting easier, I cut the cost of the box ($45) into thirds and will add each third into my budget as we use the meat. So how did we do budget-wise? Here is the breakdown:

  • Farmhand Food (beef shanks from meat box): $15.00
  • Mae Farm (Italian sausage, eggs): $12.00
  • Farmer’s Market-various vendors (onions, carrots, locally ground grits): $6.00
  • Farmer’s Market-Heaven on Earth Organics (collard greens, kale, salad mix, pea shoots, broccoli, sweet pepper): $23.00
  • Trader Joe’s (organic canned tomatoes, organic garlic, organic apples, soy milk, frozen fruit, wild caught salmon, yogurt, wine): $45.13

Total this week: $101.13 (YAY!!!!)

What good eats are we having this week? Here is what’s on tap at our house:

Sunday–Braised beef and sausage ragu over creamy grits, sautéed collard greens (Recipe will be posted this week)

Monday–Broccoli quiche and salad greens with pea shoots

Tuesday–Poached, wild caught salmon with sautéed greens and red quinoa

Wednesday–Leftover quiche or sandwiches (scout night–everyone fends for themselves)

Thursday–Leftover ragu over whole wheat pasta

Friday–out (date night!)

Saturday–Pizza challenge using leftover vegetables and cheese carryover from last week

As usual, breakfasts are toast, bagels, oatmeal and lunches are sandwiches or leftovers. I see more kale chips in our immediate future!

Have a happy and fulfilling week!

Day 15–Starting Week 3–Budget and Menu

Pizza with corn and za'atar at Pizza B'Riboa i...

As we end week 2 of our family challenge, I think we did really well. We met our 75% locally produced/sustainable meal challenge! Some things worked better than others. We made good use of the food we had purchased and had much less food waste than usual. The bison chili with lentils and pumpkin was great to us adults (really more like a stew than a chili), but a flop for our pre-teen, who likes mom’s regular chili. The recipe made a HUGE batch, so we had lots of bison chili lunches to pack last week. We are anxiously awaiting the reopening of Earp’s Seafood Market in downtown Raleigh so we can get some locally caught seafood (Earps was destroyed in the tornado last April). That is one part of our diet we are missing, but hope to get it back in swing in the next couple of weeks.

My recent lack of success with using a pre-established grocery list at the farmer’s market prompted some interesting suggestions on how to use the ingredients I brought home. One, from our pre-teen, is a pizza Iron Chef competition for our family using ingredients from the farmer’s market (well, mostly). We will make our own pizza dough and that should be fun, interesting, and maybe hilarious. Family members are already working on their ideas! Another idea was having breakfast for dinner. We recently won some TN country ham at a family Christmas party, so we will share some and eat some for dinner/breakfast.

So, how did we do on this week’s budget? Here is a breakdown:

  • Lowe’s Food (yeast, a pizza’s worth of artisan pepperoni): $1.83
  • Farmer’s Market (bok choi, greenhouse strawberries, kale, local apples, onions, carrots): $20.00
  • Mae Farm Meats (pork chops, ground pork, Maple View Farm milk, farm eggs): $39.95
  • Trader Joes (frozen organic fruit, peppers, rice, cheese, organic chicken, organic butter): $51.96

Our total this week is: $113.74 Over a bit, but we should have some carryover into next week (esp. pizza cheese!). I splurged on a couple of impulse items (like greenhouse strawberries and bell peppers) and we replaced grocery store milk with milk produced in Chapel Hill by Maple View Farms, but we will use them all in the mix.

What is the menu this week? Here it goes:

  • Sunday–organic chicken, bok choi and pepper stir fry w/organic brown rice
  • Monday–pizza Iron Chef competition w/homemade pizza dough and local veggies
  • Tuesday–Tortiere (French Canadian meat pie w/Mae Farm pork), sautéed greens and sweet potatoes
  • Wednesday–leftovers
  • Thursday–Breakfast for dinner (farm eggs, country ham we won at family Christmas party, homemade biscuits)
  • Friday–date night 🙂
  • Saturday–Mae Farm pork chops, sautéed apples, sweet potatoes, greens

We’re heavy on the pork this week (see my post about grocery shopping with a specific list from Friday), so that isn’t good, although no one in my house is complaining. Will definitely need to do better next week and have more meatless or chicken options. And a better shopping strategy 🙂

So, here we go with week 3!

Day 8–Starting Week 2–Budget and Menu

English: Green, yellow and red bell peppers fr...

I am terrible with budgets. But, our family needs to budget for necessities and yours probably does, too. Our goal is to eat sustainable and/or locally produced food for 75% of our meals on $100 per week. We went over last week (darn you, New Years Eve :-)), but I rationalized that with a holiday dinner. So, how about this week? Here is how we spent our food budget in preparation for week 2:

  • Mae Farm meats (chicken, bacon, eggs):          $20.64
  • Heaven on Earth organics (turnips w/greens, dino kale, green peppers, tomatoes, onions):          $20.00
  • Trader Joes (tortillas, sour cream, cheese, oranges, frozen fruit):          $26.61
  • Lowes Foods (yogurt, green split peas, Kosher salt, can of pumpkin): 10.18
  • Whole Foods (ground bison, green lentils): $24.67

Total:  $102.10 (we are almost there!)

So, what are we eating for that? Here is our menu for the week:

  • Sunday–Roast chicken, turnips 2 ways (mashed and greens w/bacon)
  • Monday–Bison, green lentil and pumpkin chili, sour cream corn muffins (local corn meal left from last week)
  • Tuesday–chicken quesadillas (using leftover roast chicken), quinoa
  • Wednesday–leftover chili and corn muffins
  • Thursday–green split pea soup, homemade biscuits
  • Friday–leftovers
  • Saturday–out; extended family holiday dinner @ restaurant

Breakfasts are oatmeal or pumpkin muffins with fruit smoothies.

Lunches are either leftovers or sandwiches and fruit

I’m proud of how we have done so far and look forward to trying out a few new recipes (the bison chili especially!). At this point, we are eating at approximately 60% organic or local/sustainable food. This next week should increase that a bit. Now, can we keep this up? That is a challenge!