Saturday, February 16, 2013

More February Food

We are halfway done with our February Food Challenge. Unfortunately, we are 2/3 of the way through our budget. So, clearly, we are having to get a little crafty with our meals and make our food stretch a little further than we're used to. I'm proud of us, though. Making a goal and sticking to it makes me feel good. And honestly, the food hasn't been SO bad.
We've had tilapia. This is something I will obviously continue buying, mostly because we seem to eat it once a week and it's one of two fishes I even like, halibut being the other. I wish I could enjoy more seafood. I want to like it. Really, I do. But every bite I've ever had is like the ocean puked in my mouth. I hate fishy fish.
We've had grilled cheese. OK, not so healthy, but meh. We had all the stuff to make it, so I did. And we survived.
We're had chili cheese fries. Well, I had chili, Jon had fries, and we both had cheese. I think chili deserves it's own dedicated food group, personally.
We've had pesto chicken. I love home made pesto, but I had packet thingies that needed to be used up, so I rubbed it all over big bird and plopped it in the oven. DELISH.
We've had pizza bread. I had hot dog buns and pizza sauce that needed to be used up, so I got creative. It was actually really good. A little carb/starch heavy than what I generally prefer, but in a pinch... sure!
We're had cauliflower pizza. To make my [expensive] cheese last longer I ran it through a food processor with a bunch of spinach. Sure it made it bright green, but it was so yummy.
We've had fruit smoothies.
We've ha Mac & Cheese.
We've had rice-a-roni.
We snack on popcorn.

I think we've one pretty good. I mean, we're not eating the most healthy stuff in the world right now, but we're not wasting nearly the amount of food we once did. Plus, this is all a step towards a healthier lifestyle for us. Once all this junk foo is out of the house, not eating it is as simple as not buying it. We will have to get even more creative the next two weeks of this challenge. With a measly $30 left in the budget, and $7.10 of that already "spoken for" in milk... I see a lot of rice and soy sauce in our future.

In having this strict budget for the month, we've learned what foods we can an can not do without.
We absolutely can not compromise:

  • Raw Milk. Pastureized, factory farmed dairy is some seriously scary stuff. I shutter to think of eating/ drinking it. Sure, it's $7.10 a gallon, and we plow through a gallon in about a week... we can't compromise this staple in our house for anything. Not even an insane grocery challenge. 
  • Eggs. I eat eggs all the time. Daily, even. Yolks are incredibly nutritious and if I'm feeling a little "off" one day, my go-to picker upper is two egg yolks over easy and half a glass of milk. 
  • Frozen Fruit. Smoothies satisfy my sweet tooth, and are just plain delicious. Especially with it being winter, we haven't had fresh fruit in the fridge as much as I'd like, so this is a nice compromise. 
  • Tilapia. This is such a safe meal for me. I have digestive responses to stress, and ten to feel very sick when I'm overly stressed... an let's be real here. I have 20 puppies in my house. I'm ALWAYS stressed. It is for sure a staple meal in our house. I' love to fin a source of fresh wild caught tilapia and move away from factor farmed fish like we've done with chicken and beef... but for now, Kirkland will do. 
  • Pasture-Raised, Organic Grass-Fed Beef. After tasting what beef is supposed to taste like, we could never ever go back to the ground yuck you see for $1/lb at the grocery store. 
  • Pasture-raised, Organic chicken. Same as with beef, no matter how tight our budget is we just can't buy the cheap stuff and we can't skip chicken altogether. Yummy yum yum.
These are staples at our house now. 
We can do without: fast food, bread, and going out to eat. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

February Food Challenge

First of all.... it's 4:30 in the morning and I am incredibly tired. I suppose that's what I get for having two litters of puppies at the same time. I love them dearly, I really do... but oh my heck, we're never doing this again. I think I'll stick to 0-2 litters per year, and never, ever at the same time. Ever. And that's all I have to say about that. Other than puppies, puppies, and more puppies, we have a few other little things going on. Like our February food challenge.
So, we've been slowly but surely making positive food changed for a year now. It started with my obsession with crock potting, and has kind of turned into a full blown food overhaul. Between the general time of year, and the fact that having puppies is so expensive... we're flat broke. I know, I know.... you're wondering how we maintain our fine sense of style and class on a tight budget. Be amazed, people. (says the one who wore filthy, over-sized pajamas out of the house today. and only realized after the first stop I forgot to wear shoes. The snow reminded me.)
We don't eat out a ton, never really did. Part of being poor is not having a life. Additionally, every time I think we'll get a little crazy and go out and have fun, my wallet reminds me to just calm the heck down.  (I promise all this poor talk is going somewhere.)
So, between my serious efforts to eat better, AND find some way to pay the bills (did I mention these puppies are quickly draining my bank account?! Buy them, please. All of them.) I came up with a challenge. I presented the idea to Jon, and he's on board, so here we go.

February Food Challenge Rules

  • We must spend LESS than $100 on groceries for the entire month. 
    • We must eat REAL food on a daily basis. (meat, cheese, eggs, produce, dairy)
    • We can not spend ANY of our tiny grocery budget on pre packaged/ processed foods.
    • We must eliminate something from the freezer or pantry on a daily basis, never to be bought again. 
    • Food storage (Mostly extra rice, beans, and canned veggies) can only be touched after the pantry is exhausted)
So far, we've made it a full week. It's Feb 7th... well, 8th... dangit, the whole not sleeping thing totally messes up my groove. We've spent more than half our budget on food, BUT.... but... are on track to make it based on meal planning... I think. I might have to be creative, and soon. In going through everything tonight... I realized quite a bit of what we have in there has been there SO long... it's way past the use by date, and had to be tossed. Despite the fact roughly half of the food stock we thought we had when beginning this challenge is in fact now in the trash, the challenge remains completely in place. 

So, here's what we have to work with over the next three weeks:
Jon has a bunch of canned soup going on here. I absolutely positively HATE canned soups, so I'm really banking on finding some nifty way to doctor them up and make them edible. Yuck. And yes, a bunch of Mac & Cheese to be eaten and never bought again. Nothing is "hiding" either, what you see is what there is. Gosh, I wish I had more rice. 
Spice cabinet (yes, it's alphabetized, ok?!) is... well, spicy? Not much actual food going on there, other than bread. 
My goal here is to limit all the prepackaged foods, and move more towards home made broths and stocks and not buy packaged ones. Eventually I'd like to see only things like dry rice and beans, quinoa, whole grain pasta, and maybe some canned tomatoes and beans but no other processed stuff. Most REAL food is kept in the fridge. 

Really the worst thing going on in here is processed store bought pulled chicken. So sue me! I brought it home from a family dinner. Oh, it'll get eaten, though... when pickings are this slim, there's no room to be fussy. The cottage cheese and eggs have two containers because one is dang near empty. Also, the red stuff is Jon's crystal light. Think we are cheese eaters or something? LOL The fruit drawer is already empty. Fresh produce IS on our approved grocery list, but the money is going so fast, we won't be buying much anything until we've dwindled our supply a bit more. With raw milk at $7.10 a gallon, and it being one thing we just WON'T give up, every flippin' penny counts. 
My goal here, is to have only fresh meat, produce, and raw dairy in here when all is said and done. OK, fine, the Jell-O can stay too.... for a while. I love wiggly, jiggly Jell-O. 

Ah yes, the freezer. Not a whole lot going on in there these days. Some tilapia loins, some organic grass fed beef I bought tonight, some frozen fruit for smoothies, and from the old days.... french fries, (so sue me!) pot stickers, and tortellini. I can't promise I'm not going to indulge in nummy tortellini any more in the future, but the rest of this junk is never going to be in the freezer again. Ever. 
My goal here is to have only organic meats from pasture raised animals, preferably locally sourced, and frozen fruits and veggies in here. No more processed starchy carbs. Yuck.  

And to keep everything all in order, we are keeping every receipt and marking down all out totals. At the end of the month it will be interesting to see where EXACTLY the money goes.
 What I'm Hoping to Accomplish With This Challenge
  1. Greatly reduce the typical grocery bill for the month of February.
  2. Force us to use food that otherwise might have sat until well past its expiration date, and end up being wasted
  3. Clean out the pantry of all the kinds of food we wish to no longer have in our diet, providing a fresh slate to build our new and improved pantry stock, leading to even smarter, healthier food choices.
  4. Improve our budgeting skills, keeping healthy food a priority, but still setting budget goals and sticking to them. 
  5. To be forced to experiment with different food combinations I might not have otherwise tried.  
  6. To get a few moderately interesting blog posts
  7. To compare the real costs of eating healthy to a diet of processed junk. March we are starting with a clean slate, no food stock, and setting a budget to stick to that month, too! April we aren't setting a budget. I'm interested to see what our month-end totals will stack up to be on the three month span. 

I have everything I need to make home made bread. I figure after everything else is on its last leg, egg sandwiches are a safe bet. (have I mentioned my intense love for eggs yet?) 

SO, there you have it. 
Now I'm going to bed. Puppies won't take care of themselves in the morning. 

Oh yeah, and I've lost 82lbs, and five pants sizes. EAT REAL FOOD and be healthy, folks.