Category Archives: Healthy Habits

Favorite Ways to Save Kitchen Bucks

So there are really only a handful of ways you can make real food work in a kitchen:

  1. Save money by making a lot of it from scratch, but it will cost you time
  2. Save time by buying real-food shortcuts, but it will cost you money
  3. Somewhere in-between the first two options, using both as you can (this is me, although I tend towards option #1)

I recognize this can feel daunting. And as someone who’s been at this for Y-E-A-R-S there are seasons in life – due to schedules, motivation, health, etc… that sometimes, this real-food-thing doesn’t seem possible, effective, profitable.

I am not above vacillating. We’ll go backwards. I’ll allow just enough cheats and junk in the house… and y’all, we FEEL it. Colds we can’t kick. Digestive issues that are awful. And of course, hormonal imbalances and weight gain. So while I, just like the rest of this planet, falls into it… I’m here to say a) give yourself some grace and forgiveness (and let’s not forget this is not about rules, y’all! So when there’s freedom from rules…) and b) encourage you and give you a few tools in the toolbelt.

Because sometimes, this wavering is because of money and schedules and not just laziness. (Disclaimer: sometimes mine is just laziness, so no judgment here.) You’re not sure how you can get this done and it just feels better to cheat. And cheat frequently. There are some basic skills that I feel keep me away from full-out junk diets AND still save money and don’t cost an exorbitant amount of time.

So…. If you’re wanting some easy ways to cut your costs in your kitchen and still get nutritious food in, here’s some suggestions….

Easiest ways (assuming you own a VERY basic slow cooker):

Cook your own beans. Buy them dried, and let them soak/cook in a slow cooker. After they’ve cooked and cooled, I freeze them in tupperware to thaw as needed.  I recommend this method as shared by fellow blogger and as I discussed in my recipe for Cajun beans ‘n’ rice.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Oatmeal. Soak it and then cook in your slow cooker.  I detail my method over in my recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal… I wrote up how to do it for plain oatmeal, and then tacked on how I made it with pumpkin (which is really just added flavor at the end).  I usually make a huge batch, then once it’s cooled, keep in the refrigerator to reheat throughout the week. It’s super cheap and easy, filling food in the mornings. I don’t do pumpkin all the time (maybe only a 1/10th of a time?). Mostly, it’s just cinnamon + sweetener because that’s cheapest and easiest.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Make your own broth. Of all my slow cooker methods, this is my favorite. Because most people just throw away chicken skin and bones and vegetable peelings… and this is using something you would ordinarily throw out! It’s like better than free! Haha. Shaye at The Elliott Homestead explains it best! I use this method ALL the time. I haven’t bought broth in probably over five years.

Make granola. Okay, so this obviously does not require a slow cooker, but an oven at minimum.  It’s easiest, though with a dehydrator (but please, oh please, don’t let that deter you!).  Method and recipe can be found here.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

If you have more time and/or right tools:

Make bread. I used to do this EVERY week. I now do this not out of obligation but for fun, and we buy our bread. This is a prime example of choosing to spend more money on something so that’s healthy so I don’t have to spend my time on it.  There’s loads and loads of great recipes out there, but due to my own gut/dietary needs, I rely heavily on Jovial Foods Einkorn Cookbook (check it out here… I raved about it in this post… and I still can’t say enough about it.)  It can be SUCH a rewarding experience, and there’s no taste or texture comparable purchased in the store.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Make yogurt. This feels like a science experiment or chemistry lab every time.  It’s a pretty fascinating experience learning about how bacteria grows (or doesn’t).  I learned a great deal from The Prairie Homestead here.  I use a dehydrator, now, for this – but you can do without it. It does take some time and patience… BUT WILL SAVE YOU GOBS.

Make your own bars. Granola, larabars, fruit-n-nut, etc. I will confess I’m still learning this… in that I haven’t done as many.  Granted, it’s still cheaper to buy generic store brand granola bars… but don’t look at the ingredient list if you do. If you do, and want a cleaner option… then you’ll likely end up with an option that is closer to $1 (if not over) each.  I’ve collected quite a few recipes at my pinterest board here.  My current favorite are these blueberry bliss bars.  YUMMO.

Make waffles. This is no surprise to you, right? I’ve raved about waffles and the Einkorn recipe posted here is a top sought post. It obviously requires a waffle iron (special tool)… but you can get them inexpensively.  I usually double (sometimes triple!) the recipe and freeze 7-10 in bags so I can pull them out as needed, akin to the waffles you can buy at the store. I promise… THIS SAVES MONEY. Serious money.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

There are other options, too, for overall savings.

Overall stewardship of resources can make money spent in the kitchen possible, too.  (More info on that concept here.)  Here’s some other ways I save money:

Swagbucks. I earn swagbucks points on Swagbucks that converts into gift cards, which in turn gets used mostly for Christmas shopping.  Check it out here. I combine those gift cards with Black Friday savings (and other deals around that time of year) and make out like a bandit. No joke. With swagbucks and deal-hunting, the net worth of those gifts is often quadruple the amount of money I actually spent. I do not lie, I can show you the spreadsheets for proof! :)

Cleaning Supplies. I buy very, very little cleaning supplies. I have managed this between baking soda, vinegar, and Norwex.  Norwex products are mostly cloth-based and you combine them with water, clean whatever it is that needs it… and done. Yes, that simple. You wash the cloth and do it all over again. I use Norwex for dusting, wood, glass, toilet bowl, make-up removing, floors, just to name a few. Those are all areas of my home I’m not longer spending money on products that get consumed and I have to repurchase.  This isn’t even touching on the issue that there’s no chemicals and you don’t have to worry about toxicity.  Check out Norwex here.

Laundry Detergent.  I make my own … recipe forthcoming.  It’s a basic combination of washing soda, borax, dye-free oxiclean, bar soap (that’s been shredded).  There are loads of other options online.  I still buy some detergent, too… because we only have so much time. Sometimes, I need to buy it because I just don’t have time to make it and I’m running low.  However, it’s much cheaper to make it than buy a clean/green detergent… so it’s back to that basic choice of money versus time.

Reusable Bags for Snacks & Sandwiches.  I love, love, love these things.  They save money on the plastic bags, I’m no longer buying a consumable. I’m not contributing to the plastic-consumer-driven economy, either. They wash well with dishsoap.

 

So….

What do you do? How do you balance your time and money?

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$. 

Hard Stuff & Freedom

This year was HARD.

We raised meat chickens (butchered them ourselves). Settled into a home. Fundraised and WENT to Haiti for a week. Struggled with high drama in several relationships.  Oh, and at work, I consistently put in 50-60 hours. Per week. For months.

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So yeah…. hard.

Call it disease, call it stress… it almost doesn’t matter… my body has been on a slow decline for the last year. We’re in the process of figuring out a plan on how to deal with these medical issues, but for now… I’ve had to slow down. Which again… is hard. (Did you read the list of hard stuff? No room for slowin’ down there.)

I went gluten-free to deal with one issue, and in some ways – along with medical intervention – that one specific issue has improved.  But it didn’t eliminate any migraines or any other ailments.  In fact… it all just continued slowly to get worse.

I’m going to be honest, it’s incredibly frustrating.  As someone who doesn’t even let soy come into her home, as someone who has sanitized GMOs from her family’s diet… I feel a wee bit cheated.  I feel like I did the right thing by our diets, and I’ve had new issues creep up instead.

I didn’t want to come here and write about all the success I’ve had in the kitchen.  Well, because I HAVEN’T. Aside from my enthusiasm and proselytizing about healthy food being reduced, I positively didn’t have the energy. My kids have eaten so many sandwiches it’s ridiculous.  I gave up making bread.  I just COULDN’T anymore.  My body didn’t have it in me.  It’s a struggle to muster up the energy to do anything but the bare minimum… and I’m talking also about cleaning toilets and washing clothes. And this isn’t even touching on writing.

I felt as if I couldn’t come here and talk about these things because a) it wasn’t food related and part of the whole “eat-better” message I’ve been so intent on and b) it wasn’t encouraging.  One of my biggest gripes about social internet presence is those that use it just to complain and garner pity. This wasn’t going to be what the blog was about.  So, instead… I just chose not to write.

I miss it, though.  I miss putting all my thoughts together into one space. Woven into all my past posts was my heart.  Things I was enjoying.  Things I was doing.  The problem of course is that I just wasn’t cooking as much in the last several months (almost a year) and I didn’t know how to relate my writing to the mission of encouraging those around me to eat well.

So, this blog is going to change.  I’m not going to delete it and undo anything.  But I feel it needs to be relabeled, and to include a mission and title that’s more about me, my heart, and not so specific on food.  (Don’t worry, as much as the energy level has decreased, I still LOVE to eat!! So food’s still up there.)  I also have other things beating in my heart… I often end up writing tiny blurbs on my personal facebook page, but I think it makes more sense to combine this all in a blog.  And Foodies Gone Real doesn’t necessarily fit.

I want to do what God’s called me to do well.  I have never doubted He’s called me to write encouragement.  Things will change because I want freedom – freedom to write as God calls, and not just bound up on what type of diet encouragement.

And don’t we all want freedom?

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I’m not a chef for every dish.

We eat boiled broccoli, potatoes that were “baked” in the microwave and pan-fried chicken topped with a pre-bought BBQ sauce.  (I do make a great homemade one.  But I’m not making it all the time.)

Bourbon Maple BBQ Sauce - Foodies Gone Real

Yes, you read that RIGHT.

Did you know we also eat cereal in this house?  And I, on occasion buy FRUIT SNACKS.

I know there are probably real gasps, real shudders, and real giggles.

The giggles come from other people that are pushing through the same kinds of things I am: an overabundance of information, often conflicting information on what’s good and what isn’t, a schedule that is stuffed full of LOTS of other things, and a food budget that is constrictive.

You can either have extra time and extra money, but you will sacrifice your health because you’re eating cheap stuff.  You’re to have “extra” health (a.k.a. good health) and extra time, but no extra money.  (In other words, you spend a lot of money on convenient healthier foods to maintain health and time.)  You could have extra great health, and extra money, but it will be at the expense of your time.  (Last example: you will have a healthy diet, and not use all your money on your healthy food, but it’s because you’re spending your TIME in the kitchen making stuff from scratch.)

So do you see this conundrum?  As my wise husband says, “You can have what you want, but you can’t have everything.”  This is this tricky balance of healthy foods, money, and time.  And I can’t win all the time on everything, and neither can you.

I L-O-V-E to cook.  Cooking is a hobby for me, but it’s not gourmet all the time every time.  Who can afford to spend all the time they want on their hobbies?  Yeah, me either.

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You don’t have to eat all these meals that take hours to create in order to eat healthily.  And I know this because I DO THIS.  I have only so much time, only so much money.  And I intend to demonstrate it… I bringing back the meal plans, y’all.

This is just as much for me as it is for you.  Way back in the day, when I posted these weekly, I was held accountable.  I felt that I needed to keep my word.  And I need that kind of financial and health accountability back.

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And it’s for you… because you need to know and believe that real food CAN be purchased, made and consumed with limited time and money.  This isn’t the sphere for just the rich and free-of-time.  It’s for the average-day people trying to do the best they can with what they have.

…..

And yes, sometimes that means fruit snacks.  (Ok, so they are the “healthy” ones, but really, y’all… fruit snacks will probably never be a health food.  Just sayin’.  Unless you make these.)

Much Love,

Sarah

Shopping at Aldi’s

If you’re in the real-food-blogosphere much, you’re starting to hear an increase in chatter related to Aldi’s plans to clean up their food offerings.Shopping at Aldi's - Foodies Gone Real

And let me say it right off… this is not a sponsored post.  I’m just writing this from an honest perspective as an encouraged consumer.

For those of you unfamiliar with Aldi’s, it’s a great budget-friendly grocery store.  They are significantly cheaper on many fronts (Wal-Mart, some stuff from big-box stores, etc.).  How do they get away with this? Little things… they aren’t open in the middle of the night, so costs for staffing are lower. You use a quarter to get your cart, meaning no employee has to spend time out in the parking lot gathering up carts. There are no bags – so you can either buy a few at the checkout counter or – my personal favorite – bring reusable bags that are EVERYWHERE these days.  They also very rarely offer brand name items.  Most of their stock is “off brand” or Aldi’s brand.  Those are my observations on how the store does it, but I’m sure there’s probably more to the story.

But I’m here to tell you why I really, really love this store.

Shopping at Aldi's - Foodies Gone Real

The first thing Aldi’s did recently – aside from offering organic and/or “cleaner” foods (they also have a great amount of gluten-free items MUCH cheaper, for those concerned) – was promise to cut out all synthetic dyes, MSG, and partially hydrogenated oils by 2016 (their press release here).  And they DID IT.  So, granted… a fruity sugar cereal is still not really healthy, at least the cut the red dye #40.  This is a big deal for some families… there are loads, and loads of kids that react terribly to these dyes (most cases I’ve heard of – anecdotally, of course – is related to hyperactive, bizarre and/or uncontrollable kids).  Maybe potato chips aren’t the best choice, but at least they cut out partially-hydrogenated oils.  Everyone seems to agree these are bad, bad, bad.  And don’t get me started on MSG! I’m not kidding you… some believe it tricks your brain like a drug, causing more cravings! (Read more on it here.)

And here’s what gets me really excited…

The issue with the previous paragraph is that the ingredients cut are typically in processed foods.  I’m not a big fan on processed foods, because, frankly, it’s still junk.  (There’s no nutritional benefit to canola oil, folks!)

They are now promising to expand their “Never Any!” line (these are meats that conventionally have synthetic nitrites/nitrates added… i.e., carcinogen. Like a really bad one.  Folks, we’ve known since 1994 these are bad, bad, bad! News link here).  Also, their natural lines and organic sections are expanding!  You can read more about this report here.

I save SERIOUS money at this store.

Bigger than my own personal economics is this important fact: you tell the world what you value with how you spend your money.  Choosing to put your dollars into a store or system that is most beneficial to you speaks VOLUMES.  Aldi’s has HEARD.

So back to some more practical advice: what I recommend shopping for at Aldi’s.  I haven’t tried everything, and obviously the economic benefit of choosing Aldi’s over other grocers will vary by location (i.e., I’m sure prices differ in certain places, so you might be able to find better deals elsewhere).

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Organic Salsa
  • Oven-roasted almonds
  • Gluten-Free pretzels (for splurging. I’m still not a fan of every ingredient)
  • Applesauce
  • Fruit cups packed in 100% fruit juice
  • Dried fruit (but read the ingredient list!)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Almond Butter
  • Some cereals (I don’t go crazy here. I’d still prefer to buy cleaner ones from a bigger grocery store)
  • Organic Ketchup
  • Mustards
  • Never Any! Bacon
  • Never Any! Breakfast Sausage
  • Never Any! Hot dogs
  • Organic baby spinach, baby kale, spring lettuce mix
  • Organic baby carrots
  • Organic bananas
  • Organic oranges
  • Organic apples
  • Organic cherry tomatoes
  • Coconut oil
  • Fruit juices, as needed
  • Organic canned tomato products
  • Other produce (we do not eat organic all the time, but most of the time Aldi’s has best prices!)
  • Gluten-Free Bread
  • Sprouted Bread
  • Rice
  • Dried Beans
  • Cheese blocks
  • Never Any! Lunchmeats
  • Grass-fed ground beef
  • Free-range chicken
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Organic pasta
  • Gluten-Free Macaroni & Cheese
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen blueberries (frozen strawberries are hit or miss)

 

Shopping at Aldi's - Foodies Gone Real

Cheapest grass-fed ground beef!

 

This is only the list of things that I find with regularity.  There are lots and LOTS of things they pull out for seasonal items (and/or, I just wonder if they’re trying out new products) that I can’t find and wouldn’t necessarily want to recommend you try to go hunt them in your local store… because I just don’t think you’ll find them.

My last disclaimer is that sometimes Aldi’s runs out of these things.  And they may not reappear for a week or so.  Honestly, when I find something that saves me huge money (like sprouted bread), I buy it up and freeze what I can.  Every Aldi’s is different, so if you’re new to shopping there, it might take a few weekly trips to figure it out.

Do you shop at Aldi’s?  What are your favorite finds?

*All images used with permission from Aldi’s within their media usage terms.

To return.

I’m back. I’m back in the kitchen, recovered from life, and ready to take this kitchen head-on.

Agrarian - Foodies Gone Real

It was a hard year.  And not that the hardness is over, but I’m moving forward again.  I was pretty stuck.  Financially, emotionally, spiritually. Hardly exercised, barely meal-planned, struggled to spend quiet times in the morning with my God. As with all things, there are lots of components to being stuck in a pit.  And while those things that put me there are still kinda hanging around, God’s gently raised my chin to Him and said, “Enough. I can get you out of this, but staring at the floor of the pit and complaining will do nothing to ease this up.”

I managed to keep the facebook page going in all of this – even if just for myself to remind myself that this was still here.  This thing I was called to was still here.  God didn’t tell me to stop, I just got tired.

I miss cooking.  I cooked a ginormous meal of homemade Korean dumplings with Einkorn Flour (courtesy of the new cookbook from Jovial … it’s really the best).  I cooked the entire thing from scratch. Took me nearly two hours. It was cathartic.  I felt at home again. I need to cook, need to create.

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So here I come.  I’m sick of this pit.  January – a fresh start reminded me of how much I was sick of sitting like this.  February, the second month, the second chance is here and I mean business. God’s got this.

 

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