Friday, December 18, 2015

Hey Again and REAL Clean Eating for 6 on a Budget

Hey strangers! I've been away from my blog for about four months now. Not for lack of desire- on the contrary I often have things bursting inside me to be written, but the time is just not there. Two of the reasons my time and energy have gone elsewhere:

   I went back to school! In August I felt a distinct calling to take on a new mission. Since then I have been working on my certification to become a birth and bereavement doula through an amazing, unique, collegiate-level, internationally-respected program called Stillbirthday University. While the certification makes you a fully licensed birth doula, it also has an additional aspect of learning how to support families during loss in all trimesters, and helping families through difficult pregnancies. My tiny Asher gave my life a brand new purpose, and I am eager to complete my training and begin helping families through all types of birth in every trimester. 
   The second reason I've been so absent: Asher sent us a rainbow! Remember that selfie in my last post, "A Day in the Homeschooling Life"? Yeah, that fluffy middle was the start of a bump. ;-) Due early spring is #6, another adorable little boy, and we could not be happier. 

   Now you know what's been taking my time from the blogging I've done for the last 11 years, here's why I'm finally sitting down to write: CLEAN EATING! That phrase has totally become a "buzz word" the last couple years, and judging by what people apply it to, it means something different for everyone. I've seen it applied to garbage-filled Shakeology mixes(read the label. It's nothing but highly-processed and indigestible food products, chemicals, and synthetic fillers), cereal bars with 12g of refined sugar in a single serving, chemical-filled and sugar-laden gluten-free mixes, and cold cuts and convenience meats(prepackaged nuggets, meatballs, etc) made from the throw-away ends of meats compacted together with gelatin, sodium, and chemicals.  For us it means no preservatives, as few chemicals, refined sugars, and refined, processed foods as possible. We also have the duty to feed our family this way being conscious of our littlest guy's many(and rare!) food allergies on a tight budget. It takes creativity, to be sure, but the main two ways we do this: buy in bulk and make your own food! It's shocking how much most American families have come to rely on highly processed, pre-packaged convenience foods. When I say that I make everything, right down to our breads, pasta sauces, and more from scratch most peoples' jaws drop and they exclaim, "Oh my goodness, I could never do that!" What might surprise them more is that it takes very little time and skill. Somewhere along the way, though, we lost the way from making our own food. It's long become a cliche that those who are low-income have no option but to buy cheap, processed foods, but this could not be further from the truth. I've been there- the one in line to get food stamps because my husband's job just didn't pay enough, and daycare for two little ones, one of which had special needs, was far more money than the salary as a teacher in New York State would pay so me working would be counter-productive. Did we eat Ramen Noodles? Yep. Every once in a while I broke out the Ramen, dumped in some frozen peas, and called it dinner when I needed something on the table fast for hungry little mouths. But whether you believe it or not, those heavily-processed garbage foods devoid of soluble nutrients are actually MORE expensive(not to mention AWFUL for your health) than real food. 
50 lbs. of chicken from Zaycon split into meal-size
portions for the freezer
 So back to that first point: We buy in bulk. Zaycon Fresh Foods has high quality, humanely-raised chicken for much less per pound than the cheapest chicken at Aldi or WalMart. The catch: You buy 50lbs of it at a time. Zaycon also has wild-caught(not the nasty, chemical-filled, sickly farm-raised nonsense of MOST grocery stores) North Pacific salmon for less than half the price of a similar product at the best grocery store. It's also MUCH fresher, because Zaycon gets it right from their fishing boats in Alaska, immediately vacuum sealed on-site, then puts it on the trucks and ships it to the buyers. Again, the catch is buying in bulk, 25 lbs at a time. We also buy beef in bulk, either by the quarter or half cow. We get all cuts from all parts of the cow, cut to our specifications, straight from the farmer who raises them humanely, no feed lots, no "fattening up" on GMO grains to raise the price by adding chemicals. Just good, healthy, grass-fed beef in all cuts- steaks, roasts, and everything- for a flat rate that is less per pound than decent quality ground beef at any grocery store.

A cart full of "clean eating," mostly organic groceries at Costco
 Another way we buy in bulk is a membership to bulk food stores. After trying Sam's Club, BJ's, and Costco(the membership prices for which are all comparable), we have found that the latter definitely meets our needs for unprocessed foods and quality, organic store-brand products the best. We can get a huge variety of raw, mostly organic, preservative-free ingredients in larger amounts that meet our family's needs at a much smaller unit price than most grocery stores, including Aldi and Walmart.
   For literal purposes, here's what we bought at Costco today that will last us at least two weeks and can be used MANY different ways:

  • 20 lbs sweet potatoes(used for hash, fries, mash, and in stews)
  • 20 lbs organic Yukon Gold potatoes(used for hash, mashed, home fries, soups, stews, roasted with herbs, and curries)
  • 2 5-lb bags of organic french-cut green beans (used in soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauteed with garlic and EVOO, and steamed)
  • 1 case(3 half-gallons) original Silk Almondmilk (used with cereal and oatmeal for breakfasts)
  • 4 lbs unsalted organic butter (Do you REALLY need to know all the ways I use butter? LOL!)
  • 3 lbs natural cultured sour cream (tacos, nachos, baking, Greek food, baking)
  • 6-pack large organic red bell peppers(used many ways in cooking, as well as roasting- tutorial here- and using roasted red peppers various ways like hummus, sandwiches, sauces for pastas and meats)
  • 5-lb bag organic dried "super fruit" blend(used for kid snacking and husband's lunches)
  • 3-pack organic cucumbers( used raw in salads, cut into strips for dipping in things like hummus and used in sandwiches and wraps)
  • 1-lb shaker tub of organic granulated garlic(like the butter, I put it in EVERYTHING where raw garlic cannot go)
  • 1-lb brick Asiago cheese(used in sauces, topping for pastas, meats, soups, and more)
  • 2 dozen large organic free-range eggs(fried with hash and scrambled with meats and veggies for breakfasts, and so much more)
  • 1-lb smoked wild-caught Norwegian salmon(special for Christmas morning)
  • 1-lb dried organic cherries(kid snacks, husband's lunches, added to pancakes, waffles, and muffins for flavor and fiber)
  • 2-liter jug of organic extra virgin olive oil(pretty much used everywhere that coconut oil or butter cannot)
  • 30-pack organic tortillas(quesadillas with cheese and/or chicken for lunches, breakfast burritos, soft-shell tacos, veggie wraps)
  • 3-lb bag organic corn tortilla chips(nachos with melted cheese, beans, seasoned meat, and veggies on top, dipped in hummus or homemade not-fried refried bean dip, snacking with salsa and other veggie dips)
Total spent: $155.79

After Costco, we go to the local grocery store(Kroger) for the remaining goods we by in smaller quantity or cannot get at Costco or the local natural foods market, Good Foods Grocery. This time we bought A LOT of extras for Christmas.
  • 2 lbs rotini pasta(used for 2 meals of the kids' requested cauliflower mac'n'cheese- recipe forth-coming!)
  • 2 bottles organic tomato juice(used for tomato-basil soup- my oldest's favorite meal to make the family!)
  • 2 tubs store-brand oats(used for oatmeal, granola, peanut-butter oat bars and more breakfast favorites)
  • Parchment paper(Christmas! )
  • 1 can crushed pineapple(Christmas!)
  • 1 large can pumpkin puree(Christmas!)
  • 5 lbs organic store brand all-purpose flour(Christmas baking to share!)
  • 5 packages store brand cream cheese(Christmas baking to share!) 
  • 6 lbs blocks of various store-brand cheeses
  • 1 jar organic seedless raspberry jam(Christmas baking)
  • 1 gallon organic store brand whole milk
  • 2 lbs local(Sausage Craft), preservative-free breakfast sausage
  • 6-lb organic, free-range roaster chicken on manager special
  • 2 boxes organic baby salad greens mix on manager special
  • 3 lbs organic lemons
  • 8-lb store brand bone-in ham(Husband's request for Christmas dinner)
  • Cilantro(Mexican-style dishes like nachos, tacos, salads, burritos, Thai-style stir fries and soups)
  • Basil(Italian-style dishes like pastas, meats, and soups, Thai-style soups, stalks and ends used for stock)
  • Flat-leaf parsley(Italian-style dishes, soups, and stock, guinea pig food)
  • 3 heads garlic(used everywhere, just like buttah)
  • 5 lbs yellow onions(again, like garlic)
  • 7 lbs organic bananas(kids eat them like crazy, then they turn into egg-free chia banana muffins when they brown)
  • 10 lbs organic carrots(guinea pig food, soups, stews, curries, raw sticks dipped in hummus, peanut butter, and more)
  • Celery
  • 3 lbs broccoli crowns(steamed, sauteed, stir fries, guinea pig food)
  • Cranberries(Christmas!)
  • 3 lbs Clementine oranges
  • 5 lb organic cabbage(sauteed with onions and ACV, put in soups, stir fries, and more) 
Total spent: $129
Our bi-weekly budget for groceries is $300, so that leaves us with about $30 for more fresh produce as needed before the next paycheck. 

This has gotten crazy long with my receipt lists, so I'll leave this here and promise that I'll be back with more recipes for how I use all this very soon. Have any questions? Ask away! I'm happy to answer ASAP. 


  1. We need prices like that up here in NY! I feel like if I went to Wegmans with your Kroger's list it would be well near $250!

    1. The location helps! NY is so incredibly over-priced in EVERYTHING.

  2. I love this! How do you keep all that produce fresh because I'm guessing you don't eat it all in 2 weeks before your next trip right?

    1. So glad you liked it! We do eat most of this(minus maybe some of the potatoes and yams that are shelf-stable) in 2 weeks. In fact, we usually try to keep somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-50 in the $300 budget for buying MORE fresh produce on the in-between Friday since my husband is paid bi-weekly. The shelf-stable things like yams, onions, and potatoes all have their own drawer in the kitchen where they stay dark, cool, and separate.