Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Food Budget Update 2011 - March Update

My household food budget remains the same for 2011 - $200 to 225 a month (the extra $25 is for when I find a great deal on protein or other bulk items).  I thought I'd periodically post my expenses throughout the year of 2011 to show that yes, it is possible to eat Paleo on a Budget.

Another month has come and gone, which means I have to sit down and figure out the damage to the food budget.  I knew it would be under budget this month - the big box of apples my friend passed on to me, along with the oranges from my ex's tree, meant I haven't had to buy fruit for the last two weeks. If I didn't have those, I know I'd be toeing that $200 mark really really closely.

Here is the screenshot of my March Budget Sheet (you should be able to click on it to get a larger version):

The recent increase in food prices has startled me to no end.  Egg prices went up 60 cents for the 18-packs, which means I buy less, and the few condiments that we do eat seem to be more and more expensive.  I have a feeling that I'll have to spend one of my "non-kid weekends" revising my price book.  *sigh*  That's a super job in itself but the benefits are well worth it.


I just wanted to apologize to everyone who has commented on this blog in the last week.  It seems that Blogger has suddenly decided to stop emailing me when someone leaves a comment.  *sigh*  It also decided to get super-vigilant on comment spam, so a few comments were tossed into the moderation folder with no notification to me. 

I didn't notice this until this morning, when I went wandering through the back pages and discovered a bunch of comments that I hadn't read yet.  I'm hoping *crosses fingers* that this is fixed now...but just in case, for the next few weeks I plan to check my comments page every night so I can reply to questions in a timely manner.

I did take the time this morning to reply to everyone's comments, so if you've posted something in the last week or so, go check the post for my reply.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tweaking Sizes - Just Another Way To Deceive Shoppers

Remember my previous post about stores being deceptive?  Well, now it looks like the manufacturers are getting into the game too. 

From the NY Times Article titled Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags:   
 With unemployment still high, companies in recent months have tried to camouflage price increases by selling their products in tiny and tinier packages. So far, the changes are most visible at the grocery store, where shoppers are paying the same amount, but getting less.

For Lisa Stauber, stretching her budget to feed her nine children in Houston often requires careful monitoring at the store. Recently, when she cooked her usual three boxes of pasta for a big family dinner, she was surprised by a smaller yield, and she began to suspect something was up.

“Whole wheat pasta had gone from 16 ounces to 13.25 ounces,” she said. “I bought three boxes and it wasn’t enough — that was a little embarrassing. I bought the same amount I always buy, I just didn’t realize it, because who reads the sizes all the time?”
Of course, eating a Paleo diet limits our vulnerability to these sorts of marketing schemes, thanks to limiting our intake of processed foods, but it is still something to watch when you're shopping.  Your normal 5 lb bag of chicken from Costco may quietly change to a 4.5 lb bag with no difference in price.  Or that 3 lb bag of prepackaged apples that you always buy the kids might drop to 2 lbs.

It's important to not just look at the size of the package but also the price.  I find myself doing a lot of "price per ounce" or "price for each" sort of calculations while standing in the grocery aisle, so I can compare apples to apples (pun not intended) and ensure that I'm getting the best price.  The calculator on your cell phone is the greatest tool ever for this or you can find apps for your iphone or android that can help you calculate and track these prices.

Remember, it's your job to protect yourself and your wallet from these sorts of "deceptive pricing" methods.  It only take a few seconds to stop and think - "Is this the best price I can get?"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mealtime At Our House

I sat down to write a blog entry today....but everything I started ended up being a rambling post about life, liberty, and the pursuit of the Paleo Lifestyle.  (I guess working on my fiction pieces before I blog is a bad idea, huh?)

So, instead, I thought I'd post a few paleo-friendly pictures I found on my camera last week:

See the green and white 8 lb bucket o' lard?  For some reason, that bucket gets the most comments from visitors.

"You eat lard!?!?!?!  Ewwwww...."

Thankfully, they don't see the plastic container of "chicken fat" I have in the fridge from the last time I made chicken broth.  Yum!

(And yes, those are potatoes frying in the little cast iron pan.  I know that potatoes aren't Paleo, but we eat them anyway.  They're cheap, don't affect my blood sugar, and extra yummy when they're fried in lots of lard or chicken fat.  My thought is - it comes from the ground and has no additives or preservatives, so why not eat some in moderation?  80/20 Rule, right?  ;-)  )

Dinner 1:
Chicken and carrot stew
Braised cabbage and onions
1/2 cup of fried potatoes
Salad greens with avocado and ranch dressing
Pear (for the kids only)

This was a super yummy meal - I used up the last of the chicken broth and the more "interesting" carrots to make this stew.  I'll have to repeat it again but next time, use more garlic.

 Dinner 2:
BBQ Chicken
German-Style Red Cabbage
Salad greens with avocado and ranch dressing

One of my old standby "quick meals" - saute onions and garlic in a pan, dump in cooked chicken and BBQ, turn down heat and let it simmer until cooked chicken starts to fall apart.

(Can you tell I was in a salad mood last week?)

Dinner 3:
Hamburger patties (handmade with 80/20 ground beef)
Fried potatoes
Salad greens with avocado and ranch dressing

This is my kids' favorite way to eat ground beef - there is much happy dancing when they realize that we're having hamburgers minus the buns...and thankfully, it's a pretty simple meal.

Dinner #4:

London Broil
Fried Potatoes (no, those weren't all mine - I was in the processes of serving off of my plate when I took the pic)

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Health Update - March 2011

Since January 1st of this year I have:
  • Lost 10 lbs without really trying. (total - 55 lbs lost)
  • Lost a full 3 inches around my waist.  (total - 8.5 inches) (Of course, this means all the pants I bought in December now hang off of me.  Thankfully, a friend has offered to take them in for me.)
  • Brought my blood pressure down to an all-time low - I'm now in the "high normal" range.  It took two medications to get it down to that range in my pre-Paleo year.  WOOHOO!
  • Seriously kicked my addition to coffee.  I now drink hot green tea, which is a lot less caffeine than what I used to drink.
So, as you can see, there has been some great progress - and that's without really trying!

Meal Planning -

I came to a surprising realization a couple weeks ago - my body is most happy when I eat 2 large meals a day.

I discovered this during a string of super-busy-days where I somehow forgot to eat lunch.  (Yeah, I know.... I forgot to eat lunch.  HA!  Now that's busy!)  The funny thing is...I didn't get hungry until almost 4 PM and my energy didn't slump at all.  I actually felt good!

As an experiment, I decided to continue with that schedule, upping my breakfast a little to compensate for missing a meal.  The experiment worked out so well, I've just continued eating that way ever since.  Now, I eat breakfast around 8 AM (4 eggs, 3 sausage links, fruit) and dinner around 5 PM (protein, veggie, carb), with a piece of fruit around 11 PM as a bedtime snack.  I still have good energy all day long and I sure save time not having to mess with lunch prep.

(And before anyone asks, yes, my kids still eat 3 square meals with a snack in between lunch and dinner.  This just affected my eating schedule.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Article Link - Gluten: What You Don’t Know Might Kill You

It's been blessedly quiet around these parts lately - the kids have been compliant, the fridge full, and work busy.   I've been enjoying the out-of-ordinary peace because, as you know, it won't last very long.  ;-)

I did want to jump on here and share an article I found via Twitter - "Gluten: What You Don't Know Might Kill You".  As many of you know, Gluten Intolerance is what pushed me into the Paleo lifestyle and I'm thankful every day that I was able to reclaim my life - every-other-day migraines suck.

I find this quote interesting:
"There was a 39 percent increased risk of death in those with celiac disease, 72 percent increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten, and 35 percent increased risk in those with gluten sensitivity but no celiac disease.
This is ground-breaking research that proves you don’t have to have full-blown celiac disease with a positive intestinal biopsy (which is what conventional thinking tells us) to have serious health problems and complications–even death–from eating gluten.
Yet an estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. They ascribe their ill health or symptoms to something else–not gluten sensitivity, which is 100 percent curable."
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rant - Low Income and Food Programs & A Question

*** Sorry for the rant but I had to get it out...  I do have a reader question at the bottom - please scroll down and help me find paleo-friendly, preferably freezer-friendly apple recipes... ***

By our society's standard, my family is considered "low income".  Personally, I don't feel like we're hovering around the poverty line (boy, that was a hard word for me to write) - we have a roof over our heads, a warm floor heater to curl up around on a cold days, and plenty of wholesome food to eat.  I feel blessed every day I get to spend with my kids and doing what I love to do (write) - if I have to keep my expenses low to do so, then that's what I do.

A friend of mine recently started pushing me to take advantage of all the food programs available to lower-income families.  I brushed her off - why should I take free food when I can feed us just fine?  I know there are plenty of families in the valley that are worst off than me right now.  I don't want to take food out of their mouths!  I've also noticed that a lot of the food given away at those programs is pre-packaged or grain-filled - things I can't eat - so why waste the gas?

A few weeks ago, my friend's church became a local distribution point for Second Harvest, the valley's food bank.  She started volunteering there every Tuesday morning, helping the crew sort, bag, and distribute.  At the end, any leftovers or unwanted items are given to volunteers who want them.  She fills her trunk full of leftover food, which she then distributes to her friends and neighbors.

In the past few weeks, I've received small amounts of produce (apples, oranges, carrots, potatoes, onions) to help supplement what I buy at the store.  It's not enough for a full week - maybe a couple days - but as I tell her all the time, "Every little bit helps."  (She also has a large garden plot at her church - I invest a few hours of shoveling, lifting and weeding every month, so when the harvest comes in, I get a small share.  Garden-fresh tomatoes ROCK!)

Anyway, she called me today to tell me they just finished the distribution and that she had a few perishables she wanted to drop off.  She arrived with a huge box of apples (there must be at least 110 apples in there), 2 huge red cabbages, about 4 lbs of potatoes, 4 lbs of onions, 5 oranges, 3 packages of chicken legs (@ around 2.5 lbs each), and 2 dozen eggs.

"Did you leave anything behind?" I asked as I helped her carry it all in.

"We had a lot of leftovers today."

She went on to explain that people were passing up the more expensive fruits and vegetables to get an extra loaf of bread, another box of cereal, or canned foods.

This news was unsettling to me to say the least.  Now don't get me wrong - I can understand why a homeless individual would rather have the non-perishable items than fruits and vegetables.  But if you have a fridge, why pass up the more expensive produce for a box of cereal or loaf of bread you can get at Big Lots or Dollar Store for $1.

I know...I's all about priorities.  My priority is to feed my family a whole foods / paleo diet while keeping costs down.  I have many friends who are willing to feed their kids boxes of sugar and preservatives just because it's cheaper and easier.

It's my belief that until we change that attitude, our country will just continue to decline into the depth of obesity and all of its related diseases....


Source I sit here, trying to figure out what to do with 110 apples.  We are big apple eaters...but there's no way we're going to get through that many apples before they go bad.  I was thinking applesauce, but we're not big applesauce eaters.

My question to you is - do you have any good paleo-friendly, preferably freezer-friendly apple recipes?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Paleo Survey

Naturally Engineered is currently looking for Paleo/Primal people to participate in the 2011 Paleo Community Survey.  It's simple...quick...and painless.  You'll be done in about 3 minutes, if you're fast reader!  So, head on over there and take the survey...and while you're there, check out their great site too!

(Thanks to Primal Toad for the heads up!)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

State of the Freezer - 03/2011

I spent most of yesterday afternoon blanching, cooking, and bagging broccoli.  When I finished, I had 28 bags of broccoli ready to be frozen. 

Of course, the real issue was finding room in my small "over fridge" freezer.  It was already at about 80% capacity.  Considering that I had just spent 3 hours over a hot pot of boiling water while keeping the kids out of the way of the landlord' handyman, I was in no mood to play Freezer Tetris, so everything was tossed into the fridge to be dealt with this morning.

So, after everyone had breakfast, I stuck the baby gate in the kitchen door to keep my "helpers" out from under my feet and emptied the freezer all over the kitchen floor.  I sorted, evaluated, and stacked until I finally found the back wall.  Then I reloaded it all back into the freezer, stacking and organizing, trying to make room for the newest inmates. 

Surprisingly, with the inventive use of a old laundry detergent bucket and a shoebox, not the mention pulling out a bag of cooked chicken and 3 chicken broths for dinner tonight, I actually found room for everything.  Above in a picture of my freezer post-re-packing.  Crazy, huh?  See those big bags on the right?  Those are turkey bones and skin from the great "Turkey Roast" of late December.  I put those there to remind me to make broth soon.

Cross your fingers that we eat some of this stuff before it avalanches.  ;-) 

(And before anyone asks, the "cloth covered" item on the left is our "booboo bag" of frozen vegetables.  I keep it wrapped in the pillow case to remind me that it's not for food but rather for when someone gets hurt.  The frozen veggies mold around little (or big) arms and legs better than ice cubes.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Broccoli Revisited

Have you ever wondered what 14.5 lbs of broccoli looks like? 

Yes, you're seeing that right.  That's FIVE grocery bags full of broccoli crowns.

So, you may be asking WHY did I buy 14.5 lbs of broccoli?

To freeze, of course!  I couldn't pass up the "37 cents / lb" sale at Lucky's this weekend. 

I see a LOT of blanching in my future, don't you?

Of course, you get a LOT of strange looks when you arrive at the checkout with a large amount of broccoli in your cart.  The cashier asked me, "Are you making broccoli soup?"  LOL

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Weightloss and Wintery Cold

This winter has been hell for me.  Yes, I know I don't live where it snows - that would just be torture now - but our area has had some unusual moments of "freezing cold" this winter.  It doesn't help that my little apartment just isn't build for those sorts of temps. 

That's where my weight loss comes in.  Having lost 55+ lbs, I no longer have that "insulation" to keep me warm.  I guess my internal thermostat hasn't had enough time to reset to the change, so I've spent most of this winter freezing my tootsies off.  Worst of all, it's that "internal cold" that no amount of sweaters or coats can quell.  Thankfully, taking a "hottest shower known to man" warms me back up.  (Thank god I don't have to pay THAT water bill.)

But the strangest development of all is the sudden development of Raynaud's Disease in my left index finger, my right pinky finger, and a couple toes.  For those of you who don't want to follow that link, here's a quick explanation from the Mayo Clinic:
"Raynaud's Disease is a condition that causes some areas of your body — such as your fingers, toes, tip of your nose and your ears — to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress. In Raynaud's disease, smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas."
I first noticed this during our first big winter storm.  It was rainy and icy cold and I had left my gloves in the house.  I was standing in line at the grocery store, holding one of those handbaskets full of food when I felt this "tight / numb" feeling in my finger.   I looked down and was shocked to see it had turned a pale white.  I thought maybe I had pinched a nerve or something while holding the basket and I didn't worry, since it went away after some rubbing.

The attacks became more and more persistent as our cold winter progressed - always when I was out and about and away from my computer so I never remembered to look it up.  It was more of an annoyance than anything else - something strange my body has decided to do.

It wasn't until mid Feb or so that I had an attack while sitting at my desk.  Having had enough of these "strange" attacks, I finally consulted Dr. Google.  The answer was quick and painless - Raynaud's Disease.  It's not life threatening, just annoying. 

I now know, after some experimenting, that my attacks are from sudden change in temp - like touching a freezing cold steering wheel or stepping into the cold from a nice warm house or car.  Any sort of wind or rain exasperates it. 

Thankfully, some warm water (to warm up whatever is spasming) and rubbing (to get the blood flowing again) will quickly end an attack.  To prevent them, I finally invested in some new gloves - a pair of "wind resistant" / "water resistant" ones for outside and some wool fingerless gloves for when I'm in the house.  (My hands seem to be cold all the time now - I guess I'm more conscious of my hand temp now.)

Of course, now that I've got this mystery solved, winter is slowly coming to an end.  It'll be warm again soon and I won't need those $25 gloves for another 9 months or so.  I can only pray that my body's internal thermostat will finally reset this summer - I don't know if I can take another winter of freezing my butt off!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Link Love - 3/9/2001

I finally had time yesterday to sit down and clean out my Google Reader.  Yah!  Of course, I still have some podcasts to listen to...but that's another week, right?

Anyway, I wanted to share with you some cost-saving ideas I saw over at Mom's Plan - 7 Ways to Use Your Freezer to Save at the Grocery Store.  Thought not all of the ideas are "paleo friendly" there are a few that could help you save a few bucks this year.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Social Media Updates

Hi everyone!   This is just a quick note to announce that "Paleo on a Budget" has stepped into the 21st century.  Yes, I've finally add a little social media to spice up our lives. 

There is now a Facebook fan page and a link to my Twitter account where I discuss Paleo, life as a single mom, and other oddities that pop into my head.  Links are in the column to the right....

I hope you'll join in the conversation.  If there's anything you'd like to see or have any suggestions / tips for me about social media, feel free to leave me a message below.  Thanks!

Menu Planning - Does It Work For You?

On my last Food Budget Update, Kicking Carbs asked me:
Do you menu plan for 2 weeks or the month?
I am starting to think I can save more money if I go for the month.
Wow - now that's a loaded question!  I know of many bloggers who plan their meals down to how much ketchup and mustard they need, and then use that menu as their shopping list.  They swear that this saves them lots of money and time.

I, on the other hand, do not do any sort of menu planning.  Don't get me wrong - I've tried to in the past and it just doesn't work well for me.  My meat and produce purchasing revolves around what's on sale, and as you know, there are some weeks there aren't any good sales.  Also, my schedule changes on a daily basis, so it's hard to tell one or two weeks in advance if I'm even going to be home...never mind what I'll be in the mood to eat that night!

Instead I do the "stock the house and see what happens" method.  I stock the freezer when meat and chicken are on sale and buy enough fruit and vegetables to get us through a week or two. I also try to have the pantry and fridge stocked with the veggies, spices, and other ingredients I need to make the "default" side dishes that both the kids and I like.

Every morning, after breakfast, I go spelunking into the freezer for a dinner protein.  As I peruse the selections, I ask myself, "What's in here?, "What's in the fridge?",  "Any leftovers that we need to eat?", "What did we eat the last couple of days?", and most importantly, "What am I in the mood for?".  Once the protein is selected, I pick a couple complimentary sides and (TA-DAH!) dinner is planned.

Yes, there are those rare times where the morning is crazy and I forget to take something out.  Those are the nights we have "breakfast for dinner" (eggs, sausage, and fruit) or one of our "emergency meals" (frozen leftovers).  Thankfully, those moments are getting more and more rare as dinner prep is now part of my routine.

So, what about you?  Do you menu plan?  How do you do it?  Does it save you money and time?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Link Love - Men's Journal Article

Here is another article about nutrition I found through my Low Carb Forum:

Everything You Know About Nutrition Is Wrong, from Men's Journal.
By the way, that same Low Carb Forum has a Paleo Board.  Come join us!

Don't waste it! Blanche it!

In my weekly grocery shopping spree, I ran across a great price on fresh broccoli crowns.  In my haste of taking advantage of the sale, I didn't listen to the logical of my brain that was screaming, "STOP!"  It wasn't until I got home that I realized the truth - the three of us couldn't eat all of that fresh broc before it went bad.  *smacks forehead*  Duh!

So, I decided right then and there to do the next best thing to eating it fresh - blanch and freeze.  (You can find instructions on how to blanch and freeze broccoli here.)  After an hour of work, I had 7 lbs of chopped, blanched and individually-bagged servings of broccoli waiting to go into the freezer.  Yum!

Since I had the hot water boiled, I flash-blanched a couple bunches of asparagus.  Now, all I have to do is quick fry them in some butter before serving along side tonight's dinner.  Double yum!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Food Budget Update 2011 - Feb Update

My household food budget remains the same for 2011 - $200 to 225 a month (the extra $25 is for when I find a great deal on protein or other bulk items).  I thought I'd periodically post my expenses throughout the year of 2011 to show that yes, it is possible to eat Paleo on a Budget.

Today's goal was to go through all of February's grocery receipts and see where I stood financially for the month.  I had been dreading this for the last week - I had a feeling I was really close (or maybe a little over) on my budget, thanks to a chicken sale at Lucky's last weekend. 

Here is the detailed information I entered into my budget doc this morning:

Writing this all down, I realized something - the kids eat a lot of bananas and our selection of vegetables are limited, to say the least.

Sprout's vegetables prices are outrageous right now - they claim that the recent freezing temps and storms have ravaged their suppliers, so their prices are up.  I've been resorting to buying our vegetables from the Asian market down the street where I can get broccoli crowns for 99 cents a lb and all types of cabbage for .99 cents and under, along with a few of our other favorites (carrots, celery, cucumber, onion, etc.)

No one is complaining in the sudden drop in variet.  You'd be surprised at what you can do with cabbage.  ;-) Thankfully, my son, Mr. "I-don't-like-anything-green", has developed a sudden love for broccoli and stir-fried cabbage and onions.  It makes dinner a heck of a lot easier.

I have to clean out the freezer this weekend and take stock on what we have left.  Once side is finally empty enough that I can start to buy frozen vegetables again (that will help add to the variety) but of course, that means we're getting low on meat again.  Taking inventory will let know what to keep an eye out for when I'm grocery shopping.  We can't let the beef/chicken supply dwindle...not in this house!

***Edited to add - 2 seconds after I hit "publish" my logical side popped on and I realized why my numbers didn't look right - stupid excel.  It's fixed....and everything is 100% correct to my knowledge.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gary Taubes' Interview on Dr Oz

Please excuse the silence here - I'm working on a couple other side projects that require my full attention this week.  I can always tell when I get caught up in a project - my Google Reader has a 600+ backlog of blog entries and my podcast queue is piling up.  Maybe some day I'll get caught up...

But until then, I wanted to share a link that was posted on the lowcarber forum I frequent:

Gary Taubes' Interview on Dr. Oz's Radio Show - Part 1


Gary Taubes' Interview on Dr. Oz's Radio Show - Part 2

I don't know how long these will stay up, so go have a listen when you have a moment...