Tag Archive | shopping

Challenge update~Harder than I thought, Not giving up

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When I started out on this challenge I thought I had it all planned out and it was going to be fun and exciting to eat new and healthier foods. But, boy, was I wrong. It has been difficult. I have met resistance from my family. Even my kids are saying it is not worth it. Hubby thinks I am crazy. And Grandma doesn’t care one way or the other as long as she is fed 3 times a day. My son has had plenty of meltdowns because Mommy won’t buy him poptarts anymore. At least once a week, I have wanted to just give up, throw the towel in and let the family have back all their favorite junk. Hubby hasn’t helped by wanting to eat out ALL THE TIME.

I am not giving up! I am just rethinking my plan.

First, I am focusing on one thing at a time. I know I said not to overwhelm yourself and it was a case Do as I say, not as I do.

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Step one: Eliminating as much GMO’s from our diet as I can. 

So there are 4 specific items that I have heard could be GMO.

  1. Corn
  2. Wheat
  3. Sugar
  4. Potatoes

Corn is the number 1 thing I keep hearing warnings about being GMO. Which sucks because it’s the only darn vegetable I can get my son to eat. I have tried finding organic frozen corn and haven’t had very good luck. I emailed Publix and asked about their corn. They said they try to stay away from buying GMO corn. But this isn’t a 100% fix. I have also read you can’t even trust the corn from your farmer’s market or fruit stand. I contacted our local farm stand and sure enough they said yeah it probably is. WHAT!?!  So with that being said, I am just limiting our corn intake. Instead of every week, I am doing once in a while. I was able to find a very small bag of organic corn (frozen) at Publix for an insane amount of money. It would take 2-3 bags to feed my family, but worked out great for my corn casserole which only calls for a small amount.

Wheat is the next on my list. I have been going crazy looking for reasonable organic flour. We go through  A LOT of flour because we make most things from scratch. And $5.99 per 5 lb bag was not going to fit in our budget when I am buying 10-20 lbs a month. But after much research, I found that the King Arthur brand is Non-GMO. I pay $4.99 for a 10lb bag of regular flour and King Arthur is $7.99 for the same size bag. I can live with that. Plus I love that it is unbleached and the texture is light and fluffy.

Sugar was the next thing that perked my ears up. Some sugar is not made from sugar cane, but rather sugar beets which is GMO. So I did buy a few small bags of organic sugar that I found at Walmart on sale and added my coupons to it. Wasn’t too bad, but again I go through 10+ pounds of sugar a month. So not feasible. BUT after more research, Domino states on their facebook page that they do not use GMO sugar and it is from Pure sugar cane. Any sugar stating from Pure Sugar cane is good, anything else stay clear of.

Potatoes haven’t gone GMO yet. But the potato big wigs are petitioning to get GMO potatoes approved. Plus it is on the dirty dozen list so I figured let’s be safe and just go organic. I have found the best place is BJ’s for organic potatoes. They had a much bigger bag for the same price of Publix.

So out of my top 4 (and I am sure as I learn; I will add more) 2 items I can keep buying the brands I love, one item I will cut back on and the other I found a good deal. AWESOME!

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How I did my research.
I realized instead of reading a million books and each one saying something different; I would go straight to the source of all info, the internet.  I would search the name of my favorite brand or food item and add GMO at the end. It was literally that simple and in moments I would have my answer. This all started with my stress over oats. I heard all Quaker and Kelloggs were GMO. I assumed my oats were crap and I was looking for an alternative. I was stressed over the price compared to how much we eat, plus I give them to my chickens. Then I did a simple search; which said several times; there are no GMO oats. Which is why Cheerios can say they are GMO free! From here, I started thinking so what else have I been spending extra money on unnecessarily. Thus, my research began. Another tidbit I just learned is Popcorn is safe. No such thing as GMO popcorn!
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I am never going back
There were a few items that I found I loved and will be keeping in our regular diet. Coconut oil is my new favorite oil. I love the smell and it taste so clean. I did realize that I need to buy the bigger size at Costco compared to the one at BJ’s because we use it for everything. Frying, baking, seasoning my cast iron and most importantly making popcorn. Grass fed hamburger is the other item. For months, I kept complaining that the meat had a raunchy smell to it. And when I would make burgers, my hands had so much grease that I had to use dish soap to get them clean. It was gross. Well grass-fed meat has none of that. Plus I made an amazing steak the other day from grass-fed beef and my hubby loved it so much he ate the leftovers 2 days later and said it tasted even better.  And that is enough to make me a believer. Butter from Grass fed milk is another one. Yes I have to remember to sit it out so it softens but totally worth it. I have never tasted such wonderful butter. And let me tell ya, we love our butter. But now I am in Heaven.
Now the things I can’t make a commitment and change to a healthier item. Mayonnaise~ I bought this non-Gmo, organic, expensive brand and I hate it. The texture is funny and the taste is blah! We don’t use mayo a lot so I am willing to compromise and buy Duke’s olive oil mayo.
Organic dirty dozen fruits and vegetables are a must; along with any other great deal I find on organic produce. I sealed the deal on the decision the day I was driving down my back roads with my family. We drove past a strawberry field being prepped for planting season and we got hit with this awful smell. At first, I thought it was a skunk dead in the area, but then Hubby said that’s the stuff they spray on the fields. Needless to say, I was grossed out! So we are trying to grow a lot of own, but if we can’t then organic is the way we are going as much as possible.

 

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Getting challenge ready

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Creating a Master Menu

In my household, it is very easy to jump into the day and get caught up in all the things that need to be done. Homeschooling, laundry, cleaning, chickens and then there is meal time, by the time I get a chance to breathe it is 4:00 and I have no idea what’s for dinner. I need a plan. It’s one of many ways I keep my life organized and our budget on track.

This summer I took my meal planning to a whole new level. I went through my cookbooks (believe me there is a lot!) and made monthly menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner of all of my families favorites. I have enough menus for 5 months worth of dinners. We only have 1 or 2 months for breakfast and lunch, but are trying to expand on those also. We will begin using these menus in September. I love trying new recipes so the weekends are left opened for those. I also only use these during the school year. Summer is all about finding new favorites.

 

Creating a Monthly Grocery List

Another thing I am starting to do is a beginning of the month huge shopping. I make a grocery listing everything I need and then go through and cross off what I already have. From there, I go through and add things that I am getting low on that I know are necessities and we will need before the month runs out.

Now I break down the produce items by the week. Obviously, buying fresh produce for a whole month and expecting it to stay fresh until the end of the month is unrealistic. So I do a quick produce and milk shopping every week.

Why I do a monthly shopping
I live out in a rural area and it is not economical for me to be driving to the store multiple times. Not only that but I have a big family. So I choose to take one weekend to do my huge shopping. One day I drive North to BJ’s and stop at a Publix. And then a few days later, when I go to my mother in laws, I stop at Costco, Fresh Market and a Meat market if need be. These are all close to her house. I am technically not making an extra trip because I have to go pick up which ever kids are at her house anyways. Plus this just works for me. If I lived in the city or closer to these places, I probably wouldn’t shop monthly.

 

Where I Shop

I usually shop at BJ Wholesale, Publix and Walmart. In doing my research of the variety of products, I have decided to drop Walmart stores. The stores are very limited on in store organic or natural products, but online they have an amazing selection with some items cheaper than Amazon. Plus by shopping online and using the mypoints.com website you will earn points towards gift cards for Amazon, Walmart or Visa. I honestly cannot tell you how much I love this site. But that is another post.

 I also just recently purchased a Costco membership after reading many blog post about the amount of organic items and doing a walk-through of the store. I also did this through an email deal from MyPoints and earned extra points. So September will be my first month shopping there.
Near Costco, there is a meat market that sells grass-fed beef for the same price as regular beef at Publix. I am driving by so of course I am going to stop there and get my beef and anything else that looks good. Again I haven’t been there yet. This is based off of my research.
But I have been to the new Fresh Market by my Mother in Law’s house. AMAZING! It was a real food culinary dream. I will definitely be stopping there when I need fresh seafood. Very little meat is prepackaged, it all gets wrapped by the butcher when you order it. Plus they have an amazing bulk section.
I will post updates on my Facebook, instagram and of course here as to how this worked for me.
Throwing out all the junk
Now is the time to begin. Go through the house and throw out all the junk and buy all organic and natural items. NO!
The frugal side of me cannot suggest or even fathom doing this. I hate waste! It drives me crazy! Use what you got until it gone and then switch to the healthier version. This summer, we had already made the switch to organic milk because I was buying a half gallon for me, but realized it would be cheaper to just switch out our gallons for organic. My eggs are 90% farm fresh because my neighbors have been letting me buy their extras for next to nothing. Once in a while I buy eggs at the store and get the vegetarian eggs.
I am finally getting low on some items and I will be switching them over in September. I knew how awful vegetable oil is but I didn’t toss out what I had, I used it up and now can switch to coconut oil. My sugar is almost gone so I am switching to organic. And I am finishing up the meat in the freezer, but am hoping to buy 90% all natural, grass fed or wild for what I need to buy.
If you have some stuff that is unopened and really want to make the switch, then maybe donating to a local food bank is a great option for you. Remember no waste!
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Remember, nobody is perfect 100% of the time. There will be times when the kids are starving or your out running errands and you just NEED to have that Pumpkin Spice Latte to get you through. I know for a fact that this coming month is going to be hard for us because our Disney passes are back and we will be going almost every weekend. But we are going to try our hardest and not fret over the times we can’t. My goal is 80/20. If I am at home, I want to make a meal instead of loading everyone up and going out and then feeling yucky afterwards. I want to feel better not be strict. I want to know I am feeding healthy options to my family, instead of crap that does nothing to for the mind and body. But am I overly crazy about it? NO, just doing the best I can do. One day, week, month and food choice at a time.

I’m Southern and I can’t bake biscuits!?

I was born and raised Southern. But no matter what I do, I can’t bake biscuits! I have tried! And I can’t!

Every Southern Gal or Guy should be able to whip up a batch of homemade biscuits. It is a staple at meals in every southern home. But I can’t! And it’s frustrating!

I don’t know if I knead the dough to much. Or roll it out too much. I don’t know if I am suppose to use a rolling pin or if I am suppose to pat it out with my hands.

WHY? you ask. Because my mom, grandma or grandmom should have taught me right. Because that is what all good Southerners do. WELL…..they ain’t southern. I am only second generation born and raised southerner. And I am only half at that because my Dad was born….somewhere not in the south….because I don’t remember right now. But I know it was not in the south.

Anyways. My grandparents on my Dad’s side is from Illinois and my grandparents on my Mom’s side is from Jersey. And before anyone ask no I can’t make pasta from scratch either (though I might be able to but never tried).

Back to biscuits, it is embarrassing to buy a bag of frozen premade biscuits when you want some because you can’t make them.

Look here is the list to qualify as Southern:

Sweet Tea~ check

Cornbread~ check

Grits~ check

Chicken and Dumplings~ check

Biscuits~ NO!!!

So if anyone can help me out with some tips or a recipe. I am determined to learn how to make biscuits this summer. Though after all my attempts, my family may never want to see a biscuit again. BUT BY GOLLY, I am going to do it!

Here is my last sad attempt.

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It was a Bobby Deen recipe.

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Decent Flavor. But not light and fluffy at all.

Help!!!

Desperately Seeking good biscuit making tips.

Being Frugal and still have fun!

Last month, my family went and bought Season passes to Walt Disney World.

WHOA! What! Wait a minute! I know I have been posting on being frugal and then I just went and dropped a ton of money on Disney passes! How can that be? Well let me tell ya!

Back in the good ol’ days I could swipe a credit card and buy our passes and not even blink about. No biggie right? I’ll just pay it later or should I say Hubby would. Well then the economy apocalypse came and I didn’t have credit cards to rely on. All I had was cash. I knew our Disney days were numbered. I had been a passholder religiously since I was 13 years old. What was I going to do?

I ran across this website called Couponing to Disney  and I started reading about her ways of saving for Disney vacations. I thought I can do this. So the year my son was born I started a Disney fund. I would put all of the change we got when we would pay for something in a container. I also would have yard sales and sell items on craigslist. When those items sold, it went into the Disney fund. It took me a year to save up for passes and a weekend getaway. As soon as I cashed in a bought the passes we would start our next fund. Now the following year we got lucky, one of hubby’s distributors real screwed up an order of cabinet doors. Hubby sold the customer on them anyway but complained to the manufacturer. The manufacturer then issued us a refund and it was just enough to cover Disney passes.

This pass year I started adding more ways to save. When I would get gift cards, instead of going on a shopping spree for more things I didn’t need I put them toward groceries and put cash to equal the same amount into the fund. I also started using paid email websites to earn a little here and there. Any mail in rebates went in along with any random cash settlement checks from a lawsuit here and there. You know $2-$3 will add up over time. By the time Christmas and my birthday came around, I was only $300 short so hubby said take the cash as you present.

We also went out on a limb and planned a 5 day vacation. The kids and I pulled all of our gift cards together and have saved about $900 towards it. That is just from Christmas, birthdays and an awesome site called Mypoints.

This website gives you points per dollar you spend at well know retailers when you shop online. I did most of my Christmas shopping online this year and was able to rake up 15,000 points. Enough for about a $100 Walmart gift card.

These are just a few ways to be frugal but still have fun.

Our vacation is coming up in a week and 2 days (but who’s counting?). If you want to follow our trip, you can follow me on twitter  or instagram.

Back to Basics~Grocery shopping

We covered how to make a menu. Now lets cover how to grocery shop cheaply.

Shopping List~
After you have a menu plan, you will want to make a list. Gather all of those recipes and make a list of every ingredient you would need. Even if you know you have it, write it down. If you need the same item for different recipes write down how many or how much. Nothing will throw you off your meal making stride like needing 2 eggs and only having 1. Now go through your kitchen and mark off all the items that you have already. While you are doing this, write down any items that are essentials that you might be getting low on. For us that would be flour, sugar, milk, eggs and Hubby’s coffee, just to name a few.
Now time for our sale ads. Go through and write down any deals you see that would be beneficial to your family. Maybe there is a deal on toilet paper or razors. Stock up!
Coupons~
I use to be one of those mom’s who couldn’t buy anything without coupons. This was before the TV show made us look like freaks. Why did we need 20 bags of dog food when I don’t have a dog?  BECAUSE IT’S FREE!!! Then I saw the show and thought WOW I am spending a lot of time on couponing and coming home with a lot of junk I didn’t need just because it was cheap or free. It can be a double edge sword. You want to save money but you don’t want it to take away from your family time or become an obsession.
I still stockpile certain items using coupons. But everything I buy in excessive amounts is things that we use. Razors, shaving cream, body wash, shampoo, toliet paper and toothpaste are just a few items I keep a look out for deals and coupons. But I have 3 teenage daughters. If it was just me and my hubby, probably not.
Also having 4 kids, I keep a lot of snacks in the home. I always look for Buy one Get one (BOGOS) deals and coupons to match. This keeps my grocery bill down significantly. Once you get familiar with you store of choices sales, clipping coupons will be easy. I can go through a coupon book and know which coupons are good to clip based on what my store puts on sale. I also only clip coupons I know I will use.
But if your not into couponing, I have gone weeks by just making a list of what I need and sticking to it and never touching a coupon. It works just as well, you just have to resist those extra deals you might see in the store.
Now if you like the idea of coupons but don’t have time, try looking for a blog specific to the store of your choice. There are tons of bloggers out there that are doing the work for you. Just do a search for <Insert store name here> ad match ups. They will have all the deals listed with coupons for that item listed as well. They also show you the best deals of the week with a special symbol.
Prices~
I have been doing this for a while, so I have gotten pretty good at knowing my prices at the stores I like to shop at. Like I know for $14 I am going to get a little over 3 pounds of hamburger. But if I go to BJs, I will get over 6 pounds for around $15! Having a large family of predominant meat eaters this can be our most expensive category on the shopping list. But knowing where to get the most bang for you buck is the key. For me that would be a warehouse store. Again if it was just me and the Hubby, most likely not. You have to go what works for your family. Now if we were vegetarians, I would shop mostly at our local farmers market.
Which is another option, for fruits and vegetables, shop locally. If you are lucky enough to have a local farmers market then take advantage of the straight from farm approach. I have gotten some amazing deals shopping here.
For me the key, is to stick to a few stores and get to know them like the back of your hand.

Momma’s sick week

Last week I came down with a sinus infection that just really wiped me out. All I wanted to do was sit and rest, watch TV and drink Sprite. But as a stay at home~schooling mom whose husband works from home that was not happening. Instead of trying to be Supermom and keep doing everything, I made some adjustments to our days so that I had some moments of rest. I think it is the first time in years that when I got sick I took sick days and didn’t feel guilty at all. Life still went on and school went on but without me being in the middle of it. And I honestly think it was good for the kids.

First thing was school. It was more of independent learning. I would say the lessons and activities I wanted completed and they would go about and do their thing. Now everyday I did manage to do History and Science with them and grade some papers before I was spent. And my lil man did keep on doing preschool work, just a little less than usual. Which of course he was fine with.

Unfortunately, I picked the wrong week business wise. Hubby is working on some solid surface countertops, which is like a stone countertop, and he needed me all week for moving and lifting and flipping. So that was where my focus was, helping him and resting in between. I would lay with my sprite and tv until he called, go out back, help, come back and rest.

I delegated the cooking to Cailin because she is an aspiring chef. I even drove my two oldest up to Publix with a grocery list and money and waited in the parking lot while they shopped.  All the girls helped out with the Dakota, fixing him lunch, snacks and drinks. Daddy even put him to bed one night which never happens, because he is a Momma’s boy. It was nice. My hubby tried to get me to rest more, by telling me to let the kids be kids and just rest and watch movies, but then 5 minutes later he would call for help. It was a nice thought though.

All in all, I did realize that my children are getting to that age where I can ask more from them when I need to. But I also realized that they too are becoming independent little adults and don’t need me as much. Which means pretty soon they will be off on their own with their lives and families and not momma’s little babies no more. So bittersweet.

2014 homeschooling schedule

I am excited for this new chapter of schooling. I made some changes that I hope and pray will work because I just don’t know if I can handle throwing out and starting over part 3. Originally we were doing 6 weeks of school and then a 2 week break. This was idea when my kids were younger, but now we are in middle school. And honestly 6 weeks isn’t enough time to fit in all the learning that we wanted to do. Basically any hands on activity and field trips got pushed to the back burner. They have burned to a crisp by now.

Plus I realized when the holidays were upon us, there just wasn’t enough time to do our regular homeschool routine and celebrate with fun activities. So, of course, all the fun was sucked out again. Also I felt like I was always rushed to shop and entertain and homeschool and EVERYTHING!!! I didn’t get to enjoy it!

Well I have found a schedule that will fix all that. January through May, we are doing school consistently with a week off in March for Spring Break. Our spring break will be different every year because we will coordinate with my oldest daughters school schedule. They will also have the occasional day off here or there.  We will wrap our school year up in May and have June and July off for summer break. Then in August we will start our new school year and homeschool strong with the occasional day off through to Thanksgiving. The week of Thanksgiving will mark our Holiday break. We will be off until after the first of the year.

This schedule is just for my older kids. My preschooler will be doing school all the time. His schedule is a little more relaxed. We usually do school 3-4 days a week. And he needs consistency to keep up with what he is learning. These breaks are the perfect time for some one on one time with mommy.