What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Friday, March 16, 2012

Grocery Day (the no groceries challenge conclusion)

The no groceries challenge was an interesting experiment that taught me a few things:

Firstly, that it wasn't as hard as I had anticipated! Having a chest freezers full of meat, canning shelves full of canned food and wheat berries enough to last until 2020 (slight exxageration, people.) really makes things easy. We wouldn't actually STARVE for a long time! But boy did I really miss our weekly binges on bananas and daily binges on milk and....my much coveted food- cheese.

A key factor in stretching a grocery budget (or an empty cupboard) is to make things from scratch. It is no surprise that when you stock up on staple ingredients- you can stretch your cupboards far more than when you stock up on convenience foods. A bag of flour, for example, costs about as much as a loaf of bread but you can get a whole lot more bread out of a bag of flour than just one loaf. A bag of rice costs pennies more than a box of Rice A Roni and will feed your family a much longer time. Same with dried beans versus canned, bags of sugar instead of premade sweets, etc.

I was very pleased that (besides sugar) I had many staple ingredients on hand to work with and I know that stretching four weeks (unexpectedly) before another grocery day wouldn't have gone so smoothly had I not had basic, necessary staples.

A second thing I learned was that I had been buying more convenience foods than I ever thought I was. As you could see from our daily menus, our family has a snack time in the afternoon and I would often buy things like crackers, pretzels, and the occasional bag of cookies for them. Not having access to these quick snacks, I had to be creative and start from scratch. I liked it. But it also required more forethought. Making homemade usually does. I am going to try to limit the overpriced store snacks and be more intentional about making things in the future, especially at snacktime.

Another valuable change I noticed was that since moving I had become lazy at bread baking, opting instead to buy whole wheat sandwich bread from the store. Being forced to start making it again was just the impetus I needed to make the switch back to homebaked bread. They are healthier; they are fresher; they TASTE better; they are cheaper. And, by golly, I already HAVE the wheat. But our family goes through a phenomenal amount of bread each week which leaves me having occasional flour-induced meltdowns having sandwiches everyday, so I have decided I need to begin offering a more varied lunchtime meal and save the sandwich eating for just a few times a week.

Of course, the sandwiches lend some ease as we use paper plates at lunchtime making it a virtually dish-free meal! It sure would be nice to get a dishwasher before I have the dishes of three prepared meals a day to contend with. (BIG hint there, Mattie.)

A few ideas I have come up with for a sandwich-free lunch is:

  • pasta salad
  • rice and bean salad with corn
  • tuna, egg, ham, or chicken salads on a bed of lettuce
  • soup
  • summer sausage and cheese crackers
  • wheat berry salad

I would love any suggestions, if you care to share!

And now- here are the result of my shopping day.

If you are a grocery cart watcher (I am too!), this is for you.

I bought:

5 lb. bag of sugar

3 gallons of milk

10 lb. bag of onions

5 lbs of bananas

5 lbs bag of apples

2 lb block of sharp cheddar

2 boxes of Toasty Oats

2 lbs unsalted butter

2 large containers of yogurt (1 lb a piece?)

2 half gallons of ice cream

Wegmans Club-size Spring Lettuce Mix

Wegmans Club-size grape tomatoes

5 lbs Mozzerella (Wegmans Club Size)

4 lbs of Ketchup

To celebrate grocery day: for dinner we had~

prepared boneless BBQ chicken wing wraps and steak fries

(a bag of steak fries, prepared BBQ chicken pieces, tortillas-and the lettuce and mozzerella from above)

1 package of diapers (this money came out of the 'non food envelope)

100 lbs of cracked corn (chicken feed) (this came out of the livestock fund)

16 lbs cat food (this came out of the livestock fund)

I try to buy in bulk where ever I am able, so this should last us just fine for a few weeks (except the milk, of course.)

Notice I didn't buy any bread OR any snacks? I told you I was going to make from scratch more often!

I figured with the money I saved by not buying those things, I could "celebrate" my resolve (and self-restraint) by buying myself flowers. (Do you see how I justify splurges? By 'celebrating'? I am terrible.)

I bought the most gorgeous bouquet of bright yellow ranunculus and a pot of heavenly-smelling hyacinth.

It is taking every ounce of restraint not to selfishly put the hyacinth by my bed so I can go to sleep and wake up with its scent in my nose. I put it instead, on the table, for everyone to enjoy.

But what I wouldn't give for a hyacinth by my bed....that is the stuff of queens.


Anonymous said...

No potatoes? They are one of my must haves...I'm like you with flowers...it's a treat I give myself each week...whether it's a 3.99 bouquet from Aldi...or a little pot of something blooming. I have a mini daffodil I got for 78 cents yesterday, she's addorable and I'll plant her in the yard when her blooms are spent. I used to put a vase of roses on my night stand so I could smell them. If you can buy only one rose get Mr. Lincoln, a beautiful burgundy color and very fragrant. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us...I really enjoy your blog.


Bonnie said...

I quit buying crackers and bread a long time ago, and don't regret it. And get this: On the rare occasions when I *HAVE* to buy them, my children's disposition changes drastically. For the worse.
B. is a cereal junkie and insists on the sweet stuff, so I do buy a big bag of that every 5-6 weeks (he only eats it when he is home. Sundays, and some Saturdays. The kids get a little bit mixed in with their cheerios. A treat, but not a sugar fix.
We eat a lot of sandwiches too, but I discovered (for us anyway) that 2 loaves of brad on Monday gets us through to Friday, and 2 loves of bread on Friday works out just past Monday.
Because of B.'s work schedule we eat pretty scheduled, so for us that has cut out on snacks (hallelujah), but I do buy a bag of pretzels every other week or so. Relatively "healthy" satisfying, tasty and CHEAP!
Changing what I buy, not buying certain things and skipping convenience foods, has freed up the budget for more organic, which makes me sooo happy!

I'm a cart watcher too-I almost hugged a lady and her kids in front of me in line once when I saw their cart full of produce and non-junky cereals, etc. Darn near cried when she pulled out her food stamps. To save her the embarrassment of some crazy lady in the grocery store scene (moi), I decided *not* to tell her how happy I was to see somebody using food stamps wisely, and that I was honored my tax dollars were helping her. But I thought it.

Now I need to go finish my list, so I can scoot out the door to grocery shop as soon as B. gets home.

Bonnie said...

* The kids get a little sweet cereal only when Daddy is home. Forgot that and it was bugging me.

stephaniegiese said...

You really are an inspiration for me to be less lazy! Some of our go-to non-sandwich lunches are broccoli cheese baked potatoes, or baked potatoes with sloppy joe meat, soup, ham & cheese roll-ups (just a slice of cheese rolled up with a slice of ham) stuffed tomatoes or peppers when they are in season, a green salad with chicken and mac n cheese with hotdogs. Isn't it funny how when you are thinking of ideas for other people it's easy, but I will still stand at my own pantry and think "I have no idea what to feed this family right now."

Regina said...

Lunch suggestions--this is based on our *forced* dietary changes (diabetis)--I rotate these 3 lunches, adding in variation as needed: Wraps, Leftovers, Salad

I've looked up all kinds of recipes on allrecipes.com and came up with some really neat wraps and salads, so it's all good. Before my mixer bit the dust, we made our own tortillas, but now we just buy the whole grain, corn and whole wheat ones. I know...not cost effective, but healthier than white tortillas and definately less carbs than a piece of bread. The "standby" for just in case there isn't any leftovers (it has happened before) is sandwiches. :) For that the kids use regular 12 grain bread and I use a Sandwich round. One little sandwich round has the same carbs as a piece of bread, only I can make a sandwich with a sandwich round. They're like flat bread pre-split. :)

As for salads, we add cottage cheese, sunflower nuts and shredded cheese for protien. For variation, we add almonds, mandarin oranges (canned in juice) or perhaps a taco salad. :)

I love flowers too! We just bought a beautiful fuschia orchid for the front window a couple weeks ago. I think I have some pictures on my blog. :)


ulli said...

What a wonderful post! I am a shopping cart watcher as well. So interesting to see what people are buying. Hubby would call me nosy, but I'm really just interested. I've even had someone stop me and comment on the beer in my cart. We had a nice conversation! I may or may not admit to doing the same.
I love Wegman's--it's my happy place!! I drive past 6 grocery stores where I live in northern Virginia to shop at Wegman's. Both of my kids work there. Hubby says I 'wig out at Wegman's'. :) So happy you also have the joy of such a wonderful store.
Snacks I recall giving my kids:
celery boats: celery filled with peanutbuter and raisins (which are, of course, the men rowing the boats--gotta line them up)
pb&j pinwheels: roll a slice of bread flat with rolling pin, spread with pb&j, roll up and slice
apple slices dipped in plain (greek) yogurt mixed with honey
Ever try making your own crackers? Easier than I thought when I first tried it. Look online for a recipe. So, home made crackers with cream cheese and thin cut apple slices on top for a snack.
Lunch dishes? Corynn washes, Andrew dries. Use plastic just in case someone has the dropsies. Save the $$ from the paper products.

Rebecca said...

Janet~ I was going to buy potatoes but we still have a few usable ones and I didn't see any extraordinary prices so I opted to wait and try again next week when I get more milk. We love our spuds here too!

Stephanie~ baked potatoes for lunch is BRILLIANT!

Rebecca said...

oh-and Ulli...yes, we've made crackers before. Cheeze it type things and wheat thins. They will be in our near future again, too!

LFlores said...

That is amazing!! I don't think I could have done it myself!

I bet, no I am SURE, that your family consumes very little to none high fructose corn syrup. I need to start learning how to make things myself, so that I can get me and my fiancé to eat healthier and not consume as much high fructose corn syrup. That stuff does terrible things to the body. I am finding it in everything. =[ and I'm trying not to consume as much HFCS anymore.

But anyway, good job! And you learned a lot out of that experiment! **Round of applause**


LFlores said...


How do you make home made crackers?! I didn't know that was possible!
I'm such a city girl =[

LFlores said...

oops! Totally meant @Rebecca for above comment. =]

Unknown said...

You are inspiring me, Rebecca! This got me thinking about my meals, healthier eating & shopping etc. I'm finally getting back to baking bread too and ooffda it's a lot of work. ;) However, hubby loves it, therefore I bake it! I'm gonna try my hand at crackers too...although, sometimes you can get them SO cheap. I know they aren't as healthy, but to be honest sometimes ease wins over health for me with crackers.

I love your list of lunch ideas...I was just thinking that I'm going to have to soon phase out so many soups as it gets warmer...(we still eat it, just not as much!) I was trying to come up with ideas as well...we do baked potatoes with toppings alot, tortilla or english muffins pizzas (using up odds 'n ends in the fridge for toppings) My friend Catie has a yummy chix salad recipe...thanks for reminding me! I hope to use the grill more here soon...I need to remember to grill up A LOT of items when I grill and then use them for a few days for meals. I always think we aren't eating very healthy but I think overall we are...we just need more vegetables in our diet for sure! We have venison, organic chix (which Amos butchered with his brother), wheat, popcorn, etc...we don't have our chickens for eggs right now though...they are at my BIL's waiting for us to make a Chicken Fort Knox of some sort since we have like ten million coyotes and coons around here. *sigh* I guess I do buy a lot of dairy items (butter, milk, yogurt, cheese), peanut butter, pasta etc...and shame on me, I have SO MANY TOMATOES in my freezer waiting patiently to be made into sauce for spaghetti or pizza. :P I saw a photo of a yummy salad here once...apples, greens of some sort, walnuts...what kinda dressing did you use? I need to get the kids eating more of that...oh, the other day I pulled out tuna and made patties with old ww bread, egg, and a bit of oil, s&p...served with some broccoli...it was a HUGE hit. Duh. I always forget things like that. Anyway...

Unknown said...

Oh and I hope to spare a few dollas for flowas here next time I go too! ;) :P

Mar said...

I am impressed that you left Wegman's with just what you bought. I adore Wegman's and drive 30 minutes to our local store in the Baltimore area (it's close to my Mom, who is in a nursing home, so it's not AS bad as that sounds). Fortunately, a spanking brand-new two-story store is opening about 15 minutes away in June and I'm hoping my daughter gets a part-time job there while she's in high school. Do you think having a Mom who is a Wegman's junkie will help her when she applies?

You know, you can move the plant beside your bed at night and put it back on the table in the morning. My personal weakness is the tiger lilies, which are finally fading after 2 full weeks.

Okay, time to go make a loaf of bread (although I do cheat and use a breadmaker) and develop a shopping list for the weekend.

ulli said...

@ Mar--Yay for another Weggie! Have fun at your new store! Have your daughter go and apply immediately when they start taking applications. My kids did that and they've both been with the store for the 7 years its been opened. Great company to work for.

Debbie said...

My breadmaker is a lifesaver! I make about 4 loaves and week and that is just for hubby and I. I don't eat much bread but he sure does. He has to eat on the run with his job so he needs easy foods that he can hold while he is driving and not make a mess with.

Other meals we did here when the kids were growing up were:
pasta salads of all sorts including Italian style and a macaroni/tuna/cucumber/green onion with a mayo and celery salt dressing, cheese and fruit, cheese and crackers, huge garden salads with whatever was producing in the garden at the time, fruit salads with yogurt dressing, baked potatoes and toppings or twice baked potatoes, leftovers, homemade soups made with whatever I had on hand, homemade mac and cheese,quesidillas, tacos, homemade burittos, pasta with just about anything added to it, fried rice, homemade pizzas or calzones

Hope this helps!

Mar said...

Thanks, Ulli. They just started accepting applications for part-time this week so my daughter is in the process of applying on-line, which is how they do it now.

Another meal idea: tacos in a bag. Put a few chips (or broken up hard taco shell, but I personally prefer fritos) in a plastic bag and add whatever taco ingredients you like - beef, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, whatever. Give your kids a fork or spoon and let them each eat their own taco - outside as a picnic right now with the great weather. Little dude might now be able to eat this, but the others should be able to do so. Best part - no dishes, except for cooking the beef and chopping/shredding the other ingredients.

lydia.purple said...

what about savory pancakes for lunch with bacon, cheese or veggies added? or veggie muffins with cheese in the middle...

lydia.purple said...

one more: potato salad with sausage on the side or with tuna in the salad. fills you right up. If you have potatoes the night before for dinner just make extra, so you have no cooking involved the next day...

Cathy said...

For a healthy and cheap lunch, my kids love bean and cheese burritos. I make "refried" beans a super-easy way, in my crock pot. I just cook dried pinto beans all day, (use boiling hot water to start because a crock pot takes forever to get that hot). After they start getting soft, season with a little salt, cumin, and tiny bit of garlic. When they're soft and almost mushy, you mash them in your kitchen aid mixer with the regular beater bar. No need to "re-fry". Then you wrap each burrito in waxed paper, and microwave them, and they get all soft and steamy. Yummy. Btw, I love your yellow ranunculus!

Anonymous said...

I did not read through the rest of the comments yet... BUT good job, beautiful flowers!!!

Happy Birthday Bonnie! : )

ooohh a cow!

See im a few days off of reading!

oh and i have been thinking of you and your egg conundrum...

Make Lemon Curd... i made some this week, if you dont mind splurging on lemons (they are so cheap here!!) http://www.finecooking.com/articles/foolproof-lemon-curd-method.aspx
AMAZING!! truly if you have never had it, make it you wont regret it on all things yummy!


mary said...

You are such an amazing inspiration.

We usually have tuna, egg, chicken salad. Crisp tacos with meat or chicken fillings, salmon and tuna patties. pretzels, cheese, veggie sticks, sausage. For a treat, I buy some Nutella. If you have never had it, you must.

Full of Grace said...

Plant the hyacinth after it's bloomed out and you can enjoy it year after year, but you already knew that! Beautiful flowers :)

Nanci said...

Ahhhh, Hyacinths. . . to me their fragrance is the Queen of all earthly flower fragrances. The hyacinths in our front yard are now in full bloom. I can't smell them without thinking of Resurrection Sunday, though, because my father never missed getting my mother a hyacinth to set on our table on Resurrection Sunday! That would be the first smell that I would smell that morning.