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So this was our breakfast yesterday morning, I had a Naked Red Power Juice and a cup of tea.  Charity had French Toast, Domi had french toast, eggs, and potatoes, Gracie had eggs, potatoes, and bacon, and Daddy had a little of everything 🙂

 

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My sweet Gracie eating breakfast.  I just love her short hair 🙂

photo(12) We had lunch at IKEA as well, I had their chicken salad wrap… it was AMAZING… walnuts, apples, grapes, chicken breast, spinach and romaine lettuce all rolled up into a wrap.  and it wasn’t horribly heavy on the mayo either 😉

There was everything on our lunch table from ribs to mac and cheese… No one was really hungry for dinner, so the kids had a leftover slice of pizza before heading to bed.

When we got home, two of the dogs needed baths, Grace’s bed had to be disassembled and her new mattress is sitting on the floor for now, we are waiting for the new bed rails to come in from Sweeden.  I managed to run through 5 loads of laundry before I crapped out.  The dogs run in the basement needed to be cleaned, and some things needed organization.  My bed needed to be changed, and some things needed cleaning/tidying up.  Then Kyle threw up everywhere and that needed to be handled too.

Side note about budgeting.  We run a list on the app from IKEA for things that we want or need.  Grace NEEDED a new mattress which was 80$… Dominick and Charity NEEDED sheets, which were 5.99 each, and for 4 (so there is always one to change) that was 24$.  That alone put our total over 100$, and waiting for IKEA to have an “eat for free” event meant that we are saving somewhere…

Our pizza purchase Friday night totaled 55.80, our breakfast purchase at IKEA was 10.24, and our lunch purchase was 46.08.  Friday we went somewhere I had a coupon for (restaurant.com ran a special for 25$ restaurant vouchers for .25 the other month, and I bought a whole bunch of random ones), so our OOP expense was only 30.80.  Ikea’s food total was 56.32, of which 46.08 was deducted from our purchase of 150$ downstairs… So our total out of pocket eating out was only 41.04 this week, putting me 8.96 in the black. (that can pay the tolls since we decided to go down to college park since the store is 4x the size of the baltimore store)

That brings us to today.

 

photo(13)Here’s this morning’s smoothie mix, 2 bananas, 1 kiwi, 6 slices frozen peach, 8cubes frozen mango, handful frozen blackberries, 3 handfuls frozen strawberries, 1.5 cups coconut milk, 1 cup whole milk plain organic yogurt, and about 1 cup milk (needed in order to blend!) which conveniently turned into smoothies for the whole family.

 

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photo(14) We also had Irish Porridge… Side note, ALDI now sells steel cut oats !!! I was amazed when I ran in there for some broccoli the other day and saw it!

Since it’s daylight Savings time, we are going to use up some leftovers for a late lunch (spaghetti, potato soup, and beef stroganoff) and Grandma offered to treat us to Chinese tonight!!

What a blessing.

On that note, I’m going to go try and climb on top of the mountain of laundry left to do, I still have about 6 more loads before it’s done.  This morning after cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I broke out the plaster surrounding my chimney in the kitchen from 5’high down to the ground. I stopped at just one face of the chimney since my shoulder started aching from swinging the hammer… it is apparently NOT my forte 🙂 The entire chimney is now about 2/3 of the way stripped, eventually it will be brushed and sealed to be a nice focal point instead of an eye sore, but alas, that is another day.

I also went ahead and removed a few random pieces of wood lathe that have been sticking out from our door (overhead height) since we took the wall down a few years ago… little things, little things.

I’m going to attempt to tackle at least 2 more projects today in the spirit of spring, the first is organizing/sorting through the tops of two storage units (a desk and an 8 block IKEA Expedit cube storage shelf) which are both empty on the inside, it’s the top surfaces that are currently serving a purpose!  Then I need to get my good will stuff to the car, I have 4 big boxes in various parts of my house ready to go, and then load up some bulk trash into my car to drop in the dumpster too.  I think that’s about enough for today.  The rest will just have to wait.

keep smiling 🙂

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The way things work

This is kind of a long and crazy post…

For right now, the way things work are functional for our family.  All recipes that I do can be accomplished with relatively few supplies, I prefer to stick to the basics… All of my “basics” can fit on my kitchen island, the rest is just fluff.

Things I use EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. never get put “away”, just in their spot for easy access.  ie: my cutting board and french chef’s knife.  If they are not out, I don’t cook.  They MUST have a place.  My pots and pans live on the counters and hung on the walls, though I dream of having a better solution (if all my sauce pots/frying pans were on the wall and just my stock pot out, that would be great).  But this is not a DIY/rennovation blog  (for now 🙂 )

Easy access items include veggie peeler, paring knife, kitchen scissors, Glass mixing bowls, Pyrex 8×8 & 9×13 pans (with lids for easy storage), flour, sugar, coffee, popping corn, salt, spices, favorite spoons, measuring cups, rolling pin, parchment paper, and cookie sheets.

We tend to use products as close to nature as we can, and manage to fit into the “real food” category.  According to the blog “100 days of real food”, anything that has less than 5 ingredients and is a whole food counts and may be used/consumed.  We follow the dirty dozen/clean fifteen list pretty closely, but some things in the grey area between dirty and clean we buy conventionally made (broccoli for example).  If it’s on the dirty dozen list, we purchase organic.

We try to stay away from the center aisles of the store, sticking with the concept that if I’m not willing to make it (from scratch, no boxes) , then I shouldn’t be eating it.  This limits our sweet intake by more than 75%… because I’m really only going to make a batch of cookies once a week or so!

I meal plan for one month at a time.  I only “plan” the weekday meals. M-F, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snack options.  Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks remain the same for one month (ie: monday morning muffins, Peanut Butter wraps for lunch, and yogurt, apples, or cashews for snack).  Dinner cannot be duplicated within 28 days.  Leftovers are eaten for adult lunches and weekend meals.

I will post a photograph of our meal plan when I remember to, it’s probably not going to make it into this post.

From there, I shop weekly.  The first week of the meal plan, I do intense shopping.  I buy all the things I will need for the month that can store in the freezer or pantry.  This means that I can buy in bulk and save over buying smaller packages of everything.  I typically try to group our meals into “genres” because my kids like that… so Monday is meatless, Tuesday is a one-pot dish/casserole of some type, Wednesday is pasta night, Thursday is poultry night, and Friday is Italian (sounds better than pizza night right?)

Because our snack options stay the same (15 options total for the week), there is no one eating peanut butter pretzels every.single.day, and I’m not out of apples 2 days into the week.

There is a LOT of flexibility in our meal plan, especially when running out the door in the morning, or someone being sick (it happens more than I care to admit it *points at self*).

Our options for snacks are all things the kids can get/make themselves.  Peanut butter pretzels, cheese slices/sticks, ants on a log, sliced apples, carrot sticks w/ dip, peanuts, cashews, popcorn, rice krispy treats, cookies, green smoothie, raisins, cranberries, freeze dried fruit, pineapple, bananas, cucumber slices, yogurt tubes etc…  They are all gluten free besides the pretzels.  Oh well. Sue me..

We are NOT a GF family, but we do strive for balance.

My pantry always has certain things on hand.  I replenish when we run low.  Most things I buy from Wegmans.

Flour- King Arthur’s Organic Whole Wheat and White Whole Wheat (some things you can’t make with regular WW)

EVOO- 1 Gal

Coconut Oil

Raw Sugar- while I try to use honey, molasses, or fruit juice concentrates, some things still taste better with sugar

Marshmallows (I know, NOT even close to food, but there are less than 5 ingredients, so it’s a splurge)

Milk (we order from Kilby Cream and get delivered)

Lettuce, Spinach, Kale

Carrots (we use 10 lbs easily in a month)

Onions (again 10 lbs in a month)

Celery (3 bunches lasts a month, but we try to buy it every week so it’s fresh)

Organic Apples (varied, granny smith, fuji, gala & pink lady)

Spices- Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cumin, Curry, Garlic Powder, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Ginger, Cloves, Crushed Red Pepper, Steak Seasoning, & Season Salt are the ones I reach for daily.

Baking Powder/Soda

Lemon and Lime Juice

Organic Butter

Various sauces, ketchup, BBQ sauce, honey, Spicy Brown mustard, mustard, mayonnaise, Thai Peanut Sauce, Worstershire sauce

Shredded Cheddar and Mozzarella Cheeses

Jarred Pasta  Sauces appropriate for spaghetti, pizza, or topping chicken or eggplant parmesean

Parmesean cheese, Romano Cheese

Cream Cheese

Organic Plain Yogurt

Coconut Milk

Assorted Frozen Veggies

Rice (Jasmine & Basmatti)

Once a month we buy a loaf or two of bread, but it’s rare now that we don’t eat sandwiches often.  It’s nice to have on hand for something specific, but it’s easier to make bread when we want… I’m trying to only use it if I’m willing to make it, same as sweets.

That’s about the end of my constantly rotating items… things I don’t have to think about buying, they are just always on the list

I don’t buy soda or juice unless someone asks for it specifically, but I drink tea like it’s going out of style (AS IF!!!)

I like to plan the next month while we are still actively in the current one.  That way there is no rush for ideas, and things can come to me slowly.  I also talk to the kids about what they would like to have on the menu next month.

We go out to eat more often than I care to admit, but try to choose restaurants we know have decent food.  Our list is pretty slim, after eliminating all fast food (except chick-fil-a), my kids think Panera Bread and Baja Fresh are “fast food joints”.  We like Noodles and Company Okay, though after they changed their soda machines to the single spout, we stopped liking them AS much.  We are suckers for Pizza, and Pizza Hut and our local favorite pizza joint (Dominick’s) are our “usual” places.  Pizza Hut is usually a once a year thing… We try to vary it.  Dominick’s usually comes once a MONTH 🙂 It’s just such good pizza, and friends own it, so we have no problem supporting them.  Other than that, we plan to go places… Applebees, Red Robin, Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, Outback etc… Those are places we don’t head out of “convenience”, but take our time and enjoy the experience with.

We are desperately trying to limit our eating out to once a week. One out of 21 meals (not including snacks).

We average 50$ when we eat out.  Sometimes we can eat out for under 30 (baja fresh), sometimes it’s 100 (outback or macaroni grill).  But the average is around 50.

I average about 150$/week on groceries (which includes our weekly milk delivery which at 2 gallons a week plus 1 dozen eggs and 2 lbs of hamburger comes to 27$/week average)

So the total food budget for a 4 week month (how I meal plan) is 800$. 108 of that goes to Kilby Cream, 200 of it is for eating out, and I’m left with 492 to spend on groceries from Wegmans, Trader Joes, Aldi, and BJ’s.

I like to have the ability to buy things I see a good deal on, so I keep an extra 50$/month allowance for these “good deals”.  I’m not talking about stocking up on regular priced items, but when you find hams on 75% off, you buy 2 and freeze them.

Feeding a family of 6 on 150$/week is possible, but difficult.  We are constantly running out of things, and then come some very creative dinners.  I really appreciate the Wegmans app on my phone because I can add everything I need, and come up with a total dollar amount long before I hit the store, let alone the check out and am faced with putting things back on the shelf.

Here’s an example of what our eating out monies would do to our weekly budget:

I’ll use Monday.. Monday morning would change from Oatmeal and Strawberry Smoothie to Oatmeal with almonds and blueberries and Strawberry Banana smoothie.  Lunch would go from Chicken Strips and green beans to Chicken skewers with rice.

The “budget” meals are whole, well rounded, and enough to satisfy my picky eaters, and while the options are great, and add variety and fun, they are also “fluff”.

Snack foods might contain macadamia nuts if there were more money in the budget, but my kids are happy with cashews and sunflower seeds!

The other side of being able to eat out of the house means we are not tied to the house 24/7.  Packing lunch and snacks for a day out is one thing, but packing a meal for 6 people is harder, and difficult to find portable items that are also healthy and nourishing.

I like being able to meet Stephen after work, on a whim and walk around the home improvement store, knowing that we will just use that day as one of our days to eat out.  I much prefer if I have heads up and toss something in the crock pot before I leave and it’s ready when we are, but let’s face it, sometimes life doesn’t give us an extra 45 minutes to wash, prep, and cut stuff to put in the crock pot. Enter the world of eating out 🙂

 

As Promised :)

Today will be the first of MANY food posts, but it has to be quick as we are running out the door in 45 minutes to get Kyle casted for RGOs!!!

I promised pictures, and I promised menus… So I am delivering.

photo(9) This was the start of last night’s dinner, Chicken and Dumplings.

Everything works great when you don’t forget an ingredient, but I did, and while dinner was edible, it was not GREAT… (by any stretch of the means).  Here I started with a basic soup base, 1 Tbsp Olive oil, some herbs and spices, 2 chopped onions, 3 stalks chopped celery, 3 chopped carrots, and I added 2 cubed chicken breasts to the mix for this soup.

Once everything was cooked, I added 6 cups of chicken broth, boiled for 20 minutes and dropped the dumplings in, covered and cooked 12 minutes.

That USUALLY does it, except I left out one TINY little thing… The dumpling recipe calls for 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup milk, 2 T cooking oil, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Methodology is everything with dumplings.  1st, mix dry ingredients. (I add a pinch of salk and basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme)… then add wet ingredients and plop into soup a Tbsp at a time…

Simple right? well, not if you forget the baking powder and try to add it after the wet is mixed in, you wind up with baking powder coating the whole mixture and when you drop the dumplings in, getting this fantastic explosion of fizz while the baking soda dissipates into the soup, leaving you with gluey dough mixture sitting on the top of your soup. It doesn’t rise, it doesn’t cook, it’s really not all that pleasant…

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So this morning I redeemed my flop of last night with this 🙂 Monster smoothies! I tossed 1 banana, 1.5 cups of coconut milk (we used the SO delicious original this week because I didn’t have time to get to TJ’s) a handful of frozen mango, frozen peaches, 3 cups of spinach and kale, a very ripe kiwi, and 1/2 cup whole milk plain organic yogurt.

Perhaps I will remember as it gets more habitual to talk about food to actually post pictures of the process… I always think those are fun.

Anywho- gotta run! Will post more later!

… Here’s that later …

For the rest of today, The kids had Macaroni and Cheese (yes, from a BOX) for lunch, and pinapple tidbits (yes from a can)… we had a crazy busy therapy schedule and casting appointment this morning, and it’s all I could do to get them FED…

Tonight is Pizza Hut.  Don’t hate me.  Everyone needs a break in their life, and this is mine… My kitchen island and cutting board and table needed to be oiled… so they need a 4 hour break, and let’s face it, after dinner is no time for motivation for oiling ANYTHING.

So we went to Pat’s Pizza instead of Pizza Hut… after a slight mishap with the fried appetizer being fried in the same oil as shrimp and me having a small allergic reaction to it, it was actually a really nice meal.

Don’t hate me for tomorrow though 🙂 We’re heading to IKEA for their “eat for free” promotion.  We have a few hundred dollars worth of stuff to pick up, and so technically it won’t cost us a dime to eat 🙂

365 days of food

I am going to start blogging our food 🙂

I have been wanting to do it for a VERY long time, and now is the time..  I will include recipes when I can, and photos every day (maybe not of every meal, but at least something).

I may get into our menu planning, meal planning, shopping, budgeting etc, and will certainly still have a few days where we eat a meal out of the house, and maybe even break down what that could buy when spent on food.

Sound good? 🙂

Intro to our little corner

We are a busy family 🙂 There’s Stephen, our Daddy. I’m Cherie, 26 year old Mama of four AMAZING kids.

Gracie is our gorgeous, vivacious firstborn. She is a sensitive and extremely intelligent. At 8 years old, she is definitely our “little mother”, always looking after the house and planning out every detail that she can.

Charity is our second little girl. She is 6 now and full of life and spunk.