Monday, May 30, 2011


I went to Costco for the first time a couple of weeks ago and am now a big fan!  Tammy always raves about Costco, and I've heard others say that they had a decent selection of organic foods.  My mother in law has a membership, so I was able to get in and take a look around.  After comparing prices, I'll definitely be back!

organic tortilla chips at Meijer $5.49 for 22 oz = .25 cents an ounce
organic tortilla chips at Costco $4.59 for 40 oz = .11 cents an ounce

Meijer brand rolled oats at Meijer $3.59 for 42 oz = .09 cents an ounce
Quaker brand rolled oats at Costco $6.89 for 160 oz = .04 cents an ounce

Nutella at Meijer $3.76 for 13oz = .29 cents an ounce
Nutella at Costco $8.79 for 2 - 26.5 oz = .17 cents an ounce

Many of the prices are less than half of what I have been paying at Meijer!

giant 5 lb bags of frozen veggies for $4.99

Other things we bought from Costco at a great price included: parmesan cheese, organic peanut butter, organic brown rice, organic quinoa, organic salsa, organic chicken stock, organic granola cereal, frozen organic corn, broccoli, and green beans, organic free range eggs, cheddar cheese, organic rice dream, fresh organic spinach, organic whole wheat bread, also eco friendly dish liquid and eco friendly dishwasher liquid.

Not everything in Costco was organic, but we found a good selection and what they did have was at a great price.  My mother in law thought I was crazy because I kept going on and on about how great the prices were!  I've been pinching pennies and watching my grocery budget closely, so to be able to purchase organic food at almost half price was amazing!  (I do not but 100% organic, but try to as often as possible.)

Some of the organic food is their own Kirkland Signature brand.  I was curious as to what the quality would be like, but everything we have tried so far has been great.  There are still a few things I will get from Meijer that Costco did not have (organic ketchup, organic spaghetti sauce, etc).  Costco also did not offer much organic produce, so I'll still be buying that from the farmer's market or Meijer.  It looks like a trip to Costco once a month from now on will be well worth it!

Another big plus is that stocking up on staples like brown rice and oats makes my weekly shopping at Meijer much easier because I have less to shop for.  Do you shop at Costco?  I recommend checking it out, the giant bottle of Nutella alone is well worth it.  ;)

(This is not a sponsored post in any way.)  
Linked to Gratituesday.  I'm grateful for cheaper groceries!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Inexpensive Real Food?

One of the biggest issues people have with eating "real food", is how expensive it is.  Lately I've been thinking that some of the foods we eat are actually pretty inexpensive.

sprouts - A bag of alfalfa seeds only costs a couple dollars and lasts a long time.  Sprouting is an easy frugal way to boost your nutrition.

kefir - Making your own kefir is inexpensive as well.  We use kefir in smoothies or in baking instead of yogurt or buttermilk.  Kefir = milk + kefir grains.  A gallon of milk is much cheaper than a gallon of yogurt or a gallon of buttermilk.

granola bars - This recipe makes 18 granola bars, waaaay cheaper than buying boxes of them at the store!

tortillas - Just 2 cups of flour and a little bit of oil makes delicious homemade tortillas.  Whipping these up and using my tortilla press takes no time at all.

beans - Rehydrating dry beans is actually pretty easy and quite cheap.  We enjoy beans and rice, pinto beans in tortillas, or even black bean brownies.  Black bean burgers are on my list to try next.

I've found that "making my own" granola, granola bars, tortillas, etc is often cheaper. I simply plan for a bit more time in the kitchen and regularly make these things instead of buying them.  Now that I have the recipes down, it doesn't take long to do.  This also allows me to buy the ingredients in bulk at cheaper prices and streamlines my grocery list.  (Instead of buying cereal, granola bars, tortillas, etc, I buy a huge box of oats and other staples.)

Have you found other good ways to cut your "real food" budget?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blueberry Oat Bars Recipe

I was planning to make baked oatmeal for sign language class at my house this morning.  However, I ran out with the girls to run a quick errand and when I came back we saw this:

and this:

So in between making toast for the girls for breakfast, hiding all my dirty laundry in the bedroom, and putting away dishes, I threw together these blueberry oat bars.  I had already printed the recipe to try some time this week and it looked easy enough.  It turned out to be a big hit!

1 1/2 cups flour (I used soft white wheat.)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup cold butter

Combine and cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Reserve 2 cups for topping; press remaining mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Spread evenly over crust and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool before cutting.  Store tightly covered and away from all chocolate labs.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum Reviews

If you are homeschool curriculum shopping, you'll want to check out a post The Happy Housewife put together with links to reviews done by many different blogs (including me!).  Definitely a great resource to check out!  Enjoy browsing.  :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spelt Shortcake

Sorry for the bad picture, its hard to photograph this recipe it disappears so quickly!

Spelt flour makes a wonderfully spongy shortcake that is easy to whip up and just perfect for summer evening desserts.  I buy spelt berries at our local health food store and grind the flour in my Nutrimill.

2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk or kefir (freshly ground flour will need a bit more liquid)
a drizzle of honey

Mix all together.  Bake in 8x8 pan at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean).  Serve with fresh whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

I recently learned how to make homemade whipped cream: put heavy whipping cream in your mixer on high for a few minutes with a sprinkle of sugar until cream thickens.  So easy and good!

If you want the strawberries to be juicy, slice them ahead of time and toss with sugar.  Let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and the sugar makes them juicy.  :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Steps Toward Eating Healthier

For several years now our family has been on a journey toward eating healthier.  Its something I think about often and spend quite a bit of time working on.  I go through stages including being inspired, frustrated, lazy, successful, and more.  It helps to take a look back and realize how far we've come.  I'm definitely still learning quite a bit and trying to feed my family the best I can.

Here are some steps along the road to eating healthier.  They are not in any particular order, and certainly not to be taken all at once.  Some of these we have been successful at and others we are still working on.  Many of the steps have several components to them.  Please feel free to comment at the end with your own thoughts and steps you've taken.  Lets encourage each other!

- Choose healthy drinks.  We've been making homemade sodas with our SodaStream machine.  (ginger ale and cream soda are both amazing!)  We also use a Berkey water filtering system to make sure that our water is pure.  Homemade lemonade is easy to make as a treat from time to time.  We've been buying Bolthouse Farms juices, not organic, but Ross will take these to work which is much better than soda.  At home, Ross enjoys drinking tea with local honey in it to help prevent seasonal allergies.

- Stop using canned foods.  I've done too much research on Bisphenol-A to ever eat from a can again.  Ok, sometimes, but very rarely.  I rehydrate dried beans and put them in the freezer.  Instead of canned diced tomatoes I use fresh.  During tomato season I chop up tomatoes and freeze them for use in recipes.  We use frozen or fresh vegetables instead of canned.  I buy spaghetti sauce and salsa in glass jars.

- Eliminate the "whites".  Switch from white bread, white flour, and white rice to whole grains and brown rice.  My family doesn't care for strong wheaty tasting things so I've been using a grain mill to grind our own flour.  I can make lighter tasting foods that are still whole grain by using Kamut, spelt, or white whole wheat.  King Arthur also makes a white whole wheat flour that you can purchase.  We've had to get used to the slightly chewier brown rice taste (and the longer cooking time), but that is all we use now (this recipe is super easy).  Quinoa is another great tasting grain we enjoy.  We use brown rice pasta now in place of other pastas.  I've also made homemade wheat noodles for our chicken soup.  Here is my easy homemade tortilla recipe that my whole family loves.

- Eat more fruits and veggies.  We enjoy fresh fruits and veggies from our farmer's market in the summer.  We don't do as well with this in the winter months when things aren't in season here, I need to work on this.  (Roasted root veggies is a good winter recipe though.)  I've been making veggie purees to add to certain dishes because Julia has a really hard time with eating veggies.  Pureed carrots can be hidden in spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, smoothies, and more.  Frozen fruit smoothies are another good way to sneak things in to our diet (spinach, ground flax seed, etc).  Spring is a fun time to try sprouting (scroll down on that page a bit), a very nutritious additive to salads.

- Stop eating processed foods.  This is another big one, and involves being in the kitchen a bit more.  Granola bars, fruit leather, granola cereal, and more can all be easily made at home, allowing you to control the ingredients and eliminate junky chemicals and preservatives.  My family loves the granola bars that I make and wouldn't even think of buying store bought anymore!

Okay, I'll stop there for now.  I'm working on another post with tips on how to do this all.  Remember, "one thing at a time"!  What are some successes you have had along your journey toward eating healthier?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful ladies!

Check out the giveaway here for a Mommy Necklaces gift card.  Yes, I got a Mommy Necklace (or two...) for Mother's Day, and yes, I would love more of them, and Yes, I'm obsessed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Popsicle Molds Everyone Should Have

We bought these popsicle molds (using Swagbucks) off of Amazon recently.  I really like them!  I purchased them because they are made from polypropylene (a "safe" plastic that doesn't contain BPA), whereas I was unsure what type plastic my old set was made of.  Now that I have these, I think the design is genius!  My other popsicle mold was all one piece, so I had to run the whole thing under hot water in order to get one loose, melting the others.  I also had to wait until the popsicles were all gone before I could wash and refill the whole thing.  With this set I can use and refill them as needed.  The star base holds them upright in the freezer, but you can take them off of there once they are frozen if you need more space.  

So far I've just put juice in our popsicles, but this book looks like fun.  Maybe I should add in some pieces of fruit?  Do you have a favorite popsicle recipe?  Do I even have to mention that homemade popsicles are worlds better for you than store bought?!  Also, think of all that packaging waste you'll save from the landfills!  Yep, everyone should have a set of these.  :)

I purchased these popsicle molds myself and just wanted to let you know about them.  Its not a paid review.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baked Brown Rice

I have failed at cooking rice sooo many times.  My rice always turned out sticky, not to mention sticking like crazy to the bottom of the pot.  I tried using a rice cooker for awhile, but it had a non-stick coating inside (ie toxic chemicals), and was big and bulky to store.  When we switched to eating brown rice instead of white rice, that presented even more challenges.  I'm happy to say that I have finally found an easy way to cook rice!  I've been using this recipe for months now and it always turns out great.

Baked Brown Rice

1 1/12 cups brown rice
2 1/2 cups water - heat to boiling in a teapot
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375.  In 8x8 casserole dish, add rice, salt, butter, and boiling water.  Stir to dissolve butter and salt.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.  Fluff with a fork and serve.  (recipe from Alton Brown)  :)

Check out more Kitchen Tip Tuesdays here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arbor Day Tree Craft

Friday April 29th we celebrated Arbor Day!  A friend showed us how to make these super cool trees from paper bags.  The girls and I have already made several and have thought up some fun variations - gluing leaves and flowers on, adding a bird's nest, etc.  Here is a tutorial (each set of instructions refers to the photo underneath):

Start with a small lunch size paper bag.  Fold it in half and open it again so that you have a crease half way down  the bag.  At this time you can also have your child write their name on the bottom flap of the bag if you'd like them to.

Do not draw lines on your bag, I only did this to show you where to cut!  Cut a slit down each of the four corners to the crease that you made when you folded the bag.  Cut a slit down the front and back of the bag also.  You will have six flaps.

Now cut slits half way down the middle of each flap, as shown by the additional lines:

Take the bag and twist the bottom of it to make the tree trunk.

Twist each of the flaps, starting at the trunk and working your way along the branch.  When you come to the split in each flap, twist those separately.  Here is a tree in progress:

You can also cut slits in the bottom of the bag and twist to make roots.  Enjoy!

Thanks Traci for the fun idea.  :)