February Wrap-Up: Eat Well Spend Less, What I’m Reading, and More

Wow! It is March already. That just blows my mind! As usual, the month has been busy. Keep reading to see what we’ve been up to!

{Links to Check Out}

Our Eat Well, Spend Less series was a hit this month with our round-robin of q&a’s with all of the bloggers:

My husband also contributed this month, and will wrap up his Reality Checks for Raising a Family series next week. If you need to catch up, here are the first three posts in the series:

Also, be sure to enter to win a BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Seat! The giveaway is open through Thursday morning.

{What I’m Reading}

I am still working through the Charlotte Mason series, and have also started Leigh Borton’s The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education.

I am considering doing the Whole30, so I am also reading It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways.

{A Day in the Life}

Life is crazy, as usual! Cam turned 5 months old on the 23rd. He is growing so quickly!

Reese is gearing up for her 7th birthday this month, and we are on a birthday count-down. She is so excited!

Homeschool has turned to focus almost solely on Classical Conversations, as Abby Grace is working to become a Memory Master. We have about 4 weeks left, and she is doing really well.

Basketball is wrapping up for both Abby Grace and Reese. We still haven’t made a decision about playing soccer. Our Saturdays have been non-stop for months, and we are ready for a break!

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Eat Well Spend Less Q&A: Favorite Grocery Stores

{photo credit: NatalieMaynor on flickr}

I have had several questions lately about the best places to shop, so the timing of our Eat Well, Spend Less Q&A was perfect! The seven of us live in different areas of the United States and Canada, so hopefully one of us will hit on some stores in your area.

I live in southern Oklahoma, right on the OK/TX border, so I can choose to shop in either state fairly easily. And since Alyssa showed us how she shops in Texas, I’ll mention the stores available in my little corner of the country.

I’m not much of a couponer anymore, but for those of you who do, and are fortunate enough to have a Homeland grocery store in your area, this is the place to coupon. While their prices tend to be higher than Walmart, Homeland doubles $1 coupons, which seems to be the exception in the coupon world. This has led to great savings for me in the past. Homeland is where I purchase organic produce, organic/natural products (like peanut butter), and hormone/antibiotic-free meats.

My new favorite store is Aldi. The town 25 minutes north of me just put one in about three months ago, and I love it! The produce is fresh and cheap, and while there isn’t as much of a selection as a regular grocery store, I’ve found I don’t need as many options. I am mainly after produce and juice, and the small size of the store gets me in and out quickly.

Walmart is also in my area, but I’m not a fan because I get very overwhelmed inside that store. However, I like purchasing some of their off-brand items, so I do venture in there, but only when I’m alone.

As I have mentioned before, I love that we have access to Azure Standard. I purchase many of my organic and specialty items from Azure. My milk, eggs, and honey come from a local farm. There is also a nice farmer’s market down the road from our Classical Conversations meeting place that I love to frequent!

What is/are your favorite store(s) to shop for groceries and why?

Mandi {blog} Easy. Homemade.
I’m a big fan of shopping at Walmart simply because of the prices. I typically save 20-30% off the regular grocery store prices without couponing, which makes a big difference in our grocery budget for our family of 6. That said, we also head to Martin’s regularly for organic/specialty products, and I much prefer their summer produce. I’d like to try Aldi’s produce as well, but living in the boonies makes running errands and stopping at multiple grocery stores harder, and I’m not sure the cost savings are worth dragging the kids to one more place after church on Sunday!

Aimee {blog} Simple Bites
A few years ago, I took my readers on a tour of where I shopped, and many were surprised that the supermarket was my last stop – and one I often could skip. I tend to jet around for my goods, stopping at city produce markets, small ethnic shops, and larger organic crookery stores to stock up. Once a week I’ll visit my butcher, and when we’re in the neighbourhoods, I’ll pop into small specialty shops for items like our famous bagels, smoked meat or cheese.

I am convinced that the savings I make when purchasing from the source, far outweigh the time (and gas) spent in seeking the items out. Not to mention the selection offered is wider and the quality of the ingredient are generally much better. If you can

a) source the cheapest versions of your grocery staples
b) take the time to gather them from their various locations and
c) easily transport them back to your kitchen

then you are going to be eating well and spending less.

Jessica {blog} Life as MOM
I used to coupon heavily and pick up every single deal I could get my hands on. As I’ve cleaned up our diet, I’ve lost the coupons almost completely as well as narrowed down our stores. I shop Ralphs for good deals on meat, coffee, and manager specials. I look to Costco for a wealth of organic products, including pasta, tortilla chips, canned tomato products, and dairy. While I get a weekly organic produce box, I still go to Sprouts for killer deals on fresh fruit and veg. I lean on Trader Joe’s for GMO-free items with no additives and fillers. I usually get cereal, crackers, rice cakes, fish, some dairy, and some veg at TJ’s. Those are my top 4. Walmart and Vons are closest to home, so they serve for convenient and quick and the occasional sale.

 

Carrie {blog} Denver Bargains
In our area, King Soopers (Kroger) is my go-to store, but I also shop Sprouts and Sam’s Club. I tend to pick up lots of produce and dried fruit at Sprouts (they have amazing sales) and have only recently begun shopping at Sam’s. I’d resisted the warehouse clubs for awhile, but now that my kids are getting bigger and eating more, it’s made more sense to buy in large packages. I buy staples like canned tomatoes, flour, and sugar there, which enables me to cook for the freezer a lot more efficiently than I was able to do by waiting around for the great sales at the regular grocery store. I buy our ground beef at Ranch Foods Direct, a local butcher – it’s a little more expensive but the taste is worth it (not to mention that it’s antibiotic- and hormone-free).

Shaina {blog} Food for My Family
I don’t have a single one-stop shop favorite. I tend to buy in waves, visiting several stores over a month for different purposes. During the summer months I live off the weekly market, buying as much as I can from local farmers and then complementing that with a trip to a grocery store. During the winter months I take advantage of bulk pricing on organic produce at Costco and cheap organics at Super Target before branching out to the co-op and Whole Foods. Because there are certain things I can only get at one store or another, I just try to buy in bulk (which can also lead to discounts) so that I am not visiting multiple stores each week.

Katie {blog} Kitchen Stewardship
My favorite place to buy food is not a store – I love the Farmer’s Market and mourn when it’s not open (much) in the winter. I prefer to buy in bulk via Country Life Natural Foods (clnf.org in the Midwest) and meat/milk/eggs direct from the farm. Had you asked me if I ever thought I’d get this far from cash registers and checkout lines a few years back, I’d have said, “No way.” Now I can go weeks, even in the winter, without visiting our local big box store (Meijer) that I used to frequent at least weekly. I do have a relatively new membership to Costco, and I must say that I’m really enjoying shopping there. I’m afraid they probably enjoy me shopping there too… ($$$) ;)

What is your favorite store to shop for groceries?

Find out more about our kitchen loves and food habits at the other q&a’s:

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January Wrap-Up: Eat Well, Spend Less, What I’m Reading, and a Day in the Life

Happy February! This year is already cruising by. Here is a little update on the happenings around here.

{Links to Check Out}

Our Eat Well, Spend Less crew got back to the basics this month. Be sure to visit the other ladies who contribute to this fantastic series:

{What I’m Reading}

I just realized I forgot about Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, by Andy Stanley, as it is on Shane’s Kindle, rather than mine. I need to finish it.

Next up on the reading list:

{A Day in the Life}

For those of you who would like to get to know me better, I shared a “homeschool day in the life” over on Amy Loves It. I had planned in advance to share my Thursday, not knowing what a crazy day it was going to be. Life would be boring without a bit of chaos, right?!

Plus, be sure to come back early next week for a special guest contributor!

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Food Goals for 2013 {Eat Well Spend Less}

Our family does not have a ton of food goals for this year, as we are doing fairly well at maintaining the goals set in previous years. We are definitely not perfect, and have backslid in a few areas. As always, these are goals for our family; do what works for you and your family!

We have reduced the number of processed foods by quite a bit, and those foods are rarely seen in our kitchen. One of my favorite {easy and quick!} resources is the Easy. Homemade. eBook, written by my friend Mandi. This eBook is clear and concise, and is full of wonderfully easy recipes to replace processed favorites. Another {new!} favorite is Katie Kimball’s Better than a Box, which is a fantastic guide on real food cooking, reverse engineering processed foods, and creative recipe development.

Our family food goals for 2013

Reduce the sugar. Again. We have slowly fallen back into some of our old sugary habits, even after a fairly successful sugar challenge last summer. Shane and I want to limit the sugar we have in our home, that way when we are out, we can let the girls make their own choices without being too strict on sugar intake. Of course, we will still monitor it and not let them go overboard, but if we are carefully limiting sugar at home to better sweeteners, I will feel okay with them having the not-so-good sweets outside the house on occasion.

Meleah (age 4) cooked scrambled eggs by herself!

Include the girls in meal planning and preparation whenever possible and as often as possible. The girls love to help me in the kitchen, and as a card-carrying member of the Type-A Club, I sometimes have a hard time slowing down and getting on their level so they can learn. I am much better than I used to be, but I definitely still need to work on this.

I recently finished the book French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters, and while I’m not on board with everything the French seem to do food-wise (I am definitely an on-demand feeder when it comes to Cam… the poor kid would spend most of his day screaming if he ate on the French schedule. Ha!), I love several of the author’s “rules.” I definitely want to work on implementing a few of them throughout the year.

Abby Grace making a pie crust

{French Rule} I am in charge of my children’s food education. Having a healthy knowledge of food can help us assist our children in making wise food choices. I plan to do baby-led weaning with Cam. I did it with Meleah, and even though she is in a fussy stage now where food is concerned (I think it is her age, and that she’s too busy to eat), she was a super eater when she was a baby. I am getting so much inspiration from Aimee’s posts on BLW with her daughter Clara.

{French Rule} Do not eat the same main dish more than once per week. That’s going to take some creative menu planning, because I tend to stick with the same main dishes {blush}.

Making biscuits

{French Rule} You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it. We do this pretty well, but it’s worth mentioning. Taking a bite won’t hurt, even though it can feel painful when you are dealing with a super-picky/fussy eater. I sympathize, believe me. Meleah likes to begin the meal (even meals she likes!) with, “How many bites do I have to eat?” So, I definitely need to work on this area!

{French Rule} Take our time, for both cooking and eating. This is going to be a hard one, because well… it’s hectic in the evenings, even for us homeschoolers. It always feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day as it is, and to take time to actually savor a meal? It’s almost unheard of. We do sit down as a family to eat our evening meal, and we almost always have a, what-was-your-favorite-part-of-the-day discussion, so we aren’t exactly wolfing down our meals. But I know we aren’t spending the time at the table that we should.

Grow a garden. Again. Nothing is tastier to me than something freshly plucked from a garden, preferably a garden our family has grown. I have attempted gardening for the last several years, and each year it gets slightly better. I’m not exactly someone with a green thumb; I’m not even sure if my thumb is brown, I’m such a bad gardener! Surely this year is my year!

Strive toward the eating lifestyle we want to achieve: cooking at home, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and nary a box in sight. This may seem a lofty goal, but I believe it is doable. There are times when eating out {or from a box} is just easier. I would like those times to be fewer and farther between so when we do choose to eat out, it isn’t because there is nothing to eat at home, but because it’s a treat.

Have you made food goals this year? What are they?

photo credit: Calsidyrose

This month we are going back to the basics. Read more great tips, ideas, and recipes here:

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