Tag Archives: nonGMO

Wanna Be Asian Noodles Recipe with Orange-ish Chicken

We love this !  I can’t stress how much all of us truly enjoy this dish.  And its various incarnations.

I also can’t quite define what I’m doing here.  It is Asian-inspired, to put it neatly.

The noodles are an attempt to copy my favorite dish at Noodles & Co (they call it Thai something or other).  The chicken is marinated in salad dressing, orange juice,  and fruit spread.  The veggies and sauces can vary each time, but I try to keep them similar.

What you’ll need:


Spaghetti or Linguine

Soy sauce

Brown sugar

Ketchup

Garlic, crushed or powder

Chili Powder

Butter

Ginger, powder

Peas, carrots, broccoli, edamame, bell peppers, onions, bok choy,  whatever

Chicken breasts

Orange juice

Asian salad dressing

As always, I try to stick to organic ingredients and make sure the dead animal I’m eating was well-treated before slaughter.  Appetizing, I know.

Directions

Cut the chicken into cubes, skewer the cubes with bell pepper and onion between them, and place the kabobs in a deep dish.

Mix a half cup each of salad dressing and orange juice with 3 tablespoons of fruit spread and 1 tablespoon of garlic powder.  Pour mixture over kabobs then cover dish; I prefer Walmart-brand plastic clinging wrap.

Prepare grill and set to medium high heat.

Fill pot with water to cook pasta. Bring the water to a boil, drop in pasta, get it submerged and back to a boil, and turn down the heat.

You’ll want to follow the directions on the box for the pasta, but know that once it can be left alone for a few minutes, you’re going to be running that chicken to the grill.

Grilled chicken can be a pain in the neck.  I’ve learned you want to cook it really hot, being fast to turn it so you don’t burn it.  Once the entire outside of the piece of chicken looks cooked, turn down (or off) the grill heat and keep the lid closed.

Basically, you’re searing the chicken to lock in the juices and you’ll let it cook from the outside in.  That’s how you keep from drying it out.

When the pasta is 97% done, toss in your harder veggies like onion, edamame, and carrots.  When the pasta is 100% done, add peas, broccoli, and peppers.  Then drain it all.

Add butter to your pasta pot, maybe half of a stick, and get it melted before putting the pasta and veggies back in the pot.  Then stir.  Get the noodles coated.

Did you forget about the chicken?  Go check it!

Turn the burner under the pasta back on to about medium heat.  Then mix together (in the same thing you mixed the marinade, if you want to save yourself dishes)
¼ cup soy sauce,
¼ cup ketchup,
¼ cup brown sugar,
¼ teaspoon ginger,
½ tablespoon garlic,
and ½ tablespoon chili powder.

Stir well, until the sugar is dissolved, then slowly pour over the buttered noodles and veggies.

Keep stirring!  You’re making my half-hearted attempt at caramelizing your noodles.  Make sure you turn off the heat AND move the pan to a cool burner when you’re done.

Bring the chicken in off the grill and strip the skewers.  Make sure it really is cooked.  This seems to be a repeat issue with me, chicken, and the grill.

Pile it all on plates and EAT YOUR COLORS!

If you’re feeding toddlers like I am, make them small portions and stick them in the fridge.  While you’re chasing them to wash their hands and get to the table, while you are filling drinks and calling out to your husband that he needs to wash his hands and get his drink, while you are chasing at least one escaped toddler, while you get forks for the other three but a set of chopsticks for yourself, your children’s food will be cooling off and ready to eat when you finally get all four of your bodies to the table.

AH-MAY-ZEEN

This meal changes every time I make it.  In fact, frequently I use ground beef in a wanna-be-street-vendor-style Korean sauce instead of the chicken.  Whatever, it is still freaking awesome.

I try to make enough to last two dinners and one lunch, but since it is so darn good, we often eat more than we should at one sitting.  Sometimes we add black pepper or a sweet chili sauce or extra soy sauce to the finish product; sometimes it is just too good for words, much less extra condiments.

Play with it.  It is amazing.  You’ll come back to this post to thank me.

#GotItFree


Please note that I used Barilla’s Gluten Free pasta for this recipe.  I received this pasta for free to give my honest opinion of it.  I am a BzzAgent and qualified to test and taste this Gluten Free pasta.  This recipe and the opinions I have regarding this pasta are mine.

We are not a gluten free family by any means.  When the BHE and I went wheat free 5 years ago, it was for personal health based on personal research.  We didn’t really go “gluten free” nor did we stick to it after that initial round of weight loss.  Probably because I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant a couple months after we started the diet.

However, I told BzzAgent that I am interested in gluten free foods.  It is the closest way to telling them that we try to avoid excessive wheat in our diets.

I was so freaking excited to get free pasta!  I LURV PASTA!

I received both macaroni and linguine.  I used the linguine for this Asian-inspired dish.  The sauce clung to the noodles perfectly.  I’ve learned that organic wheat as well as gluten free pastas take a little longer to cook than traditional GMO wheat noodles, and sometimes those types of pastas let your sauce slid right off.  Not these!  Perfect.

The kids didn’t notice anything different about the noodles.  That’s how good Barilla did with taste and texture on these.  What I noticed was that I didn’t have to cut their servings.  Normally with linguine, I have to cut the noodles down to 1 or 2 inches in length.  These noodles broke apart during the regular cooking process for this recipe.

Let me tell you:  it still tasted good.  The flavor of the noodles is great!  My husband loved loved LOVED that it was gluten free.  He said he would rather eat something without wheat than worry if it held together.

If you were making, say, chicken alfredo with linguine noodles, I wouldn’t recommend Barilla’s Gluten Free pasta.  You can’t twirl your noodles!  If you are making this recipe or don’t care about how your food gets from your plate to your mouth, these noodles are just fine.  In fact, in the case where you need to cut the noodles to feed a kid or have less messy leftovers for lunch at work, these noodles work great!

The flavor and ingredients:  great!

The texture and look:  not so great, but acceptable.

Excellent Breakfast Cookies (with Chocolate)

This is a twist to my recipe for the Best. Cookies. Ever.

Most Important Meal of the Day

Every morning, I ask the Angel what she wants for breakfast.  I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve silently prayed for her to say that she wants cereal.  Some mornings, it is yogurt with fruit and eggs; most Sundays, when the BHE is available to eat breakfast with us, it is pancakes with strawberries.

Then there are the mornings where she wants popsicles, marshmallows, or cookies.

That’s where these come in!

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Ready for the day with coffee, cookie, and egg!

Excellent Breakfast Cookies

Time:
Prepare: under 10 minutes
Bake:  8 minutes at 350F

Ingredients:

1c flour (organic whole wheat or all-purpose white)
1/2c oats (actual organic oats, not those quick-cook things that look like oats)
1/4c butter (organic margarine, vegan substitute, non-GMO Smart Balance spread, etc)
1/4c organic unrefined coconut oil
1 egg
1/2t vanilla extract
1/4t baking soda
1/4c organic cane sugar (or dark brown sugar)
1/4c raisins or nuts, optional
1/4c chocolate chips or candies, optional

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Prepped and ready for the Angel to assist in baking.  Note the minimal amount of bowls and utensils (spatula not pictured) because Mama doesn’t like doing dishes.

 

Instructions:

  1. Melt 1/4 c butter (Smart Balance) in microwave; add coconut oil to measuring cup for 1/2 c total.  Pour into medium mixing bowl.
  2. Stir in 1/4 c sugar until almost dissolved. Add 1/2 t vanilla and 1 egg.  Mix well.
  3. Slowly add 1 c flour, 1/2 c oats, and 1/4 t baking soda while stirring. When almost fully blended, add your mix-in, about a 1/2 c total (I used organic raisins and a mini bag of M&Ms for the photographed version).
  4. Preheat the oven to 350. Depending on your cookie sheet, prepare it for the dough.  The sheets I use are plain metal and I don’t spray them or add foil; the oils of the “butter” keep my cookies from sticking.
  5. Shape your cookies. For this version, I make them about pancake sized.  If you make them “cookie” sized, you may eat more!
  6. Place cookie sheet on top rack of oven and set timer for 8 minutes. Depending on your oven, this may take a little longer to avoid soft middles.  Unless you want soft middles.  It depends on how “cookie” you want these!
  7. Serve while warm with a nice glass of almond or soy milk. Or coffee with chocolate almond milk!  (There are some lovely fried eggs in the photos of this particular morning’s breakfast.)

 

Let me know what you think!  What substitutions did you make?  Would you add a 1/4c of brown sugar IN ADDITION TO?  Do you like nuts or other dried fruits?

 

Aside:  I love a good runny egg for breakfast.  But I always break the yolks!  I learned this neato trick from some random Pinterest stalking.  Use canning lids coated in cooking spray as “training wheels”.  Now when I flip an egg, I don’t break the yolk.  I recommend going a little overboard with the cooking spray.  If you like a runny yolk too, good luck; I seem to always overcook them just a bit.

Healthy Baby Home Party 

Sharing something I’m passionate about couldn’t have been more fun!

First Things First

Every year, we have thrown a party for our little girl’s birthday. The theme was her choice, I made some fun invites, we bought colorful goodies, and the party was so much fun.

Because of the timing of the party, I decided to make it a joint operation.  The focus would be on the Angel but I would have the best audience possible for my Healthy Baby Home Party.  The people I care about the most were in attendance, as were most of the little people (re:  adorable children) I love so much.

We did your typical cake-and-presents, but then I passed out the sample bags along with some great information about creating a healthy home for happy babies (and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles).

Passion

It means a lot to the BHE and me to provide the best we can for our children. We care about their health and safety as well as that of our home and the environment.

A few years back, we really got into cleaner living, with a big focus on food. These days, we try our best to eat organic and nonGMO foods as well as not support the major chemical companies that are harming the world and its population with poisons.

But it isn’t just our food! I mean, we can eat organic and use cloth diapers, but what good is that really doing our babies if the dishes they eat off of, the detergents used on their diapers and clothes, the cleaners sprayed on the tub they bathe in are full of harsh chemicals?

Healthy Baby Home Party

As a member of Seventh Generation’s Generation Good, I was presented with the opportunity to share my passion and spread the word about the Come Clean campaign with free samples. I received a great big box full of free goodies to give my guests to not only learn about the facts but also test some of the best products on the market, like Plum Organics, Zarbee’s, Bobble, American Meadows, and of course, Seventh Generation.

There’s this video:  Maya Knows Clean

And this one:  Seventh Generation:  40 Weeks webisode by Big Belli, LLC

Plus, for hosting, I was given some games and prizes to really teach through fun. Bingo for Bobble? Memory for Detergent? Hey, why not!

Grateful

I am so thankful for my family and friends. I am filled with gratitude and awe today as I go through the presents my daughter received. Thank you thank you thank you!

My heart is lifted by the knowledge that those I love had fun, got some goodies, learned that there are alternatives to home cleaners that can trigger asthma, saw the benefits of dishes washed with “clean” dish soap, ate a cake that tasted as good as it looked, and exited my home happier and a little healthier than when they entered it.

Generation Good

Generation Good, a comunity supporting bright & safe solutions.

“We’ve always felt that being a part of a community is about connecting to what matters. And we know that what matters most to you is raising your family in a safe and healthy environment.

 You’ll love being part of Generation Good™ – a community where you can exchange tips, let your opinions be known, try new products, receive valuable offers, and take on missions that matter!”

Learn something. Share. Enjoy.

This home party wasn’t the only thing I’ve received free from Seventh Generation. I have been selected in the past to try laundry detergent and baby wipes. They sent me free samples and coupons, only asking that in return I provide an unbiased opinion of their products. This company wants to know how its consumers feel about what they are doing.

Check it out!

Disclaimer

I got awesome stuff for free. I was not paid to write this blog post. I have received no money and I will not receive anything if you click on any of the included links.  All opinions and pictures are mine.  Well, except for the image that I copy-and-pasted from the Generation Good sign-up site.

I am feeling like I don’t know how to write a proper disclaimer; I just don’t want my readers thinking I’m a sales person for Seventh Generation or any of the other companies that were part of the host kit I received for the Healthy Baby Home Party.  I’m not in sales. I write about how I am on, and want to help you get on, a thoughtfully sought path towards a cleaner, greener, healthier, happier life.

Shopping with Purpose (Free Printable!)

I get asked all the time how I do it:  how I save so much on groceries, how I only shop each store only once a month, how I manage my fridge and pantry, how we have the money to host and feed people all the time, how I make it all happen for cheap.

Well, I’m going to tell you how I do it.  Then, I am going to let you try out my method for yourself.  That’s right, honey:  FREE PRINTABLES!  Everyone loves ‘em, lots of people use ‘em.  I made a pretty one just for you.
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My Method, with You in Mind

First, write out your NEED list.

Example:  I NEED paper towels soon, so even without a coupon or a sale price, I will have to buy a package.  I NEED fresh produce so I’ll look at what’s in season and on sale at each store.

Next, write out your WANT list.

I WANT my husband’s favorite chips, breakfast sausages for the Angel, and yogurt to make frozen treats in this crazy heat.

Third, if you coupon, coupon now.  If you don’t coupon, start.

Since I am a member of Inbox Dollars , I like to go to their site and access Coupons.com through it.  All the same coupons PLUS the bonus of ten cents added to my ID account for each redeemed coupon.  It’s great. 

Once I have all my coupons selected and printed, I sort them with the coupons I may have received with a receipt or in the mail.  I have an accordion folder that’s about 4″ tall where I have the coupons sorted by store, and I put them in by date.  I also have a slot for “manufacture food” and “manufacture dry goods” for the coupons that don’t have to be used at a specific store.  (The other slots in my accordion doohickey that I bought years ago in Target’s Dollar Spot hold rewards cards, receipts, and post-its and a pen if I forget my list at home and need to make another before entering a store.)

Then, check the advertisements for the stores you go to most frequently.

I have an app on my Android phone called Flipp that shows me most of my local sales ads.  I have marked which ones are my “favorites.”

Not all of the stores I like to go to have their ads available through Flipp.  Maybe you get a weekly newspaper, maybe you use a different app, or maybe you turn to Google each week to find what you’re looking for.

Personally, I use Flipp for Kroger, Aldi’s, WalMart, Target, and Fresh Thyme.  There’s a local meat market that I have pinned their website to a folder on my phone dedicated to saving money.

Finally, as I go through each ad, I write down what is on sale that I am interested in.  I mark down next to the items on my NEED, WANT, and COUPON lists which store has the best price.

I also write down things of interest that are on sale but that I don’t necessarily NEED but could possibly WANT in the future.  Or maybe I don’t NEED it now but will someday NEED it.  For instance, I buy cat litter when it is on sale and I buy as much as I can at the time.  Yes, I’ve marched through Target with almost 100 pounds of Tidy Cats in my cart.  It doesn’t go bad, every last grain will be used, and I NEED it so will buy it in bulk to save myself an emergency full-price purchase.

That is how I shop each store once a month; that is how I save money and have extra food and supplies for hosting and donations.  THAT is how you can simplify your shopping and boost your savvy ways.

Typically, I hand-write everything, but since my penmanship is quite sloppy these days, I typed it up just for you.  Yes, you, dear reader.  Check out this handy-dandy PDF for an example of how I do it:

Shopping with Purpose Example

Notes on My Method

To really save with this method, make this into something you do only once or twice a month.  I mean, keep your eye on the weekly ads, but also build up your pantry and freezer so you won’t have to go shopping each week.  You’ll save even more!

Always consider what works best for you, too.  If you have only one item on your list for a certain store, it is not worth the time used and money saved to go to that store.

For instance, we buy our cheese at Walmart.  They carry two pound blocks of Cabot for an unbelievably low price.  It is always on our Walmart list, yet rarely is there anything else we buy there.  When we go to Walmart, we buy as many of those two pound blocks as we can.  No joke.  I’ll spend more than $30 on cheese.  That is so I don’t have to return to Walmart for another month.  In that month, there may be things added to the Walmart list, like Aveeno body lotion (not needed to be purchased too regularly but still best price around for something used almost daily around our house).

Sometimes, Fresh Thyme has a great deal on certain organic produce items that I would really like.  However, if I can get the majority of the produce we regularly eat at Kroger for a better price, I’m not going to a different part of town just to get those pears or whatever. I’d rather (a) go without or (b) buy the darn things for an extra 19 cents per pound.

REMEMBER: The money saved and the time spent sometimes isn’t worth the extra trip.  Don’t drag yourself all over town to save 19 cents per pound.

Especially when we’re talking about loading two kids into car seats and dragging them through stores and making them spend at least an hour and a half in the car since we live in the middle of nowhere.

NEVER FORGET YOUR LIST!  You may forget to put things on your list.  You may not buy everything you did put on your list.  But you will stick to your needs (both at the grocery and in life in general) if you have a list to keep you on track and saving time and money.

Don’t we all want to save time and money?

Now, I have included a lovely little spreadsheet to illustrate what I’m talking about above as an example.  I don’t always have the luxury of sitting down at my computer to type up a clean-looking list like this.  So I print out a bunch of blank pages to scribble on when I have five minutes here, five minutes there to check my pantry, look at my ads, think about our needs and what we have coming up, and calculate if my coupons are worth the 40 cents I’ll save.

For you, you wonderful Thoughtfully Sought path walker, I am including a pretty PDF for you (Yes, YOU!) to print and use at your leisure.

You’re welcome.

Shopping with Purpose Printable

Camp Pies: Easy Meals for Camping

It’s summertime! It is time for camping and campfires. It’s time to figure out how to feed the crowd with little fuss and even less mess.

I needed to figure something out for this past weekend. Our family participated in a living history reenactment :  we live in canvas tents and cook over open fires.  In the years we have done this, I have learned a trick or two to having a variety of healthy meals, both hot and cold, during these long weekends.

The Easy Way

Sure, you could pack a couple pounds of lunch meat, sliced cheese, and a loaf of bread to put together sandwiches for every meal.  You could toss a package of hotdogs into your cooler and hope you’ll find a good stick for cooking.  For our type of camping, we’ve even taken a small hibatchi grill and charcoal.

Cooking a “real meal” over a fire can be challenging not in just the cooking itself but packing all the appropriate ingredients, pots and pans, utensils, et cetera.  It is possible, but it is a lot of work.  You want easy because you want to enjoy the camping experience.  And not have to lug around a ton of equipment nor worry about how in the world you’re going to wash your dishes.

I had to come up with something between sandwiches and pork chops with fried potatoes.  I needed to make sure we got our variety of food groups as well as a hot meal.  Some of the events we do are disgustingly hot while others can be downright cold.  So I thought about it.

What I want in a campfire meal:

Hot
Quick
Easy to make
Easy to clean up
Keeps everyone full and happy

What I came up with:

Individually-wrapped “hot pockets” of yummy goodness

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Sarah’s Camp Pies

Having made “meat pies” for St. Patrick’s Day this year, I started rolling with the idea that I could make the dough and stuff whatever I wanted in it before baking it.  Then I could wrap each little pie in heavy-duty foil so they could be taken from the plastic baggy and put right on the fire to cook.  The more I thought about the hows and whats, the more I realized I would be making the homemade, whole-foods version of Hot Pockets.*

Since that name is already taken, and the original recipe I was copying was for meat pies, I’m calling these awesome bad-boys Camp Pies.  Read and learn, folks.
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Time and Heat

Roughly 10 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to make the dough, 5 minutes to fill and crimp, then 30 minutes in the oven at 425 degrees

So, like, a total of less than an hour.

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Ingredients

Crust:

2 c flour (organic, of course)|
1/3 c evoo (I guess any oil will do but this is the one I always have on hand)
2/3 c almond milk (because we don’t drink cow’s milk but you can if you want)
2 t baking powder
Optional seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasonings, cumin, and so on

Fillings:

Whatever you want!!

Seriously.

Think about it.

Whatever. You. WANT.
Pizza goodies like sausage, cheese, peppers, and red sauce
Sandwich yummies like turkey, cheese, tomatoes, and mustard
Pot pie fillings like chicken, peas, carrots, and potatoes
Barbeque tasties like pulled pork, bbq sauce, and shredded cabbage

Instructions

Crust:
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Measure and mix ingredients until no lumps and form into ball
Knead ball of dough 8 times
Divide ball in half
Roll each half flat and thin
Cut into rectangles, making 8 pies per batch
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Fillings:
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Make sure all your meats are cooked
Cut your goodies into small pieces
Shred your cheeses
Gather your condiments
Create your masterpieces a little left of center of each rectangle
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Pie:

Fold the crust neatly over the fillings, pinching or squishing the edges with a fork
Place on a cookie sheet that is covered in foil or cooking spray or both
Bake for 15 minutes on each side at 425 degrees
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Let cool before wrapping in foil.  If making an assortment of pies, label them.  Place in ziptop baggies and in the fridge to be tossed into the cooler when you’re ready to roll out to the campgrounds.

Reality

I made four types of pies:  pizza, stew, turkey, and breakfast.  The pizza ones had cooked sausage, mozzarella, Italian seasonings, tomato paste, bbq sauce, and sweet peppers.  The stew was mashed potatoes, cooked ground beef and onions, peas, carrots, and corn with a little bit of ketchup.  The turkey ones were smoked lunchmeat turkey, cheddar slices, broccoli florets, and sweet hot mustard.  The breakfast pies had scrambled eggs, diced smoky links, and cheddar.  I packed ketchup and bbq sauce in the cooler for good measure, but we only got them out for the breakfast ones.

The pies didn’t get soggy in the cooler, thank God.  The crust was perfectly crusty.  The pies were good cold or hot.  Getting them the right temperature over the fire might prove to be tricky.  For us, the “stew pies” cooked evenly sitting to the side of the main coals, but the “pizza pies” got a little black and crispy on the bottoms because I set them directly on top of a burning log.  Live and learn!

Go Camping!

If you try this hand pie idea, let me know what your fillings were and how your pies fared in your cooler and over your fire.

 

*I can’t think those two words together without hearing it sung like Jim Gaffigan does in this bit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmHSe_S04CU

Healthy Eating, part 3: Where to Shop for Organic

I’m going to share with you a few of my favorites, why I shop at a handful of stores instead of just one, what I look for in each of them, and which ones have the best non-sale prices.  I also have some tips for you to get good coupons for the foods you actually eat.

Location Location LOCATION

You may have learned from previous posts that we live in the middle of nowhere.  The closest grocery is 12 miles away, but it isn’t one we frequent.  It is a very small, high priced, kinda unclean chain store like you’d find in any small town in a low population county.  On top of that, because this is a rural area with many farms and old homes with large yards, there isn’t much of a demand for farmers’ markets.  Our best bet is to drive the 40 minutes into the closest city to find the large chain stores and high-traffic farmers’ markets.

Luckily, I am a stay-at-home mom who has the time and inclination to prepare for a day of major shopping.  I take the time to go through all the sale ads, seek and cut all the coupons, plan out a whole day of leaving the house with Angel Baby and hitting all my stores, and stocking up on everything we need in just two or three trips to the city per month.

Not everyone has this luxury.  Not everyone needs it, either.  I mean, if you live in town with a decent (or 3-5 decent) store, you don’t need a whole day like I do.  Well, a whole two days:  the nap on a Thursday for ad-checking and coupon-clipping and the bulk of the day Friday to drive to town then visit three or four stores, including stopping somewhere for lunch.  This is an outing for us, people!

The Stores of the City

The places I regularly shop in my nearby city:  Payless (Kroger)*, Target Supercenter, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, D and R Meat Market, Aldi’s, and yes, WalMart Supercenter.  There are some little “nature’s markets” that I pop into on rare occasions, but they tend to have great local produce options during peak seasons.  (Sometimes Kroger has little signs up around their produce department to inform shoppers that those items are grown by local farmers.)

Online Sale Ads and Coupons

Before you really, truly begin your shopping excursion, take the time to think of all your favorite brands.  Then find their websites (yep, they all have one).  If they have an email list or club or any sort of program, sign up for it.  I regularly get coupons in my emails from Horizon and Kashi**, among others.

Next, consider where you regularly shop and if they have a shopper’s program.  Be signed up for the programs or have the cards.   Then set up your account for that store/program/card online.  For instance, Kroger has their Plus card.  They also have this great benefit where you can load digital coupons to your card from their website.  No coupon clipping!

Then, go to the websites of each of the stores you regularly visit.  Find their weekly (or monthly or seasonal) sale ads.  I haven’t come across a store yet that doesn’t post their ads on their website.  Figure out what day of the week the sale ads change.  For instance, the Fresh Thyme Farmers’ Market nearby has double ad Thursdays where their ads run Thursday to Thursday, overlapping the previous ad for one day.  Target’s ad changes on Sunday and Kroger’s changes on Thursday.  Aldi’s weekly ads start on Wednesdays PLUS has “special buys” for Wednesdays only.  Check all the ads for all your stores on whatever day makes most sense for you.

Last, get your coupons together and organize your shopping list.  This is how I do it:

  1. I write down everything on our “need” list. Then I write down everything on our “stock up list.”
  2. I look through each sale ad and write down the good deals on produce and the things we usually purchase. I keep in mind all the items on the list I already made.
  3. I scan through the digital coupons on the various rewards sites. I check my email for any coupons that may have been sent to me from the companies I signed up for.
  4. I visit Coupons.com where I have an account, and select and print the coupons that correspond with all the above lists.
  5. I write a whole new list where I have the store, what I’ve getting at that store, and what coupons go with that stores’ items… this makes the actually shopping process (with Angel Baby not enjoying the ride in the cart) a heck of a lot easier and faster.

Got it?  Let’s go buy some food!

What and Where

I had a friend*** express confusion over why I would run all over town and spend a whole day going to multiple stores when she can visit just one in an afternoon and get everything she needs… without dragging her kids in and out of their car seats and burning gas and time.

Yes, supermarkets exist.  Sadly, I do not have one of those fabulous stores nearby offering all that we need and want. The first  two parts of this Healthy Eating series ought to have explained plenty about our food preferences…and probably hinted at how you’ve got to search for the good stuff.  This is why I recommend paying attention to your family’s eating habits, what’s in your cupboards, and how much space you really have; then buy in bulk.  Try to purchase at least two weeks’ of groceries at a time to cut down on time spent driving and buying.

No more confusion:  we can’t get what we want and need at one location.  Ergo, all the driving around and spending an hour one day and half of the next day to think about, research about, then purchase our food.  Note that I said “purchase” our food after thinking about it rather than just jotting down a few necessities on a list and rushing off to “shop” at a supermarket.  Healthy Eating = Thoughtful Eating.

If you’ve made it this far into my blog, you know that WalMart doesn’t carry every last little thing we consume.  It may for some people, but not for people as conscientious as us in regards to what we put in and on our bodies.  Without further ado, I present to you a short list of what we get and where I find it for the best prices.

Aldi’s

I am lucky to have two of these in The City, one on each side of town.  They do carry a pretty wide selection of certified organic products, mainly in the dry and canned goods sections.  They do not accept coupons, but their prices are quite low without them.  I like their Simply Nature Organic salsas, marinara, cereals, canned tomatoes, boxed crackers and cookies for Angel Baby, frozen fruits, and boxed pasta.  The almond milk Aldi’s carries is not organic but the best “everyday priced” in town.  Every once in a while, with sales and coupons, Kroger or WalMart has their brand cheaper, but if not, I get mine at Aldi’s.  And I tend to buy 2 to 3 gallons at a time.  If I pay attention to my pantry and fridge space, I can easily go to Aldi’s only once a month to get what I need.  Nothing against their produce in quality, I do not by Aldi’s organic produce purely on the fact that it has always been cheaper elsewhere.

D and R Meat Market

It is a local joint. We have learned their sales patterns and know which week (every fifth) they put their ground chuck on sale Buy-5-lbs-Get-1-lb-Free.  We get the same amount of beef, chicken, and pork each visit and know how much will get us through those 5 weeks until the next sale.  We are blessed with a chest freezer that I keep organized (see post about that).

Kroger

They used to keep all of their certified organic stuff in one area, but lately they’ve been moving things out to the rest of the store.  For instance, the cage free and organic eggs are now over with all the other eggs; the organic orange juice they carry is now over with all the other ojs.  The organic produce selection has been slowly getting bigger and better in the years we’ve been thoughtfully seeking healthier foods.  What we buy here all depends on what’s on sale and what I have coupons for (both digital and paper).  I like the regular sales they have on organic cereals, beverages, snacks like tortilla chips and potato chips, and eggs.  They have a great “everyday price” on their organic ketchup, too.  I recently was able to get 5 boxes of Cascadian Farms organic cereals for a little under $2 a box, between their buy-5-get-$3-off sale, one digital coupon, and two paper coupons.  Regularly, one of the major brands of boxed organic macaroni and cheese goes on sale at Kroger 10/$10.  Yes, I buy 10 boxes of it at a time.  I love it and I have a toddler.  Enough said.  (Again, watch their sale ads.  Get your coupons.  Pay attention and you can get your paper goods for great prices using their buy-x-get-x-off.  I think my toilet paper is the cheapest around…for the good stuff!)

Target

Hands down, their condiments are the best priced.  They also have the big brand organic mac and cheese on sale for 10/$10 from time to time, but more often than not, they’ve got it 4/$5 (not the same).  I make the baby wipes we use POST HERE and can say the best paper towel for the job is Target’s Up and Up select-a-size.  This is where Cartwheel comes in handy (if you have a non-Windows smartphone… you can access Cartwheel on a Windows Phone but you will get severely aggravated trying to use it).  Our local Target doesn’t carry organic produce and their other organic items are kinda few and far between.  There isn’t much I buy food-wise from Target anymore.  However, they’ve currently got the best “everyday price” on organic wheat in 5 lb packages (and sometimes Cartwheel has a code for 5% off).

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

Oh, hells, yeah.  This is what I’m talking about.  It is small so easy to navigate without getting exhausted.  They have bulk bins of so many dry goods and a lot are organic options.  Their organic produce hasn’t disappointed me yet.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have one of these nearby, I bet you have Trader Joe’s or some such.  I don’t.  And Fresh Thyme is relatively new to us, but it’s thyming couldn’t have been better!  For real, it was being built around the same time as we started down this thoughtfully sought path.  Talk about serendipity!  Depending on their sale ads, I may or may not go straight to produce then straight to check out.  Sometimes the bulk goods are all 20% off; sometimes their frozen fruit is half off; sometimes they have my favorite chips on sale and I have a coupon.  Just know that for me, this is where I usually get my organic produce and bulk goods like raisins, brown rice, oats, and maybe quinoa or lentils.

WalMart

I’ll keep this short:  cage free eggs, almond milk if I have coupons, Wild Oats salad dressing, Cabot extra sharp cheddar cheese, and organic cereal if it isn’t on sale anywhere else.  They’ve got the best “everyday price” for boxes of Kashi and Cascadia Farms.

Ready?

I know, it’s a lot to take it at once.  Especially if you read all 3 (4) parts of this series in one sitting.  Start with the store you regularly go to, be it a grocery or a supercenter.  Learn their ropes.  Then add another store, like a local meat market or even another supercenter.  Get an idea of how you work around a sale ad then walk through a store.  Get a grasp on what coupons and locations work best for you.

You are on your own thoughtfully sought path; this series is just showing you the path we are on.  Take it slow.  You are breaking a bad habit after all.

Don’t give up.  Don’t get discouraged.  And for the love of God and your miraculous machine of a body, do not tell yourself it isn’t worth it.  It is.  Your body will thank you… and then your mind and soul will recognize how grateful they are as well.  You will be repaid in health and happiness, I promise.

Ok, maybe not “promise.”  My disclaimer:  I’m not a professional, I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not an MD, I’m not a nurse or someone who can give you medical advice… I’m a liberal arts major with a masters in library sciences who stays at home with her toddler and wants the best, most nutritious foods for her family.  That’s all I am:  somebody thoughtfully seeking how to do everything BETTER.

Good luck!

Feel free to leave comments about where you find the best deals and what you’ve learned through trial and error.  Also, I answer questions, so fire ‘em at me.

*Payless is one of the Kroger Company’s babies.  As a girl from Indianapolis, I call them all Kroger.  Most people just get it; others look at me like I’m stupid and actually correct me by saying, “Payless.”  I’m not stupid, I’m stubborn.  (No comments on that sentence, please.)

**Not all of Kashi’s products are organic or nonGMO.  Like I’ve said, READ THE LABELS!

***My SAHM-bestie, to be precise.  Every one who stays home, whether you have kids or you work from home, needs a friend who also stays at home.  This is about maintaining sanity, people, as much as it is about maintaining a social network.

Healthy Eating, part 1: What did you just put in your mouth?!

The BHE and I get asked plenty of questions about our lifestyle, from what I do during the day to how we heat our house (woodstove).  The bulk of the questions we answer have to do with our diet.  People are always curious when they see how healthy we are and hear about some of the choices we’ve made.  This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law, who is ready for changes in her life but doesn’t know where to begin.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Our journey down the healthier-lifestyle path began with a viewing of Food Inc. with further research done on the questions we still had after watching this documentary.  There was also the book Wheat Belly and its subsequent cookbook.  That was our start.

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The BHE is very dedicated to reading the latest in research and news dealing with what we consume.  Almost daily he finds something interesting on the Internet in regards to labeling or recalls or how certain ingredients affect our bodies.  I’m naturally curious and love to research so find myself looking for more information as well, both on the Internet and in the nonfiction section of my library.  We are both dedicated to this quest for a better lifestyle, both of us feeling that our overall well-being starts with our physical health.

How can you think straight and feel like a good person if you’re functioning in a poorly-fueled machine?  Our bodies are freaking fantastic machines, and we need to treat them like million-dollar luxury cars rather than the old beater we got as a hand-me-down that we don’t even bother getting oil changes in.

We discuss frequently all the research we have done.  We have been known to talk over the dinner table about the hormones used in dairy cows versus beef cattle.  There are multiple pig farms in our area that we see on a daily basis so can’t help but talk about the smell…and how those pigs never see the light of day in their lives… and are living in that stench, which has permeated into their skin…which covers their muscles… that humans eat.  Huh.  Also, since we live in a rural area, we are well aware when the local farms get dusted with pesticides and God-knows-what-else.  We hear the planes swooping over repeatedly and see the big combines spraying all their rows.  We also see the mists and fogs of poisonous gases drift over the fields and then over the roads and through our town.  Yup.  That’s on our food, folks.

The very beginning is this:  look around, read into it, talk to other people, and for your health’s sake, THINK about what you are eating.

To Clarify Questions on Labeling

We eat a roughly 80% organic and maybe 50% gluten-free diet.  In order to do so, we need to read the labels on every item that goes into our grocery cart.  There’s so many out there that you need to know what to look for, and once you do, it will take less time to buy groceries*.

usda organic

We buy organic.  I’ve sorta explained that in other posts and will explain it better in future posts.  For the sake of this one, know that we don’t like pesticides, extra hormones, or GMOs that are in our food just for the sake of big agribusiness to make a few extra bucks**.  Until labeling becomes clearer, the BHE and I look for two things:  the USDA Organic seal or the NonGMO Project Verified seal.  There are other labels we feel comfortable with but those are on a case-by-case basis.  Know that what you want are “organic” labeled foods.  Not “natural” or “pure” or “simple” or “gluten-free” or “sugar-free” or “no corn syrup” or “all natural” or even “no unnecessary ingredients.”nongmo

My favorite are the “no added” ones:  hormones, corn syrup, MSG, salt, preservatives.

Big Business

Food companies are just that:  companies.  They are out to make money.  So many decided to jump on the “healthy food” bandwagon and slap some nonsensical labels on their packages.  Sadly, so many consumers really don’t know the difference.  Ask yourself why there would’ve been unnecessary ingredients in the first place…if they are unnecessary.  Flip the package over and read that ingredient list.  If there is anything you can’t pronounce or probably doesn’t really belong in the food you are buying, put it back.  Why is there high fructose corn syrup in my multigrain crackers?  If any sweetener is necessary, I’m pretty sure some pure cane sugar would’ve done the trick.

However, not all consumers are aware of this.  Many who want to eat healthier have fallen into the trap of looking at those splashed on labels and thinking that means the contents of the package are good for them.  I’m not saying that whatever is in there is “unhealthy,” but that there are specific labels to look for and things all consumers should be aware of.

Read It or Weep

If you are buying prepackaged food, read the ingredients list.  My two rules of thumb:

  1. If I can’t pronounce it or I’ve never heard of it, I’m not buying it. (If I can access the Internet on my phone, I might research it before walking away.)
  2. If the corn syrup or soybean oil used in the product is not from organic corn or soybeans, I’m not buying it. Those are two plants that have been screwed with to the point they probably shouldn’t be recognized as food anymore.

A really good rule of thumb for all of us is to stick to fresh food.  Make sure you get all you can into your cart from the fresh produce area of the store before proceeding into the prepackaged goods aisles.  I’ve heard plenty of health gurus and exercise celebrities say that we need to shop the outside of the store:  produce, freshly-packed meats, refrigerated dairy cases, frozen fruits and vegetables, and so on.  That’s where you will find the healthiest foods; that’s where you won’t need labels because an organic apple is just that: an apple.  No pesticides, no GMOs, no added anything… just an apple.***

Just the Start

I’ve got tons more to say on the topic but that wasn’t what my sister-in-law was looking for.  She asked me to give her an idea of what we actually eat; specifically, she wants a two-week meal plan that includes drinks and snacks.  I’m going to work on writing that up for her (and you) now.  Also, there will be a part where I discuss where I buy my organic goods and how I look for deals AND coupons for this stuff.  Know that I don’t live in some major city where I have competing options like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and multiple farmers’ markets.  We just don’t have those options out here, so I did have to hunt for the good stuff.  A couple years on this path means I’ve had the time to search out the best stores and deals on organic foods.  I will be sharing all that hard-won knowledge with you.

Stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought

*Note that I said “buy groceries” rather than “grocery shop.”  I think of shopping as something you do almost recreationally, like going to Kohl’s during a three-day sale and touching everything on every rack until you leave with $270 worth of clothes that you only spent $100 on… but didn’t need at all so still essentially wasted $100.  But hey, an afternoon well-spent.  Right?  Wrong.  When you buy groceries, you have a list and you know what you need at home and what you want for dinner tomorrow and how much money you’re willing to spend and all the diet needs and restrictions of your family in the forefront of your mind.  Hence, the need for the list:  write down what you’re buying and stick to it so you can mentally focus on dietary needs.

**I’m all for GMOs that mean we can feed more people or help the environment in some way.  There are not only people in subSaharan Africa that are starving or have no access to clean drinking water, but there are those same people in the town you live in.  Let that sink in.  I digress:  not all GMOs are bad but there are many that are questionable.  Hence, the need for labeling, the legal obligation of food companies to tell the public what is in our food.

***Check your labels on frozen food because frozen fruits and veggies can sometimes be sprayed with certain compounds so they retain their colors during the freezing process.