The little Clay Pot

Lots of things can go in a little Clay Pot

Summer menus June 8, 2010

Summer is a hard menu time for me. Is it nice? Is it rainy? Did we decide at the last minute to invite company over? One better, did we get invited at the last minute to go someplace else?  Did I remember to order from the bounty?  Can’t we just eat s’mores for dinner?

Not to mention, I want to use every available minute to be outside or working on inside projects while I am not in school…I do not want to be in the kitchen any more than absolutely necessary! Feeding my family seems more a struggle, let alone feeding them healthy, local or organic!  And what ever happened to the budget!?

So you may notice a very picnic-y menu.  I intend to use the grill (or as my mother called it the “outdoor kitchen”) I got for my husband for his birthday every day it is not a torrential down pour…The newest menu posted for the week of 6.14.10–follows the old format…but I am thinking that I will have to come up with a more flexible template and still…my goal is to get a format that allows for cost analysis and user friendly recipes…I am working on it…promises, promises.

My secondary goal for the summer is to be diligent to post 2 posts a week…One on Monday with the menu that is food/grocery related and one later in the week that is a shameless rambling of the random thoughts that never cease to occupy my brain space.   As always your comments/questions/suggestions are always welcome.

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Getting back to basics. May 28, 2010

Right of the bat, let me say “Sorry for the delay.”   The last month of school was a bit intense and the last two weeks have been spent trying to put my seriously havoc ridden home back together–a task that has almost been accomplished.  Add to that the beautiful weather and the need to get the seeds and plants in the ground and it has been all I could do to keep food in our bellies, let alone actually planning and being smart about it. In fact, during finals week my two oldest children made coffee cake for lunch to have with fruit…twice…because it kept them busy and answered the “What am I going to feed these cridders?” question.  Furthermore, in the spirit of true confession, Yesterday…I fed them ice cream and pretzels.

As things slowly come back together though…I can smell bread in the oven, and we can actually walk on the floors in the bedrooms and not on toys and laundry, and my nails still have traces of garden dirt…I feel a sense of supreme bliss, knowing that this summer is going to be fantastic.  I will be able to make my menus and enjoy the foods that I will access to at the farmers markets.  I will be able to grow some of our own foods and even some medicinal herbs that I am finally taking the time to learn about.  And I will be able to share these things with my children…so that they will know that we never stop learning and that we can always learn a new way of doing things.  For example: not going out to eat or grabbing sub sandwiches because mom doesn’t feel like cooking at the end of a long hot day but instead–simmering a stew hen all day, shredding the meat, mixing it with BBQ sauce and making a beautiful chicken BBQ salad with a side of fried left over salt potatoes with fennel and chives.  It wasn’t hot, it wasn’t hard and best of all it didn’t require extra $$ or time.

“MUD MEN”

Best of all, as things get back into our preferred routine, I will be able to watch my children be children.  As we teach them to work the soil, and pull weeds and water plants…we can watch them discover (again!) the wonderful attributes of MUD!  It is a simple pleasure…and perhaps a bit devious in nature because there is something so satisfying at hosing them off with the garden hose…but these are the things I hope to make more time for by getting back into the menu, planning routine. So I will pick up where I left off…hope you still plan on reading along and sharing your thoughts as we go.  But most of all I hope you enjoy your summer…and maybe even some “mud” of your own.

 

Waste not Want not. April 6, 2010

An Italian friend of mine told me a few years ago about her grandmother visiting from Italy.  She described the way that her grandmother ate EVERYthing off a chicken bone and how it made her (my friend) feel very wasteful for throwing away food on her plate.

My husbands grandfather has a collection of empty match boxes.  I haven’t seen it myself, but every account likens it to a rather large collection.  Apparently there is no designated purpose for these match boxes, but they are kept…just because you never know when you might want to….what exactly would you want to do with 50 match boxes?

My mother-in-law taught me to wash my gently used baggies.  At first, I openly admit, I thought she was insane.  Then a girlfriend told me about someone who threw out a gallon baggy after a package of opened crackers had been kept in it for a few days.  Now, I tell myself I wash them sometimes–so that I don’t feel guilty for the times I don’t. *GRIN*

Let’s get to the point.  As I was working on the menu for next week, considering what I have, what I will need to get, recipes, schedules, the “sensitive” palates of my children and their extreme displeasure for casserole type food…it occurred to me…”Why am I planning a meal I am not going to want to fix, and that no one is going to want to eat?”  When this happens, there are left overs that no one wants to eat, and then they inevitably get thrown away.  Combine that with some exceptional circumstances that are going to seriously mess up our daily “schedules” over the next couple of weeks…and I decided to embrace the simple.  So the menu reflects just that: Sandwiches, pizza, &  hotdogs (Now stop your grimacing, I can actually get these through CNY Bounty and they are Delicious! No preservatives and made with local meat.)

I hope this tactic works!  I even think that I am going to try to make pizza’s this weekend and freeze them so that they are all ready and I will not be tempted to order pizza for delivery…a luxury we pay an extra $10.00 for, living out here in the boonies!

 

ACK! I missed my Bounty Order! March 31, 2010

Unfortunately yesterday I was focused on other tasks that had to be done, and I forgot about placing my bounty order until after it was to late! I have not missed a bounty order in a month or two, so I am very disappointed.  I am also into “CRunCH” time with my school work, so I need to be organized over the next couple of weeks to make sure that I am not making these silly time/money wasting mistakes!

The first step is going to be a thorough inventory of the kitchen.  Please hold, this may take a few moments, and I will probably get detoured by the needs of a human under 4ft tall. …………….

OK, now that is done, to create a grocery list and a menu.  I have decided that I am going to try to get through to next Thursday with the bare necessities and a few pantry items.  I need to restock on oatmeal (if anyone knows of a place to purchase non-plastic large food containers I would love to know!) and I will need milk, and a few produce items as well as a few things for dinner next week.  I am going to try to get the milk from a local farmer, and the oats and most everything else I will get from Troyer’s.   The menu for next week is very budget friendly, and so I should be able to maintain my $100.00 mark.

I am still trying to figure out the best way to post a grocery list or a break down of what I have purchased–that is not labor intensive.  I have considered scanning my notebook that I take with me and use to keep track of prices, and I think I will try to play with that this week.  I am also looking at some other blog themes that may allow me to organize a bit differently.

Also please take the time to read Mama Beth’s comment on the Breakfast on a Budget post…she is the amazing woman who shared the oatmeal/granola recipe and I greatly respect her experience, expertise and energy!

 

Breakfast on a Budget. March 26, 2010

Personally, I am not a big breakfast person…unless it is a BIG breakfast: pancakes, eggs, bacon, oranges, fried potatoes, cinnamon rolls, coffee, Juice.  But let’s face it–the farm family breakfast is just not realistic on a daily basis–at least not in my house!  I think most Americans today have cold cereal, milk, perhaps a fruit, some juice and maybe some toast.  But I know that for us, for a looooong time the routine was–cold cereal–milk–and juice.   Except Saturday, Saturday is pancakes and I think my children would revolt if I tried to pull anything over on them in that department.  I missed a Saturday a few weeks ago and promised to make them on Sunday…there was no backing out on Sunday…they were ready to make a picket line in front of the bathroom if I started to recant!

So as I started this venture I immediately started noticing how much was being spent on cereal.  Even at Aldis a box of “Crisp Rice” is approx $1.49.  Even in Walmart you can expect to pay any where from $1.60- $3.00 (and I think I am being conservative here) for boxed cereal depending on the brand.  Then feed four children an average of 3/4-1 Cup of cereal each day…(Not to mention my husbands, “I’m ready to go to bed–it is time for a bowl of cereal.” habit.) I have to buy at least 2 boxes each week.  So even if it is Crisp Rice from Aldi’s (which is a smaller box and normally I would buy 3 boxes for a week) – that is $4.50 for breakfast not including a fruit or the milk.

Enter the Mighty OAT.  Am I dating myself if I refer to Wilford Brimley telling us all that eating oatmeal is “The right thing to do”?  Oatmeal is actually a very good breakfast food.  It is filling, but not fattening, it is warm or cold, and it is good for our cholesterol.  Amazingly it is also very cost effective.  I can buy rolled oats at my local Amish store for $.70/lb.  A 6.55 lb bag costs $4.59.  Now I have not figured out mow many cups are in 6.55 lbs of oat meal, but I only have to by a bag every few weeks. So figure it is about $1.50 a week?  OR I can buy STEEL CUT OATS (or Oat Grout) (the unrolled oat, some people say it is more filling because it is not processed) for $.62/lb.

My magic numbers for rolled oats are 2 to 4.  Boil 4 cups water, add 2 cups oats.  This is the perfect amount for my 4 kids (for now.)  I am preferring the oat grout right now for 2 reasons:

  1. The magic numbers are 1 to 4.
  2. I can put it  in the crock over night and it is ready in the morning, with minimal clean up!  The recipe can be found here. If my husband want’s to eat some before he goes to work, this is good for that too, because I don’t have to get up at 3am to make him oatmeal before he goes!  I just change the 1 cup oats to 4 cups of water to 1 1/4 cups oats to 5 cups of water.

Now, my kids do get a little tired of oatmeal with butter and brown sugar. So we started experimenting.  We add Fruit (fresh or frozen), nuts and coconut, chocolate chips, maple syrup.  Anything really.  A favorite treat is to mix hot cocoa into it!  But if we really need something different we use this method suggested by a reader.  This is great as a “cold cereal” or on top of yogurt or even plain.  And there is no limit to what you can add  nuts, fruit…hmmm probably even some hot cocoa (will have to experiment with that!)

I do not buy much juice, a lot of cost for not a great nutrition (depending on the variety of course).  So we drink tea or milk or water and have an orange or mandarin with breakfast to get in that Vit. C.  These typically are not too expensive at Aldi’s and a large orange can be split between 2 kids.   I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but based on the USDA guidelines Children aged 2-8 only need 1- 1 1/2 cup of fruit per day.   And when you look at what counts as 1 cup, you don’t need to eat your whole serving at once.  A half an orange at breakfast, and 1/2 cup of pears or apple at lunch…and *POOF* you’ve done it!  Throw some plums or raisins in for a snack and now you have exceeded the need and gotten most of the recommended vitamins!   Apart of the $$ problem is that we just plain eat too much and waste too much.  When we put in perspective what our bodies really need to be healthy…suddenly we are able to spend a lot less money.

Happy eating!

 

Spring Planning- March 22, 2010

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Finally getting into the swing of things with this new schedule.  Although I am starting to think that schedules are overrated and that I need to learn to adapt at a quicker pace.  But the weather has been lovely and it is starting to demand my full attention, insisting that we spend every possible moment outdoors…cleaning up the yard, playing with the dog, and dreaming about the garden that will be growing soon.

I am not an educated gardener.  I buy seeds, (or if the income allows plants from a nursery) I stick them in the ground, I water, weed, and cross my fingers.  Last year we put in 4 6×6 raised beds.  One of them went unused because of poor planning on my part.  This year I am trying to be more educated about where and when to plant what.  My hopes are to actually can/freeze some of the food we grow for next winter…but I have been saying that for about the last 7 years!

I am also looking into some of the local CSA’s (will spend some more time on this concept at a latter date I think).  I think that it may allow for me to focus on the few things I can grow and preserve, and not get over done with all the things I would “like” to grow.   I think the concept is also great for people who do not have enough space to provide a summer’s worth of bounty.

The spring planning is fun, but I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt!

 

Holidays–local style. March 18, 2010

Chag Pesach Sameach

Our family loves Passover.  It is a time for us to do something special, festive and meaningful.   I enjoy preparing the meal because it is foods that we do not eat all the time…and we all enjoy eating it!

This year I purchased my lamb, carrots, eggs, and apples, via CNY Bounty.  It will be the first lamb we have gotten from a local source, we are very excited.  The honey is local, and the walnuts are from Troyer’s Amish store up the road from me.  I will have to buy my parsley, matzoh and parsnips from a chain grocer, but I hope to buy my grape juice from  Nelson Farms.  I could dig up my own horseradish…but I may opt for the store bought version…It depends on if I get to be out side with a shovel on on of these 50 degree days coming up!

The cost breaks down as follows

  • Lamb chops- $22.75
  • 4 lbs of carrots (they will not all be used for this meal of course) $5.85
  • 1 doz eggs- $3.25
  • Apples- $5.53
  • Honey- In the Pantry
  • Walnuts- In the pantry
  • The rest is yet to be determined…but shouldn’t be bad.

So the whole meal will be about $50.00.  Not to bad for a holiday meal.

In other news we are still adjusting to our new schedule and I am coming into the “busy” time for school, papers to write, meetings to attend, tests to take etc.  And my Husband started his on-line classes. So My menu planning is going to be essential in keeping things under control…but…since when have our lives been under control?  *Grin*

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.  And they made His grave with the wicked– But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor [was any] deceit in His mouth.  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put [Him] to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see [His] seed, He shall prolong [His] days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.”

Isaiah 53:7-10