GRAIN FREE ON A BUDGET
A few weeks ago I mentioned the expense of eating grain free. Since eating grain free means the loss of relying on inexpensive, grain-based process foods, there is a need to fill in the gaps left in a weekly menu by removing “cheap”–both monetarily and nutritionally–foods from your diet.
Ironically, the most expensive approach to grain free eating is to focus on grain free replacements of grain heavy foods, like many of the baked goods offered by Grain Free Haven. Looking for replacements is not the best course of action when being frugal. It is great to have muffins or buns a few times a week, but the bottom line is the nut and seed based flours/meals are expensive.
To avoid grains AND plan menus frugally you have to mostly turn away from the middle. Specifically, the middle of the grocery store. Fresh protein, vegetables, fruits and dairy products are along the outside edges of most stores. Some frozen sections are in the center of the store, but take up a small fraction of the middle.
My family of three relies on a weekly grocery budget of $100. Sometimes it is a skidge more, sometimes a skidge less. This includes ingredients for replacement baked goods, protein, dairy, fresh and frozen vegetables, paper products, toiletries and beverages. I don’t do coupons very often, but definitely scour the weekly advertisements, of which we get about six each week, electronically and through snail mail. Here are a few steps you can take each week for frugal grain free eating:
1. Rely on sale items to guide your weekly menu. I know that if I scope out the produce section and the butcher section I can find good deals. Sometimes it is chicken or pork, other times it is beef or seafood. I let the sale prices and less expensive products in those sections guide what I make each week. Rarely is there a time when I need to get specific products. Usually for holidays I want specific ingredients, which usually results in slightly higher grocery bills, but for special occasions we go for it!
2. Buy in bulk when you find good deals and fully utilize your freezer. When the organic tomatoes are $.59 a pound grab a bunch. When the free range chickens are 50% off, fill up that cart! I am not a canner, but definitely a freezer. Our freezer overflows with great deals and stuff I prepared and portioned, then froze.
It is easy to find information about how to freeze fruits and vegetables to maximize their nutritional value later. If you have room, spring for a separate freezer. Often times a simple freezer can be found used for free or a deep discount, or new during sale weekends for $100-150. It will pay for itself in the short run. When you can stock up on meats and vegetables at peak season you can easily supplement your freezer stock with fresh items year round. The important part is making sure things are clearly labelled and keep an inventory so you don’t forget what you have. Some samples include a do it yourself available here and a printable grid style here.
3. Buy canned and frozen veggies when it makes sense. Frozen vegetables are usually flash frozen after blanching. They are the second best way to buy vegetables, after fresh, of course. Some canned vegetables are the way to go during off season and for some more expensive products. There are concerns about exposure to high levels of aluminum and BPA (bisphenal) when consuming canned foods, so it is my position to rely on them as a last resort and carefully monitor the improvements in packaging followed by different brands of canned foods. Based on the information I have read, I choose foods in glass jars our pouches over cans when I, uh, can (see what I did there?).
4. Online purchases. In today’s world of online offerings and quick delivery, take advantage of online sources for good deals. We pay an annual fee that allows for thousands of products to be delivered to our door with free shipping. This membership helps us find our baking ingredients and sweeteners at the lowest prices available, even considering the fact we live in a large metroplex. Many good deals are available with out annual fees as well. When you have a specific product you are looking, take some time to find a good online source for a good price.
5. Prepare in bulk with bulk. Making dishes with more servings than you need makes it easier to use up your groceries and keep within your budget. Stretch a batch of soup by loading it up with vegetables like cabbage and cauliflour. When you need to bulk up the your breakfast make a fritatta, using eggs to spread out your supply of more expensive products like breakfast sausage, vegetables and cheese. When making entrées with sides, increase the vegetable servings, filling 2/3 to 3/4 of your plate with them.
6. Intermittent Fasting. This may sound like an odd way to save on your grocery bill, but it does. You eat less frequently, therefore, need less food. Besides eating less frequently your stomach will shrink some and fill up faster when you do eat.
For my family, saving on the grocery bill is a tertiary reason to fast. We started doing it for health benefit reasons, then realized the impact on our grocery bill. It is not for everyone, but my husband and I have fasting habits that work for us. My husband does 24 hour fasts 2-4 times a week. I fast 12-18 hours daily. Not looking to open a huge can of worms, but here is a basic intro to fasting and why it is actually good for you, as well as one man’s journey researching the topic.
Here is a recipe that helps stretch your groceries, freezes well and the leftovers get better with age! I enjoy making this around St Patrick’s Day, but it is a wonderful comfort food all year long.
For the Stew
2 Tbsp butter
1 pound stew beef or lamb, ground or cut into small bite-sized pieces
½ – 1 cup red wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chopped carrots
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn (can be excluded for those with corn allergies, just increase amount of other vegetables)
For the Topping
1 medium head of cauliflower
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup plus 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 egg whites
Salt & pepper to taste
Clean and trim cauliflower, adding florets to a microwave safe bowl with ¼ cup water. Cover with a vented cover and microwave for 5 – 8 minutes until soft. Drain water. Add the cream and butter to the bowl and toss until butter is melted. Add the cauliflower and ½ cup of cheese to a food processor or use a hand blender to process until the mixture is a smooth consistency. It should look like thick mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool in the refrigerator so it is at least room temperature before adding it to the pie.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet over medium high heat melt the butter, then add the meat. Saute until browned, about five minutes. If an overwhelming amount of liquid is in the meat, partially drain and continue cooking. Add red wine and cook until sauce bubbles. Add tomato paste, garlic and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until blended. Add onion, corn and peas. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes over low heat. Turn off heat and set aside while you finish the topping.
Right before putting the cauliflower on top of the meat filling, whip the egg whites to a stiff peak. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the cauliflower mixture to lighten it up. Then fold the remaining egg whites into the cauliflower mixture and gently mix until combined. In a 9×13 baking dish add the stew and spread until even.
Gently cover the stew with cauliflower topping, spreading it evenly and not pressing down too far. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese over the top. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until topping is puffed and cheese is browning slightly. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Sprinkle more Worcestershire Sauce on individual servings if needed.
We will be at the Grand Prairie Farmers Market on December 5th from 8am–1pm. Enjoy a relaxed shopping experience, get some Sugar Free Hot Chocolate Mix and stock up on all the nut mixes you rely on now – sweet Chocolate “Cinn” Cashews, spicy Cajun Peanuts and the savory Momma’s Mixed Nuts or Pecans.
A special option this week is your chance to make gift bundles! I will have complimentary bases, wrapping and bows ready to make pretty whatever combination of my products you would like for gifts! You will be entertained by watching me battle the shiny cellophane film. I will also have some pre-wrapped packages for a quick getaway. Be ready for Hanukkah or any other gift giving celebration that is coming up soon!
If you come by my booth and tell me this week’s discount code you will get $1 off any purchase of $15 or more! The code for this week is HANUKKAH!
Please feel free to forward and share this newsletter with anyone you like! I look forward to seeing you this weekend!