Monthly Archives: July 2009

Sprouting and dehydrating wheat

I did something new this week!  Okay, so that’s not so unusual, but it’s still the first time I did it! 

About two or three years ago, I soaked, sprouted, and then dehydrated the wheat in the oven.  Oh my gosh, that was so laborious and I wasn’t happy with the end product after all of that time and effort at all.  So much so that I still have some of that wheat that has yet to be used, and not because I haven’t used much wheat.  Actually, at the rate I use wheat, I’ve gone through a number of fifty pound bags since then.  Because I felt it was a lot of energy to spend on something that didn’t give me much satisfaction or seem worthwhile, I resolved to spend my scads of excess time doing something more useful.  Until this week.

Thanks to a comment made here regarding soaking nuts back when I said it hadn’t been successful for me, I tried it again at that time and then used the dehydrator to dehydrate them.  Well, that made all the difference –  the results were great and I’ve soaked and dehydrated nuts successfully a number of times since then.

Remembering that, I thought that maybe using the dehydrator to dry the sprouted wheat would work, since it was the dehydrating aspect that didn’t work well for me.  I soaked a large amount of wheat and within a day, thanks to the warm weather and my non air conditioned indoor climate, the sprouts were visible.  I was surprised at how much wheat I was able to fit on the nine trays of the dehydrator – everything I had soaked fit easily.  The wheat dried in much less time than I expected, too.  When I got the dehydrator, I never expected it to come in handy in all the ways that it has – and if I was willing to use it for meat or dairy foods, I’d really be able to expand on the possibilities!

My reason for soaking the wheat is this: there are two ways to use flour that neutralizes the phytic acid. One is by soaking the flour, the other is by sprouting the wheat.  Until now, I’ve been soaking the flour.  But sometimes I don’t remember to soak the flour for something the night before, and it would be very time efficient to be able to prepare a lot of sprouted wheat in advance, so that I’d have it ready when I needed it.  Then all I’d have to do is grind it up right when I wanted to use some.

In the past, the sprouted wheat had a different consistency than regular wheat, so I don’t think this is something that will give me the same results in baking that I’m used to.  However, for quick breads, muffins, pancakes – that’s mostly what I soak the flour for – I think it should work pretty well.  I’ll be trying it the next couple of weeks and seeing how it works out.


Had a good fast

I hope you all had a good and meaningful fast.  BH, here it was much less eventful than last Tisha B’Av, which was unfortunately too easy to feel the spirit of the day.  At that time, my friend’s 16 year old son died from injuries in a car accident and I went with my oldest two kids to his funeral (also attended by a huge number of people in the community), and then afterwards to pay a shiva visit to her.  It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year – I can still remember everything from the moment I heard about the accident all the way through the funeral  as if it happened yesterday.  I called her yesterday a few hours before the fast to check in and see how she was doing with all of the emotion this time of year must be bringing up.  It’s very hard.

It’s a funny thing about Tisha B’Av.  It’s supposed to be such a sad day, but what I find the hardest is it’s usually a more pleasant and relaxed day due specifically to all the things you can’t do. Does that sound strange?  I find this challenging every year.  I sit on the floor, and my little kids get all excited climbing all over me.  I don’t chat on the phone, go online, read my typical reading material, eat meals, clean my house – so I have all this nice relaxed time to just be physically and emotionally present. There are no other things competing for my attention, and I can really be there for my family in a way that is hard to do most days of the year. 

Physically the fast was a good one, and I’m SO grateful that our weather today was much less humid than yesterday.  I was dreading the fast with hot and muggy weather.  I can handle the heat, but I tend to feel almost claustrophobic from the muggy air weighing down on me and I’m less receptive to my small children being very close to me at that time. 

Towards the end of the fast, dd12 (she’ll be 13 in the coming week) was bored so she started cooking for Shabbos.  Very constructive use of her boredom, isn’t it? :)  Since we’re going out for Shabbos lunch, our dinner preparations are in large part now complete, which is good since we want to work on the patio after chatzos.  I don’t think we’ll finish the details of it, since bricks at the end of each row will need cutting, and I think we’re going to come up short a couple of rows of bricks.  If that’s the case, I initially told the kids we’d make the patio a little smaller. But after digging up the area and framing it to the size they want it to be, they didn’t go for that idea, so now I’m planning to go to Home Depot to see if I can find some complementary contrasting pavers, since there’s no way I’ll be able to match up what we have.  Then we’ll have to pull up a couple of the first rows on one side, so we can edge both sides of the patio with the new pavers.  But we’ll see how it actually works out tomorrow after we get all the bricks we have left put in.  I’ll keep you posted. :)

At the end of the fast, the middles (ds10, dd8, ds7) starting taking the meal ‘orders’ from those fasting.  Ds10 came over to me with a pen and paper to write down exactly what I wanted, the specific foods as well as the amounts – they wanted to prepare individual plates of food for each of us for when the fast was over.  Isn’t that sweet of them?  I don’t know what made them think of doing this, but they did this for the first time this past Yom Kippur, and their initiative was definitely well received! 

But after ds10 took my order, then ds7 asked me if he could prepare my meal, so I agreed since ds10 was also preparing a meal for someone else and I saw how much ds7 wanted to also be involved. The only problem was ds7 was so tired by the time the fast was over that he really didn’t have much energy to do much of anything!  After he brought me a big cup of warm water – because he couldn’t reach the faucet for the cold water – I saw how he was dragging and suggested that he sit down and rest.  His heart was very much in the right place, though.  It’s the thought that counts! 

To break the fast, we had the watermelon that I bought to eat before the fast (but hadn’t had enough time then so had fresh pineapple instead) as well as fresh salad, potatoes, and eggs.  Dh put all the whitefish salad I was planning to serve in the freezer, but we’re all very flexible about food so it wasn’t a big deal.  We stick with our usual manner of eating both before and after a fast – though before a fast I tend to go heavier on more nutrient dense foods (like putting avocado in my salad), and after a fast I have something lighter.  (I also have an extra meal the day going into the fast.)  But I keep the proportions of protein, carbs, veg, and fat the same.  It works well for me – I don’t go into the fast feeling too stuffed to move, and I don’t go to sleep after the fast feeling sick from overeating. 

I can’t believe how fast the summer is flying by – before you know it, Elul will be here and soon after that the official beginning of the new school year.  I’m really loving our relaxed summer schedule, so I have to make the most of it while it lasts! 


First grader not up to par academically

>>One comment in particular is bothering me . I had asked if our son would be welcomed back at a later point should we feel he would be best served in a school. He (principal) said he didn’t have a problem but it was overwhelmingly likely it wouldn’t work as he didn’t think our son would be up to the level of the class. I had mentioned my intention to keep up to the school and align myself with its’ curriculum and while he offered that I could speak to the first grade Rebbe to see what he is doing, the Menahel said it’s more than just curriculum that our son would need to know. He said they stressed skills (which I plan to stress as well) and that the Rebbe was speaking to them throughout the day about yiddishkeit and there was a certain geshmak that is given over in the classroom.  I’m both concerned and confused. On the one hand, it worries me that my son might not be “up to the others” and be unable to be placed back into the school should we choose to. On the other hand, I’m confused as to what could be taught and to what degree that my son could be so behind that he would be unlikely to play “catch-up”. <<

 For the record, this statement was being expressed regarding a six year old.  I find it a bit laughable to talk about how much first graders learn that can’t be learned anywhere else. 

I think it’s important to understand that the principal needs to believe what he’s saying.  After all, school based education is his business and he should believe in the value of the services he’s offering.  What if the principal told you that your child’s emotional needs would be better met at home, that you as a loving and motivated mother can certainly match what the school is doing, and the best learning environment is one where a child is supported and guided according to his individual needs? Wouldn’t there be an issue of cognitive dissonance? 

We all need to accept that regardless of where and how we choose to educate our children, they are going to have gaps.  There’s absolutely no way to be sure a child has learned everything he will need to know in his future life.  That can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t make us feel that we’re failing our children.  What’s nice about homeschooling is that you have control over what you think is most important and can be sure that’s something you teach.

Practically speaking, all kids of any age really need to know is how to read (English and Hebrew), write (English and Hebrew), and do math.  If they have those skills, learning other things will be easy.  First graders are at the beginning of all of those skills.  As far as the intangibles, which is what I think he was probably referring to, the power of the home is immeasurable.  Think of what the Shabbos table alone can offer kids, and then realize how many more opportunities you’ll have all week long!  There are supplemental materials that I’ve found valuable for my kids, most notably parsha and Jewish story cassettes.  This would be very helpful in supplementing the ‘geshak’ factor, if that’s a concern.  Even if it isn’t, all my kids have loved these and learned lots from them – they put them on during their free time and could literally listen for hours. 

I think educators often overestimate their schools and underestimate the abilities of a student to meet standards that might be different than what he’s accustomed to.  And they definitely, definitely underestimate homeschoolers!  (The advantage of this is that they’ll be really, really suprised when they see how great your kids are and how well they do, and that’s fun to see!)  But honestly, I really wouldn’t worry about this.  If you believe your child will benefit from homeschooling, focus on that.  That is the present reality to be concerned with; do your best to make your homeschooling journey an enjoyable one for you both – the best way to ruin it for everyone is to keep one eye on what the schools are doing and constantly worry that you’re not doing enough.  Either you’ll have a challenge getting your son into this school when you’re ready to reenroll him or you won’t.  If you do, there are lots of other schools, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it. 

Meanwhile, just enjoy homeschooling one day at a time!  You’re going to do great and one day in the future you’ll be able to reassure other parents who are in this position with your personal experience!


How much water to drink

>>Do you think that if I’m drinking 3/4 to 1 gal. of water a day, I’m drinking enough to provide for my newborn?<<

This is just my personal opinion but it sounds fine to me.  For years I’ve heard the recommendation to drink 8 cups of water a day, but I think a better recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in ounces.  Meaning, if you’re 120 pounds, drink at least 60 oz.  There are sixteen cups/ 128 oz in a gallon, so you sound like you’re doing great! 

If a person lives where it’s hot, is very active, or is nursing, they’ll need to increase the amount they drink. And for the immediate days before a fast, it’s also a good idea to increase your daily water intake. 


Sending kids to camp

Dd14 is home from four weeks at camp, ds16 is now at camp, and it’s finally time for me to post about camp.  I’ve been pushing this off since last summer because there’s so much to say and I don’t really feel like saying it all! 

>>Can I ask one more thing? I have read in your previous posts that you do not care for some of the Jewish extra-curriculars (Pirchei, plays), but you send your children to sleep away camps. <<

I’ve sometimes been asked about why I send my kids to camp – I’ve gotten the impression from a number of people who asked me this that it’s inconsistent of me to send them to camp if I’m not sending them to school.  Just because something is part of the mainstream doesn’t mean that I’ll have an automatic knee jerk reaction to opt out without considering if there’s any value in it for our family. Being a person of integrity means that we should think about things honestly, not just react.  Conforming to the expectations of the non-conformists is just as senseless as following whatever the majority is doing. 

Now, it’s true that camp does have many of the negatives of school.  However, there are enough differences that are positive that we’ve felt it beneficial for our kids to go. While there may be a lot of similarities between camp and school, there are also a lot of differences. The biggest differences in favor of camp are: children are there by choice, the focus is on having a good time, and there are a number of ways to be successful in camp (vs. only the academic model).   There at means there are more opportunities for children to have a success experience. 

Socially it can be positive, if you’re children are ready for it.  We don’t send our kids to sleep away camp until they are at least 12 – we sent our oldest when he was 11 for three weeks and that was a mistake; it took more time for him to readjust to being with our family and unlearn the attitudes he picked up than the actual time he spent in camp!  Last year I sent my dd who was a month away from her 12th birthday, knowing how mature she was, and feel that while she had a mostly positive experience, I should have waited until this year.  Tonight at dinner my dd12 commented that she can see that every year older my dd14 is, the better her camp experience becomes. 

The reason I wait for kids to be 12 is that I want to know that I can trust my kids to act according to our standards even when we’re not there.  That’s a pretty big thing to expect, but I’ve seen that at 12 all of our older kids have been able to do that.  Four weeks away from the family is a long time, and there’s a lot of social pressure that kids face during that time. 

I want them to have a well developed sense of self and identity that can withstand the peer pressure they encounter.  Especially as homeschoolers, they’re doing something very different from the crowd and the crowd doesn’t tend to look favorably on people they classify as ‘different’.  You might wonder how my kids deal with all the questions or reactions about homeschooling.  It’s really not a big deal to them.  They’re very comfortable with homeschooling and don’t have any sense of discomfort just because it’s a different educational choice than most people. Maybe because of their comfort with homeschooling, they rarely encounter negativity or anyone looking down on them or speaking badly of them.  Their peers end up finding it very fascinating.  My dd14 told me she got asked the same questions so many times that everyone in her bunk knew the answers, so it got to the point that when someone would ask, she would smilingly motion to her bunkmates and they’d answer for her.  She said that the only negative comment she got this summer was from one girl who blurted out, upon hearing dd is homeschooled, “But you look so smart!  Aren’t you supposed to be dumb if you homeschool?”    Dd straightened her out pretty fast.  :)  You could say she’s doing her part to educate the next generation about alternative education!

I have to be very clear, however, that I feel camp is a luxury.  It’s nice to be able to send kids to camp when the conditions are right, and I’m grateful we’ve been able to do it and that our kids have gained from it.  But it’s by no means necessary and it’s often not even beneficial.  I’m referring to both sleep away and day camps (I’m referring to the child’s developmental needs, not the parental babysitting needs).  I find it troubling that so many people regard this as an absolute necessity, to the point of endangering their financial well being by taking on long term debt to pay for one summer. 

Part of why I think that many parents feel it’s necessary because they’re uncomfortable with a child having an unstructured summer and feel that it’s beyond their abilities to create the structure with their children. I’ve repeatedly heard the concern about kids lazing around and doing nothing, as if this was a crime.  When we do it, we call it down time or unwinding, but when our kids do it, it’s being lazy and unproductive?!   I really don’t agree with that, especially when they really need time to decompress and unwind from the intensity of the school year.  And ironically, the age group I most hear this concern expressed about is teen boys, who more than anyone need a chance to unwind due to the stifling school schedules they have. 

I’ve sent some of my kids for part of the summers to day camps, though I haven’t sent anyone for the last couple of years.  I’m at the point that I just don’t feel that there’s much of a gain.  Sure, they do nice activities.  But for the money I would spend on day camp fees, I can buy a lot of craft materials for projects, take the kids on plenty of trips, and do lots of fun stuff.  (I don’t actually do it to that degree, but I’m making the point that your money would go a lot further at home.)   They can get together with friends any time of the day they want, and they can enjoy the relaxing tempo of the summer schedule. 

Another concern is how the social dynamics play out.  There’s often pettiness, nastiness, competing and comparing, inappropriate language, and general disrespect of others.  Kids pick up behaviors and attitudes very quickly from their peers.  If the adults in charge are on top of the social dynamics of the kids and cut off bad attitudes and behaviors from the start, then day camps can be a very fun experience, and if a person can afford it, then I think it’s a nice opportunity.  But again, nice and necessary aren’t the same thing!


Traditional Granola

When my ds (then 14) was in yeshiva for ninth grade, he had to be in school for three meals a day.  He liked taking this granola for breakfast – it’s a tasty recipe, and good for you, too! 

Traditional Granola

  • 8 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 1/2 c. melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 c. yogurt
  • 2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1 t. cinnamon

Combine the first five ingredients.  Pat down, cover, and leave out for 24 – 48 hours.  In a separate pot, heat the honey and add spices.  Add to the soaked oat mixture.  Spread mixture thinly in a baking pan and bake at 200 degrees, stirring periodically, until completely dry and crispy.  You can add nuts, dried fruit, coconut, or whatever else you can think of!

Note – this isn’t a very sweet recipe, and we find it perfect for our family (usually we cut the sweetener in a recipe by 50%).  But you may find it’s not sweet enough; if that’s the case, add some more honey.

I make double this recipe because it’s so good that it goes fast!


Rain barrels

About a month ago I bought our first rain barrel for $50 from someone who had only used it twice, a heavy duty vinyl model that holds 100 gallons of water.  (A rain barrel, in case any one isn’t familiar with the term, is a large barrel that is set up to harvest the rain water runoff from your home’s gutters.) I got it with the intent to be more self sufficient with garden’s water needs.  It’s a shame to pay to water the garden when I can use the rain that falls for free!  This model collapses and can be stored compactly in the winter months, which I liked.  It’s also easily accessible to my darling toddler sons, one of whom turned it on this morning without us seeing him, and totally drained out all 100 gallons of water.  yikes2.gif  At least it wasn’t water we had to pay for. 

A couple of weeks ago, I bought three more rain barrels, this time the standard 55 gallon size.  They’re recycled drums made of heavy duty plastic, much better for a family with active kids since they wouldn’t be easily damaged.  I think I’ll resell the vinyl rain barrel before one of my children figures out how to make a hole in it. :)   I bought them from someone who made them himself.  They were $50 each but I asked for a discount since I was getting three, so I paid $125 for all of them.  I researched how to make rain barrels quite a while ago because I wanted to make one, so I know it’s not a hard thing to do.  But while theoretically we could have made some ourselves, I knew that there was no way that the barrels would get done in a timely way because we had just started the patio project.  I also knew (since I’ve been looking for months for cheap barrels to make my own rain barrels and every single time the $10 ones were sold before I could get them) that I’d have to pay $25 for the barrel, and after buying the parts, I’d hardly come out more cheaply than buying them ready made.  My time and labor is worth the $5 or less I would have saved, don’t you think?

I’d like to connect at least two of them, so when one is full the water is automatically diverted into the next one.  My ds10 connected a garden hose to the spigot at the bottom of it so we can water directly from the barrel, but it seems that hose has a blockage so I have to attach a different hose. 

We got a little rain last week and it filled a six of one barrel.  Then we got a good rain, and it was incredible to watch how quickly the barrel filled up!  Since we don’t yet have the barrels connected to receive the overflow, we manually redirected the flexible downspout over the empty barrel.  It’s amazing to note the difference between that one, which is receiving the directed run off from the gutter, and the one next to it, that only collected the rain that fell directly.  The one that wasn’t hooked up got only a few cups of water in it after a good sized rain, while we easily could have filled all three barrels in the same amount of time. 

It might not seem so frugal to buy rain barrels, since we pay about $160 every three months for our total water usage, and it will take a lot of collected water until we break even.  But that’s how a lot of money saving things are – you have to make the initial investment and it can take some time until you start to see the payoff.   If you look at the short term, it seems like a waste of money, but I look at it as a long term investment; since watering the garden would take a lot of water on a regular basis (and it’s something I plan to have each summer), I’m happy to have a way to cut the costs. 


Weekly menu plan

Today my dd14 should be coming home from camp – we’re all so much looking forward to having her back!

As I was planning this week’s menu I was thinking about how much I’ve changed the way I cook over the years.  I used to cook mostly vegetarian except for some chicken on Shabbos, and the meals during the Nine Days weren’t any different than the rest of the year.  But now I’ve gotten used to using lots more chicken and stock, so it was a little bit of a mental adjustment for this week.  As always, I usually note the main dish and supplement with fruit and vegetables that we have on hand.

Sunday – breakfast – whole wheat challah with cream cheese; lunch – macaroni and cheese (leftover from Thurs. dinner); dinner – honey baked lentils, kasha, tomato olive salad

Monday – b – zucchini muffins; l – ricotta cheese pancakes; d – corn chowder

Tuesday – b – grits; l – green beans and potatoes with sour cream; d – pizza (might try making a sunflower seed crust, depending how busy it is that afternoon; otherwise I’ll make a regular ww crust)

Wednesday – b – biscuits with cream cheese and jam; l – celery and peanut butter; d – lasagna, hard boiled eggs

Thursday – (breakfast and lunch are for those who aren’t fasting) b- baked oatmeal; l – leftovers; d – whitefish salad, brown rice

This past Shabbos: Fri night – homemade challah (made with 100% whole wheat), roast turkey, roasted red potatoes, baked butternut squash, kasha, fresh salad, pecan power bars;  Shabbos lunch – chicken, corn salad, lacto fermented pickled mixed vegetables, zucchini relish, fresh salad, watermelon, cake; shalosh seudos -whitefish salad,  tomato olive salad, salads left from other meals (I usually only make one or two different things for shalosh seudos and everything else is what we have in the fridge from lunch or dinner)

We’re starting to get some vegetables from the garden, which is really fun.  The tomatoes are just starting to turn red; today the kids picked a handful of cherry tomatoes and one heirloom black cherry tomato, a handful of green beans, a yellow squash, and a zucchini.  It’s not a lot yet, but it is nice for a snack or to add to the salad.  We can see lots more tomatoes that are green, so hopefully we’ll have a very generous amount once they get started ripening.

I sprouted the lentils at the end of last week, so they’re ready to go for tonight.  I’m planning to make a large batch of granola, which I make according to traditional preparation methods, so today I’ll soak the oats.  Granola isn’t on the menu for the week but I’ll have it on hand, and if one morning we’re short on time, it will be available.  Otherwise, it will be for Shabbos breakfast for the kids.

I’m also going to grind some wheat for flour for tomorrow’s muffins and the pizza crust and then will have it ready for soaking.  I try to grind the flour fresh, but when I do it a couple of days in advance, I keep it in the freezer so that the vitamins in it aren’t lost – it’s not a big deal to grind it, but taking the grinder out for a small amount of flour is an extra step that sometimes can feel like too much at a busy time.  I’m also hoping to make another large batch of the curried carrot sauerkraut – everyone liked it so much and it was very versatile; we used it inside wraps, tacos, as a salad side dish, and even in bean sauerkraut soup.


Canning jam and cherries

Yesterday I did some canning.  We were getting low on the homemade jam we made back in January, and since I recently found frozen strawberries on sale for $1 lb, it was a good time to make a batch to replenish our jam supplies!  We used ten pounds of strawberries and 2 cans of juice concentrate, which came out to 14 half pints and 4 pints of jam.  It looks a little liquidy, but last time I made it, it also looked like that and it then solidified over time.  Hopefully this will do the same – I’ve read that it takes about a week for jam to set.  If it doesn’t, we’ll use it as a thick syrup instead of a jam, and that will be fine, too.

Then I canned cherries.  I bought 20 pounds on Friday when I saw the organic cherries were cheaper than non organic sale priced cherries, but we ate some and took some to our hosts for Shabbos, so we didn’t end up canning more than 12 pounds.  We were recently enjoying the cherries I canned last summer and now’s a perfect time to replenish the pantry so we can continue to enjoy cherries when fresh prices aren’t at the seasonal low we’re enjoying right now.  Dh has been having them fairly regularly for breakfast, and I figured we must be just about finished with the cherries I canned last summer.

Today I was planning my next bulk order and in order to buy what I needed most, did an inventory of what I have on hand.  Usually I send the kids to the basement to bring up whatever I need, which is why I don’t have a good idea from seeing it regularly myself.   Imagine my surprise that we still have 14 quarts of canned cherries (plus one 1/2 pint)!  I don’t mind, it’s just that I would have expected that we finished them off!  I also noticed we still have eight + quarts of the pears we picked for free last year.  That’s especially nice since we’ve been keeping an eye on the same neighbor’s pear trees and there’s no sign of any fruit this year.  It just illustrates that you can’t assume what you have one year is what you will have another, and there’s a value in setting aside or preserving during the abundant times so it will tide you over during the lean times!


Sample meal costs for today

>>Can you give a sample of your meals for a day and what it costs?<<

Well, since the request came today I guess today is as good a day as any to use as an example. This wasn’t an especially cheap day, but the very cheap days balance out the more expensive days so it doesn’t really matter.  You’ll notice that my buying habits are reflected in the prices I pay.  Please don’t post comments about how lucky I am that I can get things so cheaply and where you live it’s not possible – this gets really tiresome for me to hear because it’s just not true.  Most of the women in my community would tell you it’s not possible for a family our size to have this kind of budget with food costs being what they are.

Breakfast was supposed to be Yorkshire pudding, but dd made pancakes instead.  That was a very cheap breakfast – it’s basically just flour and some eggs, fried in coconut oil.  We buy 50 lb sacks of wheat and grind the flour; a sack that size is about $35. That makes it .70 lb for a pound of wheat berries, and a pound of wheat comes out to a pound and a half of flour. Let’s round the flour costs up to .50 lb.   The eggs were regular grocery eggs at 1.29 a dozen (I save the pastured eggs for smoothies when I want to use them raw) and she used half a dozen.  So about  $1 for the pancakes, since we used water instead of milk.  They had a pound of organic cherries, too – that was another dollar.  I have kefir in the fridge but no one felt like having it today.  This was a smaller amount than we usually make; usually it would be 50% more.  Breakfast total – $2.

Lunch – was supposed to be cream cheese roll ups, but kids decided they’d rather have it for lunch tomorrow.  Instead they had leftover baked potatoes and lentil pecan burgers.  But for the sake of showing something more easily documented (though more expensive), I’ll use the roll ups for my example and figure the amounts we’d usually use.  Spinach tortillas – .89 package, 2 packages – purchased at discount store six weeks ago and taken from freezer – $1.78.  Romaine lettuce – got a package of romaine hearts for 1.99 from the ethnic grocery where prices on vegetables are better than local supermarkets, but only need half a package – $1.  Cream cheese – just bought some at a newly discovered discount store for .50 for 8 oz., half of what I usually get it for.  Misc. vegetables and lacto fermented veggies to put in roll up – I buy many vegetables from the discounted section of the store, which works well when you plan to use them quickly.  I didn’t pay more than .50 lb for any of those, figure up to 3 lb. of vegetables total – $1.50.  Lunch total – $4.78.

Snack – blueberry scones.  Someone gave us a box of scone mix yesterday, and ds10 asked if he could prepare it, so I agreed.  He added half of a 12 oz package of frozen blueberries, bought at a discount grocery for 1.49 (instead of $4 in the regular supermarket), so .75.

Dinner – macaroni and cheese with summer squash and green beans.  The organic flax rice spiral pasta was .99 for 12 oz, and we used 3 boxes – purchased at a salvage store six weeks ago – $2.97.  For the cheese sauce, since I’m out of milk (because I’m delaying my monthly shopping trip by three weeks) I used something I virtually never use because it’s so unhealthy- powdered milk.  Don’t do this at home!  :)  Anyway, it was organic and at least hormone, antibiotic, and pesticide free, and given to me months ago by a friend who bought it and wasn’t using it  – free.  Used 1 lb butter (discount grocery) – 1.39, a cup of whole grain flour – .25,  1 1/2 lb chalav yisroel mozzarella – 4.69 lb – get discounted price for buying a five pound brick – 7.04.  I also threw in a handful of dehydrated mushrooms (bought fresh, on sale for .99 lb) and a handful of dehydrated onion (bought fresh from seconds section – .29 lb) – another $1.  Summer squash and fresh green beans – from our garden – free.  I have  enough macaroni and cheese for tomorrow lunch, too, so really this dinner wasn’t as expensive as it seems.  But I’m going to figure the costs as if we had actually eaten it all tonight – I prefer to overestimate my costs than to underestimate.

Total for the day for our family – $20.19 (b – $2, l – 4.78, sn – .75, d – 12.66).    (I’m really tired tonight so it’s possible I made a mistake in the calculations, but this should be very close.)

 To do, this, I used a variety of strategies – cooking from scratch, bulk buying, monthly shopping, stocking up when I see great deals, dehydrating/preserving foods that are on sale (in this case, vegetables), using vegetables close to the end of their shelf life that are significantly discounted, accepting groceries that are passed on to us, getting the cheapest items at different stores (every item above from a discount grocery was from a different store), and gardening. Those were strategies used just for today’s meals.  The more strategies I learn about and use, the easier it is to stay within my budget.  I’ve written about all of these in the past, but I know that there are always new visitors to the blog who haven’t seen what I’ve written on the topic of cutting down your food budget. 

Some days I use a lot more beans and grains, which are much less expensive, and sometimes long periods can go by when I don’t use anything that I’ve gotten for free from a friend (today was unusual in that regard).  You may see what seems like incredibly cheap prices, but what you don’t see is the time I’ve spent learning different ways to cut costs, my willingness to learn new things and experiment, the hours spent investigating different stores over the years, the managers of stores I’ve spoken to, and the commitment I make to stay within my budget no matter what.  I constantly stay open to finding new sources of good deals; I never assume I’ve found the best or cheapest places for anything.  Because of all these strategies, I feel like it keeps getting easier and easier to stay within my monthly budget, even with the rising food costs. I feel very expansive in my grocery shopping, and I don’t find it hard to limit myself to $600 monthly –  $450 would be a challenge – doable, but we’d be eating a lot more beans and a lot less cheese and chicken.