Lean and Mean, but no Lean Meats, please :)

Happy new year!

2012 has brought with it a new job for Dave. It’s a great opportunity, a bit closer to home than the last job, and lots of work-at-home time should be in store. He’s got a nice title (Head of Engineering) and the work should be more in keeping with his level of experience. All great things.

The not so good part is something we discovered after he started… it’s a partial commission situation (which we did know) but the commissions will not start paying for a couple of months.


As you know, we are recently out of debt and plan to stay there forever, Lord willing. We started building our full emergency fund but haven’t gotten very far yet. So, in the interests of continuing to live within our means while we wait for our direct deposits to bulk up to normal, we are having to slash the January and February budgets like maniacs. It is just like the old days when we first started budgeting!

Well, it’s always a fun challenge for me to keep my hand in on frugality. So here are some of the things I am planning to do in order to keep our budget as lean and mean as possible without compromising our real food stance.

1. We have been buying a high percentage of our food organic. Instead of buying organic produce, we’re going to stick to the “clean 15” list (or maybe the top  25 cleanest)  produce items. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list/  Bonus if the item’s on sale. We’ll just be staying completely away from the higher-ticket items or things that are recommended to buy only organic.

2. We’ll be buying cheap cuts of free range/organic meat with bone in (like $2/lb or maybe less for chicken drumsticks), and then use/reuse bones to make bone broth. I am currently on my 4th batch of very gelatinous soup using the same roasted beef bones!  I saw a video online where they went 12 days making broth from the same pot of bones, and it was still creating gelatinous broth!

3. Lots more soups overall to stretch the meat and vegetables even farther. You can hide a lot of fat in soup which helps satiate as well as being extremely nourishing.

4. Along with the soups, I am going to make properly prepared grains a staple in our diets again. You may know that we generally eat few to no grains in our home. I have actually been on GAPS  for several months and though I personally will still not be eating any bread,  we will be loosening up a bit on added carbs, such as potatoes (sweet potatoes are on the clean 15!) and real sourdough bread made with freshly ground spelt. Fermenting the grains via sourdough makes it much more nutritionally available and reduces many of the digestibility issues and antinutrient components of the grain. I chose organic spelt because it is one of the “heritage” grains, not having been hybridized over the years to be high in gluten.

The fact is, no matter what they say about needing to eat fewer calories overall when you are low carb, my experience shows that it is still much more expensive.  I hope to see a reduction in the amount of meat and other expensive items consumed overall by allowing the children to have one to two servings of grain per day. And a bonus is, they all love bread (except Estella, my paleo baby) and will be more than thrilled to oblige. It will help make up for the soups – not their favorite. 🙂

I also plan to serve soaked steel cut oatmeal once a week or so.

The children enjoying a sourdough sandwich picnic on the deck

5. Eggs. Even at $4/dozen which we pay for eggs from a local farm, it’s still a cheap meal. We will be doing 1 or 2 non-breakfast meals per week featuring eggs and I might boil up an extra dozen or so to keep in the fridge for snacking.

6. Ramp up the homemade yogurt. Even at $7/gallon, which is what I pay for milk I consider acceptable for my family, it’s still an inexpensive lunch or snack to serve everyone compared to a meat-heavy alternative.

7. Canned tuna once or twice a week. This is cheap protein, and while not my favorite health wise, it’s something everyone likes and it won’t hurt to increase our intake temporarily.

8. Eat less overall. We all eat more food than we really need to, just because it’s yummy. We are going to start serving less at a time and letting the children and ourselves eat enough not to be hungry anymore, and leave it at that. It’s a good penitential practice, anyway. And there’s always an extra slice of sourdough bread if they are still truly hungry. We’ll also be limiting our intake of nuts, cheese, and other more expensive items.  And in my cooking, I will be using fewer ingredients. Plus if I make the same amount of food we normally eat, but we save some for deliberate planned-overs, that will cover a lunch or dinner for essentially free.

9. Grocery shopping every 10-14 days. If I run out of something I need for a recipe, we use a different recipe or make it without the item. We are going to try to use up what we have in the freezer and pantry and go as long as possible between grocery trips. If you don’t shop, you are not spending money. 🙂

9. Along with the above, we’ll be using very little fresh produce, which is generally much more expensive than its frozen counterpart. Frozen veggies are also usually slightly more nutritious since they’re frozen much closer to harvest than we could buy our fresh veggies in the store. For snacking, we’ll be getting 25 lbs of organic carrots for $15 at my local grocery store and we’re set. No expensive apples, etc.

10. I might even try to go to bed an hour earlier so I can skip the 10-11pm munchies I get when I stay up too much past dinner time!

Some things I will not be compromising on:

– I will not stop buying grassfed butter. There is so much nutritional value in that it’s just not worth saving a few dollars and getting something inferior. I will, though, be attempting to secure the best price on that item (and in my area that’s at Trader Joe’s).

– I won’t be buying conventionally farmed meats. Same reason as above, and plus you start adding toxins to your system from the antibiotics, hormones, and other problems with conventionally raised meat. We’d rather eat less of the good stuff than the same amount of cheaper stuff.

– I will not be couponing. All due respect to my friends who do it, I have never met anyone on the same page with me nutritionally who has found it a worthwhile pursuit.  Coupons are advertisements for packaged, pasteurized, manufactured fake food that I will not be feeding to my family.

What are your frugal tips for eating real food on a budget?

Linked up to Pennywise Platter Thursday and Simple Lives Thursday.  

This entry was posted in Budgeting, Housekeeping, Real Food. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Lean and Mean, but no Lean Meats, please :)

  1. Katherine Lauer says:

    Awesome tips. So great. Thanks for spelling it all out. And I agree with you about couponing. I’ve seen it work for a few things like disposible diapers on a maga sale, but I simply don’t buy the food products for which there are coupons!

  2. Jessica says:

    I totally agree with you on the couponing! Sometimes I see a coupon for toilet paper or for computer ink, but rarely, and mostly never for food that we eat. I am not willing to compromise our health for the sake of saving twenty bucks.

    These are great tips. We never buy meat or milk at the store. We always get those from local farms. You would think our bill would be low, but it never is. I always buy the highest quality cheese and butter. Plus we spend around $40 a week on oranges and grapefruits. It may seem like a lot, but we use them in everything and we rarely make it a week without running out. Going to the store less is a great idea. Thanks!

    • Sarah says:

      wow, do you juice them too? I have no doubt we COULD go through $40 or more worth of fruit in a week (or probably a day)! My kids are fruit fiends. I just don’t buy it, for that reason! Even the 25 lb of carrots we get are gone in about 7-10 days. !!

  3. I am so glad that I found your blog! I am a real food blogger with ten children and I am also a Catholic! I spent some time wandering around your blog and then put a link to it from my fan FB page. Nice to, kind of, meet you!

    • Sarah says:

      Oh, hi Melissa! I have seen your posts around the real food media comment world but didn’t realize we shared a Catholic faith, too! It is nice to meet you too. 🙂

  4. tricia says:

    We have much in common with how we feed our families! Soaked oatmeal, in water and homemade yoghurt or buttermilk is the best! I just posted about making cultured milk products on my blog today! You have a beautiful family.

  5. Pingback: Lean and Mean, but no Lean Meats, please :) | Socks on the Line « banjobrain

  6. mamak26 says:

    What brand canned tuna do you recommend?

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