S’more Stuffs – Target’s healthier snack food finds

So, we went to Target…many mom stories start that way. I had not been in awhile and I was pleasantly surprised at the options of organic and non-gmo lunchbox, snack and kid friendly foods.
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Amy’s Organics

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I am a big fan of this vegetarian brand. I will drive across town in the winter to buy her canned soups, chili, and refried beans. The kids prefer homemade Mac and cheese even to this brand’s boxed, but they really like her snacks. Target has carried this line for awhile and runs sales on it from time to time, but we still found something new. Fruit snacks! $3 for a box of 5, so into the Easter stash they went. Still pricey for fruit snacks, but they are already luxury status at my house and they were the same price as other brands just less snacks inside. Not a big trade-off in my book for quality.

Sea-friendly canned tuna
Wild planet offered albacore chunk tuna that is pole, troll and hand line caught. It boasts lower mercury, higher sustainability, no BPAs in canning, and no fillers. We picked up a can for less than $5.

Non-GMO Certified
There were several non-gmo certified products to choose from. We found non-gmo go-go squeez pouches, cereals, and jam. That was all that was on my grocery list, so I will have to hunt for more next time. I think consumer voice is starting to change availability at major retailers, so whoo! Hoo! for that. Just be careful though, it needs to be organic or certified non-gmo to truly be free of generically modified organisms. Everything we picked up was $2 or less!

Oh, fine…just give me a grocery store

With the mixed reviews of local co-op produce quality and the pre-paid hassle of it all, I have felt a little overwhelmed and frustrated. We don’t have a Whole Foods closer 30 minutes drive and I’m determined to find a grocery solution that is manageable, affordable, and easily maintained. The farmer’s market has been okay. I have made a couple of trips to find they were out of eggs, bread was $6 plus, and I would always have to visit another site to cover a week’s supply of fruits and veggies.

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This week I didn’t even attempt the farmer’s market with all three children. Instead, I opted for another learning experience. I learned that Central Market has kid friendly carts, but that does not mean the crowded aisles are. It wasn’t unreasonable to buy actual food (22% of my bill was prepared food – I love their tarragon chicken salad) and I will be buying cereal there in the future. They are the only show in town with a decent selection of GMO-free options (Cascadian Farm has several varieties similar to the mainstream cereals my family likes). They don’t have a large choice of regular staples, and the ones they do have carry big price tag. There is also no bring your own bag credit. It’s definitely worth it to go early before the rest of the world wakes up.

I think my new favorite solution to the grocery dilemma is shopping early and alone. (Realizing that will be a rare treat) I headed out just after eight, made it to the grocery and Wal-Mart, and I finished by just after eleven. I even got to enjoy my free glass of tea while I shopped! This week, I think I’m going to look into local butchers. Anyone know of a good one?

Up with the chickens

Splitting the Difference Attempt 1 – a Visit to the Local Farmer’s Market

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This week I learned 9:00 is not early enough to get anything other than beets and greens.

No one in my family likes beets or greens.

Crap.

Devise Plan B for week one.

End up at Target buying what organic produce I can find while I’m buying pull ups.

Crap.

My raspberries are moldy when I pull them out of the fridge Monday morning.

I say some more unladylike words. (What? My mom hates it when I say crap anyway.)

Splitting the Difference Attempt 2 – Back to the Farmer’s Market

 

I got up early on Saturday morning and headed back to the local farmer’s market.

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For $21, I picked up: blueberries, green beans, lettuce, cherries, a cantaloupe, and fresh eggs.
I was so proud.

I also went to Sprouts for $60 more in produce and meat: Trout fillets, tri-tip beef, free range chicken tenders, pork sirloin roast, organic yogurt, 1/2 # walnuts, 2 heads of garlic, 2# carrots, 1 bunch celery, 4 bell peppers, 2# lemons, 2# of peaches, 2 sweet potatoes, 2# sweet onions, 12 oz raspberries, 3 HASS avocados, 1/2 # vine tomatoes, and 1# black plums.

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I learned Sprouts gives bring your own bag credit, the infant carrier takes up a whole cart, and Wednesdays they honor this week and last week’s ads.
They helped me to my car.

All of the veggies were gone by Wednesday.

It turns out we are a two dozen egg household now.

It was all gone by Friday night.

Hmmmm.

Pa pa let me raid his garden when we went to visit. We cleared out the last batch of root veggies. I even tried some of his beets 🙂 maybe Baby Girl will like them?

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SUMMER PRODUCE UPDATE

As June draws to a close, enjoy the last bit of the season for blueberries & strawberries.  People will tell you blackberries are ready, but I disagree, see ya next year!  The best time of year is here!  Tomatoes, zucchini , green beans and corn are coming into full swing.  Word to the wise:  the 4th is not complete without cherries & peaches! July finishes sweet with big ripe melons (Get your mind out of the gutter). For you smoothie makers & juicers – greens are always in fashion.

Great national link list for all your seasonal needs:  http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php

the Grocery Dilemma

I usually have the children and the iPad with me when grocery shopping. Kiddo keeps busy by taking pictures in the Photo Booth app while I shop. His work is featured today.

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I’m a foodie. I enjoy the process of putting together a meal. Rarely do I have the time to plan and shop for elaborate menus. Usually I rush to make a list, check local specials, and plan meals for the week. When Man is sweet and squeezes in a supermarket run while I herd kids and tackle the mountain of laundry formerly known as our couch, he returns fuming. Like the kind of fuming that is, “thank you Lord he didn’t punch someone in the parking lot”. Then we spend the rest of the day madder than two wet hens and we barely accumulate enough food to last us a week or two. I inevitably forget to put something on the list, have to go to several stores to finish my list, or reach for an ingredient mid-week only to find it had already molded.

The whole process is giving me a nervous twitch.

I started doing a little research. The class I was teaching was knee-deep in a study over Omnivore’s Dilemma any way. I became more exhausted, frustrated, and annoyed — every eat on a budget article, post or pin was full of processed foods, cheap foods laced with God knows what, or hours of labor.

I do not have patience or time for hours of labor.

I am not naïve, Wal-Mart is not going anywhere any time soon, and a quick run to the mega store does have its place.

But, I want more than settling for whatever Wal-Mart or Target has on its shelves most days.

Can I split the difference between the supermarket and alternatives?

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My aspiration is to feed my family based on the following:

  1. Be sure of what is in my family’s food.
  2. Know where our food comes from – preferably Texas, if not – then the good ole’ USA.
  3. Buy seasonal produce.
  4. Limit the amount of preservatives, chemicals, antibiotics, etc in our family’s food.
  5. Find high quality product on my shrinking budget.
  6. Avoid product that is overly processed or not on the up and up (enter Monsanto, chickens in the chicken feed, HFCS, etc)

I’m not unrealistic. Man is not giving up his Dr. Pepper. Kids should have cake and ice cream at a friend’s birthday party. I’m not giving up my chocolate. I like pizza dough made with white flour. I don’t see me baking or making iced tea without sugar. However, I am a dietitian, former personal trainer, and newly retired culinary arts teacher…if anyone ought to feed their family decent food it’s me.

That got me to brainstorming.

Of course I will still have to go to the “grocery store” for household items, but how long could I get eggs, milk, meat, produce and bread without it? Could I forgo Wal-Mart & Target (where customer service usually sucks) for neighborhood stores that give me a bag refund, offer to help me out with the groceries, and actually answer questions I need to ask while shopping? Could I find everything we needed at the farmer’s market in town? Would it cost me an arm and a leg to eat well?

I only have a foot.

Then I thought…in the words of Barney Stinson…challenge accepted!

I seek advice! Have you found any great blogs or websites that help you plan? Please share any thoughts or tips!

Summer’s Comin’

Aaaahhhh, homegrown strawberries. They are like that first warm breeze after a winter of brisk wind and cold drizzle. A sign of summer as refreshing as the first cool dip in a crystal clear pool during one of those sweltering Texas June days. May brought the first fruits of our labor, and they are delicious my friends!
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They are not as large as their store-bought counterparts, but they are sweet, fire engine red, and pack the punch of everything there is to admire about the strawberry.
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Don’t get me wrong, gardening is a J-O-B. I’m not sane enough to stay on top of things, so there is always fruit to pick, weeds to pull and bugs to battle. (I have taken great pride in the fact that my attempt at transplanting the new plants from last years’ runners has successfully produced in their new location. It’s the little things.)

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This year, I seem to be having a battle of the wits with our little lightweight powerhouses, the ants. Those suckers are so unassuming, but so stinking irritating (both literally and figuratively). Anyway, I have called in the big guns – Man is taking care of them for me. He has been reading the Chris Kyle story, and since he’s not a Seal, he desperately needs someone to battle with – so I just pointed his testosterone in the direction of the ants. And I’m not even sorry.

While I was waging my own battle on the weeds and Man was strategizing the ants, he whipped up some of these lovely egg &sausage tacos. Not to brag, but Man makes a mean breakfast.
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I digress, back to what to do with all these lovely berries? My boys’ favorite way to eat them is straight out of the garden (sometimes even before I get to wash them off). I love them any way you want to dish them, but today I think I will try Strawberry Basil Lemonade. I had a version a couple of weeks ago from Good Karma Kitchen on my Food Truck Excursion and it was delightful.

Here’s my version…

Strawberry Lemonade

2-4 cups water

2/3 cup sugar

4-5 large lemons, juiced

1 small bunch basil leaves

1 pint fresh strawberries, divided in half

I like to heat 2c of water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool to room temp. In a 2 quart pitcher, add the lemon juice, strawberries, and basil in the lemon juice. Using a wooden spoon, muddle the basil and strawberries just a bit. Stir in your sugar solution. Add water to desired tartness. Top with a little sparkling water for some fizz if you wish.

Coming soon….tomatoes
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