Archive for ‘Food’

December 1, 2011

Paleo Family on a Budget: Six People, Six Rules, Six Hundred Dollars

I’ve been working on a food budget. Really working. As I said in my last post, it does feel good to buy the absolute best of the best Paleo food options for my family, but nothing feels as good as a replenished emergency fund will. So, to that end, we’ve temporarily given up our monthly delivery of grass-fed meat and weekly delivery of fresh, organic produce.

I gave myself a month leeway to get a handle of what we need vs what we want at the grocery store and how each of those things adds up. I’m not saying I’ve never paid attention before, but I was really in the “all health food is a must have expense, even if those dried apple chips for the kids are $1.00 a bag” camp. Oh and by the way, also a big fan of the “my kids need those apple chips to take to the gym so they have a snack when I work out” excuse.  Not.any.more.  Can you believe that fresh fruit is actually just as convenient as the pre-packaged apple chips were? Really.  Apples and bananas are so easy to grab and put in our gym bag.  My kids haven’t even mentioned the lack of apple chips in the house.  Try it.  

Anyway, now that I am really paying attention, a tight grocery budget has helped us stick with basics in other ways as well, sticking to lean meat (since it’s not grass fed), eggs, fresh produce, frozen veggies, and healthy fats (and dry beans for my 4HB husband). That’s it pretty much it, although I did make room in the budget for coconut flour and almond flour for some comfort foods (who doesn’t love Everyday Paleo’s Meatloaf)?

Alright, alright.  I’m sure you are dying to know…what’s the dollar amount? How much money have I budgeted for groceries each month for our family of six?

Six hundred dollars. That’s roughly $20 per day. Granted, most of the mouths in our family are small children, so it’s really more like feeding 3.5 to 4 adults.

In case you’re curious, during my adjustment month (November), I was only over by $28, which I consider a success, considering it was a month with a birthday in the family (read: special breakfast, dinner, and of course cupcakes!) and Thanksgiving.

It’s December 1st, Day 1 of our new budget.  To help make grocery shopping easier, I came up with a few guidelines for myself that has made it easier to stick with this budget. These are not earth shattering revelations here, people, just things I’m implementing.

Six Paleo Budget Rules for a Family of Six:

1. Lean Meat: $1.99 per pound or less (roughly $120/month)

Buy what is on sale, especially if it’s got a special coupon on it for quick turn-around. If you cook it or freeze it right away, buying meat like that is truly a bargain! When I go to the store, I already know what meat is on sale and plan to buy that, but first I peruse the meat isle to see if I can get a better deal.

2.  Omega 3-Enriched Cage-Free Eggs: $4.50/18 Pack or Less (roughly $80/month)

I suppose this is a tiny splurge, since you can get regular ‘ol eggs for less than $3.00 per 18 pack.  This is one of the three areas that I decided the splurge was necessary, and I made other adjustments.

3. Fresh Produce: $0.99 per pound or less (roughly $30/month)

There is always fresh fruit on sale. I buy bananas every week since my kids love them, and usually apples since they are in season, but I make up the difference in what’s on sale. Hubby and I don’t usually eat fruit, so this is a kids-only expense.

Fresh Vegetables are hit or miss. I always buy baby carrots, but I rarely buy other fresh vegetables lately unless I feel like it’s a real bargain. Frozen vegetables are already ready to go…and are always on sale!

4. Frozen Vegetables: $1.79 per 16oz bag or less (roughly $90/month)

I can usually get a way better deal, but there are some things we can’t do without (Cauliflower, for example)! I end up spending less money on vegetables this way because I don’t throw any away. I am very particular about fresh produce… It has to look pristine, or I toss it. I’m sure I will get better about that, but for now, I’m sticking with what’s working, and that’s frozen all the way, baby!

5. Healthy Fats: (roughly $60/month)

Coconut Oil: $20/month
I buy Nutivia Organic Coconut Oil on Amazon Subscribe and Save for about $20 per 54 ounce container.

*Kerrygold Grass Fed Butter: $12/month
4 sticks a month ($2.99 each at Whole Foods)

*Whole Milk Grass fed Yogurt: $28/ month
Four (4) Glass Bottles of Traders Point Creamery Brand ($6.50 each at Whole Foods)

*I know the grass fed butter and yogurt are sort of splurges. I’ve decided it’s worth it to get the healthy fats from grass fed butter since we aren’t buying grass fed meat right now, and besides, it’s delicious on veggies! My kids are the only ones that drink the yogurt, but I think it’s a great way for them to get some probiotics (they don’t take probiotic supplements).

6. Other Staples: $100/month

Grass-fed Gelatin $12
Coconut Flour $22
Almond Flour $32
Curry Paste $10
Coconut Cream $14
Dry Beans for my 4HB Hubby $10

The grand total for this list only is $480, leaving $120 a month (less than $30 per week) “wiggle room” for extra’s at the store.  I know I can do it, and I’m pretty proud of myself for my performance last month.

It is possible, and I’m going to hold myself accountable to sticking my Paleo Family of Six on a budget of $600 per month.  Will you help me*? Want to join in?

*I’m going to try to post a spreadsheet of my exact grocery expenses so you can see that I am actually doing it, and that Paleo on a budget is possible…even with a family!

November 26, 2011

Recipe: Grain-Free Paleo Pumpkin Cupcakes with Primal Cream Cheese Frosting

Grain-Free Paleo Pumpkin Cupcakes

1/2 cup coconut oil (or grass-fed butter)
9 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 + 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 + 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease a standard, jumbo, or miniature muffin tray, or use silicon or parchment paper liners.

Combine all wet ingredients and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth (no worries about over-mixing with Paleo ingredients).

Pour batter into muffin pan and bake approximately 10-12 minutes for mini muffins, 15-18 minutes for standard muffins, or 22-25 for jumbo muffins.

Important Note: Undercooking these (or really any) paleo cupcakes will result in a still-delicious, but impossible-to-remove-from-liner-cleanly product.  Make sure your toothpick really comes out clean before removing these from the oven!

Primal Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/2 cup to 1 cup softened full-fat cream cheese (grass-fed if you can find it, of course)

Splash of Grade B Maple Syrup (to taste)

Using a hand mixer, blend cream cheese and maple syrup until smooth. Spread on cupcakes when cool.

Disclaimer: These cupcakes are incredibly moist and delicious. That said, they are not nearly as sweet as traditional cupcakes. If you have been eating Paleo or Primal for a while though, these will definitely taste treat-worthy and plenty sweet enough! My kids loved these for my oldest boy’s fourth birthday, and the kids in his preschool class devoured them. Enjoy!

November 25, 2011

Recipe: Gluten Free Paleo Pizza with Primal Spinach and Feta Topping

Gluten Free Paleo Pizza Crust


1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
1 Cup Almond Meal
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
4 Eggs
3 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 to 3/4 Cup of Coconut Milk (until mixture is dough-like)


Preheat Oven to 375 Degrees.

Combine dry ingredients, smashing all lumps in coconut and almond flours with fork. Add wet ingredients and mix with spoon or hands until it forms a ball. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet or pizza pan (I love my cheap dollar-store pizza pans) and roll out by hand or with rolling pin. It helps to add another sheet of parchment paper to the top of the dough while rolling out, otherwise it will stick to the rolling pin.

Bake the crust only in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

While the crust is cooking, prepare your topping.

Primal Spinach and Feta Pizza Topping


1 Cup store-bought organic pizza sauce
1 cup tomato sauce with Italian seasoning to taste

1 cup fresh baby spinach, chopped into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup full-fat feta cheese (grass fed and/or raw if you can find it)

When crust is finished pre-baking, spread sauce on crust. Sprinkle spinach evenly, then feta. Bake for 10 more minutes or so. Enjoy!

November 25, 2011

Recipe: Paleo Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Primal Whipped Cream

Paleo Chocolate Chip Pancakes for the Entire Family


1/4 Cup Coconut Flour

1 + 1/2 Cups Almond Flour

8 Eggs

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

2 Tsp Cinnamon

2 Tsp Baking Powder

1/2 Cup Coconut Milk *or 1/4 Heavy Cream + 1/4 Cup Water (less or more to desired consistency)

Optional: Chocolate Chips, Chunks, or whatever you want to add… Sometimes we use mini chocolate chips, sometimes I chop up little bits of a dark chocolate bar.

This makes roughly 18-20 pancakes using 1/3 measuring cup as the scoop.  I use an electric griddle, so greasing the griddle is not necessary.  If you are using a regular skillet, however, you probably want to grease it with coconut oil or grass-fed butter.

Primal Whipped Cream


1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream (preferably grass-fed)

Splash of Grade B Maple Syrup (to taste)


Using Wire Wisk Electric Beater, whip the cream until it starts to thicken.  Add desired amount of Maple Syrup and continue whipping until the cream is thick. If you really want to be fancy, you could put the bowl (empty) and wisks into the freezer for 10 minutes before you whip the cream.  Delicious!

November 16, 2011

Paleo vs Four Hour Body: Part 1

As many of you know, I’ve been transitioning the family to Paleo (or primal) for a while now. I would consider my personal transition complete. The only meals I cook are Paleo, and though my kids have been tricky, we are getting there. Big Handsome (BH) is getting there too…eats whatever I cook, so he is mostly Paleo.  If, however, he eats at the office on a day when I forget to pack his lunch (oops!), he eats whatever the “special” is…which is rarely paleo-friendly.

BH started reading The 4-Hour Body a couple of weeks ago. Up until that point, he had gone with the flow, but he generally takes less of a personal interest in this whole “food” thing, knowing I handle it and I do my research for the family.  We are pretty big fans of Tim Ferris and The 4-Hour Workweek. The more I read about Tim Ferris, the more I see similarities in what I do…always experimenting, always seeing what works best for me/us. I’m forever rearranging furniture (much to my husbands chagrin), adjusting nap schedules or which kids sleep in which rooms…I guess just trying to find that happy place where there is less crazy-feeling and more relaxed feelings. The same goes with food.

The Four Hour Body Diet is very similar to Paleo. The biggest difference is Ferris recommends eating a lot of legumes. With the exception of re-introducing dairy in the form of whole-milk grass-fed yogurt (for the kids) and grass-fed butter, we have been basically grain, legume, and dairy-free. I was pretty hesitant to start feeding my husband a plethora of legumes because of known gut irritability and anti-nutrients. That said, Tim Ferris makes some decent points, and even Robb Wolf suggests that once people go grain, legume, and dairy-free, they can start adding a few things back in to see if their body can handle it.

Like the idea behind Chris Kresser’s new Personal Paleo Code, Wolf acknowledges that every person is an individual, and what works for me may not work for you…or specifically, what works for me may not work for my husband, and visa versa.

So, what’s the verdict…will I be switching to the Four Hour Body method, or sticking to Paleo and Primal basics? I’ve decided to continue cooking exactly as I have been- Paleo, family-style meals that are grain, legume, and dairy-free. Personally, I will not be adding legumes back into my diet, because as a person with IBS and chronic cystitis, I can’t handle the inflammatory nature of beans (I know this now, because I went strict Paleo, and it works for me, and I’m not going to mess with a good thing).

My husband, however, has no known gut or autoimmune issues, and seems to tolerate beans just fine; so, I will simply be adding legumes to all (otherwise) Paleo meals I serve my husband.

In order to resolve some of my concern with feeding my husband something that I know to be somewhat toxic, I did some additional research. Although Four Hour Body seems to push lentils, they have one of the highest levels of phytic acid and are NOT soaked before cooking, so lectins are also a concern. Small red beans, however, have one of the lowest levels of phytic acid AND require soaking before cooking. I’ve gone with adding small red beans for most of his meals, which he seems fine with, because the flavor is pretty easy to blend with everything I cook.

Last week, I soaked two bags of small red beans overnight, boiled them, and cooked them until soft. I’ve been adding roughly a cup of beans* to each of his meals from the batch I made, and it’s gone swimmingly.

I should note that the major point made in Four Hour Body (at least from what my husband tells me, and the few chapters I read) is keeping effort minimal so you’re likely to stick with the program. Ferris loves lentils and canned beans because he knows he won’t take the time to cook dry beans. Since I’m not in love with the idea of pumping my husband full of phytic acid or exposing him to the high levels of BPA found in canned beans (except a few organic brands, which break the bank in my opinion, at about $2 per can), I’m okay with taking a few extra minutes to properly prepare legumes for him.

Once hubby reaches his goals, we may decide to nix the legumes, but if he continues to feel great despite consuming copious amounts of beans and discovers they actually help him with satiety, I will keep adding them to his meals.

As of the date of this post, it’s been about a week, and Big Handsome is feeling great on Four Hour Body… and seeing impressive results.

Check back for my next Four Hour Body vs Paleo post, where I will be writing about the controversial “cheat day.”

*I do realize, unfortunately, that by adding roughly a cup of beans to 3 meals a day means he is consuming more than three times the maximum estimated amount of phytic acid that humans can tolerate in legume consumption alone.  That said, if he feels good and looks good, then maybe he can tolerate more than the average human :).  

November 10, 2011

Stress Management, Cortisol, and Recovering from Unemployment

After reading all sorts of Paleo and Primal blogs and books, and listening to a few podcasts on a very consistent basis, I understand the basics; eliminate pretty much everything except meat and veggies, then start to add a few things back in gradually. Grass-fed and pasture raised meat is best, and organic, fresh, local produce is ideal. Sleep. Get a lot of sleep. At least eight hours of night in a very dark room. And manage stress.

Oh wait…what was that last one? Manage stress. This blog is about fighting chaos. Why don’t I have this stress- free thing on lock? Once again, the long-term-unemployment of yesteryear rears its ugly head.

My husband makes a fantastic income at the ripe old age of 30. But, as you know, we have four kiddos, live in one of the most expensive areas in the US (due to my husband’s job), and oh yeah, we’re coming out of some major ass-kicking by the economy in 2009/2010.

Furthermore, our health insurance is covering less and less for the same monthly premium, while making all of the enrollment literature appeared unchanged, which means I was none-the-wiser until the bills started rolling in. We are still paying medical bills from our preemie and my heart scare last year.

So, while we’ve managed to pay off a loan from the sale of a house (which we sold at a loss) and pay off my car, somehow, we are still trying to come back from unemployment. **If any of you are aware of statistics on the time it takes to recover from unemployment, please share! I would love to know…is it 3 months of gainful employment to every one month of unemployment. More? Less? We’ve been re-employed for twice as long as we were unemployed and we are still struggling to catch our breath. I realize as I write this that many are still unemployed or underemployed, and in no way do I mean to make my situation sound like the toughest to handle….I know it could be so much worse.**

The thing is, we kind of thought we would be “comfy” again by now. Not piling-up-the-money-comfy, but not-feeling-guilty-for-hiring-a-date-night-babysitter-comfy…ya know?

So, again, as the household CFO, I’ve decided to reevaluate. And to come full circle for you, in case it isn’t obvious, feeling short on rainy-day or emergency fund savings causes stress, which isnt good for health, and is one of the highly emphasized keys of living Paleo or Primal or really any type of healthy lifestyle. A key that was kind of overlooked by me until now.

I have recently been buying 100% grass-fed meat (which is insanely delicious, by the way), and subscribing to an organic produce delivery service. Before I continue, I should say that I plan to return to both of these luxuries once the financial stress is in check, because I think the money is worth it…when money is free flowing, an emergency fund is fully stocked, and there is very little debt. I know debt means different things for different people, so I should clarify.  We haven’t “carried” credit card debt in a while, but we do have a high car payment (read: young and irresponsible financial decision) and medical bills that are enough to make us feel crazy and broke. Crazy and broke on a salary that should make most people feel like Kings and Queens at our age. So, for us, “very little debt”  hopefully means only my student loan and possibly a home mortgage.

As a minimalist family, we don’t shop a lot for non-consumables (although I have had to buy some key pieces since all of my pre-pregnancy clothes are too big and horribly out of style), we don’t subscribe to cable tv, and we generally try to avoid a ton of consumerism.  Unfortunately, I’ve found a different way to feed the shopping rush…groceries and *tear* Now, I love me my Amazon Prime Membership, and I plan to keep it, but it does make spending money a little too easy…especially from my Amazon iPhone app!

Spending a ton of money on really healthy food feels good to me.  I don’t ever get the shopping guilt I would get in my single years from spending too much at the mall, because I feel like I am ultimately doing my family a service by feeding them the best of the best.  Now, while I do not plan to start buying pasta and bread in bulk (don’t worry this family has gone back to (primal) basics and we are not turning back!), I do have a plan to continue feeding my family healthy food… this time on a budget!

In a future post, I will get down and dirty in the details of our new food budget.  In the meantime, if anyone has stories of triumphant return from unemployment, tips, tricks, what-have-you, I’m ALL ears!

September 16, 2011

Chilling Out and My Recipe: Paleo Chicken Nuggets

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know my kids were raised mostly vegan until recently. This meant a lot of whole grains (read: Pasta) and the occasional fake-meat chicken nugget. If you’ve ever tried fake meat (or shmeat as we used to call it), the texture is much different than real meat. Even the “healthy” stuff made at home sans preservatives and such still has a much softer, less chewy texture.

Getting my kids to eat real meat has been a HUGE challenge. Champ will eat pretty much anything, but he’s been eating Paleo since he started solid foods. Carl will eat bacon, and we did get him to try a bite of steak once. Jude wants nothing to do with any of it, and has taken a “that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it” approach. I feel like they would rather STARVE than eat on many days. I admit that I’m mostly just a big wuss. I realize that kids won’t allow themselves to starve, but I can’t handle two exceptionally-difficult-because-they-are-going-on-a-hunger-strike toddlers.

So, I’ve decided to loosen-up a bit (at least until they’re old enough to successfully bribe). The truth is, they’re doing pretty well. Carl asked me for green onion and shredded cabbage for his bedtime snack the other day, and that, my friends, is a WIN in my book.

So, thanks to my fancy food chart (which I will share in a future post) I’ve decided to focus more on trying new fruits and veggies (and actually consuming them). This means I’m going to be okay with them having My Paleo Chicken Nuggets for many lunches and dinners, with a side of the “real food” I’m cooking, and extra fruit and veggies, I’m fine with that. I don’t want eating to be stressful and yucky for them, so I need to chill out. For reals.

Paleo Chicken Nuggets

  • 1 lb ground chicken*
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • Dash poultry seasoning
  • Several eggs  -or- 1 cup or so of unsweetened coconut milk**

Roll out the ground chicken on parchment paper or a silicone cutting board until it’s an inch or so thick. Put it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes until partially frozen (it’s easier to cut and bread that way). Cut ground chicken into strips, or rounds. Or if you want to get crazy (or just have time to kill), use cookie cutters to make fun shapes, like the Dino Nuggets in the store. You have to work kind of fast, because you still need the meat partially frozen for breading. Once cut, dunk the meat in egg/milk, then roll in flour mixture. Place on heavily greased cookie sheet, and cook at 350 for 30 minutes or so.

*I opted for ground chicken, because it is more like the texture of vegetarian chicken nuggets.
**I don’t like being too specific here, because I hate wasting ingredients, and I think everyone has different “breeding” skills. I start out small and add more egg/milk or coconut/almond flour as required.

This recipe was inspired in part or in whole by this recipe

September 15, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Chocolate Larabar

My kids LOVE Larabars. I do too. Unfortunately, they are at least a buck a piece. I’ve been searching for the perfect recipe to try, but I never have dates, and I don’t usually have dried apples, which is required to make copycat Apple Pie Larabars. I hate buying ingredients for specific recipes that I may not use for anything else, cause let’s face it…. Not everything is delicious!

Anyway, the other day, I saw a chocolate Larabar at the checkout at Whole Foods. I bought it because those darn over-priced checkout stand treats get me every time. When I brought it home, the kids and I all tried a bite, and thought they were pretty good…and worth trying to make on my own (assuming dried apples and dates weren’t necessary). After googling over and over, and discovering every recipe required dates, I decided to modify one fantastic recipe.

Homemade Chocolate Larabars

  • 1/2 C raisins
  • 1/4 C walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 C almonds, sliced or roughly chopped
  • 1 t cocoa powder
  • Splash of vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into your Vitamix, Blendtec, or food processor. Press into small glass pan or mold into small bars on cookie sheet and refrigerate. I press mine into a small rectangular Pyrex, put the lid on, and refrigerate over night (an hour is fine). Then slice into bars and store in refrigerator. These will last several days in the fridge, but if your family is anything like mine, they’ll be gone in 24 hours :)



September 12, 2011

Recipe: Paleo Blender Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

We’ve tried quite a few chocolate breakfast muffin recipes in this house since converting to Paleo. I used to make a semi-vegan version of the ever popular Chocolate cake mix + Canned Pumpkin muffin for easy breakfasts, and I really wanted a healthier, Paleo-friendly Chocolate Muffin.

My requirements were that it use either carrot or zucchini (since it’s summer), be somewhat high protein (since my kids are still not willing to eat eggs or any meat (besides my special Paleo Chicken Nugget Recipe) thanks to their vegan formative years), and low sugar.

Carl declared this recipe “much better” than the other iterations, and “actually, pretty delicious,” but you be the judge.

Paleo Zucchini Chocolate Muffin

  • 1 large zucchini or 2 small, peeled
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified or melted grass-fed butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar*
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup*
  • Allspice a few dashes (to taste)
  • One or two grinds of sea salt
  • Splash of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Lemme say, I love, love, love, my Blendtec Blender.  Also, my kids are kinda averse to chunky stuff in muffins, so it works really well to make these.  

Add cubed zucchini and all liquid ingredients to blender and pulse several times. Add dry ingredients and blend until well mixed.Pour into greased muffin tin or silicone muffin cups. Makes 12 regular sized muffins + 12 mini muffins, or roughly 18 muffins.

Bake at 375 degrees for roughly 20 minutes.

*if you don’t have coconut/palm sugar, or would rather not use it, use 1/2 cup maple syrup instead. Or, if you prefer local honey, substitute 1/2 cup.

This recipe was inspired in whole or in part by this recipe.
September 10, 2011

DIY Toddler Preschool Chart: Weekly Menu aka “You Try It, You Like It!”





Our first delivery from Urban Organic arrived two days ago.  I know I’ve said that I use a lot of frozen vegetables, and I still use some, but I’m trying something new.  You see, I’ve been trying to reinvent the wheel, and get my kids to like eating Paleo.  I had this fancy schmancy idea to create a food chart/ weekly menu for Jude and Carl to help with every week. My hope is this gets them excited about trying new fruits and vegetables.  So far (two days in), it has totally worked! Yay me!


Let me start by saying, I am not even a little bit crafty. Even my penmanship stinks.  I can, however, do a thing or two in Google Docs.  So, I bought a pocket chart at the One Spot at Target and got to work.  Using Google Docs Paint, I searched for copy-write free images of all of the fruits and veggies found on my Urban Organic list for the week.  I shrunk each picture to the correct size, threw a label on it for reading practice, and voila… a Weekly Menu “You Try it, You Like it” Food Chart!

Every Friday morning (our delivery comes Thursday night), the two oldest boys help me by picking out the fruit, vegetable, and breakfast item they want for that week.  I’ve already come up with my recipes based on the produce list, so I just insert my meals into the days the kids have selected.  Hopefully, the Yo-Gabba-Gabba line “You Try it, You Like it” will help us out here. . .I’ll be posting my recipes and what works as I go, so wish me luck!


It’s not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, but hey- if it gets my kids excited, I’m happy!