Back to Basics: SCD Apple Butter

I love my 1986 copy of the book Stocking Up III: The All-New Edition of America’s Classic Preserving Guide. I appreciate the simplicity of the recipes, many of which are SCD legal, for their fundamental ingredients and back-to-basic techniques.

I adapted the Stocking Up apple cider and apple butter recipes for the final product below, which I have to say, we all thought was pretty tasty. And any recipe that we can all eat—and like—is a winner in my book.

Here is the list of ingredients for apple butter, from page 269 of the book:

3 cups of apple cider
5 pounds of apples, unpeeled and uncored, sliced thin
honey to taste
ground cinnamon, to taste
ground allspice, to taste
ground cloves, to taste

I know the list of ingredients is vague, but it does allow you to modify the recipe, which is helpful especially since personal preference for spices can vary greatly.

Although I used the list of ingredients listed above, for SCD reasons I peeled and cored the apples. Then, instead of using a large enamel pot, I cooked the apples in the crock pot.


I did not have any apple cider so I used the recipe from pages 292 through 294 of the book. I was thrilled to find that using the Vita Mix was a suitable way to make apple juice as evidenced by the picture of an older model on page 292. Since no volumes or masses are listed for how many apples to use, I just winged it until I got 3 cups of juice.


Following the instructions on page 293 and illustration on 294 I made the juice by first pureeing the peeled apples in the Vita Mix.

Then I strained the puree through a muslin bag,

reserving the juice for the apple butter recipe.

By the way, I saved the puree, which we later ate with potato latkes. However, the taste was quite concentrated and the puree probably would have been better in cake or muffins.

At this point, the five pounds of cored, peeled, and sliced apples were already cooking in the crock pot. I added the three cups of juice, a half-cup of honey, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a half-teaspoon of allspice, and a half-teaspoon of cloves. Later, after many hours of cooking, I tasted the mixture and added more spices.

Initially, I cooked the apples on high until they softened, remembering to leave the lid ajar to allow the liquid to evaporate. Before I went to bed, I set the crock pot to low (8-10 hours). This was a little risky. First thing in the morning, I thought I had ruined the whole batch because the edges were very dark. However, it tasted delicious and we enjoyed it on regular and SCD pancakes right away.
I stored the rest of it in half-pint jars in the freezer since there was not really enough to can. The Stocking Up recipe lists the yield as four half-pints, which is probably accurate if you don’t add any honey. After eating some with breakfast, we had four jars left to store.

What apple recipes are you cooking up this fall?

 

Apples—Take Advantage of the Season



In our neck of the woods, apples have just started coming into season. Since our family is working more toward eating in-season foods, and away from buying foods when they’re not in season, we stock up on produce whenever we can.

Whether you grow them, pick them yourself, or buy them from the orchard, local farmers market, produce stand, or store, it’s more economical and healthier to buy apples in the fall and store them.

The storage options are almost endless, but here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Buy “keeper” apples for long-term storage. We did this last year with Arkansas blacks
2. Can them
3. Freeze them; dry packing allows you to freeze them without sugar or syrup
4. Dry them
5. Make apple juice or apple cider, then freeze
6. Make applesauce, then can or freeze
7. Make apple chutney, apple jelly or apple butter
8. Make pie or pie filling (in the shape of the pie) and freeze or can
9. Make muffins, cakes, etc. to freeze.

If you have healthy, and especially SCD-friendly ideas for apple recipes, I’d love to hear them!

 

Slow-cooked Savings

Although the next installment of the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover isn’t quite ready, here are a few workable ideas from Oprah.com to add to your grocery budget arsenal.

I’ve utilized all of these ideas at one time or another and I have to say that using a slow cooker is my personal favorite, not only because it’s cheap and healthy, but because it’s a huge time saver. I feel most productive on the days when I get dinner going in the Crock Pot as soon as breakfast is over. And don’t forget, you can even use the Crock Pot for breakfast.

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes? I would especially love to hear any you have for overnight vegetarian breakfasts.

 

Homemade Science


Chemistry in Action: Gloop

The following article was written by my 10-year-old daughter, Sofia.

Hello! This is Sofia. Today my sister and I made a cool experiment—Gloop! It’s made of borax, glue, and water. We mixed it up outside and spent the next half-hour playing with it. I even made a Gloop bracelet!

The Gloop is stretchy and kind of sticky. Adding more borax makes it less sticky. It was white, but I bet adding food coloring could have changed that. After you knead it for a while, it becomes very easy to mold and acts kind of like stretchy, gloopy clay. It also is considered a “non-Newtonian fluid,” which means that it has characteristics of both solids and liquids.

Eliana likes it because, quote, “It’s sticky and fun. And you put it in a bag and play with it tomorrow.” I’m not actually sure how well it keeps, but I guess we’ll find out!

If you want to have your own Gloopy fun, here’s the recipe for Gloop:

Ingredients
Borax
Water
White glue

Instructions
1. Mix one teaspoon borax with 1/3 cup warm water in a bowl. Stir well.
2. Mix 1/6 cup white glue with 1/6 cup water in a different bowl. Stir well.
3. Mix the borax solution into the glue. Less borax makes a stickier Gloop. When the Gloop gets thick, knead it with your hands.
4. Play with the Gloop!
5. FOR SAFETY: Do not eat the Gloop. Throw it away in the trash, not the sink, or it will clog the drain.




Enjoy your Gloop!

We got this recipe from the book “Totally Gross Chemistry” by The Creative Activity Kit.

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XIII

Level 3: Super Saver

Ask Yourself:
Do we throw away too much food?

According to foodnavigator-usa, University of Arizona anthropologist Dr. Timothy Jones’ research on food waste revealed:

“On average, households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. Fifteen percent of that included products still within their expiration date but never opened. Jones estimates an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables, and grain products.”

That same study from the University of Arizona in Tucson “indicates that 40 to 50 percent of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten.”

Hear Jones’ personal suggestions for saving food—and saving money—for yourself at NPR.

Does your family waste almost $600 of food each year? You may surprise yourself by calculating the cost of food you throw away. And like before, I ask: what else could you do with $600? Make a car payment? A credit card payment or two? Start a college fund? Take a mini-vacation?

A little planning is all it takes. What will you do to waste less food—and change your family tree?

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Motivation

If you’re a parent who has taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, you’ll remember when he talks about what you would be willing to do if your child had a curable disease that required you to raise thousands of dollars in a short period of time. Without hesitation, I bet every parent in the conference facility—or watching Dave on video—was on board. I know I was. And I still get teary every time I see that lesson.

He’s right, of course. As parents we would go to the ends of the earth to save our children medically. Why is it then that we cut off our noses to spite our faces when it comes to saving them financially? Why is it that desperation must be upon us before we are willing to “change our family tree,” as Dave says?

Of course none of this is intentional. When we’re too tired to cook and choose to go out to eat instead of fund our children’s college education—or our own retirement funds—we’re not intentionally sabotaging our family’s future. We’re simply in self-preservation mode: “I’m really tired; I’ve worked all day. I deserve a meal that I don’t have to cook—or clean up after.” Dave, of course, is much harsher than (I hope) I am and counters that with “No, you don’t!”

I won’t go that far. I know how you feel, and you do deserve some time off, someone to pamper you for a change, a meal you don’t have to cook—or clean up after. But you also deserve a life of financial stability, or Financial Peace as Dave calls it, where you and your partner don’t fight about money; where your kids can go to the movies and you don’t have to take that money out of the grocery budget; where you can take a paid-for vacation; or where you can choose to leave a J-O-B you don’t like to pursue your dream.

That’s what this series, The Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover, is about. It’s not about saving a little money on your grocery bill. It’s about changing your life. Initially, of course, it was about changing my life, my family’s life :). And it has. Making a few small changes over time have added up to a new way of life and hope for the future. As corny as that sounds, it’s true.

I don’t think my husband will mind if I tell you that before we implemented the new budget, complete with monthly budget meetings, we fought about money a lot. He had no true understanding of how much it cost to run a household, and I thought I “deserved” a few new things for the house and kids every month. Simply making a plan—together—and sticking to it has allowed us to move forward financially, and closer as a couple.

Do we still have medical school and graduate school debt? You betcha. That’s a mistake I’ll be living with for a few more years. But now, instead of feeling consumed and disemboweled by the debt (sorry for the graphic description, but that is how I felt), I feel empowered. Not only are we systematically, and successfully, paying it off, but for the first time in our lives I feel like we’re LIVING; that our future is hopeful; that we will be able to fund our retirement, our children’s educations, and maybe even vacations :).



The money I’ve saved by developing and implementing The Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover has changed our lives. The next question is: Will you let it change yours?

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XII

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Ask Yourself:

The questions that we will be asking ourselves throughout the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover are what I call the Hard Questions. They may not be fun to answer, but they’re necessary if we are to be honest with ourselves, improve our family’s health, and save money.

Here’s the question: Do we eat out too much?

Do you know what percentage of your income you spend at restaurants or other quick stops, such as coffee shops, convenience stores, at movies or sporting events, or at snack machines, etc.?

Think there’s not much difference in the cost of eating at home versus eating out? Check out The High Cost of Eating Out and The Cost of Eating Out vs. Making Meals.

Between you and I, now that I rarely eat out (for budget and health reasons), when I do, the food is never as good as I remember. Honestly. I don’t miss it like I thought I would. What I do miss is someone else cleaning up the kitchen!

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XI

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Shop Wisely

Decrease the number of trips you make to the store—any store. This will decrease your exposure to “wants” thereby decreasing impulse purchases. Really, it works! Not to mention, it is good for the environment. Think about how many ways this reduces your carbon footprint. It also decreases wear and tear on your vehicle, and how much you spend on gas. Calculate how much cutting out two or three extra trips saves you in gasoline expenses.

To make this calculation, multiply the price per gallon of gas by the number of miles driven roundtrip. Then divide that answer by the miles per gallon your vehicle gets. Or check out this online fuel-cost calculator that does the work for you, or this road trip calculator for long trips between specific cities.

For instance, gas at $3.50 per gallon multiplied by 30 miles roundtrip, and then divided by 20 mpg. fuel efficiency equals $5.25 per trip. That may not seem like much, but how many trips do you make in a month? And what could you purchase, pay down, or even earn through investment, instead? Even if you saved—and invested—only that $21 per month at 8% for 25 years, you’d have almost $20,000. Don’t believe me? See how much you can earn.

Here’s where to calculate how much more quickly you could pay off your car. And here is my favorite calculator site for mortgage, credit card, student loan, and other financial decisions.

Remember, the above example takes into account only the savings generated by decreasing your gasoline costs. Think about how much less money you probably spend on impulse purchases at the store, or food to eat while you’re out shopping.

How, specifically, could you improve your financial situation by decreasing the number of shopping trips per month? Take the challenge and let me know.

 

Homemade Helpers: Baking Powder

Hello, my fellow frugal friends. The last time I tried to buy baking powder at the local grocery store, they were only selling a brand with sodium aluminum sulfate in it. So, when I needed some earlier this week I decided to do some research and found a few different, but similar, recipes for making it on the cheap at home! I thought you might appreciate the do-it-yourself nature.

According to the SmittenKitchen:

To make your own baking powder–some say with fewer metallic undertones than the commercial stuff–mix one part baking soda to one part cornstarch and two parts cream of tartar.

Baking powder recipe from Gourmet.com

Baking powder recipe from About.com

According to Wikipedia, to enhance leavening without baking powder in recipes like those of the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet):
Baking powder is generally just baking soda mixed with an acid, and a number of kitchen acids may be mixed with baking soda to simulate commercial blends of baking powder. Vinegar (dilute ethanoic acid), especially white vinegar, is also a common acidifier in baking; for example, many heirloom chocolate cake recipes call for a tablespoon or two of vinegar. Where a recipe already uses buttermilk or yogurt, baking soda can be used without cream of tartar (or with less). Alternatively, lemon juice can be substituted for some of the liquid in the recipe, to provide the required acidity to activate the baking soda.

On Monday, I successfully used the baking powder recipe from Gourmet.com to make these tasty muffins (not SCD), and the baking soda/yogurt combination to make the SCD “Mom’s Blueberry Muffins” recipe from Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

If you decide to try it, I'd love to know how this homemade baking powder recipe works for you.

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part X

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Challenge Yourself

Look at the three most expensive items on your grocery receipt and find less expensive alternatives. Click here and here to see how others answer the question, “What’s your most expensive grocery item?”

Every month I reevaluate all of my grocery expenditures and search for lower cost alternatives. Here are a few items where I have found less expensive options.

For me, the most costly items are specialty foods for my younger daughter who is on the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). Once I finally learned to cook some simple meats for her (twenty three years of being a vegetarian meant my meat cooking skills were nil), I replaced the Applegate Farms hot dogs, which were $7.99 per pack at the only store that carried them, with local organic meats from the farmer’s market for between $3.50 and $6.00 per pound. In a pinch, when I couldn’t find local, organic meat—or couldn’t stomach the cost at Whole Foods—I did buy grocery store chicken, but those of you with kids on the SCD know how potentially dangerous that can be given the possible additives.

I also stopped buying cheese, another food of which we eat a lot, at the grocery store. Now, I buy it in five-pound blocks at the restaurant supply store, where they slice it for free. This means that I can make provolone taco shells, SCD cheese “crackers,” toppings for spaghetti squash, and so on without feeling guilty at the cost of the small packages. Earlier this month I paid $2.59 per pound for provolone, and $2.99 per pound for Swiss purchased this way. Another additional benefit is that they slice it extra thin, which extends the number of servings, and makes it easier to melt when we use it as toppings for pizza, etc. Just in case you’re wondering, when I get it home from the store, I separate it into four or five quart-sized freezer bags and store it in the freezer until we need it.

Convenience foods, specialty items, meat/seafood, dairy, and out-of-season produce are often the most expensive purchases for American consumers. How about you? What are your three most expensive food items?

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part IX

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Challenge Yourself

Set a Goal. After you calculate how much you typically spend each pay period for groceries (not including toiletries or other non-food items), set a goal to decrease the amount you spend by at least 10% the first month. For instance, if you spend $500, you would set a goal of spending no more than $450. (30 seconds to set the goal if you’ve been keeping track of what you spend)

After I wrote this post I decided to google “grocery goal,” and I found a few people who have successfully decreased their grocery budgets by setting new goals, just like we talked about, and a few who talk about the nitty gritty of their personal process.

I’d love to hear about your personal grocery budget goals and any successes or questions you’d like to share.

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VIII

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Be Prepared
After planning your meals and preparing your grocery list, set a price cap for each item based on the in-season sale cost and vow not to pay more than that. Make sure to have contingency plans so that if an item costs over your limit, you can substitute a different item, or use a different recipe. (15 minutes)

For example, if you planned to serve peach pie, but peaches are not in season and are over your price cap, but strawberries are in season and the cheapest they’ll be all year, serve strawberry shortcake instead. This would also be a great time to stock up on strawberries for the freezer, or to make jam, etc.

For an interactive map of what’s in season where you live click here, or here for a more general list. And this site even includes a list of in-season meats and seafoods.

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VII

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Add to Your System

Menu for a month:

This is much easier than it sounds and takes less time every time you do it. First, locate or make, by hand or computer, a blank calendar or meal planner that has plenty of room for writing. Second, grab your family’s calendar for the month and mark on the blank calendar any dates when you won’t be eating at home. Third, note on what dates meals need to be available quickly because your kids have practice, you have a meeting, you know you will be working extra hours, etc.


Easy: Make one week’s menu, then repeat it every week (15-30 minutes)
Easier: Start by planning only dinners (15 minutes)
Easiest: After every meal you eat this month, write down the menu items on a blank calendar for next month on the same date. (1-3 minutes per day)


Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer for the items you will need to prepare the meals you have listed. Add any needed items to your grocery list now. (15 minutes)

This trick alone has saved me the most money. So, if you want a lot of bang for your buck start planning your meals and let me know what happens. If you’re already a meal planner, I’d love to hear how it has affected your budget.

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VI

Level 1: Bargain Belle

Ask Yourself:

The questions that we will be asking ourselves throughout the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover are what I call the Hard Questions. They may not be fun to answer, but they’re necessary if we are to be honest with ourselves, improve our family’s health, and save money.

I hope you’re sitting down. Here’s the first question: Are our portions too large?
According to nutrition doctoral student Samara Joy Nielsen and Dr. Barry M. Popkin, professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill schools of public health and medicine the answer is probably yes. In this press release Nielsen offers, "Clearly the problem is that Americans are eating too much food. The problem is the combination of a rapid increase in eating at fast-food establishments, an increase in selected foods such as cheeseburgers and soft drinks and the portion sizes we report in this new study."

If you’re still not sure, you can take this quiz.

Don’t get discouraged; changing the habit is not as hard as you think. Here are a few ideas.

1. Use antique or smaller plates. This is an easy adjustment to make and your family probably won’t even notice. At least mine didn’t.

2. Another solution is to put the “leftovers” into containers and into the refrigerator or freezer BEFORE serving.

3. Transfer your snacks to attractive dishes; don’t eat directly out of the package. Eating out of the package is a sure way for me to kill half a box of Thin Mints in one sitting.

Although we’re talking about portion sizes at home and how decreasing them can help your grocery budget go further, adjusting how much you eat while dining out is even easier.

1. Don’t supersize at fast food restaurants regardless of the savings,

2. Or split the large meal with your spouse, kids, or friend.

3. At eat-in establishments, request a lunch sized-portion or ask if you can order from the lunch menu.

4. As a last resort, ask that half of your food be packaged in to-go containers BEFORE your meal is served.


I hope you have a good weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing some sunshine. And before I go, I know it’s not really related to this post, but I have to give a shout out to everyone from Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and UNC, where I did my post-bacc pre-med work and my husband did his Ph.D. Enjoy something at the Armadillo Grill for me!

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part V

Level 1: Bargain Belle

Start a System


Keep track of your food wisely:

1. Organize your refrigerator so that every item has a place. For instance, keep all beverages on the top shelf, all leftovers on the second shelf, all condiments on the second shelf of the door, etc. Make up a system that works for you and stick to it. I know it sounds odd, but using labels inside the refrigerator serves as friendly reminders for family members. Here’s a little more inspiration and instruction.

2. Use the restaurant rule of “first in, first out.” If you have two gallons of milk in your fridge, the oldest one goes in front so it gets used up first. (5 minutes)

3. When you bring groceries home place the newest items behind the older ones. This works for non-perishables in the cabinets too. (5 minutes)

4. Organize your freezer so that every item has a place. Use plastic containers to group like items. (15-30 minutes the first time)

5. Keep an up-to-date list of your freezer’s contents. (I keep mine in a magnetic file on the side of the fridge.) This will really help you use the food efficiently and decrease the chances of forgetting food in the depths of your freezer. Remember to add to, and subtract from, the list when you add or use food. Train your family to do the same. Here is a freezer inventory form to get you started.

What’s your favorite money-saving food-organizing tip?

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part IV

Level 1: Bargain Belle

Shop Wisely

• Shop alone! I know it can be incredibly hard to shop without your children, but doing so can be a huge time and money saver.
• Shop on discount days at stores that offer them. Some stores offer discount days for seniors or students, while other stores have monthly discounts for everyone.
• Choose where you shop wisely. Buying all of your groceries at the same store is often more expensive. Where I live, the best deals are at the bakery thrift store where you can find the same breads sold in your supermarket, including Earth Grains, for .50-$1.50 per loaf everyday, the locally-owned chain grocery store, and sometimes the discount/clearance store that carries nonperishable foods. However, when I choose to shop the discount store, even for organic products that are drastically discounted, I remind myself that everything they sell is processed and is a “want” versus a “need.”

• Here is a sample list of shopping options:

1. Bakery Thrift Stores such as Entenmann’s, Kern’s, Pepperridge Farm’s: Bread, bagels, buns, cookies, etc. at deep discounts.
2. CSAs (community supported agriculture): Local, seasonal food directly from farmers.
3. Specialty food cooperatives or buying clubs: Purchase in bulk the items you would normally purchase at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or health food stores. Be careful. The prices are not always better, but you do support the co-op and save a lot of packaging and gas since you make only one trip to pick up the items.
4. Farmer’s Markets: The freshest produce and homemade goods you can get without growing or making them yourself. I have found the best prices on local, organic meats here. Some cities have them year ‘round and even take food stamps/EBT.
5. Local farmers, orchards, wineries, etc. for fresh produce and meat: Bulk and pick-your-own fruits and vegetables. Especially good deals can be found at the end of the season. Check Craigslist, Local Harvest, and regional online groups (type in “local food” and your geographic area).
6. Amish, Jewish, Asian, or other specialty stores owned by members of your community: Specialty products such as fresh Amish butter and kosher products.
7. Colleges and universities: Purchase locally raised meat, produce, prepared items, plants, and seedlings online or at farmer’s markets.
8. Produce auctions: regional auctions of local produce at outstanding prices (Google “produce auction” and your geographical location.)
9. Regional stores like Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati: Even if you don’t live nearby, the discount produce section makes this store well worth the trip.
10. The Grocery Outlet and similar stores where you can find traditional groceries at deep discounts. (I would love to live in an area that had one of these.)

This list is not exhaustive, but just a start to get you thinking outside of the box if you typically do all of your shopping at one store.

What’s your local favorite?

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part III

Level 1: Bargain Belle

Challenge Yourself

• Use an envelope system for groceries this month, if you’re not already. See how to set one up here or where to purchase one here. (15 minutes to set up if you have not made one before)

• Challenge yourself while using the envelope system. Instead of putting your entire grocery budget for the week or month into the envelope, put in only a percentage of it. Try to make it to the end of the week or month without adding your reserve. If you really need it, you know you have it. Be proud of yourself when you don’t have to use it. (No time, unless you need to add the extra cash to your envelope)

• Personally, I use two envelope systems, one that I carry in my purse and one that I keep at home. Once a month, I write a check to myself for the amount we will need for our monthly “envelope” expenses. Then I distribute the money into the two different envelope systems, putting the bulk of it into the one I carry, and lesser amounts into the one I keep at home. I also use the one at home for expenses I know I won’t incur until later in the month so that I don’t have to carry as much cash. This allows me to make a conscious decision to decrease our spending, but gives me the security Dave Ramsey talks about. For example, I may budget $75 dollars per month for household expenses, but want to challenge myself to decrease this to $50. So, I put $50 into the main Household envelope and $25 into the reserve Household envelope. I know the money is there if I need it, but I challenge myself to stick to the $50. Most months I make it :)

• We really do spend more when we use credit versus cash. Don’t believe me? Check out this audio clip from NPR (the information about McDonald’s is particularly interesting), this article about a recent research study, or the original article entitled, in part, Monopoly Money.

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part II

Level 1: Bargain Belle

Be Prepared

Prepare a list of five to seven quick dinners and post it on your cabinet door (or someplace less conspicuous if you prefer, like the inside of the cabinet door or in a notebook).

Make sure you have the necessary ingredients on hand for these dinners. Check your fridge, freezer, and pantry now. Write missing items on your grocery list before you forget.

I utilize a few meals that take 5-15 minutes to prep and 5-15 minutes to cook for days when I’d really rather order a pizza. (15 minutes to prepare the list if you look through cookbooks or online)

Ideas for quick and tasty meals can be found here, here, and here.

 

Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part I

Level 1: Bargain Belle

Get Organized

• Place a blank piece of paper on your counter in a notebook, or taped to a cabinet in your kitchen, in a location where it can live for the month. (30 seconds)

• Whenever you or a family member realizes you’re ALMOST out of an item, write it on the list. (10 seconds)

• Organize your list: Make it easy on yourself and write the item on the list in the approximate location in which you will encounter it in the store. You can make either a traditional vertical list, or assign each section of the store a location on the page.

For instance, if you shop at a store like our local Kroger where the produce section is on the left as you come in and the frozen food section is on the right, place all fresh fruit and vegetables at the top of the page on the left-hand side, first column. Frozen vegetables are near the bottom for the traditional vertical list, or on the bottom right-hand corner of the page because they are on the far right-hand side of the store as you enter, and therefore the last section shopped. (30 seconds)

• Check out this site for free printable grocery lists.

 

How to Subscribe to My Blog

After a few emails asking how to subscribe to LivingLaVidaMama, I did a little search for tutorials and found this one. Not only is it the best tutorial I found, but the site is enjoyable to read and full of feisty frugal ideas; definitely my kind of place.

 

Warming Up for the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover

Happy FruGal Friday everyone. As I always say, I know the name is corny, but the thoughts are sincere.

Next week, the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover will kick into full gear. To get ready, we need to have a good sense of how much we spend per week, or per month, on groceries and other food.

If you’re doing the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover or Financial Peace University, then you probably have a good sense of this already. If not, let’s try to get a realistic estimate of your total grocery costs.

If you have receipts that are representative of your average shopping trips, total them up and use those. If not, make your best educated, REALISTIC, guess.

Don’t get stressed out. The goal of this exercise is to give you a baseline, a starting point so to speak, so that when you are saving a lot of money, you’ll actually know how much you are saving. For instance, if you typically spend $700 per month on groceries, and after the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover are spending $500 per month, you’ll know that you’re saving $200, or just under 30%.

Include these categories to determine your total food expenses (some of them overlap):

1. Eating out
a. Restaurants, sit-down or drive-thru
b. Hotels while traveling for business or pleasure
c. Convenience Stores
d. Meals out of the home while working, running errands, etc.
e. Coffees, teas, waters, or sodas while out of the home

2. Groceries
a. Typical groceries such as produce, dairy products, meats, baking supplies, etc.
b. Groceries purchased at farmer’s markets or CSAs
c. Entertaining: Any food purchased to host family or friends in your home, or to attend a function at someone else’s home, at church, etc.
d. Processed foods
i. Cans
ii. Jars
iii. Boxes
iv. Bagged mixes
v. Frozen foods that contain more than one item, i.e., frozen peas by themselves don’t count as processed foods.
vi. Candy, snacks, junk foods, special treats, or other addictions
vii. Snacks purchased at health food stores
viii. Prepared specialty or diet foods
ix. Sodas
x. Juices
xi. Bottled water (not necessarily “processed,” but heavily packaged)

3. Any other food items I have left out

You know what you eat better than I do. This isn’t an exercise in feeling guilty about what we do or do not eat, or how much we do or do not spend; it’s simply a bookkeeping exercise to determine if we know what we’re actually spending on consumable food items.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what you spend on groceries every month. Most people don’t. Click here to read more.

Use whatever method of tabulation works for you. If you prefer pen and paper, use that. If you prefer Excel, use that. Make it as easy on yourself as possible. And don’t forget to have fun.

 

SCD Mayonnaise, Just Like Grandma Used to Make

I have fond memories of my grandmother making mayonnaise when I was younger. I did not get to see her often since we lived in a different state, but whenever I visited she tried to broaden my taste bud horizons. She was Scandinavian, having immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden in 1950 with her young family, bringing with her not only some beautiful artwork and antiques that I’m blessed to now own, but the preferences for what I considered to be odd foods as well.

During one of my visits, I remember her making mayonnaise. MAKING mayonnaise. I couldn’t believe it. Although my friends now think I’m somewhat of a health nut, they laugh when I tell them that back then I did not know that corn didn’t come from a can. Really. Really. That’s ironic since now our cabinets contain fewer processed foods than Laura Ingall’s did.

Although the following recipe is different from Grandma’s in that it’s pasteurized, it still comes straight from the heart—and yes, from my Vita-Mix. I know what ingredients go into it, and I know that my younger daughter can eat it safely.

Is it harder than buying a jar at the store? You betcha. But the whole process takes less than ten minutes, and THAT is faster than driving to the store to pick it up.

I have to admit that because my husband is more patient than I am, he is much better at obtaining the correct consistency with this recipe than I am. Oh, and I didn’t develop this recipe; I’ve adapted it from multiple others online.

Here is the step-by-step tutorial.

Mayonnaise Recipe (SCD)

Ingredients:
2 egg yolks (the fresher, the better)
2 Tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar (or fresh lemon juice)
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil (Please note that canola oil is listed as “Legal, but not recommended” for SCD; I’ve also used olive oil. Choose your favorite budget-friendly SCD-legal oil.)




Place all ingredients into a non-stick skillet with the stove set to medium-low.
Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture JUST begins to thicken. One way to determine this is to “pull” the mixture toward you with the spoon. As soon as you notice that it does not flow back as quickly, remove it from the heat. This process takes about two minutes. Please note that in my experience, if the mixture has any clumps in it, it has cooked too long and will not thicken properly.




Place the bottom of the pan into a shallow dish of cold/ice water to stop the cooking process. After the mixture has cooled for two to three minutes, pour all of it into your Vita-Mix or blender. Another note: the directions for machine speed below are specifically for the Vita-Mix. You know your blender better than I do and will have to adjust accordingly.



Turn the power on and set the machine to low=1.
Start pouring the oil in right away, but very slowly, in a constant drizzle.Keep the machine on low=1 until the mixture starts to thicken, then turn it to 2, then 3.




After all of the oil is in the blender container, turn the machine up slowly to 10. Then switch it to High until you see the tell-tale “clover” sign indicating the mayonnaise is properly thickened. Turn the machine off.















Put the mayonnaise into a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for approximately two weeks. It will keep longer if you don’t “double dip,” and instead, use only clean utensils every time you apply the mayo.

 

Heat Exhaustion

First, as always, please let me remind you that I am not a medical professional. I’m a parent like you whose first concern is the safety of her children.

Yesterday, we had a scary experience that I wanted to share in hopes of preventing this in another child. My older daughter, who is 10, came home from a birthday party with heat exhaustion. The outdoor temperature was much warmer this weekend than it has been this year so far and the kids spent a lot of time playing outside at the party.

At first, she certainly did not seem like herself, but I thought she was just tired because she had an abnormally busy weekend with three activities, two of them birthday parties. However, as the evening progressed, it became apparent that her behavior was more than simple social activity overload.

All’s well that ends well and I’m happy to report that very early this morning her temperature dropped back into normal range and she is feeling much better. But before I file this experience away in my Parenting is not for the Faint of Heart chronicles, please let me share with you some important information.

First, here’s the recipe for Oral Rehydration Solution (click here for the SCD version). It’s easy to make with ingredients you have on hand—and saves valuable time over running to the store for Pedialyte.


Oral Rehydration Solution

1 Liter water, boiled
8 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
Lemon or Lime juice (we added this to make it taste better)

Add all ingredients together. Cool before serving. (Or serve over ice.)


Second, here are the symptoms of heat exhaustion from AboutKidsHealth.com. Check out their site for helpful information about dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is caused by loss of water and salt, often as a result of exercise in hot weather. If it is not treated, it may progress to heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
• normal or elevated body temperature, although not as high as 40°C (104°F)
• profuse sweating
• pale skin
• skin may be cool and moist
• fast, shallow breathing
• fast, weak pulse
• headache
• nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
• dizziness, weakness, or fainting
• heat cramps
• exhaustion


Third, the American Academy of Pediatrics states:

For morphologic and physiologic reasons, exercising children do not adapt as effectively as adults when exposed to a high climatic heat stress. This may affect their performance and well-being, as well as increase the risk for heat-related illness. This policy statement summarizes approaches for the prevention of the detrimental effects of children's activity in hot or humid climates, including the prevention of exercise-induced dehydration.

This is important information for all of us, especially now that summer is approaching.

 

SCD Easter Basket

I feel a little guilty that I didn’t even try to make SCD Easter candy this year, but we did at least do Easter baskets.

1. Real Easter eggs the girls dyed: Many were dropped by Eliana during the artistic process, but they still count, right ;)
2. Egg-shaped sidewalk chalk
3. Handmade (by my crafty neighbor) pom-pom bunnies
4. Seeds and bulbs/corms to plant in their own gardens: carrots, beets, dill, parsley, annuals, gladiolas and freesias.
5. Plant markers/stakes
6. Bubble blowers
7. Lara Bar (one of the few purchased foods she tolerates)

She also had an Easter egg hunt at school. I was disappointed that the parents were asked to bring plastic eggs filled with candy, but her teachers were happy to accommodate her. I sent 5 large plastic eggs (it’s really hard to find small non-candy items to put in those tiny eggs) with the following: lip balm from Whole Foods (not as safe as homemade, but one of her favorite things), 1 small box of organic raisins (a rare treat), clear stickers that showed through the egg and looked like an underwater world (my husband’s project), and two egg-shaped chalks. The teachers requested that I put her name on them and when they collected all of the eggs from the kids to redistribute them in equal numbers, they simply gave Eliana hers, along with a few others that had no candy.

Honestly, it’s the activity that she loves. Since the preschool Easter egg hunt over a week ago, she and her sister having been playing egg hunt with the empty eggs everyday. And I’ve already explained that when she hunts for eggs at church she won’t get to keep most of the contents. Thankfully, she’s pretty used to this kind of thing, and we try to make up for it in other ways.

Oh, and I should mention that the baskets of both girls are almost identical, except that Sofia received a chocolate bunny. That’s the whole reason she loves Easter ;)

I’d love to hear how you approached Easter non-traditionally this year, whether SCD or otherwise.

 

Successful Shopping Secrets

Hey, it’s FruGal Friday again. (I know the name is corny, but the thoughts are sincere ;)

Today when I was doing some research for a product I wanted to purchase—and find at a discount—it occurred to me how much money I’ve saved over time by researching products beforehand.

The obvious thing to do is to research the quality of the product you’re interested in. The key is to find a reputable site where your product is their niche. For instance, whenever I want to find out if a health or beauty product is worth its salt, I go to MakeupAlley and check out the product reviews, which are written by consumers just like you and me.

I also love Consumer Reports for in-depth research and advice on best buys, as well as Amazon.com for general usage reviews on products.

Spending time doing a little research can save you a ton of cash over the long haul, especially when you consider the lifespan of the product, possible repair costs, replacement costs, etc.

And another frugal tip: after you’ve Googled the product name plus “review,” or “complaint,” is to Google the product name plus “coupon.” Many coupons are now printable, and if you don’t mind email solicitations, you can often get larger discounts or free products. For me the extra email is only worth if for large purchases.

If you’re planning a large purchase, such as an appliance, (and you’re set on a new one) try to build enough time into your plan to find a discount and possibly even some perks. Sometimes even an hour or less online can make a difference. As an example, a few years ago after burning through three used washing machines, we decided to upgrade to a more energy efficient front loader. This was a last-minute “emergency” purchase, for reasons I’ll spare you. Yet, the final cost of the machine was hundreds of dollars less than the advertised cost in the store because 1. I had a coupon for a percentage off; 2. I asked for free delivery; 3. The price in the store was considerably higher than one I’d found online so I asked for the lower price, which they gave me.

One note of caution: Don’t fall for the discount that’s tied to using the store credit card. If you’re a fan of Dave Ramsey you’ll know why. If you’re not, just know that statistically people spend more when they use credit cards, and with the current economic situation, credit card rates—and the percentage of people defaulting on payments—are going up.

I’d love to hear your favorite sites for product reviews and your best retail bargain experience! (We’ll talk about retail alternatives another time.)

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part VIII

I can make quick, easy, and economical compost.

For you gardeners out there, you know how long it can take to make compost if you utilize a traditional compost pile, especially if you’re like me and don’t turn it that often.

Last year, being the frugal-minded gal that I am, I decided to make compost out of a crock pot full of fish from which I was trying to make an SCD broth for my daughter. The harried mom in me beat out the frugal gal and left the pot on the counter all night. After that, I wasn’t comfortable serving the food to my daughter and I didn’t want to just throw it out. So, I ground it up—bones and all—in my Vita-Mix. Then I just poured it around some cauliflower and broccoli seedlings that I had in my Square Foot garden at the time.

The benefit: beautiful plants. (Please ignore the weeds in the photo. I promise that my garden normally looks tidier than this. Really.)


The drawback: Serious cat attraction! Yeah, I know. You’re thinking the cat problem should have been obvious to me before I put the homemade fish compost in my garden. But hey, I’m just another hardworking mom like you, trying to squeeze in a little gardening ;) And we don’t even have cats, but apparently every cat in the neighborhood got the memo. So, I solved the cat problem by mulching around the plants with leaves.

Click here to read more about making compost with the Vita-Mix.

And if you want to read more about composting in place (without a Vita-Mix), check out Patricia Lanza’s Lasagna Gardening book. I love her sheet mulching method, which can utilize both aged and new compost, as well as her description of a tomato-cage composter.

Since spring is upon us, I’d love to hear your unusual composting techniques! Or cat foiling methods ;)

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part VII


I can make coconut milk (and puréed soups).

Today I was making what we call coconut-lentil soup. Its real title is Indian-Style Lentils, a vegan recipe from Susan O’Brien’s Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Cooking book. The recipe requires coconut milk, another product that is hard to find in SCD-legal form. So, I whipped out my trusty Vita-Mix and made some.

Recipe:

1 cup unsweetened, dry coconut
4 cups filtered water

Add ingredients to Vita-Mix, turn the machine on low, then quickly turn the dial increasing speed; flip the switch to high and blend for about two minutes. If you need the milk to be completely smooth/without particles, you may need to strain it.

This is another recipe that you can alter to fit your taste and budget by increasing or decreasing the coconut-to-water ratio.

Of course, after I cooked the soup, I puréed it in the Vita-Mix to get the texture my daughter likes.

There is some discussion online that puréeing foods in the Vita-Mix increases the bioavailability of the food, and I have looked into some of the research, but that’ll be a post for another time. What I do know is that my daughter loves this recipe, and although it contains cauliflower and mustard seeds (which can be a challenge for some people on SCD), she’s never had a problem with the puréed version of this soup.

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part VI


I can make applesauce and fruit leather.

You can choose to make raw or cooked applesauce, and raw or cooked fruit leather. Since my daughter doesn’t tolerate uncooked fruits and vegetables as well as cooked, I cook hers.

Here’s my most recent recipe for cooked applesauce.

Recipe:
8 medium organic apples (3 Granny Smith, 5 Fuji)
2-3 Tbs. honey
½ cup filtered water
Juice of 1 key lime (the tiny ones)
Cinnamon, SCD legal and just a dash

I peeled and cored the apples. Then I added the other ingredients and cooked the contents in a saucepan on the stovetop until the apples were very soft. While the apples were still hot, I dumped the entire contents of the pot into the Vita-Mix and pureéd it on high until very smooth, since this is how my daughter likes it best.

Then I poured 1/7 of the mix into 7 of the aluminum containers that I use for her SCD freezer meals.

You can also use this or your own recipe to make fruit leather. The less liquid you start with the better, as it will take less time to dry/dehydrate. The addition of the honey makes the leather more pliable, but also stickier.

Recipe:
After making fruit sauce, such as apple sauce, above, pour the contents onto the solid, plastic trays of your dehydrator, or alternately, onto cookie trays that have a lip (like jelly roll pans). Dehydrate approximately 12 hours in your dehydrator, depending on the quality of your dehydrator (mine is a very inexpensive one), the setting you use, and how dry you want the leather to be. I have not made fruit leather on the cookie trays in the oven before, but know that you would have to dry it at approximately 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit for many hours until it is at the texture you prefer.

One last note, if you tolerate raw fruit and fruit peels alright, the Vita-Mix makes it really easy to make fruit sauces/purées and leathers since you don’t need to peel the fruit. Just quarter the fruit, place it into the Vita-Mix, use the tamper while processing it on high, then pour it directly onto the dehydrator trays or in a bowl to eat.

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part V

I can make almond milk.

Since kids on the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) can’t drink milk due to its lactose content, it can be handy to have nut milk available for recipes. Commercial nut milks often contain ingredients that are illegal on the SCD. However, with the Vita-Mix, making nut milk is super easy and fast. And you know exactly what’s in it.

Feel free to alter the proportions of this recipe’s ingredients to suit your taste and budget. I have used a 1-to-4 ratio of nuts to water before successfully.

Recipe:
Filtered water, 2 to 4 cups, depending on how dilute you like your milk
Raw, blanched almonds, approximately 3 cups
Honey to taste, optional

Place all ingredients into the Vita-Mix. Turn the machine on low, then quickly turn the dial up. Flip the switch to high and blend until the nuts are completely liquefied.

My daughter does not tolerate any residue in her almond milk, so I strain it in the funnel I purchased just for this reason.

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part IV

I can make nut butter.

It’s hard to find raw nut butter as a finished product. So, if you don’t want to consume roasted nut butters, the Vita-Mix is an easy way to fix that.

Recipe:
Your choice of raw nuts, such as almonds or cashews, blanched if your diet requires it.

Approximately 3 cups of nuts
Extra virgin olive oil, approx. 1 Tbs., optional

Add the nuts to the Vita-Mix. Make sure you have the tamper ready. Turn the machine on low, then turn the dial up. Next, flip the switch to high. Immediately start pushing the nuts down toward the blades with the tamper. It is important to listen carefully to the machine. If you hear the pitch change, you may need to stop it. I have over heated my Vita-Mix before while making almond butter. I find that adding a small amount of olive oil makes the process easier, and the nut butter a little smoother.

With the recent peanut butter recalls, I feel like I need to point out that you can make safe peanut butter at home. Most ASD kids who are on the SCD are not eating peanut butter, but for those of you who are, here's a link.

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part III

I can make almond flour—and save a lot of money!

The last time I checked my closest Whole Foods, almond flour was about $14 per pound. However, I can make it in my Vita-Mix for less than $5 per pound!

There’s a trick to it however. And that is to never use more than a cup of nuts at one time. Otherwise you’ll probably end up with nut butter.

Recipe:
¾ to 1 cup of raw, blanched almonds

Place almonds in Vita-Mix. Turn on low, then turn the dial up. Flip the switch to high until you see the very fine particles of flour spinning around in the top of the Vita-Mix reservoir. Turn off your machine.

Check to make sure the particles are the size and texture you prefer. If they’re too big, you can turn the machine on again, but be forewarned, the transformation from nut flour to nut butter is pretty quick.

If you need the flour to be especially fine, you can sift it, but honestly, I never do.

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part II



I can make high-calorie, high-nutrient smoothies for my daughter who needs extra calories and iron.

Smoothies have almost as many variations as there are stars in the sky. So, pick what you and your family like, what’s on sale, and what works for you in your stage of the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet).

I particularly like this smoothie because you can’t taste the spinach, but get the health benefits of it, like iron, which my daughter needs.

Use your best judgment with regard to amounts, based on what you and your family will eat, and how much your blender will hold. My Vita-Mix holds substantially more volume than my old Oster.


Recipe:
Frozen blueberries
Very ripe banana, frozen if possible
1 to 2 cups of fresh spinach (omit if uncooked veggies are not yet tolerated)
1 to 3 baby carrots (omit if uncooked veggies are not yet tolerated)
½ to 1 cup of homemade SCD yogurt (base the amount on what stage you’re at with the probiotics)
¼ to ½ cup of raw, blanched almonds, cashews, or other nuts if tolerated
Coconut oil (to increase calories)
Orange juice, SCD legal or homemade; enough to cover at least half of the contents. You can also use SCD legal pineapple juice if you prefer/tolerate it.

Add all ingredients to the Vita-Mix in the order listed. Turn the Vita-Mix on low, immediately turn the dial up all the way, then switch it to high. If necessary, use the tamper to push the fruits and veggies into the blades. Turn the machine off when the fruits and veggies are completely pureéd.

 

Intentional Change

As a SAHM with a child who sometimes has behavioral challenges, it’s easy to get into a rut, especially after a bad day. Yesterday was one of those days. It started off positively and I felt good that I was able to coerce a friend—another SAHM who needed to get some work done on her home business—to let me watch her little boy, who is about a year younger than my younger daughter. He was the perfect gentleman guest; it was my daughter who had issues with sharing that later (mostly after he left) turned into an hour-long scream fest. If you have kids on the SCD who experience behavioral challenges you know how anxiety provoking the flip from Dr. Jekyl, to Ms. Hyde can be. This tantrum, which included aggression and belligerence, did not last nearly as long as they used to before the implementation of the SCD. And I do think that my daughter’s behavior has regressed since she had the stomach flu last week. However, my inability to successfully navigate the tantrum, and my exceptionally slow recovery from it, has led me to make some changes in our schedule today.

First, I should say that my girls are home for Spring Break, and that it has gotten unseasonably cold and rainy, so going outside is not really an option. I should also say that we homeschooled a few years ago and will be coming back to that next year, so I often approach our days in an educational way—even during Spring Break :).

The first challenge we’ve had in the last few days is that my younger daughter is eating about eight or nine times a day, including three breakfasts. Of course, kids with malabsorption disorders often eat more frequently, and larger amounts than their peers. However, I think that she’s making up for all of the weight she lost last week during the stomach flu. Keeping up with her non-stop demands for food, and her pickiness about what I offer, has been a little stressful.

So, this morning I made her a much larger breakfast than usual, all protein, which isn’t unusual for her on this diet. Regardless of what I offer her, she most often chooses the protein and ignores the carbs, no matter how hard we try to get her to eat.

Then, at breakfast, the girls and I discussed today’s schedule and activities. We decided that after breakfast and morning chores, first I would do some activities with my younger daughter, while my older daughter had some time to herself. Then, we would switch. This is a real blessing for me, because I’ve been trying—quite unsuccessfully—to find time to work on this blog for weeks.

The key for my younger daughter to stay engaged is that all attention be on her. No criticism please. I know what works for her; and I know what doesn’t. I know what works for her at school; and I know what works for her at home. And if I want to have any hope of spending time on a house project, blog writing, paying the bills, cleaning, etc., she needs to have a significant amount of one-on-one time first. And sometimes in the middle of whatever it is I’m doing :).

So, we decided that we would do flower related activities. Based on the fact that she loves to pick flowers from our garden and take them apart, this is what we did: We assembled flowers by using straws for the stems, colored tissue paper for the leaves and petals, and yarn for the roots. Since she has some minor issues with fine motor skills, tearing and rolling the tissue paper was good for her. I put two-sided tape on the straws, she stuck on the leaves and petals, and we tied the yarn onto the bottom for the roots. Beautiful? No. But she had a great time and was excited to give the flower to her sister after we finished all of our activities.

After making the “flower,” I let her cut pictures of flowers and vegetables/fruits out of gardening catalogs to paste into a small book that I put together out of white construction paper and brass clips. Again, using the scissors was great for her fine motor control. Then I wrote the names of each item under its picture. Now she and her sister are upstairs using that book and paper dolls that they made to play school.

Granted, it’s early in the day, and life changes from one minute to the next. But in this moment, I am thankful for a successful morning, especially when as a SAHM, it’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment. Thanks for letting me share this with you. And I hope you’ll share how your intentional changes create success for you and your family.

 

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part I


I can make Shrek Juice.

Shrek Juice is our version of a green smoothie/green lemonade. My SCD girl and I love it. I adapted the recipe to make it work with the Vita-Mix and SCD, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Use as many organic fruits and veggies as you can afford.


Recipe:

½ to 1 head of romaine lettuce (the kind that come three to a package, not the large heads you purchase individually)

1 sweet apple, quartered, but not peeled or cored

1 small piece of fresh ginger, according to taste. I keep mine stored in the freezer so it stays fresh longer. You can peel this if you like, but it’s not necessary.

½ to 1 whole lemon. If you have organic lemons, it is not necessary to peel them, but you may choose to do so for flavor alteration. Quarter it before placing into the Vita-Mix.

1 cup of ice

2 cups of filtered water

Add all ingredients to the Vita-Mix in the order listed. Turn the Vita-Mix on low, immediately turn the dial up all the way, then switch it to high. Use the tamper to push the apple, lemon, and romaine into the blades. Turn the machine off when the fruits and veggies are completely pureéd.

Use a fine mesh strainer or sieve to filter the pulp out of the juice to make it SCD compliant. (I bought the one you see in the photo below in the homebrew supply section of an international food market.) I filter it for my daughter, but drink it with the fiber myself.



To make a purple, and slightly sweeter version of this, add fresh or frozen red or black seedless grapes, about 1 cup.

 

SCD and the Stomach Flu

Remember, I am not a medical professional and I am not offering medical advice for you or your children; I’m just sharing with you the challenges of being an SCD mom ;)

For those of you who have kids on the SCD, especially those who can be severely behaviorally challenged, you know how an illness can put your whole family into a tailspin. This past weekend was one of those times for us. Actually, it continues to be.

My younger daughter, who although never diagnosed with ASD, has since birth exhibited some of the same sensory, behavioral, and digestive challenges.

Last Friday was her first-ever bout with the stomach flu, and we’re all still suffering. To some of you this may sound harsh, but if you have kids like this, you know exactly what I mean.

So, I’ll spare you an MP3 file of the countless hours of screaming and belligerence and simply tell you about how we dealt with the virus and still kept her on the SCD.

I should tell you that there was about 24 hours when we thought we may have to take her to the hospital for I.V. fluids. During that time I was in phone contact with the doctor’s office four times and was constantly monitoring her for dehydration.

Here’s the short story:

The violent vomiting started about 9 a.m. Friday—at which point she developed petechiae, a word I hadn’t stayed in medical school long enough to learn—and continued until almost 4 a.m. Saturday. Up until that point, she couldn’t keep down even a teaspoon of any fluid. The remainder of the night we gave her approximately 1-2 teaspoon sips of SCD electrolyte solution every few minutes. Scroll down to see the recipe.

On Saturday we continued to increase fluids slowly—again paying attention to her level of hydration. Check out this page by Dr. Sears for info about dehydration. We also slowly introduced soft foods like SCD gelatin made with legal grape juice, and homemade chicken broth, which she really wouldn’t eat.

We paid careful attention to how frequently she was urinating. By the way, if you’re not keeping a medial log for your child who’s following the SCD, I highly recommend it. At some point in the future, I hope to post one on this site for you to download. They’re invaluable when talking to the docs and for trying to determine what foods are causing what symptoms, etc.

And after discussion with the pediatrician’s office and pharmacy, we gave her one generic acetaminophen suppository (like FeverAll) for an increasing fever. Typically, I prefer to let one’s body utilize the fever to fight infection, but that’s a story for another blog. The take-home message is, “Moms, trust your instincts.”

She didn’t eat her first solid food until Sunday evening and then very little. As of Monday, she’s eating solids, but not as much as usual and is definitely not herself. Well, actually, she’s more like her pre-SCD self. And between you and me, I’m ready for my happy girl to come back!



This recipe is from the official Breaking the Vicious Cycle site.

Electrolyte Solution Recipe:

¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 Tbs. honey
1 quart boiling water


I refrigerated it, and then to each individual serving I added fresh lemon juice and called it “lemonade” to get my daughter to try it. I also froze some as popsicles. (Thanks to a friend who recommended that when my mommy brain wasn’t functioning clearly.)

Please note that you have to remake the solution every 24 hours to maintain its effectiveness!

 

The Story Behind My Vita-Mix

For my recipes, please scroll down.


As someone who feels overly governed by her frugal sensibilities, it took me a few months of research, internal negotiation, and resource creation before I took the plunge.

As an illustration of my frugal nature, I’ll tell you that in our 18 years together, my husband and I have purchased only two new pieces of furniture. No, we don’t live like college students, but we’ve chosen to utilize our resources elsewhere (like graduate and medical school programs).

So, when after much deliberation I decided to purchase a Vita-Mix to help me prepare some of the specialized foods my younger daughter needed to help treat her malabsorption disorder, I needed to figure out where to get the money to buy it. Our commitment to our Dave Ramsey budget meant no credit card purchases. By the way, I did look at used Vita-Mixes but did not find one at what I considered a bargain. And honestly, I was interested in getting one with the new plastic containers that are BPA free.

When my grandparents, aunt, and dad immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden in 1950, my grandmother brought with her a slew of looms for weaving. I inherited them from her before she died, but never learned to weave. I knew weaving was not in my near future, and eventually was able to let go of the guilt associated with selling them.


It took much longer than I hoped to sell them, but I finally did. That money I earned, along with some from my aunt for Christmas, was just what I needed to buy a new Vita-Mix 5200 in February of last year.

So, my Vita-Mix is extra special to me. I traded this dusty old loom, in addition to its many accessories and a few other looms, for the shiny Vita-Mix you see here.


It feels as though my whole family, even my grandmother who is no longer with us, is invested in helping my younger daughter get better, and I think of all of them when I use it.



For Vita-Mix Recipes:
Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part I: Shrek Juice

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part II: Green Smoothie

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part III: Almond Flour

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part IV: Almond Butter

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part V: Almond Milk

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part VI: Applesauce & Fruit Leather

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part VII: Coconut Milk

Why I Love My Vita-Mix Part VIII: Compost for the Garden

SCD Mayonnaise

Homemade SCD Apple Butter

Why I Love My Vita-Mix: Chili Powder

 

SCD Experiences

Posts of some of our SCD experiences are below. For recipes, please click on Recipe in the label cloud.

Our SCD story, how we found it, why we use it, and how it's changed our family, is coming soon.

SCD Freezer Cooking

SCD Easter Basket

SCD and the Stomach Flu

 

Time-Saving Tuesday: Laundry Tips

Since I spend way more time than I’d like to doing laundry for my family, and since organizing is in my blood (I used to be a professional organizer), I developed a few tricks for minimizing the laundry timesink.

1. I got rid of all of the laundry baskets in individual bedrooms and bathrooms. Instead, I set up three cloth hampers in the laundry room and labeled them: darks, lights, and whites. It took a little training, but now, all members of the family, even the smallest, deposit their clothes straight into the hampers and I no longer have to hunt down all of the dirty clothes. If you don’t have a laundry room, try to find another space where this will work.


2. In order to dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to fold the whites, especially to match up all of the tiny little socks, I bought a white mesh laundry bag for each family member and color-coded each one by attaching a different color ribbon to the top of each bag. Now, everyone puts their socks—and underwear depending on color—in their personal laundry bag. I wash all of the bags together, dry them together, and then give the bags to each person to put away—except for the youngest, I put hers away.


3. I try to minimize wrinkling by following the FlyLady’s advice and taking clothes from the washer as soon as they’re done, drying them, and immediately removing them. Still, some clothes become wrinkled, and since I’m not a huge fan of ironing, I found this solution a few years ago: homemade spray de-wrinkler. Using an empty spray bottle, like the ones used for Windex, etc., add one capful of liquid fabric softener, then fill the bottle the rest of the way with water. Then, after you remove clothing from the dryer and they’re still wrinkled, just spray with this solution and let them hang for a little while. It works and is much cheaper than the commercial sprays. I’ve been using the same bottle of generic fabric softener for years.


4. I mention the FlyLady again, because before her, I was not as committed to keeping up with the laundry. However, with her method of doing one load a day—and following through with all of the steps of washing, drying, folding, AND putting away—our house is much tidier, and I’m not nearly as stressed by loads of laundry piled up in the laundry room, wrinkling in the dryer, etc. So, since putting all of the laundry away was a challenge, as my kids have gotten older, I’ve added putting their laundry away to their daily list. My husband or I still help my youngest, but the rest of us put our own laundry away.


So, if all of that was too much to read, here’s the gist:
1. Put clothes directly into labeled bins, as close to the washing machine as possible.
2. Use mesh bags to keep small items separate.
3. Use wrinkle removal spray instead of ironing when possible.
4. Have each family member put away their own clothes.

 

Pantry Challenge

I had another post planned for today, but since I’m a huge fan of the pantry challenge, I just had to tell you about this. As you know from an earlier post, we recently experienced an enforced pantry challenge during the power outage. And I’ve also chosen to conduct pantry challenges in years past, both to save money—and because I love a challenge.

Here’s a link to the NY Times blog about eGullet’s Forum where Steven Shaw’s story to give up shopping for a week has initiated a no-shopping challenge. Make sure to scroll down the page to read the guidelines.

I agree with Mr. Shaw that many of us in our land of plenty have stockpiles of food in our homes that we could better utilize, saving us money, time, and energy (both personal and environmental).

I also know from personal experience growing up in extreme poverty and homelessness that not everyone has surplus food. But if you do, get creative. Take the challenge. What inspiring new recipes can you come up with to nourish your family? And what will you do with the extra time and money you’ve generated by participating in the challenge?

Here are a few other links for your inspirational pleasure:

This is one of my favorite sites for all things frugal. I highly recommend the free subscription!

I used to belong to this pantry challenge Yahoo group when I had more time to spend online.

Read one family’s story and comments to give you ideas.

 

Mom's At-Home Retreat

This weekend, I took my first ever retreat. It wasn’t what you might think of as a retreat in the traditional sense, but it was definitely a retreat for me, and it might appeal to other busy, frugally-minded moms. Initially, I was going to attend or create a retreat for myself in some delectably warm place, far away from what I consider to be the recent frigid temperatures of my home. As a native Floridian, I consider the sun to be heavenly. However, the ice storm came the day before my birthday—when I was supposed to leave for my retreat—and so afterward, my husband and I compromised and came up with this plan.

First, I have to explain that my youngest daughter, now four years old, has never traveled well. After she was born, we quickly realized that ANY travel was out of the question. Even driving to the grocery store 20 minutes away was a nightmare, ending with her screaming in terror the whole time and me crying hysterically in response. (More on that another time.)

So, for us to even think of traveling with her became a question we never asked. However, as a gift to me, my brave husband took my two daughters, (and all of the SCD food my youngest daughter would need to his dad’s house two hours away. They left on Saturday morning around 9:30 a.m. and returned Sunday afternoon around 5 p.m., in time to get the girls reestablished into their routine.

On Thursday and Friday I finished up the laundry, cleaned the parts of the house that would be important to me during my retreat, such as the bedroom, including decluttering, dusting, and sweeping. Then I did some grocery shopping for the family (while picking up a few treats for me : ) and gathered some yoga dvds, guided meditation cds, and inspirational music cds from the library and Half-Price Bookstore to add to the Eckhart Tolle books that I’ve been studying. On Friday I also prepared SCD freezer meals to replace the ones that we lost during the power outage.

On Saturday and Sunday I did yoga (I’m definitely still a novice in this area), meditated (and in this one too), read and wrote. I made sure to eat at least one of my meals each day in complete silence, attempting to be fully present, meaning that I didn’t even read, which is really hard for me to do. I wanted the whole experience to be uplifting, yet grounding at the same time, helping me to focus on what’s truly important. I ended the weekend by attending a prayer and meditation service at my church on Sunday evening, just after my family returned.

If you’re like me, and haven’t seen that many consecutive hours strung together in more years than you can remember, then you’ll understand just how amazing the silence alone made this endeavor. Of course it felt indulgent, but cleansing. Apparently, it was a weekend of dichotomies ;)

I hope you’ll create a similar opportunity for yourself. When you do, make sure to let me know what you did and how it went for you!

 

SCD Freezer Cooking

(For specific recipes, please click the Recipe label.)

Every year for Christmas since my mother-in-law died, my husband and I have been preparing meals for my father-in-law to put in his freezer. He doesn’t need “things,” but he loves having the food for days when he isn’t interested in cooking for himself.

This past fall, when my husband’s grandmother died, I wanted to do the same thing for his grandfather, who lives four hours away. So, I ordered aluminum containers from a restaurant supply store. In the catalog, these are listed as Meals on Wheels containers. They have three divided sections and a cardboard lid. They are perfect for our needs. Not only did we use them to make meals for my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law, we also used them to have ready-made meals available for my youngest daughter. I can’t tell you what a blessing this has been.

When it gets too complicated to make so many different kinds of foods, or when we’re having company, or going to someone’s house, I can just pop one of these in the oven for about 20 minutes, and have a complete, SCD meal ready for her. This is incredibly economical, even once I add in the cost of the containers. Plus, I really like that I’m not storing, or cooking, her food in plastic. We don’t even own a microwave anymore.

Here are some examples of SCD meals I’ve frozen:
All ingredients are homemade—except the hotdogs—and SCD compliant.



1. Turkey lasagna, green peas, bread
2. Pureed black bean soup, bread, ice cream (frozen in cupcake papers and removed before heating)
3. Pureed black bean soup, bread, peas
4. Turkey or beef hotdogs, butternut squash fries, cake
5. Beef hotdog, french-cut green beans, apple sauce
6. Fish, broccoli, applesauce
7. Veggie meatballs, mashed cauliflower, pureed chicken stew
8. Salmon muffins, mashed cauliflower, peas
9. Scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, toast
10. Pureed split pea soup with parmesan, bread, applesauce
11. Pureed split pea soup, bread, grapes (frozen in cupcake papers and removed before heating)
12. Pureed lentil soup, bread, cooked pears
13. Carrot pancakes, cooked pears, turkey sausage
14. Individual pizzas with cheese and olives, carrots, ice cream (frozen in cup cake papers and removed before heating)
15. Individual pizzas with cheese and olives, broccoli, veggie meatballs
16. Spaghetti squash with sauce, bread, veggie or soup
17. Burger-crusted pizza with bread, veggie or soup


I’m sure you noticed that all of the soups are pureed. That’s because many kids with these types of malabsorption disorders don’t tolerate chunky foods, often because of sensory processing disorder. My Vita-Mix has been the best investment I’ve made in implementing the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for my daughter. Please click on the SCD label for more SCD recipes.

I’ll post a picture as soon as I get an opportunity to restock the freezer due to the power outage.

 

Power Outage: SCD Food Dilemmas

My youngest daughter has a carbohydrate malabsorption disorder and requires a specialized diet, called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. She’s been on this diet for almost a year, so thankfully, I’ve figured out the sometimes complicated challenge of what she can eat. And so, I felt proud that we had been able to stock the freezer with appropriate foods for her. Because the foods can be time consuming and expensive to prepare, I was pleased with the system I had set up to do an SCD version of freezer cooking.

Obviously, as I’m learning from Eckhart Tolle, my pride was misplaced:)During the five days without power, most of her specialized food in the upstairs freezer thawed, but did not spoil. Even though it was too much for her to eat, the four of us transitioned to her food during and after the storm so that it wouldn’t all go to waste. All of her individual meals were perfectly suited to cook directly on the open propane flame.

I gave the packages of organic, free-range turkey to two of my neighbors, while we ate the homemade SCD turkey sausages and meatballs that were stored in the freezer. Much to the dismay of some of my vegetarian friends, yes, after 23 years of being vegetarian, even I ate the turkey. Given my commitment to our Dave Ramsey plan, I was not about to let that food go to waste.

In all honesty, even the “loss” of the food turned out great. The most perishable items in the upstairs freezer, aside from the turkey, which I mentioned we ate or gave away, and the fish, which we’ve been eating since the power came back on, were tv-dinner type meals; the old fashioned kind. Well, not exactly old fashioned since they contained only homemade, SCD ingredients.

 

The Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover: A proven system for feeding your family for less

Some of the references and jargon in this document are based on the teachings of the FlyLady and Dave Ramsey. If you are not familiar with them, I strongly recommend that you check them out.

I developed this system when I was facilitating a Financial Peace small group. When I explained that I cut our family’s grocery budget from $600 to $250 per month, one of the students commented that I could do that only because I am a stay-at-home mom. That certainly gives me leave to focus my time differently. However, everyone can benefit from conscious efforts to improve ourselves, so I wanted to offer a few tips for an easy system that allows you to feed your family more healthfully and for less money, even in these challenging economic times.

The System
I have broken these suggestions down into 3 levels, from Level 1: Bargain Belle, the simplest, to Level 3: Super Saver, the most time intensive, to allow you to choose the options that best fit your time and budget needs.

For instance, a single parent whose time and budget are severely limited may choose to implement options only from Level 1: Bargain Belle, whereas someone who Dave Ramsey might describe as gazelle intense may choose all three levels simultaneously.

To save the most money, select tasks from all three levels. Together they are a system and the more you choose to do the more money you will save. Remember, the goal is Financial Peace, and once you attain freedom from financial constraints you can choose to spend more freely, but then again, you may find that simpler is better—and healthier.

For those of you familiar with the FlyLady, you will recognize that I have broken tasks down into 15-minute segments wherever that’s possible. As the FlyLady says, don’t say you don’t have 15 minutes. If you look carefully at your day, you will find it. If you watch TV, you can do many of these tasks during commercials. For me, having a spirited four-year-old most often means that a task that should take a half-hour can easily take three, because I have to break it down into segments.

If you work outside the home, carve 15 minute chunks from your day during lunch breaks, downtime if your job has any, or after the kids go to bed.


For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Warm Up click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part I click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part II click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part III click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part IV click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part V click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VI click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VII click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VIII click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part IX click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part X click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XI click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XII click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Motivation click here.

For the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XIII click here.

 

About LivingLaVidaMama

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Formerly, I've worked in publishing and been a medical student. Currently, I'm a freelance writer and copy editor, and full-time mom with two exceptional daughters. LivingLaVidaMama focuses on intentional frugality and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet that has dramatically improved my younger daughter's autistic-like symptoms. Contact me at MadForWriting at windstream.net