Tag: food

Crushing on Food Show Hosts and Why I don’t believe in “Superfoods”

Warning – Kinda ranty post with lots of research-y link things where I pick on quinoa and kale (a lot). If you’re offended by this click away now…

A typical weekly Scrap House “Superfoods” haul from the greengrocers.

Okay, I’m going to admit it… I spend far more time than I tell my family binge watching Food Network. Not only that, I then go off and stalk the show hosts I like on the interwebs.  

In doing so over this past few months I have developed a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain. Not the kind of teenage-girly-mid-life-crisis-leave-your-husband kind of crush, but one of those crushes when someone out there just “gets” ( obnoxiously swearingly agrees with) the way you think about stuff and then takes it a bit further and more think-y-er. (His recent essay on sexist kitchen culture has made him just that bit more interesting and attractive).

In short, I have an intellectual food-crush on this guy (she says adding him to the ever-growing list of food crushes … Sarah Wilson, Rachel Khoo, Maggie Beer, Rick Stein and that River Cottage Guy are just a few others. It’s getting pretty long). He’s not more special than any of the other chefs, cooks or obnoxious opinionated food lovers I follow on the interwebs. I  actually don’t know that much about his foody history, but I do like his no-BS commentary on the places he visits.  In particular like the attitude he shows towards food in his TV shows.

Yes, he visits “classy” “trendy” places and tries out all the fancy overpriced weird crud they offer, but the best bits are where he eats “real food” (and compares it to politics and stuff). The kind of food street vendors and somebodies Nona have been making for centuries (sometimes longer). And guess what… none of the stuff he rates as awesome is over-processed food chain or trendy “superfood” cafe fare. 

I actually cringe a little every time some hipster -wanna-be food guru uses the term “super-food”.

I feel more than a little miffed that all the so-called “experts” have treated us “ordinary” people like we’re just a little dim. I also feel a tad guilty that over the years, I too have been known to succumb to the hype spouted by popular and scientific media (yes scientists are hype-y too… they want you to believe that their research is better and more right-er than the other guys).

Take for example kale.

Yes its good for you, but, and I hate to be the one to tell you, kale is not new. I remember it in my own Nan’s garden in the 1970s (yes I’m that old) and there’s a bunch of WW2 era recipes out there that list it as a major ingredient (check out this recipe for Kale and Potato Soup). It grows just as easily as spinach or silverbeet, has the same kind of nutrients (there’s a table with all the numbers here for those who like that sort of thing). So quite frankly you can cram your $7 kale smoothie up your proverbial jacksy even if it is delicious. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Theres a whole bunch of bloggers out there that tell you how to make your own and avoid the ridiculous Cafe prices (okay I lied theres just that one ). Even so, last time I went to the local greengrocer a bunch of kale was priced somewhere around $5. That’s still an expensive smoothie.

Same goes for those trendy quinoa salads (pronounced in our house key-noh-ahh) and chia (Chee-ahh) seed pudding slops. Okay, so I’ve tried them both. I’ll admit I did kind of like the pudding, it wasn’t abhorrent and I’m actually trying to use up the last of the chia seeds I brought months ago today by adding them to a beef casserole- kinda weird but its working.

I will also admit that I do love almond milk (used to make the pudding slop) which is both easily accessible here and not expensive. Almonds are grown on a farm near our house so I make the almond milk, mainly because I have an intolerance for the regular cow stuff, I’m not allergic it just makes me gag most days.

Yes, quinoa, chia seeds or your fancy dried frankle-frugen-berries are okay. Yes, they’re nutritional dynamite, but so is just about any fruit or vegetable if you don’t process the crap out of it. If you have food allergies and such they’re fab, but things like chia seed or quinoa are hard (almost impossible) to get un- plastic-packaged here in rural NSW, and often are transported in from overseas. Even if they are grown here in Australia are quite frankly overpriced for a lot of us feeding families on a budget. Quinoa costs approximately $14 per kilo here. Its currently around $2 per 100 grams at Woolworths, as opposed to  brown rice which is around 27 cents per 100 grams. Yes, quinoa beats brown rice for protein and a few other things but really they’re not all that different nutritionally, there’s a comparison diagram here.

Even “ordinary” foods have skyrocketed in price since being given the “super” label. Berries are the best example I can think of… blueberries here are $5 for a 200 gram punnet on a good day. That’s Australian dollars which equates to about 2 pound 50 or somewhere around $3.50 US depending on exchange rates and that’s just your un-organic supermarket variety, organic is (as always) a lot more. Frozen are often a lot cheaper (not to mention convenient) but again the plastic bag and transport.

Yeah okay so I made the frankle-frugen-berries up earlier, but you get what I mean….

In short, all these foodstuffs, and a whole lot of others are extremely un-family- budget or zero-waste friendly. Unless you have access to fantastic bulk stores locally, its hard to find most “superfoods” packaged in anything but plastic bags or other environmentally unfriendly containers. Yes they’ve got great nutritional stats, but so does almost every single unprocessed food (think whole grains, fruit, veg, dairy, meat). 

Add to that, the majority of recipes call for extra speciality ingredients that are equally ridiculous in price for families on a budget and get used once, thrown in the cupboard only to be forgotten and then thrown out next time you spring clean.

I have a suggestion for all of us that have succumb to the “superfood” hype at one time or another… it might not be a popular idea, but how about we forget it. Forget “superfood” altogether and eat “real” food instead. You know the stuff you can get at your local butcher, greengrocer, bakery or supermarket. If you have a green thumb or are lucky enough to live with someone who does, the stuff you grow yourself (hint-hint Mr Scraps, Grandad Scraps) and the stuff you can make in your own kitchen.

It’s better for you. “They” proved it in the 1940s (particularly in England) when people ate far less meat, less fat and less sugar than we do today due to rationing. It probably wasn’t the worlds most exciting diet most days (you had to take what you could get – there was a war happening) but on the whole people were fitter and healthier than they had been before or have been since. Give it a look-see on Dr. Google, most information is from England but here’s an SBS show about it . It was by no means perfect (nothing ever truly is, is it?) and food may have required a lot more preparation than today without our modern conveniences like refrigerators, microwaves and food processors, but it kept people, on the whole, fed and produced far far less waste than we do today.

For me personally biggest bonus to no longer buying into the “superfood” hype is that it saves sooo much time, mainly because its been done before. In the Scrap House we eat things like carrots, pumpkin, beans, mince beef and sometimes even…shock horror… white potatoes!

Why?

Because they’ve been done before. I don’t have to spend 14 hours trawling the internet trying to find out how the heck to cook that supa-dippity-do-dah ingredient after a day at work with a hungry 4-year-old at my feet. If you don’t slather most whole real food stuffs in fat or sugar they have nutritional values on the same levels as your expensive “superfood” varieties.  The biggest bonus is however, that NO ONE in the Scrap House turns their nose up at a humble baked spud or meatloaf full of hidden grated veg, they will however leave the kale chips to go limp on the bench  and that quinoa salad with laboriously extracted pomegranate seed embellishments to fester in the back of the fridge….

….. and it would of too, but I ate that stuff for lunch for a week just so it didn’t get thrown to the Immortal Chicken.

 

 

 

How Scrap family reduces food waste and saves some $$$

9 ways the Scraps family has reduced food waste and saved some money

Australian’s throw away thousands of $$$ worth of food a each year. That’s THOUSANDS! I don’t know about your family, but ours definitely doesn’t have thousands of disposable dollars laying around to waste on food that we don’t get to eat.

We’re by no means perfect or even experts but we do manage quite well on what I consider a very lower middle-class income. I’ve had lots of questions about it lately via face-lurk,  especially when I post about saving on groceries or put up recipes that feed the fam for next to nix. So today I’m going to share the principles we follow to reduce (mainly food) waste and save a few $$$ especially when the budget’s a bit tighter than usual.

1. Know what’s in the pantry

By knowing what’s in the fridge, freezer and  cupboards—fresh fruit N veg , canned stuff, dry herbs and staples like flour or rice—the less likely we are to return from the shops or to get home and realise we’ve already got one (or more) of something. On weeks when the budget’s really tight shopping the pantry first can be a real lifesaver. We often find enough for at least half a weeks meals are already there. The teens are really good at coming up with creative ideas for whats in the cupboard….they’re not always great ideas, but they are creative….

2. The List Abides

Writing a shopping list based on what’s at home and what we plan to cook during the week means we avoid buying more than whats needed and don’t purchase items we can go without. (Although I  do try to include at least one small “indulgence” each week like a little chocolate or the extra ingredients for a special desert or Lunchbox snack). I actually loathe shopping (of almost every kind) so having a list makes this a much faster and less painful task and thankfully, our greengrocer delivers!

3.  Check the expiry date

We check expiry dates when we’re shopping and try to buy things like milk, cheese, dry and tinned goods, with the longest shelf-life remaining possible. We position older items at the front of the fridge or cupboard, so they get eaten first (actually Mr Scraps  is much more vigilant about this than I am). If fruit and veg start to go a bit soft, we also look at ways to incorporate them into soups, sauces and desserts. If we’re short on time, we freeze them for later (which reminds me …I have a bunch of squishy fruit in the freezer that we can use for smoothies this week).

4. Portion control

No, I don’t mean we put the family on a diet. But we’ve found out the hard way that if there’s only three of us at home on Thursday but my meal plan looks more like something for when there’s five or six  of us, we end up tossing A LOT of uneaten food to the Immortal Chicken. We try to buy and cook only what we need. And if I’m  making extra,that it’s something that can be easily frozen for later. Every now and then I do this on purpose so there’s some individual servings of whatever in the freezer for lunches or those nights when something unexpected crops up and we can’t cook (or I just plain don’t want to).

5. Storing food

Airtight containers,  fridges and freezers all play a part in prolonging the shelf life of certain foods. So, if we’ve got meat in the fridge that we’re not going to eat this week,we  put it in the freezer. Same for fruit and veg. For example green beans are on special at the greengrocer this week so I’ve ordered a box full to be delivered.  After work today I plan to blanch and freeze most of them for later ( unless of course Mr Scraps channels his inner kitchen fairy and has it done already by time I get home).

6. Leftover nights

If we make more food than we can consume, rather than throw it out, we pack it for lunch or save it for dinner the following night. The bonus is I don’t have to cook again the next day. I try to have a Leftover night written into our Meal Plan once a week.

7. Keep a Container

In the car, bottom of the pram or your bag. If Mr Scraps and I or one of the Scrap kids can’t finish  our  restaurant meal, we ask to take it home. If we can stretch one meal into two – we not only  reduce waste and the second meal is essentially free so we save a few $$$$.

8.  Compost or find a chicken…

We don’t actually compost because we have the Immortal Chicken. Chickens are great for recycling things like fruit and veg peels (except onions and citrus) and all manner of scraps. If you don’t have a chicken of your own (or a neighbour who does) compost bins  and worm farms will break down food scraps and at the same time create natural fertiliser for plants. If you’re lucky (like people in our area) your local council has commercial compost facilities, but also check out your local schools or community gardens if you can’t (or don’t want to) compost at home.

9. Grow your own

Okay, so I’m not so great at this (I’m told I have a “black thumb”) but saving money is one of the biggest reasons people grow food at home. Having a stash of herbs and vegetables means  always having access to fresh ingredients and just the right amount. I have had some success regrowing veg like celery and carrot tops from the scraggy end bits we usually cut off and throw to the Immortal Chicken, but it takes a while and I’m too impatient.

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IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Talk Groceries!

When you live in rural New South Wales, you can’t buy much in your own Mason jar.

I kept seeing pictures like this posted by people I Insta-Stalk & Face-Lurk and felt sad that my grocery hall so rarely looks as pretty as this.

In fact, until I read Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home and Amy Korst’s The Zero Waste Lifestyle, I didn’t actually know what a Mason Jar was. But they made it all seem so easy.

Just shop for groceries at your local bulk store with reusable containers and bags, and you’re set! Unfortunately, our little Australian village (population approximately  2,500) is not nearly as advanced as San Francisco when it came to shopping options, no bulk stores.  The only local bulk store local to us is a 30-40  minute drive away.

For years we’ve use calico bags when grocery shopping and I’ve always brought our veg from farmers markets or loose from the supermarket when ever I can, but in other areas  I’ve  struggled to minimise my family’s packaging waste, sometimes driving long distances between farms, markets, and small businesses in neighbouring communities to seek out minimal or refillable packaging. All that driving isn’t terribly sustainable and it took up huge chunks of time.

Most of all, it was discouraging. I was reading all these eco- friendly-sustainable-zero-waste-money-saving- organic-hippy- blogs and to be honest, felt like either I was completely useless, or that they were completely out of touch with the real world! All these amazing urban bloggers I was following really didn’t  grasp how challenging zero-waste living can be for rural dwellers here in Australia, and probably everywhere else too. In fact, sometimes it felt like they were being quite preachy or condescending.  I hate that. It makes me angry.

Then I found a blog post by Zero-Waste guru  Kathryn Kellogg.

I just wish that more of the zero-waste conversation considered that the majority of us actually don’t live in areas where Zero Waste is an easy option. If only everyone could be so encouraging and try to help everyone figure out alternative solutions that lower our waste (both food and packaging) without either a putting major dent in our budget or increasing our environmental footprint by driving all over the earth to find un-packaged goods.

Not everyone is going to be able to achieve a  ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, but we can all still be make a difference and influence our community retailers to move in a greener direction.

So, what should you do if there are no reusable-friendly bulk stores around?

According to Kellogg, you start by asking yourself some questions:

1. Can it be made from scratch?

There are a lot of things we buy automatically in stores that are easy to make at home, such as pasta sauce, hummus, guacamole, pancake mix, vinaigrette, bread and muffins. Learn how to make them. If you live in the country making up a batch of muffins takes less time than driving to the store, and it’s cheaper too.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with ducking into the local bakery with your old pillow case or calico bag and buying a fresh loaf of bread or yummy muffin. We actually have an awesome little country bakery down the road so I do this often myself. And of all the stores I’ve ever tried to buy “zero-waste” from, bakeries have definitely been the easiest.

2. Can you buy it in a returnable container?

Some dairies offer milk and yogurt in returnable glass containers. You pay a deposit up front that’s reimbursed or transferred to your next purchase. Usually these are smaller-scale, privately-owned dairies that sell a better product. I haven’t found one here, but there’s an olive farm up the road that refills my 4 Litre oil tin every few months (we actually have two tins, one in the cupboard and an empty in the car that we fill when whenever we happen to be passing that way).

3. Is it available in compostable packaging?

Always go for paper if you can because it’s biodegradable. This is especially easy for baking supplies, like flour, sugar, chocolate, and cornstarch. Some pasta and chip brands come in cardboard.

4. Does it come in paper, glass or metal?

Kellogg is a big fan of glass, since it’s entirely recyclable – and it’s one of those few items that’s so costly to produce that recyclers and companies are willing to pay for recycling  (sadly it may have become so expensive here in Australia that a lot of it doesn’t get recycled at all so we’re now trying to avoid or reuse glass jars instead of dropping them in the recycling bin. If glass is recycled in your area though, you can buy most condiments, oils, and vinegar in glass bottles. I recently also found sliced beetroot at the local IGA supermarket in glass.

Metal is also a better option than plastic, as it’s more readily recycled. Just be cautious of BPA (plastic) in can linings.

We tend to buy things in paper or cardboard whenever possible because its not only recycled here, but is compost-able. We buy our flour, pasta, sugar (very, very rarely), baking soda and oats in boxes or paper packaging in the largest quantity we can find or comfortably store. Boxes go in the recycling and paper gets shredded for the Immortal Chicken’s bedding before becoming compost. Just watch out for hidden plastic bags inside food boxes. If you give the box a bit of a shake or gentle squeeze you can usually hear if there’s one in there, but I’ve been caught out a few times with speciality flours and cereals.

5. Can you buy it in bulk?

Buying in bulk is always a good idea to save money (as long as you can eat it), but it’s especially smart if plastic packaging is the only option. Buy the biggest bag you can, like Kellogg did: “We bought a 25lb bag of rice when we first moved to California that lasted two years. That alone saved 25 plastic-wrapped rice bags!”.

We do this for things like cheese, nuts, coffee beans since they keep for a while either in airtight jars or the freezer.

The important thing here is not to let perfection impede your progress.

There are ways to reduce waste, even if they’re not as picture-perfect as the book authors and bloggers  world would like you to think. I mean, if it was really sooo easy everyone would be doing it and they wouldn’t be selling any books would they?

So for today’ s challange:

No matter where you live, next time you go shopping try and swap at least one item that you buy on a regular basis for a less waste producing option.

For example, we started buying a different brand of dry pasta some time ago because it comes in a cardboard box instead of a plastic bag. Bonus is, it actually tastes better than the other brand and doesn’t cost anymore than what we used to buy when its “on special”. We also like cheese and as a family eat quite a lot of it , so I stated buying it in 1kg blocks and cutting it into quarters for the freezer (or I wrap it in a beeswax wrap and pop it in the back of the fridge) instead of buying just enough for the week. Again it costs less, but it also means that instead of 52 plastic wrappers per year being washed and going off to Redcycle, there’s only about 12 and I always have some on hand when I need it.

Web Errors, War Rations and BOB Cabbage Pasta

It’s been an interesting week so far and it’s only Wednesday!

Those of you who visit here regularly and follow along on face-lurk may have noticed that there are several post missing from the site.

It seems we may have been hacked (either that …or an update went wrong …or  I pushed the wrong button somewhere along the line…which is entirely possible) and Kitchen Scraps went down. I thought for a moment (well, a whole day) that I’d lost her forever. But a clever IT person showed me how to restore a website from old data, and we’re back online… minus a few recent posts. I’ll try and get those rewritten from my notes and re-posted.

It’s taught me a valuable lesson – BACK UP & PROTECT YOUR DATA!

It’s one we all know and should take heed of but in this techno-gizmo world, seem to ignore or just plain forget about. It was (only) a blog that I almost lost forever, but imagine if it was something really important or of huge sentimental value, like your entire collection of family photos, your next best selling novel or all your financials…

Sadly, one of the posts that went bye-bye birdy was the one I wrote about putting my family on War Rations. If you left a comment or saved the link, I’m sorry to say it’s gone now… but a big thank you. There were so many thoughtful and helpful suggestions, it really is a shame they’ve evaporated into the cyber-ether.

The gist of it was that a lot of my favourite (as in the ones I face-lurk and insta-stalk) food gurus and bloggers believe (like me) that we shouldn’t be wasting food. They also believe that it shouldn’t be as ridiculously difficult or expensive to feed our families healthy nutritious meals.

One of my favourite blogs is written by Carolyn Eakins who recreates authentic World War 2 meals. It’s called the 1940s Experiment (my all time favourite modern era) and uses the principals of English wartime rationing to help control her weight and keep herself healthy. She’s not the only one calling for a return to the culinary habits of our immediate ancestors either Sarah Wilson, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall are just three others that come to mind.

Leonora Green  1941. Coupons Required.
Leonora Green 1941. Coupons Required. Image from the collection of the Imperial War Museum London.

The short of it is WW2 rationing saw people eating less sugar, less meat, less fat and more veg. They had to use everything because there was only so much available.This went for everything, not just food. In short, people were healthier,were far more frugal and wasted very, very little.

It sounds almost exactly what we’re trying to do here, right?!

While we’re not at war (although I’m guessing there’s a few world leaders who’d like us to be) and there’s no shortages of food here, I’ve really been embracing the principals of rationing this past few weeks. More veg, less meat and making sure we stick to a meal plan, shop only when really needed and (except for staples like rice, flour and dried beans,peas and lentils etc) using things up completely before running out to buy more.

As a result, I’ve come up with a few new “BOB” recipes (BOB stands for – BACK OF BOAT – those quick, simple, inexpensive  yet  totally delicious meals that can be eaten with one hand or out of a high sided bowl with just a fork or spoon while sitting on deck and lazily drifting on the ocean).

BOB CABBAGE PASTA

This is my take on the old braised cabbage that your mum or grandma might have made. Cabbage was big in England in WW2 because it could be grown at home. The Ministry of Food even issued instructions to housewives on how to cook cabbage in the most economical way. It was pretty much a staple here in Australia too because its cheap, nutritious and like other veg, wasn’t rationed.

Ministry of Food How to cook cabbage WW2 instructions
During WW2 England’s Ministry of Food issued leaflets informing people of the most economical way to cook cabbage.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a recipe for boiled cabbage. In fact there’s no boiling water required. Except for some chopping of ingredients, this literally takes minutes to make. It’s economical too. This makes enough to feed 6 of us as a main meal (or 4 with leftovers). It uses very little meat and only a little oil or butter. You can add additional veg or change out the bacon or chorizo for chicken, pork or you can leave it out altogether.

1 head of cabbage. shredded to the thickness of fettuccine or spaghetti noodles.

1 Onion finely sliced.

2 rashers of bacon finely diced

1 chorizo sausage finely diced

2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (I like to use a tablespoon of each).

A sprinkle of chilli flakes or one finely diced chilli.

Any other veg you’d like to add finely shredded with a grater (zucchini is great, so is carrot or capsicum)

Salt and pepper to taste.

A large pan (I make this in the 20 Litre stainless steel pot I use to make stock, soup and stew. It has a tight fitting lid and if there’s leftovers, it fits straight onto the bottom shelf of our fridge).

Heat the oil/butter in the pan and add the bacon, chorizo, chilli and onion.

Saute a few moments until the onion is a little soft and starts to go translucent.

Add the cabbage and stir over a low heat until well combined and cabbage has softened but still has a little crunch.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve just put a generous serving in a bowl.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Scraps – In the Scrap House this week & Not Little Bear Biscuits

Another big week here in the Scrap House.

I was asked to take part in the 2017 Act For Peace Ration Challenge. Basically, in return for donations you live on the same rations given to refugees. It’s not much and pretty hard to make palatable, but you can survive on it for a week. Long term I think you might have some pretty serious health issues unless you could find a way to supplement your meagre supplies with a few vegetables or a little meat. Especially if you have children. I’ll be blogging about it in more detail next week. Donations/ sponsorship runs until the end of June, so there’s still time to join in for anyone who’s interested. You can  donate here to my personal challenge page.

I got my Archaeology Degree in the mail on Thursday. I’m still planning on going to the graduation ceremony in October, but thought I’d get it sent out anyway, just in case I’m too awesomely busy doing archaeology to attend. I can now officially call myself an Archaeologist, granted an inexperienced one… but I have it in ink on a bit of paper now, so it must be true.

I also had a meeting about my first proper (paying) archaeology job. They offered me a contract. There’s probably still some details to work out but it’s really exciting to find that after slogging my butt off and driving the BHG, the Teens and myself mad for the last two and a half years that bit of paper meant something to someone besides just me.

The BHG and I saw Wonder Woman at the pictures this week. I LOVE going to the movies. You leave life at the door when you walk in and for an hour and a half you’re somewhere/ someone else, plus there’s popcorn (or if you’re lucky enough to have Gold Class tickets – wine). I’m a huge Wonder Woman fan (Whovians can love Wonder Woman too! Now wouldn’t that be a cross-over).

The Teens did the usual of teen stuff, but as Monday was a public holiday and Friday was report writing day at their High School, it was a short week for them. The eldest Teen spent two days working in a shearing shed and came home with what to him was a wad of cash (remind me to discuss that with Grandad Scraps sometime – I’m pretty sure that all those school holidays I spent as roust-a bout in the shearing shed means he owes me about seventy billion dollars plus interest).

The Threenager and I did lots of cooking (including perfecting the Not Little Bears recipe I’ve included below) and sorting this week. It’s now definitely winter here and the increase in chill factor now dictates that its time for some serious winter woollies. Many of her clothes from last year still fit quite well, but we’ll be looking for a new jacket in the coming weeks as we discovered the sleeves on hers are almost up to her elbows and she could probably do with another cardigan and vest. A good excuse to get the needles out and sit in front of the fire and watch the next season The Walking Dead and maybe (probably) Black Sails too.

The BHG and I are also in the process of sorting through the two shed loads of stuff we’ve been carting from place to place for the last 12 years. I blame him and his “collectables” a lot, but secretly, I have to admit most of it is my junk from when I was running my own bricks and mortar business. Some of it comes from the houses of deceased relatives, but the majority is just the result of our (my) own  sentimentality. We’ve finally realised that if we’re ever going to go truly nomad sometime this century, we’re going to have to get tough on our “stuff”. I’ve sent a lot off to charity shops, but we’ll probably be doing a lot of eBay listing and free-cycling over the next few months. I really like the idea of minimalism, but getting there (mindfully, without just throwing everything we’ve accumulated in a skip and sending it to landfill) feels like an incredibly arduous task.

Speaking of going nomad, those who saw my Instagram posts about our pop-top “Miss Cara Van” will be pleased to know she is coming along nicely. It’s taken a while, but now most of the structural stuff is done and she’ ready for a new floor.  Then we can get onto the fun stuff (kitting her out and decorating).

Now to the promised recipe. I’ve had a few friends try this out with all the variations listed and they’ve been pretty successful. They’re quick, fairly simple (the Threenager easily helped with the mixing, rolling and cutting) and they’re lower in sugar than the store brought version and can be popped in a little container or waxed baggie in a lunch box, so no plastic packaging in school lunches.

 

Not Little Bear Biscuits

Makes 60 Little Gingerbread Man or bear shapes approx. 5cm tall.

½ Cup Softened Butter

¼ Cup Rice Malt Syrup

1 Cup Plain Flour

½ Cup Self-Rising Flour

1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence

Extra flour for rolling

Mix together butter and rice malt syrup until creamy consistency.

Add vanilla essence and flours, stirring until it forms a soft dough.

Refrigerate in covered bowl at least 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface until approximately ½ cm thick.

Cut into small shapes using a cookie cutter or knife. (I used a little mini gingerbread man cutter  because that’s what I had in the  kitchen drawer).

Place on lined biscuit trays and bake at 180 C for approximately 5-6 mins or until lightly golden.

Leave on trays a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin.

These will keep at least a week

 (or more, but they’ve never lasted long enough in our house for me to test properly).

Note: You can substitute margarine for butter, honey or maple syrup for rice malt syrup.

To make chocolate biscuits simply replace 1& 1/2 tablespoons of the plain flour with cocoa.

Gluten free or Vegan Version: Gluten Free flour works as well but the consistency is more like shortbread and the dough is very delicate. It is best rolled out gently in small batches. To make them vegan friendly you could use olive oil spread (we tried some of the Nuttelex brand and it worked just fine).

 

 

Feeding Families – Week 1 Menu and Recipes

For the first  week, after unpacking the groceries (you can see what we already had and what I brought here), I made two small loaves of bread, a batch of Not Little Bear Biscuits, divided and cut the Ears of Corn into 3 portions and placed them in the freezer, reserving one whole ear for making Mexican Chicken Soup on Saturday. I also sliced 2 of the 4 bunches of Leeks and placed them in the freezer.

In addition to this the Threenager and I spent a lovely hour on the Monday morning making some sauerkraut from what was left of the red cabbage. I also made two more loaves of bread on the Sunday and brought 6 more litres of milk throughout the week at a cost of $6.

This brought our total grocery/cleaning/toiletry spend to $95.

You’ll notice that most breakfasts and lunches list more than one meal type. This is because 5 days a week the Teens are at school and the BHG, Threenager and I all sort of do our own thing even if we are home together all day. The youngest Teen does food technology at school and often eats what she cooks in class (this is paid for in her school fees so doesn’t come out of our household food budget) and the eldest Teen does a little farmhand work on weekends and school holidays. He sometimes (maybe once or twice a week) chooses to spend a little of what he earns at the school salad and pasta bar rather than bring lunch from home. They go to an awesome little country high school that provides some really healthy food options, so please no emails or social media messages or posts about not feeding growing teenagers properly.

Day

Breakfasts Lunches Dinners Snacks
Wednesday Toast with Butter & Vegemite

Weetbix & milk

Toasted Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches

Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwiches

Single Breasted Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry with Boiled Rice

Self- Saucing Choc Pudding (h/m) with Frozen Yoghurt

Peanut Butter on Bread

1 Banana

2 Apples

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Thursday Weetbix & Milk

Toast with Cheese & Tomato

Leek & Cauliflower Soup

Cheese & Tomato Sandwich

Nutella Sandwiches

 

Grilled Beef Sausages with Baked – ½ Sweet Potato, 3 Garlic Cloves, ½ Red Capsicum, 1 Large Potato and 1 & ½ Ears Corn boiled

Orange Jelly  Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding & Eater Cheater Custard (h/m- Recipe Below)

 

2 Apples

3 Bananas

Not Little Bear Biscuits

handful of Choc Chips

Grapes

Friday Toast, Vegemite & Butter

Wheaties & Milk

Toast & Nutella

Nutella Sandwich

Can of Irish Stew Soup

 

Adults & 3-year -old lunched at grandparents’ house.

Everyone had main meal at grandparents’ house.

1 Banana

Leftover Custard

1 Apple

2 Bananas

Saturday Toast, Nutella, Apricot Cheese, Tomato slices, Peanut Butter

Oats

Leek & Cauliflower Soup

Toasted cheese sandwiches

Mexican Chicken Soup

Flatbreads

Coconut milk

1 Apple

Bread, Nutella

Choc Chips

Carrot Sticks

Slice of Cheese

Sunday Oats

Toast

Peanut Butter, Nutella

Mexican Chicken Soup

Bread

Savory Mince

Bread

Chocolate Nut Squares

Coconut Milk Custard

Orange Jelly

1 Apple

Chocolate Wheaties Slice

Molasses Men

Monday Toast, Peanut Butter

Weetbix & milk

Savoury Mince

Small can of Tuna

Bread & Butter

Homemade Coleslaw Dressing

Slamon Patties

Sweet Potato Chips

(with Red Dip Dip – Recipe Below)

2 Apples

Chocolate Nut Squares

Wheaties Slice

Molasses Men

Tuesday Weetbix & Milk

Toast with butter & Vegemite

Oats

Chicken Nibbles

Coleslaw, Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches

Savoury Chicken & Cabbage Stew

Apple Cake

Molasses Men

Mandarins

Oranges

Wheaties Slice

Beverages Cosumed During the Week Milk or Akta-Vite Coffee Tea – Black, matcha & herbal

 

Lemon Water (h/m)

RECIPES

These are a few of the things I made during the week. To avoid a massively long post and so they can be searched more easily, I’ll pop some others into separate posts and tag them in the table above as they are published.

 Red Dip-Dip

AKA: Low Sugar Tomato Sauce 

This is a staple in our house. The Threenager loves it and won’t eat any kind of meat or hot chips without it.

1 large (600g) Jar of  Passatta or equivalent in tinned tomatoes

(look for the ones that are just tomatoes, without anything extra added).

½ brown Onion (finely chopped)

1 Clove Garlic (finely chopped)

¼ Cup Malt or Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tablespoons  Rice Malt Syrup

Pinch of Cinnamon

Pinch of Nutmeg

1 Whole Clove or a pinch of Powdered Cloves

 

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Put everything in a saucepan, bring to the boil then immediately reduce heat and simmer gently until the Passatta (or juice of canned tomatoes) is reduced to half its original volume. Blend until smooth or push through a sieve. Pour into a clean jar or bottle.

Refrigerate between use.

Will last about a month in fridge.

It can also be frozen.

 

Single Breasted Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

Serves 6 with rice as a main meal.

1 Large Chicken Breast

1 large Onion

Red & Yellow Capsicum

Curry Powder

1 Red Chilli

½ Large Sweet Potato (approx. 500g)

¼ Cup Milk Powder

2 Cups Water

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Boiled Rice to Serve.

Finely dice onion and chilli.

Chop Chicken Breast, Sweet Potato and Capsicum into small cubes.

In a pot or large frypan, heat olive oil and over a low heat sweat off onion and chilli until onion turns clear.

Add ¾ of water, chicken, capsicum, curry powder and sweet potato.

Cook over low heat until chicken is cooked and sweet potato is cooked but still firm (you may need to add a little extra water during cooking).

Mix milk powder with remaining water and stir through.

Cook until thickened.

Served with Boiled Rice.

 

Eater Cheater  Homemade Custard

Serves 6

2 Eggs

2 Heaped Dessert Spoons Cornflour (or Tapioca Flour)

1 Desert Spoon Rice Malt Syrup

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence

2 & ½ Cups Milk (or use milk powder)

In a medium sized saucepan whisk together eggs, cornflour, vanilla, essence and rice malt syrup until smooth and fully combined with no lumps.

Place over low heat and continue to whisk until thickened to desired consistency.

If custard is too thick, slowly drizzle in some more milk until desired thickness is achieved.

Variation: Replace regular milk with coconut milk.

Note: while this is simple and only takes about 10 minutes, it is not something you can walk away from at all. It needs to be continuously whisked/stirred to avoid burning or becoming lumpy.

Feeding Families – It really doesn’t have to cost that much.

So after my post about groceries and what people considered a “normal” expense last week, I did a bit of digging around. Okay, I admit it, I spent hours on Facebook stalking frugal living and parenting pages. All this digital lurking did, however, confirm what I was already thinking –  that there’s a lot of people out there spending the majority of their weekly wages on feeding their families when they probably don’t really need to and that these people, while they aren’t happy about it at all, just accept it as part of life.

It makes me so sad to think that all those people out there are making themselves miserable over food. The majority of us here in Australia are fortunate enough to have easy access to a wide range of fresh, frozen and refrigerated produce at (almost always) affordable prices. So why are so many of us unable to feed our families good healthy food without spending ridiculous amounts at the checkout? Is it the way we shop or the way we eat? Do we just not educate our kids (and ourselves) well enough in the practicalities of life? Should things like budgeting, shopping, cleaning and cooking be part of the school curriculum? Why is something that should be so enjoyable, sitting down to a healthy, home cooked meal with your family so financially stressful for so many?

For example, today I stumbled across a page called Cooking for Busy Mums (it is kinda awesome, go check it out). The page owner asked people what they spent on groceries per week. Prices varied, some people really do have grocery shopping down pat, some do way better than us (we’re pretty good at the whole frugal food while being healthy thing but there’s ALWAYS room for improvement). But so many were struggling, some spending $400 per week on food for their (admittedly in many cases, larger than average) families. One woman admitted to spending around $150 AU every couple of days for a family of 4 or five. If you add that up (assuming from her post she goes to the grocery store 3 times a week) it comes to $450 for what most of us would consider an average (or even small) family. It was heartbreaking.

It’s one of the few page posts like this that  I’ve commented on. I’m usually just a lurker on most pages, reading posts and hitting the thumbs up button every now and then. I didn’t say much, just that our weekly spend was usually $100 (sometimes up to $150) and talked about what I spent at the butchers this week. Some others made similar comments, then someone jumped on and called us all out. I won’t note their name here, if you’re really keen you can scroll through the page and find it for yourself (so you can read it in context), but this was the comment:

“Unless people are growing their own fruit n veg I call bullshit on the posts stating $130 a week           for 7. This is all household requirements? Toilet paper, wash detergent (even home made)? It’s misleading as they then go on to state they have a freezer full of meat or cupboards already                stocked. So that’s $130 for a top up. Fruit and veg for a healthy family that large is around $70 minimum a week but I probably spend closer to $120 on fruit n veg alone for 7.”

Now I know that (especially in Australia) there can be HUGE fluctuations in the cost of fresh food, but our (larger than many) family is living proof that $130 AU a week is very do-able, toiletries, cleaning products and all and without resorting to feeding your kids noodles of the 2 minute kind every night (Although have you seen all those pretty homemade noodle lunches in mason jars all over Pinterest? I’m dying to try it.)

I’m not being mean or judgemental , this person is more than entitled to their opinion and not knowing their exact circumstances, such as  where they live or what grocery prices are in their area, this might be the case for them. But just like us, there’s always room for improvement right? Besides I can think of much more productive/enjoyable things to do with our dollars than eat them.

I did promise last week to show people how we manage to eat healthily on a pretty tight budget. We’ve always eaten pretty well, lots of wholefood. Meals made from scratch etc. But when we committed to really reducing what we sent into landfill (and for recycling), it got even better. I kept a fairly detailed record at the time because I wanted to be able to show the BHG, the Teens and the Uni Student that we could do it, and that it would save us money (and once we had a bit of a routine going – a bunch of stress especially after I finished study and found full time Archaeology work). I did have an advantage in that they’d already survived my almost completely overhauling our diet to drastically reduce our sugar intake.

So over the next few weeks I will post our initial pantry, fridge, freezer, toiletries and cleaning stock take and then each weeks shopping list and menu ( I don’t get receipts if I can help it and pay cash for most groceries unless I order online so you might have to take my word on prices – but I’m sure if you’re determined you can find comparable items online to check my numbers).

What We Already Had

I encourage everyone to do this every now and then. I should do it more often.

Go through your pantry, fridge and freezer with a fine tooth comb, empty them out onto the kitchen bench if you have to, and make a list of every single item, including toiletries and household cleaners. Believe me you’ll be very surprised how much is actually  there. Despite what the person posting on Facebook said, it’s a pretty rare occurrence in most households that the cupboards are completely empty (although this would be the case if  you moved interstate, overseas or were cleaned out by natural disaster or plague). Considering this, EVERY shop is a “top up” in that we add new items (meat, dairy, produce etc) to what we already have available. By knowing exactly what you have already you have more chance of controlling just how big (and expensive) that “top up” is.

I found some impulse buys that I brought because they’re “healthy”  and leftover bits and bobs from birthday party and cake makings. These days I’m actually a little ashamed of how wasteful a few things were. Like those full plastic jars of spice I brought for a single recipe that no one liked and the expensive coconut flour I now have to find recipes for. Regardless, here’s our initial stock take,warts and all.

This was taken on a Tuesday ( I shop mid-week because that’s usually when our pays go through and if I shop at the end of the week, the Teens eat everything before Monday so there’s nothing left for school lunches). I now there’s a lot of staples here (flour, rice etc) but bear with me over the next few weeks and you’ll see how we keep it stocked without having to outlay a whole lot on bulk items all at once.

The Fridge, Freezer & Pantry Stocktake (h/m = homemade and h/g = home grown)

 

Already in Fridge/Fruit & Veg

In the Freezer In the Pantry Cont..
250g Butter 4 x 500g Butter 1 can of Akta- Vite
3 L milk ½ Tub Frozen Greek Yoghurt Vanilla Essence (h/m)
Jam Chicken Carcass Plain & SR Flour
Mayonnaise (h/m -1/4 full) Vegie Scraps BBQ Sauce
½ Red Cabbage Leaves – broccoli etc 18 x Chutney& Pickles (h/m)
½ Green Cabbage Bread – for breadcrumbs etc Cat Food – Dry (h/m) & 6 Cans
4 Apples A banana Bread Flour
Lard Misc Frozen Fruit Pieces Baking Powder
500g Cheese Apple cores & Peel Bicarbonate of Soda
A jar of Taco Sauce  2 marinated chicken thighs 1.5 kg Rice Malt Syrup
A Jar of Tahini Cooked Rhubarb (h/m) Stevia
Some Cranberry Sauce Pumpkin Soup Dark Brown Sugar
Chives (fresh) Turkey & Veg Soup Lasagne Sheets
French Mustard Bones for Bone Broth 12 x Baked Beans
1 banana Chocolate Icepops (h/m) Yeast
2 grapefruit In the Pantry Icing Sugar
2 oranges 4 x Nori Sheets Lemon Essence
1 kiwi fruit 6 x Rice Paper Rounds 1 x Can Irish Stew
¼ Jar pickled cucumbers (h/m) Matcha Powder Weetbix 1.4 kg box
Bottle of Fish Sauce ¼ bottle sushi seasoning Wheaties 750g Box
¼ Jar Shredded Beetroot ½ packet soba noodles Rice Bubbles (about 100g)
3 Sweet potatoes ½ bottle Tamari Oats (about 500g)
4 Onions Sesame Oil 1X Jar Passatta
 Garlic (h/g) Molasses vegemite
Red Chillis (h/g) 1 x Bottle Wasabi Sauce 2 Jars Peanut butter
1 x Bottle h/m chilli sauce ½ Bottle Whoster Sauce honey
½ Jar Minced Ginger Xylotol Dark Choc chips
½ Jar Apple & Mint Jelly (h/m) Roasted pumpkin seeds (h/m) Coconut flour
½ Jar Grape Jelly (h/m) Coffee Beans & Instant Chia seeds
Handful of green grapes Tea Leaves (loose) lentils
100g Apricot & Almond Cheese Herbal Tea(loose) Milk powder
 ½ a Tomato Cocoa 1x can coconut milk
1 leek Dried Chick peas 3 x tins sardines
1 lemon Coconut oil 2 x large cans tuna
2 Yellow Capsicum Olive oil 2 x small tins tuna
6 ears of Corn Shredded coconut 2 x cans salmon
1 Zucchini Apple cider vinegar (h/m) dates
Glycerine Rum Essence
In the Laundry Almond Essence Cochineal
Soap Nuts Malt vinegar 1 x can kids savoury mince
Eucalyptus Oil 1 Bottle Hot Chilli Sauce 1 Jar ACV (fermenting)
1 Bar Soap 1 x can Irish Stew Soup 500g Cous Cous
White Vinegar ½ Packet Vita Wheats Tapioca Flour
cornflower Rice Flour
Toilet Almond Meal Walnuts
52 x Toilet Paper Rolls Tabasco Sauce Gelatine
  Linseed Meal 2 x packets Jelly Crystal
Kitchen Cleaning Xanthium Gum Ready to Roll Icing
4 Dishwasher Tablets Sprinkles ½ Jar Nutella
1 Bar Soap Barley A tin of pineapple pieces
3 Jars Citrus Cleaner (h/m) Dried Herbs & Spices Dried Herbs & Spices Cont..
1 Tub of Gumption (h/m) Ras el Hanout Mix (h/m) Cayenne Pepper
Bay Leaves Tarragon Leaves
In the Bathroom Curry Powder Fennel Seeds
1/2 Bottle 2 in 1 Shampoo Mustard seeds Chicken Salt
1 Tube Junior Toothpaste Cardamom Pods Chilli Flakes
1 Tube Regular Toothpaste Chives Ground Coriander
1 Bottle Shampoo Mustard Powder Oregano
½ Bottle Conditioner Sumac Poppy Seeds
 5 Bars Soap Turmeric BBQ Seasoning
 Deoderant & Toothpowder (h/m) Sweet Paprika Ground Ginger
Misc. Other Items Cloves Sea Salt
15ml Lemon Essential Oil Peppercorns Cajun Seasoning
15ml Lavender Essential Oil Paprika Harissa
Bentonite Clay Basil Garam Masala
DME Dill Leaf Tips Ground Nutmeg
Beeswax Mint Leaves Pickling Spice
Activated Charcoal Dutch Cinnamon Thyme Leaves
Shea Butter Mixed Herbs White Pepper

This list includes regular grocery items and  everything we use for homemade cleaners, deodorants etc. The Teens pay for any personal products that are non-essential ( things like hair wax, perfumes or make-up) from their own allowances/earnings. If the BHG and I buy wine or beer, which is fairly rare, that expense is taken out of our entertainment budget because it’s not an essential and something we consume purely for enjoyment.

Week 1

What I purchased to supplement this list – AKA: the shopping list

After checking out what was already in the house, I spent a little time (about 30 minutes) thinking up a few options for meals and snacks that would use these items. I try and stick to things I know everyone will eat. You can have the best est, most economical meal plan in the world, but if the kids won’t eat fried zucchini burgers, you may as well just forget shopping for groceries altogether and flush your $$$ straight down the toilet. Fortunately, my lot will eat (almost) anything, as long as there’s a little meat involved and maybe some chili or curry powder on it.

18 Beef Sausages (divided into 2 meals)                                               3 Litres Milk ($3 per Litre)

600g Mince Beef (divided into 3 meals)                                                 12 Eggs ($4)

250g Sausage Mince                                                                               4 Granny Smith Apples

2 Chicken Breasts (divided into 2 meals)                                             4 Pink Lady Apples

4  Lamb Chops                                                                                        8 Bananas

4 Medium Sized Beetroot                                                                       2 Red Capsicum

1 Bunch Dutch Carrots                                                                          2 Cauliflower (1.99 ea)

1 Bunch of Celery                                                                                   4 Bunches Leeks (99c ea)

4 Mandarins                                                                                             4 Large Brown Onions

680g Bottle of Passatta                                                                         6 Washed Potatoes

1 Whole Butternut Pumpkin                                                                  4 Tomatoes

This came to $89 AU. I also allowed $10 AU for milk throughout the week. Most of this was brought, package free or in paper through a greengrocer and our local butcher. The eggs were purchased from a local lady with free range chickens. Unfortunately, the milk is in a plastic bottle. The only recyclable  option available here at present.

Yes I know that’s a lot of toilet paper…

We buy on subscription through Who Gives a Crap?. 48 double sized plastic free  rolls arrive in a simple cardboard box on our doorstep every 16 weeks and costs us $56, yes we might find cheaper elsewhere if we really looked hard, but the 48 double rolls works out to $0.58c per regular roll  (48 x 2 = 96, $56 / 96 = $0.58c) which is more than comparable to other brands, plus we like their ethics, that it’s 100% recycled paper and the quality is fine.

A Note on How We Eat:

Except for cigarette smoke and skin sensitivities to artificial perfumes (myself, the Youngest Teen and the Uni Student), no one in our household has any allergies or special dietary requirements. We eat a fairly low sugar, wholefood diet. While we don’t eat what I would call a massive amount of meat, we’re not vegan or vegetarian (I  sometimes wish we were, but there’s no way the BHG or youngest Teen would go for it).

I cook. In a previous life I cooked for a living (at one stage for an army, literally) so family dinners most nights are a doddle.We do like simple food though. What I call REAL FOOD that tastes like, well, food and not the stuff with numbers for names. We’re not fanatical though, you’ll notice there’s some items on the stock-take (like Baked Beans in BBQ Sauce & a single jar of Nutella spread) that are brought purely because some members of the household REALLY like them. I figure it’s not such a bad trade-off to get the Teens & BHG to eat healthy the rest of the time.

We drink our fair share of tea and coffee. We all drink tea, mainly matcha or herbal blends I buy loose when we’re out and about. The BHG & I  drink the coffee. The BHG likes the Moccona brand instant stuff, but only gets it when it’s on super special, I prefer to grind my own so buy whole beans and keep them in the freezer. Otherwise it’s milk or water. The eldest Teen and I like to keep a jug of water with a few slices of lemon added in the refrigerator. We might have some juice if we squeeze it ourselves (but if you read some of the research around these days, fruit juice is the new evil, almost as evil as fizzy pop).

Next post I will share our menu for the week and some recipes.