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October Grocery Challenge- halfway point

Grocery budgeting pairs well with throwing out self-induced food rules and going more the intuitive eating route. Now if we have veggies, whole grains, some protein,a fat to cook with, coffee, peanut butter, and something to snack on in the house, I don't feel the need to buy more food. The want is sometimes there, but two young kids in tow quickly squashes the impulse shopper in me. I shopped for the first week of October prior to the beginning of the month and fully intended to post an update after purchasing more groceries the next week...but then I didn't go again until the 11th.

My first grocery stop for the month was Ebenezer Groceries. A friend who is in the same "tight budget but wanting to make responsible grocery choices" boat as I am has been singing its praises for weeks (maybe months?!). I was sold when she showed up to my house with a package of pastured chicken breast (this is the good stuff, and it almost always shows in the price tag) she'd purchased for $5.

The catch? It's 30 minutes away. Oh, and it's one of those stores where you're never quite sure what you're going to get. I had meticulously planned meals for the week, but when I showed up with my list, I knew I was about to fly by the seat of my pants. Although I only had one kid in tow, one grocery stop is about all I can handle these days.

Of note at Ebenezer:

  • cheap natural and organic food. I picked up some of my beloved Applegate bacon for $1.50/package (it normally runs for at least $5) I saw tubs of spinach for $1 each (lots of other good deals,too; that one stood out to me because of my love for green smoothies.  Oh, and have you seen these? They run for $4 or $5 around here, but they were on sale for $.99 at Ebenezer.
  • raw local milk
  • some products are close to or past date. It's actually okay to eat some food that is past its sell by date, but perishables can get iffy. Be sure to check labels and have your smart phone handy (or do a little research beforehand) if you're not sure if you can eat a particular item.

I will definitely be returning- but only on days I have one kid with me. The thought of taking two half an hour away to a grocery store where I am likely going to need to feed, entertain, and wrangle them both while checking dates and scouring shelves is a little overwhelming for me right now.

Spent: $44.42

My second grocery stop this month was a quick run to Giant after the kids were in bed. Due to a communication glitch + our weekend trip, I didn't actually end up purchasing any of my beloved Deep Roots eggs! In a pinch (my family thrives on eggs), we picked up some grocery store eggs. They run about $2 cheaper per dozen than the local pastured variety, but for the taste and nutrition, I'd much rather pay a little more.

Spent: $30.40

Tim picks up our CSA veggies each weeks and splits a whole share with his coworker. Here's an example of what a week's worth looks like. We paid at the beginning of the season, but we still factor it into our monthly budget.

Spent: $31.25

I contemplated heading back to Ebenezer last weekend, but I had both kids with me & the 30-minute drive just felt like too much. I did a quick shop at my currently 2nd favorite money-saving store, Aldi.

Not the best picture, but if you look close, you'll see organics & even fair trade coffee!

Spent: $57.25

Last Sunday was the first time we made it to the Farmers Market this month. We went to our favorite stands, as usual. Due to availability, we ended up only spending $15 this time.

One last purchase for the mid-month total- Tim found a deal on a huge tub of coconut oil on Deal News. 54 ounces cost us $24.25.

Total spent on groceries: $202.57 (Our budget for the whole month is $425.)

Right on track! I'm leaving out a lot of details on how we're making this budget work for us, so if you have any questions or tips for me (I realize our budget is high for some!), please leave them in the comments.

Last thing- eating out! Eek...this one is going to be the death of my frugal side. Nolan & I had a much-needed play date with some dear friends and ended up getting lunch at Chick-fil-a. We bought food to & from our weekend beach trip + an ice cream outing. I also didn't say no when Nolan asked if we could go to Chick-fil-a after a particularly stressful doctor visit. Total dollars spent? $73.97. Out of 50. That was in the first week alone.


Goals for October

Let me start off by saying that a sizable portion of my brain seems to be dormant. The rest is mainly focused on parenting two children while running on too little sleep and not going crazy while doing it.

I didn't go crazy yet, so I'm counting last month as a win.

Here's a look at September's goals & what I did with them.

[September Goals]

1. read Parenting with Love and Logic (I'm feeling like I could use some help as we navigate this new season of Nolan no longer being the only child.) I did read, but I didn't finish. I also read a good number of blogs on parenting this month.

2. stick to my running plan. I did...for a while. Towards the end of the month, I found I needed something a little gentler. I originally started  running for stress relief, but the lack of sleep had me going for more movement in the form of walking and yoga.

3. save sweet treats for the evening- if I start earlier than that, I can't seem to stop! I kind of forgot about this one...could be why I've been having such trouble curbing my sweet tooth!

4. go on an actual date (no kids allowed!) with my husband. I don't think this happened. We did create a schedule that includes an at-home date night, though.

5. purchase a couple of outfits from thredUp that I feel cute in. I did purchase a workout outfit I'm fairly happy with. The top is a cherry red, which isn't normally something I'd go for, but it fits well, so there's that.

6. have our "new" neighbors over for dinner. (They moved in several months ago, and we just met them. Ahem.) Nope. This did not happen.

7. get a (very) part time job in place. No again. Anything that might work for our family hasn't come together yet.

September goal progress could be discouraging...but I'm fairly new to this goal-setting thing. I'm good at coming up with ideas and plans, but follow through? Actual goals? No. It's possible that my first goals needed to change, I don't know & I'm viewing this as practice.

Just writing this post has me thinking of a handful of posts I want to write. Maybe those will happen?

In this mean time, here are my goals for October:

1. Stay within my food budget for the month.

2. Keep working through issues with food/ letting go of eating-related anxiety. I'm seeing some good progress with this- something I might sit down and write about this month.

3. Finish Parenting with Love and Logic.

I'm linking up with Hayley to share Goals with Grace.


October Grocery Challenge: The Guidelines

This month, I am challenging myself to stick to my grocery budget.

Since September was the only month we actually didn't overspend on food due largely to the many meals we received in the name of Selah's birth, this will be a true challenge for me and my family. I don't know if our  numbers are actually realistic or what we have to adjust in order to meet them. For the entire month (not just for the first half, as in other months), I'm going to make a concerted effort to meet our budget goals even when it feels uncomfortable. I'll report back each week with what we spent, where we spent it,  an abridged recap of what we ate.

Let's talk numbers. Of course, these may be high or low for you, depending on the area you live in, the size of your family, and how you choose to eat. I've said before that we don't meet these numbers easily (we are a family of EATERS plus I just love shopping for food), but this month, we will try to and then go from there.

The Budget

Groceries (this is just food): $425

Toiletries/Cleaning supplies: $25

Eating Out: $50

We are subscribed to a CSA though the end of October, so that's $62.50/month right away. When I think about the vegetables I've thrown away because they didn't get used in time, I realize we've thrown away money. I'm happy to support something my family and I believe in, but wasted money is still wasted- throwing away food means I have to buy more with actual cash that could have gone to better uses. I digress.

Okay, we also visit the farmers market nearly every week and hit the same stands + sometimes an extra or two. We love supporting our local farmers and artisans and are forming great relationships with some of them. We don't have a set budget for these trips but typically spend $20-$30 a week on this trip. I'll report each week with what we actually bought.

Tim buys his own food to keep at work- typically things like bread, peanut butter, honey, and beans. He estimates that he spends somewhere around $40/month.

So. $425/month minus $62.50 minus $40. We are left with $322.50 to spend on groceries for the month or approximately $80/week. That is not a huge number, but it might be doable.

We will find out, right?

The Guidelines

I will be using food leftover from previous months' purchases. I promise I didn't stockpile in anticipation of this challenge. I did pick up a few items last Friday to last us through the end of the month, but I've actually been doing the opposite of stockpiling- eating through our freezer and pantry, motivated to actually meet our budget this month. (I wasn't actually sure we would, despite all the gifted meals!)

We can accept free food (when eating at someone else's house, for example), but we won't be purposely mooching off of others. We will always bring something to share or at least offer to do so, if that is more fitting.

The reasons for these two allowances is that they are part of our real life. This month is still real life. We will use the flour we already have on hand, eat at others' homes, and invite others to eat in ours.

This week, I am flying solo all day through the kids' bed times one day (um, hello necessary Chick fil A trip?!), working out most days AND breastfeeding (hello, appetite!), and going with my family on a long weekend beach trip. Just a few budget challenges to start the month off right.

What are your budget challenges this week?

(I'll be posting what I bought & how we made it work on October 8th.)


October Grocery Budget Challenge

We've been going over our grocery budget every month this year.

I gave myself permission to pick up whatever strikes my fancy because I was pregnant, or because I needed it to fulfill my anxiety over having the "perfect" foods, or because I just needed the stress relief. Grocery shopping is my retail therapy. I don't shop for shoes, generally (thredUp credits may change that!). I shop for fancy food.

Guess what, people? I'm currently a full-time stay-at-home mom again, at least for a while. (I'm currently working on side job prospects, but no set plans yet.) That means, of course, less income, so all of those splurges won't get so easily absorbed. I've been talking and thinking about where I can find an outlet for myself that feels like me. Even better if it stretches me.

I have a few plans in the works for this, but you guys, let's talk about food right now. You know I LOVE to talk about, shop for, make, eat, and serve food. At the top of my list is feeding my family with satisfying, nourishing food. I think another way I can nurture my family is doing all those things without over-spending our hard-earned money.

I've seen quite a few blog posts on tips and challenges to eat well on a limited budget, but I have yet to find out if I can pare down our budget (and stick to it!) while eating in a way I am happy with.

In my dream world, all of our food would come from local farms or fair trade coops, but at the moment, eating "perfectly" is not in our budget. Actually, the attempt or perceived need to be perfect has been a contributor to my unhealthy issues with food.

Part of this challenge will be about the balance between sticking to our budget and eating in a way that is respectful of the earth, the people who grow it, and my own body. <---All of those things are important to us, but so is being able to pay our bills, staying home (at least part time) with our kids, & funding businesses that are creating jobs and ethical products we believe in.

How is a family on a budget supposed to balance all that? I think part of it has to do with throwing out "perfect." Other parts, I'll find out during the month of October.

Want to follow along? Come back on Monday for my Grocery Budget Challenge Guidelines!


On being healthy, spending money, and being in charge of human life.

When I talk about my body bouncing back, I am referring to what I can physically do. I am talking about feeling at home in my body sooner than I expected and sometimes feeling cute in an outfit I put together. This will never be a blog about pounds or weight loss. I won't be posting any "body after baby" progress pictures, although I do sometimes find those interesting on other blogs.

I think it's probably time for a blog face lift (new name, new tag line, an air-ier look, more resources). That may not happen for awhile, so in the mean time, here's what you can expect around here between now and the next few months:

Wellness. I am determined to live my life as best as I can. For me, that starts with what I put in my body. I've gone back to good old fashioned pen and paper food journaling because it makes me accountable to myself and it works for me. I also have a default setting of stress eating, which is triggered during times of stress. Because this fall is going to be a challenging season for our family, expect plenty of posts about living well (or not) when all of me is screaming,"just numb it with food!"

Spending. We all spend spend SOME money, yes? I'm always on the lookout for ways we can buy our products that don't come from children, slaves, and otherwise oppressed and abused people- even BETTER if buying those products would actually contribute to community,sustainable businesses, and quality of life. Oh! And I need to be able to afford said products. This is where my heart is. Expect lots of these posts.

Related posts:

Buying Less Crap while Still Looking Cute in Your Clothes

Follow up: Buying Less Crap while Still Looking Cute in Your Clothes

two things to check out now for more affordable slave-free fashion

Motherhood. Because I'm now the mother of TWO. This is new and different, and even if it wasn't, raising humans with their own personalities and otherwise unique makeup is a BIG deal. It's a lot of patience for them and for me, a lot of okay, let's try again. It's a lot of snuggling and listening and paying attention and energy. My kids are very much the biggest time priority of this season of life for me, so there will be plenty of these kinds of posts, too.

Do you blog? Please link up here! What do you write about?


Real Food Friday: What works and what doesn’t (for me) for postpartum eating

Hi, All,

As this whole "Real Food Friday" business is rather new around here, I'm guessing my recent inability to post on a schedule wasn't actually noticed by anyone. Still, I'm excited to get back to it.

Selah Marie is now 16 days old, and I'm ready to talk about food again. Okay, I'm always ready to talk about food. I'm ready to sit down and type and actually publish a few thoughts on food again.

I'm eating fairly well. This is motivated by the fact that I have the needs of a baby and a toddler to keep up with + I have other interests I'm trying to pursue + a husband with whom I'd like to continue to have a good relationship. Generally, I try to eat so I have energy for living.

I'm not perfect with the whole eating well/ real food thing. In fact, I'm often re-learning the same lessons because I just can't focus on every thing that demands attention all at once, I get distracted, and I fall off the wagon.

I thought I'd share what's working for me in real food for energy and what isn't. I'd love your ideas, too, if you have them!

[What works]

Our CSA subscription. The more veggies I eat, the better I feel. Crazy, right?

Getting in the kitchen when I can. The kitchen is a form of therapy for me + getting in the kitchen means all that kale (or fill in whatever veggie) we have gets turned into something yummy. (PS. Our family favorite recipe for kale chips can be found here.)

Gifted meals. I used to be shy about admitting to my dietary preferences, like admitting them (even when asked) was piling some too-heavy burden on the person asking. I've since discovered that those who are asking want to know, and I'm feeling a little less weird about it. Can I just tell you that food is my love language? I eat a little differently than most people I know + I view food as medicine, so things like noticing Selah's tummy troubles means cutting out dairy or finding out that wheat leaves me feeling  foggy and sluggish means a lot less (if any) of it. Of course any meal is a welcome gift, but receiving one with my preferences in mind always has me feeling loved and cared for.

Extras. I aim to take in food-based prenatals (Megafood is my current favorite), a real food source of probiotics (I'm eating ruby sauerkraut these days- the refrigerated kind, not the shelf-stable stuff), and a tablespoon of grass fed gelatin most days.

[What doesn't work]

Eating too-tiny meals. I do sometimes have trouble feeling hunger. I blame it on the sleep deprivation. But a day of too-small meals has me reaching for all the sugar I can scrounge by the evening (a default setting I'll likely always need to stay conscious of if I want to be healthy). That doesn't feel good or lend itself to any of the huge doses of patience I feel like I need these days.

Counting calories. I did this for about 2 1/2 days after an evening of over-indulgence. It helps me feel a little more in-control, but it doesn't really fit my style. I always find myself rebelling against it or choosing foods based on calories and not nutrition (because I don't want to take the time to calculate every meal; I just want to cook if applicable and enjoy). No more counting calories for this girl.

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Real Food Friday: Fast Food

I get that there are times when the prep work for a real food meal didn't happen and time is not on our side. I do.

For those times, I would say there are real food options that can be obtained relatively quickly and at least somewhat healthfully.

There are a couple of options in my area that I would consider when wanting something quick, "real," and satisfying. You might have different options in your area, and if so, I'd love to hear about them!

Chipotle. While I'm not a fan of everything they serve, Chipotle does a great job of being transparent about their food. You can make your own informed decision by checking out their ingredient statement here. Everything, with the exception of tortilla chips, tortillas, and possibly white rice, looks like real food to me.

Elevation Burger. While not quite as transparent as Chipotle, Elevation Burger does offer100% grassfed burger patties, organic bacon, aged & unprocessed cheddar, fresh-cut fries cooked in 100% olive oil, and organic milk, all of which pass my real food test.

If you're from the Reading, PA area, what am I missing?

If you're not, I'm curious- what fast real food options do you have in your area?


Real Food Friday: Gelatin

This post is not for vegetarians. Grass fed gelatin, as discussed in the following post, is derived from grass fed cows and should not be consumed by those wishing to avoid some or all animal products.

Okay...I'm about to put my crunchy-real food- off the beaten path weirdness on display for you.

I bought a container of gelatin. Like, powdered plain gelatin made from grass fed cows.

Before you click away, remember gelatin is in marshmallows. And jello (which I don't love, but Tim and Nolan do). And fudgsicles. That makes it not so weird, right?

Besides the fact that, unless you're vegetarian, you're likely eating gelatin in some form (smores, anyone?), the stuff that comes from grass fed cows is really, really good for you.

After hearing a few casual mentions about how beneficial the stuff is, I decided to look up more info for myself, and I found out that gelatin can

-help tighten loose skin (hello, post-baby belly!)

-support better digestion and even help heal some digestive disorders

-help the body relax and sleep well at night

-promote joint health

-promote healthier skin, hair, and nails

-add protein to the diet without any of the weird, non-real food additives a lot of protein powders tend to have


So far, I've added it to banana soft serve and smoothies. I've also tried it in Against All Grain's recipe for fudge pops.

On my to-try list of recipes using gelatin are

Strawberry Lemonade Gummies by Stupid Easy Paleo

Healthy Sour Watermelon Gummies by Meatified

Dirt Worm Pudding, a guest post by Fed & Fit on Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind (This one looks like it would be a lot of work, but I'd love to try it once!)

Rustic Homemade Marshmallows with Honey by The Urban Poser

There's a lot more yummy-looking, gelatin-utilizing recipes out there; these are some of the most delicious- looking to me at the moment.

So, really, what's NOT appealing about doing something beneficial for your body while eating your pudding/marshmallows/gummies?


Coffee Date!

I love, love coffee dates. I'm particular to those in my home because I'm not quite sure where to get a good cup of fair trade coffee around here ,other than Haute Chocolate, but they don't open til 11. It's 6 as I type this. Also, I really want organic half and half, too, and while I will admit to carrying my own with me from time to time just come over to my house for coffee, please. It's cheaper. Easier on my conscience. And you can stay as long as you want.

Once in a while, I like to host these virtual coffee dates. Maybe that's weird. But basically, I tell you some random stuff about me that I feel like spilling this morning and then it's your turn.  This works out because maybe you're not awake at 6 and/or maybe you're pretty picky about your coffee, too, but I don't make it like you like or I don't have your favorite creamer.


I should first tell you that I ate 3 giant marshmallows last night while sacked out on the couch with my exhausted son, watching Phineas and Ferb. Yes, I did. Those marshmallows were not the real food, homemade kind (although that needs to happen in our house!). They were the store-bought, grabbed for a trip to the mountains and stuffed in the back of our pantry kind. I tell you this not out of guilt, but because I want you to know that when I write my Real Food Fridays series, I'm not talking about perfection. I'm talking about the choices we make most of the time.

I wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day I meet my Selah girl. I am trying to keep making plans as usual, enjoy my one-on-one time with Nolan, and relax in the fact God knows the day and hour of her birth. My challenge is that the cramps and contractions I've been having don't let me forget for too long that I am about to give birth, and I've kind of stopped formally exercising because holy cramps (!).

My current obsessions include Noonday and Don't Waste the Crumbs.

Noonday is all about creating a sustainable marketplace for women around the world who are otherwise economically vulnerable or oppressed. The jewelry and accessories are gorgeous, the stories are compelling, and the work being done is redemptive and beautiful and it seems like the right place for me to be right now.

-Don't Waste the Crumbs is a blog/ website all about eating real food on a budget. I can't get enough and pour over the posts when I have the chance. As a stay at home mom (read: brings in minimal income) with a passion for quality, sustainable food systems, I am mining this site for all its worth.

Your turn!

What's something that you think about every day?

How do you like your coffee?

What are you obsessed with these days?


Getting Healthy Mama

I'm a strong believer in food as a foundation for a lot of things- community, energy, mood, quality of life...

Yet there is this part of me that struggles with abusing. I'm not talking about treats. I see nothing wrong with occasional treats; after all, they can be a fun part of quality of life. I'm talking about eating in mass quantities, eating so my mood dips low, so I don't sleep well, my energy dips, all of that.

I am a fan of food journals. Not the kind that count calories; I've been there and it's not for me. I've filled journals with what I've eaten that day, notes, shopping lists, highlights from the day...that kind of thing.

During this season of my life, sitting down to write what I ate is not how I want to be spending my time. There are cards and posts I haven't written, books I haven't read, friends I haven't met with....

This morning, I created a new Instagram account (in addition to my personal one, which is mostly pictures of Nolan) to document my adventures in making choices that lead to the quality of life I'm after. I think it's going to be a lot more fun than a food journal. Want to join me? Check out

See you over there!