Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Store Sales + Store Coupons = Getting the Most Bang for your Buck at Food Lion



I do most of my shopping these days at Food Lion in Greenville, NC. It isn't fancy. It isn't organic (most of it anyway), but it's healthy, real, and affordable food and I'm usually able to stay within my weekly $50 food budget for the two of us. 

This budget generally ONLY includes food and sometimes things like dish soap or toothpaste. I buy MOST of our other household items in bulk for super cheap from Amazon once every few months. The last time we bought toilet paper and paper towels was in December.  I also buy all of our cat food online through Amazon, again because I can get it in bulk, get it deeply discounted or at least for a comparative price, AND it's delivered. 

One way I'm able to stay within my $50 budget is buy ONLY shopping the store sales and store brands. There are a few items that are rarely on sale (like butter, eggs, and/or organic milk), but generally at least half of what I buy is on sale. Each week I check out the online sales paper for our local store. 

  • Money-Saving Shopping Tip: GET to KNOW your favorite store's websites! They often have special coupons available (often customized JUST for you and your shopping habits), they ALWAYS have their current sales flyer available. They also often have great custimization tools to create your own shopping lists that can be emailed to you or your smart phone or just printed for your convenience. You can check out all of the store's coupon policies along with all the details of any current store promotions. I have become a HUGE fan of Food Lion's customer website, it has helped me tremendously each week to create my shopping list and stay within my budget. (And NO, they have NOT paid me to say that or review their store, I've just been shopping there for years, and I'm a loyal customer!) 

I create a shopping list just from the items in the flyer and then I create a weekly menu from those store sale items. Sometimes the menu isn't very exciting... but it's nearly ALWAYS healthy, real, unprocessed foods. 

Here is a breakdown of the items I bought this week (highlighted items were not on sale, just store-brand regular priced items): 
  • 2 boxes Honey Nut Cheerios (on sale with MVP card = 2 for $3.98)
  • 1 box Corn Chex cereal (had a .50 off coupon ON my store MVP card, that I found on the food lion website = $2.99)
  • 2 small cans of tomato sauce (.64)
  • 1 bag dried lentils (1.39)
  • 2 cans green beans, 1 can corn, 1 can sweet peas (on sale with MVP = $1.68)
  • 1 pound ground beef (on MVP sale for $3.35)
  • 2 turkey drumsticks ($3.07)
  • 2 whole chickens (on sale for .99/ lb. = $10.79)
  • 1 head cauliflower ($2.99)
  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes ($2.52)
  • 1 bunch celery (on MVP sale, $1.29)
  • 3 pounds yellow onions (on MVP sale, $1.79)
  • 1 pound asparagus (on MVP sale, $3.77)
  • 1 green pepper (.89)
  • 1 pound carrots (.79)
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms (on MVP sale, $1.69)
  • 1 package (2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese ($2.49)
  • 1/2 gallon organic milk ($3.59)
  • 2 dozen medium eggs ($2.09 per package = $4.18)
  • 1 pound butter ($2.97)
  • 1 package paper plates (on MVP sale, $1.99)
TOTAL with store coupons & store sales = $54.10

So it turns out with this trip, it was about half MVP store sale items and half store-brand lower priced items. My goal every week is to try to make sure to buy as many REAL food items as possible and very few processed items for the best prices I can find. Right now, I don't focus on organic foods. When we have the money for them, I definitely go for organic, but I think overall if you have a tight budget and can simply focus on whole foods, you're still doing pretty darn well! 


Cheryl's lentil dal, roast cauliflower, and baked sweet potatoes

We will use the food from this trip combined with the food in our pantry and freezer to make some of the following meals: 

Slow cooked roast chicken with artichokes and lemon - see recipe from my slow cooker cookbook below!

Recipe shared courtesy of Carrie S. Forbes (myself), author of "The Everything GF Slow Cooker Cookbook"


Do you have a favorite store that you shop at consistently? 
What's your favorite thing about the store? 


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Light and Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes (and a Vegan recipe too!)


Ahhhh pancakes. One of my absolute favorite foods. You know I go through these stages. It might be muffins one month, pizza the next... the past two months? It's been pancakes. I started playing around with ratios back in December or January when I was experimenting with gluten-free sourdough bread. I found the recipe over at "The Art of Gluten-Free Baking" and I was able to make a really good starter that made loaf after loaf of sourdough bread! It was wonderful! Until..... my starter died. Well it didn't die, it started to smell funky and when I tossed it and tried again (and again, and AGAIN...) I never was able to replicate that first starter. I'll try again soon... but I decided maybe it wasn't the right season for sourdough!

So how does this have anything to do with pancakes? I started thinking more about baking ratios. For the first time in months I started feeling creative in the kitchen again and I wanted to play! I know, I know... I'm a little late to the game. I've fought the use of kitchen scales for years because I don't think it's the easiest way to bake in the US. I grew up using cups & teaspoons, my grandmother cooked with cups and teaspoons and her mother before her... why change?


Consistency. Plain and simple. Most often if you follow a ratio, you get good results. And when you're gluten-free and ingredients cost 5x more than "regular" ingredients... you WANT good results. And it just so happened that Michael Ruhlman did too. I read his post on pancake ratios and I was intrigued. I knew I'd have to play around with the additional ingredients to make good gluten-free pancakes... but I bet this would work!

The basic ratio for pancakes is: 
2 parts liquid : 1 part egg : 1/2 part butter : 2 parts flour


Of course you add additional items like a leavener to help the pancakes rise, but basically this is how you create a recipe for pancakes. So.... I made gluten-free pancakes. I made LOTS of gluten-free pancakes! They were so good we had them for dinner twice, and for breakfast the past few weekends... until... (since we're budgeting our money very carefully) I was out of eggs... and butter...


Can you even MAKE good pancakes without eggs or butter?? I wasn't sure to be honest. I had tried them in the past when I was on a vegan diet and I probably tried making them a dozen times and they were each an epic failure.... except then I wasn't using ratios...

Would it still work using ratios?


You betcha! Those pancakes right above here? Yep those! Those are vegan gluten-free pancakes. The very first picture is this post is of the gluten-free vegan pancakes as well! They are THAT tall and fluffy!

Now there are a few catches... I have a sneaking suspicion these pancakes WILL work with different types of gluten-free flours, BUT I have not tried different variations (other than those I list below)... SO if you happen to be allergic to almonds or nuts and can't use almond flour, I do not know what a good substitute would be... however, if you try another flour make sure to use the correct ratio/amount of flour so that the batter will have the same consistency. Also, I did use a scale to get my measurements, but I've also included cup measurements as well. However, be aware that different flours have different weights, so if you use different flours, you need to measure them to get the same weight as the flours I used below.

Light & Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes (see vegan version below)
free of gluten and soy
adapted by Carrie of Gingerlemongirl.com
makes 9-10 pancakes
printer-friendly version

Dry Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces gluten-free flour (I use about 3/4 cup brown rice flour, 3/4 cup blanched almond flour, and 1/3 cup arrowroot starch) 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, I think they would work fine without it!
Wet Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces milk or non-dairy milk (I use about 1 cup almond milk)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or ghee), melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions: 
  1. Preheat griddle as directed or place a large heavy-bottomed (well-seasoned cast iron) skillet on the stove. 
  2. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir together well to create a thick batter. Allow batter to rest 5-10 minutes before using (can also be made the night before and placed in the refrigerator to make the next morning.)
  3. On the preheated griddle or greased, heated cast iron skillet drop batter 2-3 tablespoons at a time to make 2-3" pancakes. Cook each pancake for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat. When the pancake has cooked through on one side, the edges will appear dry and you will see bubbles come up through the batter and pop when the first side is done. Flip pancake and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the underside is golden brown. Serve pancakes hot with butter and pure maple syrup or molasses. 



Light & Fluffy VEGAN Gluten-Free Pancakes
free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and animal products
adapted by Carrie of Gingerlemongirl.com
makes 9-10 pancakes
printer-friendly version

Dry Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces gluten-free flour (I use about 3/4 cup brown rice flour, 3/4 cup blanched almond flour, and 1/3 cup arrowroot starch) 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, I think they would work fine without it!
Wet Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces non-dairy milk (I use about 1 cup almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or pure pumpkin puree
  • 4 tablespoons light tasting olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions: 
  1. Preheat griddle as directed or place a large heavy-bottomed (well-seasoned cast iron) skillet on the stove. 
  2. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir together well to create a thick batter. Allow batter to rest 5-10 minutes before using (can also be made the night before and placed in the refrigerator to make the next morning.)
  3. On the preheated griddle or greased, heated cast iron skillet drop batter 2-3 tablespoons at a time to make 2-3" pancakes. Cook each pancake for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat. When the pancake has cooked through on one side, the edges will appear dry and you will see bubbles come up through the batter and pop when the first side is done. NOTE that vegan pancakes will seem a bit more fragile when flipping than non-vegan pancakes do, they will still be okay! Flip pancake and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the underside is golden brown. Serve pancakes hot with pure maple syrup or molasses. 
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments during March 2014

free image courtesy of Pixabay.com

March is always a good month for frugal accomplishments! It's a long month and money has to stretch as much as possible to make it through to the end. That means we have to get creative in how we spend our money and how we budget. March is a great month to find free activities, the weather starts getting nice and you can spend more time outside with a good walk or time with pets or your yard. We actually have a lot of yard work I should get started on to prepare spring beds! 

Here's a pictorial review of some of things we accomplished this month in our frugal and savings goals: 

  • 52 Week Savings Challenge: First we've continued a special savings plan we started at the beginning of January called the 52 week Savings Challenge. If you haven't heard of this, there are tons of different websites explaining the process, for example check out this great board on pinterest with different ideas of implementation: 52 Week Challenge. Basically the way it works is for each week of the year you put the corresponding number of dollars into your savings jar or savings account. There are good reasons to follow this challenge at home or by using a savings account. Using a savings account will (of course) allow you to gain interest on this money, but sometimes people need the visual reminder of a jar at home. We are saving this money to use for Christmas next year, along with a few other items we'd like to have to improve our home. What has worked best for US in this challenge is to simply save the weekly average of the total amount of $1378.00, which we rounded to about $30 a week. Since the amount grows each week that you save, you would end up having to put a LOT in the jar/savings account by the end of the year, so it's been beneficial for us financially to simply use the $30 weekly average as opposed to the assigned weekly amount. Still, if we can keep this up for a year, this will make Christmas next year SO much easier than it's been in year's past! We won't have a credit card balance! 



  • As a Non-Consumer Advocate/ Less Stuff: One of the things I'm working on this year is buying less stuff, especially "stuff" we don't need (and it's amazing how your needs vs. your wants change as you really think about how much things cost and how you can stretch of the use of items you already have! One way we practiced this this month was by repairing several items at home. Last month I patched my favorite pair of jeans. This month I spent 2 hours mending and repairing the edges of this old comforter I've had for the past 10 years. I bought the comforter for my first apartment out of college as a brand-new (but slightly damaged) set at Goodwill for $30.00. The sheets and matching pillowcases are long gone, but we still use the comforter! I rotate comforters since we have cats who like to throw up and drag tushes... but this one has been able to outlast all of that even with constant washings! I'm hoping to get another 10 years out of it with the repairs! 



  • Leftovers for breakfast! We have always eaten leftovers for lunch, but I've expanded the practice to include leftovers for breakfast too. My favorite leftover breakfast is a baked sweet potato topped with butter, cinnamon, a little sugar, and pecans! 



  • Less Products/Less Plastics: One way we're cutting back on buying products and packaging has been to cut out store-bought shampoo & conditioner. I've gone the "no (sham)poo" route and I use a variety of different ingredients to wash my hair. You can learn more about this method from a variety of blogs and facebook groups. My favorite facebook group is called: Toxin Free Hair Care: No "Poo"/ Low "Poo" Forum. Not only are you removing toxins from your home and body by using hygiene methods like this, but you're also helping to use less unnecessary containers and plastic packaging, so less "stuff" for the landfills. A great blog to help you get started on "no poo" or if you're simply curious about the process is: becoming peculiar (I love this title! lol). Also... you start to realize that "crunchy/hippie/granola" is not nearly as weird as you once thought... lol! The picture above shows a before/after on one of my mid-week hair days. I generally "wash" my hair about once every 4-5 days and by the 4th day or so it can look "greasy" so I use a "dry shampoo" that consists of a little cornstarch and a little cocoa powder. I sprinkle the mixture on my roots, rub it well into my scalp and then brush it out with a boar bristle brush. I fluff my hair with my hands and on the right you see the results after the dry shampoo. Again, for more details on HOW the process works and why you would even bother with such a crazy thing, please check out this blog post or MANY others (google it.. you'll be amazed at how many people do this!)



  • Shopping store sales/ less grocery costs: I generally shop once a week for groceries. In the past month our grocery budget has been between $50 and $60 a week for two people. This is for mostly food only. I get our toiletries in bulk on amazon for much less about once every 5-6 months. The picture above shows my groceries from last week. This was a $49.38 purchase from Food Lion. I buy ONLY items that are on sale and I create my menu around the store sale items or items that I have a store coupon for. This way I save nearly 15%- 20% on all my groceries. This means the menu is not always exciting! However, we've saved a lot of money this way and  we certainly haven't gone hungry! I also focus on making sure MOST of what we eat is naturally healthy. Hubs (who is NOT gluten-free) is the cereal fiend and I'm hoping one day I can convince him to try the store brand cereals... we'll see... lol



  • Homemade homemade homemade!! Gluten-free food products are ridiculously expensive, especially if you want something baked. Contrary to popular belief I actually don't bake that much. I did when I was writing cookbooks and creating tons of recipes for the blog here, but since I don't bake all that much anymore, you don't see nearly as many recipes (my apologies! lol! I need an ingredients allowance!)  I was craving pizza last week so I made the recipe out of my "Everything Gluten-Free Baking Cookbook" (this is NOT an affiliate link, I do not make money by you clicking the link to amazon) and honestly we had forgotten how good that recipe is. We'll definitely be making that homemade pizza more often! 



  • PANCAKES! In the same homemade savings arena... we've been making these homemade pancakes a LOT! This is by far my favorite pancake recipe and I discovered it and tweaked it a few months ago. I will share it on the blog soon. Seriously, I've made a TON of different types of gluten-free pancakes and these are by far my favorite! I can't wait to share it with you... I do not like admitting I finally started using a kitchen scale to make them... (and yes, I still prefer baking with cups & spoons, HOWEVER... I can admit that I see why serious bakers enjoy using a scale for recipes....man I hate admitting that... LOL)



  • Choosing Joy, every single day! Being frugal not only means you spend less, it means you can choose to find great joy with less. And that has become a huge priority in my life. By choosing joy every day, I have been able to find joy in the most mundane of activities such as washing dishes or putting up clean clothes. I used to HATE these everyday tasks... and somedays are better than others... but by having less and enjoying what I do have, I have found SO much joy. I've written about this topic before, and I will write about it again soon. I hope you can find joy in being frugal! If you have... will you share in the comments below? 

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