Grocery Update & What We Ate: Week 45, 2018

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I made a few stops, but nothing huge.  In fact my biggest spend was the farm share pickup, which included a number of items that will last us at least another week if not more.

I started the week with two stops on Tuesday.  First, I spent $66.51 at Wegman’s.  There were two gallons of milk that didn’t make the picture.  Unlike the farm share, these items were largely for this week.

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Tuesday afternoon I spent $8.97 at Stop & Shop for a few sale items.

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I picked up my farm share on Thursday.  At $76.49, it was bigger than last week, but should have us covered for veggies for a while.  As of now we’ve eaten half the turnip and an Asian pear.  I put the chicken in the freezer to go with the chicken left over from the previous week’s order.  We still don’t have enough for one meal for us though so I’ll need more before we eat it.  It’s part of the exercise of leveling the amount of money spent on the farm share each week.  That being said, there are plans for most of this between now and Thanksgiving.

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Finally, I stopped at the farm stand on Friday, primarily for the tomato, apples, and green beans.  But, I brought the total to $26.73 by buying salsa, avocados, and black beans so I didn’t have to make an additional stop at a grocery store.

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That brought me to $178.70 for the week, way under usual!

I’m still trying to focus on the proteins in the freezer.

Monday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and applesauce
Late: Homemade pizza

Tuesday:
Pasta with Sunday Sauce and spinach salad

Wednesday (ate the same thing at multiple times:
Chili with corn bread

Thursday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and carrot sticks
Late: Tuna noodle casserole

Friday:
Early: Leftover pasta with Sunday Sauce
Late: Homemade pizza

Saturday:
Texas carnitas with black beans, Mexican rice, roasted corn, and avocado slices

Sunday:
Chicken pot pie

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The Week in Review: Week 44, 2018

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Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

It’s transition time here with a week off between fall and winter baseball.  It’s also been colder, rainy, and blustery so some soccer has been cancelled.  That made for an odd weekend as we had nothing on our schedule.  Can’t think of the last time that happened!

So sports are a little light this week:

  • Gymnastics for the youngest.
  • Two soccer practices and no games.  What?  Yes, everything else was cancelled for either Halloween or rain.

But school was busier:

  • I had three parent-teacher conferences.
  • Our oldest went on a field trip to see a musical.
  • Our youngest had pajama day (at preschool).
  • The twins had math morning.
  • I went to a school start time meeting.

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And then, of course, there was life:

  • Halloween.  Can’t skip that one.
  • We had one Dr. appointment.
  • I took my car in for service.
  • I registered the youngest for the next gymnastics session.
  • I registered one for spring baseball.

I’m working towards my November goals.  I made an appointment to get my haircut.  And, in the spirit of Christmas that is coming, here are the first six days of the 30 day cleanout:

By the end of November, these were made to leave:
Six pumpkins glowing,
Five expired helmets;
Four hanging dresses,
Three canned goods,
Two sippy cups,
And a broken kids lawn chair.

October 2018 Grocery Review

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Let’s start with the October spending.

October TOTAL: $1,247.54

  • Stop & Shop: $176.24
  • Wegman’s: $507.24
  • BJs: $125.84
  • Local: $276.71
    • Walden Local: $234.00
    • Other Local: $42.71
  • Other: $161.51
    • Star Market/Shaw’s: $121.56
    • Target: $39.95
    • Other: $0

So, even with the meat share we’re inline with where we have been.

And, how did that translate to this week.  Well, it was a big week.

On Tuesday I made a big stop at Wegman’s – $121.98.  Heavy hitters were milk, other drinks, and fish.

On Tuesday I made the monthly trip to Shaw’s for oatmeal and pizza supplies.  English muffins were buy 1, get 2 free so I picked up a set of them also for a total of $48.15.

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On Thursday I spent $29.26 at Stop & Shop in the first of two smallish trips for the weekly sale items.

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I also picked up my other new CSA-type box on Thursday.  I like the concept of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), but we’ve had two problems with the CSA we tried and the others I have researched since. First, while we’re ok to eat many things, beets and kale are not among them and they play a dominant role in all the CSA offerings.  Now, the one we did do let you swap one item out per week, but I would really love a program that enabled you to have a few “No Thank You” items.  Second, we have eight people.  A small CSA gives us the correct amount of local produce, but it is typically designed for 2-3 people.  The large CSAs don’t offer additional quantities as much as additional varieties.  So, for example we are still stuck with six ears of corn when we actually need sixteen.

So, I’m trying Farmer’s to You.  It’s sort of like an online farmer’s market in that you go online and order what you want, with a minimum dollar amount each week.  They have produce, dairy, meats, pasta, etc. just like a farmer’s market would.  But, because you order on Sunday for pickup on Wednesday or Thursday, the farmers just prep what’s been ordered.  The slight downside is that it’s a year-round program and we don’t have so much produce available here in New England in the winter.  As you can see I tried the chicken the first week; it was really good, to the point where the boys commented unprompted.

Because of a sign-up incentive this was only $10.94.

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On Thursday I spent $23.10 during my second trip to Stop & Shop.

Finally, on Sunday we spent $108.06 during the monthly trip to BJ’s.  Hopefully this will take us past Thanksgiving because BJ’s gets really crowded at the end of November.

That brought me to $341.49.

What we ate was driven by two factors this week.  One, late night soccer is still on meaning we eat split dinners multiple days a week.  And two, I’m trying to focus on the proteins in the freezer.

Monday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and carrot sticks
Late: Leftover take out pizza or leftover homemade macaroni & cheese

Tuesday:
Cod, rice, and tossed salad

Wednesday (Halloween):
Early: Leftover beef barley soup and beer bread
Late: Homemade pizza

Thursday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and carrot sticks
Late: Takeout Chinese

Friday:
Early: Macaroni & cheese with spinach salad
Late: Homemade pizza

Saturday:
Roast chicken with bistro potatoes and tossed salad

Sunday:
Beef fajitas

Corporate Fails – Real Simple has Lost Me

I had a few for this post, but I started ranting and it got long so this might become a bit of a series.

I’m fairly sure I’ve never had a subscription to Real Simple, but I have read it from time to time when I come across a copy.  It’s been a while, but I know I’ve liked some of their recipes and every now and then an article just pops out at me.  So, when I saw the September issue was about decluttering and meal prep I decided to take a look.

Never again.  I don’t know if I’ve wised up, if this was a one-off, or whether the magazine has just changed.  But, it’s now an oh-so-typical bunch of ads written as articles.  To top that off the elitism just oozes out of the pages.

I admit that I only got halfway through before I couldn’t stop thinking about the main issue I’ll discuss here.  There was a really good idea about setting up a joint parent email that gets all the kids messages so you see all of them and their associated responses without forwarding constantly.  But, first one was hit with all the things to buy to achieve the organization they were recommending.  I’m sure there are plenty of things most folks can do to be more organized without spending a cent.

Then, what I can’t get out of my head was their treatment of the laundry room.  First, let’s be clear, most folks don’t have a laundry room.  Hopefully they have a washer (and likely dryer), but it might be in the basement, a closet, a bathroom, the kitchen, etc.  One has to have space to have an actual laundry room.  Full disclosure, we do have one in our current house.  But, in previous homes we’ve had shared laundry, laundry in a foyer closet, laundry in a basement bathroom, and laundry in the kitchen.

So, what got me so about the laundry room?  I’ll discuss in reverse order.  On page 104 they recommend to “fold your laundry in the laundry room,”  ie. don’t get distracted by moving the laundry elsewhere.  Well, while I do have a laundry room, it is basically big enough to go in and close the door with a few bins and the machines.  It has no windows.  This is not a space to spend lots of time nor a place I stand any chance of sorting eight people’s stuff. Plus, they explicitly recommend against watching TV while folding laundry.  Really?

Backing up, page 40 is about organizing and decorating the laundry room.  When you pass it the first time you think really, this is unnecessary: hanging artwork, clear glass containers for one’s laundry pods, and fancy pendant lighting.  But, the magnitude of thought of the magazine as a whole doesn’t hit you until this is combined with the idea that one should spend a lot of time in the laundry room.

This is a functional space.  I admit I didn’t even spring for stainless machines because, really, who but me will see them and I am not a huge stainless fan.  They do recommend storing supplies like light bulbs and cleaning products in your laundry room.  Completely agree if you have space.  Although, if you’ve swapped for modern LED light bulbs it almost doesn’t make sense to store any since they take so long to go.

The last recommendation on the page was for a folding drying rack.  Completely agree here as you probably don’t need it all the time.  I just wish there had been more of this practical stuff vs the fluff.

Maybe the second half of the magazine will offer more.  I haven’t gotten to the recipes yet, for example.  But, I don’t know if I’ll be picking up a copy (from the library) again anytime soon.

What Protein do we Have on Hand?

This post contains affiliate links.  However, I chose to try the meat share and paid for it myself after hearing about it from friends.  If you live in the greater (like an hour+) Boston or New York City area, you can give them a try and get $10 off your first order.

Our first Walden Local delivery arrived on October 16.  This is a meat share program.  You sign up for the level of the program – everything from grind only to custom, types of meat you want to receive (beef, pork, chicken, and lamb), any dietary restrictions, the number of pounds per week (roughly 5-30), and the number of people you are feeding.

We went with a 20 lb custom mix of beef and pork for six people.  As it turns out six is the maximum you can sign up for on their website, but we eat like 5-6 adults currently so that works for now.  Custom still doesn’t mean we get to choose exactly what we get.  We choose the categories we would be happy to receive and they send a mix of those things.  I’m told they are very responsive to emails and other specific info.

So, what was in our first delivery?

They sent a cardboard sheet with some guidelines, a small notebook, and two recipe cards.  Apparently they send 1-2 recipes per month that go with your meats.  We tried and liked both.  It’s all packed in a large reusable cube with two interior liners and dry ice.  The cube, liners, and guidelines get returned for future use at the next delivery.

 

Our delivery totaled 21.5 lbs (yes, the bag is marked):

  • Boneless pork belly – I’ve never cooked this so it will be an adventure.  I’m not sure we’ve ever eaten it either, but maybe at a restaurant.
  • Two boneless pork shoulder roasts, about 1.5 lbs each – This seems small for us.  I’m not yet sure whether I’ll cook what we got and hope I’m wrong or break it down and braise it with some loin chunks I have on hand as I would usually do with pork shoulder (normally without the loin chunks though).
  • Three beef flat iron steaks – This is another cut we don’t have at home.  But, I can see fajitas calling to me here.  Ideally we’d grill them outside, but we’ll have to see how the weather goes.
  • Eight blueberry breakfast sausages – We weren’t sure what to make of these, though apparently they are very popular.  We tried them last weekend and were pleasantly surprised.  I wouldn’t order extra, but I’m not going to put them on my not deliver list either.
  • Three hot Italian sausage – We could grill these or cook them inside.  Given the time of year, my leading idea is to make a Sunday pasta sauce with meatballs and sausage.
  • Three “pastrami”-style beef sausage – The options are similar to the Italian sausages.  If we cook them inside it will be two separate meals so I can keep track of them.  Not everyone in our house likes spicy.
  • Six pork chops – We don’t often have pork chops at home because they are dry.  These were thicker and nicer than typical grocery store options.  We cooked them using the recipe card and they came out quite nice.
  • Two beef chuck roasts, about 3 pounds each – These screamed pot roast, which we do from time to time in the winter.  I used the recipe card (except Instant Pot instead of slow cooker) and it was very tasty.  We did have some leftovers which I used for sandwiches for the kids later in the week.

All in all, it was a good variety.  We wouldn’t normally eat this much sausage so I’m going to have to see how that is going forward and likely come up with some new things to do with them.  But, what we’ve tried so far was indeed tastier than similar products bought at the grocery store.

Now, for better or worse our freezer was already pretty full when the Walden Local delivery arrived because the fall meat sales have started.  So, this needs to be eaten down also and not lost among the new goodies.  I’m not going to go through all the proteins as I buy them each month, but until this comes down a bit I’ll let you know everything we have on hand each time a Walden Local delivery arrives.

 

First, we had chicken nuggets and meatballs.  We will continue to have these available, though I hope our chicken nugget consumption will go down shortly when soccer season comes to an end.

Breakfast:

  • 2½ boxes of breakfast sausage
  • One box of bacon = two meals for us

Beef:

  • Two 2-lb bags of browned 80% ground beef
  • Eight NY strip steaks
  • Beef bones; one stock set
  • 8-10 hamburgers worth of 80% ground beef (not shaped)
  • One package of bone-in beef shanks

Pork:

  • Leftover pulled pork; enough for one meal for the kids
  • Four pounds of pork loin chunks
  • Eight sweet Italian sausages
  • Three half pork loin roasts

Chicken/poultry:

  • Four packages of chicken thighs with bones and skin; one package = one meal for us
  • Four 1.33-lb packages of ground turkey; two packages = one meal for us
  • Six packs of thin-sliced chicken breast; 4-5 packs = one meal for us
  • Four packs of boneless/skinless chicken thighs; 4 packs = one meal for us

Seafood:

  • Some salmon filets
  • Some tilapia filets
  • One bag of shrimp; 1 bag = one kids meal

 

The Week in Review: Week 43, 2018

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First, I found an additional 190 things (with help from the pile of old school papers) to toss, bringing me to 465 for Sept/Oct combined!

In sports (winding down):

  • Gymnastics for the youngest.
  • Swimming for the middle four.
  • Four soccer practices but only one game.  The rest were rained out.
  • I registered the fourth for baseball in the spring.

And, in life:

  • I had one parent/teacher conference.  Three more this week.
  • We completed health insurance signups for next year.
  • We got flu shots.
  • The twins went to math morning.
  • We carved pumpkins.

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As this basically closes out October, here are my goals for November:

  • Clean the garage.  This largely needs to be done while everyone is at school which will be a bit challenging with Thanksgiving and parent/teacher conferences taking away some preschool days this month.  But, there’s a limit to the cold temperatures I’m willing to work in so it needs to get done soon.
  • Get a haircut.  This is the second to last item on my backlogged list from the summer.  It’s been since April.  Also much easier to do when preschool is in session.
  • Throw out another 465 items.  I’m going for the # of the day method this month.  And, I expect to be relying on the school papers pile for the 20+ numbered days, but there’s plenty more cleaning out that needs to happen so a 30-day month provides some nice motivation.

I think three goals is a good target for the month.  Obviously other things will happen, but three is a reasonable number to focus on.

Grocery Update & What We Ate: Week 43, 2018

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I made daily, relatively small stops this week.

I spent $65.77 at Wegman’s on Monday.  This was primarily a trip for milk and bananas which we’ve been using in great quantity.

On Tuesday I went in to Stop & Shop for their sale items plus mushrooms (which were not on sale).  That totaled $31.34.  The snack packs were for soccer on Saturday, but that got canceled with the Nor’ Easter coming through.  The boys will not be sad as none of those items are things we ever have at home.

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I spent $0.58 and $3.42 on an heirloom tomato and green beans at the farm stand on Wednesday.

Finally, I spent another $89.53 at Wegman’s on Friday, driven by the need for additional milk and bananas.

That brought my weekly total to $190.64.

And for the first time in ages I kept track of what we ate!

Monday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and broccoli
Late: Homemade pizza

Tuesday:
Pork chops with apples & cider
Potato bread
Spinach salad

Wednesday:
Early: Chicken nuggets and carrot sticks
Late: Take out pizza

Thursday:
Early: Leftover pot roast sandwiches, carrot sticks
Late: Homemade macaroni & cheese

Friday:
Early: Spaghetti & meatballs
Late: Homemade pizza

Saturday:
Beef barley soup
Beer bread

Sunday:
Shepard’s pie
Green beans

The Week in Review: Week 42, 2018

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October has been all about polishing off those things that I fell behind on over the summer, got bumped by the hectic school start schedule, or otherwise just needed to wait for a calmer period (preferably with fewer/no kids at home).

Over the summer I had hoped to tag 465 things for the twins tag sale at the end of September.  By the time the sale happened, I had tagged 337.  So, I didn’t hit that goal, but realistically there was no additional space in the minivan.  Apparently I need to keep that in mind next time!

I sold about half of what I tagged.  The rest got sold, donated, or packed away for another sale.  So, let’s see if in September and October combined I can get to (roughly) 465 things out of the house!

So, for simple math lets say I sold 160 things (roughly half) at the tag sale.  That would leave me with 305 left to go.  I donated two piles to local children’s charities totaling 37 items.

I donated 14 and 35 items to two other charities.  Then I totaled up my fabric recycling (stains, tears, broken zippers, etc.).

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I gave someone the infant tub and infant car seat.  I sold 10 items.  I returned one item.  So, that brings me to 190 items that need to leave by the end of October.  I’ll update this project next week.

In sports, we had:

  • gymnastics class for the youngest.
  • the final three fall baseball practices and game for the oldest.
  • a total of four soccer practices and four soccer games.
  • and orientation for the spring baseball program.

I went to my final Back to School night for this year, this time at preschool.  There was also a principal’s talk at the Middle School.  Both were sandwiched inside of soccer practices.  Soccer is 7:00-8:30.  Back to Nursery night was 7:30-8:00 and the principal’s talk was 7:00-8:00.  It made for two busy, but oddly efficient evenings.

And to finish out a busy week:

  • I took the youngest to a play date.
  • The twins went to math morning.
  • I sold the last two items that seemed hot.  I have a few more listings, but they don’t seem to be moving so I’ll take them down and maybe post another time.
  • I picked up a check for two things that sold via a consignment store.  The check arrived from the consignment sale.
  • I attended the local rummage sale.  This and the twins sale are the two I try to go to regularly.  I spent just under $40 at each this year, which really isn’t too bad.

The twins sale is limited to seasonal kids items.  I spent just over half my money on the youngest and got a few items for the boys.  I went in with a fairly precise list of what we needed.  This year I largely steered clear of books and toys as we really didn’t need anything there.

The rummage sale is much more comprehensive.  They have clothing for everyone, toys, books, household goods, and who knows what else (just not outdoor/garage).

I spent $28.50 – plus a $1 admission fee – the first day.  The green shorts, solid pink shirt, and Patriots sweatshirt are the only items that will fit the kids right now.  The three dresses will be for next summer.  Everything else is probably farther out.  I felt like the biggest scores were the sweatshirt ($2), the khakis (Gap NWT size 12 for $3), and the brand new canning jars ($4).

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The second day is half price and no admission.  In the past I’ve only gone on the day my kids were in preschool.  But the middle three boys really needed pants so I bit the bullet and went the first day with a child in tow in the hopes of finding some pants.  I struck out.  But, I found a few things and I saw some things that I figured were worth it at the lower Tuesday price.  Plus the youngest was in preschool so I could look a little more thoroughly.  As you can see I went a little more summer, things that hadn’t really been on my list the first day.  Best deals today were probably the wrapping paper (large roll for $0.50), the raincoat (Land’s End for $1), and the Nike pants ($1.50).  At $0.50 each the shorts were good buys too.

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So in the end I did bring some items into our house also.  But, they’re hopefully all things that will be worn in the future.  Looking forward things seem to be calming down.  I have a few more to do items that have been held over from summer, but the press of fall activities seems to have abated.

Grocery Update: Week 42, 2018

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On the one hand, I spent very little at grocery stores this week.  But, there’s a but and it will be at the end.

I started at the farm stand on Monday, spending $12.19 on mostly local produce (not the pears).

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I then spent $6 on more apples (different variety) at the farmer’s market on Tuesday.  I was expecting to buy more things, but found the offerings to be rather sparse.

My big shop of the week was $66.83 at Wegman’s on Wednesday.  Unfortunately I grabbed Mozzarella instead of Cheddar, which also has a green stripe.  We’ll eat it, but not our favorite.  There were also three gallons of milk that didn’t make the picture.

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Finally, on Friday I ran in to Stop & Shop.  The total was $26.90 for Saturday’s soccer snacks – apples and bananas – and sale items.  Pasta was $0.33 each, limit three!

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So, that brought me to $111.92 for the week.  That would be excellent, BUT this was the first week of the meat share I’m trying out.  Eagle-eyed readers would notice no meat in the pictures above, which is highly irregular for us.  Our meat share brought us to $345.92 for the week.  So, that is high.  But, this is a once a month delivery.

The share is pricier than sale meat from the grocery store.  And, we only have limited say on what we get.  But, it’s supposed to taste better, plus its from local farms and some other feel good things.  That being said, I only went with pork and beef.  It’s a total per pound and I wasn’t ready to use up my pounds with chickens.  They also have lamb, but we don’t like that enough to get it regularly.  We’ll eat some of this and let you know how it goes both taste & budget-wise.  This cost about half of what we spent on meat in September so it seemed like it should fit in our budget even if I buy some chicken and ground meats.  I can imagine it might take a few times to refine our preferences.

The Week in Review: Weeks 40 & 41, 2018

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Because turkeys mean fall.

Clearly I missed some posts last week.  On the other hand, I feel like I got a lot accomplished, not necessarily all of which will be reflected here.

In kids sports:

  • The middle four had swimming lessons each week.
  • By a mix of schedule and weather, our oldest only had four baseball practices.
  • We totaled four soccer practices and seven soccer games.
  • Our youngest went to two gymnastics classes.

Soccer has now moved to it’s “Under the Lights” late fall stage so all soccer practices for us are 7:00-8:30 pm.  This provides a whole new level of dinner complexity, but will only last a few weeks.

Other happenings:

  • Collectively we had two doctor’s appointments.
  • I attended another Back to School Night.  There’s one more next week.
  • I went to a friend’s for dinner which was a nice variation from normal.
  • We had a few play dates among the younger five kids.
  • The kids had a day off from school.
  • As a result of the day off there was only one math morning.
  • The youngest had visiting day and her first day of school.
  • We had visitors over the weekend.
  • One child attended a birthday party.

The big bout of productivity came in the continued cleaning out.  I finished putting away all of the sale items.  As part of that process I separated out items to donate to various charities.  Those items still need to be sorted and actually donated.  I also listed a number of items on online yard sales with much success.

Sold:

  • Two pairs of women’s pants
  • One Halloween costume
  • Two pairs of hockey gloves
  • One pair of hockey elbow pads
  • One pair of hockey socks
  • Two travel booster seats

I also returned a shirt and gave away an infant tub and infant car seat.  And yet, the clean out continues.