Whole30 Healthy Eating Feeling Great

Healthy Shopping on a Budget (Whole30, Paleo, Raw)

One of the hardest parts of eating healthy for me and my family is budget. Some people don’t really know what is like to be low income, but my family does. We spent the last 6 months living on a take home pay of under $1000 a month. I don’t say this for any other reason than to say–I understand how hard eating healthy can be when you are poor.

I am happy to say that other streams of income are coming in the last couple of months, and I pray that continues, but health issues, job losses, etc… can really make a grocery budget non-existent.

I do want to point out that we are more blessed than some, as we have very little debt, including a house that is paid for, so I know there are many out there who have it much harder.

When I know I need to eat healthy in order to control my autoimmune responses, but I have a hard time affording the food I need. If I eat food that is bad for me, my autoimmune response will keep me from being able to work and increase our families income–well you get the point. It is a vicious cycle that I believe many deal with everyday. I’ve had those weeks where I barely had enough to buy ramen noodles, let alone something healthy.

For me, the answer to healthy eating is more of a formula.

  1. Planning
  2. Preparation
  3. Where to shop
  4. Accepting that I won’t always get what I want

I started bullet journaling for my shopping lists and menus. I plan out meals for 30 days–3 meals a day. This includes planning for left-overs. It is so nice to have something ready to reheat for breakfast or lunch anyway, so DO plan to make an extra serving or two for left overs, and when you shop STICK TO THE LIST!

When I plan, I start by thinking if there is something new I want to try or something I don’t have all that often and add those in first. Then I figure how many other meals I need to make and fill that in with my “go-to” meals. For us, we will always eat: tacos on lettuce wraps or on salad with homemade taco seasoning; a variety of chicken stir fry; curry; pepper steak; Spanish style cauliflower rice; clean bacon (Alee likes it for breakfast–not so much my thing); homemade tomato soup; salmon or tuna; and whatever hot-dish (whatever veggies or meat on hand tossed together).

Plan around what is on sale and if that means you need to plan bi-weekly rather than monthly, do that. For instance, if chicken is really cheap, I will make more stir-fry. Tuna Steaks (frozen wild caught) were cheap this month so I got a couple packages–I would pass if it was not on sale.

YOU MUST PREP! Preparation helps to ensure you don’t waste food (and you aren’t stuck with nothing to eat when you are really hungry). When you are on a super tight budget, food waste simply is not an option. One example is that if I have roasted chicken one night, I will be making a chicken and veggie soup with the left over chicken in the next day or two (you can make your own bone broth too! YUM). Veggie cuttings work great to flavor broths–or if you garden you can compost any cuttings to help your crop! One big prep I do is cook up 5 or 6 pounds of hamburger at a time, make taco meat and freeze it in small batches. This makes for a quick meal on days we are in a hurry. Heat it up and toss in on some salad, or other veggies. It also means that I don’t waste any leftover meat because it is frozen in small, easy to manage batches. No matter what works for you, just be sure to prep so you don’t waste time or groceries!

Where to shop–this is big for me. Locally, groceries are so expensive! I actually travel over an hour to Aldi to get affordable groceries each month. If you have a discount food store that carries quality groceries, GO THERE! Even having to travel once a month, the money I save there is massive. For things that are hard to find, I shop at Thrive Market online (this is a referral link*, whether you use it or not, I would recommend that you check them out). Thrive Market has a lot of things I use to cook healthily at a much lower cost than I can get them anywhere else. For instance, I use a LOT of coconut aminos since we do a lot of stir fry. I save about $3.00 a bottle from Thrive over anywhere else, plus they offer percent off discounts pretty regularly.

There is a membership required with Thrive, but if you shop there regularly, you will save more than that rather quickly. Your membership with Thrive Market will also pay for a free membership for a low income family to help them save money on healthy items. (If you need a free membership–google Thrive Gives and fill out an application). I am currently reaping the benefits of a free membership, but I will gladly become a paying member as our situation improves.

Lastly, accept that your healthy eating may not always mean you get to eat what you want. You might have to eat a lot of eggs, hamburger, and turkey burger if you are not vegan (and I honestly am not familiar enough with vegan diets to say give an example here)–but you can get creative (also, if you watch–grocery stores often mark roasts and steaks down for quick sale at cheaper prices than hamburger). You won’t starve, and after those pesky cravings are gone, you will find that simple tastes better and you eat more for sustenance than for “what sounds good”. Also, you won’t be able to eat all organic, grass-fed, cage-free everything. Simply make an effort to eat as healthy as you can within your budget.

I wish you luck in your quest to eat healthy. I hope that it does for you what it is doing for me. I feel better, have more energy and my autoimmune responses that have kept me unable to function several days a month are fewer and fewer. I am able to get back to living, and it feels so good.

*This post contains a referral link to Thrive Market. I would not recommend them if I did not love them. If you chose to become a Thrive Market member and use my link, I get a store credit and you get a coupon for a percentage off. If you want to check the out and don’t feel comfortable using a referral, I understand. Simply Google Thrive Market. They offer a 30 day free trial so you can see if you can save money on some healthy staple options. Affiliate links on this site go to Alee’s college fund, but referrals like this one will simply be applied to our families grocery shopping budget.

Advertisements
Whole30 Compliant Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup (Whole30 compliant)

We are not big fans of raw tomatoes but we like tomatoes in things. A few years ago, we had an abundance of them in our garden. Alee wanted grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup (she never ate the soup but like to dunk her sandwiches) so I threw some stuff together and attempted to make my own.

NOTE: I will add photo’s later–I have to make a new batch and take some! I wanted to get the recipe up in case anyone wants to try it.

What we ended up with was a tomato soup that she loved and I also enjoyed. We’ve made it multiple times since. The only tweak I made in making this Whole30 compliant was leaving honey that I had used in the original recipe. Honestly, unless you like a sweet soup, honey or even the date are not needed. (If you do add the date then cook it down, it does make a decent sauce to replace ketchup though.)

  • 2 Pounds Roma Tomatoes (you could use any kind, but I tend to always get these)
  • 2 Nectarines
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Fat (Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Tallow–any healthy fat)
  • 1 Chili Pepper
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper
  • 1/2 Pitted Medjool Date (optional)
  • 2 tsp Vinegar
  • salt, pepper, garlic, minced onion, chili powder, cayenne pepper

Prepare tomatoes by either blanching or roasting, then remove peel and core.

In a large pot, put prepared tomatoes, nectarines (pitted but doesn’t have to be peeled), Onion (cut in quarters), peppers (if you don’t like spice, you can use less or no peppers) and date if you like a slightly sweeter soup.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.

Transfer to blender and puree mixture (it doesn’t work out as well if you puree it before cooking). Put puree back into the pot and return to stove.

Add your spices to taste.

Add vinegar last, and add it in parts. Sometimes you will want a little more or a little less depending on the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients. Alternatively, you can add lime juice instead for a different twist.

Simmer until it cooks down to desired thickness.

Play around with it and let us know what you think.

Homemade Jerky

My husband, Dennis is addicted to Jerky. He will get a big package to take to work, and by the end of his 8 hour shift, he has consumed the whole bag without any guilt to the calories, costs or consumption of who knows what that is in the packaged stuff.

Lucky for me (or maybe not so lucky), he also loves my homemade jerky. It is so time consuming that I don’t do it as often as he would like. Also, to be honest, even though I save quite a bit making my own, it is still very expensive to make.

The typical ratio of meat to finished jerky is 2:1. So for the 3.48 lbs of raw meat that I had to make into jerky, I can expect a yield of about 1.7 lbs of dried meat. This varies, so I might only get 1 lb or could even get up to 2 lbs.

The Cut of Meat

Most people who make jerky will suggest using steak. I understand the point as it is easier to get more uniform size pieces, and it is easier to tell the fat content of a steak than a roast. I always use roast because I can get a pretty lean roast for 2.49-2.99 a pound all the time.

The most important thing to remember is to get lean meat. The roast I used for this was a little more marbled than I would normally use. If you have any bigger sections of fat, you want to remove it. Fat won’t preserve like the meat and can make your jerky rancid. This jerky won’t last more than a couple of days, is heavily salted and I will store it in the refrigerator due to the fat just to be safe.

IMG_2489
Cut off any of the fat you can. If there are area’s that are fattier inside, don’t use it. Set is aside to flavor soup, or give the dogs a treat… just don’t put t lot of fat in your jerky.

The Grain

Using a roast presents a few other challenges that a steak would not as well. Most importantly is that the grain of a roast often changes throughout the cut, while the steak is more consistent.

There are different people who swear to cut your jerky one way or another, across the grain, with the grain, or diagonal to the grain. Personally, I like variety, so I do a little of each (though to be honest, a diagonal cut is usually by necessity rather than intent). My husband prefers his jerky to be cut across the grain because it is easier to chew. He has a partial plate and this cut falls apart more. When the cut is with the grain, you have longer, chewier strings of jerky.

Regardless of how you cut, try to not to cut thicker than  a 1/4 inch so that the marinade can soak through the whole piece well.

IMG_2490
See how the grain goes along this cut? The lines go up and down the piece. This will be chewier and stringy. (Again, if you have marbling like this–refrigerate your jerky) Photo-Sharlene
IMG_2492
This is a cross cut… see the difference? This piece will be easy to eat with no strings. (Again, I can’t stress enough that if you have meat marbled with fat, be safe and refrigerate it when it’s done) Photo-Sharlene

The Marinade

Here is where you will start the curing/drying of your meat and add flavor. Salt draws liquid from meat, and salt also kills bacteria so your marinade will typically be quite salty. I actually prefer to make jerky with coconut aminos, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder. It is a simple flavor mix and sticks to the eating habits that Aleesha and I are trying to stick to. This option is Paleo friendly too.

Dennis likes his with Worcester sauce, soy sauce, salt (because the soy isn’t salty enough!!) pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Soy sauce and worcester sauce are much cheaper than coconut aminos too, so if you don’t care about soy etc… in your diet, this is probably the way to go.

I don’t like the flavor of liquid smoke, so I don’t add it. If I want a smoked flavor, I will start the jerky in the smoker (about 2-3 hours) and then finish in the dehydrator. Since we got 11 inches of snow Sunday night, I really didn’t want to dig out the smoker, so we will do without this time. If you like liquid smoke, you can add it to your marinade.

Let marinade about 24 hours. You really want the salt and stuff to soak through the whole cut of meat. Remember, that salt is part of the preservation/drying process. I made some of each. Dennis batch was bigger and I needed to marinade it in a large bowl rather than a baggie. I used a plate to weight the meat down so it stayed beneath the liquid. The meat in the baggie was covered, but I did flip the bag over when ever I was in the fridge.

IMG_2493
Dennis batch–1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup Worcester sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. (This about 2.25 lbs of meat) Photo-Sharlene
IMG_2494
I put a plate on top of the meat to weight it down so it stayed under then marinade. Photo-Sharlene

Drying

*Note* I don’t usually add rubs, but you can if you want. I did put some Lawery’s season salt on one tray of meat because Dennis wanted to try that, but there are tons of recipes out there for rubs that go on right before drying.

You can dry your meat in a food dehydrator, a smoker, the oven and I have even seen people sun dry it. I don’t like the texture of jerky dried in only the smoker, so I will sometimes start it in the smoker to get a smoked flavor and finish it in my dehydrator. I have never used the oven or sun dried, but they are options.

My dehydrator is old and honestly, I would make stuff more if I invested in a new one. Dennis and I have been together since 1994 and his mom had this dehydrator before we met and gave it to me when we bought our first house in 1995. It works well, but it is hard to store and a royal pain to clean!

What ever you use, place your meat in single layers and follow the instructions for your dehydrator or smoker, or cook in oven on low heat 200 degrees until dry. (You would have to google the sundry process–sorry, that sort of creeps me out).

The finished product

Well, Alee and I loved the coconut amino jerky, but since we are avoiding processed sugar, I left out the sugar and so Dennis said this batch was not his favorite. He will eat it, but he likes some brown sugar added to his marinade and I didn’t do it. He needs to eat healthier too though, so my next batch I might try some honey or maybe molasses to give that hint of sweet.

Happy Jerky Making!

homemade beef jerky with seasoning salt
This is the Jerky that my hubby wanted to add Lawry’s season salt to. I only did one tray of that. He likes it, but said it would be better if I had added sugar.

Salads

Once, when I was younger, my dad said “No one really loves salad” and I must have thought “Challenge accepted!”. I usually eat one salad a day and I make a point to make it as close to gourmet as a 16 year old is capable of.

I think one of the best things about salads is your imagination is really the limit to what you can make. I used to like to use a mix of French Dressing and Ranch Dressing and now I don’t eat either, so I go with a primal dressing or make my own vinaigrette. No matter what, I always enjoy a multitude of vegetables, fruits, nuts or meats to make my salad a sustaining meal.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to put together a collection of photos and posts on salads. I hope they will inspire you and help you to see that not only can you love salad, but they can be a healthy and filling meal for you to enjoy.

wordpresssalad1
Artisan lettuce mix, celery, onion, yellow peppers, radish, pico de gallo, guacamole, one swipe across the grater of grass fed organic cheddar cheese (it was my cheat day) and a few gluten free french fried onions for crunch. I topped it with lime, ACV, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.

Tacos

One of our family’s staples are Tacos. I can’t think of a single time when I’ve made them that everyone wasn’t excited to eat them. I would say we probably have either tacos or a taco salad once a week. There is no other meal I cook with the frequency of this wonderful concoction.

Recently, I have changed our taco recipe and luckily, my family likes the changes far better than they even liked the “packaged” tacos we used to make. I begin by making my own seasoning. When I first started, I would measure out the spices, but I have since learned to eyeball how we like it and get it consistent every time. I use the same container to mix it, and I just know how it looks. You can Google how to make your own taco seasoning, and find plenty of measurements. You will want to adjust it to your own tastes, but most I’ve come across are good.

Here are pictures of how I make my seasoning:

IMG_2474
Salt
IMG_2477
Cumin
IMG_2478
Black Pepper
IMG_2479
Onion Powder
IMG_2480
Garlic Powder
IMG_2481
Smoked Paprika
IMG_2482
Chili Powder
IMG_2483
Cayenne pepper

We used to use the pre-fried corn shells or flour shells, but now I buy organic white corn tortillas and cook them myself. Aleesha and I try not to eat a lot of grains, but a couple of taco shells once a week aren’t too bad. Sometimes we will skip the shells and either make a salad or lettuce wraps. Both are so good! Tonight we had shells fried in Olive Oil and then well drained.

We used and artisan mixed lettuce, pico de gallo and a little bit of guacamole and some cheese for me but not Aleesha. The results were wonderful! Dennis skipped the pico and guac, but added cheese. Aren’t they pretty! Very quick and easy, taste amazing and way healthier than the way I used to make tacos!

IMG_2485
I don’t use a lot of oil when frying the shells, They are sort of between soft and hard. A slight crisp but not crispy.

If you have never made your own taco seasoning and made them with a healthier twist, give it a try! You won’t regret it!

 

Not so Cole Slaw

Neither of us are typical cole slaw fans, or of any mayonnaise styled salad for that matter. However, we both enjoy cabbage and have enjoyed some Asian style cabbage salads in the past. After getting a good deal on both green and red cabbage last week, I was trying to figure out what to make with them. I came up with a pretty good healthy salad.

One thing people learn quickly about me and cooking is that I am not one to follow a strict recipe. Another thing would be that when I make up a recipe it is going to be by taste, and chances are I don’t know exact measures and that is true with this.

Ingredients:

1/4 Red Cabbage (shredded or finely chopped)
1/4 Green Cabbage (shredded or finely chopped)
1 Apple (I used a pink lady but any crisp tart apple would do, finely chopped)
1/2 Yellow Pepper (finely chopped)

For Dressing:

Apple Cider Vinegar
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Honey (I like raw honey)
Coconut Aminos
Salt/Pepper/Garlic

IMG_2429
Photo Courtesy of Sharlene Stromberg

After throwing together the fruit/veggies, I tossing in about a tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, squeezed the juice of 1/4 lemon and one tablespoon of honey. After getting this mixed in well, I added a splash of coconut aminos and spices to taste, then let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours.

Upon taste testing, Aleesha and I both agreed it needed more vinegar (but we love vinegar more than average) so we added in two more cap fulls of the apple cider vinegar and it was just right. I think with this, you will have to play with the dressing until you get your sweet/tart balance right, but it will be worth it! Next time, I think I might try to mix the dressing in small bowl before adding to the salad. (Note* Aleesha added a few sunflower seeds to hers and said it was good.)

This is a double thumbs up for us and we have made it a second time already. If you try it out, let us know and share your thoughts and variations!

An Introduction to our Food Posts

About 5 or 6 years ago, I suffered from aspartame poisoning. At the time, I was drinking 32 oz or more of Diet Dr. Pepper a day. I can honestly say I don’t remember ever being so sick, and it was then that I decided to be more cautious about what I consume. I have not had pop since.

I also suffer fibromyalgia, crohn’s disease and hashimoto’s hyperthyroidism. These autoimmune disorders can often be managed by diet and I found that eating whole, natural, non-processed foods as well as eliminating grains helped me significantly. I also struggle with my weight.

So when I changed my diet I found I had more energy and started to loose weight. I didn’t hurt as much, my digestion was better. I was just feeling better all around. Sadly, life doesn’t always follow our neat little plans and since my family had no desire to follow my eating habits, rather than sticking to it and making them eat what I ate, I tended to give up and just eat what they want.

That changed in July of 2016. My daughter, Aleesha (you will get to know her here) was 15 at the time and was struggling in a lot of different ways. One issue was terrible psoriasis breakouts. We had just started with a new doctor and she ordered food allergy test for Aleesha. She tested positive for wheat, dairy and eggs. The reaction was not so severe that she risks anaphylaxis or anything, but avoiding those foods just makes her feel better and her psoriasis is almost non-existent.

Aleesha also struggles with her weight so we figured that if we have to eliminate these foods, we would just revamp our entire diet and eat the way I should be eating all the time anyway. Our food post will be about things we try, things we love and even thing that just weren’t for us. I hope you enjoy and find some new ideas for yourself!