August 28, 2012

The Secret to Keeping Up with Laundry (and Dishes)

I learned this tip by observing my mom.  When my mom visited me when I was a newlywed she would always ask if she could turn on the dishwasher when it was only half full.  It used to drive me nuts!  It seemed wasteful to run it half empty!  A year or so after I was married, I went to her house and was struck by how she has never has dirty dishes piled up in the sink, and there is never a pile of dirty clothes in front of the washing machine.  I finally made the connection.  She doesn't have dirty dishes and clothes everywhere because she runs the machines when there is only a little bit to wash!  The key to staying on top of laundry and dishes is to wash smaller loads.  Don't wait until you can load it completely full, because then chances are, there are other things that need to be washed that won't fit!

August 26, 2012

How My Husband Stopped His Chronic Nosebleed

Ever since I've known him my husband has been susceptible to nosebleeds.  Randomly, it will just start gushing and it won't stop until it's done.  It wasn't so bad in Texas, when we were in college, because there was alot of humidity.  But now we live in a very dry northern state.  He started rubbing petroleum jelly in his nose during the winter months.  And then this summer it started bleeding every day.  Two or three times a day.  I was afraid to touch his face for fear of bumping his nose and setting off the geyser.  We blamed it on the drought.  He took 2 showers a day for the humidity.  He was oiling his nose three or four times a day.  I told him to take multivitamins in case he was missing something.  And still it kept happening.

One day I had enough.  I was ready to send him to a naturopathic clinic 4 hours away to get some answers.  We started doing a little research while we waited for the clinic to call back.  We compared notes and came up with a plan.  He read that multivitamins have fillers in them that can cause nosebleeds.  He quit them as soon as he read that.  He also read that if your body is used to a certain level of Vitamin C and then you suddenly decrease your intake, your nose can take the hit.  We were in the middle of a pantry challenge, and had run out of the bottled stuff.  I started making it from the frozen concentrate again, a chore that I previously despised, but that was now a necessity.  I read that Vitamin K, found in dark leafy greens, is good for blood clotting.  I started adding spinach to the scrambled eggs I made him for breakfast.  We decided to switch from the petroleum jelly to a natural oil.  I was out of coconut oil, which would have been my first choice, but he tried grapeseed and extra virgin olive oil.  He settled on the EVOO because he likes the smell.  He also thinks it cleans AND moisturizes, whereas the Vaseline only moisturized, which he believes makes a difference.

Within a few days of the new regimen, his nose quit bleeding at the drop of a hat.  Now it has been several weeks since his last nosebleed.  The clinic never called back, which is fine with me, because we found our solution.  Just another example of how good nutrition and natural remedies really do work!

August 25, 2012

Off the Rails But Still Rolling (and a Meatza Recipe)

Well, I tried to stay on track, but I am just off now.  I'm somewhere on the prairie (heheheh).  I've accepted the fact that chocolate is always going to be a part of my life.  I just have to be satisfied with the really dark stuff.  Yes, I have eaten chocolate every day for the past week.  Okay, week and a half.  Whatever.  *Sigh*  I just have to keep pushing on and looking at how far I've come instead of how far I have to go.

Recent Eats
I think our meals have been very random this week, in part because I have been so busy reading all three books in the Hunger Games series that I have been neglecting some of my duties!  I have been bringing alot of meals down to our warehouse because the men have been hard at work on a big project.  One day I made a "meatza" (see recipe below) and served it with green beans and corn.  I thawed out a frozen Paleo Lasagna (uses zucchini instead of noodles) and baked that along with some corn.  I really didn't care for it because the zucchini had taken on a pickled flavor but our new hired man said it was good.  One day I brought down sausage and fried potatoes.  Another time I brought grilled pork chops and creamed new potatoes with peas (definitely not paleo).  Last night I grilled burned some pork patties, so the dogs had a treat.  I served those with, you guessed it, corn!  Yes, I have cooked alot of corn this week, because our contractor brought out several bags from town.  While I have abstained, I don't have a problem serving it to the family because it is a naturally gluten-free, whole food.  Plus it is only available for a short time, so might as well indulge and enjoy!

Paleo Successes
 My hubby has seen the light on starting his day with a primal meal!  He used to eat a breakfast burrito every day.  I would stuff it with bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado and tomato if we had those.  The past few weeks he has been happy to eat all the fillings without the tortilla!  Now I have 2 big packs of tortillas sitting in my fridge, unopened, but I am so excited he has seen the wisdom of starting his day with protein alone, without the carbs.

Another success: getting the kids to eat "vinegar salad" with me.  I have long enjoyed my spring mix salad greens with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.  I got my son to eat it with me a few times and told him he was my "salad buddy" (because I was the only one eating it before that).  I think that made it something special for him to share with me, and helped me convince him to eat it when he thought he didn't want it.  Now that my daughter is old enough to eat the lettuce without choking and she wants to eat whatever my son does, she has also been eating salad with me.  The past two days we've enjoyed vinegar salad topped with canned salmon.  I am so pleased that my kids eat veggies!

We harvested 2 cucumbers from our sad, dry garden.  They were actually really good!  We split one at lunch and one at dinner.  We have also started harvesting potatoes.  I am not eating them but my family has enjoyed them fried, mashed, and baked. 

And the biggest success, for me, is that I recently realized it has been a LONG time since I've had any Diet Coke.  I used to drink 2 or 3 a day!  I finally decided to quit because my son always wanted to drink it, and I knew it was horrible to give that to a 3 year old (he's 4 now, so that tells you how long it took me to quit).  I am so proud of myself for giving it up after years of being addicted.  Next up is coffee, but that is a loooong road too....

 I made beef jerky last week and it molded before we ate it all.  So sad!  Also we haven't been eating as many veggies as we should.  But that is going to change!  I have a few zucchinis that need to be used, plus 2 big bags of baby carrots (I'm thinking skillet-roasted carrots, yummo!), and some kale.

serves 6

2 lbs ground beef
1 egg
2 TBSP coconut flour (optional)
spices such as garlic powder, basil, oregano, salt, pepper
jarred spaghetti sauce (preferably gluten-free) or homemade pizza sauce
toppings: cheese, pepperoni, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes,  olives, etc

Mix ground beef, egg, coconut flour (if using), and any spices in 9 x 13 cake pan.  Pat down into a "crust".  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until meat is brown and done all the way through.  "Crust" will have shrunk considerably.  Drain grease.  Spread sauce over all and top with any toppings desired.  Bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Serve warm, with a fork. 

Happy Paleo Eating!

August 16, 2012

Temporarily Derailed

Heheh, so in my last post I wrote about how I wasn't craving chocolate.  And then, life happened.   An emotionally stressful weekend left me feeling bummed, and I needed wanted chocolate.   I had been fighting the urge to eat some sugar for a couple days, and then I just snapped.  I went to get some water at my in-laws' house, and I thought, 'I need chocolate'.  Without too much self-questioning, I grabbed an ice cream cone.  Yeah, it even had gluten.  After a few bites my stomach started to feel "rumbly", but I finished it anyway.  And I finished my daughter's cone too.  The good thing was, I was in the middle of a painting project, so I couldn't just stand next to the freezer and eat the whole box.  So I guess if I'm going to go off road, the best time to do it is in middle of working, so I can't go too far.  I felt a little guilty about cheating, especially during my 30 day challenge, but I am confident it's not going to throw me off track forever. 

The Sugar Dragon

Of course, going off road always reawakens the sugar dragon, so to speak.  Eating that stuff makes me want to eat more of it.  So that night I let myself have 2 peaches after dinner.  Yesterday I was home all day, and we do have some chocolate around.  I thought about eating it, but instead I made one of my favorite paleo meals for lunch.  I used the Everyday Paleo Pizza Crust recipe, then topped it with tomato sauce, pepperoni, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, and summer squash.  Can I say, amazing?  I've read that after you go off your diet it's important to eat something diet-legal you really enjoy to help you get back on track (at your next meal of course).   I continued that theme by eating more peaches yesterday.  I cooked one in lots of butter and added cinnamon and walnuts for my afternoon snack.  And then again after dinner.  Technically paleo legal, but definitely not something I should be doing every day.  I also 'treated' myself to something I really enjoy: planning my grocery list!  I sat down at the computer and clipped some online coupons and checked out my local store's weekly specials.  Got my shopping list all done, and now I have something to look forward to.  That helped me resist the urge to cheat again.


This temporary derailment has shown me that I am making progress.  My "trouble time" has always been the afternoon, especially while the kids are napping.  I can sit there and stuff my face with sugar for 2 hours straight.  In the past, I would have eaten all 4 peaches in the fruit bowl for my "afternoon snack".  I'm proud that I stopped at one, and I did really enjoy it.   I was also able to satisfy the urge to cheat again by doing things I enjoy, namely cooking a yummy meal and planning a shopping trip.  I've found something that works for me, and I will definitely implement those tactics in the future (hopefully before cheating). 

Another good thing that happened was my husband spontaneously complimented me last night.   He said he was so glad I had found Paleo.  I asked him why and he said it's because I look so good now.  Coming from someone who is very reserved with his praise, it meant alot because I knew it was sincere.   

Other Recent Paleo Eats

Last night for dinner I cut up a whole chicken to stew.  I stewed it with sweet potatoes, summer squash, white potatoes (for the kids), onion, and broccoli.  Spices used: cinnamon, ginger, cumin, garlic powder.  It was similar to Everyday Paleo's Rockin' Moraccan Chicken.  I wasn't home to babysit it, so the veggies were a little over done, but it was comforting and delicious.  For breakfast this morning I made Everyday Paleo's Tomato Egg Houses for me, and some Turkey, Egg, and Spinach Muffins for the hubby and kids.  Today I'm hoping to grill some lamb steaks (I think they are shoulder or arm steaks), after I finish deep-cleaning the bunkhouse.  A new guy is coming tomorrow, so I've got my work cut out! 

Happy Paleo eating everyone!

August 13, 2012

Cravings? What Cravings?

After two weeks eating strict paleo, my chocolate cravings have greatly diminished.  On Saturday my kids made a chocolate cake with a guest and I frosted it with chocolate frosting from the can.  As I frosted it, I had no thoughts of eating it!  The cake has sat on our counter all weekend and I haven't thought about it at all!  It helps that the cake pan has a lid, so I can't see really see it or smell it.  Back in May I did a 30 day challenge, and my son's birthday cake tormented me for a couple days because I smelled it every time I walked into the kitchen.  I finally just threw it away.

Weekend Eats

Another really busy weekend has come and gone.  Friday for lunch I tried to grill pork chops and broccoli.  The propane tank finally gave out, so I had to finish everything on the stove.  I tossed the broccoli into the pork juices.  So good!  Saturday I made a huge roast in my crock pot.  I cooked it on low all day (about 11 hours).  At lunch I put some potatoes and carrots in a foil pack and nestled that on top of the meat.  About 30 minutes before eating, I defrosted some frozen broccoli in the microwave and stirred it in.  We have discovered we love the taste of the broccoli cooked in the meat juices.  I ate my meat, carrots, and broccoli over a bed of fresh spinach. 

Sunday morning hubby requested Breakfast Paleo Pizza.  I made enough for 2 days of breakfasts for the whole family.  I made stuffed peppers for dinner.  I just stuffed them with a mixture of cooked hamburger, onion, garlic, and spices.  I topped all but 2 peppers with cheese.  I ate my pepper with salsa on top.  Salsa, I've found, really helps me avoid cheese because it adds moisture to my eggs or meat.  I also cooked some kale in bacon fat.  Yum!  Makes a great side dish at breakfast too! 

This week I'm looking forward to a cool front blowing through.  I have been craving a chicken and sweet potato stew (butternut squash would work well too).  I might use this recipe as inspiration (but I'll use olive oil instead of that inflammation-promoting canola). 

August 11, 2012

A Truly Paleo, Fun, Summertime Dessert

Many people in the Paleosphere would consider "paleo" and "dessert" to be oxymorons.  However, I have found a way to get a hint of sweet without breaking my 30 Day Challenge rules.  I was inspired by this post from Simple Bites to try grilling a peach.  I halved a peach, buttered some foil, laid the peach cut sides down on the foil, and cooked it slowly for about 20 minutes (the grill was on high but I put it on the warming rack up top).  When it was done I sprinkled some cinnamon over the cut side.  The end result was a juicy, warmed peach that was comforting and filling, but didn't leave me with a tummy ache.  I also tried this in my oven last night with good results.  Even my husband (who hates cooked fruit) ate one. Sometime when I'm not in the middle of a Paleo Challenge I'll sprinkle brown sugar on the foil and put the peaches on top of that.  I'm also excited to try this trick with pears and apples come fall. 

August 7, 2012

A Big Weekend and a Recipe for Grilled Broccoli

I haven't had time for updating much the past few days because we have been so busy!  On Thursday I took the kids into town to spend the weekend with my mom.  I did eat at a steakhouse, and I asked them to substitute sauteed spinach for the baked potato.  Friday we butchered the rest of our meat chickens, and for lunch I cut up some leftover grilled chicken, sauteed it in olive oil with fresh spinach, canned artichoke hearts, minced garlic, and a few sundried tomatoes.  It was so good I made it again Saturday.  Friday afternoon I cut a round steak into strips and threw them into the slow cooker with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  When I got home, very late, my husband and I feasted on the meat, avocado, tomato, and corn for him.  The next day for lunch, after a big cattle drive, I served him the same meat over a bed of fresh spinach.  He loved it!  Sunday we picked up the kids and hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law in town.  We served pulled BBQ beef and buns, fresh fruit and veggie trays, and many non-paleo goodies that I did not partake of.  Yesterday, at lunch I grilled a salmon fillet, potatoes, corn, and some fresh broccoli (see recipe below).  I also made a paleo caprese salad- sliced tomatoes and basil with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper.  Yum! 

The point is to show you how easy and delicious paleo food is.  There are endless possibilities, if you only give your imagination a chance.  Also, you don't have to eat the non-paleo food around you!  It is possible!

Grilled Broccoli

fresh broccoli, stalks removed, and cut into florets

Heat your grill to high.  Rub butter on a piece of tinfoil.  Put broccoli on tinfoil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fold the tinfoil over to make a packet, and crimp the edges so it stays closed.  Grill about 15 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

note: You can do this with frozen broccoli too.  Just steam it or microwave it to thaw it out, and grill for just a couple minutes per side.

My Personal Paleo Story

I first discovered Paleo late last summer.  My mom had lost a lot of weight very quickly by following the Dukan Diet, a very low carb diet.  I started researching low carb diets because I was having trouble getting rid of the baby fat that came along with my daughter who had been born a year earlier. I read quite a bit, especially on Sarah Fragoso's site, Everyday Paleo.  I was already eating just eggs and bacon for breakfast, no breads or anything like that, but I usually had cheese on the eggs and milk in the coffee.  One morning I didn't have any dairy.  I noticed immediately after breakfast my stomach didn't feel so heavy.  I decided then and there to try going Paleo for 30 days.  That was in October.  I had a really rough time the first two weeks.  The "low carb flu" left me irritable, and I did cheat quite a bit.  I finally started using dark chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth, and I managed to stick to it for 30 days.  A month after I started eating this way, I had my blood drawn for my endocrinologist.  When I was pregnant with my daughter, my midwife had found a large goiter on my thyroid.  The endocrinologist did ultrasounds on it, and even biopsied it after my daughter was born.  He also ordered several blood tests over the two year period.  The goiter was benign, but my thyroid stimulating hormone was always extremely low, way out of normal range.  The last blood test was in July of 2011.  TSH was very low (around .1, and the low end of normal is .45).  After eating Paleo for one month, I had my blood drawn again.  My TSH had jumped all the way to .42!  I had also lost 10 pounds!

I went home for Thanksgiving and my parents were amazed at my energy levels.  Around that time I started eating some gluten-free treats, but I mostly stuck with real food.  In January I started a 30 day challenge but only lasted two weeks.  I lost 5 pounds.  Throughout the spring I maintained the weight loss and ate gluten-free, mostly real food.  In May I did another 30 day challenge, and I lost another 5 pounds.  This summer I've been pretty lax, what with the pantry challenge and all, and I've gained back 3 pounds.

This month (August), I am trying to get back to the state I was in during May.  I really didn't have many food cravings (which begs the question of why I fell off).  I feel so much better when I'm strict.  My skin clears up, my mood improves, my energy is steady, I don't fall asleep while putting the kids to bed, and I can deal with my husband and kids more rationally!

What's really kept me going this past year has been a strict adherence to gluten-free.  I have eaten glutenous foods on a couple of occasions (usually after consuming alcohol), but for the most part I have stayed away from obvious gluten-containing flours.  So even when I cheat, it's with ice cream or milk chocolate candy, not with cookies.  And maybe those things do have a little gluten in them (in the artificial flavorings perhaps) but to me there is a difference between having a bowl of ice cream and having a oreo.  Staying gluten-free has been great for me, and going Paleo has been even better!

August 3, 2012

A Paleo Pantry

Yesterday I restocked my pantry for the first time since the July Pantry Challenge began.  It was so exciting to pile my cart with groceries after practicing restraint all last month (yeah, I love grocery shopping, and if that makes me dorky that's okay).  After clearing out many non-paleo items, I was ready to stock up on healthy fare.  Here's what I bought to kick off my 30 Day Paleo Challenge:
-dried apricots
-dried plums
-canned tuna
-canned salmon
-canned coconut milk
-green (manzanilla) olives

I already had the following on  hand:
-many types of nuts
-raw pumpkin seeds
-canned tomato products
-El Pato sauce (a gluten-free Mexican-style tomato sauce)
-almond flour
-coconut flour
-almond butter
-olive oil
-green and red salsas
-sun-dried tomatoes
-artichoke hearts
-lots of spices!

What else goes into a paleo pantry?
-gluten free jerky (I've bought it from Vitacost)
-coconut oil (I like the refined stuff for cooking savory dishes)
-palm shortening
-other types of canned fish, like sardines
-other types of dried fruit, such as dates

-sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey

Switching to Paleo can be pretty overwhelming, but if you start with a pantry full of healthy basics, you'll have endless possibilities!

I challenge you to see how many paleo items are in your pantry already!  Did I leave anything off this list?

August 1, 2012

Day One of My August Paleo Challenge

During the month of August I'll be eating a pretty strict Paleo diet.  I'm blogging about it to inspire others to give it a try.  

For breakfast I ate scrambled eggs and bacon, and coffee with coconut milk (from the can).  Lunch was 2 peaches and a hamburger with spicy mustard and sauerkraut.  I really wanted some veggies, so I defrosted some frozen cauliflower in the microwave, wrapped it in tinfoil with butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and threw it on the grill for a few minutes.  I will definitely repeat that in the future, especially since it's so hard to keep fresh produce around out here.  That's the beauty of eating Paleo- getting creative in the kitchen!  For dinner, I prepped 2 chickens I butchered this morning, and my hubby grilled them for me.  We'll have plenty of leftover chicken for the next couple of days.  After dinner I was really craving something sweet, so I ate a handful of frozen blueberries straight from the freezer.  Frozen fruit is an awesome Paleo dessert.

Analysis: I really didn't do well with vegetables today.  That's why it's always good to have a plan!  I found some fresh kale in the veggie drawer after lunch, and I really wish I had eaten it with my breakfast.  I've noticed that when I start my day with a side of kale, my energy levels are really steady all morning, as compared to eating just eggs and bacon.   

Tomorrow I'm going into town and I've made my plan (are you seeing a theme here?).  We're eating at a steakhouse so I'll have no problem ordering there.  I'll bring a Larabar for a snack, just in case.  (Larabars consist entirely of dried fruit and nuts.  I love the coconut cream pie flavor.  There is one flavor that has peanuts, so beware, as peanuts are legumes, and legumes are not Paleo).  I order my Larabars in bulk from Vitacost.  Other good snack options are nuts, jerky (just read the label to make sure there's no wheat hiding in there), fresh fruit and veggies, and hard boiled eggs.  Once your body adjusts to running on fat and protein instead of carbs, you won't need to snack as much.  

Would you ever eat a Paleo Diet?  Does it sound nuts to you?

July 30, 2012

What IS a Paleo Diet?

I am gearing up for another 30 Day Paleo Challenge (I've done a couple already, to various degrees).  Starting August 1st, I will be avoiding grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugars, and fake fats.  What will I be eating?  Meat, vegetables, good fats, nuts, and some fruits.  Sounds crazy, right?  That's what I thought at first too, but I tried it, and I loved it.  I love the way I feel when I'm eating really strict Paleo.  My skin clears up, my mood improves, and my energy is steady.  I actually start to crave meat and vegetables!  If you are thinking about trying Paleo, stop thinking about it and just try it!

Here are my favorite resources for all things Paleo:

Robb Wolf
Awesome blog with tons of amazing testimonials and an explanation of all the science behind the Paleo lifestyle.

Everyday Paleo
Great recipes! Sarah Fragoso is a busy mom of 3 who switched her whole family to the paleo diet.  I also love her podcasts, although she hasn't done one in awhile.

Mark's Daily Apple
This site has lots of interesting information for inquisitive, science-minded folks.  Every Friday he publishes a success story.  The recipes are a little too strange for my taste.

Nom Nom Paleo
She photographs all of her drool-worthy food and inspires me to eat more vegetables.

My Primal Passion
Although she has stopped posting anything new, the archives contain great meal ideas and lots of weight-loss inspiration.

Primal Kitchen
The best thing about this blog is the lunchbox ideas.  She has blogged a couple hundred lunches that she's packed for her husband and her preschooler.

Fast Paleo
Tons of recipes! 

Want to try it with me? 

July 28, 2012

Pantry Challenge: Week Four, Final Report

Whew!  What a busy week!  We have been scrambling like mad trying to get everything done before our summer intern leaves in two weeks.  We are really going to miss him.  It is so much fun to work with enthusiastic people.  We have several hours of work ahead of us this morning, and then tonight we are going into town to see The Dark Knight Rises.  I'm not sure what we'll eat yet, probably leftovers for lunch and fast food for dinner.  

This month I didn't meet my goal of staying under $300, but it will be under $400.  We ate well.  In fact, it really didn't hurt at all to see how little we could spend.  The sad thing is, we did not buy any meat, eggs, or cheese with that money.  If it costs that much to feed my family of four (okay, sometimes it's more like 6 when I feed our summer intern) without buying the essentials I just listed, how do poor people survive?  I guess the answer is really cheap, processed garbage.  

Two days ago my husband was looking through the fridge and he exclaimed, "We are out of everything!"  Although we still have quite a bit of food in our house, we are out of a lot of things that we use often: butter, coconut milk, liquid dish soap, tortillas, dried fruit, chocolate.  Amazingly, we still have paper towels!  I might have to pick up some butter, soap, tortillas, and chocolate tonight.  Those are essentials at our house!  It's also discomforting to see how little meat is in our freezer.  My hubby took out the last pack of hamburger (the last pack of steaks was hidden, fortunately) a couple of days ago.  We've decided to buy a pig to butcher ourselves.  I'm excited because we don't eat much pork, so this will be a treat!  And I'm excited to fill up the deep freeze again!

Here's what we ate this week:

July 22: lunch was grilled hot dogs, corn, fresh salad, and peaches; dinner was leftover hamburger macaroni and sauteed white asparagus
July 23: lunch was frozen meat and veggie stir-fry for me, leftovers for hubby and kids; dinner was another stir-fry for me, and turkey pot pie for hubby and kids
July 24: I think we ate leftovers for lunch; I think dinner was grilled round steak- it was a really busy day!

July 25: dinner was salmon patties and salad, not sure what we had for lunch

July 26: lunch was pork ribs with corn, salad, bread with butter, and green beans; dinner was zucchini stuffed with italian sausage and red sauce, corn, salad, bread with butter

July 27: lunch was tuna fish sandwiches for the family, leftover paleo stir-fry for me; dinner was crockpot roast with potatoes

What I've learned from this pantry challenge:

1) Potatoes rock your budget!  They are the cheapest food, per pound (when a 10 lb bag costs $3, that's $.30 a pound).  They are a versatile, gluten-free, whole food.

2) We have alot of food in this house.

3) I tend to buy too much, and to buy things I'll never use (none of us like garbanzo beans, so why did I have a can in my pantry?)

4) We spend alot in part because my husband insists on brand-name items, and that adds up quickly.

4) I'm really blessed to have my own meat and eggs.

5) Fresh produce is pricey in my area, even when it's in season.

6) Clean spaces in my house make me happy!  An awesome side effect of cleaning out my pantry and freezer has been the motivation to clean other areas of my house.  I have cleaned out our family closet, lots of drawers and several cabinets.  It's so nice to open a drawer or cabinet and actually be able to tell what's in there, instead of having to sort through junk to find what I'm looking for.

I continue to express gratitude to my dad for buying me a propane grill.  We have used it so much these past few weeks, since it has been so hot!  It's also a lifesaver when the power goes out, which happens quite frequently out here.

What next?
I'm definitely going to do another pantry challenge in January, and I'm going to continue tracking my grocery spending.  We will continue using cloth napkins.  I'm also going to ask my husband's grandma to get me a subscription to the Sunday paper for the coupons.  I will still feed my family mostly fresh produce and meat, and continue to slowly replace the gluten-containing junk for gluten free.  Also, I need to clean out the deep freezers in the bunkhouse and my mother-in-law's house before we buy that pork.

I am planning a 30 day Paleo Challenge starting August 1st.  I have been so lax about my nutrition during this pantry challenge and I'm just looking forward to getting back to feeling good.  This is also the perfect time because there is so much delicious produce in season.  I'll blog about it in hopes of inspiring others to try eating Paleo.

July 24, 2012

Fire Season

Many mornings, when the wind is just right, I've stepped outside into a hazy world.  I can smell smoke from a prairie fire hundreds of miles away.  It's a constant, not-so-subtle reminder of the danger we face every day.  A prairie fire could literally wipe us out.  It could destroy the grass, leaving nothing for the cows to eat.  Or worse, it could kill the cows.  It could burn up our haystacks, ruin our equipment, destroy our homes and other buildings, or even kill us. 

Summer on the prairie always brings the risk of fire, but this year the danger is the highest I've ever seen.  The lack of rain has turned the prairie into a brown box of kindling, and with high winds, a small spark could turn deadly.  Every thunderstorm warning is a mixed blessing.  We crave the rain, but any lightning means someone must stay awake and watch for fire.  Our eyes constantly scan the horizon for any sign of smoke or flame.  And it's not just fire on our own property.  If any neighboring lands catch fire we will respond, hopefully before it reaches us.

To fight fire, we use an implement we can hitch to the tractor called a disk.  It is used in farming to plow the earth.  In a fire it is used to create a fire break, to prevent the fire from spreading.  This is probably the most valuable tool we have to fire fight. 

My in-laws built a custom fire truck.  They put a huge 2,000 gallon tank on the back of a truck and mounted a sprayer on the roof.  I use it to water potatoes, but we've used it to put out a couple of fires as well.  They also installed an enormous overhead water tank near the well that can fill the fire truck in minutes, instead of waiting for a garden hose to do the job.  Time is precious, especially when your ranch is burning.

We also have an old pickup with a smaller, 50 gallon tank attached, which we call our sprayer pickup.  We use it to spray fly killer on the cows in summer.  We also take it to fires.  Most ranchers have something like that, and they have to fill it with a hose.

If the fire is 20 minutes away  from your water source (which is very possible when you have thousands of acres, especially since fires don't always stay on the roads and trails), and it takes 20 minutes for your tank to fill up, you would have to leave the fire for an hour at a time.  If you had to fight fire alone, I don't know how you would do it. 

I have seen three fires since I moved out here.  The last fire was a neighbor's tree that was smoldering after being struck by lightning.  My brother-in-law was still in high school, and on his way to school in the morning he noticed it.  We took our fire truck down there and were met by the neighbor on the other side, who brought his chainsaw.  The neighbor who owned the land never showed.  We were able to quickly put it out.

The fire before that happened during a thunderstorm.  By the time we got out there with our fire truck, it was raining, so it was mostly put out.

My first fire was quite dramatic.  My husband and I had been married about a month, and were living with my in-laws.  We had worked hard building our new house that day, and were very tired.  Around midnight the phone rang and we heard footsteps upstairs.  Lights came on and suddenly my mother-in-law was sticking her head in the room telling us there was a fire in a haystack.  A neighbor had been driving around looking for fires and had seen it from his place.   All at once we were in motion.  There was no time to think, let alone panic.  I didn't bring a hair tie, which proved to be really stupid, since the wind kept whipping my hair into my face.  I think the first thing we did was fill the fire truck.  The headlights were out, so I drove in front of it with a four-wheeler to light the way.  From far away we could see the huge, roaring flames.  We got to the haystack and my husband ran the sprayer while my mother-in-law drove.  If you stood in the wrong place for too long you couldn't breathe.  The smoke was thick and the fire burned hot.  At some point she and I went to get the disk together, and then she made the fire break.   My father-in-law used the loader to dig up dirt right around the haystack, while my brother-in-law used a tractor with graffle forks to move the bales that weren't burning out of the fire's path.  Toward the end, my father-in-law was turning over dirt and using it to smother the fire.   

I remember driving back and forth between the fire and the house.  I called neighbors and watched for other fires.  The only people who showed up were our neighbor to the north and the volunteer fire department from a town 70 miles north.  The fire department consisted of two men and a sprayer truck.  I assume they refilled out of our well.  It amazes me that more people did not show up.  In their defense, one of our neighbors was out of town, but the rest, well, how can they expect us to show up to their fires when they don't come to ours?  Don't they care if their places burn up?

After the sun came up, things were under control, and my mother-in-law and I went back to the house to make breakfast for everyone.  We made a whole bunch of breakfast burritos.  They tasted amazing.  

We started fighting fire around midnight, and we didn't come inside until about 3 in the afternoon.  When we got home we all sat around discussing it.  My father-in-law looked like a raccoon.  He had black all over his face, except for his eyes, where his glasses had been.  Everyone fell asleep about 5, but I couldn't sleep.  I ended up driving around a little more, looking for more fires.  It took a few more hours for the adrenaline to wear off so I could sleep. 

Last night I noticed the sun has started to set just a little bit earlier.  The days are getting shorter.  I am relieved.  Hopefully autumn will bring moisture.

July 22, 2012

Pantry Challenge, Week Three Report

We are still eating well.  This week we finished off the wheat pasta, which will be replaced with gluten free pasta after the pantry challenge.  Also I moved the remaining freezer items around and was able to defrost the freezer.  I love how clean and neat it looks now!  We are really running low on beef though.  We have a little cooked hamburger and onion, three packs of round steak, one pack of hamburger and one pack of good steaks in our freezer, and my in-laws might have a little more round steak, two packs of good steaks and 2 packs of burger.  For such big beef-eaters, that is very little!  We do have a little stew meat and a few roasts, but I hesitate to cook those because it's so hot, and those need long cooking times.  For the next two weeks, I need to plan carefully to stretch that beef.  We are looking at lots of chicken, canned salmon, sausage, and some ground pork.  We don't do meatless meals here.  That would be heresy :)

Here's what we ate this week:

July 16: lunch was leftover grilled chicken and fresh fruit; dinner was spaghetti with italian sausage, sauteed snow peas and leftover grilled corn (I ate my meat sauce over fresh spinach and it was paleo awesomeness!)
July 17: lunch was leftover grilled chicken; dinner was tamale pie and green beans with bacon, I ate leftover baked beans (gluten free)
July 18: lunch for hubby was a quesadilla and some leftover breakfast sausage; lunch and dinner for me was a paleo stir-fry of frozen pre-cooked hamburger and veggies; dinner was leftovers
July 19: lunch was bacon cheesburgers and corn the I froze in 2010.  Dinner was leftovers again.
July 20: lunch was hamburger macaroni (kind of a homemade Hamburger Helper) and leftover green beans with bacon; dinner was chicken fried steak for hubby, pan-fried round steak for me and the rest of the green beans
July 21: lunch was leftovers- chicken fried steak, pan-fried round steak, salad; dinner was fast food in town for the family, I ate a tuna and garbanzo bean salad that I had packed

On Friday, my father-in-law surprised me with some fresh veggies like white asparagus, salad mix, and brussels sprouts.  I estimate that was about $25.   Then yesterday I took the kids into town for a fun day a local craft festival.  We stopped at WalMart on the way home for some fresh fruit, milk, ice cream, pullups, and a loaf of bread.  I spent $50.  I think that brings my total to $315 for the month.  So I am a little over budget.  Hopefully I won't go into town until August!

July 20, 2012

Now You Can Email Me!

I know the comments sometimes don't work for some people, but I still want to hear from you!  Now you can email me at  I want to know what you want to know!  So ask away!

July 19, 2012

A Yummy Paleo Meal from the Pantry

It is possible to create delicious Paleo food from your pantry and freezer.  Yesterday for lunch/dinner (at 4 pm!) I made myself a stir-fry based off Everyday Paleo's Puerto Rican Beef.  I threw some pre-cooked, frozen hamburger and onion into a pan along with some frozen carrots and spinach.  Then I dumped olive oil over all and stirred.  When it was thawed I added cinnamon, ginger, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper.  I added a whole bunch of green olives at the end just to warm them.  Their saltiness is so good in this!  My daughter and I both had seconds.  Yum!

July 15, 2012

Pantry Challenge, Week Two: Meals Report

Yesterday I posted our Week Two grocery spending report.  To read it, click here.

This week we ate well.  Lots of grilling because it's been so hot!  Grilling lends itself well to my pantry challenge because I am clearing out lots of meat from the freezer.  It needs to be defrosted so badly, so the emptier I can get it, the better!  

We go through potatoes fast around here, so pasta will be back on the menu this week.  I'm hoping to get rid of the last of the wheat pasta so when I go shopping again I can replace it with the gluten free stuff.  We like the corn pasta best.  

A new dimension to the challenge is that we are running low on beef, which hubby demands requests at least once a day.  We won't be able to butcher again until at least September, so I am going to have to use more fish and chicken to make the beef last.  I'm also excited about buying some pork after the pantry challenge.  We don't eat it often (except as bacon) but I love it!

Here's what we ate this week:

July 9: lunch was leftover pulled pork (sandwich for the hubby, stir-fried with veggies for me); dinner was leftover pulled pork again
July 10: lunch was grilled steaks and broccoli, salad, watermelon; dinner was Crockpot Pork and Beans, cornbread, and salad
July 11: lunch (at 2 pm!) was more leftover pork and some baked beans; dinner was grilled salmon, Brussels Sprouts and Bacon, and fried potatoes
July 12: lunch was fast food (yuck) in town; I made Shepherd's Pie for my sister-in-law and her family for dinner; hubby made himself a pizza a home
July 13: lunch was late after getting home from town- I had a leftover piece of steak and some salad and hubby and the kids ate at his mom's house; dinner was mashed potatoes, tuna fish gravy, fresh strawberries, salad, and cooked carrots
July 14: lunch was grilled hot dogs, corn, watermelon, salad; dinner was grilled steaks, baked potatoes (I was already using the oven so I took advantage), salad, watermelon
July 15: lunch will be grilled chicken (freshly butchered this morning!) and corn, raw snow peas, salad, bread and butter; dinner will be leftover hot dogs and frozen broccoli

For more Pantry Challenge updates, visit Good Cheap Eats.

July 14, 2012

Pantry Challenge, Week Two: Grocery Report

This week I spent a night in town with my sister-in-law, who just had a baby.  I was actually kind of afraid to go to the grocery store, kind of like being on a diet and then going to a holiday party.  I was pretty sure I'd "blow it" and spend a lot.  But my husband called and asked me to pick up some things for some guests that are here for the weekend, so I knew I needed to face my fears!  First, I went to Sam's Club for the first time since I've moved here (5 years ago).  I finally got my Sam's Club card (my dad put me on his membership) and I checked out the rumors of the fantastic produce they carry.  It all looked beautiful.  Not as wide a variety as Safeway, but the "best" stuff was plentiful.  I bought peaches, plums, strawberries, potatoes, and organic spring salad mix.  None of it was under $2 a pound (except the potatoes, which were $.30 a lb).  I gave most of the peaches, a carton of strawberries, and a few plums to my sister-in-law.  I wasn't blown away by the taste, but it was all of good quality.  I figure I spent around $23 for the produce I took home.  I categorize the money I spent on groceries for others as "hospitality" instead of a part of our grocery budget.

On the way home I stopped at Safeway to see if produce prices were any better.  It was strange going to the grocery store and not buying as much as I could.  Normally my cart is completely loaded, so this was a nice change! I hated to go in because I was sure I would be tempted to spend, spend, spend.  And I was, but I still managed to stay around $30 for the groceries for our house.  I bought fresh corn, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, fresh and frozen spinach, a loaf of bread, hot dog buns, toilet cleaner, baby wipes, tortillas, and two dark chocolate candy bars.  Normally I would have bought several packs of wipes, multiple packs of toilet cleaners, 2 bags of tortillas, and 2 or 3 bags of frozen spinach, but since I'm trying to spend as little as possible this month, I only bought one of each.  If my math is right I have spent $240 for the month.  I'm really hoping to make it through the end of the month without spending much more!

At home, we have started using cloth napkins at mealtimes.  We have 3 1/2 rolls of paper towels left, and I'm pretty sure they will last through the end of the month.  I'm not sure why I never used cloth napkins before- they really do save money, especially with messy little eaters around!  I'm still not missing my coconut oil- I'm just using butter or beef tallow in its place, and we are surviving.  Last night I made tuna fish gravy for 4 grownups and 2 kids.  I wanted to use 4 (6 oz) cans of tuna for that many people, but we only had 3.  I thought about asking my mother-in-law for a can, but I decided to make more gravy with less meat.  So, I added more flour and milk, and we ended up with a little left over!  All that worry for nothing! 

I have also inventoried our personal care items.  We won't need to buy kids' toothpaste, lotion, or sunscreen for about 5 years!  I have started a list of items that we can stock up on and I can use coupons for.  I am planning a big shopping trip after the challenge is over! 

I am really thankful I did stockpile a few things, like butter, canned coconut milk, salsa, bacon, and sausage, before this pantry challenge.  I am more appreciative of what we do have around than before.  In the past two weeks I've often found myself thinking about people who have to live off their pantry by necessity, and  I feel so blessed.  Food for me isn't just a way to survive, it's a hobby.  I enjoy everything from menu planning, to purchasing (or butchering), to cooking, to eating.  I'm so grateful to have that luxury

July 10, 2012

Pantry Challenge: The Produce Inventory

10 days into our pantry challenge and we're low on fresh produce, including our daily staple, avocados.  We have exactly two bananas (not counting the frozen ones), alot of onions, 10 pounds of potatoes, 1 small head of broccoli, a handful of cherry tomatoes, some dried out carrots, a bunch of watermelon from Sunday's party, some romaine hearts leftover from Sunday's party, and a pound of brussels sprouts.  My plan for all this is: feed the bananas and watermelons to the kids as snacks, cook the broccoli for hubby at lunch today, tuck the tomatoes into hubby's breakfast burritos, eat a lot of salads, pan roast the carrots, and make Bacon and Brussels Sprouts sometime this week.  I want to stretch the potatoes as long as I can, so I will probably fry them a few at a time (hubby's favorite), and of course the onions will keep for a while in the fridge.  So, besides the potatoes and onions, we will be finished with all our fresh produce by the end of this week.  That is a little scary.  But, we've got alot of frozen goodies and few canned items to tide us over until, well, until I get sick of not having any fresh stuff around!

Here's what we have for frozen and canned produce (not counting tomato products):
- one open jar of applesauce in the fridge, plus another jar in the pantry
- 1 can of asparagus spears
- 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple
- 3 14 oz cans artichoke hearts
- a few snack sized boxes of raisins
- 1 1/2 6 oz bags dried apricots
- 6 oz bag of dried apples
- an open bag of dried dates
- 2 bags frozen peas
- 1/2 gallon frozen raspberries (a gift from a neighbor last summer)
- several frozen bananas
- big bag frozen blueberries
- small bag frozen mango
- 2 bags frozen strawberries
- 1 bag frozen carrot "coins"
- 1 32 oz bag frozen green beans
- 1 16 oz bag frozen collard greens
- 1/2 bag frozen broccoli
- 1 bag frozen cauliflower
- 2 cups cauliflower/ leek soup (frozen)

I didn't include the beans I have stored up, because I consider most beans (except green beans) to be very different nutritionally than other fruits and veggies.  I also left off the corn we have because that's a starch, not a veggie.

I see from this inventory that I'm just going to have to break down and buy some greens.  I consider dark green leafy vegetables to be a food group unto themselves and I try to eat some every single day.  I am not going to compromise my family's health to save some a few bucks this month.

I also see that I have a lot of frozen fruit.  I plan to serve more smoothies and make a gluten free fruit pie to take to a picnic this weekend (using up a box of gf pie crust I bought months ago).  The applesauce will be served as a dessert or snack (along with some protein of course) and made into muffins.  This would also be a great time to make Bacon Wrapped Sausage Stuffed Dates (from the Everyday Paleo cookbook), since we have plenty of bacon and sausage in the freezer.  The dried apples will be made into Stewed Apples (an experiment!) since we don't really care for them plain.

Taking inventory of what you have is essential to a successful pantry challenge.  For more tips, visit Good Cheap Eats all month long.

July 9, 2012

The Verdict: Gluten Free Yellow Cake

Yesterday I promised to write about how the gluten free yellow cake went over.  Answer?  Great!  I used the recipe found in Elizabeth Hasselbeck's Deliciously G-Free (a gift from my husband's grandma).   I used the kid's choice chocolate icing recipe found in the same book.  The icing was really chocolatey, which I love!  The cake itself was a big surprise.  Based on brown rice flour, I was sure it would taste strange.  It was a little heavier than a regular wheat-based cake, but it tasted delicious.  My nephew had helped me make it, and when he tasted the raw dough he said it was "weird".  Yesterday though, he asked for seconds!  Speaking of seconds, there weren't any!  Next time around I would make two cakes, since this was pretty small.  It would serve 12 normal size slices or 20 teeny tiny slices, which is what we did.

The Birthday Girl liked it!

July 8, 2012

Pantry Challenge Week 1 Report

This week I have learned a little bit about my grocery habits.  For one thing, I have tons of food in my house!  Grocery shopping is my favorite hobby, so any time I ran out of things in the past I would instantly put it on my list, instead of seeing if I could make do without it.  Now, I am really scrutinizing my grocery list.  For example, I have been out of coconut oil for 3 weeks already, but I am not going to order more until next month.  I have some beef tallow in the freezer I can render, and we have plenty of olive oil and butter.  Also, we're out of regular mustard, so I am using dijon instead.  I think that's the key to success- looking at what you have versus what you need (or want) to buy.

I've also realized how many convenience items we really consume, and I'm okay with it, since I don't eat most of them.  Since I don't eat flour tortillas, I don't see why I should slave away to make them.  My husband and son want them for breakfast, so I buy them.  I am totally fine with using boxed mixes to make a nice dessert for company, since I won't eat it anyway.  Why would I spend my time making something so unhealthy from scratch when I could be outside making money instead?  Plus, I already have to make all my own food from scratch.  Eating Paleo means you have to cook it yourself.  I am not going to make 2 meals completely from scratch so that I can meet my own health goals and please my husband.

So, why doesn't the rest of my family eat Paleo and save me the trouble of cooking separate meals?  My husband doesn't think he needs to, and I am not going to force my kids to eat Paleo if Daddy doesn't.  We don't have serious diseases or behavioral issues, so I don't stress about it.  Also, I look at the progress we've already made.  My family eats alot more vegetables than they used to since I've started the Paleo journey.  I have healthier snacks for my kids, such as nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and hard boiled eggs.  And at least 50% of their meals are gluten free. I've recently discovered potatoes are the cheapest food to feed your family, in terms of dollars per pound.  And when you grow them yourself you save even more money!

I think I can reduce our spending on these convenience items by spending more time looking for coupons.  My husband is a creature of habit and he likes what he likes.  I am making a list of the convenience items we use and I plan to spend a few minutes each week looking for coupons for those items. 

Here's what we've eaten since I last updated:

July 6: lunch was a Crockpot Mexican Stew, dinner was leftovers for me and Chicken Fried Steak for hubby plus some fresh fruit
July 7: lunch was Grilled Steak and Broccoli; dinner was leftovers and fresh fruit
July 8: lunch today was bacon cheeseburgers (no cheese or bun for me) and fruit.  Tonight, for a birthday dinner, we're having pulled pork sandwiches (no bun for me) using some frozen pulled pork, a fresh lettuce salad, watermelon, and gluten free yellow cake.  I have never made it before, but the raw dough tasted great to me. I will let you know how it goes over with the rest of the group.

Spending update:
I have asked my husband's grandmother to get ice cream, fresh lettuce, and hamburger buns for our party tonight.  I estimate it will be around $15.  Also yesterday I realized I am going to have to order vitamins.  I only have enough to last another week.  Since Vitacost gives you free shipping on orders over $49 I am ordering a 5 month supply of multivitamins for myself and a few other things for my husband.  Multivitamins are a necessity for my family, especially in this season of life.  So that will bring our monthly total to about $190.  I am hoping to keep it under $300 for the month.

Be sure to visit Good Cheap Eats for more Pantry Challenge reports!

July 7, 2012

Texas Caviar

I love corn and black beans together.  They are an eye-catching combination, and when you add some colorful tomatoes and avocados, you have a fiesta on your plate!  I have made many variations of this recipe over the years.  I love adding some finely diced red onion or fresh cilantro.  This is a frugal, simple side dish that's perfect for potlucks since it can be served at room temperature.  It also tastes good in an omelette.  Obviously corn and beans are not paleo, but they are naturally gluten free so I have no problem eating this as a treat during the summer.

2 ears fresh corn, boiled or grilled, kernels cut off
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used cherry)
1 avocado, diced

 Dressing ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil (I used regular, not extra virgin, because it has a milder taste)
1 TBSP lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic

Gently combine corn, black beans, tomatoes, avocados.  Whisk dressing ingredients together.  Drizzle dressing over corn and bean mixture.  Stir gently.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve chilled or room temperature.

July 6, 2012

July Pantry Challenge is On!

Hey folks, I am back!  I have been too busy living life to write about it.  But I decided to do a Pantry Challenge with Jessica from Good Cheap Eats, and I thought I'd document my progress here.  I started keeping track of my spending two months ago, and I was shocked at how much I spend.  Since we don't have to buy meat and eggs, it should not be that high.  If you want an idea of how much we spent, go find the USDA chart that shows the average amounts spent on food.  We are a family of 4, with 2 little kids, and we spent more than the "liberal" plan.  That's without buying beef and eggs.  Yikes!

There are several reasons I believe we spent so much.  First, I had gotten in the mindset that I needed to buy as much as I could because I never knew when I would be able to get to town.  However, looking at the dates on my receipts, I have spent money on groceries every week for the past two months, between having people pick up stuff for me and running into town myself.  So, I really don't need to stockpile every time I'm at the store!  Second, my husband likes brand name items.  He thinks most generic items aren't as good as the brand-names.  That's just something we're going to have to work on over time I guess.  Third, I don't plan my grocery trips around the sales.  I go to the store whenever I'm in town, so if I need (or want, let's be honest here) something, I just buy it.  Since I'm usually in a hurry to be done and I've got the kids with me, I don't do a lot of price comparison.  That's something I am actively trying to change.  Fourth, I don't use coupons.  But now I know how to load the online coupons on my Safeway card, so I can take the 5 minutes before going to town to do it!  Finally, I have been eating Paleo on and off for the past few months, which usually makes your grocery bill go up.  Wheat is super cheap, but fresh produce, especially in our area, is pricier.  My solution for that is to pay more attention to what's on sale, what's in season, and buy more frozen veggies.  My hubby and kids still eat "regular" food, so you'll still see plenty of non-Paleo items in our menu plans.  I do plan to eat up the beans in our pantry, and fresh corn since it's only in season a little while.

My goal with this pantry challenge is to save as much money as possible, by spending as little as possible.  I am sure we will buy milk, some fresh produce (since it is July!), and possibly paper towels, but that's it for me.  I am not setting any limits on my husband's spending, since he only goes to the store about once every two months and he mainly buys treats for himself.  I am also looking forward to getting rid of some pantry items that have languished far too long.  I don't think I'll have to get too creative since we have such a large stockpile already.  

What we've spent so far:
I asked my parents to pick up diapers, 4 gallons of milk, and fresh produce for me.  Those along with a couple other extras were about $85 (spread out over two trips).  The good news is we are stocked with diapers for a couple of months!  Then my dad gave me a $10 register coupon for Safeway.  I bought 10 lbs of potatoes, 2 small bags of chocolate chips, and 6 ears of corn.  I paid $.16!  That was such a thrill!  Then, my hubby spent $60 on bananas, sour cream, cottage cheese, prepared orange juice, two packs of bacon (it was a pretty good price so I was okay with it), and a huge pack of sausage links, which I divided into smaller bags and froze.  So, we have already spent about $125, but I think we should be good for the rest of the month.  

Here's what we've been eating:
July 1: leftover shepherd's pie (used canned green beans and asparagus from the pantry); don't remember lunch
July 2: had company over and served hamburgers, Texas Caviar (using up black beans from the pantry), fried potatoes, Paleo Cobbler (used peaches from the freezer instead of berries!); don't remember lunch
July 3: both meals in town with family
July 4: lunch: family get-together in town; dinner: Hamburgers, leftover Texas Caviar
July 5: lunch: leftover shepherd's pie for hubby, leftover hamburger and sauteed bok choy for me; dinner: steaks, corn on the cob, fresh Texas Caviar with extended family visiting

Breakfast ideas:
I always serve some kind of protein, usually bacon and eggs, sometimes leftover steak or even pork chops.  After reading Nina Plank's Real Food for Mother and Child, I have come to believe eggs are almost the perfect human food (unless you have allergies of course).  

- potato patties
- hash browns
- bacon, egg sandwiches on bagels
- breakfast burritos
- scrambled eggs with salsa and frozen veggies (this is what I eat every day)
- pancakes from a mix (hubby's request)
- biscuits and sausage gravy (hubby's request)
- oatmeal chocolate chip muffins
- Coconut Flour Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I promise to post at least once a week as our challenge continues.  You can find more great info about the July Pantry Challenge at Good Cheap Eats.  You can check out this post from Denver Bargains for tips on eating from your pantry.  Also, visit The Haven of Home and scroll down to the bottom of the page to read about her Pantry Challenge from the beginning.  I found it really interesting!