Welcome to my musings on home, health and hearth in the light of Christ.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Obviously I am a Mom on a budget.  In our transition from the SAD to an NT diet one primary shock was simply the cost of food.  When I was able to get a regular whole chicken for $1.19/lb at the grocery store, seeing a whole chicken for $4/lb was incredible!

Before I go into my methods for staying on budget, I will say that one reason food is so cheap is government subsidization.  Food at our local grocery store supermarket is cheap because the government pays for it to be.  It's also cheap because it's raised, fed and housed cheaply.  Cheap food is unhealthy food.

That aside, I have had to go through my grocery list with a fine-toothed comb and evaluate every item on there.  Is it really necessary?

First thing to go, junk food and processed food of any kind.  Soda, chips, cookies, all had to go.
This includes junk food masquerading as healthy food - juices, crackers, American or processed Cheese, etc.

Second thing to go - anything I could probably make myself for far less money.  Bread, English Muffins, tortillas, desserts, ice cream...  as time has gone on I have found more and more things I can make myself, including butter, cheese and yogurt.  The only milk products we need to buy now are...well...milk.  And Cheddar Cheese because I haven't learned how to make that yet. 

Making items stretch by saving as much as possible is a key step.  When making cheese I am left with about 2 qts of whey.  Use it again and I get some Ricotta cheese.  Toss the remaining whey?  No, use it yet again in baking or cooking.

When making butter, save the buttermilk for pancakes or marinades.

When cooking any meats, I drain off the drippings in a jar and save them, labeled, of course.  The juices settle at the bottom and gell up for use in soups, the fats used in sauteeing, baking, greasing pans, etc.  The bones are frozen until I have enough to make stock.  Toss the bones when the stock is done?  No!  If you follow the directions in NT the bones end up soft and crumbly.  Puree the remaining bones and put them in soup or the dog's food!  (Ellie LOVES them!)

Next, I looked long and hard at the remaining items.  We've been buying Turkey and Ham for the kids' lunches.  At $8 or more per pound that is a lot of money!  If I buy a whole Turkey Breast for dinner - can't I cook a little extra and use that for lunches?  Same thing with Ham - buy a whole Ham for dinner and it can do triple duty for breakfasts and lunches for a lot less money than buying sliced breakfast or lunchmeat ham. 

After awhile your grocery list starts to look a lot like something from Little House on the Prairie - Coffee, Flour, Sugar, Tea...basic necessities.  Soon your grocery budget will be pared down to a manageable level!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eating for Pleasure

I was watching a video a friend of mine posted on Facebook, and the video brought up a fantastic point.  No other country in the world nutritionalizes food the way we do.  Americans spend so much time and effort focusing on the little facts and figures in an attempt to eat as healthy as possible, and in the end we have failed.

Obviously, I want to eat healthy, and I try my best to feed my children foods that are as nutritionally dense as possible.  But have I forgotten what other purposes there are behind eating?

In other countries, eating can be considered a sacred thing, either for religious reasons or community or familial ones.  It brings people together, it brings us closer to God and closer to the places our food comes from.  We should take on an attitude of thankfulness, but we should also take pleasure in our food.

Standard American fare is now so comprised of fat-free, sugar-free chemicals it can only barely be called 'Food'.  We try desperately to gain the appropriate pleasure from it, and like an addict end up eating more and more in effort to derive the amount of pleasure we should get. 

I had an egg for breakfast, with a homemade English Muffin. In the past I have gotten horribly bored with eggs.  Store-bought eggs are rubbery, plasticky, tasteless things that require copious amounts of salt and pepper to choke down.  My first bite of my first pasture-raised egg was bliss.  Naturally buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, richness beyond belief.  I got more pleasure from that one egg than a million other store-bought 'eggs'. 

The same holds true for butter.  Margarine just doesn't hold a candle to it. Margarine, loaded with so many tasteless chemicals they need to add salt to make it palatable, where homemade, pasture-raised butter has only rich cream and a touch of salt. Seeing it melt over your morning toast sets your stomach rumbling in anticipation. 

I think sugar is another example.  Does the idea of sprinkling 'Splenda' on your fruit really entice you?  Sugar does, to a certain extent.  I found 'Evaporated Cane Juice' or Organic Sugar even better, since it has flavor, not just sweetness.  What about honey?  Honey is mentioned in the Bible numerous times as food for kings.  Honey is mentioned in Song of Solomon several times with an aura of pleasure normally equated with sex. I find Raw Honey even better, as it has depth and character regular honey lacks.

Is it possible one reason our children are such picky eaters is because we have made food...boring?  Has food become so dull that we need to wrap it in colorful packaging with a toy inside? How can we make our dinner table enjoyable again?

Got milk!

Yesterday I got milk!  I was thrilled to get 3 whole gallons of fresh, raw milk yesterday with enough money for gas, a dozen eggs, a bag of beets (I need Beet Kvass desperately), a big package of yeast and some horseradish for my husband.

So last night I skimmed off the cream from a gallon which gave me one whole quart of raw cream.  I left it sitting out on the counter all night so I can make 'cultured' butter today.  I'm not sure if the flavor will be different or not.  We tried Vermont Cheese Company cultured style butter once and I didn't see much difference.  Either way, I know this method will be even healthier than my usual butter since it will have more bacterial pro biotic goodness.

I also managed to get some bread dough in the fridge last night - I've been using half white half wheat flours.  I made four fresh English Muffins today for breakfast with eggs.  Sometime I'll have to take and post pictures about my English Muffin Method.  I have a couple of different ways of doing it and I'm still deciding which way I like better.

Then I beveraged.  I made a nice big pitcher of iced tea.  I got my beet kvass together and left it to set out to ferment (I write the date on the jar of the day it should be done fermenting so I don't forget).  I got ginger ale together and left that out to ferment.  I also made a quart of lemonade for the kids.

For dinner tonight we're having pizza.  I use my homemade bread dough for that and we all love it.  It's my son D's favorite day of the week since I also let them have school lunch on Fridays as well, and Friday is Pizza Day at school.  The idea of having pizza twice in one day is pure heaven for my sweet D.  M has a fruit & yogurt parfait at school because he says he doesn't like their pizza as much as mine.  :)

If I have time today I found some cute patterns for re-usable sandwich bags that I love.  I'm not doing anything fancy or professional (I am one lazy seamstress), but I'm using one of my husband's old tee-shirts and some gallon-sized plastic freezer bags.  We'll see how it goes! 

Ugh...do you think after all that I'll have time for laundry?  I really ought to do some.  And clean the bathroom.  And the dishes.  Cooking is so much more fun than cleaning up afterward...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Picky Eater

I'm sure I mentioned my oldest son, D is diagnosed with Autism, PDD-NOS, which is short for "We don't know what the heck it is, but we know it's Autism of some kind".  He is 'high-functioning' which means his version is relatively mild.

He can be a very picky eater, but his speech skills are such that he can't always tell us why he doesn't like something.  Often he will like something for weeks and change his mind for some unknown reason and won't or can't tell us what the reason is.  I rack my brain trying to figure out what and how to cook, because I am a Mom who likes to cook food that people will actually...heaven forbid...eat.

Many times I get frustrated.  I admit I will bury my head in the corner of my kitchen and cry because I am so upset with how much he doesn't like, or that I can't figure out why he doesn't like something today that he liked perfectly fine last week.  I wonder if it's all worth it, if I should just give up and go back to Tyson Chicken Nuggets (and those of you who did watch Food, Inc. understand the depths I would have to be in to even consider such a horror being in my kitchen).  I wonder if the work I put in is worth all the effort. 

Truth is, I really enjoy cooking such healthy food for my family.  It was one thing to bake cookies or cupcakes back in our 'non-NT' days, but it's a completely different feeling to make something so utterly basic, like bread or cheese or butter.  I feel as if I am doing something very important by providing my sons and husband with the most nutritious food I can manage.  However, I must admit some selfishness in it, a little twinge of humanly pride when I see how pleased they are, when my husband comes home and beams "OOH! You made Baguettes today!" and the boys see I made homemade Lemon Ice for dessert.

Then I make something for dinner, say Pasta Primavera or even just baked chicken, and one of my boys complains.  He refuses to eat it.  Something.  It's like getting a sharp paper cut.

Something my husband once told me often picks me right up again.  He said that the boys will remember the things I do now.  The smells of bread baking, watching me make Tortillas and begging me for a bit of the dough to snack on, licking the mixing bowl I just made cookies in, waking up to fresh bacon and pancakes or scrambled eggs and waffles.  Maybe some day they will know and understand not just what I did, but why.

A small rant

So I went to the store I mentioned earlier to get eggs.  Oh yeah, I DID manage to get enough money to buy gas to go get milk and eggs like I wanted.

Anyway.  I went to the store and spoke to the woman who works there.  (we always chat a bit while I shop)  I told her excitedly about my cheese and yogurt this week.  Her face lit up and she said "OMG I LOVE YOU!!" I said "Well it was fun!" and she said " No, really, you have NO IDEA how many people don't want to bother!"  She went on to tell me about people asking her for butter.  It is currently not legal in our state for her to make butter from her raw milk.  She is only allowed to sell it from her farm as is, not even separating the cream from it.   These customers beg her to make butter for them (as if it's horribly complicated...heck I do it by accident!), and she needs to explain that she could be arrested and shut down and tries to tell them how easy it is to make butter.

But they don't want to bother.  It's too much trouble.

Making butter in a mixer, blender or food processor takes 5 minutes, another 3 to wash the buttermilk out, 1 more minute to wrap and stow in the fridge.  I make mine by putting the cream to run in my mixer until it separates, pour off the buttermilk, wash the butter in cold water, salt it and put it in a little glass dish in the fridge.  It's not rocket science!

Making Yogurt and Cheese is also not hard.  The hardest part is getting the milk up to the right temperature.  After that comes the waiting...waiting an hour for the bacteria to do it's work turning your milk into yummy goodness, another hour for the whey to drain, etc.   Again, not rocket science.  Scientists estimate the first cheese was made purely by accident when someone tried carrying milk in a camel's stomach (where rennet naturally occurs) and ended up with cheese.

But difficulty aside, I think food is a matter of frame of mind and commitment.  How important is your health?  How important is the health of your children?  Important enough to try a new food?  Learn a new skill?  Find a new way of cooking something?  To LEARN? 

These skills were nearly lost between the decades of WWII and perhaps 20 years ago.  Even today many people have no idea where their food comes from, as if the chicken is somehow grown in tidy little Styrofoam packages, boneless and skinless (and tasteless).  With the advent of modern technology, information is widely available!  Searching for cheese making methods, I came up with hundreds of pages explaining, in detail, how to make cheese of all kinds - from cream cheese to Parmesan to Mozzarella!  There are message boards and pages dedicated to answering questions of all of it and giving you step-by-step directions!

Curious about the method of slaughtering and processing chickens, I found many pages and several videos detailing the processes, the most humane methods of killing and cutting up chicken.  Guess what...it's not half as difficult and even less nauseating as you might think!  While I haven't yet killed a chicken for our use, I have learned to cut apart a whole chicken into fryer pieces in about 10 minutes or less.  It's. Not. Hard.  (apparently making whipped cream IS hard though since I can't seem to do that.  I end up with butter every time!)

We've grown soft and weak and stupid.  We have been raised not to think about what we eat, just to go into the grocery store and buy what looks good and on sale.  The result is a sharp rise in obesity, cancer and heart disease like nothing else in the country's history.  What's worse is our stupidity is now spreading to other parts of the world.  As other countries adopt our mindset - they get an equally sharp rise in obesity, cancer and heart disease!  Even our CHILDREN are developing heart disease as TEENAGERS! 

And people say they don't want to bother?  It's too much effort?

I know there are others out there like me who believe it is time we all went back to how things used to be, to raise our food naturally and humanely, for us to be in contact with what we eat long before it reaches our mouths.  It's time we went back to eating FOOD, not safe-synthetic-food-like-substances, eating the way God created our bodies to eat!

Milk Day!

Today is the day I go get my milk!  I love milk day.  I have two places I buy raw milk from - one is just a small landholder who happens to have a cow, and I have a standing agreement to buy milk from her once per week.  I bring my jars, and she fills them for me.  The other is a full-fledged dairy.  I bring my jars and leave them on a shelf, for next week's order, and find the jars I left the previous week in the fridge, filled that morning.  Sometimes she has beef or chicken for sale in the freezer.

Also on my way is a lovely store.  It's kind of like a cross between a co-op food store and a farmstand, offering a selection of locally pasture-raised meats and local cheeses, all done humanely and organically as possible.  These people believe in 'the cause' to have our food 'raised the right way'.  Yes, the prices are a tiny bit higher than what I might find at the grocery store, but I know it's worth it since the food is as naturally nutrient dense as it can get.  For example, they have whole chickens that are 8 lbs (or more) for $40.  It seems like a lot of money, but with my calculations and a few good recipes, I can probably get 4-5 meals out of it, plus some really good soup stock.  Having chicken once per week means it could reasonably last us a month!  They also offer 'stewing hens' for $10.  Muahahaha...  Aaahhhh the possibilities!  They're scrawnier, but I happen to have recipes in an old cookbook (1933) for...stewed chicken using old hens.  Either that or I could just toss it all with the bones from the other chicken in a giant stock pot at get a ton of chicken soup stock from it.

Someday when I have enough money I will go there and buy a whole month's worth of meat.  For now, though, I buy delicious pasture-raised eggs there for $4 per dozen after I get my milk.  

However, in the midst of this happy-go-lucky joy-ness I have on thursdays, there is one small problem.  I HAVE NO GAS!  GAH!  I cannot go get my milk (or pick the children up from school) without gas.  And I only have enough money for either milk or gas, but not both.  Dagnabbit.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Of Milk and Man

Before beginning our NT/WAPF Journey, we obviously ate a SAD, though we did try to eat 'healthy'.  When it came to dairy products, we bought 3-4 gallons of milk per week for drinking & cooking, a couple blocks of cheddar, a block of mozzarella, a large container of plain or flavored yogurt (mostly for the kids), a half gallon of ice cream, and half-and-half for our coffee.  Somewhere around $50, I think, sometimes more, sometimes less.

When changing to a more mindful NT type diet, one of the first things I did was look into Raw milk.  I was easily convinced that pasteurization 'kills' the milk.  We are blessed to have found a dairy nearby (about 10 mins away) that offers raw milk for sale.  If you bring in your own containers for her to fill it costs $7 per gallon.

Then a friend told me of a friend of a friend who had a cow.  This woman usually has 1-2 extra gallons of raw milk per day, and would I like to buy a gallon once per week?  The cost is $3 per gallon!

So, all told, I spend between $10-$17 per week just for raw milk, depending on whether I buy 2 gallons or 3.  It seems like a lot, considering I was spending around $3 per gallon for regular, pasteurized milk.  Until....

That lovely cream rose to the top of that milk.  Skimming it, I decided to make whipped cream...which promptly turned to butter.  (I can't make whipped cream from raw milk to save my life!)  When my wonderful husband bought me the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid Mixer, I was in heaven!  So, out of each gallon of milk, I get around a pint of cream, leaving me with a quart or two in total.  I use one pint in my coffee during the week, the other I use to make butter for our bread. (I buy baking butter in sticks because it's easier to measure).  If I happen to have enough and we need it, I make ice cream with a pint of cream instead of using it in my coffee.  The result of butter, especially the cultured kind, is buttermilk - used for baking and all kinds of yummy things.

Obviously, we use about a gallon for the kids to drink, but not as often as we used to.  They are each allowed 1 cups of milk per day, usually with Breakfast and Dinner.  They get plenty of other dairy in cheeses and yogurt.

A quart of milk can be used to make yogurt.

And finally another gallon can be used to make...cheese.  Oh my.  I made salted cheese curds yesterday, and they were fantastic!  Tasted mild and clean like fresh mozzarella.  I can now make my own mozzarella for pizza!  The result of that cheese is a lovely thing - whey.  This whey can be used again...to make Ricotta cheese.  The result of the Ricotta is more whey - but this whey is a nearly worthless kind that is good for baking and the like.  There are a few minerals in there, so I'll keep it for that.

I listed certain things as being 'free' since they are a natural result of other processes.

So now maybe you can see - in reality what may seem to cost more money may actually save money.  If you compare gallon-to-gallon, the cost of a gallon of raw milk is higher than the cost of pasteurized milk.  However, if you use your brain, learn a few new skills and take a little time you can save hundreds of dollars per month.  Obviously these figures may be different where you are, and you may be lucky enough to break even in the end, but the quality of the food you're eating is completely worth the time and money it takes to produce it.