Berries are Beautiful

We love berries in this house! Any we can get our hands upon, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Huckleberries… if Berry is in the name, we are likely to have it stuck in a jar somewhere. One of the great things about berries is you can intermix recipes easily to get a variety of flavors! Here is the makings of a razzleberry jam! Berries are such a frugal way to perk up your pantry! When they come on sale, watch for the deals at your local growers markets, from grocery stores (I found organic raspberries for 1.00 a pound at a local big box store!) or from the wild (wild blackberries!). When you have these stuck back on your pantry shelf, they give a fun surprise for the middle of February when everything is dark and grey! Sure beats paying the high cost at the grocery store that time of year too!

 

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Freezing Berries

I love to have frozen berries and nothing could be simpler! Frozen berries are perfect for a smoothie, just combine with milk and a frozen banana, a dollop of yogurt and honey, blend and happy children ensue! Toss that into a popsicle mold and children are even more happy! When freezing berries, just rinse them well, lay them on a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Once solidly frozen, slide these right into freezer bags and into the freezer they go. You can remove however many you need at a time.

 

Dehydrating Berries

 

Berries are also just as wonderful dehydrated! I have an Excalibur 9 tray, the granddaddy of dehydrators and it will dehydrate them in no time. Most berries can be placed right onto the trays, blueberries need to be blanched first OR frozen! There you go! Pop your frozen berries onto dehydrator trays and soon you have dehydrated berries perfect for granola, hot cereal or to get baked into muffins!

 

Canning Berries

When it comes to canning, some berries hold up better then others. I love to make strawberry preserves and jam, and they are heavenly sliced and dehydrated but I am not a fan of the texture of them canned. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and huckleberries hold up well when preserved. Raspberries are very delicate and will fall apart somewhat, but they are still delicious over ice cream! You can hot pack or cold pack berries. We cold pack because it is quicker and we have not noticed a significant difference in the jars.

 Simple Berries in Syrup

First, Mix your syrup. You can use whatever you like but a light syrup of 5 3/4 cups water to 1 3/4 cups sugar is a mixture that won’t overwhelm the berry. Set this to simmer, then fill 1/2 cup in the bottom of your jars. Fill jars with berries and cover with remaining syrup. Make sure you release all air bubbles as there usually is quite a bit! Wipe rims, cap with 1/2 inch headspace and process in BWB 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts. Simple!

Raspberries in light syrup. Ignore the bad picture and headpace, it is 1/2 inch but I have the jar tilted back. Never sold you on my photography skills 😀

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If it is syrup for pancakes, ice cream sundays or to drizzle over a cake you are wanting, then here is a great blueberry syrup recipe! You could substitute other berries for the blueberry and have similar results.

Blueberry syrup

2 quarts blueberries

5 cups water 2 cups sugar (or half honey)

3 tbsp bottled lemon juice

Zest from lemon

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix berries, water and sugar. Bring to boil, boil 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, zest and cinnamon. If you want a smooth syrup, you can strain through a strainer or cheesecloth. We prefer ours with fruit, so I mash with a potato masher, leaving about half of the fruit whole. Fill your hot pint jars with syrup, wipe rims, cap with 1/2 inch headspace and process in BWB for 15 minutes. This is delicious!

Blueberry syrup! Amazing over ice cream or pancakes!

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Berry Pie Filling

We keep a few jars of this available. I actually prefer to thicken my filling when I make the pie, but it is handy to have this when you want to make pie, turnovers, tarts or pipe into cupcakes! This makes for a frugal and fun treat! Often in the winter when kids have been stuck in the house for days I will break out a jar of something summery and fun, let the kids make their own crusts and bake them, it breaks the monotony and gives a little sparkle of summer!

The important thing to remember is that you are not able to use flour or cornstarch in canning. I know that everybody used to do this but the NCHFP (National Centers for Home Food Preservation) says this is a no-no. If they say its not ok, well I listen. Part of this is due to safety and heat penetration but also part is quality as these products break down. Instead you need to use Clear Jel. You can buy this online at several locations. I personally am very concerned about GMO’s in my home, and since one of the top GMO produces is corn (which is what Clear Jel is made from) I choose to buy a non GMO version called Cornaby’s. I found mine at Amazon.

Pie filling is simple! Begin with simmer your berries in water for one minute, drain and set aside to keep warm. Combine sugar and Clear Jel® or Cornaby’s in a large pan and mix well. Add your water to the mixture and mix well, then cook on medium until this begins to thicken up. Fold your warm berries in and cook until bubbling. Add your lemon juice, and boil one minute. Immediately place this into hot jars, remove air bubbles, wipe your rims and cap, leaving 1 inch headspace. Process in BWB for 30 minutes (pints and quarts)

Each quart

3 1/2 cups berries

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/4 cup Clear Jel or Cornabys

4 tsp lemon juice.

Raspberry Pie filling, Raspberry in syrup and Raspberry jelly

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Carrots … roots of the meal

 Carrot’s really aren’t sexy. They aren’t amazing, they won’t wow you and you likely don’t wake up at night thinking about all you can do with a carrot. They are more in the category of old jeans and well worn sneakers. Always there and dependable but often not thought of.

 We love carrots in our home though! They are such a staple of a frugal diet. Carrots are awesome snacks fresh, pureed, sautéed, stewed, however you want them. I prefer my carrots fresh but as a single mom, there is more nights then I care to think about that I walk in the door at 6pm and realize I forgot to take out dinner, or get veggies for the side dish, or it’s late and I can’t imagine cooking at this moment. Times like that I lean towards our canned foods. I have found that I prefer to can my vegetables separately and then create meals later. Most of the canning recipe’s that are tested and approved aren’t as delicious as my own recipes, so I create them separately and mix at the last moment.

Enter carrots. A quart of carrots quickly gets sautéed with a pat of butter and brown sugar for glazed carrots, or sautéed in butter with some green onions and a dollop of sour cream for creamed carrots. I can half carrots and half potatoes together, toss in olive oil and do a quick bake or broil for “roasted” veggies or chopped with a chicken breast for a pot pie.  The possibilities are endless. Having these stocked away on the shelf allows for a multitude of side dishes within moments.

First, I would really recommend using organic carrots. These will be cooked and soak up the water for months… carrots are usually on the “dirty dozen” list. You really don’t want your carrots in a chemical bath do you? I buy my bags of carrots from Azure Standard for canning. They are uniform, straight and most importantly, they are organic and affordable! This 25 pound bag of carrots was 24.00. I ended up with 11 quarts carrots, 3 quarts carrots/potatoes and 7 pints pickled carrots. Also had a pound or two that became fresh eating.

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First, you want to peel all of those carrots! Wash them up, peel them, then wash them up again! At this time you can slice them, dice them, chunk them… endless choices. I do some of my carrots in larger chunks for stews and hearty meals and the rest I slice in smaller slices for sautéing. Make sure you save the end pieces you chop off. Toss them in a container in your freezer and use at a later time for broth! (Will add that post soon!)

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Next you want to jar these up. Use your funnel and let your kids jump in to help. This is one area they can really get involved with. Let them fill the jars, packed snugly and leave one inch headspace. If you are going to add salt, do this at this time (1/2 tsp for a pint, 1 tsp to quart). Fill with boiling water, use plastic spatula to jiggle all those carrots into place. You will be surprised how much they will shift once the water is in them!

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If you want, you could mix potatoes and carrots together. The difference with potatoes is you need to peel them, then pop in boiling water for ten minutes before you add to the carrots. you can do them separate as well. I like them together because that is the perfect amount for a  Chicken Pot Pie!

 

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Now that you have your vegetables in a jar, salt and boiling water added. Simply wipe your rim, cap and place into your pressure cooker. Important to note that carrots, potatoes or other vegetables MUST be canned in a pressure canner. There is absolutely no safe way to do these in a boiling water bath… “buy my gramma …” yes. I understand that grandmothers and amish do it and are fine. Very simple food safety here. Botulism thrives in anaerobic environments (like a sealed jar of food) and in low acid foods (like a vegetable or meat). You can’t sea it, smell it or taste it. It is sneaky that way. Maybe gramma canned for 80 years but never came in contact with a bot toxin. She was lucky and blessed but if you do the same thing and a bot toxin happens to be there… you are in serious trouble my friend. Be safe. Pressure canning is really quite easy. You can find videos all about it or go to my facebook page and group page and we will be happy to encourage you Preserving the Harvest Facebook We have a spectacular groups page and love to help new canners!

That being said… Now that your jars are ready, pop them in your pressure canner, follow your particular canners directions. Process your carrots for 25 minutes (pints) or 30 minutes (quarts).

IF you added potatoes, then process for 35 minutes (pints) or 40 minutes (quarts).

 

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At the end of the day, sit back, relax and enjoy your beautiful jars! Carrots may not be beautiful but they are functional and a wonderful staple to have in your pantry!

 

Peachy Peachy Peachy – Canned, Salsa and BBQ!

We love peaches, love them in cottage cheese, ice cream, yogurt, on pancakes… love them sweet, love them spicy, love them any way you can bring them.

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Need I say more? Really?

While I do think that I have the best salsa recipe ever, I also recognize that sometimes a sweet salsa can have a place. This salsa can be delicious over chicken, fish, with chips, fruit chunks or eaten with bites of crackers, carrots or whatever else happens to be available in the absence of tortilla chips (or so I have heard).

Then again, if your going to put salsa on chicken… why not just make peach barbecue sauce?

Or heck, just plain peaches.

Anyway you go, its just peachy. Ok. Now I am corny. Orange you glad I am stopping? Seriously (I’m even rolling my own eyes now).

In our home, we can a lot of peaches. If you have ever done this, you know when you are done stuffing all the peaches into jars there are always bits left over that didn’t fit, got mushy, didn’t peel right or whatever the case may be. We keep these set aside in a bowl and they become one of these three recipes. I didn’t take pictures of all of them because we had 60 pounds of peaches and I was going to go for it while I had helpers!

Basic idea of canned peaches is to dip your peaches in boiling hot water. I leave mine in about 30 seconds then lift out and put into cold water. The skins will slip right off. Most people cut them in half and layer them in beautiful wide mouth jars but I am a rebel. Well, not really but I prefer to cut mine in quarters because it provides kids more pieces, its easier to stuff a jar and its a whole lot quicker to fill jars this way.  I drop mine into a large bowl with a gallon of water and a splash of lemon juice. Other people like absorbic acid. Whatever you choose is fine!

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I’d rather have a full jar then a pretty jar.  Bad in the world of canning I know but honestly, they go on the shelf in the basement and nobody sees them. I am more about moving quick and when the kids are helping … well this is something they can do. I’m not picky. I won’t win a blue ribbon but my kids think I am awesome so that counts!

You can preserve your peaches in water, though the texture and flavor may be reduced. You can use apple juice or white grape juice. I typically just do a light syrup of 5 1/2 cups water to 2 cups sugar. Simmer this up, pour over your peaches, leave 1/2 inch headspace. Process in BWB for 25 minutes (pints) or 30 minutes (quarts)

Not Pretty – Don’t Tell!

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Peach Sauce

The idea is simple. Chop up all your leftover pieces of peaches that are mushy, soft, bruised, ugly, didn’t peel… whatever. Pop them into your jars and add 1/2 tsp cinnamon to pints or 1 tsp cinnamon to quarts. Fill these up with whatever syrup you are using. I typically use a light syrup of 5 cups water and 2 cups sugar or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup honey. Brown sugar, rapadura or other sugars work well here. Cop with 1/2 inch head space and process in BWB for 25 minutes (pints) or 30 minutes (quarts). This is delicious heated up and poured over waffles!

Peach Salsa

This recipe is from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The only change I made was to add 1/3 cup of lime juice.

Cilantro without lime juice is just wrong. Seriously wrong.

I typically chop all my peppers, onions and herbs before I start. I swear I had a picture of this but I am completely unable to find it now. When that is done, set aside in large bowl. Add all ingredients except the peaches.  Cut and measure your peaches right into the bowl, mixing as you go to let the vinegar continue preserving the color of the peaches.

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Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil over medium heat, stir constantly. Boil gently for about 5 minutes.  The color goes away quickly, but magic does start to happen! This is a terrible pic, but its a pic nonetheless. You get the idea!

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Ladle into jars with 1/2 inch head space, cap and process in BWB for 15 minutes.

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Peach Salsa (Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving)

1/2 cup vinegar

6 cups chopped, skinned peaches

1 1/2 cup red onion

4 Jalapenos, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro

2 tbsp. honey

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne

Combine vinegar, peaches, and remaining ingredients. Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process in BWB for 15 minutes. This makes eight 8 ounce jars.

*Note – I add 1/3 cup lime juice to this. It does not change consistency and the acidity level is high so this doesn’t harm the overall acidity level.

Finally Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce!

This is AMAZING! I have used this over pork loin, chicken breasts both baked in the oven and grilled. It is very similar to the salsa, so I will just provide the recipe.

salsa

6 cups chopped pitted peeled peaches

1 cup finely chopped seeded red bell pepper

1 cup finely chopped onion

3 tbsp. finely chopped garlic

1 1/4 cups honey

3/4 cups cider vinegar

1 tbsp. cinder vinegar

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp hot pepper flakes

2 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients  in large saucepan. Reduce heat and boil gently until consistency of barbecue sauce (this will remain chunkier and not smooth as it is not pureed) about 25 minutes. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars. Cap and leave 1/2 inch headspace. Process in BWB for 15 minutes.

Salsa Oh Salsa

 

 

 

I am sharing the worlds greatest salsa recipe with you today. Seriously, it is so perfect I will never share another salsa recipe again. Except the peach salsa. And the Mango. And the chipotle… but well… for a regular salsa, this is the best! I can’t take credit for it. If you have been in the canning world for long you likely know about Gardenweb’s harvest page. They have amazing recipes and support there. An amazing epic hero of mine Annie created this recipe and fought to get this recipe tested and approved through her local extension. I heart Annie. I know of zero other facts about her other then she made my world wonderful. I have been making this salsa several years and have not found anything that is remotely near as wonderful.

First important fact. There are very little changes that can be made to this and still have a tested approved recipe. I will list the options at the bottom.

Second important fact. Buy extra jars. Prepare for people to think you are a culinary genius and ask for more.

Third important fact. I don’t know. I was going for something and lost it. It’s 5 am and the baby has me up. Forgive me.

 

First, gather your tomatoes, cilantro, peppers and other ingredients. This takes quite a bit of chopping. I have made it in the food processor before, but I prefer the small diced chunks more then the tiny particles from the food processor. To easily peel your tomatoes, drop into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, the skins will start to split. Drop your tomatoes into cold water (we fill the kitchen sink with cold water and works great) The skins will peel off. This recipe calls for 8 cups of chopped tomato. You can use any tomato you like, I do a mixture of slicing tomatoes and paste tomatoes because I like the consistency.

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Next, combine all the ingredients into a large pot. In this particular instance I tripled the batch and placed in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil for ten minutes.

Deliciousness in a pot. Yes.

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When this has boiled for ten minutes, you place into pints or half pints, with 1/2 inch head space. wipe rims, cap and process in a BWB for 15 minutes. There is no safe time set for quarts so stick with your pints.

When they have cooled. You will have beauty like no other.

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Amazing Annie’s Salsa

8 cups chopped peeled tomatoes

2 1/2 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 cup chopped green/yellow/red pepper

3-5 jalapenos

6 cloves garlic

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp pepper

1/8 cup salt

1/4 cup cilantro

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup total bottled lime juice, bottled lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

16 ounce tomato paste

16 ounce tomato sauce

*** SOME changes can safely take place ***

You can use any kind of pepper you wish, so long as it does not exceed the 1 1/2 cups

You can reduce onion, pepper or garlic but you can not increase it

You can omit cilantro, but you can not increase it

You can omit tomato sauce

My Tips

I personally have made this a ton of ways. I find that I like a mixture of 2 parts bottled lime juice and 1 part apple cider vinegar. White vinegar does not taste well in this!

Cilantro tends to lose its flavor. I have a mad passionate love affair with cilantro and I tend to drink it straight from the pan when I am cooking it so I put it in anyway, but for a real kick, add it again when you open it.

I use whatever peppers are on sale. In this batch I happened to run into a lot of red and yellow peppers, so you won’t see how vibrant it can look with green. I have given these  away at Christmas and they are gorgeous with all green peppers!

 

Apricots Sweet Apricots

I found an answer today. I love it when I do that.

I am often asked ” I am new to canning, what is the first thing I should can?” and my answer is usually “whatever you like to eat!” which usually leaves people grumbling and feeling that I don’t understand how challenging it can be to a new canner, and honestly, maybe I don’t. I grew up with a grandmother who had pickles in a crock and a Gleaner for a mother (which translates to thousands of pounds of produce canned per year). Canning is in my blood.

Today however, I realized the perfect answer. Apricots. There truly is nothing easier to can then apricots and they are AMAZING! I can them in pints and half pints because a little can go a long way. Apricots get used to mix with yogurt, cottage cheese, in apricot upside down cake, in coffee cake and chopped for sauces. It isn’t something we typically eat a lot of on its own, so the smaller size works well for us.

Apricots are the perfect first food to can because you don’t have to peel them! You don’t precook them and you can water bath them. Simple. Let me show you how!

First, gather your apricots. If you have a local source, then fantastic. These can be spendy little things but look for a good sale and stock up while you can!

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Rinse your fruit, then simply cut in half along the indentation. The stone is loose and pops right out. Put your cut fruit in cool water with absorbic acid (fruit fresh) or lemon juice. Be careful not to let it soak too long, as these are delicate and can get mushy quickly.

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Pack your fruits any way you wish. I like putting mine cut side down and overlapping them. I set aside any bruised or mushy fruits and at the end I dice them. These are great to add to barbecue sauce later!

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Make your syrup. This could be a standard syrup of sugar and water, you could combine half honey and half water, you could use turbinado or sucanat however they would significantly change the flavor of the apricots or you could use apple or white grape juice. Whatever you decide, you want it simmer and hot while your slicing your fruit. I used a light syrup of 2 cups sugar to 5 cups water.

Once your fruit is packed in the jars, simply fill your jars with hot syrup, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes (pints) or 30 minutes (quarts). I processed 5 pounds of apricots using the above amount of syrup. I ended up with 2 pints and 12 half pints.

Prepare to be delighted!

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You Shall Need:

5 pounds Apricots

2 cups sugar, sucanat or turbinado (or half honey/half sugar)

5 cups water

1 gallon water to 1/4 cup lemon juice or fruit fresh (follow specific directions for your packet)

 

Combine sugars and water, simmer. Rinse and slice your apricots into halves. Dip into lemon water to preserve color. Layer with cut sides down in jars. Fill with hot syrup. Release any trapped air bubbles. Cap and process in BWB for 25 minutes (pints) or 30 minutes (quarts)

Friday Sales….

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I went to get some tomatoes for putting up salsa today. That was all I intended. I promise. But there was a sale. And… sales make me realize I should buy more. Sadly, I did not think about the county fair that promises to take up most of tomorrow, and how exhausted I may be at the end of juggling five children at a county fair all day.

Instead I saw the sign “Peaches .50 a pound” followed by “tomatoes .50 a pound” Paste tomatoes at that!!! And… a few other signs.

End result… 60 pounds peaches (30.00) 25 pounds tomatoes (12.50) 5 pounds apricots (6.00) 8 pounds blueberries (12.00) and 30 pounds plums – free!

Azure Standard July Drop

 

I am using this blog to discuss preparing and preserving healthy foods but often get asked a basic question of “what do you eat” and constantly hear “eating healthy is SO expensive!”

I disagree

While I do want to focus on preparing and preserving the healthy whole foods that are available, I also want to show the ways I am able to do this on a budget. My family is large and the size of my family flexes as I have foster children. My current home consists of myself, my two daughters (12 and 17) and my son… who is 10, but eats like he is 30. I mean.. that child can EAT! Tonight we had a quick breakfast for dinner, he ate 4 pieces of Applegate farms bacon, 3 eggs, 2 bran blueberry muffins and 2 oranges. And he wants more. I also have two foster children which… are no small eaters. Seriously. My point is that I do have a lot of mouths to feed and I can keep my budget low, while providing 80% of our diet organic. This is primarily because I am able to use Azure Standard here in Arkansas.

First… Lets be really clear. I have no reason to recommend them. I am not affiliated with them at all. However I moved from Oregon to Arkansas and was in for a huge reality check. Among other things I was stunned at the lack of whole foods, healthy foods and farmers markets. I searched in vain and found my options for groceries were Walmart and Kroger. Did not make me happy… Then I found Azure. They are a huge whole foods/organic foods company from Oregon (awesome huh!) and ship around the country. You place your order once a month and one week later a huge truck shows up, you take your food and you live happily ever after. It just happens that the wonderful woman who runs the Azure drop also runs a farmers market on wheels. She sends a list on Sunday of produce available and then delivers it right to my work on Wednesday!!! Between the two of them, I buy very little anymore from conventional stores. She supplies me with organic chicken, ground beef, pastured eggs, raw milk cheese and veggies. Azure takes care of the rest.

I have a lot of questions about Azure, so I will share my monthly drop with you, brands included so you can have some sense of what items they carry. Any questions and I would absolutely LOVE to answer them!!!

Each month, I tend to buy a bit in bulk, so it carries through for a few months. So, while you may not see flour, oil etc this month, its because that was all last month!

July Azure Order

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This months order consisted of 40 pounds oranges, 25 pounds carrots (to be blogged this weekend when we can them!) 6 pounds Nutiva coconut flour, 10 pounds Rumanio butter, 1 pound Bionature whole wheat rigatoni, 4 (64oz) containers Nancy’s Honey Yogurt (best in the world), Applegate Bacon, 6 Natural Value tomato paste, 5 pounds Rumiano Calico cheese, 2 pounds Wholesome Sweeteners Sucanat, 2 Bamboo Spoons, 3 pound chuck roast, 2 pkgs (pounds) Eye of round steak, 1.5 pounds beef stew meat, 3 1/2 pounds (2 pkgs) Top Round Steak, 3 1/2 pounds ( 2 pkgs) Sirloin tip steak

 

Grand Total 261.02

While I was there, I bought some veggies and eggs. I typically buy more veggies, as well as a chicken, ground beef and sometimes cheese, but due to the season, I already have an abundance of veggies. I bought a smaller amount this week.

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Garden Gal

3 dozen organic pastured eggs, 8 peaches (some had been discovered already) 9 pounds cucumbers, 5 tomatoes,

Grand total 21.00

I will be sharing all sorts of ways that we implement these items in our daily lives. Healthy eating can be inexpensive with some planning, a crock pot, and a little bit of arguing with the kids to make them do the work  working hard….