As you probably know from looking around my blog, I’m pretty natural-minded in my life. I use vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap for my cleaning products. I make my own shampoo, lip balm, body butter, sun screen, and deodorant, etc. So what does that translate into in the kitchen? Well, on top of being naturally minded, I’m also incredibly frugal. I hate to spend money. It’s a quality of mine that my husband loves. I am all about buying things second hand, I’m all about making my own instead of shelling out money for something I can do. And that can sometimes be difficult to translate into groceries. Here’s a look at what we do in our kitchen.
How We Eat
We try to eat as cleanly as possible, meaning we avoid highly processed foods, opting to make things from scratch as opposed to buying things premade. We also buy organic as much as possible. While still being frugal. I was a single parent living on a tight income for many years, and I made it work for us, so I know it can be done! It means sticking to staples. There are ALWAYS apples and carrots in our house. Because organic apples and organic carrots are two of the most budget friendly organic produce items you can find. And they’re delicious and easy to pack in lunches. There are several Aldi around us, which makes it easier to shop organic items without breaking our budget, but I know not everyone is so lucky. Before Aldi started carrying so much organic goodness, I shopped at other grocery stores and it truly was about double the cost. But, again, we stuck with staples. I buy grass fed ground beef, and Aldi has the best prices there, almost always. Though, at a little local grocery store where almost everything is more expensive than at larger stores, they have local grass fed meat at about the same price, which is AWESOME, and definitely something to look into.
I haven’t done it yet, but have always coveted local grass fed beef shares. It’s a high up front cost, but works itself out to be a good deal. The up front cost is what has kept me at bay, but maybe next year we’ll take the plunge.
As far as meat goes, I stick with the cheapest organic options. That means ground beef, and organic chicken legs. My daughter and I lived off of those for years. Organic chicken thighs are very reasonable, as well. And we always stocked up when we found them on sale. I’ve gotten lucky enough to get venison several times, too. My husband was able to get an entire deer from a friend this year. That’s a lot of meat! And his mother just gave us an obscene amount of buffalo. I currently have backstrap in my crockpot, slowly cooking away.
Last year we bought a crop share, and it was great. It was a very rough growing year, and as such, we wound up with much less than is offered most years, but it was still worth every penny. Getting bags of fresh, organic, local produce every week is awesome. And when you wind up with items you wouldn’t normally grab at the store, or even that you’ve never heard of or eaten before, it allows you to try new things and get creative. There’s something really glorious about a big bag of fresh produce to do whatever your heart desires with.
We garden, too. Well, my husband gardens. My mom has large amazing gardens, as well, and we reap the benefits of that. Preserving the produce that you have in excess from the crop share and/or garden is important, as well. My husband cans tomatoes, pickles, and peppers. And my mom cans and dehydrates. Dehydrates? YES! It’s not something I’d have thought of, and it’s awesome!
We do handmade gifts to exchange with my parents and brother and brother-in-law, which is awesome in and of itself, but further made awesome by my mom giving us the most ridiculous amount of canned and dehydrated produce you can imagine. Dehydrated peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, etc. It may sound strange, but there are so many ways to use them. I zap peppers, tomatoes, and onions in the food processor to create a powder, which is amazing in tacos or slow cooked/simmered meat. Or in rice. I put cabbage, onions, and peppers into a large bowl and pour boiling water over them, then cover, as I’m preparing fried rice or pasta, or whatever I desire to add them to. Then, once ready, I have hydrated and delicious add-ins, with very seasoned water to add to the dish.
Canned tomatoes are excellent for everything. Having pickles, pickled squash, pickled jalapenos, etc, is a great way to add some acid and crunch to dishes, too.
As for grains, I am allergic to gluten (confirmed by a blood test and my doctor). We stick to organic rice that is labeled gluten free (if it’s not labeled that way, they it may be processed in areas with wheat and could be cross contaminated), and gluten free pasta. Again, Aldi has great options for me.
They have an excellent gluten free selection, so I always have a decent amount of GF pasta on hand. While I didn’t really eat much in the way of rice or pasta when it was just my daughter and me, my husband REALLY likes to have a grain with his meals, so we usually have one or the other.
I Wing It
As I mentioned, I currently have buffalo backstrap in the crockpot. I added a jar of tomatoes from my mom, a healthy dose of garlic, some organic brown sugar, Himalayan salt, black pepper, some paprika, and a good amount of cumin. This is my first time making backstrap, so I’m just winging it. I’m hoping the tomatoes and slow cooking help to break the meat down and give us a really tender dinner. If it works out that way, I’ll shred the meat and we’ll do tacos or nachos. While I can’t have cheese (casein allergy…my body may hate me…), the rest of the family can, so I’ve got some organic cheese (which is a splurge item, because organic cheese is just pricey no matter how to slice it. See what I did there? I can’t imagine why my daughter thinks I’m embarrassing!) that I’ll shred for them. Those lucky fools also get sour cream. But I can partake in the jalapenos and salsa!
And that is a little on how we cook and shop here. It’s always interesting to see/hear how others stock their kitchen. Oh! Speaking of stock…I love the organic stock from Aldi because it’s gluten free (most are not), the price is great, and it’s so convenient to have the cartons on hand. I do, though, save chicken bones from the legs we make and when we roast a whole chicken, as well as the scraps of organic produce (onions, carrots, peppers, celery, etc), and make stock. I LOVE to have homemade stock on the stove when our house comes down with a cold. It’s a comfort food that even my very picky 9 year old enjoys.
With that, I will stop sharing my kitchen stocking with you, and ask if you have anything you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear your tips and ideas!