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Meal Plan Thursday?

I haven’t been posting meal plans in a while, and I can’t be positive I’ll keep it up, but I’m giving it a shot. Since I’m planning our meals around what produce we have, vs. making a plan and then buying the items, I’m finding it works better to plan after the Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. This is a loose plan based on what’s in the house and could change.



  • oatmeal and fruit
  • gluten free pumpkin blueberry muffins and fruit x2
  • egg & veggie casserole and fruit x2
  • yogurt parfait
  • gluten free waffles from the freezer and fruit


  • salads with protein (snack-style lunches for A) x4
  • vegetable soup x2
  • out x1


  • fruit with peanut butter
  • veggies and dip
  • marinated salad
  • yogurt and berries
  • juice or smoothies


  • crustless veggie quiche, turkey bacon, fruit salad, rolls
  • whole wheat (or GF for A) pizza with swiss chard, balsamic onions, turkey bacon and a marinated vegetable salad
  • beef, bean, and vegetable burritos with all the fixings (make extra for freezer) and homemade baked jalepeno poppers
  • Korean dumpling and rice cake soup with homemade kimchi
  • vegetarian quesadillas with all the fixings
  • collard green dip with veggie dippers, tortilla chips
  • out x1

We have a camera in the house again, so I’m trying to get back on track. As mentioned before, our budget through Lent (at least) had to go up to 40.00 per week. We are going through a huge amount of produce. Thing is, we may need to keep the budget there….we’re liking the changes! Here’s the week. I didn’t keep track of my receipts very well, so this is all without taxes.  Total for the week: 37.73


Huge bundle of mustard greens and spring onions at the farmer’s market: 3.00.


Love it when these giant tubs of organic greens go on markdown! Bananas were on markdown as well, and the sorbets worked out to .12 cents each after coupon. Eggs for 1.12 a dozen.  Total: 12.83


Splurged on organic apples.  This photo: 6.37


First time in my life I have ever purchased chicken backs.  They were super cheap and are currently in my great big stock pot on the stove turning into some yummy broth. The tuna salad was way on markdown and the sodas were only in here because they helped lower the overall cost after coupons. The truvia is here for the same reason. Spent more than usual to get Autumn some GF pizza crusts and bagels, but she will really appreciate them.  Total here: 12.53

This is not part of my regular grocery shopping, but butter was way on sale this week and I’m helping with some major cookie baking soon.  I went ahead and bought it while it was on sale.  Two of the packages are for us and the rest are for that project. Total grocery: 3.00.  Total for cookies: 15.00

P1010030  P1010067




Obviously, haven’t been keeping up with anything on here. A couple viruses running through our house and a non-working camera have greatly contributed to the problem. Hoping to get back on track this week.

Sooooo…changes in the works.  Definitely having to up the budget for Lent! We are not Catholic and our church doesn’t make a point of the season, but we’ve found giving things up to be a really helpful exercise.  Every year looks different and this year is no exception.  I guess really this isn’t a pantry challenge right now, since we are NOT using up what’s in the pantry, but focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables. And a LOT of them.  Believe it or not, we’re just about out of produce after buying all of this over the course of the week.

Besides produce, I picked up a few items to make a dish for a party, a gallon of milk, free GF bread, and free (after store credit) chips for the party and to eat on Fat Tuesday. 😉


First – Eight dollars worth of fresh veggies from the farmer’s market.  It was all local!  The tomatoes and peppers were grown in a hoop house – they were delicious. 🙂


Next – the above two photos came in at about twenty-six dollars.  Got really good deals, but all this produce adds up!


Third – Markdown bananas, potatoes, and onions for 2.66.


FREE chips and dip.

Total: about 37.00.  I want to try to keep our budget around 40.00 per week during Lent, but I’m not sure if I can do it.  My goal is to spend at least 75% of that on fruits and veggies.


Finally broke down and bought butter this week.  We’ve only been without it for a month – lol! We also bought a LOT of produce.  Matt got a juicing machine and we’ve been playing with it.  I’ve been really surprised by how much I have liked the results, but it goes through a huge amount of veggies and fruits. I also picked up a bunch of half&half to try out my new ice cream maker. I know, I know: super healthy vs. super unhealthy.  Oh well.

Free items this week: pudding (money maker), marshmallow bits (will be going on valentines treats), guacamole/salsa, bread (need to drop at food pantry), grapefruit juice, protein bars, breakfast bowl, cream (paid with catalina)


Trip #1  Total: 3.67+tax


Trips #2 and #3 Total: 16.06+tax, after rebate


Trip #4 Total: free (paid with catalina coupon)


Trip #5 Total: 1.56+tax

Total for the week: 21.29  Taking that into account, that leaves me still about 13.00 over budget for the last five weeks.  I think we’ll probably have to increase the budget, as we’re looking at making some major changes as we head into Lent.

Whew!  What a week.  We were on “vacation” this week, which meant we were doing a LOT of daytrips and an overnight in Atlanta.  Autumn and I have been saving up for a trip to Snow Mountain and we had a lot of fun, though I think we all had a better time hiking afterwards. We ate out a lot more than normal, but I still packed a lot of lunches.

I couldn’t keep track of all my receipts this week, so I’m adding everything  up by item – yikes!   We shopped the mega-event a lot.  I usually only do one “event” per transaction, so you can imagine how many stores I hit over the week.  One thing with the sales this week was that it meant buying a lot more processed food than normally.  Some of these items were better than free (i.e. moneymakers), so it made sense to buy them because it cut down on the cost of things I really wanted to stock up on, like dish soap.  So we’ll probably be gathering up a box of stuff for the food pantry once we finish shopping this sale.  Most of the actual money spent was on produce and coffee. Pretty sure we will be way over budget this week…let’s start adding…

Free items this week: Emergen-C (money-maker), pudding cups (money-maker), bread, protein bars, some of the veggie dip, jimmy dean breakfast bowls, egg beaters, instant breakfast mix, guacamole/salsa, pepsi.


Four dollars worth of veggies from the farmer’s market.  This bundle of turnips is bigger than the 13-gallon trash can I tried to stuff them into! Autumn borrowed my sunglasses.




This is 3 shopping trips combined. Total: 13.78 + tax.  Without coupons and sales that would have been ONLY two of the bags of coffee.


Whenever we’re in Atlanta, we stop into our favorite International market. I was picking up ingredients for an experiment with homemade kimchi.  We also got some cheap fruit and some freshly in-store made rice cakes. Autumn asked for purple potatoes, too.  Total: 13.46 + tax.


A couple shopping trips here as well as the ice cream maker and flour I got free thanks to getting a prize in the King Arthur Flour Contest at the GA Nat’l. Fair. Total for these trips: 1.85 + tax. I’m not kidding. Almost every single item was free.


Three more trips: Total 3.28 + tax.  When you consider that one box of dish soap without sales or coupons is 4.69, it’s kind of amazing. 🙂

Not pictured: 1 jar natural peanut butter, 1 jar crushed garlic, 1 bag tortilla chips Total: 6.58+ tax.

Total: 44.36  Considering how much I had left over last week, that leaves me around 16.26 over budget this week, but I feel like we got a lot out of it. Hopefully I can make some of that up in the next week. (And this is of course assuming that my math is right which is very questionable considering how late it is and how stuffed up my head is with this cold.)


Lots of produce this week! Let’s start off with my finished homemade sauerkraut.  It is delicious and I will definitely be making more. Thinking about trying a batch of kimchi next…..hmmmmm?


This shopping trip was 2.40.  (The key on my computer with the dollar sign has died, sorry! A couple others are starting to die too.) We hardly EVER have sodas in the house, but Matt had a free 12-pack coupon and we figured we might as well use it. Happy to find these peaches in 100% juice because Autumn loves them in her snack bags and while I’m capable of canning fruit in 4 oz. jars, it’s kind of a pain and I don’t want to lose my jars. 😉


Eleven dollars worth of organic freshly-picked local produce from the farmer’s market. Yum!




This trip ended up at just about 3.00, thanks to overage on the vitamin C and fruit puree. 🙂


Free grapefruit (had a raincheck)

I also grabbed another case of GF flour on Amazon for 5.50 shipped.

Total for the week: 21.90

We did have some eating out this week because DH is on vacation.  We’re basically just doing day trips from home and I’m packing some meals, but we’re finding ourselves eating out a little too. Using coupons or grabbing deals mostly though.

Some of what we used from the “pantry”:  last of the sliced ham in the freezer, some frozen (cooked from dry) chickpeas, lots of produce from the fridge, a random package of little smokies left over from something, a pre-made chicken meal, frozen (batch-cooked from dry) brown rice, the last of my home canned pears, a pasture-raised roast from the freezer, a few partial jars of jam and preserves, frozen strawberries, and more I can’t remember. I have a pasture-raised chicken from the freezer going right now to make chicken salad sandwiches for picnics.  Judging by what’s left in the freezer, this challenge is certainly going to last more than a month!

Okay, gotta say it’s a good thing that avoiding shopping wasn’t one of my goals with this pantry challenge. I shopped like MAD this week. Why? Well, when we’re driving all the way across town three times a week for soccer and passing all the grocery stores along the way, it seems to make the trip a lot more worthwhile if I stop in for couponing deals. So, um, yeah, I shopped probably a dozen times this week total. Came in at just about a dollar over budget at 26.00. There are definitely some items here that I usually wouldn’t buy, but ended up getting for convenience’s sake. We have been sooooooo busy lately and something has to give. If that means “buying” free whole wheat bread instead of making my own from scratch, so be it. I will get back to homemade as soon as feasible. Here’s my shopping:


Not pictured was a package of turkey breast.

Edit: If I had paid regular price/no coupons I could have bought 2 1/2 out of the four boxes of vitamins. NOTHING ELSE.

Free items: snack mix, 8 loaves of bread, salt, breakfast bowls, grapefruit juice, and grapefruit.  Eggs were way on sale, turkey bacon was .50 per package, vitamins for .26 a box, olives .19 per pouch, also splurged and bought Autumn some premium orange juice for about .50 per quart.  She rarely gets juice, so she’s super happy! Markdown GF bread, egg nog, yogurt, and turkey were also great deals. Overall, it was a really good week, but I definitely don’t need to shop that frequently. 🙂

Although it seems completely counterintuitive, I added a lot of items to the pantry/freezer this week, too. I canned small batches of grapefruit and orange segments in citrus juice(mind-numbing work), caramelized balsamic onions (amazing on pizza), and cranberry conserve.


In the interest of saving time and because I am NOT a morning person, I also stocked the freezer with gluten free breakfast items.  How does this fit into the “clean out the freezers” part of my challenge?  I made them with LOTS of frozen produce that really needed to be used up.  I found a dozen bananas (DH’s grandfather only likes them green, so when they get ripe, they freeze them for us instead of throwing them away), two quarts of peaches, a couple partial bags of nuts, and a pint of chopped strawberries during inventory and they went into 6+ dozen muffins (2 varieties) and 11 bags of banana pancakes.  Got an awesome deal on Amazon a while ago for the GF flour and everything else was in the pantry, even used up a bunch of cans of evaporated milk we got for free after coupons over the holidays.  I have a feeling that we’re going to go through this stuff pretty quickly between breakfasts and snacks and our busy schedule.


And while it may look like all we’re doing is adding to the food stores, we’ve been plugging away at using up freezer items.  We are almost out of the surplus of fresh vegetables we started the challenge with though, so that might get interesting. Dairy is getting to be a challenge as well.  We’re out of milk, butter, half&half, etc.  Hoping for some good deals on dairy and veggies next week!

Oh, my first ever batch of sauerkraut is about done too!  I’ll try to post a picture next week when I stick it in the fridge.

And just FYI…fresh kale is AMAZING on pizza. Especially with homemade cheese, caramelized onions, homemade roasted eggplant sauce, whole wheat homemade crust, and pasture-raised pork sausage.


It’s time to clean out the pantry (well, mostly freezers in my case) and try to spend less on groceries this month (maybe longer) while eating up things that I may just have forgotten were floating around the back of the freezer.



Here was our shopping for the week (plus one package of beef, not pictured) and I’m feeling pretty good about it, all considered.  After rebates, the total comes to about $23.57, just under my goal of $25 per week.  It was spent mostly on dairy items and produce markdowns.  Realizing I need to cut down on my grocery store trips to stay in budget. For instance, a stop at Kroger for eggs and I come home with eggs, bananas, and 15 pounds of onions! But how could I resist?  They were only .51 cents a bag on markdown!  And the oranges were way on sale and then had a rebate, too, making 4 big bags only .96 cents after the discounts.   Yeah, I have problems with markdowns.

So we have caramelized onions in the freezer now, as well as a couple meals worth of French onion soup. Had to send DH out for beef soup base as I was using up various homemade broth from the freezer and it really needed more beef flavor. (We ate some for lunch today with a multigrain crouton and grated swiss on top baked until melty – YUM!) And I’m planning a batch of balsamic onion relish for the canner. The oranges and grapefruit are going to become a citrus canning experiment. And possibly another batch of candied citrus peels as well.

And overall, we ate pretty well, too!  I’ve been really upping the amount of veggies we are eating, so there have been tons of salads and soups, including Autumn’s favorite black bean.  The only odd meal this week was dinner today when we ate up a bunch of random leftovers, steamed veggies, and one sad lonely single serve frozen pizza I found at the back of the freezer and split between us. Hey, it was late and we were just getting home from soccer! 😉

On the organizing front, I cleaned out, organized, and inventoried the kitchen fridge/freezer and the freezer side of the breezeway fridge/freezer.  The big upright freezer is actually nearly empty.  I would like to get it totally cleaned out and then decide whether we should replace the seal on it or get rid of it and look for a small chest freezer.  I know, this probably seems like a stupid amount of food storage for three people, but we use it. One fridge/freezer is mainly for storing grains because it makes them last longer.

The only eating out this week was one emergency stop at CFA after another late soccer night.  Autumn and I used free sandwich vouchers and I paid for a small side salad and fruit cup.  And I went out with a friend one night for a much needed escape, but used my Christmas cash to pay, so not too bad.

Well, it has been a much longer than intended break from the blog.  Our lives have been so busy, there just hasn’t been any time!  However, I’m trying to get back into the habit of posting our unit studies, if nothing else. Most of the ones from last year never made it on the blog, so maybe, MAYBE I will be able to play catch up on those too.  Finally, because I am writing this post late at night after a very long day, I guarantee typos and grammatical errors. 😉

Our back to school “row” was How To Make an Apple Pie and See the World.  While I wasn’t really thrilled about this book at first, it turned out to be so much fun.  Autumn loved all the humor in the book and read it to herself over and over again before we even started the unit.  Apple Pie is a crazy jaunt all over the world and we had a lot of fun with geography projects this unit.

I made extensive use of youtube for various videos on how things are made.  Autumn did a lot of other read-aloud books, too.  We used lapbook templates from and combined the lapbook for Apple Pie and the Johnny Appleseed lapbook into one big lapbook with lots of extra items that we put together.  You can check out my Apple Pie pinterest board for links to many of the videos, books, and activities we used. Here is her completed lapbook with photos of a few of the projects we did:

We did so much stuff with this unit that it’s hard to know where to start!  I guess I’ll just go over some of the highlights.

Johnny Appleseed

I learned just about as much as Autumn did about the real life Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman.  We read several books about him, talked about stewardship and character, mapped his travels, his place in history, talked about myths and legends vs. facts, learned the “Johnny Appleseed Grace” and even watched the classic Disney short on youtube. 🙂


In addition to marking each country on our world map, we made a passport to record each place we “visited” during the unit.  I think this might have been Autumn’s favorite part as we got to pretend she was bringing all of her items through customs at each country check-in.  As you can imagine, the customs agent was getting pretty concerned by the end of the book when she was checking through a cow, chicken, wheat, cinnamon, sugarcane, salt, and apples!  She also did a “where in the world” book for each country and colored their flags.



Italy’s stop included a review of Italy (we studied with Papa Piccolo in the past) and an online tour of a pasta factory (via youtube) as well as discussion of how Semolina (Durum) differs from other wheat. We made a little booklet on how wheat is grown, harvested, and processed.  Autumn has helped me grind wheat for bread many times!


For France, we did a review of the books we have already studied about France (Madeline, Mirette on the High Wire, The Glorious Flight) and then started learning about chickens.  “Facts about Chickens” came from a chicken lapbook on HomeschoolShare.  Autumn told me step-by-step directions on how to make an omelette from a cooking demonstration we attended last year…and then made omelettes for dinner all by herself for Matt one night while I was away from home!   We also got to see baby chicks hatching when we went to the fair and she got to hold them, too.


Sri Lanka/Cinnamon

This was the first time we had studied Sri Lanka.  I was grateful to find lots of youtube videos on how cinnamon is grown, harvested, and dried.  I’m pretty sure I learned more than Autumn with this one – it was fascinating!  After watching all the videos, we made a booklet on cinnamon and made some gluten free cinnamon toast.  A trip to a grocery store catering to the international community was in order, so we headed out to buy cinnamon sticks, sugarcane, and various apple varieties.  (True, the cinnamon and sugarcane are from the U.S., but I still think we got close enough!)



Since we have studied Englad already (Peter Rabbit, The Glorious Flight), this was another review country.  Autumn loves to help with the milking any time she is in Indiana, so she was pretty familiar with that side of things. We decided to make our own butter – all she had to do was shake heavy cream in a jar until it turned into butter.  Then she got to eat it on her grits – yum!  (This southern girl LOVES her grits!)  We also visited a machine milking demonstration at the fair and learned about how butter is made commecially.



Jamaica was another first time “visit” for us. We found some great videos of the sugarmaking process and saw lots of different methods: from juice extraction using oxen and boiling the juice in a huge pan over an open fire, to modern production. Autumn made a book about how sugarcane is made into sugar. We also got some fresh sugarcane from the grocery store and Autumn loved it!  (On a side note, it was pretty funny when Autumn started watching one of the videos that was made in Jamaica and suddenly discovered where her soccer coach’s accent comes from. :-))


It was a happy accident that just as we started talking about Vermont, we started reading Justin Morgan Had A Horse out loud.  And what do you know, in the very beginning of the book is a lesson on how the first settlers in Vermont gave it it’s name. I love when things just fall together like this!

Science – Evaporation/Salt

One of the concepts that comes up in Apple Pie, is evaporating sea water to get salt.  We have studied salt and evaporation before, but did a simple experiment as a reminder.  We also talked about how sugarcane juice turns into sugar as the water in the juice evaporates from cooking.


Math – Fractions and Measuring

We did lots of word problems introducing fractions and measuring and Autumn helped me measure out ingredients for several recipes.

Language Arts

Autumn learned lots of new vocabulary words and did some apple-related copywork. We had a lot of discussion on Language Arts topics too, especially how the author uses humor to keep the story interesting.


And of course, the star of the show: apples! Let’s see…we learned about and labeled the parts of an apple, colored the stages of an apple tree throughout the seasons, cut open apples to see how many seeds they have, and did a blind taste test of five different varieties to discover which ones we like the best. Autumn likes Granny Smith! While we have NOT managed to make an apple pie yet, Autumn is planning on helping make pies at Thanksgiving when “the uncles” come to visit and can help eat them. 🙂