Back to School…Back to Broth

It’s September.  The weather is starting to get cooler, fall produce is at the market and school has started.  This means lots of fun and excitement.  But it also means the start of colds, the flu and lots of germs.

There are many precautions you can take to stay healthy of course, and one of the best ways is to nourish your body with bone broth.

bone broth and immune support

Bone broth is full of vitamins and minerals, it helps with digestion and promotes healing in the gut, and it is one of the most nourishing foods you can eat.

It is best to get broth in your diet daily, but that can sometimes be a challenge – especially when it comes to kids.  But it can be done, even without eating soup seven days a week, although you could.  It makes a great quick prep breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Eight easy and delicious ways to incorporate broth into your meals every day.

  • Smoothies – Add some unflavored broth into your favorite smoothie.
  • Gravy – Simmer vegetables and/or meat in broth until it reduces and thickens.
  • Sweet and sour sauce – Make meatballs or stir fry by simmering your meat/vegetables in a combination of broth and honey until it reduces.
  • Rice/Noodles/Grains – Cook rice or whole wheat noodles or other grains (quinoa, couscous, etc.) in broth instead of water.  The grains will absorb the broth.
  • Beverage – Simply put warm, seasoned broth in a cup and drink it.  Kids will enjoy this if they get to use a straw.  It makes a great replacement for a cup of tea or coffee once in a while.  Or drink it at the start of your meal to aid in digestion.
  • Scrambled eggs – Use broth instead of milk when making scrambled eggs.
  • Vegetable puree – Puree vegetables like squash, pumpkin or peas with broth for a nutritious side dish, sauce or baby food.
  • Soups/stews – Use lots of bone broth for homemade soups and stews.  Simply add whatever meat and/or vegetables you like and simmer.  You can puree the soup to make a thick stew.

Making broth is quite simple.  Just simmer bones (with or without meat) on the stove or slow cooker for about 24 hours.  You can add vegetables and seasoning as well.  Then strain the liquid out.

You are left with beautiful broth full of gelatin, vitamins and minerals.  For extra nutrients be sure to use a variety of parts of the animal, including things like feet, necks, etc.

Store broth in the refrigerator for up to a week or keep it in the freezer.

While it may be convenient to buy pre-made stock, it’s not equivalent to homemade stock.  It does not have the same nourishing properties.  And most of the store-bought stocks contain MSG and other chemicals and fillers.

You can also use good quality gelatin to get some of the same benefits as stock or broth.

Don’t let the start of school and fall activities be the end of your family’s health.  Start consuming broth at least a few times a week to make sure you’re getting the nutrients and protection you need.

Do you regularly make broth? If so, what are your favorite ways of using it?

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

How To Start Planning For Next Year’s Preservation

Fresh produce is available all summer long.  Many hours are spent in the kitchen chopping, cooking, freezing, canning and drying to preserve the bounty for the rest of the year.  The fall will still bring a few fresh foods like squash, pumpkin, apples and pears.  But now that summer is winding down, prime season for a lot of produce is over.

It is tempting to sit back, take a deep breath and consider your summer produce preservation task over.  But before you do there is one more thing to consider.  Taking inventory and planning for next year!

It may seem early to start planning for next summer, but a little work now will really pay off for years to come.  Here are a few simple steps to make each season of preservation a success.

  1. Keep a record.  Make a spreadsheet and keep track of what produce you buy throughout the summer.  Be sure to note the quantity, cost and date of purchase.  Next summer you’ll know about when to expect and prepare for each type of produce and roughly how much it will cost.
  2. Make a list of your favorite recipes and pantry staples.  Do you make a lot of smoothies with frozen fruit?  Do you use a lot of jam?  Do you eat a lot of salsa?  Figure out what you’ll want available all year in your pantry and freezer.  Then you won’t forget anything.  And with a record of when all of the produce is available you’ll know exactly when you need to be ready to make it.
  3. Check your stock from last year.  Did you clear your freezer stock of fruits and vegetables last year?  Are your pantry shelves still overflowing with canned goods?  Assess how much you used to get an idea for how much you’ll want to make next year.  It’s easy to check your freezer stock if you keep a good record all year.
  4. Take inventory of this year.  Before using any of your freshly preserved foods take inventory of everything you have just preserved and made.
  5. Take inventory again next summer.  At the beginning of next summer take inventory again and see what’s left.  Did you make way too many pickles?  Did you run out of corn half way through winter?  The start of the next preservation season is a great time to assess.

Combine all of these steps to come up with a summer preservation plan.  The first year or two will take some work.  But after that you’ll have a running list of how much you need to preserve, when the produce will be ready, about how much it will cost and any necessary recipes and equipment (jars, lids, freezer bags or containers, etc.).

You can tweak the plan every year to meet the needs of your growing (or shrinking) family, the state of the crops (there probably won’t be as much peach, pear and apple canning this year!) and your schedule (a long summer vacation could mean you miss out on a particular fruit or vegetable).  Then enjoy a perfectly stocked freezer and pantry all year long.

Mary Voogt is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother of two. After 6 years as an electrical engineer she now stays home full time. She is passionate about real food and enjoys spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking from scratch. She blogs at Homemade Dutch Apple Pie on a variety of topics including digestive issues, OCD, anxiety, infertility, natural parenting and healthy food.

Controlling the Grocery Budget

guest author Jana Christian

Late last year, I made the difficult decision to quit my part-time job to devote more time and energy to my family who, at the time, showed signs of needing my undivided attention. So, with my husband’s encouragement, I typed up the resignation letter and, as of January 1, began a new career as a stay-at-home mom.

Suddenly, my full-time job became controlling costs and my first order of business was tackling the monthly grocery bill. This is a serious task for anyone, but as a parent of two children with potentially life-threatening food allergies, my job was even more difficult. Over the past few months, I have made vast improvements to our budget, despite my desire to maintain serving my family very high quality food. Here is some of what I have learned:

 

1. Cook at Home

I know, this is a no-brainer, but it really is worth repeating. Not only is it cheaper, it is healthier since you can control both portion sizes and quality. It doesn’t have to be gourmet; it simply needs to fulfill your basic needs. In fact, my children love “Funny Dinner” when they get to choose their own meal from what is available in the fridge. They may end up with air-popped popcorn sometimes and leftover chicken and carrot sticks, but it’s still better than fast food!

And while I’m on the topic, you can make more than just dinner in your kitchen. You could be saving hundreds of dollars a year (honestly) by making your own side dishes (oven fries are a cinch), snacks (who needs potato chips when you have homemade bagels or chocolate chip cookies?), nut butters, breakfast cereal, spice mixes, salad dressings, broth and even frozen yogurt. Since starting this cost cutting adventure several months ago, I have cut down our breakfast costs considerably by mastering the art of making bagels, waffles and muffins, granola and yogurt.

meal planning

photo credit: perspicacious

 

2. Meal Plan

There are thousands of books, websites and even entire organizations devoted to meal planning and there are as many methods to meal planning as there are families. My first introduction to meal planning was rather unsuccessful as I used a technique that was too structured for our lifestyle. Now, instead of planning a rigid calendar-based menu weeks in advance, I keep staples on hand for several quick meals (when everyone is tired and hungry) and purchase other fresh foods for more involved meals that will provide leftovers for lunches. This way, I am not frustrated when no one is in the mood for pizza or a sudden heat wave motivates me to get out of the kitchen!

 

3. Shop Smarter

Couponing has never worked for our family. Typical foods that can be purchased with a coupon are not safe for food allergies and many of them are devoid of nutritional value. In addition, the only supermarket in my area has been listed in Consumer Reports as the highest priced grocery chain in the US so I have not shopped there in years. Instead, I shop at small health food and specialty stores and remain vigilant about prices. I simply keep the cost comparison in my head, but it may be necessary to create an actual price notebook in which the product name, size and the per unit cost of the item is listed. More major companies are decreasing the amount of product in a package to help defray rising costs.

SALES/DISCOUNTS/INCENTIVES

  • I take advantage of sale items and case/bulk discounts and have been known to combine the two when the sale is good! For example, when the health food store put organic oats on sale for 79 cents a pound, I purchased an entire 25 lb. bag to take advantage of the added discount for bulk purchases.
  • Sign up for preferred customer cards if they help you earn discount coupons or other incentives.
  • Several local stores also provide motivation for bringing your own bags in the form of percentage savings off your total purchase or instant cash back.

PRIORITIZE

I keep a list of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” in my purse and purchase those items organic, but opt for conventional when purchasing produce that is rated lowest in pesticides (the “Clean 15”). Also, I keep one dozen organic eggs in the fridge at all times, but I will buy cheaper eggs for making my protein pancakes that only use the whites. I will also prioritize my organic purchases based on what my family consumes most often… my son drinks a LOT of milk so that is purchased organic, but he doesn’t eat cauliflower as often so I buy that conventional.

View over Gaias Ängar

photo credit: mattiasostmar

 

4. Get Out of the Store

Although typical CSAs (community sustained agriculture) can be pricey, there are many different options for purchasing produce directly from the farmer. Obviously, farmers markets are a viable option. We also have access to a year-round indoor/outdoor market with more than 100 vendors specializing in meats, cheeses, produce, baked goods, pasta and spices. Some vendors provide frequent shopper savings and will even email you an update on what produce will be available that week.

CO-OPs

To lower costs even more, get together with several friends and start a mini co-op by agreeing to purchase a large amount of produce directly from a farmer for a reduced rate and then splitting the bounty between participants.

Another option is purchasing from an existing cooperative. Most major cities have a freestanding cooperative store from which you can purchase all your grocery items. Invest in the cooperative financially or with volunteer hours and you can get a reduced rate. Smaller co-ops do not have the added cost of overhead, they may simply be run out of a family home, but may require more work on your part for order placement and dividing up purchased goods. Check out coopdirectory.org to see what is offered in your area or information about how to start your own.

BUYING CLUBS

Buying clubs are also growing in popularity. Generally, a group of families work together to place a large order with one of these national distributors and the completed order is then be delivered to a local drop-site or one participant’s home. There is some coordination of time and goods involved, but it can be cost effective if you do not have access to a reasonable health food store.

 

5. Don’t Waste

On average, Americans waste about one pound of food per day. Eliminate this waste and you could be saving yourself a great deal of money each month. You can cut down or even eliminate waste using several techniques:

First, use more delicate produce quickly, but keep some vegetables and fruits that can be stored for longer periods of time as well. This same concept can be applied by purchasing some produce fresh and others frozen. There is little difference in nutrient density between the two and frozen can be a better option if it is either cheaper or you know you will be unable to use up fresh fruits or vegetables before they go to waste.

If I notice I have an abundance of something (milk was on sale or the broccoli is past its prime) or need to use up a leftover (Thanksgiving turkey, anyone?), I will do an internet search for recipes using that ingredient. Allrecipes.com goes one step further by allowing you to choose the ingredients you do not want to include. This allows me to narrow my search by eliminating any recipes that include one of the potentially allergenic foods.

 

To be honest, I had no idea what my new job as stay-at-home mom would entail and how it would change my perspective on a great many parenting issues, including budgeting. I welcome you into this community of like-minded moms who share a passion for healthy eating on a budget and invite you to learn more about the topic (and yourself) every day!

natural living momsJana Christian, mother of two, recently transitioned to full-time stay-at-home mom. Her extensive knowledge about and passion for health and nutrition have helped her resolve her own personal health issues (including a life-threatening eating disorder and severe postpartum depression) and adjust her family’s diet to accommodate multiple food allergies and environmental sensitivities. Jana takes her job very seriously and can unusually either be found at the library researching new theories or in the kitchen baking bread.

 

 

How to do control your grocery budget?

*This post is linked to Frugal Friday



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