Dirty Dozen & Clean 15, And Me

I assume since you are here, you’re trying to eat healthy/ier, as I am. Each year I read the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list to see where things stand. I always hope for the best, and I’m always dismayed at the amount of pesticides in our food.

Today was no different. I had the opportunity to sit down and read the article, and take a look at the study. I updated my lists in the Memo section of my phone (so I have them when I’m shopping), and was reminding of how much I want to live in a place where I can grow my food. I’m hoping my parents actually get back into this after my step-father retires. It’s been a couple of years since they’ve done their garden, but I’m guessing they’ll be back at it next spring. Or hoping.

What does this mean for me? I have to be careful of:

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach (I eat a lot of this!)
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery

I eat a lot of those foods. The others on the list aren’t eaten often, but I will have to keep them in mind so I am prepared. I’ve listed all 12 on my Yuck! list in my phone, and all the Clean 15 on my Yum! list. I’m so excited to have avocado, pineapple, and cabbage on my Yum! list, as well as honey-dew and cantaloupe. I hate that I have to spend more to get the organic versions of the other items I want. I can’t always afford to, but I try to when possible.

Are you changing the way you eat to accommodate these lists? Let us know how in the comments.

Happy spring!




Farmers’ Market Shopping by Shannon L. Buck

Shopping Locally is the Way to Go

Shopping at a farmers’ market is a lot of fun. They offer many items and a lot of the fresh produce sold at these events is very reasonably priced, if you know when to shop. I shop in Orono, Maine, because it is close to my home. This makes it easy to purchase fresh produce and other needs from a local source.

Granted, these farmers do not generally live right down the street from us. The markets allow various farmers to come together in one place for us to visit once or twice per week. This saves fuel in two ways: 1) Products are not being shipped in from other states and/or countries, and 2) all farmers’ market customers do not have to travel here-and-there-and-everywhere to purchase state grown products.

I’ve noticed that when I visit the market an hour or so before they close, I can usually get even better deals on the fresh produce. Why can you get better deals at the end of the day? Because the farmers don’t want to have to take the fresh produce and baked goods, or even the frozen items, back home with them if they can help it. They grew and/or made these items to be purchased, not to be brought back home. The products may not last until the next farmers’ market, so the seller may be more apt to bargain toward the end of the day.

Our local farmers’ market has more than just fresh produce. I’ve seedlings, soaps, homemade jams, jellies, butters, pies, breads, and more. Even frozen seafood and dried herbs. Last year, someone was selling homemade, organic dog treats. These wonderful products are just what I’m looking for.

I find that almost all of the products offered at a farmers’ market are organic. If an item is not organic, I can choose not to purchase it. I want to purchase as many natural, organic products as possible, so this is a very attractive reason for me to shop at the farmers’ market rather than the grocery store. I also like the fact that the products are made and/or grown in my home state.

To shop a farmers market, you need a few things

1. Reusable shopping bags, which you will want an abundance of.

2. The knowledge of what you need, and how much you’ll be able to use before your next visit.

3. The knowledge of how to preserve and/or store anything you are able to get a good price on.

Stock up when you find good deals at a farmer’s market

You don’t want to stock up on anything that wont last until you can eat or use it up, but you’ll want to take advantage of good deals on the items that will last. This will save you money in the long run.

I’m now going to offer you up an assignment. I’d like for each reader to visit a nearby farmers’ market. Spend some time there. Ask about the products that are of interest to you. Find out if they are organic, if the sellers are willing to bargain at the end of the day, and how often the sellers attend that particular farmers’ market. When you return home, comment here to let us know how things went and what you learned.


Quick Tip: Now is the Time for Thanksgiving Savings

Gather the sales fliers and clip those coupons. It is time to be looking for deals on Thanksgiving and autumn related items such as foods, candles, and other kitchen needs.

Saving money on these items now is a great way to stock your pantry for the coming winter and next year. Look for cans of pumpkin, spices, paper plates, cups, and bowls. Table cloths, napkins, dish towels, platters, and more items will be found. Take advantage if you can. Anything on sale this time of year is fair game.

While many things can be put away to use while decorating the kitchen and table for Thanksgiving next year, the food items can be used throughout the winter.

First year doing this? Keep track of how many of each item you buy, what the regular price for each item was, the sale price, and the coupon discount. How much did you save overall?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Simple Ways to Eat Healthier While Saving Money

Consuming nutritious food is important to our health, but can also be darn expensive. I could easily spend around $60.00 a week to eat healthy, but can’t really afford to do so very often. There is only one of me! It would be far less expensive to eat Ramen noodles and boxed mac and cheese, with cans of corn and peas, but I want better than that. I want fresh produce at each meal, along with some protein, because I feel better when I’m eating healthy.

So, how do I eat healthy while not spending $60.00 a week on food?

  • I drink water.
  • I drink tea.
  • I make my own iced teas, lemonades, and fruit waters. No sugar, just some raw honey in the lemonade – and not even as much of that as most people seem to use.
  • I have meat most meals, but don’t go overboard on the serving size. I fill in with more vegetables, usually carrots or celery, along with the vegetable servings I’m already consuming.
  • I don’t use a lot of flour and other baking needs. I try to eat more fresh foods, less processed.
  • I drink smoothies, using leftovers of fresh produce. Even vegetables! This way, I don’t waste anything.
  • I try not to stuff myself too full.
  • I use some leftovers in casseroles and meatloaf.
  • I freeze every bit of food left over from meals and snacks, if it’s freezable and I know I wont use it right off. I even have little freezable containers that only hold a couple of tablespoons of food. And then I use them.
  • I bring leftovers home after eating out, and use them to make new meals.
  • I make slow cooker meals almost every week, enjoying the meal for dinner, then packing up the rest to bring to work so I don’t have to order out so much.
  • I buy nut milks, but don’t drink them at every meal or even every day.
  • I accept food items from those who offer. Fresh produce from my parents garden. Fresh eggs from Tam. Samples dropped off at work by local restaurants. Even if it isn’t healthy, it can be paired with very healthy sides. A treat once in a while is okay in my book.

How do you save money on food? Share with us in the comments, or email me directly at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. I respond to all email.



The Experiment: Saving Money by Not Using a Shopping List

If you read Try This to Save Money on Groceries and A New Way to Plan Meals, you know I was planning an experiment. I meant to do this before now, but the temperatures have been too low for me to walk from Walmart to work. Ordinarily I do the shopping then walk to work, placing my food in the refrigerator until my shift is over. However, I’ve not been able to shop regularly because my asthma kicks in at drastically low temperatures.

This weekend has been marvelous! And I decided today was the day to shop.

Ordinarily I plan my menu before I go to the store, shop sales, and use coupons (trying to use sales with coupons when I can!) and keep it all very organized. Today I decided to do things a little differently. I did not plan a menu, except to know that I wanted lemons and limes so I could make some lemon-limeade this week. I also needed some almond milk.

I did take stock of what I have available at home. I was all set with:

  • Organic diced tomatoes
  • Organic coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut cream
  • Organic coconut oil
  • Organic ghee
  • Organic almond flour
  • Organic coconut flour
  • Organic tapioca flour
  • Organic raw honey
  • Organic maple syrup
  • Eggs (A few store-bought + 1 dozen farm fresh from my friend Tam!)
  • Carrots
  • Sausage, enough for 1 meal
  • Frozen fruits, for smoothies (Some melon chunks, and some citrus fruits.)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 side salad
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 Buttercup squash

Keep in mind, I usually have most of the above items on hand before a grocery shopping trip.

During a good shopping trip, where I buy quite a bit, it would not be uncommon for me to spend between $60.00 and $65.00. Just for me. And that is (mostly) good-for-you stuff, with just a few items that are processed and not real good for you to lessen costs a little.

I did not want to spend that much, and I wanted to test out my theory that one can save money without planning for a shopping trip, while buying many of the less expensive things and still getting enough healthy food to feed oneself for the week.

Stew meat, on sale at $3.80 per pound = $16.07 (saved $7.53)

Organic spinach and arugula, good size package, 5 ounces = $3.28

Almond milk, 1/2 gallon = $2.98

Vegetable tray (cherry tomatoes, green beans, celery, carrots), 2 1/2 cups = $5.98

Organic Red Delicious apples, 7 count = $3.67

Kiwi, 3 = $1.35

Bananas, 4 = .77

Limes, 4 = $1.32

Green cabbage, 1.94 pounds = $1.32

Strawberries, 1 pound = $1.98 (Saved $.50)

Meyer lemons, 7 count = $1.98

Sweet potatoes, 2.15 pounds = $2.11

Red potatoes, 1.19 pounds =$1.17

Total Spent = $43.98

Savings over a typical week = $16.02 – $21.02

  • I can get quite a few meals out of the stew meat, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes, when using them with the carrots and squash I have on hand.
  • The spinach and arugula will mainly be used in smoothies, but I might also make a couple of meals where I serve them with eggs and sausage. This will allow me to stretch the sausage to two meals, and be plenty filling.
  • I may also make some homemade applesauce.
  • I was so happy they had lemons and limes. They didn’t the last time I was in there.
  • I was surprised at how good the strawberries looked, and could not resist the price.
  • Organic is expensive, and I cannot afford to get everything this way. So I do what I can, with what is available. I hear apples are one of the worst fruits to buy non-organic, so I’m trying to be good with that. The same with the spinach.
  • I do know the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, but Walmart in my area does not always have organic options for everything, and I couldn’t afford to get all organic anyway.
  • I truly wish I could afford grass-fed, etc., meats, but they are just not in my budget.
  • The trays of organic vegetables did not look all that fresh this week, so I went with the non organic tray.
  • Notice how I did not use coupons, and only a couple of items were on sale, yet I still came in at less.

I’ll have to deal with what I have on hand now that the shopping trip is over, but I don’t think that will be a problem. Between my groceries and what I already had on hand, I am pretty well set.

Tomorrow is my day off, and I’ll spend it making meals for the week. I will better know afterward how many meals I have for the coming week.

Happy shopping!


A New Way to Plan Meals

Often times, the meal planning session takes place before the grocery shopping does. We look at sales papers, planning our shopping lists and meals around those discounted items. We use coupons for bigger discounts. Plan the menu for the coming week or two, then do the shopping.

Once I have tried my new (to me) way to shop and get it all home and put away, I will then plan my meals. That is right, I vow not to plan meals until the grocery shopping is done.

Step 1:

Shop according to Try This to Save Money on Groceries.

Step 2:

Put all the food  away once I get it home, noting what items I already had on hand. I will likely make a list of those items, to go along with my shopping receipt list of items.

Step 3:

Sit down with my lists, a pen, and some paper. Split the paper into four sections: Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks.

Step 4:

Brainstorm ideas for the four sections, utilizing what foods I have on hand at this point. This may mean changing up recipes, which will actually give me more recipes to post here! Make the list.

Step 5:

Prepare any items I can in advance (Ex: Meal Prep for the Coming Week, More Workweek Meal Prep, Even More Workweek Prep, Plus), packing them into meal or snack size portions. These items will make it easy for me to pack my meals for work.

Step 6:

Remember that I don’t have to stick to my plan completely. Whenever I make a meal, I can switch it up using other ingredients I have on hand. Doing so allows for more creativity.

Have you tried planning meals after shopping? How does it work for you? Or, why does it not work? Does this meal planning method help to save money? Let us know in the comments below, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.


Try This to Save Money on Groceries

I don’t buy as many groceries as I used to and, when I do, I generally have a recipe in mind when I get to the store, as well as a shopping list and a menu planned. But, I’ve been wondering if there is a better way to shop that will allow me to save more money. After all, every penny counts these days.

My plan is to try a little something different during an upcoming shopping trip.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014

Step 1:

Start how what I normally do. Go through my coupons and the sales papers to see what sales I can match up with my money saving coupons. However, while I will make note of the item and the coupon value, I wont be making a main shopping list. I may not actually end up buying these items because there may be better deals.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014

Step 2:

Make a mental note other coupons I have, and be prepared to bring these to the store as well. I have an organizer for this.

Also note what my budget is. I will likely break this down by section. Ex: $12.00 for meats, $15.00 for fresh produce. But, maybe not. I might find it better, once I get to the store, not have a set amount per grocery store section. Maybe I will do two shopping trips, to see which is better.

Step 3:

Write down any foods I absolutely have to buy, whether I have a coupon or not. Non dairy milk and eggs are necessities most weeks, but I will not stick with my usual brand if another, more affordable brand costs less but offers the same needs nutritionally.

Spend a little time researching companies (I wont have to do this for every trip to the store) to determine which brands use BPA and other harmful toxins in their can/freezer bag linings. Note which companies do not, because I would rather buy from them.

Step 4:

Grab my coupons, make-shift list, reusable bags, and a pen, and calculator (I have one of these on my phone), and head to the grocery store.

Step 5:

Remember to look for in-store specials, which are not always advertised. Also try not to be brand loyal, and keep in mind that store brands are usually just as good as the name brand. In many cases, the store brand is the same exact product, with the label being the only difference.

Photogrpah by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Step 6:

Look around the store. Meat is essential, so I will check out what they have to offer. What are the cheapest cuts? Would a slightly more expensive cut be more affordable with a coupon? If not, go for the cheapest cuts and worry about what I will do with it when I get home.

Do the same in the produce section. Then with the eggs and the milk. Be sure my options are healthy ones, and I am not buying a lot of processed foods. Instead, I will use the money I save by not buying those foods to go toward more fresh, canned (packed in water), and frozen produce, or a little more meat. Or, I might use it to begin a stock of canned coconut milk or to buy some almond flour – a real treat.

Step 7:

Go home and put everything away, keeping my receipt handy to refer back to during a meal planning session.

It will be different, not having it all planned out by the time I get to the store, but I am hoping this method will save me a little more money on my grocery budget. I will keep you updated.

Do you have a similar method? Tell us about in the comments, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. What works for you? What does not?


Cooking for 1

Not only is grocery shopping for 1 different than doing so for many, but cooking for 1 can be as well. When I started cooking for myself, I was used to doing so for more people. My two daughters. Their friends. The daycare children who came into my home. There was a lot of cooking going on.

I remember going to the grocery store with my mother, standing there saying “I have no idea what I want to buy?” She told me to think about what I like. What I want. To never mind what I would make if the girls were home. It took me over a month to even feel good about the process.

Things are different now.

  • There’s not nearly as much cooking going on.
  • I know what I want when I go into the store, and I usually have enough on hand that I can change my mind (if I want) when it comes time to making a meal. There is a certain amount of freedom to that.
  • During very lean weeks I spend a bit less on food than I did when I was cooking for more than one, but not a whole lot because the cost of food has gone up a bit over the last few years. (During the not so lean weeks, I eat a more Paleo diet that costs more. For health reasons.)
  • Prep time is faster than it used to be for most recipes, saving me time. Always a plus.
  • If I have leftovers, they go into the refrigerator and I warm them up for my next meal. Quick and easy. But I can generally judge how much to cook so I don’t have leftovers if I wont be around to eat them or I know I will not want to eat the same meal again within a couple of days.
  • The food I need to buy for a week takes up much less space.
  • And I have a dorm size refrigerator in the room that I rent; is perfect for my needs.
  • I can now cook what I want, when I want. I don’t have to cater to anyone’s preferences except my own. Nobody’s desires. Just mine. If I want the same thing for dinner three nights a week, I can have it. If I want to change my mind about what I want to make for lunch, I do. It is a good thing 🙂

Getting used to these changes was difficult, happening gradually. But I’m pleased I have come through the changes just fine. You will as well 🙂

Have you gone through this process yourself? Let us know how it went for you. Offer up tips in the comments section for this post, or email me personally at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

You may be interested in the eCookBook Main Meal Magic.


Grocery Shopping for 1

Grocery shopping for one is different from grocery shopping for an entire family and daycare children. When I started shopping only for myself, I had no idea what I was doing. I would go into the grocery store and wonder, what do I want? and how much do I need just for me?

There are a number of things to take into consideration when you begin shopping just for yourself.

  1. What do you like to eat? Never mind what anyone else liked, it really is all about you now. So take some time before heading to the grocery store to decide what you want to eat this week.
  2. Make a note if you want to double or triple a recipe to have enough for leftovers, lunches, or freezer meals.
  3. Now decide how much of each food you’ll reasonably eat. You don’t need to buy for all those people, but you do need enough to feed yourself.
  4. Make a list of the ingredients you need to make what you like, adding those items you don’t already have on hand.
  5. Check the sales papers.
  6. Decide whether you want to stock up on pantry items.
  7. Search out coupons to use while shopping. Mark the items on your list that you have coupons for, so you remember when checking out.
  8. Grab your reusable shopping bags and head to the grocery store. Many stores give a small discount for each bag you reuse. Maybe .05 per bag.

Be aware that, on your first few trips out, you may find things you hadn’t realized you wanted. Decide that you’ll consider these for your next trip. Or, you could bring extra cash to cover one or two items.

How was your transaction to grocery shopping for 1? Let us know in the comments, or email me personally at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.


Best Ways to Save Money on Food While Keeping it Healthy

It’s difficult to eat healthy while sticking to a small budget, but it’s important we try. Our medical bills later on will be astronomical if we don’t, and the future of health insurance is unsure at this time.

  • Grow as much of your own food as possible. Having an indoor window garden for growing herbs year round will save quite a bit of money, as will having a garden outside.
  • Even a small garden where greens, carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes can be grown will allow you to save a lot of money on your grocery bill, especially if you learn how to extend the gardening season.
  • Be sure, when gardening, to use organic seeds. Heirloom varieties are the best choice, but any organic seeds will work. Find these online or in catalogs. Organic seeds may seem to cost a bit more, but will provide you with the healthiest possible produce.
  • Use organic soil for gardening as well. Make your own by building and maintaining compost bins. Don’t put anything that is not organic into the bin, and your soil will be the healthiest soil around.
  • Learn to can, freeze, and dry the foods you grow, and those that are given to you – or that you purchase. Canning supplies can be found at yard sales and in junk stores, but be sure to get new lids. Also, you may be able to find them free online.
  • Try to refrain from buying many overly processed foods. These are the least healthy.
  • Learn to make your own items, such as breads and pancakes, using healthy ingredients. Cooking and baking from scratch is usually cheaper in the long run.
  • Look for organic products such as tomato paste and pure vanilla extract, or at least products with no added sugar or ingredients that you are unfamiliar with. For convenience, Walmart sells unsweetened applesauce in individual containers. A multi pack costs under $2.00. Read the labels.
  • Couple coupons with sales on items you much purchase, whenever possible. Search these coupons out. Get on mailing lists for the companies.
  • Brand loyalty should only come into play when one brand has a healthier version of something than the other brand. For example, stick with a brand that offers no sugar and preservatives on an item. Forget about the brand that is loaded with both.
  • Store brands, when healthier than the name brands, are an option as well. The taste of store brand items is comparable, and sometimes better. If this generic brand is the same as the name brand nutrition wise, choose whatever is going to be more affordable after the coupon is applied.
  • Look for store coupons that can be applied to your overall grocery bill, even if that means stocking up on a few items (as long as they will get used). A general coupon of $7.00 off a total purchase of $75.00 is a good deal, if you can swing it. Especially if there is a good sale going on and you’re able to combine other coupons with some of the sale items. You will save even more money this way.
  • Farmers markets are great, but some of the items can be pricey. Check the prices. Cucumbers are often sold three or four for a dollar, and they are a good size. Zucchini is another good item to purchase, as are plant starts. Talk with the vendors about whether or not their products are organic. And, if it is close to closing time, ask about a discount on the more expensive fresh produce and meat products, as well as the eggs. You never know.
  • Farm stands often sell fresh items at affordable prices. Strike up a conversation with the owner to see if you can get a discount for buying a bunch of stuff right then.
  • Whenever someone offers you food items for free, take them. Then worry about figuring out how to use and store them. This will save you a great deal of money.
  • If you notice that someone owns a fruit tree or berry patch, and they don’t seem to take advantage of the bounty, ask if you can have the produce. They wont have to rake up all those little apples, making less work for them.

NOTE: If you are in an emergency food situation, nutrition be gone! Get to a food cupboard and take whatever they will give you. If you’re normally eating fairly nutritious meals, these foods will not hurt you sometimes. Unhealthy food is better than no food.