Do you need a new menu for dinner that isn’t super difficult but the whole family will love? I make tuna casserole for my daycare kids and they can’t get enough of it. I love it too. I have a formula for making my own homemade hamburger helper type meals that save me time and money on food, but are made without all the harmful chemicals that come in processed food. This tuna casserole is a spin on that idea.
Tag Archive for healthy food
Do you feel like your kitchen is too tiny to cook in? Space is at a premium in my small 1,100 square foot home and I have a very tiny kitchen. I run a full time daycare and preschool and we still live in here. I make several scratch meals a day in my kitchen. I have cranked out hundreds of cupcakes, raised $800 selling homemade bread, and even had a dinner making business for over a year in here.
Is it possible to eat healthy and save money? I hear people say all the time, it’s expensive to eat well. There are many reasons why it’s much less expensive to eat high quality, nutritious food. Let me show you a new way of looking at it.
I love being able to make just about anything we want to eat with what we have in the pantry. It took me many years to learn how to cook without having to run to the store for every recipe. One thing that saves me tons of time and money is using my daycare menu, planning out meals for the fam, and only shopping once a month for staple items.
I shop with Oklahoma Food Co-op once a month for my beef, wheat berries, yogurt when I don’t make it, and cheese. I also buy any pork products I may use from them as well. I try to buy local fruits and veggies when they have them available. Other products I may buy include garden plants, peanuts, peanut butter, and pasta. I love the Co-op because I know the food they sell comes from Oklahoma producers. I love to shop local.
I go to a local fruit company to buy produce in between my monthly shopping trip. I can get in and out of the small store with some local products and it doesn’t take me as long as going into a big supermarket. We also, during the gardening season, eat from what we grow, so I don’t usually go to the fruit store during summer.
I also shop for dairy products at Braum’s each week. I use Braum’s because there are not hormones in their milk. I get milk, cottage cheese, and butter there. I will also pick up bananas if I don’t need anything else from the fruit store to save a trip.
When planning our monthly shopping trip, I make a detailed list of what I would buy from the store we shop at. If I send my husband to the store, we save money because he only gets what is on the list and doesn’t do a lot of impulse buying like I do. He’s willing to go, so that’s a good way for us to save money.
Menus help cut down on waste
I have a shopping list that corresponds with my daycare menu, and I go through that and write down on our shopping list what we need. A great way to save money would be to use the grocery store ads to plan your family’s meals for the month. Use whatever is on the front page of the ads that is actually healthy, whole, real food, to plan them out.
Another great way to save time and money is by buying in bulk. I love to order bulk grains online and have them delivered in 25 or 50 pound bags so I don’t have to buy that for months and I don’t have a ton of tiny packages that get wasted in the landfill or have to be recycled. I get as much of my food in bulk as possible. Also, if you have 25 pounds of several products, if something happened to interrupt your food supply, you are prepared. I like knowing I have something to feed everyone no matter what.
I order these items in bulk:
Now let’s talk about what items I always have on hand:
Wheat berries to grind whole wheat flour (Soft and hard wheat)
Baking Soda and Powder
Cream of Tartar
A couple of kinds of cereal
A couple of kinds of crackers
Bulk assorted meats frozen
A few bags of frozen vegetables or multiple packages of veggies frozen from the garden
Cheeses (I always have cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, but like lots of kinds of cheeses.)
Rice milk for those of us who cannot tolerate cow’s milk
Fresh fruits and veggies including lemons and limes plus whatever is in season
Tomato products (usually frozen from garden produce, but some canned for when we run out)
Jars of pickles
Raisins (sometimes homemade)
White vinegar for cleaning and cooking
Apple cider vinegar
Buying monthly cuts down on travel time and impulse buying
I can pretty much make anything I want to make with these items. I rarely have to go out and buy something to cook with and I cook an average of 4 meals a day including snack for the kids. If we want any sweet treats, I make those here, they are much healthier than store bought. They taste better too.
It’s so much easier to come up with a plan for dinner when you have food on hand and don’t have to run to the store every day to come up with a meal. I love knowing if we got snowed in or anything like that, we could still find something to make to eat. If you buy your food in bulk to cut down on packaging and well as wasting gas and time running to the store every night.
I have everything I need for tons of different meals made from scratch. I cook inexpensively using lots of oats, rice, pasta, and beans for our meals. These items are nutritious and very inexpensive.
Here are 23 things I could make from what I have:
Scrambled eggs, bacon and toast
Broccoli rice casserole
Roast with potatoes and carrots
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Sausage Biscuits or Biscuits and gravy
Chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and veggies
Meatballs or meatloaf
Obviously there are hundreds more, these are just a few ideas. I hope you take these ideas and make a plan of your own to save time and money.
Don’t forget to pin for later.
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I was amazed when I found out what kohlrabi was. I didn’t think there was a vegetable we could grow that I had never heard of, but my garden mentor, Doug, told me about this crazy alien looking veggie and I could not love it any more than I do!
Kohlrabi is AMAZING! It takes like broccoli stems, only a little sweeter. I love it raw, steamed, sautéed, or roasted and I love the leaves as well. The kids really love growing it and most of them like it as well. They much prefer it cooked over raw though.
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When I decided to start growing kohlrabi to see what it tasted like, everyone I told about it had never heard of it, so I thought I would share about it here in case you never have either. It’s so much fun to watch it grow. It takes a relatively small space so you can grow quite a few in a pretty small area.
When we grow kohlrabi, we start the seeds inside. We sow some directly into the soil outside but we always have better luck with our indoor seedlings. Last year, somehow we killed all of our seedlings, so we had to buy starts from a local nursery.
Kohlrabi grows fairly quickly compared to Brussels sprouts or broccoli. We like fast at Little Sprouts, the faster the better!
The kohlrabi grows on a small root and right above the ground a strange bulb comes up and forms just above the soil surface. You continue to let it grow, and cut it off at the ground when it’s about baseball size. I have seen some as big as softballs, and I have seen some smaller than a baseball, but baseball size is just about right for maximum deliciousness in my book. Click the image below to order your own kohlrabi seeds.
I have seen green and purple varieties. We have grown both. I love showing the kids different colors of veggies, like rainbow carrots or Easter egg or watermelon radishes. I love to see the awe and wonder they show.
We have been growing kohlrabi since our first gardening year and we have fallen in LOVE. The kids LOVE how funny it looks too. It’s an adventure in the garden.
Click here to see what we are growing in our preschool garden. It’s tons of fun.
Share in the comments what you are growing in your garden and if you have heard of kohlrabi before now?
You won’t believe what happened in our garden one spring. Spring is springing and you want to garden. What should you be doing now? Here are a few things that should be happening if you are going to grow your own food.
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- Here in Oklahoma, the weeds are coming up in the lawn and it’s about time for the first mowing-ALREADY! We didn’t really have a winter this year, so I’m worried about the pest populations, but all I can do is watch and wait. The purple weeds are covering the lawn, which is cool because I have seen bees buzzing on them, but I don’t want them taking over my garden beds, so chore number one is get on those weeds before they get big! Click here to see how to control weeds without chemicals. One key is you have to keep after them, or they will take over.
- If you are planning new garden beds, it’s a great time to be tilling or building raised beds to prepare the ground for planting. Getting everything prepared for planting is an important step in garden success.
- Planning where you will plant which plants is really important to make your garden as good as it can be. Plan, plan, plan! Draw your garden out on paper and make a map of what will go where. Make sure to pay attention to how big each thing grows so they will have plenty of room once they get into full growth mode. A tomato plant, for instance, can be only a few inches tall, but it can end up being over 7 feet and sprawling all over a 10-foot bed depending on what kind it is. You want your plants to have enough room to thrive and not to be choked out by other, more aggressive plants.
- It’s time to plant the early season seeds. Many things can grow in cool weather including broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, beets, kale, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes, chard, greens, and much more. Click here to see what all you can be planting from seed right now.
- It’s also time to plant seedlings for your cold hardy crops. We will be planting cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower as soon as it stops raining so we can get them in the ground. For us in our climate, we have better luck with cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage if we plant seedlings instead of seeds, so we do this as soon as the ground is workable.
Check out seeds of the month club for a great deal on seeds! I love my subscription!
- If you are planting any perennial plants such as fruit trees, bushes, strawberry plants or asparagus, those can be planted around this time. This year, we hope to plant a couple of pear trees and another apple tree. Let me tell you about the year we planted asparagus in the garden. Asparagus is awesome because you plant it once, and after a few years of patiently waiting, you can harvest it for 25 years or more. In fact, when I was a kid, we used to harvest asparagus in the country where my grandma lived that was actually planted on homesteads from the Oklahoma land run! Asparagus would grow along those homesteads that were since abandoned and grandma knew where to find it. That was some serious production from some plants. It’s a little effort, great reward plant. It will make you feel like a super success. When we planted our second asparagus bed here at Little Sprouts, we worked for a few minutes putting all the little crowns on mounds of dirt just like the instructions said. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. Over a month went by and there was no sign of life in those crowns. I decided to do some reading and after some research I realized…we had planted them all upside down. The little things I thought were the roots were actually the tops and the top nubs were what I though was roots. They had these little fuzzy things on them that I thought were roots. The roots of asparagus are actually very thick like fingers. I’ll tell ya how that turned out in a minute, but for now, let’s get back to our things to be doing in spring.
- Check all of your hoses and sprinklers and water supply and make sure nothing needs to be repaired or replaced for the upcoming watering season. There is nothing worse than realizing your garden is over dry, but not having the supplies handy to water and having to get everything done then.
- Check all of your tools and make sure you don’t need new things like gloves, shovels or a new hoe to get weeds with. Having your tools ready and clean helps you find success in your garden as well.
- If anything in your yard has overgrown and created too much shade in your garden, now is a great time to trim or prune it back so your garden will have plenty of sunshine.
A little bit of planning goes a long way for success in the garden. Get your garden chores done ahead of the busy garden season and you’ll find your garden to be delightful fun for you as well as more successful. There is nothing worse than getting overwhelmed with a ton of garden work and not be able to keep up with it. We have a 30 x 50 space and a 20 x 80 space with over 50 raised beds from 2 x 2 to 3 x 10 in size. We have to stay on top of it to be able to keep up. For us, it’s about all we can do. It’s our dream to grow as much of our food as possible for us and the daycare kids, so it’s a big job. The kids work in the garden, but it takes a lot of outside time as well. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had working my hiney off.
Now let’s get back to my asparagus story. I thought it was a total loss, but we decided to actually turn them all over after they had baked in the sun for a month. Can you guess what happened? They actually GREW and are still producing asparagus to today. This is going to be the first year we can pick the whole season in that bed and I’m super excited as the little tops have just started poking up out of the ground. It was definitely worth taking the time to try again. Remember there is so much to learn in the garden. You are going to make mistakes, and you are going to have success. As you learn you will have more success than failure and it’s a wonderful feeling!
What are you planning to do in your garden this week?
Sometimes it’s hard to find enough space to grow everything you’d like to. There are some clever ways to grow more things in a smaller space, or even in your front yard landscaping if you just look for them. How could you find out how to make the most of your space? There are a few secrets that can help your food growing dreams become realities.
I love getting a new book. I adore books, and gardening books are my favorite. There is so much joy that comes from studying and dreaming about what things we could grow. This is our 5th year to grow food in our garden with success, and I am super stoked about what is to come this year.
Our first year in the garden we got way more than I ever dreamed, but I didn’t measure it in any tangible way. So we’ll just say we grew a wow amount of food. Our second year, we didn’t measure either, but we had a ton of fun.
In 2013, we started weighing our produce in order to measure our progress. Our year’s total was a whopping 664 pounds. At that time, we had a large pear tree producing and it put out 268 pounds of pears, the rest of that was garden fruits and veggies.
In 2014, we amped up our goal to 500 pounds of non-pear tree food and we smashed it with a total of 820 pounds of food!
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Last year our pear tree blew over in a storm and left us pear less. We were heart broken, but set our goal at 1,000 pounds of food overall. We have planted some fruit trees and they were loaded with fruit on their tiny frames, we had finished building an expansion to our garden, and we had all of the beds filled for the first time. This goal seemed doable. It was a year riddled with terrible weather, flooding and then incredible heat and drought. Many gardeners I know had no garden at all. Then we had an onslaught of animal pillages and bug overloads. Our goal of 1,000 pounds of food fell by the wayside as disaster after disaster struck our garden. We ended up with a very respectable 678 pounds of healthy, delicious, chemical free food. We were disappointed as well as blessed.
The goal at Little Sprouts is to grow as much of the food the daycare kids eat as we can. We want to provide them with chemical free, safe, and healthy food, and that’s what drives us. Check out more about why we are growing our own food here.
When I heard the title of this book, “Gardening Like a Ninja”, I was instantly interested. I knew this would help us make the most of our space. I went to Amazon and preordered the book and waited patiently for it to become available. When it arrived, the first thing I noticed is that it was stunning. The pictures on the front cover were so inviting and beautiful and as I flipped through the book, it was equally beautiful throughout.
Over the past few years we began tucking beautiful edibles into our landscaping to provide more food for us. When I saw “Gardening Like a Ninja”, I was so excited to find so many more ideas for how we can do even more of that. Many people have HOAs or other organizations that control what they are allowed to grow in the front yard. We don’t have such a thing in my neighborhood, but if we did, I know we could get away with growing how we are, because it’s just stunning. Check out my friend Shawna’s front yard garden by clicking here.
“Gardening Like a Ninja” is a guide to sneaking delicious edibles into your landscape. There are three parts to the book, why sneak edibles into your landscape, original edible garden designs, and plants that matter. The book covers all 4 seasons and how to create interest in each one. It also covers using your senses in the garden and different shapes, sizes and colors. There is even a section on garden basics for the beginner.
I love this book and have been pouring over and over every page for weeks. I have read every word and learned a ton of new ideas and information. I had never even thought about making my whole mailbox planter edible or how gorgeous strawberries would look in there.
The book addresses patio designs, small spaces, pathways, foundation plantings, corners, and all types of spaces. “Gardening Like a Ninja” also has information on different types of food such as peas, strawberries, melons, sweet potatoes, cilantro, sunflowers and whatever else you can think of that would look beautiful in your landscape design. I know I have used sweet potatoes as decorative plants many times. One year we planted them in our front flower bed and it was gorgeous all summer long. We got so many complements from the neighbors and my daycare families. At the end of the season, we dug them up and there were 89 POUNDS of sweet potatoes under all those gorgeous vines! WOWIE!
There is so much information packed into this book. It’s 175 pages of delightful photos and wonderful ideas about how to grow more food in little space. It helps us remember how gorgeous blueberry bushes are and how stunning asparagus ferns can be. Don’t forget to sneak some edibles into your landscape and enjoy even more food than you ever thought possible no matter how small your growing space is. We have ¼ of an acre here plus 20 x 80 feet in an empty field next door, and we are growing all of this food by making the best of the space we have. We still have to have space in the back yard for a playground for the daycare kids and we have a lot of very shaded areas back there, so we are doing a lot with a very small amount of land. Even if you are in an apartment, you can grow food in containers like my daughter is doing.
Get your kids out in the dirt and get your hands on this book right away so you can make the most of your space too!
Click here to check it out on Amazon.
Making traditional foods like bone broth is good for your family, good for your health, and good for your wallet. All you need is a little know how to easily provide the most nourishing diet for your family. It’s so worth taking the time to make real food from whole, unprocessed ingredients so you know what you are putting in your bodies and you can have the most nutritious diet possible on the budget you have.
Processed foods are full of chemicals that not only do not nourish you, they can make you sick. Anything you purchase for your family to eat should have as few ingredients as possible for optimal health. If you can’t pronounce what’s in your food, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
Bone broth is teeming with benefits and it’s super simple to make. If you are cooking with store bought stock, you are missing out on a ton of flavor, and the opportunity to cook with a lot more nutrients. Not only that, the store bought stock is full of salt and artificial flavorings that don’t provide health for those you love.
Bone broth is one of my favorite traditional foods because you can make it for just about free. You just take bones you would have otherwise thrown away, and extract all the delicious nutrients contained inside them. You can also use scraps from other cooking to enhance the flavor and nutrition of your stock.
Bone broth has innumerable health benefits. It’s full of anti-inflammatory properties and body healing and building benefits. Click here and here to read about the amazing things traditional bone broth has to offer.
A great time to make stock is after a holiday meal when you have a carcass of a turkey or a big ham bone available. If you can’t cook it up right away, just wrap it up and toss it in the freezer for a time when you can.
A great stock making tip is to save the ends of your onions, carrots, and garlic, or the peels and ends of other foods in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Every time you prepare a meal, put your trimmings in the bag until you have a full bag, then you can make vegetable stock, or add in bones and make bone stock. If you boil or steam veggies on the stove, you can put your leftovers in the stock bag and even the liquid. Cooking liquid is full of nutrition from those veggies. It will add flavor and nutrients to your homemade stocks.
Stock can be used to make soups and stews, but it’s also a great ingredient for casseroles, pot pies and dressing. You can cook your pasta or rice in it to add amazing flavor or you can even cook your mashed potatoes in it for an amazing punch of flavor. You can use it for the cooking water to steam your veggies or even add it to stir fries and other dishes. It’s super versatile.
Bone broth is so nutritious, you’ll want to find as many ways as possible to get it into your diet. When you’re sick, broth is a great healer, just heat some up in a mug and sip away. You’ll be feeling better in no time. It’s also very comforting.
When you cook your bone broth, you just throw everything in a big stock pot and fill your pot with water. Turn it on high and put the lid on. Using the lid helps steam the bones and extract more nutrients, but it also saves water and energy by making the liquid heat up faster. Once the water is boiling, you’ll want to turn the heat as low as it will go. If you get distracted by a child needing help snapping their pants in the bathroom, the juice will boil over all over the top of your stove. I’m not saying that’s happened, I’m just saying it can.
Once the stock is boiling, you’ll want to continue to let it boil for at least 4 hours and up to 48. You can also add a teaspoon or two of vinegar to help the bones release their nutrients. Don’t use any salt or pepper when you’re boiling the stock, you can add that at the end to taste if you wish. If you add it in the beginning, it will concentrate as it cooks and become too salty.
Let the broth cool and strain out all the solids and pack in containers to store in the freezer. I use quart size containers and even mason jars will work if you don’t like using plastic. I never remember to thaw them out to use them, so I like the open top containers that the giant block of stock ice can plop out of. Remember for any container to leave an inch of space at the top so the liquid has room to expand.
So far our grand tally of pounds of produce grown has reached over 300 pounds. We grew 125 pounds of it so far in July. Wow, can you believe that? There is still a lot more garden season to come.
We’ve had many failures, but we’ve been enjoying lots of delicious food as well. It’s so much fun to go out in the back yard and get something for your lunch or dinner. When you can make a meal with mostly home grown foods, it’s even more satisfying. Our produce purchases have gone way down. Last week we bought a bunch of bananas, a small watermelon, and two avocados. Everything else we ate, we grew! I am required to serve 4 servings of fruits or vegetables per day to my kids and there are 7 of them, so just that is a lot of produce!
AMAZING! I love that, and my budget loves it too. I love turning a $1 packet of seeds into 30 pounds of produce. It’s like magic. If you want to read about how to get started, click here.
Check out what kinds of things we’ve been eating from our magical garden.
What are you growing?
The garden is all a bustle in June. In Oklahoma we got a lot of rain and then the weather warmed way up. The garden is growing like gangbusters! The kids are enjoying every minute of learning the garden has to offer. We are harvesting healthy food right and left. My Little Sprouts and I have harvested about 98 pounds of food this month! So far this year, we are over 176! Wowie! Can you imagine what those numbers could be by the end of the year? We are hoping to grow most of our summer food and still have some to put up for the winter in the freezer.
We have harvested potatoes, asparagus, peas, broccoli, blueberries, basil, thyme, green beans, dry beans, kale, lettuce, carrots, garlic, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, kohlrabi, dill, cilantro, and parsley. The kids are enjoying the garden tremendously and learning so much! They learn social skills, stewardship, taking turns, patience, and even about pollinators! They are learning how to recognize plants, fruits, and vegetables as well as building knowledge about natural practices, life cycles, beneficial verses non-beneficial insects, and building their fine and gross motor skills. They are getting lots of exercise, sunshine and fresh air as well as great nutritious food to enjoy for their meals. We know where our food is coming from and we know it is not full of harmful chemicals. The kids are learning how to clean and prepare food for eating as well. The best part is every child has learned to like a wider variety of foods and has tried many new experiences. The garden is so amazingly beautiful. It’s full of so many lessons and so much information. It’s paradise on earth and it gives us so many wonderful gifts. Teaching children at a young age about the glory of the garden is a project worthy of our attention and efforts.