Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is it over yet?

Been doing a lot of traveling this month and doing some more traveling tomorrow, meaning I haven't been into stockpiling or shopping at all. Finally made it to Pros Ranch yesterday to pick up produce, mostly fruit because our home garden provides plenty of veggie type choices. I spent less than $28 total for 3 giant pork roasts, apples, oranges, kiwis, avocados, bananas, tomatoes, and sour cream.

Not exciting, but there's a stockpile item there, the pork roasts. The roasts are bone-in for 98c/lb, sold only in mega-packages of 3 roasts. I cooked a roast yesterday for dinner. There are plenty of leftovers. The other two roasts I froze.

Tonight I'm making spaghetti and meatballs. The ground beef is from the freezer, part of a an entire grass-fed steer I purchased a year and half ago and we're still working our way through. The spaghetti was a coupon freebie still in my pantry along with several other coupon freebie boxes. The sauce will be tweeked Hunt's diced tomatoes in a can because my son ate every single one of the tomatoes I purchased yesterday pretty much as soon as I got home.

Here's how I make meatballs, with egg and Italian-style breadcrumbs, and whatever bits of leftovers might be lurking in the fridge, broccoli, sweet potato, beans... Brown them in a little olive oil, then bake them until cooked through. Or let them simmer in the tomatoes until they're done cooking.

The salad to accompany is compliments of my garden.

Good eating is cheap. It just requires a few basic cooking skills and an eye for the price. Fifty dollars would purchase 50 pounds of the bone-in pork roasts (bones are minimal, by the way. Barely there). That's good for 50 dinners. I didn't purchase more because, despite my best efforts to empty it, my freezer is always full. It's like magic in there. I keep the items rotating, but about the point I put a dent in the contents, another great price comes along. With a 50 dinner cushion, I've plenty of time to wait for that really good price.

By the way - Pros Ranch sells really nice pork. I'm pretty careful about where I purchase my meats and I think pork looks best at Pros Ranch. Nice flavor, also. The 98c/lb price is good until 1/3/12.

Monday, December 19, 2011

And Maple Syrup for All!

Deal Chicken has an amazing deal today on Vermont Maple Syrup. Six pints for $36. You may buy multiples. That's $6/pint or 37.5 cents/ounce. I just paid $20.21 for a quart of maple syrup at the grocery store.

We don't use the fake maple syrup products typically available at the grocery. For us, it's a matter of taste. Maple syrup tastes real, everything else tastes like corn syrup and so many of those fake syrups contain the high fructose kind of corn syrup. We spend so little on groceries, I'm willing to pay the money where it matters. I won't say how many of these six pint deals I purchased. Let's just say I took full advantage of the amazing price.

No affiliate links in this post. No advantage to me if you order. Since this is a Vermont company, I assume this is a national deal. By the way THE SHIPPING IS FREE!

You read that right.

Only another 13 hours to go as of this posting, so get over there.

Ladies, start your griddles and waffle irons.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Good Stockup Items this week

Been sick. Been busy. Been away.

Have not been into grocery shopping. Did my turkey/ham thing before Thanksgiving, then...nothing. Not even Pro's Ranch for the produce. The garden is still giving eggplants and peppers, kale and chard and lettuce, even tomatoes, and there's plenty of fruit either canned or in the freezer.

The ads were looking kind of blah this week, until I got to Albertson's. Then I got into my car and drove the few blocks to my nearest store where I picked up 29 boxes of cereal (no significance to the number, just that it filled the cart) 5 dozen eggs, 12 8-oz packages of Albertson's Brand butter, three packs of dental floss, seven tubes of toothpaste, five toothbrushes, and a bag of marshmellows for $62.

I'm embarrassed to admit I pulled out my calculator to do that simple math. The items were $1 each and there are 62 items...

I'm equally embarrassed to admit to buying cereal after my tirade about its sugary evilness a few months ago. Most of it is Raisin Bran and Shredded Wheat. Also got Corn Flakes, Cheerios and Apple Cinnamon and Honey Nut Cheerios.

All the items in the haul were Albertson's Store brand. Yes, it all tastes just like the name brands. The non-sweetened cereal were all big boxes, too, not these puny little things the name brand manufacturers are passing off as a proper box of cereal.

Other items: any time butter works out to $2/lb or less is a good time to stock up. Butter freezes beautifully. Eggs are expensive lately, so I'm happy to pick up 5 dozen for 5 bucks. For myself and my family, I don't worry about expiration dates, but for everybody else, and to keep the lawyers happy, I recommend buying only what you can eat before the expiration date.

Seven tubes of toothpaste is a year's supply for us. I mean, seriously, only a tiny dab is required for toothbrushing. Pinching Your Pennies let me know there weren't any coupons available for the sale brands. We're getting a little low, so I bit the bullet and purchased. Same goes for the floss and toothbrushes. I've typically purchased these items for free with coupons, but haven't seen them free for a long time.

And the marshmallows? Hot chocoate, anyone? Maybe toast a few over the barbecue? Everybody else must be thinking like me because I got the last bag of normal-sized marshmallows in the store.

I'll be doing a lot more traveling this month, so the blog will be pretty quiet. If I don't post beforehand, have fun this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The winner is Fresh and Easy with 39c/lb turkeys

It's not in the ad this week. You have to go to the Fresh and Easy homepage to see the listed price. This is for Jennie-O turkeys. Since it's not in the ad, I suppose there's a chance Fresh and Easy will yank the price. The Fresh and Easy ad in today's paper has coupons for $3 off $30 and $10 off $50. There is nothing in the ad about whether the Fresh and Easy Friends program is still offering 500 points on the turkeys which I mentioned in my previous post. If so, the net cost of the turkeys would be almost free. Even if they aren't, go purchase your limit of two turkeys. A 15-pound turkey would be $5.85, little more than the typical whole chicken.

The Farmer John hams are still 97c/lb and we're still eating and enjoying the one I made on Sunday. It was $10 well spent. Tonight, I heated slices and served with mashed yams from Pro's Ranch (7 lbs/99c) and fresh green beans from the same store (99c/lb, I served 54c worth).

If you don't have a Fresh and Easy near you, Basha's is selling their Norbest turkeys for 59c/lb. I've purchased those turkeys before and found them delicious. Albertson's advertises that they will price match, but I don't know that they sell Norbest or if they will substitute another brand. Call before you shop.

What did shopping day look like here at the stockpile?


You read that right. I did it all at Pro's Ranch and purchased 14 pounds of bananas, over 8 pounds of yams, a half-pound of green beans and 3.5 pounds of pinto beans. I don't need the pintos, but at 50c/lb, I figured a few more pounds in the pantry wouldn't hurt.

We still have oranges and pears and apples, as well as some avocados and limes. The garden is still providing bunches of greens. There's plenty of meat in the freezer and grains in the pantry. Beyond milk and eggs, we just don't need much. If I had the freezer space, I'd be buying up those turkeys. Even if all I did was cook them up for pet food, it's cheaper than buying cans for the cats and dogs.

If your freezer is not full, now is the time to stock up those turkeys. Those prices will be history on Black Friday. They have not made a Christmas return in the past few years. Autumn is past and with it go the wonderful harvest prices. Perhaps not so much here in Phoenix, blessed as we are with a year-round growing season.

With Christmas approaching, the sales will turn to baking. Keep an eye for grains, nuts, sugar and dried fruits.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Year-Long Ham and Turkey Buffet

I decided to take advantage of the 59c/lb turkeys (limit 2) available at Fresh and Easy that I mentioned in my last post. The shopping trip yielded unexpected savings. Since I was going anyway, I decided to find out something about the Friends Program Fresh and Easy recently launched. Basically, buy stuff at Fresh and Easy and get points. The basic reward is 1 point for every dollar spent. Spend 50 bucks, get 50 points. Every hundred points is worth $1. So every 100 bucks spent equals a reward of $1.

Yes, I understand if you’re not hopping up and down for joy. Let me make it happier for you.

1)      The points accumulate.
2)      Fresh and Easy is offering double reward points now through Thanksgiving
3)      Every turkey you buy is worth 500 points. (Yes, that equals $5)

Here’s how to do it:

1)      You join online and get 250 points just for signing up ($2.50).
2)      Go to Fresh and Easy and get a Friends Card.
3)      Make your purchases.
4)      When you get home, sign in with your email address and attach the card to your account.
5)      Check out your new rewards balance.
6)      You can convert the reward points to cash whenever you want. The site says something about the conversion being ‘rounded down’ to the nearest 100 points. I don’t know if that means you forfeit points when you cash out. Call customer service (1-877-338-6546) to find out.

Here’s what I purchased:

1)      Two turkeys, approx. 17 lbs each for 20.39 total.
2)      Two Farmer John Hams approx. 12 lbs each for $23.75
3)      2 lbs of Whole Bean Fair Trade Coffee for $13.98

I found an online coupon for $10 off $50. I looked for the biggest turkeys and hams I could find, but still needed $7 worth of stuff to get to $50. The coffee was a good price for whole bean Fair Trade. If I’d had more time, I’d have gotten smaller turkeys and hams to get as close to just over $50 as possible, but I was in a hurry, so I spent about $59, used the $10 off coupon and paid $49.08 for the above. I also received 1116 points for the transaction, or a little over $11 BACK. With the 250 points I received for signing up, I now have almost $14 in cash rewards I can use for my next trip.

I wish I had more freezer room, I truly do, but we had to do some major rearranging to find space for the two turkeys and a single ham. Good part of having to do that is my freezers and my fridge are all cleaned out and organized. Second good part is I had an excuse to cook the second ham for dinner and use some of it to make a homemade split pea soup with split peas from my pantry. The family is happy. The ham will provide the makings for a ham casserole, ham croquettes, more soup, pasta salad  and ham sandwiches all week. I’m lucky in that my family will eat food for days in a row, so long as it tastes good and they don’t actually have to cook anything themselves!

If you’ve some extra cash, stocking up on turkeys and hams and using the coupon, plus accumulating cash rewards would be worthwhile. Go for twelve turkeys and twelve hams. Figure cooking one turkey and one ham per month to provide two weeks of meal fixings per month. It’s plenty for even the biggest meat eaters.

The above should cost $240 total and will include other items you may need to get the grocery bill to $50 so you can use the $10 off coupon. That will be six shopping trips over the next couple of days (6 times $40). You’ll also get other items you need (the fill out items to get to $50) and will accumulate a lot of points for a future shopping trip.

Have fun!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This and That

I'll be away for Thanksgiving, but I'm still going to Fresh and Easy to pick up my 59c/lb turkeys from Jennie-0. Limit is 2 per visit. Fresh and Easy has some kind of new points earning program which may be worth investigating if you shop there a lot. I don't think their prices are particularly low, but they do have good specials sometimes. Like these turkeys. Unfortunately, they don't issue rain checks.

In Albertson's last week, I saw a sign promising a price match on the 59c/lb turkeys. Hopefully, that continues into this week and up thru Thanksgiving.

The easiest way to prepare turkey during the year is to boil it. That's why I prefer smaller turkeys, or to have the butcher saw it in half for me when I purchase it. Add onion, sage, thyme and rosemary and let it simmer for a long time. Lift it onto a plate and let the cooking liquid, aka broth, cool. Skim any obvious scum off the top of the broth. When cool, strain it through a clean tea towel, then freeze or can in smaller quantities to use as needed.

Pull the meat from the turkey. The white meat can be sliced as needed for sandwiches and the dark meat frozen or canned for use in pot pies.

Does making pot pie sound scary? It's not. It's easy and requires very little from you beyond keeping an eye the pot doesn't boil over and you have enough freezer containers or canning supplies. Pot pies are a cinch to make. If pastry dough frightens you,  use Pillsbury tube biscuits as an easy substitute. Roll them flat, lay them in the pie plate, add the meat, sprinkle some seasonings, spoon it over with some bechamel sauce and lay another flattened tube biscuit on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until it browns.

Does Bechamel Sauce sound fancy? It's  not. Bechamel is a fancy name for a basic white sauce. Mush softened butter into some flour with a fork. Heat on a low (I mean LOW) saucepan until the butter melts. keep it moving with a wooden spatula. Drizzle in some milk. That means a little at a time. Keep on stirring for about 20 minutes. That's the time needed for the flour to lose the 'raw' flavor. This is a great task to put a tween or teen on, especially if you tell them you don't care if they talk to their friends on the cellphone while they do it. As the flour cooks, it will thicken. If it's too thick, add a little more milk. If it's too thin, add the teeniest amount of flour. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Voila! Bechamel Sauce.

I like pot pies because they are good vehicles for using leftovers. Broccoli and carrots are great choices. As are carrots and potatoes. They'll feed a lot of hungry people and look impressive when placed on the table.

Like Boston Market. Only cheaper.

(BTW, I think the 97c/lb Farmer John Hams are a pretty good at Fresh and Easy. They contain a fair amount of water weight, but freeze well and will make good dinners and sandwiches in the months to come. These are also limit 2. If Fresh and Easy has a new coupon out, you can save a few dollars on the total sale. Check at Pinching Your Pennies, or the store site for a coupon.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Correction: Or why lately I avoid Fry's markets

59c/lb for Jenni-O turkey is an amazing price. With great pride, Fry's advertised this price in the upper left corner of this week's ad in Great Big Print and declaring:
SAVE on Your Thanksgiving Turkey Count on Fry's Famous Low Prices for your Thanksgiving Day feast. From now through Thanksgiving, Jennie-O grade A frozen turkeys are only 59c per pound. That means you can plan a mouthwatering holiday meal that's easier on your budget.
Then in even bigger type (and bolded), Fry's prints:

Jennie-O Grade A Frozen Turkeys 10-20 lb Average 59c lb with Card.

Okay, so you see this with a picture of a beautifully roasted turkey on the front of Fry's ad, how much do you think this turkey costs?

You'd be wrong.

This turkey is actually $1.39/lb. There is no discount because underneath all of that in fine print even finer than the fine print at the bottom of the ad informing us that Fry's reserves the right to correct all printed errors, Fry's states 'Limit 1 per customer with additional $25.00 purchase.'

Go ahead. Look. Bring a magnifying glass.

I found out this morning. I zipped into Fry's on my way to Pro's Ranch Market to pick up a single turkey which I hoped to defrost and make for dinner tonight. There was nothing on the turkey display case indicating special pricing on the turkey, so I asked the guy in the meat shop. He pointed to the Jennie-O's and told me those were the sale turkeys. The discount did not come off at the register. The cashier couldn't figure it out, it was her first turkey of the day.

Was it the wrong turkey? No.
 Was it the wrong-sized turkey? No.
 Had I swiped my shopper's card? Yes.

She called the meat guy down and together they checked the ad, checked the turkey, checked the ad, checked the turkey...until the cashier spotted the 'Limit 1' fine print nonsense.

Yeah, the disclaimer is there, albeit in the micro-print, but this situation illustrates the reason I haven't purchased anything at Fry's in months. They tell me a price in Really Big Print, then tell me in much smaller print I can't get that price unless I buy six things I don't want, turn two cartwheels down the cereal aisle, then serenade the customers in Starbucks with 'America the Beautiful' in falsetto.

It may not be false advertising exactly, but it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

My deepest apologies. My eyes are not what they used to be, but even now, knowing that micro-print is there, I can barely see it.

I'll get a turkey tomorrow, when the honeycrisps are 88c/lb. I'll purchase enough to get the turkey and shake the dust from my sandals as I exit their doorway.

And I suppose I should change the title of the previous post from 'How to Read a Grocery Ad' to 'How to Read Every Grocery Ad EXCEPT Fry's'.

This is why I like Food City and Basha's and Pro's Ranch Market. when their ad says 59c/lb, they actually mean that I'm paying 59c/lb.

How to Read a Grocery Ad

Grocery ads are not like really good novels. You don’t have to read the whole thing. A glance at the first and last pages is enough to get the goods on the best real food deals a store has to offer. For the inner pages, there are plenty of websites such as Pinching Your Pennies that detail the really good coupon matchups (as well as the not-so-good ones. Be discriminating.), usually in the day or two before the ad actually comes out.

Grocery store owners want you to come into their store. They know you are busy and they know you have choices, so, like a headline in a newspaper, they lead with their best story. They want to grab your attention, lure you into the store even though those First Page Items represent a financial loss to them. That is why those front page items are referred to as ‘Loss Leaders’.

Loss Leaders are the hook, the items you find on the perimeter of a store in the fresh food areas.  Once the store hooks you, they’ll lure you into the inner pages of the ad, or the inner aisles of the store, promising you cheap, processed calories at prices that often aren’t all that much lower than the regular price for the item.

Resist. Be savvy. Don’t be embarrassed to walk into every one of those stores, purchase only their loss leaders and depart. Getting a good deal on one item does not require you purchase all your groceries there. There’s  no law that states you have to purchase one item more than the absolute very best deals when you do your weekly shopping.

That’s the essence of stockpiling. Buy low and in bulk, enjoy the savings for months to come.

Fry's turkeys at 59c/lb is the best loss leader in all this weeks ads. (EDITED TO ADD: Grrrr...see correction post above re: this price at Fry's.) Best part about this loss leader is that the price is good until Thanksgiving. That means, if you want to hedge your bets that turkey will go lower somewhere before the holiday, you have time to make your decisions. Or, if you’re like me and you find yourself with an unexpected free day and a little bit of freezer room, you may want to head to Fry’s and get all your turkeys now. That's my plan. I find that it’s easier to find turkeys in the early part of a sale. Here’s my reasoning:

1.       Smaller turkeys are usually more tender and have better flavor
2.       Smaller turkeys are more likely to be cooked like big chickens, rather than reserved for once a year holidays
3.       Smaller turkeys are easier to freeze and take much less time to defrost.
4.       I can debone and process a smaller turkey more easily than I can a larger turkey

Here’s a fun tidbit I learned least year. The store butcher will saw a frozen turkey in half for you. Take advantage of this service. It makes cooking, deboning, processing and freezing that much easier. Remember the blog post I did on DeboningChicken? The process for a turkey is much the same, but instead of yielding small filets, will yield entire boneless turkey roasts, such as demonstrated in this video:

and in this series of videos:

The bones, of course, will yield gallons and gallons of turkey stock. At 59c/lb, a 15 pound turkey costs $8.85 and, with a little ingenuity, will feed your family for days. Fill your freezer.

And for those of you who just aren’t all that ‘into’ turkey. Your dogs and cats are. Boil them whole, pull the meat from the bone, give the stock to your neighbor and freeze the meat  in reasonably sized portions.

Other items worth purchasing this week:

Pro’s Ranch Wednesday Produce deals:
Oranges 5 lbs – 99c. Think cheap, fresh juice, and lots of good snacking. Or maybe even Turkey l’orange.
Limes 4 lbs – 99c. These would be great cooking with turkey also.
Bananas 25c/lb – always a staple. Banana/orange smoothie anyone?

The produce ad for the Glendale Ave store is here. Note the cheap apples and watermelon.

Food City Wednesday/and week produce deals:

4 lbs tomatoes 99c. – Think cheap and fresh tomato gravy, which is a no effort item to make yourself. Here's how: Cut up the tomatoes and cook in a pot with a little bit of water. Add herbs to taste. Stir on occasion. Ladle over pasta.

Cucumbers are 11c/each. Along with the tomatoes, sounds like chopped salad to me. Today only, zucchini is 20c/lb.

Apples and Onions are also cheap cheap today. Celery is Cheap all week. This all sounds delicious chopped into a roast turkey salad.

Of note: Fry’s has their Halloween Deals tomorrow evening (10/27) from 3pm to 9pm. The only item which sent my heart a-flutter were the Honeycrisp apples at 88c/lb. Honeycrisp are scrumptious and make amazing applesauce. I’ll be in the produce aisle at 3 pm bagging up and carting out pounds and  pounds of them with a big smile on my face.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What $50 looks like at The Stockpile

Food City had a good-looking ad this week. I pick up the super-specials:

8 avocados, $1.98
6 lbs Bartlett pears $1.98 (Wednesday only)
6 lbs dried pinto beans $2.94 

Total Food City: $7

at Pro's Ranch, I purchased

15 lbs bananas
1 lb lunchmeat ham
1.25 lbs guava candy - this is a jellied guava. I don't know if they add sugar or not. It's pretty sweet and a refreshing dessert. I like it with a glass of milk.
3 lbs regular-sized limes
3 paks 40ct yellow corn tortillas still warm from the press
1 lb fresh crema con sal
3 pumpkins - small, but not tiny. I'm hoping they're meaty for cooking.
1.25 lbs monterrey jack cheese
2-24 rolls of toilet paper

 Total at Pro's Ranch - $33

Total grocery today - $40

Aside from the lunchmeat ham, there's no meat in this order. I have plenty in the deep freeze and no place to store more. To take this to $50, I'd buy two 10 lb bags of chicken legs at Food City for $5.90 each.

I'm annoyed at myself because I meant to purchase yams for 33c/lb at Pro's Ranch and I forgot. How good would mashed yams be this week? If I'm near a Pro's Ranch on another day, I'll duck in and pick some up.

Looking at that list, tortillas piled high with pintos, avocado and crema or monterrey jack and avocado is a no-brainer. But how about fried banana and a thinly sliced pear on a tortilla? The beans are the stock up item. They're 49c/lb at Food City this week, limit 6 lbs. If you pass by a Food City in your travels, it is worth ducking in a few times to purchase your limit. One pound of dried beans provides 10 regular servings and five really big servings. With the added chicken, there's plenty of food here to feed a family of good eaters for a week. If you don't think there's enough produce, switch out on of the packs of toilet paper - $3.99, for an equivalent amount in fruit and veggies at either grocery store.

Happy eating!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Instant Breakfast

My very first Extreme Couponing score was about 4 years ago, in my early weeks of couponing. Fry's was running a sale that made cereal $1.00/box when you purchased four. After purchase, a coupon spit out of the catalina machine offering $4 off 4 boxes of cereal. Not sure the details are exact, but that's pretty close. The store limited me to one transaction per shopping trip. I had coupons clipped from the paper which made the first four boxes about $2 total. After that, the cereal was free.

I passed a lot of Fry's stores in my daily commutes, and I ducked into every single one of them every single time I passed them. I did that all week, squirreling the boxes in my pantry, certain every time I walked out of the store, buzzers would sound, lights would flash and I'd find Phoenix's Finest waiting in the parking lot with handcuffs and a copy of my Miranda rights. They didn't. It was legal and legit and it yielded me something close to 200 boxes of cereal.

I was hooked. Sometimes, in the years that followed, boxed cereal would end up free, but never as free as it was in those heady weeks when I first discovered the power of coupon clipping. I got lots of other stuff free over those years - Toaster Strudels and granola bars, sweet rolls in a tube and Pop Tarts.

Fast forward to present day. Those 200 boxes of cereal are long-ago eaten or donated, and cereal hasn't been free with coupons for a very long time. Weird thing about clipping coupons, having purchased an item for free, I find it difficult to shell out cold hard cash for it in the future. The kids ate their way through the Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles and Cap'n Crunch, their expressions becoming more forlorn as they worked their way down through the Honey Bunches of Oats and Frosted Mini-Wheats until all that remained were Plain Cheerios, Shredded Wheat and Grape-Nuts.

The kids turned up their noses and ate leftovers for breakfast. They grabbed bananas, ate the occasional poached egg, begged off their friends and complained they were HUNGRY.

I didn't care. I'd read the ingredients list on all those boxes of free cereal, those free rolls of sweet biscuits, those free sugared fruit-filled pies and came to a conclusion: I'd overpaid. The kids weren't hungry, they were jonesing. In my desire to take the grocery receipt to zero, I was feeding my kids a daily sugar fix sprinkled with rice powder.

Time to go all old-fashioned on their backsides. I broke out the oatmeal. I jazzed it with fruit and nuts and plenty of honey. Most days, my husband and I were the only ones eating it, but in time, the kids came around. The Battle of Breakfast was over.

Today, I  buy our oat groats in bulk at the Honeyville Grain store in Chandler. The non-sale price on a 50 pound bag is $32.39. Given a 1-oz serving, the bag provides 800 servings, or enough for 200 days of breakfast for my family of four.

I cook the groats once a week in my slow cooker. I use my slap-chop to cut the apples and walnuts and almonds into bite-sized pieces. I add raisins and cranberries, sometimes a dollop of vanilla. Non-fat powdered milk powder provides additional protein, as well as a rich creaminess and enough natural sweetness, when coupled with the fruit, that added honey or agave nectar isn't always necessary. Prep time is about five minutes.

I store the concoction in mason jars in the fridge and every morning the kids scoop what they want into a bowl, add a little regular milk and eat happy.

Aside from the money, here's what I save by doing breakfast the old-fashioned way:

1) Hours spent clipping coupons and analyzing store ads to find the deals.
2) Time and gas expended ducking in and out of stores to purchase the deals.
3) Guilt over feeding my kids bowls of sugar instead of bowls of nutrition.
4) Pounds of cardboard cereal boxes clogging my recycling bin - the groats come in a single recyclable paper bag.
5) Acres of shelf space in my pantry on which I can store more nutritious options for my family.

Honeyville Grains sells online, but the prices in their retail locations are far cheaper. Retail stores are located in Utah and California. The Arizona location is in Chandler, an easy trip from both Phoenix and Tucson, and one well-worth making. Honeyville in Chandler does sales twice a month. Get on their mailing list. You won't regret it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yes - I Can

In the United States of America, those who home can use either Ball or Kerr jars. Those jars are sold by the dozen. They come in standard imperial sizes, quart, pint and 1/2 pint. Aside from a few decorative options, the jars are either regular-mouth or wide-mouth. Most of us store the filled jars in the same carton they are shipped in. When we empty the jar, we store the cleaned jars in those same cartons until needed again.

Given those facts - why does my standard, no frills Presto pressure canner only do 7 quarts or 22 pints at a time? I'd like to can 12 quarts or 24 pints at a time.

Meats require 75 minutes to 90 minutes processing time. Add the time it takes to get the canner to pressure and another 20 minutes or more minimum for the pressure canner to cool down so I can switch out the batches...the bizarre capacity of my pressure canner means I'm expending a lot of extra time and fuel energy to do the odd-sized lots required.

I see an entrepreneurial opportunity here.

But not for me, for some other entrepreneur. I just want to can my Zaycon chicken. All 2 boxes or 80 pounds of it.

And can it, I have, 7 quarts at a time. Another batch is processing now.

This is first time I've used my pressure canner. I've owned it a year, but I was scared of it. The idea of putting food-filled glass in a metal pressurized bucket made me nervous. It didn't matter home canners have been doing that since 1910 without too much incidence. I was certain that when MY food-filled glass entered it's metal chamber, the whole shebang would implode, like a steel-framed souffle.

It didn't. And it won't happen to you, either. So long as you follow the instructions.

Prep time for the chicken was minimal. I used scissors to slice strips off the breasts so they'd slide easily into the jar. I added garlic, lime, onion, sometimes nothing, to the jars. Since I couldn't bring the canner to pressure and walk away - adjustments are needed during the process - I used the processing time to rearrange my pantry, check my email, catch up on back episodes of The Colbert Report and write this blog post.

Eighty pounds of these beautiful chicken breasts yielded 28 quarts and 24 pints of Already Cooked Goodness for my pantry. That's enough to use 1 jar a week for the next 52 weeks, a reasonable rate of use for my family. It took me one day of work.

Yeah. I'm proud of myself.

The Zaycon chicken deal is still available. Zaycon is taking orders in Arizona until Oct 12. This company is doing the chicken event nationwide, so readers outside of Arizona should check the site to search for a convenient pickup location.

At $1.49/lb, boneless, skinless chicken breast is a steal. As breasts go, these are about the most beautiful I've seen (sorry - couldn't resist). They are fresh, never frozen, all-natural, and taste delicious, so plan your time and schedule accordingly if you plan to can.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Delayed Gratification

Been away a few days in a place without internet. Did manage to hit the produce sales at Pro's Ranch Market and Food City before I left though. I spent $38 total and came away with an overflowing milk crate of oranges, and another of gala apples. the oranges are going into smoothies, or will be juiced. I'll probably can the apples, which come out like very chunky applesauce and don't need added sugar.

I don't deal in food mills and I don't peel my fruit. I use one of those push down contraptions that core the apple and divide it into 8 wedges. Then I toss the wedges into the pot, add some cinnamon and allspice and nutmeg and cook them down a little before doing a hot pack water bath processing.

At least, I think that's what I'm doing. These apples are really sweet. The family has been chowing down on them and I may not get a chance to can them.

I also picked up onions and a couple of Sanderson Farms whole chickens (67c./lb). I roasted the chickens with limes, ginger and garlic, and packed them up to take with us on our trip.

There were other items in the cart, such as bananas and roma tomatoes and garlic and cantaloupe and three pinapples, but I can't remember what all I purchased! Here's what I do know. We came home from our trip to a refrigerator bursting with avocados and tomato, which we chopped into guacamole with chips (remember the yellow corn tortillas I purchased?). There's still plenty of the french onion soup as well as chicken stock I made last week.

I'm thinking a banana/orange/kale/lime smoothie for breakfast in the morning, and the soup for lunch. Then I'll be looking up canning directions for chicken breasts because I'm purchasing from the Zaycon Foods chicken event. The boxes are 40 pounds each. Today (10/3) is the last day to order and the pickup place in Arizona is Mesa. At $1.49/lb, these boneless, skinless breasts are an excellent buy. Word on the street is that they are truly delicious. Zaycon claims they are fresh and never frozen. I ordered two boxes, which should make 40 quart cans (2 lbs in each can), which is about 1 can/week over the next year to be used for several meals. I'll let you know how the canning goes or if I chicken out and simply pack it all into the freezer.

The gals at Food Storage Made Easy have me inspired, and I'm thinking meal preparation would be so much faster and easier with chicken in a can.

Wish me cluck.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get Yer Cluck On!

It's chicken week here at the $50 Stockpile. I visited two stores today and walked away with 26 pounds of the stuff for under $17.00.

First stop, Pro's Ranch Market where I picked up chicken leg quarters in a 10-lb bag for 57c/lb. Pro's Ranch chicken is high quality, all-natural chicken with a very nice flavor. As soon as I returned from the store, I deboned the chicken pieces, herbed and marinated the meat to bake for dinner, then put the bones into the stock pot to simmer. There's enough chicken for three dinners for my family of four. Baking it all at once, I save time and energy for cooking later in the week. I'll serve the chicken again on Friday, then on Sunday. As for the stock, I have visions of chicken rice in my head. Maybe because my allergies are acting up and I'm feeling sneezy.

I know deboning sounds kind of scary, but it's not. It took me less than 10 minutes to debone the entire bag. It's a big savings over buying boneless chicken thighs, and I get the extra savings in the homemade chicken stock from the bones. I found this video on YouTube, which explains the process. I'm nowhere near as neat as this cook is with the work (the word 'carnage' comes to mind), and you don't have to be as neat, either. Nobody's watching. Go to town.

Also at Pro's Ranch, I picked up 6 rolls of paper towel (39c each), 5 pounds of bananas, a packet of whole wheat tortillas, 2 boxes of strawberries, 6 pounds of roma tomatoes, 6 pounds bartlett pears, 4 pounds nectarines and a pound of dried hibiscus (for iced aqua frescas), and 3 40-count bags of yellow corn tortillas for a total of $26.

Second stop was Food City, which was catacorner from the Pro's Ranch. There, I picked up 3 cantaloupe, 8 red bell peppers and the rest of the chicken. I picked up the advertised bone-in chicken breast for 97c/lb. I deboned the chicken breast, an easy task with the help of YouTube, and added the bones to my already happily simmering chicken stock. The limit was two packages of chicken breasts, so about $5 total. I also found frozen chicken thighs, nicely packaged in a bag so they could be used individually for 59c/lb. the bag I purchased was about 7 lbs. Not certain. The Food City chicken awaits it chance at culinary excellence in my freezer.

I spent $12 at Food City which brought my grand total for everything to $38.

This is a small produce haul for me. I still have the avocados from last week which are still ripening. Also, I have two boxes of Utah peaches I purchased in a group buy available for eating. I'm freezing most of them because it's still too hot for me to think about canning. The peaches are exquisitely sweet. My husband ate six yesterday, my kids are keeping pace with him. I get all my leafy greens from my garden and we have at least a dozen melons ripening. I took it easy on the bananas because my son didn't eat as many this last week, forcing me to freeze half of them in a banana, plum, kiwi, grape mush.

It may not sound appetizing, but believe me, it's sinfully delicious, and pretty to boot.

If the kids need more bananas, they're on sale 33c/lb at Food City all week. Also, Basha's will have eggs 88c/dozen Friday-Sunday this week, so I plan to pick up the limits on those. I don't pay a lot of attention to milk prices since we purchase raw, organic milk from a dairy in Gilbert, but many of the stores have milk for well under $2/gallon this week.

I told the kids to make themselves bean burritos for breakfast this week with the crema from last week and this week's tomatoes. They can make themselves peanut butter and jelly burritos for lunch. Entrees this week will be the aforementioned chicken, something with ground beef from the freezer, chicken stir-fry and an eggplant parmigiana courtesy of the frantically producing plants in the garden.

Not sure about desserts, but I've had requests for peach ice cream and carmelized bananas.

Which means my plan to force my family to eat cheap, whole unprocessed foods by only offering them cheap, whole, unprocessed foods to eat is working perfectly.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The 7 Day Challenge - Contemplate Death

The Food Storage Made Easy ladies pulled out all the stops for Sunday. I must pretend I'm dead and get all the documents in place so my spouse and children, in the event of my demise, can find where I stash the clean socks.

Rather, I'm supposed to get my affairs in order, then pretend I'm dead, not be dead and direct affairs from beyond the grave.

Here's what I'm supposed to do:

1) Draft a will - already done, but woefully out of date. Pretty sure all the guardians we designated for our kids have either died or been kidnapped by natives in the many years since we saw to this task.

2) Make a list of assets for those I leave behind - This one is easy. The ladies let fire and flood destroy my house during yesterday's evacuation challenge, so I guess I'm divvying up what's left - two pup tents and the contents of the change container I keep in my car.

3) Make lists of all the other things you would need/want surviving family to know...

Seriously? ALL the other things I want surviving family to know? Even my criminal brother and his no-good wife who locked Mama in the basement while they spent down her bank accounts after Daddy died?

I'm going to need extra paper and another pencil.

The ladies also want my husband to take a questionaire since I'm the one who handles all the finances, to see if he has a clue what we have, what we owe and where the checkbooks are.

Hoo boy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The 7 Day Challenge - Day 3 - evacuate

After embarrassed acknowledgment that I've failed miserably at the Day 2 challenge, I decide that I will actually DO the Day 3 challenge.

I'm cheered. For Day 3, the Food Storage Made Easy Ladies tell me I'm off the hook and have the rest of the day free as soon as I perform the challenge! YAY! Plus, the challenge is only 30 minutes! SUPER-YAY! I can do anything for thirty minutes! Except maybe listen to Barry Manilow CDs.

Day 3 the ladies tell me a hurricane, fire or flood is heading towards my house and I have to evacuate. We have 30 minutes to do so and when we come back our house will not be there.

I was good right up to the house not being there part. All I can think is that we've just finished renovating the bathroom.

All righty, then. Evacuate. Thirty minutes. Gather the dogs, the cats, the laptops and other electronics, the photographs, get in the car and...find a decent hotel, I guess. Hmmm...maybe I better grab some camping supplies and a couple of crates of food. And a can opener.

The spouse has long departed for work, having made good his escape before I opened the Day 3 email. Besides, he's in the kind of work that in the event of an evacuation catastrophe he'd probably get called into work, not be allowed to leave and get out. This is all on me. But, hey! I'm a capable, intelligent, and resourceful woman of a certain age. I can do this.

Thirty minutes later, I'm still trying to rouse the teenagers.

"Fine!" I shout up the stairs, "Drown! Burn! Get carried off like Dorothy and Toto! See if I care!"

I don't actually shout that, but I want to.

Here's what I learned:

1) putting two dogs on leashes is no big deal. Suddenly remembering that they'll need something to eat and something to drink out of is a big deal. Precious minutes lost.

2) Uh...cats are hard to find when they don't want to be found. Don't bring out the cat carriers until the very last moment. Also, the cats will want to eat and drink, also.

3) Get those 72 hour kits pulled together, or something I can pass off as a 72-hour kit.

4) I deserve kudos for grabbing the photographs. However, they should all be in one place and not squirreled away in 5 different and disparate places.

5) Keep the gas tank at least half full. While it's fun to see how far a tank will take me in my beloved Prius, it's not wise to be sucking fumes on the day the world collapses.

And the teenagers? Sorry, no wisdom there. All I can say is that if we ever have to really, TRULY evacuate, it better not be on a Saturday before 9 am.

7 Day Challenge - Days 2 - Powerless Cooking.

The Day 2 challenge from the Food Storage Ladies was a barrel of laughs. For Day 2, the ladies gave me back the indoor plumbing they'd taken away on Day 1 and took away my power instead. No big deal. Power outages happen. The ladies wanted me to provide three meals without power. No problem, there's a reason God invented peanut butter and jelly. Then the ladies tell me the power has been out for days, everything in the freezer and fridge has gone bad, it's somebody's birthday and I have to provide a birthday celebration meal to lift everybody's spirits.

What about my spirits? Even the thought of cleaning out the rotting contents of the fridge and freezer makes me want to wander off into the desert. Add to that the challenge of two teenagers whose iPods and cell phones are long depleted (Note to Self: put solar powered chargers for ALL electronics on the preparedness list), days of pottying by candlelight, and the realization that with my aging eyes, flashlight reading is an exercise in futility, why would anybody think me capable of preparing a celebratory meal?

Here's what I learned even contemplating the Day 2 challenge: I'm a really crabby survivalist.

So I mentally figure I'll make chili on the grill in a dutch oven. I'll use dried beans, water, TVP, canned tomatoes, herbs from the garden. We'll eat al fresco and I'll even crack a bottle of wine.

There. Survival. Accomplished.

Oh wait. The ladies want me to bake a cake, too.

Who needs cake? We have the wine. I mentally toss the teenagers a box of Ding-Dong's and decide to catch up with the ladies by doing the Day 3 challenge, instead.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Survival Slam Dance - The 7 day challenge

The ladies at Food Storage Made Easy are doing a reprise of their ever-popular A Week Without Toilet 7 Day Survival Challenge. Everyday, they assault your inbox with a new scenario, then leave you to thrash out your survival scenario in near real-life situations using nothing more than your multi-tool and a stale box of saltines.

There are rules - no spending money, no sneaking out to beg, borrow or steal survival supplies, no hiring the neighbor's kid to play out the scenario for you. You're supposed to pretend whatever they say happened really happened and deal with it as best you and your most likely woefully inadequate survival preparations can. Then you can comment on their blog, or their Facebook page and share with everybody how you're doing.

I signed up for the challenge in my usual Day Late and A Dollar Short manner, which means that I didn't open the email for the first day (yesterday) until this morning. So I'll post every day and let y'all know how I did with the challenge.

Day 1: No Water

In this scenario something's happened that has knocked out power and water. The power has come back on but the water taps still aren't flowing. You guessed it - you have to use your stored water, or a nearby stream, to provide all your water and cooking needs for the day. You have to dispose of, to put this delicately, your daily waste, and it's been 4 days - you really need a shower.

Whew! This one is easy for me. Not that I'm actually spending a day without water. My family won't agree on what movie to rent without a fistfight, no way I'll convince them to pee in a bucket. My participation is all theoretical. But still useful.

I live in a desert and I grow an edible landscape. I'm acutely aware that Phoenix gets 7 inches of rainfall a year. I've watched enough Survivorman to know the end result of being stuck in the desert sans hydration. So I bought a bunch of ten dollar 55-gallon water drums off a guy on Craigslist, then force my family out at every rainfall to gather it by the bucketful. I hope someday to make the process a little more automated. Use of the rainwater in the garden requires I handpump it into a bucket and carry it to the beds.

Here's the point: Today, I have at least 10 55 gallon drums of stored water out there AND the means to gather more with the next rainfall. I'm not worried. Were I doing this challenge, I'd ration a couple of buckets for cooking and washing up duties and a bucket per person for personal hygiene duties. A solar shower is nice, but not required for bathing. I'd have everybody use the soapnut bar soap (Yes...soapnuts) so the wastewater could be dumped onto our little patch of grass for watering. We also use soapnut products for dishes and laundry. I purchase mine online from Naturoli which is a local company here in Phoenix. (Yay! Phoenix!!) Graywater from cooking and clotheswashing could go into the food beds - soapnuts are 100 percent compostible and biodegradable since they are a nut...from a tree.

I have a Nikken water filter for the drinking water, but could also filter larger yuckies out using coffee filters. Considering how long the rainwater has been out there, I'd purify with a few drops of bleach and let it stand before running it through the Nikken and drinking or cooking with it. The, um, bodily waste part I'd bury in the backyard.

Here's are some items I'm missing, a Rapid Washer to make handwashing of clothes a breeze. I don't know why I put off purchasing one.Also a metal tub for bathing and clothes washing.

Notes: Cooking isn't a problem because we have power. YAY! Not having a garbage disposal isn't a problem because the veggie waste goes into the compost. Meat waste into the regular garbage. The ladies didn't say anything about everyday services being cut off. Otherwise, I'd store it in the freezer until full services are restored.

I'm a wimp for not actually doing the challenge, but I've learned a lot from going through the motions and thinking about everything throughout the day. I also need a LOT more buckets.

Lifecycle of a Produce Purchase

Here's what I purchased on Wednesday at Pros Ranch Market:

28 avocados, 2 pounds of Red grapes, a 40-ct package of yellow corn tortillas, 7 pounds of brown onions, 20 pounds of bananas, 22 pounds of oranges (so large they looked like grapefruit) and a pound of sour cream for about $25.

This looks like a lot, but it's not all the produce I'll use for the week. The rest I pick out of the raised beds in my backyard.

What do we do with it all? We eat it.

Those of you who followed this blog during its first inception know I used to be an avid couponer. While I still use coupons on occasion, most purchases made with coupons end up in food storage, or the donate bin. That's because most coupon purchases are processed foods and I'm trying to get my family off processed foods.

Don't get me wrong - there's a place for Hamburger Helper - in the food storage, among the camping staples, if the only other option is fast food, or a take-out pizza run - but there's no way I'll work that stuff into my weekly menu plan. At least, not until the bombs are falling. Or financial catastrophe makes it the only option.

The purpose of this blog is to show that we can feed our families well, very well, using real food and with just a little bit of imagination and effort. So here's my thinking on this recent produce purchase:

28 avocados: That's 1 avocado per day per person for my family of four. I've been pulling them out of the fridge to ripen 4 at a time, in hopes they will ripen on a similar schedule. Besides guacamole, avocados make great sandwiches. Spread them on bread right out of their skin. Add a little salt and a squeeze of lemon and enjoy. Seven dollars for 28 avocados provides a great lunchbox meal for under 30c/sandwich (I'm adding in the cost of the bread). Top a salad with them. You won't need the oil part of the dressing, just the vinegar because avocados already provide a healthy dose of those 'good fats' we keep hearing about. If we don't eat them all before they get overripe, I'll mush up the rest, put it in a ziploc bag and freeze it for future guacamole.

2 pounds of red grapes: The kids are eating these. They'll be gone by tomorrow. A couple of weeks ago, I purchased about 20 pounds of black seedless grapes at Sprouts. I froze most of them and add them to smoothies. Frozen fruit is great to make low calorie and healthy 'ice cream'.

40 count package of yellow tortillas, also the sour cream: Once a week I pressure cook a pot of beans and store it in the fridge. I also keep some kind of crema or sour cream in the fridge, as well as some kind of cheese. Coupled with the tortillas ($1.49 for the pack of 40), these frugal fixings are the basis for any number of breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack tacos. Pros Ranch makes these fresh, without preservatives. The packages are still hot when you purchase them. Before week's end, they will start getting stale. When that happens, let them finish their lives as tortilla chips. Simply slice into wedges and fry like potato chips, or eschew the oil and bake them in a medium oven. The whole family loves these with salsa.

7 pounds of brown onions: I use onions all the time. I love them. This bunch is destined for a pot of French onion soup I plan to make this weekend. I have a box of beef bones in the freezer. I'll roast them, then use them to make stock. Once the stock is clarified and the bones gone to the dogs, I'll slice these beautiful onions and add it to the stock. I'll serve piping hot with a generous sprinkle of parmesan. The onions were 20c/lb, the beef bones gathered over time from meat purchases. I've plenty of herbs in my garden. The pot of soup will provide lunches and dinner starters for at least a week. Unused soup can be frozen. I'll cook it this weekend during the cheap electricity time.

20 pounds of bananas: these are tucked into lunch boxes, grabbed by teenagers too frantic to eat breakfast, churned into smoothies, added to banana bread, cooked down with sweet spices and used as a filling for blintzes, or a topping for pancakes and waffles. We go through a lot of bananas in this household so I go nuts when I find them at 33c. Any that are getting overripe are peeled and frozen. I have a big bag in the freezer and regularly chip away at them to add to those frozen 'ice cream-like' concoctions mentioned above.

22 pounds of oranges: These are already half gone. My son has been juicing them. At 4 lbs/$1, this is cheaper and better tasting than any bottled orange juice. And a good stopgap measure until my own citrus starts producing.

There you have it. My $25 investment pays me back many times over - in smoothies, frozen desserts, puddings, toppings, soup, tacos, chips, and burritos. Too bad I can't list it on the New York Stock Exchange.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Embrace your Inner Ethnic

Many years ago, I became friends with a gal who lived on produce and dried beans. When she dropped by my house for coffee, I served Chinese almond cookies. When I went by to see her, she put out beautifully sliced fruit. I thought she was a health nut. Turned out she and her husband were poor, even poorer than my husband and me. While I scrimped from our miniscule grocery budget to purchase the cookies, she scrimped from an even smaller budget to purchase extra fruit.

Here's my point, we both went with what was out there. And what was out there were ethnic groceries, lovely ethnic groceries filled with fresh fruits and veggies and slightly exotic treats like the almond cookies at a fraction of the prices demanded by the mainstream grocery stores.

Nothing's changed from those early days when I counted the food to ensure there would enough for the week. In an economy which has pushed 1 in 6 Americans below the poverty line, ethnic grocery stores still rule for anybody looking for good, cheap eats.

The Phoenix area is fortunate. We have three Hispanic markets - Pro's Ranch, El Rancho and Food City - and several large Asian markets - including  Lee Lee's and Asiana (two locations, Glendale and Mesa).

On Wednesdays, the Hispanic markets rule with produce specials so good, you'll be in juicing and smoothie heaven. Today at Pro's Ranch I scored 28 avocados, 2 pounds of Red grapes, a 40-ct package of yellow corn tortillas, 7 pounds of brown onions, 20 pounds of bananas, 22 pounds of oranges (so large they looked like grapefruit) and a pound of sour cream for about $25.

I also picked up pork chops at $1.48/lb and 8 24-count packages of toilet paper at $3.99 each (because I have a recurring nightmare that Armageddon will come and we'll be down to our last roll.)

Check their website for a location near you. Most of the specials are good for the whole week, but on Wednesdays, the produce is always piled high and plentiful.

Go to The Coupon Girl for a listing of specials at Pros Ranch and the other Hispanic markets, as well as not to be missed local and national deals.

Have fun.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No more double coupons at Fry's

At least in Tucson. Thank you sooooo much TLC's Extreme Couponing.

Time to dust off this old blog and start blathering again about all the delicious things we can make from real food. You know, stuff like breakfast, lunch and dinner. It won't be Yakisoba, but it will be good.