Friday, March 30, 2012

Cows and walking (well, not really walking)

Its been a fun couple of days. Busy, for sure. Hubby was gone last weekend to a philosophy conference, and this weekend to a men's retreat with our church. Its been a crazy few days as he catches up from the loss of last weekend and gets ahead to cover the loss of this weekend.

Of course, we also purchased some cow.

And Peanut decided to pull up and 'cruise' all at once.

Purchased some cow, you say? How, why? How much cow? We noticed this quite little meat market looking place on our drives to school, and finally stopped in to see what it was all about. "Yes", the sweet lady said, "you can buy a quarter of a cow, or a half of a cow. In fact, a family just last Sunday picked up their whole cow that they ordered. That was 600 some odd pounds of beef." We didn't want that much, but a quarter would be fun. So we went home and did some research and went back yesterday to do the actual ordering. So, on Friday, April 13, we should be picking up our cow bits... well, beef. I am looking forward to getting to eat more beef.

Yesterday, while working in the kitchen, I hear a noise that prompts me to check on Peanut. And there he is ON TOP of the plastic bin that is acting a barrier. I didn't get a picture then, but I got two this morning (yes, blurry, because Peanut no stop moving!)

Oh, dear. Life changes again.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How much is too much? On Food Budgets

Not too long ago, I mentioned seeing this blog about another family's food budget. She states she spends about $750 a month feeding 2 adults and a child. I gagged on my coffee when I first read that.

"$750 a month!!! Goodness, do they have any money left to spend on anything else?"

Any reader of mine knows that I'm working on keeping our food budget down. I tried for $200 a month, but that is just too-too little. I think between $250 and $300 is what I normally spend (some months are higher, for sure, and some lower).  So far, in March, I'm at $197... so this is a low month. (I don't have it in me to go back and add up Jan and Feb.)

What's the difference? First off, though I LOVE the taste of grass-fed beef, I'm not willing to spend the $7/lb it costs here to get. We could purchase 1/2 or 1/4 of a cow, and we are looking at it, but that will up my budget some, I'm sure. I think we figured it would be between $4 and $5 or $6 a pound then. Compared to spending no more than $3/lb now -- that makes for expensive beef. Pork, etc are all in the same boat here.

I don't buy raw milk. Our pediatrician asked me point blank to not do raw milk -- he's treated numerous cases of listeria around here. Plus, it would nearly double what I pay for milk now. I do buy real butter. I don't like doing "fake stuff", and margarine just feels fake to me. I know too much about how its made. I do buy it in bulk and freeze it. I pull out a pound block as I need it.

I'm also not convinced of the health benefits or nutrition of pasture-fed animals, versus stall-fed. I read too much of Throwback to Trapper Creek, who speaks more about the appropriate ways to pasture feed and when to pasture feed and stall feed, and what I've read of the "studies" done just doesn't convince me. My philosopher Hubby has trained me too well. Of course, that's also why I don't trust HEB's comments about their ground beef being 100% beef implying that meaning it doesn't contain pink slime.

I don't buy organic veggies -- again, I'm not convinced. Plus, I lived in China.... I remember having to boil or dip in iodine or otherwise sterilize veggies (peeling was an option for some) to avoid getting any parasites. I wash my veggies well, but I'd rather get some residue of some pesticide (and some of the most potent are "all natural" by the way) than some residue of poop, human or otherwise. Call me wonky.

I'll see if I can go through and figure out what we spend on fresh veggies and fruit, dairy, meat and dry goods. That would be an interesting study, I'm sure.

After the pink slime stuff, I'm looking at buying beef and grinding it myself. I'm considering the cost of the grinder and the cost of the beef.  I'll let you know what I find. I do suspect that I'll be spending the same or more going this route. But perhaps avoiding pink slime is worth it....

Keep in mind, also, that my food budget is just food -- no paper products (that goes to household), no cleaning (again, household), office supplies (office stuff), or clothing and such.

Thoughts, opinions, questions or random comments? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pink Slime

Pink slime has made big news lately. Its in school lunch (oooo, gross!) and in ground beef (geez, this is even worse).

HEB, our local grocery store, has declared "all of its beef sold in H-E-B supermarkets is 100 percent pure and contains no additives."

Forgive me for thinking like a philosopher (or lawyer), but pink slime is made from cow parts, so its still "pure beef". Does the "no additives" mean it doesn't contain the ammonia hydroxide used to kill bacteria (which weirds me out, also)? What does this really mean? I'm not normally a freak-out-about-food kinda gal, but this really freaks me out.

Anyone else have more information on this? What do you think? Should I be as freaked out by this as I am?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

These days, give or take a week

Ya know, its not that I'm more busy than usual, but I am finding that blogging is not at the top of my priority list. So, to the family who reads this, I'm thinking of you.... I'm just feeling lazy about doing something about it.

And in response...

Peanut is really figuring out how to eat. He has successfully gotten through a graham cracker quarter and a nilla wafer... biting off little bits at time. And he loves cajun spiced french fries. The spice doesn't seem to bother him.

He's not yet pulling up, but he is working on climbing over things. This bottom step on the kitty latter (that goes to the top of the TV cabinet) is one of his favorite things to climb over.

I've realized that my life topics are rather limited right now. And that frustrates me. I can talk for hours about babies, children, gardening, laundry, cloth diapers and cooking, but there is little beyond that. So, I'm questing for opening up my reading and thinking to other areas. Luckily, this blog is about whatever I'm into at the moment, so I don't feel bad in my blog topics start fluctuating so much. This is as much about me journaling out loud as entertaining or informing others. Nonetheless, I want my readers to be satisfied!

And as to the posting on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday -- yeah, forget it. I'll post when I'm inspired.... but I will aim to post 2 or 3 times a week. Easiest way to keep up (if you have such motivations) sign up to get the blog via email, or add me to your RSS reader. Want to know how to do that (the RSS reader bit), let me know in the comments and I'll point you to instructions. Its easy and crazy convenient.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Daylight Savings and Perpetual Bone Broth

What, you ask, do these two things have to do with each other? Nothing really, except they are both on my mind right now.

Yesterday, I heard a DJ say that it is nice, on a farm, to have the extra hour of day light that daylight savings gives. Dude, you have the SAME NUMBER OF HOURS OF DAYLIGHT HOWEVER YOU NUMBER THEM!!!! Yes, I meant to yell. The time changes drive me crazy, and now its even worse. Please, Mr. Politician, can you explain to my baby that he needs to adjust his sleep and nap schedule?

As for the perpetual bone broth idea... I'm not sold. I set up the big crockpot (holds about 4 quarts) with 2 picked clean chicken carcasses. Yes, 2. The author of that post uses 1 in 6 quarts (if I read it right). After the first 24 hours, I ladled out some beautiful broth, just as I would normally do. I got out 2 quarts of golden, savory-smelling liquid gold.

This is normal. I added back in 2 or so quarts of water, and let the machine do its magic for another 24 hours. The broth, at that point, was the proper color, but didn't smell as strong nor taste as strong. But I filled the machine with an appropriate amount of water, again, and let it go for another 24 hours. At the end of that 24 hours, it seemed more like broth colored water than actual broth, so I decided to let it go for another 24 hours. 

Inadvertently, I discovered that my crockpot doesn't work like I thought it did. Its always cooked a bit on the hot side, and its got to be full or food will burn. It seems that the crockpot just adds a particular amount of heat, rather than keep the food at a particular temperature. (I hope that makes sense) This meant that after 48 hours on low, the broth was a full, rolling boil. ACK! So I turned it down and we ladled out the broth later that evening.

I used it for chicken soup the next day. Yep, colored water. Maybe I am just too picky about these things? I demand that the broth congeal when it cools down (showing its got the collagen, thus protein, from the bones) and that it taste strongly of chicken (or beef or whatever the bones are from). I can buy colored water from the store, thank you very much.

Could be a few issues.... my crockpot cooks too hot; the chickens I used just aren't as "good" (I don't use specially marked organic or free range, or what-have-you); or my standards are just too high and the 4th, 5th and 6th run of broth really is more than colored water.

So, with my crockpot and my chickens, I might start giving bones a second run for broth, but not a third. I think we will continue to live in at a broth shortage status quo for now.

Has anyone else tried this? I know Mrs. Mac tried it and it seemed to have worked out for her. If you have feed back or ideas, please let me know!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

And its Thursday

Whew -- what a week. Hubby is getting ready for his first paper presentation (at a conference this weekend), Peanut is finally getting over his cold, and I'm catching up on life after doing some nannying last week. Let's just say that 4 month old twins plus 9 month old Peanut is a freaking lot of work.

To my great joy, I saw this earlier today...

The irises are blooming! If I remember right, I picked up these bulbs last year at school, before Peanut was born. Someone was casting them off, so I claimed them. I had no idea what color they were, but aren't they beautiful?

And, yep, its raining! I don't think we've gotten all that much today, but some is far better than none.

And, to wet your appetite, I hope to have a few food and food-money related posts soon. I have several ideas floating around my head after hearing (1) a story on talk radio about a new book, (2) a blog post about someone else's food budget (she is spending about $750 a month!), and (3) I tried the perpetual bone broth.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How do you praise your kids?

A friend forwarded this to me: How not to talk to your kids. Both Hubby and I thought it was fascinating, and talked about our own childhoods and how the types of praise we usually got influenced us.

Then, tonight, I realize that Peanut is understanding quite a bit of language, demonstrated in this video --

No less than 3 times does Peanut demonstrate that he knows what "drink from the cup" means. I found myself wanting to say "You are so smart!", but remembering the article about praising your child's effort, not intelligence, I worked to change my praise. I said, "I can tell you are working hard to understand all the words I use" and similar worded praise.

How about you? How do you offer praise?