grocery cart content changes

Last weekend my husband and I were out grocery shopping together (romantic, eh?) and I commented on how the contents of our grocery cart have changed over the last year and a half. A year ago we started making a lot of foods ourselves (not all, we’re not fanatic about it).

Before, our cart would have included cookies, frozen pizza for quickie dinners, breaded chicken or fish, fries, snack packs of things that could go in the kid’s lunches, boxed cereals and minute rice, juice, etc. Since then, we have begun to make most of these ourselves. We now stick to the outer produce and dairy sections with brief forays into the middle of the grocery store, but mostly just to restock ingredients. We’ve also bought less vegetables this year thanks to the garden we put in last year.

It turns out that making most things from scratch isn’t much more of a time committment than the ready made alternatives. We enjoy being in the kitchen. And homemade just tastes so much better, never mind how much better it is for us.

A few things that we don’t buy anymore because we make it ourselves:

  1. Pizza – we have a great recipe for quick pizza crust that we top with cheese, pizza sauce, leftover cooked meat that we keep chopped in the freezer and chopped veggies from the garden that we keep in the freezer (or fresh, when the garden is going full-force). We make two large pizzas in order to give us a couple of days worth of leftovers for school lunches.
  2. Cookies – The Dad makes cookies on an almost weekly basis (perhaps the reason my behind is quickly expanding to an axe handle width).
  3. Minute rice – I bought a rice cooker. It makes rice quickly and I can make enough to put some in the freezer for quick lunches. I prefer long grain white rice to brown rice, which I just plain old don’t like and it doesn’t like me back.
  4. Frozen meals – I used to buy these for work. Now, when I don’t have leftovers to take to work, I quickly cook up some couscous, add in chopped spinach, a few veggies and some leftover meat from the freezer, pour some kind of dressing over it and I’ve got a filling five minute lunch salad with protein. Couscous takes only 5 minutes to cook in a container with a lid on it and I can get everything else chopped and ready in that time. Very easy.
  5. Snack packs – my kids are just as happy with little containers of granola (chocolate), seeds, dried cranberries and the occasional Cheerio (some things you can’t just leave behind).
  6. Cereal – aside from Cheerios, I make granola now. We all like it. It’s cheaper than store bought too. It also might be contributing to my wider hind end.
  7. Meat – we don’t buy anything pre-packaged or battered anymore. We just do it ourselves. We’ve often bought local meat in the past and will continue to do so when possible.
  8. Cleaning supplies – I’m making more of them myself, but truthfully, I didn’t buy many of them to begin with. Dish soap is a pretty good all-purpose cleaner and I use a steam mop on my floors (my mom gave me one she never used – I use it all of the time and love it).
  9. Bread – we don’t make it all of the time, but we certainly buy less of it than we used to. It’s pretty easy to make yourself, but we also don’t beat ourselves up for buying it. We’re busy. Bread making takes time.
  10. Juice – we drink mostly milk, water, coffee, tea or iced tea.
  11. Napkins/paper towels – we don’t use them. We use cloth napkins at the table and rags for cleaning.
  12. Chicken/beef stock – easy enough to make whenever there are leftover bones – I just keep it in jars in the freezer.
  13. Tomato sauce – I made up gallons of this sauce last year (we had 32 tomato plants!).
  14. Frozen peas/beans–we froze as much of these from our garden as we could. We’ve mostly run out now, but will plant more this year to get us through next winter, plus we’re going to try out some corn this time around.
  15. Zucchini/rhubarb–I still have shredded zucchini for breads, muffins and sauces in the freezer and same with the chopped up rhubarb, though I have plans for some of it this weekend.
  16. Canned tomatoes – I froze whole tomatoes in freezer bags and am still using them up – they work great in any recipe that calls for canned tomatoes.
  17. Pizza sauce – I make my own – its really easy to doctor up some tomato sauce with some extra herbs and spice and olive oil.

Added to this is the life saver of having some meals and meal starters already in the freezer. It saves a lot of money and time on rushed kidsport nights. Especially on the nights when you’d be tempted otherwise to just stop and buy take-out. This blog gave me the inspiration to do some cooking for future meals – it has a lot of ideas for easy freezer meals and got me started.

Next up, the dad wants to make cheese. We have the rennet, now we just need to take the time to try it. And I might try making yogurt soon. I eat it most days at work anyway, might as well start making that too.

I’m glad I wrote all of that down. I’m awfully impressed with myself now. Feel free to leave me more suggestions – I’d love to hear any you might have.

Linking to Cozy Home Scenes, Frugally Sustainable, Like a Mustard Seed, Your Green Resource, Cheerios and Lattes, An Original Belle, Growing Home

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60 thoughts on “grocery cart content changes

  1. I am awfully impressed by you too–as well as energized–you make it sound simple–I am going to start small and change some of my habits too. Thanks for the impetus.

  2. Tamara says:

    :-) Your list looks remarkably like mine! Definitely make your yogurt. The first couple times are daunting until you realize it’s unbelievably easy. I make our yogurt and yogurt cheese a few times a week and everyone eats it up. I add stewed fruit to some batches, and homemade vanilla extract to others.

    yum!!

  3. Spreads are great to make too! Nut butters and chutneys?

    • I would definitely make them if we used them. The kids aren’t allowed to take anything with nuts in it anywhere – school, activities, camps, etc., and I don’t like chutney. Not worth the extra work for me. We just skip them altogether. My husband still buys peanut butter, but won’t consider the all natural kind – doesn’t like the taste. I don’t like peanut butter, period.

  4. I am so excited to hear about your cheese making adventures. I have been wanting to make hard cheeses for a while now, and haven’t gotten around to it. I’m glad you guys are going to be the guinea pig :)
    And here is the easiest yogurt recipe in the world. http://arealfoodlover.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/making-yogurt-in-the-crock-pot/

    • Thanks! I’ll have a look.

    • I tried making yogurt earlier this week and it didn’t firm up at all. It remained the consistency of milk but tasted like yogurt. I will try your method next.

    • Tamara says:

      I’ve never had any luck with making yogurt in a crock pot :-) The temp is soooo important and I don’t think my crock has a good seal. I guess I just swear by the stove top and blanket method.

      • I’d better get a candy thermometer I guess. I have meat thermometers, but I don’t know if they go that low. I’ll have to look. I doubt Id use my crockpot either – the lid broke, my father in law “farmered” it back on, but the seal isnt that great.

  5. The more you change, the more your cart contains “ingredients” and not “foods”. Good for you!!

    PS-I have a yogurt recipe posted on my blog. :)

  6. HappyMrsBass says:

    Wow…that’s awesome! My hubbers and I have been slowly changing our grocery cart contents…yesterday it included a juicer and loads of veggies. No processed nothing, yay! This year I am super excited about being able to stock up on our freezer veggies as this is our first year doing our own garden (unlike the last four years of leeching of both sets of parents, lol). I like making my own yogurt, way yummier than store bought and much cheaper too!

    (Would you mind sharing this on my new link-up? It’s an awesome list and I’d love for my other readers to see it, thanks! http://www.likeamustardseed.com/2012/05/01/learning-herbs-rosemary-and-a-new-tuesday-link-up/ )

  7. chefconnie says:

    Since we moved up the the mountains a year and a half ago quick stops at the pizza place or chipotles or the grocery store just do not happen now….There is nothing like that up here. I shop 2 times a month and make everything from scratch. Yogurt, bread, granola, hot sauce, bbq sauce, pizza everything. I am putting in a huge garden to make sure we have plenty of produce. My grocery cart consists of 50 lb bags of flour, 35 lb box of cooking oil, case of pasta etc. Oh it looks just like an order I get at the lodge….Buying 50 lbs of oats really saves on home made granola bars and granola. All of the recipes are on my blog.

  8. Somer says:

    Wow! Sounds like light years of improvement! So great! Here are some super easy yogurt recipes you might enjoy. One is made with dairy and the other is made with nut milk.

    http://goodcleanfood.wordpress.com/2008/11/01/do-over-and-my-new-love/

    http://goodcleanfood.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/almond-or-cashew-milk-yogurt/

  9. Heidi says:

    I just found your blog from Frugal Day, Sustainable ways. Our grocery cart too has changed so much over the last 3 years. I am teetering on the edge of making my own yogurt too, I actually borrowed a candy thermometer and just need to get up the nerve to do it. I’ve recently realized that I’m going through flour, baking soda and baking powder quite quickly. (Before I would buy a new box of baking soda or baking powder, when ever I made something that called for it, because I couldn’t remember when I bought it originally) This weekend, I got some glass jars to store them in, since we are now buying in larger quantities.

    • Me too. I’m always on the lookout for large glass jars these days. I buy up those huge jars they store pickled eggs, etc. in when I see them at yard sales or in thrift stores. They’ve very handy! I frequent the bulk food store a lot, but have found that they are not always the best prices – sometimes the packaged stuff at the grocery store beats them out, which drives me crazy.

  10. Sara Tetreault says:

    Great job, Heidi! Our grocery carts would look very similar….
    We’ve recently started making bread since I was given a sourdough starter. Whole wheat sourdough bread is tasty and so easy!
    I’d love to hear about the steam cleaner for floors – do you use it on wood floors? We don’t wear shoes inside our home so it stays pretty clean but I only mop the kitchen and my kids do the bathrooms so the rest of the house gets ignored. Sometimes I think I should clean the floors more often but isn’t that what socks are for? :)

    • I do use it on the wood floors, but on the lowest steam setting. We take our shoes off too, but between kids, cat, dog and the occasional husband that forgets to remove barn boots and spills things at random, the floors get grungy fast. The steam mop is amazing though. It has removable cloths that you just throw in the washing machine. No cleaners necessary, just add water. I admit I only clean the kitchen/hallway/family room frequently – the rest of the house is pretty clean and gets the weekly go-over. Usually. I might have skipped last week. Oops.

  11. amberwideman says:

    Awesome! I love all your efforts to go a little more natural and homemade. When I cook at my house, I try to do this too. It’s hard though when you have a brother and a dad who are always hungry (convenience is necessary) and who like the junk food. I’ve always said that when I have my own home and my own family I will definitely be making lots of homemade meals and foods. Thanks for sharing all your tips! And one last thing…you must have a BIG freezer to hold all that stuff :)

  12. Great list! We started meal planning at our house in Feb 11 and took the plunge to Real Food (homemade almost everything) in Sept 11. I make yogurt, bread, muffins, granola and soup regularly. We stopped buying frozen pizzas, frozen meals (such as Lean Cuisines), boxed meals (such as Hamburger Helper), and packaged side dishes (such as rice mixes). We do still buy packaged unsweetened cereals, crackers, and cheese. Since our kid also moved away from home at that time, we stopped buying “kid food” like chicken strips and Kraft Dinner. Although I don’t have a vegetable garden, I plan to do some canning this year, even if I have to buy produce at the Farmers Market. I am really loving our new routines and meals!

  13. Hi just wanted to let you know that we are now too operating a paperless kitchen… We have swapped our paper napkins for material ones and our paper towels for rags… I even replaced the paper filters of our coffee machine with a cloth filter bag that i just wash with warm water and soap. I am contemplating on making your granola this weekend! Keep spoiling us with all your tips! Somebody out there is listening!

  14. I ‘think’ that you do a great job making things yourself…My husband and I are retired now and while we don’t eat a lot of ‘junk’ food we don’t make most foods ourselves, but we do eat a lot of fresh vegetables ..I would love to have a recipe for your tomato sauce that likely would be good for spaghetti and other pastas..We grew our own tomatoes last year but they were slow in growing and ripening and we didn’t grow enough I guess..We live in Ontario Canada and the beginning of growing season seems to be so late ..If you have a recipe online could you send the link for it..Diane.

    • I don’t have one on-line yet – but I probably will at some point. I’m also in Ontario – so haven’t even planted my tomatoes for the year yet. I don’t really have a recipe, I just saute some onion, garlic, celery, carrot and zucchini (shredded), add in the tomatoes (peeled and seeded) and salt and pepper and some italian type spices and cook it for a few hours and use the immersion blender to smooth it out. Or not, if I’m feeling the need for chunky sauce. Sometimes I just whiz up the tomatoes (seeds, peel and all) in the food processor first, then add it to the cooked veggies and cook it all down for a while. Depends on how the mood strikes me. It always tastes good in the end.

  15. Kristi says:

    Wow, this post is chock-full of great advice! I’m going to have to go back and read it carefully—better yet, print it and get my butt in gear at working on making more homemade versions of the things I’m buying.

    BTW—I just realized that I told you on the hair spray post to “just use an extra tsp. or two”….what I left out was that you’ll want to use an extra tsp. or two of SUGAR, not the hairspray. LOL I corrected it, sorry for any confusion. ;-)

  16. We began our first garden in a while last summer, unfortunately we weren’t as successful as you were. The wildlife, mainly the deer, got to our food first. We’re trying again this year and I’ve designed a way I’m hoping to keep the deer out. In addition to freezing foods, I also dehydrate many vegetables and fruits. Dropping a handful of dehydrated fruits into oatmeal means we don’t need sweeteners. Adding dehydrated veggies, I’ve learned, is a quick way to make a healthy pot of soup.

  17. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a dehydrator at yard sales and thrift stores. I’ll find one at some point. I’d also like to make some sun dried tomatoes this year (in the oven).

    We have deer, but we also have lots of coyotes in the woods, so the deer don’t come close. I don’t have any tips for you there.

  18. I can’t wait until I get to where you are. Love this post!

  19. We are on a homemade food quest as well, and most of the time we are successful. I hate to admit it, but it just never dawned on me to make my own pizza sauce. Are there any certain spices that distinguish pizza sauce from spaghetti sauce?

  20. Sarah says:

    Those are some amazing changes you’ve made! Don’t you feel better physically as well as financially??!! It’s amazing how different you feel when you’re not eating junk! Btw, Gina over @ skinnytaste.com had a guest post yesterday about homemade freezer meals! Her guest blogger was ‘once a month mom’. You should check it out!

  21. Lynne Ayers says:

    I’m definitely impressed. Given me pause to think.

  22. You have made so many changes! Fabulous! I’m sure you are feeling healthier too.

  23. tara says:

    Awesome list! I assume that you have reaped many health benefits from all of these changes. I did a post in the same vain recently http://simplymadehome.blogspot.com/2012/05/healthier-grocery-trip-with-baby-on-hip.html
    I loved this post and would love to have you link up at a new blog party I am hosting called Make a Move Monday. My goal is to creat a community of encouragment around the idea of making small moves that make a big difference to our health and home. This post would be great. I would love to see you there!
    Tara @ Simply Made Home

  24. Laura says:

    Great post! I can’t wait to try your pizza crust. Yummy!

    I made my own yogurt in my crock pot for a few months. Here’s the link to the recipe I used:

    http://www.nourishingdays.com/2009/02/make-yogurt-in-your-crock-pot/

    I eventually got too busy. There is not a lot of work to do, but it has to be done at specific times. So it would take up a whole Saturday to be home and babysitting my yogurt. After a few failures, I just decided it would be easier to go back to buying it.

    In that post, the author says that she started making her own yogurt on the countertop. That sounds a lot easier, and I’ve been meaning to try it.

    • Thanks for the link – though I may try the counter top version too – my crock pot is the kind with the hinged lid and it doesnt have a good seal anymore – I have to wrap it in a couple ot towels to make sure it keeps the heat in.

      We love the pizza crust – its really fast and easy. We have it almost once a week at our house.

  25. [...] We make most of our cookies and desserts. This month I posted recipes for Chocolate Chip Banana Beer Bread, Grand Marnier Fudge (not for the kid’s lunch pails) and some drinks you can make with rhubarb (again, probably not for the kid’s lunch boxes). I also posted about how we’ve changed the groceries that we buy. [...]

  26. Barbara Good says:

    I’m awfully impressed too. Actually this post is very similar to one I just wrote http://thenewgoodlife.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/tuesdays-top-five-things-ive-learned-about-cooking-from-scratch/. As always I’m jealous of all your space, I’m not a city sleeker homesteading in the country, I’m a country girl stuck in the city, in fact in a small townhouse and a small yard, but I’m using my space as effectively as I can to grow our own food. I keep eye off my kids tiny patch of lawn and the sand pit longing for the day when they can grow and I can expand the patch a little further.

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