Friday, November 5, 2010

Eating Real Food on a Budget......impossible???

The question I hear most often (and also ask myself as well) is "Can you really eat real, healthy food on a modest budget"? I found it easier when we were living in Washington as healthy/organic/whole/real food seemed a bit more accessible there. While I am finding some resources here, it does seem a bit more difficult.

I came across an e-book that is on sale right now that sounds like it might answer our questions. It is called "Real Food on a Real Budget". She has done research and made a plan of how you can save 20-30% on your families food budget!!! You can find the book and the reviews at this site:    

What You Can Expect to Learn From This 280-Page Book:

  • How to shave literally hundreds and potentially even thousands off of your grocery expenses every year, without compromising on what you buy!
  • How to establish a realistic food budget for your unique family, and actually stick to it.
  • How to provide better nutrition and cost effectiveness through a meal planning method that suits you best.
  • How to find places to buy whole and traditional foods wherever you live and compare prices so that you know you're getting the absolute best deals.
  • Why, what and how to buy in bulk and what to do with all that food!
  • Which foods are both nutrient-dense, cost-effective, and how to work your diet around them.
  • Why cooking from scratch is key to eating real foods, how to find the time to do it, and how to use that time as effectively as possible.
  • Why you should purchase your foods seasonally and locally, preserve them for cheaper year-round eats, and even grow them yourself.
  • How to evaluate whether couponing can work for you and help to stretch your budget just a little bit further.
  • Countless tips for practicing frugality in your kitchen.
  • And more... (that's what they all say, right? But it's true!)

I don't know about you, but it sounds like a good read to me! I'm going to purchase it tonight!!!

In the meantime, here's a yummy recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds - they are SO addictive!!!

1. Place washed and rinsed pumpkin seeds on cookie sheet.
2. Melt some coconut oil and pour over seeds, tossing to coat.
3. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder (generous on the garlic powder).
4. Bake in 250 oven for about an hour or so, until seeds are starting to lightly brown and become crunchy.


You can buy a "digital" copy of the book (aka "E-Book") for $9.97 BUT ONLY THROUGH FRIDAY, Nov. 5th. Sorry for the late notice on the sale, but I just came across it myself!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Farm Tour - Grassfield's Farm

I think there is nothing better than seeing and learning about where your food is made and where it comes from! We had the fun opportunity to do just that a couple of weekends ago....we attended a "Fall Farm Tour" of Grassfield's Farm in Coopersville, MI.  This event was sponsored by "Local First" which supports local businesses in the Grand Rapids area.

First, we enjoyed a yummy lunch which consisted of all local food - yummy grassfed burgers, chicken wings, homemade potato chips and a salad with raw milk cheese, veggies and dressing. They also had homemade organic apple cider and donuts for dessert! Yum!

After our tummies were full, we enjoyed a fun tractor ride out into the fields to "meet" the animals. We saw their pigs, and after that the cows. They literally drove the tractor and wagon right out into the middle of the cows. I sure was hoping they were friendly cows....

This farm is run by 3 brothers who take care of all the milking, farming, cheese-making, etc. The one driving the tractor said that when its milking time they just ride out to the cows and start talking to them and they know its time to come to the milking barn.

Here's Andrew enjoying one of their organic apples on the ride. Which we subsequently threw to the pigs - apparently some of their favorite treats!

Next stop was their TRUE free-range chickens:

There were chicken "houses" set up in their fields where they kept water and the laying areas for the chickens, but otherwise the chickens are free to roam wherever they like! We bought some of the eggs and they are delicious - not to mention their yolks are a bright orange (meaning healthier and more Omega 3's for you) - click HERE for a great article about the health benefits of eggs!

Afterwards we saw how they make their raw milk cheese (I didn't get pics of this as I was holding on to kids!) and we sampled some of them! The kids paintd pumpkins and then we were done.

It was so great to see how our food was raised and made - it once again reminded me of why I will gladly pay a little extra for REAL, wholesome, organic and LOCAL foods!!!

Stay tuned for recipes......


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Growing up, I LOVED the pot pies you could get in the freezer section - the delicious crispy edges of the crust, the soft mushy part at the bottom, and the veggies and gravy that oozed out when you cut into it. Sometime in my teen years I actually looked at the calorie and fat content on the package (and the ingredients) - and I don't think I've eaten one since!!!

Well, a few years ago my mom visited us when we lived out in Washington and she made this version of a homemade pot pie. Its the best I've tasted. I usually use homemade cream of chicken or mushroom soup in place of the store-bought MSG-laden kind. Or, a good alternative is to use an organic MSG-free canned soup such as these:

Here's the recipe:

top and bottom crust for deep dish pie plate (or make your own)
3 cups cooked and cubed chicken
1 1/2 cups potatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups carrots, diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery (or if you have none, I have simply used celery seeds instead)
1 cup frozen peas

3 T. flour
1/2 t. paprika
2 cups liquid (1 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup plus enough liquid from cooked vegetables to add up to 2 cups!)
2 buillon cubes - non MSG kind (or the granulated type that are MSG free)
salt and pepper as desired

1. Assemble bottom of pie crust in pie plate. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Cook together in a medium to large pot the potatoes, carrots, onions and celery in enough water to cover vegetables. I cook until they are just becoming tender. When done, DO NOT DRAIN, but add 1 cup of frozen peas. Cover - will need a bit of the cooking water in a minute.

*note, in this picture I used some sweet potatoes in addition to the white potatoes. It was very yummy!

3. Make your 2 cups of liquid by including in a large glass measuring cup the can of soup plus enough cooking water from the vegetables to make 2 cups. Add bouillon cubes to mixture and stir until they are dissolved. I use the non-MSG kind of these as well. YOU MAY NOW DRAIN THE VEGGIES and add the chicken to the veggies.

4. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the flour paprika and the 2 cups of above liquid, as well as salt and pepper if desired. Bring to a boil. Add to the chicken and veggie mixture. Pour into pie pan and then add the top crust. Cut a few slits in top crust and bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is lightly browned!

*This recipe can easily be changed to include turkey or shredded beef (for beef, use a beef-based cream soup for filling as well as beef bouillon).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Settling in....

We are in Michigan! Actually, we've been here for just over 2 weeks already. We are gradually settling in and finding our way around a new town! We were graciously met by many people from the church who helped unload our moving truck as well as strip wallpaper from 1 bedroom and paint the rest. It was SO helpful!

Our first 3 Sundays of being at a new church have gone well too! In case you'd like to see where we are, here's a link to our new church's website:

We are enjoying our new home as well! It is a bit smaller than our home in Oak Harbor, but that has actually been a welcome change! Less to clean, right?!

We have enjoyed getting to know the town of Rockford - its a super cute and quaint town on the Rogue River. We have found they have lots of little events and festivals which are family friendly - lots to do!! And yesterday, we also found a great orchard (DK Orchards) that we went to with our good friends Todd & Jen Timmer and their kids Brett & Gretchen. Prior to our moving out west, we went apple picking each fall with Todd & Jen - a tradition that went back to college which was the first thing Bryan and I did together (before we started dating)! We had a GREAT time and walked away with what we felt like was a STEAL - a tractor ride out to the apple trees, 3 baskets of apples, 1 large pumpkin and 2 small ones, 2 butternut squash, and 1 spaghetti squash - all for only $14!!! What a deal!

Rockford also has a great little farmer's market. Last week I bought an eggplant and 2 nights ago made Eggplant Parmesan. I found a recipe HERE that I followed. The changes I made were to initially cook the eggplant a little longer than suggested (I cooked it for 10 minutes on each side rather than the 5 per side that was suggested). It was SUPER yummy!!!

I am looking forward to getting back into my meal-planning routine again. It makes meals so much easier and my life less stressful. I will post my meal plan coming up here soon!!! I am also working on finding some local resources for food and natural/whole foods. I look forward to sharing with you what I find here very soon!!!


Sunday, August 22, 2010


Wow, if the weather has anything to do with it, it FEELS like summer is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest. BRRR! We had our outdoor service today for church and I am thankful I brought blankets along!

Our time in the Pacific Northwest is also winding down....we shared with our congregation here last week that we will be moving soon. Bryan has accepted a "call" to be the Associate Pastor at Rockford Reformed Church in Rockford, MI. He will be preaching weekly, which will be a new but welcomed challenge for him. God has been working in him over the last 6-8 months or so and has ignited a desire to preach God's Word regularly. That, along with doing some adult discipleship and assimilation of new members into the life of the church will make this position a perfect fit for Bryan. We are excited about the new ministry opportunities there.

The BEST part is that we will be only about 40 minutes from our families! For that, we are rejoicing! (and so are our families!)

We found a house there a couple weeks ago as well. We are excited to down-size a bit and live a bit more simply. I'll keep you posted on that progress!

Since my blog is also about food- I will leave you with a QUICK and easy way to use that nutritious KALE that might be growing in your garden........


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Wash and de-stem kale
2. Cut kale into smaller, bite-sized pieces
3. Arrange on cookie/baking sheet
4. Drizzle with olive oil
5. Sprinkle with salt. (add some garlic powder for extra yumminess, if you choose)
6. Bake on tray for 8-10 minutes until edges JUST start to turn light brown.
7. Allow to cool and then ENJOY!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A few of my favorite things....

I have 2 homes. My actual home (where I was born, raised and went to college, where my heart is) is in Michigan - Zeeland and Holland, Michigan, to be exact. But for the last 6 years our family has lived in Oak Harbor, WA. A part of my heart is there now, too. Friends, a church, our first house, life experiences, joys, pains, the place where our kids have grown up so far....

I have realized that it is strange to me that when I am in Oak Harbor I talk of going back "home" to Michigan. When in Michigan, like we've been the last 2 weeks, I talk of going back "home" to Oak Harbor. It is confusing really. Where is my REAL home?

Well, obviously my "real" home will someday be in the presence of the Lord in heaven. (Definitely looking forward to that!). But for now, here on earth, I have 2 "homes". I guess I am lucky for that.....

Goodness, this whole post started because I wanted to share a few fun things about being back in my "Michigan home" and I took off on a tangent. So, here are a few of my favorite "Michigan home" things:

Thunderstorms. Wow, I think we had about 4 of them (including 1 tornado warning, which was a bit scary) while I was here. Glorious. I LOVE thunderstorms. They are one of the big things I miss since living in Oak Harbor, WA, where there are no thunderstorms.

JP's Coffee Shop. When in college, I would take study breaks here - sometimes my dorm room or the library were too "quiet" and I needed some background noise and distractions to help me study. Plus, their Creme Caramel Latte's were the best (and they still are - I have had at least 4 of them while here):


Downtown of Holland, MI - some of the best shops, window shopping and people-watching are here. My mother-in-law said she's a happy woman when she can weekly take a stroll downtown. I am in complete agreement.

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Not to mention, they have a great "Street Performers" night every Thursday night during the summer months:

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And of course, Lake Michigan.

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And yes, for those of you who have never been to the West Michigan lakeshore area, there are WAVES (even some pretty big ones) and SANDY beaches (not too unlike the ones in Florida or California). The best part is that its FRESHWATER, so no saltiness here like in the ocean

But best of all, our families are here. Our kids have had a great time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The time went too quickly.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A couple months ago I mentioned how I was taking an online e-course on the subject of making good, homemade, nourishing food! I have REALLY enjoyed it and the recipes that come along with it.

GOOD NEWS!! The creator of this course is now opening up the lessons again, and anyone can sign up to access them/start them ANYTIME. You can go at your own pace, download them, etc. I put a new "linky" on the right side of my blog's home page. I do earn a small commission for referring people, but I would never refer people if I didn't think it was worth your time/money. Its been awesome! Just yesterday I made a chicken in the crockpot and am now turning the bones, etc, into a homemade and nourishing broth!!! SUPER healthy! I skipped the lesson on making soft, spreadable cheeses, but I'm going to go back and learn that one too!

It's been SO fun! And the best thing is that even with a busy family and schedule, I can do these lessons at my own pace, when I have time - and she has both VIDEO tutorials for each lesson along with PRINTED instructions.

I HIGHLY recommend it! If you are interested in checking it out, clink on the advertisement on the right side of my blog! THANKS!!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fiesta Dip - BEST DIP EVER!!!!


Fiesta Dip
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can Mexicorn (sometimes called Fiesta Corn?), drained
2 firm avocados, diced
2 firm tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
red onion - to taste

1 packet of dry Italian dressing mix (I found an all-natural one)
1/2 cup oil (I used olive oil)
1/4 cup vinegar (I used white)

*Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over veggies - mix gently. Serve with tortilla chips (the "scoops" work great!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easy Cheesy Tortilla Soup

When my mom was here helping after Andrew was born, she took this recipe along and made some for us! It was super yummy! Although its not technically all-natural, whole food-y, its still really yummy and there is really nothing "bad" in it!! You could easily make it more "healthy" by using soaked beans, make your own refried beans, use organic free-range chicken broth, etc. I think the idea of this soup, though, is to be easy and frugal.

Eat it with tortilla scoops or tortilla chips. Our favorite are the Garden of Eatin' organic blue corn tortilla chips shown here:


And here's the recipe:

Easy, Cheesy Tortilla Soup

1 can fat-free refried beans (16oz)

1 can black beans, drained (15oz)

1 can chicken broth, reduced sodium (14.5oz)

1 1/2 cup frozen corn

3/4 cup chunky salsa

3/4 cup cubed, cooked chicken breast

1/2 cup water

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese - divided

"Scoops" or other tortilla chips

1) Combine 1st 7 ingredients, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes

2) Add 1 cup of the cheese - cook on low and heat until melted.

Sprinkle with remainder of cheese or mix into soup...ENJOY!!!!

*works well to make a double batch and freeze half!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Melissa's Stir Fry

One of my favorite meals is stir-fry. I always loved Chinese food for that reason. I have been trying to make that perfect-tasting sauce at home, as well as get those veggies perfectly cooked yet still with a bit of crunch to them.

I THINK I have perfected it and wanted to share my "recipe" so you can try it at home too. Feel free to adjust as needed - I am not going to put "measurements" in this recipe as I just sort of eyeball it and add things to taste!!!

Here's what you'll need:
Brown rice (or sometimes, if I don't use meat in my stirfry I will use Quinoa instead of rice - since quinoa is a complete protein)
Veggies of choice: I usually use carrots (sliced), broccoli (small pieces), sugar peas, and mushrooms (sliced)
onion cut in larger chunks, about 1/2 cup
4-6 garlic cloves
chicken, or meat of choice (optional), cut into bite-sized pieces
chicken broth
Tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
cornstarch or arrowroot powder (as a thickener)
honey, rapadura, or other natural sweetener

1. Get the rice cooking since it takes the longest amount of time to cook.
2. Then, in a LARGE wok or saute pain, I saute the chicken in some chicken broth (or you could use olive oil or coconut oil). Once cooked, removed from heat and set aside.
3. Next, saute/steam the veggies in some chicken broth - I put the carrots in first since they take the longest....after a couple minutes I add the garlic, onions and broccoli....adding mushrooms right at the end. Cooking time depends on how crunchy/mushy you like your veggies. Just keep tasting them as they cook.
4. In the meantime, in a small bowl mix the soy sauce (about 1/2 cup) along with about 1/4 cup cold water....and stir in about 2 tablespoons cornstarch.
5. When veggies are ALMOST cooked to your liking, add the chicken in.
6. Next, with heat still at the medium level, stir in the soy sauce mixture and stir until thickened.
7. Stir in basil and ginger to taste - then add more chicken broth if too thick and more soy sauce if more needed.
8. Serve over rice!

Sloppy Joe's in a Bowl

The online e-course I am taking has been great! I am learning new tricks to make our meals more nutritious! The great thing is, even when you prepare and eat natural, whole foods, it can STILL be TASTY!!!

I THINK my family likes it that I enjoy trying new recipes from time to time. The most recent one came from the e-course and is called "Sloppy Joe's in a Bowl" - they were SUPER yummy!!! My kids loved them and Bryan said more than a few times "this is SO good"! So, I think its a hit and will go into the menu planning rotation.

I wanted to share the recipe with you - the original can be found on the GNOWFLINS website, but I have copied and pasted it below for your convenience. Here it is! I only had black olives, shredded raw cheddar cheese and plain whole-milk yogurt (in place of sour cream) on hand, but I will look forward to trying some of her other suggested toppings next time I make them!!!
--->NOTE: she adds the step of soaking the rice overnight the night before to reduce phytic acid - i am learning about this in the online course and you can read more about the benefits of doing so HERE.


***(she said that for company, she stretches the meat by adding 4 cups of cooked green lentils to the meat mixture, while (just about if not entirely) doubling the sauce ingredients.)****

  • 2 cups dry brown basmati rice
  • 2 cups water plus 2 T raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups stock
  • 2 pounds grass-fed ground beef (or ground buffalo)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3/4 cup filtered water
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons raw honey
  • garnishes: sliced olives, thinly sliced or diced onions, diced tomatoes, diced avocado, and/or homemade cultured dairy, chopped cilantro, shredded raw cheese

In a 2 to 3 quart pot, soak the rice in the 2 cups of water and raw apple cider vinegar overnight. The next day, add the 2 cups stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all liquid is absorbed and grains are fluffy and tender. This will be about a half hour if the grains have soaked overnight. Remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While rice is cooking, put the ground beef in a 4 to 6 quart stock pot. Over medium heat, brown the beef. Add onions and garlic. Saute until soft. In a 4 cup measuring cup, whisk together: water, tomato paste, sea salt, pepper, olive oil, and honey. Add sauce mixture to meat. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Fill bowls with rice, then meat sauce, then desired garnishes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Anyone else game???
I am so excited....I just signed up for an online e-course to learn how to cook healthy food. Now, I consider myself a relatively knowledgeable cook, but I would like to learn the details about making some more interesting healthy-eating-type foods. There is an online e-course that I came across while reading some food blogs that I follow - this particular one is from the website called GNOWFGLINS (it stands for God's Natural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season).

The course sounds so exciting - each week you receive access to audio/video/print materials covering a certain topic.

The DEADLINE to sign up is MONDAY, Feb. 22nd- I would love to have some of you do this with me!!! It does have a cost of $27 per month, for 5 months, but if after the first month you aren't satisfied, you can get a full refund....and with 15 wks of lessons, it ends up being just under $7 a lesson I believe.

Click the banner above to get more info and sign up!!!!
THIS link also tells you a TON about the class - in a nutshell, here are the class "topics" and if you visit the website you can get a more detailed explanation:

  • Overview: eCourse Overview
  • Lesson 1: The GNOWFGLINS Foundation
  • Lesson 2: How to Soak Whole Grains, Nuts and Seeds
  • Lesson 3: How to Make Soaked Whole-Grain Flour Baked Goods I
  • Lesson 4: How to Make Soaked Whole-Grain Flour Baked Goods II
  • Lesson 5: How to Soak and Cook Dry Beans
  • Lesson 6: How to Sprout Beans
  • Lesson 7: How to Cook a Chicken and Make Chicken Stock
  • Lesson 8: How to Make Skillet Dishes: A Dinner Formula
  • Lesson 9: How to Make Water Kefir
  • Lesson 10: How to Make Dairy Kefir
  • Lesson 11: How to Make Soft, Spreadable Cheese
  • Lesson 12: How to Make Sourdough Bread
  • Lesson 13: How to Sprout Whole Grains for Sprouted Grain Flour & How to Bake With Sprouted Grain Flour
  • Lesson 14: How to Make Natural Pickled Foods
Anyone want to join me on this adventure???? IF you do, sign up at that link today and then let me know so we can cheer each other on!!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Adventures

We have a new addition to our family as of January 6th! Arriving 6 days past his due date, Andrew Campbell made his debut at 515am, roughly 3.5 hrs after my first contraction. He weighed 8lbs 15.4oz (although that was after he pooped all over the floor and the Dr, so the nurses said to just say he was 9lbs!). He's a great baby and super cute, although I'm probably a little biased....

ANYWAY, I've been a little busy with him and my other 2 kids lately. I am starting to get to a point where I am ready to try to start blogging regularly again - new recipes and fun things should be popping up on here very soon!!!! Get ready! ENJOY!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Go on over to the Passionate Homemaking site ( and enter to win one of 7 copies of the book: Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit I am excited to read this challenging and inspiring book!