Stretching Your {real food} Grocery Budget: No Coupons Needed

Stretching Your Real Food Grocery Budget {Quiet In The Chaos}

With groceries at an all time high, we are all trying to find ways to make our grocery budget stretch.  I want to share a few ways you can make your meals go farther, using nutritious foods, on a budget.

  • Carrots in spaghetti– Every family as spaghetti lovers (in my house, it is everyone but me…) All you need is a cheese grater and you are good to go!  Simply grate your peeled carrots into the spaghetti sauce (I use 2 carrots for a recipe with 2 pounds of meat).  You can use this idea in any recipe that can handle a *hint* of carroty sweetness.  You don’t even taste the carrots, really.  But it adds bulk and therefore stretches that spaghetti for leftovers.
  • Zucchini in spaghetti– Basically do the same thing here, that you did with the carrots; only don’t peel them.  You can even use one carrot and one zucchini.  Not peeling them makes it easier to grate, and adds more fiber.
  • Fill in with rice or pasta– I am not huge on using carbs to fill in, because they don’t add a lot of nutritional value to a meal.  However, I do use long grain brown rice (the regular kind NOT minute rice), and sometimes whole grain egg noodles to fill in recipes.
  • Use all of the vegetable– For instance, when I use bell peppers, I cut the tops off and use them in my recipe (just pop the core off).  This is how I see it:  that amount of bell pepper is the equivalent to what will be found in one bowl of my 2 year old’s dish. Cut off and chop up the stalks of broccoli and cauliflower when cooking them- no one is going to notice it is the stalk after it’s been cooked in a recipe.  These parts don’t taste any different than the “main part” of the veggies- they just aren’t as pretty.
  • Always add a salad– This is so easy, and requires little effort.  Add a salad to every dinner (even lunches) and you can make the main dish stretch farther.  In our home, we all *love* my family’s Italian salad.  It is simple- olive oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic with salt and pepper to taste.  SO YUM!
  •  Menu plan– this is a LIFE saver for me.  Honestly, I am not sure what I did before I started menu planning?  But how does this stretch your grocery budget?  When you menu plan, you can make many dishes from the same ingredients.  So instead of buying a bunch of celery for one dish, you make 3 dishes that week that call for celery- a whole chicken and roasted veggies, chicken soup, and maybe chicken salad.  See a trend there?  You can also make a whole chicken (or two) on Sunday (one in the crock pot, one in the oven), and then use the part of a chicken for one meal, and the leftovers for the soup, chicken salad, and maybe even BBQ chicken sandwiches for lunch one day.
  • Start a garden- This is obvious, but look at what your family eats the most of?  We eat a TON of tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, broccoli, and carrots.  These are things we like to plant in our garden, they don’t require a lot of planning or  caring for, just water and sunshine.  =)
  • Price Match- I know we all hate Walmart, I have never met someone that says, “oooh, I just love going to walmart.”  However, they price match!  Don’t get the paper?  Don’t have time to compare all those prices?  Do a squick google search for a price matching blog in your area; it is almost guaranteed some lovely blogger has already done the hard work for you.  In my area we have  I *love* this website, and use it every time I go to the store.  I write out my list, then add the pricematcherz price out beside the items on my list.  I can’t tell you how much money this has saved me on produce like grapes, apples, and bananas.  Now, if you have time to go to the other stores instead of price matching- good for you!  And some of the smaller grocery stores also price match now, so no need to go to the Big Blue for everything.
  • Start eating smaller portions- This is a BIG one, and one we are working on here in our home (mainly because I need to lose weight from my second child haha).  I let the kids have as much as they want- they are growing children with tons of energy,they need the third small bowl of chili more than I do  😉 But try cutting your first portion of everything in half, then if you are hungry go back for a second smaller portion.  This will help create leftovers for lunches/dinner the next day.
  • Don’t buy processed foods-  You know I am a huge advocate of eating real foods; whole foods that are not in a box, package, and are their own ingredient.  Processed foods- chips, crackers, cereals- They’re expensive!  Even if you have a coupon, it is cheaper and healthier to buy a real food version in bulk and prepare it yourself.  Replace chips with homemade chips (simply slice potatoes and bake), crackers with baked crackers, and cereals with oatmeal that you dress-up yourself (using raisin, dried fruit & sucanat or Grade B maple syrup).  This will save so much money and it is REAL FOOD.  All of the above can be made ahead of time and stored, or frozen!

What are some things you do to stretch your grocery budget?

Healthy Beef and Rice Casserole

Beef and rice casserole {}

I make a variation of this recipe that isn’t baked … we call it “goolash.”  This recipe is a version of “Beef and Rice Casserole” adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book (mine was the 11th edition).

This was a HUGE hit with my family, including the two year old.  While he isn’t picky, he is what I call lazy and doesn’t like to chew meat; he will just suck on it, get all the flavor out, then spit out the meat.  He ate every bite of this!

And it is something you can feel good about feeding to your family.  This recipe does call for homemade bone broth- click HERE to learn how to make yours (it is SO easy!)

Healthy Beef and Rice Casserole

1 hour, 10 minutes

Number of servings: 12

See Detailed Nutrition Info on

Healthy Beef and Rice Casserole


  • 2 pound ground beef or pork (I used grassfed beef)
  • 1 sweet or red onion, diced
  • 2 cups long grain brown rice (we like organic jasmine rice from Azure)
  • 2 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can rotel tomatoes
  • 1 can sweet corn
  • 1 small can sliced olives
  • 1 small can green chilies
  • 4 cups homemade bone broth
  • chili powder to taste
  • Worcestershire to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shredded cheese of choice for topping (we used Daiya dairy free mozerella)


  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a large pot or skillet brown the ground beef and onion until meat is cooked and onion is soft
  3. Add the rest of ingredients
  4. Bring to a boil
  5. Remove from heat and transfer to a large casserole dish
  6. Cover and bake in 350 oven for one hour
  7. Uncover, top with cheese of choice and put back in the oven until cheese is melty (10 mins or so)
  8. This is about 264 calories per serving

Braided Egg Bread {with allergy alternatives}

I have had several requests for this recipe, so I want to share it with you!

braided egg bread

I know, I made the ropes too long so it is a little wavy …

When I lived in Hot Springs, there was this amazing bakery that everyone in town loved.  They had the very best of any baked good you have ever eaten- cakes, cookies, bars, and bread!

My mother-in-law always had a loaf of their braided egg bread on the table.  When we moved to Nebraska, I had no idea where I could get (and still don’t) a loaf of that amazing bread.  So I did a huge search, far and wide, to find a recipe.

I am pretty sure this bread was the first thing I baked in our oven in Nebraska.

Just a fair warning- if you aren’t a bread baker (and I am not) this may look intimidating.  I promise  it is really hard to mess this bread up!  It is the first real bread I ever made in my whole life and turned out perfectly the first time, after several mistakes!  Yes, it requires a few rises, and kneading but it is still easy.  I usually start it while the kids eat lunch, finish it during nap time, and we enjoy it for snack and with dinner.  =)

Also, it doesn’t have a very strong flavor.  It is a very subtle, light bread that is so yummy with butter and soup or salad.

Braided Egg Bread {with allergy alternatives}

2 hours

See Detailed Nutrition Info on

Braided Egg Bread {with allergy alternatives}


  • 4 1/2 to 5 1/4 cups of flour (you can use whole wheat or all purpose)
  • 1 package (or 2.25 tsp) of active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3c milk (for dairy allergies use coconut or rice milk)
  • 3 tbsp sugar (I use sucanat for a wholesome, real food sweetener)
  • 3 tbsp butter (or coconut oil for dairy alternative)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
  • *you will need an electric mixer


  1. Please don't be intimidated by the kneading and rising times. I promise- this bread is so easy and delicious.
  2. In your mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of your flour and the yeast
  3. In a medium saucepan heat the milk, sugar, butter/oil, and salt until just warm (about 130* using a food thermometer-any warmer and you can kill your yeast = no bueno!)
  4. Add the warm milk mixture to your flour
  5. Add the 2 whole eggs
  6. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds
  7. Scrape the sides of bowl really well, and then mix on high speed for 3 minutes- set the microwave timer and load the dishwasher while you wait =)
  8. Scrape down the sides, add in about 2 more cups of flour, a cup at a time, and mix until well combine (just a minute or so-don't over mix! That makes your bread tough = no bueno!)
  9. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and flour your hands
  10. Your dough is probably pretty sticky, go ahead and add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup more flour
  11. This should make your dough pretty stiff, but still elastic. That's what you want
  12. Knead the dough for about 6-8 minutes (again, set the timer)
  13. Spray the bottom of a bowl with a little Pam. Add the ball of dough, turn once to coat with oil
  14. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour
  15. Punch down dough, divide into three balls and let rest 10 minutes
  16. Roll each third out into an 18" rope. Place ropes on a large cookie sheet and begin braiding.
  17. Let rise 30 minutes.
  18. Preheat oven
  19. Brush braid with 1 beaten egg yolk (that's what gives it the pretty brown sheen)
  20. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 or until bread sounds hollow when you tap on the top


If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Baby Summary Weeks 35-36

Max hit the 37 week mark yesterday, so this is a post for the last two weeks of his life.

To say Max ha started eating is an understatement.  The boy is devouring finger foods.  Everything from dried blueberries and apples to sausage and sauerkraut!  He ate the sauerkraut like it was running away from him!  This weekend he enjoyed my cucumber and tomato salad in oil and vinegar … with garlic!  We still do pureed foods just because sometimes I don’t have a meal made that doesn’t have dairy in it, but he is eating a LOT more finger foods.  I can’t wait for him to try watermelon and cantaloupe this summer.

We still only have two teeth, but I think he is working on the top two.  They’re a little white but not puffy yet. He has been napping great!  Most days are 2 1.5 hour naps, sometimes a cat nap at 4:30 if he is really tired.  But we usually just do early bedtime at 6:30pm instead.

Crawling … well, he is moving about 2 feet at a time before he falls on his belly and decides to roll over.  So yes, he is crawling, but not for long distances.  He rolls and scoots around a LOT more than he does crawl.  **EDIT: he crawled all the way across the living room floor today!  I know, it’s a 37 week update, but had to add it!  YAY MAX!**

He enjoys being outside, and playing in the water.  We have had beautiful, warm weather as of late.  So Mama has been laying out while the kids play.  He sits in the baby blow up bath tub and Lexie plays in her kiddie pool.  Speaking of which, they are finishing our fence!  Woo hoo!  I am so excited.  It should be complete tomorrow morning.  They did most of it today.  Lexie is so excited, she has been waiting on her fence for a very long 3 months.

Helping mama make the salad …

Last weekend was Mother’s day; we went to church at the Methodist church (which I liked a lot, surprisingly, coming from a full gospel girl.   It was really homey).  JTom got me a bread maker for Mother’s day- woo hoo!  We have already used it several times and LOVE it.  way better than doing it by hand, any day.

This past weekend we stayed home and worked around the house.  JTom and Lexie got the garden in and JTom got the sprinklers set up in the flower bed.  He cut into the sprinkler system and put little sprayers in the flower beds.  They’re really cute.  Our garden this year is just: tomatoes (roma, big beef, early girl, burly boys, and cherry), red and green bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and butternut squash. We put the bed in on the south side of the house, where they dug out for flower beds.  It’s the perfect spot, and J.Tom may cut in some sprayers for the garden as well.  I sure hope so.

I got some petunias for the back porch and filled the hanging baskets for the front, like I do every year.  Lexie and I planted some giant impatience in a big pot for the front porch; they smell SO good.  (I love having a front door that we use to come into the house)  

JTom also got some new burners for the inside of his grill, so we can get back to grilling again soon.

Overall it has been a low key couple of weeks.  Some how things have seemed really busy, but in all honesty we haven’t been super busy. 

How have you spent your last few weeks?  Anything exciting happening?

water play

she couldn’t resist; we didn’t have a kiddie pool yet

Mmm  blueberries

Our record heat one day last week- 100 degrees here in lil ole York (we had snow on the ground the week before …)

Daddy and Mister

Reading a gymnastics books while waiting on class to start.

My morning Yoga

Mmmm Cucumber!

My Mister’s curls

wearing Daddy’s hat and looking like my cousin Wesley’s twin when he was this age.  Like, if she didn’t have on the lace night gown, she would look exactly like him.

wearing daddy’s hat

The Y, healthy foods, and pregnancy update

Today was my first day back at the Y since I was about 9 months p,regnant with lexie! It was great to be back. I went to Yoga, and oh how I have missed it! I feel so much better afterward. Lexie did great in the kids room, she was a bit anxious at first, but there was no crying when I walked away. They said she played the entire time. She also schooled the ladies on the difference between red and orange bowling pins. I wasn’t aware she knew the difference between red and orange … Evidentally she does. She definitely knows blue!

After yoga we went to walmart, the first thing she did was point out the blue on the glass door, then immediately started asking for “boobies,” so off to the produce we went! She ate blue berries the whole time and I got a few things we needed. We were in and out in 35 minutes- someone give me an Amen! That is record timing! But I spent $120, somehow. Groceries are so dang expensive, healthy ones are anyway. I left with 4 pints of blueberries, 6 4packs of organic Greek blueberry yogurt, strawberries, apples, cutie oranges, milk, cream cheese, canned peas, granola thins, bread, kashi pita crisps and hummus. Mmm I love hummus, my mother in law made this great recipe, and I really need to get it from her- it’s red pepper hummus, two kinds of olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. Mmmm sooo good! And healthy! Speaking of healthy, for dinner last night, my daughter ate half a grilled burger patty, and an entire can of green beans. I cooked them with a bullion cube and some onion flakes- she literally ate the whole can. She just kept signing for more! I can’t complain .. That’s for sure!

What’s your family’s favorite healthy, go to snack?

I have had a lot of friends and family asking how I feel, etc during my pregnancy. Im only 6wk3d today. I get headaches from time to time, get super sleepy during the day, and want lots of red meat. I’m having a lot of cramping, just mild cramps, which is common but I don’t remember having this much last time. Also, yesterday I woke up with my back killing me. I don’t know if it’s the progesterone making all the soft tissue relax, so my muscles are more tender ? Or whats going on. But it hurts on either side of my spine. I’m learning already poor lexie will have to do more walking than she already does. The cat lays on my tummy though. So she is like a built in heating pad, that’s very nice! (since you’re not supposed to use heating pads during pregnancy). Overall I feel good, not too many symptoms. Which makes me worry a bit. I hate waiting for the first dr visit! It’s so hard .. Just not knowing if everything is going ok in there, that the baby is still growing, etc. It’s so common for women to miscarry and not know it until the first ultrasound, at 12 weeks. But if that’s all you think about you’ll go crazy- so I try not to. Just keep us in your prayers that everything is good! I did go back and read during my last preg the exhaustion kicked in around 7 weeks and the heartburn at 11. So I still have that to look forward to.

Easter Dinner and other plans

Well, we had a family dinner tonight, to celebrate Easter for tomorrow. It was wonderful to see family that we haven not seen in a while. Mrs. S prepared party potatoes, green bean casserole, a delicious smoked ham, rolls, and a fabulous chocolate cake dessert! Not to mention Uncle D’s bread and butter jalapeno peppers! It was a wonderful dinner, as always. Something else that is pretty exciting, J.Tom’s cousin R is also expecting! It was the coolest thing; once we decided to tell everyone (at about 6 weeks along) we called R to tell her. J said, “Guess who’s having a baby?!” and of course there was the usual shouting of excitement, etc. Then R said, “Guess who else is having a baby?!” I believe we are about 2 weeks a part, R’s baby is due in September, ours is due Aug 31 (although I am hoping for a Sept baby)! How neat, huh? Their daughter C will have a new baby brother or sister! So, it was a lot of fun visiting with her and J’s other cousin, K and the rest of the family.

Hearing the insight of others who have experience being an expectant/new mom is very nice, as well. I like to hear how they did certain things, what to buy, what you do not really need, what you definitely need, etc. I think it is funny to hear some women who have never been pregnant before tell you everything there is to know about pregnancy. I would like to slap them.
I am very excited to announce that while J was on the river canoeing and fishing with our big chocolate lab baby Scarlet on Friday, I moved the bed and all the other furniture out of the nursery and into the other spare room! Now, for those of you who may be worrying about that (mom and G), please do not. I have hard wood floors and was able to slide everything until I got to the few stairs we have. It was really no big deal; plus I am pretty strong and enjoy this type of thing. It was fun for me. So now, all we have to do is take everything else to Salvation Army Monday morning and then time to paint!! After painting we will get the crib and dresser in the room, yay! But, although I am going to organize everything as we go, I want to save a few things for those last few weeks before baby comes; nothing big just a few small chores. This is not due to my new found laziness, I promise. It is because I do not want to be sitting around the house for the last 2 or 3 weeks going stir crazy!

So, tomorrow will be a fun filled morning of Easter service and then maybe out to lunch. All that homework I have been postponing needs to get done somehow, and I think I am the only person that is going to do it! =) Remember just why we are celebrating Easter! (FYI: It is not about easter baskets and chocolate). Happy Easter everyone; I hope you enjoy time with friends and family.

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