I know I haven’t posted anything about our June food challenge lately. We are still “technically” doing the challenge. I say “technically” because we’ve made plenty of exceptions over the month. But I just had to come to the realization that this was supposed to be a fun learning project, one in which I make the rules. And so, here are a few things we’ve allowed into our diets and the reasons.
-Frozen tortellini, frozen italian sausages, and other similar items that were already in my freezer or pantry. Basically, after over one full week on the challenge, I had spent all my allotted grocery money for the first half of the month. So, I tried to make things stretch. Instead of planning out meals I wanted to try, I just worked with what I had on hand. I figured, 1) I wasn’t buying these things, since I already had them, 2) we’ll be moving soon so the more I empty my freezer the better, and 3) I need the practice at using things on hand instead of just going to buy more and letting things go bad. We still made plenty of our own dishes and ingredients, for example, the tortellini was cooked and then combined with my own tomato cream sauce.
-White sugar (only for making iced tea). My husband drinks iced tea every day. We had a discussion at the beginning of the month about how to make his normal iced tea without white sugar. I had expected him to use my sucanat sugar, but he was concerned about how quickly we’d go through the expensive alternative. So far I haven’t actually bought white sugar this month, he’s just been stretching what we already had on hand, but it is getting quite low.
-Store bought milk. When I ran out of grocery money, I had to give in and buy some pasteurized whole milk at the grocery store rather than the more expensive goat milk we had been drinking. Now that we have passed the mid point of the month, I have refilled my goat milk jars and also bought my first raw cow milk.
-Butter. Because it took me so long to find a source for raw cow milk with cream, I realized my choices for butter were to buy ultra-pasteurized cream and make it myself or just buy butter. I’ve done both this month. The thing I’ve realized about butter is that I use a lot of it, and it takes a lot of cream to keep up with. So even though I now have some cream settling from my cow milk, I am realizing that it isn’t enough for all our butter needs, especially if I want to use the cream for other uses as well. So we will probably continue to buy some butter. I’m ok with that, since as long as you check the ingredients lists you can easily find butter that has just cream and salt in it.
-Cheese. We did end up buying some cheese this month. The reasons were several: 1) Most cheeses don’t really have added ingredients beyond what I would put in them. 2) Hard cheeses take longer than 1 month to age, so I can’t actually make them this month and also use them this month. 3) Cheese making requires a lot of milk, so I can’t actually afford to do as much as I had originally intended. I actually have a surplus of milk and cream right now and am hoping this week to try my hand at another cheese recipe. I want to make my own cheese, but I’m giving myself the benefit of a slow start in this area.
-Father’s Day. For Father’s Day I made my father-in-law’s favorite cookies (at least his favorite of my cookies). These cookies are ultra-refined from the white flour to the white sugar to the powdered sugar icing. But I couldn’t bring myself to try to substitute anything in them because well, they just wouldn’t be the same cookies. And I have to admit, they really were delicious. On a side note, I also made a key lime pie for John, and that I did try to do with the natural unprocessed ingredients. I allowed a little white sugar in the meringue topping because I wanted to make sure it turned out, but everything else was on my list of approved ingredients. It did turn out (after freezing to make it set more completely).
I imagine there will be some more exceptions in the week to come as I have again almost reached the end of my grocery budget and have run out of several items I bought to use this month (like muscovado sugar, sucanat sugar, and maple syrup).
Overall, though I have learned a lot, experimented on many things, and will continue to cook, bake and eat closely to this model. Financially, even though I have had trouble staying on budget this month, I am feeling pretty confident. Many of the things I bought, I bought in bulk, so they will last much longer than one month. I’m also attempting to can and freeze some of the summer produce so that we will have these ingredients through the winter, which will hopefully lower those winter grocery bills.
I am planning on sharing more of the techniques and recipes I’ve used as well as any new ones I find, but it will take some time for me to add them on here. So look forward to reading more about this adventure. We’re moving to a farm in 2 weeks, picking up baby goats in 3 weeks, and hopefully adding baby chicks soon after that, so I imagine we’ll have plenty other adventures to share as well in the weeks to come.