In the Kitchen, Journal, Learning Adventures

GAPS Diet On A Budget

When I explain our food plan to inquiring minds I get, “You must spend a fortune on groceries.” Yes, it can get a little pricey at times, and there have been trips to the grocery store that have left my bank account weak in the knees. (Like the time I did all of our Christmas meal shopping at Whole Foods… and bought a goose.) Overall, I’ve found that with an eye on the mailers and shopping at 4 stores instead of one I can keep our groceries bills reasonable; if not low. A few things first before I get into the lists of what I buy where.

1. You should buy the best quality you can afford. If you can’t always get organic ingredients, fresh is still better than processed. I read in the GAPS FAQ’s that if you have to choose between organic meats and organic produce that you should always buy the produce organic because animals have immune systems to fight off what the farmers feed them, but vegetables can’t fight the pesticides. That being said, I try to stick to the less expensive meats and continue to buy organic. When I am making our bone broth I use only the best quality ingredients. We do save a bit of money by eating more veggies at mealtimes than we used to. Print out (or save on your phone) a list of the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen produce items. The Clean 15 are the ones you can get away with buying non-organic. The Dirty Dozen are the most contaminated and should always be organic.

2. In the beginning I spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to replace the foods we were missing; like baked goods, breads and desserts. Most of them did not compare to the real thing (which only made me miss it more) and the ingredients for baking are on the higher priced side. Forget about bread, there isn’t a good replacement. There are some crepe recipes that make a decent sandwich wrap or tortilla substitute, but they use a lot of eggs. Unless you’ve got a good line on pastured eggs for cheap I’d save this for a treat also. Lettuce is great for wrapping around meat for sandwiches. Experiment with different kinds. I like to use romaine hearts for tacos, red leaf for sandwiches and boston for egg burritos. Mix it up!

3. Check online for bulk items and dry goods. I was buying our almond flour from Honeyville online, until I realized they have a store near me. Now I’m saving on shipping! I always check online for items like: tea, kombucha, flour, nuts, fruit leather, coconut oil, raw cider vinegar, etc. And there are quite a few companies that ship perishable foods like: meats, dairy, starter cultures, honey, etc. Amazon surprisingly has quite a bit of food stuffs.

4. Farmer’s Markets!! Usually lower prices than a grocery store; if you live near one make it a habit to stop once a week. The farmers that come won’t always have certified organic produce (it costs a lot for the certification and many small farms just can’t afford it). Ask questions, because many will be practicing organic farming. Some of the big markets will have eggs and occasionally pastured chickens. Bring a cooler with you just in case. Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated right away, but it’s always good to keep your meat cold if you are lucky enough to find it at a market.

Below is a list of what I buy and where I shop. These stores are regional, so Southern California residents are going to have the best odds for this working for them. Start taking notes on your local stores for the best deals near you if you don’t live close by any of these stores.

Sprouts

This is where I buy the majority of our groceries. They have raw milk and cheese (but not cream), pastured butter, organic eggs, grass-fed meats and the largest selection of fresh organic produce in my area. They have everything on my shopping list, but not always at the best prices. Their regular (non-organic) chicken is hormone-free and free-range so when I need to save some dough I will buy this. Their sausages are hand-made and they have a variety of chicken that are nitrate-free and made with the same chicken. Most are gluten-free as well.

** I always stop by Sprouts on Wednesdays. It is the day their weekly deals overlap so you get the sale price on everything from the previous week and the next week. When their grass-fed beef goes on sale it’s always a good idea to go the first day because they run out.

  • Grass-fed steaks/roast (ground beef only when it’s on sale, which is often)
  • Organic produce
  • Organic spices
  • Organic eggs
  • Raw milk
  • Raw cheese
  • Applegate products
  • Purified/Spring Water (I buy the big jugs and then take them back to refill)

Trader Joe’s

The one by us is small and doesn’t carry everything. I go specifically for these items because they are less expensive here:

  • Raw nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans) We make our own nut butter because we like cashew butter better than almond and I can’t find one made with raw cashews. (And it’s cheaper to make it ourselves. It takes 15 minutes)
  • Organic, free-range chicken. Whole chicken is a better buy than individual pieces and is easier to prepare. Also, they include the giblets, which the whole organic chicken at Sprouts does not. (I like to add those in our broth) If you are making bone broth regularly roast a chicken for dinner and save the remainder to make broth from.
  • Grass-fed, organic ground beef.
  • Organic, no additives fruit leather (No added sugar, 100% fruit puree). I don’t give these to Cullen often.
  • Trader Joe’s brand Organic Diced Tomatoes in juice. (We don’t notice any adverse reaction when we use these)

Mother’s Market

I would probably shop more here if it was closer to us. Their produce section is awesome. Watch out for their restaurant and deli case as most of it has some type of soy or vegan substitute.

  • Raw cream (can only get it here)
  • Organic Pastures raw cheese  (can only get it here)
  • Ghee (can only get it here)
  • Evolution Juice – for when I am lazy and don’t want to juice it myself. It’s cold-pressed and unpasteurized. They have it at Starbucks too, but not the organic kind.
  • Celtic Sea Salt
  • Organic, unrefined honey

Costco

  • Wild salmon – sometimes they have a good deal on fresh, but I usually buy the 3 lb. bag of frozen for $28 (less than $10/lb). They come individually sealed so I can grab them out of the freezer and thaw what I need.
  • Wild shrimp – frozen, not always in stock
  • Canned wild salmon
  • Organic coconut oil – giant Costco size, organic, cold-pressed for $10. GIANT
  • Lamb – from New Zealand or Australia. (I was told that lamb from “Down Under” is always 100% grass-fed)
  • Organic baby carrots
  • Any other organic produce they might have (I don’t buy the sliced organic apples though.. the preservatives worry me)
  • There is supposedly organic chicken breasts occasionally, but I have never seen them.
  • Aidell’s sausage for our non-GAPS kids.

I always watch to see what items are on sale. I look online at the weekly deals before I go out shopping. If I can think of any more items I will add them as I go, but these are the staples. Our grass-fed beef bones I have to drive to Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods in Riverside or Loma Linda. Or I just found a new source Lindy & Grundy in West Hollywood (also a drive, but the bones were $4.99/lb).

Feel free to ask me questions or leave your money-saving tips below!

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Recipes

Chicken Sausage Stir-Fry

Mike calls this a concoction. I say it’s delicious and you can concoct any number of combinations (usually whatever is in the veggie drawer), but my last “concoction” was so good that it should be a recipe. This is also pretty easy when I use frozen organic veggies. Perfect for a weeknight dinner.

photo-3Chicken Sausage Stir-Fry

4 Sweet Italian Chicken sausages (Sprouts have these in the case, they are nitrate-free, sugar and msg free, and made with decent free range chicken- not organic. If you are using packaged sausage you may need more)
1 medium yellow/brown onion – diced
2 bell peppers, yellow & red – diced
8-10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 package frozen california blend veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots)
1 package organic mushrooms – sliced
1 tbsp ghee/coconut oil
Salt and pepper

(Feel free to mix and match veggies. I’ve used zucchini and peas before. I don’t recommend using butternut squash. I think you could also switch the meat, but I love the flavor the fennel and italian seasoning adds.)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Remove the casing from the sausage. (This is where fresh sausage comes in handy as it’s easier to squish it out)
  2. Saute onion in a large skillet in fat of your choice until translucent.
  3. Add meat and brown until fully cooked. There will be some liquid in the pan. Do not drain.
  4. While meat is browning, cook frozen vegetables separately following package directions.
  5. When meat is fully cooked, add remaining fresh vegetables. (If you are using a delicate veggie like tomatoes or zucchini add it last. If you are using fresh carrots or broccoli steam them first).
  6. Drain frozen vegetables when finished and add to mixture.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. **Optional** Top with fried egg. (This adds to the overall deliciousness and gives you a extra boost of nutrients if you leave your yolk runny).
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Journal, Learning Adventures

Barbara Manatee

There are a couple of tell-tale indicators for Cullen’s stress level. During the part of the year when he wears socks, the number of socks he tries on in the morning usually will tell me what level his sensory overload is. 1-2 pairs he is good to go, 3-4 and he is going to have a rough day, 5+ and I deliberate calling in sick to work and school to stay holed up in our Batcave.

Another one is his attachment to Barbara. His love affair with manatees started early. He was just barely talking, 3-years-old, and he discovered the manatees at Sea World. He stood nose pressed to the glass for well over an hour. Watching them float and eat their lettuce… they don’t do a whole lot of anything else. On our next visit we exited the manatee exhibit to the inevitable gift shop. He spied a giant stuffed manatee that was literally as tall as he was. He ran over to it, picked it up and turned to me with a face full of joy, “Mama, Barbara Manatee wants to come home with us.” The fact that he asked for something blew me away because he NEVER asked for anything, he was more content playing with notepads and high-lighters than toys. He also had never shown any interest in any of the stuffed animals he had at home, (I think he was even frightened of the monkey I had gotten him at Build-a-Bear). But here he was holding a 3 foot manatee that he had named… Barbara?!? I convinced him that a more manageable size would be better for taking home, and we left with Cullen clutching a brand new (12″) Barbara. He did not put her down for 3 days. And then the unthinkable happened. Barbara was stolen. Yes. Stolen. Who steals a stuffed manatee you say? A despicable, black-hearted person that’s who. Cullen was heart-broken.

Not being able to afford another trip to Sea World just to buy a stuffed animal we had to wait almost a year before a kind soul we knew planned a trip and graciously brought back the exact same manatee. I still don’t think I have ever seen Cullen as happy as he was to be reunited with Barbara. He would dance and sing the Barbara Manatee song with her, but she wasn’t allowed out of his room often.. and never out of the house. (Unless he was going to Grandma’s house for more than a couple days). Every precaution was taken to keep her safe this time. She had a special place on his bed, and he rarely went to sleep without her.

When we moved to our house we live in now, Cullen was careful to keep his “moving buddy” in sight at all times during the packing of the truck and when we reached the new house he safely stowed her behind his mattress in his new room. I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that he is carrying her around the house with him in the mornings before school or after his shower at night. I feel like lately with the supplements he is taking for his behavior that he is feeling more vulnerable because his emotions are clearer to him. He can now clearly define how he feels when he is sad, frustrated, confused, happy or angry. Where before every emotion registered as the same.. something foreign that he could not grasp. Barbara anchors him and makes him feel secure.

I made dinner too late last night, and hungry Cullen brought Barbara into the kitchen with him and was swinging her around. I told him to be careful, not to be too rough with her. Multiple trips through the laundry have left her a bit more floppy than she used to be, and he pointed out the spot between her fins seemed a little empty. He said we should get a backup Barbara, just in case. I explained he should take care of her because the manatees have moved from California Sea World, and it would be almost impossible to get a new Barbara if something happened to her. (Do you know how hard it is to find stuffed manatees?) Then I said something silly.. or stupid. I said I once thought about having a Barbara made that looked just like the one on Veggie Tales……

meltdown.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth over a stuffed animal that doesn’t even exist! He went on and on for 10 minutes about how he had a “fake” Barbara, and how could he go on like that? How could I not get him the real one? Luckily, I finished dinner and satiating the hunger became a priority and the “fake vs. real” dilemma was dropped. At least for now.

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Recipes

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Or Fish. Or Chicken.

I get asked a lot for recipes for simple things like steak, chicken or fish. Most weeknights I shoot for a 30-45 minute dinner prep. There is a standard formula for dinner. Protein + 2 veggies + optional salad. I don’t reinvent the wheel here people it’s all pretty basic. What you’ll need is a couple different seasoning blends, butter/ghee/coconut oil or a steamer. When we first started the food plan we had to clean out our pantry of everything that was off limits. This not only included processed foods and grains, but we had to clean out our spice cupboard as well. Many of the rejected items had sugar or msg in them. No thanks! We kept everything that was safe, and we’ve switched or replenished with organic options.

We get the, “So what do you eat?!” question a lot. When we say we eat a lot of salmon we get varied reactions, but almost always someone will say how salmon is too fishy. I LOVE the salmon I cook, but I rarely order it when we are out because it’s either bland or too fishy. Here is the secret: 
Blackened Redfish Magic it is all natural, no preservatives, msg and gluten-free, plus it’s Kosher. This seasoning makes just about everything taste amazing.

Blackened Salmon

Salmon filets cut into individual portions. Leave skin on
Blackened Redfish Magic
Butter/Ghee to cook with

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 430°F
  2. Sprinkle Blackened Redfish Magic onto one side of the fish. Both sides if it is skinless. (This blend can be quite spicy, so you may want to start off with a little and work your way up)
  3. Heat a cast iron or oven-safe skillet over medium to med-high heat.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of butter or ghee to pan
  5. When fat has melted and before it starts to smoke add fish skin side up to pan. (Make sure you have your hood fan on and open a window if you have used a lot of seasoning. It will cause some smoke.)
  6. Cook for 2-3 minutes on this side. Flip over and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Put the whole skillet into the oven until your preferred level of doneness.
  8. If you do not like to eat the skin it will stick a little to the bottom of your skillet making it super easy to insert the spatula right above it and gently lift the fish off.

You can substitute steak or chicken for the fish for the same results. I would definitely use ghee for those options though as it will cause less smoking, and therefore less fire alarms. Usually though I use The Meat House‘s New England Garlic Pepper for steaks, and Kirkland’s Organic No-Salt Seasoning (from Costco) for chicken. This is a great blend for Roasted Chicken. Stuff it with a lemon and a head of garlic, and sprinkle this inside and out. Yum! The Meat House is located in Brea next to Mother’s Market.

These are all seasonings I have found and experimented with on my own. I am not getting paid to talk about them here. The links above will take you to the respective online stores where you can purchase them if you would like.

I then cook 2 different kinds of veggies, steamed broccoli or cauliflower, carrots, butternut squash, green beans, roasted radishes or Brussels sprouts, sautéed asparagus or mushrooms. All quick and easy! Cullen and I like to have salad with dinner, but I’m having a hard time finding a good dressing. Most blends have sugar, and honey has such a distinctive flavor that I worry it will not go well with Italian seasonings. My father-in-law makes a bomb Stinky Salad dressing with olive oil, garlic, vinegar and italian seasoning, but I have failed making it every time I try it. I guess I’ll just have to have him make a gallon of it when he comes to visit.

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Journal

Depths of Despair & Progress Report

I loved Anne of Green Gables as a child. I adored Anne’s wild impulsiveness and flair for the dramatic. I secretly wished I could shed my innate shyness and be like her; to my disappointment I was always much more like her quiet, proper friend Diana. My favorite part of the movie was when Anne accidentally turned her hair green instead of black. She flings herself on her bed sobbing that she is in the depths of despair. Even as a child I thought this frenzied reaction was a little over the top, but whenever I make a mountain out of a mole hill I am reminded of this scene and say that I must be in the depths of despair. Putting a 7-year-old boy on the GAPS intro is bound to result in plenty of despairing moments, and quite frankly it is never fun to write about the struggles as it always leaves me feeling a tad like a failure. Of course, I know that I am far from failing.

Since last writing we are 5 weeks into the diet and currently on stage 4 1/2. There is no 4 1/2 you say? Well then I will claim stage 4 with one or 2 items from stage 5. Cullen is now eating soup, well-cooked vegetables, roasted meats, avocados, cold-pressed juices, meat broth, yogurt, creme fraiche (sour cream), squash pancakes, scrambled eggs, GAPS bread, cooked apples and very small amounts of raw veggies. It doesn’t sound like a lot of variety I know. For the most part he will happily eat anything I make for him. The first 4 weeks of the intro we started to see some changes. His mood had improved, he was happier more often and talkative. He was enjoying spending time with the family and didn’t mind going out of the house. And then we hit a wall. After the wall he started to slide ever so slightly backwards, and I could not figure out why. Last Wednesday he came home more amped than I have seen him in a long time. Talking non-stop, not finishing sentences, getting distracted. It was awful! I asked him repeatedly if he had eaten something he shouldn’t have (because he had been caught on Tuesday with graham crackers at the YMCA). His answer was no. He even told me the next day that he had turned down a treat at school, but I should have known better.

It’s school that’s the problem. What little boy wouldn’t have a hard time watching everyone else eating fruit, crackers, cookies and candy?? Not many. And our son is no exception. On Wednesday one of the other students had a birthday and of course their mother brought goody bags for the class full of cookies and chocolate. He couldn’t resist and ate all of them before I picked him up that day. I found the wrappers on Friday stuffed in an unused pocket of his backpack. I was more upset by the lies than the cheating on the food plan. I can understand the cheating. Heck, if we go out to eat and they bring fresh rolls they are gone lickety-split. So I get it. I completely get it. But lying is never good, and like Mike said the other day, “We don’t want him to be so scared of being punished that he is afraid to tell us anything.” He’s right. So, we gave Cullen consequences for the lies. He lost his video game, Netflix, Lego, and (most devastatingly) Minecraft privileges all day Saturday. He helped me clean the house and earned his Legos back the next day. He told the truth twice and earned his Netflix back the following day. We are holding on to Minecraft until we can trust him again (which will most likely be a week). On Sunday, he messed up again, and snuck an Andes mint.. (don’t you just love those! They trump Junior Mints every time!) I had a talk with him, and left him playing with Legos in his room.

Enter the Depths of Despair: I could hear him talking to himself, berating his choices and saying he should be grounded even more, he was crying a little. I went back and cuddled him on my lap and tried to explain again why we are doing all of this for him, and telling him that I understand how hard it is for him. I asked him if he hated me because of the diet, and of course he said no. A little while later I found a little box made of Legos on my nightstand with a tiny note taped to the top. bo not open till tomoro. (He has a hard time with b’s and d’s). I left it there, but he told me later that I could open it. Inside was a note that he had written that broke my heart. In it he explained that he had no choice but to leave. He was going to pack some clothes and snacks, and he needed a map to get to Oma’s house. He told us that he loved us more than we think, but underneath his signature was a post script that read I might not leave based on what happens this week or next week. I spent a long time talking to him about the dangers of running away, and hopefully convinced him that a trip of around 60 miles to Oma’s house on foot was not a good idea. He told me that he had lied about hating me for the diet. I kept him home the next day from school and we built a very charming castle out of Legos, and spent the day playing games and talking. By bedtime, he had forgotten his plans for leaving, but I haven’t.

As parents, we want the best for our children. Even when that means taking drastic measures that they dislike. Our first job is to raise them to be responsible adults, they are not going to like it now, but (and I speak from experience) they will thank us for it in the end.

I feel like he needs more play time with us, we tend to get busy and forget that just because he likes to spend most of his time by himself does not mean that he should. So I am starting a Lego challenge a day. I am going to make a list of builds and we will each build our own version. For the first one (the castle) we both worked on it. I instagramed our creation (#aspieventures #legochallengeaday). I will post the list below, feel free to join in and email or hashtag yours!

Lego Challenge a Day

#legochallengeaday #aspieventures

Sept 17: Castle
Sept 18: Mushroom
Sept 19: Pirates! Aargh!
Sept 20: Zombies
Sept 21: Boat
Sept 22: Alien
Sept 23: Pet
Sept 24: House
Sept 25: Superhero
Sept 26: Ninjas
Sept 27: Spaceship
Sept 28: Trains
Sept 29: Dinosaurs
Sept 30: Robots

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