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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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

Every Which Way


In high school, one of our assignments in English was to journal on various topics. I typically hated the act of journaling. Not due to a lack of anything to write about, but because I felt it was intensely personal at times. I wasn’t a person who let many people close. I felt safer in relationships based on my terms. And if not for one assignment and one teacher that pushed back when I needed it I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing our adventures.

It was close to the end of senior year. We only had a few weeks left and I opened my heart in a journal entry. I did not think she would actually read it, only check that it fit the length requirement. I laid out my insecurities about my feelings of being mediocre. My friends were all accomplished in some talent or another. Some were talented actors and are now starting theatre companies, some were brainiacs and heading to Berkeley or later became PhD’s researching cures for cancer, some were wildly creative and are now making fantastic art and children’s books. I was a straight A student, but I wasn’t going to a top-notch college. I lettered in two sports, but I was far from the best on the team. Math was ok when it was just numbers, but throw in some letters and I was completely lost. I could draw a little; I was in the choir, and on the yearbook staff. I felt silly for not feeling good enough when I had so much to be thankful for. And I was good at a lot of different things.. just not GREAT at anything; unless you count not panicking or ridiculous organizational skills as something to be great at. Or my ability to always finish first on tests. When I got my journal back there was a 2-page handwritten letter tucked in at that spot of my journal. Not only had she read the entry, she had listened to my fears and responded in a way that touched me. She wrote, “You have a smile that will light up the room. When it’s gone I wonder what is happening that makes you so sad.” I still have that letter.

That was the beginning for me. She made me feel good about my well-roundedness. I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist, or a famous actor.. I just needed to be happy to be me. I’m still just ok at a lot of different things, but when you have a child on the spectrum you have to be good at a lot of different things! We have conversations about the differences between battery power and electric power. What the center of the earth is made of. What two colors make orange. Why we shouldn’t destroy Jupiter (because it saves earth from meteors). Not to mention being able to come up with creative consequence and reward systems. I also build mini Lego sets for creating pictorial instructions for him (this uses my creativity, engineering, photography and photoshopping abilities). Today, the three traits I value the most in our daily life is my anti-panic personality, my need to organize everything, and my weird ability to remember just about everything I read. (I don’t know what Asperger parents did before Google.. I guess they spent more time in the Library). Staying calm, providing structure, and teaching are the most important things for our Aspie.

I hope that relating our adventures will help someone else struggling with this new and different world seen through Aspie-tinted glasses. My goal is to teach my children (all of them) to be happy with who they are, whatever characteristics and talents they are born with. I want them to be happy being them. As a mom of course I want them to enjoy going to school and to be able to make friends, so whatever we can do to make that easier we are willing to try.

At the beginning of this blogging adventure I have so many things to share that it’s difficult to pick what to start with. I have friends and family asking questions and getting excited about changes they can make, because the diet changes are not just for those specifically on the spectrum. It will help those with anxiety, depression, ADD, ADHD, diabetes, asthma, eczema and allergies. We have started a healthier way of eating and are seeing the benefits (if not in behavior yet) in mood and looks.

I want to start by answering the questions I’m getting, but they are not necessarily in chronological order, or any kind of order really. It wouldn’t be an adventure without a little bit of winding road, right? If there is something you would specifically like to hear about.. like what Cullen’s behavior was like, what books I read, what a certain recipe was.. please ask!!

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