Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekend warrior

This weekend I went shopping and at Meijer too!  I felt like a warrior entering battle as I walked through the aisle, upon aisle, upon aisle of foods that were not on my approved list of things I could purchase.  It was Vern versus the grocery store and I was ill prepared for the outing.  I also dragged two kids with me so that certainly didnt help my cause, but we all survived! 

I had to practice a lot of self control, but over all I did pretty well.  I bought four things that were not technically allowed; two bags of chips, pepperoni and a bag of trail mix.  I'll explain.  The chips are for Jeff's lunches the next couple of weeks until he gets his care package.  The pepperoni was purchased to help use up the bottom of a jar of pizza sauce that was in dire need of being used up and the trail mix was a total cheat in the interest of my husband once again who had complained that we had run out.  It is his favorite snack after hunting or fishing.  I also bought bacon, puff pastries and a special sugar for a recipe I am making for my runclub peeps this weekend.  I guess to be completely technical all of these last three items were purchased for holiday gatherings so I didn't totally cheat with them. It still felt like cheating though; all of it did. But the pizza sauce was just used up for lunch today.  Hazel made personal pizzas for us! And more importantly Jeff has chips in his lunch once again which definitely means I will have a happier husband tonight!

My cranberries are soaking in the simple syrup awaiting the addition of the special sugar later tonight...this is a test run so if all goes well I will recreate this later in the week for runclub!

Over the weekend we ate out at Turks Saturday night and I gorged myself on onion rings and crabcakes.  They were both delightful.  We did use up the aforementioned pizza sauce and some rice out of the cupboard this weekend as well. And for dessert tonight, we are having a Christmas Dessert that is to die for (or at least I hope it is).  This recent creation  was the result of a friend's kindness in sending leftover angel food cake home with me along with some Cool whip.  The best part was that I did use up an instant pistachio pudding package that had expired in December of 2011.  I felt really good about using that up and with all the preservatives in that kind of food I feel pretty confident that no one will get sick.  I'll let you know!

The holidays are about to take over as I start with my first party wednesday night at Grand Haven Run Club and the partying just continues on from there through the New Year!  The good part is I am done shopping until after the holidays so I guess I won this most recent battle.  Vern-1 Groceries-0.

Vern Out 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Getting interesting

The experiment has gotten interesting in the lunch department.  We have run out of many of the essentials, including but not limited to, lunch meat, yogurt, and applesauce packets.  We are also working on our last bag of chips which is considered a critical violation as far as my husband's opinion is concerned.  So far my husband is the only one to complain about the lunch food shortages he was particularly unimpressed with his PBJ the other day... so I am thinking of making him a care package for one of his Christmas gifts from me that would include a few packs of lunch meat and some chips.  I realize this would totally be cheating, but it would provide me with a gift to get him that he would appreciate it and so far he has given me no indication of anything he actually wants/needs so what does everyone think? 

A friend asked me about breakfast foods and so far they have lasted pretty well.  We eat fairly nutritional breakfast, cold cereal, oatmeal (which I have begun rationing out because we are down to not much of it) and toast.  I mix in fruit when we have it as well.  So breakfast is pretty safe to eat still at this point in time.

For dinner things have been pretty good.  I threw a bunch of random stuff together on Wednesday stuffed the concoction into whole wheat tortillas, put a little cheese on top and baked it.  My 8-year old, Kara, said and I quote "this is the best supper ever; why didn't you make this instead of that gross noodle stuff with chicken last week".  The moral to this story is that it doesn't have to be fancy (or a recipe at all) to impress kids. To help illustrate this point consider the following story.  My little experiment has inspired a friend of mine to try to use up what's in her pantry as well and so her family dined on spaghetti with Manwich sauce instead of marinara the other night and her 3-year old was totally impressed as well! 

In an effort to make my life a little easier, I may go ahead and approve Kara's recent request that we eat this same made-up, enchilada-like, dish for the remainder of the year.  I just might have enough of the ingredients to pull it off and then I don't have to try to be creative any more!

Vern Out

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Duck, duck, goose

So the title of today's post is the result of my continued attempt to empty our freezer before spring without grocery shopping!  We're having duck, duck, goose for supper!  How fun!  I have but one recipe that I know my family will eat that involves duck so I am going with Duck, Duck, Goose Stroganoff to be exact!  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it is pretty darn good.  Because the meat is cooked in a crockpot all day long it gets very tender and it isn't gamey tasting like duck and goose can be.  My kids LOVE this one which is why I am going with it.  Jeff requested that I try something new, but given that I tried Chicken Tetrazzini for the first time last week and then listened to everyone complain about it until we finished the leftovers because they didn't like it, I am not feeling very adventurous about cooking this week so I will go with the old standby. 

Anyhow, I did have to buys grapes and bread yesterday, but they both fell within acceptable guidelines so as of now we are still succeeding at our little endeavor.  For cookie day this past weekend I did have to shop for a few supplies, but I just couldn't miss this fun, family tradition and the cookies wouldn't have worked out without the necessary ingredients. 

Vern Out

Friday, December 6, 2013

Maybe I will quit

So here's the thing, this week has been absolutely horrible and this little grocery challenge has been the last thing on my mind. Despite my preoccupation with other things (which you will hear about soon), I have stuck to the challenge, but not necessarily because I was such a goody two shoes. It was more because I have been too busy to go to a store.  Oh yeah and I have been in quarantine. 

Here is how it all went down.  And seriously, it's been one of the worst weeks in a very long time so your prayers for me and my family would be appreciated.  The week started out fine; Monday and Tuesday were completely normal. Hazel and I did all the normal stuff: We ran; we went to the library; we visited Grandma at her office; and we went to the consignment shop in search of the rare snowflake outfit for Kara's Christmas Program next week.  We even found the perfect dress!  Even into Wednesday things seemed fine. During the day, everything was normal and I was beaming with excitement for my date that night with my son.  However, just over an hour into the special mommy and me date, the sh*t hit the fan.  Literally.   As I sat at a table at McDonalds about to enjoy our happy meals, Aven suddenly announced he was going to puke and worse yet he did three times on the way to the bathroom.  I guess they weren't so "happy" afterall.  We cleaned up and quickly exited the fast food establishment and returned home to learn that Kara also did not feel good.  Within two hours time, all three kids were puking...a lot.

All three kids contracted the stomach flu.  My husband, in all of his infinite food sanitarian wisdom, is convinced it was caused by the norovirus. I dont know the cause, but I do know the result is that I had diarrhea and vomit to clean up for the past 48  hours like never before which is actually somewhat surprising that in four years we have never had all three kids sick at the same time.   I still have two kids at home today recovering and I feel like all I have done for the past forty eight hours is clean up bodily fluids and sit and snuggle with sick kids.  Anyhow, I am optimistic that I may have avoided contracting this bug, but I am still a little nervous that I will be the next one spending time with the porcelain God.  Either way, sick or healthy, I won't be grocery shopping any time soon!

Vern Out

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Week one

Week one had its ups and downs as can be expected when you take on a new challenge.  All things  considered, it has been quite successful.  I am still working to tweak the produce allowance as $5 is not going to cut it for this health seeking  chica, but I think $10 to $15 should suffice as we do have a ton of canned fruits and vegetables compliments of my sisters and my mom.  I never really mastered the art of canning.  I can run for a very long time unassisted and without overextending myself, but when it comes to preparing canned goods and having them taste good (or be edible at all), one of my family members had better be involved or there is no hope. 

I of course believe in complete disclosure, so you will hear about my failures just as much as my successes.  That said, we did eat at McDonalds twice in the past week (which is actually a record for us we rarely eat there), but hold your horses it isn't as bad as it sounds.  Well I guess it is as bad as it sounds we ate lunch there on Saturday and Dinner there last night, but with good reason.  In Fremont (the town I grew up in and where my parents still reside) there is a Mc Donalds with a playland.  When we get all the kids (minus the newborn breastfed neice) together these day (6 in total and the oldest is 7 while the youngest turns two today) it is a bit crazy to say the least.   Imagine a circus act gone terribly wrong or a kindergarten class... unsupervised and you will have some idea of what we are dealing with when we get together nowadays.  So we have found that McDonalds  (which is my very least favorite restuarant) is a wonderful place to take them to burn off energy.  They play for an hour or two and then sleep like never before when we get them back home.  It is priceless these days so I find myself reluctantly enjoying McDonalds in a way I never imagined possible.  My mom, sister and I can sit and leisurely enjoy a cup of coffee while they play (with much less fighting than if we were at home I might add) and the kids think it is the greatest gift ever!

Successes from the past week include:  Eating farm fresh eggs on several occasions and using up hashbrowns that had been in the freezer a very long time; Cooking a free range, farm fresh chicken and I am using up the leftovers to make Chicken Tetrazzini tonight. Of course, using up the old instant mashed potatoes and the very random produce that was left in the fridge when I cleaned it were the best two moments thus far, but I am sure there are more successes awaiting me around the corner!

Tonight I am hosting a super fun Origami Owl party so if you attending no worries I had a bunch of Tastefully simple dips in the cupboard so they are on the menu tonight along with one more cheat I bought us yesterday Shrimp and Lime Empanadas and they are delicious!  Hope to see some of you here 6:30 tonight (if you are running late still stop by we are more of an openhouse style gig) the basement has been labeled the kid zone so if kids are an issue bring them along!

Vern out

Monday, November 25, 2013


I struck Gold!
Cleaning the fridge finally pays off in the form of liquid happiness!

I struck gold or as close to it as I can get these days with the grocery game in full swing.  I found a bottle of Lambrusco in the back of the fridge when I cleaned it yesterday and I just found out it's still good!  Drinking my wine and getting ready to enjoy these awesome venison fajitas in Nunica!  I put in 3.5 miles in the blinding snow this morning so life is pretty darn good.  GO GREEN!

Vern Out


We actually have a lot of food.  The complete inventory follows.  Photos as well.

Inventory November 22, 2013




¾ box of bisquick

1 jar Nutella

1 jar Peanut Butter

¾ canister coffee

1 canister creamer

a lot of tea

the kid’s snack bin is full!

4 cans of chicken

7 cans of tuna

1 can Dora Soup

2 instant rice packets

2 instant noodle packets

1 couscous packet

4 mac n cheese

9 tomato soups

4 cans mushrooms

1 can kidney beans

1 can northern beans

3 cans black beans

2 cans beefaroni

1 garbanzo bean (hummus)

1 hearts of palm?!

1 artichoke heart

2 cream of mushroom

1 can nacho cheese soup

12 packets hot cocoa

2 # of pasta

14 packets instant oatmeal

2 bags of opened popcorn

5 bags opened chips

Chistmas Vacation Tin can popcorn

1 pack of graham crackers

1 bag marshmallows

1 hersey candy bar pack




Baking Cupboard

salt, baking soda, baking powder, seasoned salt, pepper, cornstarch, vanilla, chicken boullion, 4 packets raman noodle spice packets, 6 packs onion soup mix,


instant mashed potatoes opened 1 cup remains

3 jellos

1 gallon olive oil

5 guacamole mix

2 brownie mixes

3 devil food cake

1 white cake mix


Tastefully Simple

cherry cheeseball

dill dip mix

3 spinach artichoke dip

2 bacon cheese dips

1 absolutely almond pound cake

1 classy chocolate pound cake



3 containers parmesan cheese

4 cream cheese

16 hotdogs

cheese slices a lot

3# random cheese






garlic bread




tomatoes, potatoes, onion, carrots, lettuce 2 pears



2 large Ziplocs jalapeno

4 # butter

venison a lot

fish a lot

2 frozen pizzas

1 bag corn

1 bag mixed veggie

½ bag nuggets and fish sticks French fries

I think we will make it to Valentine's Day at least...

 As of November 22, 2013 this is the food on hand here. You may not want to come to dinner any time never know what I might be cooking up!

Day two

So we are roughly 48 hours into this little challenge and I must say it is going pretty well. Better than expected even.  So far no one has complained and I have managed to use up quite a few things.  In addition to the old mashed potatoes, I also used up a ramen noodle spice packet that I had saved some time ago. I turned it into chicken broth and the broth into soup.  I highly recommend this process as the soup was incredible and I don't think it was a coincidence I think the spice packet definitely helped.  I threw all vegetables from our crisper into a pan and cooked it up!  Delish!  Our fridge has been cleaned and the soup was the result of that cleaning project.  It is cleaner than it was the day we bought it.

The only drawback I have noticed so far is that I am not sure how healthy this little experiment is.  I am committed to shopping deliberately and in a healthy way once the cupboards and freezer are bare.  We ate the mashed potatoes mush the first night, yesterday we had an entire day of leftovers.  The crock pot is full of venison marinating in fajita sauce today.  I decided that the first step is to start using meats out of our chest freezer so I have a whole, free range, chicken from my brother's farm thawing for tomorrow night!  Bon Appetit!

Vern out

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The first dinner

Okay so our first night was a success!  Our biggest victory was when we finished off the tail end of an old box of instant mashed potatoes!  I am not sure how old they were, but suffice it to say at least six months.  I also cooked a pot of potato cheese soup from scratch so everyone poured that overtop of the old instant potatoes.  I don't think it was my best meal ever, but the kids didn't complain and Jeff had to work late so he didnt have to be pleased.  All in all it was quite a pleasant experience and I explained this new no groceries deal to the kids and they seem to think it's a great idea so I am optimistic that this will be more successful than the dishwasher or the dryer experiments.

I also worked to complete an inventory so I know just what I have to work with these next six weeks or so.  It was a lot better than I thought in some regards but also a little scary to think about living for the next month and a half without bacon.  We had a half a pound of it in the fridge and I used it up cooking my favorite breakfast after runclub this morning-bacon,egg and cheese sandwhiches!

For lunch we ate leftovers and for dinner it will be the same!  So far so good, but I have a feeling it will get a lot more interesting as time goes on.  My eldest posing with the potato mush!

Vern Out

Friday, November 22, 2013

The challenge

Okay so my brain's at it again...working overtime.  I am feeling worn down, burned out, frustrated and overall restless. A lot of my feelings probably stem from a recent failure at returning to work, but that is another story for another day. The important thing to understand is that as a result, my brain has been going around in circles for awhile trying to pinpoint a way to shake things up.  We tried giving up our dishwasher and washing all dishes by hand, but it was only marginally successful and only lasted a few weeks.  I do think my kids appreciate the dishwasher more now since they were my assistants in this little experiment.  We then tried the same experiement with the dryer and experienced a similar result-- complete and utter failure. so...

At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, I will share some of my most recent concerns with you.  First of all, the holidays are coming and while I love the holidays, they are a bit overwhelming to me.  And don't get me wrong I absolutely LOVE my family as well as my husband's family. But  when I think of the crazy schedules, preparations for and drives to all kinds of gatherings and all the junk food that will be readily available, I nearly hyperventilate.  Plus I am the mom, you know the one who is never supposed to forget anything, but also the one who always forgets something and usually at a critical time with an onlooking audience.  On top of that, it will be an even greater challenge to fit in exercise during the holidays because we will be so busy and when I do not exercise regularly I don't do so well.  And so with all this going on what does my messed up brain do?  It goes and thinks up a crazy little challenge to add into the mix.  As if we are not going to be busy enough as it is, but I think it will be fun (in a kind of sadistic way) and I think my husband will like it because it will save us money during the holidays. 

Anyhow, you may remember me from a couple years back when I talked my family (the one I grew up in not the one I am busy raising today)  into a challenge to live without our televisions for a year.  This was my first claim to fame and my family (the one I am raising not the one I grew up in) for the most part did just that-we lived for 2011 without the use of our television.  Back then our kids were 5,3 and 1 and life was even crazier in some respects than it is today. Eliminating the television definitely made us focus on more important higher quality forms of entertainment.  And it forced me to focus on my kids more than I do when the television is on.  The television is just such a HUGE distraction and waste of time.

Today we live with some television, not a lot but some.  The year of no television was fun and a great pick me up back then and it landed us in a lot of comical situations which I blogged about it at  Check it out and then prepare yourself for the next best thing...

Holiday Grocery Challenge 2013!  We will be living with only the groceries in my cupboards and refrigerator for as long as possible!  I am hoping to make it through the holidays at least.  And I didnt just go shopping we are due for shopping.  I dont know about you, but I myself am notorious for buying something because it "sounds good" when I am shopping and then never actually cooking it up to eat.  So when I started thinking of ways to save money, be more creative and shake things up, I kept thinking about food; how much food we have in our cupboards and how long some of it has been there (I am just going to ignore expirations dates and hope that we don't get sick) and then it hit me. I am going to use stuff up, get more creative in the kitchen and hopefully save us some money this holiday season while I am at it! 

I am keeping the rules simple.  I am not to shop for groceries for as long as possible with two exceptions and a fresh produce allowance of $5 per week.
1.  Milk
2.  Bread

During the holidays, if I am assigned a dish for which I lack items I am to request a change. If none is possible, I can shop for the assigned item only.

Let's see how this little challenge works out!

Happy Holidays!

Vern Out