Monday, August 1, 2011

Ingredient Resources... Where do I get my stuff?

Trying to cook and bake using healthy, wholesome ingredients can be expensive if you don't know where to buy your ingredients at cheaper prices. I try to be a bargain hunter and will shop around until I find a good deal. I realized quickly after changing my eating habits that if I was going to be able to stick within our grocery budget, there was no way I could afford what I wanted to get if my only options were local health food stores. I thought it might be helpful to anyone interested in making some of the recipes I post, to dedicate a post for links to my resources for some of the things I use the most, along with a reference for myself. I have ordered from these trusted sites time and time again with no problems.

There is a common misconception that I spend alot of money on groceries, but really, I don't spend any more money then I did before I started eating this way. In fact, we spend less money on food in general now because we don't go out to eat as often and cook most meals at home. We also eat lots of leftovers. I try not to waste anything and find uses for everything. For example, after roasting a chicken, I save the carcass, along with other bones and scraps in the freezer. I collect all of the bones, along with other veggies in the fridge that I might not be able to use up otherwise and throw them all in a pot for some chicken broth. I can then use the chicken broth as a base for soups and stews and lots of other things.  Most days, I have leftovers for lunch from the previous night's dinner.

Think about this, a value meal at McDonald's is around $5. I can get a lb of grass fed beef and feed my whole family with it for less then that. McDonald's for a family of 4 is going to cost you around $20. I can easily feed my whole family dinner, complete with sides and drinks, along with dessert for way less then $20 and even have leftovers. I am not only saving money, I am also using healthy ingredients that are good for us.

We also buy our beef in bulk and purchase half a grass fed cow from a local farm. We get steaks, roasts, soup bones, lots of ground beef, well ya know, everything that comes from a cow. After all the processing and delivery to my doorstep from this really nice guy named Jeremy, it comes to around $4.00 a pound. We keep it all in our deep freezer and always have beef on hand.

I am posting the links to where I have found things for the cheapest (although it could be cheaper somewhere else), but sometimes its better to spend the extra dollar and add something to another order to save on shipping. For example, when you spend over $40 at iherb.com you get free shipping (at both iherb and netrition it's around $5 shipping no matter how much you spend). I usually always order a bunch of supplies at once to save on shipping and have my supplies stocked up for a few months. With my amazon prime account and by using subscribe and save I get free 2 day shipping and discounts on most of my grocery items.

So here is a rundown of some of the basics that I use. I am also including some basic info with those that may be less familiar. I will add to this as I come up with more stuff. I will also try to keep the links updated with the best deals as I run across them. If anyone knows of any better deals, please let me know, I would really appreciate it as I am always trying to stretch my dollars!

Also, if you click on an outdated link, please let me know and I will be sure to update it right away!

Coconut Oil
I usually buy the 54 oz jar. This jar is huge and it lasts me a while. I try to incorporate coconut oil into my diet daily. Whether it's used to fry chicken or fish in, a smoothie, subbed for butter in baking or made into some kind of chocolate candy concoction, its very good for you. Not only does it have lots of healthy attributes, it can also help you lose weight!

Coconut Flour
I love using coconut flour in baked goods. You usually need to use alot of eggs to offset its moisture sucking effects, but it can make some delicious cakes, muffins and breads. I also use it to bread my chicken, fish or pork with for frying in coconut oil. Save even more money with the subscribe and save option from Amazon.

Almond Flour
I've had a hard time finding a good deal on almond flour. I try to sub almond meal from Trader Joe's where I can, but sometimes you really need the fine texture of the blanched almond flour to pull off cakes and cupcakes. I buy it in bulk to save money and it lasts me forever in the freezer. Save even more money with the subscribe and save option from Amazon.

Almond Meal
I buy my almond meal at Trader Joe's. They sell a 16 oz bag of it for $3.99. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, your best bet would probably be checking out amazon.com, iherb.com or netrition.com and shopping around.

Flax Meal
I prefer to use golden flax because, to me, it has a lighter taste and texture. It works better in my blueberry flax muffin recipe and all around I find that I prefer it in most other recipes as well that call for flax. You can also buy it in whole seed form and grind it yourself. It will last longer that way too. I am too lazy for that and it stores just fine in my freezer.  Save even more money with the subscribe and save option from Amazon.

Pure Stevia Extract Powder
This may seem expensive for such a tiny little bottle, but when you consider how far you can stretch it, it's actually not bad at all. 3/4 of a teaspoon tastes as sweet as 1 cup of sugar!! I have been getting pretty good at using stevia as the only sweetener in alot of my baking and it has been working pretty well.   A tiny bit goes a long way with this stuff. Alot of different stevia products will have a bitter after taste. This one has none of that at all and prefer it by far over every other one I have tried.  This tiny little bottle will last me up to 6 months!

Erythritol
Erythritol is usually made from plant sugars. Sugar is mixed with water and then fermented with a natural culture into erythritol. It is then filtered, allowed to crystallize, and then dried. The finished product is white granules or powder that resembles sugar. It is about 60 - 70% as sweet as table sugar, almost zero calories, it doesn't cause tooth decay like sugar, does not affect blood sugar and is absorbed by the body and excreted, unchanged, through the urine.

I use to buy granulated erythritol and powdered it myself in my coffee grinder because it seemed to work much better in baked goods this way. Then I discovered you could buy it pre-powdered and haven't bought the granular version since. I always use it powdered now and it always seems to work out perfectly. I started out trying to use stevia for everything, but it just doesn't take the place alone of sugar as a bulking agent. When subbing sugar in baked goods, I use erythitol cup for cup then add just a pinch of stevia extract to bring up the sweetness. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get it right. When adding something sweet to things other then baked goods and desserts I just use stevia by itself. I usually try to get away with using only stevia extract as much as I can.

Update: I no longer have much use for erythritol, and have tried to use stevia or honey as my only sweeteners, but I am keeping the info and link here for some of my older recipes.

Beef Tallow
Beef tallow is rendered from beef fat. You can render it yourself or order it from this site. I think its much easier to just order it and doesn't cost any more then making it yourself (depending on how much you can buy pastured beef fat for). This is such a stable fat for cooking and frying and imparts such a great flavor. You can fry delicious french fries in it that are actually good for you. An excerpt from THIS article:
Why beef tallow for cooking? Apart from the above reasons, beef tallow has been in use from time immemorial. The traditional French fies made in tallow oil could prevent cavities and osteoporosis (since Vitamin K2 is great for bones and teeth). When people cooked with lard or tallow, cancer and heart attacks were unknown. The recent studies too prove that even the so-called fatty foods can be nourishing and healthy if cooked with the right kind of fat. This is why beef tallow is always much better for cooking than the highly-processed, nutrient-less empty vegetable oil.

4 comments:

Elsie Callender said...

Thanks for the earlier answer to my comment, and also for this helpful resource! Where do you purchase your honey? Do you find that it's cheaper to purchase beans in bulk, or are those grocery-store items for you? Also, I was wondering if you eat pasta, and where you buy that? I'm on the hunt for good, frugal sources for the staples in our diet.

Laura said...

Hi Elsie! I buy my honey at a store called The Vitamin Shoppe that is right down the street from me. They had the best deal I could find on raw honey. It is from Y.S. Organic Bee Farms. I know they also sell it on their website and through Amazon too, but it's actually a little cheaper at the store. Beans I buy at the grocery store. We don't eat alot of pasta, but we do eat some and I have found it the cheapest at Trader Joe's. They sell organic whole wheat pasta there for around $1/lb. I hope this helps!

Laura said...

I also wanted to add that I have been buying more and more stuff through amazon. They have some great prices on some of their food items and if you sign up for prime membership (which I actually have for free for signing up for amazon moms to get diapers), and use their subscribe and save program you get free 2 day shipping and 15% off alot of the items. That can help alot!

Elsie Callender said...

Thanks!