Canning & Preserving 2014

I’m so happy and proud. I “put up” a good amount of jars this season.

Canning jars on shelf 2014

There’s lots of tomatoes (pints & quarts): chopped, roasted, juiced, & slow-cooked, Concord grape jam & juice, peach maple jam, rhubarb chutney, spicy sweet tomato jam, pickled green cherry tomatoes, cortland applesauce, honeycrisp/gala applesauce, tomato jam, and one lone salsa from last year. Plus there was some spring strawberry jam that’s LONG gone because it was so scrumptious.

My freezer stash includes blanched green beans, chopped raw green peppers, raw whole jalapenos, chopped raw celery, celery leaves, lots of bone/veggie stock, and a bit of canning leftover chopped tomatoes.

We had some leftover honeycrisp applesauce for the fridge, and it was absolutely delicious. Probably the best I’ve had! Yum. I’m still contemplating if I should buy another half bushel to can more applesauce in quarts for all the upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s day). I got a decent deal on “seconds” from Mann’s Orchard – $16 for 21+ pounds. Considering, honeycrisp are regularly $2-$4/lb, I was thrilled! I want more!

And I’d love to try a batch of sauerkraut. I’ve previously tried fermented pickles, and one batch was great, while the other spoiled. I’ve recently learned that Diamond Kosher salt (my go-to brand) measures completely different than pickling or table salt, so I wonder if that might have been the problem. I’m feeling brave enough to try on a head of cabbage I just bought at the farm.

Of course, now that I’m totally addicted to homemade water kefir, I think more fermented foods are in order.

Other canning plans? I have been saving many interesting recipes from canning and preserving books (public library I love ya), and I’m hoping I’ll find time to make some sort of hot pepper sauce (fermented perhaps), as well as cranberry relish, beet relish (w/caraway), rosemary onion confit, ginger pear chutney. There are so many wonderful recipes out there, we’ll see what I can do this year.

And well, there’s always next year too!

Healthy Food Budget June, July 2013 {{MOVED}}

My detailed weekly posts for the healthy food budget have moved to a new area.

I thought that it would be more organized to keep most of the budget posts in one separate area instead of getting them all mixed up with my regular blog posts. I know most visitors aren’t interested in my spending details, and truthfully, I am really budget blogging for myself, to keep a record I can refer to if needed.

So, detailed budget posts are found at, but I’ll continue to post quick monthly updates here as well.

I copied all older posts to the new blog, and eventually I’d like to remove the originals from here, and set up URL redirects, but that will take a lot of time, and it might not even be necessary. In the meantime, there will be two copies of older posts.

So, here’s my monthly update for two months

June 2013: $401.72

Dining Out: Total $23.57
Gardening: Total $16.39
Groceries: Total $361.76

Great month. Considering I started my cleanse/detox/elimination diet mid-month, I did very well. But truthfully, the real reason I made my budget was because we didn’t go out to eat but once all month. The bulk of the spending was groceries.

Groceries: $361.76
Trader Joe’s 119.58 (32%)
Whole Foods 99.81 (27%)
Wilson Farm 48.65 (13%)
MARKET BASKET 45.34 (12%)
Open Meadow Farm 37.41 (10%)
Wilmington Farmers Market 14.25 (4%)
Hannaford 2.50 (1%)
Food Pantry donation credit ($5.78)

July 2013: $475.43

Dining Out: Total $116.20
Groceries: Total $359.23

Boy did July kick my budgeting butt! Yikes. I didn’t just go over, I was ran over by a bulldozer!

Two changes came in July though. A lot more meat consumption. I’m still experimenting with my diet, but I drastically reduced legumes and grains, especially wheat and gluten, along with dairy and eggs. It’s been very difficult since I was such a proponent of a plant-based diet with only occasional meat consumption. My go-to meals were fried eggs, bread pizza and pasta with tomato sauce. Working with an elimination diet, I had to increase meat and lower the carbs. I’m still not ready to blog about the details yet, but hopefully soon. It’s been a long overwhelming life-changeing haul, but I’m getting closer to answers.

The second change to my budget was removal of supplements and vitamins. These really were a necessity and wasn’t something I could control as easily as groceries, so I moved them to a separate budget expense.

Groceries Total 359.23
Whole Foods Market 93.28 (26%)
Trader Joe’s 89.16 (25%)
Wilson Farm 62.83 (17%)
Local Farm 59.36 (17%)
MARKET BASKET 39.82 (11%)
Open Meadow Farm (meat) 7.54 (2%)
Penzeys Spices 7.24 (2%)

Even though the budget was over the top in July, I learned some valuable lessons. I’m still affected by impulse buys, whether it’s at the grocery or DH clamoring for take-out. When I don’t follow my specific list, I get into trouble. It’s something I need to work on.

And secondly, even though the last few days burst the budget, I was eating good healthy food, so it really was worth it. Summer fruit is expensive but it’s good for you and that’s all that matters!

Happy August Budgeting!

My Healthy Food Budget: Month of May, 2013

Month of May Healthy Food Budget: $471.52

Wow, yep, way over my $400 budget, but there was surplus of $100 from earlier months, so I’m still under yearly total of $4800 – $5000.

May Food Spending Total $471.52

Dining Out: $79.51
Gardening: $5.78
Groceries: $373.53
Vitamins/Supplements: $12.70

Some specifics:

Whole Foods Market: Pastured step4 chickens were on special at $2.99/lb. I bought a whole chicken and a whole cut-up chicken for a total of about $24. I froze a few of the individual pieces for meals throughout the month, and the whole chicken is still in my freezer.

Tropical Traditions: (2) jars each of coconut oil and coconut cream $38 – that took a big chunk from the budget!

Spent about $27 for farm meat (Open Meadow Farm) but I got many meals from 1lb of ground beefalo and 3lb fresh ham steak, including rendered pork fat.

On the other hand, I spent almost $30 at two farmers markets, with not much to show for it. :(

But NO excuses! I admit spending went overboard, especially the last two weekends, starting with Memorial weekend, wanting to treat ourselves.

The most frustrating part was there was not a lot of produce in the house during most of the month, and since we’re “between seasons” I’m having a difficult time finding decent fruit, without spending a fortune on organic.

June starts a new month, and local produce is becoming more plentiful. My plan is less spontaneity at the farmers markets, and sticking to less expensive local farmstands when possible.

Freezer/Pantry Update

Took inventory of my preserves, and I am still in great shape.

4 -1/2 pint blueberry jam with 2 in the fridge as well (new!)
7 -quarts canned tomatoes
6 -pints canned tomatoes
5 -pints applesauce
4 -pints cranberry apple sauce
2 -pints corn tomato salsa
2 -pints tomato jam (very sweet, not sure what I’m gonna do with this!)
1 -1/2 pint apple cider jelly
2 -1/2 cup grape syrup
4 -1/2 pint grape syrup

Plus, in the freezer, I have a few bags of summer corn, dried summer tomatoes, summer cherry tomatoes, and probably a few other assorted tomatoes. I am out of summer green peppers, but I still have a quart bag of jalapenos.

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars This Month

Whole Foods 118.29 (32%)
MARKET BASKET 56.49 (15%)
Trader Joe’s 39.29 (11%)
Tropical Traditions 37.95 (10%) (coconut products)
Hannaford 29.66 (8%)
Open Meadow Farm 27.30 (7%) (meat)
Newburyport Farmers Market 16.80 (5%)
Ocean State Job Lot 14.01 (4%) 13.74 (4%)
Salem NH Farmers Market 12.50 (3%)
Seven Acres Farm 7.50 (2%)
Total: 373.53

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

Homemade Blueberry Jam (Lower Sugar)

homemade blueberry jam

Okay someone please tell me why I feel the need to make my own jams and jellies when there are perfectly good store bought products available?

Tell me that it’s totally worth it because I’m controlling the ingredients and sugar content. And it doesn’t matter that I’m melting over a hot stovetop on a 90° day!

Okay enough self-pity.

Late last summer, I decided that I was going to try to create enough canned jams and jellies so there wouldn’t be a need for commercial product.

Since I started so late in the season, all the cool fruits were out of season (like strawberries, blueberries, and stone fruit), so I started with an easy apple cider jelly, then onto batches of Concord grape jams & jellies.

I’m so proud that I made enough to last us through winter! But spring couldn’t come quick enough as I was down to one last jar of sad apple cider jelly, along with a few emergency jars of Concord grape “syrup” that didn’t quite work itself into jam.

So when Whole Foods Market announced that they were offering organic blueberries for $1.99/pint I knew it was time to start making more jam!

I had borrowed “Put ’em up” from the library and I found a “quick blueberry jam” recipe that utilized Pomona’s Pectin without the need for massive amounts of sugar, so along with 4 pints if blueberries, I also purchased a box of Pomona’s.

I used Pomona’s a couple of times last year. I like that I can use a smaller amount if sugar and didn’t have to worry about making the jam thicken on its own.

So this morning, despite the 90° heat wave, I got my ingredients ready and proceeded to make a batch of blueberry jam while a big pot of water and jelly jars came up to boil next to it.

I was doing really well, following the directions, allowing the jam to come to a boil slowly. I then added the lemon juice, calcium water, and sugar pectin mix and stirred stirred stirred waiting for the second boil.

I kept peeking, and it wasn’t quite there yet, until I turned away for a little too long and splurshhhh, blueberry jam erupted all over my gas stove!

Then it was time to remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before ladling into jars for the hot water bath. When I was finished, I had 4 (eight oz) canned jars and 2 for the fridge.

The other good news was the sticky blueberry mess on my stove was thankfully easy to clean!

Here’s the recipe:

Quick blueberry jam

Based on recipe from “Put em up” cookbook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 6 cups (original recipe stated 4 cups, I used 4 US dry pints of blueberries. 1 US dry pint = about 2.3 cups, even after losing some to boil-over on the stove)

This jam is full of fresh blueberry flavor. Because these berries are easy to stem and have no hulls or noticeable pips, it’s a quick project too.


1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons Pomona’s universal pectin
4 US/dry pints blueberries, stemmed (about 9-10 cups, original recipe stated 8 cups)
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
2 teaspoons calcium water (mix included in the Pomona’s box- I still had a batch in the fridge from last year)


  1. Whisk the sugar and pectin together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Rinse blueberries and add them into a (nonreactive) sauce pan (I used my 4qt stainless pot) and slowly bring to a boil over low heat.
  3. Continually stir and crush blueberries with potato masher and/or immersion blender (I used both)
  4. Add the lemon juice and calcium water.
  5. Slowly pour in the sugar pectin mixture and keep stirring to make sure it all dissolves.
  6. Return jam to a boil, and then immediately remove from heat to let the jam rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.
  7. Carefully ladle jam into small jelly jars and either store in fridge for 3 weeks or process for 10 minutes using hot water bath method.

Using only 1 cup of sugar, it’s approximately 17 calories and 4g sugar per Tbsp!!!

I couldn’t resist sampling on a slice of my homemade whole wheat bread!

homemade blueberry jam

My Healthy Food Budget: Month End April, 2013 + 6 Month Update

April Week 4 Healthy Food Budget: $103.47 spent, for a total of $381.98 for the month. (See below for 6 month update)

Yay! I was able to stick to a lower budget this month! Awesome!

I have to admit I sort of cheated…but not really. I needed fruit (for one last day of April). But why waste fuel for a second trip to the store a day or two later when I could pick up everything in one shot (including some non-grocery items). I applied just what I needed to April’s budget, and will carry the rest over to May.

My plan for purchasing local flour this week was put on hold for now. I had plenty of Bob’s Red Mill flour, so better to be frugal and eat from my pantry instead.

DH was craving fried seafood (he works so hard, I can’t say no), so we splurged with a larger-than-normal-take-out dinner. I had a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $45 or more, so I added in a small Italian calzone to freeze for a dinner next month.

My pantry is getting really low! I was shocked to find I only had a few tablespoons of brown rice left, and I used the last of the quinoa. I’m going to need grains in May for sure. I also ordered (2) coconut oil & (2) coconut cream (BOGO) from Tropical Traditions and tuna will be delivered from Amazon, so that will also be a big hit to my May spending.

March Food Spending

Dining Out: $61.02 / Total $140.43
Groceries: $42.45 / Total $241.55

Most of my spending this week was for take-out! Wow! Ha! So much for my “unspoken” $100/month dining out budget!

I tried to eat from my freezer and pantry, and hit the grocery store mostly for produce; we still ate very well for the most part!

(Mon) Whole Foods Market & Market Basket $8.92 for Theo 70% chocolate bars, bok choy, and broccoli

(Wed) Market Basket $14.56 for pineapple, asparagus, organic Fuji apples, red grapefruit, minneola oranges, and bananas.

(Wed) Open Meadow Farm $8.32 for yummy boneless pork chops (meat from farm is pre-paid in full, so technically no real money is actually spent, but I apply the cost to my budget as we consume it.)

(Sat) Market Basket $5.79 for mango, grapefruit, minneola oranges, organic Fuji apples, bananas

(Tues) Market Basket $4.86 for grapefruit, avocado, and minneola oranges.

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars for April: $241.55

Whole Foods 43.51
Trader Joe’s 29.38
Open Meadow Farm 28.77 28.40
Seven Acres Farm 7.50
Jones Farm 5.60
Aubut’s Liquors 3.00

6 Month Budget Update: $2299.06

Dining Out: $720.96 (31%)
Groceries: $1550.04 (67%)
Supplements/Vitamins: $28.06 (1%)
Total: $2299.06

I’m 6 months into the budget (nov-apr) and so far so good. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to continue the lower budget totals in the warmer months, but I am hoping to stick to my original $400/month. If not, I’ve got an excess of at least $100 to play with.

It’s comforting to know that my grocery spending is 67% of my food spending and more than double that of my dining out spending. I’d like to continue that trend!

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars 6 Month Update

Grand Total $1,550.04

MARKET BASKET 393.80 (25%)
Whole Foods 387.36 (24%)
Trader Joe’s 268.73 (17%)
Open Meadow Farm 134.25 (8%) 65.31 (4%)
Ocean State Job Lot 59.88
Seven Acres Farm 59.75
Mann Orchards 37.04
Wilson Farm 33.24
Winchester Winter Farmers Market 30.65
Brookline Farmers Market 21.70
Tropical Traditions 20.97
Four Star Farms 15.00 13.27
Hannaford 11.04
Jones Farm 5.60
Vitacost 4.94
Penzeys Spices 4.25
Aubut’s Liquors 3.00
Credits (20.73)

Interesting that Whole Foods and Market Basket are just about even. Soon, I’ll be heading to local farms more, so the % of Whole Foods spending will surely go down in the next half.

All in all, it’s been a very good 6 months. We’re eating well, with regular decadent splurges thrown in. Life is good!

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 $385 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

My Healthy Food Budget: Week Three April, 2013

April Week Three Healthy Food Budget: $77.19 for a total of $278.51. That leaves $106.39 for the rest of my monthly budget.

I’ve reduced my April food budget to $385, which will bring the total year estimated food budget down to $4700 (down from my original $4800 projection). It would be nice to drop it another $100 by the year end, but we’ll see.

So, there are 11 more days left in the month, I’m planning to purchase some local grain flour from Four Star Farms next week, with a trip to Whole Foods Market in Cambridge, and possibly more veggies at a Farmers Market this weekend. There shouldn’t be any problem sticking to my revised budget amount, but the temptation of take out does mess me up sometimes! Ha!

Grocery Spending Details

Dining Out: $32.39 / Total $79.41
Groceries: $44.80 / Total $199.10

(Mon) Market Basket $18.84: Applegate Farms deli chicken breast, (1) avocado, minneola oranges, bananas, Kerrygold swish cheese, Organic Valley half & half, Teddie organic peanut butter (sale $3.99)

(Wed) Whole Foods Market $4.31 for organic Fuji apples

(Wed) Seven Acres Farm $7.50 for 2 dozen jumbo eggs. Note: I bought a couple of cartons of eggs from the grocery (Pete & Gerry’s and Born Free) and I’ve found I like my farm fresh eggs better. They’re JUMBO huge eggs, and fresh as could be. I’m sticking with Seven Acres farm! And they’re celebrating their 75th year! Gotta support our local farmers!

(Fri) Market Basket $14.15 for Applegate Farms Sunday bacon (sale $4.99), 2lb bag o’ clementines, organic apples, minneola oranges, and bananas.

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 $385 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

My Healthy Food Budget: Week 2 April, 2013

Week 2 Healthy Food Budget: $134.74 for a total of $201.32 for April

Even though I spent over $100, I feel good about my spending this week. With almost $200 left for the rest of the month, I’m confident I’ll meet my budget.

I’m actually hoping to reduce my April food budget to $380, but we’ll see.

We splurged on a nice lunch last Saturday. Almost $30 was more than we like to normally spend for lunch or take-out, but it’s nice to splurge once in awhile.

To compensate for last Saturday, last night, I made a homemade Italian calzone, instead of opting for take-out. It cost less than $5 and was absolutely delicious. Yes, it was totally unhealthy and decadent with white flour and loads of deli meat, but if we are going to have “junk food” it’s better to make it myself, right?

DH is already trying to convince me to buy Chinese take-out tonight because we saved last night. Ha!

There was some stock-up spending this week. Almond butter and raisins/nuts at Trader Joe’s. Four lbs of chicken breasts at Whole Foods, which I promptly baked and froze for 4-5 weeks of meals/soups.

I bought a lot of fruit and vegetables, including a splurge for a container of Olivia’s lettuce greens (I was craving salad). It’s good because I’ll have enough veggies to last the upcoming week, but I’ll need to buy more fruit soon.

My canned/frozen summer tomato stock is still strong, but my grape jam is dwindling down. I do have lots of jars of grape “syrup” that I could boil down into jam (adding some Pamona’s pectin) but commercial fruit preserves might be necessary.

Spending Details for Groceries Budget – Week 2 April

Dining Out: $28.78 / Total $47.02
Groceries: $105.96 / Total $154.30

(Sat) Trader Joe’s $29.38: Feta cheese, (4) Bananas, organic half & half, hazelnuts, shelled pistachios, organic raisins, pasta, almond butter, frozen organic green beans

(Sun) Woburn Winter Farmer’s Market @ Spence Farm (Jones Farm) $5.60: batch of beets complete with green tops ($3) and small bunch of “Red Rain Asian Greens” ($2) and one apple (.60)

(Sun) Market Basket $11.04: Olivia organic spring mix, organic Fuji apples, Savoy cabbage

(Thurs) Market Basket $11.45: Cauliflower, organic apples, minneola oranges, bananas, and 6pk organic eggs (not happy but I had to buy “Born Free” brand, but I guess it’s better than Eggland’s Best CFO brand)

(Thurs) Open Meadow Farm $12.80 (pre-purchased meat): pork spareribs (yum)

(Fri) Market Basket $4.53 for deli meat (homemade calzone)

(Fri) Whole Foods Market $31.16: Organic rainbow chard (sale), organic baby bok choy, organic celery, 5lb bag o’ organic carrots, jar of sauerkraut, (2) local ricotta cheese (raincheck), and 4 lbs bone-in chicken breast ($1.99lb sale)

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

My Healthy Food Budget: Week One April, 2013

April Week One Healthy Food Budget: $66.58

Short and Sweet this week!

The subscribe & save order from Amazon made up a big chunk of my spending, so I tried to hold off buying any groceries unless it was really needed.

Dining Out: $18.24
Groceries: $48.34

Amazon Subscribe & Save: $28.40 total = $11.19 Wild Harvest tuna (6pk) and $17.21 pure maple syrup

Market Basket + Liquor Store $12.29: bag o’ navel oranges, cauliflower, bananas, broccoli, Nellie’s eggs (w/ $1 coupon) and wine

Open Meadow Farm $7.65 (pre-bought meat): 1+ lb ground grassfed beef

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

My Healthy Food Budget: Month End March, 2013

March Week 4 Healthy Food Budget: $73.49

Happy Easter! March was a good month! I’m below my $400 budget, and spring is coming! Soon, I’ll be planting my veggie garden! Life is good!

March Month End Food Spending Total $388.51

Heading into April, I have prior months’ spending credit just shy of $83. I might need it in the summer when local produce test my budgeting skills. Blueberries don’t come cheap!

Spending Details

I was organizing my pantry, and decided that the unopened packages of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free xantham gum and tapioca flour might be more useful to someone else, so I donated both to the local food bank, giving myself a small credit of $13.72 back to grocery spending. But even without the adjustment, I would have made my budget anyway.

Bob’s Red Mill products were on sale at 20% off. OSJL prices are already very good for Bob’s, but their occasional 20% off sales are when I do a major stock-up!

I debated buying the Domino sugar on sale this week. $2 for a 4lb bag. Disappointing that the last time I purchased sugar, it was a 5 lb bag. Dominos reduced the bag size, while keeping the price the same! Easter is the last holiday for awhile, so it probably won’t go on sale soon.

We don’t use much white sugar. DH uses a little for his AM coffee, and I use it for preserves and occasionally for baking. But I refuse to buy sugar unless it specifically states “cane sugar” as the ingredient; I don’t trust other generic sugar that only lists “sugar” because it’s probably beet sugar which is GMO.

Dining Out: $33.10 / Total $95.65
Groceries: $40.39 / Total $292.86

(Sat, Tues) Ocean State Job Lots $34.21 Two shopping trips for Bob’s Red Mill products on sale: Rolled oats, (2) sesame seeds, (2) chia seeds, whole flaxseeds, baking soda, lentils, cornmeal and (3) 5lb bags of Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour. Yes, I’m loving the local whole wheat flour, but it’s nice to have a few bags of commercial flour for backup.

(Tues, Fri) Market Basket Total $19.90: 2 shopping trips for bananas, (2) organic fuji apples, (4) grapefruit, (4) navel oranges, (5) minneola oranges, (2) mangoes, broccoli, KA white flour (sale $2.99), (4lb) domino sugar (sale $2), and a splurge of (2) Cadbury creme eggs.

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars This Month

Foodbank pantry credit (13.72)
Whole Foods 72.19
Trader Joe’s 70.76
Ocean State Job Lot 34.21
Open Meadow Farm 23.11
Brookline Farmers Market 21.70
Four Star Farms 15.00
Seven Acres Farm 7.50
Penzeys Spices 4.25

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.