shop til you drop

I used part of Sunday night to go online and check the local store ads.  It’s a little annoying, but also really helpful if you are looking for some deals.  It doesn’t take too long to jot down which stores have deals on the foods you want.

I realize I have a little extra time on my hands right now, but if you utilize one day of the week to check ads, search for recipes, and make lists, you can get all your weekly shopping done in 1 day.  I had some requests about summarizing my trips + total cost at the grocery store.  [heavy in text, sorry!]

My goal was to buy meals for 4 nights, for 4 people, plus some lunch + breakfast food for Chris + me, and snacks.  I linked all of the store names to their websites.  Whole Foods has a great website, with a HUGE catalog of recipes.  You can also search the WF website for deals at your store!

I stopped at Sunflower Farmers Market [it’s a store, not an actual famers market] first, to take better note of their inventory.  The first time I was there it was a little overwhelming.  They seem to have the cheapest non-organic produce around.  I try to stick to organic produce that is on sale, but sometimes give in to the non-organic deals.  I got 2 red bell peppers for $.99/ea, a small red cabbage for $.45, and a 3lb butternut squash for $2.26.  They have some pretty cheap blocks of cheese.  I got Monterey Jack on sale for $1.99/lb!  I tried to take note of the prices of their bulk items to compare with the next 2 stores.

Total at this store = $24.21 with tax

My next stop was Natural Grocers/Vitamin Cottage, which I L.O.V.E.! The staff is super friendly and helpful, the store is organized and clean, and all of their produce is organic and affordable!  I got some organic loose carrots for $.99/lb, org. celery for $.89/lb, and org. sweet potatoes for $1.59/lb.  Maple syrup is definitely a specialty item, but they had a normally $16.99 12.7oz bottle on sale for $8.99.  I could not pass that up and it will last me a long time.  I am glad I held off at Sunflower Market because I definitely found some better deals here.  Things like organic canned pumpkin, rice vinegar, bulk brown rice, and “food should taste good” chips, were all cheaper.  The FSTG chips were $2.75 compared to an on sale price of $2.99 at Sunflower. The canned pumpkin was about $.85 cheaper! Score!

Total at this store = $44.21 with tax.

My last stop, was Whole Foods.  The WF we live by, is the smallest one around.  Bigger WF stores definitely are stocked with more of the 365 brand, which will help you save $$.  When you walk in WF, make sure to pick up their coupon booklet.  I have saved at least $15-20 in 3 trips utilizing the book.  I went here mainly to buy some meat for the week, so I knew this total would be a little more.  I got fresh, antibiotic-free, cage free, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts for $3.99/lb.  This is $2/lb cheaper than the boneless, skinless.  This is somewhat crazy to me b/c the bone-in and skin-on make the chicken so much more flavorful, with just a little extra work.  I stocked up on 85% lean grass-fed ground beef for $2.99/lb.  This was $2/lb savings, so I got some to wrap and freeze.  I normally go for 90% lean, but this was such a good deal!  Their 365 brand broth was the cheapest I could find, at $1.99/32oz, also organic.  I also wrote down some of the prices of bulk items there, like grains and flours.  When I bake, I prefer to buy flour in the bulk bins.  This way, I can buy what I need, and it is fresher than a bag that has been in the cupboard for 6+ months.  I also got 1lb of Top Sirloin Steak for $8.99 on sale.  I got some fresh organic veggies [organic winter squashes $.99/lb!], a few specialty drinks with coupons [like odwalla], a few KIND bars on sale, cage-free large brown eggs 365 brand $2.69, few snacks, organic valley whipped butter, more of that vodka sauce [from the pasta bake last week] for $4.00 [it was still half off!] and a few other odds and ends.

Total at this store = $66.27 with tax

I did have to stop at King Soopers to pick up Matzo for matzo ball soup this week!  WF would normally have it, but it’s the smallest WF ever =)

total shopping = 142.08

[many items not pictured]




I feel like that is pretty impressive for 4 meals to fill 4 adults, plus some breakfast + lunch food, and snacks for the week.  I’m sure there will be a few fill-in items we might need to pick up, but for the most part that should take care of it.

Ooookay, sorry for the lack of photos.  I guess I could have brought my camera to the store to make it more interesting!!

Easy easy yummmmy dinner:


serves 4:

1lb top sirloin steak, or similar

2 red bell peppers

1/2 small red cabbage [can add the whole cabbage if you like]

1/2+ lb fresh snap peas [goes better w/the asian flared meal than plane green beans]

1/2 small yellow onion

6T rice vinegar [asian food aisle]

3T honey

3T low sodium soy sauce

s+p to taste

2 cups uncooked brown rice [short or long grain]

Get the rice cooking first, as it will take about 55min total.  Add 4 cups of water to a large pot.  Add 2c. rice and a little EVOO.  Cover, and when it boils reduce to low for 45min.  Cool with cover on for 10min and fluff with fork.

I chopped the cabbage and peppers into strips, finely chopped the onion, and left the snap peas as is.

Whisk honey/soy sauce/rice vinegar in a bowl.  Pour a few spoonfuls on top of steak to coat.  I also added a little pepper, and salt/parsley/garlic spice mix to the steak.  Be careful not to over-salt, as soy sauce is full of sodium!

Place veggies on a foil lined pan [to help with cleanup!]. Pre-heat oven, to broil.  Pour remaining sauce mixture on veggies and toss.

Pre-heat grill when rice is about 45min in.  You can always leave the rice covered, off the heat, for longer than 10min if your timing on the rest of the food is off =)

I had 2, 1/2lb steaks, which needed about 6min/side on the grill + heating time of 5min + letting the steak sit after grilling so the juices don’t run out 3-5min. Total steak cook/prep time = 20min.


After you turn the steaks over once, put the veggies in the oven for 5-10min watching so they don’t burn.  You want them to be slightly browned and slightly soft. 


Fluff the rice, take the veggies, out, and slice the steak into strips.  CHOW TIME!

I also broiled some ciabatta bread with a swipe of butter and the salt/parsley/garlic spice mix.


We each had about a 4oz. portion of meat, which was more than satisfying.  The veggies + rice were super filling, and healthy!  There was plenty to feed the 4 of us, and more than enough leftovers of the veg + rice, that I will be eating for lunch! 

Total meal cost = 19.61/4 = $4.90/person

This included everything: the full cost of the ciabatta, which we still have 1/2 of, rice vinegar which I didn’t use much of, and the full cost of the 2lb bag of brown rice, which I still have 1/2 of.  The only things I did not buy were the honey and soy sauce.  Pretty affordable, with leftover pantry ingredients that will go to good use!

Phew…okay, done! Hopefully you found this helpful, and not extremely drawn out and boring!!!

Happy Tuesday!


p.s. I also picked up a FREE loaf of honey whole wheat bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. Natalie had a coupon!! Yummmm – I love their minimal ingredient list!


They stamp a flower on top of the loaf =)


weekend in review

Friday night we laid low, watching TV and playing the Wii.  Natalie cooked an awesome meal [that I forgot to photograph].  She made a chicken and black bean curry dish with a side of brown rice.  It was super flavorful, healthy, and delicious.

Saturday was the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.  I can’t even take a guess at how many beers there were to sample.  They had it sectioned off by regions, like: Pacific Northwest, Midwest, etc.  The place was packed with people, but it was fun roaming around sampling beers and munching on our pretzel necklaces! 


pretzel necklaces…everyone was wearing them..such a good idea!!!


The sample sizes were 1oz.  I probably tried about 12-15 beers.  The only down-side was that a lot of the most sought after beers [like october spice beers] were gone really early on.  There were a handful that I wanted to try but they were already out within the first hour!

My awesome sis-in-law, Natalie + me!



On Sunday, we headed to a 400+ acre dog park that is about 2 miles away from where we are living.  I’m pretty sure Kenna + Dakota had a blast.

Kenna is the front-most dog.  She chased the black lab in front of her, the whole time.


Dakota had 1 thing on her mind…swimming + sticks!


Later, we met up with this fabulous couple, Chris + Ann.  We have been friends with Chris since undergrad at Ohio State and we just met Ann when we moved out here.  Super cool people!!  We checked out their neighborhood and walked around Wash Park, in Denver.  We really like that area, and will definitely be looking there when we’re ready to find a place.IMG_1116

It was a gorgeous night out and we went to Vine Street for some eats.  Completely delicious meal.

Carrot + Coconut soup – UHmazing.  It was creamy and flavorful with not much coconut taste at all.  I’m guessing they used coconut milk, which doesn’t have too much actual coconut flavor, to help thicken the soup. 


No, that is not’s blackberry wheat beer.  This restaurant is also a well-known local brewery [Mountain Sun Brewery].  Deeelicious.


Thee best salad, ever.  Mixed greens, with roasted butternut squash, lightly breaded + fried goat cheese, with a bacon vinaigrette.  They gave plenty of cheese and the dressing was perfect.  I cleared my plate but left about 1/3 of the cheese!


On the menu for this week:

[monday] brown rice + pan seared veggies + grilled sirloin steak

matzo ball soup + boiled chicken

butternut squash + veggie stew

spaghetti squash + veggie + cheese bake

Tomorrow I’m going to post a little about how I try to save at the grocery store and a summary of how much this week’s meals add up to! Stay tuned =)



an explosion of fall…in your mouth

If you like oatmeal + pumpkin you MUST try this recipe.  I have started preparing my basic bowl of oatmeal according to Kath’s awesome recipe for whipped banana oats.  The only thing I change is that I leave out the salt.  I have been using unsweetened rice milk or unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead of regular cow’s milk, but any will work fine.  I use organic rolled oats that you can usually find for about $.99/lb in the bulk bins.  They take a little longer to cook than the quick oats, about 5+ min on the stovetop, but there is a big difference in texture.

From there I added 1/4c. plain pumpkin puree, a dash of nutmeg and a 1/4t. cinnamon, 2t. of either brown sugar/honey/maple syrup/brown rice syrup [any will work, just to add a little sweetness].  I also topped it with vanilla almond granola, for a little crunch.


Off to the Great American Beer Festival after the OSU game!  Have a great weekend!!



Please prepare yourselves for the following recipe… 

Again, I was tempted by the amazing photography and simplicity of this recipe on  I did change up a few things with the recipe!  It calls for 3/4c. of maple syrup.  The smallest bottle you can find will cost you about $7.99 and I just didn’t want to dish that out for a dessert recipe.  So, what could be substituted?  Ahh, perfect, brown rice syrup + a little honey!  I happen to have a LOT of jars of brown rice syrup because it is an ota.ingredient, and I never made it through my whole supply.  I will go over brown rice syrup after I finish about this recipe.

The other thing I changed was instead of using agar agar flakes for thickening, I used an organic tapioca starch.  I couldn’t find agar agar at Whole Foods and tapioca starch was only $2.50.  It seemed to work perfectly. 

So, instead of 3/4c. maple syrup I used about 1/2c. + 2T brown rice syrup and 2T honey which totals 3/4c. sticky liquid.  Make sure to get CRISPY brown rice cereal and not puffed rice cereal.  _MG_4755

Thicker than maple syrup._MG_4757

I mixed in and topped this with pistachios but really any nut or a mixture of nuts would work perfectly.  If you want even more pnut flavor add peanuts.  Next time I might try an almond/walnut combo.  Next time is going to be very soon! _MG_4758

It was such a tasty treat right out of the fridge.  A rich pnut flavor but not overly sweet, thanks to the brown rice syrup.  Maple syrup might have been too sweet for me, so I was glad I substituted! _MG_4764

So, a little bit about brown rice syrup.  I haven’t come across too many brands on the market and have always found Lundberg to have the BEST brown rice products.  From their brown rice chips to the cereal to the syrup, I love Lundberg’s products.  Brown rice syrup is one of the healthiest sweeteners you can use because of how it breaks down in your body.  It metabolizes much more slowly, in comparison to white sugar or maple syrup, which will keep your glycemic index level at a steadier rate.  This will help avoid the sugar high and crash feelings.

While I don’t always go by what Wikipedia says they do a great job at summarizing how it is broken down – wiki - brown rice syrup

This 21oz jar will run you about $4.50 at Whole Foods, which is the cheapest place I have found it.  I utilized WF’s case discount, for an extra 10% savings, when I bought it for ota.bars.


Now, on to dinner!  This one just came out of my brain…it is amazingly easy…and a good way to clean out the fridge!

Whole Foods had their grass-fed beef on sale for $2.99 this week!!  I will definitely be going back to stock up on this yummy grass-fed beef, while it is so wallet friendly!

I decided to make a simple pasta bake.  Easy, full-proof, recipe.

Most of the ingredients [not pictured: cheese + noodles + beef]_MG_4773

The Vodka sauce was also on sale at WF’s for $4.00, when it is normally $8.00!  Loved it!  I had leftover spinach to use up, 1 leftover leek from last nights dinner, and 1 yellow squash.  I grated the squash so it wouldn’t be as pronounced of a texture in the bake.  I didn’t want it to stand out as it can usually get quite squishy in the center, when cooked.  That made it SO much better.  The leek added the perfect amount of oniony flavor.



preheat oven to 350* [I used 375* b/c of the CO altitude]

1 standard box of pasta [I used shells, which were SO yummy]

1 standard size jar of sauce

1 – 1 1/2lbs grass-fed ground beef

2c. fresh spinach

1 yellow squash, grated

1 chopped leek

1 1/2c. fresh grated mozzarella

1/4c. fresh grated parmesan

Boil the pasta until al dente.  [It will finish cooking while it’s baking in the oven.]  Brown the meat and add a few shakes of salt/garlic powder/pepper.  Drain the meat.  Add all the ingredients [except for the cheese] to a 13x9 baking dish.  Toss until combined.  Cover with foil and bake for 30min.  Uncover and top with cheese and broil for a few short minutes until the cheese is bubbly and a little browned.

When broiling, it is best to leave the oven light on or oven door cracked slightly to keep an eye on your food.  It can burn fast!

You can substitute any of the veggies for whatever you want.  I would say that this combo worked really well and was delicious with the vodka sauce.  It had the perfect amount of moisture which can sometimes be an issue with runny sauce or wet veggies.

Give it a whirl!


I made the BEST oatmeal breakfast this morning…stay tuned!!! =)

Off to play with Laura!!! Soooo excited!  Tomorrow we’re all going to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.  We’ll probably get some climbing in at the gym and hopefully a hike or run at some point too!

Have a good one!


double yum

It was still really chilly + rainy in Colorado yesterday [in the 40’s!!].  My awesome sis-in-law remembered that she had a coupon for Great Harvest Bread Company [GHBC]. It was for a free loaf of their honey whole wheat bread.  I was definitely planning on redeeming this asap! 

dreary, cold weather…_MG_4709

After working out w/my bro-in-law in the morning, we headed to GHBC and then Natural Grocers, my new favorite store.  Well, it’s not really new because that is where I was buying 3/4 of my ota.ingredients, but NOW it’s a local store for me!  So, GHBC, Natural Grocers, AND Sunflower Farmer’s Market are literally all right next to each other.  The stores are definitely more wallet-friendly than Whole Foods, with a lot of the same brands.

So my plan was to get the free loaf of honey wheat, but when I went in for some reason a plain loaf of white bread was calling my name.  I haven’t bought a loaf of white bread in FORever.  Grilled cheese was the plan.  The bread was SO good.  It only has about 5 ingredients with a touch of agave nectar sweetness.  AND, they give HUGE samples in the store.  Perfect after workout snack.

1 slice of Havarti + 1 slice of white cheddar + golden perfection_MG_4697

I may have eaten 1/4 of the bowl of tomato soup while I was waiting for the grilled cheese to finish… _MG_4698


yum yum raspberries_MG_4707

I got some samples today from Navitas!!  I first heard about them from Kath’s blog.  I really wanted to see what their Cacao Nibs would be like in ota.bars!  I have tried to incorporate chocolate in a few different forms, with no luck.  It always makes the bars brittle and they turn a dark un-appetizing brown color.  I think the Cacao Nibs might work because they don’t melt! 


Cacao nibs are chopped up cacao beans.  It actually tastes more coffe-like than chocolate-like to me.  It reminds me of eating an espresso bean, in a way, especially with the texture.  They also sent some Sweetened Cacao Nibs, which have a little organic palm sugar and organic cacao liquor added.  I can’t wait to try them in ota.bars!


And now for dinner!!  Off to 101 cookbooks for another idea.  In the last year, my meat-eating habits have changed.  I would say I eat meat free about 75% of the time.  There was no real reason for the change, but just what I have been in the mood for.  I make it a point to eat other high protein foods throughout the day, so I never feel like I am lacking in the protein department.

I decided on a high-protein, chickpea salad. Recipe is HERE!  I made some brown rice couscous to make the meal more filling with some healthy carbs and fiber.

1c. plain yogurt + 2t. curry powder = delicious + EASY_MG_4731

I love this dish from Crate + Barrel!! It’s fun to make dinner a little fancy sometimes.  Instead of putting it in a big bowl or just having everyone scoop out of the pan, I wanted to put it in a pretty dish.


1/2 of the curry sauce was mixed in w/the chickpea salad and then laid atop the brown rice couscous.  Everyone added more sauce as the chickpeas made things a little on the dry side.  The flavor combos were awesome though and the couscous was a great addition.


Have a great day!!


playing while unemployed

While I’m researching how to hopefully start ota.bars – version 2 – Colorado style – I am going to keep the blog going with whatever I want. [Booyah]

Chris and I are living with Pat + Natalie [Chris’s bro + wife].  We have made it 1.5 weeks and they have not kicked us out yet.  They may however, kick out Kenna. ;)  I have mentioned before these 2 are who I named the pnat banana after.  So, I am now cooking for 4, and loving it!  I have not killed anyone yet!

Last night I made Thai-style stir fry + coconut rice…whoops, no photos.

Lunch was on a whim today but turned out!!!IMG_1056

I saw a picture on a food magazine, while checking out at Whole Foods, for spinach/bacon/sweet potato salad.  I didn’t look at the recipe but the photo just stuck in my head.  I pan seared sweet potatoes w/olive oil, and s+p. Turned on low heat and added some Applegate Farms ham [no bacon on hand] and some spinach, for a few minutes.

While doing this, for some reason I thought…sunny-side up egg on top! I have seen this on menus before but never tried on anything except toast.  Holy cow, was it a winner!!!! Uh-mazing.


I guess maybe I was thinking these could be omelet ingredients…so why not put an egg on top?? Also added some parm/asiago cheese. Too bad I was the only one around to eat this one!

Dinner – corn pudding in acorn squash

I saw this on the 101 cookbooks website and knew it would awesome.  Everyone loved it!!  The flavors worked really well together.  The only thing I changed was that I cut the green onion amount in 1/2.  There was definitely still enough flavor.  Also, be careful when cutting the bottoms of the squash to get them to sit nice and flat in the pan.  I cut 2 of them a little too high up and they did not hold the liquid very well.  If this happens, tightly wrap the squash in a foil-made bowl, as tight as possible, and then add the liquid.




A terrible photo of the final product. There was no natural light by the time this was done…101 cookbooks has an amazing “final result” photo!! _MG_4693

Cheesy garlic bread not pictured: French baguette –> slice lengthwise –> lightly coat with olive oil –> rub with garlic clove that has been sliced in half –> top with a little parm cheese and s+p –> broil for only a few quick minutes

This meal ended up really filling me up and it was perfect for a cold day here in Colorado. [it has already snowed here…sick]

Leftover cheesecake for dessert!! I taught Natalie how to make it last night.  She has thee prettiest ceramic pie plate ever!IMG_1055

Also went up to visit my Uncle/Aunt/cousin this past Sunday with Chris.  They own some amazing property up in the mountains.  It was so peaceful up there.  Here are a few photos!



Jonah! Their 8 month old, huge, puppy!IMG_1041

Kenna [beans] – Dakota [doder] – Maggie [maggers]_MG_4687



the full trip

day 1 breakfast - yogurt+zucchini bread+banana+pnut butter+kiwi…bad decision putting the kiwi in..IMG_0823

slow + steady rain for the first few hoursIMG_0824

the start of the weird hovering head….IMG_0825

BAD!!!                              GOOD!!!

IMG_0830 IMG_0832

pisqua national forest was gorgeous – top west of NC going into TNIMG_0835

strange little rest stop…the bathrooms were in that building…IMG_0839

lunch!! if i’m not eating ota.bars i’m eating clif kid bars or larabarIMG_0842


these are perfection…no trader joe’s in CO…but lots of other good stores i’m sureIMG_0846

i’m not the biggest fan of larabars…but they are filling…peanut butter cookie is definitely not my favoriteIMG_0850

eating to stay awake!IMG_0857

about to get on 70W which takes us to CO!!!IMG_0861

st.louis archIMG_0862

bad photo w/flash…i forgot i had mom’s zucchini bread!!! got me through the last hour of the trip..made it to kansas city, miss. by 11:30pm


day 2 – well rested pupIMG_0866

feeling like 9hrs is going to FLY compared to the 16+ the day beforeIMG_0877

probably the best picture i got in kansas…straight + flat the entire wayIMG_0883


wooohooo a curve!! and lots of bugs on the windshield..I saw no tumbleweeds in KS and was really upset about that…IMG_0915

approaching an amazing wind turbine farmIMG_0897

these things are monstrous!!! i saw some of the blades being transported on trucks…HUGE! IMG_0901

snack time…these pita chips are the best ever…definitely a favorite of chris’s


this was next to a gas station…it smelled really badIMG_0912


nom nom nomIMG_0921


trader joe’s supplied most of my road foodIMG_0931

crunch timeIMG_0933

finally in Colorado..still took FORever to actually see the mountains!!! eastern CO is just like Kansas…boring!





awesome sky  IMG_0941

can’t wait to visit laura in boulder and melissa in CO springs! IMG_0948

driving up to our new temporary house, thanks to pat + natalie!! the house is awesome and has a great backyard that the dogs loooveIMG_0950

dog x3!IMG_0960

trying to figure each other out IMG_0965

what a doofus!IMG_0979

love to see the mountains while driving around! IMG_0980

Overall the drive went really well.  It was easier than I expected but still insanely long to do alone.  Chris definitely had it worse driving the 22’ truck.  We are settling in and trying to find our way around.  I love having no humidity, but I’m sure I will miss Charlotte winters…except when I’m snowboarding!

No new…Still trying to get everything unpacked and hope to start researching things next week! Will keep everyone posted and hope to have some more ingredient posts in the near future.