Big Savings In Making Our Own School Safe Sunflower Butter


The “Nut Free” policy in schools has made sunflower butter, an approved alternative, very popular amongst us moms.


The $6.99 – $9.99 price tag… has not.  Knowing how quickly one of these jars empties, I found my eye looking longingly at the $1.99 – $3.99 peanut butter, and thought… “I wonder how much it costs to whip some of this up from scratch?”


And… “I wonder how complicated it would be?”


(Let’s take a moment to give thanks for the enormous, beautifully displayed Whole Foods Market dry goods section!)

I brought my pound of seeds home, added 3 T of coconut oil (substitute with any mild tasting oil) that I had in my cupboard


(I posted some of the benefits of my favorite oil below!)


I blended them for 8 minutes,


added 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar (optional) and 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and hoped that my sunflower butter (this is with only HALF a lb of seeds- so less than $1 worth)


would make a favorable impression on Peanut Butter’s best friend.


They got on quite harmoniously, I’d say.


Tucked between some lovely bread, I packed the above sandwich in Samaria’s lunch box, and made breakfasts with bowls of oatmeal topped with plain yogurt, a dollop of this sunflower butter, a bit of in season yellow delicious apples, and a smattering of my new favourite super food, Cacao Nibs.


The smooth texture, and sweet taste, of the sunflower butter pulled the dish together.  And, as an added bonus… with the addition of those cacao nibs, the two ingredients truly do give the scandalous sensation of having chocolate for breakfast!



*Coconut oil for weight loss, digestion, metabolism & sugar cravings: One 2009 study looked at the weight loss link between women’s consumption of coconut oil and found that it reduces abdominal obesity. Researchers discovered coconut oil is easy to digest and also protects the body from insulin resistance. Metabolism A study reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil boosts metabolism. Sugar cravings: good quality fat is more satiating than carbs, so if you cut down on sugar you will feel less ‘ravenous’.  (Adapted from Detox Tips)

LaurelLeafBig Savings In Making Our Own School Safe Sunflower Butter

Grandma’s First Trip to Whole Foods Market


I think it goes without saying that the topic of, “What shall we do for lunch?” came up more than once while Grandma


and I watched Samaria’s 12 pm soccer game on Saturday.


Immediately after the game, we experienced the joy of introducing Grandma to Whole Foods Market!


As we slowly perused to store, tasting samples at every turn


and then announced, “Everyone choose what they’d like for lunch,”


Grandma, like so many of us that went before her, became an instant WFM fan.


I made a beeline to the Sushi Bar


where Nan came out to visit,


and point out the favorites of her creations.  A delight in and of itself.

Anwar made his selection from the hot bar,


and eventually… after some typical Allen Family absurdities… IMG_4703

and my stop at the soup bar (where else can one pair world class sushi AND vegetarian chili if they so wish?),


we sat down and enjoyed our Family Lunch.


“Reminds me of Scotland,” said my Scottish grandma.


In other words, “It reminds me of home.”

The highest praise, indeed.

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LaurelLeafGrandma’s First Trip to Whole Foods Market



Paying close attention to the well advertised One Day sales at Whole Foods Market is a savvy way to save some serious loot.  Like the recent $1 Organic Kale deal in honor of National Kale Day!


So fun to go celebrate the abundance of


this super food!


Samples served up


defying the common notion that Kale lacks charm.


Au contrair!


This dish seems, rich with fall vegetables and fruits, seems to sing its very own Harvest Song.


Kale, yeah!


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3 Delicious Pizzas For Under $12?! Any day of the year?!


We like pizza.

The three of us happen to have strong opinions on the subject of which toppings to order.  This very important discussion alone can lead us to ask the waitress, “Could you give us one more minute?” two or three times in a single visit!

If we could get THREE unusually delicious pizzas of different varieties for less than $12.00… we, of course, would not take so much time to contemplate!

When we discovered this delightful section of Whole Foods Market,


we began to re-define pizza night.

In the time it takes to unpack our groceries and set the table, the oven has pre-heated and very soon there after, we have this dare-I-say celebration sprawling our countertop.


If you look closely at the top of the photo, you’ll see the makings of our fast-food side dish.  Organic Kale smoothies crazy bolster the nutritional value of our dinner… and at $1 a bunch at the sale yesterday ($2.99 most other days)- I don’t even have to begin to compare that to the price of salad at a pizza restaurant.   (Am I the only one who has this regular thought: “well, I WOULD like to buy your $13 salad for my family, however… pa-lease.   Young family, people.  We have veggies at home.”)

I think Samaria’s little face tells the rest of the story…


Don’t you?


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LaurelLeaf3 Delicious Pizzas For Under $12?! Any day of the year?!

How We Get Our 5 Year Old to Consume Large Quantities of Raw Kale!



Samaria shares the opinion of most 5 year olds on the topic of Kale.

What I discovered about a year ago, however, is the power of some good old fashioned competition.


Allens hate to lose.  Even the littlest of Allens.  So, why not use this quality as leverage to creatively up our phytochemical, vitamin, mineral, etc. etc uptake?


The first one to drink half of all of the above (blended with filtered water) would receive this coconut:


Ever since Samaria lovingly carried this coconut all over Whole Foods Market last week, she has relentlessly requested to be the sole owner of said fruit.  Anwar does not require a prize to win.  The sheer glory of winning drives him.  The following reflects what happens every single time we hold this competition.  Contestants take their positions:


Samaria begins to lose.


She then proceeds to negotiate the terms.


Anwar cooperates with agreed terms for a minute to let her gain speed, and then gets back in the game which creates tremendous concern in his opponent.


She applies the back hand block.


Then the front hand.


Realizing she must focus all of her strength to the single goal at hand, she steps out in front of him.


Unknowingly defeated,


she presses on,


and wins.


We hit repeat, usually with 3 glasses


instead of 2 glasses and a camera, 3-5 days a week.

Raw, organic Kale rarely runs for more than $2.99 a bunch, and often we find it on sale for less.   Whole Foods Market takes impeccable care of their produce, so we look forward to stocking up when we go.  Considering the health benefits of this magical vegetable, we consider this a worthy place to shift our dollars.

Let the games begin!


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LaurelLeafHow We Get Our 5 Year Old to Consume Large Quantities of Raw Kale!

Soccer Snack Sign Up!


Taking our munchkin to run her little five year old heart out on the soccer field

makes us feel good as parents.  Fresh air, exercise, family time… a Saturday morning well spent.  I think those three factors motivate most parents to commit to a season of setting the alarm on a weekend.  The great conflict comes when, mid and post game, we flood their little bodies with a heavy dose of sugars in both liquid and solid form, high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and preservatives.  Could we think about some alternatives?

Like $1.99/box 365 strawberry bars (8 per box- we used 2 boxes), a $4.99 fresh cut watermelon (we used half a melon), and $4.99/box drinks with pure honest ingredients (8 per box- we used 2 boxes):


The littles


gathered excitedly ’round the bag


hands eagerly dipping into the hydrating, sweet fruit


followed by the expected shenanigans that friendship and snack time inspires.



Let us re-think the decisions we teach our offspring to make.  They can have a chance that we never did.  Instead of, “Well, I worked out, so now I will reward myself with a shower of junk food!”, we have the opportunity to replace that cultural norm with, “…and now I think I’ll thank my body by fueling it with clean foods.”  What a wonderful foundation for the ones we so love!

Here, here!

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LaurelLeafSoccer Snack Sign Up!

Gettin’ Our Vegan On


My husband put together this film that explains both the tremendous health and financial benefits of eating a plant based diet.  This film tailors that idea to shopping at Whole Foods Market in particular.  I did not expect to hear any new ideas, to tell you the truth, and found delight in learning quite a few unique tricks to shredding the check out price.  Enjoy!

Unlike past posts, I plan to share the way in which we have learned how to actually enjoy this counter cultural way of eating as opposed to a break down of $ spent.  The film explains the profound financial benefit.  Let me show you how we applied the wisdom to our own lives during this week of eats.

To prepare for a week of vegan cooking and baking, I traced my steps a few years back to the early stages of our on again/off again relationship with this no animal products way of life. I chose the recipes that had “Anwar gives it 5 Stars” scribbled in the margin. The least I could do for my bacon cheeseburger


seafood loving


husband who agreed to sign up for this! I started the week out with a recipe from the book my Dr. recommended (#ahem! #blowingdustoffcover!), entitled Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes. As I chopped away at the mounting, colorful pile of red & green peppers, onions & button topped mushrooms, I remembered how rewarding the beautiful palette of plant strong foods felt to prepare and cook.


When I return home after grocery shopping, I very often prepare a dinner that has some element of convenience to it.  I’m kind of spent (especially if I have Samaria with me), and it keeps me from giving into the clarion call of the restaurant.  While a convenience food is not as economical as a pound of lentils, it definitely saves compared to dinner out.  I know our weak area, so I plan for it.  The “just add” Sloppy Joe recipe kept the dollars in our wallets. Restored after dinner, with my shadow tucked in for the night, I whipped up a take on Post Punk Kitchen’s Raspberry Jam Swirl Crumbcake. Oh! happy day!


We only had whole wheat flour on hand, so the photo does not aptly show the delight that that swirl of jam adds to each bite. It went perfectly alongside a mug of coffee lightened by vanilla soy creamer.

I can front load my week of cooking in a remarkable way when I prepare vegan foods like the above instead of a conventional menu. If we, for instance, grill hamburgers, steaks, and fish all at once, the leftovers depreciate in quality each day. In contrast, a split pea soup,


pot of chili,


a container of sweet potato veggie burgers ready to just place in a heated pan on the stove,


and a lasagna tray full of Carrot Zucchini Chocolate Brownies


actually tastes better with each passing day. Plants take their time getting to know each other. They don’t rush into things. Just so, since you and I are now three posts in, I think it might be an appropriate time to let you in on a little secret that will reveal the extent of my nerdy side: I have a longstanding personal ambition to have my fridge look like the Whole Foods Market hot bar and salad bar when we open the door up! Selections galore. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Then when we have friends pop in


we always have something good to share.  Does anything delight the senses and tempt the budget as much as that hot bar?  It inspires me to think of creating the same beauty for our family.

Having several dishes to choose from that spread over the week provide grace if our plans change and it becomes impractical to make the “eat immediately” dishes, like this picnic ready brown rice veggie sushi.  I bought the sushi making kit at Whole Foods for about the same price as a prepared sushi from their top notch bar.  With the same wholesome ingredients that the in shop sushi chef uses, I find myself rolling these up in 10 minutes with leftover rice and a couple of vegetables quite a bit!


To get a massive dose of benefits from raw veggies, we alternate between green smoothies and salads for a side.


When the coffee cake ran out, we used oatmeal as a vehicle for all sorts of cool textures and flavors, like this coconut yogurt, chia seed, sun butter, fresh fig creation.


My husband, Anwar, and I have had some heart-to-hearts about the topic of plant based eating- and I think it has come to this realization: We have financial goals and we have health goals.  We choose to shop at Whole Foods Market because, flat out, no other store offers the selection and consistent quality.  We feel better when we go in there- greeted by beautiful flowers and folks that clearly enjoy their work.  We also care about our health.  A lot.  As WFM says on their bags, “Health Starts Here.”  And so it does.  So, since plants offer the hugest nutritional  value- and also happen to offer the mega financial value as well… I would expect to see some more posts on this topic.  We shop at Whole Foods Market so we can get healthy.  We have decided to journey into a season of nourishing our family with the most beneficial foods that we can afford.  Sorry bacon… we will probably pick you up for a holiday breakfast… until then, we’ll be shifting that money towards cleansing aloe, cilantro, chia, and almonds!

May you have a beautiful week filled with many a pauses to sit and visit with those you love while you munch away on beautiful, health giving foods!


The Allens


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LaurelLeafGettin’ Our Vegan On

Unplanned Savings


We decided to go to Whole Foods Market without a grocery list, and instead buy one of every item on the Hot Deals! flyer.

We scored this bounty for less than $85!  (We did not buy the figs, as we had just gone fig picking the day before, or the coconut peanut butter, because of Anwar’s massively serious peanut allergies).


A sense of adventure laced the entirety of the week, as we ate meals that “felt like we were at someone else’s house”.  This Enchilada, Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon & Maple Carrots (from last week’s shopping trip), for instance, might be a plate we would make at a potluck:


With a celebratory mood, we munched away on the unfamiliar dish that had replaced our Allen Family style, thoughtful about each bite.

We did something else wild and crazy (#simmerdown!) and each had one of those delicious Stony Field yogurts as a dessert after this meal.  They rounded it out nicely, & somehow felt a bit scandalous!


The following day, Samaria and I brought this lunch to a play date picnic at the spray park!

It added a nice dimension of luxury to our time interspersed with wet bathing suit hugs, and some good momma talk.


That night, we made these rockin’ chicken wings,


and had so much fun at the assembly line station we built, that we made this wee family movie of the process: 

The next night, I woke up and marinated the Boneless Beef New York Strip Steaks in the Soy Ginger Marinade Recipe I got from one of my go to sites.


We had the steak with some more heirloom tomatoes.  Once we found this recipe last summer, we just… stopped looking.  Andie Mitchell can cook.

For another meal, we made the Wild-Caught Turbot Fillet


which… well… led to me say things to my dinner plate like, “Oh My!  Where have you been all my life?”  Wow.  I don’t think that I have had this before.  We squirted some lemon, a little sunflower oil, and some dried seasonings on it and threw it on the grill.  Turbot Fillet, we will definitely meet again.

At some point in the week, we used some of the groceries to create this nice cheese board.


I’d like to say that we sat down, sipping just the right pairing while looking out at a magnificent view as the contents of this board slowly disappeared.  Truth be told: it got hoarked down by a kitchen of standing Allens and disappeared between sentences like, “Mmm… Oh… the cheese in the crackers just NEEDED the extra cheese and fruit spread!  Why did we ever think differently?”

Our final meal came, utilizing the Boneless Pork Roast, at a serendipitous time.  We had just befriended Helen,


who is in the States from China for a short time.  That morning, I had asked her what she would like to do that she hadn’t yet, and one thing she said was, “Try BBQ!”  I just so happened to have it on the menu for dinner that night!


 This serendipitous event had a tint of the miraculous to it, as I had only made Pulled Pork BBQ one other time in my life!  What a gift to have some to share!


Will I shop this way again?  Yeah!

It’s just good to know that on the weeks that I do not have a plan in place, I can got to Whole Foods Market and pick up the “paints” from the palette that they selected for that week’s Hot Deals, and “paint a whole new landscape in the kitchen” without overspending!

Gathering around the dinner table together, just visiting with one another, stands as a priority in our daily life as a family.  I’m grateful to know that if we have to, we can rely on this system to fill our basket to ensure that, on any giving day, we can find satisfying ingredients to make that happen.

Next post: “Vegans For A Week”


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LaurelLeafUnplanned Savings

Kindergarten, Here We Come!


While an undeniable excitement floods our home in anticipation of the quickly approaching first day of Kindergarten, I do recognize that a thoughtful lunch packed by the same time each morning stands as our easy going family’s weakest link.  To prepare for the newness of this, I spent some time perusing the aisles at Whole Foods, choosing the gear that will promise both efficiency and delight.  Though I did shell out a bit more than I would have if I had gone with a wingless lunchbox, my thoughts fixed on the imaginary tag that read “this accessory expires in 2-3 years.  Embrace the fleeting days” and I popped the butterfly set in my cart!  No regrets.


For less than $25, I scored these groceries- most of which will spread over several weeks of school lunches!


Obviously, we will all get to eat the produce the first week, and then switch it out for different options during our weekly shopping.  I purposefully selected wholesome foods that I know she loves.  I also picked a couple of processed foods, and just filled one layer of the little boxes with each.  The thin layer, made possible by the wide selection of compartments, will give the illusion of much- while ensuring that she stays hungry enough to fill up on the selections that provide her with loads of vitamins and nutrients!  Truth be told, even though the quack’n bites & bear cookies hold more fun than health benefits, it means a lot to me that I can pronounce every word on the relatively short list of ingredients.  I never have to double check for food coloring or bizarro chemicals at Whole Foods, and I feel good about that.


The butterfly water bottle adds enough excitement that I know she will not notice that she’s taking in spring water instead of the less beneficial alternatives!


Kindergarten, here we come!



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LaurelLeafKindergarten, Here We Come!