3.07.2016

Feeding A Family On A Budget Part 1

I've been thinking about the best way to post about this topic and after having my first draft erased by Maggie I've decided to break it up in to sections. I get a little overwhelmed at thought of giving advice because I am no expert and chances are you are the one that should be giving me advice but none the less I will share some of my thoughts on the subject.
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This last year has been our hardest financially that we've ever had.  I've really had to get my sh*t together so that we made our money stretch as far as possible. It has taught me a lot. To be honest, I'd rather have loads of money and be able to buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store, eat out, buy a coffee now and again and many other things but what would I learn from that? ;) It's challenging being on a tight budget and I totally understand how families take the easy way out and end up at a fast food place ordering off the $1 menu. I've had some really low points over the last 6 months and I've fed the family some things I'm not too proud of but in the words of Susan Powder I decided to "Stop the insanity!". Just because we can't spend as much at the store as we used to doesn't mean I have throw all my standards out the window. I just have to approach the situation from a new direction.
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If you are truly on a tight budget my #1 tip is- don't eat out. I know, this is kind of a no brainer but it's true. We never go to restaurants and the couple times we have I left feeling sick. Not because of the food but because I just spent the equivalent of a weeks worth of groceries on one meal. Even fast food, which seems less expensive, really isn't. For example, two pizzas from Little Caesar's is about $11. That seems really cheap but for a couple dollars more I could buy a whole organic chicken and some vegetables and have dinner and leftovers for my husband to take for lunch the next day. Most importantly you aren't eating a bunch of GMOs and artificial crap and that is priceless!
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Another money saving thing I've always done is not catering to my kids. By that I mean, I don't make separate food for them. They either eat what is for dinner or they don't eat. In today's day that may sound harsh but I don't have the time or money to be making special little kid meals along with an adult dinner. I attempt to make things that everyone likes but with 5 kids someone is usually disappointed with the menu.
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I always make enough so that we have leftovers which can be taken for lunch the next day or used in some way for breakfast. Leftover veggies are delicious chopped up and added to an egg scramble. Chicken bones can be saved and used to make stock and leftover meats can be added to soup the next night. I just made chicken stock last week and freezed half of it and am using the rest of it for Crock Pot chicken soup tonight.
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As much as I fought the Crock Pot, I finally gave in and started using one. So far I've made lots of beans, chicken stock and chicken noodle soup. And have you noticed everyone calls it a "slow cooker" now? Hmmm, I guess slow cooker sounds more foodie than crock pot. haha! I'm not sure using the Crock Pot is a money saver but it's certainly a time saver!
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My last and most important bit of advice for today, is meal planning. I can't stress how much it money and time it saves. I'll sit down on Sunday and plan the next week's menu and write out a shopping list.  I don't have a fancy book or an app on my phone or anything, I just use a piece of paper with each day's meal written on it and put it up on the fridge. I try to make at least one new recipe a week because if we continuously eat the same things everyone gets really burnt out on them. Last week I made 4 new recipes and 3 were amazing! I haven't been meal planning for very long but man I wish I had started years ago!

What are some of your tips? Do you meal plan?

♥ anne

14 comments :

  1. I can so relate! About 5 years ago my husband lost his job (thankfully he's steadily employed now but we still have a tight budget ) but that year taught me so much....meal planning, and never eating out (we still rarely do bc we are a big family and it's just too expensive) - but we do a lot of these same things (whole chickens + stock + rice, beans and the crock pot ). I still bring up the calculator on my phone when I'm in the store to make sure I stay on track. I've noticed that Costco is starting to carry a lot of better products too (organic + non gmo) which helps with buying in bulk. Awesome post! Can't wait to read more :)

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  2. At some point could you share a sample week of meal planning? I'm curious about budget but also the time considerations. As it is, most of my time and money goes towards the highest quality food I can manage. But I'm breaking the bank. I'm going over budget every week. Principles can be expensive;)

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  3. This is great advice Anne. We're living on one income now (with only two kids though) and it can be tough. I need to do more meal planning because we're definitely getting burned out on the same recipes. I've always wondered how families with more children do it. Thanks for these posts!

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  4. I am LOVING this so far, Anne. Even though our family is pretty small, it has been a push for me to get used to cooking larger and more kid-friendly meals, probably because Darin and I were just two for so long. On good days, those girls can EAT! Meal planning is something I absolutely must get in the habit of, because it can be so challenging rushing to the store with two very lively little toddlers at the last minute, especially if it's fussy time, which is right when I generally start dinner. I am terrible at time management so making use of my crockpot is challenging for me because I am never thinking about prepping or starting dinner in the morning! I have wanted to make veggie chili for three days now but have not found the time to start everything 8-10 hours in advance. It might be on the agenda for tomorrow, finally. Also, now that I'm working again, there are some days that I just can't get it together enough to plan and execute dinner. Darin does a great job too, but doesn't get home from work in time to put together much "real" food and it's usually Annie's mac and cheese or spaghetti for the girls with asparagus or greens or broccoli, and leftovers for him.

    It also took us a while to figure out that eating out is just a terrible idea. We can't afford the places that we'd really like to eat, and the cheaper places just disappoint and leave us feeling crappy, plus the ORDEAL of it! We do have a little taqueria where we eat sometimes with outdoor seating and a fountain that the girls like, and even though it is probably considered budget by some, I cringe forking over $18 or so for our family to eat!

    Do you guys always find time to sit down together for meals? I love the photo of your set table. It looks so pretty, cozy and inviting.

    You are definitely more of an expert than you think! Can't wait to see more of this series. xoxo

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  5. Thank you so much for this--it's reassuring as a mom knowing someone else out there has to budget for meals every month too. Please keep doing these posts! In my house there is a vegetarian, and three kids who have different tastes ( two of which have problems with certain textures ) and a husband that only eats crap. Unfortunately that is my struggle-- not catering to everyone and then not feeling bad about it. Oh and getting off of pinterest I am convinced has saved me money on groceries!:) Meal planning and not eating out are my best suggestions on saving money. This summer I am determined to grow alot of out veggies for the next winter also.

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  6. Thank you so much for this--it's reassuring as a mom knowing someone else out there has to budget for meals every month too. Please keep doing these posts! In my house there is a vegetarian, and three kids who have different tastes ( two of which have problems with certain textures ) and a husband that only eats crap. Unfortunately that is my struggle-- not catering to everyone and then not feeling bad about it. Oh and getting off of pinterest I am convinced has saved me money on groceries!:) Meal planning and not eating out are my best suggestions on saving money. This summer I am determined to grow alot of out veggies for the next winter also.

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  7. thank you for sharing this! so refreshing to see other people who have similar habits! as sometimes we tend to think we are alone in what we do... between my parents, sister's family, my kids, and uncles, we total 11, soon to be 12. and are known to eat together often during the week and especially on the weekends. my mom does the majority of the cooking, regardless of having a full dinner table or not, regularly cooking 6 days out of 7. and always has left overs. she definitely plans most of her meals out on the weekend and buys in bulk when she can. each of us has gone through hard times and very tight budgets, and to this day still heavily rely on left overs to make lunches and extra meals. her meals are fairly simple, but hearty. homemade tortillas have been life savers and are constantly around. beans are another constant in the house too. looking forward to seeing more of these posts! :)

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  8. Crock pot... hahaha... that made me laugh. And I agree, meal planning is huge. As you know, Willy is the cook in our family and given the fact he is a male I have to constantly be on him and manage what he has planned because more times than not, he has no plan. There was a time where this equated to eating out more than I'd like to admit... now we try to work together early enough in the day to discuss the plan for that night or the following night -- point being, not waiting until everyone is hungry and nothing is planned. Great post, Anne.

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  9. I have certain meals I like to do in the crock pot too and I work FT, so it's definitely a huge time saver for me. Usually I'll do chicken tacos or beef stew. We are good about not eating out too much or doing too much fast food, though I'll admit to more fast food stops for my boys on a night when we are rushing to get home from work and get them out to whatever sports game or practice they need to attend. I'm the worst at meal planning though and I know it makes my life harder since it costs me more $ and time having to run to the grocery store every other day when I decide that day on my lunch break what we're having for dinner and I know I only have half the ingredients. I'm also a big supporter of making one meal for my whole family. It's just 4 of us, so I'm sure it's a little easier for me, but you get what you get in my house. Though I'm fair if I'm making a spicy dish to hold off and add in more for me and my husband after. Can't wait to see your other tips.

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  10. My biggest trick is cooking two dinners at the same time, when the cutting board is already out, and the kitchen is already messy. That is when I roast winter squash or prep the crockpot- while the dinner of today is cooking or while the oven is free after baking today's meal. It's a good tip, believe me, you will feel like a superstar with the next day's dinner prepared or prepped!! I love your large meal plan. I try to stick to a post it size so it seems simpler but yours looks way more fun!

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  11. Great post! I´m not really on a budget but hate throwing away food! I always use the food scraps and peels to make veggie broth- think about it next time you peel an onion or a carrot or want to throw away the hard part from a cabbage!If you boil the weeks leftover roots, green parts and peels- you´ll get an amazing veggie stock (just remember to use a strainer:))! Also, some vegetable parts, that most people consider inedible are actually tasty and rich in nutrients. Just try to make pesto from raddish leafs or a soup of beet root leafs! Also... some of the simple, basic foods, when you add enough spice, can be turned into amazing meals... fx leftover rice mixed with leftover veggies and spices makes a nice false paella! Or use oats (or oatmeal) mixed with some onions and spices to make veggie burgers! They are tasty (if seasoned well), easy to make and- most of all-cheap! Also! I love farmers markets- if you are a regular, your favorite sellers always give you some additional veggies for free!I don´t know how it works in the US, but most of the places I´ve lived around the world- if you show up at the market just before it ends, people just give you some of the produce for free...

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  12. i have been meaning to come here to comment ever since you posted! (I read it right away and have been thinking of it since). Here I am 3 weeks later...I hope you got my telepathic feedback. ;)

    I LOVE that you are doing this series. Like Heather said, you have more to teach than you realize. I always think what I have to say is super obvious and am then shocked when it's not. And even if we have heard it before, we haven't heard it from you, so I, for one, will be reading and waiting with anticipation for the next.

    I have meal planned for years and rarely meet others who do! It makes SUCH a huge difference in how far the money we spend stretches, meal wise. We can spend the same amount, but on the trip where we don't plan, we come home with a bunch of random, habitual, or overpriced things and have to go shopping again sooner.

    I have such huge fatigue as a vegetarain, I am desperate for new ideas. Especially ones that are simple, with few ingredients, but that are tasty. I have a feeling you are good at this. TEACH ME ALL THE THINGS ANNE. We go out to eat more than we should, due to my creative food blocks and I am appalled at the waste, financially. We also live in foodie and brewery HEAVEN, so we partly go out to eat to assuage feelings of missing out. Food FOMO. If what we made at home was more interesting, staying in would be easier. Since we bought the vegan cookbook Heather mentioned, eating at home has become more pleasant.

    K, stop reading my comment and go write the next post. :P

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  13. Yes! I have been eating "retro" since 2010. I've been recreating recipes from different decades, and after I got a divorce last summer my financial situation forced me to scale back big time on my food budget. I spent all winter eating recipes from the Great Depression and earlier, but made them gluten-free while using whole grains. My biggest adjustment was cutting back on meat and chicken. I discovered, happily, that I didn't miss it after I learned new techniques and integrated more full fat dairy and nuts in my dishes. The most important take-away for me is gratitude for what I have to eat, and not being a food snob. I never thought I'd eat oxtail but I did! (A local organic farm was able to sell it to me.) :)

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thank you so much for stopping by. please feel free to leave a comment! i love reading them :)


anne