Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How To Feed a Family of 5 Quickly and Cheaply

I've been trying to cut our food budget down a bit lately. I don't even want to go through our grocery bills but I wouldn't be surprised if we've been spending close to $1000 a month at assorted grocery stores and take out enterprises. I've tried using coupons and I think I end up spending more with the coupons than I ever was without so I'm starting to take a different approach.

Lately I've been mega busy with eBay and as much as I'd like to cook three nutritious meals every day for my family it's just not practical. My previous solution to that problem was to pick up takeout but it seems there's no way to order anything halfway decent without dropping at least $30 (usually more) and that was getting ridiculous.

I had to look at things differently.

A couple of weeks ago Stop and Smell the Chocolates posted a WFMW post about an instant oatmeal mix and I did not hesitate to make up a batch. I threw in a handful of chocolate chips to the batch and now even the kids are asking for it! Way less expensive and so much healthier than the sugary cereals they love to eat. I eat it, too, every morning and it's delicious. It even keeps me from being hungry all the way until lunch time! I sacrificed a 1/2 cup measuring cup that just stays in the container so it's so easy in the morning when I can barely think.

The kids are home for the summer and it seems they always want to eat. Previously I would have stocked the pantry with individually packaged snacks that they could just grab so I wouldn't have to stop working every 20 minutes to fix them something. Instead of doing that I've changed things up a bit. I bought bananas and apples. They're already individually packaged and so much healthier. :) I also washed grapes and put them in snack bags in the fridge. Not only that, but I've learned that my kids are not inept. They can do a lot of stuff for themselves and with enough training they even might stop making messes while doing it. I've learned that they can make themselves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They can even pour themselves a drink. In fact, if I truly want to neglect them they'll feed themselves successfully all day long. Today Bug heated up a leftover casserole in the microwave for himself and his brother. Amazing!

Which leads me to my next way we're being more frugal with food. The kids are eating leftovers. It sounds so simple, I know.... but it's something we just didn't do before. They ate sandwiches and chips for lunch and the leftover casseroles and baked ziti went bad in the fridge. Now my kids are learning that leftovers make a great lunch and they're happy to have them.

Today I was so busy with work and our cupboards were practically bare. I thought I was going to have to run to the store where I would have probably grabbed an already fried 8 piece box of chicken, some cole slaw, and baked beans and thrown it at my family in my haste to get work done. Instead I forced myself to be resourceful. Instead of spending a half hour running to the store and back, I made hot dogs for dinner. I cut up an onion and opened a jar of relish to dress them up a little more than we usually do and I served some macaroni and cheese from the pantry as a side. For a little bit of nutrition I opened a can of peaches, a can of pineapple, and a jar of cherries and mixed up a delicious fruit salad. Perhaps it wasn't the healthiest of dinners but neither is fried chicken. :) It costs us less than $7, made my kids smile, and was done in about 10 minutes.

So that's what works for me. :) For more WFMW tips, check out Rocks in My Dryer!

PS - Why not check out the rest of my blog while you're here? Grab a diet coke or a coffee (or a bourbon) and sit a while. :) I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!


Pepper said...[Reply to comment]

I totally agree, we sometimes go overboard with the prepackaged snacks. I bought little baby snack containers and used them for my snacks (before having our son) and now I do the same thing for him.

I just bag up little mixes of cereal and bulk items I can get at the store. It's just as easy. If there is anything he doesn't like I just don't include it next time and he doesn't miss prepackaged treats.

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...[Reply to comment]

I'm so glad the oatmeal mix worked for you!! And chocolate chips - hello - why didn't I think of that?

Carol said...[Reply to comment]

Very resourceful of you! We're going to all have to start being a little more creative with dinners. Eating healthier also cuts medical costs in the long and short run because our immune systems are stronger and we avoid those chronic illnesses that crop up as we age.

Great WFMW! Keep up the good work!

SAHMmy Says said...[Reply to comment]

Good for you for making do! I've come up with some strange dishes in my pantry raids, but some have stuck as family favorites. Saves on gas and overspending from being in a rush too. Thanks for the reminder!

Michelle@Life with Three said...[Reply to comment]

I'm always amazed at what I can whip up when I insist the cupboards are "bare." I usually discover, like you did, that there is plenty of stuff there for a decent meal. It always surprises me!

Thanks for the link to the oatmeal recipe -- I'm going to give that a try.

The Apron Queen said...[Reply to comment]

Now, why didn't I think of that!? Thanks for the tip. Come see my cell phone alternative:


Jenny said...[Reply to comment]

check out CSAs too (community supported agriculture) where you sign up for a box of produce that is delivered to you, or near you, every week. then you never have to take the time to go shopping for that part of your food, and you always have fruits and veggies. added bonus: my box for 2-3 people costs $12 a week and we get 7 to 9 different things per week sometimes including growing things, like a basil plant that is thriving in the kitchen window. I like it because it forces me to learn to cook veggies I wouldn't normally be exposed to, but many CSAs let you choose your contents on the website so you get just what you want. Florida has to have some kick ass produce available.

Tara said...[Reply to comment]

I have also instituted a set snack time. My kids know that snack is at 3:00. My oldest is 7, he can tell time. The next one down is 4, he can tell 3:00 and the next one down thinks anytime the second hand hits the 3 it's snack time, but he's learning! :) Instituting a set time for snack prevents "I'm hungry, I need a snack, Mom, what's for snack." They know to wait until 3:00 and then I'll feed them! Nobody's died of hunger yet!

Wani said...[Reply to comment]

good stuff... I'm on my way to ebay now!

TracyB said...[Reply to comment]

I usually get tripped up into buying all of those pre-packaged goodies for the kids for lunches. This summer, for day camp, I have had much more fruits and veggies, and buy big bags of snacks that they divide up on shopping day! Works even better-less work for me!

mah-meeee said...[Reply to comment]

awesome idea with the prewashed grapes in a bag! i think i need to start doing that so my daugher can help herself with the food!

bc said...[Reply to comment]

I'll have to look up that oatmeal recipe. I don't have children, but coming from someone who works with children, I think it's great that your kids are learning some independence with meal prep. Good for you!

Big Hair Envy said...[Reply to comment]

Groceries have gotten so expensive that I told my family that we are going to eat everything in the house before I go back to the store. Talk about some creative meals...hahaha!

Thanks for stopping by today and leaving me some bloggie love!! Your rainbow photo was beautiful:)

Sonshine said...[Reply to comment]

I totally agree! I have a snack basket in my cupboard and I use one of the produce drawers of my fridge for individually wrapped by me snacks. :) The kids know that those two spots are the places to look for snacks between meals.

I also found that menu planning my breakfasts and lunches that has helped my kids to become more independent in the kitchen for those meals. :) Also it helps get those leftovers eaten before they go bad. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said...[Reply to comment]

These are all good ideas. I realize that I have to stop spending so much and become more resourceful in the kitchen, especially in regards to my panty. I have tons of food, I just need to think about using it all and not running out for the take out. So, good for you and thanks for encouraging me.

Tammy said...[Reply to comment]

Those are some good ideas. It is so hard these days not to eat out. I mean for convenience sake it is great. My mother cooked meals every night when I was growing up. I cannot say the same.

carrie said...[Reply to comment]

I hear ya! If we would just commit to eating our leftovers, my checking account would definitely be larger!

Good tips!

HomeSchool Mommy said...[Reply to comment]

Ugh. I guess we actually have to HAVE leftovers for this to work. :) I'm so bad at cooking in the evenings...there is just so much going on. My solution is to use the crockpot. It's a perfect solution. Why don't I do it?