A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to my MOMables subscribers that led to a lot of replies. Nearly all of them asked: how do you feed your family of 5 “real food” and entertain others on $150 per week?
What they really wanted to know is how is:
- How do you buy organic dairy, meat and produce on a budget?
- What foods do you buy in bulk?
- What do you make from scratch?
- What are some of your money saving tips?
It’s no secret that I cook a lot. I talk about food, read about food, write about food and eat food all.day.long. The funny thing is, that shopping for food isn’t my favorite thing to do. I wish I had a shopping assistant -or a Whole Foods near by. Instead, I have to go to 2-3 groceries each week to get all the things I need.
Meal planning is easy. I add 2-3 new dinners and 2-3 new lunch ideas each week from the MOMables Meal Plans and then I keep our tried and true favorites. Being on a budget doesn’t mean I have to make the same frugal meals every week. I make sure to use the same ingredients from any of the lunch items into another meal, this way food is rarely wasted and used up at the end of the week.
Example: we have quesadillas for lunch. that means I am going to need chicken and tortillas. Therefore, I am going to plan a dinner that will yield grilled chicken and another that will also utilize tortillas. I save time and money on wasted food. Win-win. By grilling or prepping what I need ahead of time I save a lot of time. I also don’t need to buy those pre-grilled chicken strips made with lord-knows-what.
Eating out and convenience foods are a lot more expensive. Proof: last Friday I had a meeting outside the office and my husband wanted me to have “lunch” with him. We went to a local deli that has a lot of healthy options and we spent $22! Yikes. On ONE meal. I thought to myself: I can feed my entire family with that for a day! OK, It was a nice lunch date.
Now you know another reason why I pack all of our lunches. I am going to apologize for the pictures that come next. They are unedited and were “dumped” from my iPhone.
This was our plan for the week:
Sunday: (B) Big family breakfast (L) grilled paninis (D) Chicken and vegetable skewers, homemade Italian baked beans, corn on the cob, homemade focaccia.
Monday: (B) banana flax bread and breakfast quiche (L) chicken quesadillas (D) Italian meatball pasta
Tuesday: (B) Homemade bagels (recipe not worth sharing, they were very…chewy) & veggie scramble (L) Ultimate morning glory sandwiches (D)Blackened fish tacos, grilled vegetables, creole slaw
Wednesday: (B) Easy homemade green egg(spinach) “McMuffin” (these were previously made and frozen) (L) Deep dish ham and veggie calzones (D) Panini Night (used last of focaccia bread, chicken and grilled veggies)
Thursday: (B) Blueberry muffins fruit (L) Avocado school sushi (no fish), strawberry yogurt dip and fruit (D) Breakfast night! I dropped the last of the eggs so it was a little bit of a flop. Not that they complained about bacon (organic, uncured and nitrate free) and my famous homemade Pillsbury honey wheat grands!and fruit
Friday: (B) raspberry “cheesecake” filled biscuits (biscuits, cream cheese and fresh raspberries), (L) egg salad sandwiches (D) Homemade pizza night!
Saturday: (B) Chocolate chip scones and fruit salad (L) Vegetable fried rice (here is where I use any leftovers veggies from the week) (D) Navy bean soup (previously made and frozen) fruit sorbet and popsicles (I take all leftover fruit from the week and make a fruit sorbet or popsicles
I made a caramelized onions, spinach and gouda quiche and a loaf of bread for my neighbor on sunday. In return, she gave me a basket of veggies from her garden. I made a double batch of blueberry muffins and froze them for another week as well.
I only mentioned the big meals. For “snacks” there is fresh fruit available (always) and I’m usually recipe testing a baked item or two for MOMables.
My weekly budget is $150. I usually spend anywhere between $130-$150. This week I splurged and purchased additional organic chicken because I knew my neighbor was going out of town and she was giving me a lot of veggies.
Ways I save:
- I make a plan. Seems obvious coming from me, right? But it’s TRUE. I sit down with my MOMables weekly plan, choose the meals I will make, add a few of our favorites with similar ingredients, and then make a list.
- I make all of our baked goods. A can of grands! biscuits has ingredients I don’t like and it’s $2.79 for 6 biscuits. I make my own for around $.86. I buy white flour but I also grind my own wheat. I have a bread machine I put to work in the hot summer months. Otherwise, My oven is on for a few hours on Sunday and every other night after dinner (almost). *2015 Update* We now have a gluten-free house. The only way to make baked goods affordable is by making them ourselves.
- I buy rice, wheat and beans in bulk. We eat legumes once a week. I don’t buy a small bag for that week or a can of beans. I pay on average .58cents per lb of beans. I buy in bulk, store and make. I also make double or triple the batch and freeze is 1 1/2 cup portions (like a can). Huge savings.
- I don’t use coupons. Shocking, I know. I rarely find coupons for real food. Instead, I stock up when things are on sale like the organic boneless skinless chicken breasts at $3.99lb! I also find that using coupons leads to spending money outside of my meal plan. Note: if you use coupons, that is totally ok. I rarely do. The only times I use coupons is on bulk coffee, organic yogurt and some cheeses. There aren’t a lot of coupons for those of us who shop the perimeter.
- Limit dairy. Yes, kids need dairy and all that… but not as much as you think if you make your own breads, eat a varied diet and eat your minerals from other sources. I insert a lot of nutrients in my baked goods. I buy a big tub of yogurt instead of the 6pk ones (unless I have coupons and they are on sale). This is organic too.
- No juices. If I buy juice it’s usually Martinelli’s by the half a gallon and when it’s on sale. It’s US grown, it has a strong apple flavor and I dilute it.
- No boxed snacks. I make nearly all of our snacks. You can find a lot of them in our pinterest page and our subscription members are getting ready to have a homemade staples “guide” made just for them. I do have a box of goldfish from Sams at all times because we have kids that come play at our house and often ask for “boxed” snacks (oh well).
- I buy 1lb of organic “lunchmeat” for the week at $9.99-10.99 per lb. That’s it. This forces me to get creative with my lunches (good thing that’s what I do). Some weeks, I don’t buy it at all.
- No boxed cereals for breakfast. I buy 1-2 boxes of cereal per month (with a coupon). It’s the one late night treat my husband can’t give up. Cereals are filled with a lot of non-necessary ingredients, are expensive and well, they use milk (also expensive). I make a nutritious bread, scramble eggs..etc.
- Buy cheese in bulk. I buy 2.5lbs of Cheddar cheese that is antibiotic and hormone free for $9.99. Behind the deli counter is that much per pound! I slice it or grate it myself. It lasts 2-3 weeks (depending on what I’m cooking)
- I buy the produce we’ll eat. I don’t just “buy” fruit and veggies, I figure out which ones I need and then buy that. Some weeks I get it from a neighbor, or, I’ll switch ingredients in certain dishes (like spinach instead of broccoli) because it was cheaper that week (and organic).
Other ways I save around the house:
- I use cloth towels to clean and pick up all sorts of messes. I rarely use paper towels. A $16 pack of paper towels from Sams lasts my family 6-9 months.
- I don’t buy the expensive detergent. I pre-treat all my stains and use an eco detergent that is much cheaper (like half the prize) form the orange detergent.
- I use cloth diapers. I’ve cloth diapered all my kids and used disposables when they were being cared by someone else. Baby G uses disposable while he is at school and cloth at home.*2015 update* we are no longer cloth diapering.
- I get $20 haircuts twice a year and color my own hair.
- I buy in bulk with my mom. You could do this with a friend. That 25lb bag or rice of flour you dont’ have room to store? split it with a friend.
- I shop Amazon for specialty items. Things like coconut flour , oils, organic items and spices (among others).
- I shop online for vitamins. Vitamins and drugstore stuff can add up. I shop Vitacost for a lot of my organic items.
- We drink water. Sounds funny but it’s true. Drinking water saves you a lot of money. Plus it’s good for you!
- Reuse our clothes. I have a one-outfit-per-day policy with my kids (of course unless they get soaked or spill something). They change in the morning and stay in them until night time. If they are clean they get used again. Saves the clothes, saves money on water and electricity…etc.
- I buy used clothes, swap clothes or stock up in clothes for next year after the season. I’ve bought many clothes for my kids “for next year” for as little as 98 cents! I don’t go to 20 stores to find the best deal, I just go in after season and stock up. Same thing with school uniforms. I buy the following year’s uniform in Sept/October when stores are clearing them out.
- $1 store deals. I buy birthday cards, zip bags and a few other little things at the dollar store.
I know there are many more ways to save, but these are just some of the ones I do to help us stay on budget. Our $150 is spent on food only for a family of 4. *2015 update* We are now a family of 6 and the budget is $200 per week.
What are some of your tips to stay on budget?
Laura Fuentes90 CommentsFiled Under: Mom Tips, Organization
en españolUna alimentación saludable
Whether you have a toddler or a teen, here are five of the best strategies to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits:
- Have regular family meals.
- Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.
- Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.
- Avoid battles over food.
- Involve kids in the process.
Sure, eating well can be hard — family schedules are hectic and grab-and-go convenience food is readily available. But our tips can help make all five strategies part of your busy household.
Family meals are a comforting ritual for both parents and kids. Children like the predictability of family meals and parents get a chance to catch up with their kids. Kids who take part in regular family meals are also:
- more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains
- less likely to snack on unhealthy foods
- less likely to smoke, use marijuana, or drink alcohol
Also, family meals are a chance for parents to introduce kids to new foods and to be role models for healthy eating.
Teens may turn up their noses at the prospect of a family meal — not surprising because they're busy and want to be more independent. Yet studies find that teens still want their parents' advice and counsel, so use mealtime as a chance to reconnect.
You might also try these tips:
- Allow kids to invite a friend to dinner.
- Involve your child in meal planning and preparation.
- Keep mealtime calm and friendly — no lectures or arguing.
What counts as a family meal? Whenever you and your family eat together — whether it's takeout food or a home-cooked meal with all the trimmings. Strive for nutritious food and a time when everyone can be there. This may mean eating dinner a little later to accommodate a teen who's at sports practice. It also can mean setting aside time on the weekends when it may be more convenient to gather as a group, such as for Sunday brunch.
Stock Up on Healthy Foods
Kids, especially younger ones, will eat mostly what's available at home. That's why it's important to control the supply lines — the foods that you serve for meals and have on hand for snacks.
Follow these basic guidelines:
- Work fruits and vegetables into the daily routine, aiming for the goal of at least five servings a day. Be sure you serve fruit or vegetables at every meal.
- Make it easy for kids to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Other good snacks include low-fat yogurt, peanut butter and celery, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.
- Serve lean meats and other good sources of protein, such as fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.
- Choose whole-grain breads and cereals so kids get more fiber.
- Limit fat intake by avoiding fried foods and choosing healthier cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting, and steaming. Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
- Limit fast food and low-nutrient snacks, such as chips and candy. But don't completely ban favorite snacks from your home. Instead, make them "once-in-a-while" foods, so kids don't feel deprived.
- Limit sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit-flavored drinks. Serve water and low-fat milk instead.
Be a Role Model
The best way for you to encourage healthy eating is to eat well yourself. Kids will follow the lead of the adults they see every day. By eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in the less nutritious stuff, you'll be sending the right message.
Another way to be a good role model is to serve appropriate portions and not overeat. Talk about your feelings of fullness, especially with younger children. You might say, "This is delicious, but I'm full, so I'm going to stop eating." Similarly, parents who are always dieting or complaining about their bodies may foster these same negative feelings in their kids. Try to keep a positive approach about food.
Don't Battle Over Food
It's easy for food to become a source of conflict. Well-intentioned parents might find themselves bargaining or bribing kids so they eat the healthy food in front of them. A better strategy is to give kids some control, but to also limit the kind of foods available at home.
Kids should decide if they're hungry, what they will eat from the foods served, and when they're full. Parents control which foods are available to their kids, both at mealtime and between meals. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Establish a predictable schedule of meals and snacks. It's OK to choose not to eat when both parents and kids know when to expect the next meal or snack.
- Don't force kids to clean their plates. Doing so teaches kids to override feelings of fullness.
- Don't bribe or reward kids with food. Avoid using dessert as the prize for eating the meal.
- Don't use food as a way of showing love. When you want to show love, give kids a hug, some of your time, or praise.
Get Kids Involved
Most kids will enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. Talk to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Some might even want to help shop for ingredients and prepare the meal. At the store, teach kids to check out food labels to begin understanding what to look for.
In the kitchen, select age-appropriate tasks so kids can play a part without getting injured or feeling overwhelmed. And at the end of the meal, don't forget to praise the chef.
School lunches can be another learning lesson for kids. More important, if you can get them thinking about what they eat for lunch, you might be able to help them make positive changes. Brainstorm about what kinds of foods they'd like for lunch or go to the grocery store to shop together for healthy, packable foods.
There's another important reason why kids should be involved: It can help prepare them to make good decisions on their own about the foods they want to eat. That's not to say they'll suddenly want a salad instead of french fries, but the mealtime habits you help create now can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.
Check out some healthyrecipesfor kids of all ages.