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Feeding the Growing Family: Budgeting and Planning

pcakes

These days creating meals for my family is kind of like solving a puzzle. We have food intolerances – wheat, dairy, fruit, and sugars. We have a budget we need to adhere to. We have a growing family and three children – 7, 5, and 2 – who often eat as much as I do. And we have a new baby to fit all of this meal preparation around.

In some ways, not much has changed. We still live off-grid. I still make three meals from scratch. We still eat real, simple food.

But in some ways it feels as though I just woke up to a family of six to feed with a variety of narrowing parameters to work within. I’ve been troubleshooting this situation for a while now, and while I know I still have a lot to learn, I thought I’d take you through what is working for us so far.

lentils

Budgeting

I know I’m not alone in working within a grocery budget. As our family continues to grow, I’ve tried not to let our grocery budget grow with it. I’ve implemented a few things that I think have helped:

Try to produce as much food as you can. This is the single biggest game-changer, in my opinion. Having our own eggs, meat, dairy, vegetables, and grains is ideal. For now, though, even just having some eggs from our hens and always trying to grow more calorie crops in our garden – like beans and potatoes – helps.

If you’re not producing meat, eat less of it. We love pastured meats, so I never thought I would be saying that sentence. But, meat costs dictate change. We butcher roosters around here when necessary, but that is the only homegrown meat we provide, and it’s sporadic. Good meat, even conventional meat, is expensive. So, we just eat a little bit of it every day mixed into other protein sources – beans, eggs, and lentils.

Make the most of the foods you are eating. To get the most benefit from the foods we are spending money on, I try to ferment and soak foods as needed. Legumes can all be soaked or sprouted and we eat a lot of sourdough and fermented grains.

Invest in good fats. If there is one item we’re going to splurge on, it’s animal fats. Having good quality butter, coconut oil, or lard in every meal makes those beans, rice, and vegetables go that much further.

Planning

So, how exactly do we work with these foods to create inexpensive, simple, and nutrient-dense meals that fill those little tummies? Well, that’s exactly what I intend to share with you in the weeks to come. I’ve got some recipes that are simple enough for the cook and dish-washer, while being satisfying enough for continuously hungry little bellies. And I hope to discuss more kitchen logistics as we go.

In the meantime, though, I’d love to hear your advice…

How do you feed a growing family?

Show Comments


 

  • I wish you hadn't limited this post to those folks with "little tummies" to feed. As empty nesters, we strive to eat healthy and I virtually make 99% of everything we eat. Also being on a limited budget, we eat out very little, so I'm always looking for fancy recipes that are also healthy and inexpensive. Additionally, we have a CSA share and also a substantial garden, both offer plenty of veggies throughout the winter months. I practice Vegan Before 6 and do about 3 full vegan days a week for health reasons. My husband is slightly less, using regular milk on his morning cereal; I use my homemade oat milk. The one purchase I made that has been used regularly is a very inexpensive rice cooker. Oddly enough, rice is probably the least cooked item in it! We use a fair bit of quinoa and with the small steamer that fits on top, I can cook the quinoa in my veggie stock and then steam some peas or carrots at the same time. It creates a healthy side dish!! Or I'll add some oatmilk, nuts, cinnamon and raisins to make a hearty breakfast. I think the key to keeping the grocery bill down is preparing as much as you can yourself. Reply
    Suze May 10, 2014 AT 6:47 am
     
    • Hi Suze, I did not mean to imply that having children was the only feeding situation that is challenging. For me, though, it has been a challenge. When our oldest were the baby and toddler I felt like I had a great rhythm. Since they've grown into heavy eaters and we've added our two girls, I've been struggling to find a new rhythm. Finding my way into feeding this growing family is the essence of what this series is meant to be about. Everyone's circumstances are different, and I do not assume one to be harder than the next. It sounds like you do a wonderful job of feeding yourself and your husband. Cheers, Shannon Reply
      Shannon May 12, 2014 AT 5:27 pm
       
  • Thanks Shannon!! I hope I didn't sound upset, didn't mean to at all! I remember when our kids were little! Rhythm?? Ha!! It IS tough!! And it did get tougher as the one developed the bottomless pit called his stomach! Different point in life, different challenge I guess. Happy Cooking to you too! (love the blogs! That lentil salad looks wonderful!) Reply
    Suze May 13, 2014 AT 5:31 am
     
 
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