Friday, June 27, 2008

penny pinchers and picky eaters...

...don't go well with rising food prices. At the beginning of the month when I swore off a diet consisting almost entirely of processed foods I didn't realize the scope of the challenge I was taking on. I knew it would be hard to give up the junk food, but what I didn't realize was how difficult it would be to find a variety of healthy alternatives that we could fill our tummies without emptying our bank account. Over the past three weeks I've picked up a few things that I thought I'd share with anyone else out there who's looking for healthy and affordable options. It's nothing fancy, but what do expect for a $50 a week food budget? Please keep in mind some items carry over from other weeks shopping trips. The goal is to coordinate meals that will use every last mushroom, green pepper, and leaf of lettuce before they go bad in my crisper drawer AND to make things my picky children husband will eat.

Spaghetti with whole wheat pasta.-
I buy one of the big jars so I can stretch it for two meals.
Any leftover veggies from earlier meals get thrown into the sauce or put in a toss salad.
I have a bag of ravioli in the freezer that I alternate with the regular spaghetti noodles to mix it up from week to week.

Flour tortillas last for a number of meals around here especially since we switch it up with mulit-grain tortilla chips for taco salads. We get a good helping of lettuce and tomato with this meal too (getting more fresh fruits and veggies into our meals is a priority)
It also helps that we have a farmer in the family who sells us fantastic hamburger at an unheard of price.
My friend Jennifer gave me a recipe for seasoning that is tasty, doesn't have the bad stuff in the store packets, and is more affordable. I've also made chicken fajitas by marinating the chicken in Italian dressing for 30 minutes prior to sauteing and then adding some chili powder to the oil in the pan before tossing in the veggies.

It goes without saying that buying in bulk and freezing dinner size portions of meats can save money too. It's so nice to pull out a Ziploc baggie of brats instead of having to buy them in small packages each time. If I buy buns for burgers or brats I feel OK about paying extra for the whole grain kind since we get two meals out of a package of eight. Brian will use the left over bun for his tuna salad sandwich during the week or I'll slather them with PB&J for a picnic at the beach.
We're also not above eating brats on hamburger buns or hamburgers on brat buns.

A staple meal around here are chicken kabobs with mushrooms and green peppers. Brian has a secret ingredient that makes these kabobs my favorite meal next to a steak from Biaggi's. While he's outside grilling the chicken to perfection, I'm inside making couscous. Notice who gets the easy job. :)
Sam doesn't like peppers or mushrooms so we always have a bag of baby carrots on hand.
If there's extra chicken Brian will grill it with the kabobs so we can have Chicken Cesar Salads the next day.

I follow the dirty dozen list and purchase organic peppers and strawberries, but conventional bananas, kiwi, mushrooms, and carrots.

Speaking of bananas...
My kids get their fill of potassium everyday for sure.
They eat them as snacks at the park.
They eat them for breakfast (or lunch) sliced with peanut butter on them.
In fact, that's exactly what they had for lunch today. As well as this concoction:
I steamed frozen veggies (Brittany's family uses frozen berries a lot, - another great money saver).
And then use that water (where some nutrients escaped to) to make my couscous. Two servings filled the kids and I up - something that's hard to do sometimes. These kids are bottomless pits!
Sam only likes carrots right now and I'm OK with that. This was the first time he's tried couscous and I'm thrilled that he likes it.
I had no doubt that Julia would dig right in and sure enough, that's exactly what she did.

You wouldn't know it by the way they are eating, but they both had huge bowls of Grape Nuts with fresh strawberries for breakfast.

Another breakfast food that we actually rarely eat for breakfast is eggs. Last night I made scrambled eggs with green onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and tater tots for Julia and I, plain scrambled eggs for Sam, and sunny side up eggs for Brian. For the most part I don't consider myself to be a short order cook kinda mom, but plain ol' scrambled eggs gets boring for most of us.

The tater tots were originally purchased for Tater-Tot Hot Dish as were the veggies from lunch today. I love Tater Tot Hot Dish! I also love that it's easy and filling. I recently found my box of cookbooks and am anxious to try out a homemade white sauce from my More With Less Cookbook. Here's my current recipe for the hotdish if you aren't familiar with this Midwest Meal:

Brown 2 pounds of hamburger, drain
Add 1 can cream of whatever soup
Add one bag of frozen mixed veggies
Transfer to deep baking dish and top with tater tots
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes

I think I've covered the main things we eat around here... Oh wait! How could I forget pancakes!?!!?!?! When we get to the end of the week and our fruit bowl and crisper drawer are getting bare I pull out the pancake mix. The kids gobble them up faster than Brian can make them on our little frying pan.

While this particular brand of pancakes is delicious, I won't be getting any more when it's gone. Instead, I am going to make a batch of homemade mix from my More With Less cookbook. My family has prepared foods from the cookbook for decades. I "borrowed" my mom's copy years ago but lost it during a move. A few years later my cousin, Deb, gave me a new copy for Christmas (along with homemade bread, organic chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, a spider plant descendant of our great-grandmother's plant which was planted in dirt from the family cabin in Northern Minnesota). The cookbooks is perfect for families who are trying to get away from processed foods and save money at the same time. I've already tried a few of the recipes and will share the results in upcoming More With Less posts.


MerrandaVK June 27, 2008 at 6:41 PM  

That was a fun read and sounds like you have a great cookbook! My grocery budget is $75/wk including diapers and other household items.. it's tough for sure!!!

I also make my own pancakes from sctatch and make up the dry base in containers once a month so it's easy to pull out and add the milk & eggs for quick meals.

Oh and your Sam eats more veggies than my Justin does :)

Have a great weekend!

4 Little Men & Twins June 29, 2008 at 4:10 PM  

thanks for sharing all your tips and thoughts. It is hard to eat healthy and not break the bank. We spend most of our money on food and supplements... it's crazy. Have you heard of Quinoa? You could use that instead of cous-cous.... so you're eating a complete protein instead of pasta.

good for you for trying to eat healthier... it's can be a lot of work but so worth it in the long run. I'm sure you already know that. *grin*

have a great weekend


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