Feeding Seven Children on a Budget
Here at Doodlebuckets, we know about make the dollar stretch beyond the norm since we have seven children (so far!) and we have a need to keep our spending under control. Along the way and after 11 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned a few tips that we would love to share with you on how to feed your family without spending half of your salary. We try to eat as healthy as possible and choose free range meats and organic produce when they are available, so we know that eating healthy does not have to be expensive.
Make Your Own Bread
A great way to save some money is to make many of your staple foods at home. One of the biggest staple foods, world over, is the loaf of bread. Making your own is great fun and tastes better than any bread you can find, even at the local bakery. I like to grind the wheat for my bread since 90% of flour loses its nutrients within 72 hours of grinding. We want to get the most nutrition out of everything we eat and buying dead flour at the local store, even whole wheat flour, just provides empty calories, so I recommend against it. The taste of bread from fresh ground flour is superb and is worth the effort of grinding, in and of itself. That's how I got started....a friend brought me a loaf of what she had make from fresh ground flour and I was hooked! I have a favorite recipe that makes 5 loaves at a time so very little effort is needed to get a whole week's worth of delicious bread.
Buy in Bulk
Though buying large amounts of groceries at any given time is a bigger hit on your wallet up front, the savings you will receive is worth saving up and making space in your pantry and freezer for large amounts of groceries. Stores like Whole Foods give you what is called a "case discount" of 10 percent when you buy a case of something. We buy almond butter, yogurt, komboucha, all kinds of frozen vegetables and pasta, just to name a few items, in case quantities and the savings are enormous. The number of items that make up a case vary depending on what you are buying, but you can look on the price tag on the shelf and see and number like "12", a slash, and then a dollar amount per item. The first number (ie, the 12 in our example) tells you how much you must buy to have a case quantity. Another way to save from stores like Whole Foods is to buy from their bulk section. Items like grains, legumes, and even maple syrup can be purchased in 25 to 50 lb bags or gallon sizes and these items are much less expensive per unit that buying smaller amounts.
Buy Meats from a Local Farmer
It is important to our family to eat meats that are hormone and antibiotic-free and we prefer not to pay the exhorbitant shipping fees from online suppliers, so we did our homework and found local beef and poultry farmers who raise their animal in a free-range setting and we buy from them. We get 1/4 to 1/2 of a cow and a few cases of whole chickens and breasts every 6 to 8 months and we are set for meat for a while. My husband has just recently taken up deer hunting and, after his hunting equipment is all paid for by the meat he gets from venison, we will be getting free meat as long as he hunts.
Buy Wholesale at the Farmer's Market
Many people do not know this, but local famer's markets have wholesale sections that are open to the public. Many restaurants shop for their produce this way but not many people know that they have access to this inexpensive produce as well. You have to buy say, 40 lbs of apples at a time, but the prices are phenomenal and worth finding someone to split them with you if your family cannot eat it all before it begins to go bad. Many families have begun co-ops so that they can buy in bulk and split it with enough people to take home smaller amounts and they take turns picking up the monthly produce for the whole group. You can always buy a food dehydrator and make your own fruit leather with the extras if you cannot eat them in time.
Participate in a Food Co-op
There are large food co-ops that purchase from entities like United Foods, the Bread Beckers, and Wheat Montana that your family can join. In our area, the groups are large enough in some of the co-ops that shipping charges are not assessed. Again, you have to buy things in large quantities and by the case, but buddying up with another family to split the cost will save you many dollars in food costs.
Find a local CSA
Getting involved in a local CSA can save your family in food costs as well. A CSA is "Community Supported Agriculture" and basically you get a big bag of produce every week of what the farm is producing at the time for a fee. We have a local organic farm where we pay either a montly or quarterly fee and then we pick up fresh organic fruits and vegetables weekly. Some CSAs have the option for you and your family to work a few hours per month at their farm and will give you a discount for your time spent helping them with their duties.
Grow Your Own Vegetables
There are few things in life more satisfying than growing your own food. We have taken the back portion of our yard and have planted a huge garden of tomatoes, hot peppers, watermelons, canteloupes, okra, cucumbers, squash and zucchini and even bought beehives so that we have bees to pollinate our crops. We have blueberry bushes, apple, pear and plums trees we've planted and even a grape vine. Our investment yielded more than enough to feed us during the summer and also many bags of veggies in the freezer that we will eat till spring comes along again. One day we hope to see great big fruits hanging from our trees and berries on the bushes and grapes. Think of all the jams and jellies and maybe even wine to enjoy! It's been great for our kids to learn and to help take responsibility for its care and hopefully it will be a skill that they can use and even pass on to their own kids one day.
Use Leftovers For Soups
We never waste our leftovers! There are thousands of ideas for what to do with meals that you did not finish, but one of our favorites is to just put everyting that is compatible in a pots with some sauteed onion, garlic, carrots and celery and add chicken stock and maybe some salsa. Voila! Soup. Oh, so good soup! Sometimes a soup that lasts for a couple of meals. If soup is not your cup of tea, then you can easily do an online search and find recipes that utilize leftovers in creative and delicious ways and you can make sure that you don't waste the food you've worked so hard to purchase.
Kids Eat Free at Restaurants
Lastly, for families that like to give mom and break every once in a while, a great idea to save money is to eat at a restaurant that offers kids free meals for each adult meal that is ordered. A quick online search can help you find a website that lists all the restaurants that offer discounted or free kids' meals in your area. Chances are, there's a restaurant for each day of the week!
No matter the size of your family, everyone I know loves a bargain and your grocery shopping is no differet. Just follow a few basic guidelines: Stay away from pre-packaged foods, buy your groceries locally and in bulk, and make your own everything and you have the recipe for big savings!
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