Saturday, August 8, 2009

Food Challenges

Quick note before the meat of the post.... I am joining Natalie's 15 pounds in 15 weeks Holiday Slim Down Challenge! Keep an eye out for my posts about this challenge in the weeks to come. My goal for the 15 weeks is to lose 20 pounds!

I had a post all planned out to discuss some issues I am working on and set up how I plan to run the blog in the future.... and then.... I came across this post from over at Beauty That Moves. I was really interested in reading all of the comments about how much people spend on their groceries and how they eat. It has inspired me to really lay on the line exactly what we spend and how we eat. And maybe make myself some goals as far as our eating habits and budget goes.

Food Budget
We are a family of 5. Myself, I eat fairly small portion sizes normally. My husband eats about 2 - 3 times what I eat in a meal. However, he only eats one meal a day at home. My teen daughter eats a little more than I do but not excessive amounts. And the two boys are picky eaters and have a limited number of dishes they will eat right now. And usually eat fairly small amounts as they are still little. So, family of 5. Our income is approximately $28000 a year before taxes. We get $320 a month in food stamps. I usually spend an average of $50 cash on food items such as fresh veggies and fruits and bread as needed throughout the month. So, our food budget is generally about $370 a month. We also receive WIC for both of the boys. The peanut butter and milk are life savers!

Types of Foods
Anyone who has checked out my weekly menu plans knows what we eat! LOL But, in general, we eat lower meat meals, brown rices, grains and as much healthy food as I can manage. I have started cooking with whole wheat flour and using things like oat bran and flax seed. I add as many fresh fruits and veggies to our diet as I can and try to eat meatless at least once a week.

One of the biggest challenges that I face while trying to eat healthier is a lack of options for groceries. We have THREE Super Walmarts within about 10 miles of us. We have a local store called the Corner Market, a WinnDixie, a store called Sunflower which is comparable to WD and a Save Rite. That's it. There is a small health food store that is about 15 - 20 miles away from me and a very very small health food market closer. The selections there are limited and the prices are high. There are local farmer's markets but no CSA or coop opportunities. There are very few, if any, U-pick places in the area.

Home Grown
My garden hates me. I am just putting that out there. It really does. Next year I have some different plans to, hopefully, get more produce from our garden. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Ideally, my garden should produce almost all of our fresh veggies for the summer and some to put up for the fall/ winter months! This year.... no.

Eating Out
I am horrible about taking the kids to get a quick breakfast or lunch at a fast food place. We generally only eat out as a family once or twice a month, but for lunch or breakfast? Forget about it! A couple of times a week if I have the money. And I could so totally use that money elsewhere! Not to mention how bad for us that food is....

My goals for the coming year or so are:

  • Talk to local produce markets about what they do with produce that they cannot sell due to bruises, etc. Hopefully I can get some for free and salvage some of it. Steven is talking to his friend who delivers produce to the restaurant.
  • Figure out what is up with our garden. Next year, we plan on expanding to two raised bed gardens and using some upside down planters as well. I want my investment to pay off! I will be doing research to figure out what I am doing wrong...
  • I plan to make up some pizza blanks and homemade chicken nuggets and fries for the freezer. More convenient lunch choices means less running to McD's!
  • I have started, and plan to continue, making waffles, pancakes and muffins to freeze. More convenient breakfasts rock, too!
  • I want to try to save some money and invest in a half a cow next year. We have a large standing freezer, so we have the room to store the meat. I think that will save me quite a bit of money in the long run.
  • I am starting to experiment with making my own whole wheat bread. If I can find a recipe we like, I will be making it from now on! Also things like hamburger buns. I want to make biscuits to have on hand in the freezer as well.
  • I am switching to two meat free meals each week on a regular basis.
  • We already switched to brown rice rather than white, but I also want to switch over to whole wheat, rice or vegetable based pastas exclusively.
  • WIC is switching over in October to providing whole grain breads, wheat tortillas, vegetables and fruit as well as milk, juice, cheese, etc.
  • I just started making large batches of dried beans and freezing them after they are cooked. So far I cooked four pounds of red beans and packaged them in 1 1/2 cup sizes. I still have pinto beans and black beans to cook.
  • I want to try to find some U-pick places within reasonable driving distance for next Summer. Maybe I will succeed. I would love to go pick blueberries, blackberries, and veggies as available!
  • This month, I am doing a pantry challenge. When my food stamps become available ont he 18th, I am holding off as long as possible before going shopping. I want to use up as much of the excess food in the house as I can. I think I have stuff in my cabinets and freezer that has been there for more than six months!
  • I bought an ebook all about whole wheat tortillas. How to make them and recipes for using them as well as snack ideas. This would be healthier and save us money if I can get my family used to eating them more often!

ANy other suggestions for how to eat healthier when facing limited resources? Or on how to save money on groceries when you are eating healthier as well? Please comment and give me some ideas!


Natalie Jane said...


As for cheap healthy food, I struggle with that contantly. I really need to plant a garden, but even that is expensive!

Natalie Jane said...

By the way, I hope you don't mind, but I changed the coloring of your photo a tad. It looked a little green when I uploaded it to my blog. I have no idea why :)

Lesley said...

Groceries are sooooo expensive! I have a dayhome and was getting frustrated with all the food being thrown out so I checked out the portion sizes I was giving the kids and realized I was giving them 2 to 3 times more than a regular portion. Once I figured that I found we were wasting less food which meant less money on groceries :o)
We bought half a cow this year and found that it's saved us huge amounts of cash. It's a lot to shell out at one time but the savings were worth it. Although we didn't get a choice of what cuts we wanted which we've learned is very important. You can only do so much with hamburger.
My fave quickie meal right now is a whole wheat tortilla which whatever toppings they want rolled up like a burrito. Some are PB and J, others baloney and some just cheese. Easy, cheap and for the most part healthy. That's my substitute for McD's. ...sigh...I miss the fries but twice a week's just not healthy!?

Deborah Aldridge said...

I can only recommend stockpiling to save money on healthy foods.Stock up when it's on sale, and store it until you use it. I know that's hard with kids to feed, especially on food stamps.

As for the garden, I can help there. If you need any help with gardening, please ask! Just post in the WWWO or DM me on Twitter. I'm a horticulturist by trade, so I can offer that help for free!

Connie Carpenter Macko said...

okay wait... the holidays are 15 weeks away? (not really relavent to your question I know... when I'm done panicing I'll give that some thought)

Rachel Anne said...

Very enlightening and convicting post. I really haven't spent enough time seriously considering where our food pennies go...I guess after so many years doing it, I've gotten a little lazy?? Thanks for the nudge!!

S Club Mama said...

I hear ya! WIC is a godsend and if we could have food stamps, we probably would. The milk is a lifesaver for us (and formula, for now).

Honestly, cooking stuff at home is your best bet. You may even want to invest in that new cookbook..I think it's called "America's Secret Recipes" or something.

And we used to get meat from my in-law's and my husband's old employer and it's so good. It tastes so much better besides being better for you! You won't want to go back to store bought me. We don't like buying it now but we don't have the storage for the meat. :( That's our next big purchase is a freezer!