Forget Everything I’ve Ever Said About My Low Grocery Budget

Well, please don’t forget everything – just the parts I shared a few years ago about how I can feed my family of six a whole foods diet for less than $500 each month.

See, I thought my kids ate a lot of food at that time (2011)…because they did.  They’ve always been very active and have had hearty appetites.  But now?  Well, we can polish off 2 pounds of meat, 2 pounds of strawberries, 1 pound of frozen vegetables, 5 pounds of potatoes, and a half gallon of milk – in one meal.  An hour later they’ll need (and I do mean need, not want) more food, so we’ll eat a bowl of apples, four bowls of popcorn, and a hunk of cheese.

The boys who used to look like this:

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Now look like this:

GG_8

The little one who loved dressing up in costumes and climbing on my bulk groceries…

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Can now eat his weight in bulk groceries.  And he’s the youngest one of the bunch.  You should see his 6’3″ brother eat.  Those 50 pound bags just don’t stretch as far as they used to.

The food portions we put on our plates at meal time still look like this:

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But that’s just a warm-up.  An appetizer.  A teaser plate.  They polish that off and go back to heap more onto their plates, twice, or maybe three times - if there’s anything left.  I typically have to act quickly if I want seconds (or firsts as is the case at times).

I love this.  Feeding people is fun for me, watching my family eat great food is a joy, and observing healthy appetites does my heart good.  Bring on the food, bring on the appetites, bring on the healthy eating!

But it does come with a price tag – an ever growing price tag that sometimes shocks me, especially when see the shopping cart, the bulk co-op purchases, the cases of food delivered to my door – and I know how long the food will (won’t) last.

grocery cart

This is what my grocery cart usually looks like (weekly) - filled with fruits and veggies to go with the farm fresh meat, eggs, and milk – plus all of our bulk food purchases.

Do I really mean for you to forget everything I’ve ever said about how to keep a low grocery budget while still feeding your family a whole food diet?  No way.  All of my tips and tricks still hold true.  Our grocery budget would be increasing whether we were eating whole foods or not.  I don’t even want to think about how much I would be spending every month if we were eating large amounts of processed food.  I believe eating healthy whole foods is what is keeping our food budget as low as it is right now.  Therefore, we’ll continue to:

Our grocery budget increases, but only because we’re eating more food, and there’s not much I can do (or want to do) to change that.  If they are hungry, let them eat.  Just save some for me, boys!

To accommodate the changes in our grocery budget, we’ve had to shuffle some numbers around in our overall budget.  Eating is not an option.  The money has to come from somewhere, right?  So where has it come from?

Well, as we’ve taken a look at all the line items in our budget, it can look at first glance as if there is no flexibility.  After all, we try not to spend money on anything we don’t feel is necessary, so what can we possibly cut out?  Nothing, really.  And while I’m on the subject, can I tell you how nice it is to have a clearly itemized household budget so that we can put a name on every dollar we earn and spend?  There is so much comfort in this, even if there are sometimes question marks about how to adjust those numbers.

What has worked for our family is this:  Our boys are now able to earn money by doing various jobs such as mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, babysitting, and other miscellaneous jobs people call on them for.  Our two oldest boys are licensed soccer officials, which means that in the spring and fall they are called to the soccer fields 4-5 days/evenings each week to referee games.  They are good at what they do, they enjoy the work, they earn nice paychecks, and they are good savers.  So guess what?  In an effort to both help our household budget and teach them how to manage money, our boys have become more responsible for purchasing many of the items they need.

As a result, we’ve been able to shift some money from our clothing budget over to our grocery budget. We let the boys pay for their own outings with friends, church youth functions, part of church camp costs, etc.  Aha!  It’s a win-win.  The boys get to continue eating (you’re welcome, children), plus they learn about budgeting for themselves.

I’d love to hear how you manage your grocery budget, how you cut food costs, and how you teach your kids about managing money.

Also, I want to encourage you to take advantage of what BudgetFocus offers in the area of setting us a specific (but simple!) household budget.  I love this resource!   Through the end of the month, you can use the code HH33 to receive 33% off a 12-month plan.

Now let’s talk grocery budgets.  How are you holding up with growing appetites at your house?

Make Your Own Salad Dressings – A Simple Way to Eat Healthier

If you’re looking for just one way to eat a healthier diet, I encourage you to look into making your own salad dressings.  Here are our favorites along with the links to the recipes:

These are so easy to make, so fresh, so delicious.  I like making big batches of the dressing mixes to have on hand.  Then all I have to do when we’re out of salad dressing is grab the mix and stir it into the other ingredients.  This gives us healthy salad dressings in just a few minutes.  We’ve been eating a lot of salads lately, so making salad dressing has saved us a lot of money and kept us healthier too!

Make Homemade Mixes With Real Food Ingredients

I’d really like to come up with a Caesar Salad Dressing too.  Anyone have a good one to share?

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip

Need an easy and filling lunch, dinner, or snack?

No Laura, what we actually need is a complicated recipe filled with weird ingredients that our family will hate.

Okay, fine.  The question above was rhetorical.  Did you know that sometimes I like to be sarcastic? (also rhetorical)

Well anyway, my family loves this recipe and I think yours will too.  It’s great to throw together at lunchtime and serve with organic corn chips and fresh fruit.  Or, you could smear this dip in a whole wheat tortilla and wrap it up to take on the go.  You could take it to serve at a party.  You could make it for a game night.  You could make it for a simple evening meal.  You could make it for breakfast.  Really?  Well, sure, if you really want to.  Would the breakfast police actually show up and arrest you for serving bean dip with your morning coffee?  Don’t answer that.  It’s rhetorical.

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
4 cups refried beans
3 Tablespoons taco seasoning mix
3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl.  Stir in refried beans and taco seasoning.  Spread mixture into a 9×13 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle cheese over the top.  Bake in a 350° oven for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with organic corn chips and salsa if you like.

What are your favorite quick meals to serve?  (I’d like you to answer that question.  That one is not rhetorical.)

Stock Up On Whole Food Staples – Here’s a Free $10!

It is so much fun to throw all of you a ten dollar bill.  :)

iHerb is an online store that carries all kinds of whole food groceries.  Shipping is always free for orders over $20.  The best news: If you’re a brand new customer, that means you get $10 off your first order of $40!

Here’s a sample $40 order that you can get for just $30 (with free shipping!):

Grand total for this cart full of real food is $41.29.  If you are a new customer, you can use my referral code: BID487 to receive $10 off your $40+ order.  That means you get all that food I mentioned – or whatever you choose to put into your cart, for just a little over $30!  Shipping is free.

Doesn’t that list look like fun?  Think of all you can make!  iHerb also carries a lot of gluten free products.  Oh, and be sure to check out the pages of super cheap trial products you can add to your cart just for fun!

Enjoy your free $10!

Poppyseed Bread With Orange Glaze ~ This Week’s Freezer Cooking Challege

This quick bread recipe is our family’s favorite, hands down.  It is super moist, very flavorful, and well, it kind of tastes like cake.  It definitely tastes like a treat, even if you cut down the sugar in the recipe.

Speaking of cutting down the sugar – I’ve been really focusing on chopping sugar quantities in most of my recipes.  I’ve found that the recipes still tastes great, and my family is definitely benefiting from not eating so much of the sweet stuff.  All that to say, a few week’s ago I edited the {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook (where you’ll find the recipe for this bread) to cut the sugar down significantly.  If you purchased this book before April, your version likely calls for 1 1/2 cups of sucanat.  Yikes.  Do that if you must, but I think you’ll find that cutting it in half (or more) still turns out a great product.

poppyseed bread for freezer

For the Freezer Cooking Challenge today, find some time to make a double recipe of Poppy Seed Bread with Orange Glaze (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook).  Doubling the recipe will turn out four loaves.  Once they have completely cooled, you can set aside a loaf (or two, if you are my family) for tomorrow’s breakfast, then wrap and freeze the others for another day.  I typically just place them in freezer bags, push all the air out, and seal.  Be sure to label your bags.

When you’re ready to serve your frozen loaves, simply get it out of the freezer the night before you plan to serve it and let it thaw on the countertop.  In the morning, you can slice and eat!

This bread is wonderful with scrambled or fried eggs and a fruit such as apples, bananas, applesauce, or berries.

I can’t wait for you to try this bread! 

Gratituesday: Special Choir

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Every year since our oldest was a 3rd grader, we’ve headed to Kansas City each spring for a big event called Leadership Training for Christ (LTC) that our church participates in with other churches in the area.  Our kids work super hard ahead of time preparing for Bible bowl, skits, puppet shows, choirs, sculptures, paintings, stories, poetries, speeches…and the list goes on.  It is a lot of work for parents and kids alike, but the fun we have at LTC is so worth it!

This year, our family and some friends of ours decided to team up and put together a special choir.  Why?  Well, let me give you a little background:

Matt and Tim played soccer at York College together for four years.  At the time, Tonya and I sat in the stands together during every game – so proud of our boyfriends.  :)  Those boyfriends became our fiancés, then in 1994, those fiancés became our husbands.  Yep, we got married the same summer.

The years went by, and babies were born.  They had a girl, we had a boy.  They had a girl, we had a boy.  We had a boy, they had a girl.  And then, last but not least, we had a boy…and they had a girl.  Yep, every time one couple had a baby, somehow the other couple had a baby.  We began to wonder if we were drinking too much of the same water.  However, they seemed to have all the girl-flavored water, while we had all the boy-flavored water.

We’ve loved raising our kids together, going to the same church together, and of course, playing soccer together.  This year, we realized that this would be the first and last year that all eight of our kids would be in LTC together.  Our youngest kids are finally eligible, as 3rd graders, and their oldest is a senior.  This is it.  That’s why we signed our kids up for a small choir together.

For several weeks our families have gotten together to practice the songs.  Tonight was our final practice.  This weekend is the real deal.

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Here’s a picture I snapped on my phone tonight while the kids were practicing. 
I have got to remember to turn the volume down on my phone as the “snap” was completely distracting.  Sheesh.

I’m so grateful for friendship and the joy these kids bring to us.  Can’t wait for the fun this weekend!

Now your turn.  Share what you’re thankful for!  Leave a comment on this post letting us know how God is working in your life.  If you’ve written a blog post about what you’re thankful for, leave the link in the comments so we can visit your blog to read about it.  We love sharing and reading about God’s blessings!

Pure Organic Fruit and Veggie Strips – As Low As 38¢ Each

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I just found a great coupon for Pure Organic Fruit and Veggie Strips!  Amazon is offering a coupon worth 20% off a 24-count box.  Put that together with the additional 20% savings you can receive with Amazon Prime/Amazon Mom subscribe and save deal, and you’re saving over $6 on a box!   Read this post for more information on how I save with Amazon.

This coupon deal is good on both:

Our family loves both of these varieties.  I appreciate having them on hand for quick snacks on the run.

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You can also use this 20% off coupon to grab a box of Pure Bar Organic Fruit and Nut Bars.  I’m grabbing this Chocolate Brownie variety for just $9.48 for a box of 12.

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Want more great Amazon Deals?  I work to keep this page updated with all the latest deals I find that might benefit your heavenly homemaking!

This post contains affiliate links.

Easy Breakfast Casseroles ~ This Week’s Freezer Cooking Challege Begins

Today for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, we’ll be making Easy Breakfast Casserole (x2).  This is, for sure, one of the easiest make-ahead-meals to put together.

I save dirty dishes by cracking eggs directly into my casserole dishes.  Then I add remaining ingredients, whisk it up, and it’s done.  Super simple!  If you have kids old enough to crack eggs, delegate that job to them while making these casseroles.

I made two of these casseroles last week with the help of my 12 year old.  Once my casseroles were put together (it took 15 minutes, tops) – I put the lids on, and put one in the fridge to bake the following morning.  The other, I labeled and put into the freezer, unbaked.

egg casseroles for freezer

To bake my frozen Breakfast Casserole, I’ll simply put it into the fridge overnight, then bake as directed the next morning.  I may need to add a little extra baking time if it hasn’t thawed entirely.

You will love how easy it is to make this casserole ahead of time!  This kind of freezer cooking is my favorite.  It’s practically effortless, and makes putting healthy food on the table for breakfast a piece of cake. (casserole. whatever.)

Go thou into the kitchen and begin cracking eggs.  Breakfast has never been easier.

Menu Plan For the Week ~ Waking Up To a Ready-Made Breakfast

Every day this week, our family will be waking up to a healthy breakfast that has already been prepared.  You wanna do the same?  Here are all the plans to make this happen.  You are going to love this!

Speaking of breakfast, you should know that I made the worst breakfast ever yesterday.  I think my hair is still holding on to the smell from the nastiness I put in front of my family to eat.  I had grand plans to fill us all full of good protein by making a hearty (but quick) meal of Bacon Cheesy Eggs before soccer games.  Therefore, I already had the bacon chopped up and cooked ahead of time.  While getting eggs cracked open and whipped, I started rewarming the bacon in the skillet – on high heat.  Within just a few seconds, it started smoking and smelling up the kitchen.  Oh well, I thought.  I’ll just quickly add the eggs, scrambled them up together, and all will be well.

If only.

That bacon was apparently beyond repair, making the bacon/egg/cheese mixture taste like ashes.  Not that I’ve ever eaten ashes.

We sort of choked it down, because it is very hard to throw away farm-fresh eggs, even if they do taste like burnt fire wood.  And that is how I sent my children off to the soccer fields so that they could run several miles and attempt to do fancy footwork.  It was not one of my finer moments.  But as Asa (our 16 year old) said with a grin, “Well, the cantaloupe sure is good.  At least you didn’t burn that.”  Yes, at least.  :)

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars 12

These Raspberry Oatmeal Bars aren’t in our freezer cooking plan for this week,
but they are another example of a great recipe you can make the night before
to serve first thing in the morning.  We love these bars!

Here’s what I’ll be trying not to burn this week:

Sunday, April 13
Raspberry oatmeal bars, applesauce
Cheesy beef and pasta casserole (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook), tossed salad, green beans
Small Group potluck

Monday, April 14
Easy breakfast casserole, cantaloupe
Chicken patty sandwiches, lettuce and tomatoes, pickles, carrots, fruit smoothies
Cheeseburger macaroni, tossed salad, roasted asparagus

Tuesday, April 15
Poppy seed bread with orange glaze (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook), eggs, strawberries
Rice and veggie stir fry with zucchini, carrots, and broccoli
Chicken tacos, fresh pineapple

Wednesday, April 16
Sweet pecan French toast casserole (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook), kiwi
Sloppy joes, creamy coleslaw, cucumbers and carrots with ranch, blackberries
Lamb chops, baked potatoes in the crock pot, tossed salad, peas

Thursday, April 17
Poptarts, bananas
Popcorn chicken, potato wedges, steamed carrots and broccoli
Tuna casserole, peas, roasted asparagus

Friday and Saturday – travel days (packing some food for the road, especially fruits and veggies)

Please make plans to join us this week for the Freezer Cooking Breakfast Challenge.  You’ll love getting ahead for the morning!