Author Topic: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?  (Read 15870 times)

Redstone5

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #50 on: June 11, 2015, 09:22:10 AM »
I read an idea from a discussion of the book French Children Eat Anything that I really liked about kid's snacks and thought to share it here:

When your kids ask for a snack, give them three options: a piece of fruit, yogurt, or piece of cheese.

Limit snacks to once-a-day. It's ok if they feel hungry! They will get used to feeling hungry between meals and learn not to eat something every time they get a minor hunger twang.

Apparently this is how many French parents handle it, and kids are quite adaptable and get used to only having these three easy options. Honestly, given how hard it was for me to get used to hunger between meals when I stopped growing and could no longer eat whatever I wanted, I really wish my parents had used this technique with me.

I really enjoyed that book too. When I was a kid we just didn't really snack and every meal was eaten sitting at a table (parents were British). Now my friends are feeding their kids snacks all the time. They can't go to the park for an hour without eating a granola bar, a juice box, cheese and crackers, and a cookie. All at the same snack! And then they wonder why the kid isn't hungry for lunch a hour later.

We have stopped letting our kids have snacks after school since they usually still have lunch left in their backpacks. Now we just tell them to eat their remaining lunch if they're hungry.

Redstone5

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #51 on: June 11, 2015, 09:32:26 AM »
I'm so sick of doing all of it, just to have the kids turn their noses up at the table or my husband be too busy or tired to eat when he comes home after his late shift.

So I noticed your husband works the late shift and you mentioned he is the one packing lunches- has it ever occurred to him he could chuck some meat+veg+ seasoning+ liquid into a crockpot when he's making the lunches. It adds less than 5 minutes to his routine. Then 4,6,8 hours later when someone gets home its already made! They also have self timed crockpots or crockpots that you can pull the bowl thing out of and have it in your fridge, so you can meal prep night before and just stick it in the warming thing in the morning.

I saw a lot of people suggesting your teen son help cook (great idea!) but I don't recall people mentioning your husband cook. Does he have 1 or 2 days a week off? Could you explain everyone tall enough to cook, cooks a mandatory 1 night a week? Then you wouldn't feel so overwhelmed and like everything is on you.

I use to be like you. ALL the cooking, meal planning, grocery shopping was on me (and I had been trying to lose weight, while the fiance has a crazy metabolism). Plus he thought I was a short order cook and would occasionally text saying "you should make X tonight." A couple months ago I explained from now on Monday and Tuesday he was in charge of the cooking. The only constraint was it had to be something we both would eat. On Wednesday and Thursday I would cook. Friday- Sunday we cook together, fend for ourselves or have date night. Less pressure on me and I can sit down with him and enjoy my food now.

Oh, I'm totally with you. In the past he has done much more of the cooking and grocery shopping. He used to do a shop and then make the boys a hot lunch at home everyday. He still would but our kids' schools now have lunch periods that are too short for them to come home.

It's just that, his schedule now is so crazy, I honestly don't want him handling a knife or anything mechanical in the morning! Last night he worked from 5pm to 3:30am, then got up again at 7am to prep the boys for school and walk them for drop off (3km walk). Then he's taking our car in for maintenance, taking the bus home (45min trip) so that he can get two hours of sleep while the baby naps, and then another 45min trip by bus again to get the car, and then pick the boys up from school at 2:30, and then go to work again at 5pm tonight. And then he'll sleep for 5 hours tomorrow morning and then go with our kids to "beach day" at their school as a parent volunteer.

So, given the circumstances, I feel bad complaining about the work of shopping and meal planning when I get a solid 8 hours of sleep every night and do almost none of the family errands :)

Ishmael

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #52 on: June 12, 2015, 06:22:44 AM »
I think $500 a month is really great, actually. Our budget for 4 people is higher.

Breakfasts - we eat cereal for breakfast, because of the morning convenience factor. There are cereals that are healthy and low in sugar.

I'd _really_ like to switch to steel-cut oats like MMM recommends, but I'm having trouble finding recipes to make it taste palatable, without adding lots of sugar. Does anyone have any recipes they can contribute? Should be of benefit to OP too. (Not intending to hijack here).

The only one I've come up with so far is adding quite a bit of parmesan cheese, spinach and bacon bits. It's kind of weird, but tasty enough to have on occasion.

StarBright

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #53 on: June 12, 2015, 09:21:08 AM »
I think someone else mentioned a CSA and how time consuming it can be to meal plan around it - and that is very true. But, we rejoined a CSA again for the first time in a couple of years (kids are getting older and more adventurous in their eating) and I have been blown away by how it has lowered my grocery budget the last couple of weeks.

Meal planning around the veggies so that I don't waste them has really forced me to ditch some frequent meals that were driving my budget up. I was probably spending 125-145 a week for a family of 4 -lots of organics so not bad. But with the 15 dollar a week CSA I've only spent 65-85 at the grocery the last three weeks.  The funny thing is that I could have bought the same veggies at the grocery and had the same savings, but I didn't. The CSA is forcing me to use cheap organic veggies and it is good for our budget (and probably our waistlines as well).


Redstone5

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #54 on: June 12, 2015, 09:24:54 AM »
I think someone else mentioned a CSA and how time consuming it can be to meal plan around it - and that is very true. But, we rejoined a CSA again for the first time in a couple of years (kids are getting older and more adventurous in their eating) and I have been blown away by how it has lowered my grocery budget the last couple of weeks.

Meal planning around the veggies so that I don't waste them has really forced me to ditch some frequent meals that were driving my budget up. I was probably spending 125-145 a week for a family of 4 -lots of organics so not bad. But with the 15 dollar a week CSA I've only spent 65-85 at the grocery the last three weeks.  The funny thing is that I could have bought the same veggies at the grocery and had the same savings, but I didn't. The CSA is forcing me to use cheap organic veggies and it is good for our budget (and probably our waistlines as well).

I've looked into the CSA idea in my town Victoria, BC, and so far the cost seemed to me to be quite a bit higher than what I'd usually pay at the grocery store. I'm sure the quality is better (and I love the idea of it coming to the house), but we still have "hair on fire" debt so that's something that I would be willing to spend more money on when we can.

Redstone5

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #55 on: June 12, 2015, 09:28:57 AM »
I think $500 a month is really great, actually. Our budget for 4 people is higher.

Breakfasts - we eat cereal for breakfast, because of the morning convenience factor. There are cereals that are healthy and low in sugar.

I'd _really_ like to switch to steel-cut oats like MMM recommends, but I'm having trouble finding recipes to make it taste palatable, without adding lots of sugar. Does anyone have any recipes they can contribute? Should be of benefit to OP too. (Not intending to hijack here).

The only one I've come up with so far is adding quite a bit of parmesan cheese, spinach and bacon bits. It's kind of weird, but tasty enough to have on occasion.

I love steel cut oats, but I never got around to cooking them since it took so long. Then I found this great recipe http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-steel-cut-oatmeal-in-jars-one-week-of-breakfast-in-5-minutes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-143623 I don't bother with the jars. I just follow the directions and then put all the oats into a big bowl in the fridge and dish it up in the morning. They did taste great even a week later.

I do use maple syrup on top so I'm not sure that helps you. I hope others have some good suggestions for toppings that aren't high sugar.

sunnyca

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #56 on: June 12, 2015, 10:39:06 AM »
Bumping for future reference.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #57 on: June 12, 2015, 01:33:01 PM »
I read an idea from a discussion of the book French Children Eat Anything that I really liked about kid's snacks and thought to share it here:

When your kids ask for a snack, give them three options: a piece of fruit, yogurt, or piece of cheese.

Limit snacks to once-a-day. It's ok if they feel hungry! They will get used to feeling hungry between meals and learn not to eat something every time they get a minor hunger twang.

Apparently this is how many French parents handle it, and kids are quite adaptable and get used to only having these three easy options. Honestly, given how hard it was for me to get used to hunger between meals when I stopped growing and could no longer eat whatever I wanted, I really wish my parents had used this technique with me.

My kids are grown now (and eat almost anything put in front of them).  One of my best parenting decisions was to institute two rules:

You can take it or you can leave it, but this is dinner and the kitchen is now closed.
If you get up out of your chair, your food disappears.   (swiftly and silently -- no drama, no power struggles).

From the age of about 3, my kids sat at the table without getting up and ate what I put in front of them.  Mind you, I chose kid-friendly foods when they were little and gradually expanded that as they grew up.  By age 10, they'd eat anything -- even sushi.

Highly recommend these two rules.

Redstone5

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #58 on: June 12, 2015, 02:35:26 PM »
I read an idea from a discussion of the book French Children Eat Anything that I really liked about kid's snacks and thought to share it here:

When your kids ask for a snack, give them three options: a piece of fruit, yogurt, or piece of cheese.

Limit snacks to once-a-day. It's ok if they feel hungry! They will get used to feeling hungry between meals and learn not to eat something every time they get a minor hunger twang.

Apparently this is how many French parents handle it, and kids are quite adaptable and get used to only having these three easy options. Honestly, given how hard it was for me to get used to hunger between meals when I stopped growing and could no longer eat whatever I wanted, I really wish my parents had used this technique with me.

My kids are grown now (and eat almost anything put in front of them).  One of my best parenting decisions was to institute two rules:

You can take it or you can leave it, but this is dinner and the kitchen is now closed.
If you get up out of your chair, your food disappears.   (swiftly and silently -- no drama, no power struggles).

From the age of about 3, my kids sat at the table without getting up and ate what I put in front of them.  Mind you, I chose kid-friendly foods when they were little and gradually expanded that as they grew up.  By age 10, they'd eat anything -- even sushi.

Highly recommend these two rules.

Me too! They've worked really well for our kids. Too well, really. Now they want sushi all the time and it can break our food budget.


ShaneD

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #59 on: June 13, 2015, 11:50:55 AM »
Sounds like you're making good progress, Redstone5. Well done.

To keep it going long-term, though, it sounds like you need (if you haven't already) to get your husband on board. I can understand a teen not wanting to carry soup to school, but your hubby's feelings (boosterism?) for store-bought cereal is just silly, both financially and nutritionally. You're making great strides already, but you can't keep the pace alone. Everybody's got to be on board with you.

Everyone has already given great advice. One thing I'd suggest is maybe doing make-ahead egg dishes for breakfast to rotate with the homemade granola/yogurt option. Similar to the quiche and egg bake ideas, mini frittatas (i.e., scrambled egg muffins) are easy to whip up with whatever veg/meat/cheese the family likes (doesn't even have to be identical since you can add different ingredients to each one), and can be kept in fridge a few days or frozen. Microwave and add a pat of butter or olive oil, and you've got another inexpensive, low carb, high-fat meal that won't leave folks starving in an hour AND is easy and fast for husband or the kids themselves to prepare in the morning.

I, too, hear ya on the lower-carb eating. I do so as well, and while the individual LCHF ingredients can be more expensive than grains and starches, our grocery bills overall haven't risen so much simply because we don't end up eating second- and third-breakfast, plus tons of snacks and dessert.


Redstone5

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Re: Ideas for Cheap and Easy Family Meal Planning and Shopping?
« Reply #60 on: June 17, 2015, 10:08:36 AM »
I'm so glad that my kids are almost out for summer. We'll save a lot of grocery money on not buying snacks for school lunches, and in the meanwhile I'm going to convert everyone to other, cheaper snack ideas over the holidays.

Results of my plan to kill our cereal and snack expense so far:

I did make raisin bran muffins this week and granola again (from the recipe posted earlier on this thread) and they were a huge hit. All of the family happily ate the cheaper granola for breakfast and snacked on the muffins.

I made greek yogurt and it was a hit as well. I used about $5 of whole milk and $0.50 of bought yogurt to make $7.00 worth of greek yogurt. We usually buy twice that amount per week, so over a month that would be a savings of $12, or $144 a year. That's the price of more than a week's worth of groceries for our family so I think that's worthwhile to keep doing. It also didn't take very long either and tasted great.

I've experimented with some of the cheaper generic cereal types and my husband has said he likes them just as much as the more expensive kind.

All in all, we've saved about $10 this week from our yogurt and cereal experiments so I call it a success. An extra $40 a month saved in the grocery budget is a step in the right direction. Thanks everyone for the great ideas!