This is kind of a long and crazy post…
For right now, the way things work are functional for our family. All recipes that I do can be accomplished with relatively few supplies, I prefer to stick to the basics… All of my “basics” can fit on my kitchen island, the rest is just fluff.
Things I use EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. never get put “away”, just in their spot for easy access. ie: my cutting board and french chef’s knife. If they are not out, I don’t cook. They MUST have a place. My pots and pans live on the counters and hung on the walls, though I dream of having a better solution (if all my sauce pots/frying pans were on the wall and just my stock pot out, that would be great). But this is not a DIY/rennovation blog (for now 🙂 )
Easy access items include veggie peeler, paring knife, kitchen scissors, Glass mixing bowls, Pyrex 8×8 & 9×13 pans (with lids for easy storage), flour, sugar, coffee, popping corn, salt, spices, favorite spoons, measuring cups, rolling pin, parchment paper, and cookie sheets.
We tend to use products as close to nature as we can, and manage to fit into the “real food” category. According to the blog “100 days of real food”, anything that has less than 5 ingredients and is a whole food counts and may be used/consumed. We follow the dirty dozen/clean fifteen list pretty closely, but some things in the grey area between dirty and clean we buy conventionally made (broccoli for example). If it’s on the dirty dozen list, we purchase organic.
We try to stay away from the center aisles of the store, sticking with the concept that if I’m not willing to make it (from scratch, no boxes) , then I shouldn’t be eating it. This limits our sweet intake by more than 75%… because I’m really only going to make a batch of cookies once a week or so!
I meal plan for one month at a time. I only “plan” the weekday meals. M-F, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snack options. Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks remain the same for one month (ie: monday morning muffins, Peanut Butter wraps for lunch, and yogurt, apples, or cashews for snack). Dinner cannot be duplicated within 28 days. Leftovers are eaten for adult lunches and weekend meals.
I will post a photograph of our meal plan when I remember to, it’s probably not going to make it into this post.
From there, I shop weekly. The first week of the meal plan, I do intense shopping. I buy all the things I will need for the month that can store in the freezer or pantry. This means that I can buy in bulk and save over buying smaller packages of everything. I typically try to group our meals into “genres” because my kids like that… so Monday is meatless, Tuesday is a one-pot dish/casserole of some type, Wednesday is pasta night, Thursday is poultry night, and Friday is Italian (sounds better than pizza night right?)
Because our snack options stay the same (15 options total for the week), there is no one eating peanut butter pretzels every.single.day, and I’m not out of apples 2 days into the week.
There is a LOT of flexibility in our meal plan, especially when running out the door in the morning, or someone being sick (it happens more than I care to admit it *points at self*).
Our options for snacks are all things the kids can get/make themselves. Peanut butter pretzels, cheese slices/sticks, ants on a log, sliced apples, carrot sticks w/ dip, peanuts, cashews, popcorn, rice krispy treats, cookies, green smoothie, raisins, cranberries, freeze dried fruit, pineapple, bananas, cucumber slices, yogurt tubes etc… They are all gluten free besides the pretzels. Oh well. Sue me..
We are NOT a GF family, but we do strive for balance.
My pantry always has certain things on hand. I replenish when we run low. Most things I buy from Wegmans.
Flour- King Arthur’s Organic Whole Wheat and White Whole Wheat (some things you can’t make with regular WW)
EVOO- 1 Gal
Raw Sugar- while I try to use honey, molasses, or fruit juice concentrates, some things still taste better with sugar
Marshmallows (I know, NOT even close to food, but there are less than 5 ingredients, so it’s a splurge)
Milk (we order from Kilby Cream and get delivered)
Lettuce, Spinach, Kale
Carrots (we use 10 lbs easily in a month)
Onions (again 10 lbs in a month)
Celery (3 bunches lasts a month, but we try to buy it every week so it’s fresh)
Organic Apples (varied, granny smith, fuji, gala & pink lady)
Spices- Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cumin, Curry, Garlic Powder, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Ginger, Cloves, Crushed Red Pepper, Steak Seasoning, & Season Salt are the ones I reach for daily.
Lemon and Lime Juice
Various sauces, ketchup, BBQ sauce, honey, Spicy Brown mustard, mustard, mayonnaise, Thai Peanut Sauce, Worstershire sauce
Shredded Cheddar and Mozzarella Cheeses
Jarred Pasta Sauces appropriate for spaghetti, pizza, or topping chicken or eggplant parmesean
Parmesean cheese, Romano Cheese
Organic Plain Yogurt
Assorted Frozen Veggies
Rice (Jasmine & Basmatti)
Once a month we buy a loaf or two of bread, but it’s rare now that we don’t eat sandwiches often. It’s nice to have on hand for something specific, but it’s easier to make bread when we want… I’m trying to only use it if I’m willing to make it, same as sweets.
That’s about the end of my constantly rotating items… things I don’t have to think about buying, they are just always on the list
I don’t buy soda or juice unless someone asks for it specifically, but I drink tea like it’s going out of style (AS IF!!!)
I like to plan the next month while we are still actively in the current one. That way there is no rush for ideas, and things can come to me slowly. I also talk to the kids about what they would like to have on the menu next month.
We go out to eat more often than I care to admit, but try to choose restaurants we know have decent food. Our list is pretty slim, after eliminating all fast food (except chick-fil-a), my kids think Panera Bread and Baja Fresh are “fast food joints”. We like Noodles and Company Okay, though after they changed their soda machines to the single spout, we stopped liking them AS much. We are suckers for Pizza, and Pizza Hut and our local favorite pizza joint (Dominick’s) are our “usual” places. Pizza Hut is usually a once a year thing… We try to vary it. Dominick’s usually comes once a MONTH 🙂 It’s just such good pizza, and friends own it, so we have no problem supporting them. Other than that, we plan to go places… Applebees, Red Robin, Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, Outback etc… Those are places we don’t head out of “convenience”, but take our time and enjoy the experience with.
We are desperately trying to limit our eating out to once a week. One out of 21 meals (not including snacks).
We average 50$ when we eat out. Sometimes we can eat out for under 30 (baja fresh), sometimes it’s 100 (outback or macaroni grill). But the average is around 50.
I average about 150$/week on groceries (which includes our weekly milk delivery which at 2 gallons a week plus 1 dozen eggs and 2 lbs of hamburger comes to 27$/week average)
So the total food budget for a 4 week month (how I meal plan) is 800$. 108 of that goes to Kilby Cream, 200 of it is for eating out, and I’m left with 492 to spend on groceries from Wegmans, Trader Joes, Aldi, and BJ’s.
I like to have the ability to buy things I see a good deal on, so I keep an extra 50$/month allowance for these “good deals”. I’m not talking about stocking up on regular priced items, but when you find hams on 75% off, you buy 2 and freeze them.
Feeding a family of 6 on 150$/week is possible, but difficult. We are constantly running out of things, and then come some very creative dinners. I really appreciate the Wegmans app on my phone because I can add everything I need, and come up with a total dollar amount long before I hit the store, let alone the check out and am faced with putting things back on the shelf.
Here’s an example of what our eating out monies would do to our weekly budget:
I’ll use Monday.. Monday morning would change from Oatmeal and Strawberry Smoothie to Oatmeal with almonds and blueberries and Strawberry Banana smoothie. Lunch would go from Chicken Strips and green beans to Chicken skewers with rice.
The “budget” meals are whole, well rounded, and enough to satisfy my picky eaters, and while the options are great, and add variety and fun, they are also “fluff”.
Snack foods might contain macadamia nuts if there were more money in the budget, but my kids are happy with cashews and sunflower seeds!
The other side of being able to eat out of the house means we are not tied to the house 24/7. Packing lunch and snacks for a day out is one thing, but packing a meal for 6 people is harder, and difficult to find portable items that are also healthy and nourishing.
I like being able to meet Stephen after work, on a whim and walk around the home improvement store, knowing that we will just use that day as one of our days to eat out. I much prefer if I have heads up and toss something in the crock pot before I leave and it’s ready when we are, but let’s face it, sometimes life doesn’t give us an extra 45 minutes to wash, prep, and cut stuff to put in the crock pot. Enter the world of eating out 🙂