Monday, January 28, 2008

Another week...another crazy amount of food prep...

How do you keep your food bill down? Do you try? Is this an issue for you?

We're a family of six so naturally we eat more than, say the average family although most of us (Isaac and Amelia I'm looking at you!) eat almost nothing. It's more like an average family of 4 or 5 but whatever.
I'm not a crazy health food lady by any stretch but I try to feed everyone as nutritiously as I can. I try to feed them whole foods and lots of fruit and veggies (Okay so I do have nuggets and fries in my freezer but other than that...)

I drive out to a special grain store to by my freshly ground organic flour (look I'm not insane, it's just not that far from my house.) I try to by local, organic and fresh as much as possible. I'm not independently wealthy, however, so there is a limit to all of this of course.

I'm just finding we are struggling to stay within our food budget every month. Granted we have tons and I mean tons of company ... but I love to bake so I don't buy much prepared stuff. We also don't eat out very often. Have you take 4 + kids out to eat lately? It's expensive and not at all my idea of fun! It costs us almost $30 at Tims or Wendy's and to quote my husband, "it's like paying for the privilege of being in a food fight." I don't think it's quite as bad anymore but we still throw too much away for me to justify the whole thing very often.

I probably feed my brood plus at least 2 or 3 others at least three times a week and I feed 14 (the size of our extended family that lives near us) probably weekly. Plus we have company that comes to stay once a month.

I refuse to stop doing this.

I love that people feel they can come, hang out and stay for a meal. I like feeding people, which if you knew me when I first go married, you would be surprised to hear. I could just barely make toast and ... I'm NOT joking! I see it as a way to create community. It's not fun to prepare everything but it's a blast to have everyone over and get to know people better.

I'd love to hear any tips, websites, recipes that you swear by...leave them in the comments. It will be greatly appreciated. I have a link to an amazing recipe blog on my side bar. Her pot roast is to die for!!! Actually everything I've tried has been great!

Oh and I have one last question. Why when I have a house full of food, do my teen son and nephews think there's "nothing good to eat", if we don't have chips???!!!

22 comments:

Family Adventure said...

Hey. We are in Norway now, so our food budget is blown out of the water. Seriously. We probably spend twice as much on groceries, if not more, than we do in Canada. And that's without eating out at all. In Canada, we used to eat out 2-3 times a week. Norway is insanely expensive.

I'm trying to be more budget oriented here, so I'm A) starting to buy in bulk (I am not a bulk buying fan, usually), and B) starting to making big portions and freezing half for a future meal.

Those are my tricks to keeping the food bill down. They are not glamorous, but they seem to work. Somewhat.

I also refuse to give up the social aspect of dining with family and friends - it is worth the price, in my mind :)

When it comes to the older kids, I find they are happy with muffins and baked good, too. Have you tried that as a snack instead of chips?

Heidi

shay said...

Heidi -
Really?! it's that much more eh?! I guess I should not complain.
I am now deep into bulk buying and I'm going to try your second idea although I'm not a big fan of The Reheated Meal.
Oh and I always have cookies and muffins. It's a teen boy thing I'm sure lol.

InTheFastLane said...

I started buying organic milk, that is twice the cost of regular milk, but since my boys need full fat milk, this was worth it to me.

But, I cannot believe how much food we go through and how much stuff I end up throwing away. It drives me crazy how many bags of chips my husband lets go stale. I have no answers for you. I bake a lot for company too, that helps, but it is still an expense.

LoriD said...

I'm actually pretty good at keeping the grocery bill pretty low. We're at about $80 a week or less, but we don't do as much entertaining as you do.

If you're already doing the home baking, I guess the only thing I can suggest is more meatless meals. You can make delicious risottos, quiches, soups, chilis and bean/legume-based meals that are great for a crowd, but a little easier on the budget.

Lori said...

Interesting to hear from Heidi above. I think that in general most Americans don't realize how much less expensive our groceries are than most European countries. Not to mention our ridiculous levels of abundance and quantity. When good friends of ours were living in Paris they would tell me about how they had to go to three different markets to get everything on their list, and that the stores would often be sold out of many basic items. Not that that changes the difficulty of trying to stay within a budget! It's just interesting to compare.

I think it is wonderful you do so much entertaining of family and friends in your home. You clearly have the gift of hospitality and you shouldn't hide that under a bushel (so to speak). I keep thinking I am going to do more entertaining, but so far I keep finding reasons to stick to our reclusive ways. We used to entertain so much more before we lost our twins and then grief became our constant visitor, and then we just sort of fell out of the habit. You inspire me to try and find that part of myself again.

I wish I had some great ideas for you. Have you thought of asking friends and family to contribute to your gatherings? I know that most people are happy to be asked to bring something and makes them feel that much more a part of the gathering.

And I hear you on the boys-and-eating thing. Although my son tends to want to find full, complete meals in the fridge. Things like, chicken wings, chili etc... along with a soda. He is usually disappointed. Poor boy. :)

shay said...

I haven't tried organic milk yet. I keep wondering if it's worth the extra $$. We do buy Organic soy milk though...

LoriD - Meatless meals are some of my favs, NOT a big hit with the meat and potatoes crowd over here at my house...

Lori- I can only imagine the pain of loosing not one but two precious children. I'm sure no one expects you to have them over. they should be having you over:)
Are you sure we don't share the same son? Mine is alway looking for "real food" (read: meat and more meat) to go with the chips and soda (which I never buy and he never ceases to look for!) ...
I hear they only eat more from hear on in!

Jess said...

Honestly I do not have a whole lot of suggestions. My biggest complaint about WW is that it would be very difficult to do without an ample grocery budget. But I agree with the above posters about buying in bulk (assuming you have enough storage space). And also cooking more of a certain thing and freezing some of it so you've paid for two meals with one budget. And also teaching your kids to like inexpensive snacks!

Chey said...

I don't have a budget for groceries. Well you've seen my grocery post on my blog I am sure. We are a family of 4 and 2 of those are under 5 years old and we're still clear over the $700 a month mark for groceries.

I too enjoy baking and I cook a full dinner pretty much every night. Plus Hubbs takes a lunch to work daily and we don't eat out much.

I also buy nutritious whenever possible, we drink organic or soy milk which gets spendy, and I buy organic eggs, again, spendy. It seems that no matter how I try, the food bill still climbs through the roof, so I stopped trying, and I stopped trying to justify it to Hubbs. Instead I let him do the shopping for a month. That shut him up good.

I am afraid to see the food bill as the kids grow. I totally agree with having company, I love summer when we have a revolving door. I remember last year we replaced the roof on our house and ended up having an impromptu work bee at the house and ended up with 35 family members over unexpectedly. It was fabulous and I managed to cook an awesome meal of Halibut, marinated mixed veggies and multiple salads and 2 separate desserts for all. It was the best night ever.

Tracey said...

Heh... yeah. There's nothing to eat in my house either, strangely enough.... even though the pantry is overflowing. Funny how that works...

Don Mills Diva said...

Buying in bulk is probably my best suggestion and you're already doing it. I find the crock pot great because you can put in very very cheap cuts of meat and they come out really nice...

Amy said...

oh i wish i had some advice but this is something i am trying to work on myself. i am always feeding extra mouths though they are little ones!

next to my mortgage this has to be my second largest expense. i won't even say what i spend per week - it's scarey!!!

we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and they are just plain expensive.

i'll check back in for some tips. maybe lorid could share some of her tips. i wish i could only spend $80 per week. that would be awesome.

LoriD said...

Hey Shay I had the same blog entry a while back (I couldn't believe what I was spending on groceries)! A couple of things that I changed. I filled my freezer with meat from a butcher (beef and pork) (I would still like to find a good chicken place though). But what I found is I saved money from having to go to the grocery store more often and I bought way less at the grocery store, just the basics I call them now (Dairy, Fruit and Veggies, Pantry (which includes pasta, potatoes or rice). I have also found havig a bowl full of fruit on the table (or island) cut down on the snacking in the fridge and snack cupboard (yes I have a cupboard just for snacks).

Also POPCORN, even hubby was asking for chips all the time and I got this awesome stove top popper that makes wonderful popcorn and if the kids are feeling tired of the regular popcorn we add "seasonings" on it (ranch etc) which is like chips to them. Also we have a soup and sandwich night once a week, and a fend for yourself night (don't call it leftovers). I put everything out and they pick and choose what they want. Homemade pizza is another hit on friday nights I get everyone to make their own so they have the toppings they want. And Noah's favorite snack is crackers with his own toppigs, sometimes grandma's jam, sometimes cheese, anything he does himself (this cut down on the requests for dunkaroos and fruit snacks that I hated to buy. Groceries are still expensive though (I don't think people even realize how they go up, they just know that there bill does). I do "analyze" my bill when I get home and make a note of anything I could change for the next time. Thanks for the great topic, I'm always on the lookout for ways to save money on groceries!

shay said...

Notice how I didn’t say what we spend every week either?! It’s certainly not $80 (it's at least twice that, maybe 3 times) let me tell you!

I am a bit embarrassed to say I actually don't even really know. That's probably my first problem. I just know it's a lot and that we get to the end of the food budget before we hit the end of the month more often than not.

It seems like the biggest tip is to buy in bulk. We are in the process of re-doing our kitchen and with that will come a better functioning fridge/freezer. We've decided to go with the full side-by-side. I hope that solves some of my storage problems.

Popcorn!! What a great idea. You rock Lori!

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Well you know us, and I have no recommendations. I do have to say that your cooking over the years has gotten so good! And your hospitality has always been amazing, you taught me so much. That having company means spending time with people and enjoying them, not worrying about serving a perfect, 5 course meal.

Hunny Bee May said...

We have the same struggle. I use coupons, though I don't really watch sales that much since I go to an cheap, independent store that doesn't really do sales (everyday's a sale, so they say). I but generic of just about everything possible, unless I really happen to like a particular brand of something. I love Walmart brand diapers, for example, but Pampers wipes do the best job. I don't do home baking, but I can buy five loaves of frozen bread dough for 3.50, so I do that since I'm always at home anyway. I make my own laundry detergent for about $.03/load as well as all my household cleaners. Vinegar works well as a fabric softener.
I wish I could get into baking more. I admire that. I just haven't done it though.
Good luck!

LoriD said...

Hey Shay - I did write about my $80 a week bill here. With your meat eaters, you probably need a bigger budget than mine, but you might find a few tips!

Hunny Bee May said...

Oh, I just read that you can freeze milk. It's perfectly fine. I wish I had a bigger freezer. Aparently, it'll take on a yellowsih hue when frozen, but goes back to normal once you defrost it. Should be used w/in 3 mos. Just thought I'd share.

Amanda Marie said...

I have tried in the past to cut down on grocery spending and have ended up miserable, with even more miserable kids. I have just accepted that we like to eat well and that eating well costs money. I buy organics as much as possible and I enjoy good cuts of meat and seafood. We do a fair amount of entertaining too, a few nights a week we usually have someone who stays for dinner or we do an appy/hockey night with D's buddies.

We spend in the neighborhood of $1200 a month on groceries (almost twice as much as our mortgage) and have somehow learned to just not sweat it. The only "smart shopping" I do is with my Save On More points. I do the Sky High shop every month and I buy lots of bonus point stuff. In just under 2 years, we saved enough points for a trip for 4 to Mexico. Then Save On had a huge blowout on their iPods for points and I redeemed all my points and got 26 of them, because really when are we going to find someone to watch 3 kids so we can go to Mexico? We made just over $3,000 on them. Yeeehaaaw.

Sniz said...

Hey Shay, try www.monica-shineagain.blogspot.com.

She's a personal friend of mine from our homeschool group who has 7 kids and is really budget conscious of their food. She has a blog just for recipes that breaks meals down to a cost per meal for nine people. I can't remember the name of that blog right now but you can get to it from her main blog. Anyway, check Monica out. She's awesome.

Pregnantly Plump said...

We are huge bargain shoppers, especially now that I'm staying at home. We use coupons, which I faithfully clip every weekend and organize in three different coupon folders (I know - one for baby, one for individual stores, and one for all the items.) Two of our grocery stores double coupons, so I try to use the $.50 or less coupons at them. Those stores are very close to each other, so I use the fliers to see which deals are where and then we go to both in the same trip. We also bring our own bags -- the Giant Foods grocery store gives you $.03 cents for each reusable bag that you bring.
I couldn't tell if coupons were as popular in Canada as they are in the U.S. If they are, then I recommend signing up for couponmom.com. They send you an email each week listing the deals at lots of stores and even tell you which coupons should be used at which stores.
Hope these help! (Although I'm kind of worried that they won't!)

Monica said...

Hey, thanks for coming by. I certainly know what you are talking about here. It is a challenge to cook for so many so often. But I'm always up for a challenge:)

I just started my recipe blog so there is so much more to come.

My grocery/household budget it $400/mo. That is my challenge for 2008. It's going to be interesting. I documenting my progress on my main blog and I would love any suggestions/tips you may have.

I'll be back to read more.

Badness Jones said...

Heh....our grocery bill is a cause of frequent marital strife....though continued nursing of the boy is helping to keep it down for now...not sure how much longer I want to keep it up though...

Hubs buys generic products and shops at the 'cheap' grocery store, but he always eats the food I make and what I buy at the 'good' grocery store first. I try to buy in season, look for sales on meat, spend what I have to for dairy and produce, and buy canned and boxed goods at the cheap store. And I'm starting to buy in bulk, but our kitchen is severely limited in storage. Great post, but now I'm going to have to spend an hour reading everyone's links!!!