Well, as you may know, I am a mom to 9. I still have 6 at home so there are plenty of mouths to feed. So how do you feed 6 kids without going broke? Is it possible to do it healthy and cheap?
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Well, I will say that I definitely try to keep it healthy and cheap. We don’t always eat organic and sometimes we do eat more processed foods than I care to admit. We try to grow a small garden as the seasons allow. Our freezers have many bags of berries, fruits and other vegetables that we have grown (and/or found at a reasonable price) as well as fish that we catch on our outings.
I shop the sales at our local grocery stores and try to plan my meals around them as much as possible. I also coupon, not extreme couponing, but I really need to focus on it a little bit more. One of the biggest, most helpful things I do is meal planning.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. We are rushing around during the day, cleaning up messes, running errands, and doing whatever needs doing only to find ourselves exhausted. Then we realize that it is almost dinner time and we have no idea what to make. So you have a few options when this happens:
- First, you can give them all a PB & J or a bowl of cereal.
- Second, you could order takeout and then drive to get it and drive back home, wasting time, energy and money.
- Third, you can go out to eat and spend way more money than you would have if you had eaten at home.
If you had your meal plan ready then you would’ve been able to check it in the morning. You would have seen that you needed to set out some ingredients for spaghetti and been able to plan accordingly. It also helps when you have a plan in hand at the grocery store. It can keep you from making as many ‘impulse buys’ and help to keep you on budget.
I know that meal planning can be time-consuming to start with. It can seem overwhelming at first but don’t let that stop you from trying. Just sit down with a piece of paper and write down ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’, and ‘Dinner’. Now just list a few of your family’s favorite meals down under each heading. That wasn’t too bad, was it?
Find a way to organize it
Now you just need to take it one week or one day at a time. I use my Cozi Calendar to set up our meal plans. You can use a notebook, a wall calendar, or almost any online calendar that has the ability to create recurring events. (I touched on this a little in this Instagram post here.)
Here is an example of my current Cozi calendar set up:
So, as you can see for Breakfast we have a fairly consistent routine:
Mondays: Cereal or Oatmeal
Wednesdays: Muffins (sometimes we have English muffins or bagels, if I find them on sale)
Thursdays: Pancakes (sometimes I will mix in some blueberries or chocolate chips)
Fridays: Cereal or Oatmeal
Please remember that this menu is what works for my family. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ and I know that it will not work for everyone. Feel free to use this as a guide and change around whatever you need to change to make it work for your family. If your family likes oatmeal more than make oatmeal a regular thing on your menu. However, if they really don’t like scrambled eggs then you probably wouldn’t want to add that as a regular meal.
(If you want to use paper or index cards simply write each meal on a separate page or card. You can organize them by day of the week or number them 1-31, however, you want to do it to make it easier for yourself.)
Then we move to lunches. Many days we will eat leftovers for our lunch. Some days I am really efficient and I am able to put together lunch boxes for the kids. (Or we will assemble them the night as we clean up after dinner.)
For the days when I’m not so efficient and my brain is in the ‘What is there to eat? fog’ then I have rotating meals on my calendar to use as suggestions. These are usually quick and easy meals like PB & J, scrambled egg sandwiches, chicken salad, and on occasion we have hot dogs too.
Now to dinners, which for me are a bit more complicated. Again, you will need to go back to your list that you made of what your family likes to eat. Make sure to include your side dishes as well. My family really likes my homemade spaghetti with a salad and sometimes homemade garlic bread, so we have it every month. Sometimes they really like a certain meal but it may be a little expensive so I may set it to recur every 3-4 months. Then for meals for holidays, like Thanksgiving, I set it to recur once a year.
I try to keep a supply of freezer meals on hand as well for those really busy days when I just can’t seem to find enough time to fit everything we need to do in just 24 hours.
I also have snack suggestions on my calendar because sometimes my brain just goes into a fog and when snack times roll around I just can’t think of what to fix. I don’t keep a lot of prepackaged snacks so most of them are homemade and this helps me remember to make them ahead of time too.
Remember, if you don’t have an online calendar you can do this in a notebook. You don’t have to plan out the whole month at a time, or even a whole week, just start with tomorrow. Once you have a week planned out and written down then you can save it and put it to the back of your notebook and use it to rotate with other menu plans you will be making.
Or if you are using an index card system just move the menu to the back of the file and rotate it the same way. I used this method when I first started planning out my meals. You can also try googling ‘meal planning‘ or search on Pinterest for other ideas.
I hope I didn’t overwhelm you and I will make additional posts to go into more details about how we feed an army here.