Do you have any dietary "guidelines" that you use when planning your menus?
We feel that it's important to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. When planning meals we try to make sure that the meal includes vegetables and a protein of some sort, whether its meat or beans. You may have noticed from our photos that we also try to add color to our meals. I very rarely used processed/ prepackaged foods. On occasion we do get "free" item coupons and use these, but they are not the norm.
It never ceases to amaze me when the kids friends dine with us- how many of them are not familiar with "Real" food. (That is, food that does not come from a box!) A couple weeks ago one of the kids friends (age 13) was spending the day and I was cooking cabbage. I asked her if she liked cabbage and she replied that she didn't know, she'd never had it before. This child is 13 years old and has never had cabbage! She absolutely LOVED it and 3 days later her mother called me asking how to cook it.
Do you use coupons?
While we use coupons on occasion, I do not plan our menus around them. I prefer to use Fresh Fruits, vegetables and meats. I am not a big fan of prepackaged foods laden with food colorings, artificial flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. I will NOT buy anything that contains faux sugar- nutrasweet, aspartame, etc. Many of the coupons available are for prepackaged items, although lately they've gotten better at offering healthy choices, such as veggie steamers (which I LOVE!).
This is a touchy subject for many families, as I was growing up, I was ALWAYS offered two choices for every mealtime, Take it or Leave it. I have no problem extending these same choices to my own children AND their friends.
Every person has an item or two that they just don't like and when we prepare the menu we are mindful of that- but I do not now, nor have I EVER made separate meals for picky children (or Adults!!!). I am always floored by parents that are worried their kids won't eat if they aren't presented with chicken nuggets or boxed macaroni and cheese. That's crazy- when they're old enough to have a job and buy their own food, they can be as picky as they like, if they're in my house, they're going eat what they are given or go without. I've tried a lot of strange dishes in my life, including Emu Meat, rattlesnake, Frog Legs, Raccoon, Moose, Bear, alligator jerky, various odd vegetable dishes (pickled okra comes to mind), tofu (by FAR the WORST yet!!) etc.
When the kids were young our rule was that they had to TRY everything they were given. If they didn't like it they didn't have to eat it, but they didn't get a special meal in it's place. According to studies that have been conducted a persons taste preferences change every 7 years.
It's worth it to try new dishes and cooking methods. For example, my spouse absolutely loathed sweet potatoes since birth- but recently when presented with baked sweet potato fries- devoured them and asked for more.
Natalie writes: "We spend a lot of money on drinks & soda pop, I don't see this in your budget. I'm curious as to what your kids say and think about this?"
We very very rarely purchase soda. It's a budget buster, it's full of empty calories, it offers ZERO nutritional value and it contributes to a plethora of health issues including obesity. Generally speaking we make iced tea, lemonade, water, coffee and various drinks such as fruit smoothies. We buy it for occasions such as cook-outs or camping- but the kids are limited to 1 per day.
As to what they think about it, well, for the most part, they don't, until someone points it out and then they shrug it off. There's always something cold and tasty to drink and that's all they care about.
Where do you live that you are able to find these kinds of prices?
In the past 15 years we have lived in 3 different states, over 1,000 miles apart. While each state had it's own ups and downs, we still managed to keep our monthly budget under $250 successfully. It's less important what state you live in and more important that you learn WHERE the best deals are for your own state.
Oftentimes there are deals just a few miles away that you never knew existed. Our biggest shopping challenge was living in the mid-west where the nearest grocery store was an hour and a half away. We learned quickly to purchase in bulk and freeze items. It also became a necessity to keep a small window box in the kitchen for constant fresh lettuce and tomatoes. In the winter months, fruits and vegetables would freeze before we made it home from the store! You have to learn how to adjust to where you live and what is available to you.
If you really feel that you are at your wits end, submit your zipcode and the names of 3 stores within 20 miles of you in the comments below and we'll help with a menu using the weekly sales flyers across the USA.
You might be surprised to learn that a local farmer sells sides of beef for $1.20 per pound, when you purchase in bulk!
Still have questions, please feel free to submit them below!