The Quest for Healthy Family Meals on a Budget

I want to feed my family real food that is healthy and wholesome. There certainty is no shortage of cookbooks available to us. A person could spend a lifetime browsing the cookbook section of the local bookstore. I can imagine myself leaving the bookstore looking a little bit like Rip Van Winkle- having lost a lot of time.

We also have no shortage of dietary advice. Most of it is conflicting, especially if you give it a little time (not even enough to grow a white beard.)  There is a low-something-or-other diet for just about anything.  If you add food allergies and dietary restrictions to the mix things get even more complicated. It makes meal planning difficult, because it seems there is nothing left that’s fit for human consumption.

With a larger family and a tight food budget, cooking from scratch allows me to eliminate both unhealthy ingredients and expense I’d rather avoid . I could probably feed our family for less, but not while reading labels. I try to stick to less refined grains and sweeteners and try to choose healthier fats.  I try to avoid things like high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, dyes, and hydrogenated oils.

My search for recipes turns up many that either use real whole foods or aim to lower fat and/or sugar, but few that do both.  I have had to learn to modify recipes and make substitutions. We have all had to learn to adjust our tastes.

I use whole grain flour, mostly whole wheat. I buy two kinds by the 25 pound sack. These are Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour which comes from hard red wheat and Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour which comes from soft white wheat. These fit perfectly in a 5-gallon food safe bucket. A Gama Lid makes repeated opening and closing easy, especially for kids. We use the hard red wheat any time we use yeast and the soft white wheat any time we use baking powder or baking soda.

I also buy large sacks of old-fashioned rolled oats, brown rice, lentils, and beans. Other things I buy in large sizes are olive and coconut oils. The price per pound is much lower and laying in a good supply ensures we’ll have plenty of food on hand through lean times. I have burned through an extended pantry several times.

Fresh produce and quality protein are the hardest on the budget. By saving on the dry staples, I can spend more here.

Another thing that strains the grocery budget is packable food for eating on the go. When cycling or hiking we need energy to fuel the adventure that is light weight and travels well. I find some good deals at a dent can sort of discount store, but my goal is to be better about making these meals at home ahead of time.

Meal planning definitely saves us on the food budget, as well. It can be hard to stick to the plan when we get busy, though. When we find ourselves and our time stretched, why is it that we drop the very things that actually make life more simple?

Winter weather has brought us inside more. This seems to bring with it a shift away from being thoughtful about the food we eat.  Follow us for recipe posts as we try to get back into a better routine.

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