I have no clue how most families eat. Seriously, with the cost of food, the stretch factor on our time, picky kids, picky spouses, and just ...
My Tips for Feeding the Family
I have no clue how most families eat. Seriously, with the cost of food, the stretch factor on our time, picky kids, picky spouses, and just plain mental capacity reached before 2pm each day, I can't imagine that everyone feels like they are succeeding. I don't succeed every day, but I have a system that works for us most of the time. I spend more than ever before on groceries, but it still isn't as much as many families who have shared their grocery budgets with me. We have been buying local too! So, here are my "rules" and tips for feeding myself and these people that live with me. I'll share some sample menus with you another day.
Rules and Tips
1) Always Menu Plan
You can search sale ads first, check out your options for ordering from the Arkansas Local Food Network, flip through your Pinterest boards, whatever you want. Just make a menu for the week, because for someone as fragmented as me, just buying staples and then throwing something together on a whim requires WAY too much mental energy. That can happen at the end of the week when you are scraping through the last of the budget!
Menu Planning Tips
• Eat less meat! It's expensive, not great for your health or the environment, and did I mention that it's expensive? Save meat for 1-2x a week and use your money saved to buy organic high quality meats and maybe even from a local farmer!
• Go simple but stay excited. Choose a few stand by meals that are satisfying but simple to prepare with just a few ingredients. Then choose one or two adventurous meals that you could save for the weekend when you have more time. If you get too boring though, it will be more tempting to go out.
• Be realistic. If your family currently eats out three times a week, don't plan for every meal in. You will have groceries that go bad then feel like you failed.
• Choose meals that make plenty or can be turned into other meals. Leftovers make great grown up lunches. Chili can become chili cheese burritos or chili dogs or chili Mac (for the kids please!)
• Have fun! Get excited about eating good, healthy food, watch a documentary or a foodie show first, just to keep yourself motivated. Eat to live!
2) Always Make a List
• Decide on at least a loose budget if you have that luxury. I think I'll do another post on meal planning on a tight budget. I used to cut all the corners on groceries because it felt like the only financial area I could control. That was a mistake for my family and I hope that mentality in the US will change. Food should be affordable, but not at the cost of nutrition and health. Food should not just be a commodity.
• Choose a day and time to make your list and menu plan each week. Build it into your schedule so it doesn't seem like such a chore.
• Write your list aisle by aisle to help save time at the store. I divide mine into produce, bread, natural foods, meat, pantry, frozen, dairy, and household extras.
• Keep your list posted along with your meal plan on the fridge or somewhere that you will see it. You can add to it or scratch stuff off if you need to.
• ALWAYS take your meal list and grocery list to the store. That way if something is on sale, you can easily see which meal would be easiest to exchange. Also, the meal list will spark your memory if there is something missing from your grocery list.
• Oh yeah, and follow it! There is bound to be something you add or decide you don't need, but you made it before the chaos of the store and with a plan in mind. It is doing the thinking for you!
3) Peanut Butter and Jelly: There is something in every family that will satisfy everyone in case you are tired, your adventurous meal took a dark turn (oh let me tell you some stories about recipes gone rogue), or your meals didn't stretch as far as you thought...OR that your toddler will eat when they refuse to even try the vegetable minestrone with kale! That something, at my house, is peanut butter and jelly and we will always have those supplies in our house. Find yours and prepare accordingly!
4) Set a Food Goal for Your Family: What do you want to accomplish with what you are eating? Do you want to manage weight, lose weight, gain weight, provide balanced nutrients and vitamin content, eat vegan or vegetarian, clean eating, whole foods only? What's your shtick? I'm not talking about fad diets, but rather the lifestyle choice you are making with your food. This goal will guide your meal plans and grocery shopping. Without a goal, the choices are beyond endless and convenience wins. I have lots of goals and try to manage them together, which is challenging so just start with one!
4) Have Mercy (cue Uncle Jessie)
When you go to Little Ceasars instead of making spinach salad and quinoa croquettes (or in my case, in ADDITION to making that because they turned into rubbery death discs), just enjoy it and don't be too hard on yourself. Find some good crock pot meals for soccer night, OR go through the Sonic Drive Thru and make the kids eat in the van and wipe off your popcorn chicken crumbs when you get to the field. I've heard the advice to look at your eating habits for a three day span and make adjustments from there. Do the best you can when you can and give yourself credit when you just can't.