Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Feeding a Family of 8 1/2 People

People often ask me how I feed a large family on a relatively small budget.  Food is expensive.  There is no way around it.  When you go through 7 or 8 gallons of milk a week, its going to add up.  But there are definitely ways to cut the costs.

I've taken pictures of a month worth of meals I prepared.  These aren't special or fancy for this post.  This is just a typical representation of the types of meals I make - most of them are very inexpensive.  I serve dessert with most meals, but didn't take pictures of them.  Often they are homemade cakes, cookies, bars, pudding, cobblers etc. Sometimes I serve ice cream or Popsicle.  Sometimes it is just a couple of marshmallows, but we all tend to like something sweet after a meal.

Full disclosure - These were from about a month ago before my morning sickness really took its toll.  And, we had several classroom dinners during this time, so those potluck meals aren't included.  I also did not include meals where we ate at friends' homes.  These are just the meals that we prepared at home.

I'd love to hear about or see what your family typically eats!

Roasted beets, cooked beet greens, corn on the cob, black beans with diced tomatoes and peppers and a dollop of sour cream.

Buffalo wing turkey melts, cole slaw, homemade pickles.

Taco salad.  (I like my chips separate from the actual salad)

Grilled chicken and broccoli

Spaghetti squash topped with a mixture of pork sausage, beans, and peppers with feta cheese on top.

Farmer's Market tomatoes and fresh beans.  Leftover diced bbq chicken over Basmati rice.

Rice and Cheese served with applesauce.  This was a childhood favorite.  You boil some tomato juice.  Slice in some hot dogs.  Add rice and boil till rice is cooked.  Then add chunks of cheese, covering the pot till the cheese chunks melt.  This is always served with applesauce.

Homemade pizza made with homemade dough and homemade sauce.  We like turkey pepperoni best.

Spaghetti with a tomato sauce.  We diced yellow squash into the sauce. 

Cold pasta salad.  Great make-ahead meals for a busy day.

Homemade meatballs, roasted red potatoes, garlic bread, peas.

Splurged and ordered pizza for my birthday. 

Beans with sauteed zucchini, tomatoes and onions

lentils with tomatoes and carrots served over Basmati rice.  Corn

Cold tuna noodle casserole

Quinoa with black beans, tomatoes and corn.  Melted mozzarella on top.  

Grilled caprese sandwiches.  Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.  Yum!

Corn on the cob, cheeseburger, and watermelon

Turkey, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, peas.

Grits, fried eggs and tomatoes.

Tuna melts on leftover hamburger buns, watermelon.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cucumber slices.

Kielbasa, cabbage and sour kraut hotdish.  Served with homemade biscuits.  This actually tasted much better than it looks here. 

Frozen pizza.  See how adding the banana gives the appearance of a well-balanced meal?

Salad.  Crock pot chicken and potato recipe.

Chili and bread.  I'm from Wisconsin, so of course the chili has noodles.

Pasta with a vegetable/tomato sauce topped with feta cheese.  Served with bread.

Disappointing new recipe.  Pineapple and kielbasa - bad combo.  Served with peas.

Pork chop, home fries, salad.

Pasta salad.

Looks like a Manwich, doesn't it?  It is actually a "Beanwich"  Made like a sloppy joe only with beans instead of meat.  Served with sweet potatoes and salad.

Here are some of my big tips on feeding a family inexpensively.

1.  Don't go out to eat.  Seriously, our family goes out to eat only a few times a year.  It is a big treat.  I go out once a month with some mom friends, and Ben might go out for lunch once a month, but otherwise we rarely go out to eat.  For a "date" I'll occasionally take one child out for lunch (usually when we have a coupon for the child to eat free).  And we splurge on getting ice cream now and again.  Otherwise, breakfast, lunch and supper are all prepared at home.  Ben and the kids all take lunches to school.  We save HUGE money by preparing our own food.

2.  Buy what's in season.  Self explanatory.  Whatever is in season is likely to be inexpensive and taste great.

3.  Cut down on meat.  Many of our meals are meatless.  The ones with meat still often have bits of meat diced up rather than a huge slab of meat.  There are other healthier, cheaper ways to get enough protein.

4.  Know where to shop.  Most of my shopping is done at Cub Foods for convenience.  But we also like going to the Asian food store for vegetables, rice, and other misc. items.  We shop at Mike's Discount Foods, the farmer's market, and Aldi's. 

5.  Plan your menus around what is on sale.  Don't buy beef if chicken is $1 a pound.  Don't buy oranges when apples are cheaper. 

6.  Buy in bulk.  This might not work for every family, but we earned our large family credentials when we bought our first 20# bag of rice.

7.  What you see is what you get.  I refuse to make separate meals for picky eaters.  I hear many parents say they can't make the kind of food that I make because their family won't like it.  I don't believe that.  If they are hungry, they will eat.  I make the food.  They can choose to eat it or not.  And with rare exception, all my kids eat all the different kinds of food I make.    

8.  Dried beans are your best cheap food friend.  I cook a couple of bags in my crock pot and then freeze them in meal size portions.  They thaw in a jiffy, have no sodium (unlike the canned) and are way cheaper than canned beans.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stupid Insurance

Are you kidding me?  Stupid insurance decides that the medicine that has been keeping me from puking 7 or 8 times a day is not a necessity.  Stupid insurance thought I will be fine with 15 pills total for the next 2 months.   My doctor prescribed 3x daily.

I went through a bunch of paperwork with my doctor, having her sign some form that says, it actually is really, really important. Clearly her prescription meant that only maybe I should have it?

After reviewing the paperwork, insurance has decided that I am entitled to 12 pills every 15 days.  The only way they will pony up the money to cover the medicine as prescribed is if I am hospitalized with dehydration.  Apparently preventing dehydration is lower on the priority list.  

This leaves me paying out of pocket over $5 a pill (generic), even though we already maxed out insurance on a couple of surgeries for the kids this year.

I want to throw up in a manila envelope, send it to the insurance, and tell them THAT is why I NEED the pills.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Goodbye Fat Pants

Time to pack away the fat clothes and dig out the maternity clothes.  Yes, I am only 11 weeks along.  But doggone it, after popping out four kids previously (3 of them by C-section), my stomach started pouching out as soon as I peed on the stick confirming this pregnancy.

No, it doesn't help that my favorite pregnancy book tells me that I "Might be thinking about looking at pregnancy clothes, but shouldn't need them yet."  Stupid book.  Written by a man. 

Before I actually needed to make the switch to elastic waist pants (which are so comfy) I headed out to buy a few new items.  Remember folks, most of my maternity wardrobe was purchased 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest.  Think back to what you were wearing 12 years ago.  Care to make that your exclusive wardrobe again? 

Fortunately, my go-to cold weather look is a short sleeve shirt and cardigan.  Since I own enough cardigans to warrant my husband nicknaming me "Mrs. Rogers" after the beloved TV icon of our childhood, all I really needed were a few short sleeve shirts to go underneath them.  And I should pick up at least one more pair of pants - no matter how great the elastic is to start, asking maternity pants to make a fifth tour of duty is just too much.

So several weeks ago I went to the mall to get a few clearance summer shirts - basic pieces that will layer easily under my beloved button down sweaters.  Unfortunately, at Motherhood (carrier of overpriced but cute-ish maternity clothes) the sales lady always asks your due date when you check out.  They enter it into some privacy intruding database that results in you getting on mailing lists to get free samples and coupons for baby stuff. 

I had forgotten about them asking.  And I was so embarrassed as the sales lady -with her very flat stomach - was staring at my too-soon-to-be-showing belly.  

Confession is good for the soul, so I'll admit it.  I lied.  I said I was do almost 2 months before I actually am. 

Shame on me. 

If I wasn't feeling nauseous, I'd be indulging in a guilt-induced bowl of ice cream right about now.

No, my belly isn't this big...yet.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lucky #7

I changed my mind.

I know I said I was done with pregnancies.  I really meant it at the time.  But I changed my mind.  And now, we're expecting another little one in May.

And I am thrilled.  At least when I am not puking, getting ready to puke, or trying to avoid puking.  Fortunately, thanks the the genius pharmaceutical industry, I have a good few hours every day where the urge to vomit is lessened.  (Thanks generic Zofran).

Many of you readers have children.  You have experienced the joy of telling people about an expected blessing and having people squeal with delight and hug you.  They offered hearty congratulations and you felt surrounded by love.

Things can be different when you tell people you are expecting your seventh child.

We had our share of squealers and huggers. My heart is filled with joy over the excitement some people have shown to us.

But once you get past three or four kids, you can also expect some responses like these.

1.  Another one?
2.  Really?  Why?
3.  I would never want that many.
4.  Oh.  (followed by a full body shudder)
5.  Was it an accident?
6.  Don't you already have enough kids?
7.  And the always uncomfortable - Don't you know what causes that?

Yes, people we love and care about have had these responses.  I don't believe they  meant to be rude or unkind, but they just didn't quite know what to say.   Let me share the proper response instead.

"Wow!  Congratulations!"

That's it.  Not too hard to remember.  Although I have gotten a couple of funny, but still acceptable responses:

1.  Hooray!  Now you can get that big van you've been wanting.  (hopefully we'll find a good used one)
2.  Oh, now we're going to have to have another kid to pass you up.  (from a father of 7 kids)

Because while most people don't choose to have quite as many kids as us, you can still remember that each child is a blessing to the family.  My seventh child is as eagerly awaited, prayed over, and loved as my first was.

Here's to several more months of nausea, bloating, heartburn, aches, pains, and exhaustion - leading up to another miracle from God.