Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life at the Custer House

I really got people stirred up the last two days when I posted two questions on Facebook: 1. Where is the cheapest milk, and 2. How can I stay in my $350/month food budget?  The responses on the milk question were very educational, but the responses on the budget question surprised me!  Apparently, I am already spending quite a bit less on groceries than the average family.  Several people questioned how staying in that budget was even possible!  I thought I would take a moment to explain our family dynamics as they relate to meal planning.

We are a family of six, but since we are a blended family I don't feed all of us all of the time.  The kids are with us half a week and every other weekend, so I fix meals for six approximately fifteen days and meals for two the other fifteen days of the month.  My kids range in age from (almost) eleven to sixteen and they all eat like adults.  They are never allowed to just browse the pantry for food.  For both budget and health reasons, I monitor all food choices.

My family is unique in several other ways.  We raise some of our own meat and hunt for the rest.  We rarely buy meat with the exception of lunch meat and occasional hot dogs or brats.  My husband and all four children hunt and, along with some venison that is given to us, we put up nine to twelve deer each year.  We also raise chickens, rabbits, turkeys, and quail for meat.  (We do not currently have turkey or quail, but we have in the past.). My husband processes all of our meat in our kitchen so there is very little cost.  We have three additional freezers to hold all of that meat.  We will also have pork this year since we are raising pigs at a friends house!  (Can't wait for the bacon!)

We do have a garden, and though we are not experts at gardening, we have had some success at growing and preserving some fruits and vegetables.  This year I have made lots of pickles and sweet relish, frozen grated zucchini, and frozen chopped green peppers.  I am really hoping to make and can spaghetti sauce, but I will have to rely on other people to give me the tomatoes because ours have not done well.

My mother-in-law helps out as well.  We don't see her often, but when we do she supplies me with some basic things like toilet paper and paper towels, brownie mix, chocolate chips. cereal, peanut butter, and whatever else she has collected while coupon shopping.  She usually brings me a van load of stuff a couple of times a year.

My family does not use a lot of processed or snack foods unless they are given to us.  I do buy chips for lunches since my kids pack each day.  I either get the individual bags or they measure out a serving size with the food scale.  I also buy granola bars and pudding for easy snacks.  They usually make a sandwich and pack a fruit or vegetable as well.  My kids have been packing their own lunches since the youngest was in kindergarten, but we supervise the packing.

Breakfast in our house is typically eggs (since we have fresh eggs) or oatmeal.  I buy the whole oats and they mix stuff in with it.  Cereal is usually only available after Grandma visits, though I have bought some recently.  Sometimes one of the kids will make pancakes and we freeze the extras for quick breakfasts.

Suppers are mainly planned around the meats I have in the freezer.  I make a lot of casseroles and use my crockpots frequently!  We eat salads often (sometimes with fresh lettuce from the garden) and I use my bread maker to make bread.  We keep it simple but there is always plenty - my kids have big appetites!  The hardest part has become working around their sports schedules!  I am searching for some meals to go ideas!

I don't buy organic foods.  I usually buy store brands.  I don't clip coupons, and I don't shop sales.  I stick to basics and make what I can from scratch.  A large part of my food budget goes to staple items: bread, milk, cheese, flour, sugar, etc.  I do include non-food items in my food budget as well, and I really have to stretch!  The one thing that is not included is animal feed.  We have a separate budget to feed the dogs, cats, goats, chickens, rabbits, etc.

I think my major goal is to do better planning.  Since there is NO additional money in the budget right now, I will need to start researching sales and using some coupons.  My $350 will need to stretch to cover my month even though food prices are going up!  If I use my resources wisely, I think it can be done.  Hey, it might even be a fun challenge!

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:27

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