Welcome!  
I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Top Tips for Whole Foods Living for the Large Family

Top Tips for Whole Foods Living for the Large Family-tips and tricks to make it more affordable on one income.

This is the story of my food evolution...my motion from fast-and-easy to slow-and-nutritious. To tell you the truth, it's been a gradual progression. But, a steady one. 

At one time, in the not-so-distant past, I was an extreme couponer. You know the type...the kind that would hoard an obscene number of barbecue sauce bottles in her basement like an apocalyptic prepper...the kind that would buy not one, but twelve subscriptions to the newspaper in hopes of clippin' twelve times the amount of savings...the kind that could walk out of the grocery store with a receipt total in the negative numbers. 

Yep. I was THAT girl.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

It was a status that I stepped into from necessity. I had a larger-than-average family and a smaller-than-average grocery budget. Over the course of a few years, I poured myself into making every penny stretch through extreme couponing. Eventually, I was asked to teach money-saving-grocery tip-classes here in Mayberry and in surrounding communities. I got paid to teach other women how to get groceries for free or better-than-free.

Sadly, I had no idea how much this FREE food was costing my family. My son and I began to show some signs of a few minor health issues. It soon became apparent that the open-a-package-and-stick-a-fork-in-it way of meal prep that is the hallmark of extreme couponing came at too high a price for our bodies. 

I needed to make some changes. And so I did.

But, while my attitude towards slow food was quickly altering, my grocery budget was not. I knew that if I was going to make a complete 180 in the kitchen, I had to somehow apply my couponing principles to WHOLE and REAL foods.

Overtime, I found several ways to make my teeny-tiny grocery budget align with my 80/20 food mantra. Today, I'd like to share just a few of them with you.


Top Tips for Whole Foods Living for the Large Family-tips and tricks to make it more affordable on one income.

Create a revolving plan

A whole-foods, slow-foods plan is more than just a grocery list. It's more than just a menu. It's a system that melds efficient and budget-friendly with spontaneous and mouth-watering. A kitchen without a plan is a kitchen with waste. Wasted time. Wasted money. Wasted food. None of which a busy momma can afford to lose. I've already written a whole bunch of meal-planning tips for the busy momma, so I won't reinvent that wheel. You can find those all here>>>

Make a price comparison list

Create a master list of all the whole foods you wish to buy and begin keeping a simple spread sheet of their prices from various vendors and shops you frequent. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. My list is just hand-written in an old spiral notebook. In knowing which store has the best price on the things you buy most, you will be able to spot a good sale price at a glance and be able to shop infrequently, but with purpose. 

Top Tips for Whole Foods Living for the Large Family-tips and tricks to make it more affordable on one income.

Real life example

My price book lists "organic rolled oats". Since I know the price-per-ounce of organic rolled oats at my local grocer, the food co-op, a few co-ops in a nearby large city, and an on-line co-op, I know to ONLY buy rolled oats from one of the co-ops in the big city unless one of the other vendors is having a sale that matches or beats that price. When I need it, I add it to my BIG CITY CO-OP list. Since I don't frequent that store very often, I purchase rolled oats (along with a couple of other things) in bulk a couple of times each year...saving not only money, but also time. 

Top Tips for Whole Foods Living for the Large Family-tips and tricks to make it more affordable on one income.

Buy straight from a farmer

While I'm a huge fan of our local farmer's market with its homespun and homegrown vibe, I'm not always keen on their prices. $9 for an apple, you say?! No thanks. Moving on...

I still buy quite a bit of our food from local farmers, however. I tend to bypass the farmstand market, which sometimes has a middle-man overhead, and order products directly from a farm instead. Sometimes this requires me to do some of the harvesting myself. But most of the time, it does not. 

Real life example


Every year, the family and I pick strawberries at a local patch. We save many to eat or freeze for later and make the rest into strawberry jam


Don't overlook hobby farmers or expert gardeners. I've gotten free-range chickens, veggies, raw honey, and even half a cow from folks who raise or grow things for hobby but who overestimate their family's need. Hobby farmers and gardeners are more than willing to sell their extras at a great price...you just have to be bold enough to ask them! ($5 for an entire grocery bag of fresh, organic green beans?! Sure, sign me up!)


Sign up for a CSA

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a whole-food momma's best friend! To be honest, I haven't been a part of one for very long, but in that short time, I've become a BELIEVER! A CSA is basically like a crop share. You sign up at the beginning of the summer, pay for a "share" in advance, and reap a weekly harvest of fruits, veggies, meat, and poultry products all season long. 

Please be aware that not all CSAs are created equal. Some are run by a single, large farm while others operate as a co-op of multiple farms. Some allow you to choose which items you receive each week. Most, however, just divide the week's harvest equally amongst its share holders. 

Due to the sometimes unpredictable nature of farming, some weeks will be FEAST and others will be FAMINE. But, it usually equals out in the end. So far, I've been nothing but impressed with our local CSA. For a small share which averages about $17.50 a week, I get a box of fresh-from-the-farm delivered to a nearby church parking lot. All I have to do is drive the three blocks to pick it up. The offerings are never enough to can or freeze. But, are always more than enough for a week's worth of whole-foods meals.

Real life example

Here's a peek into one of my boxes which contained 6 ears of corn, 2 tomatoes, 2 onions, 2 cucumbers, 1 zucchini, 1 summer squash, 1 cauliflower, 1 green bell pepper, and a bag of green beans. No meat in this particular round. But, plenty of other good things. 

Top Tips for Whole Foods Living for the large family

Buy fruits and veggies in season or buy frozen

If you, like me, have a black thumb or a small yard and can't seem to grow enough to sustain your entire year's worth of need, buy fruits and veggies in large quantities when they are at their cheapest seasonal prices. Enjoy a portion of what you have bought and preserve or freeze the rest.

When you come to the end of your preserved supply, resist the urge to buy "fresh". Most produce that is sold out-of-season has been picked too early rendering it nutritionally anemic OR has been genetically modified to grow in extreme conditions...both of which negate the very reasons you want to eat WHOLE in the first place. So, instead of looks-like-fresh-but-really-isn't, opt for frozen. Produce that has been frozen commercially has usually been picked, flash frozen, and packaged during its prime time. And besides, have you seen the price of grapes in the winter?! You'd have to take out a small line of credit just to be able to afford a "fresh" bag.


Order through a food co-op, here or there

Most communities have local food co-ops that sell whole foods from local vendors. You can frequent them in the same way you would your local traditional grocer (on a shop-and-pay basis) OR you can purchase an annual membership in order to receive weekly discounts or payback programs.

While my first preference is to always buy local in order to support the hard-working folks around my own community, I also have to be mindful of my budget. So, when LOCAL is not an option, I purchase bulk items online from Azure Standard, a leading national food co-op that delivers to drop locations all across the country. In truth, ordering from Azure can be a bit putzy since you are at the mercy of a delivery truck who makes monthly or bi-monthly stops on a pre-determined route, but their prices can't be beat! 

Real life example

I typically order wheat berries, quick oats, veggie glycerine, and coconut oil from Azure. Since I purchase it all in such large quantities, I only have to order a couple of times a year. 

Find good recipes for good substitutes

Because of my son's health needs, I can no longer cook with anything containing food dyes, high-fructose corn syrup, or MSG. That pretty much cancels out most processed condiments, seasoning packets, and soup bases. So, I've learned to buy CLEAN versions when they are at rock-bottom prices or make my own. 

Chicken stock...have become a few of my pantry and freezer staples. Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for more great WHOLE foods recipes.

Top Tips for Whole Foods Living for the Large Family-tips and tricks to make it more affordable on one income.

Invest in bulk storage

If you are going to begin buying in bulk and preserving food for year-long use, you'll need to find simple storage solutions that will work for your space. (Stacking foods pell-mell around your house might work in the short term, but being buried alive by huge bags of rolled oats or rice that has been haphazardly tossed about your kitchen sort of negates the primary reason for wanting to eat better. And it doesn't read too well in an obituary either. But, you knew that..) 

Obviously, quality storage containers will be a bit of an upfront investment. But, buying in bulk will save you so much money in the long run that the initial storage costs will be well worth it.

It goes without saying that a deep freezer is a whole foods MUST, but here are a few other helpful suggestions.

  • 25 pound airtight, food-grade pet food containers- (Just ignore the word "pet" on the label.) great for storing flour, wheat berries, rice, oats, other grains
  • 5 gallon paint bucket- (These can be purchased at a hardware store.) 
  • 1 gallon glass cookie jars- for storing sourdough starter or other fermented foods that require a loose lid for "burping".
  • mason jars- for canning fruits, veggies, relish, salsa, etc.
  • salad dressing/condiment bottles
  • bread containers
  • repurposed pickle jars- I store my every-day stash of bulk items in large dill pickle jars that have been sterilized. The Hubs painted the lids to match so they no longer look pickley. I've been able to find all of them at garage sales and thrift shops, but I know of a few women who have gotten them from restaurants.

A final word...

Whole-foods living has been a slow progression in our lives. We began the journey around 2010. Like Rome, our lifestyle of slow food was not built in a day. If you desire to make a food 180 and join the WHOLE FOODS revolution, remember to take baby steps. Purposefully decide on one or two changes that you would like to make and work on committing those to habit. Then move onto the next two things on your list. Allow yourself much grace and remember that any amount of forward motion means that you are moving forward. 


For more homeschool meal tips, be sure to head to iHomeschool Network.

8 comments:

  1. Some really useful tips. Frozen veg saves us so much money. Even if you aren't good at gardening, it is useful to think whether you could grow anything that would help. For example, we have some fruit trees and bushes which take very little work but save us a fair amount of cash. See what grows well in your area. Here in London, UK, we can grow blackcurrants, apples and plums easily but blueberries have to be grown in tubs with special compost but it may be very different for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I totally agree! I'm not the best gardener and my yard is quite small, but each year, I'm able to grow a small bed of tomatoes and a small bed of green beans. My mother-in-law has strategically planned her garden to be self-sustaining. Almost everything in it is perennial and continues to provide food year after year...apples, plums, asparagus, rhubarb, raspberries, and more. Genius!

      Delete
  2. I must admit, seeing the picture of you picking berries in a hoodie made my fall-loving heart skip a beat. So excited for the cooler weather! I, too, am on a whole/real food mission. It's to the point now where if I even look at a processed food label my stomach turns. I can't believe I used to eat that stuff - and lots of it (college days...*sigh*). I'm working on eliminating the excess chemicals from my health/beauty and cleaning products as well. If you have any homespun recipes for household cleaners, please share them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly, that was taken on the 3rd of July. For as much as it sounds like you like fall, I love summer. Ours are so very short and so the thought of fall usually makes me want to cry.

      Delete
    2. I make many cleaners too. Here is my favorite all purpose cleaner. I use it for just about everything.
      http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2013/08/pinterest-flips-flops-homemade-lemon.html

      Delete
  3. Do you happen to have a homemade bread recipe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I make a lot of different types of bread. But, I currently only have one recipe on the blog. Here is my sandwich wheat recipe.
      http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2014/01/easy-peasy-wheat-bread-bread-baking-for.html

      Delete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...