I get so irritated!
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  1. #1
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    Default I get so irritated!

    I get so upset becuase I cant menu plan worht anything. I decided to challenge myself to menu plan this year and figure out how to feed my family on $400 month. I really just cant do it! NO WAY!

    I cant menu plan as it is...We are a family of 7...4 kids and 2 adults. Im trying to figure out how to feed them all decent yummy meals with $400 a month. Im getting all hyped up here...with my pen and paper..I swear Ive ripped up about 6 sheets of paper. I just dont get it?

    My mom said make something that u can use leftovers the next day...UH...with 4 boys and Hubby....THERE ARE NO LEFTOVERS MOM!

    Im just totally at lost right now and dont know what to do. I need to get some groceries in this house or my kids are going to starve to death!
    Can anyone help a mama out?

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    Moderator nuisance26's Avatar
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    ~Leave out the meat. Pasta with sauce and bread on the side. Homemade refried bean burritos. Soups with rice, potatoes or homemade noodles. Breakfast for dinner: waffles, pancakes, oatmeal. No flavored beverages: just milk or water.
    "Yummy" is where you're tripping yourself up. Food should taste good but "yummy" isn't a need. Food is fuel. Try making your menu again with "good" meals. Maybe they won't be your favorites like lasagnas or roast beef but they will be good meals like veggieburgers or minestrone soup and bread.~

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    Registered User imagine's Avatar
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    Do you have an Aldi's?

    I buy what ever fruit and veggies are on sale. That is what we eat that week.

    I stock up on meat when it is on massive sale ( they actually call it massive meat sale here LOL) IF they have manager reduced for quick sale in your area then that is a good way to get meat too.

    I plan my meals around what I have from those and what is on sale.

    We also instituted a no whine rule. Hubby actually presented it to the kids. "mom works hard to cook good food and from what we have and what is selling for good prices" don't complain just eat your food. The children have found new foods they liked because of this.

    Also no one is allowed to say "there is no food" unless the fridge is empty or near empty. "There might not be food you want to eat but there is food you can eat, pick something that sounds good from what is there." This has helped a lot in our house

    Those have helped a lot.

    Second, I had to just spend more than I wanted to keep the growing children fed. Increasing food prices and growing children eating more I just had to allow myself more money to grocery shop. Other areas had to be cut.
    Last edited by imagine; 01-09-2012 at 01:27 PM.

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    Registered User Uniwolf's Avatar
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    Start with easy steps.... pick one meal out of the 3 to menu plan for. I would pick (in fact many years ago this is where I started) breakfast. You know your family so my following example may or may not work for you. I use menu planning in conjunction with batch cooking.
    Breakfast on Sunday morning this week was planned out for Biscuts, filled scrammbled eggs, condiments, milk/tea this will be our breakfast for the week but it is down to just hubbs and I.
    I mix up a double batch of biscuts, cut out and put in oven to bake. When they are done, will plate 2 for hubbs, and 1 for me. The rest will cool while eating breakfast and cleaning up.
    Filled scrambled eggs, for hubbs is sausage eggs and cheese.
    for me is sausage, mushrooms, onion, spinach and eggs.
    I fix large batches for both of us, usually is done about the time the biscuts are coming out of the oven, plate both of our eggs for Sunday, pour milk for him and tea for me. We sit and eat our breakfast. When we are finished I put in tup containers our eggs for each of us for the following week. With masking tape and a sharpie, I put our names on our dishes, and put them in the freezer. I then bag up the needed biscuts for the week, bags with 2 for him and 1 for me.
    So knowing what I am going to make for breakfast for the week (we are pretty boring breakfast people I am afraid) I would put on my shopping list for the week for breakfast
    1 tube of sausage
    1 carton of eggs (we buy these in the 18 count carton)
    Cheese (I buy this in bulk and shred as we need it so I would check what I have on hand.)
    onion (here again checking what I have on hand)
    Mushrooms (hopefully this year I will be able to start growing my own.)
    Spinach ( I use frozen spinach from my garden here)
    oil (check on hand supply)
    Biscuts ( I buy all of my flour, bakingpowder ect in bulk, so this is pretty much always there, as I put it on the grocery list as soon as I open a new container)

    Like I said, it is all about knowing what your family likes and will eat.
    Some weeks, our breakfast is pancakes, oatmeal, muffins ect. I try to rotate it, but it usually ends up being one of 5 or 6 meals.

    once you have done this for a couple of weeks move on to the next meal. Having reciepes that you use often will help in the begining.

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    I don't plan menus for a variety of reason. I just keep a well-stocked pantry so I can make whatever I want at any time, pretty much. It's just the two of us now, but I did the same when all eight kids were home. Most of what we had on hand came from food on sale so I was able to take advantage of sale prices. If you don't stock up on sale foods, you will end up paying more in the long run. You may have to go over budget for a while if you're not well-stocked right now, just to get a good pantry supplied.

    The only time I plan detailed menus is when we're going camping. It's especially important when we're traveling and will be gone a week or two. But then, I have no idea what we'll find on sale, so my detailed shopping lists are all about necessity and not saving money. And I do flex if I find sale foods that can be worked into our menu or if I can't find an ingredient that's on my list. I don't have a lot of extra food along on trips, so no pantry to fall back on like I have at home. I can't imagine living that way at home.

    You don't mention the types of things you cook, or if you cook from scratch. If you have to 'cook' everything out of a box instead of from scratch, you may not do as well as if you did more scratch cooking, and the food won't be as good either.

    Look around the forums. There are a lot of suggestions for lower-cost meals.

    I agree with the notion that it's hard to cut grocery costs when you have growing kids, and that you may need to find somewhere else to cut.

    How much you can cut depends in part on where you live, too. Here, we don't have much for farmer's markets, no double coupons, not much for coupons at all really, no warehouse clubs, etc. So what comes out in the sales flyers is about it for us. Although from what we've seen, we can do as well as or better than places like Walmart (don't have that, either) if we watch the sales and stock up.

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    Moderator Ceashels's Avatar
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    Is the goal of $400 realistic for the area where you live?

    If you are over by less than $100 then you might need to adjust your goal to accommodate the prices in your area.

    Perhaps making your goal $450 for the first 3 months while the family adjusts, then slowly lower it a little each month.

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    Well heres the thing..we get foodstamps which is $415 a month...only hubby is working right now becuase we dont have a sitter or couldnt afford a sitter..so we decided to let my job go..
    we have no extra income and are on a tight budget as it is...barely scraping by each month to pay our bills. So yeah $400 is all I have and no its not realistic for my area here in ny where milk is almost $5 a gallon...prices are RIDICULOUS!

    Thanks for asking though Im not even sure how much I would need a month to feed everyone becuase when I was working we basically just winged it every night...we had crazy shifts ...so it worked...now..me staying home..this dont work

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    Thanks ladies for the great advice. I'm in the same situation and I get so overwhelmed by trying to plan out a lengthy menu. I'm just going to take a deep breath, try not to panic, and work with what I know everybody will eat. Baby steps! Maybe for now just a weeks worth, don't want to totally stress myself out :-)

  10. #9
    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Okay, you're in crisis mode. That's different.

    I'm sure you know to stretch meats by using them in hotdishes and soups and stuff like that. A little can go a long way. Add in more starches to stretch it, like more rice, potatoes, or pasta than a recipe calls for. Serve soups a lot. The broth is good for you and warming and helps fill you up.

    I know what you're facing. We limited milk to meals only and didn't buy cereal for breakfast, and still bought ten gallons of milk per week for our eight. And that was before the boys started playing sports at school and ate calories by the thousands every day. Some people water down whole milk. That might be worth a try. Add a little to start with and more each week. If you could end up adding even 25% water, it would cut your milk bill by 25%.

    If you don't cook from scratch, start. And I mean for everything you possibly can. Make your own mixes and breads, use a homemade Bisquick mix, don't buy any seasoning packets like for tacos or chili and make your own instead. Make your own salad dressings, meat rubs, etc. The internet is a great resource for recipes for stuff like that. It's cheaper to buy a bag of potatoes and grate or matchstick them yourself rather than buying bags of hash browns or french fries. Make up a batch of creamed soup mix and use that instead of buying creamed soups.

    Cut out ready-made snack foods and rely on popcorn. There are infinite recipes for making popcorn in different flavors, and it's a cheap snack most kids love. It's usually healthier, too.

    Find two or three meals per week that don't require meat but are still filling and tasty.

    Buy herbs and spices from a whole foods co-op or other place where you can buy in bulk. It's inexpensive per meal to add flavor to otherwise bland foods, if you keep a good supply of herbs and spices on hand.

    Can you garden in the summer? With five kids you should have plenty of help growing a garden. Even if you can only get things like tomatoes and zucchini to eat fresh, it will help your grocery bill. Grow in containers if you can't have a big garden. Now is the time to start planning a garden for summer.

    If either of you smoke, stop now and use that money for food. Ditto for buying beer, pop, liquor, or other non-essential beverages.

    Keep in mind that just because something can be had at a grocery store does not automatically make it a necessity. There are lots of ways to cut. If you make your own cookies and buy chocolate chips, for example, switch to sugar cookies instead so you're using cheaper ingredients.

    Eggs are a good source of protein and still relatively inexpensive per pound.

    I don't know what kind of cook you are. Maybe you already know all these things. But if you don't, now is the time to start educating yourself. The library is full of cookbooks and how-to books that can help you if there there is something you need help with. Also check with the food stamp office and see what free publications or classes they may have that could help you get the most from your grocery money.

    When our kids were home, they knew there were always two menu choices at each meal: Take it or leave it. We didn't tolerate picky eaters. We couldn't afford to. And guess what, amazingly we didn't raise a single picky eater. We didn't tolerate any whining about what was served, and we didn't allow them to pick through their food and throw out what they didn't like, either. Somehow they managed to survive it. I don't know that your kids are picky eaters or whiners, but if they are it's time to have a little chat with them and explain the facts of your financial life at the moment. If that doesn't work, then ignore any complaints and soldier on.
    Last edited by Spirit Deer; 01-09-2012 at 02:54 PM.

  11. #10
    Registered User MakeADollarHollar's Avatar
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    I've been menu planning for years and still get stumped once in a while so I have a few ways to tackle it. I'll keep using one system until I get bored with it then move on to another system. Here's a few I use:

    Pick a protein for each day of the week: Monday = beef, Tuesday = pork, Wednesday = Chicken, Thursday = sandwiches, etc.

    Pick a cooking method for each day of the week: Monday = stovetop (like stir-fry), Tuesday = oven (casserole), Wednesday = slowcooker, Thursday = grill, etc.

    Theme weeks: one week do recipes from Greece, another week do recipes from Italy, another Mexico, etc.

    I started a list of all our favorite fast, easy and cheap recipes and I keep it in my planning spreadsheet. When ever we find a new recipe that meets those criteria I add it to the list. When I get in a cooking rut I'll scroll through the list and can easily come up with a week's worth of tried and true favorites.

    Read through the Menu Planning Challenge and the What's For Dinner thread. I've gone back months and even years looking for inspiration and when I find something I've never heard of I google it. Maybe something like Beef and Noodle Skillet. It may not be the exact recipe the poster is using but it gives me something new to look at and consider and usually I can find several different variations to choose from.

    I agree with keeping the pantry stocked. Once you get 'ahead' you can plan your meals at your leisure and don't have to wait for the sale flyers to come out. Plan your meal based on what you have in the house and purchase whatever is on sale for "next time".

    Set aside some time and get some "batches" made. I keep homemade rubs and spice mixes in jars and make batches of mixes like cornbread in baggies with instructions to add eggs, milk, etc. This always make meal planning easier for me because I don't have to stress about all the time involved in measuring out so many ingredients and dirtying a bunch of dishes that will need to be washed.

    Work your way in to it. Start with two or three easy meals or family favorites each week then add to it. Hope this helps and Good luck!

  12. #11
    Moderator ladytoysdream's Avatar
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    First off a hello and a (( hug ))

    When we were raising our kids....4 mine and 3 his....we could not get food stamps even though income wise, we were eligible. I also had my blind sister living with me for a time span of 3.5 yrs. We made it and no body went hungary. So family of 9 and 10, when we had my sister for awhile.

    Hubby worked for a farmer then, so we had milk, if somebody remembered to go get it before the milk tanker came. Every once in a great while, it did get forgotten. And the crew got water that day with a meal.
    We did have a garden, so that helped in the good weather. I froze and canned whatever I could get my hands on. The boys could shoot small game, but the rule was if you shot it, then you better be prepared to get it ready for a meal, because you were going to eat it.

    Rule was I made a big meal. If you did not like it, then you could have a couple of peanut butter jelly sandwichs. We did not cater to picky eaters. A meal might be one of the following....spaghetti, goulash, soup and sandwiches, a stew, etc.
    I did scratch baking almost every day for after school snacks. It might be a cake, cupcakes, pies, breads, whatever. If I used a boxed mix, it was because it was on sale and I had a coupon.

    If there was any leftovers, I had to mark them if they were to be used in another meal. If they were not marked, they were fair game.

    Popcorn was a evening treat when watching TV.
    Koolaid was a staple. Rarely soda in the house.

    Fruit was low priced items, and whatever was in season and cheap.

    Base your meals on sale items. Look for cheap cuts of meat.

    Do you have a Aldi's near you ? Milk here is $ 2.59 a gallon.
    I am in the same state as you. Or how about a Sav A Lot store ?

    If you are not going back to work, then you need to work really hard, at shopping for groceries and preparing cheap meals. It can be done.

  13. #12
    Registered User imagine's Avatar
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    Does your family like eggs? How about beans?

    We use these as our protein sources a few times.

    I love to cook up a crackpot of pinto beans ( a pound between 50 cents and $1) That makes a meal of beans and rice it also makes a refried beans so from the leftover pound we can make quite a few bean burritos. I tend to make them up and freeze them so they are a pull out and microwave thing. So a $1 protein source makes plenty of meals.

    If tortillas are expensive at your store look at a day old bread store, or Aldi's ( my Aldi's sells a package for .99 cents)

    eggs to are an inexpensive protien source. One egg is a complete protein serving. WE like to make

    fried egg sandwiches
    or chick in a basket or
    egg served with pancakes
    or a quiche ( easier then you would think)

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    Registered User imagine's Avatar
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    I just thought of another tip and friend of mine with a big family told me.

    She would not put all the food out on the table family style but dished up a plate that was the appropriate serving size for each person. If they wanted seconds after cleaning their plate they had to ask and she would go to the kitchen and get it. They didn't eat as much but were still satisfied. She says it was because the extra food wasn't sitting in front of them tempting them.

    Any food leftover in the kitchen after the meal could be used for leftovers or for another meal or for snacking

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by imagine View Post
    I just thought of another tip and friend of mine with a big family told me.

    She would not put all the food out on the table family style but dished up a plate that was the appropriate serving size for each person. If they wanted seconds after cleaning their plate they had to ask and she would go to the kitchen and get it. They didn't eat as much but were still satisfied. She says it was because the extra food wasn't sitting in front of them tempting them.
    That works if you're trying to lose weight, too. We NEVER serve meals on the table except at holidays.

    It also makes a HUGE difference in how much people eat if they're served with smaller plates, cups, glasses, and bowls. Also use a smaller serving spoon if people are dishing up their own. Studies have been done that indicate if people use larger plates, they'll eat about thirty percent more because a smaller serving leaves too much empty space on a larger plate and it doesn't look like enough, even when it's the exact same size serving. Our eyes really do impact our stomachs! We only use our big dinner plates for holiday meals and use the salad plates instead. I often use a dessert plate so I eat even less, and I don't feel hungry. It really does work.

    Some of our soup bowls, which we rarely use, hold four cups. The ones we usually use hold two. I've had it happen more than once that my husband will ask why the four-cup bowl has so much less soup in it than the two-cup bowl, when I've used both for some reason. Yet the servings were actually measured and identical. Try it for yourself. It's amazing what lies your eyes will tell you.

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    Registered User Momto5RN's Avatar
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    people dont register or feel full until 20 minutes after they have eaten enough so if they leave the table full they most likely will feel really full later .

    make plates of healthy portions - put leftovers away .

    ie if i am making chicken breast - everyone gets one dh and oldest 2 boys may get 2 - put extra aside before i make plates - then use the meat from the extra one or 2 to make a cassarole with .

    cheap fillers- bread and butter - pasta - potatoes etc .

    find out what time of day your grocery marks down meats and go about that time . if you see a good deal on what you like grab a few and freeze them - since i never know what i will come upon in the meat mark downs 99% of the time it goes to freezer for future use.

    see if there is an angel food ministry near you - you can buy boxes of food for low prices .

    you can use coupons along with food stamps . what is the main store you stop at ? have you looked for websites bloggers that help you match up the sales with coupons.

    cellfire is a site that lets you preload coupons onto your card so that you dont have to cut anything .

    cvs walgreens for health and beauty stuff can = free toothpaste shampoos deodorant etc . Since you are not working outside the home use that time to find best ways to save on things you can save

    watch the thread on feeding for 5$ a meal ( which is a 2.50 a person for the person who started it ) most of us are trying for 2.50 or under a person TBH i try for under 1$ to 1.50 a person - it may give you some more ideas.

    can you give us an idea of what you bought last food trip and maybe we can explain a better less costly item or a way we save money on those items.

    we have 6 of us at home ( dh and i a 23 yo a 17 yo a 15 yo and a 10 yo) a 20 yo who doesnt live ta home but raids the pantry when her $ is tight so i try to watch for deals on what she likes and i have kind of adopted a 90 yo ex- patient of mine who lives alone that i drop a bag of low salt heart healthy easy to store and prepare things to when i can get a good sale.
    we are using 560 a month as our budget but i can do better than that if i had to . ( which i have to this month because of unexpected expenses )

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