Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
We did it. You can, too
By Wendy Thomas
Our family likes to experiment. It's one of the ways I can get my kids to really understand complicated concepts, like food budgets.
One summer a few years ago, after reading some articles about family food budgets, I decided to see if we could survive as a family of eight on $100 of food. We cut back, way back.
I sat down with my kids and looking at food prices we planned out a menu for the week. Fortunately it was the summer and we took full advantage of neighborhood vegetable stands where we got squash, zucchini and tomatoes for 25 cents each. We only bought something if it was on sale at a store and each week we polished up our baking and cooking skills.
Instead of meat being the main attraction in our meals, I used ground beef to add flavor. We used a lot of pasta and created our own sauces made from tomatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil. Snacks were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinks were cool water from our well.
For four weeks we were able to keep the budget less than $100, but then I found myself with a small mutiny on my hands. The kids had done it long enough; they were tired of the pasta and rice and wanted to go back to a more substantial diet.
We did, but I had proved my point.
These days we keep our food bill to around $200 a week. We've gone gluten-free. Breads have been replaced with more expensive flat crackers and pasta has been replaced with its GF cousins rice and corn pasta.
What we didn't change from our experiment though is the amount of produce we eat. When I shop, a third of my cart is easily filled with vegetables and fruit and we're always on the lookout for family farm stands for local produce. If there's one thing my kids learned from that month-long experiment it's to appreciate their veggies.
I know kids are picky eaters, I know it's tough to get them to eat those vegetables, but if you can incorporate local produce into every meal, you might be surprised at what it will do for your family's food budget.
Here’s a recipe to try:
Pocketbook-friendly hodgepodge fried rice
Steam rice (use as much as you need for your family, we cook 2.5 cups of rice at a time)
In a large fry pan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil on medium-high heat. Once translucent, add chopped peppers, squash (cut into small pieces), unused cold cuts, eggs, and vegetables that may have been left over from last night's dinner – basically use anything that is not nailed down in the kitchen. Add desired spices. Mix.
When most of the water from the vegetables has been reduced, add the rice and mix it adding a few glugs of olive oil and some sesame oil for taste. If you like the taste, add soy sauce.
Serve in a bowl. Be sure to save all leftovers. This is a great snack reheated.
Wendy Thomas lives in Merrimack with her husband and six children, and has been published in various regional magazines and newspapers. Check out her blog, Simple Thrift-Creative Living on Less, at http://simplethrift.wordpress.com.
Last updated by Morgen Thiboult Jul 29, 2011.