Over the course of the last few months, we here in the CMF household have been trying out something new. We’ve dramatically changed the way that we eat in these last few months. We have essentially been redefining food and what that word means in our lives.
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The reasons for this are many. First, when I quit my stressful job a few months ago to be a stay-at-home mom, it gradually began to dawn on us (me) that we hadn’t been eating very healthy when I was working. We were eating a lot of processed food. I was making almost nothing from scratch. We ate out a lot. No one was planning meals in advance, so there was a lot of food waste in our house that simply got thrown out when it went bad (mostly vegetables like cilantro or celery, which I’d buy for one dish and then forget about until a couple weeks later when it was stinking up the fridge).
Part of the impetus for change was the simple fact that when I quit working outside the home I just had more time to spend on these tasks. But another part of it was that when we became parents we realized that we wanted our daughter to grow up with good eating habits. I knew that in order to teach good eating habits to her, Mr. CMF and I would first have to adopt good eating habits ourselves.
Redefining Food for Us
One of the first things that I did when we made the decision to start eating healthier was that I started menu planning. As in, at the beginning of the month I would sit down and figure out what meals we were going to eat for supper every night for the entire month. This has been tremendously helpful, because one of the biggest problems that previously led to us eating out so much was lack of planning. Even if I had something like hamburger in the freezer, if it wasn’t defrosted it was easy for us to just say the heck with it and either pick up takeout or go out.
As an aside, if your brain hurts just thinking about meal planning, you could try out a service like $5 Meal Plan and spend a few bucks a month to let someone else do it for you. It’s a cheap time saver and a nice way to ensure that you aren’t just eating the same things all the time- or eating from the drive thru. I’ve actually recently started using an app called Plan to Eat, which allows me to import my own recipes and meal plan/grocery shop using my smartphone. Winning!
We also mostly stopped buying processed foods and pre-packaged frozen meals when we decided to change our eating habits. We stopped buying frozen pizza, canned spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, etc. I scoured Allrecipes.com for good recipes that we might like- and we’ve found some really great ones! I have to admit that I haven’t gone as far as calculating cost per serving like some do- but I can tell you that since I started cooking from scratch more, our grocery bills have gone down.
For example- we still love pizza! But I’ve started making my own crust and sauce instead of buying those things. It costs pennies to make your own crust- seriously, it’s flour, sugar, water, yeast, salt, and olive oil (in my recipe, anyway). Pizza sauce is tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, garlic, and paprika. Again, super cheap, and I can make 3-4 pizzas with the amount of sauce my recipe yields. Cost for crust and sauce: less than $1 per pizza (approximately). Plus whatever toppings you want.
These days I am also a lot more conscientious about using up what we have in the fridge and the cupboards before we buy more. It’s taken a while, but I think I’ve finally managed to get the menu plan to the point that we mostly use up the fresh veggies that I buy for meals.
Redefining Food for Baby
I would really love to be providing our daughter with breast milk, but it’s difficult when you adopt (although it is technically possible to breastfeed an adopted child). So she takes formula, but in recent months we’ve been adding in pureed foods. We received a Baby Bullet as a baby shower gift, which I honestly think was the coolest gift that we got. Our sweet little miss is 9 months old now, and every single ounce of baby food that she’s eaten in her life has been made by me, in my own kitchen. I like knowing exactly what’s in her food. Additionally, a really cool benefit of making all of our own baby food is the fact that it is so darn cheap to feed her. A couple heads of organic broccoli might cost $3.00 at the grocery store, and with that I can easily make 10+ servings of baby food. I just price checked broccoli baby food on Walmart.com, and stage 2 baby foods containing broccoli cost more than $1.00 per serving there.
As we’ve made all of these changes over the past several months, I’ve also made an effort to help us eat organically whenever possible. It’s not always possible for everything, but the things that I really try hard to buy organic on are meat and dairy. Because those products can be considerably more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, we have also cut down the amount of meat that we eat. These days we maybe eat meat once per week. I’ve worked hard to find a lot of hearty vegetarian meals for us so that my hubby does not feel deprived by the lack of meat. He hasn’t died yet! 🙂
Some of you may be reading this and thinking, well those things are easy to do if you stay at home, but what if you work outside the home? Honestly, I don’t think that these things necessarily have to take more time. It DOES take more organization, especially the menu planning part. I’ve been particularly surprised by the fact that making our own baby food has not really been a terribly time-consuming adventure. I just make a big batch and freeze some whenever I make baby food (and I usually cook baby food while I’m cooking our meals), which saves a ton of time.
By no means have we perfected the art of healthy eating here, but we’ve been making some pretty huge strides. My next challenge: find some good vegetarian meals to cook on the grill this summer!
But enough about us- we want to know the ways that you’re saving money on food! Are you redefining food, or doing any of these things? Do you have any good vegetarian grilling ideas?
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