We know that it can be easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to feeding our families. When you are contending with picky eaters, time constraints, and sleep deprivation, meal planning and food prep can often feel overwhelming. The BVTMB team along with our sponsor, Healthy Living, is here to provide some fresh perspective and inspiration in the kitchen! From meal ideas to how to feed those picky eaters, we are excited to talk about all things food these next few weeks in our “Growing Up Gourmet, Beyond the PB&J” series.
Gourmet on a Budget
Couponing or “eating cheap” gets a bad rap.
It is perceived that most couponers eat a lot of processed or packaged foods. However, it is possible to grow up gourmet while keeping your budget under control! There are many options for purchasing fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products at a great deal.
First, the simplest thing you can do is grow your own food or at least grow enough to offset most of your produce budget for the summer. Plant fruits and vegetables that can be harvested all summer and then can be frozen, or if you are adventurous, canned. Involving your children in the growing of your family’s food also gives them a sense of pride, and they may be more apt to eat, or at least try the fruits of their labor. If you have the space, give your child their own small plot or several pots to grow their own garden or flowers. Our family is growing lots this year in just two raised beds. We are trying kale, bok choy, tomatoes, herbs, onions, okra, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, beans, and zucchini. If you do a little research you can even collect the seeds from your harvest and use them again next year.. totally free!
There are several ways I cut down on our produce costs. The major way is our Costco membership. Costco carries a lot of produce and a fair amount of it is organic. We buy our organic spinach, bananas, carrots, frozen berries, and frozen Normandy vegetables there. They definitely have a fair amount of “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables available in organic options. They recently placed large USDA organic signs next to their organic options for easy identification.
Some are put off by the large amount of produce you have to buy for fear of it going bad before consumption, but that is where we get a little creative. We make green smoothies almost everyday so the bulk of our produce goes into those. Anything that I think is going to go bad before we eat gets frozen. You can freeze fresh spinach without cooking it first (check out this great post from Mom on a Mission on how to do that!) and then use it later in cooked dishes. Fresh bananas that are overly ripe can be sliced and frozen to throw into smoothies or to make banana “ice cream” later. I also will make “everything in the fridge” soup and then freeze portions for easy meals.
Focusing your meal planning on your grocery finds instead of recipes will allow you to use your groceries without waste.
Alternatively, a CSA membership will get you a lot of fresh produce over the summer. We are lucky in Vermont that we have so many CSA options. Here are just a few:
Also, hit up local farmer’s markets to get great deals on produce! The same rules as above apply for things you think you aren’t going to eat in time: freeze, make freezer meals, smoothies, etc!
Lastly, couponing can drastically cut your grocery bill down if done properly. Yes, most of the coupons out there are for packaged, processed foods but not ALL of them are. You just need to know what to look for. First, find your grocery store’s ad for the week and check to see what is on sale. Next, match your sale items with your coupons. There are lots of websites out there who will do this work for you. My favorite is Deals by Darlene. She matches Shaw’s sales with coupons but you can find sites for Hannaford, Price Chopper, even Trader Joe’s!