feeding my family

So far this month, I’ve already spent over four hundred dollars on groceries (we budget $750 per month) yet, since most of my purchases are in raw form (bottles of coconut oil, sacks of rice, bread flour, butter, lentils, cheese, coffee, honey), it still feels like we have no food — no ready-made food — in the house. This has made a number of my family members rather anxious. And upset. I know this because they have told me so, again and again and again.

So yesterday morning, I neither went to work nor went running. Instead, I made a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table to do some menu planning, and then, there I sat, pen in hand, lost.

“I have no idea what to make,” I announced to no one in particular.

My older daughter’s eyes bugged. “Are you serious? Have you looked in the freezer?”

And then she grabbed my arm and marched me down to the basement where she yanked open the chest freezer, dove in headfirst, and started rooting around.

“How about this?” she crowed, uncovering a box of filet mignon and ribeyes. “Or this?” — holding up packs of flank and cube steaks that I’d forgotten about — “Or this?” and she brandished a brisket the size of a small toddler in my face.

“Okay, okay,” I laughed. “You’ve made your point.” Before heading back upstairs, I selected a small chocolate cake — the last leftover layer from my younger son’s birthday cake — a whole chicken, and a box of sweet cherries.

As soon as my younger son and his friend finished cleaning up their breakfast mess (they’d made, and gorged on, a double batch of Russian pancakes), I set to work. I began slow, starting with a batch of pancake syrup and scrubbing a few potatoes. Then, gradually, I picked up speed.

I made two pie crusts (in the shell, crimped, and frozen for later), a pan and a half of hash brown potatoes, a pot of black lentils (to make this, later) and a pot of quinoa (to mix with sausage and kale, later), a sausage-egg bake, a double batch of granola bars, and a batch of ciabatta dough.

In the afternoon, I made a sticky toffee pudding and whipped cream with my niece for her cooking lesson and roasted the chicken for supper, and, that evening, my older daughter mixed up a batch of Dutch puff for the next morning’s breakfast and I made a vanilla pudding to go with it.

Even with all that cooking, I still feel like I’m running a little short. We go through the food fast, and if I’m going to use what we have, then I need to keep at it: thinking, planning, thawing, cooking, and, perhaps the hardest part, making sure we actually eat the food I make.

Finishing off the leftovers, especially when they aren’t anyone’s favorite, means I have to actually pull them out of the fridge and physically serve them.

If I don’t, no one will ever think to eat them.

This same time, years previous: right now, the quotidian (4.13.15), the quotidian (4.14.14), deviled eggs, on fire, I went to church with a hole in my skirt.


  • Jenny

    I'm only cooking for two but I cook enough for maybe one or two leftover meals. For the most part, my husband & I fight over leftovers. We consider them free meals! We do eat mainly salads (one or two a day) meat & dairy. My husband has juvenile diabetes so no bread, pasta, dried beans, most fruit, no potatoes, corn, ect. I do make a batch of almond flour muffins once a week & sometimes almond flour cookies. It's a lot of work if you want to buy all fresh or raw foods.

  • Ernie

    I thought I was so smart to cut back on grocery store visits to once a week, but you have me in awe that you make so much from scratch. I would not know where to begin. I need to look into that sausage quinoa and kale mixture. I have celiac disease and have recently discovered quinoa. I make awesome protein balls with quinoa. I whip up a huge batch in advance so I have a healthy snack. To feed our big family, I cook big batched of dinner and then toss whats left in a crockpot another night. (When it can be reheated that way). Leftovers are a staple here

  • beckster

    I am most impressed with your skill at feeding your family. One can feed a family with anything consumable, but you feed them very well. And as to leftovers, well, I deal with them every day since I am the designee who ends up eating a lot of them, for lunch. I can't bear to throw food away if I can eat it, but there are time when I don't want it either! How blessed we are to have good food to eat, I think, then I eat it.

  • Margo

    Love the details in this post. Keeping a family fed is a SKILL. The food consumption is really ramping up over here, and I get really shrill on the subject of food waste. I make them eat leftovers for lunches pretty much.

  • Lana

    A few weeks ago I sat down and listed every main dish I could make with what I had on hand and really I have those things all the time. I was shocked to come up with over 50 meals. Now I just grab the list and make my menus for the week. I am still adding to it as I think of other meals but man this has been a huge help. I roll my grocery money forward if I have surplus and this month I still have $50 of my March money left. This can make one feel spendy at the grocery store though.

  • Unknown

    So, I'm curious: Does your budget allowance include the cost (or value) of the meat in your freezer? Or the garden produce you preserve in various ways?

    – Kris

    • Jennifer Jo

      For the beef, we purchased the steers with money from savings and then reimbursed the account when we sold extra meat, so all our beef (or most of it) is "free." So no — the meat isn't calculated into that grocery budget.

      I pay for seeds and plants from our "farm" budget (which covers all animal/yard/garden costs — 100/month), but usually I try to save extra money from our monthy grocery budget and set that aside for when I need to purchase bushels of apples or peaches or whatever.

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