Feeding your family frugally (and with love)

A little while ago I stumbled across an article via social media as you do. It was about feeding a large family and unfortunately it was all the bad news with no mention of any hints, tips, solutions – or reasonable healthy limits – a bit of an attention seeking piece.

So…I decided to share with you about how we try to do things in our home. You and I may have different opinions and that is fine, we can still be friends ?.  Remember: YOU decide what is right for YOUR family.
Here goes:

Eating is not actually a recreational activity. Schedule 3 main meals and 2 snack times per day, and let your children know when they can next expect to eat.

Limit milk consumption. It contains sugar; your children are better off with water.   (Just to clarify, I’m not talking about newborns and infants consuming breast milk and formula :D).
Milk is not ‘on tap’ at our house, although it is available for cereal, with toast at breakfast, in hot drinks, with spicy food, and the kids have a milo a few times a week (Wednesdays and weekends).  When they have a glass of milk, it’s not a 500ml glass, it’s a 250ml glass so, as you can see, milk is not withheld, it just has limits. In our house, lollies are also just for the weekends –and speaking of lollies, it is best to eat them all at once, and then brush your teeth and move on, rather than graze on lollies over a long period of time.

A snack is not a main meal – and protein is a better choice. 2 biscuits and a large handful of crackers at afternoon tea time is enough. There is no need for 6 biscuits each. Protein and healthy fats will keep them satisfied until dinner time so, consider serving boiled eggs, veggie sticks, a cheesy dip, and cold meat instead, and use sweet biscuits as a treat.

Drink water. Sometimes when we feel hungry, we are actually thirsty, or bored.

Do it like commercial kitchens do. To reduce the cost of waste, restaurants often have daily specials on the food that needs to be used up first. My 16 year old son will come to me if he is hungry and ask if there is any food that needs to be eaten (low on date).

Notwithstanding that children go through times of extreme growth and may need extra food, it may be that their hunger pangs come from filling up on carbs and sugar which leads to energy slumps and cravings soon after. Consider having on hand some healthy protein, veg and cheese snacks so that the children can help themselves.

Eating out does not = a ‘free-for-all’ from the menu.  Young children don’t get to order large meals. We also don’t routinely allow our children to order from the $30 steak menu either for some reason! (unless its a special occasion, and 2 children share the one meal).  If you allow your children to order meals and drinks larger then what they need they will grow to expect it; their tummies with also …grow… in a way that isn’t good, and your wallet will most definitely grow…smaller….and for no good reason. (Unfortunately the same principle goes for you and me and our tummies – gasp! shock horror! :O ).

Dessert is a ‘sometimes food’.  We don’t always have to have dessert. Having said that, we will also at times spontaneously take the kids to a well-known fast food establishment for a treat. The most common thing we do is offer the traditional 50 cent ice-cream cone, or the $1 frozen drink. Sometimes we splurge though. We did this last week, here is how it looked:

Regular: 8 of us have a fifty cent cone or $1 frozen drink = $4-$8.
Last week’s treat: 8 of us chose our own dessert = $32.
That is a $24-28 price difference.

The idea is not to NEVER splurge, it’s to not do it EVERY time.

Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses – they aren’t paying your bills 😀

We need to be real about our money and its limits, while at the same time not being so focused on frugality that we lose sight of love.

It WILL cost money to feed your family, that is life. You are feeding and nourishing people that you love, though, remember that! 

We can be savvy about it too; we don’t all need a whopping great beef steak each. (I know, you’re probably not even eating steak, but we are tonight).
One option: cook the steak, slice it into fingers and serve it with your salad and/or veg. Or serve it on your salad as a warm beef salad.

We know that children will often get part way through their portion of meat and then declare that they are full which in turn means the leftovers regularly get discarded. Serving children steak fingers, or pieces of sausage instead of a whole one can reduce waste. They can come back for more if they are still hungry, rather than toss out half a steak here and half a sausage there.

The take home points here are:
1. Decide what YOUR family priorities are when it comes to food and spending.
2. Keep expectations low/reasonable/within the capabilities of YOUR family budget.
3. Splash out on special occasions (and sometimes on the spur of the moment for absolutely no reason). Don’t stop doing this.
And most importantly:
4. Make sure your family know they are loved and will be taken care of (ie don’t do nasty things like withholding food or *padlocking the fridge).

*I understand some people have a super good reason for needing to padlock the fridge. This post is not about those reasons.

Speaking of food, I must go and organise dinner.

Linda Alfredsson
MOPS Australia

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