Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Food Compromises

With a growing family of nine and a small income, we have to make some tough choices when it comes to our food purchasing.    Last night we did have roasted potatoes and winter squash from last season's gardens, but for the most part we still purchase most of our food.

If money was not an issue, we would be 100% local and organic, but we wouldn't be able to pay our other bills if we did this.  So choices have to be made.

On our shopping trip yesterday this is what we bought -

At a local small grocery store (we don't shop at the big ones like Price Chopper or Shaws) -
5 pounds of conventional rice
8 pounds of pasta
2 jars of spaghetti sauce (we used to buy cans of Hunts but realized they use corn syrup so we don't any longer) - next year we hope to can more.  Our tomatoes did not produce this last year.
2 bottles of Hunts ketchup (they do not use corn syrup on their ketchup) and we have some children that seem to want ketchup on nearly everything
1 bottle of olive oil
2 cans of organic diced tomatoes
1 64 oz bottle of cranberry raspberry juice (a brand that doesn't use corn syrup)
5 - 14 oz boxes of Cheerios - usually we buy two large boxes per week but these were on sale  (Our children alternate between this and pancakes for breakfast - Mike and I  and Abraham eat organic rolled oats for breakfast several mornings each week - the oats are purchased in bulk from the local natural foods store.  I have organic raisins on my cereal.)
1 can or Parmesan cheese
1.5 pounds of honey (raw semi-local - but not the really good stuff from our neighbor as it is just soooo expensive and with all of our tea loving children we can't afford it)
1 bottle organic red wine (can you believe they have some for 5.99?)
10 pounds of King Arthur white flour (this goes with our 25 pound of local Butterworks whole wheat organic flour)
1 bag of store brand chocolate chips
1 box of store brand saltines
1 can of coffee (we buy fair trade whenever possible)
3 pounds of butter (conventional)
2 pounds monterey jack cheese (we eat grilled cheese often for lunch in the winter)
4 boxes of organic mac and cheese (once per week for lunch in the winter and this crew needs four boxes)
1 pound of mozzarella (weekly homemade pizza)
1 Stonyfield organic yogurt (we usually buy our local Butterworks Maple at their farm once per week as well)
4 rolls of Marcal no chlorine, recycled toilet paper
1 container of seventh generation dish detergent

At the local Natural Food Store:
1 16 oz bag of organic corn chips
Drews organic salsa
4 - large organic onions - (we are going to grow many more of these this year our self as they keep well in the basement)
1 bag organic Flax seed meal (I use this in bread, cookies and on top of my pancakes and yogurt)
organic tofu

This should get us through most of the week.

I have granola from last week - I use organic rolled oats, wheat germ, sugar and honey, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, flax, oil and butter.  This goes on yogurt for mid morning snack.

We purchased organic turtle beans from Butterworks farm which we are having 2 - 3 times each week either with tomatoes and spices or used in soup or made into baked beans for our protein.

In addition, I buy a container of tofu to go with tomato sauce and pasta once per week for dinner.
Then, we buy local organic beef when we can afford it  - usually once every other week.

Our chickens only give us about 4 eggs per day right now - but that is enough for pancake batter once or twice a week and all of the baking I do.

Yeast, I purchase about every other week in bulk from the natural food store for our daily bread which ends up being 3/4 organic (with the Butterworks organic wheat and King Arthur white).

We purchase organic raw milk once per week after church at the farm after church and then do drink conventional milk the rest of the time - can't wait until we can milk our goats.

So all in all, we spend about $175 - $200 -per week on everything - that includes dog food, cat food, chicken feed and so on.

Our food does involve many compromises and we hope to do more ourselves each year, but this is where we are at right now.

Any other ideas to share?


  1. What a wonderful post...and you all do very well with such a big family. I am starting a food journal keeping track of all that we buy and how much everything costs. I try hard not to spend more than 150.00 a week..and I try to only go to the store every two weeks which is hard..it seems we are always running out of something.

    We are also going to have a bigger garden this year...I have heard home-made ketchup is wonderful... I can't wait to try it!!


  2. Wow! I really liked your post. It's very refreshing, sometimes I feel badly that we can't eat more like others I see but we too wouldn't be able to pay our bills. Your system is pretty similar to how we do things. We try to do organic for some things and settle for conventional on others.
    We are a homeschooling family of 8 living on my husbands teacher salary. We do store bought milk without the hormones and hope to do raw when our friend cow starts producing. We make our own pizza with store bought cheese that I buy and freeze when on sale with organic pepperoni which is only $4.50 at our natural foods store. We buy a lot of our produce that has thick peels at Aldi like avocados, pineapple etc...We have decided to only do organic potatoes though as the flavor is worlds apart and I know are on the dirty dozen list. So compromises are needed but I'm grateful to eat the good stuff when we can. We also are members of a c.s.a. from June-November. Our weekly budget is about $200 which includes animal food and my husbands beer too.
    Sorry this got so long.

  3. You do a great job! My one thought is bananas.....they are so good for you and are relatively inexpensive, for a fruit. I will pray you are blessed with a bountiful garden this year.

  4. I would love to know what meals you are planning to make with those wonderful groceries!

  5. Wow! You are doing great reaching the budget you are at and feeding so many mouths! We usually spend over $100 per week just to feed the 4 humans in our home!! However, I am terrible at planning out meals more than a day or 2 ahead....

  6. It is so good to read this. I am glad that I am not the only one that does this :)

    We are planning a larger garden since I am drinking greens twice a day, these greens will come in handy when Spring and Summer arrive.

    My food budget is quiet small $150.00 for a family of five and two pets. Yes, it is a bit tight, but it has taught me to truly use up everything I have instead of discarding it.



  7. Thanks for sharing this! We can't buy all organic either, but we do what we can. I love how honest you are with your lifestyle and expenses. You are an encouragement!

  8. Thank you so much for your post. I often find myself feeling guilty that I have to purchase so much of our food, and make compromises. We are extending the garden every year, but living in the city, it only goes so far (even though for the city we have a rather large yard - but a big chunk of it is in the shade). I keep reading blogs where people are almost self-sufficient, and I would like to get to that point some day, but it is a long long road. Our farm dreams keep going farther and farther into the future because land prices here have reached astronomical highs. I want to thank you for sharing so that I realize that I'm not the only one (who would rather not be) that still has to buy canned pasta sauce and store bought cereal and the like. Your post is refreshing and inspirational at the same time.

  9. Wow, that's excellent that you are able to keep your weekly under $200! Great job! Everything is super expensive where we live... I think our total would be double that at least if we bought everything on your list. Thankfully, a half acre garden and some cows greatly help out! We eat like kings and spend almost $100 a week. Super grateful for our blessings in that way! :) And good luck on your gardens and endeavors that way as well. You folks are very inspiring! :)



  10. My biggest help is planning the menu and making a list I don't stray from. I was able to shop this week for 4 at Trader joes for under $80. I also will make a whole chicken and use it in several recipes. Thanks for sharing your ideas I am going to try a few.

  11. Awesome job. We definitely can't afford all organic, nor can we find it. Prices are so high here in bush Alaska. I wish we had more options, but I am working this year on cutting out high fructose corn syrup and as many artificial dyes as I can. I am baking my own bread to, and incorporating flax seed into our diet. Our food bills for just 3 of us equals about $100-$150 a week! Ouch, but like I said, you should see the prices out here!

  12. I am very impressed with your list--you do a great job feeding your large family within your means! I think we all struggle with the balance of how much to spend vs. how much conventional food we can tolerate.

    I wonder if you have a winter CSA in your area? We have one and it's been incredible for us: root veggies, onions, fresh greens, cabbage, plus the occasional local juice or preserves. It has really helped us to be local and organic without going broke. Just a thought--maybe you can find one until your own garden gets more established.

    Also, we have a set of your wonderful rainbow gnomes and they are among my kids' favorite toys. Thank you for all you do to share your talents!

  13. Amazing. It is such a struggle with the grocery budget for 4, I can't believe what you do with your large wonderful family. Inspirational for sure.

  14. Are you all vegetarian? Because if not, venison is a locally abundant and super healthy meat. As I'm sure you are aware. We depend on wild game and fish for 95% of our meat for the entire year. Blessed to have a husband that hunts and fishes.

  15. Bravo! Nous vivons la même siuations que vous. Nous avons 8 enfants....et vivons à la ville donc le potager est petit. L'automne je vais directement chez les producteurs et fais la congélaion ou des conserves. J'achète directement ma viande des producteurs et mon conjoint va à la chasse. Tout se fait maison. Cependant l'épicerie nous coûte environ $200.00 par semaine. Pas facile avec toute l'inflation que nous vivons....

  16. I just got back from the big monthly shopping trip...yikes prices have really gone up. I find myself compromising all the time...the local vs. organic vs. conventional with really great sale for something I don't have too much of a problem with (such as almond milk)Thank you for your honesty!

  17. Truly - God bless you - all of you! I have never commented before...but here goes. I have 3 children: 2, 4 and 6. My husband works VERY full time and I stay home and homeschool. Your shopping list seems very reasonable and healthy - I don't know how you manage to do what you do with 7 blessings there. I am embarrassed to admit and disgusted with myself to say that I spend $200 on groceries...multiple times a week. Yes, we can afford it without hesitation...but nonetheless. I do buy everything I can organic. My options are limited where we live unfortunately...but I basically buy only what I can, organic. I try to support local producers as much as possible...but again, limited here. We are blessed to have 7 acres and so this spring it's on!! We just moved here in June and can't wait for the gardens to be planted and the animals to arrive this spring. Really, God bless you. You sound like an amazing woman, mother, wife. You seem so organized...and that's where I am lacking when it comes to food. I have no organization for meals or shopping. Every other area...I am super organized. I should take a few lessons from you. If you have any advice for meal planning...please do share:-)

  18. Jennifer,
    My husband hasn't hunted since highschool, but after my father brought us some venison over the holidays and so many of us enjoyed it, he is considering taking hunting up again.
    Our nearby winter CSAs are super expensive - I do buy carrots and occasional greens from a local farm and then we have squash stored for the winter. But that is a great idea I just wish we could afford one. Hopefully we will put more food up each year. It is neat you have one of the rainbow sets as I haven't made any for awhile now - glad they are being loved.

    Thanks so much for all of the sharing. Great ideas!
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  19. Really enjoyed this post, Tonya! This topic is always on my mind. I've cut back on buying items in bulk recently somewhat, so that we can spend a little more on fresh fruits and vegetables. We don't have many decent local sources of organic/fresh foods and we still do the bulk of our shopping wherever the price is best.

    I'm mainly a vegetarian, but I'd have to second the commenters above who mention venison: my husband and oldest son hunt each year, and the venison they provide helps stretch out the meal portions of those in the family who eat meat.

    Tomatoes have been on my mind a lot lately. I'd like to can/freeze enough for the year so that we don't have to purchase commercially canned ones. Tomatoes don't grow well around here, so I may splurge and supplement what little we can grow by buying through a farm. I'd like to try making our own ketchup as well since I recently discovered that even the brand we use without corn syrup is still quite unhealthy.

    Another tip I've heard is to try and buy vegetables/fruits for $1/lb. or less--the theory being that those would be the things most likely to be in season. I do try and stick to that, but it's not always possible. I've been scanning the produce ads at the beginning of each week, seeing what produce is available for the best prices, and then basing my weekly meal plan off of that.

  20. I am so impressed you are able to feed so many for so little. I spend about $200/wk on our family of four! Please tell us your weekly meals from these ingredients. I need to learn how to plan better. :)

  21. grocery shopping is crazy...the cost of foods have gone up so much. We get a half of a side of beef every year or so and freeze it. The cost is a lot at once, but I end up paying about 2.50 per pound for every cut of beef (steaks, roasts and ground). Thankfully then I don't have to purchase beef from the grocery store. It's naturally raised so I feel good about what we're eating. Hope your year is starting off wonderfully. So good to be checking in with you...Happy New Year!

  22. One suggestion I have that we do to save money is to make our own yoghurt. Its really easy. Up here, 1 qt of Stoneyfield farm yoghurt is about $4.50 but a gallon of Organic Valley milk is $5.39. All you need to make yog is the milk and 2 Tb of yoghurt (store bought or from the previous batch). Since we eat a half gallon a week, that saves us $7 each month (which adds up eventually).

  23. Thank you very much writing about this. It is really helpful to learn how others manage their groceries. We all have to make choices whether it be because of price or availability, between organic, fair-trade or conventional, buying, making, growing or bartering. These decisions are so important, they affect our families health, the well-being of others and our planet.

  24. You sound like me when it comes to shopping. We are fortunate to now raise all of our vegetables, some of our fruits, plus eggs and milk. When I shop, I have bottom lines on what I will buy. Corn syrup is one, hydrogenated oils are the other. I think all we can do is the best we can.

  25. Beans, rice, whole wheat-homebaked goods, seasonal vegetables, frozed fruit from last years harvest, canned foods from the bounty (often you buy the fruits and veggies you plan to can at a nearby farm if your garden does not produce) oats, dried fruit in bulk, spices, salt sugar. All purchased in LARGE quanities in bulk cheaply. That's what we eat. It's simple, but often very tasty and fresh. It's all mostly organic too. We opt out of meat and mostly are dairy free, we buy conventional butter and RBST free milk for baking and organic eggs once a week, but having a mostly meat/dairy free meals are healthy, can be hearty, and very inexpensive. They kids had a very hard time with this transition, but now they know if they don't eat the red beans and rice with cornbread I made for dinner tonight, well they go hungry. It's hard to do in the begining, but now works out perfectly.

    Here is the most inexpensive, natural and organic bulk foods place to order from I've found::


    The one thing they don't have that upsets me is no plain oats only flavored outmeal, but even that is cheap.

    Take care in your journey of self-sufficiantcy.

    Samantha (Woodland Woolens)

  26. I think you do very well to feed so many people so well on your budget! We used a lot of beans. That was tough sometimes. I just wanted to scream when I saw them after twice a week! LOL

  27. Super impressive tally to feed so many!
    Also, glad to see the bottle of red wine made it on the list.

  28. we use the recipe from Joanne Stepaniak's Raising Vegetarian Children for flaxjacks. They don't use eggs. They are ww and use flax. They are light and fluffy, too. I offer lots of toppings like frozen berries with some brown sugar or jam, pb etc. Maple syrup is so expensive now.

  29. I recently posted on this very topic! It is good to see that others are like-minded. If you would like to see my ideas: 11onmyown.blogspot.com. I enjoyed reading other's comments, as well.

  30. Thanks for sharing. its nice to read about other families and their shopping.

    We also have to make compromises between organic and not organic food.

    A problem I have is that I often go to the big supermarket instead of the small local organic ( its easier and they have everything at one place) but the amount of products is so big there. I always buy to many things.

    Shopping at a local small bussines is so much nicer I think and more relaxing.

    I was wondering what mac and cheese is? i looked it up and ooh yes it's one of our favourites as well here.

    Just a thought but is it not cheaper to make it yourself? We always make it ourself with macaroni pasta and homemade cheesesause instead of buying it form a pack.


  31. Thanks for sharing. I can't imagine feeding 9! We have 6 here and always looking for ways to make the grocery dollar stretch. We also don't buy all organic for the same reason of finances. We do almost all cooking from scratch, and I've recently been making most of our bread, too. We just received about 6 pounds of bread flour from a friend, so that was a true gift!

  32. Thank you for sharing! I think you are doing a wonderful job.

  33. Tonya, We buy a brand of organic tomato sauce that comes in a tall glass jar, it is just plain tomato puree, I then add herbs, etc. to make our own tomato sauce or pizza sauce. It is not too expensive, maybe less than the prepared sauce you are buying?
    Our raw milk share is not available in the winter so before it ended late Nov. I was putting extra milk into the freezer. This has worked out very well, I think we will have enough to get by until milk is available again in May.
    Our freezer is still very full of veggies from the garden, and a couple dozen winter squashes left too. Almost out of our potatoes and onions though.
    For breakfast we do various grain porridges. We grind them ourselves, usually a different grain for each day of the week.
    Oh, and today I made our own coconut milk! We bought just one bag of dried coconut and I now have 5 pint jars of coconut milk in the freezer, plus had some to add to our dinner of garbanzo, carrots, and brown rice tonight.
    We buy only organic on a very small budget, having the food stored from the garden has helped so much. Plus we are feeding only a family of four...

  34. I have to compromise, too, but we do our best.

  35. Tonya, I just wante to let you know that we are in pretty much the same boat, large growing family, small income. We are only a family of 8 though and 3 of my kids are 2 and under so at this point we still aren't eating quite as much as you all! But most importantly I wanted to tell you about Hunts canned pasta sauce. I always bought it until I realized it had high fructose corn syrup, tasted good and fairly cheap. And sadly our tomatoes just didn't do anything this year in the garden! But I was desperately reading labels trying to figure out what kind of pasta sauce to buy when I realized that the "Garlic and Herb" variety of Hunts canned pasta sauce is without H.F.C.S!!! Yippeee! So that is what I currently use. I wasn't sure if you had already seen that or not so i just wanted to give you a little heads up, every bit of money saved helps I think!

    1. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that it's super easy and economical to buy cans of crushed tomatoes and add your own spices for sauces...no HFCS, less processed, etc. and you can customize to your taste buds!

  36. Hi there! I have nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger Award. http://eileensplace.blogspot.com - Thank you for creating such a beautiful space! xoxo

  37. I really enjoyed reading this post, Tonya. I too try to stretch our grocery bill as much as possible and still buy a few organic things. For example, I buy organic apples only for the little ones since I found out they are the worst offenders for pesticides - but the "big people" eat conventional apples.

    This week I bought 4 jars of Ragu pasta sauce on sale for $1 - it does contain sugar but no corn syrup or corn starch. Sometimes I can get on sale glass jars of pureed tomatoes (about 700 mL, which I guess would be about 3 pints?) which I use to make my own sauce. Also, Classico sauce doesn't contain corn syrup and the tomato and basil flavour only uses olive oil and spices with the tomatoes.

    I wonder if commercial products like these are the same in Canada and the US, though. I hear a lot about HFCS but I've never seen it in anything but granola bars and juice, here.

    We spend about $200 per week also for the 6 of us - but we can't grow any of our own vegetables, and also food is generally more expensive in Canada from what I can tell. Also, I do purchase at least a little bit of meat for each day as I am hypoglycemic and I need to eat a lot protein.

  38. We do organic and non-organic as well. We're a family of 6 with teens who like to eat! We spend about the same as you too. I am thankful that we have a Costco near us - I find certain organic and natural items there for less and I like shopping at Aldi for certain things -eggs & milk (both conventional, but the farmers say that they use no hormones,etc) are cheaper usually than other stores.

    I notice that your list doesn't include meats/poultry/fish? I don't know your blog well enough - I'm assuming you eat these items too. I find that I cook with more veggies and meatless and it helps our budget quite a bit.

    Thanks for this post - very helpful and encouraging!