The emails have been rolling in asking what our favorite meals are, how do we save money on GF meals, how to get kids to eat the GF foods, etc… so, I am finally getting around to the post in which I will attempt to answer these questions!
Getting the kids to eat GF isn’t hard. I simply make foods they like. I serve fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible and I offer dip. If the children are resistant to something new (like new bread, waffles, pancakes, etc…) I simply cut them into fun shapes. I have figured out that if they can dip it or it looks fun to eat, they will probably eat it!
Budgeting is a HUGE issue in the Polka Dot House. We spend a FORTUNE on groceries. (Not kidding $900-1200 a month to feed this crew of 7 plus the strays that wander by.) My goal is to keep us at $200 every two weeks for our major Costco shopping trip, $100 each two weeks for the runs that are not our primary run (Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, etc… ) and $25 a week at the Farmers Market for fresh produce. I will have to re-evaluate once fresh produce isn’t locally available. So, these figures should keep us at $700 a month for our crew or $100 per person each month. I feel strongly that this is realistic. If anyone knows of ways to save even more, I would love love love to hear!
Now that we have covered the disgusting amounts of money that we spend on food, let’s look at some of the new (and not new) menu items we are cooking up to meet this budget.
Our breakfasts are pretty simple. Cereal or bagels or eggs. On the weekends I might get crazy and make pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy or donuts. We can usually feed the crew for $5-$6 at breakfast. A common breakfast would involve a dozen eggs scrambled with a spatter of shredded cheese and a side of applesauce or fruit. We buy non- GF cereals at Costco, we can get a box of Life or Cheerios that will do 4-5 breakfasts for about $6. GF cereals are a bit more expensive, Arrowhead Mills Organic Maple Buckwheat Flakes are our current favorite, a 12 oz box runs about $3.69. To put this in perspective, that Buckwheat cereal box would feed the kids for one breakfast. Only the kids. The kids (and Mommy!) love to have steamed rice with cinnamon, sugar and milk for breakfast as well.
Lunch can be mega cheap, some days we cook up 3-4 packages of Ramen style noodles (.15 per package), toss in a couple eggs and a couple slices of diced up lunch meat. Other days its Mac and Cheese or PB&J Sandwiches. Lunch can often be handled for $3 for the crew this way. (I often have to improvise part of the meal for the GF peeps, such as using plain rice noodles like A Taste of Thai and adding Wheat Free Tamari.)
For lunch today, the kids had a small organic spring salad w/ organic baby carrots and cucumbers, a GF, all natural hot dog and a few red cherries. This might sound like a more expensive meal, but it wasn’t. The hot dogs were the left over stragglers from a previous dinner. We purchase the salad mix at Costco in a one pound tub (that’s a lot of Organic Spring Mix, lasts about a week) for $3.99. The organic carrots come in a five pound bag at Costco for $4.99.
We try to keep dinner at or below $10. This requires some creative cooking. Here are the next SEVEN days of dinners in the Polka Dot House.
GF Tator Tot Casserole (We use 365 brand tots, Health Valley Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup, fresh broccoli, cooked diced chicken or ground turkey, shredded cheese blend) For our GFCF girl, I usually prepare a separate small dish of this using a GFCF gravy mix in lieu of the soup and omitting the cheese.
Burrito night- corn tortillas and corn flats (or Mission Corn Chips), refried or pinto beans, steamed white rice, ground turkey/beef (if you mix this with the pinto beans prior to serving, you can use much less meat or even sub TVP without anyone being the wiser!) and salsa. Adding rice to the burritos is inexpensive (about .48 a pound since we buy in 50lb bags) and adds a good filler to the meal.
Pasta- Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Pasta Little Dreams (one 14oz bag for $2.99 feeds the whole family), 1/2 -64 ounces jar of red pasta sauce (2- 64 oz jars at Costco for $6.49) and one pound of ground beef ($2.80, we purchase 5- 1 lb rolls at Costco).
Spring Rolls- Using Banh Trang Spring Roll Skins ($1.99 for 40, covers at least 2 dinners), steamed white rice, diced chicken or cooked shrimp, lightly saute cabbage and grated carrots (bagged coleslaw mix works great for this and covers several dinners), other veggies of choice, I usually open a can of mushrooms-drain and grill then add to inside as well.
Rice and Gravy- Health Valley Organic Cream of Mushroom soup and ground beef/turkey served over steamed rice. Can also be served over biscuits or toast but is not as inexpensive to do GF that way!
Chicken and Rice- steamed rice, cooked diced chicken thighs (frozen, boneless), veggies. Serve with Tamari Wheat Free Soy Sauce.
Breakfast Burritos- One dozen eggs, 6 breakfast sausage patties (or one roll turkey breakfast sausage if on hand), grated cheese, tortillas and salsa. Everyone that isn’t GF uses flour tortillas, I am working on a really good GF tortilla… so far they are too much crepe like or corn. K3 doesn’t mind corn tortillas, but I would like variety.
We seldom have leftovers. I do try to make enough to send some in Oregon Dad’s lunch the following day. If we finish everything, then he gets sandwiches. 🙂 All of our meals are accompanied by either salad, raw veggies and ranch, fruit, applesauce or a combination thereof.
Currently snacks are a big issue in our house. On the search for kid friendly GF items… I spend more than I should! Since our kids go to school instead of staying home for school (still working on Oregon Dad about that one!), I have to pack lunches and snacks EVERY DAY during the school year. I want the kids to feel like the fit in with their classmates, especially our GFCF girl. Her diet is hard on her at times, especially when she can’t have the classroom treats, etc… I always want to make sure we have special foods on hand in the classroom for those days, and that her lunch box doesn’t look that different. I am getting major sticker shock though and looking for ways to cut cost here! We purchased a 48 count box of Nature Valley Granola Bars at Costco (Not natural, don’t let the name fool you!) for our non-GF kids. The cost break down was .23 per bar. That’s not bad for a snack. In comparison, all the snack bars I have been picking up for K3 at Costco come in 15-20 count boxes with an average per bar price of .97-$1.29. Ouch. This is just one of the many reasons I am so thrilled with Stretch Island Fruit Leathers. We buy the 48 count box at Costco, they are all natural and 1/2 serving of fruit each. The price break down is about .23 each. You can’t buy half a piece of fruit for that! They are easily portable and fun to eat.
I will post our Costco shopping list sometime later this week. We shop at Costco for several reasons. Buying in bulk saves packaging and is more environmentally friendly. We have a large family and it makes sense. I don’t have the time (nor am I going to waste the fuel) to run all over to separate stores looking for the best price. We can find most of our staple foods at Costco and fill in what we don’t find in a weekly run to a local (although more expensive grocer). Since we buy ALL Natural and a lot of organic foods in addition to being gluten free, it is hard to be a coupon shopper. When I find coupons that work, we use them.
Today’s Green Tip- Shop Smarter. Plan your shopping trips to use the least amount of fuel. Buy in bulk whenever possible. You will save money and its better for the environment. Remember to recycle the packaging. 🙂