Tag Archives: budget meals

5 ways to bless your family titles

5 Ways to Bless Your Family, Your Budget and Your Community

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5 ways to bless your family titles

 

Take This Short Quiz

  1. What is the number one thing you can do as a family to improve your general health?
  1. What is a good way to connect with your teenagers?
  1. What is the most important thing the average person can do to make the American food system healthier and more sustainable?
  1. Name one thing can an individual do to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on a fluctuating, unstable economy?
  1. What activity can you do with young children to engage them in learning concepts in math and science even when they don’t usually enjoy those subjects?

The answers:

  1. cook 2. cook 3. cook 4. cook 5. cook

 Cooking vs Watching Cooking

Two people (both grandmothers!) in the last week have told me “I don’t cook!” Way too many people in my classes over the years have admitted they rarely or never cook. In fact Americans spend less time on average cooking each day than people in any other country! The average time spent cooking per day (not per meal, per DAY!) is 27 minutes – less time than it takes to watch The Next Food Network Star (what is up with this fascination of watching people cook? More people watch cooking than are actually doing cooking, and then when the show is over they still don’t have anything to eat!)

 It’s Healthier

Cooking at home is healthier. When you don’t cook you make yourself vulnerable to the big corporations who make all the ready-to-eat food you have to buy. Unless you spend big bucks to buy your meals from a local restaurant where the chef grows his own organic vegetables and carefully sources his ingredients from local farms, you are most likely eating a lot more refined sugar, industrial oils, and highly processed salt than you normally would if you cooked your own food. Corporations also use all kinds of chemical ingredients not available to the home cook. These chemical ingredients make their food last longer and look fresher than it actually is.

 Teens Like It

Cooking (and eating) together connects you as a family. Teens are social creatures, and they are also usually hungry creatures. :) Bringing them into the kitchen to prepare a meal is a way to get them to interact and be social with everyone who is involved in the meal preparation process. The shared experiences can build family bonds. Eating together a meal you have prepared gives a safe place for conversation, listening and sharing together.

 It Connects Us

Cooking connects you with your food and its origins. We were making homemade pizza as part of a Sunday school lesson and I had brought fresh oregano, parsley, and basil from my garden to use. One young 5th grade girl, already surprised that you could actually make a pizza, freaked out saying “why do you have weeds? How do you know those are safe to eat?” I said, “I grew these. They came from my garden. Where do you think food comes from?” and she replied, “I don’t know. The store has it.”

When we cook at home from fresh ingredients we are connecting in a small way to the rest of the community that grows and raises our food. We gain a new perspective on food when we see a list of raw ingredients get transformed into a meal. Growing something that you eat, or buying directly from a farmer, can bring even stronger connections. Real food doesn’t come in neat boxes, shrink wrapped for microwaving. Buying pre-prepared, pre-wrapped meals separates us from the reality of real food. Cooking at home from fresh ingredients creates more demand for real food while reducing the waste and high cost inherent in the processed food system.

 It’s Budget Friendly

Knowing how to cook gives you power over your budget. The illusion of the “value meal” keeps many people trapped eating expensive yet unhealthy food. Being able to cook for yourself means you can eat higher quality ingredients for less money. It means you can cook a little extra to freeze for later or to eat the next day for lunch instead of eating out. Knowing how to cook helps you be more frugal like when you use the bones for broth, leftover vegetables for soup, or freeze over ripe fruit for smoothies.

 It’s Educational

Teaching your children to cook opens up a new world for them. Measuring and counting, doubling a recipe, figuring out what makes bread rise, what makes pickles sour, seeing liquid cream transform into solid butter, comparing the taste of salt vs. sugar – all of this can bring math and science alive. Tactile experiences like kneading bread, cracking eggs, tearing lettuce, stirring batter, or chopping vegetables can be rewarding for busy little hands. And as your children grow and develop new skills in the kitchen you are giving them the gift of self-sufficiency for when they become adults.

Tell us your reasons for cooking! Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page!

The High Cost of the Value Meal

value meal titles

A few weeks ago I shared the picture below on the Well Fed Family Facebook page. It received a lot of comments ranging from those who were disgusted to those who really wanted to know how it was possible to eat well when you didn’t have a lot of money.

too poor to be healthyWhen I mentioned that I had once blogged about how if someone was willing to just cook for themselves they could eat organic potatoes and grassfed beef burgers for less than the price of a fast food meal. Several people asked if I’d repost the article. So here it is, updated with current prices and including some recipes. I’m also going to post more budget-friendly recipes here on Well Fed Family that are healthier and cheaper than eating off the $1 Menu.

The High Cost of the Value Meal

It’s been 10 years since filmmaker Morgan Spurlock released his documentary Super Size Me where he eats 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, exclusively from McDonald’s. It’s doubtful anyone really thinks they are getting a healthy meal this way, however we still choose it all too often, eyes wide open to the detriment to our health and our children’s health. Why? Because often we perceive these foods to be inexpensive, a good value for the money and time spent. Some go so far as to say they cannot afford any other kind of food; that they are victims of the food industry. I’m here to show you nothing could be further from the truth.

Is a value meal really as cheap as it seems?

Let’s look at two common meals from two familiar fast food chains. Then we’ll compare costs with what we’d spend if we prepared these meals at home. I’m using restaurant prices from Fast Food Prices and grocery prices from my own personal grocery receipts from stores here in the metro-Orlando area where I live.

 

chickfila 1Meal 1:
Chick-fila original 8 count nuggets plus waffle fries and a sweet tea:
Items purchased individually total $6.59, purchased as a meal combo $5.95

The Chick-fila chicken nuggets are a favorite with most of the little kids I know. It’s the same chicken recipe as the original chicken sandwich, but cut into finger food sized pieces. Reading the actual ingredients might shock a few playgroup moms to discover they are seasoned with mostly MSG (monosodium glutamate – a known neurotoxin ) and sugar plus over 15 other ingredients. By the way, if you order the sandwich instead of the nuggets you might want to know there’s no actual butter on the “buttered bun” and the pickle chips contain 9 more ingredients in addition to cucumbers including two chemical preservatives and two petroleum-based artificial colors.

The waffle fries are made with potatoes but also include GMO canola oil, TBHQ, anti-foaming agents plus a little dextrose (sugar) and some color enhancers. All total it looks like about 8 ingredients not counting the salt.

Thankfully the sweet tea is simply water, sugar and tea. whew!

Cost breakdown for Chick-fila meal:
4oz of chicken nuggets for $3.25 is $13/lb.
4 oz of waffle fries for $1.65 is $6.60/lb.
15 oz of sweet tea for $1.69 is $14.36 per gallon

Mcdonalds 1Meal 2:
McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese, medium fry, medium soft drink:
Items purchased individually total $7.17 or purchased as a combo meal $6.39

The Quarter Pounder with cheese is a McDonald’s staple. I have to say the burger itself isn’t bad – 100% beef, salt and black pepper. The bun, however, has the usual suspects in any factory-produced bread, things like GMO soybean oil, yoga mats, and several other chemical conditioners and preservatives. The burger toppings add more chemical preservatives, plus a hearty serving of high fructose GMO corn syrup in the ketchup.

The fries are worse here than at Chick-fila with three kinds of GMO industrially processed oils including trans-fat filled hydrogenated soybean oil, plus the usual chemical preservatives and anti-foaming agents. Interestingly these fries are vegetarian, but they contain “natural beef flavor” made from hydrolyzed wheat (a hidden source of msg) and milk.

trivia mcdonalds fries

As for soft drink ingredients… Do I really need to tell you what’s in these? Do yourself a favor and just order water.

Cost breakdown for the McDonald’s meal:
Quarter pounder with cheese is $3.89 which is $15.56/lb
4oz fry is $1.79 or $7.16/lb
21oz soft drink is $1.49 or $9.07/gallon

Here’s the “I told you so” part:

Making chicken nuggets or hamburgers isn’t rocket science. If you can follow the directions on a box of Easy Mac, you have the cooking skills to make these things at home.

Easy Nuggets or Chicken filet:
Cut your boneless/skinless chicken breast into whatever size/shape you want, stick it in a ziplock bag along with ½ cup flour, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp black pepper and shake it up. Fry the chicken in a skillet over medium-high heat with some melted butter until it’s brown all over and done on the inside – about 8-10 minutes per side. Voila! Chicken nuggets!

Fries are super easy as well if you make them in the oven. Use one large potato for each person being served. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 8-12 wedges. Toss with melted butter or olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 475 degrees in a cast iron skillet for best browning and crunch, or just use any baking pan or stoneware pan. It takes about 20-30 minutes. If you want to kick up the flavor of your fries then crush a clove of garlic into a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. When the fries come out of the oven drizzle this garlic oil over the hot fries with a little more salt. Wow!

Sweet tea: Bring 1 quart of filtered water to a boil. Add two teabags and allow to steep for ten minutes. Sweeten to taste and serve over ice.

Hamburgers: Use 1 pound of ground chuck to make four burgers. Each burger will be ¼ pound pre-cooked weight. Mix 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 tsp of black pepper into a pound of ground chuck. (preferably grassfed or antibiotic-free) weigh out ¼ lb of the ground beef mixture and use your hands to shape it into a pattie. My mom likes to use the plastic lid from a quart yogurt container to help make the right size and shape to fit a bun. Grill or pan fry on medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side until done to your liking.

Make your own buns with just flour, water, egg and yeast following this recipe from King Arthur Flour.

Soft drinks: like I said earlier, don’t even go there. Drink water. Learn to make kombucha or water kefir. Make your own lemonade if you want.

Ok, so what’s the bottom line on our homemade chicken sandwich meal?

Conventional boneless/skinless chicken breast is $5.49/lb. I like to buy the non-GMO verified/antibiotic-free chicken which is about $7/lb for breast meat or $5.50/lb for thighs (which I think taste better.) However if you have a little skill with a knife you can buy bone-in chicken and remove the bones yourself. This saves you money and gives you the side benefit of having bones leftover to make homemade broth (instead of buying those expensive cans of broth – more money saving!) Boning your own chicken saves you another $2-$3 per pound.

Organic russet potatoes are $1.79/lb
Tea bags are about $4 for 100.

Cost breakdown for homemade chicken nugget meal for one serving:

$1.75 for chicken meat
.45 for potatoes
.08 for teabags
$2.24 is the grand total.

This leaves you between $4-$6 less than the purchase price at the fast food restaurant. This leaves plenty of change with which to buy the extra ingredients to make it from scratch and still have some leftover money to put in the savings account. (You only use a fraction of the flour, salt or olive oil so the per-serving amount cost from those ingredients is still very small.)

Bottom line on the Quarter Pounder meal?
Grassfed beef prices are high, but going down as the demand for this healthy meat increases. Right now I can get it for $7/lb from my grocery store. (I also have access to bulk beef and can get ¼ of a whole cow for about $6/lb. meaning steaks, roasts and ground beef are all the same price. This doesn’t have bearing for this argument unless you have a deep freeze, but the fact remains that you can get good prices on this kind of high quality meat if you know how.) Regular feedlot grocery store ground beef costs even less, and is still better for you than meats processed with nitrites, msg or preservatives. I’m sticking with grassfed beef because it proves my point just fine for this argument. This means our quarter pound burger is about $1.75.

Cheese: if you own a knife you can make your own cheese slices. Buying pre-sliced cheese is a waste of money and usually you can get much higher quality cheese if you buy it in a chunk. A good grocery store brand is Cabot. 8oz for about $3 means .38cents for a 1oz slice. (btw you can get Cabot for about half that price if you have a Sam’s or Costco membership. The big warehouse membership stores often have high quality cheese, even raw cheese, for very reasonable prices.)

Soda – remember, we aren’t drinking this, but for comparison’s sake you can purchase a 2 liter of soda for $2 or less. 2 liters = roughly 64 oz. That’s about 3 cents per ounce making your grocery store soda roughly 48 cents per 16oz glass.

Cost breakdown for the hamburger meal for one serving:

burger 1.75
cheese .38
soda .48
fries .45
$3.06 is the grand total.

Making it at home saves you between $3-$4, that’s plenty of cash leftover to more than supply funds for pickles and ketchup.

Feeding a Family of four?
Using the prices on our example meals you would spend $25.56 for McDonald’s or $23.80 for Chick-fila. Food for thought – feeding a family of four from Chipotle is $26.60 even if you ordered the most expensive thing on the menu for everyone, but it is quite a bit healthier with all of the vegetables, beans and quality meat choices. Feeding this family homemade organic/antibiotic-free versions of the fast food meals would cost between $8.96-$12.24. Now tell me you don’t have enough money to eat healthy.

determination to eat well quoteSave even more money by preparing Taco Stew, Rosemary Garlic Grilled Chicken, Cheesey Parmesan Fish, or Creamy Turkey and Brown Rice Soup for your family.

Here at Well Fed Family we post recipes all the time. Frequently they are very budget friendly, because that’s how we eat in our own homes, too! Subscribe to our newsletter (use the link at the upper right of this page) and we’ll send you more recipes and tips for healthy living each month, plus you get a bonus free e-book on how to make your own homemade ice cream! Follow us on Facebook or Pinterest for even more recipes and ideas.

This blog is for informational purposes. Some links may be monetized. Thanks for supporting Well Fed Family!

 

Taco Stew

taco stew titlesThe whole family loves this recipe. I made it a few months ago when we had several teens over for dinner and they all raved about it. One sweet young lady even asked for the recipe – I love it when kids feel empowered to cook!

The ingredients are simple. This is a great example of how you can take inexpensive real food and make something delicious, nutritious and not break the budget. You can splurge on the grassfed ground beef because the rest of the soup costs so little. I’d estimate the cost per serving, if you soak and cook your own beans from dried and make your own homemade broth, to be less than $3 per serving. Definitely a meal you can be happy about!

Taco Stew

Ingredients

1 lb. grassfed ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, pressed

olive oil or butter for the pan

2 Tablespoons no-MSG taco seasoning (make your own and save even more)

4 cups homemade chicken or beef broth

2 small zucchini or yellow squash, diced

2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups (or one 15oz can) diced tomatoes

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 cup salsa

1/2-3/4 teaspoon sea salt (depending on how salty your taco seasoning is)

For topping:

shredded cheese

diced avocado

sour cream

non-GMO verified tortilla chips

Preparation

Heat oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and ground beef and saute until beef is browned. Sprinkle with the taco seasoning and stir well to blend. Add the broth, squash, beans, tomatoes, corn and salsa and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Taste and add the remaining salt if needed. Serve with the cheese, avocado, sour cream and chips if desired.

Taco Stew
 
Author:
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4-6 servings
 
Healthy and family-friendly, this soup is easy on the budget while remaining nutrient-dense.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, choped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • olive oil or butter
  • 2 Tablespoons no-MSG taco seasoning (homemade is best)
  • 4 cups homemade chicken or beef broth
  • 2 small zucchini or yellow squash, diced
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 2 cups (or one 15oz can) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup salsa
  • ½-3/4 teaspoon sea salt (depending on how salty your taco seasoning is)
  • shredded cheese
  • diced avocado
  • sour cream
  • non-GMO tortilla chips
Instructions
  1. Heat oil or butter in a large pot over mdeium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic and ground beef and saute until beef is browned.
  3. Sprinkle with taco seasoning and stir well to blend.
  4. Add the broth, squash, beans, tomatoes, corn and salsa and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Taste and add the remaining salt if needed.
  6. Serve with cheese, avocado, sour cream and chips if desired.

 

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Some links may be monetized. This blog is for informational purposes only.