Thursday, September 15, 2011

Large Family Meal Planning & Shopping

Meal planning for our family of 11 takes me only 20-30 minutes per week - I strive for organization, and time efficiency especially while I strive for a low grocery budget.  *smile*  I am asked frequently how I orchestrate this, whether or not we have a "deep pantry" for longer term food storage, and also how I get the shopping done with so many children, so I'll share that with you today.

    MEAL  PLANNING:
    I do our grocery shopping every week, instead of every 2 weeks or more, for a few reasons:  (1) we have only one refrigerator (although large) so I can only hold one week's worth of food at a time; (2) we eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits which take up most of our refrigerator; and (3) I love getting out every week for a few hours with one of our daughters for some good one-on-one time!  *smile* I really only "meal plan" for our dinners which vary; our breakfasts and lunches are the same most days, to save both money and time with so many real young children.  Here's how I approach purchasing the food for our week:

    Breakfast plans:
    Over the years we have tried and enjoyed many different breakfast foods, such as yogurt, bagels and cream cheese, healthy cold cereals, eggs, protein shakes, but right now we need to cut our grocery bill down as much as possible and these things are fairly expensive (some more than others).  We have found that steel-cut oatmeal (purchased in bulk 25 lb. bags) is by far the least expensive way to feed our family of 11 breakfast.  It also has good fiber, and it is a warm and yummy way to begin our day.  *smile*  So this is what the children have every morning Monday-Friday.  Our daughter, Karen, chooses to get up at 6:00 am to get a jump start on her day, so while she's up she starts the oatmeal cooking rel quick at 6:30 am and it is ready by 7:30 am when the kids are ready to sit up to the table.  Because this is the main breakfast food, I don't have to do meal planning for breakfasts, I simply make sure we have the ingredients we need (watch for a soon future post for our recipe!), and those get written down on our Master Grocery Lists as soon as we run out of an item.  (click on page to enlarge once or twice)


    Bob and I have "Green Smoothies" for breakfast every day instead of oatmeal, which is a combination of raw, green vegetables and fruit (watch for a future post on this recipe, too!)  This has helped Bob and I feel more alert and energetic, helped us get more raw vegetables in to our diet, and it tastes great. I've recently been learning about how much protein there actually is in vegetables!  (According to our chiropractor/naturopath, and other resources I've read.  Consider cows which eat only grass, but are all muscle!)  Yay!  So this is great news for our salads, too.  Bob and I feel much more alert and less sleepy having Green Smoothies than we do when we eat the sweet oatmeal carbohydrate; but our kids don't seem to be effected that way as children so the oatmeal is great for them.  The kids actually love Green Smoothies, too, but I don't have room in our single refrigerator to double the amount of produce we already buy!  One day we'll purchase another refrigerator I'm sure, then we'll all eat even more veggies.

    On Saturday mornings we always have pancakes or waffles, and the kids really look forward to this tradition.  Every Sunday morning my husband cooks a delicious skillet-type breakfast of eggs, hash-browns, and sausage, which we all love.  It feels to me like I've been served at a restaurant when we all sit down to enjoy his breakfast.  *smile*  This meal is affectionately called, "Shupe Surprise", for two reasons:  (1) Bob doesn't use recipes, he just likes to make things up as he goes and it's always delicious (amazing to me; I'm a totally recipe girl), and (2) the family knows that I don't like to have the name "surprise" in any food that I eat or cook *laugh!* so they've named the breakfast as such just for me. 

    Lunch plans:
    We used to eat pre-prepared foods for lunch from Costco, but that was not only costly but also not so healthy.  I would alternate buying Bagel Bites (mini pizzas), macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, bean burritos, etc.)  I've tried lunch meat sandwiches for years but we rarely ever ate the meat up before it went bad, no matter what quantity I'd buy.  Then within the last 2 years my husband was unemployed for months at a time on two separate occasions - because of this we had to cut back on expenses as much as we could.  Some friends shared with us that they were doing this same thing by having salads for lunch!  We were thrilled at the idea!  Not just to save money, but for the health benefits for everyone.  Since then we've been having cobb salads every day during the week, and variations on this such as taco salads some times.  We have sandwiches on Saturdays, and macaroni and cheese on Sundays for some variety and a treat for the children.  We also add in some Ausie bites (whole grain mini-muffins) with our salads, and have "chip day" once a week where we all share a single bag of chips with our salads (compared to munching on them all week or buying them as a staple food item for the pantry).  So, like breakfast, shopping for this meal only includes having the necessary ingredients which I purchase regularly every week.  There's no brain storming right now as to what we should have for lunch.

     Dinner plans:
    Dinner is really the only meal I "meal plan" for creatively, and this part takes 20 minutes once-a-week.  I know that I only need 5 dinners per week, because two nights per week we have standing plans.  On Tuesdays "Grama" and "Grampa" have 3 of the children over for the day and my husband does not return from picking them up until about 8pm, so kids with the grandparents eat dinner with them, and we at home have "snack food dinner" which includes things we can grab easily without cooking; proteins such as cheese or nuts, popcorn or crackers, and fruits or veggies.  On Tuesdays my husband comes home from work, grabs a bite, and heads out the door again to pick up the kids at the grandparent's house 35 minutes away, so he's not home for a dinner should I cook one.  Also, I have 6 children with me at home but four of those are always the 2-years-old and younger group who don't necessarily need or appreciate a prepared dinner.  So we "snack food" that night, which the kids consider a treat.  *smile*  Great for them; nice break for me.  On Thursdays we have pizza (Costco's frozen Digiorno, or one baked Costco pizza), and a veggie platter so that dinner is also taken care of regularly planning-wise.  I have also started doubling most dinner recipes I cook, for time and energy efficiency, so we often have one recipe twice for two separate dinners, or as a dinner and then as left-overs in combination with another night's dinner left-overs.

    So Saturday mornings when I usually shop I think through the week's dinner meals.  I first check the calendar for that week to see if there is anything happening on any nights of the week that would require something specific, like the crock pot, or enough for company.  Then I consider if I have any ingredients I need to use up, or meat already purchased that I could use, and I look for a recipe to fit those supplies.  Next I select 3 recipes to purchase for and prepare for that week from either my recipe binders (most commonly), or from my latest Simple and Delicious Magazine (highly recommend this resource; I've subscribed to it for 14 years), or from some recipes I've collected from friends, and which are waiting to be being tried out.  These 3 recipes will cover my 5 nights that need dinners.

    If these 3 recipes do not cover what we need for some reason (rarely) and I find us needing something for dinner, then I have a few back-up plans.  I keep one meal's worth of canned soup in the pantry (about 6 large cans) for fall-back dinners.  I usually keep on hand one bag of Costco's Chicken [breast] Tenders which are really delicious and just need to be baked (great plain, or with pasta, or on a salad!).  Not something we eat as a staple item, but something I can fall back on when I have an unforeseen need.  I buy Costco's frozen chicken breasts (15-20 in a bag), which I cook with, but they also make a good "fall-back-on" meal when we throw some on to the grill.  I can also whip up something like grilled cheese sandwiches; or eggs, toast and fruit; or even pancakes or waffles.

    As I select my three recipes I write them down on a three-inch post-it note and tape that to our refrigerator for my reference.  I write down the main dish, and also what I plan to serve with that dish such as bread, pasta, or rice, and a hot vegetable. When it's time to prepare dinner I can look at my note of recipes I purchased ingredients for that week and choose one of them for that night.


    If it's a crock pot recipe, then I write "CP" on the side of the note and circle it, so I can see at a glance that this is a crock pot dish is not an option when I'm ready to cook dinner at 5:00 pm; and also reminds me to get out that crock pot recipe and place it on my kitchen counter/desk where I'll remember to prepare it the morning of the day we'll need it.

    Lately with school being so busy and so many young ones I've not had any time to prepare a crock pot dinner in the morning, so my loving husband, Bob, offered to prep. some of the ingredients for me at night after I've gone to bed.  He will brown some meat and chop some veggies in the food processor for me, for example, so in the morning I just assemble the crock pot meal without having to prepare the ingredients.  We also started buying wheat berries in bulk and grinding our own wheat for bread, and Bob will grind that for us when we're running low on whole wheat flour (wheat berries stay fresh a lot longer than ground flour).

    To write down the ingredients I'll need for those recipes for that week, I refer to my post-it note and the actual recipe cards and write down on my Master Grocery Lists the items I need to purchase. When it's time to go shopping I just remove my Master Grocery List from the refrigerator and head out the door!  (love this!)

    We also practice something every couple of months that we call "eating the pantry."  *smile*  This is where we eat things from the pantry which have been sitting in there waiting to be used.  I never buy things at the grocery store that "I think I'll use for something", I only purchase that which is on my list and which I have a specific recipe for, but none-the-less I seem to still acquire some ingredients that weren't used as planned and are then sitting there unused.  We don't eat the "emergency" dinner items, such as the canned soup, but "eating the pantry" would mean eating whatever is there already.  This may include any condensed soups that I've had sitting there for a while, or maybe pasta that needs to be eaten, if we have lots of crackers then perhaps we'll have a "snack food dinner", etc.  The point is to eat what we already have, even if it seems a bit random (the kids don't notice or they think it's fun, and Bob doesn't mind and is in fact glad to save some money that week).  We save on the grocery purchasing that week by not purchasing food when we already have things at home that need to be eaten.

    For our babies I make our own baby food, and also use a "Food Mill" to puree dinners strait from our table so that it's appropriate for babies to eat.  This saves a LOT of money compared to purchasing Gerber foods.  I didn't make baby food for years as I just assumed that it was too "Martha Stewart" and I just couldn't take on one more thing.  But it is actually extremely simple, takes less time than going to the store to purchase baby foods, is really inexpensive, and is far healthier for our babies.  (Watch for a future post on how I make baby food.)


    A "DEEP PANTRY":
    In addition to our regular pantry, we have "deep storage" where we have several months of bulk foods that we hold in reserve for emergencies.  We manage that inventory as we need to, replenishing it from local bulk food supply stores.  We used this food as much as possible when Bob was unemployed for several months two separate times.  (Watch for a future post on more detail about having long-term food storage.)


    SHOPPING:
    How do I get the shopping done with so many children?  *chuckle*  Actually...I don't!  I used to shop with all of the children, and it was very educational for them, and I love being with them, but while I was expecting our 6th baby I could no longer manage it on my own.  I had so many little ones to manage and lift in and out of the van, of the car seats, and of the shopping carts, which I could not do while in my 7th-9th months of pregnancy.  So I started taking just one of our older girls out shopping with me at a time, while Daddy stayed with the other kids at home.  This has turned out to be a wonderful one-on-one time together for me and a daughter.  I also used to like getting all of the weekly shopping done during the week, so that the weekends would be free of "have-to's" and could be more spontaneous.  But this became very impractical after a while, as I was pregnant back-to-back (children 10/11/12/13 months apart) and our family size was growing, and it was interfering with our homeschooling schedule.  So I let that plan go and began shopping on Saturdays with just one daughter.  Our sons love to shop with me, too, but Bob and I have chosen to let them have the Daddy shopping trips to Home Depot or the car repair shop, and I'll do the food and clothing shopping with the girls.

    I actually do shop with all of the children once-in-a-while and here is how we do that.  Our 13-year-old daughter and I each wear one of the twin 9-month-old girls in front packs (and when they're too heavy for the front packs we'll bring the double stroller for them).  We get two shopping carts and we each have a toddler, a 1 or 2-year-old, in the front of our carts.  Then we each have one of the "middle kids", a 4 or 5-year-old, in the back of our carts.  This leaves only the 8-year-old and 12-year-old walking beside the carts.  We don't actually purchase very many grocery items from a regular grocery store (Wal Mart in our case), just mostly toiletries, some household items, and some ingredients for recipes.  All of our main groceries, produce, dairy products, meats, etc. come from Costco in large quantities.  So there is plenty of room in our Wal Mart shopping carts for the children and the items we need.  I actually haven't been pregnant during the past 9 months (first time in a long time - just God's plan currently) so I've been real easily been able physically to shop this way, especially with our oldest girls now able to help so much, and it's been real fun.  But I rarely do this still because I really enjoy the one-on-one time with a daughter each week to do the shopping, and shopping with all of the children does take quite a bit more time and energy than just going with one.

    I really prefer to do all of the shopping in a single trip, rather than making separate trips on different evenings, spreading out the errands.  As my friend Wendy Jeub so nicely put it, every minute that I'm out shopping is time away that I could be spending reading stories to our children.   I love to do the shopping, but I like it done in one trip; I do not like to have to leave the house and the family over and over during the week.  I like all the family time we can get!  *smile*

    We try to never miss a meal at home by being out shopping, but sometimes the timing needs to work out so that we need to be gone during lunch or dinner time during those 4 hours of shopping.  So I purchase from Costco boxes of Zone protein bars and have those in the pantry for us to grab and take with us for while we're out.  This way we do not need to buy any fast food or anything (usually *wink*) while we're away from home.  These bars are high in protein, sweet but not candy bar-type, and a nice texture (unlike some bars out there *chuckle*).  I don't have the kids eat these protein bars at home as this would add up in cost (the bars are about $.78 each I think - not too bad, though) and they're not necessary when we're at home with less expensive choices at hand, but this protein option has been great for me to grab when we need to.  Then we're not faced with packing a small cooler of food for ourselves, either.

    I also never go "window shopping", browsing clothing stores or the mall, as I've found that for me this creates discontentment with what I already have, disappointment that I don't have more or different things, envy, and jealousy.  No need to bring on all that intentionally!  The Lord desires that I be content, appreciative, and enjoy all that He has given us through my loving husband's work efforts; and I easily achieve this by avoiding window shopping.  I do like to flip through my favorite clothing catalogs when they come in the mail, such as Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, but I never buy directly from these stores.  And for some reason flipping through a magazine doesn't stir up for me the negative emotions that window shopping does.  So by quickly flipping through a catalog I can keep up on nice, up-to-date trends, and then I look for these styles of clothes at the used clothing stores, and often find clothes from these catalogs at Value Village and Goodwill.  (Watch for a future post on how to shop used clothing stores!)

    For me, "shopping" every week includes going to Costco, Wal Mart, Value Village & Goodwill, and any other errands that need to be done that week such as going to Michael's Craft Supply, Target, or the music supply store.  I keep a written list of places I need to go to on my spiral notebook.  I reference that before our weekly shopping trip, and prioritize which places should be gone to that week and which should wait until later.  Our shopping trips take about 4 hours on average (it takes time to shop used clothes at Value Village & Goodwill - but we find great clothes with patience; watch for a future post on how to shop used clothing stores!)  And our daughter and I will usually sit for a little while and share a soda or a soft pretzel, to give her an opportunity to talk with me about anything she'd like to.  The girls look forward to these times tremendously; and I wouldn't now change our weekly Saturday shopping trips for anything.  *smile*

    Sometimes we all go shopping in the van together but only go in to the store with just one daughter.  While our daughter and I are doing the shopping, Daddy takes the rest of the kids for a little drive exploring, and then we meet back at the store entrance when we're done shopping.  We've done this plan especially when Bob and I have needed some time together if things have seemed extra busy lately and we've missed each other.  We have talking time in the car as we drive from store to store.  Bob likes to drive, and the kids enjoy the car ride and learning new things with Daddy even if it's just from the van, and I don't even need to park and traverse an extensive parking lot such as Costco and Wal Mart have.  We enjoy this.

    I used to feel badly that our children did not have more variety in their food optins, or more freedom in their food choices, but then the Lord taught me that this is what He has provided for them at this time, and therefore they will be better off for it.  By eating simply and by not having tons of choices always at their disposal they have the opportunity to learn some good character qualities such as flexibility, contentment, gratitude, thankfulness, appreciation, and how to be frugal with their own finances some day.  The Lord has provided for us a small house, a single refrigerator, and a smaller budget - but we are healthy, we eat healthfully, the food is delicious, and the children are learning with me to make bread and cook from scratch.  These are very good skills to have.  So we smile and thank the Lord for His provision.  *smile*

    So meal planning is very simple, and it takes just minutes, especially while we are really trying to keep the budget as low as possible.  Any way that I can conserve energy and time is always a good plan for me in this season of life - and then there's more of me to go around and with a smile.  

    If you would like to have any of my charts, lists, or schedules that I've shared you can download those from this link.


    Blessings on your efforts,


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    30 comments:

    1. Wow! I've learned so much! I feel very much more prepared should the Lord ever determine to bless us with a large family such as yours. : ) I'm able to apply much of what you wrote for our home at the present time. Thank you very much for sharing!

      Joyful blessings,
      Jillian

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    2. when you first started with the same meal for breakfast and lunch, did the kids complain... i have one out of 5 that questions EVERYTHING. pesters, nags, tries to catch me distracted, etc. i get mad, and end up losing my patience. advice?
      thanks, amy

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    3. JILLIAN - Wonderful! =) Praise the Lord!

      AMY - Oh sure, the kids initially were disappointed, but with explanation about why we were changing they could understand. They love daddy, and they know how hard he works. When I told our kids that these other friends of ours that we adore gave me the idea of salads so that we could ALL save money, they were glad to be like those friends so that helped. Maybe you could show your kids our family photo on the blog and tell them that this other family has salads every day, so they use daddy's money wisely, and they're healthy and not sick often, and salads are a blessing. I also explain every few weeks when kids complain about not having chicken nuggets (which they get at Grandma's house, which is fine, but it keeps the memory fresh in their minds) that lots of variety is a luxury that very few people in the world can afford; and we talk about the character traits they need to learn like appreciation, gratitude, contentment, etc. And then we talk about which chip bag we should get for next week, and maybe what variety of salad we should try next week, too. So we end on a positive note with choices involved.

      And for kids who pester/nag, the response we've learned for this is then to determine what it is that they want - and make sure they now do not get it. When they learn that if they whine or pressure they will never get what it is that they want, it HUGELY cuts back on the whining. Generally, kids do what works. So if they nag/whine and eventually get what they wanted when mom "breaks", they're sure to do this again. So I encourage you to determine to never give them what they wanted when they whine, etc. And we tell our kids, "Since you've chosen to whine, now I can't give you what you want even if I was thinking of changing my mind; I can't reward that behavior."

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    4. Hi! New reader here (read a few posts last night) My husband and I currently have 3 kids (5,2 and 6 weeks) and are currently thinking about birth control and what to do, Its lovely to read encouraging stories about large families and trusting God to provide as that is the main thing we worry about!
      I live in the UK and we can get food shopping delivered to us! When we lived in Canada it was something I missed!

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    5. CORNELIA - Welcome! Wonderful that you've found encouragement about family planning! And great to have food delivered. =) Blessings to you and your growing family; may the Lord show you His great works through your family.

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    6. I really enjoyed this post! Very inspirational with the breakfast/lunch ideas. I used to do oatmeal every morning and quit during the summer. I'm looking forward to your recipe and may try steel cut oats next. Also love the lunch idea - you salads look delicious! I know my husband would love that.

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    7. Erika,

      I found a recipe for something similar to Aussie Bites(supposed to taste better ;-D ) http://bad-girls-kitchen.blogspot.com/2008/06/aussie-bites.html Anyway I thought you might be interested in that. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.

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    8. Thank you for your post. I've been feeling the need for a better meal 'plan' for quite a while. I dread the 5 o'clock question, "What shall I make for dinner?" You've made the task seem less overwhelming.

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    9. I only read the first little bit of this post - I'll read the rest later when I have time later this evening. It looks like a great, very helpful post.

      Have you ever tried steel cut oats in the crockpot? We have them often and it works really well to measure out 4 cups of water to 1 cup of steel cut oats (we use 3 cups of oats and 12 cups of water for our family), and a little bit of salt. Turn it on low and it's ready to eat in the morning. I normally turn it on at around 10 or 11 the night before, although it would probably work to turn it on a little earlier, too. Some of the newer crock pots are hotter and the edges may get kind of crusty, so you may have to try it a few times to see what works in your crockpot. I love having breakfast ready for us when we wake up in the morning. I often put the leftovers into a batch of bread the next day, too.

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    10. Hello LADIES! I'm so pleased you've found encouragement! =)

      TAMARA, thanks for the idea, that would be nice to have it already ready. I think I'll start trying that. We also add a little butter and some brown sugar to ours. I was just told yesterday by my mom that if steel cut oats are over cooked the B Vit. cooks out of them; I wonder it they would over cook in the crock pot?? Hmm. =) I may be able to tell by trying it out.

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    11. I have been enjoying a book called "Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids" by Kim John Payne. As I read his advice about ways to create a simpler and more predictable life to raise children, I keep thinking of you and your family. You might think you have all these routines in place because you need it just to function well with 9 kiddies, most of them quite young, but you are really blessing those kids more than you realize maybe. You may have cut back on the variety of foods you offer them because of budget constraints, but in this book it shows how that too is blessing them. I think you would find this book very affirming. In our North American culture there is a real message that if something is good then more must be better, and people struggle to find contentment with what they have (what the Lord has provided them). I got the book at the library and I think his message is a really good one.... not just for the kiddies, but his suggestions are good ones for parents too. Keep up the good job, Bob and Erika... I think you're doing a great job. (And I think you'd enjoy the book too).

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    12. MOMMYTOMANY - Oh! You are WONDERFUL! I'm eager to look in to this book, thank you so much for thinking of us, and thank you so very much for your affirmation of how we're doing things. That means so much to me. =) *hugs*

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    13. Well, you encouraged me and others with your blog, so I hope you find some encouragement from your readers as well. I think the purpose of church is for believers to come together and uplift each other, so I guess we could call this a little bit of 'church' during the week, huh? Your blog is so good at telling the "how" of creating a home for children... I think this book "Simplicity Parenting" is good at telling the "why". Maybe it's gonna be more fuel for your blogging...
      Christine (Ontario)

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    14. I just love to read your blog. I am a new follower of your blog and I feel like I have learned so much from you. I have 7 children (26, 11, 8,7,3,2,8months) of course the 26 yr old doesn't live with us anymore...but he sometimes shops in my pantry!

      I wondered what you do about snacks? My oldest girls all started at public school and now I homeschool them, but they got used to having a snack in the morning and again in the afternoon. My 7 yr old is constantly digging in my pantry for something to eat and has a crying fit when I tell her she must wait for the meal. Do you even do snacks?

      Bless you for sharing your wisdom,

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    15. MOMTOMANY - Thanks! Yes, a little fellowship. =)

      MAUREEN - We don't do a morning snack, but we do an afternoon snack at 4:00. I'd encourage you to consider, are you serving "bulky" enough food at breakfast? (protein, whole grain, etc. things that will last them until lunch) If there is only 4 hrs. between breakfast and lunch they should be able to make it just fine (our kids easily go 5 hrs.). It's probably a habit that could be broken, to "have to" eat mid-morning. But you know your kids best, and maybe they have high metabolisms and really need more food? I'd say if they need a snack then they could have protein, but that's it (nuts, cheese, trail mix, beef jerkey, etc.). Snacking on carbs or sweets (like fruit chews or candibar-type granola bars, chips...) is totally a habit and w/o much benefit. We also require that the kids eat enough breakfast to last them, knowing that that's it for food until lunch. If your daughter knows there is no more food until lunch she may be more inclined to eat a great breakfast. =) With so many kids we serve food 4x/day - and that's it. We prepare food, eat, and clean it up, and then we're living in a clean kitchen until the next meal. And I'm not trying to do any of the food stuff while expecting kids to be productive elsewhere. We pretty much move as a team from point A to point B to point C. *chuckle* While they're young. Hope that's helpful.

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    16. Thanks Erika! You are right, I may have to rethink what we are having for breakfast and get away from the cereal & milk and move over to more "bulky" foods. This particular daughter probably does have a higher than average metabolism...two of my girls are very skinny and they don't skimp on meals! I really love your idea for lunch. We eat mostly sandwiches and more soup in the fall and winter. If we did a salad it would be refreshing and lighter.

      Thanks again for your wonderful words. I really enjoy your blog and your pictures. Let me know when you turn it into a book!

      Maureen

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    17. Hi Erika
      Another great post (I'm catching up again ~ our internet was out for the past week ~grrr :)
      I also menu plan, however I'm a once a month shopper due mainly to location. When my twins were babies & the other two were small we lived in the suburbs of a city (before we moved to the farm) & I enjoyed my weekly shopping trip. I'm much like you ~ I extensively plan my shopping trip & I can almost tell you down to the $ how much it will cost before I go. I do pick up the fresh foods once a week when we go to town for Ellie's ballet lesson though ~ couldn't buy them for a month.
      Hope you have a wonderful day & thanks again ~ I'll try & catch up on all your posts today ( well that's my plan in between all the things I need go get done)
      Blessings
      Renata:)

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    18. I came across this today... I was VERY happy to see it. I've felt soooo bad for Karen to have to get up at 6 am everyday to cook breakfast because the oats take so long!

      http://www.feelgoodaboutdinner.com/2011/10/quick-cooking-method-for-steel-cut-oats.html

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    19. DANNIELLESB - Thank you! I'll look in to this! But just for the record, Karen doesn't have to get up at 6am - she chooses to because she doesn't need more sleep, and desires to get a jump start on her school and things before every one else is up. She would get up earlier if we'd let her! =)

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    21. I do not have a big family but I wish I did! I admire anyone who can do it and really love reading about your life. I used to live on Whidbey Island so I've been to the exact stores you're talking about! :) The one store that I loved to go to when I felt like going on a little treasure hunt was the "Grocery Outlet" which is right by the Goodwill - and I found they had amazing deals on produce and also would sometimes have the exact same Costco items but often at HALF the price of Costco. They also had organic items as well for very good prices.

      I now live in Wyoming in the country and my town doesn't have a Costco, Grocery Outlet or a Goodwill...and I MISS THEM!!! LOL

      Be blessed - have a wonderful day!

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    22. Erika...your simply amazing. We have 6 kids and I'm not nearly as organized as you and Bob are with your 9 :)People really don't get how hard it is to be hands-on parents. At one point, we thought we had it all figured out, but as the kids got older and they're needs started to change individually...we started scrambling again. I found your site looking for a meal planner. Thanks so much for posting this information. Your awesome! God bless you and your family!

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    23. I was very pleased to find this site. I definitely enjoyed reading every little bit of it and I have it bookmarked to check out new stuff posted regularly.
      regards
      Bauer Chiropractic

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    24. I am mommy to many young siblings. 7 in 8 years :) I really enjoyed your ideas and hope to incorporate some of them into our lifestyle. I was wondering though off topic. What do you do when discouraged about your family size (or rather the sheer negativity towards having more children) or receiving disparaging comments. My husband and I recently moved to California from Texas and I have to say there is a much more negative attitude out here. It saddens me, but we keep trucking. Really the hardest part is negative things from family members who are also believers.

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    25. Love these ideas! Thank you! Mom of 5 boys :)

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    26. Hi there, Thank you for your great tips here! I have five children and my husband has terminal cancer. I am trying to keep our expenses within a very limited budget and have shopped similar to the say you suggest for years. I am just wondering if you could give your standard dollar grocery budget, as I am having a hard time making the numbers work now. Thanks so much and have a great day!

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      1. I'm sorry, it's impossible for me to give you even a ball park for what to expect for a grocery bill as that totally depends on where you live in the world compared to where we live.

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    27. Erika, Thanks so much for your insight. I'm expecting #6 this september and really starting to anticipate more scheduling and planning. Your posts are helpful and encouraging. Thanks :)

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    28. Hi there! I'm on a search to see how large families budget their groceries as ours feels like it has been spiraling out of control the older our children become. We are a homeschooling family of almost 8 and I have three very hungry boys (they would eat 6-7 times a day if I let them!) but even my 7 year old girl also seems to have a speedy metabolism. We also eat mostly oatmeal in the morning...do you buy your oats in bulk? This is something I've never done, but as much as we consume, I'm beginning to think this may be the route we need to go to save. Also, I noticed you only do one snack a day...I feel like this is where we need to cut back as well. I shop at Costco mostly too...do you buy snack food like cheeses and nuts there or at Wal-Mart? My kids are also huge yogurt fans so I try to have that available as a snack option as well a few times a week. But your thoughts on offering more protein for snacks instead of empty carbs makes sense in terms of keeping them full longer. Thanks for all the tips! You have a beautiful family!

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      1. redinedfaith - Yes we buy everything possible at Costco and save a ton of money that way. We also only serve "bulky" not "empty" foods that will carry them at least 3 hours. Whole grains, good fats, proteins, veggies, etc. I only buy yogurt for them once-a-week because it's expensive, and I only buy flavored Greek yogurt because it's full of great protein and *fat* which will last them longer than all-sugar-not-much--else yogurt. ;) Absolutely good fats for snacks. We do nuts now actually for a morning snack because the kids have grown and we wait for lunch until 1:00 pm to maximize out our school morning. I only give a cracker snack (still whole grain) in the afternoon, though, because I don't want them full for a long time, only until dinner. Definitely very little sugar, and none for snacks. I don't even do fruit for snack. It's not enough. And I encourage you to rethink the oats for breakfast; it's not enough "bulk" and the carb boost will wear off quickly. You may want to try out the amazing plan of green smoothies, http://www.largefamiliesonpurpose.com/2012/01/green-smoothies-excellent-whole-foods.html It's an amazing start to the day, and then supplemented with a grain as well. Hope that helps.

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