Healthy Eating for So Many ???!!

Updated on November 10, 2008
A.H. asks from Rockford, MI
19 answers

OK. I am really struggling on how to properly feed my kids while staying on budget. I have completely eliminated high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils except for the few special occasions and parties etc. I just don't buy it. Now I want to be able to purchase as whole and raw as possible but it costs so much money that I end up compromising. I feel like I compromise my kids health as well. I don't feel like I can feed them macaroni and cheese and I can't bring myself to buy hot dogs (other than beef, which still grosses me out) and other popular items. I would love to have goat milk at my dispense and other such things. Any ideas? How do I find someone to split cost of bulk "buying club" and things like that. I have gone back to making my own bread this week but the bread flour is white and most of the recipes have sugar in them. I know I sound picky but if I don't personally eat this way, I feel so lathargic and in turn, am not the best mom I can be. I also looked at the coupon deals like Savings angels but I dont' buy hardly any of the foods they "save" on and some of the stuff I would never buy (glade etc)and buying them because they are cheap is like wasting money to me. I'm stuck in between a rock and a hard place. I guess if you dont' have money you have to eat junk. Maybe this covered too many subjects!

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So What Happened?

Okay so, I'm definetly going to do another update after I actually do something but I did want to let everyone what I know already!

I had many great responses and some went back and forth many times and I hope they keep going. I am really excited to plan out my next shopping trip and to really take advantage of what is offered to me in my community. Although I have had many half hearted attempts at gardening I'm excited to spend the winter planning this better! Alot of the things people wrote I knew, but I really needed to know that it worked for others and that I had people rooting for me. I know now that I will not go into a grocery store without a plan and without looking at fliers. I will also not go stressed out which means NO KIDS! That way I can concentrate and complete my trip and complete my thoughts and make mulitiple trips to multiple stores. I would never so this with kids, too much hassle. I will go back to shopping at the bread store maybe once a month and really make efforts to keep making my own (3 loaves just came out and they smell great!) I am also going to try to find others around me that have the same wants and interest and maybe we can split bulk things from my buyers club!

As for being stressed out? Yes, I definetly am! But it's not just he food budget, it's many things and I think that food shouldnt' be so hard and that's why I'm frustrated! So I will try to relax and have fun with this, it can be my new hobby. And if I find it fun,,,,then I won't be much :) My husband is gone alot for many days andit's hard to manage everything in the household and I just get overwhelmed.

Thank you so much for all advice and some chuckles. I think I'm gonna like this site and you will see more of me. I will also report my next findings and let everyone know how it goes!

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answers from Jackson on

Sounds like you're going thru what my sisters and I are going thru. (One sister has 8 children)!

I have started a coop so that we can get bulk prices on grains and such. If you want to be in on it let me know.

One "trap " I've found is that the easiest way to go cheaper is to fill up on simple carbs. You're right we end up feeling yuckky and then more likely to get sick which isn't cheaper in the long run. It can take a little more planning but I've found some ideas to reduce the budget and make healthy choices.I commend you for taking this on! It will be worth it!




answers from Detroit on

I have found that Trader Joes has a lot more of the organic and whole grain items that I look for, and at a lot lower of a cost. Good luck

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answers from Detroit on

I used to belong to 2 food coops where I got very healthy foods. One was more for grains etc. and one more for produce. There are so many of these around. Next spring, if you haven't done it before, can you put in a vegetable garden? Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? Their food is pure and prices are great! There's one on Woodward and 11 1/2 Mile and one on Kercheval near Cadieux in the Grosse Pointe Village (enter parking structure from Notre Dame). Open daily 9-9. It will take awhile to train your kids to eat differently. Mine fought it and sometimes we had to compromise in the beginning. You can do this! Good luck!

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answers from Detroit on

Google recipes for whole grain breads. The sugar just helps the yeast, but slow rise tastes better anyway. Add potato water for gluten effect that wheat flour lacks. I have dozens of bread cookbooks from my late father that I would gladly let you choose from. Seriously, email me if you're interested. Whole grain pasta and homemade cheese sauce is more filling so the cost kind of offsets itself. I don't care for her show, but Rachael Ray does some good FAST healthy dishes. Don't know how old your kids are but enroll them in the meal planning & prep. Even a 6 year old can peel carrots and potatoes. If you have a Randazzo's near you produce is much cheaper there. Honestly, your stress is far more harmful than the occasional nitrite, and for your kids, too. I TOTALLY empathize, but the struggle isn't worth it! My mother raised 7 children on very little money. We are all healthy, but she died at age 60. There is no question in my mind the stress was the trigger to her cancer. We ate hardly any processed foods because they were too expensive. Tuna fish casseroles, spaghetti, meatloaf, etc. We drank powdered skim milk, frozen orange juice and water. No juices or sodas except as a Friday night treat with popcorn (not microwaved) The pressures are great these days but give yourself a break. If the rock and hard place have you stuck, gentle easing out will work better than thrashing to escape! Hang in theer and do let me know if you want a bread cookbook!

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answers from Detroit on


Good luck! You are doing right in trying to be healthy and, it will work out. For us, we are a family with 4 children. We eat no meat, so we have no cost there. Our major protien sources are lentils and beans (and of course rice and roti with them. Roti is a flat unleavened bread looking similar to pita bread, that we make about every day. We eat a lot of indian food. We buy wheat berries and grind the flour ourselves and use it in any recipe that calls for "flour", even if it calls for white flour, and it works out great for us. We don't even buy bread from the store anymore, and we go through about 50 lbs. of wheat berries every month. The taste of any homemade bread from your own freshly ground flour is so tasty that anything from white flour just doesn't taste "right" to us anymore. We also buy our milk in bulk 25 lb. bags of nonfat regular dry milk, and go through 1 a month, and find it a lot cheaper than anything we can find at the store, and since we are used to the taste, we completely don't even recognize the difference between ours and the store's (except that we like ours better!)

Now, if you already have the equipment, it's pretty cheap to eat that way. But, even if you have to get a grinder at first, it rapidly pays for itself in the cheaper and healthier food than you can find at the store. We only get our fresh fruits and fresh vegetables that we haven't managed to grow (which is most -- I've been terrible at weeding) and peanut butter at the store.

Where to get fresh whole food (i.e. wheat berries)? Locally, I don't know. I think Whole Foods Market carries, but I don't know whether they carry bulk. I do know that Emergency Essentials ( carries everything (grinders, whole food like wheat and lentils and lots of other stuff, too). They are based in Utah, and have the best shipping prices I have ever come across. They also have the best customer service I have ever come across and are Very healpful for any questions on their products or even other help. They are great.

I hope this helps! It is possible to feed a big family in a healthy way on a "shoestring" budget, and you are on the right track -- you're trying! Good luck. I'd be happy to help in any way I can.

PS. Roti is flour with a little oil (abt 1 tsp per cup of flour) and a little salt (to taste, we use abt 1 tsp per 3 cups flour), and water (enough to make a nice non-sticky dough, abt 1/3 cup per 1 cup of flour). If the dough is a little sticky, just cover the dough with flour (only a little at a time and knead it in, and repeat if necessary until dough is smooth but not sticky. Then, pinch off a piece, maybe about the size of a golf ball, dip in flour, roll out in a thin circle about as thick as a tortilla, and cook on the heated flat bottom of a pan (a griddle or the bottom of a skillet works well). No oil is needed. While it is cooking, roll out the next one. Let stay on pan until dough begins to dry and small bubbles begin to form in the dough. Flip over. Let stay until (it will be about half the time of the first side) dough dries a little more, and bubbles begin to form again (can pick up occassionally and look at bottom side to be sure it's not burning), when brown spots begin to form at bubble sites, flip over again. Use a clean cloth and press on the roti, and it should pop up. Remove from pan, cook next roti, roll next while cooking, and note that subsequent roti will probably take about 1/2 the time the first took since the pan will be warmed up and you'll begin to have an idea how things go. There should be no sticking unless the pan is too hot, in which case just reduce the heat a little, and adjust as necessary to your pace. The roti should be flexible like a tortilla, but is sometimes nice when hard like a cracker (then it's called bakri). Good luck!

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answers from Detroit on

Financially its doable - I feed 4 for about $400 a month - almost exclusively organic and about 90% whole wheat - no white sugar or hydrogenated. We eat 1/2 the amount of meat we used too.. lots of pasta and vegis and fruit and I make my own bread (with evaporated cane brown sugar when I feel like the sugar part) but I use whole wheat and white whole wheat flour. We eat uncured hot dogs and bacon. Whole wheat mac and cheese... and lots of yummy snacks. It took me time to get it and I still buy the sale stuff so I never go in with a defined list. Costco is good for hamburger and frozen vegis, peanut butter, instant oatmeal and a few other things but thats it. I do Kroger and Plum for the rest.

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answers from Detroit on

It is hard, especially in the winter, but for future planning, plant your own vegetables and learn how to store them, like canning, freezing, etc. Keep an eye out for canning jars at garage sales, people who don't want them, etc, so you don't have to put out a lot of money to buy them. You can grow in big plastic tubs, I've had mine from kmart forever. If you can grow in the ground, even better. Go to the library to see how to do it, you have all winter to figure it out. In January, buy some seeds, start them inside, and plant outside in May. Now i know I am simplifying it, but if you grow things like green/red peppers, tomatoes, these don't need alot of space you are doing it for only a few dollars and saving a lot of money. Yes, they won't be abailable to eat until late summer, but if you grow enough and can them, you can do it. Don't want to grow your own? Check out farmer's markets, especially at harvest time. You can get a ton for cheap and preserving them is the key for fresh veggies and fruit for the rest of the year. I also think you are putting too much pressure on yourself, you sound stressed. It sounds like you put a lot of mama's love into your family's diet, but if it is compromising you, the added stress will cancel out the benefits of the diet. You feed your family healthier than most people do, congratulate yourself on that accomplishment. Baking bread? I bet your house smells wonderful!

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answers from Grand Rapids on

Dear A. H.,

I think the sugar in the homemade bread from scratch is needed for the yeast to multiply and make the dough rise and grow. It is still so much more healthy than eating white bread from the store.

Is there an Aldi store in your area? I get most of my frozen vegetables and fresh fruits there. It is surprising how many people with expensive cars I see shopping there to get fresh fruits. They know it is lower cost there than the regular grocery stores. The worst thing is that you have to bag your own stuff. You usually save enough money that it is worth the inconvenience.

We buy pasta at Sam's Club and used to buy bread at the bread store, but since you are making yours from scratch, you are ahead of us. You can buy 2 pounds of yeast at Sam's Club for about $7 or $8 and it lasts a long time.

I hear people on the radio say to buy produce in season and local as much as you can afford and won't spoil then.

L. C.

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answers from Grand Rapids on

You can eat healthy and afford it, it just takes a little advance planning!

Watch your sales fliers. Determine what is healthy and what you want in you diet. Familiarize yourself with the prices (keep a notebook with the item and price and store you priced it at- when you start you may want to visit several stores and note the prices at all of them- then you can sit down at home & compare and note the best prices) Now when you see it listed in a grocery sale flier you will know if its a good price or not, and if it is- stock up!

I belong to Sams Club, and you have to be so careful, just because it is offered there in bulk- the unit price on many things is MORE expensive than the grocery store sales prices.
The only things that we buy at Sams club are dishwasher soap, nuts, apples, bananas, real maple syrup, honey, butter, olive oil, mayonnaise, milk (only sometimes), vitamins and cold/allergy medications. Make sure you include the prices at a bulk type store in the same notebook as the grocery store prices. And figure the price out as to how much it is per pound or ounce.

Plant a garden, can and/or freeze your own fruits and veggies. Or buy them in season and can/freeze them. Put up enough to last you until the next growning season. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as or more nutritious than fresh, simply because they were picked at their peak of ripeness and flash frozen almost immediately, not picked underripe and shipped to some far off location, to be sold a week or longer after being harvested.

Cook everything from scratch. This way you know what is going into the foods you are feeding your family, and you control the ingredients. Do a search on the internet for healthy recipes, there are lots of them available for free. Find some with ingredients you approve of and try them.

I don't do savings angel either, I agree that most of the things you can save so much on I don't use in the first place. I have a very tight grocery budget, but just by buying things in advance when they are on sale and storing them myself, freezing and canning things in season, and cooking from scratch I am feeding myself, my husband and 5 growing boys on $100 a week and sometimes less than that. It can be done.

I have a few more money saving tricks in other areas that could free up some more money for groceries. If you are interested just e-mail me.

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answers from Saginaw on

Congratulations on trying to make healthier choices!! It is more expensive... for mac n cheese, I make it from scratch, I buy a box of noodles boil them, make a cup of white sauce with a ton of cheese (organic for me) and then I bake it in the oven. It is amazing and it really doesn't cost that much.

I recommend casseroles, they are not very expensive. I do not buy processed foods at all and I have found that with meal planning I can really stay in my budget. I check sales flyers for staple items that go on sale.

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answers from Benton Harbor on

Isn't everybody struggling financially these days? It's tough...even for those who have disposable income, it seems that you have to be so careful...the economic future is so unstable. Anyway, I've thought so many times that I can buy complete junk and spend 1/2 of what I spend why I try to buy healthy stuff for my family. It's really a shame that convenience means junk food! I do try to buy everything that I can in it's original form, but sometimes you just can't. As long as you are making a conscious effort to keep your family's diet healthy, you are doing a world of good! Don't beat yourself up for what you can't do...just embrace what you CAN do and be proud of it. Some moms just feed whatever is cheap and easy and you can tell them by looking at their kids!!! I have found, though, that when I spend more time in the produce section, I tend to come up with ideas for meals while Im standing there...making it easier to buy more fresh foods. I heard somewhere that shopping the way our moms taught us (make a list and stick to it) is no longer cost effective or healthy! The key (so I hear) is to clip coupons and watch for sales, even if you have to go to more than one store, buy what's on sale and make meals around it. That's a tough one for me because I am a list maker! My brain does not function in a grocery store full of choices!! LOL But Im trying!

Good luck to you!


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answers from Lansing on


I know what you are going through, but you can accomplish healthy meals and stay on a budget. I saw that you are located in Rockford, are you anywhere near a Horrock's Market? Horrock's offers fruits and veggies all year round, at the cheapest prices, and they even beat out Wal-Mart. The veggies are also of great quality because most of them are shipped locally in the summer.

I would recommend two websites for you.
1 - to help you get organized and feel in control of your home and schedule...FlyLady
Marla teaches SHE's (Side Tracked Home Executives) how to put together daily routines to manage their lives. I love her daily email reminders.

2- to help plan weekly menus and eat better....Leanne Ely Leanne has a number of Mailer Menus you can purchase for an inexpensive price, and cookbooks you can purchase or borrow from the library. If you subscribe to the menu-mailers it will be emailed to your computer every Wednesday (I believe) with a shopping list and recipes for 5 meals. I don't subscribe but I have two of her cookbooks and I always double the recipes so we have enough for lunch the next day. I wrap up the leftovers in tortilla rolls and add a piece of fruit for our lunches.

Leanne also has freezer menus that show you how to take advantage of sales and prepare the ingredients for your freezer.

The biggest change we had to make when my son was diagnosed with food intolerances was to make a weekly menu and post it on the fridge. At first it was really hard for me to sit down and do this one step, but as I learned how to cook and what recipes my family enjoys this became less of a chore and more of a blessing. I have found the times I don't make a menu I always blow my weekly budget, but when I do make a menu I usually have money left over.

I also had to learn how to start using all of those veggies I bought every week. Once I started using vegetables in our dinners I was able to cut down on the amount of meat because the veggies and starches made us feel full.

The most recent change I have made is to buy dry beans and prepare them on the weekends for the week ahead. So, if I know that I will be cooking red beans and rice for dinner next week I start the hot soak process, set the timer, and when it goes off I finish the cooking process and then put the cooked beans into a Tupperware container in the fridge for when they are needed. The beans will last up to a week in the fridge without going bad (if your fridge is set below 40 degrees). It only costs me a few cents to cook dried beans, vs $1.50 or more for canned.

Betty Crocker has a great cookbook, "Betty Crocker Basics"
that you probably can borrow from the library (or inter-loan) and make copies of the techniques used to prepare ingredients that you haven't used before.

If you need any help please let me know. I have been cooking meals from scratch for the last three years and am always happy to answer any other questions you may have. We also keep a perpetual pantry on hand so we have breakfast and lunch foods all ready, which makes it less likely we will reach for the junk food or go out to eat.

Good luck with your journey, it is definitely worth it and your kids will appreciate it when they are adults.


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answers from Detroit on

I don't have any ideas for you but I wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I was just telling my hubby the other day it sucks to be poor. (I didn't mean it like it sounds, we have so much but we are def. on the food budget). Now I know why people get so overweight. The cheap food if loaded with fat/sugar/carbs/processed - you name and it's there! Hot pockets 3 for $5 at Kroger. That's cheap and to someone on a budget can go a long way. But again at the cost of the health of a family. Lettuce a $1.29 a lb. Most veggies are rediculously expensive as is any quality meat. Anything that is healthy and is out of reach...It just sucks that we're trying to do the right thing and getting put down. SOrry for the raving but I thought I would let you know that you're not alone.



answers from Kalamazoo on

You are SO RIGHT! Healthy foods ARE often the most expensive per calorie (just watched CNN confirm this).

My suggestions. Stick with simple foods like rice and beans (complete protein when eaten together), soups that are full of vegetables and such, homemade bread is a GREAT idea and you can find recipes that are healthier online, just google the type of bread you want to make. Lentils cheap and good for you as well. Potatoes pack in lots of goodness and not expensive either, its more about what you put ON them that makes them unhealthy.

Good luck!



answers from Detroit on are probably done with the mac n cheese responses but I wanted to tell you about my FAVE mac n cheese idea. That is you buy a whole cauliflower.....cook it (steaming is best but sometimes I boil) then blend it down to a puree. Next freeze it in 1 cup portions...
Next time you make mac n cheese take out one of the frozen portions and add it to the mac n cheese. You have a extra healthy quick and easy meal....and the kids have no idea.....I love it!



answers from Detroit on

Hi A., I too try to feed everyone "healthy". The best place to buy fresh fruits and veggies is at the farmers market. Not sure where you live but there is obviously Eastern Market, downtown, there is a market in Waterford and one in Royal Oak, so maybe look online and see if there is one near you. It's amazing to get 4 huge red peppers for $1.00, they would cost $4.00 each at the supermarket! Also, not food related but check out to see how "toxic" or not the soaps, shampoo's etc are that you are putting on your skin.



answers from Detroit on

Hi A.,
Well, I can help ya with this one.
You can still have macaroni and chese, oh yeah!
What you do is, buy a 16 ounce box of elbow macaroni, but also buy a 16 ounce, or 2 8 ounce cans of the Kraft parmazon chese. Now boil the macaroni, then drain the macaroni, then in a big bowl, mix the macaroni and the parmazon chese, and you got your mac and chese. I make my own that way, and I absolutely love it!



answers from Detroit on

I find my children and family very healthy. When Meijer has chicken breasts on sale buy one bag and get one free, I stock up. I buy fresh vegetables, yogurt, granola, fresh fruits, ground turkey (Meijer has it for $1 per pound frozen), unbleached flour, peanut butter, oatmeal, whole grain pastas, etc. I have found that if I have a few staples like pastas, canned tomatoes, rice, etc., I can usually whip up something good in no time. My grocery bill stays low because I stock up on my staple items whenever I find them on sale. Here is a website that you may find helpful also:



answers from Detroit on

If you belong to Sam's Club, you should be able to get whole wheat flour in 25lb bags for a reasonable price. You can either mix that with bread (white) flour or go for a denser bread by doing it all with whole wheat. Add other grains and spices and you have a variety of healthy breads at your disposal.
Sam's also has bulk rice, beans and other inexpensive staples -just have a good place to properly store them (like a freezer) to get the most out of them.

As others have mentioned, try to grow your own veggies and fruits. Tomatoes, peppers and even spices (cilantro, basil, rosemary, etc.) are easy to grow, snip and dry for tasty fresh alternatives to store-bought. You will know exactly what you are putting into them (as far as growth medium), so you know what will come out. I start them under a grow light in the basement and then they're ready for the ground in early spring to get a jump on the growth season. (I still have tomatoes out there today after the light snow).

For sugar, try brown or turbinado (crystally) which are less refined, or honey or even molasses. The result will be a heavier product, but more flavorful. It's an acquired taste after the bland refined white breads, but it certainly keeps you full longer.

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