Wednesday 4 November 2015

Feeding a Big Family

We currently have all eight family members living here. This is a delight in many ways and something to be enjoyed, particularly, as I doubt that this will continue for long as two of our children are now adults.

The other side of a large family are the food bills. I'm glad about zero inflation as my food bills are rising. There are websites around which talk about reducing food expenditure but my current plan is to try to stabilise the amount we spend whilst realising that active people will eat a fair amount.

So some thoughts on managing food expense.
  • If you have children and a garden, it really is worth planting fruit trees. The trees will have several years when their yield will be minimal but eventually, they will start to give reasonable quantities. Our eating apple trees have come into their own this year. 

  • Buy in bulk. Buy one, get one free offers can work well for larger families. Potatoes are much cheaper in 20kg sacks. These aren't usually available from supermarkets but 7.5kg sacks can be found which are, again, cheaper than buying in smaller quantities.

  • Don't waste food. I have found it useful to monitor where waste occurs. For us, this tends to be overfilling plates for younger and older members of the family. It is better to give smaller portions and allow second helpings than to waste food.

  • Herbs and salad grow easily and cheaply. Many of my herbs grow on the kitchen window or close to the back door.

  • Berries and currants are expensive to buy but cheap to grow. Currant bushes take a few years to be established so worth planting while children are younger and before they have adult size appetites.

  •  Left overs can be used for lunches/when someone needs to eat late/dislikes what is on offer. It is, generally, over optimistic to hope to make a main meal from left overs. Stories about chickens stretching over three main meals don't quite work in a family of eight. The bones do, however, make great stock for a substantial soup.

  • Pulses make meat go further and provide extra protein. Tins of beans/chick peas frequently go on offer. Alternatively, dried pulses are cheap but need more preparation.

  • It isn't easy to cook double meals when large saucepans or casseroles are full making one meal but it is worth, occasionally, spending the time to make an extra. Pastry cases and casserole bases (meat not added) freeze well and are useful to keep for busy days.

Please add further thoughts.

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  1. I agree that food bills are rising! I shop online for most of my food shopping and one trick I've learned is that after I've done my basic shop (which doesn't vary much most weeks) I check their "half price" or "get one free" offers and if it is something which we would eat and it will keep I stock up on it. Yes sometimes the children are bemused as to why I've bought 20 tubs of Bisto, but if it's on half price and we use it, why not? Ditto pasta, rice and sauces.

    Lidl is inevitably cheaper but since I don't drive and they don't deliver we only do a Saturday top up there.

    Fruit and veg are much cheaper from our local high street stall, but have to be eaten within 24/48 hours, that isn't a problem here :)

    And a lot of eating cheaply is about managing expectations. I grew up when there wasn't much spare money and we did eat a lot of porridge and potatoes and left overs. I fear my children wouldn't tolerate such a boring diet. If I could get the whole family on board I could cut our food bill; but there is little point in producing a cheap and cheerful meal that is then thrown away (and the older kids go and buy KFC!)

    1. Thank you.

      I agree Lidl is cheaper and sometimes shop there rather than online. The passata, coffee, fruit and veg and washing powder are particularly good buys, in my opinion. Putting a whole week's shop for eight through their tiny checkouts requires some speed at packing and a child to help!
      I agree about the expectations and know about children who pop out to supplement rations!

    2. All your points are helpful Sarah. Can I ask how you store your 20kg sack of potatoes? We grew some this year, but not near enough to feed us for a month, let alone the year! The Tesco that we get our shopping from does not stock bigger than 2.5kg bags, so the next time I am in Inverness (the 'big' city for us!), think I will stock up. I am planning visits to Lidl or Aldi and the health food shop when I am there too! Thanks for the inspiration :-)

    3. We store then in their original bag in the garage. The only problem that we have had is of some shooting in the Spring. It isn't a problem at this time of year and has become less relevant as we have finished the bag increasingly quickly!

    4. Ah, that's interesting. We have a relatively cool 'pantry' in our kitchen, but we have had some things go mouldy in there. We have a lot of mice around, but the cats are now in our outdoor shed, so they could protect the potatoes! Thanks.

    5. It might be worth trying a smaller sack if you are not sure how well they would keep in the outside shed. It sounds as though the cats would guard the potatoes though!