Saturday, July 17, 2010


had it
to be
its last
So I'm going to have to transfer to another computer (which thankfully we have due to the nature of my husband's work). In the mean time, I'll work off my phone pics. Sorry for the poor quality, but I just can't stand not blogging any longer! The withdrawal is really starting to hit me.

So recently I've noticed a resurgence in interest in eating on a budget, but healthier. As a self-employed family of 6, we understand this acutely. We're fortunate to have our local farm as a fabulous resources for deep organic local produce, and quite a few farmer's markets nearby during the local growing season. But if you don't have those options, or if that is out of your budget, there are ways to work healthy produce into your budget regardless.

First of all, as pictured above, many stores have a "seconds" produce section. It might be small, it might be hidden in the back of store (after all, they'd rather you bought the "perfect" produce and spend more money), or they may have a program to donate food to shelters and soup kitchens instead (so you may have to ask if they have any extra food at reduced prices available to the public). But if you don't see something like this, it might be worth asking. I will buy a dozen mangos or bell peppers or whatever, and cut and freeze them myself and save a ton of money.

If none of your local markets have this arrangement, then look to the frozen foods section. Frozen food is the next best thing to fresh raw foods, because it's been picked and processed quickly, and usually only lightly cooked if at all. I like bagged frozen fruits for smoothies, and chopped frozen veggies for soups, chilis, casseroles, etc. And best of all, the frozen produce was likely picked when that food was in season to save money, and that savings is passed on to you. It is far cheaper for me to buy a pack of frozen multi-coloured bell pepper strips than it usually is to buy 3 fresh peppers. So if you don't need them raw, frozen is the way to go. Avoid canned foods where possibly...nutritionally they are at the bottom, and the BPA lining in most cans has many people suspicious too.

I prefer to buy organic produce for many items, but even if you buy only conventional produce or frozen fruits & veggies, your health will be miles better than if you limited those foods because they were out of your budget.

Try creating meals based around whatever vegetable you could get cheaply. Add a whole grain or starchy vegetable like potato or corn on the side. Some nuts or beans round out the meal. I often save fruits for between meal snacks so the kids don't fill themselves up on it at mealtime.

Whether you have a family or not, exercise is essential to good health. But exercise can be expensive in our modern society: gym memberships, sports equipment, shuttling kids to multiple activities each day, camp and extracurricular activity fees, etc.
During the past year we let our YMCA membership lapse, and we opted not to sign the kids up for any extra activities during the school year. We allowed them one summer activity, which this year turned out to be the public school's summer program. I was nervous having them ride the bus to a school that none of us had ever seen, but their experiences these past weeks have been fantastic. They are home shortly after noon each day.
Ryan chose to take karate, treasure mapping, & games 'R us. AJ decided on gymnastics, Legos, & books. The class sizes are surprisingly small for a public school program, and it allows the younger two kids at home a bit more attention on the weekday mornings.

But what
to do on
the other
on beach
ions, &
we have
hiking on conservation land, campouts in tents, & water spray battles in the backyard. And if we really want to parttake in an educational experience like a museum or nature exhibit, the library usually has free passes available that need only be reserved ahead of time.
So tell me (if I have any readers left!)...what are your favourite free family activities where you are?


Jenny said...

You have readers, ha! Sorry you have been having computer problems...I hate those. That's good to know about the seconds produce. I really need to do a lot better about our food budget. Family activities...we like to go hiking at a nearby state park...but not in this heat!...we are actually on our way to the waterpark right now. We mostly have been doing the library activities. And playing with water at home. When I need a little break I send the kids over to help my dad in his garden.

dirtyduck said...

just going to the lake with our pets:) very free lol

Unknown said...

I am so incredibly jealous of that first pic! Our grocery has a section like that but it's teeeny tiny compared! I'm just glad it's summer and we have fabulous farmers markets right now!

We decided on a family summer project of cleaning and organizing the house from top to bottom. It's going well and keeps us occupied on too hot and rainy days :D Other than that it's playing outside with friends and going to the library for us.

Kidlet is also doing a couple of camp weeks that he got scholarships for, so those are free! I recommend to anyone with kids and a tight programs and community center programs....heck even the zoo, these places often have scholarships available for students but the key is you have to ask about them as they don't advertise it!

Sybil Runs Things said...

You KNOW I love this post!

First, holy smokes, that discount produce section is insane! I shop at many different grocery stores and have never even see a cheap section, let alone anything that looks like that. The only discounts I have ever seen is at one produce stand (we have these in Seattle, not necessarily local produce, but just produce) and it had a bin with like four things in it. Sigh.

I love your suggestions for frozen. I have found I don't like the frozen broccoli as much as steaming fresh, but haven't tried other things. I do love raw veggies so it keeps me seeking out deals on certain things.

BTW, I made your hummus yesterday, minus the seaweed and flax, and it was sooo yummy! It is the same ingredients as what I have made but I had the ratios all wrong. Yours was much better.

I also bought a giant bag of potatoes yesterday and made mashed potatoes. You're inspiring me! lol

As far as free/cheap in the summer, well, we're a little different in that my girls go to school year-round. When not in school we go to the park, the beach, the wading pool, ride bikes, but mostly, we play in the yard. The novelty of having our own yard is still very much alive!

Jenny said...

We don't have discount produce here either, but we did in California. I miss that! Our local church on base there also distributed the older near-death fruits and veggies for free.

As for free summer activities we mostly play in the yard, go to the library, and hit up local playgrounds. We found too, but since you have to pay for shoe rental it's not free. It is cheap though!

My kids also like to go to the pet store and look at the fish, birds, reptiles, etc. Juast as exciting for them as the zoo, but free.