Friday, September 11, 2009

Frugal Food For Kids

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a week or so. I probably should have published it earlier so that I wouldn't be accused of feeding my kids only macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. Anyway, here goes.
I'm half German, half English. When I say half English, I mean my father still has an accent and my son recognizes the queen excitedly. Growing up, I loved to spend my days at my grandparents home, who moved from England to live next door to us when I was four. My grandmother cooked very simple meals with lots of vegetables.
The German side of the family cooked to impress. Their food was hearty and bursting with taste. Although I still keep liverwurst on hand, I prefer the simple English cooking.
My kids prefer simple cooking, too. Oatmeal is the number one request in our home. I make oatmeal simply with dry oatmeal and water and I sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon on it. That is it. That is how my kids like it. If you have older kids that already prefer more elaborate and sugary tastes, I'm sorry. You've missed out.
They love bread, too. Just bread. The other day I put butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon on the bread. My son thought he was getting dessert. They eat tortillas broken up like they are crackers. If you add syrup to kids' pancakes when they are young, of course they will always want it. Just don't add it. It's less messy and more versatile without syrup anyway.
My son used to eat bowls of corn happily, but we're worried about the genetic modifications. We don't want organic corn, too expensive still, but we want corn that is not genetically modified. Anyone know of any brands for non-GMO frozen corn? So, for veggies, they like raw green beans and carrots. And potatoes, yes, I'll whip up a batch of mashed potatoes for a daytime snack. Apples and strawberries are great staple snacks. Bananas get eaten real quick when we buy them, so they can't be considered a staple for us.
They love cheese and eat it by the slice. The also love leftover chicken, ground beef, ham, eggs, and hot dogs. An egg makes a simple snack, and a great way to kick off the day. On a side note for my hot dog critics, if you still read this blog, an egg cost $0.08 and a hot dog cost $0.10. They take the same amount of effort to cook, so, which do you think I feed my kids most often?
These are all simple and cheap foods to make. By teaching them now that healthy simple foods are yummy and what mommy and daddy like, I am saving myself a lot of money over the long run.
Feeding children is not about fruit snacks and chicken nuggets. Compare the cost per pound of fruit snacks to fruit, and chicken nuggets to chicken. Is it easier to heat up chicken nuggets, or to heat up leftover chicken? Is it easier to grab a packet of fruit snacks, or to grab an apple?
Some may not go as far as I do. I mean, isn't plain oatmeal some kind of child abuse? Didn't they even put sugar in it in the book Oliver Twist? No, I'm pretty sure Oliver did not get sugar, but I'd have to double check. I was happily surprised when my kids ate the plain oatmeal - gobbled it up in fact. And I'm not going to tell them that it's not normal. But go as far as your family's tastes will allow. And if you have young children, as I do, switch them to plain food now and they'll never know the difference. Food, after all, is for sustenance, not for entertainment.


DarcyLee said...

I totally agree with you on this! We actually teach our kids to be addicted to sugar, don't we? I remember when I taught first grade a few years ago. The amount of packaged foods in the kids' lunchboxes was overwhelming not to mention how much sugar and preservatives they were eating everyday. Keep up the good work!

scrappy quilter said...

I totally agree has well. We eat simple meals as well, although much of our food is grown in our gardens. We don't eat red meat and seldom eat processed foods, although during the summer months we do eat weiners every now and then. We eat a lot of deer meat that is supplied to us by kind neighbours. Oh yes, we eat a lot of of the healthiest foods around. Great job!!

btw - the picture of your little guy...just so cute.

Thusa said...

While I don't agree with everything in your blog, I have to give you two thumbs up on this post. You are totally right. When it comes to children eating foods as they are introduced to them. Syrup is not needed for pancakes, nor is sugar for oatmeal, I think those things take out the whole point of the nutritinal component of the food in the first place, but people continue to pile on the glob. Good job.

Saving for a Home said...

I don't think people were trying trying to criticize you for eating hot dogs just wondering why the hot dogs. It seems like you choose the best things when it comes to nutrition, so the hot dogs and mac just stood out. I too found myself wondering... gee hot dogs seem a little off. It's nice to know that your kids are fed nutritious food most of the time but do get a treat every once in a while. That's how I plan on feeding my own. Great post. =)

Treva said...

I agree with this post. I have a 5 year old daughter who loves broccoli (!!!), zucchini, fresh salads, salmon, tri-bean soup, chili, vegetable soup, etc. Even though we qualify for the free lunch program I don't use it; I'm concerned about what they serve. On paper it's balanced, but so much comes from a can and is processed. A typical lunch, that I pack, has a sliced roma tomato, some type of fruit*, a treat item (favorites are yogurt, granola bars, scratch muffins, or something else I've baked), and her main item. Her main item varies; favorites include standard pbjs, bologna & cheese, plain ol' pb, cheese & crackers, and leftovers.

Most of the food I send has healthy varieties -- turkey bologna, low fat cheese, natural peanut butter, etc. I love sending leftovers b/c we have an insulated thermos. We make mac-n-cheese once a month usually -- with hotdogs! -- and I send some to school the next day with her. I'm, like, the best mom ever when those times come around!

*I don't know about other people's families, but even though I buy fresh fruit every week, it's usually gone after 3 days. We eat it b/c I don't want it to go bad and waste. So while I try to send fresh fruit to school, I keep fruit cups on hand as back up.

Sarah said...


I wish my parents had raised me this way.

jazzieange said...

Why does it have to be frozen corn? You can get ears of corn for 19 cents, right now. My 2yo son eats ears of corn like they're going out of style! And there's never a kernel left on the cob! And it's super easy to make. Give it a shot, I bet they'll like it.

J said...

Oh, and corn is also a worthless vegetable. Have you ever noticed that it comes out basically the same way it went into your body?

MBZ said...

Aren't you worried about the fact that non-organic animals raised for meat are fed GMO corn and meal? Why not focus more on feeding the kids black beans, lentils, quinoa, or eggs for protein?

I think apples, bananas, carrots, green beans, etc. are great, as long as they're fresh. If you can't do fresh vegetables, then do frozen. Canned are too full of sodium.

Also, I'm curious why you accept other government income-based subsidies, like low-income telephone subsidies and low-income health insurance, yet you won't accept food stamps or WIC?

l said...

I never put sugar on my kid's oatmeal and they love oatmeal. In fact when we (extremely rarely) end up at a breakfast restaraunt my little one can only have oatmeal b/c of food allergies and even though her sister is eating pancakes, she is excited to have plain ol' oatmeal. It totally freaks out the waitress. They want to feel sorry for her until they see how excited she is. It is mostly just perception.

Yogurt makes a good dip for pancakes or waffles as well as peanut butter.

Also, I don't worry about "meals" w/ kids when they are small b/c. I make sure that their days and weeks are balanced rather than a balanced meal. Just thought I'd throw that in b/c of a comment about a "meal".

Aimee said...

How are you paying $.08 an egg? I pay $1.50/dozen for organic free range eggs. If you're buying the ones from the grocery store for $.93/dozen then I hope you know they're genetically engineered and those chickens are NOT fed non GMO corn and organic feed.

kdodge said...

Um, Aimee? $1.50 a dozen is $.125- more than she spends. $.93 a dozen is $.0775- right at what she spends.

Math is your friend.

Henrietta said...

A couple things that come to mind:

I know it's hard to balance environmental causes and cost saving measures. It seems hypocritical that you eat some highly processed foods but shun GMOs, but I try to remind myself that there are contradictions in my own life.

Have you considered joining a CSA or farm share? Visit to check them out if you're interested. Honestly, it still sounds like you and your farmily are not eating as many vegetables as this GMO- and sugar-eating family does. :-) The vast majority of my meal plans include a dark or leafy green... pizza with salad, chicken and rice with broccoli, etc.

I wouldn't count potatoes as a vegetable...nutritionally, they are a starch.

I agree with the commenters that unless you are seeking out specific meat products, the animals were fed GM corn. I found this list from Greenpeace that lists manufacturers who do not use GMOs: (it links to a Scribd page...had to make the URL tiny because it would let me put the whole thing here for some reason).

Do you have any friends who raise chickens? They might be able to give you a deal on eggs (maybe even free).

Last thought: have you looked into Angel Food Ministries? They sell boxes of food (including produce and meat) at discount prices because they buy in bulk. Very useful for low income families, but they don't do any kind of screening, and encourage anyone who wants to to participate because they use the proceeds from the food boxes to do other works. I've never participated, but I know people who have.

Oh, and cute comment about your son and the queen!

Peace, love, and faith,

Talariley said...

I agree with the simple way of feeding your kids. Oatmeal is healthy, eggs are healthy, bananas are healthy.
I agree with the food ministries, have you looked into that?
Now is the time to get them used to beans, but there are healthier ways than baked beans. I'm sure you can make a good chili for very little. Lentils are also a great choice, maybe they can develop a taste for.
Do you make your own baby food? I'm thinking of trying it, I heard it saves a lot of money.

MBZ said...

Uh, kdodge, reading comprehension is YOUR friend.

Aimee said nothing about cost.

Emily said...

Henrietta, Big thanks for the greenpeace link!

A few other things, probably not answering every question, just the ones that stick out: we don't buy fresh corn on sale because those huge bins of corn conveniently leave out the PLU #s, which tell you if it is GMO or not. I do make chili, I made a whole post about it, and I throw beans into other recipes, too. Baked beans can be made nutritiously. I'm still working out some kinks in my recipe, but I'll post it when I'm satisfied. We don't eat canned vegetables, I'm not sure where that came from. We eat fresh or frozen, except tomatoes, then we make sure that the ingredients are tomatoes, no sodium and other junk. I generally choose the egg over the hot dog, did that really need to be asked? Corn does not come out the same way if it is chewed and is nutritious if digested properly. The first stop in the digestive process is the mouth. Yes, I know that our meat is mostly fed GM feed. I have to draw the line somewhere, and slowly move it closer to the ideal. Anyone can see our shopping list by going to this post, so there is no need to assume we use ingredients or foods that we actually don't:

Jenny said...

Although like many of the other posters I wouldn't necessarily chose to live your lifestyle, but I aknowledge that you're doing the best you can right now and find it refreshing that you offer no apologies for your lifestyle.

Have you seen either of these site before?

Also, I think this thread offers some fantastic ideas. My kids are huge fans of the honey baked lentils and lentil soup both of which can be made very inexpensively. I make a large pot of lentil chili that uses about $5-$6 of ingredients but lasts our family for several full meals.

And although it's getting too late in the season in Maine for this year, have you done much gardening? You can grow a decent amount of tomatoes and other produce in large buckets that you can often find for free (ie: the large plastic buckets that kitty litter comes in.)

Arthur, Robin, and Maggie said...

Just wanted to chime in that I tried your milkshake tonight and it was pretty good! It wasn't icy enough for me though so I think tomorrow I'll try 3 ice cubes. I use 1% milk though so maybe that's what makes the difference.

As for baked beans and the like being a complete meal. It most certainly is if you add just a few small things.

We had 16 bean soup tonight with a shredding of cheese and some salad. Perfectly acceptable meal. Being that my children eat enough carbs through the day I'm not so worried about presenting all food categories at each meal.

Heck, children, even the ones who eat healthy do tend to eat sporatically. A "meal" of baked beans is probably a lot better than a "meal" of goldfish and chocolate milk. It's about the day's totals...not necessarily what's in each meal.

Emily said...

Yeah, my kids are grazers, as am I, unless my husband is home for the day, then we have square meals. We also look at a day's and week's food to make sure it is balanced, instead of each meal.

I did give gardening a shot this year. I got some green beans and quite a bit of lettuce. My herbs also came out. My tomatoes did not, but this was my first year. It's been a cod summer in Maine, and my yields haven't been enough to make a big difference. I will be trying again next year.

One other thing about hot dogs, although I know I've said this before. Hot dogs are my HUSBAND's favorite. I'm pretty protective of the things he loves and want him to have what he loves. He has cut way back from the amount he used to eat, but he sti enjoys them. My kids don't eat them much. I had a spell in my pregnancy where I had a mustard craving, so I ate them quite a bit with mustard, but not much any more.

J said...

Arthur, Robin and Maggie,
Kid don't need a high amount of carbs. They need protein and an overall balanced diet.

dev3k said...

I can't believe all the nastiness here regarding what Emily serves her kids and all the yadda yadda about hot dogs. They are HER KIDS!!!!

R said...

Your life is your life. I appreciate your posts. I use what is applicable to me, and I disregard what is not. You don't have to justify your choices.

stephl said...

This post was quite a conversation starter.... I am not sure the author was prepared for some of the more difficult questions raised, and points made in response.

I must say something about the egg/hotdog/corn debate: You seem to have very specific reasons for not eating corn. You can't afford "organic" corn from a local grower, and can't "trust" your local grocery to tell you if it is GMO... What is your fear of genetically modified corn? I would encourage you to do much much more research in this issue... try to really understand what has been modified, and what the greater good is.

I say this because genetically modified corn means the difference between life and starvation in some developing countries. But, due to alarmists, some countries actually refuse food they think may have been genetically modified!

GMO is proving to be very safe, and is providing nutritious, plentiful and affordable food all over the world.

I can tell you have some very strong views, but would also encourage you to educate yourself on other's viewpoints, why they have opposing opinions to yours, and what is really on the other side.

I know you love black and white, but life is a swirl of colors...learn to appreciate colors....learn to appreciate grey!

Emily said...

stephl, I would encourage you to be educated about the other side of the issue as well. Just because the FDA "approves" of something as safe, does not mean that it is. I'm thankful that many coutries are resisting GMOs, but our county is not even telling us what food they are in. Don't we have a right to know? Don't we have a right to choose something as either the way God made it or not?

As far as GMO being life and death for people in many countries, you are right.

It is not just the health ramifications I am worried about, but the social ones. GMO seeds are terminator seeds, meaning that you cannot save the seeds out of the crop and replant it, it is only good for one generation. This forces the farmers to buy the seeds again every year. One bad crop puts farmers deep into debt. This should not be the future of food. Organic farming has the capacity to feed the world, but instead we are turning over our farming to industries, who have their own profits, not mankind's good in mind.

As far as the health, you've got to be kidding. God did not create food for mankind in error. Mankind has no need to "fix" it, we are only damaging it.

stephl said...

wow...i didn't expect to get hit with the bible stick.

putting everything on god is not only narrow minded, it is short sighted as well.

you seem to be putting a lot on god, but that is really your own opinion.

just remember, god also said shell fish is an abomination....if you want to follow that bible of yours, follow the whole thing.

Emily said...

stephl, I wouldn't consider my response being the "bible stick." Most of my argument had nothing to do with my religious views. I'm not sure if you read my response, but God was only mentioned twice. Accusing me of hiding behind my religion is just a way to not deal with what I actually said, which you didn't.

natalie said...

I've been told that most GMO corn is used as feed corn, & most sweet corn is fine. Don't know if that is always true, but I've relaxed from no corn to some.

Oh, and food is so much more than just sustenance, or God could have just created us to eat flavorless pellets. We're to enjoy it, feast on it, and delight in Him as the creator of it... plain oatmeal included, although I like it better with just a dab of brown sugar. :)

henny said...

food is both for nourishment AND pleasure. but pleasure doesn't have to come form artificial dyes, preservatives and sugars. add a drop of molasses to their oatmeal and it would increase it in taste AND nutritional value. it's very high in vitamins and Iron which a young body needs.

Ibis said...

I am totally on board with simple, whole foods, but I always wonder if your family is eating enough fruits & vegetables. Your diet seems to be very high in cereals/grains and low in produce.

Tae_Ki_Girl said...

Just an FYI... most of the foods that we eat have been genetically modified. Corn, tomatoes, grains, carrots, even our cattle, chickens, and pigs all have. These things as w have them today are not how they naturally were when man first found them. They all had to be "domesticated" via selective breeding. We've genetically altered all of them. Many wouldn't survive if man were to disappear. If you want to fear everything that's been genetically modified, then I'd suggest foraging and hunting. Please realize, I'm not trying to be rude, but it does bother me when people don't seem to understand the science of agriculture.

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