Wednesday, January 21, 2015


This is our first post for feeding a large family on a budget. I have a family of eight plus a grandma that is living with us.  I have six kids ages 15 to 5. My first four are boys, with two teens and a tween that eat a ton. I really have to be careful with the food budget to make money stretch all month long. I will be sharing some of my best strategies and recipes to help save a penny and feed a healthy family.

 I want to share a family recipe I learned from my mother-in-law. I chose this because I was able to use a left over ham that I purchased on sale after the holidays and it uses black beans from my food storage. This is an all day soup great for a cold day or when you have a lot of laundry to keep rotating and folding and will be home. Mom's you know what I mean!!!

Working with dry black beans.

I started with 1lb of dry black beans. Dry beans are so inexpensive they just take a little more work and planning. Honestly, I have struggled with starting here. When I would try, the beans didn't seem to soften. So, I researched and followed instructions carefully and I have been very successful the last few times I have done this. Start by sorting and rinsing your beans. They may contain rocks and dirt.
 I begin by soaking my dry beans overnight in a large pot, covering them with water at least two inches above the beans. No heat, just water.  In the morning I drain the water from the beans and cover them again with clean water and add  2 tablespoons of salt. I then simmer the beans on low until they are the preferred softness. Depending on how old the beans are this will vary, you will want to begin checking them after about 1 1/2 hours.When they are soft and where you like them, drain the water and store in a container in the refrigerator. They can be used in salads, casseroles, soups or anywhere you want in your meals.  If you want to learn more about cooking with beans go to  this website.

Black Bean Soup

(click the names for the recipes)

You will start with a 1/4 lb of bacon cooked in a separate pan. This is to render of some of the fat so don't go too crispy. In a large pot heat the olive oil and cook celery, onions and  minced or pressed garlic until they are soft. I usually add the garlic last to make sure it doesn't burn while the others cook. Add your chicken broth, spices, bacon and ham hocks. Bring this to a boil and allow it to simmer on low for a few hours. You will want to stir it occasionally. Remove the ham hocks from the soup and allow to cool. When they have cooled and you can work with them without burning yourself pull the meat from the bone and add the meat back to the pot. If you are using canned beans or beans that are already softened this is where you want to add them. Simmer 15 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar at the end, this is a must do not skip it.
 Here is the finished meal. I like it  topped with a low fat sour cream. Amy, my sister in law, adds chopped cilantro and salsa. Fresh tomatoes would also be delicious.  I added a spicy, but not too spicy cornbread to go with the soup.


Preparing this from my well stocked pantry the cost was minimal. The ham was purchased on sale and used for Sunday dinner a day before. The spices I keep on hand and always have onions and garlic ready to go. Purchased for this recipe was bacon and celery which I had just run out of. This recipe feeds my family of 8 comfortably, plus Grandma. We had about 5 servings left over for lunches later in the week.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


An exciting treasure in this week's basket is WHITE ASPARAGUS!  We're also feeling a bit LEMONY!  There are also plenty of peppers to go around and we haven't seen GREEN BEANS in a while.  We also can't overlook the spaghetti squash, gorgeous little tomatoes or the papaya!  There are some great things to work with this week!


Asparagus comes in a variety of colors including white, violet-green, pink and purple.  
STORING:  If you must store any variety of asparagus, treat it as you would treat a cut flower.  Trim the stems and stand them in a glass with one to two inches of water.  Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or until ready to use.
WHITE ASPARAGUS is the high maintenance of all the asparagus sisters and requires much more attentive care.  It also takes much longer to cook than green asparagus.  The first few minutes of this Martha Stewart video shows how to remove the woody exterior of white asparagus, which you'll want to do before cooking.  It also shows how to :  The Proper way to Cook White Asparagus.  And here's another one from the UK, because that's where white asparagus is really appreciated and used often:  How to cook white asparagus in the UK.  I liked their idea of topping the asparagus with hollandaise sauce.  Aren't videos just the best?  I think so.  I also liked this idea of a White Asparagus Vanilla soup. 
  1. Asparagus with Soy Sauce and Green Onions 
    Asparagus with Sesame Oil and Sesame Seeds 
    Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese
    Asparagus with Lemon Juice 


We've put together a meal plan, with feeding a family of 4 in mind.  However, these ideas would be great no matter how many you're feeding.  This meal plan uses produce from a Utah basket from Bountiful Baskets and is based on MyPlate recommendations.  We'll also use a few simple ingredients from a well stocked kitchen and minimal additional items from the market.  You can click on each recipe name for the recipe.  Everything shown here was included in the basket contribution - $15 plus a small fee ($2.50).  Everything pictured came from my personal Bountiful Basket.  


Basket Items:  2 lemons, 3/4 lb green beans
Our own mom-of-the-year-level-of-awesome Kristi Strongo suggested this family favorite recipe that always pleases her brood of 8.  Sounds delicious to me!  Best part is it's a one-pot meal.  (Add a grain or bread on the side, such as garlic toast.)


Basket Items:  1 bundle white asparagus, 2 cups grape tomatoes, 1/2 orange bell pepper, 1 lemon (juice)
Delicious white asparagus with an orzo salad would go perfect with the baked or grilled fish of your choice.  I decided to make the asparagus as an au gratin because everything I read about it online tells me that it is going to need either a lot of fat or a sauce.  First time trying it so Im going to err on the side of safety and have it with a delicious sauce.

Basket Items:  1.5 -3.5 Lemons (for the juice
Growing up with Greek family members and friends, this has always been a favorite of mine.  You can go with the meatless option or one with chicken.  Both are delicious!  Serve with your favorite bread, sandwich or go with the theme and make spinach pies!  Both of these recipes are very simple to make.


Basket Items:  1-2 bell peppers, handful of tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 papaya
Follow these simple steps to create delicious omelettes.  Serve with toast and sliced or cubed fresh Papaya.


Basket Items:  1-2 bell peppers, 1 onion, a few tomatoes
Follow these simple steps to create pizza from scratch.  Or, like me you might use the Focaccia pizza rounds from BB (pictured).  I suggest sautéing the onion and pepper a little prior to adding as a pizza topping.  I also would slice a few of the little tomatoes thin and add them last before baking.  What other veggies do you have on hand?  


Basket Items:  1 Onion, 1 Bell Pepper, 1.5 celery stalk
With plenty of onion, celery, and peppers in this week's basket - it's almost a no brainer to make a sauce, a soup, or a chili from scratch!  Kristi's recipe is tried and true, or maybe it's time to pull our one of your family recipes!  Perfect on it's own, with cornbread, bread bowls, or fry bread.


Basket Items:  1 spaghetti squash
Cheesy squash for the win!  You can cook the spaghetti squash in the microwave more quickly, prior to adding it to the other ingredients.  Here's a video that shows you how to cut and microwave it.  This makes a hearty dish.  It would go well with a roasted vegetable or green salad on the side, bread or rice, and any grilled protein if you like.


6 oranges
6 apples
1.5 lemons
Plenty of celery
1.5 bell pepper
2 onions

Fresh is best!
Orange Julius
Fresh orange yogurt
Cottage cheese w/oranges
Frozen lemon custard
Apples with peanut butter, hummus, cheese, or any other dip
5-Minute Apple Crisp
Apple Bread or dumplings
Ants on a log
Celery and bell pepper with dip (such as hummus)
French Onion Soup
Stir Fry or Lo Mein
Baked Apples and Sweet Potato
Homemade Stuffing (with celery, onion, and apples)

*As always, look at what you have on hand and make something from there!