or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › Nutrition and Good Eating › Traditional Foods › something for nothing
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

something for nothing

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

So we are just beginning a long phase of being exceptionally, not just wickedly, but insanely, poor. Like look into the cupboard and see cobwebs.  And I am trying to work out how to feed a family of four on this. With some dietary restrictions, but not too many. My husband is diabetic and my youngest and I have celiacs. We eat a ton of meat, beans, full fat dairy products, vegetables and some fruit. That is, when we have the funds for these things. I need to get some really good advise... I'm beginning to worry that we aren't going to have food for the kids. We mostly adher to the "traditional" side of things, which is why I am posting here.

We are already on food stamps and WIC.


Sigh. Any ideas?



post #2 of 19

First of all, it is important to remember that preparation is a big part of Traditional foods.
Make use of your WIC and food stamps, buying extra items at the end of each month as you can.
Find out what days your grocery stores have their loss leaders, and shop those sales.
And find out what days the new food shipments are coming in and being stocked.Usually stuff is on sale the day before.

Certainly make sure and take all the WIC stuff. Maybe you can find a neighbor or friend that loves the cereals that are provided, and you can trade for something fresh.

Also, maybe you can find a farmer that sells eggs and veges, that could use some help once a week in exchange for those eggs and veges.

And, being that 2 out 4 are not able to eat gluten, and one may do better without any, maybe you can just resolve for the whole family to be gluten free.
as long as you are not going out of your way to replace with gf breads and sweets, this can cut your expenses.

post #3 of 19

I'm sorry to hear about your situation.


Are you in a "farmy" area?  I think your best bet would be to search out your local farms (not specifically ones that sell to the public, but any family that raises their own meat, veggies, dairy, etc), and try to help out.  There are always unsold veggies that go into the compost or to the pigs, surplus eggs that go to the animals, etc.  I know, because I've done it.  And if the right person turned up at the right time, I'd be more than willing to off-load the excess. 


Find someone with goats or cows, and tell them you want to learn how to milk.  They would probably be thrilled to have someone be their backup milker!

Or help out on butcher day - we know people who give a free chicken to everyone who helps.

Hunt?  Deer season is just around the corner.

Offer to weed or work in a vegetable garden.  The summer produce is at it's peak right now, so you can freeze, pickle, can, etc. 

"Forage" for fruit and berries in your neighbor hood.  Any fruit overhanging a public road is fair game (at least in our state) but most people would gladly share.


Craigslist is a great place to start - either place an ad, or search for things such as "raw milk" and "free zucchini".


You'll feel rich when you have your own food, produced by yourself, to feed your family.  Good luck!


post #4 of 19

The other suggestions given are great!  I think buying loss leader items is definitely the way to go, but also buy in bulk. Large bags of rice and dried beans are quite inexpensive.  Go to farmers' markets and ask for their "grounders" or seconds or even "deer" root veggies or fruits.  These are fruits and veggies that just don't look perfect or have fallen on the ground and can't be sold as highest grade.  They are sold at a fraction of the regular price.  Go near the end of the market hours when the farmers want to get rid of their produce rather than taking it back to the farm.  


The good thing about traditional foods is that it makes great use of stocks/broths for so many different things, but especially soups, which can go so far!  Cheaper cuts of meat and therefore usually tougher ones, are great for making stocks, and it makes the meat tender.  We raise our own chickens and I've learned to de-bone the whole carcass (you can obviously do this with store bought chicken as well).  All the bones/backs/scraps are used for making the stock which I then freeze to use later.  I boil it down a lot so it takes up less room in the freezer.  When I want soup, I thaw the stock, as some water to dilute, and throw in a starch (rice, beans, potato) and veggies and season with some herbs, simmer for a while and we're good to go. There are so many combinations and possibilities.  I wish you the best!

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies.

Yes, we do live in a "farmy" area, and I have a pretty good garden going this year too. We had chickens too until they were all devoured one cloudy day by a fox. We are a part of a bulk buying group too...and so I can do the bulk thing quite easily- it just takes up front money.

I do bone broths and lots of preserving- when I can. It is very easy to get down in the dumps and feel really depressed about it all when you realize that the outlook looks grim.

Thanks for all the advise.

post #6 of 19

With buying in bulk, try and find another member or two, that would want to split a bag or case of food with you.
You will still get a good amount, but at a lower cost.

post #7 of 19
Originally Posted by redclover View Post

Thanks for the replies.

Yes, we do live in a "farmy" area, and I have a pretty good garden going this year too. We had chickens too until they were all devoured one cloudy day by a fox. We are a part of a bulk buying group too...and so I can do the bulk thing quite easily- it just takes up front money.

I do bone broths and lots of preserving- when I can. It is very easy to get down in the dumps and feel really depressed about it all when you realize that the outlook looks grim.

Thanks for all the advise.



I'm so sorry about your chickens.  Also, I completely understand your cycle of energy.  I'm very depressed right now (haven't been medically evaluated yet), and finding the energy to take care of things is sometimes impossible.  Sometimes I let free sources of food go to waste and then I feel even more guilty and the cycle spirals.  I'm sorry I don't have any concrete advice, but I wanted you to know that I'm there with you.  It's hard.


About being a bit more self-sufficient, have you looked into rabbit?  They can be completely enclosed in a hutch so the foxes shouldn't be able to get them.  And they breed like, well, rabbits.  They're pretty easy to butcher and you might even be able to find someone that will want to buy/barter for the raw skins.


One thing that I recently did was go to a local food salvage store and ask about their outdated produce.  I told him I wanted it for my chickens, but I skim the good stuff off the top.  We've gotten a lot of veggies this way, even after cutting out the bad parts.


One more thing, although it takes a lot of energy to keep it up, is sprouts.  Sprouts can increase the value and amount of your food, and the seeds can be inexpensive.  Sprouting beans is nice because it makes them more digestible.  GNOWFGLINS has a good post on the whole thing.


Best of luck!


post #8 of 19
post #9 of 19

I don't want to do any real blog promoting here, because I don't know if it'll get me in trouble, but my blog is PennilessParenting.com and I write a lot about living and feeding my family on a very tight budget, and yes, we're gluten free. You might be able to get some good ideas from there.


But in short, I'd say beans. Beans. Beans. BEANS. Lentils. Millet. If you can possibly afford to spend 30 dollars in one go, you can buy 50 pounds of millet from amazon.com in one go, and its very filling and is gluten free. Beans don't get the canned stuff, buy dried- its MUCH MUCH cheaper. And its filling.


See if you can forage for wild edibles in your area. Or ask neighbors with gardens if they have any excess. If you know of any hunters who have game. Sometimes you can get them free, or just pay for the processing fee.

Or possibly even eating roadkill. (Never did it myself because of certain regulations here, but Butter from Hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.com does. Oh, and by the way, she's another gluten free person living on a tight budget with lots of suggestions.)

post #10 of 19

A couple of ideas that haven't been mentioned already - 


If you don't do this already - buy dried beans and legumes instead of canned. You get much more for your dollar, and the only prep is you have to soak them overnight. 


Many farms have "working shares" for their CSAs - instead of paying up front for a weekly box of produce, you put in a set amount of hours per week working around the farm. Not all farms advertise that they do it, so it doesn't hurt to ask. Some meat and egg CSAs do this too, those they're a bit rarer than the veggie ones. 


100% juice concentrates are usually more affordable and can stretch a little further than bottled juice. 


I know you said you've got some gluten restrictions in your family, but if you want to have some bread on hand for those that can eat it, you maintain your own sourdough starter instead of purchasing commercial yeast. You can actually get double-duty out of water used to cook potatoes with a potato water starter. 


And as PennyP mentioned - foraging. Wild nuts and fruits are the easiest for the beginning forager to identify. And there are many common weeds that are actually tasty, edible greens (dandelion for  example). If you go this route, be sure to get yourself a good edible wild foods guide from the library, and see if you can meet up with experienced foragers in your area. Another option for foraging fruit is to find neighbors who have trees that they don't harvest from - the website Neighborhood Fruit is a good place to start.  



post #11 of 19

Do you have a garden?  It's the end of the season, but you could still put in some veggies that could last you through the winter (depending on where you live).  Kale, collards, swiss chard, spinach and lettuce are all pretty easy to grow and cold tolerant.  If you cover the plants up with some straw or old leaves when it gets really cold, they can overwinter and come back in the spring.  You might be able to find some inexpensive seeds - $3 of kale seeds could make $100 worth of kale.  Often, stables will give you free manure to enrich your soil.  If you eat a lot of greens, you can supplement your calcium and not have to buy as much dairy. 


That's an unsettling position to be in!  I hope you feel more comfortable soon. 



post #12 of 19

Also, a lot of food and household goods companies will send you coupons, even if you don't see coupons regularly advertised for them. I've done this with pretty good success. If you can't find a spot specifically for that type of request on their website, just put in a comment form or email. Explaining that you'd like to receive coupons because you'd either like to try their product for the first time or you're already a loyal customer helps. I've even gotten vouchers for free product this way. I've noticed the organic/natural companies are especially good about it. You can also request samples this way.


Oh, and don't forget - whenever you buy meat, get bone-in and save the bones to make your own soups and stocks. You can even do this with fish, for fish stocks. Just put them in the freezer until you have enough saved to do a batch. Save your vegetable trimmings for this purpose as well (onion and carrot ends, for example). That way you get two uses out of every purchase. And save your bacon fat. It's not the healthiest thing to glob on everything, but a little bit to scramble eggs with or to shallow fry some chicken once in awhile is okay, and it's a free second use out of fried bacon. 


post #13 of 19
Our local Kroger marks down produce only Monday through Friday. Usually Tuesday or Wednesday around lunch. I have frequently gotten fresh, organic produce for less than the conventional counterpart by catching the "manager specials." These items are usually a couple of days away from their best by date.

I know of a local egg lady who has eggs set aside that are too ugly/ dirty/ small to sell. She has given me some before. Just a thought.

Farmers markets are cheaper than grocery stores about 80% of the time. A used chest freezer might be a good tool for making the most of sales or half a cow.

Is there a Mennonite or Amish community nearby? At the one near me I can get real salt for cheaper per pound than buying 50 pounds online. They also have great spices at great prices. And I can buy rice or wheat cheaply in 50# bags. Washing clothes in feed grade baking soda will help a budget. Feed stores carry it. I use about 1/3 per non-filthy load of laundry. It's about $15 for 50 pounds.

We stopped buying any new clothes except underwear. That can help a food budget, too.

Good luck and know you are not alone!!
post #14 of 19

My friends and I are always taking turns being the one without a whole lot of excess funds . . .

We also at times need each other to baby sit. Not much funds there either.

I haven't ever had a conversation with them, but I've noticed at times I'll watch 

a couple of their kids for free, but they will bring dinner stuff for my whole family, or 

vice verse, I'll bring food items to their house to feed my kids and their family as well. 

Anyway, thought maybe you know someone who needs child care, but can't afford

regular costs, but they could manage to bring your family dinner for the evening you watch them???


Good Luck : ) 

post #15 of 19
Originally Posted by redclover View Post

Thanks for the replies.

Yes, we do live in a "farmy" area, and I have a pretty good garden going this year too. We had chickens too until they were all devoured one cloudy day by a fox. We are a part of a bulk buying group too...and so I can do the bulk thing quite easily- it just takes up front money.

I do bone broths and lots of preserving- when I can. It is very easy to get down in the dumps and feel really depressed about it all when you realize that the outlook looks grim.

Thanks for all the advise.

yes buying wholesale can be a great way to save provided you can afford the upfront cost of buying large quantities, can use said large quantites in a timely manner, and have the space to store said large quantities


don't know how much baking you'll be able to do with celiacs in your family unless you can afford gluten-free flour which likely isn't an option for you at the moment....unless you can make something like a bean flour yourself...you can probably find a place on the internet that tells you how to make your own bean flour (which would be gluten-free)....as for the diabetes end for baking there are Splenda/white sugar and Splenda/brown sugar blends available....which I recommend over using all splenda in baking (I tried it before and it seems to dry out the end product)


to make 1 cup of sugar free powdered sugar for icings (where the powdered sugar is mainly for sweetness) you can take 1 cup of granulated splenda plus 1 tsp. of cornstarch and mix it in a food processor on high-speed for about 1 minute...it won't work for glazes as this won't behave like regular powdered sugar and the glaze won't set properly if you used this trick...I tried it once for a boston creme pie chocolate glaze and it didn't work too well...obviously the glaze tasted alright but it never set right...it thickened some but not like a glaze is supposed to


in baking, unsweetened applesauce (no added sugar in other words, just the natural sugar from the apples that it came from) can be a great low-cost and healthy replacement for the fat...I use it all the time as a 1-to-1 substitute for fat in all my baking and in pancakes and waffles...the only thing is that doing so can make your baked product have more of a cake like texture which is fine for cakes but might not be what you want for cookies or brownies since most people, me included, tend to prefer denser and chewier products in this regard


here's a gluten-free and healthy brownie recipe you might wanna try as an occasional dessert(you might have to tweak the recipe for personal preference though and definitely cut back on the amount of cinnamon in this recipe or skip the cinnamon altogether...1 T. is too much):


http://happyherbivore.com/2009/05/vegan-blackbean-brownies/ - these brownies look great (not sure about taste as I haven't tried this recipe yet)....they look like pieces of candy shop fudge....if you can't afford agave nectar (my wholesaler sells it which is nice and it's safe for diabetics as it has a low glycemic index) then you should be able to substitute sugar-free pancake syrup without sacrificing the consistency of the end product


oh and if you use the splenda/sugar blends in baking use half the amount as in the recipe...in other words take the amount of sugar, cut it in half, and use that amount of whichever splenda/sugar blend you're using...this is because splenda is sweeter than sugar so you won't need as much of the blend to provide the same level of sweetness

post #16 of 19

you can also grind rice rather than beans for gluten-free flour which is probably what I would do  if I had to since the grain mill attachment on my Kitchen Aid didn't say anything about being able to handle any beans


other tips for saving money are making your own powdered laundry detergent:


12 cups Borax
8 cups Baking Soda
8 cups Washing Soda
8 cups Bar soap (grated)

  • Mix all ingredients well and store in a sealed tub.
  • Use 1/8 cup of powder per full load.


you can save money on the water heater bill by washing all your laundry in cold water...if you do this though make sure yo pre-dissolve the amount of powder you're using in a little warm water and then pouring that solution in....if you just put the powder in the cold water from the machine likely won't dissolve the powder properly


you can make your own all-natural cleaner just mix equal amounts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle (can reuse an old cleaner bottle) and then put in a couple tablespoons of liquid dish soap (with biodegradable surfactants.....don't worry...it's still cheap enough...Dollar Tree sells liquid dish soap with biodegradable surfacants)...and for a glass cleaner just leave out the dish soap...vinegar and water will work fine on glass


for automatic dishwasher powder you can mix equal parts of borax and washing soda


use 1 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle of your laundry as a fabric softener...the acidity softens the fabric and sanitizes the interior of the machine


and for dryer sheets you can do reusable dryer sheets according to these instructions:


get a bottle of Seventh Generation fabric softener (can be pricey but when using it for this purpose it will last you a good long while)....into a spray bottle mix 1 part fabric softener to 2 parts water....cut up some old fabric (such as old sheets that have worn out and have holes in them) into roughly the same size as the dryer sheets you buy.....take one of these old pieces of fabric and give it 10 good sprays with the diluted fabric softener solution and toss it in the dryer with your load of laundry....that's it....each piece can be reused about 3 times before you have to toss it in with a load of laundry to clean it


there are plenty of frugalist tips for people on tight budgets on the internet...and many of these frugalist tips have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly

post #17 of 19

also in baking you can save money (and by extension veganize many of your baked goods) by using water in place of the milk called for in the recipe.....in most baked goods you can do this without sacrificing the consistency of the end product...though the end product might not have as rich of a flavor as if you used milk...and instead of using up your precious eggs in baking you can do this to substitute for eggs (which is also vegan):


1 egg = 1 T. cornstarch + 3 T. water (according to the back of Bob's Red Mill GF choc. chip cookie mix)...whisk the cornstarch and water together and use in place of egg....this will free up eggs to be cooked and serve for meals

post #18 of 19

Here are step by step instructions to make Blender Batter pancakes/waffles, which are made from whole grains like brown rice and/or millet. Both are cheap and GF. And they taste great!

Waffles freeze well and can be heated from frozen in a toaster. If you get rice from WIC or bulk you might make a bunch and store for later.


post #19 of 19

So many of these ideas are heavy on grain and reduce the nutrient-rich foods like milk/eggs etc!  I would focus completely on nutrient-dense foods rather than fillers and empty substitutes.  And I never use alternative sweeteners or replace fat in recipes--what's the point of that?  Survival doesn't need sweet flavors and it prefers more fats in my traditional diet reality.  IMO no one who is destitute and favors whole foods needs recipes for half-sugar glazes and the like.


If you have kids who get extra less-traditional snacks as indulgences then make them the cheapest conventional versions possible.  If they are going to have something sugared just get the very cheapest cookie or if they are going to have crackers then get the very cheapest plain conventional ones--health food store versions of these aren't better enough to pay premium prices IMO.  They are still just fillers and thus should be super-cheap.  They are however valuable psychologically--to have something to offer a nibbly child can make you feel a lot better about your situation--and don't worry too much about exactly what at that point.  So then you save your money for the things with extra high nutritional value:


I think eggs are a bargain because of their overall nutrition, so I would keep buying decent eggs.  I would buy conventional meat.  Canned wild fish for sure.  Carrots are generally a good deal.  Plant some greens (spinach!) and don't buy any--just wait until they grow.  Eat lots of onion and garlic.  Skip most condiments--they add up to a lot of $$$ fast without providing much nourishment.  Meat is an awesome flavoring with onion and garlic.  Make a bit of sauerkraut too :) as cabbage is usually cheap.  I'd fill in with potatoes and some beans but starting with green beans flavored with meat.  It's also winter squash time! Get good deals locally if you didn't grow any!  If you can't afford organic let it go.  You will be okay--strong healthy bodies do pretty well at processing toxins--just avoid exotic produce that had to travel or tend to get more pesticides used on them.



New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Traditional Foods
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › Nutrition and Good Eating › Traditional Foods › something for nothing