Cooking Healthy Food for a Large Family with a Small Budget

Eating healthy food seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Although we all want to be healthy, it sometimes seems impossible to eat right. Organic food is so expensive. Growing our own food takes a lot of work and time. Making our food from scratch takes a lot of time too. Several years ago we made a decision to start eating healthier food. We are still making changes to our diet in order to eat even healthier foods. Below I will list some of the things we have done in order to eat healthier.

  1. Baking from scratch is the most cost effective method of eating healthier. It most definitely takes extra time, but homemade food tastes so much better and you can feel better about eating it. One way we have found to cut down on the time it takes to bake from scratch is to use a Kitchen Aid mixer. Another thing we have found to be helpful is bake ahead and freeze. We especially do this with breakfast food such as muffins, pancakes and waffles. Baking from scratch is the easiest way to cut out chemicals that serve to enhance flavor and preserve the food.
  2. Read the list of ingredients on the package. This was where I started. My family used to tease me for this, but I learned a lot from it. As a general rule, if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, your body doesn’t need it.
  3. Pay special attention to monosodium glutamate (MSG). Many argue that this is a safe additive to food. I heartily disagree. I, as well as most members of my family, am quite sensitive to MSG. If you have headaches, blurred vision, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, or asthma, swelling or numbness, MSG might be the culprit. If you have problems such as chest pains or asthma, by all means see your doctor as well as cutting MSG out of your diet. To learn more about MSG, the book, Battling the “MSG Myth,” is a wonderful guide. It also has several recipes that are MSG free.
  4. Refer to the “Dirty Dozen” list to determine which foods are most important to buy organic. The foods on this list are most important to buy organic due to their contamination from pesticides. If your grocery budget does not have much room for expansion, this list will help prioritize which foods to buy organic.
  5. Be aware of the “5 Deadly Whites.” You can read articles on the “5 Deadly Whites” by clicking on the following links: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Following these basic principles will help to make you and your family healthier. This may be a slow process, but in the end it is worth it. Don’t forget that it’s okay to have a treat every once in a while. We generally follow these rules, but we also enjoy treats.

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Dad of Purpose – The Plan

In the past few weeks that I have been writing this thread, I have given specific points to address in our lives in a direct way.  Mainly the focus has been to clear up issues in our lives that prevent us from making choices.  When we free up our resources it gives us more and more freedom to focus on our direction.  You may have asked yourself what is this purpose that I have been referring to?

If you don’t have a clear travel plan then you will never know when you get where you are going.  You do not know which turns to take.  You may follow the main stream of traffic and end up in a jam.  You might take a turn to nowhere and end up lost and alone.  If we free ourselves to make choices then we need to have a good plan of direction to fill in the void.  I have not yet described The Plan that we have set for our family.

Our plan is to raise children of faith.  This sets the foundation for our homeschooling.  It is important to provide the learning in math, language, history and science.  If your child excels in any one of these subjects they may be able to make a lot of money and be successful in the eyes of the world.  If they do not know how to love and maintain their integrity, they will be miserable and empty.  Parents are commissioned to transfer the knowledge and worship of God to their children.  If they are firmly established in Him then they will be productive and live a life of joy and fulfillment.  They may not ever be wealthy but they will have life to the full.

Focus is an important element.  The main focus we have adopted is to fix our eyes on Jesus.  If this focus is not reflected in the context of every day life choices then it is just an empty saying.  Nothing will anger and frustrate a child more than to profess a belief and live the very opposite.  This is the biggest problem with todays families.  Children become angry when they are taught a set of values that they see their parents completely ignoring.  If we honestly look at ourselves, are we as parents are to blame if our children are growing up with little or no faith?  The focus on Jesus should direct and control our lives at work, our entertainment choices, and most importantly, how we treat our family members at home.  We have made it a point not to fill our weeks with busy activities.  We keep our family together as much as possible.  The activities we do plan are centered around things we can all do together.  Many times this is getting with other families or having people over to minister to them. 

Talk with your children.  Be open and honest.  There is an age appropriate way to intoduce the hard lessons in this world.  Our children are not sheltered from the sin in this world.  We make it a point be with them and explain what they see and hear.  We talk about relationships and marriage.  We talk about addictions to drugs and alcohol.  We have had divorce and teen pregnancy in our families.  We don’t make it a point to cover this up.  We want our children to see the Godly point of view.  We figure our how we can love in each situation while still focusing on the truth.  They gain the skills to do this by seeing their parents struggle to make the right decisions.  They learn a lot by seeing us make wrong decisions also.

Education happens every day.  We are teaching with our words, the way we discipline, the way we spend free time, and the way we consistantly treat others.  What do you want your children to learn?  They are going to be educated one way or another.  We need to be vigilant and purposeful so that our children will have the tools and the heart that they need to succeed where it counts the most.  If we have a clear vision of what we want for their lives then everything we do will be directed by our ultimate plan.

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Dad of Purpose – Debt

Freedom to make choices in your life does not come by accident.  In the last post in the Dad of Purpose series I talked about making career choices to benefit your family.  Much of the freedom to choose your direction in life depends on the amount of debt you are carrying.  When you look at your budget, how much of your income goes to paying on credit cards, vehicles, or the house?  These can be big choice killers that need to be managed or eliminated.

Much of the debt we incur will be the result of a lack of purpose.  We will desire any ‘shiny object’ that is waved in front of us if there is no long term vision.  Any purchase that comes along is only measured by instant gratification.  At the end of the month we find our resources over extended and our storage sheds bulging to the seams.  If debt is an issue, it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Take a look at your monthly bills.  There is surely something that you can eliminate.  Cut down on going to restaurants.  Cut back on entertainment.  You may also be able to cut out some luxuries on the grocery list.  Cable tv is a common expense that can be cut to free up extra cash at the end of the month.  Sell anything that does not directly contribute to the long term plan you have for your children.  Get rid of the credit cards.  Tear them up or leave them at home.  Keep only one credit card and use it wisely.  Don’t carry it with you.  This might be a necessity for travel or internet purchases.

After the expenses of today are taken care of we need to evaluate every future commitment of our resources.  Sometimes our decisions will be unpopular.  It will be easier to say, “No” if your vision is clear.  It will also be easier if you and your wife are in agreement with the long-term purpose.  I also recommend sharing the vision with your children because they are the ones who will be blessed.  The members of your family will be more acceptable of your actions if they see each event as a part of a greater whole.  If it looks like it depends on your own selfish attitude at the time then they may become bitter.  Share it also with a couple trusted men in your life so they can keep you accountable.

This path will usually take the average person a great deal of time to pursue.  In my experience it takes about 10 years to overcome a bad financial mistake.  This depends on how big the mistake may be.  A bad car decision will take at least 5 years to pay off the loan.  It will take much longer to regain your savings.  When you are living in the middle of these credit commitments, you feel like a large weight is pressing in on you all the time.  You need to make a plan to remove the weight as soon as possible.

Make a commitment to take your life back.  Resolve to change your spending habits. When you eliminate debt you have the freedom to change your job situation, give to those in need, save for your children’s future, and improve your family life.  We are down to our home as our only debt.  We are able to live on a single income.  God has blessed our family and our plan.

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Dad of Purpose – Planning

God placed both Adam and Eve in the garden together. The purpose was to have a family working together to live and raise children.  The qualities of both the father and mother are important ingredients to training children as they grow.  This is the original design.  Our culture  places our worth on our success in our chosen profession.  We put great effort into our work.  We need to change our focus to make our work benefit our family.  The decisions we make today will set the reality that we live in for the years to come.  How close to God’s original blueprint do you plan for your family to be?

Most major life decisions take time to become reality. When we started having children our goal was to be their primary inflluence.  At that time we started the transition for my wife, Lori, to be in the home providing the primary care.   This decision also meant that I had to have a job that would require minimal travel and reasonable work hours.  By the time our second child was born I changed jobs, and Lori proposed a job share arrangement that cut her work hours in half.  God soon took her work situation away as the company relocated.  We kept to our goal. She eventually worked from home in the evenings, and after we had our fifth child she quit working altogether.  Changing jobs and reducing working hours can sometimes take years.  The sooner the process is started, the less time it take see the final results. We had a clear picture of what we wanted our children to be.  This meant how we wanted them to behave in their younger years and also what their character would be when they reached maturity.  No day care has the ability to help you do this. You cannot even delegate to close friends or relatives.  This was plain to see.  If you delegate influence to others, you will be required to make compromizes.  If you won’t compromize then these relationships will become strained or broken.  We did utilize the graciousness of grandparents and a very trusted freind in our job changing process but we diligently worked to replace outside care with the presence of my wife in our childrens’ lives.

Being a Dad of Purpose means that your career serves the purpose of your family.  Your family does not serve the purpose of your career.  If you need to make changes, start the process of making them today.  Raising children is the most important career that God has granted us.  We set the coarse of the next generation with the character of the children we produce. These future adults will set the standards for churches, schools, business.  They also determine the destinies of nations and the world.  What could be more important and influential than this?  We have to realize that no one else will hold these goals as passionate as you do.  It is important that every decision you make coincides with God’s plan.

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Dad of Purpose

God built the family from the very beginning.  He placed the man and the woman in the garden together.  They were side by side in the presence of God and each other.  Then, they began giving birth to children.  Adam did not have a place to go to work.  My assumption is that Adam toiled and fought weeds to produce food so that they could survive.  Where were the children?  They had no other children to play with.  They were with the family, and they all worked and played together.  In this day and age what is the design and purpose of the family?  Where would God place Adam, the father, in today’s environment?  My belief is that God placed the family together as a unit.  His desire is that the children be under the influence of both parents as often as possible.  In a series of posts I would like to explore what it looks like in today’s world for dads to fulfill their God-given purpose and some practical ways to accomplish this mission.

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Sour Cream Raspberry Muffins

I thought I would share a recipe I found for sour cream raspberry muffins. We tried it out Sunday morning, and it was soooo delicious. Using home grown raspberries made it even more special and delectable. If you are cooking for a large family as we do, you may find it more efficient and helpful to use a casserole dish instead of making individual muffins. We often do this to save time.

Raspberry Sour Cream Muffins

Yield: 16 muffins

Streusel Topping:

1/4 c. chopped pecans

1/3 c. brown sugar, packed

1/4 c. flour

2 T. butter, melted


2 eggs

1 c. sugar

½ c. vegetable oil

1 t. almond extract

2 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

½ t. baking soda

1 c. sour cream, room temperature

3 oz. cream cheese

1 c. fresh or frozen raspberries, divided

1. Combine dry ingredients for streusel topping and mix well. Incorporate melted butter, and set mixture aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Then, gradually add sugar. Add vegetable oil and almond extract.

3. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.

4.  Add dry ingredients and sour cream to wet ingredients. Mix until smooth.

5. Divide cream cheese into 16 pieces.

6. In greased muffin cups, spoon a generous tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each cup.

7. Divide ½ c. of raspberries between muffin cups.

8. Place one piece of cream cheese on top of raspberries in each muffin cup.

9. Divide the rest of the batter among the muffin cups equally.

10. Sprinkle with the rest of the raspberries over the muffins, and top with the streusel topping.

11. Bake at 350⁰ for 20-25 min.

12. Let muffins cool and enjoy.

I doubled this recipe and used and 11″x14″ pan. It turned out slightly gooey in the center, but we all like it that way. A 9”x13” pan would work well for a single batch if you choose to use a casserole dish instead of muffin cups. If you choose to use a casserole dish, expect baking time to be 30-45 min. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have. We’d love to hear what you and your family think about these muffins when you make them!

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Is it Possible to Have Fresh, Home Grown Food in Winter?

On the note of knowing where your food comes from, now you ask what you should do in the upcoming winter months when it is too cold for produce to grow? How can you be sure your food supply is coming from a reliable source throughout the winter? It is fairly simple to wrap your mind around the idea of freezing and canning garden produce, but what about greens such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage? Would you believe it is actually possible to grow these vegetables through the winter? You won’t need an expensive greenhouse, just a simple, inexpensive row cover or a slightly more complex cold frame.

By covering a row of greens you can extend your growing season by up to several months depending on your climate. Right now is the time to plant lettuce, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, and/or several other cold hardy greens in your garden or cold frame. As the nighttime temperatures begin to fall below freezing, just cover the plants. The ones in the garden should be covered by a row cover, and the the cold frame lid should be closed at night to keep out the cold. By the time the nights start to get cold, your greens will be full grown, and ready to eat. The greens will keep all winter until they are eaten by you and your family. Just remember, plant as much as you will need right now because the plants will not grow very quickly in the cold, and, once it gets even colder, they will stop growing completely. If you would like more information on this method for keeping fresh greens on hand throughout the winter read the book The Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman. He has some wonderful insights on planting and harvesting produce throughout the entire year.

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Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

In today’s world it is impossible to know exactly where everything you eat comes from. That does not mean that you should not find as much food as you can in your own back yard. In the past two weeks the news has been all about the recall on eggs. The list contained 13 different brands of eggs. The actual sources of those eggs was considerably less. The foods often purchase are labeled to make us think that they are fresh from the farm. In reality the products are mass produced from a mega production operation. The egg recall did not even make me bat an eyeball. Our family has been consuming the eggs that we collect from our own chickens. I know how old the eggs are and what the chickens have been fed. I know how the eggs have been cared for. There is peace of mind when you know where your food comes from and what has gone into its production.

We have been blessed to live in an area where there is agriculture at a single farmer level. We have been eating beef that has been raised withing 50 yards of our house. We have the ability to keep chickens to butcher and chickens to provide eggs. Farmer’s markets are also popular in our area. We also have the ground to plant a garden and various berries that we enjoy. If you do not have the ground to plant a garden you may find a church or another family that will till more ground than they need and allow you to have your own plot. There are also community shared agriculture, or CSAs, that you can join. By becoming a part of a CSA you will receive fresh produce throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. The trend is growing. It is worth the effort to find as much of your food as you can from sources outside the grocery store.

Another option is hunting. Many farmers are having issues with a growing deer population and may allow a responsible person hunting privileges. Many states have public land that is open to hunting. A meat processor is likely located in your area or you can find instructions on the internet to process your own game. This will provide you with lean and very tasty meat to supplement your diet. There are also other smaller game such as squirrels or rabbits that are available.

Be creative and work together as a family to put food on the table. This will make mealtime much more enjoyable. As we see where our food comes from and the effort that goes into acquiring it, everyone will appreciate what is put before them. It may make us all a bit more gracious and thankful.

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No Honey in the Hive

This past weekend I excitedly opened my hive to see how well my bees were doing. I especially wanted to see how well my new queen has been doing. I recieved a surprise when I found that there was no honey in either of my hives. There was a few cells of pollen in one. A new round of bees were emerging from thier cells. In addition to the lack of honey there were no eggs. As a new beekeeper it was evident that something is not right.

The bees will need a good supply of honey for food this winter. There should be good stores by now. What honey that was in the hives has been either robbed or consumed. This time of year there is not a new crop of flowers coming on to gather the nectar and make more honey. What can be done now to help the hives through the winter.

My first action will be to feed the bees with a 50% sugar solution. Feeder that hold an inverted jar with a lid poked with holes. The sugar water will be used by the bees to produce honey. It is not the good quality of honey that you get from the natural plants and trees. This will only be for the survival of the hives.

If there are any other suggestions or reasons that I am in this situation please forward them.

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Our Homeschool History

As we begin our eleventh year of homeschooling I find myself reflecting on the previous years. It is amazing how each year is different but yet the same. Every year, I evaluate whether or not the curriculum I am using is working for each of my children, I determine what character traits we need to focus on, and ultimately I ask what God wants from our school. One area that has never changed is that I have to continually ask God for patience and for His will to be done in our children. I pray that He uses me as His tool to sharpen the children He has blessed us with. And so, with ten years behind us, we look forward to what God has in store.

Our journey began when our oldest was in kindergarten at a private school.  At the time, I wasn’t very familiar with homeschooling, but my husband and I quickly realized that God must have a different plan for our lives. We knew we wanted a large family, and we quickly saw where homework and outside activities could diminish family time that we always held so important. So, God placed more and more people in our lives who homeschooled, and we decided it was the path for us also. I was working at the school as their accountant on a part-time basis. We were ready to do whatever we needed in order to follow God’s call. I was able to transition my work from the office to home. At the time it was a good fit. Finally, after our fifth child was about a year old, God put it on my heart to quit my job and completely focus on homeschooling and raising the children. God has blessed that decision greatly.

My husband and I have been blessed with six wonderful children. They vary in age from sixteen to one. Through the years we have faced many challenges. Each year, the dynamic is different and requires adjustments. Each time we add a new one to “official” school activities, it requires me to find new techniques to help our school run more efficiently. That requires patience and a willingness to change.  In an effort to help everyone ease into another year, God has finally taught me to relax and just enjoy my children.  Everyone seems to flourish when I do.

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