Simple Food

Food and eating are the heart to our family and I’m sure an important part in your life’s also. Meal time around here is something looked forward to by every one. It’s the few times a day everyone comes together to talk, laugh and share their day with everyone. To unwind, catch up and recharge in so many ways.

I can’t count the number of times a day I hear the words, what’s for dinner? What did you pack for lunch today? When you go shopping can you bring me back…? Do we have any more of the cookies we had yesterday? And so many others related to food.


As the one being in charge of the food in the house I think about it many times each day as well. Judging by the many e-mails I have had lately we are not alone in thinking all sorts of things about food.

I thought today I would spend some time to do a sort of Q & A of a post.


Janet wrote:


How can I cut back on the cost to feed my family. We have already cut our spending to the bare minimum needed to feed our family each week. No more meals out, fancy desserts, steaks on the grill, or big dinner parties. I use coupons when I can and we still need to cut back further to make ends meet.

I have even started buying the large family sized frozen meals thinking all the ingredients are already there and must be more cost effective.


Patricia wrote:

Dear Karyn,

I just love reading your blog and want to know what you do to find quality organic food. How do you make purchases without spending any money?


Emily wrote:

Hi Karen,
Well my husband and I want to eventually live on one income. We are really into organic foods. Do you have any tips for cooking? Also we buy a lot of beans. My husband wants to begin to live as simple as possible and not have to use money all the time.


Meghan wrote:

Dear Karin,

You have said you don’t throw away or have left overs. How do you do this without eating the same food all week long? How do you convince your family they should eat the left overs before they spoil?



My answers:

While cutting the cost of food is an important part of making ends meet, you still must feed your family quality, healthy food for them to stay healthy. I too am always looking for ways to cut back on the grocery bills.

It seems if I buy the exact same items two weeks in a row the total cost has gone up from the week before. At some point you can’t cut food back any further, so you must look for other ways to make the best of what you do buy.

bulk foods

One way is to stop buying pre-packaged foods. Go back to using basic ingredients and recipes. Stop paying for the packaging and convenience. A 5 pound bag of  whole grain macaroni, a 5 pound block of good sharp cheese, home made bread crumbs and farm fresh milk will make a nutritious meal many times over the cost of a frozen pre made dinner. A bag of potato chips put into individual sized bags is less expensive than those little bags with 3-4 chips in them. The selling point is that they have a certain number of calories or fat. Read the back of the package and put your own portions into bags. Do the work yourself don’t pay others to do the thinking and work for you. I have a post here on cloth snack bags that have been working very well for our family.

snack bag7

Start simple and go back to what you know. Pull out those old recipes and stock basic ingredients. Cooking enough for several meals at one time will save you time and reduce the cost of the energy used in the long run. Use your freezer to your advantage. Also recipes that use fewer ingredients will help. A search on the internet will give you many recipes for all kinds of dishes that use basic ingredients, are nutritious and delicious.

Something as simple as making freezer jam will help save you money, and you don’t need fancy equipment to do it. If you don’t have any of the equipment, ask to borrow from family and friends. How about a girls night making jams & baking bread for those jams!

On the side bar to the right————————> there are a few links to recipes for making basic foods. Some are quite gourmet and very expensive if you had to buy them all made for you. The vanilla sugar is one that comes to mind as is the dressing mixes. Try the brown sugar recipe.

Left overs I don’t see as left overs, I see them as already cooked food to add to our meals. Many times I cook extra to serve another time. Last night’s left over corn may be part of tonight’s casserole. Most can be frozen for a few weeks and by that time every one is ready to eat it again. Left overs can be brought for quick lunches while at work, or taken to eat while out doing errands, watching the kids ball game. Heat them if need be and put into a wide mouth Thermos.

Organic food, often is so over priced and you must be careful and know what you are buying. The regulations here in the US aren’t all that strict and I see many foods labeled organic or natural but when I read the contents or do some research on the company offering the food it isn’t at all. Some organic fruits you take the peel off anyway so I don’t know if there is an advantage to it being organic.

My approach to this to grow my own organic veggies that I can. I use the local farmers markets, and road side stands and buy from the farmers I know. I know how their food is grown. Natural food stores and co-ops might be a good choice.

Here we will never be able to grow oranges, bananas, lemons. Our climate simply won’t allow such things. But I can grow tomatoes, spinach, beans and use the saved money to purchase the things I can’t grow. Also I can’t grow a garden year round, we have from the first of June to about the end of September. This short season means growing must be done quickly and the bounty from that preserved in the forms of freezing, canning and dehydrating. There is a bit we can do to extend the season within limits and that means a few weeks.


For things like baking supplies, spices and herbs I have a few brands I have done the research on and stick with those. Even the health food stores that sell herbs and spices in bulk bought them from someone. Ask who, most times around here it is Frontier. A company I know and trust. Also watch those containers, are the levels of the herbs and spices in those bulk container ever going up or down. or are you the only one helping to empty the container. I would question the freshness of them. Pour a small amount in your hand and see if it smells fresh with lots of fragrance, it it a good color, it it’s dried leaves it is still crunchy or damp? If it passes your inspection great put that small bit into your container and make the purchase if not toss it into the trash. Don’t put it back into the bulk container.

The health food store is full of items such as spaghetti sauces, cereals, canned veggies, juice boxes. Most are in tiny packages and not from what I would call from the top of the food lists. Meaning not a basic ingredient. Make your own sauces. a good size container of oats and you can have all sorts of varieties of oatmeal, cookies, cakes.

Dried beans are a great source of fiber and protein. Bought in bulk they are very economical. Cook them up plain and they can be added to many dishes. They can well and freeze well too. Did you know a 1 pound bag will make more than double the amount of beans you will find in a single can beans. Those cans are almost 1/2 water to start with. I will do a post on home canning and freezing beans soon. I just brought home 20 pounds to put up for the winter.

Bartering and trading can be tricky. If you look around and ask around you will find others willing to trade and barter with you. You will have to know what in general the item/s you are trading are worth and what is being offered is worth. They should be close in value. But this rule is always broken some times it’s ok to come out on the short end.  If you are trading food, be sure it is good quality. Enter into the trade knowing both sides of the expectations so there aren’t surprised or hurt feelings later. It won’t take long in the trading community for the word to get around both good and negative—Just be fair and honest—

I have noticed a bartering section up on Craig’s list and a section in our local paper. This I can’t comment on I have never used these contacts. I stick to trading with people I know. You could try putting an add up at the local feed/farm store. Use a heading something similar to looking for, or willing to trade…

handmade cotton dishcloth

Available in our Country Farm Store on Etsy

Living simply and cutting back to one income can be done and is done every day. It boils down to living within your means. The first place to start is reducing debt, the amount of money you owe to others. Use a budget and cash system. Don’t borrow money or use credit, cash is the way to go. It’s just so simple if you don’t have the cash you don’t buy it.

It also might mean getting rid of many of the things you think you can’t do without, cable tv, cell phones or the house phone, weekly shopping just to shop, expensive hair cuts and fancy fingernails.

It also means thinking about other ways to have the things you do need such as clothing, shelter, food, water and medications. This may mean going to thrift shops, sewing your own or even only having a few pair of well made, quality jeans instead of dozens. It may mean you could cut back your water bill if you installed a rain water collection barrel to water the garden. It might mean investing in some good heavy drapes so you can turn the a/c up or the heat down a bit.

It might be starting to make your own cleaners and soaps to clean you and your house with. The recipes I use are here. In the long run they are economical to use and better for you and the environment.

stewie and dumpling1


Raising animals for food is another option but most don’t have the time or space to properly care for them. But animals like chickens or rabbits can be managed in small areas and are multi purpose, eggs, meat, fertilizer. Even a simple worm bucket will provide you with casting worth their weight in gold for gardening and even your house plants.

Gardening to grow your own produce is an inexpensive and easy way to provide food for your family. While some might not have the room to put in a 1,000 sq. ft garden every little bit will help. Consider putting plants into buckets, tuck them into your flower beds. Can you grow herbs on your windowsill?

Learning basic skills will take you far in living simply and save you money. Knitting and sewing are valuable in your day to day needs as well as gift giving and even earning extra income. I’m not saying everyone has this desire but basic skills will teach you to do for yourself.

Use what you already have in as many ways as possible. The cloth napkin that doesn’t look so great on the table any longer can make it’s way to become a dish cloth then a cleaning rag, then out to the barn or garage to clean up out there and finally to the compost or worm bin.

Save and use your glass jars for storing food. This will save you the cost of plastic in the forms of wraps and containers.

morning glories3

It will take some thought and trial and error. No one is going to get it right the first time and that’s ok, simple living is the journey not the ending point. Pick one place to start and get it right then move onto something else. You will be surprised at how quickly you will think of new ways to do and see things.


Posted on June 30, 2009, in Food Storage, Home Cooking Recipes, In the House, Natural Cleaning Recipes, Planning, Time Management and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi Karyn,
    I have just been catching up on your blog and read back to this post. I love when you write about the simple life like this. You always acknowledge that its a journey and give so much helpful info for places to make a change. I usually find one change or new habit can easily lead to another.
    You provide constant inspiration for taking those little steps. Thankyou.

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