Eat Well, Spend Less: One year later

Eat Well, Spend Less series

It's been a whole year since the Eat Well, Spend Less series began! This month, we're writing about the changes in our grocery budgets and eating habits through the past year.

For my family, the past year has been full of twists and turns! Discovering medical conditions of my husband (Joshua) that demanded attention, pregnancy and the birth of our 5th baby, 3 months of having my husband home from work (on medical leave), homeschooling 3 children, and all of the children growing and eating more and doing more as we try to balance frugal and simple and healthy and quick, the 2-year-old just pulled down a stack of puzzles! :)

Last year, my sanity stayed intact and life was frugally simplified by:

1. Having a chest freezer

I still can't believe the difference this has made! We've had our freezer for 14 months now and it has become key in helping our family to eat well on a budget. It has saved trips to the store, allowed us to gather gallons of berries in the summer (without making it all into sugary jam or pie filling!), and afforded the ability to stock up on fish at discount prices.

Kitchen shelves
My "upgraded" kitchen shelves!

2. Bi-weekly grocery shopping

I am still a huge Costco fan! All my reasons for loving Costco hold true. I like their produce. I like their baking supplies and spices. I like their frozen veggies and fruits. I like their dairy prices. And I love only going to 1 store, twice a month! It saves time and I know we spend less when we don't shop weekly.

(We do occasionally go to other stores to buy certain items, like bulk foods. And now that Joshua's back to work, we'll be buying bananas at QFC just down the road for the weeks when we're not doing our "regular" grocery shopping.)

See also: Is Costco Frugal?

Getting ready to pick blackberries

3. Foraging for food

Okay, so I've only foraged two things so far. But still! It's a start, especially for someone (like me) living in an urban area and not having daytime transportation (and needing to take 4 kids along on walks!).

Last summer we picked 12+ gallons of huge, plump, delicious blackberries and froze them! We've been making blackberry syrup and using them in smoothies. Considering the price of frozen fruit in the store, we're saving a lot by harvesting the berries that grow wild here in western Washington! :)

This Spring I've been gathering nettles. (More about that later this week!)

Kitchen shelves

4. Making easy meals and snacks

Unless we're having guests, I mostly follow my "three things and it's dinner!" rule. I've focused more on simple meat main dishes (grilled or baked fish, chicken, or turkey) with a grain on the side (often brown rice) and a veggie on the side (often frozen veggies from Costco). We've eaten lots of beans for lunches and oatmeal for breakfasts.

Snacks are usually no-cook things like fresh fruit, cheese, veggie sticks with hummus, or nuts (smoked almonds are our favorite). Again -- Costco makes these things more affordable, I have the older boys help prep fruits or veggies (doing several days' worth at a time), and I feel good about the food and snack options I'm serving!

5. Eating at home

This one's essential for spending less and eating well. I don't always feel like cooking dinner, but I combat that by having super easy meal options available (freezer burritos or beef vegetable soup from the freezer have "saved the day" more than a handful of times!). I also happily enlist Joshua's help with meals on the weekends, when he has time to grill chicken or fish. And ultimately, being home a lot (like... all day every day!) allows me to cook more while still keeping life feeling "simple".

Our favorite restaurant copycat recipe are filed here!

Where we're headed now: Weight loss (me)

Last year, I felt like we ate pretty balanced and healthy meals, but I had really fallen off the "weight loss" bandwagon and onto the "weight gain" one long before getting pregnant again. I don't have any good excuses... the summer was cold and cloudy, I felt depressed, I didn't care enough, and I liked food way too much. ;) I pulled out of that cycle (with God's help and blessing!) in time to be pregnant and then spend 8 months eating enough and gaining appropriately. Baby Channah is beautiful and healthy as can be! And I've lost 20 of the 25 pounds I gained in pregnancy.

However, I still have 10 pounds to lose from pregnancy #4, and 10 to lose from #3, and if I got really ambitious (which I may not be), 10 pounds to lose from pregnancies #1 and #2! Yikes. So, I'm definitely going to be watching my food choices and even keeping track of my calories for quite a while if that's going to happen.

I would rather just eat and eat (and gain weight) than to count calories, but I find I must count calories to help me keep a healthy balance, lose weight slowly, make sure I'm eating enough, and "spending" my calories wisely.

I'd like to share more on this topic in another post soon, but until then, I've written about weight loss in the past:

Weighing in: Practicing moderation in eating

Weight loss: Motivation, habits, and counting calories 

Healthy snacks, moderated 

Food Budgeting: Spending my calories wisely


Where we're headed now: Healthy lunches (Joshua)

After 3 months off, I felt a little rusty when it came time to start packing lunches for Joshua again! Fortunately, he keeps his lunch requests simple for me and with some planning, it can all be made ahead and just thrown in the lunchbox in the morning.

Joshua's been eating oatmeal (made with lactose-free milk) in the morning before leaving for work. In his lunch I pack 2 bananas, a protein drink (made with milk and protein powder), and a container of cooked pinto beans with some hot sauce and 1/2 ounce of cheese sprinkled on top. He eats something at each of his breaks, and warms the beans in the microwave for lunch.

He comes home hungry! But my goal is to have dinner on the table when he gets home, so we can eat right away. :)

Eat Well, Spend Less series

Check out what the other Eat Well, Spend Less bloggers are sharing about their year:

Jessica at Life As Mom
Katie at GoodLife Eats
Carrie at Denver Bargains
Amy at Keeping the Kingdom First
Aimee at Simple Bites
Katie at Kitchen Stewardship
Shaina at Food for my Family
Mandi at Life...Your Way


I'm so excited for you and your weight loss journey! I read all of your blog entries on losing weight. :) I am so excited to see we have the same strategy. This is the first time I have ever counted calories in order to lose weight and I have had great success. I have learned so much about portion control and calorie awareness in foods. It has truly become life changing. I have gotten down to my college/first married weight which I thought at one time would be impossible. I lost 40 lbs!. Ten pounds very slowly without counting calories and the rest counting calories. I know you can do it too! I am determined to keep my weight off and stay healthy. I am still counting calories and using all of the things I have learned to keep my weight off. I look forward to future posts on this to encourage me. I am not very faithful with exercising and need lots of encouragement in that area. If you are interested in my weight loss journey, you can read about it here

I am so proud of you working on this so close to having a baby. My youngest is 10, so I waited way too long to loose all of the baby fat!

I wish you all of the best,

I have 10lbs to lose from pregnancy #2 (Uh, the kid is almost 3 so I've been putting it off awhile) and in the spirit of true honesty I had about 30lbs to lose before I got pregnant with #1. So I've been on this ride before, so to speak. While I think Weight Watches is one of the best programs out there I have noticed how several years of "dieting" have changed my relationship with food in a badyway. I've gotten in the mindset of either being On Program eating as "perfectly" as possible or being Off Program stuffing my face with whatever I want out of rebellion.

My husband and I decided to embark on a journey to change our relationship with food which will hopefully result in weight loss for both of us. We don't want to count calories or Points but we decided on some Food Rules. Dessert on Saturday, one other treat during the week, only 2 alcoholic beverages per week (we don't have drinking problems but one beer a day adds up calorically!), one snack per day, etc. The most important thing we're striving for is to be more formal about when/where we eat. Always at the table with placemats, napkins, and with EVERYONE sitting in their chair the entire meal. No more snacks on the run, nibbling constantly through the afternoon, or grabbing a snack (or two, or three) after the kids go to bed. Basically,. be more French in our approach to eating. Instead of focusing on how many pounds we want to drop we're thinking about how we want to live long term. I've known this was the approach we need to take for almost two years now so it's time apply it. I've made a lot of other changes in terms of how and what I cook and we need to take it a step further.

We'll see how this goes.

So yes, Good luck to you! :)

Hi, Tammy!

I saw that you pack protein shakes in Joshua's lunch, but I was wondering if you yourself had considered them? The hubs and I are also huge fans of Costco, and we purchase the premier protein shakes from there. At first, they were just an "after work out" drink for my husband, but after meeting with my doctor and getting a lecture on needing more protein in my diet, I started drinking them as well. They are actually quite delicious, and pack about 30 grams of protein per shake! They work about to be about $1.50 per shake, I think, and Costco sells them in packs of 18. I'm not sure what the cost of your protein powder plus milk would be per serving, but it may be something to look into...I've found that when I'm trying to lose weight, eating lots of protein helps me to feel satisfied and less likely to snack on the kids Easter candy that's still laying around the house...not that I would do that ; )

Good luck and God bless! I just love reading your blog : )


Hey Tammy- I just popped in to let you know that I've given you the Versatile Blogger award over at my blog. Thanks for all your hard work. I really appreciate it and enjoy stopping by. Here's a link to the award if you'd like to take a peek.

Oh, Tammy, I enjoy your blog so much. Thanks for these posts, although I'm sure you are super busy now that you've had #5.

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