Food, Family, Shift Dining, Vegetarians and Budgets

With college on the horizon for Eldest, followed in intervals by Middle and Youngest, the question is how to cut down on one of our biggest expenditures – food.  It’s a puzzle since it’s one thing to say oh yeah, I’ll cook for the family but it’s another thing completely when the other factors are the chaotic scheduling due to three different kids with activities and the presence of a vegetarian in the household.  It’s now a reality that the traditional family meal is the exception to the rule and it would be easy to just pop a precooked meal, a la Stouffer’s in the oven.  But time truly is money and the cost is truly lessened if it’s cooked.

This will be an ongoing project to cut down on the food spending while still meeting my primary constraints:

  • Creating a decently cooked meal that can be easily heated/reheated for the various kids and spouse who are constrained by schedules;
  • Creating a meal that, while requiring some investment in the initial preparation, won’t take significant reheat times since I’m the one providing much of the transportation;
  • Creating a meal that tries to honor Eldest’s dietary choice of being a vegetarian (actually an ovopescavegetarian since she will eat eggs and fish;
  • Creating a meal that uses fresher and easily obtainable ingredients to cut down on the costs.

And yes, I’m going to walk through the scheduling and thinking as I outline what I’ll be doing regularly.

Today’s situation was work for Eldest, theatre practice for Middle and an undetermined return for Better Half.  The kicker however, is that the following night consists of either work or activities for everybody and on top of that, I’m gone as well so whatever is prepared today has to be easily reheated by various folks at different times before they exit.  Since soup is something that almost always improves in taste with time, the choice was soup.  On the island was a butternut squash and there were plenty of Gala, Honeycrisp and Fuji apples in the garage so a quick review of the internet led to this 12 serving recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Bacon.  Yeah, there’s a vegetarian in the house but there are occasions when I’m asking for a little flexibility; our own menu has largely shifted out of chicken and red meat since the dietary change occurred so a little bacon is alright on the rare instance.  Since I was also already cutting up an apple for the soup, I went ahead and sliced extra and threw them into the crockpot to cook on high for several hours.  The complement to the meal would be simply bread with butter.

Given that I already had all of the ingredients in the house, it was an exceptionally inexpensive meal for what’s turning out to be two nights of food. 



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