Most of our purchases are "whole foods" - meaning our grocery list is primarily organic fruits, veggies, and bulk items with some milk, eggs, cheeses, and meat on occasion. We bake our own bread products and try to avoid things that come "ready made." However, just because that is what we primarily purchase, does not mean I am not above purchasing Annie's on a week where our lives are crazy (or when I am desperately craving cheese powder on mediocre noodles). And if my favorite organic wraps have a sale sticker slapped on them? I buy two or three. If we are out and about, I try to have snacks on hand, but the world doesn't end if we stop at our local coffee shop for a chai tea and bagel.
On top of being kind of obsessed with clean eating and the like, I am cheap. Partially because I just am, but mostly because we are on a tight budget. With Mark and I working part-time jobs, fundraising, a toddler, and another tiny on the way? We are having to great creative with our spending - or rather, our not spending.
So, what to do about food for littles while still attempting to be a frugal-whole-foods-er?
I should preface this with the fact that I am blessed with an eater. But here are some of the things that are regularly lying around my house in small dishes.
I buy chickpeas/garbanzo beans from the bulk section, which is unbelievably cheaper than from a can, but it also means you have to soak them at least overnight before they are ready for cooking.
Take 1 cup or so and soak in them in 3 cups of water anywhere from 24-10 hours before I want to cook them.
Next day drain the water, pay them dry, toss them on a cookie sheet with edges or in a glass baking dish (so they are lying flat and not stacked) with a little olive oil, mix them around with your choice of spices. We do a little salt, pepper, and cayenne because my crazy son was born to live in Mexico, but cinnamon sugar is really good, or you can go with curry powder, chili powder, and turmeric or any blend of spices that you love.
Then throw them in the oven at 350F. You have to keep an eye on them, especially if you are soaking and not using canned chickpeas, because they are all different sizes and depending on how long you soaked them. But just occasionally check and stir them around and eventually they will start to look golden brown and if you pop one in your mouth (careful, very hot) it should be crunchy - like a corn nut!
Once they are done, just put them in tupperware and they keep for awhile - at least, they keep for about a week. I couldn't tell you if they last longer than that. My son gobbles them.
When it's in season, fresh fruit is the way to go. Lots of good for you things and it's sweet! So you don't really need to spend too much time trying to convince your kiddo to chow down. We are lucky enough to live somewhere that has a pretty decent fruit season, so I purchase as much as I can and then freeze what we don't go through. Peaches, nectarines, berries, figs, pineapple, mango, etc. all hold up pretty well and are a nice cold treat.
Carrot and celery sticks are great, grape tomatoes cut in half, corn, snap peas, bell peppers - Rory likes to dip in ranch/other salad dressings, but he also will just eat them if there is no dressing available. Rory also really likes frozen peas and corn. I cannot for the life of me tell you why. Try it on your children?
We went big this Summer and purchased a dehydrator. We are semi-obsessed with Laura Miller, Sidesaddle Kitchen, and Raw Vegan Not Gross - so a dehydrator was definitely in our line of thought.
Dried bananas, pineapple, mango, and plums! Zucchini, kale, sweet potato, and squash chips! Jerky!
Rory is a big fan of all of this. Some fruit for his sweet tooth, some crunchy for his veggies, and the kid absolutely adores jerky.
We have not had a lot of time since the arrival of our dearest kitchen appliance, but I will let you know how further recipes turn out. I am very excited to try Not Chicken Nuggets. It's on my to-do.
Sweet Potato Fries
Cut up a sweet potato or yam (it doesn't matter). Toss in a glass baking dish with olive or coconut oil. Add salt if you want. Throw in the oven at 350F, occasionally mixing around until they are how you like them - for softer, take them out sooner and for crispy, wait a while longer.
Toast, Half Sandwiches, and Other Bready Things
Like I mentioned, we make our own bread. So it doesn't concern me for Rory to munch on toast. Our favorite place ever, The Grainery, has so many options it will make your head spin. We actually considered getting a wheat grinder and just purchasing organic wheat stalks. Then we decided we probably didn't have the time...
If you feel like you don't have the time to bake bread? Get a bread machine. 5 minutes of your time and 3 hours later you have a fresh baked bread loaf. Don't have a bread machine? Put an ask on Facebook. People just don't use them for some reason and are more than happy to get rid of them. I got two before I even knew what was happening. I use it once a week - maybe twice in one day if our menu for the week is kind of bread heavy or I want to freeze a loaf for a busier week.
Avocado toast - toast + mashed avocado + a little salt & pepper if you want.
Egg salad sandwich - piece of bread + egg salad (hard boiled eggs, mustard, a little olive oil, salt & pepper) + some lettuce chopped up into small bite sized pieces.
Melted cheese - piece of bread + cheese (+ sometimes we do a little onion) in the oven on broil till melty.
PB&J - piece of bread + peanut butter + jelly
Braided cheesy bread - Mark makes this, I will find out the recipe at another date. Cause it is magical.
Make an omelet! Put all your favorites in, whether it's just cheese or one million veggies, but make sure it is thicker and holds together well so you could pick up a bite with your fingers. Then cut it up and serve it to the small one.
Yah, you heard me.
Lessen the sugar and make your kiddos pie. I have two in my fridge right now, thought I will admit they were definitely not made from scratch. I needed to get rid of several things in my pantry... But pie, especially Pumpkin Pie is a great way to get them some great vitamins. I am determined to find the perfect from scratch recipe this Fall - I will let you know how my quest goes.
So, saimin is like top ramen but from scratch and 100x better.
Veggie stock, saimin noodles, and whatever veggies you so desire (leeks, carrots, celery, and bell peppers are my go-to) all thrown into a pot until the noddles are done. Then break an egg into the boiling water, turn off the stove, and stir it up with your spoon to get that awesome Asian soup egg that my husband literally cannot seem to accomplish. Maybe you just need to have it in your blood? Add salt and pepper as you so desire. Drop in ice cubes and let the tinies at it.
Frozen wild caught fish fillets are actually not too expensive. So defrost and throw in a pan with some coconut oil or homemade teriyaki or whatever and then give a small chunk to your little with quinoa or rice. Here is fish tip: fish? Should not smell or taste "fishy." Ever. If it does? It's bad. Good fish should have little to no smell and melt in your mouth almost like butter. True story.
You'll notice that I'm not the most specific recipe writer, that's because I'm not the most specific food maker. I use my fingers rather than measuring and often just kind of wing it. It drives my chef husband a little bonkers.
Also, I will add some pictures - my internet doesn't seem to love me at the moment.
Maybe another day I will do more specific recipes, but this is more of an inspiration post. If you are a recipe person, just follow me on Pinterest. I am constantly making the recipes I post there. Seriously, it's how I meal plan for the week. ;)