Real Food on a Budget: Cheap Filler Starches Are They Worth It?

by lydia on November 9, 2012

This week was a tough one for me. My kids were home from school for a day and I always under-estimate how much they eat when they are home all day. I also had some bad news – my car transmission went. Ugh! That news was more than I could handle. So, I found it hard to find the energy to be in the kitchen this week. If you are on a tight food budget working hard to make it work and eat real food, I am here to share my own journey of navigating feeding a family of 5 for about $125 per week.


I went food shopping -see what I purchased in the above photos.

Dinner: My boys ended up going out unexpectedly so I didn’t have time to make the dinner I planned on making. I scrambled to feed them all something before they left.


Breakfast: I only had to feed the boys breakfast – I usually shoot for a later breakfast on Saturdays. They each had a small ramekin of frozen blueberries and then some bacon and eggs.

Lunch: Just me – so I had some soup.

Dinner: Andrew and I had dinner together, he bought – so we had flat iron steaks, fried potatoes, sauteed peppers and pickled red onions.


Breakfast: Just me again, had some fried eggs and sauteed veggies and a glass of beet kvass.

Lunch: Boys had peanut butter, carrot sticks and dip, and small bowls of homemade applesauce. My teenager had something else, but I forget at this point.

Dinner: There were 9 for dinner, it was a collaborative meal. I didn’t have to provide all of it. We had tacos and I made these Sea Salt Caramel brownies for dessert since I had everything on hand for them. I reduced the honey in the brownie part of the recipe – they were really good, very rich and a bit sweet even still.


Breakfast: Eggs and Paleo toast (which by the way, the Paleo bread is really not that good – the boys are eating it because it was free! I certainly won’t be buying any, not to mention it’s pretty expensive.) I had Taco Style Eggs.

Lunch: Peanut Butter and Honey Pancake sandwiches, sliced carrots and applesauce. Christian had soup when he got home for lunch. I don’t think I had lunch – I had a few spoonfuls of peanut butter and coconut oil.

Dinner: Roasted spice rubbed turkey thighs, braised cabbage (for me), steamed broccoli in broth (for the boys), gluten free flat bread dipped in olive oil and water kefir to drink! The spice rub was a rub I had in the freezer that I made for ribs. The cabbage was left over after I shredded all my cabbage for sauerkraut – all the big pieces.


Breakfast: Kids were home from school – I made home fries in bacon fat with chopped bacon ends and scrambled eggs and frozen blueberries.

Lunch: Tomato Soup and Flatbread for my oldest and I. The younger boys had turkey bologna, carrot sticks and homemade applesauce.

Dinner: Poached Wild Alaskan Cod in broth, lemon, thyme and butter with white rice cooked in broth with butter, and sauteed snap peas! Water Kefir to drink.


Breakfast: Sourdough Pancakes and chopped bacon ends pan fried for the boys. I only had tea and some bacon ends – whoops!

Lunch: Christian had turkey bologna, carrots and a bowl of rice with broth. I had Creamy Thai Spiced Buttercup Squash Soup topped with kefir cream and two fried eggs.

Dinner: Just me, so I made a clean-out-the-fridge-veggie-heavy-turkey soup, and boy was it good! I enjoyed some Hard Kefir Cider to drink with it. Yum!


Breakfast: Sourdough Pancakes with scrambled eggs. I had sauteed onions and peppers with 3 fried eggs on top and some beet kvass.

Lunch: More turkey soup for Christian and I. The other boys got lunch at school.

Dinner: Barbeque Turkey Meatballs with baked potatoes (for the boys) and sauteed green beans. Water kefir for the boys! ( I had leftover bbq sauce in the freezer)


Breakfast: Leftover pancakes for the boys and scrambled eggs. My teen was running late and skipped breakfast, yikes! I had some leftover Creamy Thai Spiced Buttercup Squash soup, a glass of beet kvass and 2 eggs.

Lunch: Leftover turkey meatballs with homemade barbeque sauce and green beans.


Food Prep: I did not include my daily food prep this week as it was minimal. I did experiment with a flat bread recipe from my copy of ‘Real Food Storage: How to’s & Recipes‘. The boys liked the first batch I made, then I tweaked the second batch to take out the sugar that was in it and they didn’t like it – go figure! I liked the second version better. Glad to know I can make a nice flat bread recipe now and again. It’s not likely something we’d have all the time, but on occasion it will be nice (see why below). I made more water kefir and a batch of Hard Kefir Cider from this recipe and a batch of turkey stock using the bones from Monday’s dinner and some chicken bones I had in the freezer. Also, a batch of turkey breakfast sausage and fed my sourdough starter. That’s about it for this week! I did not get around to making a batch of sprouts, I didn’t see how they would fit with any of the meals I was planning.

Since I’ve gone on this tighter budget, I’ve upped our starches a bit. I usually do in the fall and winter anyway. The kids are quite happy with this, but it’s not working so well for me. This week, I noticed I can’t handle it. My digestion is a bit mad at me right now. Even though I have healed a lot over the years, I am not tolerating the starches well. This is an issue I was concerned about from the beginning. I’ve seen so many people think they can live on beans and rice in tight budget situations, but it comes at a cost. Especially nowadays with all the gut dysbiosis that escapes no one. This week I’ll be making an effort to focus on the starches that I know I do well on. I recently learned from a friend who attended the GAPS Practitioner training with Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride (expert on gut health), that in traditional cultures millet was prepared for 2 weeks because it was so hard to digest. I added millet flour and even though it’s been in the form of sourdough etc….it’s only been short fermented. I think it’s beginning to bother me. The funny thing is, I muscle tested well for it but no other pseudo grain.

Knowing that I do best on a GAPS/paleo template, I think I need to work hard to stick to that even on my tight budget. I may still include some starches here and there, but no where near as much. I certainly don’t want to be soaking millet for 2 weeks before I can eat it. Yesterday, I  re-read some information from the SCD diet and ‘Breaking the Vicious Cycle‘ by Elaine Gottschall about the different types of starches, and was glad to be reminded of how the different starches are processed in the gut. Namely a leaky gut, which likely we all have to some degree or another. Traditionally, starches were prepared very differently than we prepare them today. Even if you are aware of how to soak overnight etc…it’s likely no where near what they did traditionally. I learned that from Rami Nagel’s book; ‘Cure Tooth Decay‘  as well. Anyway, the thing I’d like to remind myself and others is how the different starches operate in the gut, such as mono-saccharides, disaccarides and polysaccharides. Read here to understand how they operate in the gut.

Now, this is something I knew, but I let my budget dictate along with the fact that my gut health has greatly improved to allow me to think I could handle it. Apparently, I can’t. This week I experienced some very uncomfortable gut issues. It hasn’t been as bad as the issues that used to bother me regularly, but it has been unpleasant none-the-less. This week I tried eating organic corn tortillas for the first time in a blue moon (not good). Then I made flatbread with millet, tapioca and guar gum (albeit only 2 teaspoons). I ate 2 small squares of it, 3 days in a row. It was good, but my intestines were not happy. I also ate white rice with dinner one night – usually I can handle white rice once in a while. However, after 5 days in a row of eating starches, I am hurtin’. Thankfully I am recognizing it now and plan to work to remedy it right away.

What is so important about this lesson is that even though I have freedom to choose what I eat, there are certainly limitations as to what my body can truly handle. Science proves it. In a way, I am grateful to have had this experience to prove to me that how I was eating prior (not a huge shift by the way, I only added some of the starches I was feeding my kids to my own diet), was really how I need to maintain eating. Eating real food on a budget is definitely possible, a bit hard, but eating real food that fits within an even tighter paradigm for optimum gut health – now that will truly be a challenge. For right now, I think I will just save the millet flour for serving once in a blue moon (like with this pie recipe).

So all that shared, there is yet more work to be done. And if real food on a budget wasn’t already a challenge, (doable, but a challenge )- now, I’ll have to work a bit harder to focus on gut health for the sake of my families overall health. Sometimes, it really is hard to do more than just manage to get by on a shoe string budget. It can feel even more overwhelming to have yet even further restraint. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to eating just like the rest of the population and not give any thought to all of this and just go back to the ‘convenience’ of cheap SAD fare. Those thoughts are super fleeting though, because I would never in a million years want to go back to how crappy I used to feel eating that way. Once again, I am reconfirmed in how I lead my life and feed my family. Health is certainly something you have to fight for these days, and I am willing to do it, regardless of how challenging it can be at times.

Are you on a tight food budget and find it hard not to compromise your health because of it? Share in the comments how you have handled this issue.



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AmandaLP November 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Add Fats!

I did my semi-weekly schmaltz and liver, but I didnt drain off the schmaltz like I did the last time. This time, with the added fat, I can stretch it to 3-4 meals for me, instead of 1-2. Granted, I dont eat a lot anyways, but the added fat helped me feel full.

Ive done this with salads, pastas, and other cooked vegetables. A glug of olive oil (since it stays liquid, but coconut oil or lard or tallow would do similar things in cooked dishes) raises the satiety factor, so I can eat less.

lydia November 11, 2012 at 10:48 am

We use TONS of fat – I always cook with fat and plenty of it! It’s feeding FOUR growing boys that’s challenging without some starches added……

Soli November 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm

What do you end up doing with all the milk?

lydia November 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I have 2 milk drinkers – they go through about 2 gallons a week, just the 2 of them. I try to freeze a half gallon when I can – because we’ve been without the ability to get milk before. I also make yogurt, kefir and homemade pudding here and there, as well as use it in cooking a bit too.

Leslie R. December 1, 2012 at 8:37 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your honest, no-holds-barred, food budget diary. I find it so inspiring. Trying to stick to a Paleo, grain-free diet is difficult and expensive. Rounding up the necessary whole foods is costly and time consuming. When time and money collide, I grab (raw) milk, eggs, cheese, and butter ~ and fill in with veggies.

lydia December 1, 2012 at 9:57 am

Yes, I find dairy to be a great way to stretch my budget since we can get raw milk for such a great price! Glad you are enjoying the posts Leslie!

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