Families That Make it Work: A Real Food Budget Series

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Real food on a budget

Photo Credit: Christina Maldonado Photography

In January, I made an announcement.

A plan to take back my grocery budget without compromising the food we eat. I knew it would be hard, as we live in a fairly expensive area. Raw milk alone costing around $9-10 a gallon. With careful meal planning and close attention to every dime spent, I’ve been working hard to nourish my family, without breaking the bank.  You can read last month’s budget report here.

Growing up, my parents taught me to listen to a multitude of wise counselors. You know, those people who set an honorable example, who can be looked up to, and followed after. I knew, in order, to be successful with keeping a real food budget, I needed successful food “budgeters” to model after. I turned to bloggers and the Live Simply community asking for help. Within days, I heard from countless individuals successfully living on a budget and nourishing their family with real food.  I asked each one to “sit down” to a cup of coffee and an interview via our computers.

I’m so blessed to be sharing the first of these interviews from my good friend and fellow blogger, Tara from We Got Real.  Tara is a homeschooling, blogging mom committed to not only educating her kids, working on a blog, but also nourishing her family with real, from scratch food.

Grab that mug of warm coffee, get comfy in that big ol’ chair, it’s time to get real with Tara.

Kristin: Introduce us to your family. 

Tara: We are the Buss family. Daddy Buss is an associate pastor and a fitness instructor. Mommy Buss is a stay at home mom and blogger at WeGotReal.com. Buss Baby 1 is my sweet five year old with a love for princesses, bugs, and animals. Buss Baby 2 is my wild two year old with a love for climbing, jumping, and going as fast as he can until he hits the sheets at night. We live in a suburb area in the Midwest, but we have an acre of land on which we have a large garden, some fruit bushes, and a couple of fruit trees. We would love to add more fruit trees, some chickens, and a couple of goats in the future if possible.

real food on a budget

Kristin: What brought you to real food?

Tara: My daughter had eczema as a baby probably due to poor gut health as a result of a cesarean delivery and antibiotics given to her at birth as well as my poor diet. When conventional creams and advice from our pediatrician did not help, I began looking to alternative options. It sent me on the path to natural living and wanting to clean up my diet. When my son was born, I was introduced to the Paleo diet to try to lose weight. Although that style of eating did not work for me personally, it did introduce me to the idea of “real food” and sent me on a rabbit trail where I learned about the Weston A Price Foundation, nutrient dense foods and gut health. We have seen much improvement in all of our health and my daughter’s eczema since beginning our journey.

Kristin: How does your family define real food?

Tara: Unprocessed foods found in nature, recognizable ingredients, made from scratch, not genetically modified, and with as few of pesticides and herbicides as possible. I buy organic when I can find it, in ingredients that are highly likely to be GMO or those that are typically heavily sprayed with pesticides.

Real Food on a Budget

Kristin: What’s your family’s monthly real food budget?

Tara: I personally like to spend $500/month on food, but we have done it for as little as $300/month. (Learn more about her $300 meal plan here.) It’s much more stressful to keep it that low though, so I only reserve that tight budget for when we have large bills to pay or in emergency situations.

Kristin: Where do you shop for real food?

Tara: I buy bulk meat from local farmers once a year, eggs from a health food store weekly that sources from a local farm, and milk from a local farm which we have delivered weekly. We have a large garden that I use extensively in the spring and summer. I freeze greens, green beans, broccoli, and tomatoes to use in colder months. I also shop at my regular grocery store, Trader Joes, my local health food store, and online retailers for bulk items like grain and coconut oil.

real food on a budget

Real food on a budget

Kristin: What are your best tips for eating real food on a budget?

Tara: Simple inexpensive ingredients are used heavily in my meals and pricey ingredients are used sparingly. We waste nothing and always look for ways to re-purpose leftovers. I also stay out of expensive stores like Whole Foods. Even though I love shopping there, I can find healthy food at other stores for a much smaller price. Stretching our meat, eating meatless and buying in bulk are other ways that we afford healthy food on a budget.

Real food on a budget

Kristin: What’s been your greatest challenge(s) for successfully feeding your family real food on a budget?

Tara: We entertain a lot and I find it difficult to stay in budget while hosting others and still choosing high quality food items.

Kristin: What are your favorite meals to prepare?

Tara: Chicken in the crockpot, mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli, chicken pot pie with biscuits , potato soup, fajitas, and our weekly Friday night pizza night are some of our family favorites.

Real food on a budget

Tara’s bread recipe can be found here.

Kristin: How much time do you spend preparing real food?

Tara: I like to keep things as simple and hassle free as possible which means that most of my meals take about 30 minutes to make. Breakfast is usually quick scrambled eggs, toast, bacon in the oven, fruit, smoothies, pancakes, or soaked
oatmeal. Nothing takes over 15 minutes to make for breakfast except on the weekends when we eat a bigger breakfast like biscuits and gravy, waffles, or an egg casserole.

Lunches are always just reheated leftovers and cut up fruit and veg which literally takes 5 minutes. I have one bread baking day every two weeks, make a weekly batch of chicken stock in the crockpot, and every once in a while I cook a large batch of beans to freeze in individual portions to keep on hand for quick meals.

I probably spend about 1 to 1.5 hours in the kitchen a day preparing food and an additional hour a week doing bulk cooking.
Real food on a budget

Kristin: What’s your best advice for a family just starting to eat real food on a budget?

Tara: Keep it simple. Do the best you can with the funds and resources you have, and don’t stress about the rest.

Real food on a budget

The blue links, in the interview, will direct  you to Tara’s favorite recipes and tips. You can find her blog, We Got Real, here. Find her on Facebook here. Thank you, Tara, for sharing.

If you are interested in being interviewed and featured here at Live Simply, please contact me.

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  1. says: Stephanie @ Naturally Mindful

    I love this post–and idea foe this series–as a family on one income this strikes a chord with me. I want to move in next door to Tara!

  2. says: Allison

    By making weekly chicken stock in the crockpot, do you have to buy a whole chicken every week??
    I’m a newbie so not sure how this all works yet. 🙂

    1. says: taranbuss

      I don’t always buy a whole chicken, but I do make stock pretty much weekly. Sometimes I can find free range chicken legs for a good price and use those to make stock. I also have lots of beef soup bones from my yearly bulk beef purchase, so beef stock is often made from that on weeks when I don’t have chicken bones. Kristin has a great recipe for beef stock. Finally Nourished Kitchen also has a great recipe for “perpetual soup” where you use the bones multiple times in a simmering crockpot and take out stock as you need it while replacing with more water. I hope that helps.

  3. says: angie

    Love, love, love you ladies! Your soooo inspirational. Not only the love you have with God, the love you have for your families, but the love that flows out through your blogs & facebooks. You really help with truly making it easy to know what changes can and are beneficial to feeding a family as healthful as much as possible; and on meager means. Not only can some of us not afford Whole Foods….we don’t even have one remotely close. Thank you for all that you take the time to share.

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Angie, What a blessing. Thank you so much for sharing. We are just two ladies trying to do real life and hope to help others along the way. Thank you for following and joining us on this amazing journey :). Blessings, Kristin

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Courtney, When Tara sent me her pics, that’s the first thing that came over me– jealousy! All for that amazing garden! So glad you like the series 🙂 If you’d like to be interviewed this year, let me know.

  4. says: Kelly Smith

    What a wonderful series and I loved taking a peek at Tara’s beautiful garden and hearing her wisdom on real food on a real budget. I’ll definitely be sharing this post via social media this week. Blessings to you both! 🙂 Kelly

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