The basics of how I plan and budget, healthy, affordable and GOOD meals for a large family. My philosophies: 1. Trips to the store are EXPENSIVE . . . last minute trips force you to spend at least twice as much even more if your only quick option is a small country store. Therefore a plan is essential. 2. Hamburger helper only tastes good if you are 5 . . . and its expensive. 3. Preprocessed foods are not good for you and should be used in limited amounts . . . and they are expensive 4. Even chicken lovers get tired of chicken three nights a week. 5. We are omnivores are bodies are made to extract the proper nutrients from a combination of grains, vegetables and meat. Vegetarianism is a great concept; red meat every night is a wonderful indulgence; carbs in excess make you fat and lead to diabetes; fat and cholesterol in excess hurt your kidneys and liver. Maybe I am an ignorant fool, but I think a balanced diet with all things in moderation is the most sensible choice for me and my family. IF YOU DONT AGREE PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE AND START YOUR OWN THREAD. Gosh I hate to come across in such a negative manner, and I apologize if that does but I do not want this turned into a vegetarian/carnivore/carb-less debate. 6. Saving money is good. 7. Having a full pantry as a buffer for lean times, or who knows, maybe the breakdown of our shopping system, is good. I work with refugees; and while I have had my poor days I have never had to watch my family starve, but I know intimately people who have and I will do my part to not let that happen to my family. 8. Mine is a life in progress - this past year I learned how to keep and maintain a flock of chickens that would provide our egg needs (we use a dozen a day in my house) & how to can pickles (the best recipe turned out to be the simplest). Next year I want to learn to can chicken stock & tomato sauce and raise meat birds and maybe a pair of Turkeys. What I am saying is that there is A LOT I dont know, and I worry that this thread will make me sound like a know it all Im not, I m just going to share some philosophies that I was asked to share; feel free to use or reject as much as you want! All the above paired with my OCD has led me to keep a years menu . . . FOR EVERYTHING lol; breakfast, snacks, lunch, cocktail hour and Dinner. Although that sounds really rigid, it actually saves me a ton of money and time and allows me to be prepared which helps me sleep at night. I spend one day a year making changes to my shopping list and menu. I do my big shopping (non perishables) one day a month and quick shopping (vegis/dairy/meat) one day a week. My dinners are planned to be meat every other day (although I use meat for flavor in many of my non-meat dishes). You will see that on my non-meat dinner days, there is usually a meat lunch you will find the use of dairy and grains equally balanced. We dont eat a lot of sugar in our house so you wont find planned deserts (have at it!). We have desert only maybe once a week and then its usually only a batch of cookies or some ice cream. Ummm . . . what else . . . fish! I think fish is very good for us and that we as Americans rarely eat enough of it as a protein source. You will see that I have it planned into the menu three times a week; once as a dinner, once as a lunch and once as an appetizer. Oh yes, cocktail hour; a well established tradition in our family for generations. Others may call it happy hour, appetizers, after school snacks, beer thirty . . . you choose; its a small snack at 4:30 to hold you over until dinner, a chance for dad to come in from the shop and say hi to the kids and enjoy a beer before finishing the evenings work, a minute for mom to enjoy a glass of wine listen to the kids recount of the day and sit for a second before switching hats and starting dinner. Feel free to make comments or at least tell me someone is reading this . . . more to follow shortly.