Dented Cans

Living in a children’s home we receive donated food items rather often. Many, many times we receive boxes of dented cans from stores. I have known for years that you shouldn’t buy dented cans from the store, now I know why, especially if they contain acidic foods.

We got several cans of tomato soup in our food order a few weeks ago. I went to make lunch one Saturday and was going to serve the soup, all of which came in dented cans. After I opened the cans and poured them in the pan, I noticed that it was a strange color and had a strange smell. I looked inside the cans they came in and noticed that there was rust or some type of corrosion right where the dent was.

What must have happened was when the can got dented it stretched and tore the plastic liner inside the can (all iron based food cans, have a thin plastic liner) which allowed the metal to corrode. I will be much more cautious of dented cans in the future.

Better Potatoes

Homemade French Fries

With the economy and our financial situation the way it has been, we try everything we can to save a little money. One of those things is using more homemade items including french fries. We enjoy the flavor, but homemade fries always tend to be a little mushy, not crispy like the store bought ones.

Here is a little trick I recently learned to make homemade french fries so much better.

Cook the fries like normal until they are fully cooked and float. Remove them from the grease and let them drain and cool on a pan covered in paper towels. By the time you have cook all your fries the first ones will have cooled completely. Take your cool fries, place them back in the oil and cook them until they are a golden brown. Cooking them the second times makes them crispy and they don’t get the dark brown color that trying to cook them crispy in one frying causes.

They are much better!!!!!

 Make Potatoes Better

Here is a little trick I learned to make good mashed potatoes for a large group.

We don’t really like instant potatoes, but peeling enough potatoes for the entire house is very time consuming and considering how much potatoes cost these days expensive.

You can however peel about 4 or 5 potatoes, cut them up and boil them like you would for normal homemade mashed potatoes. After they are done cooking drain off most of the water into another pan or glass bowl. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher in the water left in the pan. You will end up with a very runny potato slurry. Add instant mashed potatoes until you get the consistency that you want. And walla, homemade tasting mashed potatoes without spending an hour peeling potatoes.

If you make them too thick or need a larger batch, you can use the water you set aside to thin them or use the water plus additional flakes to increase the size of you batch. You can also add some butter and a little milk to make them even more like homemade.

Kids Diet Will only eat deep fried food


I am involved in the mother of all power struggles right now. I have a boy that REFUSES to eat anything that does not get deep fried or has sugar loaded into it. He has more or less sustained himself on whatever he can sneak when we are not looking.

Any suggestions?

He is six years old and obviously overweight. This kid will have a heart attack by the time he is twelve if we can’t break his poor eating habits. 



We had a kid that sounded similar to yours. I took him to the Dr. and told the Dr. that all he wanted was sugar. The Dr. chewed me out and said that the only reason he eats sugar is cause you give it to him. I told the Dr. that he would not eat anything else. She told me to take away the junk food and he would eat when he got hungry. I talked it over with administration and we decided to give it a try. It took a few days but he finally started eating regular food.



We deal with this with many of the children we work with and some of the things we do is. Lock the pantry. If it is OK with your administration, lock the pantry, or at the very least, take everything junky out and lock it up. This way the kids won’t sneak the junk food when you are sleeping, or in the other room dealing with another child. In doing so we don’t limit what the children eat. There is always fruit and vegetable sticks available.

We also have a rule that you must eat a protein and a vegetable with each meal, and we don’t count any type of white potato as a veggie. So French Fries don’t count. Sweet potatoes do count. If you don’t eat a protein and a veggie you can’t have seconds, desert, or anything sweet to drink (i.e. Koolaid, sweet tea, etc.)

We also have a rule that you get one thing that you don’t have to like. My daughter hates fish and has since birth. She is not required to eat fish when it is served and is still able to get desert, seconds etc. Knowing that we live in a children’s home and green beans are served at least 4 times a week, my son picked them. The children seem much more open to eating better foods when they have some say.

Finally we have free days. Those include cook-outs and holidays. They seem to accept the other eating rules when they get a chance to binge.

We have the best eaters on campus, and our new kids that were not eating veggies when they were in other cottages are now eating balanced meals without issues.



I really like the idea of letting the kid choose one thing they don’t like and not having to eat it. We have also started telling him he has to eat one vegetable or fruit with every meal, otherwise he can go hungry until the next meal, at witch time he has to eat a vegetable or fruit. So far he chose not to eat today. A little fasting is good for everyone and I figure even the most stubborn kid won’t go longer than three days.

Thanks for the advice; it definitely helps to get some second, third and fourth opinions.

Do any of you have food service?

We have food service that provides meals during the week and also on some Sundays. All our groceries come from food service.

I get tired of eating the same things over and over again and prefer preparing my own meals. Also the children never have an opportunity to see where food comes from in the real world because we never do shopping. We fill out a list and it is delivered to our cottage or we eat in the dining hall.

On the other hand on days that I am responsible for all the cooking, (my wife doesn’t cook, though she is a good baker) it seems like I am in the kitchen all day, so I miss having more time for other things.

Do any of you have food service and if so, what do you think of it? Is it a good thing or a bad thing and Why?

I am not looking for gripes about the food, but more like what affects it has on cottage life, and the children. 

Our food service consist of a pantry set-up that is stocked from the food bank. We also get a very sizable allowance to grocery shop. All food is prepared by house parents in the residence here. It gives us a lot of freedom with variety but it does take a large amount of time. We get the kids involved and it helps but there are days it gets a little old.

The wife and I do go once a month to another facility (Mom and Dad) during our off time that has a cafeteria for the staff and residents. Food seems decent to me but they are tired of the repetition. Nice place but a little to close to my days of eating Army chow in a mess hall. 

I also really like sitting down as a family every night to pray eat and talk. It really is the cornerstone of our day in the house where we all connect. At the other place or houses that I have been to that serve buffet style, it seems that personal touch of sitting around the table, passing food and sharing the moment is missing. (No offense to the buffet believers out there, it just aint me  ) It has been a battle to get our house to the point we can do this. All in all I really like how our facility runs it.

The first children’s home we worked in all of our meals were prepared in a dining hall and the food was nutritionally good but everything after a while seemed to taste the same. Right now where we work all meals are served family style and my wife does all of the cooking. She is an awesome cook and the girls are always asking for recipe cards of their favorite meals that she cooks. It is also great that we eat family style since so many kids have never gotten to experience this and it is some of the best conversation time and good humor time we have in a day. 

I would like to ask those of you that serve family style:

1) How many children do you have in your house?

2) What are the age groups?

We have 11 total children that range in age from 2.5 yrs to 15 yrs. 5 of them are 6 and younger. We all sit and eat together including the conversation even though we have to sit at two tables because our dining room would not be big enough for one table that will sit 13 people, but we serve buffet style. With the plates my wife and I fix for the little children plus ours, we each have to fix 3 or 4 plates. Family style just doesn’t work for us and I would like to see how our situation compares to those that do serve family style. 

We have six boys ranging from 12 years to 15, plus My wife and I. We all fit at the table but when we have guests it gets a little tight. I guess if we had any more kids in the house we would have to do it the way you guys do. Especially for the tots!!!

We serve family style and we have up to 8 girls middle school age with my wife and I and one other staff that eats most meals with us, so we can have up to 11 people at a meal at any given time. Our dining room is big and we use 3 tables end to end so it is big and even has room for a couple more if we need to squeeze them in. Once in awhile my wife sets a meal up buffet style like if we have tacos or something like that where it just doesn’t make sense to pass things around the table.

Budget ???

We have been trying to get creative with our food budget. We get $750. per month for 13 people. That includes food and cleaning supplies.

It’s becoming very difficult to stay in the budget. Actually it is insane.

Any ideas short of scraping raccoons off the side of road to help cut costs?

I have been pondering this and I can’t even imagine a household budget of $750 a month for 13 people. The price of produce is out of this world because of all the droughts around the country. Staple items are up because of fuel and shipping charges. The price of meat, is a whole other story. I spend almost $200 for my family of four to eat for a week on relief.

I was going to suggest planting a garden, but the cost of water and fertilizer makes that unfeasible.

I think if food costs are really an issue, maybe your facility would consider starting a pantry and taking food donations, you could supplement that with your monthly budget. A good percentage of our food is donated.

Also, try your local food bank for food at reduced cost. We have a local sportsman’s group that donates venison every year. We pay for the processing and then mix it with our hamburger throughout the year. It really stretches the meat budget.

Are you kidding me you get 750 a month. We only get $21 a person per month and a budget of $25 dollars a month in our own grocery room. for 13 people thats almost $600. With fewer kids it seems to me to get harder because of not being able to buy in bulk.

I don’t know where you are located, but if you are anywhere in the area of a decent sized city there has to be a food bank around somewhere. We just started our home 6 months ago and only have 2 kids right now, so there are 4 of us total. We get about $500 a month for food with just the 4 of us, but we also get food from a food bank at VERY reduced cost. This place is great and allows our budget to work in a way that we can take our boys out to eat about once a week, but in your case it would just make your budget work. Start talking to your director and do some research to find some local food banks in your area. They will probably require some kind of food managers training and may do their own training, but it is worth sitting through a couple of classes to get it! Good Luck!

Wow it has been a long time since I have been able to be on here, we have been houseparents now for a year it has gone by so fast and so slow. About how we make it with our food budget. We have so far had to spend some of our own money on food it seems like every month. The real problem is that we have teenage girls and one eight year old that eats like a horse. So our in town food budget every month is now up to almost 100 dollars. I did forget to mention that we get a dairy budget of $40 and that helps a lot except that only buys 10 gallons of milk a month and that is without any cheese and my girls all love cheese. We live in a part of the country were Mexican food in a main staple item and everything has cheese in it. We had a problem with the girls getting into the pantry at night and early in the mornings and helping themselves, our cottage was the only one on campus without a lock on the pantry. I have since remedied that with a self installed lock after having to go through the chain of command.

ps On a totally separate note if you read this launch I have been reading your blog and I must say my wife says you must be my long lost brother because of all the similarities. Well hopefully I can write more often. I am now up late at night a lot and my 4 month old baby is starting to sleep longer in the mornings.

Called2workwith youth
Seriously though, this is one area that I think facilities tend to overlook. Whoever makes the food budgets up just doesn’t know what’s going on. They act like houseparents, saying more is needed, are wanting to have lobster and prime rib every week. At our last place, you had to use a lot processed food (from the commissary and the food bank to meet the budget. We were able to do it, but it was tough.

But using a lot of processed food is very bad in my opinion. (I have a very compelling story about my bought with cancer and what I had to do when chemo didn’t work, but that is a very long story for another thread. 7 years Alive and Well, Praise God!) Anyway, through that experience, I learned a lot about nutrition and processed food. I believe that a lot of the ADD and ADHD and all the other “disorders” could be remedied or greatly diminished simply by getting these kids off all the processed food and sugar. (like all the cereals they like that I like to refer to as sugar-coated sugar.) Don’t get me wrong, I like chocolate and ice cream and the like and have no problem with kids having those things in moderation, but do yourself a favor and start reading ingredients on processed food. You will be amazed at all the sugar, corn syrup, and the other covert names for those which companies have come up with to fool the public.

Another issue we had to deal with in a house with 8 teen boys (and six of them being 225 lb+) was milk. A cottage was closed down and 4 of our 8 boys came from that cottage. They were accustomed to drinking as much milk as their heart desired. No kidding here, they were going through a gallon of milk a day EACH! We had to put a stop to that real quick. Of course that made us the devil their eyes because their previous staff didn’t limit their milk consumption. We would let them have a large glass at breakfast (unless they had cereal on which they got the equivalent of a glass), and a large glass with dinner. After that, if they were still thirsty, they could have juice or water.

This is definitely a difficult aspect of houseparenting (are there any easy aspects to it?), but one that is very important.

I know that I am not a houseparent yet, but I have been referred to as the “budget queen”. I have had to feed a LARGE family on a very low budget (less per person than you are talking about.)

Does your city, or a city near you offer food angel? Their “regular box” comes with enough food to feed a family of 4 for a week (minus dairy), and it costs $30. It comes with a variety of foods, and changes every month. A month’s supply of food through them (minus dairy) would be under $500, and the rest of your budget could go to dairy, fresh foods, or treats. It’s a thought, anyway. I hope that this helps at least a little. You could also look into co-op buying with other houseparents. You can normally get healthier foods this way, too. If you live near an agricultural area, you could put the request out to farmers. Maybe they could cut you a good deal on produce (especially if you guys are willing to go out on a Saturday to pick the apples, etc). Just a thought. I hope it helps.

It’s worth looking into even if you just use it to supplement your current groceries.

Yes one idea would be having a garden to grow vegetables and also planting fruit trees. Could do organic gardening that would be the most healthy. I have started a cross garden but, did not get much yield on the first attempt. Basically its boards in the ground in the shape of a cross with the soil dug up about the depth of the shovel. If you could plant oranges this would help a lot when it comes around to allergy season and the times when there are a lot of upper respiratory problems. If reasonable. I have a doctorate degree in chiropractic and we covered a lot of nutrition in my degree program. It’s really a challenge to eat healthy and feed the kids healthy in houseparenting. You can find info on organic gardening online and also this is a good group activity each kid can be assigned a portion of the garden to take care of if this is allowed at your place of work. This can also be relaxing

The Houseparent Bulge, Am I the only one that has gained weight


We just ended another holiday and we have in our pantry, no less than 20 lbs of candy and junk food from very kind supporters. At Christmas time we usually more than double that.

I was 175 pounds when I became a houseparent over 8 years ago, I now weigh over 240. Am I the only one this has happened to, or are there others that struggle with all we are given to eat?

For those that stay healthy, what is your secret???? I have tried to diet and eat healthy, but it seems I can only resist the junk for so long. What do y’all think?


Ha! This is a long running topic of conversation at all of our trainings and get togethers! We have Sisco(sp?) food and it is processed to the max. It is so sad because a lot of the residents, mostly the girls, come in fit and healthy and leave very overweight. The houseparents struggle with this as well.

We get a ton of candy too but we ration it out to the boys. Since they get 2 snacks a day they have to choose one sweet and one regular one. Sometimes they get mad that they can’t have a huge candy bar (the fund raiser size) twice a day but come on. I am sure some other families do that in homes but not mine! I was cleaning out our closet in our room and found a huge bag of candy that we had put up from last year! Since it was probably outdated in the first place, I would hate to eat it now…

I was on Weight Watchers while I was working and it helped a lot with portion control. I ate everything the boys ate for the most part. Sometimes in a quick fix I would eat a frozen meal which the boys didn’t want anything to do with. The beauty of working in a boys cottage!

We have Sisco(sp?) food and it is processed to the max.

I feel your pain, and not only that they send so many starches that you have no options


I know I have put on about 25-30lbs, sad thing is I have a full weight room in my house and more time than I ever have to use it but I don’t. I think we gain because of the time spent at home and maybe stress factors in?


Yippeeee! Update: All of the houseparents have complained and the campus nurse took a look at the menu and about died! She said, no wonder why our girls are so overweight in the first few months of living here! So, our commissary is stocking healthier food like chicken and more veggies. Sooooo much better now!

Lady Incredible

It was nice to read that I’m not the only one this job has added a few pounds too.


I posted a while back that we were leaving the lifestyle and this topic just jumped out at me.

I’ve been out since the last week of March and it is now the 6th of June.

I have lost 48 pounds of Fat while adding at least 20 pounds of muscle.

I’ve dropped 3 shirt sizes and 6 inches from my waist.

I eat more and get that occasional Glass of wine and a beer at lunch every once in a while that I never had in the last 3 years.

I attribute the rapid changes to the lack of stress as well as the quality of diet combined with better sleep patterns.

We buy better food than we could afford to feed the house and can plan meals a nutritionist and the kids would say “heck NO” too like large Salads and a heck of a lot less starch.

We always ate we cooked for the kids and our menus were prepared for us in the last 3 homes and we had to “try” to follow them.

My wife is working as a Case manager at a Correctional Facility for teenage girls and she is not experiencing as rapid a change as I am.

I do have more free time and ride my bike about 150 miles a week no for relaxation that she does not have the time to do.

We do miss the houseful of kids though.

It’s just us and the dawg again!