Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Duggar Diet--Boring? Simple? Easy? or Just Frightening?

Now as someone who follows the 1990's book "The Tightwad Gazette" I am all for bargain grocery shopping. I also understand the Duggar need for ease in the kitchen when cooking for a large number of people--afterall did you notice that when you eat at a school cafeteria the larger the school, the worse the food? Even colleges seem to have the phenomena--private colleges don't seem to be exempt, at least mine weren't.

The Duggars published their own book "20 and Counting" and included many of their own recipes. I will say for those that haven't read it, it's mostly just opening cans and heating. There is very little "flavour" or creativity involved, which is sad considering that these people live in the south which is known for some fabulous flavours. I often wonder if the meals are so easy to prepare because it's the girls who are preparing them and it's been their job to prepare them since they were quite young (around 11 or so.) And the family just got used to simple, humble meals. It's also true that simple meals are inexpensive meals and that's part of their financial plan.

There are some things that do bother me about their financial part of shopping:

a) not any 1 source of groceries will provide the lowest cost of every item, you have to shop around and create a price book so you buy the items you need at the lowest price at the right store and they seem to only shop at 1 store---while Aldi is known for rock bottom prices, they could be missing out on loss leader specials from local markets, restaurant suppliers for bulk items (#10 cans instead of all those small cans, large bags of flour, etc), meat wholesaler's, etc. I often wonder if Jim Bob has investigated these options.

b) they don't cook from scratch which is cheaper--a lot of their recipes involved 6 or more cans of beans and a crockpot, if they soaked dried beans the night before and cooked them the next day in the crockpot they would save a HUGE amount of money and it wouldn't take any more work than opening all those cans; they do bake a lot of their own bread but they buy premade pizza when they could make their own in no time with their industrial kitchen equipment and it would cost about $1/pizza; they buy frozen burritos when they could use the crockpot beans to make their own so cheaply

c) they only recently started to garden, but it wasn't even their idea--it was a friend who wanted to garden for himself and thought he'd also teach their kids how--if they did a full-scale garden and learned how to home can and freeze their produce they would save an amazing amount of money on their food bill

d) with a family their size I often wonder if they've considered either buying beef or pork buy the whole and having it slaughtered, or even raising it themselves on their land; or even buying a side of beef or pork; they could also raise chickens for the eggs as well as the meat and let the kids take care of them--it would all be a great learning experience, but then with traveling it may be prohibitive

Many comment on the amount of processed foods they eat: the frozen burritos, pizzas, canned beans, chilli, etc. However most of their meals do include fresh veggies or fruit, or at least frozen veggies. They do love a recipe for green beans they tout often.

One thing you have to admit, with the exception of Jim Bob's middle-aged expanding waist, all the children are in great shape. None show signs of being overweight at all or even close to it. For some reason Jana joined Weight Watchers with Michelle a few years back, but she's in excellent shape. Josh did gain quite a spare tire while Anna was pregnant, but hopefully he'll lose it while she loses her pregnancy weight (no rush Anna, you're doing just fine!) So I'm not sure what the grand uproar is about other than it all comes from cans? Anyone?


  1. I think all the complaints about the diet is simply that they can't find much else to complain about. Does anybody honestly think that a family with that many young children should live primarily on salads and vegetables? I suspect they are cooking as Michelle was taught to cook growing up except, they eat mostly casserole type dishes. My daughter with seven kids also does a lot of that. It takes a very large roast, a big batch of fried or roast chicken or a big batch of steaks to feed that many people and that gets expensive. My mother in law came from the South and she cooked just like Michelle.

    Our kids grew up eating fresh veggies from the garden and with fresh fruit always available. I canned and froze and baked my own bread and sort of thought of myself as an "Earth Mother" but then I only had four kids to feed, not 18. It truly is easier to cook from cans and boxes. Millie

  2. I admit I did make their tatertot casserole, but when I read it I immediately thought of "thanksgiving" and I added a layer of green beans to make it kind of like the green bean casserole--since it had the soup already in it...and it seemed rather bland in seasoning when reading it so i amped up the seaoning with tyme and sage to the turkey and added garlic...i served it with some cranberry jelly and it still fell flat with my husband....who i'll admit as a Brit is not a "casserole" person anyway...but it wasn't a favourite around here...on it's face as written, I don't think it would have done any better--it just seemed bland to me....they did say that people have written in to say they've made it as a breakfast with sausage (i can see that with the tater tots) maybe adding scrambled eggs...that sounds kind of good...

    i did also make their slow cooker lasagna but on a much smaller scale (there are only 2 of us and a 3yr old) so you have to really watch the timing or you end up with a puddle of mush...but this one is a good one and again i added a lot of spice--garlic and oregano...i think they are used to blander foods, i think Michelle has a weak stomach (understandable) so the kids aren't used to a variety of spicy foods....

    i think people complain about what they SHOULD eat, but to be honest, let cameras into those people's homes??? hahaha yeah we'd probably find a lot of things they wouldn't want us to see...everyone has potato chips and candy bars hidden somewhere....

  3. Sure it is easier to open a can (not 10 cans). But it is really simple to make things from scratch, as you mentioned Marybeth. Fry up some hamburger or chicken/turkey, (dare I say Tofu?), add some seasonings, tomatoes and beans (soaked over night) and you have chili without a bunch of preservatives. Roll that in a tortilla with some green chilies/ red/green/yellow fresh peppers, and cheese and you have a burrito, put it over pasta and you have another hot dish. Put it in a bowl, with a hearty salad on the side and you have lunch. Speaking of burritos, saute some veggies and roll with some cheese in a tortilla.

    Casseroles are the way to go, when feeding large amounts of people, but they can be made with healthy choices of ingredients. Think chicken/turkey/tofu, layered with veggies and a delicious sauce.
    An iceberg lettuce salad is not a good serving of vegetables. There should be broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, green beans (without soup) on them, mushrooms, dark lettuces, cabbage, beets, carrots, squash, bell peppers, etc., to get all the vitamins. And not from cans. It is not hard to cook them or eat them raw.

    I have a feeling the girls work hard, doing all the housework and child tending, thus burn off calories. The little boys use their calories by their non stop little boy activity of running around. The Duggars also might use portion control, which is not a bad thing.
    The older boys do not look healthy as they should. I'm thinking they are not getting enough good sources of vitamins and minerals.

  4. I also think, the little girl, who is the oldest of the younger group of girls, does not have a good skin tone. She does not have the rosy hue of children her age

    Sorry, I can't keep their names straight.

  5. With Jana as one of the cooks, she should be well-versed in nutrition as she's been in Weight she should know about good food. So should Michelle as she's said she's a life time member. Some of the foods Michelle says she eats has nothing to do with the recipes listed in their book. Frankly I think the recipes in their book were just a few of the "huge family" things they have for quick meals, not a list of foods they eat every week. I also think they cook the tater tot casserole on TV because it's something people now expect them to cook. And it is, afterall made with ground turkey.

    I totally agree on the iceburg lettuce---only good for fiber and water, otherwise a waste of time!

    I will say though that people make it out to be that cooking for that large a family is a nightmare, but with 4 girls doing it, and little kids helping, it's not that major of a task, especially if you enjoy doing it. And 2 of the girls have said they want to be chefs. They even talked their mom into letting them cater events, so I think they actually like it. I do think they could find easier ways and healthier ways and even cheaper ways of doing it--without so many cans to open!

  6. Joy-Anna? I hadn't noticed...I'll try to pay attention to her...a lot of them look pale, but remember a lot of the latest episodes were filmed in Jan/Feb without any sun and they were that's not fair for judging skin tone.

  7. They film the Duggars shopping at Aldi because Aldi will let them.... They also shop at Wal-mart and other places (Michelle asked some one in NY what do they do without a Wal-mart).

    When they are doing runs on the basics they hit Aldi to do the quick stock up, but when buying other things they shop other places.... None of our Adli's has ever had the selection of fruits and veggies I see the Duggars eating in any great quantities... they have to be getting them some where.

  8. My only experience with Aldi was in the UK and we didn't buy produce there because it was cheaper from other sources--and because they wrapped all of it up--I like to pick and choose my own produce piece by piece, you know?

    It's only recently that I became aware that Wal-Marts had groceries attached--I live on the west coast and here they are just the department store kind, not the grocery store kind, so I'll admit my ignorance there.

    I do think though, since their book was all about their lives, and they made such a point of showing their process and trying to teach, that if they do use other options, like buying a side of beef or pork, they'd tell us about it. He just seems like the kind of guy that wants to share all that kind of money-saving information with the world. But then maybe I just assume that he would, since he talks about auctions a lot.

    I will say that it surprised me it took them that long and the suggestion of a friend to start a garden. It amazes me that if he hasn't read "The Tightwad Gazette" he should. He'd be saving even more money than he is now--and it too is Christian-based, at least it's written by a woman who has a large Christian family.

  9. There is a difference in living cheaply, and living with in their means.

    The Duggars profess to living within their means. They have never professed to be an example of frugality.

    They simply state that if they don't have the money they don't buy it. OR they save up and pay for it. A garden takes more work than it's worth in my book. You have to till the land, pull the rocks, till it again, plant the seeds in back breaking labor, water it, weed it, keep the animals and small children out of it.... All so that instead of spending $75.00 at the store those months you spend $20.00??? I'll pay the $75.00 to not have to deal with the hassle. I think the Duggars made the same decision. Life is too short to struggle that hard to save the little amount of money they would save.

    Now I do agree on the larger cans or stuff, or the sides of beef... But again it's a matter of convenience... not every brand or food comes in the large #10 cans. Only ONE of our local stores carry any of the larger cans (unless it's like a Sams club). The smaller cans are easier to carry, store, and use.

    I go twice a month to a local farmers market that also has a sams club type store... I buy 50 lb bags of sugar and 3-4 of the large cans of ketchup which we then bring home and break up into smaller containers. I don't make a special trip for these items I just know they are there and when we need the fruits or veggies we pick up the other things as well...

    We don't buy any of the OTHER larger cans simple because it is food we don't eat or brands we don't like.... So I buy 15 cans of fruit in heavy syrup, because the larger cans only have them in the light syrup which no one eats. BUT I will buy the applesauce every now and then and then with the restaurant packages I can also buy at that store I create my own individual servings... for a fraction of the cost MONEY wise. But the entire weekend is shot with the shopping trip, the repackaging when we get home, storage, and the mess. WHEN we have more money coming into my house on a regular basis I will not be doing these things any more either.

    This is something about the Duggars I do not understand... Not the Duggars people that talk about the Duggars... Why should THEY continue to live as though they had no money if they do NOW have more money?... The Duggars themselves have stated we buy used and save the difference SO THAT LATER we don't have to or as much. Michelle herself stated that several times in the early hour shows, and in interviews. But every one has forgotten the ENTIRE motto and just remembers the first half.

    1. It's not just saving money when you plant a garden. The vegetables are FRESH and pesticide-free. The idea of fruit in a can is just repulsive, and wanting heavy syrup is gross. No wonder southern states have the fatest and sickest populations. Just because children are slender, however, doesn't indicate good health. These people eat a terrible diet. I can't imagine actually trying their recipes - rea ding the ingredients is enough to make you queasy!

  10. Very good point about the "living within their means"....and now their "means" are much better than their "means" used to be. So why shouldn't they be able to buy nicer clothes as long as they still "live within their means and are still out of debt?"

    I do think they still have a long road ahead of them financially, however, since the majority of their children are still the investing, the wise spending, and saving for the future is of course in their best interest.

    I think because I still have a toddler and am hoping for another baby before we're "done" I'm going to be buying in bulk and repackaging for awhile--I'd like to have our mortgage paid off early. Thankfully she has her college tuition paid for (if she goes to school in the UK--I'll be encouraging that hahaha) otherwise her college money won't go as far here in the states. However who knows what country we'll be in by that time....

    I personally don't and won't garden either, I thought with all the land and with all the kids to do the work and burn the energy---it seemed like a great homeschool project. I assume a lot about this family in seeminly opposite directions that others assume things about them don't i?

  11. living in florida, i find its easier to garden here to some degree. many of the women i work with have gardens that they started. i myself dont have a backyard, and currently have two cats in my little apartment. so growing stuff is not a big option for me :-) but i would love to grow a few things (citrus is a big one down here)

    i also find its nice to buy at wholesale clubs. we recently picked up 6 pounds of pasta for 2.91 it wasnt a brand we knew but the price was right and 6 pounds will last the two of us quite some time.

    also, in some of the older episodes where they still only had 16 kids jana had gained a bit of weight. shes lost it all, but there are picture of her out there where she beefed up a little, but there are many reasons for that.

    i noticed a lot of the girls tend to eat salads when they are out. in a reason episode their dad takes them to a burger place in little rock and the girls were like "um..." and you could hear in the background comments like "well you could probably eat that..."

    but most of the kids are really active. i know i would be if i wasnt on the computer and watching tv so much :-)

  12. I think they probably eat those meals from cans and boxes when they're filming a new episode more thn normal. I mean, let's face it, how would you feel with a film crew all over your house and you're trying to get a meal on the table for over twenty people while they're filming and interviewing you?

  13. for some strange reason they don't eat pork? also they use paper plates, plastic forks, cups etc. they have an industrial dishwasher and two regular ones in kitchen so not sure why they want that much garbage