Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Frugaling along with menu planning - long, long post.

I'm the world's worst housekeeper, and I know it.  But I'm really really really great at being frugal.  It's something I inherited from my mother, who had mingy down-pat.

I love to read frugal blogs.  My faves are The Frugal Queen and Blissful and Domestic.  These ladies have it all figured out.  If you are in serious financial difficulty, they will put you right. 

Frugaling is a good habit to acquire.  You never know when life will throw you a curve and you'll need to tighten your belt.  Or maybe you want to pay off your mortgage, or you want to retire before you're dead, or you want to travel, or help the kids out.  Whatever.  Being cheap is always helpful, and often necessary.

Today,  Blissful and Domestic is talking about food budgets, and I thought:  "Hey I know about food budgets.  I know a lot about them.  Maybe I'll impart some wisdom to the world."   So here goes.

Way back, when I worked full-time (I'm retired now 6 years!!!), and had kids and husband to feed, I'd come home from work, stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open, and wonder what to make for supper.  At the same time, the kids were hungry, wanted to know what we were having and when we'd be eating.  You know this routine.

So I found a book at the library (title and author totally forgotten, it's been way over 30 years) where the authors wrote about organization.  Yep, that curse word - organization.  No, I'm so not organized, but there was a chapter on menu planning, and I glommed onto that.

Here's what I did.  I made up index cards, color-coded for each type of food.  So, chicken recipes would be on pink cards, fish on blue cards, vegetarian on white cards.  You get the picture.

On the front of each card, I wrote the name of the recipe, the cookbook and page where I could find it.  On the back of the card, I wrote down the ingredients, how much, etc.

The night before shopping, I'd go through my cards and decide what the week's menu was going to be.  When I made my market list, I'd write down the ingredients called for.  Then, when I went to the market, I was set.  No more 3 eggplants when I only needed one.  No more standing in front of that refrig and wondering what to make.  I was Organized!  (the only time in my life ever that I was organized, but I'll take what I can get.)

And it saved my neck.  I spent so much less at the market with no impulse purchases, I knew what to cook, and even had the flexibility of changing hamburgers from Tues to Thurs.  I had all the ingredients, so I could could at any time.

My index card project didn't happen overnight.  It took me a couple of weeks, but every time I tried a new recipe and liked it, I'd make a card.  We had well-balanced meals with an assortment of meat, poultry and vegetarian recipes.  It really was a life saver.

As for the kids, I gave them the standard Mommie answer:  What are we having for dinner?  Food.  When are we eating?  When it's done.

The kids liked the menu plan.  I always posted it on the refrig so they knew what we were eating that week.  Yep, I tossed in pizza once a week.  I did enough cooking, and anyhow, worked at least one night a week.  We did have boring spaghetti dinners, too.  On the other hand, I made a mean chicken stir fry with sate noodles, and that was amazing, and really not very much work at all.  We ate well, and I could get dinner on the table in record time, and, the best part, other than the frugal part, WE DIDN'T RELY ON FAST FOOD! 

Did you actually read this entire post?  Amazing. 


Sarah said...

Yup I read the whole thing. I've tried to organize my menus but I'm not great (=horrid) on follow thru. It's just me so I only need to cook 1 or 2 times a week and mix up the leftovers the rest of the week. Part of my problem is coming across a new recipe to try (immediately!) and the other part is my ever changing schedule where I plan to cook something but then a meeting or rescue call or whatever screws it all up. It's a work in progress at my house...

Gramma 2 Many said...

Sure did and it carried me back so many years ago when I stood in front of the fridge, tired and hungry, with 6 kids asking me what was for dinner and when would it be ready. My lifesaver became a menu plan also, along with the crock pot.


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