Meals, Meals, Meals

So far in the Crazy Lady Organization series, I’ve revealed my complete ineptitude with keeping track of things which must be accomplished.  Hence, the Trusty Chalkboard.  And I have tried to trick you into believing that I actually do all the chores on the Chores List.

Today, again I say, “I’m trying.  I really am.”

We’ve been tightening our budget lately, as many families are.  I’m not out in the work place, but my financial contribution can be great through food.

I could kick myself (if I were flexible enough) for not doing this so long ago!  I am determined to make better choices through thorough menu planning.  So far, it’s been a joy to see how far I can make one 4lb chicken stretch, and how one meal can feed into the next for days on end.

Here’s my brain on paper:

Oui.

Having a menu (or a manyoo) in the first place is helping me to bring down our shopping costs.  This way I know exactly what I need in order to prepare the upcoming dinners.  And by exerting a little self-control, I can stick to that list and save quite a bit of money.

As you can see below, I broke down the month into weekly shopping trips with one type of meat per week.  I noted the cost, and tried to estimate how far I could make it stretch.

The great thing about whole chickens is that the carcass can be turned into stock EASILY.  Where you see an arrow drawn, it means that either the meat or the stock created will feed into another meal or two.  I love those arrows.

In addition to dinners, I also planned a simple selection of lunches and snacks to have on hand.  Cheap, easy to make, and predictable. 

Granted, this isn’t the most glamorous menu.  It’s very simple, with lots of homemade foods.  Hopefully this plan will help us stay healthy and keep some money in the bank. 

I think of those who have much less to work with – even the stories of the generations before me – living on cornbread and beans, eggs, or pasta… 

I thank God that we can live in a house, eat good food, have decent clothing, and stay warm in the winter.  I think it’s a good thing to be frugal, working hard at managing our home well, when it’s a way I can say to God, “I notice what you’ve given me.”

Honestly, until I did this, I had no idea how much extra junk I was tossing in the cart every week. 

My attitude was sort of … we should be able to eat anything and have a million choices for every meal.  Each week I brought home about 3 choices for fruit and the same for veggies (produce is SO expensive!!!).  More on the possibility of growing our own produce through the winter in another post…

Now we have one fruit choice for the week, and only the veggies we need for our dinners.  Makes sense, huh?  I get the big ol’ DUUUHHHH sign.

I’m actually enjoying trimming down, budgeting, and planning ahead.  It’s taken a load off my mind that I didn’t realize was there, and made me realize that my contributions to our finances are really important.  It doesn’t just matter what gets put in to the bank; it also matters what gets taken out.

Who knows?  Maybe these choices will allow us to save for our kids’ college days or something down the line.

Anyone out there care to share a tip for keeping the grocery bills down?  Feel free to leave a comment – and have a great day!  🙂

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13 thoughts on “Meals, Meals, Meals

  1. Great idea. The idea of PLANNING the weekly meals better has been trying to seep into my brain….sometimes things take a while… Thanks for the example. 🙂 I’m starting more frugally planning as of this week!

  2. I have shopped that way all of my married life and it really does make a BIG difference. Planning a menu and then sticking to those ingredients that go into the recipes certainly keeps random things from getting into the grocery cart. Unless, however, you take your husband shopping with you. It’s happen all through the years that when Dad went shopping with me – when we had children in the home and even now – that we’d get up to the checkout and inevitably there would be a box of sweeten cereal or a bag of chips, etc. that I DID NOT put in the cart. My line is “how did that get in there” and his line is either “what??” with a twinkle in his eye, or “that must have fallen into the cart!!!” We’ve never stressed about it though. Dad shops with me so infrequently that it actually makes shopping “fun” to see what ends up in the cart.

    • Oh man… I know EXACTLY what you mean! Yes, that’s you, Jon – I know you’re reading this… 🙂 I usually get to the register and go, “HEEEEEEEY!” and sometimes the “treat fairy” pretends not to hear me.

      On another note, I had no idea how you got food to the table when I was a little kid. All I knew was that *poof* there was pork chops, cauliflower, and rice! Hooray! Eat up! So thank you for all the work you did. 🙂 I appreciate it.

  3. If you focus only on budget, you will wind up compromising on nutrition. If you focus only on nutrition, you will overspend.
    I have found it helpful to track prices both specifically and in a general sense.

    Example: I know that my family needs fresh fruit and veggies. The recommended serving per person? about 6 servings a day. (this will depend on your source) 1 serving of fresh fruit? A piece about the size of a tennis ball. There are five of us. This means that I need a total daily fruit and veggie availability of 30 tennis balls. 🙂 I try to provide half fruit and half veggie. So I need (daily) 15 tennis balls worth of fresh fruit. 15 tennis balls/medium pieces of fruit = roughly four pounds of fruit daily. AND this means that I will need 28-30 pounds of fresh fruit WEEKLY. With budgeting consideration I try not to pay more than $1/lb for fruit (TRY) So I go into the store knowing I need 30 pounds and that I should not spend more than an average of $1/lb to keep my fruit bill below $30 for the week. (my goal) NOW, the veggie part… Same thing, except…. I buy about a quarter of our allotted veggie needs in the frozen section, so now I only need 20ish pounds of fresh veggies. Or not quite, since 1 cup of Kale, for instance, is much lighter than 1 cup of apples. Eyeball it. I further divide in half and figure we’ll eat about 10 ‘pounds’ or cups of our veggies in salad form. (2 large family style salads) Again, I want to get all those veggies into my cart for under $30.

    As the price of food rises, my $1/lb rule has been more tricky… So for our family size, I am spending $60/week on produce and that should provide all our fruit/veggie needs. The rest of my budget I am free to spend on staples and meat. (Am I now blogging on your blog?…sheesh.) You need six servings of protein daily (2000 cal diet) I serving = 1 oz ….. So 6 oz protein pperson. If half of that is meat and the rest is dairy or legumes, then you would need approx. 3 lbs of meat pperson pweek. Can you see where we go with this? figure out how much money you have left and that will tell you what you can spend on meat affordably, then buy whatever falls within your target prices. Remember that staples run in cycles, so leave room for that bottle of extra virgin olive oil periodically. (I.e. if your budget is $100/week, aim for $95 so you have room to buy baking supplies etc… when needed.)

  4. bone stock has a good amount of protein in it so you can make a bean based soup for cheap with the stock you make from your whole chicken carcass and have lots of protein in it (Peter and I eat meat only 1-2 times per week, so I try to be good about getting good protein in). Dried beans are much cheaper than canned and you can control sodium, spices, etc and not much work to make at all! Or lentils are cheap and you don’t have to soak/prepare those beforehand and lentil soup is fantastic!

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