On Food and Menus…

October 16, 2011

It appears that food and menus have been on the brains often lately. Many of my favorite blogs have written about it, and as the seasons change and the garden winds down talk turns to holiday menus, shopping and planning. I began menu planning about ten months ago in a desperate rush of exhaustion of the question of ” what are we having for dinner?” With a baby on my hip, a garden and canning to do and other various activities, the four o’clock question was my albatross every day. I would scour the pantry, fridge and freezer, running to the store to buy whatever my heart desired for that evening, only to run home and fix it as quickly as possible and then wonder where our budget had been blown.  Obviously, this method was not working.

Food is a very sensitive subject for many people and for me this is no different. I find the subject and the need to feed ones’ family an amazing need and a high priority. My need to feed my family wholesome, natural foods – foods my grandparents would have recognized , food that will nourish bodies as well as feed tummies – is important to me. My childhood was filled with food aversions, food was something that was either indulged upon or avoided. My mother, a constant obsessive dieter for all of her life, pushed her fear of weight on me from an early age and followed every fad diet imaginable. Avoid fat, then consume it. Avoid bread, then it was allowed. Avoid fruit, meat, cheese, eggs, oil, or any other item in order to shed a few pounds and reach that goal. Unfortunately, I am not a slender person and was never a slender child. Food was my safety and pleasure as a child and today it is a way I share my love for my friends and family. While my diet has changed considerably since I was in culinary school (where I ate anything and everything I desired!), my desires for healthy, homemade fare has always remained constant.

I like my menus to include whole grains, fresh veggies and as much homemade items as possible. We bake bread (because it is less expensive and tastes amazing!), make cookies and snacks and (if you have read this blog before) love to share our cooking with friends. However, in my baking the portions are small and the ingredients are wholesome. To quote a good friend of mine, ” No one ever got obese eating Mom’s cookies.”

A dear friend came to visit today to ask about menu planning, budgeting, groceries and coupons.  I began couponing about ten months ago and do it sporadically. It is difficult to find coupons for items that are natural and wholesome, for products that are minimally processed and versatile. I like most of the things I stock my kitchen with to be able to work in multiple recipes as opposed to just buying one item for one recipe. Another problem I run into is that I have some serious meat eaters in my house. The little guy is obsessed with anything in  sausage shape and my husband requires some sort of protein daily. This makes my shopping and menu planning a bit more complicated. If left to my own devices, I’d be happy eating beans, rice and eggs.

As I explained coupons to my friend it came to light that budgeting is a rough subject for many families. I know that it took Rudie and I being married for almost five years before a real budget came to light – before we owned up to our spending habits and agreed to pare down where needed and be true to the budget. There are days where the budget feels like a shackle around my neck and I wish to throw it away – to shop with abandon and just fill my cart with fabulous produce, meats and fancy imported cheeses. I would love to just shop and not spend the my whole trip judging prices and deals, wants versus desires and make amazing, fancy, convenient meals.  Then I remember and realize that it would be foolish and dangerous to my family to do that – that my budgeting and menu planning, careful shopping and lists make it possible for my family to have what they need, to have me stay home with them and be the mother I have always wished to be.

It is a personal thing to throw out and share your food budget, some people think it is too much, so people think it too little. But in the spirit of frugality, I have given myself a challenge for the rest of this month. Today is the 16th of October and I have $100 dollars to spend for the rest of the month. This budget includes all food items, gas, pet foods, and toiletries. This does not include items that already stock our pantry and freezers, or anything already in the house. While it seems like a small amount to some, to others it is generous for 15 days – bringing each days’ max sum to a whooping $6.60! Can it be done?

I would love to hear about your food budget and anything you do to make it stretch in your household. Please share!!



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