Generation Cedar

We’ve been “regrouping” our efforts in the kitchen to be more organized, make better use of our time and save more money. This is a real challenge when you are a “flitting visionary” like me. I have so many great intentions that don’t always get the follow-through to make them work!

One such intention is my meal menu. When we use it, it’s great! No more standing in front of the pantry at 5 p.m. chanting, “Lord, give me a miracle”. The meal menu is a simple chart that tells us what kind of meal we’re having for each day–breakfast, lunch and supper.

Here is our menu, just to give you an example:

Monday:

Breakfast: cereal///Lunch: sandwiches///Supper: Soup/crockpot meal

Tuesday:

cinnamon rolls///fruit, cheese, crackers & nuts///pasta, bread & salad

Wednesday:

cereal///soup///sandwiches/baked potato

Thursday:

oatmeal casserole///sandwiches///mexican or crock pot

Friday:

fruit/toast///leftovers///homemade pizza (sometimes store-bought)

Saturday:

pancakes///leftovers or sandwiches///chicken, veg, salad, etc.

True, it’s not that exciting. And we are flexible; we may not always have the right ingredients on hand (although knowing ahead of time helps to keep them), or being pregnant, I may be craving something else 😉 Sometimes we just switch the meals around.

But as many of you know who implement a menu, it’s so helpful!

Getting Organized.

It’s easier to say than actually do (for us anyway), but my oldest daughter and I are working on preparing more things ahead of time. We have found that unless we set aside a certain time each week, this doesn’t get done. We are taking Mondays as a day we emphasize “home-ec” to do some preparing.

Things we are preparing?

Extra batch of dough to freeze or refrigerate for cinnamon rolls or dinner rolls.

Pancake mix to have ready for Saturdays.

Re-fried beans in the freezer for Mexican meals. (We just cook pinto beans, mash and season them.)

Extra batches of soup to freeze when we make soup.

There are lots more things we could prepare ahead, but we’ll be accomplishing something if we manage this list!

I encourage you to reevaluate your kitchen and menu; how you can save a few dollars a day? How can you make better use of your time to be able to spend it elsewhere? How can your organization include having meals on hand for emergency situations (a sick friend, a death, etc.)?
My new ebook has more money-saving ideas…
but it is for the beginner!

Here is my favorite economical meal:

Anything Mexican:
(These prices are from our bent & dent grocery store, so they could be a little higher if you don’t have one in your area.)

Organic chips…………….. .60 (half a bag)
Salsa………………………. .12 (a jar costs .25!)
Beans……………………… .30 (my best guess)
Corn……………………….. .40
Rice………………………… .20
Sour cream…………………..26
(The pic shows a can of mandarin oranges–.50)

Without meat, this meal, which would feed our family of 9, would cost $3.23

If we add ground turkey (which I buy a pack and divide in 3 parts), it would cost $4.89.

We eat it layered like a casserole, or separate like a taco without the taco. Of course you can eat it with tortillas, add olives, chilies, etc. or however your prefer–very versatile!

P.S. We would season the beans and/or meat with cumin, onion and garlic.

It helps me to fight the urge to want to go out to eat so often if I remember the savings–$4.00 for a meal at home vs. at least $40 out! (Unless we get the “largest seafood platter in the world) which feeds our whole family for $18. Still, the savings of eating at home are huge!!!

 

 

12 Responses

  1. Good morning – I was tickled at the image of you standing in front of your pantry – that’s something we have in common.

    I’m new to your blog and site and am so glad to have found you and your happy group of contributors. I’ve been dropping in on several conversational/informational blogs as I form my own, for inspiration and in an attempt not to duplicate but complement the sites that are truly useful and enjoyable.

    You’ve inspired me to a new level of creativity with regard to meal planning. My friends and family have marveled that I’ve managed to feed our family of five, plus lunch leftovers, on about $5/per meal. You’ve called me to a higher (or lower?) standard….thanks for the push. I’m also trying to tell my competitive self that this is NOT a contest, but I’m already whittling away at my shopping list.

    I look forward to reading more about you and your family. Love in Christ.

  2. Did I miss something, or does your family of nine eat half a bag of chips, one can of corn, maybe, what, 1/2 lb of beans and a cup of rice? I’m not trying to sound negative or suggest in any way that you are undernourished but I’m genuinely trying to understand why my own attempts at frugality never come anywhere near the “gold standard” $35-$50/week grocery budget. Maybe because my husband could eat that all himself? 🙂

  3. Dana,

    LOL. Yes, there is something to be said of having lots of littles in the house–it makes a difference. They just don’t eat a lot. Once we get all those ingredients in a dish, it makes a 9 x 13 casserole topped with cheese which still feeds our family.

    However, a larger family should be able to simply increase each ingredient slightly, with only a slight increase in price.

    Just thinking of ways to stretch each meal is key.

    Another thing I’ve found is often we’re just in the habit of overeating instead of eating what is needful for health. We don’t have to be stuffed when we leave the table.

  4. True about the littles… I guess I’ve been away from home too long to remember that. I don’t have children yet but I’m the oldest of 7 girls. Talk about a household of little-bird eaters!

    I read here often but don’t usually comment; sorry for “introducing” myself with a quasi-outburst. I just get frustrated when I feel like I’m following the general principles (shop sales, cook everything from scratch, don’t eat a lot of meat) and still spend so much more than other people seem to. I suppose comparison is only healthy up to a point? There are certain “luxuries” we’ve decided to keep (wine and coffee), and I have extensive food allergies (gluten, dairy, eggs). So either the alternatives (like rice pasta) are four times as expensive as regular, or some of the frugal meals which tend to be bread or egg based aren’t options for me. But hey, there’s always always beans and rice!

    And there is always room for improvement. I appreciate your reminder about portion sizes too; I definitely tend to eat too much out of boredom or distraction.

  5. Kelly,

    I just started a frugal recipe blog for my little sister who just got married. I was going to make a cookbook, but this is easier and I can just keep adding to it.

    It is open to the public because I figured others could get some help from it too.

    I have some ultra cheap recipes on there. Some are original and some I borrowed from other sites. But the neat thing is that I have labeled them (like a cookbook). So you can find anything you want. I just started it a couple of weeks ago so there aren’t a lot but I have some great copycat recipes on there (Pizza hut style bread-sticks, Arby’s sauce…).
    I also plan to put my menu template on there too when I get a chance.

    Check it out:

    http://home-makerhelper.blogspot.com/

  6. ooh, I love this subject!! Meals are actually something I can manage! 🙂 Laundry…a different story! 🙂

    It is amazing how little it costs to make a healthy dinner, if only we plan ahead!

    I have a yummy Lasagna recipe-if anyone wants it (it’s on my blog). I think it costs around $10to make. Less if you find sales, AND 1 9×13 lasts us (a family of 6) 2 nights. I serve it with a salad and garlic bread. Also, this freezes well! So you can double the recipe and stick one in the freezer.

  7. P.S. I forgot to mention…. Love your new e-book! The colorful (real) pictures of your children making some of the recipes are GREAT! Great recipes and great frugal tips!

  8. Dana,

    Another point worthy to make, that goes along with some of your quandry….we focus on making some meals as cheap as possible to be able to spend more on healthier choices sometimes. For example, I usually buy almonds to keep on hand for snacks. They run close to $6 a can and it’s hard for me to buy them, but I think they are very healthy and so I *splurge*. Fruit is another example, and there our all sorts (some only buy organic, etc.)

    I didn’t want this article to discourage you and make you think that all our meals only cost $4 each 😉

    We do have heavier expenses that I try to counter-balance with meals like these.

    Little by little, just finding ways to save…it will look different for every family.

  9. Kelly,
    I read your comment about having lots of littles and so it takes less to feed the family. I am still chuckling a bit. I have four (pregnant with #5) and my first three are boys. The oldest is 6. My 6 and 4 year old boys eat as much as my dh, which is a lot. I am verging on terror when I think what our food bill will be when the three boys are teenagers, lol.

    I am so excited though because my neighbor just told me about a store like yours “bent and dent”. It is 2 hours away, but if I go once a month and do all of the shopping, I think it will be worth it. The savings she was telling me about will be enormous.

    We also use a lot of stretchers like beans and brown rice to make things go farther. The other thing that helps is that I make our chicken broth, and my husband has told me on several occasions that the soup is so much richer and filling when it is homemade broth.

    Ashley

  10. Okay, THAT is a menu list I can stick with. My mom draws up a menu list of the entrees for every dinner for an entire paycheck, specifically, as in “Monday, hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes. Tuesday, beef and vegetable soup.” etc etc for two weeks worth, and lunch on the weekends. So when I first got married, I did that! And I discovered we were NEVER in the mood for what I had planned for that day. This is way more flexible, I could actually use it. Thanks a bunch!
    We don’t have a dent/bent store near us, but my favorite grocery has a dent/bent basket that I always check very first thing and buy whatever’s in it that I could possibly use ever, regardless of what it is. Then when I’m asking God for my 5 p.m. miracle, I have inspiration He can throw at me. 🙂

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