As a follow-up to the last blog post, I wanted to delve a little bit more into meal planning and prep as a means to save money, since this is one of the main ways I have impacted our overall budget this year. I oscillate between hating and loving preparing meals for all the reasons you might imagine, but I really got a bee in my bonnet after reading the myth of easy cooking, where author Elizabeth Dunn keeps it real, saying, “Promises of ease in the kitchen took hold in the 1940s and 50s, thanks to the flood of women entering the workplace, a newly industrialized food supply, and the invention and marketing of a whole range of timesaving kitchen gadgets. Before that, books about cooking largely admitted what every homemaker knew to be true: that feeding people was backbreaking work, and then you died.”
I immediately discussed this with all working mothers I knew, and got some valuable feedback from one of my sanest friends:
“I like the Atlantic article but its pretty negative. I think a main problem is food snobbyness in our generation. Also, if someone cooks dinner five nights a week for years and years, they will get really fast at cooking what they like. I mean, with [kids and a husband] to feed, I’m just going to cook so fucking much in my life. I’m going to be amazing! I’m a much better cook than I was three years ago… before that I could afford to buy more ready made ingredients and we ate out. Now I just cook, cook, cook, and meals really are quite fast. Fast but humble meals.”
How beautiful and sanity-preserving is that sentiment? Helps me keep my ego in check while planning family meals. I also find that these ordinary tasks are imbued with more meaning when I see them in context of the narrative they play in my life. I find a greater sense of purpose and peace in attending to my daily chores, such as making a grocery list, shopping and making meals, when I see those activities as a fulfillment of one of the main, basic tenets of my life I care about–nourishing myself and those that sit at my table, in more ways than one. MFK Fisher always says it best: “…but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.”
On that note, and without further ado, the following are a couple of ways that we have significantly pared down our grocery bill (and our eating out bill, since we’re prepared for dinner at home!):
– the number one, most important of all thing, is that on Saturday I plan out 6 dinners for the coming week and write down all of the ingredients I will need to make these meals. As per the above discussion, these are HUMBLE meals, and yes, doctored frozen pizza is ALWAYS on the menu one night per week
– I buy produce in season (seems like a duh point, but didn’t always do this–it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your grocery run)
– buying things in bulk (beans, oatmeal, cereal)
– buying the crappy coffee (wah wah! but still has caffeine…)
What about you guys? Do you have a set budget for weekly groceries? Do you make a meal plan? How many times per week do you end up cooking? Would love to hear!
P.S. As per the usual, a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.