Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rules of Thumb for the Frugal Foodie

When it comes to food in our home- we follow this rule of thumb: Consider what you are using and what you are throwing away.
We don’t belong to the clean plate club but we do save leftovers- don’t waste food but don’t gorge yourself cleaning up everyone’s plate in order to do so.
Kids don’t finish their milk at breakfast? Put it in the fridge for when they get thirsty later. Same with other beverages.
Don’t turn your nose up at leftovers. We set aside a day of the week for cleaning out the leftovers- on Saturdays we have a 
Leftover Smorgasbord in place for lunch and dinner —which basically means “have at anything in the fridge to make yourself a meal”. We also have Diner Dinner some days for lunch time during the week. This can be lots of fun too—think “diner”. We inventory leftovers in the fridge- the kids make a silly menu, set a nice table- one kid acts as waitress, another as cook and they all clean up. It’s fun with food!
Repurpose leftovers. Leftover cooked chicken can be  put on pizza, top a salad or tossed into the soup pot. Some cooked pastas can be made into cold pasta salad. I love making open faced sandwiches the next day after we’ve had turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and rolls.
Lots of other “leftovers” can be put into soups . . . . every so often we have
 Fridge Soup which is pretty much a bunch of leftovers dumped into the soup pot with some broth added. [Note: thru trial and error we have learned what to avoid mixing together in the soup pot. With that said- we love to put leftover mac-n-cheese into a cream based soup- yummy!]
In order to be a frugal foodie, I have to keep a keen eye on my fridge and freezer, making sure not to let things get pushed too far back that they go bad before we can use them. One key to my pantry and freezer stocking is to rotate items like the supermarkets. I put the new items in the back and leave the stuff expiring first in the front. This isn’t a real big deal with the freezer but it is in my pantry. I once had a can of soup that was over 5 years old! It stayed in the back and when my supplies got low I’d buy more and stack it in front of that poor little can. Did I use the soup? Yes, I did. Mr. Steady and I debated it, smelled it and taste tested it and decided it was fine. Seeings how that was 2 years ago and we’re all healthy it was a good gamble.
Another key to getting the most from your food budget is to package things well. I have to say that I have been really amazed at some of the fridges I’ve had glimpses of . . . . My momma always taught me to put leftovers in covered containers in the fridge- never just set a plate of food in the fridge uncovered. Ew. Also- don’t cut up half a tomato and place the other half in the fridge uncovered. I’ve seen this in fridges with many different veggies and I just don’t get it. If I open a box of pasta and don’t use it all- I have beautiful blue glass Mason jars that I put the pasta in. If I have a few different smidgens of different shaped pasta in one jar- so what! Making homemade mac-n-cheese with a variety of noodles adds to the fun factor.
Besides not leaving food uncovered in the fridge- don’t leave it sitting out too long after a meal either. We always 
 clean up right after the meal and put the food away- if guests are over this may keep me from them for a short while but it has never been an issue and then I don’t have to face all that clean up after the company leaves- no damper on the fun.
Another thing about leftovers- Mr. Steady takes a portion of the nite before’s meal in his lunch the next day. This is such a great boon to us- he eats healthy and we save money by him not buying the junky food off the break truck. He isn’t confined to brown-bagging it with sandwiches and chips- instead he’s had the guys drooling over his oven roasted chicken and vegetables, homemade pizza, pasta dishes and more. My husband once said that the average person at his work spends over $30 a week on lunch and snacks. That would totally blow our budget.
The freezer is another great place for leftovers but I must admit that I don’t do this nearly as much as I use to- as the kids grow and eat more we don’t’ usually have enough leftovers to put in the freezer- that’s why Smorgasbord Saturdays works so much better for us.
Now and then we do find that some items have “turned” on us. This could be considered a waste (especially if it’s a lot of food) but we have one more step we take- we compost. Egg shells, coffee grounds, wilted lettuce, limp and wrinkly veggies . . . . . they all get tossed in the compost along with the pulled weeds and garden clippings to make food for the garden beds which in turn grows the foodie goodness crops that will be planted.
[Note: Do not compost meats or bones or dairy]
The only thing better would be to have a pig. Pigs eat anything.
Alas, we live in town.
I remind myself of the Recyclers’ Motto:
 Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Amy, Nice post! I have started something new; I hope I can describe it to you. I made up 5 weeks of menus for dinner. For example, week 1 may be meatloaf, salmon patties, mac&cheese, baked chicken, etc. to get to 7 dinners. I then have a second page with all the ingredients needed to buy for those 7 meals, with a number after each ingredient (1),(2), etc. to designate which meal this ingredient belongs to. For example, 3 c. corn flake crumbs (1) belongs to meal (1) which is meatloaf.
    I put the (1) after the ingredient so if I decide to scratch out a meal and substitute with something else that week, I can scratch out all the ingredients that follow with a (1).
    I print up the next 5 weeks of meal plans and ingredients needed. That way, when I am shopping, if I see canned salmon on sale, I will buy 2 cans and scratch off that ingredient from the week with salmon patties. Around here, grocery sales seems to reoccur every 6 weeks or so, plus when you are shopping at Aldi only a few things are on sale each week.
    I then add "other" items to each meal per week as I am shopping. For example, if I see broccoli that is on sale, I may decide to have it with the baked chicken. I may also choose to buy baking potatoes for that meal, and I write "baked potatoes" under the entry for baked chicken. I think this will allow me to write in items from my garden to the meal plan as things start to be harvested.
    So, I basically picked 35 dinners that my family really likes and pre-typed shopping lists for 5 weeks of dinners. I then also write on the sheet what I need for breakfasts and lunches.
    Like you, lunches for us are mostly dinner leftovers. One of the best things about this is that my 15 year old, who snacks a lot because she is still growing a lot, prefers dinner leftovers as snacks and they are a lot healthier than other things she could be eating. She usually eats a good sized dinner, then gets another plate of leftover dinner before bed. She also eats a plate of leftover dinner for breakfast before high school. She just likes to take a smallish lunch to school, maybe some cheese and crackers, a small apple, and a drink only. So her big meals are breakfast and dinner (dinner eaten twice). She is a size 0 extra slim and eats like this every day.
    Lynne in MD

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