Friday, August 15, 2008

The Frugal Table (excuse the mess...)


Meal planning to me used to be limited to having a box of hamburger helper in the cabinet, ground beef in the freezer and a can of sweet peas. Not that this isn't a fine meal choice, we definitely still have our hamburger helper nights, but my idea of meal planning has reached it's "aha"moment.

My "aha" moment hit when I had my 2nd child and was too overwhelmed to even think straight when dinner time came around. Admist the crying (the baby, not me... ok that has happened too), the blank stares into the freezer, fridge, cabinet- then back to the freezer again, and the intense innate need to provide a well balanced somewhat homemade meal for my family I came across the idea of meal planning.

Here is what meal planning looks like on my Fridge:

What's for Dinner?

Every Sunday I sit down at my table to create a menu based on what basics I have stocked in my cabinets, freezer and fridge. Honestly, this will take me maybe 15 minutes at the most. It really doesn't have to be an extravagant plan. Just something to stick up on the fridge to remind you and to avoid the all to common question from your family: "What's for dinner?" (Just typing that question makes me cringe!)

Off to the Grocery Store(s)

I try to make it to the grocery store once for every 2 weeks. I spend approximately $75 for two weeks worth of meals/snacks (by meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner) for 2 adults and 1 toddler.
Of course there are occasional trips back to the store for fresh fruit, veggies and dairy products.

I use my menu plan to make my grocery store list. Reminder: most of my meal ideas come from what is on sale that week, what I have stockpiled in my cabinets and coupons I have to make the most frugal meals possible.

And now I will begin the first meal plan from the Frugal Table... Enjoy!

The Tasty Green

By nature I am spontaneous, a bit rebellious against planning in general. As my family has grown, however, I figured out that by having plans for the everyday "must do's" such as eating I ended up having a lot more time for fun. I guess you can say that for this Momma menu planning is structure for the sake of spontaneity. I spend a few mornings a week reading ad's, clipping coupons, and writing a weekly meal plan. This means that I no longer stand in the kitchen after dinner should have been on the table and suggest that we pack into the car for a mediocre expensive meal out. We still go out to eat, just not because of a lack of options at home or a moody frustrated Mom.
The challenge that I have always had with cooking for my family is that we do not agree on what food is good. I am drawn to raw foods. There is an attraction for me in the simplicity of uncooked beans, a freshly uprooted carrot, a pot of boiling chicken, a bowl of citrus. Food is good to me when it is fresh, healthy, and colorful.
My husband looks at a pot of uncooked beans and asks if we will be having bacon with that. He works diligently with his fork to remove any possible remnant of onion or broccoli that might be hiding near his rice. When I pile fresh fruit and honey onto my morning buckwheat pancakes he digs in the fridge for cheap artificial syrup and chocolate. I want to live off the bounty of the land and I fell head over heels in love with a man who wants to live off of the endless basket of Olive Garden's bread sticks and cheese sauce.

I want to sit at our table and raise children who appreciate the elemental beauty of raw food, the unique flavors of fruits and vegetables, and the taste of fresh unprocessed meals. How can I do this with a man who honestly suggested we alternate sex and Hamburger Helper through out the week?

Well, I found a way and I am eager to share it! I have spoken with so many moms who tell me that they are married to men (or have kids) that put ranch dressing on anything but salad! My part of The Meal's We Make, through The Tasty Green, is to give meal plan ideas to Mom's that need a way to bring unprocessed, healthier, and deliciously raw foods to a table of a picky eaters.

My meals feed three people (My hubby, my son, and I) with ample leftovers for feeding the dogs a treat and freezing the rest for later. I cook with mostly organic/hormone free ingredients. And, I base my meals on a budget of $40-$65 a week for all of our meals (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner). We do eat out once a week for the fun of it, and yes you guessed it, when we eat out my hubby orders a big basket of bread sticks.

I hope you find this and the meal planning provided by my dear friends, Sarah and Alisha, helpful to you and your family! We welcome any ideas and if you like what we have to say link to us!

~ Katie, The Tasty Green