Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
First I’ll explain why I don’t pre-plan meals and then I’ll explain what I do instead. However you do your meal planning is what works for YOU. This is the system that works for me.
Having a plan is a good idea and would save money at the grocery for people who shop every week and have very predictable lives. My personal opinion is that people “plan” meals backwards. They decide what the meals will be for a week or a month then they go buy the ingredients for those planned meals.
I don’t meal plan because my life is way too iffy for a shop weekly meal plan. If I’m home. If I feel like cooking. If I’m not rushing to finish a deadline quilt. If I have all the ingredients. If I’m really hungry or just a little hungry. If I have something that must be used soon. If someone or something doesn’t take me away from home right at mealtime. If a thunderstorm happens right at mealtime. If the lights haven’t gone out from the storm. You get the idea? Life is too iffy for a meal plan several days into the future.
Dang, I never could get my psychic powers to work. One reason meal plans don’t work for me is that I never know what food I’ll get from the mobile food bank or what I may find in the grocery discount bins. I don’t know what food I’ll be getting next week so how can I plan the meals for next week?
There are only 5 food items I’m fairly certain will be given out week after week from the mobile food bank. That would be potatoes, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cabbage. Any other foods distributed are a bonus. I’m pretty sure the senior food commodities will remain the same each month too.
I can hear you asking, Na Na if you don’t menu plan what do you do instead? My meal planning is totally different and backwards to anything you’ve read or heard. I’ll explain.
The way I plan meals is very much like it would have been about a hundred years ago in my Grandma Mama’s time. She was born in the 1800s and lived through the depression and both WW1 and WW2. History says these were the hardest economic times of our recent past.
These are the ways Grandma Mama taught me and actually work perfectly with getting the mobile pantry food and produce each week. Her meal planning was to fill the pantry with as much food as possible during the summer gardening months so that it lasted through the winter until next season. She smoked, canned, dehydrated, and salted foods to preserve everything she could. She had a garden and searched the farm for wild edibles and raised her own meat animals. Grandpa Papa would hunt and fish.
I don’t have a garden or live on a farm like Grandma Mama did but I really am following in her footsteps by preserving all the food bank and grocery discount bin foods as I’m able. My pantry is quite full. When the pantry is full there really is no need for planning and making a grocery list. My pantry is my grocery.
I also plan by batch cooking or pre-making some heat and eat meals for those days when I’m too busy to be in the kitchen. Some quick meals are in jars and some are in the freezer. I believe Grandma Mama would have liked my way of storing food. Grandma Mama had beans and potatoes on the table every single day. I believe she would have liked the idea of canning beans in a single batch to save money on fuel. She would have liked cooking potatoes to be frozen and heated up later.
Instead of running to the grocery for something quick to eat, or worse stop at a fast food place, I just walk to the pantry or look at my freezer list. When I actually have time for cooking a regular meal then my pantry has everything I really need.
Ok, I realize not everyone can keep a pantry like mine but surely some most often used items can be kept in a closet or under a bed. I don’t really have a “pantry” for storing food. I have very limited storage space in my house.
This is my main pantry. These two shelving units are in a tiny bedroom I use for storage. Other food is kept in a kitchen cabinet or the freezer.
The true key to saving money at the grocery is having the right equipment and knowing how to preserve food for later use. Everyone knows how to toss a package into the freezer. Right? That’s preserving for later isn’t it? I’m a big supporter of people learning to do food storage like the “olden times” as Ladybug would say.
In my opinion people would save much more money on groceries if they learned the old ways: but, learning the old ways is not a requirement for keeping a stocked pantry. Keeping a food pantry is merely having your favorite foods stored away for future use. It doesn’t matter if the food is commercial canned or home canned, commercial packaged or home packaged.
Keeping a stocked pantry is a very frugal thing to do. Not struggling with making a meal plan (which I can’t stick to anyway) is easy if you have a stockpile of food and it will actually save money.
I see more economic troubles ahead for all of us. I could be wrong but I’m not taking any chances. I’ll continue to can, dehydrate, and stock up as much as I’m able….. just in case.