Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

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.

Menu planning

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?

Food and kitchen 2015 158

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.

Food and kitchen 2015

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.

Organizing 2015 031

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.

Organizing 2015

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.

Organizing 2015 033

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.

11 comments on “Menu planning

    August 26, 2015

    Here are some of my grocery savings tips —
    I go to a generic warehouse bulk foods place for many of my groceries about 1-2x per month. I have a lot of different dried foods (legumes, pastas, grains, dried fruits, etc) in jars & small canisters. I make a number of casseroles or stir-fried dishes & eat them 2-3x per week at either breakfast, lunch or dinner for variety. In the winter, I have soups quite a lot. I eat a variety of ethnic recipes, so I can use nearly anything that the community food basket has available!
    I also have a network of about half a dozen friends that we swap around foods that are surplus to one family, but valued by the others…

    • Na Na
      August 26, 2015

      Same with me. I can’t go to the bulk food store (bus rider) but I do keep those things in my stockpile. The trouble with me swapping with the neighbors is that then they know what I have and will come to “borrow” it but not repay it. When I have something extra I give it to whoever needs it. If I don’t expect it returned then I’m not disappointed.

  2. Jackie
    July 7, 2015

    NaNa, I am interested in your comment about hard times coming. I know other frugality blog writers I read seem to be feeling the same way. Would you be willing to share more thoughts on the subject? Sometimes I just feel numb to the whole topic of money and budgets and such. I would appreciate hearing anything you have to say about future situations and anything you are doing to prepare. Thank you!

    • Na Na
      July 7, 2015

      Sure, give me a day or two to put my thoughts into words. Maybe you are getting into a panic from all the negative blogs you’re reading. Too much negative information can make you numb and then resentful. Try not reading so many of the heavily negative blogs and read a few positive blogs for awhile. Do a search for “how to have a positive and happy attitude” and read a few of those. It certainly can’t hurt.

  3. sarasinart
    July 6, 2015

    I think Grandma Mama would be very proud of you, of what you learned and how well you teach others to be frugal in some tough times.

  4. captnmike
    July 6, 2015

    When I was a kid (5th, 6th grade or so) we ate whatever was on sale that week at the grocery store, mom would go through the ads on Thurs. night in the paper and we would buy on Friday the items on sale and that was the basis of the next week’s food for the most part. Things not on sale were also bought, but the big items were always the on sale things (meat for instance)

    I still buy stuff in bulk (not as good as my mom for sale items) to help keep some costs down

    • Na Na
      July 7, 2015

      Yes, thanks for reminding me. Many women did/do shop that way. I doubt you could get as good as your Mom because the sales today are totally different than they used to be. There used to be “loss leaders” that people could stock up on and make good meals. Loss leaders are very rare today. Now days the sale is not really a sale because the prices shown in the ads are the normal shelf price not a sale price.

  5. Patricia
    July 6, 2015

    I see three egg cartons in your freezer – do you freeze your eggs in shell? Just as you get them?

    • Na Na
      July 6, 2015

      Yes, I do. Just pop them into the freezer when I got them home. I wrote a post about it back on May 25th.

  6. Linda S.
    July 6, 2015

    As usual, good to hear from you. I do much the same as you-heck! I don’t know what I’ll be hungry for next Thursday! Wish I had a small room for storage but grandkids moved in & filled ’em all up. lol I have food stored all over the house – need to borrow a can of evaporated milk? Wait, I have to move the tv out.

    • Na Na
      July 7, 2015

      Hee, hee, hee, I can relate to that. Before I bought my shelves everything was stored in boxes.

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