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.
Last fall there was a lady setting at the bus stop with me and she was curious about me going to the mobile food bank. She asked me about the kinds of food we get so I told her. Then she asked me why I would be willing to wait on buses to stand in long lines in all kinds of weather for a cart of past date and/or partially rotten food? Its simple; each cart of food bank food represents some money kept to pay the rent or electric bill or for medications. I see her in the food bank lines now.
I hate menu planning. Menu planning is really difficult for me because I can’t predict the future and no matter how well planned something will always happen to throw off any future meal plans I make. When you think about it, at the end of a really busy day nobody really wants to spend an hour creating a meal that is eaten in ten minutes with another thirty minutes putting the leftover food into little plastic coffins and cleaning up the dishes. No wonder the temptation to grab fast food is so alluring to people even when they know how expensive it is.
Menu planning is supposed to be just a matter of choosing some recipes and then shopping for the ingredients to make those meals. Simple right? But what if you don’t know what food you will get? How do you menu plan if the food you will get is a mystery? That’s the way it is when food comes from the mobile food bank and from store discount bins. I prefer looking for bargains rather than shop solely for recipe ingredients. My grocery list contains only items I am out of or I know I use often and should stock up on if the price is right.
When I was young and learning the kitchen rules of putting meals on the table I was taught a simple rule. The rule was that the evening meal should be a soup first then a meat, a vegetable, a starch, with bread. The meal was followed by a sweet for desert. Grandma Mama made lots of cobblers and pies. There were many variations of each meal but the rule remained the same. A really good cook was an impulse cook. A really good cook learned to use what they had in the pantry to make filling meals that were varied and delicious based on that simple rule. A really good cook could create varied meals even if using the very same food day after day. For example think of all the different ways to cook chicken or how many ways to use cabbage. Think about how many family favorite recipes use soup as an ingredient. Using leftover soup in recipes was the invention of an impulse cook who was also very frugal.
I’ve tried modern day menu planning. Seriously, I have tried. Over the years I’ve looked and looked for menu planning that would work for me. The perfect meal plan system to fit me doesn’t exist because of the mystery in my food gathering. I’m an impulse cook. What’s in the freezer? What am I in the mood to eat? What should I eat right away? Will I be gone all day? Will I have grand kids to feed? I prepare meals around what’s going on in my day and the food I have in storage.
A couple of weeks before the last Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays a reader commented she had been eating down her food storage to make room for the holiday bargains to be found. DUH! A light bulb lit up. Why hadn’t I realized this before? I’ve said it numerous times that things always work for me backwards. What I actually do is the reverse of menu planning. I Shop first and plan meals later. I have been doing what that reader did but I do it everyday instead of before a holiday. I eat down my food storage and replenish with the bargains I find and the food bank food and discount produce I get.
I’ve been over thinking the problem. My food storage is my “store” where I shop daily for what I eat. This means my biggest worry is making sure I eat as healthy as possible with the food I have. I guess my next task is to figure out exactly WHAT is a healthy diet and make sure I follow it with what I have.