Na Na pinches her pennies

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.

I hate menu planning

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.

38 comments on “I hate menu planning

  1. Ellen
    April 17, 2018

    Gosh, I sure hear ya on the menu planning. I hate it, too, because I never follow what I’ve planned to eat- for all of the reasons you listed. If you figure out what a health diet is, tell the rest of America because no one seems to know. Not even the doctors!

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      I’m working on it. 🙂 I’m no diet expert and not a nutritionist but for my own health I study and research.

  2. lilli
    April 17, 2018

    Sometimes I feel like I hoard food. I usually take our little SNAP and buy marked down or on sale meat. Each week I preview the grocery ads as early as I can find them. If I see something that is rock bottom or free that has a coupon available for it, I may spend a dollar and order the coupon from a clipper. I usually only buy what we actually like to eat. I usually stockpile items in quanities of 20 .My stockpile of food is massive at this point. We have so little money that my food pantry is like an insurance policy for me. I meal plan based on what we have. The only time that may change is if I find marked down vegetables to do something special with. We recently bought and loved some spaghetti squash. It made great pasta but for the regular price, I would never have bought it. I plan on going into the big city to the farmers market this week. SNAP will be buying bulk rice, beans ,and oats. I can’t locate bulk here and my freezer can’t take anymore food. Grandma taught me to squeeze turnips and being poor isn’t so bad. We have what we need and some of what we want. We eat simpler but definitely healthier.

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      I don’t know about you but I found that my hoarding tendencies wasted money. I’d keep stocking food until I’d have enough food to feed a whole neighborhood, not just one person. I had way too much. I worried about it going bad before I could eat it. That’s when I’d clear out almost all of the food and start all over.

      • R Yourig
        April 18, 2018

        That’s the balance we need to make! Between stockpiling and hoarding. When my 6 kids were home, bringing all of their friends, and I had to make full dinners every night for them and my husband, I stepped way over the line of “stockpiling” even with all of the usage. I was spending more on stock piling and future use stuff than keeping money for current necessities and I’d often have guessed wrong and have to buy the “need it now” items on top of my “deals”.

        Food has an expiration date and some things go on sale often enough that passing them up on a sale is no big deal. I would buy so much at Costco which led to overeating and stuff sitting. Now I only go with a list and work hard to stick with it

        The things most important to diet are proteins and fresh fruit/Vegs. A lot of that doesn’t hold up well. Cheap carbs are easy to find anytime.

        • Anita
          April 18, 2018

          Over the last couple of years since I moved away from the old neighborhood I’ve gotten better at not hoarding so much food. I believe my hoarding was the reason for over eating. I was feeling guilty if the food went bad before getting eaten so I ate more to keep that from happening. I don’t shop at stores with large packages like Costco. There isn’t a Costco near me but we do have GFS (Gordon Food Supply) and Sam’s Club. The packages are for large families and not single seniors.

          • T
            April 21, 2018

            I’ve started filling a bag for the food pantry at church every time I go there, to pass on the processed food I can no longer eat.

            But my diet is as you said elsewhere Anita probably too extreme for most people. Seems to be working for me though.

  3. Marion
    April 17, 2018

    Menu planning just doesn’t work for me either. Nice in theory but not very practical. I shop in the cupboard and go with what works for that day.

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      I’m finding many more people have the same thoughts about menu planning. Glad I’m not alone.

  4. Donna
    April 16, 2018

    I buy what is on sale. Make my food based on what is in the freezer or cabinets. That is the only way to stay on a low budget. Try to keep staples built up when on sale.

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      I agree.

  5. Julie A
    April 16, 2018

    I keep a pantry wherein the majority of my food, I buy items in bulk and others I stock up from sales on items I use, and I have learned to can more from websites such as yours. I preserve from my garden and from sale items. I have never menu planned, except for holidays or day of planning. I have always cooked by what I have on hand . Having food on hand keeps us from impulse buying lunch out, yesterday we had soup with crackers, summer sausage, and pickles instead of pizza take out. My boyfriend was suprised at how much he enjoyed our simple meal. I don’t cook as much when its just me here, usually I make an item and eat it half the week or eat from the frozen meals I make from leftovers. I feel like my “real” meals occur when boyfriend or someone else is staying with me.. the fresh fruit with breakfast, desserts, and meat, starch, veggie and salad meals come out then.

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      I feel the same way. I always eat better when I’m cooking for more than just me. Over the last month my cooking has been put off by the meat eater ants that attack anything set on the counters. I believe the Terro ant killer is working so I may get my kitchen back again soon.

  6. Judy Sloan
    April 16, 2018

    I tried for years to plan meals in advance. Somehow, life always seems to get in the way. What changed was having a pantry. We eat from the pantry. When I learned to pressure can it was life-changing economically and health-wise. It allows me a lot more freedom since I am not obsessing about what we will have for dinner. I know my pantry provides healthy food, much of it home-grown and/or home-canned or if I bought it, it was on sale. So, I say learn to cook! Learn to can! And a pantry does not take up any more room then having shelves filled with store-bought, overly processed food. I know you do this, Anita! In fact, because of your blog I now have open shelves in the pantry area, another game-changer!

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      Yea! Looking at all the home canned bounty feels good doesn’t it? I feel rich when I see my shelves full of food. Yes, everyone should learn to cook and learn to home can. No matter how busy a work schedule it can be done.

  7. Marybeth
    April 16, 2018

    I shop first and then make dinner around what I have. I shop marked down racks and if something needs to get eaten fast then that is what we eat. My son brought home lots of leftover bagels and pastries from work Saturday. They get thrown out if employees don’t take them. So we had bagels for breakfast instead of eggs on Sunday. My daughter asked me to make cookies. I told her to go eat some of the pastries her brother brought home. She had forgotten about them. I shop my pantry and make meals from there. It works for us. Here is a recipe for soup that I made yesterday. Everything I keep in my pantry. https://mcoia.blogspot.com/2018/04/pasta-fagioli.html

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      I used to have a neighbor who worked at a factory that specialized in prepping food for restraunts. She brought home biscuits and chopped salads often and shared them with me. It sure helped my budget. She retired and moved to another state.

  8. Emma
    April 16, 2018

    Hi Anita,
    Always enjoy your posts. I’m currently “eating my way through my fridge.” In an effort to waste less food, I’ve been challenging myself to use what I’ve got before it rots. I love the challenge of creating a dish on impulse. And yes, you’re right, it’s more effort than picking up take-out and I currently have a tonne of tupperware in the fridge at the moment but it means I eat better during the week. For me, I try and allot one day of the week for cooking and/or prepping so when I do cook, all I have to do is throw the ingredients in.
    Bless you Anita. I can’t imagine it’s an easy task going by what the food bank has but it sure does sound like a meal at your place would be fit for a king.

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      Thank you Emma. I’ve been doing pre-prep the day after grocery day or after food bank day. Cooking is much easier when all the washing and chopping is done ahead. I have gotten off track with my once a week baking over the winter. I haven’t made bread since December. Dark dreary gloomy days make me feel lazy. I’m planning to get back to it as soon as we start getting more sunshine.

  9. R Yourig
    April 16, 2018

    Eating healthy meals is the challenge for me and my family now. That is, without spending a fortune. I look for what I have stockpiled that falls into that category, what is usually available at low prices and then work out what I need to buy to keep the meals healthy and also meet some of my desires.

    It helps to eat far less. Most of us eat too much. Most of us have extra weight that should go, to make us healthier. Cutting fats and white flour type carbs is a good start. A big step for me because I love white carbs like breads, pasta, rice, potatoes. Those are my treats. Fortunately my sweet tooth is not too bad. A French baguette or other white flour bread is my idea of dessert.

    Protein and fresh vegetables are expensive. I let eggs and beans be the basics for me, adding whatever meats and seafood I can find for low prices. Also cheese and milk. I make my own yoghurt with milk.

    No food trucks or pantries for me. They control food give outs strictly here. You have to have a voucher and I don’t qualify. Still I come across giveaways sporadically of vegetables, fruit, event left overs. My source of fresh vegetables ate the bargain bins of the grocery store. The most expensive grocery store has the best deals in $1 produce bags. Usually apples and bananas , over ripe produce of all kinds. Sometimes a rare treat.

    I think I do pretty well in terms of healthy food. I’d like more fresh seafood in my diet but that’s not likely to happen because I insist on that being fresh other than some canned tuna or frozen shrimp. But I don’t get get the fresh catch often. Too expensive.
    I also would like more nuts in my diet but there is no getting around that price. I don’t see much in the way of good deals on citrus fruits either.

    I asked for certain food gifts for Christmas and got almonds, pecans and walnuts I still have, and coffees and teas. Also got an assortment of hot chocolste mixes. A cousin gave me leftover Halloween and Christmas chocolates and candies that I use for baking flavors as well as treats.

    Tonight for dinner, I had lentils on rice with a salad on the side oatmeal for breakfast. An apple for snack. Leftover pasta concoction for lunch. Tomorrow I’ll make “burritos” out of leftover lentils and salad. Poached eggs on toast And apples to dip into peanut butter for snack. I’m sticking with tuna, cheese, lentils, eggs and rice till end of month. No meat. I have some small steaks in the freezer that I got for sale a while ago and some frozen sslmon as well and May1, and 2 those will be my special meals. I expect to eat out twice— funeral lunch and an invite from a friend this month at a restaurant and will get meat or seafood then. And two dear friends having me over for dinners. So that’s 4 dinners done out of 15 left. I hosted a big Easter and a lunched earlier this month.
    That’s how I do it

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      Sounds like you have a good plan to eat what’s available. I must rely on canned salmon unless my brother goes fishing. He keeps me supplied during warm months when the lakes are open. The cost of fish/seafood in my area is very expensive. I bought 4 pounds of lentils last shopping trip so I’d have more variety. I plan to can them as soon as the ants give me back my kitchen.

  10. Margie in Toronto
    April 15, 2018

    I check the sale flyers each week – plus what my Loyalty point list is and then shop for items that I will actually use at the best price possible. I then buy my fresh fruit & veg – I buy a variety of each plus I also keep frozen and canned options as well. More and more I look for what meat is on sale to add to the freezer – and then I “shop” my pantry and freezer for meals for the week.
    I cook one or two proteins, prep some veg and then add things like eggs and cheese, along with salad items to mix and match meals for the week. I think the best way to plan is whatever works for you. Meal planning probably works best for families – when it’s just one or two I think you can be a bit more flexible.

    • Anita
      April 18, 2018

      I eat better when I cook for more than just me. I depend on discount bins for fresh fruit and veggies. If there is none there then I do without and use canned from my pantry. I do like you and cook a meat to be used during the week.

  11. Melissa
    April 15, 2018

    I make a list of meals that I have the ingredients available to make. Then I choose from the list depending on time available and what I am in the mood to eat. I stock up with the best deals, plus have a garden, chickens (lots of eggs!) and a husband who hunts.

    • Anita
      April 16, 2018

      I’m curious, do you ever get tired of eggs and recipes using eggs? I don’t have chickens but eggs are sometimes very cheap. I use recipes using eggs and not just as eggs but after awhile I start to feel burned out on eggs. Even as a child when Grandma Mama had chickens I’d feel burned out in the spring.

      • R Yourig
        April 16, 2018

        I don’t get tired of eggs. I eat them no more than for Five meals of week. When I do, they take a lot of the protein load off of me. Don’t have to have much more protein that day.

        • Anita
          April 18, 2018

          I’m thinking that growing tired of one food is an inner desire for more variety in what I eat. It would be the same if I had cake day after day after day. After awhile I’d have a desire for a different desert. Pudding or pie or something else.

      • Margie in Toronto
        April 16, 2018

        But eggs are so versatile and can be used in so many different ways that I find it difficult to get tired of them! 🙂

        • Anita
          April 18, 2018

          I agree there are so many ways to use eggs. I get tired of other foods in the same way when I eat lots of it. Right now I’m seriously tired of carrots, cabbage, onions, and potatoes because I get so much from the mobile food bank. Hmm… maybe I grow tired of a food because I crave more variety.

          • T
            April 21, 2018

            I’ve bought an egg poacher, I love poached eggs and they will be my favorite staple when I move!

  12. Linda S
    April 15, 2018

    I’m with you, Anita! How do I know if I’m going to want tacos a week from Thursday? And what if tortillas aren’t on sale between now & then? Yep, pantry principle.

  13. T
    April 15, 2018

    I’ve been looking into this Anita https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21656330

    Seems to work for me, I just have to avoid processed foods and I also added two tablespoons lemon juice to my diet a day, some diabetics swear it lowers blood sugar by 10 %, thought to be because the acid slows digestion.

    • Anita
      April 15, 2018

      That diet seems too restrictive for me to follow. Especially being that most of my food comes from a food bank. I’m working on my basic eating plan though. I drink lemonade a couple times a week because my understanding is that the citric acid helps keep the kidney stones away. I eat an orange at least once a week for the same reason. I don’t know if it truly helps but it tastes good.

      • T
        April 16, 2018

        I have bought in past few days bag of apples from dollar bin in Kroger ( cooked cubed for 10 mins in boiling water and lime juice and stored in fridge ) 33 c mango, 40 c avacado, 88 c for 2 sweet potatoes and a 99 c bag of spinach salad. I feel a lot better for simplifying diet, I guess my nutritional needs have changed.If I eat processed food I feel ill very fast now.

  14. Sandy
    April 15, 2018

    I do my meals like you. What do I have in my stockpile that I can use to make a meal.
    Just about everything in my stockpile was bought at deep discount.
    The result, inexpensive meals and more money for other things .
    When I started out over 42years ago it was called the pantry principle.
    Still works well.

    • Anita
      April 15, 2018

      Ooo, pantry principle. I vaguely remember that. Thanks for the reminder.

      • T
        April 19, 2018

        Isn’t this the best thread?! Perfect advice.

        • Anita
          April 19, 2018

          Thanks T, I’m enjoying what others have to say about what they do.

Comments are closed.

Information

This entry was posted on April 15, 2018 by in DIABETES AND FOOD BANKS, JUST THINKING, TODAY STUFF FOR YESTERDAY MINDS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 260 other followers

Follow Na Na pinches her pennies on WordPress.com

Down memory lane

Visitors since 7-1-2013

  • 471,881 Hits
%d bloggers like this: