Fresh Food Can Be Frugal…

I recently shared my issues with “indecisiveness” and in a way this is another one of those moments. I’ve been looking for a way to plan weekly dinner menus while incorporating using sales/coupons to save money on food. (Btw, If you live near a Raley’s/BelAir/NobHill foods they have been offering great deals for the past several months and they have an “organic”/”bulk-food” section. Check-Out The Frugal Find for more information. I also like Trader Joe’s and found a fantastic price on Instant Yeast at Winco.)

I have also wanted to reduce the number of “boxed” foods that my family eats. Furthermore, while I often “prepare” meals for dinner I realized that I’m not always “cooking”.  I’m just not passionate about cooking, like I am about baking.  I’ve heard it said that people are either prone to be “bakers” or “cooks” – and I fall into the baking category… I know cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger etc.  Sage, rosemary, and thyme remind me of a song, not a meal.  However, I really – I mean REALLY enjoy eating gourmet food.  Who doesn’t enjoy fresh ingredients?? AND, I need to teach my children #1 How to Cook (not how to open a package & press buttons on a microwave) and #2 How to Meal Plan. — Mostly tho’ how to cook, not only to benefit themselves & their future families, but HELLO – out of the 6 people in my house, I’m the only one who cooks and that means less time for baking, relaxing, and blogging.

With 4 children and a busy schedule it’s not always convenient or even possible for me to go to the grocery store. So, I had gotten into the habit of purchasing fresh ingredients, throwing together hodge-podge healthy meals or trying to find recipes to match them, or forget about what I had purchased until it went bad… Well, those days are over (I hope) and I’ll tell you why. First, I started by making meals out of whatever foods I have in my pantry and freezer… to get our food down to the bare minimum/staples. Then, I re-organized my pantry and moved what was left of the processed foods to areas where I can use them up (or donate them). It’s one thing to “stockpile” healthy foods and it’s another to collect boxes & boxes of snacks/treats/etc. with little or no nutritional value.  I don’t have anything against processed foods, it’s just that fresh food tastes better and I’m not really teaching my children how to cook/bake when all they have to do is open a can/box; not to mention all those wrappers polluting the planet… just sayin’.  Of course if they were opening a jar of home-canned goodness harvested at the peak of ripeness during its growing season, that would be awesome…  AND if at all possible, I would prefer to feed my family food rather than chemicals, especially the ones that I can barely pronounce. After all, this is our home, not a fast-food joint. Okay, that’s not entirely true since I finally caved to family pressure and replaced our microwave after a year, but that’s enough fast-food in my own home. We use it for re-heating, thawing, melting chocolate, melting butter ~ I’m glad I caved, I missed my microwave, I LOVE all my appliances. In fact during my quest to re-arrange my pantry, I created an entire section devoted to my be-loved kitchen appliances. (Soon you’ll be able to read all about them in Appliances are My Friends section of this blog where I’ll be posting recipes that I’ve made using appliances such as a blender, ice cream maker and deep fryer.)

Anyway, by chance or perhaps it was divine intervention, I came across a dinner idea category on the web-site that I use for my free family calendar, a site that I learned about from a web-page that I’m using to help organize my life.

You may be familiar with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (making it easy & affordable for family’s to cook fresh/healthy food). I haven’t used his recipes yet, but recently I shopped for and stocked my pantry with most of his suggestions. Notice, I used the word most. Some items that I couldn’t think of a use for, I will purchase when I come across a recipe that requires the specified ingredient. You can find Jamie Oliver’s pantry list here. So, how am I saving money? – Well, first, my pantry is stocked with “ingredients” and if I don’t have a particular item on hand, I’m confident that I can find a way to substitute on-line, using the ingredients that I have on hand. Also, I won’t lose money by throwing away food that spoiled because I didn’t find a recipe to use it in, because, unless it’s something I know that we eat every week, I’m not going to buy it unless my weekly meal plan includes it as an ingredient. Also, while I plan to use fresh vegetables, I did stock my freezer with an assortment of a few frozen veggies (those go on sale w/coupons, btw). When meat/poultry/fish is on sale, I plan to stock-up as well. For example, a few months ago, a name brand ground turkey was on sale 3lbs. for $5. Stocking up on a few items is a good idea because you can double the quantity that you make for some dishes – eat 1/2 for dinner the day that you prepare the dish and freeze the other 1/2 for a future dinner. Saves prep. time, since it really doesn’t take much longer to double a recipe. Saves time spent washing dishes –AMEN to that sister!! -Saves future time, because the entree or meal can be popped right into the oven. In fact, when I made a turkey meat-loaf for dinner last week, I made two and popped one into my freezer. So now when I’m making meals, I ask myself if what I’m making will make a good-freezer meal. If so, I try to make extras (sometimes that’s difficult since I’m feeding 6 of us). For example, fajitas – not such a great freezer meal (although it would work), but flautas would be excellent re-heated in the oven. It’s easy if you think about what types of foods you would find in the freezer at the grocery store. You could also visit a web-site like Schwan’s

Which Jamie Oliver recipes have you tried?

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