Monday, January 26, 2009

Am I the only one? . . .

So, when I got married I had the best of intentions to have a weekly menu. All the cool kids were doing it. EVERY frugal blog you read lists menu planning as a reliable way to save money. And then you don't have to put daily energy into food ponderings - What am I going to fix today? I kept a menu for the first month or so, and it worked okay. It sure made grocery shopping pretty easy. Then I got pregnant.

All menu plans went out the window. I was just trying to keep anything down, and I fixed whatever I thought would take the least amount of stand-up time, smell the least, and be most likely to stay down. Any dish that I knew about hours in advance would not work! I had to cook on a whim.

After my nausea left I tried to resume meal planning, but I found out some things. First, I like to not be too tied down to a meal plan. I like food surprises! When I make a casserole, for example (see link a few posts back), I pull out some chicken to thaw maybe at lunch, but I like to not decide what type of casserole I'm making (rice, pasta, add mushrooms or not, etc.) until suppertime. It's more exciting!

Second, I can just stock up on staple items and still not have to constantly run to the store for "one more item" . . . most of the time.

Third, despite all the frugal claims, for me, I cook more frugally when I don't have a meal plan. I'm serious! When I'm at the grocery store, I tend to buy the more economical ingredients, with a few splurges, so when I'm cooking, I end up using ingredients I have on hand, which are the more economical ones. But if I meal plan, I'm not as aware which ingredients are cheaper, so I end up buying a lot of more pricey items that I need for specific recipes. I may or may not know the ingredients are pricier, as the prices fluctuate from week to week, even for staples. So I end up spending more. Whereas if I buy more staple items (and note on my grocery list when I want more specific items, which I don't mind buying. . . but not ALL specialty items), I still cook quite tasty, healthy meals, but for much less.

Has anyone else had the same experience?

8 comments:

Joanna said...

I'm with you.

I don't like meal planning- any time I try, it goes out the window. I like being able to concoct dinner from a stocked pantry and freezer, leaving my options open until the last minute. I NEVER shop specifically for a recipe- when I've tried it, I end up using the specialty ingredient for the recipe, and having most of the jar/box/container of the rest of the ingredient stay unused & go to waste.

I have found that, while I like to keep my options open, it helps if I know what my options are- so keeping a running list (in my head or otherwise) of what I have on hand and meals ideas to go along with it.

Pantry-cooking rather than meal-planning, as you said, seems to be the more economical choice for me, for now.

Samara said...

I do this too- at least most of the time. I might plan a couple of meals in a given week, but it's usually based around what I have on hand (so that I can supplement at our weekly greenmarket) or on a craving of mine or the Mr. Having a good herb garden right outside the door is a big plus :)

susanne24 said...

I have an idea of what I will cook all week, but also take into consideration life and how unpredictable it is. If I have cx on hand, I know I will be having 2 or 3 nights of cx based food. I usually cook from the hip because I never know what my day will hold. If Owen is unusually fussy, I will open a can of corn for the starch instead of making scalloped potatoes.

If I roast a turkey, we will have turkey is some variation all week long, ex: casseroles or soups. It may get old by the end of the week, but I'm busy. LOL!

I just make sure I have basic ingredients on hand like butter, milk, garlic, rice, flour, frozen veggies, common spices, etc...

We also stock up on a lot of canned chunky soup when it is one sale (after that long spell without power, this is important). We always have plaenty of canned soup for those really bad days.

-Zan

Anna Naomi said...

I was always bad at sticking to consistently planning meals when I was at home and doing the cooking. Unexpected things would come up that would prevent what I would have time to make, and then since mom did the shopping, often she would forget to get the things I needed. I'd like to learn to do it better, but it is more exciting not to be stuck to a plan. =) We'll see what happens when I'm cooking again...

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