Frugal Cooking Carnival!
At long last, the greatly anticipated Frugal Cooking Carnival is here!
My challenge in doing this was two-fold–1) Trying to figure out how we could eat more frugally than we usually do (without sacrificing nutrition- it’s only worth it to me to be frugal if I can keep nutrition a priority). 2) The second challenge was in convincing my family that we were going to be frugal! We still ended up having extra smoothies every day, and it was really challenging to think of how I could pare down our breakfast costs. Many of our breakfast foods happen to be expensive, and even if I go grain-heavy like pancakes and oatmeal and baking (which is cheaper) we still end up using expensive add-ons (ie. cheese, jam, milk, etc.).
Honestly, I’m not sure that we ended up saving much money, even though I attempted to use frugal recipes, especially for dinners. Life happens and people need to be fed, and sometimes preferences and cravings threw frugality right out the window! Nonetheless, I certainly attempted it, so here is my menu, and the breakdown of cost-per-person beside it in green:
Breakfast- Pancakes, with yogurt, honey, jam (oops, this was an expensive addition I should have left out!)= $1.16 per person
(Minus the jam, it would have been $0.91 per person)
Lunch- Salmon melts, small broccoli salad= $1.28
(My husband took leftovers from an expensive meal the night before- his cost $2.25!!! That was not a usual lunch, and certainly not a frugal one, but it was what was in the fridge, which is more frugal than eating out)
Dinner- Garlicky White Beans and Broth with added ground chicken, carrots, celery and rice pasta, as well as homemade spelt buns. Per person cost= $1.06
Breakfast- Oatmeal with honey and milk= $1.33
Lunch- Leftover soup (bean/veggie soup above) with buns= $1.06
Dinner- Lentil/Rice Casserole, baked squash and steamed cauliflower= $1.30
Breakfast- Homemade Cinnamon Scones (3 @ $0.20 each) and a Fruit Smoothie ($0.50)= $1.10
Lunch- Oatmeal/milk/honey (my brother-in-law and daughter truly wanted oatmeal for a very quick lunch in the midst of roto-tilling the garden, though I opted for leftovers)= $1.33
Leftovers for me (lentil/rice casserole and cauliflower)= $0.97
Dinner- Root Vegetable Millet Cobbler ($0.66) with Garden Salad ($0.68)= $1.34
So, let’s total this all up per day, and then for the three days.
Tuesday= $14.97 (4 people)
Wednesday= $13.43 (same, except my hubby didn’t eat breakfast here)
Thursday = $12.71 (no hubby for lunch)
Grand total= $41.11 for 3 days
If you were to take the grand total, times 10 (to equal a 30 day month), our total would be $411.10 (except that there would be the cost of some staples and cleaning/toiletry added in as well, which I figure to be about $45 a month).
Now, considering that my brother in law is here visiting, and he is a very, very hungry 15 year old (he eats far more than either I or my husband), I think that’s not too bad . Normally, we spend about $380 a month (includes all food, cleaning, toiletries), for two adults, a toddler and a baby (who’s calculations I didn’t add in, because he doesn’t eat much yet and his homemade food is so cheap).
I also calculated the prices as though it were just our family of 4, and it came out to $31.48 for the three days, which would be $314.80, plus $45 for other= $359.80. So perhaps about $20 less than we are generally spending, which really isn’t as much as I thought it would be.
Part of the carnival is to say whether we could eat like this all the time, and the fact is, I guess we pretty much already do eat like this. These meals were pretty normal for us, but quite honestly, I didn’t know how to go much more frugal. I kept them entirely homemade and practically vegetarian, though we did have a bit of salmon and some chicken one night, and a fair bit of yogurt, milk, cheese and eggs. We had many fresh veggies and some fruit. This is fairly standard for us, except that in a 3 day period like this, we might have had one other meal with meat in it, and we actually usually eat a bit more veggies and fruit.
I should add that at least half of our food is either organic or natural (it’s actually probably much more than half, but I’m trying to be conservative). Between this, and living in an expensive city in Canada, it helps to explain our costs. When I read Owlhaven’s costs per serving, I just about died. I know it’s not meant to be a comparison, but I struggle with the fact that our food is as expensive as it is. For a simple example, she said that she got her eggs for $1.50 a dozen (now I’m assuming those are regular eggs). In my store, just regular eggs (not organic or anything) would easily cost $2.50-$3.00, and to buy them Free Run as I do brings the total up to $4 a dozen. Milk is another good example- most Americans pay a couple of dollars for a 1/2 gallon of milk, and maybe $3.50 or $4.00 to buy it organic– because I buy mine raw and farm fresh (and it’s Canada), I pay $8 per 1/2 gallon (seriously, is that not crazy expensive?).
It’s always such a challenge for me to consider all of these things, because I know that if I made some less healthy choices in our food quality, I could feed us for much less. For me, the balance is a reasonable food budget, built upon the greatest level of frugality that I can manage, without sacrificing or compromising on what I believe to be the best nutrition for our family. Overall, I feel that I am doing the best I can, without preventing my family from eating some of the things they love– my daughter (organic raisins) and my husband (cheese, cheese, and more cheese!), and even myself (alternative “coffee” drinks, and fresh squeezed lemon water with Stevia), and just all of us put together= lots of smoothies! I am so reluctant to attempt to remove these little pleasures in the midst of what is generally a very tightly-run ship.
A quick analysis of what was good and what wasn’t so good… We love the Blender Batter Pancakes that I’ve been making lately. I love Broccoli Salad and will post the recipe soon. Salmon melts are a delicious, quick lunch. The bean soup on Tuesday wasn’t so great- just too beany for us (even though we like beans) and a bit blah, even with the additions I made. The buns were absolutely fabulous (from Sue Gregg’s Whole Grain Baking- a fantastic book!). We enjoy the Lentil/Rice Casserole (it really needs the cheese on top though), although we wouldn’t want it every week (but maybe once every few weeks). The Cinnamon Scones are great, and were surprisingly easy and foolproof to make. We definitely enjoy the Root Vegetable Millet Cobbler- it is so frugal ($0.66 per person) and makes a huge casserole dish with lots of leftovers.
That’s it for me! As mentioned, this post is part of the Frugal Cooking Carnival, and Frugal Fridays. And if you’re interested in some more budget/meal calculations, check out these three recent posts of mine:
Rising to the challenge of higher grocery costs
Breaking down meals into price-per-serving
Wow! How do you calculate per serving prices? That seems like a lot of work…especially with bulk purchased items. I am curious as to how you see this as being beneficial. Very interesting. Good for you for mapping it all out though.
Hi! I have been reading your blog for a while now and this is my first comment : ) I, too, live in BC, farther north. My husband and our 5 children live in Prince George (do you know it?) I just wanted to say that you’re not alone—our grocery bill is high and we eat very similarly to you. Lots of whole, organic, vegan meals. It’s tough to be healthy and see that eating less healthy is less expensive. I would love to say more but I’m typing one-handed while breastfeeding my son!!!
Keep up the great blog!
I realized that I didn’t add smoothie costs in, which we had for a snack each afternoon- that would have added about $3-4 dollars to our total (they were cheaper than usual because I got milk for yogurt and bananas on very good deals!).
Thanks, Mary. That’s funny about the milk, because I currently have a over a gallon of milk in my freezer, that I got for a discount!
Amy, I feel your pain! On my recent special diet, I could only have goat’s and sheep’s cheese- sooo expensive! I’m glad my high prices made you feel better, LOL! And as for the dollar, when I started university over 9 years ago, I had an American roommate who joked that she would save her pennies to pay for my tuition! A lot has changed since then!
Carrien, I had actually linked to the millet cobbler recipe, but I had an oops happen with my post, so I guess the links were lost and I didn’t notice. I’ll fix it and add them back in.
Linds, I can post the scone recipe when I post the broccoli recipe.
Lindsay, I calculated the bulk prices by guesstimating how many cups were in a 5 lb bag, and then dividing the cost of the bag by that amount, so figure out a per-cup cost. It was a lot of work! I did it in little bits and pieces of time over the course of a week. I made a huge list of all the basic ingredients in our foods- dairy, meats, grains, beans, veggies, fruits, oils/fats, honey, etc. I tried to do it all in easy to calculate amounts, such as a cup of uncooked rice, or per 1/4 cup honey, or per carrot, etc. Once I had that done, the meal calculations were very easy.
Erica, I actually lived in PG from age 11-17! My parents still live there, up in the Hart. And your options for natural/organic foods are slim pickins! Do you shop at Ave Maria and Save-On, or do you order from somewhere and get it shipped to you? I’m actually typing as I breastfeed my son- I find it’s a good time to catch up on emails and to moderate my comments!
Stephanie– This was just great to read. Thanks so much for sharing. The truth is, I can’t always get the eggs for that price, or the milk. I happened across good sales on both those things and bought a bunch. Actually at this very minute I have four gallons of milk in my freezer because I was able to get gallons for $2,29. I think your prices are awesome for going organic, and you realy had a nice variety of interesting food. I want to try the salmon melts, as I buy frozen salmon at times…
Thanks so much for sharing your costs…I may need to go back and add some more details to the costs of my meals if I get the time.
Mary, mom to many
I, for one, feel better after reading your post! I was able to get eggs on clearance for $1.04 per dozen (and we used 13 of them), but we had some higher costs on organic veggies and non-dairy milk and cheese items. I buy organic soymilk for $3.15 per half gallon and goat and sheep cheeses for about $9.99 per pound.
As a total aside, I just checked out an online currency converter, and WOW has the US dollar lost ground to the Canadian dollar in the last 20 years. 🙂 I remember going to Ontario as a kid and the exchange rate was about US$1 to CA$1.50. Now it’s about US$1 to CA$1.02.
I would LOVE to see the recipe for that Millet Cobbler.It looks delicious, and I cook with millet a lot. Would you mind posting it?
Wow! That’s great! I look forward to your broccoli salad recipe. Do you have your cinnamon scone recipe posted somewhere?
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing! Your costs seem to be either similar to me, or less expensive than here. I don’t think I could do the same budget as you. I live in a more isolated area, so I find that the shipping costs make the prices go up on things. Its always tricky to find natural/organic things for prices we can afford. Thankfully, its fairly available- but not always as affordable as I would like.
You said you include cleaning and toiletries in your costs of I think it was $380.00. How do you fit that in? What types of things do you use? I find that even though I get my things through a co-op and get them when they go on sale, its still a lot. I use baking soda, vinegar, and a bit of a natural All purpose cleaner for cleaning, and a natural disinfectant that I use about 1 small container of a year. Our toiletries all all natural- and it really adds up. Even though we really only use the bare minimum (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and deodorant really). Even toilet paper alone is $10 minimum per package…and I find it rarely goes on sale here. I have my toiletries and such a seperate budget all together.
I know how you feel- I try and try to be more frugal, but without sacrificing health/ nutrition, it seems this is as low as we can go.
I commend you for all of the work that you’ve been doing for your family and the running of your household! It’s ipressive indeed! I don’t think I have the patience to sitand figure those things out. Even here in the states, the prices seem more and more inflated, and though I don’t do much in the organic realm, I sturggle with keeping meals nutritous, yummy, and under budget. Some weeks work better than others. Keep up the good work! Blessings to you!!!