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For those of you visiting from KATU, welcome!
And for those of you Portland-friends who are interested, our little family will be on KATU Channel 2 tonight at 5pm and 11pm sharing our journey into frugal living.
*Also, Portland-area readers: This Wednesday night, Feb. 15th at 6:00 I’m teaching a workshop entitled Faithfully Frugal – how to live more and spend less. Beaverton SDA church is hosting this event as part of their weekly family night. Dinner and childcare are provided, and the event is FREE. (Such a deal!) Perhaps you might want to join me there? (14645 SW Davis Road, Beaverton)
As most of you know, I’m a bit of a frugal-living enthusiast, not as a goal in and of itself, but as one way to faithfully steward the resources God has given to us.
One of our greatest privileges, as Christ-followers, is getting to give our earthly resources to join in God’s Kingdom work. Making small, frugal choices in our everyday lives is one way we can free up finances to give more for the glory of God. This is why being faithfully frugal is different from just deal-hunting. We’re not striving to get more we’re striving to give more. We’re not just looking to score the greatest deal, we’re looking to live simply and freely, giving generously, sacrificially, and joyfully.
Lots of our budget line-items are fixed. But household/groceries is one area where we most likely have wiggle room. About a year and a half ago our family did a little Food Stamp Challenge. We wanted to see if it was possible for a family of 4 to eat fresh, local, mostly organic food on a food stamp budget ($275.53). Turns out, it is! This was exciting to me because it gave hope that we can bless our families with nutritious food and bless God’s work with all the money we save.
Now, please hear my heart: I am no master chef and I’m no dietition. I’m a wife, mom and follower of Jesus Christ seeking to feed my family well and faithfully steward the finances and bodies God has given us. Nor am I telling you what your grocery budget should be. There are lots of ways to honor God, so I’m not prescribing a lifestyle for you but describing what we’ve found on our little family’s journey these past few years.
1. A few principles to remember:
- Convenience is the budget – and health – killer. Organic whole foods are not that much more expensive, but organic convenience foods are very expensive. If beans are in a can, you’re paying for the work they did to put them there. If they’re in a bag or in bulk, you’ll save lots. This is most clear with veggies. Whole organic carrots are $.60/lb at Costco. But baby peeled organic carrots can be $3-$4/lb. You do the peeling, you save the money. Same goes for oatmeal, homemade bread (easy with a bread-machine). Cutting packaged convenience foods is the easiest way to build health and reduce cost.
- Be choosy with organics. You don’t have to buy everything organic. See the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. The key is this: It doesn’t make sense to buy organic processed food. If a food is processed (think goldfish crackers), then none of the original pesticides (or nutrition!) are left so it really doesn’t matter. If you can only buy a few organic items, choose the non-peelable fresh fruits and veggies.
- Part of the challenge is going without. Sometimes we just have to tell ourselves no. And here in America, in the land of plenty, that is not a popular thing to do. But it’s so good for us!
So do we all of a sudden turn our whole diets and budgets upside down on their heads? Perhaps, but maybe a more gradual approach will set you up for success. Consider these five simple ideas:
2. Five Simple Ideas for a Healthy Frugal Diet (click links for more info)
- Simple Step 1: Eat oatmeal.
- Simple Step 2: Simplify snacks!
- Simple Step 3: Think whole.
- Simple Step 4: Simple Lunch.
- Simple Step 5: Make Dinner Happen.
3. Meal Planning and Recipes
Meal-planning made it that much easier to take the Food Stamp Challenge and really give our budget and diet a handsome makeover. For us, to maximize our budget and keep things simple, we just have 10-12 meals and eat each one twice a month. A switch things up with the seasons but keep things pretty simple. I’m not winning any culinary prize, but my family’s healthy and fed and we have extra dollars to give away. That’s all the prize I need.
**On Friday we’ll talk more about developing a menu plan that’s custom-made for your family.
**ALL the recipes below (and more!) can be printed here for free.
Here is a sample week’s menu of dinners, with price/serving:
Monday: Whole Roast Chicken ($6 total), Organic green beans ($5 for 5 lbs. at Costco), homemade bread (pennies). After dinner shred and save 4 cups of chicken. Make stock overnight or the next day.
Tuesday: Hobo Dinner ($6 total). One pound local, grass-fed beef ($4.50 at Afton Field Farms), one pound organic potatoes, one pound organic carrots ($5.99 for 10 lbs. at Costco). Brown and season beef, slice potatoes and carrots, layer in Dutch oven and bake until potatoes are soft. Serve with ketchup.
Wednesday: Chicken Rice Bake ($4 total), Organic peas ($5 for 5 lbs. at Costco)
Thursday: Tortilla Soup ($4 total)
Friday: Quick and Easy Pansit ($4 total)
Week’s dinner cost: $24 total. $6/person. Less than $1/day per person. (Scroll to bottom for grocery-shopping list)
If these recipes aren’t your cup of tea, here are a few other great ones:
Barley Risotto ($3 total)
Baked Mac ‘n Cheese ($6 total)
Delectable Banana Bread ($1.50 total)
And more ways to use any extra chicken stock:
Herbed Chicken and Dumplings (Just use the shredded chicken (from above) and this comes together in a flash.
Tarragon Chicken-in-a-pot Pies (With or without tarragon this is delicious. This is also a great way to use that frozen zucchini from last summer!)
Chicken Vegetable Soup (I skip the parsnips and turnips. The leeks make this delicious! Just use shredded chicken (from above) and your homemade stock.)
Winter Lentil Soup (You can tweak this soup to use anything. I don’t usually use tomatoes, and often substitute frozen spinach if I don’t have kale on hand–and who usually has kale on hand? I always add chopped carrots or carrot puree.)
Feeling overwhelmed? Check back with the Five Simple Steps and choose just one to do this week. Or, simply try the 5-day Meal Plan listed above and see how much you save. It’s amazing how a few simple changes can revamp our budgets — and diets — in phenomenal ways.
Thanks so much for visiting, hope to see you again soon!
5-Day Dinner Plan Shopping List
(Assuming basic cooking staples are already in your pantry. Please check recipes to be sure you have these on hand. Also, I rely on FrugalLivingNW for the latest updates on deals around the Portland area.)
:: Thriftway, Azure Standard, online, or other grocery source:
- 1 Whole chicken (Draper Valley & Zaycon are quality, affordable choices)
- 1 lb. local grass-fed beef (Afton Field Farm $4.50/lb.)
- 1 lb. Organic potatoes (Azure)
- Organic Fuji apples (Azure)
- 5 lb. bag organic green beans
- 5 lb. bag organic peas
- Yeast (if making homemade bread)
- 10 lb. bag organic carrots
- 5 lb. bag organic corn
- Whole-wheat flour
- Tillamook Cheese
- Organic Brown rice
- Taco seasoning
- Dried black or pinto beans
- Whole-wheat or brown rice spaghetti noodles