Welcome to frugal meals and the big frugal healthy meals experiment.
Before I go on I will add that I consider myself to be frugal and that I regularly cook frugal meals. I get excited at Christmas time with how many meals I can make out of my Christmas turkey, I love World War Two classics such as Toad In The Hole and Bubble & Squeak and don’t get me started about my big obsession with meatloaf.
But I was on Pinterest (well about a month ago now) and I saw a few posts on there about living Frugal and the art of frugal meals and I was shocked by A) how unhealthy they were and B) how boring they were that I would have rather get a 3 job than eat these meals if I was struggling financially.
So first of all, I decided to have our typical week. A week were we ate out, we enjoyed all our usual foods and then come back a week later to see if I could actually drop my groceries bill by 20% just by eating exciting meals that are frugal but don’t feel like I am living this crazy frugal life. We will have diaries of food during both weeks and we will include a total of everything spent.
And to discover how a family of four should really be doing the frugal thing!
The Frugal Meals Challenge Begins…
So to start with the hardest thing is to write up everything we have eaten and to add it all up. We would never survive in the old days with this when you shopped seperately at the bakers, the butchers, the vegetable shop, the fishmongers etc. But still we do get our main shopping at the supermarket, get some organic vegetables from a local market stall and some bread from the bread lady that comes down the lane.
I am also really curious to see how much we ACTUALLY spend on groceries per week. And how much food we have leftover. We don’t have food waste as such as whatever is left gets eaten the next week but it is still interesting to see what we start the week with compared to what we end with.
We also had food leftover from previous weeks and freezer food to go at, so whatever we used that we had already we have added to the list so that you get a true account of what we spent.
So what isn’t included?
- Herbs/spices/sauces that are in our cupboards
- Pet food/supplies
- Any non-food
- Any kitchen accessories we purchased
So what is included?
- Three meals a day as a family of four
- Snacks we have eaten
- My ever growing chocolate habit
Overall we want it to be as honest as possible and to give a true account of how you can eat well even though you are on a frugal meals budget. And we hate living off frozen vegetables, frozen fruit and canned foods so you will see very little of this.
Here is our shopping bag for the week:
As you can see we purchased quite a mix of fresh fruit and vegetables. We love our dairy and we would be lost without chocolate. Generally speaking we will buy our meat monthly and then top up our supermarket trolley with fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, dairy and of course chocolate. Also whenever we can we will stretch our meat so that it will do more than one days meals.
This means that we are often frugal already so you are talking here about a frugal family going even more frugal and to show that it is possible!
For week 1 we lived as we would normally live and after calculating everything this is what we got through in a week:
For day 1 it is a Thursday and also grocery shopping day. This normally means that we are in love with what we have just bought and tend to have a bit of everything. While the boys generally have cereal for breakfast, Sofia always has her baby rice and I always have whatever I am in the mood for.
For lunch today we all have chicken and chips. Otherwise known as Dominic cooking some delicious one pot chicken in the pan with some garlic and olive oil and serving it with some French Fries. This is simple and so easy to do and we did it off half a small chicken. Showing, that food can stretch if you want it to!
In the evening for supper we all have tuna mayonnaise in pita bread. We love this for supper and if you add salad to it then the meal can go even further.
So it is a Friday and I am busy blogging and doing my social media that means cooking is Dominic’s department today!
After skipping breakfast (I know I am bad but I am not hungry) and for lunch Dominic makes a delicious dish of bolognese.
Then for dinner while the boys have ham and bread I have a pot noodle along with some crisps. Hardly healthy but it is all I want and you have to enjoy the bad stuff from time to time.
For day 3 the boys have cereal for breakfast while I have some avocado. Avocado is my thing at the moment and I love them so much that I end up eating them with a spoon and they very rarely make it into a meal. But when they are just 0,33 cent each why not?
Then for lunch we head out to Pizza Hut before taking our daughter to a birthday party. It is a good job that we are not obese anymore as it means that we are perfectly satisfied sharing a family cheesy bites pizza along with some garlic bread. In the old days we would have had a big salad with sauce, potato wedges and a few other sides, plus a pudding each. All in all it cost just 32,65€. Working out at just over 8€ each for a nice lunch out!
Then for dinner we all make different things as none of us is really that hungry thanks to our carbs hit earlier.
On day 4 it is a Sunday and we normally push out the boat food wise on a Sunday to have a nice family dinner. We all have what we please for breakfast, as you can see we all have a food type and you wouldn’t think we had cupboards full of packs of porridge considering what we are eating at the moment. But it is nice to get these things when they are on offer and then eating them as we please.
[Tweet “Discover the art of #frugalmeals as the Milner’s decide to put it to the test @recipe_this”]
For lunch Dominic & I have egg mayonnaise in pita bread while Kyle has some bread with some soft cheese.
Then for Sunday dinner we have a roast chicken with roast potatoes, homemade gravy, stuffing and steamed vegetables. Then we finish it off with strawberry mousse with shortbread fingers and banana.
Well it is Monday and Kyle is back at school after the Easter Holidays = time to feel like our grocery bill has dropped in half. You need to be rich to feed a teenage boy that is for sure!
For breakfast the boys have cereal and I have some fruit and another avocado.
Then for lunch Dominic makes us salmon with sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli. Not very frugal but a very nice lunch and not as expensive as you would think. We have small portions of salmon so they work out at less than 3 euros just for the salmon and the sweet potato and veg is rather cheap. So don’t think that just because you’re frugal you can’t have salmon!
Then in the evening for dinner we have warm crusty bread (the bread lady has just been) with some soft cheese and some sliced tomato on top.
Well it is Tuesday and day 6 of us looking at what we eat and seeing how we can improve on it. It is also interesting to see what meals are costing us more to make and which ones we should be making more of as they are so cheap to produce.
For breakfast (to show how boring I am) I have an avocado again.
Then for lunch it is linguine pasta that I am trying out in a nice sauce. Only problem here is that 100g of pasta shrunk and when I look at our portions I think that our 16mth old girl eats more! So we have it with some of our bread and cheese and then it doesn’t look as bad!!!
Then in the evening I make a Moroccan vegetable dish with some couscous. It is delicious and this officially means that we have gone a day without meat. You can have a veggie day and it will save you a small fortune when you do. I love to eat meat and would make a terrible vegetarian but I do love veggie days from time to time.
It is the final day of demonstrating our normal eating patterns. What I like about this is to see what we have leftover and it is interesting to see what our weekly food bill is really at and adding it all up has certainly made food for thought!
For breakfast today it is an avocado and then for lunch it is salmon, broccoli and sweet potato fries. I can see that when I go frugal next week that salmon is certainly going to be off the menu!
Week 1 In Review
So there you have it week 1 is done and now we are going to have a week of going frugal. We will also make sure we eat out next week just so that we can show that it is still possible and you can make it happen!
What is often most interesting in a household is what you have left over at the end of the week and here are our leftovers:
- 1 pita with egg mayonnaise – this was my supper from last night but I didn’t manage to finish it.
- We also still have some of our Moroccan Couscous leftover from a couple of days ago which will soon be eaten up.
- From the week before this week we also have some cucumber, tomatoes and yellow pepper left that will certainly be getting used this week.
But this is not food waste which is something entirely different. This is actually what food will be rolled over to next week and used. Plus along with food from weeks before it allows us to eat on budget and really enjoy our food.
It is also a shock to see that our grocery bill has gone up to 111€ ($126) when we always thought of ourselves as spending a lot less than this. So I am looking forward to week 2 of our frugal meals when I can cut it back down to where it should be!