I’ve recently been menu planning on Sunday nights instead of Tuesday nights (or, um, really pretty much any day except Tuesday, from the looks of my last months of menu planning). That’s because the amount of produce we’ve been getting from our farmshare over the winter months is drastically less than what we got during summer/autumn (maybe 1/4 to 1/3?), and I can pretty much plan our menus without worrying about needing to use everything up before it goes bad. I’d bet that the baskets will start to get bulkier pretty soon, but for now, it’s usually a few potatoes, a leek, some greens (salad or stir-fry or both), carrots and possibly something else like cabbage or green onions. I hadn’t really planned on the major vegetable quantity difference with our food budget – I just divided the total amount over 12 months and take out the same amount towards the farmshare every month. Consequently, we’ve been over-budget pretty much every month for the last three or so. Thankfully, that’s okay, and we did just get our yearly check from Costco (we use their American Express card) that will go toward the grocery budget.
Speaking of budgets, hunger awareness week is this week. Seattle’s King County United Way is doing a Hunger Challenge, asking participants to feed themselves for $7 a day for a single person or, for our household of four people, $22 a day (this is the maximum food stamp benefit in Washington). I found this interesting because our monthly food budget is $325 for groceries (food only) and $10 for eating out, which is right at $11 a day. Granted, two of the members of our family are children, so maybe we should compare with a family of three, which is $18 a day. Also, we often eat dinner with family once a week, and I have to be very careful about what we buy in order to stick to that number. However, I do buy some organic produce, grass-fed butter and other higher-priced but better-for-you items. If I really needed to reduce our food budget, I certainly could, though I would sacrifice quality.
But the main thing I think is this – I have the equipment, knowledge and time to make almost everything we eat at home. For families where both parents are working to make ends meet, this is most definitely not the case. I can’t really imagine feeding ourselves on $18 a day if both my husband and I were working full-time, especially if either of us had more than one job. And many people don’t know how to make beans or bread or lots of other things from scratch (or even realize that you can, in some cases) that end up saving a lot of money. So this week as we are eating our homemade, fresh and tasty meals, we will thank God for not only the ability to buy the food we’re eating but also for the knowledge and time to prepare it, and we will be thinking of and praying for those who don’t.
(For reference, L is for lunch and D is for dinner. Links are to the recipes we’ll be using.)
L: leftover chicken noodle soup, roasted squash “fries”
D: goat cheese and asparagus pasta, simple salad
L: ham and cheese sandwiches or leftovers, fruit
D: steak and greens stir fry, brown rice
L: leftover goat cheese and asparagus pasta
D: potato leek soup, salad
D: dinner out with a gift certificate
L: spinach and cheese quesadillas
D: leftover soup and simple salad
D: whole wheat pasta with jarred marinara sauce and liver (I hope this works out okay!)
L: ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit
D: leftover pasta with marinara sauce
Breakfast options for the week: cold cereal with milk or yogurt, oatmeal with peanut butter and raisins