Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Frugal on a Time Budget

Oh how crazy life becomes. While I'm thrilled with the success of our garden business, its meant that Beo is away for many hours. We did get to work on a project together this week, which was great, but there's much to do at home too, and we're finding ourselves constantly in a time crunch. Housekeeping, paid-work, cooking, shopping, time with the kids--how do I balance it all? Lately I've found myself withdrawing from all of it because it feels so overwhelming. With all the crazy scheduling, we've found ourselves eating out more and cooking far less. After a week and a half of it, we both were downright sick of it. Beo and I sat down (okay, we had the conversation while we were both getting ready to go somewhere else) and came up with a plan: Back off from the gourmet, 10-step, dirt-cheap meals, but find a way to still cook inexpensively and simply. So I've tried to take what I've learned about frugality, and combine it with my favorite simple cooking. Time to take a step back.

So I went to Whole Foods Market, with only a basic idea of a plan, and here are a few things I came up with.

1. Bulk beans, rice, steel cut oats and nuts still work time-wise, and save us money. Beans and SCO may be more time intensive, but there's little labor involved, I just need to think ahead. Money and packaging saved.

2. Sweet potatoes still work over frozen potatoes. I can nuke one for lunch or throw them into the oven while something else bakes.

3. It may be warmer weather, but nothing stretches the budget and fills in menu holes like a big pot of veggie chili or soup.

4. Homemade bread is out until further notice. I found a bakery variety on sale and *gasp* had it sliced.

5. Time to go back to big batches, leaving leftovers for lunches. If I'm going to do Mollie Katzen, I'll do the full batch and we'll live with a little less variety.

6. While we wait for our favorite veggies to come into season, let's stick with frozen. A bag of mixed organic veggies is $2. That's two sides or one great stir fry. Speaking of...

Our first frugal meal this week was a stir fry, which we haven't done in ages. I made some rice from bulk (25 cents), browned some tofu in marinade ($1.50) and combined it with stir fried veggies ($2) and onion (10 cents). Total cost for the meal: $3.85. It was delicious, and even the kids ate it. It gave us each a generous portion, with enough left over for lunch for Beo today. Total time spent? I was in the kitchen for about half an hour, but I easily could have cut 10 minutes off of that by remembering to thaw the tofu beforehand. What's more, I was able to spend time putting away dishes and cleaning while things cooked up. I'll keep you updated as we try to make our frugal food more time-friendly. Now if I could just get as efficient with the other things on my proverbial plate...


e4 said...

Good stuff, as always, Mia.

You might find this book interesting. We haven't tried any recipes yet, but it sounds promising. One of the more interesting ideas is to cut down on prep time with beans by turning them into bean flour. From there, you can make almost instant bean soup, among other things.

womynrev said...

did I ever give you my Egyptian Edamame Stew recipe?

I'll try to get it together (when I have a minute. tee hee.) and post a few of my time honored ridiculously busy single broke minister student recipes. I make a whole recipe (of whatever it is) and divide it up and freeze for quick lunches later, but you could feed the whole recipe to your family, and prolly have enough left over for Beo for lunch.


Mia said...

Looks interesting, e, thanks!

Rev, sounds familiar but I don't think I have it. Sounds awesome. I'll watch your blog!