You’ve probably noticed that each week in my Monday Meal Plan I list the same 5 goals:
“One Venison Meal, One Meatless Meal, One Bean Meal, One Fish Meal, and One Soup Meal”
Have you been wondering why I have chosen those goals? Well wonder no more! The short answer is that I have those goals to use our resources wisely, to increase the variety and nutrition of our meals, to save money and, quite frankly, to train my family.
As long time readers know, Yankee Bill enjoys deer hunting in the fall. Most years he gets a deer (sometimes he gets two) so we usually have a freezer full of lean, wild/organic, tasty, free meat.
Before we left the military and moved “back home” Yankee Bill didn’t really hunt. Sure, he’d come up north and spend the time with his dad, but that was only some years and we weren’t really getting meat out of it. The first year we were back and we had a deer in the fridge I sort of hoarded it. I saved it for “special” and consequently in the fall of the next year I was hit with the realization that I still had a freezer full of venison that was approaching a year old and if we didn’t do something with it I wasn’t going to have room for a new deer!
I also realized that I had been buying beef while I had a freezer full of venison. Which isn’t very frugal! That first year I think we ate venison 3 times a week for a couple of months to try to use it up and make room!
I decided I needed to make sure that I used the venison throughout the year. By making it a weekly goal to use venison once a week I slowly use up the meat and don’t have that frantic feeling in the fall!
***Note: edited to add ork on 11/26/12***
Since I’m now purchasing a half pig from a local organic CSA every year, there is the same issue I’ve had with the venison in the past–if I don’t make a conscious effort to cook pork regularly the new one is ready for the freezer before I’ve really made a dent in my supply. By including one pork meal (including ham and bacon of course) in the meal plan each week I’ll use it up over time.
Meat is frequently the most expensive ingredient in any meal-add to that the fact that many people believe that the average American eats too much meat and this goal makes perfect sense.
Meatless meals can depend on beans, eggs 0r cheese for their protien. Occasionally I will make something like pancakes with bacon where I consider the bacon to be more of a flavoring than an entree.
I feel that having meatless meals in the rotation increases nutrition for my family as well. Beans, eggs and cheese all have different types and amounts of nutrients and micro nutrients than you get from meat, and beans have more fiber.
By removing one meat based meal a week I’m shaving a little bit off my grocery bill each week. I hope we never really hit truly hard times, but if we do I will have already trained myself to cook a variety of less expensive meals that don’t require meat, and trained my family to eat them. That could take some of the stress out of what would already be a very stressful situation.
So if I already have meatless meals in my goals, why do I also have beans? Beans truly are one of the most frugal sources of protien, plus a fantastic source of fiber which Americans are also notoriously short on in their diets.
I really want to make sure that I have a wide variety of meals that include beans. By eating them once a week I have had to get much more creative in my recipes and use-both to keep myself from getting bored and to keep the family happy.
Although this goal doesn’t necessarily mean that the meal is completely meatless (and if it’s not I have to add another meatless meal to the menu) I feel that any time I use beans I’m saving money on meat. Think about it-you use less meat in a chili with beans than you would if you were just serving a slab of steak on each persons plate.
And again, I’m teaching my family slowly to eat and enjoy beans. If it were ever necessary we’d be able to stretch even more meals by using less meat and adding more beans, or by just going meatless more often.
Fish is supposed to be very healthy for you and I realized I was rarely serving it. So I made it a goal and I’ve not only learned to cook many more dishes with frugal canned fish (tuna, salmon etc) but I’ve also made better use of the free fish my Brother in Law has given us.
I’ve also found that certain types of fish are relatively inexpensive when purchased frozen at ALDI (I try to mostly stay away from the prepackaged breaded stuff-although the kids do like it).The kiddos and hubs have gotten used to eating fish more frequently-and the kids have even been begging to go fishing this summer so they can catch their own. I just love the idea of the family spending time together outside in the fresh air, disconnected from technology doing a hobby that will give the kids pride in an accomplishment (“look-I caught a fish!”) and put food on the table.
Soup is another friend to the frugal cook! While certain recipes can contain exotic and/or expensive ingredients most soups are relatively inexpensive to make. You don’t even need a specific recipe-you can just use whatever you have on hand, add some bread, biscuit or muffin on the side and you’ll have something that’s delicious, filling and frugal.
Non-cream based soups tend to be lighter meals which I also like. Most Americans (myself included) eat far too much food each day. Intentionally planning in a lighter meal can only benefit my family. And don’t worry-my kiddos aren’t going to be malnutritioned or anything-they make up for any calorie difference by either consuming multiple bowls or in bread
So by adding a soup meal to my menu rotation I am saving money, being more healthy and getting my family used to the idea that soup can be a meal.
What do you think? Do you have weekly or monthly menu goals? Have I given you anything new to think about? I’d love to know!