Thoughts On Frugal Cooking

I am trying to be more frugal in my grocery shopping. I like to cook and bake, and I like to experiment with new recipes and ingredients. As I am trying to keep track of what I spend on groceries, I am realizing how expensive this can be.

I think I need to rethink some of how I cook. I am realizing how much pressure is put on us by the things and people around us. I do not always have to have a Martha Stewart type meal on the table. Do not get me wrong, I like Martha Stewart’s recipes, but they are just not practical for the everyday budget. I need to get back to the basics in my cooking. Yes, I can cook a nice meal with expensive seafood and a gourmet cake for dessert, but is it worth it? Can I spend that money better elsewhere? I have realized that by simplifying my cooking, I really am saving money. Cooking at home from scratch does not always mean it is cheaper, if we are spending a lot of money on extra things to put into those recipes.

I think I have really been influenced by looking at cooking magazines and watching cooking shows. Who really cooks like that everyday? Who needs to cook like that everyday? Whatever happened to cooking a basic meat and potato dinner, served with homemade bread, and a simple dessert? Have you ever seen Martha Stewart do a show or magazine article on using up leftovers? Have you ever seen a cooking show on how to cook for a family of 5, for a week, using only $75 worth of groceries? No. Instead they are trying to convince us that we need all these special things to make our meals taste better, and if we don’t have them we are really missing out.

Our grandmothers and mothers could make the simplest foods taste so good. They did not use special ingredients or fancy foods. They took time and used some creativity to make a good meal out of simple ingredients. They could make a pot roast or meatloaf stretch over several days. They took your basic leftovers and reinvented them into a new meal. Some of these things were done out of necessity, but I think a lot of it was just the basic desire to not waste money, whether they had it or not. Most people thought differently about spending money on cooking. Even if my grandmother could have afforded a special spice to make her roast taste differently, I doubt she would have spent the money on it.

In thinking over these things, I realized how frugal past generations really were. I am not saying that I will not continue to experiment with my cooking and try new things. But, I think I am going to try to cook a little more beans and rice and simple dishes. I am learning that just because we do not have to be frugal, does not mean we shouldn’t be.

Those are just my thoughts about trying to cook frugally.

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Comments

  1. I agree…I love using just simple (real) food to make simple and delicious meals. I am SO not a gourmet chef…but I think I put some pretty tasty meals on the table!

  2. Catherine R. says:

    You know what’s so interesting is that in the culture at large, people don’t even know how to cook the simple things because they’re too busy focusing on their career or whatever.

    I once read somewhere that successful career minded people love to buy expensive kitchen gear and never use it. Like they all have top-of-the-line Kitchen Aide stand mixers (prominantly displayed) and pricey gourmet pan sets that just collect dust in their kitchens but make them feel better just by having them around. It’s strange to me how the cooking shows always have these meals that normal people would never, or rarely make.

    I really think cooking has become something other than what it used to be in our culture. It used to be people needed recipes that they could actually use, make daily, and afford the ingredients for. Now cooking is some kind of rare specialized, competitive hobby. Maybe people just watch these shows for entertainment. I think it has a lot to do with how increasingly out-of-touch the mainstream media is with real people.

    That’s why your blog can be all the things that these people don’t get! Many of us are ready and willing to cook every night with cheap pans and very ordinary ingredients. Never overestimate what people know how to cook…many people are eager for simplicity.

  3. Jennifer V says:

    This was a very though provoking read for me and really hit home.

    We put all our purchases on our credit card here because we get points which = free groceries.

    After looking at our bill last month, my husband and I had spent over $600 during the month on groceries (we shop together). There is only him, my 15 month old daughter and I (and a baby on the way).

    Needless to say, we were horrified!!!! What a waste of our precious resources which could be put to much better use.

    So starting the day after we received our bill, I have been trying to plan our menu, then making a shopping list before going to the store and then of course trying to stick to the list.

    This month is going much better but this post holds so true.

    I’ve printed it and will put it into my planner so I can refer to it as a reminder.

    Thanks!

  4. Kimi Harris says:

    Amen! :-) I also love to experiment in the kitchen, but try to do so with a budget in mind. It can be hard. I have found that it is nice to plan out one special or new meal a week, at let the rest be simple. It gives me a creative outlet, introduces new foods to the family, and helps me be more frugal with the other meals (“beans and rice tonight because on Sunday we are going to have shrimp!”).

    Excellent post.

  5. I am so glad you all liked the post. I almost did not post it but my husband read it and thought I should. I had planned on doing a recipe but this had been on my mind and I wanted to share my thoughts. I so agree with what Catherine said about it being a form of entertainment for most. Cooking is no longer seen as a necessary thing but as a status symbol of sorts.

  6. I love to cook. I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer and I know how to use it, LOL! But as I’ve become more frugal, I find myself rejecting recipes that call for ingredients that I’ll rarely use. I want at least 90% of them to be in my freezer, fridge or pantry already. (I’ve been couponing and stockpiling for a few years now.)
    I prefer simple, down-home cooking to gourmet, too. I want to taste good food, not fussiness. But I think you can be creative and still save money. Mexican food is one example–versatile, full of fresh ingredients and flavor! I only wish I could experiment with Indian food–it looks so good. But there are those unusual spices I might never use again!
    I don’t believe in buying the most expensive products–I couldn’t afford that. But I also don’t think it is wise to buy cr*p, either. By the time you replace a pan 3 times because the handle fell off, you might as well have bought a moderately priced, but decent, piece of equipment. And if you have a limited budget, the one place you should put the most money is in a high quality chef’s knife! It will really make your life in the kitchen a lot easier. Quality always pays for itself in the long run!

  7. Gah! I know! I know. :) And my problem is that I feel like I go to the store and buy staples (flour, eggs, meat, dairy, produce, sugar, beans, and rice) and I still spend too much, come home, and have nothing to eat (because I have to cook it all first). I have been trying to figure out what gives, and I haven’t come up with anything. I didn’t feel this way until 3 or 4 months ago, so I’m trying to decide if my little guy is really eating that much more, if prices really went up that much, or if there’s something I’m missing. Help!! :)

    I really, really like your line of thought in this post, though. Maybe I am not as back-to-basics as I think I am. Hmmm…think, think, think :) Thank you!

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