Okay, I'm feeling everybody out there. I know that a lot of Mommies "just don't have the time" to do all the preparation involved in my menu planning that I have discussed. Well, while I'm totally feeling for all the working Mommies out there, I'm not totally buying it. It is true that I am home all day with my kids, and that my job first and foremost is to take care of my family, and there aren't many folks who still live this (rather old-fashioned) way, but, even if you only have a little bit of time, make it time worth while. Preparing and eating meals with your family whenever possible truly strengthens the family bond. I'm not trying to sound all "Dr. Laura" on you, but it's true. My best memories of growing up are centered around meals. My mom and dad and I ate together whenever, and it made a world of difference to me.
So, I'm just saying, plan meals that are easy if you don't have a lot of time to prepare them. The actual menu planning only takes a few minutes, as does the shopping list part. You decide the meals and there are a ton of cookbooks out there that are just perfect for the busy lifestyle. Look for ones with "Easy", "Quick" and "Under 30 minutes" in the titles. Trust me, even you can do this!
My very favorite thing about cooking for my family is that I know exactly what they are eating. I control all aspects of it, and I can make it as healthy, organic, etc. as I please. I know my kids would love to eat hot dogs and mac n' cheese every night (I could do that, too, and I HAVE!) but I am in charge of developing their palates, and that just won't do. So they get to eat all kinds of yummy stuff, because I take the time to prepare it for them.
Another thing that I have noticed is that there are some things we just can't stock up on for the entire 10 day period. One of those things is milk. Our family drinks a lot of milk and we go through it like crazy. We also have a pretty small refrigerator (as we are a completely off-grid solar household) and we don't have a ton of room for storing stuff. So, we always keep a stash of UHT shelf milk, as well as powdered milk, on hand for when we run, which we do often. It seems as though the bigger the milk jug I buy, the faster we drink it :) Go figure. So inevitably, we have to make an additional trip to the store at least once. But I still make a list, and only purchase what is on the list. Then, at the end of the 10 day period, I add up all of the purchases to find out what my actual spending was. For this first 10 days, I spent $125 total. So, $12.50 per day, $4.17 per meal, $1.05 per person. So I was feeding my family wholesome, hearty meals 3 times a day for right around a buck (and that includes drinks and snacks as well) pretty good, if you ask me.
So, it can be done. You can feed your family well, even in tough times. And goodness knows, these are tough times. But the key is, don't be fooled by convenience meals. Even something that looks delicious in the frozen food section and only costs $6 or so, can be made easily from FRESH ingredients, without all the preservatives FOR LESS. So, instead of buying a box of Rice-a-Roni for $1.10 and using it for one meal, buy a bag of rice for the same price and use it for 10 meals. Simple. Instead of Hamburger Helper (ack! Have you seen the label on that?) for however much that costs, buy some pasta (cheap!) some meat on sale, and whip up some sauce and you've got a homecooked meal that you can be proud to serve to your family. It just takes a little thought, a little creativity, and a little time, and the rewards are plenty.