Friday, April 25, 2008

Frugal Cooking Carnival

Mary from Owlhaven is doing a Frugal Cooking Carnival today, where you're supposed to plan out three days worth of meals and figure their cost. I thought it would be interesting to do, since I've been trying to do more cooking from scratch lately to save us money. This will probably be a pretty long post, and you might not be interested if you came looking for cute pictures of the kiddos. :) I know this isn't the kind of post I usually do, but it just looked fun. Plus I'm excited about visiting all the other participating blogs and getting some new ideas.

If you're here from Owlhaven, welcome! I've got a little bit of a different situation than most people participating- I run a daycare in my house. That means for breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack, I'm cooking for myself and seven kids. Then dinner is me, my two kids, my parents who live here (if they're home for dinner), and my husband if he's not traveling for business.

A few guidelines I have to work with: I'm on a federally funded food program, so I have to follow the rules about the types of things I feed the kids. Breakfast has to be a carb and a fruit, with liquid milk. Lunch must be a protein, a carb, 2 fruits and/or veggies, and liquid milk. Snack must be 2 items from any two different food groups. In addition, I have one child with a severe nut allergy (no big deal to work around, just something for me to keep in mind), and my mom has celiac disease. That means I can't do as much baking from scratch as I otherwise would. For example, I know homemade waffles are healthier and more frugal, but the "puff" of flour going into the air contaminates the kitchen. Usually I pay attention to sales and buy LOTS of waffles when I find a good deal. We eat gluten products when they're contained, but I have to go out on the porch to do any mixing or baking and that generally just isn't feasible in the craziness of my day.

Also, I decided at the last minute to do this, so basically I just tracked what we ate for three consecutive days rather than planning the most frugal stuff I could find. So I don't have pictures of all the groceries. I do have a few pictures in the individual recipe posts though.

We drank 2 gallons of milk ($6) during these three days, so I'm adding $2 to each day's total.

Day #1:
Breakfast- biscuits (1.59), mandarin oranges(.97), milk (reduced fat buttermilk Grands, 0 grams trans fat which I like, Dole oranges I got on sale) = $2.56
Lunch- fish sticks(4.19/bag, there are a few left but I'm saying we ate the whole bag anyway to save my number-fried brain, and as long as they eat a whole serving (5 sticks) apiece the breading counts as our carb), canned carrots(they ate a can and a half at .59/can), apple slices (red delicious on sale 5/$2, they ate 2, so .80), milk = $5.87
Snack- raspberry yogurt (.25/container Kroger clearance, which counts as protein), milk = $1.75
Dinner- Burgundy Beef Tips ($6.04), (see below for breakdown) rotini noodles (.99), green beans w/almonds for me and dad(1.49), kids ate the other half of the second can of carrots from lunch (.29). = $8.81

Total Day #1: $17.24 + milk= $19.24

Day #2:
Breakfast- nutri-grain cinnamon waffles (we ate 10 out of the box of 12, which I got on sale for 1.54), banana (we ate 7 at .44/lb, but I'm not sure exactly how much that was), milk = $1.98
Lunch- Friendship soup, green beans, milk = $5
Snack- Strawberries ($3, I think the container was, and we didn't eat it all), milk = about $2
Dinner- leftover beef tips and apples- just me and the kids that night = bonus meal, so free

Total Day #2:$8.98 + milk = $10.98

Day #3:
Breakfast- Strawberry Poptarts (well, Kroger brand on sale for .50 a box, they ate 5 of the 8 about .30), mandarin oranges (.97), milk (I know it's oranges again, but it wasn't two days in a row, and it's their favorite. I didn't have any other different fruits in the house and I had to duplicate something, so it might as well be this.) = $1.27
Lunch- homemade macaroni and cheese ($3.69), peas (1/2 can, about .35), milk =$4.04
Snack- Goldfish crackers (.50/bag on sale at Kroger, about .25), milk = $.25
Dinner- Here's the part where I admit I ran out of ideas and was tired- we used a Sonic gift card I had gotten for my birthday. Free, but not a helpful idea for you guys. Sorry. :) Real life enters in.... We also could have eaten leftover Friendship Soup, because there's a TON of it left, but I think I'll freeze it and pull it out in a few weeks.

Total Day #3: $5.56 + milk = $7.56

Burgundy Beef Tips:
stew meat ($6 B1G1, so $3)
cream of mushroom soup .95
1/2 cup red wine ? borrowed my mom's :) can use water or cooking wine or whatever
5 T homemade gourmet Grandmother's Sunday Roast seasoning (I sell this stuff so I always have it around the house) $1ish
1 can mushrooms, undrained .59

Throw it in the crockpot on high 4-6 hours. Cost: $6.04 and I usually get at least two meals from it.

Grand Breakdown:
3 Day total= $37.78 for nine meals and three snacks, feeding 7 kids during the day and at least four people at night. That works out to an average of $4.19/meal overall, and either $1/person if it was dinner for four, or $.59/meal if it was just the kids. I bet I could do better, but that's not too bad, I don't think. I used to be able to keep my weekly grocery bill under $100/week, but lately it's been creeping up. I think everybody's in the same boat with that.

Thanks for reading all this, and I hope it was helpful. Email me if you're interested in any homemade gourmet, I'd love to get you started on it. :) I can't wait to get some new recipes from everybody else!


Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

Wow, I never realized that government subsidized food programs specified what you had to eat at every meal. Yikes!

Also, I had a thought about baking. Would it be possible to go out onto the porch one day a week and divide your ingredients into gallon-sized zipper bags? You can knead the dough inside the bag and leave it in the fridge to rise, just taking out a bag whenever you're ready to put it in the pan and bake it.

Don't know if that would work for you with the contamination issue, but I have started doing that lately just to get my bread started and ready to use more quickly.

owlhaven said...

Thanks so much for sharing this-- it was really interesting!

Mary, mom to many

Linds said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm going to give your Friendship Soup a try.


Heather said...

My mom used to run a daycare--it is a busy life. :) I used to cook gluten free from scratch--it was very interesting and if you grind your own flour, cheap. The problem is that you have to grin it yourself and bulk purchase the grains.