One of the ways that we keep our food budget so low is by having a Meal Calendar. This techique of meal planning has instrumental in a couple of ways.
1. Tracking and planning for what we spend on food
2. Making sure that we stick to our plan of no restaurants or takeout for 2013, as we’ve always got a meal choice on hand
The Frugal Farmer Meal Calendar makes sure that we’ve got ingredients for all of the month’s meals at our house, and that we’ve picked meals that fit within our $300 a month food budget. We don’t always eat the meals in the order that they’re listed on the calendar, but instead, we cross out the meals as we pick them based on what we’re craving for the day. When you’ve committed to living on mostly beans, rice and pasta for a year, giving into family cravings on a given day is, at least for us, an important part of staying on the plan 🙂 .
I know it can be difficult to live on such simple, and often redundant meals. When I’m feeling like I want to throw in the towel and up our food budget, I often will search for stories from people who lived through the Great Depression so I can get a reality check and get back to being focused on our Depression-Era lifestyle and the reason for it, debt freedom. Here are some stories I found recently through a program that the State of Ohio did. You might find them motivating if you’re looking to get out of debt, decrease your food budget or simplify your living in any way:
“One day in the 1930’s, when I was about 6 or 7, I went with my father to the produce market where he purchased the fruits and vegetables that he sold door-to-door from his truck. While at market this day, one of the merchants approached and asked if I wanted to earn some money. My father nodded his approval, and I was taken by truck to a nearby railroad yard where fruits and vegetables were being unloaded from freight cars. I was lifted into one of the cars and a man in the car began handing me large watermelons. My small knees buckled as I turned and handed the melons to a man standing below, who put them into a nearby truck. In the distance, I noticed a group of about 25 people, standing patiently and watching, with baskets over their arms. Pretty soon, by accident, I dropped a watermelon and it split into numerous pieces. Four or five of the people rushed over and began to fill their baskets with the watermelon pieces. This happened three or four more times… I watched this and thought to myself, ‘these people must be really be hungry.’ When the unloading was done, I looked around and saw other freight cars holding various kinds of fresh produce, and groups of people near each one waiting for the ‘accident’ that would help them put food on their tables. ‘Daddy, we’re not poor,” I said. ‘Now I know what poor really is: all those people pushing to get to the spilled beans and watermelons.’ ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘there are a lot of hungry people with no jobs who have to get food any way they can. We’re in a Depression and times are hard.'”
– Stanley L. Blum, age 79, Dayton
“Food, or lack of it, seemed to be the major problem. Mother baked all the bread, fixed vegetables, made meals with such staples as canned corned beef and canned salmon. One time we were given a pork roast and I thought I had never tasted anything so delicious, but such occasions were rare. For years we had no fresh milk or butter and I remember being embarrassed at a friend’s place when someone commented that I didn’t butter my bread. I remember a period of about a week when there was no money for flour and we had no bread at all. Mother made mashed potatoes and flour gravy to fill us up. I might mention that there was never a hint of obesity in our family.” – Margaret Vail, age 86, Mansfield
“I saw some of the kids (at school) eat banana rinds that other kids had thrown away. Mom would pack my lunch with bread and apple butter and sometimes I had a fried egg sandwich and that was better than a lot of them had. Thank God.” – Charles Warrick, age 81, Barnesville
“We grew all our own vegetables. We had our own orchard. We had our own cows, had milk, made our own butter, did a lot of canning. My mother at one time had over 800 jars in the basement of jams, jellies, meat, fruits, vegetables, all these different things. We ate very comfortably because we ate from our own supplies. Many of my classmates did not have families that were well prepared for the difficulties of acquiring food as our family was. Many of them had small gardens or none at all. There were things that we could share, but there was not much more we could do for them.”
– Dean Bailey, age 82, Lordstown
As Americans slowly come to realize just how dire the financial situation is here, both governmentally and personally, we’ll all do ourselves a boatload of good by working toward living on a budget that is well below our means. Our hope is that our Frugal Food section, which contains both the Frugal Farmer Meal Calendar and recipes that go with it, will help you to do that.