Category Archives: menu planning

Home Economics for the 21st Century

If my Google Reader inbox today is any indication, there seems to be a movement calling for schools to reinstate Home Economics classes.

This article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

Bring Back Home Economics Education (pdf file)

I absolutely agree that bringing back a revamped version of Home Ec is a great idea. Now, I suspect Home Ec went away as an understandable reaction to the gender role stereotypes of the 1950’s and ’60s.  There is often a fine line, however, between reaction and over-reaction. Reflexively swinging to the opposite extreme rarely solves a problem. If anything, it creates new problems.

Feminism, as I subscribe to it, is simply a state of independence– being able to take care of yourself, with or without a man. That may be oversimplifying (and probably to some, underestimating) the matter. Nevertheless, “taking care of yourself” without a doubt includes being able to feed and nourish yourself, as well as manage money responsibly. These were the two pillars of traditional home economics.

Even more than before, parents and caregivers today cannot be expected or relied on to teach children how to prepare healthy meals. Many parents never learned to cook and instead rely on restaurants, take-out food, frozen meals, and packaged food as basic fare. Many children seldom experience what a true home-cooked meal tastes like, much less see what goes into preparing it. (Alice H. Lichtenstein and David S. Ludwig)

Am I saying that feminism necessarily means malnourishing yourself and your children? Not at all.  But boasting the inability to cook as some sort of feminist merit badge strikes me as foolish, that’s all.  It is something women should think about, at the very least.

There may be other factors contributing to the widespread inability to cook healthy meals at home. In the absence of home cooking, for example, heavily processed convenience foods have stepped in to fill the void… and to fill stomachs. Far be it for me to suggest some nefarious food industry conspiracy behind this. I’ll just say that for consumerism to work as a way of life (as it has in America for some 60 years), it has been necessary to discourage responsible money management and to encourage poor eating choices.

Just think about the long-term benefits of teaching young people how to live healthy and sustainable lives:

An informed generation of children may also influence the eating habits of US families, just as tobacco education causes some students to discourage their parents from smoking. Ultimately, as this generation of school-aged children and adolescents reaches adulthood, they may serve as positive role models for their children and, through their longterm purchasing habits, ensure healthful food choices are readily available in homes, supermarkets, and restaurants
throughout the country. (Alice H. Lichtenstein and David S. Ludwig)


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Guerrilla Frugality: Intentional Leftovers

By now, everyone interested in frugality knows that home-cooking from scratch is a foundation of the frugal lifestyle.

Sure, it takes time to cook, and we’re all busy-busy-busy. You CAN find the time: Planning ahead can make all the difference in the world. If you can sacrifice a block of time (an hour or two) here and there, you will reap the rewards later.

I have a system I call “Intentional Leftovers”.

Generally, at most I’m cooking for three people… but usually just for myself. But even if I’m only cooking for one, I will still make a large batch of whatever I’m making. The leftovers go in the freezer, and can be reheated in the microwave for quick meals in the future.

Leftovers in the fridge are fine, too, but be realistic about it. There’s nothing more wasteful than perfectly good leftovers going bad in the fridge. As long as you’re going to eat them within a few days, keep leftovers in the fridge. That’s my personal Window of Leftover Opportunity, but then I’m especially squeamish about things like that. Otherwise, pack it up and freeze it!

I recently made a huge pan of baked ziti, a dish my mom always called “lazy lasagna”.


The leftovers get packed up in zip-lock freezer bags.

I put a generous single-serving in each bag, and pack them flat, making sure to get all the excess air out of the bags. I label each one with the date for future reference.


You might be tempted to just dump the leftovers into plastic containers, but I think the single-serve freezer bags work better. Not only do they pack flat for easy stacking in the freezer, the smaller quantities will also reheat faster than an entire container. You’ll be grateful for that when you’re exhausted and starving after a long day at work.


That Stouffers meal isn’t mine (LOL), but my leftover baked ziti meals are just as quick and convenient.

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Menu planning: giving it a try

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about frugality, budgeting, and various other topics in personal finance. I am determined to get my finances whipped into shape!

I’m seeing a lot of suggestions of menu planning as a great frugal tactic.

Menu planning is based on the idea that knowing ahead of time what you plan to eat during a particular time period (say, the coming week) will help you stay focused within your grocery budget.

Other important aspects of meal planning:

  1. Know what you’ve got on hand in your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
  2. Devise meals based on what you already have on hand.
  3. Know what else you need to make your upcoming meals.
  4. Make a shopping list and stick to it!

By the way, I found an interesting site about organization that offers printable planner forms. I confess I’m just OCD enough to have printed out the pantry inventory forms.

I’ve never really planned my meals too far into the future, which– when I think about it– has resulted in an awful lot of last-minute trips to the store to buy curry powder or eggs or bread or zucchini or some other crucial missing ingredient!

Before going to the grocery store today, I wrote out a loose menu plan for the next week, and based my shopping list on that menu. In the store, I did feel more focused with a solid plan. (Who, me? A planner? Huh.)

I can’t say for sure whether I’ll still be in the mood for a veggie burger on Tuesday night (I start school that day), in which case we’ll improvise. Otherwise, this could work.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


Here are a few days’ sample menus…..

[Color code: Food Already On hand Leftovers Food Bought 8/29]

———— Thursday 8/30 ————

Breakfast: Last of the Corn bread and coffee

Lunch: Salad

Dinner: Spaghetti and salad (just enough left in the bag)

————Friday 8/31 ————

Breakfast: Raisin Bran and coffee

Lunch: Salad (new bag)

Dinner: Cheese quesadilla (two more tortillas left after this meal) with brown rice and black beans

————Saturday 9/1 ————

Breakfast: Breakfast burrito (scrambled egg and cheese in a tortilla) and coffee

Lunch: Salad

Dinner: Last of the Spaghetti and salad

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