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Here at Chez Froghammer, we’re pretty darn focussed on living frugally. This is for a number of reasons – the top three are:

  1. Mortgage – ’nuff said, right? Perth’s a pretty expensive place to occupy a living space, so this takes up a fair bit of our finances.
  2. Holiday – we’re planning our second trip to Iceland in August and while we’re doing ok with the finances, the spending money side of things is pretty skint so we’re trying to make sure that’s a bit beefier by the time we head off.
  3. Income – with a full-time and a part-time wage coming in, we aren’t hurting. But we’re retail workers, meaning that we’re not highly paid. Little extras like tax returns and penalty rates are seriously important to us.

People at work often ask me about our eating habits and how we manage to keep our food budget to around $60 a week (that’s for both of us. Yes, really.) and lately more and more comments and casual conversations have made me think that we’re doing things pretty well around here. So I wanted to start sharing our strategies for frugal living here on the blog. Fridays are as good a time as any, right? Let’s kick it off!

Frugal Living – Strategy: Menu Planning

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that the single most effective thing we do to live economically here at Chez Froghammer is a Weekly Menu Plan. We usually do this on a Friday or Saturday night, writing down a list of meals (breakfast is usually not included), skimming our weeks’ work rosters and social calendars and the weather forecast and nutting out meals for six to seven days ahead.

Let’s break this down a bit. Why do we take those environmental factors into account?

Work rosters

This helps us to know not only which of us is in a better position to cook, but how likely it is that one or the other of us will feel like a full meal at a given mealtime. If Frog works a close at the store, finishing at 9pm, she usually doesn’t feel like eating when she gets home or might just nibble on some toast. That means that, instead of cooking a full meal, I might forage in the freezer for a wee treasure, or cook enough for only three portions instead of four.

Additionally, our rosters help us to know how many leftover meals we need to account for. We try to take our lunches to work as buying lunch at work is exorbitantly expensive and, in my case, usually not vegan. So we’ll usually cook at least three, sometimes more, night-time meals that will give us leftovers for the next day or days.

Social Calendars

If one or both of us are going to be out for dinner, clearly that changes the plans. If one of us finishes work at 2pm but then has a doctor/physio/social appointment across town while the other finishes at 4pm, that changes who is better placed to cook.

Weather

Who wants to eat a casserole with dumplings when it’s 40C out there? Or a light salad in the middle of July? (Remember, this is the southern hemisphere!) It’s silly, too, to consider roasting a huge batch of vegetables when we’re trying to keep the house cool. If there’s a nice sunny day out there and one of us is home, why not cook something in the solar oven? What the weather is doing is crucial in making sure that the menu plan slots nicely into your lived experience, and doesn’t become a slave-taking framework you can’t get away from.

Menu planning - best done over a cup of tea. It's not pretty, but at least you can tell it's authentic! And yes, we do use the backs of envelopes as notepaper. What?! They're free, alright?!

Menu planning – best done over a cup of tea. It’s not pretty, but at least you can tell it’s authentic! And yes, we do use the backs of envelopes as notepaper. What?! They’re free, alright?!

Other things that impact our menu decisions are seasonality of vegetables and what dry stores we have in plenty. Right now, we’ve got lots of sunflower seeds, chickpeas and polenta. We’ve also got three overripe bananas from last week because apparently grocers now think it’s clever to store bananas in the freezer. That’ll be the start of some baked goods for work – running keeps my baseline metabolism ticking over pretty fast so I can’t get by without sizeable snacks between meals, so baking plays a pretty important part in my menu planning. The sunflower seeds gave me an idea – there was a recipe in one of my favourite recipe books I was wanting to try, so I made Sunflower Mac n Cheeze. Tasty, cheap and healthy.

Next – what sad little morsels are moping at the bottom of the crisper, and how can I revive them? There were some carrots and celery, and radishes, and some mayonnaise I’d made for something last week but of course it’s mayonnaise so you’ve got to make a whole batch and so you end up with more than you need and oh! Look at that! Chickpeas plus carrots, celery and radish, plus mayo, makes chickpea salad! That’s Tuesday’s lunch! Hopefully you get the idea.

Once you’ve come up with your menu plan, you’ve got to shop for it, right? That’s going to be the subject of next Frugal Friday’s post. I hope you get something out of this post and come back next week for more!

In the meantime, what do you do to cut your spending in little, meaningful, mindful ways? I’d be really interested to hear, so drop me a comment!

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