Client Opening and What’s a Frugal Menu?

A short announcement: I have one opening for a client in the greater Lynchburg area starting the first week in May. If you, or someone you know, is interested just use the “contact Renaissance Cuisine” form to the right.

On one of my boards earlier this week, someone asked what frugal meals everyone was eating. It was interesting to see everyone’s various ideas of “frugal.” For me, frugal isn’t necessarily cheap. I define it as a good value, and our meals reflect this. I don’t consider pre-packed ramen noodle packs “frugal,” because while they’re very inexpensive, they’re also both nutritionally void and full of harmful chemicals. So, pound for pound, they’re a poor way to get any kind of nutrition. Lentils, while more expensive than pre-packaged ramen noodles, are a much better value.

What do we eat? Most of my readers have seen my “On the Menu” features. For me, these are generally frugal menus. Yes, we do splurge once in a while, and we’re very lucky to be able to do that. For the most part, however, we strive to eat inexpensively and locally within a frugal budget. It’s not always easy, and it requires a good bit of time and planning. I’ll be teaching some of these skills at a new community cooking class, which I’m excited about!

On The Menu


Sunday: Korean noodles with greens. We love ethnic food, and it’s often inexpensive and healthy. We had some of the first fresh greens of the season, which were wonderful with Korea noodles (made from yams) , and a fish-based sauce. The noodles came from an Asian market in Charlottesville, but I’m looking into making my own.

Monday:  Portuguese fish and sausage soup. Yes, we eat fish in soup. In this case, it was swai, farmed sustainably.  It’s a rich soup with gold potatoes and local sausage, and I used my homemade chicken stock as a base. This can be a more expensive dish, but it goes a really long way.

Tuesday:  Sliced beef over roasted red pepper couscous, with mixed green veggies. Thadd’s night to cook. He marinaded sliced beef, then quickly pan fried it. Couscous is a go-to side for us when we’re short on time.

Wednesday: Samosa pie with mango chutney and spinach-chickpea saag. This is a really inexpensive way to eat Indian, but it does take a good bit of time for preparation. I add about twice as much spice to my samosa mixture as this recipe calls for, and make my own chutney when mangoes are on sale. Chutney’s expensive to buy, but can be super-cheap to make yourself, and you can avoid the HFCS in most brands you’ll find at the store. The saag is a traditional side of spinach and chickpeas in a vegetable stock base with onions, ginger, garham masala, tumeric, and a cream finish.

Thursday: Tonight is sliced beef tacos with the rest of the beef from above. There’s nothing special about the tacos, really. We’ll have some fresh greens to use up, and I’ll make homemade re fried black beans. I’ve got to teach tonight, and Thadd’s busy all day, so we planned for something fast and inexpensive.

Friday: Basque chicken thighs over brown rice. This is a great, fast dish that includes a lot of smoke paprika and some prosciutto. The latter is a bit expensive, but it doesn’t use much. The rest will get frozen for later. You really don’t want to use breasts for this, as the thighs give a much richer flavor. And, they’re generally cheaper, though if you’re buying whole, local birds, I’d go ahead and piece it out and use the entire bird (as I will do). The juices from the thighs will flavor the rest.

This is as far as we got with diners this week , because we knew our weekend would be a bit crazy. I am considering making a Japenese Zisou, though, for dinner on Sunday. Hearty, fast, healthy, and I can use some homemade stock.

This is not the most frugal dinner menu I’ve ever listed. In fact, for us it’s pretty expensive. Why? Honestly, just because. We go in cycles. We have a monthly food budget, not a weekly, so some weeks are cheaper and some more expensive, but it all works out in the end.

Breakfasts include farina, homemade raw milk yogurt, local honey, local pastured eggs, raw milk,  tea, homemade whole wheat toast, and fruit (not all at once). Lunches are almost always leftovers and/or a smoothie (I do the smoothies, since I am often not really hungry in the mid-day).

What’s frugal to you?



5 responses to “Client Opening and What’s a Frugal Menu?

  • Stacie

    Frugal to me is not just saving money at the grocery checkout line. It’s about NOT eating garbage that will increase your health care costs later. My family of 5 (3 adults, a toddler, and an infant) spends about $800/month just on food. I know that sounds crazy-expensive to a lot of people, but we very rarely eat out, I make the baby’s food, and we try to eat a lot of veggies, fruit, and lean protein. I enjoy cooking from scratch, so I keep a lot of flours, spices, and staples on hand. By no means is our diet ideal, and we are always looking for ways to enjoyably eat the best we can at a price we can afford. We are growing more and more of our own produce each year.

  • shwankie

    Stacie, I agree. For us, it’s value. That meas nutritional value for the dollar, as well as other considerations like local, sustainable, etc. Like you, we rarely eat out, and keep a lot of staples (beans, flour, etc.) on hand. My spice collection is, admittedly, a lot like Imelda Marcos’ shoe closet: large, diverse, and some things I only use once in a blue moon. It’s my luxury item, I suppose.

    We also do a lot with leftovers, and are trying pretty hard to go waste-free in terms of consumables. We’re not perfect yet, but we’re doing fairly well. This makes a big difference in our food budget, too.

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