How is That Frugal?

I get a lot of surprise when people read my posts about food, from what we eat overall to what we eat specifically, because I say it’s frugal. They see things like “London Broil,” or “Grass-fed local” and say, “But that’s so expensive.”  And they are right, it is expensive. Which is why you don’t sit down and eat a huge slab of it.

How is it frugal to eat this way? Let me break it down:

1. My definition of frugal is not: as much consumable calories as I can get for as little money as I can spend. My definition is: as much quality nutrition as I can get in as ecologically sustainable manner as I can mange, within a budget. This means making choices. For example, we eat a lot of vegetarian meals, which are cheaper than meat, so we can afford to buy quality meats.

2. At some point, this country is going to have to start paying the real cost of food. That is not what you are paying when you purchase many items at the store. The government is paying a large portion of the actual cost for you, in the form of subsidies, which go to large companies for the most part. I believe it is more cost-effective to buy food locally, to keep the money within the community rather than send it to some corporate honcho somewhere. This is a long-term outlook, of course, but buying “cheap” food just contributes to a larger problem that is going to come back to bite us in the butt.

3. Being sick and/or fat is not frugal. The saying goes “you can pay now, or you can pay later.” I’ll pay now, thanks. Staying at a healthy weight and keeping as many crappy chemicals as I reasonably can out of my body is a worthwhile expenditure to me. If that means eating less so I ca afford better food, so be it.

As Thadd says, “Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two.” We choose Good and Cheap, which means it’s definitely not fast. There’s lots of planning involved, and I’ve learned to be a Master Food Organizer (hey, I think I’ll trademark that and start giving classes on how to become one!). It takes a very strong commitment, and it sometimes means giving up other things.  We all have decisions to make regarding food, and this is what works for us. We don’t eat like typical Americans by a long shot.  Our average food expenditure each week is about $70-80 for the two of us, but it takes a LOT of work to keep it that way. Mostly, that work is cooking, and finding good recipes that use less expensive ingredients. We go through a lot of lentils and beans, but we don’t do it grudgingly.  We have learned great recipe for these ingredients so that it is something we look forward to.

And, we enjoy the size of our grocery bill while we enjoy the food!


2 responses to “How is That Frugal?

  • Gaylin

    Another facet of the problem, I think, is that people who start to become foodies understand the seduction that must occur to get someone to feel the emotion and appreciate the art of food. Sometimes we play at words as we start to get really excited about food. For example, which sounds better: “A grilled cheese sandwich on white bread.” or “Toasted Manchet Slices with Gruyere.” The most pedestrian of meals can *sound* expensive even when they cost pennies. When someone asks how we can afford eating like we do, we may do well to explain this idea to them. When they’re ready, of course. Until then, I’m going to continue to munch away on my Gallette of Shredded Zucchini with Two Artisanal Cheeses (zucchini cheese pie).

  • shwankie

    Gaylin, you are absolutely right! I think the fact that we also do a lot of ethnic food adds to this, since tonight I’m having falafel and mujadara, which is essentially baked chickpea balls and lentil, rice & onion pilaf!

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