Welcome to The Frugal Flambe- a collection of recipes, ideas, and encouragement to help you feed your family at home for much less than eating out. My name is Shellina, and I recently made the transition from banking supervisor to stay-at-home-mom. With a two year old struggling with a speech delay at home, and another little one on the way, my husband and I decided having one of us at home would be both beneficial to our family and easier on the wallet- daycare bills were piling up and our savings were slowly being whittled down. We understood the cuts we would have to make- no more eating out three times a week, no more buying lunch at the office, etc. With that in mind, I began making menu plans, grocery shopping like a wild woman, and eagerly searching for new recipes to fill our tummies.
The first positive change we noticed was in our son, Aaron. At two, he was saying 10 words, none of them unprompted, and only a few were understandable. Although we were reading to him, encouraging him to use his “big boy” words, and sending him to daycare to be around other kids, we weren’t seeing any radical improvement. However, once we began the nightly ritual of eating supper together at our own dinner table, we noticed a marked improvement in his desire to speak and his ability to communicate. I won’t lie to you and say that now, six months later, he’s meeting the benchmarks for speech, but I will say that our son is now the proud speaker of over 100 unprompted words- many of them food-based. (I can’t tell you how stoked we were when Aaron said “banana” for the first time- talk about a party!)
The second change that was undeniable was the more peaceful state of our relationships within our little family unit. Instead of rushing to pile into the car and beat the evening dinner rush at the local restaurant, we were able to sit down to a quiet (or loud) meal at home, free of screaming children (other than our own), crabby waitresses, and gratuity. And after dinner? We can lounge around at the table for as long as we want, or take the short walk to our comfortable couch to recline and digest. AND, as if the peaceful, gratuity-less environment wasn’t enough, the time-out chair for the kiddo was a mere 10 feet away. If he had to melt down, he could do it in comfort rather than the car, and Mom escaped the unavoidable embarrassment that comes with a screaming kid in a public place. (Judge all you want, but this is a major plus and you know it!)
The third positive change was one we hadn’t expected- leftovers. I mean, we thought about it, but we really had no comprehension of just how much better a homemade pasta could be on the second day compared to Styrofoam-encased-drippings from a restaurant. (Have you ever microwaved a restaurant meal? It ain’t good.)
But wait- there’s more. Much, much more- and I’m not referring to mushy-gushy feelings anymore- I’m talking about the king of our culture. Cold. Hard. Cash.
While we expected to see a decrease in general spending, we had no idea just how much money we could save by switching to eating at home. Immediately, we noticed (with the help of our handy-dandy bank-provided tools) we spent approximately $200 less per month when we limited our dining-out experiences to once per week, versus the 2-3 times per week prior to our change. Think about it: what could YOU do with an extra $200? Save for a new car? Buy a computer? Take the family to Disneyland next year?
With all of these irrefutable benefits and changes in our lives, I couldn’t stay silent about it. Statements like the following only cemented my desire to help normal stay-at-home and working moms like myself benefit their families and bank accounts: According to The Family Dinner by Laurie David, “In 1900, 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home. In 2010, 50 percent were eaten away from home and one in five breakfasts is from McDonald’s. Most family meals happen about three times a week, last less than 20 minutes and are spent watching television or texting while each family member eats a different microwaved “food.” More meals are eaten in the minivan than the kitchen.”
Now, to be clear, I don’t hate McDonald’s. Nor do I hate my microwave. (In fact, my microwave is very well used.) But, seriously, do I want to be a part of that statistic? When my kids grow up, do I want their family memories to be of single-serving sugars and all-you-can-eat diners? No- I want my kids to have memories of sharing the story of their day at the table, Mom and Dad both interested and engaged, and even more so, a healthy appreciation for well-rounded and home-cooked meals. There’ll still be nights when both my husband and I are worn out, I know our kids will become teenagers who don’t want to talk, and I know that family meals won’t solve all the world’s problems. But I also know how much fun I have cooking, how much my son loves to help, and how much money it saves us! What could be better?
And with that, we begin- bring on the recipes, bring on the tips, and bring on the FOOD!