Food shopping, organising recipes and menu plans

15 January 2018
January, week 2 in The Simple Home

This is another of those topics where there will be vast differences in the way all of us do things. I know people who shop everyday for their fresh food, I know others who, like Hanno and I, shop weekly and grow some of their food. I know quite a few people who grow most of what they eat and just buy beans, pulses, dried food and occasional fish or dairy. All of us are living simple, all of us organise our food in a different way.  I wonder what you do.

It's easy enough to wander down supermarket aisles and put products into a trolley. But to shop well and to get value for money, the food shopping we all do should be part of a plan that has been thought through. Hopefully, this week you'll be able to do that. Think about how you intend to shop, cook and store food. Our moderns times have given us a lot of choices. It's your job as a homekeeper to work out which choices work for you.

Most of our food conversations will take place in March.  This is to set us up with good habits and techniques until then, so it's mainly thinking about how we organise our food shopping, getting value for money, buying as much seasonal and local food as we can and involving children in the family food choices. Recipes and how to cook will come later.





One thing to note early here is that there is one thing that we should all be doing - involving the family in our food choices. It's the best opportunity you'll have to discuss budgets, food prices and nutrition with your children and a really good way to teach them about home-cooked food. Getting the family on board with the food choices will mean they'll be more likely to eat what's put on the table every day. And having your children grow up with a good idea of what food costs, where is comes from, how to store and cook it, will be a great help to them when they leave home and already have a good understanding of how to feed themselves and how much it costs.

When planning your food, think about:
  • Nutrition
  • Your recipes
  • Your budget
  • Where to shop - markets or supermarkets
  • How much time you have to cook
  • Supplimentary food from your back yard, freezer or bartering
This is lemon curd/lemon butter made with our backyard lemons and eggs. 
Home preserves - these save money because you buy the ingredients when fruit and vegetables are in season, at their peak and cheaper, and you get a much better product than the supermarket version.  For those of you near an Aldi, they have cucumbers for 79 cents each until tomorrow, Tuesday.  I'll be buying a dozen for bread and butter cucumbers, click here for my recipe.

In The Simple Home I suggest you write a set of summer menu plans/winter menu plans that you can use in these early months of the year. We will address this topic in greater depth again in March but we need to eat now, so let's get some plans happening. You can either do plans for eight weeks, or create a four/two week plan that you repeat. You may already have your menu plans up and running, or be one of the many people who do it a different way.  Menu planning can be done in a number of ways, here is a post I did on the subject.  If you're new to this, try it for a few weeks, modify the process to suit yourself and see how you go. Again, if you do have good ideas to share with us, go ahead and write it up in the comments so newcomers see that there are many ways to do this. Don't forget to plan for leftovers and easy days when you just re-heat something home cooked in the fridge or freezer.


Once you've got all that sorted out, the main part of this week will be about collecting and organising your recipes.  I have about 20 recipes that I cook over and over again, with occasional new recipes thrown in and a set of recipes for celebrations and baking. When I try a new dish, if we all like it, that stays in the month's rotation.

I have been using the app Paprika for a few years now. I have it on my computer and it is the best recipe organiser I've seen.  Version 3 has just been released and it sells for around AU $8. It organises your recipes, allows you to search the internet and save recipes, has a good set of timers, helps with menu planning and gives you printable shopping lists and a calendar with your monthly menus. You can sync it to your phone or ipad and it's available for Apple and Android. There are more details here.  If you need some help sorting thorough your recipes and having a place to store them, Paprika might be what you're looking for. I have no association with this company.

This is part of the meat section in my Paprika. I have version 2.

Creating a set of recipes that you're happy with is a great help in the kitchen. Try to include ideas that are thrifty, nutritious, easy to prepare and something you know the family will eat.  Remember to include work and school lunches and drinks because that will save a lot of money. Do you have good food containers that will keep lunches fresh and looking good until they're eaten?  That can mean the difference between food being eaten or not. Think about where you'll get your food from too.  Can you barter anything? Do you have a good local butcher, baker, green grocer, fish market or local farmers' market? This is the time to work out a strategy that will help you later in the year to provide the best value for money food you can.  I'm not saying to buy only cheap food, I'm emphasising value for money, local and in season. There's a big difference. Think now about how you can substitute other foods for meat and fish, which both cost a lot of money.  Find a few recipes for vegetarian meals, or meals that use less meat. Many of us eat too much meat and you can cut down on it without giving it up completely.  And regarding fish, we live in an area with a lot of fishing boats but the fish we bought for many years is now $50 a kilo and I'm not prepared to pay that much for it.  So we've cut out fresh local fish and I buy the occasional bag of Norwegian salmon and tinned red salmon from Aldi. I refuse fish from Thailand and most places in Asia. Yes, I know Norway and Alaska are a long way from here but we either eat that fish or none and I don't want to give up fish completely.

Sunday lunch - Aldi frozen salmon with homemade potato and garden salad. 

Take a bit of time and think carefully about how you shop. Can you make it easier, quicker or cheaper?  Set up some good habits now and improve on them them as you go on. If you can, it will make a big difference over the course of a year because food shopping is something you'll do forever.

Good luck with this. The work you do this week has the potential to make your job as a family food provider much easier during the year.  I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of good ideas here. Share how you organise yourself with the food you grow and buy and tell us if you have any little tricks that help you put great food on the table.  ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ



65 comments

  1. Over the past couple of years, I have changed the way I shop and organise our family's food quite a lot. I shop weekly now, usually on Fridays, because when I was working I really resented having to grocery shop on weekends. Now, my weekend mornings are spent at home. I cleaned out a shelf in my linen cupboard as a place to stockpile ingredients I buy on special. Things like canned tomatoes, chocolate chips etc. I buy a lot from bulk bins because minimising packaging is important to me. I also write a weekly menu plan, I have one of my son's old exercise books for this which I keep on my kitchen bench. I also grow some of our food and try to have something from the garden in each meal. Today, I have just picked some beautiful little beans and so I'm thinking a bean and almond salad with haloumi (the recipe calls for feta but I don't have any so haloumi it will be) might be nice. We've been enjoying fresh cucumbers from the garden in our salads too. Have a lovely Monday! Meg:)

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  2. I've recently moved into a new home and would love to start a veggie garden to get the satisfaction of growing my own but it feels all to overwhelming. Where do I start?

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    1. I have two posts on this subject, this one: https://down---to---earth.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/how-to-start-vegetable-garden-part-1.html and the one that follows it. Start slow and if you set your garden up well, it will pay you back.

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    2. I am the same Liz, I started a garden with cauli, broccoli, beetroot and kale, I harvested kale amd everything else shriveled up on me or bolted to seed! Perhapa I'll have better luck next time :-)

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  3. My kitchen and pantry have had a good clean out and I've inventoried what I have on hand. At the moment I'm planning meals around what I have on hand as I don't want things to expire or go off due to freezer burn. Once I've made a good dent in this stock I'll buy meat and other proteins based on what I kind find on special each week or what I can find at 50% off (the usual discount on meat that they need to see within a day or two but which can go into the freezer safely). Sides and veggies will depend upon what is in season and what can be bought from the freezer section.
    It's just me and I tend to buy during the week - either Friday or Tuesday - with maybe 1 additional trip if I go along with a friend who has a car. I don't drive so using transit or walking does limit how much I can buy at one time. Before the bad weather sets in I normally stock up on heavy items like laundry detergent and tins - or bulky items like loo paper so that I have a few months worth on hand. Then I can manage the week to week needs.
    I am trying some new recipes this winter - and adding more vegetarian meals to the rotation so that I don't get bored. Even though I'm on my own I do take a few meals to an elderly neighbour each week and I am entertaining more so it's nice to try something new. I pick one of my umpteen cookbooks and decide on a few to try every few weeks.
    Fish is also very expensive here (we are smack in the middle of the country and it's thousands of miles to each coast) - and I won't buy fish from China or Thailand either. I either save up to buy fish from Canada or I buy from Norway or Iceland - either fresh or frozen. I do have a good supply of tinned tuna, salmon, sardines & mackerel so I try to incorporate those into my diet as well.
    Rather than writing out a weekly meal plan I tend to cook 3 or 4 things at a time (usually on a Monday) - perhaps a stew, a soup and a supply of roasted veg and I use those items all week in different ways along with eggs, cheese, tinned items and salad greens - saves me time, I can eat when I feel like it and any leftovers can go into the freezer as HM ready meals.

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  4. A very happy New Year to you Rhonda. Great post as usual. I too was buying the Norweigan salmon from Aldi thinking it was probably produced under better conditions than many farmed fish. I was depressed to watch this video last week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYYf8cLUV5E. I then did some research into our local Tasmanian farmed salmon and the story isn't much better. Makes me really angry that corporate greed is ruining our food. Anyhow, thought you might be interested in seeing this. Wishing you all the best for a wonderful 2018! Thank you for your wonderful blog - have been reading it for years now and love it. Kind Regards, Miki

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  5. With a large family buying fish is a bummer. Its just so expensive to buy anything fresh even though that's what we are being told to do. I buy the occasional salmon fillet or smoked salmon to have with cucumber and cream cheese. Otherwise I buy tinned tuna and sardines from aldi. I usually make my shopping menu up every 2 weeks as I have to do the majority of our shopping on my husbands pay and then a light shop the next week. At the moment I've been struggling with the price of certain veg in NSW. We are trying to eat more avocados for health reasons but they sometimes are $4 each. We also use a lot of cauliflower as a replacement for potato as a low carb option but all season they have been small expensive and sparse, likewise with the silverbeet. Our chard crop failed this year.

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  6. I preserve what i can out of my garden. If there are very good specials on other food at the fruit and vegie store i will buy from there and preserve as well. When we got a beef some time back to make better use of the meat i canned a lot of casseroles for us and 1 litre jar will give dh and I 2 meals. Currently i have shopped online as i found it was a good way to look at all the foods that were often cheaper than the ones on special. I have also been upping my stores on stuff we do not eat like toilet paper/soap/ detergent etc and when i have 6-12 months worth of one thing then i buy extra foods with that money . I had 3 rows of carrots so yesterday i went out and harvested 1 whole row/blanched them and froze them to use in our meals at a later date seeing we are moving from this house at the end of May. I will do another row in the next couple of weeks and leave 1 row for fresh eating. With dh being ill i am having to make different softer foods for him to eat without choking. There will be a lot of soups going into the canner :-)

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  7. Just realised I posted my comment to the wrong part. Lol
    I use the back of a used envelope to write my menu plan for two weeks, then I stick it on the fridge, From this I make my weekly shopping list. I leave the weekends blank as we have our own produce coming form the garden, so I make something form that and also preserve, make jams and spreads, pickles, etc. I used many of your recipes Rhonda and I have to thank you for that as they are yummy and they all work.

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  8. What is that yellow stuff in the jars?

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  9. I don't think I've commented here before so Hello! Im Ginger ( Arkansas, usa) I really enjoy your book and blog. Thank you for taking the time to work through your book with everyone.
    As for meals, I follow a general frame depending on whether it's hot or cold. We're in winter right now so this is my weekly menu.
    Monday is Roast and Roots. Any large piece of meat cooked with a variety of root vegetables. Tuesday is soup so chicken soup, chili, stew etc. Wednesday is buffalo wings with rice or potatoes. Thursday is leftovers served with rice and piled on top of tostados. Friday is fish, usually fish tacos but sometimes salmon or tuna patties. Saturday we usually eat out after mass. Sunday I don't cook but all my children are teens and they take on meals for this day. All meals are served with fruit or some raw vegetables like slaw or salad. We raise most of our meat and have lots of game as well. I have a lot of frozen berries from our bushes to add into winter meals and baking. We also manage to keep hot peppers going in a small greenhouse to add into chili or other spicy foods. Most leftovers are eaten for lunch but Thursday is a good day to eat up any "leftover leftovers".
    I bake once a week and that usually covers breakfast/ snack needs.
    Today I made a simple lemon cake and added in a few handfuls of our frozen blueberries. It's so cold here so my family wanted chili, they did most of the work I just guided them along.

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    1. Hello Ginger, welcome. Thanks for this interesting information. I'm sure it will get many readers thinking.

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    2. Hi Ginger! I'm an Arkansas native living in New Mexico for my husband's work. I wanted to reach out and say hi!
      It sounds like you have a good system worked out. I love hearing of other moms taking time to teach and let the kids work in the kitchen. Keep pressing on.
      Blessings to you!

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    3. Sarah,
      Nice to "meet" you.
      How interesting!I lived in NM for a few years before moving to AR. It was NM where I learned that leftovers could instantly become a meal if tucked into a tortilla. And that has now become a routine way of eating our lunches.
      Ginger

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  10. I’m working through your book and following along here. It is very motivating to have this companion blog. I’m a wife, mom to a toddler, and work full time as a professor. So I plan my menu weekly: Meatless Monday (spaghetti or a lentil based dish), Taco Tuesday (we have small corn tortillas filled with sliced grilled chicken, avocado, tomato salsa with “Mexican” rice), wacky Wednesday (usually we have breakfast for dinner- my daughter thinks this is wacky!), Throwback Thursday (an old standby casserole recipe like Chicken supreme or hot dish), Friday Funday (a homemade pizza), Simple Saturday (whatever is left in fridge or better noodles with a salad), showstopper Sunday (roast chicken with veggies or roast beef with veggies and green salad). We try to bake a batch of homemade cookies on Sunday for the whole week. I know the dinner names seem silly but they really help me remember what I need to buy or prepare for. Lunch is usually leftovers or a turkey sandwich with fruit.

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    1. I love those names. They just make me want to come up with meal ideas for each of them. Very inspiring!

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  11. Rhonda! I am retiring! I am over the moon happy and your series is helping me start making the transitions I want to make by June when I am done, done,done with working a public job!

    I can a lot of soups as we like them and it is easy to make them go farther using sandwiches and such. I also can a lot of beans as we try to eat meatless at least three nights a week. We have a farm, so we grow our own beef and pork as well a chickens (and eggs!). I can many things so they can be opened and used to go with other things -- such as chili base and then ground beef or beans -- or spaghetti sauce or lasagna, spaghetti, stuffed shells, and so forth...

    I bake twice a week-- bread and a dessert with half of the dessert going into the freezer for another time, such as summer when I don't want to turn on the oven.

    I have so much more to learn! I am having a wonderful time savoring the book and working through the suggestions you have weekly!

    Thanks for leading us! matty

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  12. What good advice to make a list of family favorite meals. I recently created weekly meal plans, several weeks each for summer and winter. I included recipes using seasonal ingredients and rolled over leftovers into other meals that week (a cook once, eat twice sort of mentality). For example, a week with meatloaf will also have a night of meatloaf samdwiches. This has been a great resource, and I can pick whichever week''s plan looks good to me that day.

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    1. I use the cook once, eat twice philosophy too and love it. Thanks for your comment.

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  13. I keep a piece of paper on the fridge where I write anything we run out of or that I know I will need to buy on my next shopping trip. I only shop on the 1st and the 15th of the month. My max budget for a 2 week period is $110 for food (usually from Aldi) and $50 for household supplies (usually from Walmart). The day before, I sit down with paper and write meals I can make with ingredients I already have. I really try to get 2 weeks worth of meals without having to buy anything new. Anything I might need to buy, including fresh produce, dairy,and household items, are written on a list. I then make one trip, stopping at several places. When I get home, I should have everything I need to make it through 2 weeks. If not, I try to make do and not go to the store again. It's amazing what you can come up with if forced :) ....Lisa from Indiana, USA

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    1. Beautiful work, Lisa. Thanks for letting us know what you do. I'm sure our readers on a fixed budget will love your comment.

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    2. Also, I forgot to mention that if there is a really good price on something, I will buy as many as I can, considering the expiration date. This may actually use up a good chunk of my food budget. That's ok though, because after you do this for awhile, you have so many thing stockpiled, your grocery list becomes very short. Freezing/canning fruits and veggies I have grown/gleaned helps greatly with the budget. (like collecting as many apples, pears, and walnuts as I could from my in-laws trees...my freezing-cold garage is full of walnuts waiting to be cracked open). The budget is also helped by making everything from scratch and not buying packaged/processed foods.

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    3. This is so helpful, Lisa! Thanks for sharing.

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  14. I was beginning to think I was the only person who refused to buy Asian fish!

    What China has done in the past is truly frightening. The I found out how Tilapia is farmed. Erm, no.

    My Fish is European or North American.
    \
    I just won't purchase anything processed in China.

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    1. I’m so glad you said this ,50 and counting, as I feel the same. I’m not buying any food item if I can help it, that comes from china. It’s frightening what they do in the process, no wonder we are a sick nation.

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  15. Dear Rhonda, my first reply, did use brand names for the juice or tablets but hope the name of the blend is OK
    Margaret Brabrook in Toowoomba

    Happy to have my name and Twmba published as, for the life of me I do not know no how to get a name from google, so had to do anon!
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    We (hubby and me) used to grow most of our veggies but at ages 82 and 88 it’s become a bit too much. Because I have a stoma (ileostomy -- big bowel/colon removed because of cancer but the cancer did not go further so no treatment needed – lucky me!) I need extra electrolytes and salt too. As I also have a swallowing problem (rumination) I need soft food in small bits. I bought a super duper expensive blender/grater and that was fine for a while but it became too hard for my hands to work it – (arthritis). As I’m advised to avoid onions and a few brassicas I was delighted to find that I can buy frozen veggies in separate lots (all carrots etc) so I now use those and often mix them with minced meat to make a meat loaf.

    A person with an ileostomy needs extra electrolytes so I relied on a fizzy tablet which was sugary and also quite dear. Juice would have been the answer but I had tried juicing my own many years ago and the work involved (the cleaning ugh!) was too much for us. I also could not find a healthy juice to buy that had no banana (allergic, mouth swells), was juiced from fresh veggies/fruit, and most of all cold pressed with no sugar. A few weeks ago I had another search and oh joy, discovered a juice that met all my requirements – no additives at all and cold pressed with fruit/veggies from local farms – hurray! There are perhaps eight or more of these juice blends and the one called Easy Greens provides me with kale, celery, spinach and cucumber juice that gives me the necessary electrolytes and another one called Ginger Ninja has turmeric and ginger – so healthy!

    These products make it so much easier for arthritic hands to make a healthy meal.

    And by the way I’m a bag lady! I wear a bag but no problem, just a bit of inconvenience, occasionally – it’s small, easily managed with no odour and what’s more Australia is the only country in the world that gives us stomamates free supplies!

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    1. Hello Margaret. Thanks for your interesting comment. I'm glad you finally found a juice you can use.
      I think you have to have a Google account to get a Google name. I'm fine with you being anonymous just keep putting your name in your comments so I know it's you.
      I send my best wishes to you and your hubby. Keep on keeping on. xx

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    2. Hi Margaret (and your hubby), I was delighted to read your post. I'm almost 10 years younger than you (and not dealing with an ileostomy), but I understand your difficulties and applaud your resourcefulness!
      I have more and more trouble dealing with machines and appliances (why are all the controls miniature, and directions written in indecipherable raised plastic symbols hidden somewhere on the machine?). Your juice sounds like a real find. Here in the US, finding even bread without added sugar is a challenge, so I share your joy--and Ginger Ninja is a great name. I so wish I could buy it here. Speaking of "here," a very sad country at the moment, thank you for sharing your optimism and good humor--we Yanks need it! Take good care, Kate in Oregon

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    3. Hi, just to chip in. I'm in the same ileostomy club. In the UK, anything stoma items needed are 'free' and if you have a stoma all other prescription medications are 'free' as well. I need IV fluids due to short bowel and all the fluids, fridge, pump and sundry items are delivered in a refrigerated van to my door. Amazing, amazing blessing to have this. It does make eating/meal times interesting and I am a single person, working part time. I try to plan to keep things interesting, cook something new, try a new ingredient, have a picnic. I am very lucky to live in Cornwall where we have lovely seasonal fresh fish and of course, lovely 'fish and chips'. I am thinking about juices though Margaret has inspired me to explore this further. I have an an oral fluid restriction so every sip/mouthful has to matter. Best wishes, Rose UK.

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  16. I know as I get older I focus more on Nutrition. But notice as I age my digestion is more particular what be put in my stomach.
    Coffee is on

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  17. Oh yummy, lemon curd! We too shop once a week. I don't menu plan but we are content with favourites with added variety here and there. We aim for $150 a week for food and household items. This includes pet food for 1 dog and 1 cat. I save our flybuys (loyalty card) points all year and then cash them in for supermarket dollars in December. This usually gives us around $120-$150. So enough for 1 'free' grocery shop.
    As we get older we are focusing more on quality nutrition and smaller portions.

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  18. Hi Rhonda, I don't Menu plan, buy chicken in bulk and portion it and then freeze, also buy Aldi salmon and avoid anything from Asian countries. Try to grow my own veggies, (a bit too hot at the moment for the veggie garden) and mainly shop from the outside isles of supermarkets - fresh produce, meat, cheese etc and very limited buying from other isles. I freeze most of my tomato crop and use it to make my own tomato and napoli sauce instead of buying tinned tomato and also make my own broths - both beef and veggie. Cleaning out the freezer three or four times a year and using what is in their before restocking saves wastage as well. I like to eat simple, nutritious meals and don't mind eating the same thing several times a week. Also, I eat what's in season and preferably locally grown which helps keep the "carbon" cost down. Cheers Lyndie

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  19. Hi
    I have my own chickens plus a rooster so eat a lot of egg based meals and eat any roosters, at age 6months or when they start to crow. I have bees so often use honey as the sweetner in my cup of tea. I grow a reasonable proportion of my fruit and vegetables and preserve them as frozen, jam and cordial. I found an excellent place to forage for unsprayed blackberries and one year picked the retail equivalent of $600. I don't menu plan but take advantage of whatever is in my freezer. Meat is usually purchased on a Tuesday night when the local supermarkets are clearing their stock ready for the next day catalogue special priced items. I shop the catalogues for long shelf life items such as a tin of corn for 82c, which is approximately half price.
    I also go along to our local community food swaps, 1 each weekend. We swap fruit and veg surpluses and I come away with things I don't grow-silverbeet, zucchinis and basil this weekend. Basil is turned into pesto and the zucchini and silverbeet (chard) will be added into an eggy baked vegetarian slice.
    Claire in Melbourne

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    1. Great work Claire. It sounds like you're taking advantage of the the opportunities that come your way.

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  20. Cook once eat twice it's my favourite strategy in winter. Summer meals are a bit more relaxed and quick to make. I love all your ideas ladies :)

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  21. Hi Rhonda, Here I find difficult to menu plan as the kids are some evenings with their dad and we try very hard to stay flexible with our arrangements, so it's not always the same night (or even the same number of nights) in the week that they spend at each parent's home. I try to predict the beginning of the week and go with the flow from there. Cook once, eat twice works well here as I can reheat the second meal later in the week, on demand. I usually shop once a week (without the kids), for food and household items, from a permanent shopping list in my phone.
    As my backyard has very poor soil and I'm not a super gardener, it stresses me to try to grow veggies. Also the heat in Summer is terrible (close the Penrith area, with it's 47+ degrees last week) and I waste a lot of water trying to keep things alive without much success. So I ended up growing mainly herbs: parsley, chive, lemon thyme, basil, mint, sage, coriander, oregano, rosemary and also a bit of rocket and lavender so far. It's much easier than veggies and saves a lot of money as I never buy herbs any more. Most of them are also freezable, and I can enjoy them all year round.
    As you said, everyone has to find out what works best for them. It took me quite a while to stop stressing about the garden, but I'm now at peace with the fact that veggies will probably never grow in my backyard, and I'm very happy with my little herb garden (and some flowers just for pleasure!).
    Corinne

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  22. I make every effort to menu plan, but as different things come available in the veggie patch and need using up the plan occasionally it goes out of the window, and also sometimes there unexpected leftovers that always take precedent over the meal listed on the menu plan.

    However we do eat totally seasonally on fresh foods thanks to it being mostly our own produce, but like now as it's Winter in the UK we are eating our own fruit and vegetables from the freezer.

    I think this is the first year when we managed to squirrel away enough of our own produce to hopefully see us through the 'hungry gap' ... we'll see. And as this year has also seen me doing a whole new low spend Challenge, only having less that £400 to spend on bought in foods, the push is on to get even more growing for next year.

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  23. We also don't buy Asian fish ever since we found out how it is produced. Also no farmed Norwegian salmon. Fresh fish here in Denmark is expensive, maybe due to too many links from fisherman through distributors to consumer. So we often buy frozen cod or when we can get it frozen wild salmon. We shop almost daily (fresh milk), but also shop attempting to use what is in season. Right now it is winter here, so broccoli and all sorts of cabbage is in season because it stores well. Also carrots, onions, potatoes, leek, beets and other roots. I try to compose dinner with 1-2 veggies, 1 meat, chicken or fish and maybe one starch. As we are retired and don't have a garden to keep us busy, we don't always need a starch. We also eat eggs and canned sardines, mackarel, and tuna occasionally. We opt for the most sustainable tuna. We have a variety of meatless dishes (hazelnut patรฉ - if you want that recipe, tell me, I can post it later) on the repetoire, chili beans, chick peas, omelettes with veggies). We don't buy in bulk, as we do all our shopping on our bikes/by bus. We have Aldi here and also other low priced supermarkets as Lidl, Rema1000, and Netto, so shopping by bike is no problem. I'm looking forward to be inspired by you all's recipes with legumes and veggies, as I find it much easier to just roast a chicken ;) Helle

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  24. Thank you so much for this! I love planning and lists of all sorts, but when it comes to food I find it hard. My husband is very involved in cooking ang cooks most of our food, and we do not see completely eye to eye on everything. We live well with out differences, but I am guessing that is one of the reasons why I think it is a bit difficult to plan for more than a week ahead. I hope I'll get a better grip of it now, and I am going to look into the paprika app.

    We live in Norway so seasons here are very short. Most of our food are store bought, but we try to buy food that hasn't travelled long distances. In summer most of our food is grown in Norway but during winter some of the food comes as fas south as Italy and Spain. We try to avoid it, because we want to eat food that are in season, but in winter there isn't really anything that is in season. In summer we grow a few things in our very small, and very steep garden, mostly french beans, radishes, carrots, herbs, tomatoes, sweet chilis and herbs. It's amazing what you can do on a small space. Our tomatoes and sweet chilis grow in pots on our terrance, while the other things grow in raised beds. It is working very well, but we would like to grow more of our own food and are trying to build a few more beds when spring comes to grow potatoes. :)

    Thank you so much for all your advice and you amazing blog, Rhonda!

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  25. Really great advice. I love reading other people’s approach to shopping and meal planning. I usually get 2 deliveries a week as I have very limited space. That coupled with 2 teenage boys who eat anything and everything! Does anyone know if the lemon curd can be frozen? I know I could make less, but would prefer to bulk make. I’m going to to try the cook once, eat twice idea. I love cooking, but I also enjoy other things. This would help so much. I’m only 1 week I to simple living and so far I feel so different. I can’t describe it. Xx

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    1. Yes the lemon curd can be frozen. I have successfully kept mine in the freezer for up to a year :-)

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  26. This is such a timely post: I have long been a fan of menu planning and I'm flummoxed by those who don't but I've just stepped it up a level. I have gone through my fave recipe books and have created a spreadsheet with different sheets for veggie, fish, chicken etc. It contains the name of the dish, book and page number, and ingredients. Then I've used it to compile a three week rolling rota (not sure why I didn't do four!). This has made it so much easier to work out what we'll eat each week. It contains casseroles and stews so will have to make a summer one too. I did look at Paprika but for those of us in the UK it is £28.99. It looks fantastic but is way too pricey for me. I'll just stick to my hybrid old fashioned/spreadsheet way!

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    1. Hi Debbie, that price difference in Paprika is incredible. I wouldn't pay that for it either. Your spreadsheet sounds excellent. Keep up the good work, it sounds like you're doing really well.

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  27. Inspiring as always, dear Rhonda.. I love menu planning, recipes and the cooking.. smile.. Not so organized, though.. Thanks for the tips.. Hope you are having a good January.. xoxo

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  28. Hi,Cadwyn from Oregon. I just started reading your blog. Love it thank you.

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  29. I live alone, and my eating is pretty repetitious. Each morning I have a cafe au lait, some nuts, and fruit for breakfast. Every other day I swallow a raw egg mixed in soy milk. I don't like cooked eggs, so this is how I get them in my diet. I usually buy meat or chicken once a week, and eat that in a meal all week long. I have the leftovers for lunch. I buy what's on sale. I purchase my produce when it costs a dollar or less per pound. There is always something on special. I grow all kinds of citrus, choke berries, lettuce, herbs, pumpkins, and squash. I've sort of stopped eating baked goods. I no longer have any aches or pains, and I think that's why. I love potatoes, and eat them nearly every day. I can get a ten pound bag for just a few dollars. My budget for food is $250.00 a month, and I'm able to stay in it. I eat huge salads every day. I find that saves money and keeps me healthy. I haven't been sick in about twenty years, except for an ear infection or two, when I was teaching ballet to kids. I also make bone broths regularly. They taste so good, and are incredibly nutritious. I've enjoyed hearing about everyone's routine with grocery shopping and cooking.

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  30. Hi Rhonda,
    Happy New Year to you and your family.
    I started following your blog two years ago and have found it to be a great source of ideas, information and recipes, many of which I have used in my home and garden. Your attitude to life and ideas for living a simpler life are a constant source of inspiration and motivation. I am looking forward to following what you are doing on your blog in 2018.
    This year I am trying a new approach to cooking for my family. I am planning meals and also any baking I do using something from our garden as the starting point. Whatever is ripe or ready to use is the key ingredient and I look through my books which are cookbooks based on garden produce to find a recipe I like. In the past I have used recipes as the starting point and shopped for the ingredients needed. Our meals will be based around the fruit and vegetables we grow and will hopefully save us money, reduce the amount of meat we consume and help us to eat better by eating more plant based meals.
    At the moment we are eating meals using our home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, chillies, garlic, onions, spring onions and herbs. Baking and desserts are based on apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, figs, strawberries, lemons and rhubarb. Our 7 beautiful hens provide their delicious eggs to add to dishes both sweet and savoury.
    Having a veggie garden and fruit trees is a great way of taking back control of some of the food we eat and saving money in the process. It encourages us to exercise and spend time outside while watering, planting, weeding or just gathering what we have grown. For your readers who have plenty of space, a small amount of space or space only for a few pots, my advice is to plant some herbs, veggies and fruit trees -whatever they have room for.
    My favourite time of the day is first thing in the morning when I wander through the garden checking on what needs doing and picking beautiful fresh home-grown goodies that I can use to make meals, baked treats, desserts and salads for my family. It doesn't get any better than that.
    Cheers, Maria xx (Adelaide SA)

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    1. Hello Maria. I think starting with what you already have is a great way to provide meals for your family. Nothing beats fresh home grown fruit and veg. Thanks for your comment. It's a great source of inspiration for the readers to see what others are doing and maybe trying it themselves.

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  31. What a helpful blog post. Thank you.

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  32. Wonderful ideas to inspire here. Though I have been doing a menu plan every week for many years, there's always room for improvement. I tend to write the plan from my recipe books, then do the shopping list. This doesn't always take into account what you already have in the pantry/freezer or what's on special at the shops and in the interests of getting my grocery bill down, I will attempt to do this and see how it goes. Margaret

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  33. My menu planning is much the same as everyone else - I check the fridge and larder for tinned goods etc and then menu plan and make my weekly shopping list. I use a file for recipes I tear out of the newspaper or copy from online. Our garden gives helpful amounts of fruit - raspberries, blackcurrants, red currants, gooseberries, rhubarb, pears, plums and apples.I freeze the excess and love producing something in the winter using summer fruits.
    I very much agree with you about involving the family. I taught my two daughters to cook as they grew up and this was normal to us - just part of our everyday life. However when my youngest daughter went to uni and shared a flat with several girls they didn't even know how to do the basics and would ask her advice constantly. They nicknamed her ' Mum' which is a great compliment I think!

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  34. Great reminder to get back into menu planning especially useful this week with the weather so hot, I don't have to think when I get home.
    The kids gave me a list of their favourite dishes and the dishes they would be happy to make and wouldn't you know it? They listed all our standard regular meals. Thanks again for bringing us back to basics.
    kate x

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  35. Rhonda,

    I wish there was a way for you to make all of your information printable. I have learn so much from you. Thank you!

    ~~Renee

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    1. Renee, it's easy to copy/paste into a word processing program such as Word. Then you can save files or print.

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  36. My kids are so picky when eating these days, I'm going to try getting them involved in menu planning and learning the cost of the meals. They are at a good age to teach them this valuable lesson. Thank you for suggesting this, it's a great idea!

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  37. Aldi in the USA puts cucumbers on sale for 29 cents. What an example of the differences in prices from there to here.

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  38. I read with delight the pickled cucumber recipe. Sometimes I think we have lost conventional wisdom! Every health article is stating we should be eating fermented food for our gut. It seems generations before us knew how to stay well by eating simply prepared food with a long shelf life which was nourishing . Wonderful recipe, I've done some myself. I will be very interested to follow your posts on the simple life!

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  39. Thanks so much for doing this series. I've already been inspired by it and the comments.
    Now that I live alone, I do things differently. I no longer meal plan, per se. I have a list on the refrigerator of my favorite 20 meals for dinner. I now shop to keep my pantry stocked with the necessary ingredients. I rarely shop and buy for a specific recipe although it happens occasionally. Two of the local grocery stores offer 10% off sales one day a month. I keep a list throughout the month and restock on these sales days.
    When my garden is in production, what is ready for harvest drives what I eat. I work at having a productive garden from March through September. Now that I live in an apartment, most of my gardening is done in community garden space.

    I now cook midday for my main meal and usually cook enough for three dinners. I found that if I waited to cook dinner until the late afternoon, I would often go buy takeaway. By cooking mid-day, I only have to reheat the main course later that day.
    SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

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    1. Hello SJ, that sounds very much like how I do things, but we have two here. Keep up the good work. xx

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  40. O the photo of the lemon butter made me think of my mum & her delicious Lemon Butter made with our backyard Meyer Lemons :) the memories x

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  41. Great comments everyone! I am looking forward to working on getting more organized in my approach to meal planning and purchasing. I have a community garden in the summer but have not done much in the way of preserving, just freezing my tomatoes and peppers. This year I am going to try to increase what I put up. I have access to a winter CSA which starts in a few weeks, that will carry me through for fresh greens until my garden starts producing. I shop almost every day and would like to get that down to 2 times a week. I do stockpile and cook most everything from scratch. I am lucky enough to have several stores to shop from that have good deals such as Aldi's and Trader Joe's.

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  42. I’m so glad I happened on to your blog today. This was just what I needed. Thank you for providing such a treasure trove of wonderful ideas. It has truly gladdened my heart to read all of the comments from other likeminded souls from all around the globe. I menu plan on a weekly basis but am planning on stepping it up a level as my husband and I would like to retire once the kids have all finished school and settled into their own lives. We were incredibly thrifty in the early years by necessity but have been quite lazy lately with a houseful of teenagers and have been spending way too much money on groceries. To cut down on meat in a house with three big strapping males I have to be sneaky. Every second night I sneak in a homemade pasta, pizza or rice dish that is really tasty and also really filling. That seems to keep them happy and provides lunches for the next day too. I’ve so much enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. Kind Regards, Michelle from Qld, Australia.

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  43. A couple of years ago a friend gave me a membership to a local food co-op as a birthday present. It turned out to be the best gift! I now get a weekly organic vege box that I pick up each Sunday morning. Once I’ve had a look at what’s in it, I think about what I already have at home I plan my meals for the week.

    As you never know what you will get in the box (it’s all seasonal and locally sourced direct from farmers) it’s forced me to get really inventive in my cooking. I make sure I use every last scrap of the veges - whether it’s par steaming and freezing, or pickling the leftovers at the end of the week, and freezing the offcuts for soup stock. Meal planning is a really enjoyable challenge and adventure for me, and cooking my therapy.

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