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Advice of Meal Planning, Shopping, and Food Storage

I am a single mother with a 21 and 12 year old at home. I have been successful in taking the stress out of my life in most areas this year. New job, better money, old boyfriend out, but I still stress over food. I hate everything about it, planning it, shopping for it (not enough money), transporting it (not enough room), storing it (not enough room again), cooking it (not enough time), and cleaning up!

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I have a very small kitchen. The kids don't agree on the same foods (I could eat TV dinners every night). Any suggestions? Please help. My goal for 2012 is to get a grip on the whole food stress. I am a very organized person for everything else, I guess that is why it bothers me. I hope the wonderful people here at Thrifty Fun can give me some great ideas.

By tnphoenixrising

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November 29, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Hi! I have a suggestion. Sit down with the crew, a notebook and a calender. Ask each (including yourself) to write down 6 dishes (18 dishes) that you like to eat. Compare the lists together. Talk about the financial end of preparing, and look up some easy recipes (Google!).

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Get them in the kitchen with you. When you make a pot of spaghetti (freeze 1/2 for later, or create TV dinner portions) add a salad & garlic bread. Alternate who cooks & who cleans up. It helps to clean-as-you-go, too! Supervise & delegate!

You don't say if they're boys or girls, but either way, some kitchen responsibilities will aid them in the future! Explain that there will be nights of "left-overs", but they can be creative, too! I wish you all the best in this. Just keep the atmosphere in the kitchen light & lively. Put on some music until supper is ready. Thank God for the food, your kids & all that you've accomplished together!

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November 26, 20110 found this helpful

The age your kids are, they should be eating what you prepare or go hungry. They could even fix themselves a PBJ sandwich, with a limit(by you) of two slices of bread per kid. In a family there are times that somebody has to eat what they don't like. I have a 20 year old granddaughter who has never liked corn, in any form.

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When I make goulash I always add a can of whole kernel corn, plus a can of diced tomatoes, and tomato soup and she used to complain about the corn, and I told her to pick the kernels of corn out and set them on the side of her plate. To this day she does that, but at least she isn't requiring a different food from the rest of us.

It's time for your boys to act their age. Also the 21 year old could be earning money to buy his own food, then of course he should prepare it and clean up after himself too. Also they should be eating at the same time you do, so there is only one clean up.

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November 29, 20110 found this helpful

My Frugal Life: Food Tips For Making Ends Meet
On bottom of this page are some great tips.

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Anonymous
November 29, 20110 found this helpful

First and foremost, please don't look at everything food related as a chore! Changing your mindset alone will be a huge burden relief! Turn it into a fun positive adventure instead. Also part of the challenging fun of shopping for groceries is to see how much money you can save and how far you can stretch those food dollars. I want you to know that I am not trying to beat you up here with some of the things I am going to say but rather am being realistic with you. In any household whoever lives under that roof has to pitch in as a team.

As for not enough money for food, there are food banks to help supplement your pantry. Don't be too proud to accept their help! Even if you yourself can't get there every week your 21 year old certainly can help with that and your 21 year old can also do the regular grocery shopping; just give him/her a list and let him/her know you expect them to abide by it.

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Please don't make excuses like there is not any transportation for him/her. There is always a friend or neighbor who would be willing and able to take them there or he/she can take the city bus or walk. When I was that young and didn't have a car for transportation I either walked or took the bus to the market and just made sure I was able to carry the amount of groceries I obtained.

I have a couple of questions. What items and how much are you purchasing at one time that there is not enough room to transport the items? Even in a tiny car with three people in it there should be room enough somewhere in the car to place oodles of bags of groceries (not junk food and beverages). If you don't have a car, simply make a couple trips to the market a week and have your children help carry the bags.

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The other question is don't you have closet space somewhere in your home? I keep extra food staples (like pasta, canned and jarred foods) stacked in a small shelving unit in my bedroom closet.

Okay, now for the food prep and cleanup ;-) Those children can help you with that and both indeed should because they live in your home too! When I was 12 I not only helped with setting up the table but also had to wash and put away all the dishes after a meal in the days before automatic dishwashers (plus did all the family laundry, ironing, dusting and vacuuming weekly). Also, at least two or three times a week I had to prepare my own meals and clean up behind myself because both of my parents worked long weeks and long hours.

I was living on my own at age 18 working long hours plus a one hour commute each way, paying all of my own bills, grocery shopping, cooking, doing my own laundry and cleaning. Just because your 21 year old lives at home doesn't mean they shouldn't be doing the same. I don't care if they are going to school full time and also working part time; it's their duty to be a responsible adult and contribute to the household.

As for the two 'children' not agreeing on liking the same kind of foods, well as redhatterb said, "Eat it or go hungry!" I would never have dreamed of making an issue out of not liking something. If I didn't like it I at least tried to eat it and if I simply couldn't get it down I just ate more of something else offered with the meal. For example liver and onions for dinner was not my favorite but I at least ate part of it and then ate more potatoes and veggies.

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Anonymous
November 29, 20110 found this helpful

PS - Congratulations on a better job and getting rid of the old boyfriend ;-)

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November 29, 20110 found this helpful

So, you're stressed out because 1) your kids don't agree with what food to eat and 2) you don't have enough time to do a lot of cooking. Since your kids are a little older, have you considered allowing them to help with the menu? Get together pen and paper, sales ads for your favorite stores, coupons, and an inventory of what food you already have in your cupboards and fridge/freezer.

Figure out what you could make already with what you already have and come up with some really basic menus using ingredients you already have or can easily get. Let the kids do some of the cooking and help with the shopping and budgeting. They might be able to help you find some really good deals on food. This should take some of the stress from lack of money and time to plan good meals.

I also agree with cooking twice as much as what you will need for tonight's meal. Save the second half for another meal at home or put in serving size containers for someone's lunch.

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November 29, 20110 found this helpful

Many great ideas here. As someone who is organized, I assume you know how to shop frugally with a small budget. Show your children how to take advantage of newspaper sales. If you know how, then begin (if you haven't already) teach them to shop. This is after you have sat down and planned out some meals. For sure, this will also be teaching them to live within their/your means. These are golden moments for teaching them to become adults. This is coming from a mom who is/was a single mom who had a single dad of 6 to teach her.

As to storage. Buy some of those risers for beds. Use that storage under your beds for cans of food. I am disabled and have done this with my couch; not only do I have room there, I have my boxes labeled for prepared cans, veggies, fruit, meats and condiments. My family and friends like my higher level on my couch. :)

Check out Grocery outlets, also if you live near any food canneries, call and ask if they have an outlet where they pull out their seconds without labels. A great way to save on food you eat regularly.

As you spend this time with your children, these will be moments they will remember not just for the experience and knowledge you share with them; but also they will remember it was time you spent with them. As a single mom, that's precious too.

So plan together, shop together, cook together, and clean up together. All these are for them to become competent adults when they leave home. Best wishes.

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November 30, 20110 found this helpful

Tough love it, t>>>g! They need to get with your program. Eat what's prepared or don't. They should have to do some of the chores also if they want to eat. Shopping, cleaning up, doing laundry, etc. That is, if they are mentally or physically able to do so.

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