Sunday, October 31, 2010

31 October 1956 “Question & Answer Sunday”

I get this question often and in many different forms, so I thought today we could address it: (don’t mind my paraphrasing of the question)
budgetgirl “How should I plan my meals, marketing, and budget?”
Let’s start with the budget for our meal planning.americashousekeepingbook In America’s Housekeeping Book we are told that 25-30% of our income is what should be allotted for food. It also warns against a ‘cookie-cutter’ form of lists and points out, rather smartly, that budget’s and meal planning must certainly be catered to the specific needs of the family.
Now, if we did take that percentage as a starting point and you shop weekly, as I do, then simply break down your household income into the weekly amount. So, if you earn X amount of dollars in one week, 25% of that should go to your food. If you find you spend less than that, great. I find I spend around 12-15% on my food, but I do have two other aspects to my shopping budget. Now if you shop bi-weekly, than you would figure your income that way and go forward with that calculation.
Next, with that dollar amount in mind. We could use this budget aid to now break that down.  budgetingSo, if you were spending $50 dollars on your weekly food budget, say, then you would spend $10 dollars each on the five listed items. This is a good starter list, as it allows you to break your food shopping into sections. I find, however, that I usually spend a higher percentage than 1/5 of my budget on our protein:meat/fish/beans. But, you could adjust yours accordingly.
Now, many people plan their meal for the week down to the day such as MON:Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and so on. For myself, I do not plant this specifically, because budget is first for me, then nutrition, then the selection. So, when I approach the market on a Friday morning, I have my list, but it is often a general list. It will include the reminder that I am shopping for 7 days (including the dinner for that Monday) On that list will first be any things that need resupplying such as flour/sugar/baking supplies. I call this my Pantry List.
There will be a separate part of my shopping list for household items such as light bulbs, toothpaste, Toilet Paper. This is called the Household List.  Incidentally, I have a separate monthly budget for non-edible shopping such as those things. I consider, if you I cannot eat it, it goes into that monthly category. The food (Including the baking supplies as I make many things from these) are included in my food budget though they are listed on the two lists Food and Pantry, if that makes sense. So, basically my shopping list is divided into those three sections on one piece of paper.
Now, for the nutrition aspect of meal planning.basic7The Basic Seven in my earlier Betty Crocker book is much more nutrion based, I feel, than the 4 food groups in my later 50’s version of Better Homes and Gardens
 basic7two You will notice here that even on the ‘adequate’ meals Raw Vegetables are still included. I think there is a misconception today that 1950’s food was all Jell-O molds and fried and mayonnaise. I seem to find that all of my cookbooks, household manuals, and vintage magazines are filled with raw vegetables and including fruit with breakfast.
I know when I started my project I thought the same thing. Packaged food, mayonnaise covered items, and everything suspended in gelatin. The irony being, of course, that the main diets of the average person in 1950’s were much healthier than today’s average diet. We may know more about nutrition today, but most families are not following those guidelines, as prepared food now makes up the majority of what families eat, including what children get at public schools. Combine that with the higher demand on daily exercise in the 1950’s and you have, overall, a healthier way to eat. And, to me, I think it is a more approachable menu plan than what might be suggested for busy family today, who them just decide to fall back on the instant food. Therefore, if one wants to move away from pre-packaged, but the daunting tasks of modern food trends seem, well daunting, a 1950’s food cycle might be a good skeleton to build the meat of your family food and grocery budget upon.
I do not plan each day out with specific meals, as I said, as I like to buy sale items. So, if I know I need protein for 7 lunches, dinners, and breakfasts, I buy what looks good and is on sale that week. I also enjoy cooking, so not knowing my weeks meals before the store is not bad for me. Then, however, it is easy enough to plan that week’s meal after one gets home with the groceries. I can decide what veg with what meat prepared what way. I can try out new recipes, or use good ole’ standbys based on what I was able to fit into my budget.
If one does not care to cook and cares more about pre-planning, than the budget would come second and you could try to cut back on this or that once you get to the store to fill your pre-planned menu for the week.
Another helpful tool we modern shoppers have that our 1950’s counterpoints did not have, is the calculator. It was simply not there and yet today even our phones are equipped with these simple little devices. Tally your food as you put it in your cart. Keep a running tab, so you know you are staying in budget. You can also simply ‘round up’ in this matter. Chops 5.49, call it 6 as you put it in the cart, then you are sure to cover tax. It won’t be as exact but you will be more on budget than you think. I used to just fill it up and see what happened at the checkout. As if it was some game. That seems to be a sign of a very bad shopper and money manager. But, that was how I shopped. As if the total was a Christmas gift, “Oh, $150 this time, what d’ya know! Surprise!”
So, I hope these little tips are helpful. We can at least now share our own tips and ideas or more questions about shopping, meal planning and budgeting the food. Let’s hear it gals and gentleman, how do you shop and plan for those meals?
And if you would like to ask me a question to be answered on Sunday, simply Email me at and if you want your blog/site mentioned with a link, let me know that in the post and include it, of course, and I shall do so. Otherwise, I merely answer a question or combine similar questions into one post. Thanks.
Happy Homemaking
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