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


  1. I tend to write the things i need every week first like nappies,washing powder,coffee, etc although sometimes if bulk coffee or washing powder are on special the week before i may not need them for another fortnight.Then i plan my meals & write them out in order of ingredients needed & i usually try to buy things that i can use in multiple meals if possible.
    Then i write out my children's food needs for the week-things for lunches,breakfast,afternoon snack etc.Then anything else that i don't normally buy every week but may need replacing like shampoo,toilet paper,toothpaste ,light bulbs etc.Then lastly pet food:)
    Obviously there are variances like for eg:If there is an ingredient needed that's on special & i use it often i will buy a few so that's one less thing i have to buy for meals the following week.

  2. I also forgot to mention that I have a PANTRY list and a HOUSEHOLD list that I keep for tallying through the month. The pantry list hangs on the inside door of my pantry so I can write on it what is needed ( I have the list printed up with flour, baking soda etc and then next to it I fill in what I have on hand so I know if and when I need more. That way it is usually stocked twice a month depending on what it is, flour, for example, I go through fast. And the Household list is in the kitchen inside a door also, for thinks such as Toothpaste, ingredients for laundry soap etc, bleach, vinegar, that type of thing. SO when it is time to make my marketing list, I know what is on hand and what is needed. Makes it easy all way round.

  3. I work very part time in a grocery store, so I pretty much know the value of a great deal, i don`t shop with a list, just keep what i need in my head :)

    I tend to spend around 150-170 a week in groceries and considering the prices here in Canada can be higher plus the lovely HST, that`s doing pretty good.

    This budget includes food, toiletries and the like, I buy my meat when it`s only sale or if it has a reduced sticker, i did score on a large package of lean ground beef at a 1.99 a pound (normally runs at 4.10 a pound here)

    I figureI spend under 10.00 for supper which considering that I have a family of 4 that's pretty good.

    I do buy convenienced foods for the nights I have to work like tonight i'm working at 5 so we are having the very rare meal of Hamburger helper, convenience foods have their place and if used minimally can be a helpful aid during the nights there is homework, afterschool pickup and not to mention hubby is coming home late so i'll need to make him up a plate.

    Sometimes i wish i wouldn't have to work at night but right now a gal does what needs to be done to make money, especially in this economy.

    Mom in Canada

  4. Mom in Canada-so true and for a working mother packaged foods are probably a God send. As you said mixing it with other fare is helpful. I hate that our modern economy doesn't allow many mother's the option to stay home. We need to really start looking at what has changed so greatly since 50's and get to the bottom of it, don't you think?
    It sounds like you have a good system, 10 dollars a plate is great.
    It is much easier for just the two of us, as we are not growing children.

  5. I'm a working mother, but I take care to cook from scratch as much as possible. I focus on feeding my family local and organic/organically grown foods. I plan simple meals during the week and save more elaborate meals for the weekends when I have more time. I also prep my meals over the weekend to make it easier during the week.

    I plan my meals around what I have on hand in my pantry, what I have in my garden and what is in-season at our local farmers market. The rest, I buy at the health food store.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  6. I do almost all our cooking from scratch. We have a big walk in pantry. We use coupons from the local grocery fliers that come once a week. We buy lots of fruits and veggies. I do a lot of baking and we have a white board put up so anything that is needed or getting low is written up there. My 85 yr old mother is living with us, and she's from the old school where meat and milk are a big thing. We don't really care and would probably not purchase either in such large amounts if she was not here. There doesn't seem to be a budget involved, somthing that I would love to change, but it's not in my hands. I know we could eat much more cheaply if only one person was in charge, but it seems to not happen that way just now. This was a good interesting post and I would love to impliment more of its ideas.
    Julie in Wa

  7. As PennyAnnPoundwise, I post a weekly menu. In fact, I follow a 1930's BH&G magazine article suggestion: plan meals twice a week. The premise being that though we may plan a week's worth of meals on Monday morning, come Thursday any number of variables have come into play: an unexpected invite to have dinner out, a family member not being home, more leftovers than planned, etc. I find this the most economical way to plan meals overall and seldom will I cook every single menu on my blog's weekly plan.

    When shopping I first plan one week's meals then take note of how much food we still have in pantry and freezer. I then note on my shopping list (mostly of sales items and items that must be replaced right away) if we need say five protein meals to make out the pay period, or 2 gallons of milk instead of the usual 1, whether we'll need fruit for two weeks or whether to buy only enough of this or that to last say 3 days instead of 14, etc.

    I do find it interesting that while I've tried hard to cram my budget into the 15% of income level, I tend to come out more in the 25% range. We do not buy lots of processed foods, but fruits/vegetables/meats/dairy. That 25% figure however, would include pet foods and household needs (paper, personal care etc). I can tell you it is a relief to find that by the thriftier era standards I'm just about where they thought a household budget ought to be!


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