Do you ever wonder what it’s like behind the scenes in a real foodie’s kitchen?
Let me tell you, it’s not pretty!
Between dirty dishes in the sink, flour all over the counters AND floors, and pots filled with remnants of food – still on the stove hours after the fact?! It’s a mess!
And we haven’t even touched the food yet!
Personally, I find it fascinating to see how others do things the way they do. Partly as inspiration for new ideas of my own, and to offer a different perspective to things I hadn’t thought of before. But above all this, I like seeing behind the scenes because seeing how others aren’t perfect, how they don’t necessarily live up to the expectation that other place on them, makes me feel more normal!
As we are getting ready to launch Frugal Real Food Meal Plans (an all-inclusive meal plan subscription, created with your budget in mind), I thought it would be fun to take a look behind the scenes into the life and kitchen of this real foodie. Watch out folks, because this is what life REALLY looks like when you’re eating real food on a budget!
5 Secrets Real Foodies Won’t Tell You About Their Own Meal Plan
1. Most meals are nowhere near as fancy as those you see on Pinterest.
The recipes we share on our blogs might look fancy, but they’re really just a pretty snapshot of one particular meal of the week. Chances are the rest of the meals they make are much, much simpler.
Are we trying to trick you?
Make you think we’re cooking fancy seven-course meals every night while you struggle to get dinner on the table before the sun goes down without relying on a box?
Of course not! We’re mothers – just like you – and our days are filled to the brim – just like yours!
We’re either homeschooling or on carpool duty, filling our days with an attempt to tame the never-ending laundry pile before making a bee-line to dance recital. We’ve been known to write “shower” on our to-do list so that at the end of the day, we feel good about crossing at least SOMETHING off the list!
Yes, we foodies have a passion for good food. We browse through cookbooks and cooking magazines for fun and when a previous commitment changes and an extra hour or two happens suddenly appears in the day, you’ll find us spending it in the kitchen, making something that will hopefully tastes as good as we envision it will…
And when it does, we take a picture and share the recipe with you!
But every other day it’s normal, busy life. And to compensate, dinners are simple.
Whole grain spaghetti with homemade hearty sauce, minestrone soup and chicken and spinach enchiladas are two of the meals regularly found in my meal plan rotation because a) they’re both REALLY easy, b) they can both be made ahead of time and c) they call for ingredients I almost always have on hand OR can be substituted with what I do have on hand.
If, for whatever reason, we need to kick dinner up a small notch, I’ll pair a whole roasted chicken with autumn rice pilaf because the rice can be made ahead of time while the chicken cooks in the oven. Add a simple seasonal veggie and “fancy” dinner is done with minimal effort on my part!
2. We eat leftovers… a lot.
If there’s one sure thing about being a food blogger, it’s that you almost always have leftovers. Whether it’s from testing a new recipe or just a freshly cooked meal, 6 out of the 7 days in a week there’s food in the fridge that’s ready to be eaten.
Frugal foodies know that the easiest way to keep your grocery budget under control is to not waste food, and this includes eating leftovers. That’s why in our house, we have “leftover buffet” at least once a week.
“Leftover buffet” is essentially pulling out all the containers from the fridge and filling dinner plates based on what’s in them. In fact, we did this just yesterday!
I had salad and butternut squash risotto, The Girl had tomato basil soup, The Boy had roasted chicken and salad, and Mr. Crumbs had tomato basil soup and salad. Everything was leftover from a previous meal, and we were able to finish off two containers and avoid throwing food in the trash.
Every meal you eat leftovers means it’s money you DIDN’T spend on food. Our challenge to go 30 days without spending money taught us that you often have more food than you think in the kitchen, and you could really save a lot of money if you ate it instead of wasting it!
3. “Meals” don’t always look like meals.
When I’m working on a recipe, I’ll make it over and over again until I’m 100% sure it’ll work when someone else makes it. For example, remember the light and fluffy einkorn dinner rolls? I made a version of these SEVEN times before sharing the recipe with you guys.
Seven batches of dinner rolls at 12 rolls each makes for a lot of dinner rolls for a family of four!
Food that goes bad takes priority over food that doesn’t.
Since what we have on hand changes from day to day, our “meals” don’t always look like meals. So we’ve changed our definition of meal to this:
protein + starch + fruit/veggie x2
In order to stay within budget each month, the family knows those dinner rolls must get eaten somehow, some way. Following our formula above, we’ll toast a roll with butter and honey for breakfast or smeared with peanut butter and homemade apple butter for lunch. Both of these meals being served with fresh fruit.
At dinner, we’ll dunk it into tomato basil soup with a few slices of Parmesan cheese.
As long as we’re serving whole foods from all the food groups over the course of the day, it’s not. We fill in the blanks of our “meals” with whatever is missing and nutritionally speaking, they’re just as good as any other
4. We don’t try new recipes every day.
New recipes can be a lot of fun. That moment when you make something you’ve never made before and the whole family loves it after just two bites? Absolutely priceless.
But for every recipe that earns two thumbs up, there’s at least 3-4 more that get mediocre reviews. And honestly, that wears on you AND the family after awhile. No one likes to eat bad food.
And I think I speak for everyone when I say the head chef certainly doesn’t like to hear that the meal they just spent precious time preparing tasted awful.
So just like you, we fill up our meal plans with our favorites and squeeze in one or two, MAYBE three new recipes we’ve had our eyes on. By the time you add up the few brand new recipes, the few we’re “perfecting” and family favorites, the month is pretty much full!
Psst! Here’s a little secret that I spilled to Crumbs newsletter subscribers this week: When you’re trying new recipes, don’t go too far off the “tried and true” path. You’re more likely to get hits instead of misses with the family!
Of course, we can always change this too. If we feel like we’re in a dinner rut, eating the same things over and over, we try more recipes! On the contrary, if life is hectic and all we want is some normalcy, comfort foods it is. There’s no one in the house to please but the family, and I doubt they’ll complain when I make them they’re favorite dishes!
5. We let machines do the cooking.
And we’re not ashamed to admit it!
Oh yes. Count me in.
I’ll use my blender for pancake batter, skip the measuring cup and pour directly onto the griddle. The batter is ready in 5 minutes, there’s less dishes to wash and a few less rounds of “is breakfast ready yet?” from the choir. (And I’ll make a double batch and freezer half for later in the week too!)
Letting the machines do the work gives us a huge time-saving break (and there’s even more time-savers HERE), which is always helpful during a busy week but even more so appreciated when we’re knee deep in recipe testing for the bazillionth time.
Because let’s face it. We’re not by-the-order cooks on Hell’s Kitchen, making everything on the spot, ensuring everything is chopped by hand and garnished with parsley.
This is real life, and it’s not always pretty. And frankly, I’ll take all the help I can get!