The Joy of Giving from the Frugal Kitchen

We all have our favorite cookbooks — books we actually cook from, books with stained, dog-eared pages and good recipes that come out the way they’re supposed to and make our families happy. Years ago I bought such a book, “Once a Month Cooking.” The authors’ premise is that by carefully planning, shopping and preparing, you can make a month’s worth of meals in one day — saving a significant amount of time and money in the process.

While I’m still working my way up to the all-day cooking marathons the book promotes, I often do mini-marathons and stock our freezer with a week’s worth of great meals. So you can imagine my excitement when I was at an event for the Colorado Authors League a few years ago and ran into one of the book’s co-authors Mary Beth Lagerborg. Right then and there I became one of her biggest fans and groupies.

Mary Beth generously agreed to guest post for us today, and I think you’ll enjoy her thoughts about how thriftiness and a generous heart can co-exist in the kitchen:

The Joy of Giving from the Frugal Kitchen

Frugality gives us a heady sense of accomplishment. We’re creatively using our resources. We’re realizing that we really can spend leaner and cleaner.

But frugality takes a hard edge if we pull back from giving.

When we visited my husband’s grandmother in her vigorous years, she always had spritz cookies on hand for us, to serve with coffee. Later, in a retirement home, she invariably saved cookies off her meal tray, wrapped them in a napkin and stored them in her bedside table so she would have something to give visitors. When I unwrapped that cookie I wanted to slip it discreetly into the trashcan – but I knew that it was important to her to know she still had something to give.

A meal is a simple, valuable gift – whether it’s delivered to a family facing a crisis, or served to company in your home. Too often we think the meal has to measure up to an imagined standard of culinary perfection, and this restrains us from giving simply. When I slide into this thinking, it helps me to imagine that my family has been invited as guests to a friend’s house for dinner on Saturday. Do I really care what my friend is serving? Of course not! I’m honored that she is going to the trouble for us. In fact, if she keeps it simple, I’m relieved.

Nearly everyone enjoys the gift of a warm meal and good conversation — and we all know some people who sorely need it. Remembering this helps me give or share a meal more often. I like to keep track of a menu that went together well, was colorful and delicious, so that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel another time we have company.

When my friend Mimi Wilson created the Once-A-Month Cooking method more than 25 years ago, she did it to save money on their food bill, but also to have food on hand for guests, or to extend what she calls “hospitality-to-go.”

The OAMC concept is that you shop once for your dinner entrees and assemble 30 of them – or 14 if you use a two-week menu — to put into your freezer.  You save money by buying in bulk, shopping less often, and by eating out or ordering in only when you choose to, not because there’s nothing on hand!

OAMC is one big day of cooking that saves many more hours of cooking during stressful pre-dinner hours. It’s freeing in that with the entrée on hand you can give more attention to preparing a side dish from a seasonal fresh vegetable or a dessert. It’s most fun if you cook with a family member or friend, with whom you split the bounty.

Then, of course, there is the euphoria of a well-stocked freezer. You’ve used your time and resources wisely. And you have a rich store of meals to share. What has been your experience in sharing the bounty of your frugal kitchen?

Mary Beth Lagerborg is co-author, with Mimi Wilson, of Once-A-Month Cooking and the newly-released Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites. Visit them at Once a Month Cooking or join the January Cook It Now! Challenge on the Once-a-Month Cooking Facebook page. Throughout the month of January, Mary Beth and Mimi are giving prizes and tips to encourage people in OAMC.

Thanks again, Mary Beth, for generously sharing your thoughts.

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Win a Deluxe Urban Homesteader Gift Basket

In honor of the first annual January Money Diet, the Urban Homesteader is giving away a gift basket chock-full of home and garden goodies, including a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s All-Purpose Cleaner, 100 wildflower seeds, soup mix from the Women’s Bean Project and a personally inscribed copy of my book, “Family Home of the New West.” On January 31, 2010, I’ll draw one random name from everyone who commented during the month and that lucky person will win the gift basket. I hope you’ll stop by often this month and share your own ideas, thoughts and experiences.

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About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

2 comments to The Joy of Giving from the Frugal Kitchen

  • roostershamblin

    http://roostershamblin.wordpress.com/ please take a few minutes of your time and read my chicken blog. I have been raising 50 breeds of chickens for 40 years.

  • A lovely post Mary Beth! I always try and keep home-cooked meals in the freezer – it makes it so easy to drop around a practical gift to a friend or family member who’s having a particularly busy or difficult stretch. Risotto, soup, pasta and curries are regular fall-backs for those times when we need food in a hurry.
    I only have a little freezer though – have to get creative with snap-lock bags and compact, stackable containers to make the most of the space 🙂

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