Teach A Man To Fish

How did y’all learn to cook? I learned by watching and helping my mama. Ah, sure there was some 4H and Home Ec teaching over the years, but mostly I cook what my mama cooked, the way my mama cooked it.

During mine and Jack’s leanest (uh, that’s financially lean, not personally lean) times, I learned to build a weekly menu and shopping list as a way to save money on groceries. The keys to a good menu are:

  • proteins that can be recycled for lunches,
  • a good variety of proteins, starches, and vegetables, and
  • the house rule “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”.

The keys to a good grocery shopping experience are:

  • spreading the purchase of basic pantry items over several shopping trips,
  • leaving room in the weekly budget for sales on high-dollar item such as proteins, and
  • absolutely NO impulse buying.

During a discussion on the general lack of self-sufficiency of the next generation and the world in general with the local Home Ec advisor not too long ago, she introduced me to the scheme she and her husband use to teach their children basic cooking skills in the hopes they’ll be able to feed themselves once they’re kicked out of the wafted gently from the nest. Very simply, they make them cook. Uh, duh! Yeah, each Sunday night the five of them sit down, build a menu and grocery list for the week and beginning Monday night –after Mama and one of the kids have shopped- they each take a turn each weeknight cooking supper for the rest of the family. The rules are simple: the meal must be balanced (¼ protein, ¼ starch, ½ vegetable), must use ingredients on-hand (hence the importance of being in on the menu/grocery list building) and must serve the entire family plus one (Daddy’s lunch the next day).

So guess who’s family is into week two of this awesome plan? That’s right- mine and so far, so good! Jack added the additional rule of ‘you cook, you clean’ because I didn’t feel it would be fair to ask someone who can cook an entire meal in 2 pans (like me) to clean up after someone who used the entire contents of the pot drawer (like him). So far Jack and I have built the menus around our freezer and cupboards because we’re going through one of those ‘the cupboards are full but there’s nothing to eat phases’, but I hope to get the kids involved in menu building and grocery shopping very soon.

The general consensus? Jack, Emma, Liz and I love the plan very much. Thomas not so much and I’m aware the fun will wear off for Emma and Liz probably sooner rather than later, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m hoping this is a strategy that sticks.



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