Wednesday, February 27, 2008

If You Want to Save Money, Cook Like Manny

Egg salad, potato salad, pots of soup -- all in vast quantities. Never buy the little canned soups. They're so fancy and tempting, especially when they're on sale. Don't do it. Walk right past em. They're loaded with salt anyways.

The huge pot you make with your own freezer stock will last you a week and is just "jumpin' with vitamins." Leave it in a big pot in the fridge. Bring it out everyday at lunch. Reheat. Eat. Reheat. Eat. It's so much better the second and the third and the fourth day.

All this to say, my cooking has reminded me of my dear, young grandmother lately. We're on a blessedly tight budget (we still eat like kings and queens compared to most the world) and our habits would certainly meet the approval of my Depression-era reared Manny.

I have literally found myself thinking as I create shopping lists: "What would Manny make?" The answer is always something wonderful & simple & mostly from scratch. I then venture to the market and nod at little old ladies with similar lists written on the backs of window envelopes and similar raw ingredients in their carts: bottles of vinegar, bags of potatoes, economy size chunks of cheddar.

These girls have got it figured out, I tell myself. No debit card swiping for these chicks. Nope. Myrtle and Bettie Sue have pocket books with just a week's worth of cash and they're storming the aisles, squeezing every last drop from every last dollar.

This reminds me of something I read last year: Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. She refers to such frugal habits as the "lost, feminine art of Thrift." The book looks at womanhood from a traditional point of view and criticizes modern notions of feminism on the simple basis that they, according to the author, do not lead to happiness.

While I didn't agree with everything Andelin had to say, I certainly was challenged, enlightened and affirmed by the book. Specifically, her advice on finances (in short, letting one's husband lead) has been an enormous blessing and was providential advice to have garnered as I now face the challenge of Pete setting up his own business. I recommend it even though my original intent of this post was to talk about one particular Fascinating Woman and her culinary talents.

On that note, I saw Manny last week. She brought potato salad to my sister's house. I told her I had just made some at home the day before. We shared tips on the dish's best ingredients. She uses whatever salad dressings are left in her fridge. I, on the other hand, always add purple onion and turkey bacon -- both are always a good price at Aldi.

And while I'd love to stop there, at the mention of my favorite enterprise, I have to mention one last thing about Manny. Her frugality is not an end to itself. She raised 4 children mostly alone, owns a great house, lives debt-free and has taken some pretty cool trips.
Manny was never a spoiling type of Grandma but displays random acts of selfless generosity in thoughtful, meaningful ways. For example, she had her mother's and each of her 4 children's portraits professionally painted. They're on display in her living room. We gather there when grace allows and eat delicious meals like soup and egg salad sandwiches.


tiffani said...


I love this post. I am profoundly cheap, and I get this rushing kind of joy from spending no more than 5cents over my weekly shopping budget:) I am a grandma at heart, mostly because I have already retired, but also because I have not changed my grocery budget since I had three kids.

Now I have four...and a big fat dog. Still not spending anymore money, but still eating really well.

I like your ideas. They read like mine...except I husband-gush a lot.

Sarah said...

Thanks Tiffani; We should do playdates at Aldi; we could start a trend.

Cherie said...

Well look at you. Still pushing Aldi's. Seriously, they really should pay you some sort of commission by now. Or, you know, let you wear an Aldi's cardboard sandwich sign around town. That could be fun. Sitting down would be a pain, though...


-Another Cheap Mother

abigail said...

This is a great post! I love reading it and came back for seconds.

I bet that shrimp, even the cheapest, most pathetic, shrimpy shrimp from Aldi, is unacceptable apart from company visits.