There was a really interesting conversation going on in a mothers' forum I belong to. It was about how much we spend on our daily meals, how many dishes per meal and what sort of meals we prepare.
My Meal Plans
As for me, I prepare at least 3 dishes when I serve rice. Meat dishes are either chicken or pork. I will either make a stew, braise, stir fry or curry that can be eaten for both lunch and dinner. That way my meal preparation in the evening is less work. I hardly cook seafood because DH and daughter are not fans of seafood. DH cannot stand the smell of fish. The only fish dish I cook now is the "assam stingray" (ikan pari).
Vegetables are usually french beans, long beans, 4-angled beans, ladies finger (okra), spinach, bok choi, taugeh (beansprouts), "pucuk kacang" (tau miu), broccoli and cauliflower. These are the vegetables available near my area. I have stopped cooking "kangkung" (water spinach) because of a story I once read about how there were leaches in the hollow stem of the vegetable and how the person ingested it (apparently it didn't die even after cooking) and got stomach problems. I don't know if it's true or not but the image I have of it in my mind is enough for me to say "NO" to kangkung.
My third dish is either tofu, eggs or another vegetable.
To avoid burnout, I don't cook "lavish" meals everyday. Some days are easy days. That means maybe sandwich for lunch or very simple meals, for example vege, vege, egg. I also have to use my food storage once in a while. That would be baked beans or pasta.
I also have noodle days. I would do "char kuey teow" like the hawker stalls. I'll cook each plate individually. Fried beehoon with stew pork is also one of my "noodle-day" dish. If they are enough prawn shells in the freezer (collected over time), I'll ask my FIL to cook prawn noodle (har mee or hokkien mee).
Then there are also "pasar malam" days. If I need a break from cooking, I'll just go and "tapau" some food from there. It gives the kids a break from eating home cooked food too. Once in a while they like to eat "outside" food.
Anyway, this is how I avoid cooking burnout - balance simple days with "lavish" days. Take a break if needed.
Of course, family members need to give 100% support too. No individual ordering of food. Don't tell me you don't like what's been cooked and then ask me to cook something else special for you. I do not run a restaurant. The rule in my home is you eat whatever is on the table. If you don't like it, either learn to like it or go hungry. My kids understand this rule very well.
How Much Do You Spend?
Today I spent RM35.05 at the wet market. I would say that's not bad for 2 meals - 3 adults and 3 children. Usually I spend less than RM30. So for me, cooking is definitely more economical than eating out.
Menu for today: (Moderately easy cooking)
Lunch - Egg taufu with fan mushroom and prawns, 4-angled beans and fried eggs.
Dinner - Ginger chicken, long beans, bok choi.
While preparing the chicken, I separated the chicken's dark meat from the white meat. I've kept the white meat in the freezer for another meal. This is my new practice. I used to cook the whole chicken for stew and such and then find everyone avoiding the white meat. Not wanting to waste, I'll try to finish it and despise everyone for it. Why practice something that doesn't work, right? So from today onwards, I'll find some other use for white meat, one where everyone will eat it. I think I'll save some money this way too.
Do share how you handle your family's meals. What do you do to cut down meal expenditure?