Skip to Content

Monday Q&A | Am I June Cleaver? + Cooking for Two on a Limited Budget

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I’ve been getting your blog for about 2 months now and really enjoy it. I’m a fulltime working Mom with one 10 year old. I feel very humiliated by all of your great homemade food. I loved the turtle rolls you made. I have never even considered making bread products before (isn’t that what Pillsbury does?) I probably cook once a week and then I use partially prepared food (pre-chopped onions, bagged lettuce etc.)

Do you ever just make hot dogs or grilled cheese for dinner? or is everything always homemade? Are you really like June Cleaver?


Aww, I’m so sorry that my blog has made you feel that way. I hope that nothing in my tone is to blame for that, and if it is, I do apologize! I try to make it very clear that I don’t think everyone needs to live their life exactly the same way I do (not everyone needs to make bread, and not everyone needs to make yogurt).

What matters is spending your time on things that are valuable and important to you (you can read more about that in my post about cutting schedule clutter). For you, that might mean that you don’t need to cook dinner every night and it might mean that you need to keep your meals very simple.

To answer your question, there are definitely nights where I don’t produce a lovely homemade spread. On busy nights we sometimes just grill bratwurst, steam some beans, and call it a meal. Or when my menu plan hasn’t worked out well, we sometimes will order pizza.

And every Friday night, I feed my kids something ridiculously easy (this past Friday they had toasted rolls, cheese cubes, and several kinds of fruit) and Mr. FG and I eat takeout.

On average, though, most nights I do cook a meal that’s relatively homemade. But again, that might not work out for you. I have the advantage of having been in the kitchen since my early teens, so cooking meals from ingredients isn’t at all foreign to me.

If you’re wanting to cook more meals at home, I’d suggest the following.

-Start small. If you normally cook at home once a week, try cooking twice a week. If making a homemade main dish is hard, then don’t stress about using prepared side dishes (I usually prepare SUPER simple vegetable sides, like raw veggies salads or simple steamed, buttered, and salted veggies).

-Keep it simple. Try making spaghetti or breakfast for dinner, or try the Tropical Island Chicken recipe I shared.

-Make a plan. I hate the process of menu planning, but the payoffs are insanely awesome. I’ve written a number of posts about menu planning that might help you.

-Practice. Cooking, like most any other skill, requires practice. The more you cook, the better and faster you’ll get at it.

I love your site! But I am old & only cooking for 2. How can I save on groceries with hardly any income?


I do kind of remember cooking for only two people…it’s been a while, though! I cooked for my family of 6 when I was a teenager and I now cook for my own family of 6.

If it was just Mr. FG and me and I had a very limited grocery budget, this is what I would do to feed us reasonably nutritiously on that budget (if you throw nutrition to the wind, of course, you can subsist on stuff like ramen and boxed mac n’ cheese!).

Drink water. Water is nigh onto free from the tap (get a water filter if your water is icky-tasting), and most flavored beverages and juices are unnecessary, nutritionally speaking. If you’re low on funds, drink tap water! (in case you missed it, I am not a fan of bottled water).

Eat simple, basic foods. Frozen plain chicken and fish aren’t terribly expensive, and they usually come in bags that allow you to take out only the amount you need (which is great for a two-person household!). Buy a bag of rice instead of boxed rice mixes, buy apples instead of snacky apple chips, buy oatmeal instead of instant oatmeal packets, make a simple pot of soup instead of buying canned soups, and so on.

If I were desperate for money and unable to do a lot of cooking, I’d probably eat a lot of oatmeal, eggs, rice, beans(the legume sort), chicken, tuna, and inexpensive produce (most veggies are inexpensive, and bananas, grapes, apples, and seasonal fruit can be very cheap).

I wouldn’t buy desserts, snacks, cold cereal, beverages, or much in the way of pre-packaged food.

Consider switching grocery stores. If your budget is very limited, take a look at any other shopping options you’ve got. For instance, if you have an Aldi or Save-A-Lot, give it a try!

Watch sales. If your grocery stores have sale flyers, check out the front page especially. This is where the best bargains are to be found. Plan your meals around what you can get cheaply that week.

Buy generic brands. Almost all of them have money-back guarantees and most generic products are pretty darn decent. At the least, they’re worth a try.

Buy some frozen foods. Frozen vegetables are great for small households because they keep so well and I already mentioned that frozen meats can be handy too. Also, don’t be afraid to freeze the foods you make…a lot of soups and other main dishes freeze well, so make a batch, eat some, and freeze some.

Also, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but if you haven’t joined Swagbucks yet, do! You can earn free points that can be redeemed for Amazon gift certificates, and you can buy a lot of different grocery items. That might be a handy way to add a little more cushion to your grocery budget (if you want to know more about Swagbucks, read the post that contains my thoughts about the program).


Readers, I’m sure you’ve got some great advice about learning to cook at home and about cooking for two on a limited budget, so comment away!

Today’s 365 post: Mr. FG comes from frugal stock too, apparently

Also, go check out the new chore system I’m trying out with Joshua, and sign up if you want to try it along with me.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Thursday 2nd of August 2012

I love the chore chart...I am going to use it on my 12 yr. old son. Thank you!!


Friday 25th of March 2011

Susan - please, please, don't feel badly that you don't bake bread for your family! That's how Kristen does it and it works for her, but it's not a requirement of being a good parent. Nor is cooking every day. If you'd like ideas on how to add these things to your schedule then I'm sure we'll offer a lot of "this worked for me" comments, but there's no need to make yourself feel badly because someone else - in different circumstances and with different responsibilities - does it differently than you do.

Janice - I have three suggestions.

1. Soup. Do you cook soups? Soup can be made very inexpensively (it's the classic use for leftovers), in advance, frozen for later, stretched with inexpensive ingredients, be very simple or quite elaborate. And homemade tastes so much better and is so much better for you than canned. I eat canned as well as homemade soup, but find even good quality canned stuff to be salty. I happen to like "A Feast of Soups" by Jacqueline Heriteau, but any cookbook you buy or check out of the library is fine. If you get recipes online, I strongly recommend you read the comments: anyone can post any recipe online - good, terrible, badly written, leaving out key ingredients, etc - reading the comments will help you avoid the stinkers.

2. Eat less meat. You may be doing this in which case, skip to #3. If not, meat is the most expensive ingredient most of us eat. And most US'ans eat more than we need for health, so we can afford to eat less. Mark Bittman has a good 'less meat' cookbook that focuses on eating more produce, whole grains and beans, but it is not a vegetarian cookbook. It's called "Cook Like Food Matters."

3. Plan ... at least a little. I'm not a good meal planner and even if I do plan to cook a specific thing on a specific day, life often gets in the way. So my version of a plan (although I hestitate to use such a formal word for such an informal thing) is to decide to cook a certain 2-3 dishes that week, and prep for that. My prep is usually buying missing ingredients and prep produce in advance (wash broccoli, chop some onion, etc). The rest of the weeks' meals are last minute decisions such as omlets, leftovers, something I made in advance and froze, ... well, you get the idea.

4. Leftovers. OK, I was wrong, I have 4 ideas. Eat your leftovers or use them in another dish. You probably knew this one already. It goes with making only as much as you can eat, eh?


Friday 25th of March 2011

Exactly what you said to Susan (which is what I was trying to say). I am always sad when my blog makes someone feel bad or's SO not what I'm trying to do. I just want to be helpful, and I definitely don't want people to think they have to do just what I do!

Glory Lennon

Wednesday 23rd of March 2011

Why does everyone think June Cleaver was the best woman ever, the one we should all aspire to be like? She was just the norm for then and she had the luxury of not "needing" to work outside the home. Yes, people call me June Cleaver but I do work as secretary for my husband and my son, so, no, even if I do bake bread and cookies and make meals from scratch, I'm not really June Cleaver! :-)


Wednesday 23rd of March 2011

Having never watched an entire episode of the show myself, I can't really say! lol

I do know that she wore a dress and heels, and I can safely say that I do not resemble her in that way.


Tuesday 22nd of March 2011

I love to cook but I seldom have much energy for it after coming home from work during the week, especially since I'm usually starving. So I do what many others have already suggested, I cook large items during the weekend and I freeze leftovers if I'm not going to eat them right away and this generates easy future meals.

One thing I also find really handy for myself is making a large pot of brown rice and another pot of chickpeas (cooking any kind of bean yourself gives you cheaper and tastier beans in my opinion) during the weekend, and then you can just heat up the portions you want throughout the week. A pretty easy thing too is to season some fish or chicken pieces and roast them. While they are roasting you can prep and steam some vegetables. For chicken I like to use chicken thighs or drumsticks (cheap!), pour generous glugs of soy sauce over them, sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder and bake at around 400F for 25 min (drumsticks) to 40 min (thighs).

Sara Tetreault

Tuesday 22nd of March 2011

One way that our family of four eats for less money is by having dinners that incorporate beans and lentils. Dried beans that you soak and cook are so good for you and so inexpensive. I cook 6 cups of dried beans every week in my crock pot, that way we're never without for whatever we'd like to eat - dinner, lunches, and snacks. I recently forgot to cook beans for the next day's meal and did a soak after dinner and cooked them in the crock pot overnight! (I have a timer on my crock pot.) I woke up dreaming of food - of course - but there were wonderful smells in our house in the morning! Lentils are even easier to cook because you don't have to soak them and they cook in about 45 minutes on the stove top.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.