Sunday, October 25, 2009

Menu Clarification

I think there needs to be some carification on our menu.

I have not published all of my recipes. I think recipe posts are boring. I try to make them interesting with a story and a few sarcastic quips if I can, but generally, I find them boring. I force myself to publish about two a week because I know that the food budget is where most people can cut the most.

We have a fourteen meal rotation, but several nights are pretty open. Our chicken night, quesadillas and our mac and cheese night have a lot of room for creativity. I don't know if I'll ever exhaust the recipes I can try with chicken.

This is not a rigid rotation. I just found a recipe on Hill Billy Housewife's site that I want to try. It's a rice and beans recipe. I'm always on the lookout for good rice recipes, but usually am disappointed because I don't like rice much. I'm just going to skip one of the other meals for this one. I have that freedom whenever I want it.

We go out to eat once per week on average. Sometimes it's to a sandwich shop, sometimes it's to a steak house, and occasionally, we even go to a fast food joint. I wrote a whole post about how we can afford that.

Meals get switched in and out. Just this month, two meals were replaced, one for health reasons and one because I got sick of making it. There are plenty of recipes we like that we could switch in and out anytime if we wanted to. We've had the two week rotation for several years. A friend in Quebec gave us the idea when we were on vacation; she was making fun of her mother-in-law's two week rotation and I thought her mother-in-law was brilliant. I don't remember what our rotation looked like at first, except that Sunday is always a Sunday ham, Wednesday is always chicken night, and Saturday is Mexican.

My family is not deprived, they like my food.

The other day, while I was cooking supper I realized I was real hungry. Then I remembered I had forgotten to eat since that morning, as a post partum appetite can be a little erratic. I told my husband about that after work and he was amazed. "How can you forget to eat?" he asked, "Eating is the best part of the day." He went on to explain that he bases his whole concept of time around when he gets to eat again. He has a structured eating schedule and is not a grazer like the rest of us. That's my food he's eating, that his thinking revolves around, that he is looking forward to.

If someone looks at a picture of a meal and decides they don't like it, I would consider that close minded. If someone looks at the few recipes I've published and decides my family's diet is not varied enough, I would consider that ignorant. If someone reads a few blog posts, or even the whole blog of someone who has been blogging all of ten weeks and assumes they know everything the blogger does and does not do, that person is being a little presumptuous.

I love blogging, and find it a sort of brain splat, where you get a piece of my mind every day. Sometimes you get a big chunk and really get good a glimpse of my life as a whole. Sometimes you get a detailed look at a minute section. My brain has not been exhausted, and I still have much to say. Please, don't limit me to only what I have said, for if I had said all that there was for me to say, I would have nothing left to blog about.

46 comments:

Clisby said...

Well, that explains why I didn't see anything about rice in your staples - rice seems like such an obviously frugal food. (I'm biased - I grew up in coastal S.C., where if you don't have rice on the table people assume you just haven't produced the entire meal yet.) What is it you don't like about rice? I mean, I can see why you would like other things better - it's just that rice, in itself, isn't especially strong-flavored. Of course, if you use minute rice, you're begging for a bad experience, but it's hard for me to believe minute rice is frugal. Also, you never mention cabbage - cabbage is so healthy and cheap, at least around here. I know a lot of people don't like cabbage, though.

Emily said...

Clisby, it's the texture of rice that gets me. I actually love cabbage, and make it for myself during the day. My husband doesn't love it, but sometimes I use it as pasta in our pasta and tomato sauce.

MamaMay said...

You don't even have 100 posts yet! I don't know who has been writing you but I am sorry they are being mean enough to think they know you fully (truthfully this could be me, I have been commenting quite a bit about how we see eye to eye on so many things that we might be spiritual sisters in the views on money). I don't even know my kids fully (4 and 18 months) and I spend all my day with them. The only person that can know anyone fully is God and Christ.


I am mostly astounded by how much meat you guys do eat. When I lived in Florida our food budget was 200 a month and we could not afford meat. We got lots of eggs and cheese and beans but meat was very rare fro us. (of course milk was almost 5 dollars a gallon for a while and my kids LOVE milk... so much so that we have 3 gallons a week...) Hawaii is much more expensive. Milk is 4.07 dollars a gallon right now and I feel lucky getting any produce on sale. The only thing that really has sales is junk foods and I will not eat anything with high fructose corn syrup or MSG... Anyway, keep writing and I though I know you don't like the recipe posts, let me tell you, I am going to be making noodles at home because of you... as soon as I run out of what I have.

sweetjenna said...

A very insightful post, Emily. I for one truly enjoy your recipe posts. I think my life would be easier if I had a menu rotation, but with both of us working, and opposite shifts too, its difficult to have that kind of structure. Most nights that we are home together we are asking each other "What's for dinner?" or I will just start pulling stuff out of the freezer and throw something together. I appreciate the time and effort you take to make everything from scratch and plan it so well.

Clisby said...

For someday when you feel like trying something different, here's one of my cheap cabbage recipes - it's somewhere between a soup and a casserole. I make it in a big pot on top of the stove, but seems like it would be easy to make in a crockpot. You will not be surprised to hear that I serve it over steamed rice, but that's entirely optional.

Saute onion and bell peppers in a little oil until they're limp. Add about a pound of ground beef, and brown it, breaking it up small. Stir in about 3 cups of very thinly sliced cabbage, like you would make for slaw. Add enough tomato juice that the mixture is kind of soupy. If you don't happen to have tomato juice, just blend up a can of diced tomatoes. I simmer it on top of the stove for up to an hour, adding a little water if it looks like it needs it. Not sure how this corresponds to crock pot time.

Emily said...

MamaMay, it's not you! I love your comments and questions. I don't think people are being mean this time, I think just a little presumptuous.

Thanks Clisby, that looks like a recipe my whole family would like.

Kerry said...

Don't let people on the internet get you down. Some people are just nasty (and others just aren't very good at expressing themselves, and don't mean to be nasty at all).

We are lucky to live in a country where we can even debate whether it's good or bad to have the same meal twice in a month. Even in this country, 100 years ago, only rich people had that kind of variety.

You're doing just fine.

Momma @ 3princessesmomma.com said...

I've been reading you from the first week. Your blog has an interesting concept. But I have to say that you've taken "defensive blogging" to an all new level. Good luck with your blog. I do hope that you eventually realize that you don't have to defend and deflect comments with every other post.

Carla said...

sweetjenna, you seriously need a crockpot :). It was a lifesaver when I worked. If you have what you are going to eat planned out, you just need to stick it in the crockpot in the morning and it's ready when you come home. You can even put food in frozen to save that extra step.

MamaMay, we eat a lot of meat too but it's a matter of knowing how to get it. I know when the sales are and stock up. Food is really expensive here (think $7 a gallon of milk, $12 for organic) but knowing how and where to shop and even at what times of the day and week saves a ton of money! We eat like kings on a budget similar to Emily's (actually her DH makes more a year than mine does).

Emily, I know the judgmental feeling, which is why I have taken long hiatuses in blogging (I've been blogging off and on for 6 or 7 years, still suck at it, lol!). It seems the more personal you get, the more people seem to rail against it. Every single person is a unique individual and lives their lives differently. There are a lot of people who don't like different. They take it as a personal offense if you are not mainstream. It's a shame because sometimes when you open your eyes to how others live, you find better ways of doing things and it goes both ways. I have learned so much through all I have read, it has forced me to look at what we can do and things we can change. Because of circumstance, needs and the fact we are in families that we have to think about and care for their needs as well, every home will look differently.

So chin up! You're doing great :). Do what you do and love doing it!

Anonymous said...

I too am planning to make my own noodles here soon because of your noodle post. :) I do enjoy reading your posts and adding to my collection of frugal knowledge. Your post yesterday really had me think about how I just toss something when a small part of it is broken. If I had your $40 gift card and the big list of things that I wanted replaced, I would have came home with ALL of them on the list. Not just one. So your post surprised me but in a good way~ it got me to think about MY OWN ways and how maybe I can improve on my own frugality.

Thanks for sharing a slice of your world with us daily. I enjoy it!

Crukai

Dogfood Provider said...

I love the phrase brain splat!

I'm Lori...and maybe I'm you, too. said...

I thought this was a great post. Until you got defensive at the end.
I'm sorry, and I don't mean this to offend you at all, but I think you ruin a lot of good messages by dropping into a fighting crouch. If you don't want to respond to detractors, than don't.
I really appreciated you reading my blog and offering a comment, though. Thanks! (I responded to you there if you haven't seen it.)

I'm Lori...and maybe I'm you, too. said...

Also...I was experimenting with baked beans, partially because of your ongoing bean experiments, and came up with a baked lima beans and rice that was absolutely delicious and my husband has been pestering me for ever since. If you want the recipe, I'd be happy to share.

The Pittsburgh Pair said...

Hi, Emily,

I wanted to tell you that I disagree with one statement in this post: "I force myself to publish about two a week because I know that the food budget is where most people can cut the most."

Actually, this is a fallacy, in my opinion. When times get tough, people always come online and on our Money Matters board looking for advice on their budgets. They always want to cut the grocery budget. But generally, it is not a huge savings.

If your grocery budget is $300 and you want to get it down to $250, that is a lot of cutting that you will have to do. Food in America is actually pretty cheap and plentiful. People turn to the grocery budget to cut because it is the most immediate thing and something they spend money on once or several times per week.

Almost all of these people have a budgeting issue beyond groceries. In years of participating in budget critiques, I have never once seen someone whose financial situation was being hurt by their grocery habits. People need to cut cable, cell phones, fancy cars, etc, before thinking that couponing and menus will be their way out.

Just my perspective on things...what is your take?

The Pittsburgh Pair said...

Also, this topic is not related, so I made it a separate post. I'm hoping to see a future post about it. I have heard through some local Maine friends/Internet bloggers that your husband's school is not accredited. Is that true? If that is true, then can you still justify putting thousands in? Why not choose an accredited school? Just wondering.

Nota said...

I think most people have a meal rotation if they think about it - yours is just a tad more organized. I don't have a planned rotation, but I know that there are certain things that our pantry should always have in it - and those things make their way into meals at some point in the average month - sometimes with variations and sometimes pretty run-of-the-mill. I've got a loose, one-month rotation if you want to think about things that way.

I don't understand why you're being criticized about your rotation when your children are well fed with foods they like and you've already explained so much about working in veggies and proteins.

Emily said...

Lori, I definitely want that recipe.

Pittsburgh Pair, you're right, usually there are a lot of things people can cut back on at first. But once they've cut the truly frivolous, they can still probably cut their food budget further. I've never said what school my husband goes to, but that question is in the frequently asked questions. His school is in the process of being accredited, and will be by the time he graduates. But that will all be its own post, and is not a comment section discussion.

Pepper said...

You have to remember that your posts are not the norm for people in america. Some people do not understand being frugal. We overindulge ourselves and that's one reason we are in so much debt in this nation. We are overprivileged in the US. There are places in the world where they only get one meal a day and it's the same meal everyday.

Don't let these people effect your emotions or your posts. It's not worth it. Just block there comments and go on with your life. I will say that I like your posts but when you are trying to fight with these commenters I find it as a turn off.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" Matt 5:44

stephanie said...

I think you meant "deprived," not "depraved." :)

Your story about your husband looking forward to your meals is very cute. He's probably seeing these meals as a tangible symbol of love, given all the thought and research you put into making them!

Just wanted to say that I just discovered your blog, and really enjoy your posts, too. Don't let the naysayers get you down!

stephanie said...

Also, to Pittsburgh Pair: I agree about food not being a big place to look for savings... For me, anyway. I spend less than 5% of my net income on food, so it's not an area I need to watch that closely. Though by default I probably spend less in some areas, being a vegan; but I also tend to buy a lot of organic food, which probably makes up for the cost savings of not buying meat...

When I was a student I went to extremes to balance my health concerns with my budget. I used to make my own soy milk (often burning my hands -- ouch!) and shopped at a co-op, putting in my one hour a week or so to get a discount. I bought most things in bulk, and all organic produce, for very little money. With a teeny budget I ate pretty much anything I wanted -- it was great! So I never had much of a problem eating cheaply. I guess it's easy when you like rice and beans :)

Amanda said...

Hi Emily,
I just discovered your wonderful blog a couple of days ago. I am finally caught up after going back to read all of the posts (and comments) from the beginning. As a family who has always been on a limited budget in order to keep me home with our 2 daughters (we also just started homeschooling the oldest), we are now going to have our budget cut in half due to my husband's layoff. It is great to see how another family lives so well on a small income. I have gathered new ideas to try and inspiration from your posts - thanks!

I love the idea of a two week menu rotation. I create a menu each week, but it would be much simpler to just cycle through and make changes as needed. Also, thank you for doing the recipe posts even though they are not your favorite! I am going to try making my own tortillas because your recipe makes it seem easy.

rabid segue said...

Depraved---that's such a cute error.

Anonymous said...

You know you're doing things right when people start to complain about you. Keep up the good work.

Clisby said...

rabid seque: I know - I like imagining Emily's depraved family.

E. said...

Well, I will say that based on the recipes you've posted, your diet doesn't strike me as particularly healthy. I mean, the actual menu looks delicious, but your recipes don't appeal to me at all. Far too bland, in my opinion, but that's me. I'm a bit of a food snob, frankly!

That said, though, I know SO many people who eat much worse than you do, and they are spending vast sums of money to do so (take out or convenience foods for EVERYTHING).

I will say your blog has inspired me to be more conscious of my food spending, and I'm thinking about creating a more set menu for us. Probably not as set as yours, but honestly 90% of the time I do cook the same basic things over and over and over again, and I do spend a lot less money on groceries when I shop with a meal plan and a list.

MamaMay said...

@ Carla

That is the problem being military and moving all the time. You don't know where the deals are and your neighbors don't know either so you can't really ask (or they are like one of our neighbors and think that L.L. Bean being on 10% off is a good deal...). So anyone know where to get good meat prices in Hawaii where we have to fly the food in?

Nydia said...

I wanted to let you know that I have created my own meal rotation, because of this blog. 1 1/2 weeks into it and i can tell it is going to save me money. Thanks.

Rachel said...

Emily, I was a little surprised that you eat out once a week. I really had you pegged as the Amy Dacyzyn type, who frowned on it altogether. We also usually eat out once per week, and I thoroughly enjoy it. Usually it is on Friday night, but we went to applebees after church today. We did the $20 deal where you get an appetizer, and 2 entrees. Our 16 year old had his own meal, hubby and I split ours, and we all had the appetizer. It was nice just to get out of the house and out of the kitchen. also, we all ordered water, just because that was what we wanted, but that alone probably took $6 off the bill.

After cooking for 29 years, it is getting to be drudgery for me. It's the same thing, over and over. But if I mix it up and try something new, they won't eat it. I used to not prepare something I liked at all, if no one else would eat it. But now I do, esp. carrots and sweet potatoes. It helps the drudgery along if I am rewarded with something I really enjoy. Like your husband, mine has to take a lunch each day, they closed the cafeteria at the paper mill he works at, so there is no where to get a meal. So it makes me feel pressured to cook every night so he has lunch the next day. But he doesn't mind canned soup, so we keep that on hand for him to take in a pinch.

Barbara said...

To comment on the school accreditation issue. Many Pastoral training schools are not accredited
My DH went to a non accredited school, then later transfered to one with a degree program. He learned far more useful things in his first school. Many small churches are not looking for a degree. They are looking for a man that knows the Word of God, can communicate it to others in a clear way. Many churches can not pay the salary that would go with a BA or Masters degree. This is especially true in New England.

Stacy said...

Hmmm...I'm not sure what to think of this post, honestly. I've been considering the meal rotation idea since I read about yours. I just asked my husband what he thought of it a couple of nights ago, and he was fine with it.

I have to say that as much as I enjoy YOUR RECIPES--this is a main draw for me, and some other ideas you have here, I'm growing disenchanted with the offensive-defensive discussions. I would enjoy this blog very much if it simply shared good, frugal tips and some insights into how that plays out in your lives. Pictures of you and your family are also fun to see. That's it. All the back-and-forth about your ideas, someone attacking them, you getting defensive, etc. is, to be really frank, tiresome and not interesting.

On the other hand, I'm loving the tips. I just cooked a pumpkin the other day, inspired by your pumpkin post. I made pie and soup with it since it was just a little one. Then I went to the store yesterday and found a super deal--about 20 cents or so per pound and got a big pumpkin that I plan to cook, save, and use. I've also started going back to the dollar stores to look for groceries and cleaning supplies. I've bought white whole wheat, tried making noodles (didn't work, even twice, so maybe it's the high altitude where we live?), and a few other things.

These kinds of ideas are all interesting and I am feeling good about looking critically at what we spend and trying to shave off what I can here and there. So thanks for that.

As for all the arguing and defending, I say don't post it, don't respond to it, don't give it any time at all. Even if it makes you mad. Just let it go and move on. People are weird, you and me and everyone of your readers included, and sometimes you have to just cut things off....which I fully understand you may do with this very post. That's okay. But I'm just being honest, and I don't mean anything against you at all. These are just my opinions.

Clisby said...

To E. :

Bland is not the same as non-nutritious. I tend to agree that Emily's recipes sound bland, but that's easily remedied - I have a BIG spice cabinet.

I agree with you otherwise, which is why I'm surprised to see people carp about what she's feeding her family. I'd bet Emily's family eats a more healthy diet than at least half of Americans - and for far less money than a lot of them spend.

My pet peeve is when I see a grocery store promote its prepared food as being eligible for EBT (the food stamp program) purchases. I'm not peeved because my tax dollars pay for this; I object because it's such a waste *for the people getting the benefit*. I don't remember ever seeing a display of organic apples, or locally grown squash, labeled "you can use your EBT card for these."

Emily said...

Stacy, I'm surprised, as I'm preparing two posts on homeschooling in part because of all of your questions and comments on the topic, some of which were critical. I like engaging my readers, both my supporters and critics. I also think this post has a lot of info and only a small amount of defensiveness. Blogging is part of my life right now, and writing my perspective on it I think is valid, whether I am writing to my critics or my supporters.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried barley instead of rice? Its cheaper, and healthier than rice, and I like the texture and flavor better. (Last time I bought rice, and I buy in bulk .20/lb. Barley was .09/lb. and it cooks exactly the same way.)

Stacy said...

Emily,

Okay, I see that the debating is more of your focus than I'd realized. I thought it was more about the tips, and that the arguing was more of a tangent or sidetrack. No offense intended, really, I just wanted to tell you that as a reader, I most enjoy the tips and new ideas.

Best,
Stacy

Anonymous said...

please keep posting entries like this..i heart reading the comments. thanks.

KAR said...

First, I'll stand up for the ready-to-eat things in grocery stores being touted as "EBT eligible." More than a few food stamp recipients are homeless and do not have ready access to kitchen or refrigeration. I'd much rather someone choose a sandwich over other less-healthy, shelf stable items like candy bars or something.


Second, I don't see where Bar S hot dogs and Wal-mart brand beef is "eating healthier" than the majority of America. I do not agree with her diet because she has stated in a previous post that they eat about half of their food intake is in the form of meat protein. While there are other countries that subsist on higher levels of meat protein, those particular societies tend to be ones wherein people work to survive. I.E., the don't spend their days posting away on the computer and searching for good deals like the rest of us. They're farmers, fisherman, and other type of laborers who need that caloric intake. Even with these high protein diets, they still tended to be healthier because the beef was from pasture raised cows and fish tends to be a higher staple which contains necessary Omega-3 fatty acids.

Finally, I think those of you saying that she shouldn't post the comments that she does not agree with are ostrich-in-the-sand type of people lacking in creativity and fortitude. I'll be a lady and leave it at that. She can cut out the disagreeing comments and she's going to lose a large part of her readership.

Lisa said...

...

I really would like to try all the recipes you use & don't find them boring, but interesting, so if you would , please post more of the recipes you use. Thanks, Lisa

October 26, 2009 1:57 AM

Jen said...

Part of the concern I think is making sure the family is getting enough nutrients. I believe you put a lot of love into your meals. I really do. I also think that the readers have only what you have posted so far to go on. In all honesty Emily, no it doesn't seem that healthy. A lot of carbs and a lot of meat. It may be better than a majority of junk food America, but here is the kicker. Pre-processed junk food is vitamin and mineral enriched. That doesn't make it healthy, but it does mean that a majority of people are getting the vitamins and minerals necessary to keep the body functioning. Because you make everything from scratch, you need to put a lot more thought into the vitamins and trace minerals the body needs.

Is the food pyramid a good guide? Debatable. However, varied fruits and vegetables are definitely important. You claim to have addressed it but what we the readers see is a few ounces of carrots, a little broccoli and a handfull of onions and peppers. The pumpkin was new and you must have bananas on occasion at least as you have a picture of your kid eating one.

It's not that there is anything wrong with the way you like things or having a two week rotation. I just wanted you to see where I am coming from as a reader.

Henrietta said...

I agree with what Jen said above. I feel the same way. When one reader questions your diet, others seem to jump in with, "What? Because she doesn't feed her kids processed junk, it's unhealthy?" but that is simply not the case. (Well, that may be what some are implying, but it certainly is not what I believe.)

Homemade or not, I question the protien/carb/veggie split. However, perhaps you are eating more fruits and vegetables than what we have seen in the blog thus far. You have mentioned "grazing" several times, but we don't really know what that looks like at this point.

Also, I read your meal planning posts as a "this *is* what we eat in a two-week rotation," and didn't interpret any flexibility, which you have now clarified. It definitely changes my perspective on your menu.

I look forward to more of your posts.

Tracy said...

Hi Emily, I'm not much of a commenter but I am enjoying your blog. We too have chosen to live frugally and do many of the same things that you have written about. This simple life, devoted to serving our maker is a blessing, not the curse that others think of it as. I also see that you are celebrating a birth! Congratulations! :)

Anonymous said...

I respect your choices, and the way you live so frugally. But I have to admit that the negative junk back and forth is getting tiresome. I just hope that your blog doesn't burn out quickly because people are turned off with the constant debating.

I'm here to learn a thing or two, and I could care 2 cents about what some negative fool has to say. It's not appealing to me, and I'm wondering why it's something you encourage. It's doubtful you can change anyone who is so negative anyway.

Perhaps you are bringing in the naysayers but in the end you may lose good positive readers, and I don't think you really want that.

L...

Treva said...

Emily, just an idea (and you certainly don't have to use it), but if you wanted to humor the skeptics, you could track your eating for a week and post the details. It may allow everyone to see when you eat the frozen veggies/fruits that I know you've posted about buying.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jen 100%. Clearly you love your family and are doing your best for them. I love that you make your meals (as unapealing as they look to me/a lot of us, we arn't at your dinner table and don't have to eat it and since your family loves it, all the more reason to keep making it.) I don't feed my family boxed foods and make almost all of it (family of 6)homemade everyday. My concern is the lack of fresh fruit and veggies in your and their diet. The Food Piramid isn't for me either but I'm not sure how you are able to justify not feeding your family more veggies and fruits. "That" is my issue with your diet.
~Melissa

Emily said...

I feel like I have addressed the fruit/veg thing as thoroughly as I'm going to. I will address why my husband and I choose a higher protien diet in a future post. I think the issue is that you don't believe me when I tell what my kids eat for fruits and vegs. It's not part of our menu, as the kids and I graze. I have thought of posting a food journal, as Treva suggests, but more to show the cost of our food than the variety of it.

Anonymous said...

I do beleive you about what your children eat for fruits and veggies it just does not seem as though you feed them much of it except for the pumpkin, ketchup and a few times bananas. It's not an alien concept to me that children willingly eat veggies as my children eat veggies without a battle everyday. My children are grazers too and my family also has a very high protein intake. When you say however that your grocery budget for the month can be as low as $40 that does not leave much in the way for produce.
I think a food journal sounds like an excellent idea. We keep one at home and it's been interesting to see what we've spent on what items/month.
~Melissa

Ginger said...

I think sometimes we here in the U.S. who are so spoiled by the huge variety of cuisines and foods available to us at any moment forget that most of the world actually survives on diets of very little variety, typically limited to what is in season and commonly available in their region. Of course this can lead to deficiencies, but not always, and while your menu isn't necessarily something I would choose unless I had to (I just really enjoy a lot more variety of fresh fruit, veggies, wild salmon, various cuts of beef, etc), to me it seems balanced and in fact its a scientific fact that eating brocolli (which is a part of your regular diet) on a regular basis prevents a whole host of diseases. I think being raised in our country of plentiful leads some of us to feel somehow deprived or bored if we are not eating a constant variety.
The only change I would encourage you to consider as your children get older (esp since you are planning to homeschool) is to have perhaps one night in the two week rotation (or once/month) be an ethnic night (besides Mexican since that's already in place). Let your kids take turns choosing the country while as a family you learn a little about that country, culture, customs/language, and cuisine during and building up to choosing a common dish from there to cook. I think you'll find it to be a very educational and culturally enriching experience that doesn't have to break the budget because often many ethnic cuisines can be made quite economically (esp if you have access to ethnic stores to purchase rarer ingredients/spices) and of course you can always choose ahead of time a couple affordable dishes from which your children can choose to avoid them picking a total budget breaker.

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