Meal Plan for 9-2 through 9-9

3 Sep

I planned my menu today for the first time in well over a month. After an extreme budget cut challenge it felt rather extravagant, but I think this plan will provide plenty of left overs to keep me on my no buying lunch momentum, as well as keep hubby happy. I will only need a few fillers next week. Let me know what sounds good!

Sunday- Roast chicken with potatoes and carrots

Monday- Pasta Florentine (creamy spinach and garlic)

Tuesday- Pork chops with broiled peaches

Wednesday- Hatch Chile Chili with beans

Thursday- Left overs

Friday- Mild Thai Curry with summer squash

Saturday- Soba Noodles in homemade broth

Tuesday and Wednesday are my days off, so those are the most labor intensive meals. Feel free to steal!

Last Day of August

31 Aug

So, I haven’t posted in the last two weeks because I haven’t been feeling very creative in the kitchen, with the exception of a very lovely 4 course brunch I served in my shoebox last Sunday, which I apologize for not posting.

This morning I added up my grocery spending. The goal was to spend 200 dollars only, but I sort of lost steam halfway through and stopped adding my spending daily. So I was a little worried, but I have never been the type A enough person to obsess over details in that way. Much like dieting, keeping track of every calorie or dollar has never been worth it to me. Having said that my grand spending total was:

$249.63

That is a reduction of last month of over $440 dollars.  I’m going to call that a win, especially since I had one ice cream indulgence, 3 beer indulgences, a wine night and an afternoon of entertaining.  I also have some leftover staples. And, bonus points, I shed a couple of extra pounds.

In addition to my tips from my mid-august check in, this is what I really focused on to cut back:

  • Pack your lunch. I cannot stress this enough. I was spending an average of 7 dollars per lunch break, that is 140 dollars a month on lunch alone.
  • Eat what you buy. This might sound obvious, but Americans waste hundreds of pounds of food per person per year. It is easy to tell yourself that you don’t want to eat lentil stew for dinner and buy taco stuff instead, but then your lentil stew just sits in the back of the fridge ten days before getting tossed. Eat the damn stew!
  • Water, water, water. Carry a water bottle at all times. Water is your primary beverage. I am sure the kombucha, iced tea, lattes, and other bottled beverages was another 100 dollars or so.
  • Build your meals around what’s on sale.
  • Buy produce daily to ensure freshness. This was big for me, I used to like to keep my shopping as a once a week thing, but breaking it down to smaller trips helped keep my lettuce from wilting.
  • Keep meals simple. One day we just ate tomatoes and mozzarella for dinner. Another day was cheesy grits or a simple pasta. Less than 5 ingredients helps.
  • Eggs, lentils, grits and tortillas are awesome.
  • Invest in good kitchen equipment. My bread machine has paid for itself ten times over. I have praised my bread machine in the past. I also saved 50% on sausage due to my meat grinder, lots of money on smoothies, condiments and sauces with my blender, and also have enjoyed satisfying meals with my waffle iron. Savory waffles are the wave of the future.

So, that’s a lot of tips. And of course, the alcohol. I was spending a lot of money on alcohol. In my defense, it’s sort of my job (I work in the wine and beer department after all). But cutting back on drinking and dessert and snacks and going out has really made me appreciate those things as treats rather than part of my routine.

This month, other than my vacation (yessssss), I will go back to planning meals but incorporate my new found sale radar and my produce buying habits into my planning. Thanks for reading and I hope you took home some good tips.

 

Half Way Point

15 Aug

So, my budget shopping so far has proven to be doable, but very boring, which is why I haven’t posted much this month. But, I checked my grocery spending last night and was thrilled to discover I was right on target.  I spent $90.75 at Whole Foods (which included an emotional breakdown buy of beer and ice cream, because it was 90 frickin degrees), and about $15 on frozen fruit from Costco, for smoothies.  So, technically slightly over budget for halfway, but I still have some lentils, onions, carrots and a freezer full of frozen fruit, so I think I will be able to stretch it. Here are my takeaways so far:

  • Plan for needing to buy staples. I ran out of oil and spent 7.99 on olive oil, which can suck up the budget fast.
  • Batch cooking is economical and time saving. I lived on lentil burgers, spaghetti with red sauce and fried rice for several days respectively.
  • Pack leftovers in small containers. This makes grabbing lunch for a workday convenient.
  • The caveman diet would be very difficult on this budget. Budget cooking is all about grains and legumes, which are definitely the biggest calorie/dollar ratio. Eggs I think the best source of fat and protein.
  • Take advantage of free food. I was lucky enough to grab a ton of free kale from my friend’s garden who just had more than she can handle. Also, accept any invitations to dinner you might get.
  • In spite of high carb only, I’ve lost five pounds by not buying so much booze and dessert. Go figure.

Overall, I haven’t found this quest as challenging as I imagined. I seem to have come to terms with my financial situation and just understand now that no, I cannot afford to buy a mondo burrito or giant salad for lunch. I can’t drink every night (although I still had two bottle of wine in the house and I bought one six pack. I also went out two nights for one drink each, so I could still cut back).  I can’t afford $3 grapefruit sage kombuchas. Obviously these things I can’t afford are all luxuries, but I thought since food and drink are so valuable to me that it would be harder to cut back. But my priorities have changed. I am now getting thrills from exercise, friendship, goal setting, and watching my bank account stay in the black.

What other tips and tricks do you have for staying in budget?

Lentil Burgers

10 Aug

There are a lot of veggie burgers out there. Most of the recipes, however, require a large amount of something starchy, like rice, flour, breadcrumbs, etc. I have weird O.C.D. about starch on starch action. I don’t want to put a ton of something starchy on top of something else starchy like a bun and then try and get good flavor out of it.  Starches are flavor diluters.  They take away from all the good yummy punches you throw into the mix, so I feel the need to be cautious with them. So I decided I would make my own veggie patties and see how they turned out. I have to say, they were delicious.

I had a big bag of lentils, since I am on a budget this month and organic lentils in bulk are only $1.69 per pound, and increase in volume when cooked, unlike ground beef at $3.99 per pound and decreases in volume. I also resorted to dried mushrooms, priced by weight and lucky for me they weigh next to nothing. And a zucchini, for funsies. I did end up throwing a tiny bit of flour in, out of nervousness for them to fall apart, but I think I could have left it out, and will next time to see if it works.  Here’s my result:

Green Lentil Burgers

2 cups water

1 cup dried mushrooms (shitake is usually the most cost affective)

1 cup green lentils

1 zucchini, shredded

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp tomato paste

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder (or minced garlic if you have)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 whole wheat flour

 

Bring the water to a boil and steep the mushrooms for 5 minutes, until soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and add the lentils. Reduce heat to medium low and cook the lentils for 20-30 minutes, depending on how mushy you like them. Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms finely and mix with the remaining ingredients until well blended.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the lentils are cooked, blend with the vegetable mixture and scoop large spoonfuls onto a non-stick baking pan. Pat each one down gently into a patty.  You should yield 6 hearty portions. Bake for 20 minutes, then serve on a warm whole wheat bun with lettuce.

Breakfast Burritos!

4 Aug

Here is my first cost/calorie analysis. First off, I want to say that eggs are glorious. They are my favorite food and totally inexpensive. I buy medium fancy level of eggs and they still only cost .28 cents per egg. If you don’t care about chickens you can probably get them for half that price. But, unfortunately, I care enough about chickens (but mostly I care about the taste and safety of my eggs) to pay a premium.

These came out a little more pricey than I was hoping for, but you could just kill the sausage or use half the sausage. Still a hearty breakfast and suitable dinner any night of the week.

 

Food Cost Per Serving Calories
18 Eggs  $       4.99  $             0.28 60
10 Tortillas  $       3.99  $             0.40 140
Pepper Jack Cheese  $       9.99  $             0.24 80
12 oz Andouille  $       5.99  $             1.50 120
Salsa  $       3.99  $             0.20 15
Breakfast Burrito    $             2.61 415
Food Cost Per Serving Calories
18 Eggs  $       4.99  $             0.28 60
10 Tortillas  $       3.99  $             0.40 140
Pepper Jack Cheese  $       9.99  $             0.24 80
12 oz Andouille  $       5.99  $             1.50 120
Salsa  $       3.99  $             0.20 15
Breakfast Burrito    $             2.61 415

August

1 Aug

Alright. It is August 1st and my budget challenge is in effect.  I have a $200 allowance for groceries. Some rules:

1. Most of my shopping will be done at Whole Foods. Most people think this is not possible, so I am compelled. (Disclaimer: I work for Whole Foods, and I get a discount, but I will not count my discount in my bill totals.) I may, however, go to Costco next week. The point here is to cut my spending without sacrificing quality or integrity of my food.

2. I get to use what’s already in my kitchen. Most people have no idea how much food they manage to accumulate, so I think it’s reasonable to say most Americans can live out of their pantry for a good week or two.

3. I may need to make a concession for beer. Quality of life people, it’s non-negotiable. While I will aim not to purchase any alcohol this month, I can’t say that I won’t have a secret $20 bill somewhere for a well earned refreshment after a hard day.

Regardless of what may seem generous rules, this will still be incredibly hard for me. I spent over $650 on groceries last month, so I am drastically slashing my food budget.  We will see how I do.

Coconut Shimp

31 Jul

I finally understood the purpose of a skewer. I always wondered what made tastier by putting it on a stick. Well, nothing. But, it does make flipping food in a hot pan much more efficient! Thus, all shrimp from hence forth in my home shall be stabbed with bamboo. Unless it’s a stir fry. Anyway. I always serve pan fried food with something green, to help me feel less guilty about eating fried food for dinner. Enjoy

Coconut Shrimp for two:

4 six-inch wooden skewers

1 cup high temperature oil

16 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup of flour

1-2 cups dried unsweetened coconut

2 tbsp honey

1/2 tsp sricha

2 tbsp coconut butter (or any nut butter if you don’t keep coconut butter around)

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium high. Carefully skewer the clean shrimp, through the tail and again close to the top, making two points of entry if you will, for increased security. Then set up an assembly line of plates: one flour, one egg, and one coconut. Dip, dip, dip. Assure your shrimp is thoroughly coated at each step. Now fry! Lay skewers in hot oil, trying to space them out as much as possible.  Fry until golden crispy, about 6-8 minutes on each side. Mix the honey, sricha and coconut butter together and drizzle over the skewers for its delicious sauce.

Image

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