Weekly Grocery Budget Update

Another check-in for my adherence to our weekly grocery budget!  As I mentioned last week, I am trying to recommit to a $50 budget for our food each week.  Strict adherence would leave us with a little more money each month, that could definitely be better utilized than being spent on food we don’t need.  (Our landfill, I’m sure, would appreciate that too!)  I’m doing most of my shopping at Aldi, in order to make this budget achievable, though I’ll also use Giant, Trader Joe’s, and even our local Asian grocery store to pick up those extra items that Aldi doesn’t carry.

This week we have a few repeat meals.  In spite of my meal planning, we had two (awesome) evenings with friends that changed our meals and then, while making last week’s meal plan, I had totally forgotten that M and I signed up for a home-buying class that provided dinner.  (Everybody chill, we are just in the most initial stages of trying to learn anything about looking for and purchasing a home…)  So Wednesday-Friday’s meals mostly rolled over to this week.

It felt a little harder to stick to the budget this week.  For one, I got the week’s “special recovery item” added to our produce box, which took a few bucks from my shopping money.  But, it was fresh turmeric root!  It freezes well, so we are in stock for turmeric lattes and indian dishes for a long time.  I also had to stock up on a couple condiments, which eats up money quickly.  Those losses definitely made me feel more constricted.

Here is the breakdown:

groceries-1-29-2-4

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: 1 romaine heart, 1 (large) head cauliflower, 1 grapefruit, 1 tomato, 2 oranges, 1 red onion, 1/2 lb. green beans, 1 (giant) spaghetti squash, 3 sweet potatoes, and 1 lb. of turmeric ($5 additional) for a total of $20.00

From Aldi: parmesan cheese, tomato paste, cheddar cheese, 1 lb. sausages, cucumber, green onions, 1 lb. salmon, tomato sauce, hot sauce, Caesar dressing, dijon mustard, turkey deli meat, ham deli meat, bread,  and sugar (for my kombucha!)

Other sources: fresh ginger and coconut milk (Giant), eggs (my mother’s coworker)

I totally forgot to grab my receipt at Aldi, but it was about $31.  $4 of that was restocking on Ziplock bags, so the $2 and change spent at Giant should put me right on the $30 line to stay on target this week.

In terms of usage, we will definitely have the whole spaghetti squash plus some of the sweet potatoes and cauliflower remaining at the end of the week.  The cheddar and deli meats and bread will stretch into next week, as will the green onions, 8 oz of the salmon, most of the sausage, and the condiments (obviously).  My bone broth is finished, and I got the 3 quarts that I was hoping for!  And my kombucha should be ready for it’s bottling and second fermentation this week, as  well.

Meal Plan for January 29-February 4

Sunday: Beef Koftas with Tabouleh, Carrot Salad, Smoky Eggplant Dip, Baked Feta, Pickled Onions, & Gluten-free Naan bread This is basically last Thursday’s meal, except that this week’s addition of tomato and cucumber allowed me to make a quinoa tabouleh.  I also unearthed half a block of Feta from our freezer, and had time on the weekend to mix up a batch of homemade naan using pantry ingredients.  That turned it into a regular feast!

Monday: Honey-Sriracha Cauliflower “Wings” and Caesar Salad  I love baking cauliflower florets and treating them like chicken wings!  My latest obsession is Honey-Sriracha sauce, which uses similar ratios as buffalo sauce, but has way more depth of flavor   Our contribution to the Super Bowl parties will like be Homemade Honey-Sriracha Chicken Wings.  Half of that giant head of cauliflower will give us enough for dinner and lunch the next day.  I will rice up the remainder of the cauliflower and stick it in the freezer for later.

Tuesday: Ham & Cheese Crepes  M will be out and I’ll be working late, so a half batch of my gluten-free crepes wrapped around some lunch meat and cheese will be tasty and quick to throw together when I get home.

Wednesday: Taco Soup in the Crockpot From last Wednesday’s plan.  I have class and M works late.  All he’ll have to do is shred the chicken in the crockpot and this soup will be good to go!

Thursday: Sesame-Ginger Salmon with Green Beans and Sweet Potato One of my resolutions is to eat more fish this year–I’m starting off aiming for every other week.  Since M isn’t a huge fan of shrimp and I’m less experienced working with fish, it always takes more of a commitment.  But, I found a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, so I’ll give it a go!

Friday: Thai Chicken Enchiladas One of my favorites!  I realized that I didn’t pick up cabbage at the store, which I usually use to bulk up the meat…I’ll have to get creative!  We somehow ended up with three different bottles of Sweet Chili Sauce in our pantry, so this recipe will help to cut down on that.

Saturday: Leftovers/Pasta I try to remember to incorporate a flexible night into our meal plans, so we have a chance to use up any leftovers that aren’t finished through our lunches each week.

Breakfast & LunchBreakfast will be oatmeal, fruit smoothies, or eggs.  Lunches will be dinner leftovers or sandwiches.

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Hello 2017: Our $50 Weekly Grocery Budget

Hello world!  The end of the year got away from me again.  I am working on it, I promise!

We had a lovely run of our children’s shows, my finals for my classes were perfectly dandy, and then, one week before Christmas, I had (totally planned for) surgery to remove my gallbladder.  After sorting out the first 72 hours (I react a little poorly to strong painkillers and nausea gives me anxiety…), my recovery has been very good!  In fact, on day seven post-surgery, I actually forgot to take even plain ibuprofen and everything been fairly well-managed since then!  During my two weeks on the couch, I was able to binge both Westworld and The Crown (and would highly recommend both!), in addition to tons of Food Network and HGTV.  I’ve still got another week and a half before I can shed all my restrictions (I’m so ready to lift more than 15 lbs and/or do core exercises, right?!?), but adjusting to a gallbladder-less life has been much easier than I imagined.

Right after new year, we went away to our wintry beach house once again (I sat out of all physical debauchery) which prolonged our vacation even more.  The last week or so has just been putting our routines back together in the new year.  While we do eat a couple fruits and vegetables during that week, M and I eat a lot more junk food at the beach house than anywhere else.  It’s amazing how quickly our palates adapt to all that sugar and fat.  Getting back to our usual diets has been slow, but this is the first week where I really felt like I had a handle on it.  I planned for some of our favorite dishes, but made sure that they could be crammed with vegetables.

One of my many goals for this new year is get us back on track with our grocery budget.  I’ve loosely aimed for $50 a week/$200 a month for the past couple of years.  Given that we will go out a few times in the course of the month, there is no reasonable excuse as to why $200 cannot healthfully and deliciously sustain two people for four weeks.  Unfortunately, most of the time, I was very loose with that aim.  I would estimate that, last year, it was more like $65-$70 a week, at least.  Sometimes a whole lot more.  I started trying for this $50 budget back when we still had roommates and I realized that I had spent almost $500 on groceries that month.  We have gotten much, much better in the years since then.  But, we needed to tighten our belts again–just by a little.  Between student loans, medical bills, and our desire to save a bit of money for say…a trip to Harry Potter World…a second dog…a house…(you know, the usual), those extra bucks from groceries could be better used elsewhere.

So I am back to keeping that hardline budget.  I figured checking in here would help to keep me accountable!  I want my $50 to include the $15 that we pay for our weekly box of recovered produce.  Those fruits and veggies are the start of my meal plan each week, and almost every piece is incorporated.  But that leaves me with $35 to spend on any meats/grains/dairy/additional produce/pantry items each week.  I’m getting better at balancing, for sure.  I’ve also been shopping at Aldi (which means M will never go with me, as their lack of music in a PA system weirds him out).  Their pricing is really what keeps this goal achievable at all!  While I would love to be able to buy pastured animal products and organic produce, that is usually not in our budget right now.  Aldi lets us eat nutritious, real food for extremely reasonable prices.  Aldi does have an rotation of higher quality items (including a gluten-free selection) that is impressive given their price point, and when I can work organic chicken or milk into the budget, I do.  But an egg or ground beef of the non-pastured variety is still going to provide so much more nutrients than a box of cereal or macaroni and cheese.  This is what works for us right now.

receipt-jan-21

I was very happy this week, because I actually only spent $46 dollars on groceries (a $4 box of trash bags upped my total).  This week I am both stocking up in the fridge/pantry and eating down some of our freezer storage.  I knew that we wouldn’t have to purchase any meat this week, thanks to what we had in the fridge, but when I had saw that I had a few extra bucks, I managed to snag the shrimp that were on sale!  The blue line marks the divide between our produce box and what I purchased at the store (everything from Aldi except the tofu, which was $1.99 at Trader Joe’s). Since I am using a lot from the pantry this week, I tried to delineate sources in my meal plan below.  I also just started a big batch of bone broth in my crockpot–I’m planning to get about 3 quarts out of this batch of bones.  That broth is (essentially) free, so I’ll be making soups often too!

groceries-jan-21-divided

From our $15 produce box: 2 corn, 2 oranges, 2 onions, 2 apples, 3 kiwi, 1 avocado, 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, 1 eggplant, 2 green bell peppers, 1 bunch kale.

The nice thing about using so much of our pantry is that much of this week’s groceries can be carried over into next week.  The only things that will be entirely consumed this week are the tofu, one can of tomatoes, the mushrooms, most of the produce from our box (left of the blue line), perhaps the limes,and the eggs.  At least half of that 2 lb bag of carrots should remain, as well as a lot of garlic and bananas, all the shrimp, some cheddar cheese, a bit of the swiss, the ketchup, some milk, most of the almond milk, some butter, and most of the pineapple (they were $0.99 a piece, how could I not grab them?)  One pineapple will likely be frozen for smoothies and the other split between fresh eat and some kind of salsa/skewer meal next week.  I’ve learned that the most effective way to stick to my budget is to loosely plan for two weeks, since so many ingredients are not entirely used up in just one week.  This is especially crucial for higher priced items like meat and dairy.

Without further ado, here is how all of these groceries are being used:

Weekly Meal Plan: Jan 22-Jan 28

Sunday: Shepherd’s Pie (with 1/2 lb beef from the freezer cut with one package of the mushrooms; a bit of the garlic, heavy cream, and butter; onions + carrots + potatoes from our produce box; and peas from the freezer, bone broth from my crockpot batch, and cream cheese from the fridge for the mashed potatoes)

Monday: Tofu Pad Thai with Kale (noodles from the pantry; all of the kale + tofu, some of the limes + carrots + onions + cilantro from this trip; and the sauce ingredients like sriracha and fish sauce are from the pantry)

Tuesday: Spaghetti Squash with Sausage & Marinara sauce (a complete pantry meal: the squash is left over from a previous week’s box and I made a froze a big batch of sauce made from 1 lb of cooked sausage, 1 shredded zucchini + 1 shredded carrot for bulk, and a jar of store-bought marinara)

Wednesday: Taco Soup  (even years later, I’m still loving this soup–I usually have most of the canned ingredients on hand.  I did this week–except for diced tomatoes.  I’ll use more bone broth from the batch I’m cooking right now. This time, I’m skipping the bacon and trading the frozen corn for the fresh corn from our box.  The shredded cheddar from the block, avocado, fresh cilantro, and fresh lime juice will liven things up.  This will be super easy to throw in a pot and bring up to heat after I get home from my marketing class!)

Thursday: (Sort of) Baba Ghanoush, Shredded Carrot Salad, & Beef Koftas (some kind of riff on smokey eggplant dip with the eggplant from our produce box; a couple carrots dressed up with spices and vinegar from the pantry; and the remaining 1/2 lb of ground beef will become tiny, well-seasoned meatballs.  If we feel like a bread element, we’ll use tortillas from the pantry or I’ll make some kind of simple flatbread from the flours I have on hand)

Friday: Turkey-Broccoli Quiche (I found some turkey stashed in the freezer!  I get to make a second round of my favorite quiche!  Broccoli, turkey, and bacon are from the freezer/fridge.  Swiss cheese, milk and cream (to make homemade half-n-half) and eggs from this week’s grocery trip.)

Saturday: Cheesy Lentil & Mushroom Rice Bake, Brussel Sprouts (lentils, spices, and rice from the pantry will join up with cheese, milk, and the remaining mushrooms.  The brussels sprouts from our box will be roasted as a side dish)

Breakfasts and Lunches: Breakfast will be scrambled eggs, oatmeal from the pantry, fruit and toast, smoothies, or those egg+banana pancakes that all my Whole30 friends are freaking out about.  By my judgement, all of our dinners should make enough for us to take the leftovers for lunch along with a piece of fruit, but in case they don’t stretch, we can always make quesadillas or hard-boiled eggs.