Hello 2017: Our $50 Weekly Grocery BudgetPosted: January 25, 2017
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.
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!
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.