Budget Update & Meal Plan for Oct 22-28

This semester has been non-stop!  But, in between work and classes, M and I have managed to see many of our friends, which makes all the hustle worth it.  I’m not very good at keeping up with a regular social life.  Usually, I decide I’ll just wait until next week when I’m less busy, and then I turn around and three months have passed.  So, while its been a little hectic and tiring, I’m so glad that we have been out at a variety of activities almost every weekend!  We’ve already hit two weddings this autumn, I’ve gone to a town festival and a winery birthday party, caught up with friends from high school, visited my family, gone down to North Carolina, and attended a DIY Wine and Paint night.  It has been a great fall season thusfar.

I also hit a hugely important and exciting milestone: I paid off my student loans!!  I had a little help from my uncle, which allowed me to pay them off for good last month, rather than sometime next year.  I celebrated–as I have planned to for years–by buying myself a Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  I discovered Le Creuset early on in my forays into the food blogging/cookery world and adored them, naturally. 🙂  However, I’ve always tended towards frugality, so the price tag wasn’t something that I could accept at any old time.  When I realized the recommended starter size (between 4-5.5 quart models, according to the internet-at-large) was about the size of my monthly loan payments, I made a promise that I would use my first “payment” after I paid back my loans on an LC.  And I have!

Of course, I agonized for weeks over what would by my Le Creuset color, because I know that it will influence future decor and color choices.  That’s just the type of person I am!  But, I have to admit that I’m not any closer to making that color decision.  But, I saw this Petite Fruits special print and fell in love!  I’d spied the print online, but worried that it was too small, being only a 4 quart size.  But it seems plenty large and that print is my perfect temptation of delicate/nostalgic/grandmotherly.  So I took it home last week!  I broke it in with–what else?–a batch of Coq Au Vin that you’ll see in this week’s meal plan.

Another great milestone: M and I had our sixth anniversary earlier this month as well.  We stayed home, but allowed ourselves whatever dinner we wanted.  Steaks, shrimp, asparagus, and potato gratin was our choice.  I got him whiskey, he got me Le Creuset Mini Cocottes and coffee mugs (I’d already dragged him along on a color-scoping mission the week before) and some new frying pans, which I desperately needed.  It was a nice little evening for the two of us.  And now M is experimenting with all sorts of en-cocotte recipes, much to my tastebuds’ delight.  Bonus!

This week started out a little rough, as some of my schoolwork got entirely out of control on Sunday afternoon and I gave up all thought of making dinner and we had pizza instead.  One less thing to think about, and sometimes, that’s all you need.  We’ve also just been invited to carve pumpkins with  friend, so I’m not sure if I will make the lasagna anyway (whether we eat it or bring it with us), or if it will get bumped to this weekend or even next week.

This is what I spent:

receipt 10.22

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

Aldi: $27.76

Wegman’s: (not pictured) about $6.00?*

Total: $48.76

*I’m swinging by Wegman’s tonight, as it’s the only reliable store to stock GF lasagna noodles, which should be about $4 for the box.  I’ll also grab a pack or two of frozen spinach, since Aldi had none in stock.  I fully expect to stay at budget!

This is what I got:

Groceries 10.22'

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: Kale, 2 onions, 2 honeycrisp apples(!!), San Marzano tomatoes, 2 asian pears, 2 carrots (each as long as that wine bottle–totally giant!), butternut squash, 2 avocados (not pictured)

Aldi: 5 lbs potatoes, baby bella mushrooms, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, ricotta cheese x2, red wine, GF bread (it’s finally back in stock!), mozzarella cheese, milk, 3 lb chicken thighs, tomato paste

Wegman’s: (not pictured) Gluten-free lasagna noodles, Frozen spinach

+ (not pictured) 1.5 dozen eggs from my mom’s chicken lady

This is what we are eating:

Sunday: (Intended Squash Toast + Salad) instead: Pizza

Monday: At class–M had some leftover pizza and I scrambled a few eggs when I got home.

Tuesday: Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese–the soup has been in the cupboard for weeks, and I’ve never gotten around to it.  Since M is out with friends and I work late, this will be the perfect, quick bite when I get home.  Plus, it will be easy to make an extra sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.

Wednesday: Coq Au Vin (in my Le Creuset *muffled screaming*) and Mashed Potatoes–one of our winter favorites 🙂  We have a sweet potato leftover from a previous box, and that will join the chicken, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and wine.

Thursday: Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna — one of my absolute favorite vegetarian dishes!  Although a little time-consuming, since I have to start from scratch to ensure that it is gluten-free, it is so worth it.  It makes many servings and is just sooooo good.  Last time I made it, we stuck a few individually-wrapped servings in the freezer and it was a total godsend when we reached hectic days before the holidays.

Friday: Squash & Onion Toast and Kale Caesar Salad — from Smitten Kitchen.  This was intend to be Sunday’s dinner, but it will do just fine on Friday, too.  I’ll supplement the remaining Butternut squash with some acorn squash we have leftover from last week’s HH box and use up the rest of the ricotta cheese.

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner, out — I left this evening pretty flexible.  This may end up being the lasagna, or some take-out, but I know I also have bacon, sausage, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, and toast to serve up a hearty BFD, too.

Breakfasts will be oatmeal, eggs, or avocado toast.  Lunches will be leftovers or a picnic-type mix of hard-boiled eggs, nuts, veggies, etc from the pantry with a piece of fruit.  I expect to have a giant carrot, an avocado, potatoes, and tomatoes leftover for next week, as well as bits of most of the cheese, several chicken thighs, and the milk and wine, obviously.

I’m still loving my Hungry Harvest boxes each week, and I’m happy to announce that I am now a Hungry Harvest ambassador.  Mostly, that means I’m encouraged to share my love of HH (which I feel like I do pretty often already) and it also means that I can share this link with you: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj  If you are interested in trying HH, you can use this link and enter code “HERO5” to get a couple dollars off your first box (and I would get a discount on my next box, as well).  Want to be a #hungryharvesthero with me?

On a final note, with my loans now paid off, most of my “payments” will be going to my savings account, to beef things up there.  However, I’m playing with the idea of adding $10 to my weekly grocery budget.  This would specifically go towards improving the quality of our animal products.  M and I absolutely support pastured, cage-free animal raising, but have been limited by our budget before now.  I’d love to be better at supporting those practices with my dollars, so you may see an increase in our budget for that exact reason.  What stores would you recommend for finding pastured meats, cheeses, and dairy-products? (Our eggs are good–they come from spoiled backyard chickens that are more pets than anything else)  Aldi’s meats are already pretty limited, so I think I can only count on finding some CF/Pastured chicken and perhaps some ground beef.  As you can tell, I’m not opposed to going to multiple stores for my grocery shopping.  Trader Joe’s and Giant are very accessible to us, and I can make Wegman’s happen.  I have very little experience with Whole Foods (and I’m worried that I still couldn’t fit that into my budget) and we’ve had a Lidl open up near us as well.  Which store do you prefer?


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