Happy Labor Day! M and I have made the best of the weekend. On Saturday, we drove up to Baltimore with a friend. I was the only one of the trio who had been to the National Aquarium, so we braved the cold drizzly day to enlighten the guys. I have fond memories of visiting the aquarium when I was a kid (before many of the renovations). Seriously: museums, aquariums, zoos…all my favs. I will always go. Thankfully, I live close enough to D.C. that I can scratch my museum itch with all of the free Smithsonian institutions. Anyways, we got our fill of sharks and fish and three-finned seat-turtles. (That turtle has been there since I can remember–and was super active all day, which was awesome).
Then we did a little googling to find the locals choice for seafood, rather than any of there over-priced chains surrounding the National Harbor. We ended up at LP Steamers and feasted on blue crabs, shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters. Add a basket of fries and a cider, and I was a happy girl.
On Sunday, we drove down to see A at her new townhouse and to reunite Punc with her sister. That dog has been so forlorn whenever we visit my mother, because Panda isn’t there to play with her anymore.
We stopped by Potters’ Craft Cidery, just because it was 10 minutes down the road. All of the ciders were nicely light, and I appreciated that all of them–even the fruited styles, were not very sweet. Its a good brand to look out for, as their distribution grows! We took Skyline Drive for the way back. Driving through mountains with an audiobook playing was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
We were back to reality today, tidying the house and grocery shopping, etc. This week’s groceries was a lot of indulgence and some stocking up. We are gone again this weekend, down to North Carolina, so I only had to worry about four dinners this week. I brought my friend to Aldi for the first time and was a little distracted by explaining everything in the store. Also, the store was pretty sparse. They obviously hadn’t stocked up since before the weekend, hence my going over budget. The bacon I grabbed was in the wrong box–I was expecting a $3.19 price point. Not so much…premium instead.
In addition to all in the meal plan, I made a plum cake with the plums from last week. The cake base is from Flavor Flours, which I would highly recommend! I love that the focus is on the individual flours and how the taste and texture can complement various types of confectionary and pastry. We are just about back to our regular Fall schedules, so I’m hoping that this week will be the start of my working out the routine for this season. Anyways, lets look at these groceries…
Here’s what I spent:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Here’s what I got:
HH Produce Box: Zucchini, tomato, 2 onions, 2 crowns of broccoli, 2 asian pears, 1 avocado, 2 mangos, 2 clementines, 3 romaine hearts.
Aldi: 1.5 lbs top round steak, butter, bacon, shredded cheese, olive oil, cream cheese, sausage links, Swiss cheese, goat cheese, peanut butter, half & half, white wine
+ 18 eggs from my mother’s coworker
Here’s what we’re having:
Sunday: Out on the road.
Monday: Turkey-Broccoli Quiche with a side salad I found some turkey stashed in our freezer, so the broccoli in this week’s box was rather serendipitous. This is my all-time favorite quiche, and I’m usually constrained to making it around the holidays when there are turkey leftovers. It is a nice surprise to make it in September! 1 crown of broccoli will go in to this.
Tuesday: Leftovers while M is out and I work the late shift. More quiche! I’m not complaining!
Wednesday: Steak with Balsamic Tomatoes, Roasted Broccoli, Smashed Potatoes A nice indulgence, since steak usually isn’t in the budget. Unfortunately, prices weren’t as great as I was expecting for beef, but this will still be super tasty. We’ll likely supplement the HH tomato with one of our own from our garden. This will use up the rest of the broccoli, and a few red potatoes that have lingered in the pantry for a couple of weeks.
Thursday: Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese, Zucchini & Roasted Tomatoes I stumbled across this recipe last week and it looks tasty. Last week’s cauliflower never made it into rice, so it will be used up here; along with this week’s zucchini and plenty of cherry tomatoes from our garden.
Friday: Cobb Salad with the rest of the romaine, some bacon, hard-boiled eggs, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, and bleu cheese dressing from the fridge.
Saturday: Road-trip to North Carolina for M’s nephew’s birthday! We’ll be making our traditional stop into the Saxapahaw General Store. They always have great local goodies. I’ll be grabbing a couple more bottles of their elderberry syrup, for sure. I mix it into my kombucha for flavor + an extra immunity boost!
Breakfasts will be eggs or oatmeal. Lunches will be leftovers+fruit.
This week is one of those weeks that I am reminded why we follow our budget. Keeping such a low budget week-to-week means that when we reach these weeks where we want to splurge a little, or we have social obligations calling us to go out several times that week, we can usually manage to do so. Being frugal day-to-day has allowed us to have the extra money to fund busy weeks like this one. We’ll be out 4 nights this week–one at a barbecue where we will bring dishes to share, and up to three others out at restaurants for various events.
As we get nearer to Fall, my time at our Farmer’s Market grows more and more limited. Once our Saturday rehearsals begin, I have to be at work early enough that I am not able to get to the Farmer’s Market. M and I went this week, knowing there was a chance that it could be our last market of the season. Although my Saturday class don’t begin for another two weeks, it is likely that we will travel for Labor Day weekend and we will be away in NC for the following weekend. With this in mind, I bargained to spend an extra $20 this week, bringing our budget up to $70, so we could get some favorite items from the market. Thanks to our produce box, we rarely need any vegetables. The market’s pickle stall is wonderful, so we grabbed a pint each of Sweet Onion Sriracha Pickles and Pickled Beets, for a total of $9. I spent another $4.50 on stone fruits, because I’ve been dreaming of cakes+stone fruits. The small, sweet prune plums will be perfect in a tarte-tatin style cake or clafoutis. The green plums were new to me, and I still haven’t filled my peach galette craving.
Last week, I tried to make one and my pizza stone cracked into 4 pieces in the oven, effectively destroying the galette along with it. I’m still not sure what caused it to crack, but it was a very sad day, indeed. Now I have the peaches to make (and hopefully actually taste) another galette. My sweet tooth is out of control, so I’ll keep an eye on the fruit throughout the week…if I can spread my baking into next week, I will.
M and I went grocery shopping on our way home from the Farmer’s Market. The unspent $5 from my Market splurge was spent on chocolate. Aldi carries European-style chocolate that is a little hard to find in the States, so it is always a temptation when M comes shopping with me. Knowing that I’d really only be cooking 3-4 meals this week, I planned on Bulgogi’s slightly more expensive beef. I knew I had room in the budget for it. The rest of the groceries went to a few ingredients to round out our meals, but mostly to a sorely-needed baking stock up. We were entirely out of sugar and salt–which falls into a hazy category. We do use iodized salt in our shakers and in baking, but most of it will actually go into scrubbing our cast iron…which isn’t exactly food, I suppose. Oh well, the few cents spent on it is fairly negligible.
I won’t get to the cauliflower in this week’s produce box, so I will be making it into cauliflower rice to stash in the freezer. I’ll also finally be bottling a fresh batch of kombucha (long-neglected over my busy summer), as well as a batch of bone broth from our stash of freezer bones. I’m still slightly off in terms of my digestion and overall well-being, but I think both of these items will help me feel better!
My classes for grad school start this week. While I am taking the same number of credits as past semesters, it is spread over three classes. So I am facing 6 hours of class on Monday afternoons and a Friday class on some weeks as well. I’ve finally passed the halfway point and will be graduating at the end of next year or in the Spring of 2019. It seems both very far away, but also fairly close. Hopefully I can keep everything in balance this semester.
Here’s what I spent:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Farmer’s Market: $13.50
Aldi: $28.64 (on food–we also got a harness for Punc)
Here’s what I got:
HH Box: 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 2 apples, 2 lemons, 2 asian pears, 1 onion, 1 head red leaf lettuce, cauliflower, 1 lb green beans
Farmer’s Market: 2 peaches, 2 green plums, 1 pint prune plums, 1 pint pickles, 1 pint pickled beets
H-Mart: 2 lbs bulgogi-cut beef, 1 dozen eggs
Aldi: 2 chocolate bars, olive oil spray, 3 lbs lemons, cashews, 1 qt yogurt, ricotta cheese, salt, green onions, sour cream, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar
Here’s what we’re eating:
Saturday: Out to a Barbecue I made deviled eggs and a double batch of lemon bars to contribute.
Sunday: Bulgogi Beef with Rice and Lettuce and green onions, carrots, and onion topping. We had all the ingredients for ssamjang in the fridge already, plus soy sauce for the marinade. We wrapped up the beef and rice in the lettuce from our produce box
Monday: At Class. There are leftovers for M and I made a batch of rhubarb-streusel muffins on Sunday with pantry ingredients. I’ve frozen the muffins and took a muffin + 2 oz of cashews along with me to class. I also brought coffee and water from work (free).
Tuesday: Out for M’s mum’s birthday At least I think we are going out. If need be, I can move up Friday’s pasta dish to tonight.
Wednesday: Friend’s Going Away Party at a Thai restaurant, so at least there will be plenty of leftovers for Thursday lunch!
Thursday: Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage in Browned Butter I’ve had the squash for months, but luckily these keep well. It will make plenty of extra gnocchi to freeze for later. Plus fresh sage from the garden and a little browned butter.
Friday: Ricotta Pasta with Green Beans and Tomatoes All fresh ingredients this week, except for pasta from the pantry. If we end up eating this earlier this week, I can make risotto with roasted tomatoes instead.
Saturday: Out on a Day Trip
Breakfasts are avocado toast (with avocados from last week), eggs, yogurt+fruit. Lunches are leftovers, overnight oats, or hard-boiled eggs.
This week will be spent readjusting to life without camp. There is always a transition period–I’ve just spent the last seven weeks entirely immersed in a whole different schedule, workload, and focus. This week is for cleaning the house, organizing my emails, and generally getting my life in order.
I am excited, because the end of the week is our annual canning day. A few friends and I set aside a day to spend hours preserving and canning. It is such a long process, so it is much more entertaining with company. Our SO’s are in charge of lunch/dinner while we wash, chop, soak, boil, and reduce a variety of produce and then rev up a water bath to process it all. This canning day was started because we wanted to make Squash Relish, which still remains as the primary act. This year, I will also do a batch of tomato jam and my friends are tag-teaming the process of making apple butter. We might try tomato sauce, or something else entirely. I found a recipe for a carrot cake conserve that I’m still considering….but it may have to wait. Even in a whole day, only so much can be made when limited to a 4-burner stovetop. Whatever we do end up with, we’ll swap a few jars so that we all have a taste of the product. The produce for canning will be separate from my weekly grocery budgets, since this is a true stock up. However, I really don’t expect to pay more that $25-$30. This will result in 10 jars of squash relish and 4-6 jars of tomato jam + 2-4 jars of apple butter, at least.
This week, M is working late nearly every day. Dinners are, again, relying on protein from our freezer/pantry, and are simpler dishes or platters, in order to keep everything easy. As such, a lot of our groceries from the store are aimed at stocking up. A condiment or too, flour, some probiotic-rich foods as well as some simple items because my stomach has been pretty unhappy for the past few weeks, after all the stress and poor eating. I even managed a bottle of store-bought kombucha to split over the course of this week, as I neglected my own homemade booch. Check out that mother behind the groceries–it’s grew four baby SCOBY’s. I restarted a batch last night, finally, but it will still take about a week before it is ready to drink.
Here’s what I spent this week:
(I was lazy and only went to Trader Joe’s this week, because I needed to grab paper goods. The TP, paper towels, and dog treats came out to $10, so my total for food was $35.18. I’m $0.18 over, as my math regarding tax was a little off.)
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Trader Joe’s: $35.18
I was able to take home half a dozen individual yogurt cups as we cleaned out the fridge at work (the students’ parents bring us food sometimes), which really helped my budget, since those were free and can serve as my breakfast all week long. My mom’s egg lady is back, so I also got 18 eggs from her. Those should last us well into next week.
Here’s what we got:
HH Produce Box: 2 lbs red potatoes, 3 peaches, 3 pears, 7 tiny cucumbers, 2 broccoli crowns, 1/2 lb kale, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 2 ears corn
Trader Joe’s: gluten-free English muffins, unsweetened Applesauce, White Beans, Butter, Red Onion, Sauerkraut, GF Flour, Kombucha, Coconut Aminos, Lemons, Ginger, Feta cheese, slice Deli Ham
plus another overflowing pint of cherry tomatoes from our own garden
We are really eating from our pantry this week!
Here’s what we’re eating:
Sunday: Out I was still at work (my boss got us all Chipotle) and then we went to our friend’s house where they fed us dinner and we watched Game of Thrones
Monday: Tomato Tarte Tatin, Cheese, Fruit, Salad using all of the tomatoes from our garden, some herbs, and a quick pie crust. I served it withe last of the lettuce from last week’s box, plus some cheese that had been languishing in the drawer for a week or two (bleu and mozzarella) and with some of the pears
Tuesday: Burgers, Potato Salad, Roast Corn using beef and buns from the freezer. I’m using about half of the potatoes from our box.
Wednesday: White Bean Dip, Tomato-Cucumber Salad, Baked Feta I made this dip for a camp potluck while M was out of town. It is sooooo delicious and super simple, so I’m making it again. I’ll use all the cucumbers and most of the tomatoes for the salad. I will mostly save half of that block of feta and freeze it for later. We’ll serve everything with some crostini made from the English muffins, thinly sliced.
Thursday: Sausage & Kale Pasta with sausage from the freezer. Whatever tomatoes don’t go into the salad on Wednesday will end up here.
Friday: Canning Day! I’ll make some broccoli salad to contribute to dinner at our friend’s–most likely hot dogs, as they are the ideal carrier for our prized Squash Relish. We have some buns in the freezer that I will bring along, too.
Saturday: Sweet Potato Roast and Breakfast Sandwiches using last week’s SP’s. Eggs and ham will round things out.
Breakfasts will be smoothies, applesauce & yogurt, or eggs. Lunches are leftovers, caprese salad, or ham sandwiches, with fruit and/or sauerkraut, and kombucha for me. I did indulge in homemade Eggs Benedict on Monday, when I was off of work, which explains the ham, lemons, butter, and English muffins in my basket. 🙂
I’m back! April and early May swung totally out of control, between family stuff, my internship, and some intensive work projects. Only in the last week or so, do I feel as though I’ve finally gotten my feet underneath me once more. I will say that, through all of the madness, we did actually stick to our $50-per-week grocery budget (M even did the shopping twice and stuck to the budget!), although there was also a little more ordering out and food waste than I would like, over the course of these weeks. But our budget also worked, because, even with the cost of ordering out a little more frequently, we had that little bit of padding in our bank accounts to cover it. Up until this year, that padding would have already been spent on groceries, that would likely have still gone uncooked in favor of the convenience of ordered food. And then we would have found ourselves in a bit of a jam.
Anyways, this week’s dinners are–as usual–guided by the produce that came in our Hungry Harvest Produce Box. It so happens that using all the various veggies in the box (plus a few left over from last week) created a weekly menu made entirely of our household’s Go-To recipes. We make all of these so, so often. It will be a nice way to ease back in to cooking most nights of the week.
I am in the very (very) beginning stages of attempting to meal plan in two-week increments, instead of one. I’ve noticed that it may be easier to spend $100 every two weeks–all those times that I am a dollar or two short from a more budget-friendly (i.e. larger) item would be easier to work into our budget. Plus, through Hungry Harvest, we can get a slightly larger produce box delivered every two weeks for much less than $30. This opens up a little more to spend at the store. It would be easier to stretch meats and dairy and other higher-cost items, too. I want to do a couple sample two-week plans before we commit, of course. It add another element to our meal-planning, in that I would not have to think about which vegetables might spoil faster–those would have to be eaten in week one, while the hardier veggies are saved for week two. I’m merely playing around with my options right now, but I will certainly keep you up to date!
Here is what we spent this week:
(Ignore the weird spacing–the cashier had to adjust bananas that rang up incorrectly)
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $22.00 I added on the pound of cherries and two pounds of rhubarb–all the fruit for me, please!
Here is what we got:
Hungry Harvest Box: 2 lb. rhubarb, 1 lb. cherries, 2 portabello mushroom caps, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 3 sweet potatoes, 2 kiwis, 2 avocados, 2 apples, 3 green bell peppers, & a head of romaine lettuce
Aldi: frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, bananas, 2 lb. chicken breasts, white vinegar, 2 lb. carrots, gluten-free bread, organize spinach*, almond milk, butter, quinoa
Misc: 18 dozen eggs from my mom’s chicken lady connection
*I do appreciate that my spinach is organic, but the $0.50 more I paid for it was actually to get the spinach in a plastic box over a bag–the fragile leaves stay much fresher in the box!
Here is what we are eating this week:
Sunday: Out? If I don’t get dinner while I am running around to various places, I’ll probably make some with eggs, veggies, and some bacon/sausage. A frittata or omelet, maybe.
Monday: Fajitas with Portobello Mushrooms, Onions & Peppers, Corn Salad, and Guacamole Meat is as of yet undetermined–maybe some of the chicken, but we also have steak and shrimp in the freezer. The onions are from the pantry and the corn is from last week’s HH box. We’ll also use some of the tomatoes, and tortillas from the pantry.
Tuesday: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad This is the most recent addition to my list of quick staples! Exactly as it sounds: all the piece of a classic chicken caesar salad, just swapping the croutons with cooked (and cooled) GF noodles to make a cold pasta salad. We’ll use the chicken breast and the romaine, plus some parmesan and noodles from the pantry. I’m home late, but I can cook the chicken while the pasta cooks and get this dinner on the table in about 20 minutes!
Wednesday: Portobello Mushroom Risotto, with Roasted Tomatoes and Kale Salad Two classics, using some of the tomatoes and mushrooms from this week’s box, plus kale from last week’s. We have broth in the freezer and everything else (arborio rice, cranberries, nuts, etc) in the pantry.
Thursday: Out My coworkers and I will be celebrating our boss’ birthday
Friday: Grilling! Protein with yellow squash, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes Basically, whatever protein isn’t chosen for the fajitas earlier this week, plus the rest of the veggies from last week’s HH box. We are expecting rain until Thursday, so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the squash will stay good for that long.
Saturday: Tofu & Broccoli Pad Thai This meal is actually entirely from the pantry–it’s a dish we did not get to last week. I might swap the noodles for rice and play around with a different sauce, if I’m feeling creative, but I know we have all the ingredients for Pad Thai on hand, because I love it. 🙂
Breakfasts will be Berry & Spinach Smoothies (trying to get back on that smoothie train). Lunches will be sandwiches (we have ham in the fridge), dinner leftovers, or hardboiled eggs.
This is the first week in my long stretch of tech weeks/internship weeks that will have me getting home later and be major shifts in my usual schedule. I’m planning to do a lot more meals in the slow cooker, and also batch cook when I can–for instance, I cooked up twice the amount of chicken thighs when I was making Coq Au Vin last Friday. While half the batch stewed in the wine sauce, I just set the rest in a skillet, cooking plain. Without much extra effort, I had cooked chicken for our Caesar Salads last night and I still have some cooked chicken for tonight’s quesadillas. It makes dinner comes together in a matter of minutes! These next few weeks are going to be focused on simple, quick dinners that can give us lots of lunch leftovers.
I am also recognizing that simple, but flavorful might mean relying on some more prepared ingredients, like the beans in tomato sauce on this week’s plan. I could have made a sauce and added beans and simmered and all that…or I can open a can and heat the contents for an equally tasty dinner. It’s all about keeping the balance. Sometimes, that balance requires a little compromise in the form of extra cost, but, thankfully, not this week! I was delighted to be able to fit a serious stock-up into this week’s budget. Getting most of our groceries from our local asian market allowed me to keep the extra few dollars to get tamarin, rice vinegar, and sesame oil! Just like dairy products, all of my specialty sauces seem to run out at the same time. These ingredients are easy to stretch and asian dishes are usually easy and quick to cook! I expect to see a lot of wok-ed stir fries, curries, and noodles on our meal plans for the next couple of weeks. I also was able to grab a package of rice noodles, although we won’t even touch them this week. Several other items, like the sour cream, cheese, onions, and sausage will even stretch into next week as well.
On Monday, we are seeing my mother and sister while M tries out his Bulgogi recipe. Since we are feeding 5 people, we allowed a portion of the meal to come out of another budget. We have rice in the pantry, and I included most of the accompanying vegetables and sauce ingredients into our normal $50 budget, but the meat will be paid for through our ‘splurge’ fund. Also, Saturday is an extra long day. I’ll know that I will be out and about at dinnertime. We should have enough leftovers for me to bring, or I should be able to make a sandwich as well, but I may just pick up food along the way.
I’m excited to use a few new products this week: most specifically those Giant Baked Beans. The last time that I was in Trader Joe’s, they actually had a truly gluten-free sample: these beans paired with sausage. It was delicious and I’m excited to recreate it at home. I love cassoulet-type dishes, with sausage and beans, and I think it will be a perfect scoop on top of polenta! When on a budget, grains/carb-y stretches like potatoes are a necessity, in order to keep meals affordable, yet filling. I’m doing my best to keep our carb sources varied, hence the addition of polenta. We are also on a serious tofu kick around here. I finally found an extra-firm variety at our asian market, so that saved me about $0.80 off of purchasing it from Trader Joe’s or Giant (my Aldi still does not carry tofu).
Here is how we spent this week:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Lotte Asian Market: $17.46
Trader Joe’s: $6.12
Here’s what we got:
Hungry Harvest Box: 2 ears corn, broccoli, 1 red onion, 2 (small) avocados, 2 apples, 3 yellow squash, 2 peppers, 1/2 lb kale
Lotte Asian Market: red lettuce, coconut milk, green onions, 3 lbs onions, sesame oil, tamarin, rice vinegar, rice noodles, bananas, tofu
Aldi: cheddar cheese, italian sausage, gluten-free bread, sour cream
Trader Joe’s: polenta, 2 cans Giant Baked Beans
And here’s how we’ll use it:
Sunday: Chicken & Roasted Veggie Quesadillas with Corn Salad and Mango using some chicken thighs from last week, plus one of the peppers and one of the onions and some of the broccoli, chopped up with the cheese in tortillas from the pantry. We have the sour cream for topping. I’ll use last week’s tomatoes and this week’s corn and a little onion in a salad with a basic pantry vinaigrette, plus we have last week’s mango as a sweet finish to the meal.
Monday: Bulgogi with Rice & Lettuce Wraps We’ll be at my mom’s, as I mentioned. We’ll bring the lettuce and green onions, and use the asian sauces + onions in the marinade on Monday morning.
Tuesday: Sausage and Giant Beans in Tomato Sauce over Polenta, with Kale Salad as mentioned, some of the sausage and all of the beans will be a topping for seared polenta rounds. I’ll also make our favorite kale salad with another basic pantry vinaigrette, with some bread crumbs, and some parmesan, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds from the pantry.
Wednesday: Veggie + Tofu Curry and Rice using up the rest of the broccoli, pepper, and yellow squash, along with some onions, the tofu, the coconut milk and some rice and curry paste from the pantry.
Thursday: Citrus-Braised Pork Tacos with Slaw using some reserved, pre-cooked pork from the freezer. I saved some when I made Chilaquiles a few weeks ago, so I’ll pickle some of that red onion for serving, along with the avocados and some tortillas from the pantry. Again, I’ll use some pantry ingredients to make up a dressing for the rest of last week’s cabbage, to make a cole slaw.
Friday: Leftovers using up whatever remains from the week!
Breakfasts will be eggs+toast, yogurt+granola+fruit, or peanut butter & banana smoothies. Lunches are mostly leftovers or sandwiches.
I’ve gotten so much more careful with my food use since I started holding us to this tight budget. I’m trying to be clever and creative so that all leftovers get eaten and every food item is stretched to provide the most sustenance for us. This makes it much more upsetting when I encounter a crack in my plans…like when the last of the milk has gone sour, right on the day I was meant to use it up in cornbread muffins. 😦 Thankfully, I had enough sour cream, half-in-half, and–yes–water to make up for the milk in the recipe. But it was still disappointing. I knew it was nearing it’s turning point, and I purposefully moved the muffins up in my meal plan in order to use up the milk before it soured. But my timing was still off.
As I said, I did still manage to make corn muffins, so not too much is lost, except for a little milk down the drain. But it is interesting to see my thought process and values changing as we adjust to this new budget. I’m accepting almost everything that is offered to me. I’m certainly not begging, but I find myself taking advantage when I can. My mom’s been collecting pieces in Safeway’s monopoly game, and she has handed a few of the “free item” coupons over to me when she doesn’t plan to use them. I got a free avocado a few weeks ago and a box of English Breakfast Tea today. Even though they are minor, it’s a nice little treat to get something that I wasn’t able to fit into the budget. We aren’t eating poorly, or even boringly, but it’s nice to have an unexpected item to round out my meal plans every once in a while.
Officially, we don’t really have to follow this budget anymore. I started this strict budget this year because I was feeling the pressure from a new medical bill. My tax return this year was enough to cover it and, as of today, it is paid off in full. But, I think I will stick to the plan for a while longer. If I used to average about $70 per grocery trip last year, I should free up almost $100 a month as I continue to follow this budget. It will be nice to properly and methodically save for some short-term goals, and I intend to do just that! So, our $50 weekly budget will continue. I think the smaller amount of money we can adjust to living on, the better.
I have to admit, I am still torn on bread. It is tough to see almost 1/7 of my spending money go towards a loaf almost every week ($4 seems like an awful lot when you are only working with $35). I tried to get into the routine of gluten-free sourdough, with which I had moderate success. But it eats up so much flour in order to strengthen the starter, and we don’t have quite enough time, nor eat enough baked goods to eat up the discard starter. So it felt very wasteful, in flour and in money. My non-sourdough loaves are nice for a change of pace, but don’t make for good sandwich bread (which is where most of the store-bought goes each week: into M’s lunchbox). So for now, it is a price I have to adjust to, and one of the facts we have to live with, being gluten-intolerant. The quality and price of gluten-free products is so much better than it used to be, but it is something that I have to contend with each week. Thankfully, I’ve mostly forgotten how gluten-full products and prices compare. So as long as I avoid looking at those prices, it doesn’t get to me very much!
Here is my spending this week:
Hungry Harvest Box: $15.00
Trader Joe’s: $3.99
Here’s what we got:
(It looks like a lot this week.)
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: 1 pint grape tomatoes, 1 head (local!) lettuce, 2 bell peppers, 1 lb red potatoes, 1 mango, 4 plums, 2 pears, 1/2 bunch green onions, 4 apples*, and 5 oranges*
*We requested not to get the eggplant this week and the apples AND the oranges were substituted in for it! Makes me wonder how big that eggplant was, in order to equal 9 pieces of fruit?!
Aldi: 1.2 lb ground turkey, 5 lb chicken thighs ($0.69 per pound!), yogurt, sour cream, turkey lunch meat, white vinegar, cabbage, sliced almonds, white sugar, gluten-free bread, 2 lb carrots, red wine, 2 cans dice tomatoes, korma simmer sauce, and 1 can of chickpeas
Trader Joe’s: gluten-free rolled oats
And here is how we are eating this week:
Sunday: Turkey Chili + Cornbread Muffins Turkey was cheaper than beef, so it will get a splash of worchestershire sauce to deepen the flavor, plus onion, diced tomatoes, carrots, and bell pepper. I found a packet of GF chili seasoning in the pantry, which I use along with a little hot sauce to kick things up. One the day we moved into our apartment, M’s mum made a big crockpot of chili for everyone, with chickpeas and fresh tomatoes. It was SO GOOD (probably because we had just moved an entire apartment’s worth of furniture in a snowstorm), so I am adding the chickpeas to call back to that. The cornbread muffins were primarily a way to use up our milk, but, as mentioned, plans had to change. Thankfully, Aldi only has 16 oz sour creams, so I had enough to put into the muffins and still have enough for a dollop on the chili when serving.
Monday: Singapore Street Noodles with Tofu using the rest of last week’s tofu, along with some peppers, cabbage, carrots, and green onions. This is the last of our stockpile of rice noodles from the pantry, and we still have plenty of sauce ingredients (tamari, etc) in the fridge.
Tuesday: Leftovers M’s out. More chili for me!
Wednesday: Crockpot Chicken Korma with Rice using the rest of last week’s fingerling potatoes, the rest of the bell peppers, some carrots and chicken. I could have saved about $0.20 by getting a can of coconut milk and making the sauce myself with spices from the pantry, but I decided that my time was worth the $0.20 and grabbed this jar of pre-made korma sauce.
Thursday: Coq Au Vin with Mashed Red Potatoes I love Tieghen’s recipe, though I’m not putting that much butter into my potatoes this time around. I’ll use the last of the sweet potatoes from a few weeks ago.
Friday: Chicken Caesar Salad I’m slightly risking the green lettuce by waiting until Friday, but this is the perfect simple dinner to whip up after my longer class. Parmesan from last week and dressing from a few weeks ago.
Saturday: Leftovers/Pasta Whatever is scrounge-able!
I’m making a big batch of homemade granola and I’m saving the liquid from the chickpeas to try my hand at aquafaba meringues for the first time. Wish me luck!
Breakfasts will be granola+yogurt+fruit or eggs+fruit. Lunches are leftovers or sandwiches, along with more fruit and cucumbers left over from last week. The sugar and vinegar is for my home-brewed kombucha, which is giving us about 80 oz a week for the cost of a couple teabags, a cup of sugar, and a few tablespoons of vinegar!
Don’t worry, I’m less pouty this week. 😉 Our groceries are usually driven by what’s in our produce box, but especially this week. Usually there are one or two veggies that don’t quite get used up, but this meal plan is on track to take advantage of every single one of them! My cart at the store felt a little empty this week, but I know I was buying slightly higher-priced items that will pack a lot of punch–whether that punch is flavor, protein, creaminess, etc. Also, more unusually, I bought three different protein items this week, and they will all be used for this week. Not too much stocking up this time, though, as always, some items will stretch! And in spite of my empty-cart concerns, you can see that when it is all laid out on the counter, we have our usual amount of food.
Our box is fairly out of season, with what I can only presume are hot-house tomatoes, cucumber, and corn. I’m more exciting for HH’s source of fingerling potatoes. We’ve gotten a them a few times recently and any new/tiny potatoes are high up on my favorites list! I took a chance on some frozen mussels this week, to supplement a “Low Country Boil”. M isn’t too keen on shrimp at the moment. So, of course, I am all about them, suddenly. Isn’t that always the way? Anyways, it’ll be a different twist to use up the corn and potatoes and we can each favor our preferred seafood.
I still didn’t have quite enough to spring for some nuts, but I still have my change from last week to build upon. Plus, I got the chance to actually note the price-per-ounce, and was surprised to find that (while Aldi wins out on pricing for most types of nuts), I can get raw walnuts for cheaper at Trader Joe’s. In the meantime, I managed to squeeze some no-sugar-added peanut butter into the budget, along with some dried banana chips. These will make another snack option for us. Plus, I’ll be able to make a super tasty peanut dipping sauce for our summer rolls this week.
I’ve also noticed that, without much effort, this $50 budget is forcing us to eat less meat. I have tried in the past to reduce our meat consumption, but never really found a my groove to sustain it. Nowadays, we usually have about 2 dinners that are meatless each week, and at least one more where meat is more seasoning that main dish. We just don’t have the budget to have a piece of meat, each, plus sides. Especially when our dinner leftovers are often becoming our lunches. So that was interesting to see that I’ve naturally adapted to the less meat.
Finally, our Hungry Harvest box always send out an email on Thursdays, listing what is in each week’s box. That’s wha kickstarts my meal-planning each week. Of course, they always note that the contents of the box may be different. Customers are able to make lists of vegetables and fruits that they do not like, which will be swapped for something else. Also, since Hungry Harvest sources from recovered produce, there is always a chance that there will not be enough of a certain type of produce to fill every box, or that an item might spoil before packing time. This week is a good example. The email listed that my box would have 2 grapefruits: we opened it up to find a grapefruit and 3 kiwis in substitution. I’m certainly not mad about it. I like kiwis, and since we eat most of our fruit raw, I don’t necessarily have a recipe hinging on that second grapefruit. In fact, the kiwis are much easier for me! M doesn’t eat much fruit, but I like to have a piece in my lunch and at breakfast, if there is enough. Last week, our apples and oranges were only enough for my lunches. I’m happy, with the one grapefruit split in half, to have fruit with some of my breakfasts this week.
Here is how I spent this week:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Trader Joe’s: $3.86
Total: $49.99 (heyyyyyy!)
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: 1 english cucumber, 2 ears of corn, 1.5 lb fingerling potatoes, 1 butternut squash, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 grapefruit, butter lettuce, 3 apples, 3 kiwis.
Aldi: white wine, gluten-free bread, mushrooms, almond milk, parmesan cheese, butter, kielbasa, cheddar, frozen berries, frozen mussels, peanut butter, bratwursts
Trader Joe’s: tofu, banana chips, lemon
Here’s what we are eating:
Sunday: Low Country Boil with ciabatta rolls using the mussels, kielbasa, corn, potatoes, lemon, butter, and a little wine from this shopping trip, plus shrimp and bread rolls from the freezer and spices from the pantry
Monday: Tofu Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce using the tofu, cucumber, butter lettuce, and peanut butter, plus rice paper wrappers and vermicelli noodles from the pantry and chili sauce, carrots, and peppers from the fridge
Tuesday: Leftovers The usual.
Wednesday: Cheesy Butternut Squash Pasta I’m going to try this riff on mac & cheese with half of our squash (I’ll freeze the rest), some of the cheddar, plus pasta from the pantry.
Thursday: Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes another favorite meatless meal, using the mushrooms, white wine, tomatoes, and parmesan, plus broth, rice, and spices from the fridge/pantry
Friday: Toad in the Hole (Sausages & Yorkshire Pudding) with Gravy and Vegetables A nice, traditional UK dish for St. Patrick’s Day, for anyone who isn’t much of a fan of boiled meals… I considered a variant on my shepherd’s pie, but this was more cost effective for this week. The bratwursts, because they were the only non-italian sausages I could find, plus a lot of pantry ingredients.
Saturday: Out/Leftovers We are going to a movie with some friends. Dinner is still up in the air, but we will definitely have various leftovers, if we decide to eat at home.
Breakfasts will be yogurt, fruit, eggs, oatmeal, or toast. Lunches are mostly leftovers, with the option of cheese & crackers, PB sandwiches, and/or hard-boiled eggs to fill in. Our small, but growing snack stash includes: cheese, popcorn, PB+banana chips, and (if I get my act together today) pumpkin muffins.