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.
It’s been a weird week, folks. Maybe it is the weather finally acting a little like winter, maybe it’s stress, but I have been in a bit of a funk all week. To top it all off, I allowed myself to get a little excited as I wrote my grocery list, because it seemed like so little. I thought I’ve have more than a few dollars to stock up. Unfortunately, I forgot how much dairy eats up our budget. Don’t you dare try to swing me on that dairy-free lifestyle–I absolutely love all things dairy. Cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt…<3 But our current consumption schedule has made it so that we tend to run out of our dairy products in the same week, and then there goes my budget.
I’ve been wanting to get some nuts for snacking and some sauces and such, but my extra dollars usually go towards something more pressing. This week, I did know that I wanted to spring for some of those herb paste tubes at Giant. Specifically, one each of cilantro and lemongrass. They are a few dollars each, but (especially the lemongrass) lasts forever, since the paste is concentrated. So while I was disappointed to pass up the cashews, I knew that I would be rewarded with super flavorful dishes. And, maybe I could stop spending $1 each week on fresh cilantro. However, I definitely underestimated the price of these herb pastes. I thought I had saved enough money to get both, but these things are $4.50 a piece!! Oy. Only one this week, then. The lemongrass is definitely worth it, so I will have to save a few dollars to pick up that one soon, but I will pay attention to our use of the cilantro paste to see if it is actually worth that price.
I mostly let go of my deprivation funk today when I realized that we have popcorn kernels in the pantry and then when I used one of last week’s zucchini to make my Chocolate Surprise Muffins. (I used all flax eggs, plus replaced all of the various vegetables with one large zucchini, undrained. Also added in a 1/2 cup of shredded coconut! They ended up being vegan.) A little bit of that crunchy popcorn and chocolate went a long way towards making me forget the cashews, peanut butter, and chips that were left behind at the store this week.
I also planted the first seedlings of the year in our garden plot! Kale and swiss chard, to hopefully survive our cooler temperatures. I also planted some carrot and radish seeds, which will have a few weeks for the weather to warm up by the time they sprout. A second batch of bone broth had been in the crockpot for a few days, as the last of the broth from the previous batch will be used up in this week’s soup. I also tried flavoring my kombucha for the first time: with vanilla beans, which made a perfectly pleasant brew. I’m even getting M hooked on kombucha, now that it is readily available!
Here is the breakdown for this week:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Aldi: $26.27 ($8 was spent on a pilates ring I found in their home-goods aisle. Super excited to try that out! But of course, it doesn’t count towards our food budget.)
I came out under budget this week. I’ll put the change towards last week’s overage and keep the $2 in bills for a future trip. Maybe this is how I’ll be able to afford those cashews…build up my change!
This week’s groceries:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: 2 bell peppers, 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, snow peas, 2 oranges, 3 apples, an onion, 3 sweet potatoes, 2 carrots, and a pint of cherry tomatoes
Giant: coconut milk, cilantro paste
Aldi: goat cheese, sausages, ground ginger, persian cucumbers, hummus, spinach, yogurt, half-n-half, artichoke hearts, white northern beans, an avocado, bread, milk
Plus a dozen eggs from my mother’s chicken lady hook up. 🙂
Here is the meal plan for this week:
Sunday: Roast Chicken and Vegetables with gravy using the whole chicken from last week, some bone broth from the freezer, lemon from a few weeks ago, and some of this week’s carrots, sweet potatoes, and onion
Monday: Zuppa Toscana using last weeks red potatoes and kale (I found the recipe right after I made last week’s meal plan and knew I needed to make it!), plus the last of the bone broth and some sausage, white beans, and half-n-half from this week’s groceries
Tuesday: Leftovers M is out, as per usual, so I will figure something out, or eat more soup.
Wednesday: Veggie Curry Stir-fry using this week’s snow peas, peppers, carrots, brussels sprouts, and coconut milk, with curry paste from the freezer and rice from the pantry
Thursday: Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart with salad I froze the other half of the pie dough when I made quiche last week. That will thaw, then drape over those cherry tomatoes, tarte tatin-style, with a little balsamic vinegar and dried thyme from the pantry. Goat cheese will be crumbled on top after it’s cooked. I’ll pair it with a salad that uses up any remaining kale plus some of the spinach
Friday: Tuscan Chicken Sandwiches based on what I ate from the sandwich shop almost every day of my freshman year of college, before I was gluten-intolerant. Some chicken from Sunday’s roast, with goat cheese, spinach, (freezer) pesto, roasted red peppers, artichokes, and aioli. If I feel extra proactive, I might try some baked sweet potato chips
Saturday: Chicken Tacos with the last of the roast chicken, plus tortillas and various fixings from odds and ends in the pantry and fridge
Breakfasts will be yogurt with fruit, zucchini muffins, avocado toasts, or eggs. Lunches will be leftovers from dinner or cucumbers and hummus + hardboiled eggs, with fruit.
I am having a pretty great Sunday, how about you?
My crazy balancing act of work-homework-internship-housework-social life actually stayed in check this week! After work yesterday, I managed to come home and finish my homework, which took a huge weight off of my shoulders. Since Sundays are my only day off of work each week, they tend to be filled with all of my catch-up tasks. More often than I’d like, this means most of my homework, all of the cleaning and laundry, and meal prepping. I never actually get through my To-Do list on Sundays, and–this year, especially–it leaves me totally stressed out. I am trying to develop evening routines that break up my housework into manageable, small tasks each day, but this has been a really tough habit for me to develop. In fact, it’s only the dream of someday having a Sunday with actual downtime that keeps me at that habit.
I didn’t get much cleaning done during this week, but I did reorganize our bookshelves to make room for my cookbooks, so that I have more food storage space on top of our pantry. (Mostly because I found copper-trimmed mason jars to store my beans and lentils and they were not getting shown off as they deserved!) But getting my homework out of the way was just enough to remove the stress! My to-do list today was super manageable, and I even was able to tackle a few extraneous tasks that have been bugging me–like reorganizing our linen closet and cleaning my desk! I had a little downtime when I went to my mother’s to pick up eggs and all in all, today has been industrious, yet satisfying!
I do have a confession to make, though: I was over budget this week. 😦 By exactly $0.50 and that was only tax, but over my $50, just the same. However, I went over budget by grabbing a whole chicken for $5.04, so it was totally worth it! I will get at least three meals out of that chicken, plus having all the bones to make another batch of bone broth. I also have a quiche in the oven right now, which is another one of my favorite cheap “stretch” dishes. Normally, a few eggs, several slices of bacon, and a cup or so of veggies would possibly stretch to 2, maybe 3 breakfasts for M and I (if I’m stingy with the bacon and we add some toast into the equation). Theses same ingredients, mix with a little milk or cream and tipped into a pie crust, will give me 8 hearty servings! Add some roasted potatoes or other vegetables alongside to mix up these leftovers for lunch or dinner!
Here is the breakdown for this week:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
This week’s groceries:
HH Produce Box: 2 zucchini, 1 lb. tiny onions, 3 tangelos, broccoli, kale, 1 orange, 1.5 lbs red potatoes, and sugar snap peas.
Aldi: bacon, whole chicken, butter, cottage cheese, garlic, queso fresco, cucumber, frozen orange juice concentrate, tortilla chips, swiss cheese, onions, lime, avocados, pasta, white vinegar, bread, cilantro
Plus 8 eggs from my mother’s chicken hook-up. 😉 And here is how we are using this week’s groceries:
Sunday: Turkey & Broccoli Quiche with roasted Potatoes A couple of eggs, the last of the half-n-half from a few weeks ago, some of the bacon, butter in the crust, half the swiss cheese, an onion, plus turkey & broccoli from the freezer. And some of last week’s potatoes.
Monday: Pasta Primavera using the pasta, some of last week’s milk, the remaining parmesan from 4 weeks ago, some of the garlic, zucchini, snap peas, kale, and broccoli from this week, plus some peas from the freezer, and red peppers from our box a few weeks ago.
Tuesday: Leftovers/Crepes I am hoping to get my act together to make crepes for Fat Tuesday, but, worse-comes-to-worst, I know there will be some quiche left (which is not bad at all!)
Wednesday: Out at M’s mum’s house I’m not sure what we are doing for dinner.
Thursday: Citrus-Braised Pork Chilaquiles + Avocado Salad from Date Night In I’ve already talked about how much we love this cookbook and these chilaquiles. I stocked up on the pork last week, but I’ll use the orange juice, cilantro, tortilla chips, onions, lime, garlic, queso fresco, and avocados from this week, plus bone broth from the freezer.
Friday: Citrus-Braised Pork sandwiches with quick cucumber pickles and roasted potatoes with broccoli Definitely making enough pork for a second dish. We have a lot of GF hamburger buns taking up valuable freezer space, so I’ll use up a couple of those. With that cucumber running me $0.29, these quick vinegar pickles will be the cheapest topping that I make all week! Plus, I’ll use up more of last week’s potatoes and the rest of the broccoli.
Saturday: French Onion Panade with Kale Salad This panade is like the best part of French Onion Soup. It even has the same flavors, you just lessen the amount of broth and up the amount of bread to make a sort of savory bread pudding. I’ll use up all of those tiny onions, the rest of the swiss cheese, the last of my bone broth (a new batch will be started this week), and some GF sourdough bread that I unearthed from the freezer. The salad will use up more of the kale, plus some of the cranberries from last week and whatever cheese is left!
Breakfasts will be eggs, toast, oatmeal, or cottage cheese with fruit. Lunches will be leftovers or sandwiches with the deli roast beef from a few weeks ago, plus the remainder of the sugar snap peas from our box. I am going to try to get my act together to make a batch of zucchini muffins as well, which will supplement breakfast or snacking!
I scored majorly this week! We had a very good produce box this week, even creating one of those serendipitous moments of including a cauliflower and potatoes for the week when I was toying with the idea of Aloo Gobi (Indian Cauliflower & Potato Curry)! I am still really digging Asian–type flavors this week. Plus, after finding out that Aldi stock’s gluten-free imitation crab, I knew I would also be making California rolls. Super exciting!
Once the box was confirmed and I was making my list for the store, I knew I was going to have a fair amount of extra money left over…it turned out to be around $11, so I able to spend NINE DOLLARS to stock up on a 5+ pound pork butt! That is the toughest thing about this $50 budget–that there is rarely ever enough remaining money to cover those bigger cuts of meat (that are actually quite cheap in terms of dollars-per-pound, but still require a slightly steep investment up front). Believe me, I am trying to get creative with how I save up for them–maybe I’ll tuck the changes away each week until it builds to $10-$15. Either way, by using our pantry a lot this week, I did manage to squeeze in the pork butt (and a treat: potato chips!) I’ve already portioned the pork into 3 different 1.75 lb bags in the freezer. You can bet that Citrus Pork Chilaquiles from Ashley‘s Date Night In Cookbook will be on the menu next week.** The other ingredients with be a little bit of an investment–things like orange juice, avocado, tortilla chips, and queso fresco with run me between $1-$2 a piece at Aldi. But I will get creative with the rest of the week’s meals in order to make it work because these chilaquiles are HEA. VEN. LY!
If you are careful with your pantry items and invest in spices, there is absolutely no reason to boring, flavor-lacking food when you are eating on a budget. As you may noticed, M and I favor super bold cuisines: Thai, Mexican, Indian and eat dishes from those cuisines fairly often! Spices are the absolutely key to keeping things interesting! I’ve found that cheap spices can be found in the “Mexican/Asian” aisle of regular Giants. They have very cheap bottles of garlic powder, oregano, cilantro, etc and even had little baggies with a couple whole star anise or a few whole nutmegs for like $2! Check it out, and try to put together a few dollars towards spices every other week–you will soon be on your way to a flexible and useful spice cabinet!
**This is not a paid endorsement at all. M got me the book for Christmas two years ago and I just love it! The chilaquiles is our absolute favorite recipe…with Basil Mint Bourbon Jubilees coming in close behind!
This week’s tally:
- Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $16.50 (added on the grapefruits)
- Aldi: $27.75
- Lotte Asian Market: $5.28
- Total: $49.53 (If I hadn’t had those stock up/splurge items, we would have barely cracked $35 this week!)
This week’s groceries:
Hungry Harvest Box: 2 grapefruits (add on), 1 red onion, 0.5 lb brussels sprouts, 3 apples, 1 head of organic cauliflower, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce, 1 mango, 1.5 lb fingerling potatoes.
Lotte Asian Market: whole lemongrass, fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, 2 lbs sushi rice
Aldi: dried cranberries (stock up), 1.5 lb pork tenderloin, 5.12 lbs pork butt (stock up), chips (splurge), cucumber, 5 lbs potatoes (stock up-forgot about the fingerlings in HH box), avocado, diced tomatoes, milk, sriracha (stock up), cooking spray, imitation crabmeat
Here is how we are eating this week:
Sunday: Paneer Masala, Aloo Gobi, Coconut-Creamed Spinach, & Rice I’ll be making the paneer with that gallon of milk and some lemon juice! It is so simple and I should get between 12-18 oz of cheese for about $1.50. I’ll cook down a masala sauce with the tomatoes, some spices, and some of the half-n-half from two weeks ago. The spinach is from two weeks ago and the coconut milk is from last week’s grocery trip. The veggies from the box will pair with spices for the Aloo Gobi and we purchased a huge 15 lb bag of rice ages ago, that we have been slowly working our way through.
Monday: I’m out late with meetings for my internship. I will probably grab something on the run.
Tuesday: Leftovers M is out and I work late. I’ll eat leftovers or some scrambled eggs when I get home.
Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, & Fingerling Potatoes with Mojo Verde sauce M will be cooking while I’m in class. Mojo Verde will someday make it up here on the blog–it’s similar to chimichurri. An herby sauce with cilantro, parsley, garlic, vinegar, and all sorts of tasty stuff!
Thursday: Sushi! A big old batch of rice will get rolled into California Rolls, veggie rolls, maybe I’ll even break out the shrimp if I’m feeling fancy! Check out my last post for a step-by-step guide to rolling sushi!
Friday: Larb Gai I’ll mince up some chicken thighs with the freezer and sauté them with my pantry items (fish sauce, lime juice, etc) and cilantro and serve with the red onion and butter lettuce for a light dinner.
Saturday: Odds and Ends Whatever I’m feeling like. I know I need to use up the eggplant and do something with tomatoes! We will still have chicken thighs and a few sausages in the freezer, if I want some meat.
Breakfasts will be eggs or oatmeal or fruit and toast. Lunches will be leftovers or sandwiches using the roast beef from last week!
I am feeling back on track and excited for my budget planning this week! It has been so eye-opening to truly keep track of my meal planning and shopping for the past few weeks. I was going through the motions before, but not giving myself a chance to sit down and assess my shopping and planning each week. I can already tell that posting my weekly updates here are helping me! In order to stick to the budget, I have started writing the cost of each item on my shopping list as I go, so I can keep a running total to stay under budget. Well, this week, I realized that doing this means I am also starting to gather information to make a general cost list by store–so I know the general price of items and I can snag a deal (or avoid a more costly purchase). For example: I now know that limes are $0.25 a piece at Aldi, so, unless I find them cheaper, I know to wait to purchase the limes there.
This was so helpful for this week, because I went to our local Asian grocery store before Aldi. We needed a few ingredients that I suspected that I could get cheaper there, even cheaper than Aldi. I was able to go back through my shopping lists and have general costs for the items that I knew I wanted from Aldi (I’ve found that dairy, especially, is more expensive at our Asian grocery store) and have the costs for items that I wanted to get at the Asian grocery store. So as I walked into the store, I knew that I should aim to have around $20 left to spend at Aldi and I had prices for almost every individual item, so I could compare the prices to Aldi’s on the fly.
It was a great system! By doing a little math ahead of time and some more while I was in the store, I knew when I had an extra $2 so that I could, say, choose a larger jar of curry paste. This investment will last us through probably 8-10 dishes, so the investment now will definitely pay off later!
M and I decided that we are not going to go out for Valentine’s Day this year. I still have to work a little late, and both of us just don’t feel like dealing with the crowds and reservations. So, I made a little compromise on our budget this week. M insisted that he would be in charge of dinner while I handled dessert, so, while I worked my dessert ingredients into our budget, we will be spending more money for Tuesday’s dinner ingredients (even though we’ve hit our weekly budget). But, as long as we stay well under what we would have spent going out to dinner (not so hard, when you add in a drink each and tip!), we can comfortably cover this splurge.
So, here is the breakdown for this week:
- Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15
- Lotte Asian Grocery Store: $14.11
- Aldi: $19.38
- Total: $48.49
Hmm…looking at that total, I now realize that I would have been able to get fresh raspberries for my dessert. I made do with black berries, as they were about $0.50 cheaper. I suppose that totaling is one more step to add into my math when I shop at multiple stores! Ah well, you live and you learn, huh?
This week’s groceries:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: green onions, kale, 2 bell peppers, 2 plums, 2 seckel pears (my favorite!), eggplant, acorn squash, cucumber, (1 lonely little) parsnip, 1 lb red grapes
Lotte Asian Grocery Store: corn tortillas, 1 lemon, red curry paste, nori, cilantro, 2 limes, mushrooms, 2 cans coconut milk
Aldi: blackberries, butter, 1 lb. pork sausage, cheddar cheese, chocolate chips, eggs, deli-style roast beef, milk, gluten-free bread
The corn tortillas and nori will last far past this week, as will some of the cheese, coconut milk, milk, butter, curry paste, and acorn squash. I found a super intriguing recipe for acorn squash roasted with onions and served with yogurt. I’m thinking that I will pair that with last week’s frozen spinach for an Indian-inspired dinner next week! I’ll be roasting those red peppers, to keep them longer as well, since I’m only just getting to last week’s pair of green peppers.
Here is what we are eating this week:
Sunday: Swedish Meatballs, Pasta, & Kale Salad I’ll use up some of last week’s sour cream and half-n-half. I’ll also split one of my quarts of bone broth between this gravy and Friday’s soup.
Monday: Teriyaki Salmon, Cucumber Sushi Rolls, & Sesame Broccoli The salmon is from a few weeks back, and the broccoli is from the freezer. The sushi will be a tasty use of the cucumber without loading up on starch and will be easy leftovers for lunch the next day (where as the salmon wouldn’t be…)
Tuesday: Valentine’s Day Dinner (M’s choice) with Flourless Chocolate Cake with Blackberries Yup. Throwing it waaaaay back for dessert. But this cake is so simple, yet so decadent!
Wednesday: Leftovers/Omelet M will be out and I have class until late evening. I’ll make whatever is quick and simple for myself when I get home.
Thursday: Chicken Fajitas With last week’s chicken, peppers, and sour cream, plus we have some salsa stashed in the fridge and the fresh cilantro. Salsa are a great option for adding flavor to a dish, and is an ingredient that will keep for quite some time in the fridge!
Friday: Tom Kha Gai Soup with Rice Here’s where the mushrooms, curry paste, coconut milk, and more cilantro will go! Flexible enough that I can either throw the broth in the crockpot in the morning or heat it up fairly quickly when I get home from work. Creamy, coconut-y, spicy goodness!
Saturday: Spaghetti Squash with Red Sauce and Sausage Because yes, we still haven’t actually gotten to it. Good thing the sauce and sausage are frozen and squashes keep forever. 🙂
Breakfasts will be yogurt and fruit, eggs and toast, or oatmeal. Lunches will be leftovers or sandwiches paired with fruit! If I can get my act together, I’ll make the eggplant into roasted eggplant dip/spread for lunches. If not, then I’ll incorporate it somewhere next week!