It was SO hard to wait all week to share this with you. Why? Because in addition to my regular weekly budget, this week I had guests over for dinner for the first time! Details at the end of the post…
But let’s do my regular weekly food first…
It’s funny because when I started this $30/week budget in September, I assumed that my grocery bill would be lower at first as I worked my way through the stockpiles in my pantry, then it would get higher as I ran low on staples. Exactly the opposite has happened. Because I’m planning and cooking so mindfully, I am finding that I’m paying closer attention to how I save leftover ingredients and I am buying less and less each week. For the third week in a row, I’ve come in at about $25 dollars. Instead of buying more to reach my $30 limit, I left it at $25 because that’s all I really “needed”. I guess for me, it’s a practice in not over consuming—not spending just because I can.
What I Bought
I barely needed to restock any staples this week, just some more onions and eggs. I had just enough milk to last me until my next grocery run, so I didn’t bother getting more. The recipes I had planned for this week used a lot of items that I already had on hand, like rice, a can of chickpeas, and that cabbage from a couple weeks ago (LOL), so my grocery list was super short.
I was pretty excited to have been able to work fresh salmon into my budget. That was really empowering. Again, pairing that salmon with a lower priced ingredient, like the green beans, helps spread the higher cost out and makes it more affordable. This gave me hope and confidence that I can begin to move towards more sustainable ingredients, even if they’re priced a bit higher.
Last week I had a killer craving for popcorn and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have any in my pantry (it’s my favorite cheap/salty/crunchy snack), so I made sure to grab a bag this week. That should last me about six months.
I tried melon again this week because I was still craving it and I wasn’t deterred by last week’s bad melon. Well, that was a huge mistake. This one was even worse than last week’s. *sigh* Luckily, I was gifted some free fruit half way through the week, which completely saved my life. Scroll down to the “What I Ate” section to find out more.
I had a bit of an issue while shopping this week because so many items didn’t have prices listed on them. I had to ask store employees about the price of green beans and salmon because neither were labeled. Both employees must have guessed because when I got to the register it turns out they both rang up much lower than what was quoted. Although it worked out in my favor, it does make it difficult when you’re trying to keep track of your running total as you shop.
I also started doing something new with my grocery lists: listing the planned (or potential) recipes at the bottom, so I can cross reference them as I shop. I had gingersnap granola listed as a possible extra recipe, but I needed both nuts AND molasses for that and buying both would have pushed me over budget. The question mark means that it’s just a possibility. ;) Maybe next week!
What I Ate
I made a big pan of this Spinach and Chickpea Rice Pilaf to eat off all week. It was super flavorful AND filling, plus I could add an egg for extra protein when needed.
I only used 1/2 of a 2oz. cube of feta for the pilaf, but then I ended up just eating the other ounce straight as a snack. Oops.
I made this fancy pants Sesame Glazed Salmon and Green Beans as a secondary meal. There were only three servings, but it gave me enough variety in the week to keep me interested. Leftovers of this one don’t look as pretty (the glaze gets cloudy), but it still tastes great!
I didn’t forget about that purple cabbage in my fridge! It’s really amazing how long they last. I only used half of it, but if it’s still good in a day or two, I’m going to use the rest in soup. I combined the cabbage with some dry goods that I had in my pantry (cranberries, sunflower seeds, and feta from the freezer), to make this beautiful and delicious Cabbage and Cranberry Salad. This really helped me up my vegetable intake this week and the only thing I had to buy was the dressing, so that was awesome.
As mentioned, I was gifted a bunch of free fruit this week (they were leftover scenery from a movie set). I was SO excited! But what does one do with a bunch of mangoes and pineapple that are right at their peak of ripeness? Freeze them!
The best way to freeze fruit is to cut it into chunks (or leave it whole if it’s something like berries or cherries), and spread it out onto a baking sheet. I covered my baking sheet with parchment to keep them from sticking…
Pop the baking sheet into the freezer for a few hours until the fruit is solid. Don’t forget about it and leave it in there for a day or more, because then it will start to dry out and get freezer burn. Just until it’s frozen solid.
Then transfer the chunks to a freezer bag labeled with the contents and date. Freezing it spread out on a baking sheet first helps keep the pieces separate and keeps them from freezing together in a huge chunk. These will be GREAT for smoothies! Yay!
I did eat out more often than I would have liked this week, but that’s because we had an out of town guest who was extremely excited to try all the culinary delights that New Orleans has to offer. I can’t blame her. I was just as excited, since I rarely give myself an excuse to eat out. :)
BUT I also cooked dinner one of the nights to try to keep costs under control at least a little…
Dinner for Friends
This was really exciting for me because this is the FIRST time I’ve been able to cook for friends… pretty much ever. Until this time last year I lived in a studio apartment with no room for guests to come over and eat. Even though I’ve been in my house for a year, I didn’t get a dining room table until a few weeks ago.
I considered this dinner as an extra entertainment expense, kind of like going out to eat, but still way cheaper. I was able to make dinner and buy drinks for three people for about $20. Both my guests don’t drink alcohol and I usually don’t have anything other than water and coffee in my house, so I bought other beverages to offer (I’m sure I looked like a lost puppy in the juice/soda aisle). If they had been drinkers, I probably would have just grabbed a $10 bottle of white wine and we’d be at $25 for the meal, which is still a steal. Without drinks, the dinner was only about $15.
So what did I make? The main dish was this super easy (but impressive) Spicy Tomato & Shrimp Pasta. I served it with a huge loaf of Garlic Bread and a really simple salad made with romaine, cucumber, and artichoke hearts. I used dressing that I bought with this week’s regular groceries, plus I added a little Parmesan cheese that I had on hand.
There was enough food for all three of us to have second helpings, plus garlic bread and salad left over for the next day. Here’s what the receipt looked like:
And the groceries:
All three of these recipes are super simple, so I was able to use a lot of stuff that I already had on hand, like fettuccine, parsley, garlic, butter, olive oil, and red pepper. I barely had to buy anything and it was all so inexpensive that I even used 50% more shrimp than the original recipe called for. Not bad. I might have to try cooking for friends more often! :D
So, that’s that! Another successful week of rolling with the punches with iffy ingredients and unlabeled prices, and making the most of any freebies that come my way. It’s always an adventure! Until next week. :)