Yesterday I spent $3.42 on two bananas, a watermelon quarter, and a large mango. Today I'm having oatmeal with peanut butter and honey and a sliced banana for breakfast. For lunch I am taking a tuna sandwich and some watermelon. For dinner I am making parmesan crusted Tilapia, garlic and parmesan couscous, and salad.
Viewing the 'Food / Groceries' Category
In my last post I talked about some if the reasons it has been hard for me to limit spending on food in the past. Now I will talk about some things I have found which make it a little bit easier.
1) Make food I want to eat
Sometimes this means paying a little more for bread that doesn't taste like cardboard. Sometimes this means using fresh vegetables instead of frozen or canned.
Sometimes this means taking a little time and effort to learn new recipes, and to make something more complex than plain oatmeal, or plain grilled chicken with unseasoned frozen vegetables.
If I am looking forward to the food I have at home then I will be far less likely to just go out instead.
2) Don't eat too much late at night
Why? Because if I wake up hungry I will get my butt out of bed and make breakfast. If I don't I will roll around in bed until the last minute and pick up a donut and coffee on the way to work.
3) Plan ahead
This one doesn't need a lot of explanation. Coming up with a meal at the last minute is daunting. Especially if you are missing a crucial ingredient, but don't have the hour it takes to walk to the store and back.
4) Eat out sometimes
Just plan for it, enjoy it, and don't let it turn into something you do every day. Go out for dessert and have dinner at home. You still have all the fun of going out, but it's much less expensive.
I've identified 5 things that make spending less on food more difficult. Some are more easily dealt with than others, but it makes sense to me now why food has always been our biggest money drain.
1) Bulk buying most items is impossible
We live in a 600 sq ft apartment and do not own a car. The closest grocery store is over a half a mile away, and the larger one I normally shop at is 1.3 miles away. I usually shop by myself too, since I tend to go right after work. There's only so much I can carry at once. And even if I could get it home, I have nowhere to store it.
I do buy 5 lbs at a time of some things like flour, rice, and beans, but it often requires a special trip. I used to just buy the smallest quantity at a time that I could. We also buy 6-9 lbs of frozen chicken breast at a time when it goes on sale cheap enough.
2) My options are limited
I live in the middle of the city. There are lots of little corner stores with pitiful produce and huge mark ups, but no big box stores of any kind. The are two normal grocery stores (QFC) within walking distance, both the same company, and a Grocery Outlet, a Trader Joe's, and a large Asian grocery store are either a quick bus ride, or longer walk away. I make a point to get to the Grocery Outlet around once or twice a month, and occasionally go to TJ's and the Asian store for a few specific things, but otherwise all my shopping is done at QFC.
3) Temptation is everywhere
The nearest grocery store is 8 blocks away, but within a three block radius of our apartment are two delis, two bakeries, a McDonald's, a Subway, and a large drug store where most of the grocery items cost a lot more. On my way to and from work there are over 100 of such businesses, plus restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, and more. It's a lot easier to juts pick up a snack or a meal here or there, but it adds up to hundreds a month quickly.
4) The dishes never end
We don't have a dishwasher, so everything is hand washed. By me. And even though I tend to go for one dish meals, there are still a lot more dishes when you cook from scratch. Measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, knives and cutting boards, colanders, not to mention pots and pans and the dishes we actually eat out of. So not only do meals take longer to prep and cook, but the cleanup takes longer too.
5) DH's dietary restrictions
So many of the foods that are both cheap and healthy are also things DH has to limit his intake of. Potatoes, rice, pasta, bananas, carrots, nut butters, canned tomatoes, beans, lentils, split peas, greens. We still eat them, but we have to be careful how much. He is also supposed to get as much of his protein from meat as possible, which we do to the best of our ability. But let's face it, most people with his complicated medical issues have enough money going out for medical care that they have to cut corners wherever they can.
Both of them woke up with bad colds yesterday. I made shell pasta and cheese sauce with cheddar and gorgonzola for lunch and we had leftover Moroccan chicken stew I had frozen for dinner. I also made a store run for them. DD's throat was sore and she wanted sherbet. DH wanted orange juice. I got two cartons of sherbet on BOGO, a bottle of OJ, some bulk cashews and bulk dried garbanzo beans for $16.50.
DD flies back this evening, and DH has to take her to the airport. I am hoping it will all be ok. DD seems a little better today, but doesn't feel like eating. I have to go to work around 2.
We walked a mile and a half to the frozen yogurt place after dinner tonight and spent just under $10. There are two (actually three, but we never go to the third one) within walking distance of us. DD chose the one that is farther away. Let me tell you about these places. They are pure evil.
You serve yourself. They have 16 flavors at any given time, which rotate out frequently. They have massive topping bars with just about anything you can imagine. And you pay by the oz. But what really makes these places evil is that their smallest cup holds like 24 ounces. Sure, you can just not fill it up all the way, but 4 oz. of yogurt just looks sad in a cup that big.
And one of the yogurt shops is a block from my work. And I have to walk by it going to and from work. They have the door propped open now that it's summer, and I can smell the waffle bowls cooking from the sidewalk. I never even get the waffle bowls, and don't really like them, but the smell is like a siren song. If I can keep my visits to once a week or less I am happy. And when DD is here I feel guilty going without her, so it's slightly easier during those times.
I also stopped at the store on the way back and got bread, a canister of oats, some packets of the store brand version of Splenda for DH, a head of lettuce, a roll of tin foil, and sandwich bags, which cost a total of $17.10.
Tomorrow I decided to be on call for work at the airport. Which basically means I will only have to go in if someone from one of the evening shifts calls in sick. I don't really want to go in, so I'm crossing my fingers. I do chair massage at the airport in addition to working 4 days a week at a massage studio in my neighborhood. I don't have any regular shifts there by choice. I just work as a sub. So that means I may work anywhere from zero days to three days in any given week. Most of the shifts I work are vacation coverage and are scheduled a month or so in advance. Once in a while I'll just be on call though. It's like I'm willing to work if needed, but don't really want to that much.
In the morning I am doing a 90 minute massage for a coworker at the massage studio (I get my half of the trade next week), and then after that I have no solid plans, just in case, but hope to make carrot muffins.
Or maybe it just seems that way. There was no more bread this morning, so I brought hummus, crackers, and a salad for lunch. I had the rest of yesterday's oatmeal for breakfast. DD had cereal, and is planning to finish off some baked beans and chicken sausage for lunch.
Tonight I am making teriyaki chicken and vegetables with some soba noodles I found hiding under a package of spaghetti.
We are planning to go for frozen yogurt one more time tonight before DD heads back to her dad's, which is right by the store. I'll get more bread and lettuce afterward. I think on Friday I will do a new inventory of what we have. It helps me meal plan by prioritizing whatever needs to be used up.
I just finished eating the pizza I made from scratch for the first time. I used a recipe from Allrecipes.com for a quick, easy pizza dough, and I like how it turned out. I topped it with seasoned tomato sauce, cheese, black olives and half of a large green bell pepper. It cost about 50 cents to make the dough, 75 cents worth of cheese, 33 cents for tomato sauce, 50 cents for half a bell pepper, and $1.29 for the olives. So with a few cents for seasonings that's about $3.50 for 3 people. Not bad.
I made caramel apple oatmeal for breakfast with a Jonagold apple, and some of the goat's milk caramel syrup I bought last night. DH didn't have any, so there is one serving leftover I or DD can eat tomorrow.
For lunch we were away from home with a friend ad we went to Subway. I spent $25 total there for 4 people, which I suppose isn't too bad. DH always gets double meat on his salad there. After DD goes back to Alaska on Thursday we'll be doing a lot less eating out.
We had to pick up more chicken today for tomorrow's dinner as I had not realized we were almost out. They had 3# bags of frozen on sale for $9.99. We can often find them for $7 or $8, so we just got one bag this time. When they go lower we will get 2 or 3 at a time. One bag typically lasts us around 2 weeks.
We also finally finished putting up all the shelves in DD's room today, so we took a video she can show her friends and family. http://youtu.be/JIjcMlf7p2I
I bought a 2 lb Field Roast maybe two months ago when they were on sale for $10, and cut it into thirds and froze it. We had the last third tonight with carrots and potatoes roasted in olive oil and pepper. Field Roast is made locally, like less than a mile from where we live, so you can find it at pretty much any store in the area, but it can be spendy. It is a vegetarian roast made with gluten, lentils, and seasonings. It's a favorite of everyone in our home. We have one pretty much every Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I woke up pretty late this morning so I skipped breakfast, but I had a big lunch at work with a large apple, a tablespoon of natural PB, and a turkey pastrami and cheese sandwich.
After work I stopped at the store and spent $5 on a carton of ice cream and a bottle of goat's milk caramel syrup. The goat's milk caramel is really good. It has lots of calcium in it too.
I think tomorrow I will make caramel apple oatmeal for breakfast, using the last apple and some of the goat's milk caramel. I am off work tomorrow, and we are planning to go for a long walk, and DD wants Subway for lunch. I have some buy one get one free coupons, so it shouldn't be too bad. I need to hang some shelves in DD's room. And for dinner I am planning to make a pizza, which I have never done from scratch before. I've used pre-made crusts, but never made my own. I think this might even be the first time I've ever made anything with yeast.
I went after work and picked up a 2 lb bag of carrots, 4 baby red potatoes, a large green bell pepper, a pint of half and half, a small can of sliced black olives, and a bottle of fat free Italian dressing for DH. The total was $7.39.
DD made cupcakes last night, and the kitchen was quite a mess when I got up, so we just had cereal and milk for breakfast. I cleaned up the kitchen after. I took a chicken and cheese sandwich and an apple to work, but we were very busy today, so I only had time to eat the sandwich. I left the apple there for tomorrow.
For dinner tonight I made shell pasta with a cheese sauce made from cubes of gouda and truffle white cheddar, and mixed in a can of tuna and a can of French cut green beans. DH said it was like fancy homemade Tuna Helper. The cheese sauce was very rich and creamy. I am not a big fan of truffle oil, so I was glad that flavor wasn't too predominant. We also had salad with butter lettuce and radishes.
We also had some cupcakes for dessert last night and tonight, of course.
I think all my carrots have finally sprouted. Once I thin them out I might get a dozen or so. The window box isn't all that big.
I had oatmeal with canned pears for breakfast, which usually sticks with me pretty well, but not today. The tuna sandwich and dried cranberries I brought for lunch just weren't enough. I wasn't planning on buying any food today, but I wasn't going to last till dinner on that.
I work just two blocks from a big grocery store though, so when I took a break to deposit my paycheck I also bought a banana and a few tablespoons of fresh ground peanut butter, for about 75 cents for both. I also saw bags of slightly blemished apples, three for 99 cents, so I bought a bag. I only ate half the peanut butter, so tomorrow I will bring an apple and have the rest of the peanut butter with it.
I need to figure out dinners for next week because I have to pick up a few things tomorrow after work, and it would be great to get it all in one shot.
Tonight is baked beans, chicken sausage, and salad. I have everything I need for that. Tomorrow is shell pasta with tuna and cheese sauce, and salad. I just need half and half for the cheese sauce. Sunday is field roast with roasted carrots and potatoes, so I will need carrots and potatoes. I might get pre bagged carrots, since they cost a little less that way. And I can make oatmeal carrot muffins.
I am off Monday, so I was thinking I might make a pizza. I have flour, yeast, olive oil, cheese, tomato sauce, seasonings. I can pick up a can of sliced olives and bell pepper, since that is what DD likes. Tuesday I can do chicken stir fry with carrots, bamboo shoots and the rest of the bell pepper, with brown rice. I have everything I need to throw together a sauce too. Wednesday I work late again, so we can do leftovers.
So I will need to pick up half and half, a can of olives, a bag of carrots, a couple small potatoes, and a bell pepper. I'll see if we're running low on anything else. I think we might be nearing the end of this bag of frozen chicken, so I should see if it's on sale.
Pretty much exactly. I made scrambled eggs with cheese, and smoothies out of milk and mixed frozen fruit this morning. I had a tuna sandwich and banana for lunch, as well as some of the lemon cookies I made Monday. For dinner I pulled out all the leftovers in the fridge.
DH has been going through a bad patch and has barely been eating, so we're not moving through food very quickly. I might freeze the rest of the Moroccan stew so it doesn't go bad. I don't know. I don't have a microwave at work so I can't take it with me. I am trying to be sympathetic but he's driving me nuts. Any time I ask him to do anything around the house to help out I just get a huge argument from him. He expects that just because DD is here that she (and I, of course) should have to do everything. But I feel like if he has energy to go to the gym 5X a week then he shouldn't get a pass on taking care of a few things at home. I barely ask him to do anything compared to what I am having to do. He is back to not making appointments he needs to make too. They are not going to consider him for a transplant if he doesn't get his ass in gear, and I don't even think he cares.
I haven't even figured out what to do tomorrow for food besides dinner. For that I was planning on baked beans with chicken sausage, and salad. I have the other half of the tuna salad I made for lunch today, and can take that with me for lunch tomorrow with some dried cranberries. I guess oatmeal would be good for breakfast. I have a small can of diced pears in the cupboard that would go well in it.
I will mention in advance that I am not one who measures stuff or uses recipes except very loosely, so all measurements are approximate.
1/2 lb uncooked chicken cut into chunks
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 zucchini, sliced
1 can garbanzo beans
1/4 cup dried onion
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup uncooked couscous
4 T red wine (optional)
Slow cook all ingredients except for couscous until chicken is all the way cooked. Turn off heat, stir in couscous. It will be ready in 5-10 minutes depending on whether you use the small couscous or the large pearl type.
DD really enjoyed this stew. We also had blueberry pancakes and the rest of the strawberries, sliced with a little honey and balsamic vinegar, for breakfast. And some of the Ethiopian leftovers for lunch. I did not spend any money on food today, or anything else for that matter I guess.
Tomorrow I have to get something at the store so I can get cash back from a reloadable Visa card. When I have appointments for clinical trials they pretty much all pay this way. So I am planning to get a banana to go with my lunch for tomorrow, and deposit the money right after. I also have some cash tips I need to deposit.
I think tomorrow I'll make scrambled eggs with cheese and fruit smoothies for breakfast, and a tuna sandwich, plus the aforementioned banana, for lunch. For dinner there will be a choice of leftovers including the Moroccan chicken stew, the Ethiopian food, and we also have about one serving of spaghetti left.
DD, my friend/ex-boyfriend and I tried a new to us Ethiopian restaurant that is close by for lunch today. The food was very very good, and a lot less expensive than the Ethiopian place we went to previously. The veggie combo platter had more than enough food for three people, for $20. I ordered an extra side of yellow split peas for $5, thinking that we'd need more, but the combo platter on it's own had so much food. We wound up taking home almost three pounds of leftovers, which DD and I are looking forward to having for lunch tomorrow. My friend pitched in $10, so after tax and tip I spent $22.50 there. I also took DD for frozen yogurt later this afternoon. I had a 3 oz free coupon, so it was around $3.50 for both of us.
I picked up mustard, dill relish and a loaf of bread for DH, which was just under $5 total. They were all on sale. Since he bought 20 cans of tuna he's been making lots of sandwiches.
We had a fairly light dinner of homemade chicken nuggets and beets my mom canned last fall.
Tomorrow it's back to work. I am working a later shift so I'll have breakfast and lunch at home. Left over Ethiopian for lunch, for sure. And maybe pancakes for breakfast. For dinner I am making Moroccan chicken stew in the crock pot and will have some when I get home from work.
We have so much food in the house now, so we won't be going out or buying much at the grocery store for a while. Thursday we'll have leftover stew. I think Friday I will make chicken sausage with baked beans and salad. Saturday, maybe shell pasta, cheese sauce and tuna and a salad. One thing we are starting to get low on is meat, so I'll need to keep my eye out for sales. There aren't many kinds we will all eat.
I am on the train right now to pick her up from the airport.
DH has been going through a bad patch healthwise. He is constantly exhausted but has trouble sleeping. He has lost 40 lbs since January. Last night he wasn't hungry, so I just had leftover spaghetti instead of cooking. I also threw together some ingredients I had on hand and made some lemon cookies. I used powdered sugar instead of granular, and coconut oil instead of butter. They are very light and crispy.
It wasn't planned, but I got to spend time with a friend I haven't seen for about a month. We went for a walk, which turned into a long walk that lasted through lunch time, so we stopped at Panda Express. It was $18 for both of us, which I thought was pretty reasonable.
We are going to meet up for lunch tomorrow after DD and I get back from the airport. She will be happy to see him. He was basically her step dad from ages 5 to 9, though he and I never got married, and are now just friends.
DH and I finished off the oatmeal banana muffins for breakfast and I also ate some strawberries. I had to get quarters for laundry, so I bought one banana for 30 cents while out today, and got $10 cash back. I ate the banana. We'll do laundry today and I'll cook up some parmesan crusted Tilapia for dinner. I was planning to have canned green beans with it, but will probably do salad instead.
DH and I went to Grocery Outlet tonight to restock a few things we are out of and pick up food for DD to have for breakfast and lunch while she's here. We spent $37.05 and got all of the following:
3 packets of blueberry pancake mix
2 heads of butter lettuce
1/2 gallon of milk
Reduced fat Cheez-it's
Bunch of radishes
1 lb strawberries
2 Healthy Choice entrees
2 energy drinks
Bottle of balsamic vinaigrette
Box of cereal
Bottle of teriyaki marinade
Box of Pop-Tarts
Mac and cheese
1 lb penne
2 lbs pasta shells
3 boxes tomato sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 lb black beans
Can of bamboo shoots
Today I had two banana muffins for breakfast, a chicken and cheese sandwich and banana for lunch, and spaghetti for dinner. I also finished off the last of the fruit crisp.
I have a day off tomorrow. I have an appointment tomorrow morning to have some blood drawn for a medical study, for which I get paid $75. Not much else to do. I might make some cookies.
I was off to a good start. I had leftover black beans with cheese and a fried egg for breakfast, and took a Greek yogurt, two muffins, and a banana to work with me.
However we went to a friend's last night after I got off work, and I found out too late they were not planning on serving food there. Initially we were just going to bring some snacks, so DH picked up chips, guacamole, hummus, and carrots at the store. But by the time we walked downtown to catch our bus to West Seattle it was already after 8, so I decided at the last minute to stop at the McDonald's by the bus stop and spent $7 as I was already very hungry.
DH had also gone to the store earlier in the day to buy tuna. He saw some for $1.00 a can, and bought ten. When he went back later to pick up the snacks he saw a different brand for .50 a can, and bought ten more cans, plus an energy drink. Sigh. So altogether he spent just over $25 at the grocery store. But at least we have 20 cans of tuna to show for it, I guess. And all the snacks he bought were on sale at least. I'm just glad he rarely goes grocery shopping alone.
I don't usually do a ton of meal planning in advance, but with DD coming next week it seems like a good idea. That way I can figure out which groceries I need to pick up before then. I pass the store on my way home from work Thursday-Sunday, so I try as much as I can to get everything I need for Mon, Tues, and Wed, by Sunday. That way I don't have to go out of my way.
Tonight we are going to a friend's after I get off work. So no dinner planned for tonight.
Sunday: spaghetti and meatballs
Have: spaghetti, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, frozen meatballs, red wine, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning
Monday: Parmesan crusted Tilapia, green beans
Have: tilapia, bread crumbs, parmesan, green beans
Tuesday (DD will be here): baked chicken nuggets, beets
Have: frozen chicken breast, bread crumbs, jar of beets, black pepper, mustard and bbq sauce for dipping
Wednesday: Moroccan chicken stew
Have: frozen chicken breast, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken bouillon, can of garbanzo beans, whole wheat couscous, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, dried onion, olive oil
Thursday: leftover stew
I'll plan out more as we get closer. I will also need to pick up a few things for DD to have for lunch while I'm at work.
This morning I am planning to have the last of the black beans and chicken sausage with the last egg, fried, and some shredded cheese. For lunch I'll take a yogurt and a banana.
Finally. I can cook normally again.
I had two banana oatmeal muffins and a half grapefruit for breakfast, and I took a chicken and turkey salami sandwich and an apple for lunch. I had some dried cranberries and almonds as a snack. For dinner I finished the rest of the leftover brown rice and a stew made with red lentils, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, curry and garlic.
I also used up some fruit to make a small crisp. It had an apple that was a bit too bruised to eat, half a can of cherry pie filling, and some sliced peaches from the freezer.
Tomorrow we're going to a friend's after I get off work so I imagine we'll be eating there. DH is in charge of finding out if we need to bring anything.
Last year I went to buy teff flour on Amazon, and accidentally bought four bags of whole grain teff instead. Teff is an African grain. The whole grain is very tiny, about the size of a poppy seed. It is very nutritionally dense and has a bit of a grassy and nutty flavor on it's own.
Not knowing what else to do with it, I started putting a few tablespoons or more into every batch of oatmeal, granola, banana bread, or muffins I made. Occasionally I will even cook up a teff porridge and add honey and peanut butter to it, plus a little milk to thin it. I found that when added to recipes it gives a little bit of texture and crunch without really affecting the flavor, and it's very high in fiber, protein, calcium, and iron. I put a quarter cup into my banana oatmeal muffins last night, replacing some of the white flour, and they are really tasty.
I'm now down to less than half a pound of teff, and I think once it's gone I will need to buy more. I found it at the nearby grocery store for around $5 for a one pound bag, which tends to last me about 3 months. Once the bag is unsealed it lasts better in the fridge. Of course it's a bit cheaper on Amazon, but storage is an issue here.
I have realized that our biggest money leak is on food. Recently I'm making a renewed effort to cooking at home and bringing food with me to work.
Today I had shredded wheat with milk for breakfast, took a peanut butter honey sandwich and a Greek yogurt to work for lunch, and had left over black beans with chicken sausage and brown rice for dinner. I also made some banana oatmeal muffins in the toaster oven and had a couple of those.
I didn't buy any snacks or drinks out today. I did stop at the store on the way home and picked up sliced cheese for sandwiches and a couple of bananas. Also more dish soap.
One of my biggest challenges is that our oven/stove has not been working at all for nearly three weeks now. We only have the crock pot, rice cooker, electric skillet, foreman grill, and toaster oven. And of course the microwave. There are a few things that are hard or just impossible to make without the oven. I am getting fed up waiting for it to be fixed.
I am also experimenting with growing vegetables in the little window boxes. So far the fingerling potatoes are growing like crazy. The radishes are doing pretty well also.