Saturday, June 8, 2013

Eating On a Budget - One Week In

We spend a lot on food. A LOT. I compared what we spend to other families our size, in our area, and although it wasn't more than what others spend, it was more than I want to spend and more than we should really afford if we want a new house someday. So I decided to try to eat (and buy cat food and diapers, etc.) on $100 a week and see what happens. Here is the documentation of what we did, what worked, and what did not.

On Sunday I made a menu for the week and picked out what CJ would eat for his breakfasts and lunches. Then I went shopping. Here is what I bought for $96.52:

We already had a few ingredients (like some canned tomatoes, etc.) but I did mostly buy everything needed for the week plus other essentials not on the food list.

Here is what we had this week:

CJ's lunches were Make Ahead Wraps that froze and microwaved well. This recipe made 10 wraps! So I have some still in the freezer since CJ only ate 5.

On Monday morning I cooked a huge pan of bone in chicken thighs, took the meat off, and divided them among ziplocs for anything that called for chicken that week. I added it to the pasta recipe for protein, saved some for tacos, it went in the wraps, and saved some for the "roast" on Sunday.

CJ's breakfasts were this Breakfast Casserole cut into portions and put into separate containers in the fridge. I modified the recipe quite a bit though. I added mushrooms, olives, frozen pepper and onion medley, only used a small bit of breakfast sausage, and used some turkey ham as well.

Monday: Broccoli with Rigatoni, french garlic bread, salad with ranch

This was delicious, easy, and very cheap. Would have prefered to use gluten free pasta so Jim could eat too but Winco doesn't carry it... so I made an exception this week. Next time I'll plan ahead.

Tuesday: Spanish Rice, Corn and Black Bean Salad, Chicken Thigh Meat Tacos

Monday's chicken tossed with some taco seasoning in a ziploc waiting in the fridge. I also made the rice and bean salad ahead of time so that CJ and Jim could eat while I was at work and I wouldn't have to do anything on my work day.

Wednesday: Burgers, Corn on the cob, Potato Salad

Made the potato salad in the morning but it just didn't have time to sit before we ate it so the flavor was lacking. Will probably make this ahead next time.

Thursday: Leftover Broccoli Rigatoni pasta

I had actually planned a meal for this night (Slow cooker BBQ) but failed to put it in the crockpot at 4am (yeah... 12 hours to cook. oops) Thats ok, that meal easily is a double recipe.

Friday: Ham and Potato Soup

This was amazingly good.

Saturday: Slow Cooker BBQ on rice with Potato Salad and Green Beans

Will never make this again. We haven't eaten it yet... but our entire house smells like a giant poopy diaper.

*UPDATE: This was the BEST pulled pork we've ever had. EVER. After letting it cook in the apple cider vinegar for 7 hours (not 12) I pulled it apart and added Bullseye BBQ sauce (skipped the rest of the recipe), served over rice along side the homemade potato salad. CJ said it was worth making the house smell like a diaper.*

Sunday: (Supposedly) Roast Chicken Thighs with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Not sure if I'm going to have the time and energy for this. Might roast the chicken and serve it over creamy rice. (Rice with butter, heavy cream, and pepper added.)

So... conclusion. We cut our grocery bill in half so far. I do feel like I've been a slave to the kitchen though, and like my life has revolved around food for the last seven days. While this is not something I want to do for the rest of my life, I will keep it up as long as I can to help reach our goal for the New House fund as soon as possible!

Some tips if you try this:
- Check the expiration on the meats you buy and plan accordingly.
- Plan only 4-5 meals for 7 days. You will get tired and revert to leftovers or a grilled cheese sandwich at least twice a week.
- Try to spend 10-15 dollars LESS than what you have budgeted. Inevitably you will realize you forgot something or you ran out of baby wipes on Thursday and can't wait till Sunday's shopping trip!

Things I'm doing differently next week:
- Planning some lunches and breakfasts for myself and the baby.
- Making some go-to recipes instead of new ones (I'm burned out already.)
- Making ahead LESS than last week for two reasons: I have a very busy weekend full of parties to attend, and my week ahead of me is the start of my two week summer break, which means I won't mind some cooking during the days.

Stay tuned for how this continues to "pan out" over the coming weeks!

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