Archive for March, 2009

Food Challenge Week 3 and 4

Monday, March 30th, 2009

March’s food challenge has been quite different then I had expected.  While having the flu for a week unexpectedly cut some cost from our grocery bill, it also emphasized the most important part of staying on a food budget: organization.  A week without it really made a difference.  While I dislike the effort it takes to map out all of our meals for the week, it saved both money and time.  Planning meals and making a grocery list on Sunday saved many shopping trips during the week.  With three children, that is a big time saver.  I was able to save money by maximizing on sale items by featuring them in our weekly menu, or cooking in bulk and freezing meals. I also learned to appreciate knowing what I had to prepare each day.  It saved a lot of time and energy – both physical and mental.  

Being frugal about things that I hadn’t in the past wound up saving my family quite a bit of money.  I eliminated (for the most part) prepackaged snacks and breakfast cereals.  Not only does this save money, but it is certainly a healthier option.   I took a closer look at what was actually in some of these foods. When I really looked at the amount of sugar and other garbage is in many super processed foods, I realized that we all would be a lot better indulging in things we previously rarely ate.  Although that meant starting from scratch, I often doubled recipes to save future time and money.  I found some great recipes and inspiration for snacks and breakfasts at www.vegweb.com

I found a balance in where I did my shopping too.  For the most part I our got produce and eggs from the SPUD delivery service.  I have found the quality and sources to be good and I feel very strongly about buying quality produce.  I look forward to shopping for fruits and veggies from the farmers markets and my own garden soon.  Trader Joe’s seems to be the best bet for dairy.  Their organic milk comes from Sunshine Dairy in Oregon.  It may not be my perfect choice, but for the price, I find it to be the best option.  This month I have also kept a closer eye on sale in more mainstream stores.  Often the brands that you find at Marlene’s, or Metroplitan Market are significantly cheaper at a store like Fred Meyer’s.  I have also been using Costco more then before.  But, I always keep a close watch not to get carried away.

I ended the month having spent $490.00.  It was satisfying to notice a significant drop in our recent credit card statement.  I had hoped to come out a little closer to $400…but there is always next month.

How did everyone else do?

Food Challenge Week #2

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I just finished logging my receipts and happily report that I am at $234.55 after the first two weeks. Unfortunately, my quest to limit my kitchen time has not gone so well.  While I have made some good, and very affordable meals.  Some days  I have paid for our food with my time.  Here is what we have been eating this week:

Sunday was a “kitchen” day.  In attempt to break my older two children of there “Annie Macaroni” preference, I tried, yet again to get them to eat the homemade version.  Using one bag of the six I purchased last week at Costco ($1.33) and $2.00 worth of pre-shredded cheese from Trader Joe’s I was able to make to meals worth for about $3.75.  With it I served organic California broccoli ($2.27) from last weeks SPUD delivery with homemade balsamic dressing. I spent roughly $4.40 for this dinner.  While the kids still prefer Annie, they did eat it and 2/3 of the children ate the other pan for lunch during the week. Not my personal favorite, but it was easy, affordable, fairly healthy and no one screamed when it was served.

I made up for my lack of kitchen time on Monday when I decided to make tamales.  These were fairly labor intensive (especially because I haven’t made them successfully before), but inexpensive.  Masa flour can be picked up inexpensively at most supermarkets.  Using Masa, olive oil, a washington onion ($.83) Earthbound Organic baby spinach from Costco, and the reminder of my shredded cheese from T.J.’s I made 25 tamales for under $5 or $.20 each.  I served our Tamales with Earthbound Organic salad greens (also from last weeks Costco purchase)  and black beans.  This meal cost under $5.00 and I put the many tamales that were left over in the freezer for a future meal.

On Tuesday, I made pieogi’s, another cheap but more labor intensive meal.  Using flour, organic potatoes from Trader Joes, more california onions, and organic tofu from T.J.’s( only $2.38 for 14oz.), I made two meals worth for under $5 as well.  Thanks to a tip from Allison I picked up $13lbs of organic apples from Fred Meyer for $13.  I used this to make stewed apples for the side paired with sauteed cabbage ($.50).

 

Tofu and Potato Pierogi with Savoy Cabbage and Stewed Apples

Tofu and Potato Pierogi with Savoy Cabbage and Stewed Apples

 

While making a good, healthy meal completely from scratch can be time consuming, it has been great to be able to put meals in the freezer for busy days.  Having those to fall back on at the end of a busy day will certainly save me time and money in the future.

March 2-6 (Food Challenge)

Friday, March 6th, 2009

My SPUD order did not come until the evening on Tuesday.  If I was almost completely out of fresh produce (among other things), this wouldn’t have been such a big deal.  But, by 5:00 pm I was worried that I would have to completely start my weekly shopping over.  Again, no big deal if I hadn’t spent many, many…many moments of my free time logging back in to the site to fine tune my order to get it near my budget goal.

I have gotten over my snobby ways this week.  I went to Safeway to buy Quaker Oats (on sale 2/$5) and to the Orowheat outlet on 6th for buns (8/$1.25) to accompany my homemade veggie burgers.  This week I am starting to learn when it makes sense to make my own from scratch (granola and veggie burgers) and when it doesn’t (buns for the burgers).  Being at home a good portion of the day helps too.  Waiting for bread to rise and bake takes some scheduling, but it isn’t such a big deal for me since I am often  home anyhow.  For those who work, it obviously is not so simple.

On Monday I spent about 1/2 hr. preparing two loaves of bread.   Since I would have bought high quality bread if I were to purchase it, I figure that it saved me about $8.  For me saving $8, serving hot bread with dinner and having quality bread for sandwiches was worth my 1/2 hr.  However, if I worked outside of the home, it would not have been possible

On Tuesday Jack and I made a big vat of granola.  This has been a fun activity for the two of us to do while his big sister is at school and the baby naps.  Jack gets to help create and name the recipe. For about $3.50 we made enough cereal to feed us all breakfast for two weeks (not that we care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Actually, Jack and I send the bulk of it to work with my husband (who does care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Jack, Amelia and I will use it for snacks with yogurt and for the occasional breakfast.  Granted, we would not have bought this much normally, but we would have spent money on cerealor other snacks instead. It should last us for a while.

 

   

Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

On Thursday, I created 3+ meals worth of lentil and okra veggie burgers all for about $3.00.  If I would have bought them it would have probably cost about $12 for the same amount.  The added benefit was the lack of questionable or unrecognizable ingredients found in most mainstream versions.  The freshness doesn’t hurt either.
I am pleased to see that as I write this on Friday morning, I still have food in my refrigerator.  I am now optimistic that I can get through week 2 on $125.  Maybe even less???

Frugal Feeding Week #1, March 1

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

 

By the end of the first day of the first week I have already used up $118.00 of my $125.00 goal.  While the goal is monthly, I was hoping to at least have a little wiggle room.  Things are already looking tight.  

Last month I began planning out a dinner menu for the week to help me stick to a strict grocery list. Although it was a pain to do this every Sunday, it was really nice to know what kind of preparation I would need to do each day.  It also eliminated multiple shopping trips to grab the last minute item….that often turned into more money spent on nonessentials.  This week I made my first order with SPUD (www.spud.com).   SPUD focuses on local and organic products.  I love that the miles traveled by each item is noted as well as links to all of the company/farm info.  I plan to buy my most eco-conscious purchases here and supplement with more affordable alternatives elsewhere.  I love that I can order everything online, and adjust my meals based on local availability and price.  It is nice to know exactly what I am spending before I get to the checkout.  I also made a tedious trip to Costco. It is always a challenge to get out of Costco without spending at least $100.  But I did!  Among other things,I picked up a giant bag of almonds (non-organic), NW blueberries (also non-organic), Earthbound organic salad greens and baby spinach and a box of cherry tomatoes (non-organic).  I left having spent only $65 on food.  Most of this should carry over at least until the second week, the almonds will last for more then the month.

March’s Frugal Feeding Challenge

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Last month, in an attempt to get a better handle on our monthly budget, I began collecting and tallying all of our family’s grocery receipts.  I have never thought much about what I spend on food.  We very rarely eat out and don’t do take out,  I don’t buy prepackaged meals, and try to limit processed and convenience foods.  So, in looking at our monthly budget, $650 seemed like a more then generous allocation for food for one month.  By mid-February, I was nearing the $600 mark.  All of this while I was actually monitoring and tightening my spending.  I was stunned to think of how easy it would be spend over $1,000 on groceries every month.  I am sure that I have many times before.

Providing wholesome, quality food for my family is a priority for me.  However, I am certain that there has to be a way to do so without spending quite so much.  So, I have decided to see if I can feed my family of 2 adults, 3 children and 2 dogs for less then $500 a month.  If you have had similar thoughts or experiences, and would like to set a goal for your family, or simply start taking a closer look at your habits, please share them.