Category Archives: Meal Plans

5 Freezer Meals for 1 or 2 in 30 minutes

 

I know that’s a lot of numbers in the title, but what do you expect from a finance & food blog? 😉 There are many ways to save money on one of most people’s biggest budget categories (after housing): food.

  1. Eat at your parents house
  2. Eat only Ramen noodles
  3. One meal per day
  4. Intermittent fasting
  5. Freeganism
  6. Vegetable garden/farming
  7. Bulk buying
  8. Couponing
  9. Meal planning
  10. Freezer meals

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

But every tip will not work for every person and every situation.

If you are in a dorm with just a small refrigerator and 6 months until you move again, your life is drastically different from a family with four children in the suburbs with two chest freezers.

I’ve designed meal plans for the Dollar Tree, one week of dinners from one pork roast, and 10 freezer meals in one hour.

The Freezer Meals For 2 Plan

This plan is designed for smaller households, who have a freezer.

One or two people.

I made all of these meals for a friend who was about to have a baby. Having freezer meals on hand makes feeding yourself when sleep deprived and stressed so much easier! But these meals are also great for single people or couples who don’t like to cook, as they are super easy and stress free.

So if you have a big family or a big appetite, these recipes might not be for you. However they are very easy to scale up, simply double or triple the ingredients, and use larger freezer bags.

This is also designed to go straight from ingredients –> bag –> freezer –> thaw in refrigerator –> oven or crock pot.

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

To complete these 5 freezer meals, in addition to the food ingredients you will need:

  • 5 quart sized freezer bags
  • Sharpie or other permanent marker
  • Container in which to thaw the bags in the refrigerator (otherwise they will leak condensation all over)

The ingredients are pantry staples (at least in my house!) and items you can easily find at most any grocery store. You can of course step up your game slightly and use dried beans you cook yourself, or produce straight from your garden. These tricks will lower the total cost even further.

But the total for this should be less than $30, for 5 nights of meals for 2 servings each, possibly with leftovers. I will also include some tips at the end on how you can jazz up each one to make it your own.

Per serving total = $3 or less

Recipes included:
  • Chicken & Rice Casserole
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili
  • White Bean & Barley Soup
  • Corn & Potato Chowder

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

Entire Ingredients List:

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can corn (can use frozen)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 large chicken breast, cut in half, or 2 total
  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1-2 large baking potato
  • 1 onion, diced, or dried onion
  • Garlic powder or fresh garlic
  • Italian seasonings
  • Chili powder
  • Bouillon
  •  1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup rice

You will be using half or a third of some of these cans, I did not measure it out, I just eyeballed it. If you feel more comfortable with exact numbers, go ahead and get out a measuring cup.

Step 1: Cut up your carrots and potato and onion into a small dice. I did not peel either the potatoes or carrot, but you can if you want. You can also use canned potatoes, though the end product will be soggier. You can also use dried onion, like I did.

Step 2: Label your bags and write the instructions out. Trust me, you want to do this part before the bag is full and possibly wet outside.

Step 3: Open and drain all your cans.

Step 4: Cut a large boneless skinless chicken breast in half, or use two smaller cuts. You can leave the breast whole, or dice it up, either way works. You could also use canned chicken, 1 per recipe.

 

Once you have your labeled bags ready, just dump the ingredients into them, in the order listed. You want to put the meat in last, so it is the first thing to come out when you cook it. Then push out any air in the bag, and seal. Freeze laying flat if possible, as they are then easier to stack and take up less freezer space.

 

Chicken & Rice Casserole

  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed veggies
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw overnight. Bake at 350 in a casserole dish for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low for 2-3 hours, shred chicken before serving.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 can pinto beans (or black beans)
  • 1/3 can diced tomatoes or 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • Diced or dried onion
  • 1 chicken breast

*Thaw, simmer on stove for 1 hour, or in crock pot on low 2-3 hours. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado…

 

3 Bean Vegetarian Chili

  •       1 can of 3 different kinds of beans
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes
  •       Dried onion, garlic powder
  •       2 tbsp chili powder

*Thaw overnight. Add to slow cooker with 3 cups water, cook on low 6-8 hours, or high for 4-6 hours, stirring every hour or so if possible.

 

White Bean & Barley Soup

  •       1 cup white beans (or 1 can)
  •       1 cup barley
  •       ½ – 1 cup cut up carrots
  •       ½ white onion, diced
  •       1-2 cubes bouillon
  •       1/3 can diced tomatoes

*Thaw overnight. Add 6 cups water, simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

 

Corn & Potato Chowder

  •       2 potatoes, diced
  •       ½ can corn
  •       ½ cup flour
  •       Garlic, onion, bouillon
  •       Optional: 1tbsp Italian seasoning

*Thaw, add 2 cups water and simmer 2 hours on the stove or cook in slow cooker on low 4-6 hours.

 

5 freezer meals in 30 minutes

 

 

 

Weekly Eating – 4/16/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

The weekend was as expected, Saturday was gorgeous and sunny, and we had a fun time grilling and sitting around the bonfire in the back yard. Sunday was wetter, with increasing chance of rain until it hit 100% by the evening. Nonetheless, we decided to get out and explore a little before the storm hit.

Umstead state park

I also meal prepped a little bit, by making a big batch of these Cauliflower Cashew Barley Bowls for lunches. I also made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with my friends’ super secret recipe! We sort of messed it up a little, but they were still really tasty. Some of the best cookie dough I’ve ever eaten haha

This week is also a grand experiment: The boy will be in charge of dinner all week! Yup, I’ve talked him into it (meaning, kept asking until he finally agreed) and every dinner will be made by him. I even offered to go grocery shopping for whatever he wanted, but he said we had enough ingredients in the freezer and pantry, so we didn’t spend any money on groceries this week. Of course that means I’ve agreed to do all dishes this week, so… I may or may not have won?

Mostly I just want to see what will happen. I have a method to my madness, and I want to see how dinner in the boy’s mind works. He might give me some new, great ideas.

Monday:

Breakfast – Leftover crepes

Lunch – Cauliflower Barley bowl & a salad

Dinner – Chicken breasts with salad and couscous

Snack – chocolate chip cookie

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Waffles with blueberries

Lunch – Cauliflower Barley bowl

Dinner – Pasta and meatballs, with green chilie sauce. The boy said he wanted a ‘different’ flavor, and we had cans of green chilies in the pantry, so that’s what happened. It was better than I expected.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – last of the crepes with strawberry jam

Lunch – Cauliflower Barley bowl

Dinner – Bacon wrapped pork chops! With rolls and a side salad

Tonight I also put together a couple freezer meals for a friend having a baby soon. They scheduled a c-section for Friday, so they know the due date in advance, which is nice. I figured 5 nights of meals they don’t have to think about would be a helpful gift.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Toast with PB & a pear

Lunch – Last of the cauliflower barley bowl, and some grilled veggies and beans leftover from the weekend grill out

Snack – Seriously STOP with the Reese eggs already! I Cannot help myself… Last one, I swear…

Dinner – Out to the Durham Co-op $3 Thursday dinner! A friend lives near there and I’ve been meaning to go. Every Thursday they host a $3 community dinner; tonight was pasta & meatballs with an option for vegan sausage.

I of course tried one of each. The meatball was delish, but the vegan sausage … I was a little let down tbh. It was like chewy salty bread. But the side salad was impressive, it was actual fancy lettuce, not just like a head of iceberg. So even though I carbo-loaded I felt like I got at least some veggies in too.

Friday:

Breakfast – Hashbrowns with bacon & eggs. We have bacon soooo rarely now, and when you haven’t had bacon in months, and then you have it… it’s salty crunchy bliss. I’m sorry.

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich & leftover vegan chili. Pro tip: use chickpeas you cook yourself from dried, or simmer the ones from the can a bit. I cheated and used canned for this one, and they were still very firm. It was extra hard to get them to mash.

chickpea salad sandwich and chili

Dinner – Pork roast with potato wedges and canned green beans. The boy had a ridiculously stressful day, so I took over for the last night’s dinner. He had already pulled the roast from the freezer to defrost, so I just seasoned it and put it in the oven. I adore canned green beans, but he hates them, so I legit ended up eating a whole can on my own. No regrets.

I also made a batch of pretzel bites. We were having a game night Sat and the next Food Swap is next week, so I wanted to try out a new recipe. They are SO GOOD I ate nearly the whole first batch immediately… oops. Still no regrets.

The Weekend

The weekend will be chilly but sunny, into the 60s. I may try to get a second planting of peas and beans into the ground. It is still a bit too cold to get nightshades planted, that will have to wait until mid-May.

Also we are hosting board game night on Saturday! I am suuuuuuper excited! I love hosting parties and games and making food for people so this is right up my alley. I’m hoping for a nice day too, so we can pull out corn hole and have a fire as well.

Food Total: $0!

Lessons Learned

Having the boy be in charge of dinner was a great way to use up some of the meat still in our freezers. Since trying to be mostly vegetarian this year, I’ve bought very little meat to replace what we use up, but there are still a few roasts, chicken quarters, meatballs, and various things in the freezer. It’s good to use those up. And as hard as it was, I did not go to the grocery store. And we survived! So I consider this week a great win, even if I did have far more meat than usual.

Uh, also, I really need to call our server for this site… I can no longer upload any photos. Ran out of folder space, or something? So that’s a huge problem…

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Dollar Tree Meal Plan

 

It should come as no news to anyone that access to fresh produce and quality food is a good indicator of overall health. It is further not surprising that poverty and food insecurity are strongly linked.

If you do not have the financial means to pay for fresh food, it is likely your diet will consist of fast food, packaged and processed foods, and frozen meals.

If you live in a “food desert”, whether you can pay for produce or not doesn’t matter because there isn’t any for you to buy.

There is more and more evidence that this can become a vicious cycle as well. You or your family is at or below the poverty level, and the only places you can afford to live lack access to food and the money to pay for, and this contributes to poor nutrition and obesity, which in turn may stifle earning potential and opportunities further.

The issues of poverty, food insecurity, and the increasingly wide-spread and frightening rise of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other ‘lifestyle diseases’ has been on my mind more and more.

It seems we have lost our way, as a country, and things keep happening to make it seem worse and worse.

How do we fix this?

How do we keep ourselves, our family, and our children fed and healthy, without going over budget?

It is a long road, and not an issue I can tackle and solve myself. But I can try to do small things to help. Like creating as healthy of a meal plan as possible that would be relatable to the people who need it the most. So I went to my local Dollar Tree to scope out the options.

Most households in America, even if they are not near a grocery store, should be within walking or bus distance of a Dollar Tree or Dollar General or similar type store.

I figured this would be a good base to work with, and provide the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ that most people on a very low income are looking for.

Let’s be real, even as a dual income family with more than enough room in the budget to not have to care what we spend on food, we still care a lot, and stick to a budget. We are all potentially just one disaster away from poverty.

Whether you are a single mom or dad trying to feed your growing family on a part-time income, a struggling college kid paying your way with a scholarship, part time job, and a ridiculous loan, a newly married couple just trying to figure out how money works, or a retiree on a fixed income, I hope that this information can be helpful.

 

Dollar Tree shelves frozen section

If the store has a frozen section, this can be a great place to start. Though there will be options to avoid (I’ll mention more about that next) you will be most likely to find the healthiest choices here with frozen fruits and vegetables.

Produce that is frozen is usually picked at the peak of ripeness, and then flash frozen for storage and transport. Though it isn’t right out of a field, it will still contain much of its original nutrition, and sometimes even be more nutritious than fresh, similar produce.

Frozen fruit makes a great snack, addition to smoothies, or are perfect to add in to oatmeal for a filling and healthy breakfast or anytime meal. When it comes to potatoes, just be careful about the ingredients and amount of added fat. French fries are still fries, even if you make them in your own oven.

Frozen vegetable blends are my personal favorite. They are great to heat quickly in the microwave as an easy side dish, you can mix onion and peppers into scrambled eggs, top baked potatoes with broccoli, add mixes to soup and stews and tacos, or toss into stir fry. Try to eat at least 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. A serving is about 1/2 cup frozen, or about 1/6 of a bag of frozen vegetables.

I noticed at my store that they had frozen fish filets as well. Salmon, tilapia, and flounder were on offer. I can get into all the details about how to choose sustainable fish, but at this level I think any fish is a luxury and you don’t care where it came from, as long as it’s cheap.

Fish does provide lots of lean protein, and is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish is also an important protein in the Mediterranean diet, and a far better choice in general than red meats, or even lean meat like chicken or turkey. So if you are able, add one to two servings of fish per week to your diet.

dollar tree freezer

This is an example of some of the less desirable frozen food options, nutritionally speaking. Pancakes, biscuits, and waffles can be made healthy if you make it yourself from whole grain flours, but these pre-made and frozen options are likely full of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients you don’t want.

Try instead this simple blender pancake recipe, this slightly healthier one with added banana and oats, or this one with only 3 required ingredients. Even the box of mix from the store with some milk or water would likely be healthier.

Pudding and granola bars may seem like a good ‘convenience’ item to pack in lunches and have on hand for breakfasts or snacking. But be wary of the sugar content. Some granola bars can have a sugar content equal to or greater than a candy bar!

You can easily make your own granola bars too using just oats, honey, peanut butter, and maybe some bananas or dried fruits or nuts. The best news is that oats are generally pretty cheap too, so per serving regular oatmeal for breakfast, granola bars, or plain baked granola are really affordable options.

There are a lot of packaged beverage options, especially juices. Kids in particular tend to adore juice, at breakfast, after school, with dinner, before bed… but you need to be careful of the sugar content.

Many juice types these days is only 5% actual fruit juice, if that! They are instead colored and flavored sugar water, with the vast majority of their calories coming from high fructose corn syrup.

The healthiest beverage, always, is water.

And the best part is, water is free from the tap! If you are trying to get your kids (or yourself) to drink less juice, for health or financial reasons, try diluting it with water slowly over time.

Pour one glass of juice, about 80% full, and top it off with water. Then work your way to half and half. Eventually you have a glass of water with just a splash of juice for flavor.

Another good source for fruits, if you don’t have access to fresh produce or it is not in season, is canned fruit.

I most often see canned pears and peaches, but I also saw pineapples and mandarin orange slices. These are all awesome snack or side options. It is best to choose “packed in water” or “packed in its own juices” over “canned in syrup” or heavy syrup.

It is worth glancing at the ingredients list as well, and the total sugar and calorie content.

Dollar Tree shelves canned vegetables

Canned vegetables are another good choice in lieu of fresh produce.

Cans last even longer and store better than frozen options, and better yet do not require a freezer or electricity. Canned vegetables tend to be overall pretty healthy, just check the sodium content.

Similarly with canned soups, check the salt levels. Some can contain nearly 100% of your daily recommended sodium in one serving.

Canned corn can be tossed into soups or burritos, or eaten with some butter and salt alone as a side dish. Canned green beans make a similarly easy and delicious side, can become casserole, or be tossed into minestrone or veggie soup.

Canned beets are surprisingly delightful on salads, or even eaten plain. And plain canned pumpkin is a great baking option, it can be mixed into waffles, pancake mix, cakes and pies and cookies.

Pasta, a definite frugal food favorite. At some grocery stores you can find it even cheaper, 0.95, 0.88, or even 0.50! But here, everything is a dollar. That doesn’t change the fact that when money is super tight, pasta becomes a life-saver. Maybe literally.

Pasta can be made healthier by pumping it up with extra vegetables.

It goes well with just about any frozen mix you can find, and most canned vegetables as well. Just dump the veggies right into your pot with the pasta during the last 3-4 minutes of boiling.

If you want to be sneaky healthy and have a blender, you can also blend canned or frozen veggies or beans into the sauce, and no one will even know!

And where would pasta be without its best friend, sauce!

Most people cannot fathom one without the other. The good news is that pasta sauce is relatively good for you, since tomatoes actually become more nutritious after cooking.

The bad news is, all the packaged sauces probably contain high fructose corn syrup as a cheap filler…

You’re better off just simmering a can of diced tomatoes as your sauce, and adding any spices you enjoy such as Italian seasoning, thyme, basil, garlic salt, etc.

Dried beans and rice are classic frugal favorites, and for good reason. Beans are a powerhouse of nutrition, containing lots of micronutrients, magnesium, iron, protein, and tons of great-for-your-gut fiber. One cup of dry beans plumps up to 2-3 cups once cooked, giving you even more value for your money.

The same can be said of rice, white or brown, which provides 200-250 calories per cup for roughly $0.10.

To cook beans from dry, you simply let them soak in water overnight or for 8 hours, then change the water and boil them for a few hours, until soft. Or cook them in a crock pot, if you have that luxury.

Now that you have cooked beans, layer as many different types of beans as you can find into a hearty chili, toss them into tacos and burritos and enchiladas, whirl them in a blender to make homemade hummus, or cook up some hearty red beans and rice.

Ah, rice. The food all frugal foodies sing praises to. And for good reason as well.

Rice is cheap per pound ($1/lb here, you can get it much cheaper in bulk but also sometimes you just can’t swing $15 for 25 pounds) but delivers tons of carbs (aka ENERGY) and a nice punch of nutrition in return. You can easily have a full week of meals for a dollar or two and a couple minutes of simmering.

To cook rice, simply mix rice and water in a one to two ratio (for example, 1/2 cup rice + 1 cup water) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid and simmer 20 minutes. That’s it!

It is also super easy to cook, as noted, and ridiculously versatile.

It can bulk up just about any meal to make it stretch: burritos, tacos, soups, stir fry, casseroles, curry… It is also the partner in crime to the other frugal foodie favorite, beans.

Try adding some to bulk up vegetable soups, add some simple spices and a can of tomatoes, corn, and/or beans for Spanish rice, or mix with frozen broccoli and some cheddar cheese for a delicious side dish or casserole.

Canned ravioli, Spaghetti-Os, and chili is not the best bet, they will have sky-high sodium, but if you are desperate for protein in an easy-to-open and store container, you could do worse.

I would highly recommend making actual pasta rather than go for the cans, especially for double the cost (1 box pasta + 1 can sauce vs 1 can of spaghettios). You get way more than double the food; more like 5 times as much!

As for soup stock, you can make your own for almost free! Just save vegetable scraps like potato and carrot skins, the ends of onions and celery stalks, pits of peppers and tomatoes, in a bag in the freezer. Once you have enough to fill a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour or so, and strain the solids out.

That liquid is pure homemade vegetable stock! You can use it to make soups, to fry instead of oils, and to cook rice in for extra flavor.

Dollar Tree shelves canned tuna and meats

Canned fish is definitely a great low-cost protein option. When you are on a seriously-ridiculous-bare-bones budget, you cannot worry about needs as high up the chain as ethically sourced mercury-free fish. You just want cheap sources of proteins.

Canned tuna and salmon makes great sandwiches, tuna noodle casserole, or latkes. Flake it over a salad or into any pasta dish, even adding it to soups or casseroles. Canned clams can make a frugal knockoff clam chowder, clam linguini, or top a pizza with them.

Boxed mac n cheese has all kinds of additives, fake cheese-like product, preservatives, and colorants.

You are better off cooking a box of actual pasta, and adding in a block of actual cheese to make your mac n cheese. But if even $3 is out of your price range (1 box pasta + 1 block cheese + 1 bottle milk) then the boxed kind will keep your belly full for a while.

Boxed pasta salad mixes are also not really worth the “extras”, which includes anti-caking agents, dehydrated flakes, “flavoring”, etc.

Just make a box of pasta, and add a bag of frozen peppers & onion mix. If you have one more dollar, get Italian dressing and mix it in too. It will taste better and be better for you, with actual vegetable pieces.

As mentioned above, if you have enough wiggle room in the budget to add dressing, Italian is my favorite. It is very versatile, bringing flavor to pasta salads, actual lettuce salads, or roasted chicken.

The Dollar Tree does not have any fresh produce, so we won’t have any real salad to go with it… but it does perk up pasta salads well, and is great over steamed frozen veggies.

For your baking needs, they do have smaller packages of salt, sugar, flour, and even shredded coconut. If I was on a super-tight budget, shredded coconut would not top my list. But if you have room and enjoy its taste, it is a great addition to oatmeal, soups, and baking.

Flour and water together can lead to your own super-frugal tortillas for your bean and rice burritos.

You can whip up you own naan for scooping curry and chili.

And if you can get ahold of any yeast, or a fermented sourdough starter, you can be well on your way to homemade bread, biscuits, pizza dough, and rolls as well.

For $1, this is a decent size jar of jelly. It makes me cringe just a little to see the high fructose corn syrup and how much sugar per serving is in there, jam made with actual fruit would be so much better.

But, again, this is about survival.

Food that will fill bellies and keep kids happy (or yourself) while keeping the lights on and gas in the car.

So when a PB&J is the compromise, you need the J part. It can also make a great topping for biscuits, toast, or pancakes.

Dollar Tree shelves - peanut butter

And of course the PB part of a PBJ. I was a little disappointed to see how small these jars were… 10 oz compared to jelly’s 19 oz. Can you tell we subsidize corn syrup in this country and not peanuts?

Oh, and if you have peanut allergies, well, tough luck. There is nothing fancy like almond butter or sunbutter options here.

I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of bread options!

Obviously, making your own without sugar or preservatives is healthier. But who has time for that nonsense between jobs and childcare?

At least you can choose whole wheat bread and rolls, and they even had a really nice looking multigrain option. For $1, this is actually much cheaper than a regular grocery store.

If you’re on a very limited budget, I highly recommend you switch to water as your main, or only beverage.

Actually I recommend that in general.

Water is the healthiest liquid you could drink, and has the added benefit of being free and clean from your very own tap. 24/7.

However, sometimes a warm or sweet beverage can be a needed pick me up, and I get that.

I noticed they had pre-cooked pizza crusts, and pizza sauce and small pepperonis. Any processed meat like sausage, pepperoni, etc. is not the best. But if you are going to have pizza anyways, making your own is FAR healthier and cheaper than going out. Even a $5 hot-and-ready is $5 compared to $3 to make your own.

In the refrigerated section, you will find 8-count eggs and yogurt. If you and your family does eat dairy, a 4-pack of yogurt for $1 is a pretty good deal, and will provide calories and some protein. Eggs are a good cheap source of protein. Though sometimes you can find better deals at ‘regular stores’, we are assuming there isn’t one.

 

The Meal Plan

I designed this plan to serve 2 people with average adult appetites for 3 meals for 7 days.

This may not apply to you, and you may need to change the amounts a little if you have little kids, or hungry teens, or a large family, or more or less meals per week to provide.

Scale up or down accordingly.

It is also designed with the least amount of cooking required as possible, which is not the best financial move.

But I understand that when times are tough and time is tight, making things from scratch is not the priority.

Grocery List:
  • 1 pack of 8 eggs
  • 1lb margerine sticks or a bottle of oil
  • 1 box mac n cheese (or 1 box pasta, 1 small jug of milk, and 1 block of cheddar cheese)
  • 1 box pancake mix
  • 1 bag frozen fruit: tropical blend, strawberries, mango
  • 4 bags frozen vegetables: stir fry blend, spinach, broccoli, California blend in 10, 12, or 14 oz
  • 3 cans sliced pineapple, mangoes, oranges, peaches, or pears
  • 3 – 1 lb pasta boxes, any shape you like
  • 1 34 oz pasta sauce can
  • 1 bag of 2 lbs white rice, or 1lb brown rice
  • At least 1 bag: 1.5 lbs pinto beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas
  • 1 16oz can or bottle tomato juice
  • Bottle of chili powder
  • 10 oz peanut butter
  • 19 oz jelly
  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 can cream of mushroom
  • 1 pizza base
  • Optional beverages: tea, coffee, hot cocoa, hot cider
  • Optional snacks: granola bars, 25.4 oz jar applesauce, yogurts
  • Optional seasonings: Italian blend, garlic salt, soy sauce

Grocery total: $27 (+ depending on your optional choices)

Day One

B – 2 eggs scrambled per person, plus toast

L – PB&J sandwiches

D – Make a big pot of chili

Day Two

B – Toast with PB and/or jelly, 1/2 can fruit

L – leftover chili

D – Mac n cheese using the box, or 1 box pasta + cheese

Day Three

B – Fruit pancakes (make a big batch, and refrigerate enough for the next 2 days)

L – Chili mac! Top leftover macaroni with leftover chili. Very filling.

D – Red beans & rice

Day Four

B – Leftover pancakes – you can pop them in the toaster to reheat!

L –  Leftover red beans & rice

D – Pasta with veggies (save about 1/2 cup sauce for pizza)

Day Five

B – Leftover pancakes

L – Leftover pasta with veggies

D – Pizza night! To make it extra healthy, microwave a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and drain. Top pizza with sauce and veggies, then bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Day Six

B – 1/2 can of fruit plus toast (with PB) per person

L –  PB&J

D – Veggie stir fry

Day Seven

B – 1/2 can of fruit plus toast (with PB) per person

L – Leftover stir fry or anything else left in the fridge

D – Tuna noodle casserole

 

How Do I Make That:

Vegetarian chili: 2-3 cans different beans (or ~4 cups from dried), 1 can diced tomatoes or bottle tomato juice, chili powder = $4. Put all ingredients in a slow cooker on low 6-8 hours, or simmer on stove top for about 1 hour up to 4 hours, stirring often to prevent burning.

Macaroni and cheese: 1 box pasta, 1 block cheese, 1 small jar milk = $3. Boil pasta noodles and drain. Return noodles to the pan, add the cheese (cutting into smaller pieces or shredding will help it melt faster) and 1/2 cup milk. Stir on medium heat until cheese melts. You can also add a bag of frozen mixed veggies for extra nutrition.

Fruit pancakes: 1 bag or can fruit + 1 box pancake mix = $2
Either drain a can of fruit & chop into small pieces, or microwave 1 cup of frozen fruit and drain. Add to the pancake batter in place of some liquid. For example, if you need 1 cup of water, add 1 cup fruit and about 1/3 cup water instead. Adjust liquid to your desired batter thickness. Cook on hot pan or griddle until brown, flip and cook the other side.

Red beans & rice: Cook 2 cups rice, cook 2 cups beans (or 1 can pinto /kidney), optional 1 cup frozen pepper & onion mix = $3. The key to this one is to simmer on low for a long time. It makes the beans break down a bit and thicken, add some chili powder for extra kick.

Pasta with sauce & veggies: 1 box pasta, 1 bag frozen mixed veggies, 1 can pasta sauce = $3. Boil pasta according to directions, add frozen veggies at the last 3-5 minutes to thaw. Drain, add sauce.

Pizza: thin crust, bag pepperoni, (optional) mozzarella cheese sticks or shredded cheese, can of sauce = $4. Top crust with sauce, toppings, and cheese if using. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Stir fry: rice, frozen mixed veggies, 2 eggs = $3. Cook 2 cups of rice and set aside. Microwave or boil veggies to thaw and cook. Scramble 2 eggs, and mix into the rice. Top with veggies. Soy sauce optional.

Peanut butter & jelly: 2 slices bread, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp jelly = $4 (not quite, because you only use 2 slices bread not the whole loaf)

Tuna noodle casserole: 1 can tuna (drained), 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 box pasta: $3. Mix together and either bake at 350 for 20 minutes or just stir together while pasta is still hot. For extra nutrition, add a thawed bag of frozen mixed vegetables.

 

And there you have it, 3 meals per day for 7 days for 2 people, or 42 meals for just $27 or just 64 cents per serving.

You can also at any point make a big pot of vegetable soup with a bag or two of frozen mixed veggies and stock or water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes to a few hours, adding whatever spices you like. This can be easily just a few cents per serving, and you can add rice and/or beans or serve with bread/rolls to bulk it up further.

Yes, it is quite carb heavy and not the healthiest ever. But you have to do what you have to do sometimes. And sneaking in some canned fruits and frozen veggies is better than pop-tarts, or nothing!

 

Please share with the class! What are your classic frugal meal ideas? Have you ever experienced hard times? Is this at all realistic and useful?

Weekly Eating – 4/9/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

 

Monday:

Breakfast – The very last sweet potato biscuit with honey, and the very last crepe with strawberry jam. This was my favorite, why wasn’t I doing jam all along?! Next batch I will know better.

strawberry crepe and sweet potato biscuit with honey

Lunch – Last of the Chana Saag and basmati rice. So healthy, so cheap, so easy, so filling. What’s not to love.

Snack – So remember the whole Starbucks points and stars thing? I had earned enough for a free food or drink item. I save these up until I really need an extra coffee or forgot lunch/breakfast, and today was a 2-coffee day (my FitBit can prove how crap my sleep was!). I saw the Hazelnut coconutmilk mocha last week and wanted it badly. But it’s a “specialty” drink and thus more expensive, so I figured this free rewards was the best way to go.

Well… turns out you cannot redeem rewards at the one near me 🙁 Which I found out, once I got up to the counter, with a huge line behind me… a more iron-willed frugalista would have said thanks and walked away. But I wanted the sugar and caffeine real bad… so I gave in and got one anyways, just the smallest size they have (a Short, btw, in case you want fewer calories! Same # espresso shots, less sugar). At least I still had money on the gift card so I didn’t pay for it per se, and now I know what it tastes like and won’t actually use my free reward on it.

Later in the afternoon I had another CLIF cherry-apple-chia bar. I am even more sad I didn’t buy more because the boy loves them too, and ate half the box! I’m NOT complaining, more fruit in the daily diet is always a good thing. Maybe I need to figure out how to make them.

Dinner – I had two health coaching clients with a time gap between which was too short to make sense to try to go home, so I got to go to my fave Indian restaurant! I got the Aloo something or other, with bell pepper and onion and cauliflower.

Indian aloo gobi cauliflower curry

IT WAS AWESOME and the garlic Naan was manna from heaven. I had to force myself to save half and not inhale it all immediately. Gave me a serious need for more cauliflower in my life.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Chickpea salad sandwich! I had a batch already made and who says lunch things can’t be breakfast things? Crazy people.

Lunch – Leftover cauliflower and rice and naan. Just as good the second time, if not better.

Snack – Handful of dried prunes. No I’m not an old person I just honestly love their taste and chewiness, what of it?

Dinner – Quinoa with stir fried veggies

Snack #2 – I put out a call for cauliflower suggestions, and Sarah from SmileandConquor reminded me that Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” are a thing! Boy am I glad she did.

roasted buffalo cauliflower 'wings'

I whipped up a batch immediately, and the boy and I proceeded to demolish a half a head of cauliflower in under 5 minutes.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Blueberry great grains and soymilk. I was a little leery of dried blueberries, because the ones I’ve had previously were really tough, but they worked in this cereal.

Lunch – 5 Bean Vegan Chili. I made a small batch yesterday and just wasn’t feeling it for dinner, so I packed up the leftovers into single serve containers for lunch for myself and the boy today.

Dinner –Falafel burgers. I had a few cups of chickpeas to use up, and a ton of breadcrumbs. I save the heels and pieces of bread we don’t eat in the freezer until I’ve got a big batch, then roast ’em into breadcrumbs. Saves food waste and means I don’t have to buy them at the store! So I added some spices and called it burgers.

falafel burger

Snack – I wanted to try out a copycat Larabar recipe, but of course ended up using whatever I had. I blitzed an apple and a half cup of dried craisins in the food processor, and then added cinnamon, salt, almonds, and some dates. Pressed into a thin bar, they were chewy and sweet and a perfect snack. I cut it into 10 bars and refrigerated the 8 I didn’t eat immediately.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Coffee & an apple date bar

Lunch – Salad with quinoa, edamame, frozen peppers and onions, and sprouts with some lemon tahini dressing.

Snack – Whoever brought Reese eggs, I hate you and I love you

Dinner – Peanut noodle stir fry with broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms

Friday:

Breakfast – PB&J toast

Lunch – Leftover miso soup from the weekend

Snack – 1 lonely leftover swiss roll, and a fruit bar

Dinner – Ravioli & a salad

The Weekend

This weekend is supposed to be sunny and warm and amazing and I am really excited about it! We are spending Saturday doing some spring cleaning and yard work, and having a little cookout. I need to find our metal kebab skewers for the zucchini and peppers and onions and mushrooms.

Then on Sunday I have a Health Coaching client follow up to start my day, and if I can convince the boy I want to take a long hike. Or, we might finish anything that we didn’t get to Saturday. Or, I could plant another set of beans and peas, or weed the front garden and plant my basil sprouts and marigolds. Maybe we will be lazy and play video games all day. Who knows!

Food Total: $70.80

Not bad for 2 different store stops. This does include the Kroger meat and cheese sales ($1.99/lb ground turkey and $0.99/lb cheese of which we got 4 each) for the boy’s burritos, along with some tofu, plain Greek yogurt that we use instead of sour cream, and oodles of veggies.

Spring mix 5oz 0.99
Brocc/cauli steam mix 12oz 1.69
Clover sprouts 0.79
Green bean, onion, mushroom mix 1.99
zucchini / squash mix 1.99
Cauliflower heads 2 for $2 4
Pitted dates 40 oz 8.99
Anjou pears 2 1.25
Bananas 3 0.86
Shelled org edamame 2 14oz 4
Spinach big box 5.99
bananas 8 1.53
avocado Haas 3 2.07

We also spent about $20 on allergy meds: Benadryl, DayQuil, eye drops. Spring allergies are no joke in the south. Cars literally turn yellow with a coat of pollen, and we stay that way for months. Oh well, I’ll take a yellow car over a white one any day!

Lessons Learned

Harris Teeter does produce markdowns on Tuesdays! Haha sort of kidding… but seriously you should consider checking out your local stores on different days of the week and at different times if you are able. You never know when things you use often will be on clearance. The caveat with produce is you have to be sure you will use it soon, or else need to freeze or otherwise preserve it.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 4/2/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Easter weekend was filled with relaxing and outdoor adventures! Friday was a day off, which was awesome, and I got to take a 5 mile hike, resulting in a new high score for daily steps this year. Then on Saturday we were all about gardening. I got broccoli, spinach, and romaine sprouts in the ground, as well as some beans and peas.

We also are trying berries this year, with 4 blueberry and 4 blackberry bushes. The back yard is super shady (thanks to a million trees) but we are planning on taking several down this summer, and hopefully there will be enough light that the bushes can at least survive and establish themselves. It would be amazing to have pounds of free organic berries every year!

And on Easter Sunday, I decided we should at least do a little something to celebrate. We have no kids and no family nearby, so your typical church or egg hunt or Easter baskets or brunch were not happening. Instead, I made some French toast, and cut a piece in half to make bunny ears! Then I used colored white chocolate and sprinkles to make a cute face. It was tasty, and we hadn’t had French toast in a long time so we both enjoyed it.

bunny rabbit french toast

Oh, and back to Lowes we headed, because the boy wanted to complete a project we had talked about several times: building a stone fire pit! We had a small plain metal fire pit that sister in law gave us for our housewarming gift, but we wanted to spruce it up and make it look more permanent. So we got a big pile of stones (thank goodness they were on sale, why are literal rocks so expensive?!) and he built up a lovely fire pit ring.

And while the boy was playing with rocks and building that, I was playing with tortillas and building some enchiladas. I consider that a fair trade. For Sunday dinner we had turkey or black bean enchiladas with Spanish rice and  watermelon mojitos I’d found in the freezer from last summer. Then we hung out outside during sunset & into the night to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to many bonfire nights.

Monday:

Breakfast – Coffee with protein powder, & an energy bar

Lunch – Frozen lamb stew, & a salad. Over the weekend I also did a quick freezer inventory, which happens a few times a year. This way we find ‘lost’ food and hopefully waste less. I pulled out a few things to thaw and eat up this week.

Snack – I had a meeting after work, and was planning to go to dinner afterwards. But I was also pretty hungry by 5:30pm, so I stopped real quick at a Walmart, and they had a snack box on sale 1/2 price. So I grabbed it, and enjoyed the apples and grapes and cheese. I ate about half, and gave the rest to the boy at home later.

Dinner – Chicken fajitas! It’s always so fun when they bring out that sizzling plate, and I feel like an artist crafting my tacos. I also always end up with leftovers, which is like a 2-for-1 meal deal.

chicken fajitas

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Blender crepes with Lemon yogurt filling! I followed the recipe almost exactly (I know, gasp) but also added in a spoonful of cottage cheese to the filling, because I honestly forgot I had it and needed to use it up. I also microwaved a cup of blueberries to put on top. SO GOOD.

blender crepes with lemon filling and blueberry topping

Lunch – Leftover black bean enchilada and Spanish rice

Snack – If you are my friend on Twitter you know I succumbed to the sugar demon… someone at work is having a baby, so there were tiny cute cupcakes in the office! I ended up having 2, 2 days in a row…

Dinner – Lemon garlic asparagus pasta, a recipe Kroger sent me in the mail with my ‘super shopper’ coupons. For the boy I cooked some chicken quarters too.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Skinny vanilla latte and pumpkin bread. I have a Starbucks gold card (I don’t know how that happened either, but it has my name on it so it’s not a mistake…) and today was super double star day! That means I get 4 stars per $1 I spend. Starbucks is a rare treat for me, and I hoard giftcards just for these days.

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich with some carrots. Y’all. This has seriously changed my life. I added a sheet of nori seaweed in the morning when I made the sandwich, so the bread wasn’t soggy and the seaweed was soft by lunch time. This is mindblowing, it is seriously better than tuna salad. I’m in love.

chickpea salad sandwich

Snack – a cherry yogurt

Dinner – Chana Saag and brown basmati rice

I’m so excited its spring, because Farmers market Wednesday is back! I didn’t know and as I walked by the tables I was drooling over all the gorgeous in season greens. I dug through my pockets and came up with 3 dollar bills, and don’tcha know, that was the price for a big bundle of collard greens!! My lucky day.

Thursday:

Breakfast – More crepes with lemon yogurt and blueberries

Lunch – Chickpea salad sandwich with carrots and clementine. I ate the CLIF cherry-chia-apple bar as a snack around 4pm. It was really tasty, and I’m so sad I didn’t buy every single clearance box.

Dinner – I needed to do something creative with the gorgeous leafy Swiss chard I bought yesterday, so I made some spring rolls!

Swiss chard spring rolls

I used this recipe (mostly because I have a childish sense of humor and liked the site name) and even remembered to cut the veins out, but totally forgot to steam them… oops! The leaves were tender enough though, and they were really good. And actually really filling.

Swiss chard spring rolls with peanut sauce

Even the boy said they didn’t suck. He said the peanut butter sauce made him nervous, but it was surprisingly good.

Friday:

Breakfast – Crepes filled with peanut butter and banana and drizzled with honey

Lunch – Leftover Chana Saag

Dinner – I finished off the Swiss rolls. And then went out for some drinks with friends, which was so fun! But, also, led to Taco Bell on the way home… What can I say, sometimes a rice and bean burrito and cinnamon twists just has to happen.

 

The Weekend

There’s a slight chance I’ll hit the stores again Saturday, because Kroger is running some really good sales. But I told myself I’m not allowed to go unless I take the boy with me, so he can keep me from browsing and over spending!

I’m actually really happy it’s raining this weekend, it should help the berry bushes and garden plants we planted last weekend get more established (and let’s be real, I can be lazy and not water!). But it does put a damper on my hopes of hiking a lot… probably will be a very chill weekend.

I definitely need to do some laundry, I think it has been almost a month! I re-wear heavier things that don’t get dirty, like blazers and jeans, and the only things that automatically go into the wash pile are undies, socks, and workout clothes when I actually sweat in them… so… since I’m nearly out of all of them I guess it’s time!

 

Food Total: $26.93 + $3 cash

Woo hoo for low grocery totals!

I meal planned a bunch of things that were already in the pantry, and cleaned/inventoried the freezer. So the majority of our meals this week were ‘free’, or pre-paid basically. Then I made a quick stop to a WalMart while in the area, because we were nearly out of yogurt and that makes the boy sad.

Dairy $6.48 Staples $4.46 Fruit/Veg $7.17 Extras $8.82
4-pk Greek yogurts 2 4.48 Ravioli frz 3lb 2.58 Bananas 8 (0.52/lb) 1.42 Bistro snack box 1.9
4pk reg yogurts 2 2 Cucumber 0.54 Softsoap refil 64oz 3.84
A H DEO 1.88 Sweet potato 3 (.88/lb) 2.21 Mascara 2
CLIF fruit bars 4 3 Tax 1.08

And this total includes mascara and soap, which aren’t even food! So really it’s more like $20 total, plus $3 cash for Swiss chard.

Lessons Learned

I definitely need to keep up with eating from the freezer and pantry. I come from a family that is borderline Hoarders, never wanting to throw things out and always maximizing sales. I definitely think if you have the initial cash that stocking up will save money over time… but only if you then use the items!

At this point my pantry is full to bursting and it’s getting ridiculous. I need to work pantry items into the meal plan each week, not only to use things up before they expire but also to keep our future grocery totals low. So the focus will be on using up staples with interspersed seasonal produce, until my pantry is as sleek and gorgeous as Dr. McFrugals! #goals

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 3/26/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Happy Easter, if you celebrate!

 

Well, to balance out last week’s super frugal food spending, I way over spent this week! I cannot be trusted in grocery stores, even with super detailed lists, it seems.

grocery shopping haul

Also, the boy was out of state on a work trip all week, which means I got to go out and party with friends on a work night, twice! Woo hoo, the crazy life of a 30 year old. 🙂 I did basically 2/3 of my eating-out for the year in one week. I don’t ‘go out’ a whole lot since I like cooking so much.

But, it was really nice to finally get a lot of one on one friend time with several different people, and try out a few new food spots. I’m always on the hunt for new stand outs, and good places to take people who visit from out of town. I’d say there are a few new names on the list now.

Monday:

Breakfast – Last of the sweet potato biscuits with honey. Hoping to make a new batch of these over the weekend, they are seriously the perfect breakfast.

sweet potato biscuit with honey

Lunch – Leftover split pea soup & whole grain bread.

split pea soup and bread

Snack – Chocolate peanut butter granola bar.

granola bar

Dinner –Last of the tortilla soup.

tortilla soup

So I thought I had already finished this, but I tricked myself! I put some away in regular containers, but then also one mason jar full. I found it when trying to rearrange the fridge, and had that for dinner. Just as satisfying as I remember.

jar of tortilla soup

Tuesday:

Breakfast – The last slice of my banana bread loaf. Found it in the bottom of the cheese drawer for some reason… and, I have 2 bananas turning a darker brown every day on the counter, so it might be time to replenish the supply.

end of banana bread

Lunch – The rest of the Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi

Spring green gnocchi

Snack – Cut up pineapple and honeydew

pineapple and honeydew

Dinner – Out with a friend! We went to a place in Durham called Juju, which is a pan-Asian tapas bar. The menu is all fancy small plates meant for sharing, and they have half off wine on Tuesdays! Of course, I’m totally frugal, and not their target audience at all. When I see $45 for a bottle of wine, my first thought is I could get like 9 liters of boxed wine for that price!

juju brussels sprouts

We ended up with the house special red in a carafe, and the waiter actually made a dig about it (because it is the cheapest wine on the menu). But I don’t care, it still was enough for us both to have 2 glasses and that was actually quite enough, thank you very much. I gotta drive my butt home, sir.

juju chicken biscuits

We each chose 2 things, and split everything. The plates looked smallish, but the presentation was on point, and everything was tasty. It was actually really filling, we were struggling to finish it all by the last course. The duck fried rice (below) was excellent, and the fried chicken buns (above) were definitely the star of the show.

juju duck fried rice

I was surprised by the vegan spring rolls, since they were fried. I thought spring roll meant the cold rice paper wrapped kind, but oh well. It was a lovely night, and even though it was pushing $40 for one meal, it was worth the time spent chatting and enjoying myself.

juju spring rolls

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Cranberry Great Grains & Almond milk. I guess it’s time for a cold cereal breakfast phase now that I’m out of sweet potato biscuits… 🙁

great grains with cranberry

Lunch – A big mixed greens salad, and a slice of leftover pizza from the weekend.

pizza and salad

Snack – More pineapple and honeydew! A honeydew is a large fruit, turns out… and I had 2 pineapples cut up. So.

pineapple and honeydew

Dinner – I did not have a plan here, but there was a lot of cabbage, and pinto beans that had to be used ASAP. So I was like, hybrid stir fry slash beans and rice? Why not!

crazy stir fry with beans

Thursday:

Breakfast – I love Hummusapien’s blog (if I lived in OH still I’d want to live in Columbus and be her friend) and got inspiration from her green smoothie. It included: “pineapple, banana, hemp seeds, kale, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, orange juice, and almond milk.”

crazy green smoothie

So I actually had all those things, and blended them up (minus the black pepper because yuck), and boy. What an… interesting texture. Hemp seeds will no longer go in my smoothies. Now I know.

Lunch – Leftover split pea soup! This was thick and hearty and I could only eat like 2/3 of it and was totally full. Also I ran out of flax seed bread so I used a whole grain bun.

split pea soup and buns

Snack – Crunchy oats & honey granola bar. I know, I know, this one is basically a candy bar because of how much sugar is in there, but desperate times, people.

granola bar

Dinner – I had a multi-course dinner, because I marinated some veggies and put them in the oven to roast, but got hungry before they were done. So I started with an appetizer of cucumbers and turmeric hummus.

hummus and cucumber

And then I had a salad with some hemp hearts and the rest of the marinade, which became salad dressing. In case you’re wondering:
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar + 1 tsp ginger paste + 1 tbsp honey + 1/2 tbsp olive oil.

salad

And finally once they were done I enjoyed my roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots over rice.

roast veggies and rice

And then I went out with some friends to Clouds Brewery in Durham! Clouds is amazing, if you’ve never been and enjoy trying different types of beer you need to go. They have a wall of taps, and you get a bracelet that you swipe on the screen to pour. Yes, you pour your own beers! And it charges you by the type and by the ounce, so you just turn your bracelet back in and it adds up your tab. Gotta love modern technology.

Friday:

Friday is a holiday, woo hoo!

Breakfast – I knew I was going to lunch with friends, so I just had a small fruit and nut energy bar.

cherry almond bar

Lunch – We went to a place called Na’Mean, which is a Korean sandwich place in Durham. It is indeed slang for “know what I mean”.

namean

I got the Pork Belly Banh, which is a slice of crispy/soft pork belly on a banh roll with house pickled veggies, jalapenos, special sauce, pickles, and fresh cilantro. It was awesome! And the seaweed salad on the side made me swoon. I adore seaweed salad.

belly banh

The place was right near an Asian grocery too… I know I promised no more groceries but… c’mon guys! I’m the Budget Epicurean! I had to go at least look around. And then buy some brown rice because we are out. And also the ingredients to make seaweed salad at home!

Dinner – Seaweed salad noodle bowl and steamed bok choi. I hadn’t had bok choi in a long time, so I picked up a small bag for $1, and the noodles were on sale: $1.99 for 3 pounds of rice noodles!

asian market groceries

I have never cooked with seaweed until now. It’s really easy! Just soak to rehydrate, and then eat it. I added some edamame, and made a sauce from this recipe to pour over it all. Nomnomnom.

seaweed salad and bok choi

The Weekend

This weekend will be chill because the boy just had a stressful week flying for work and dealing with the cold in CT. We are considering hitting up a new brewery we heard about called Carolina Brewing Company. Rumor has it you get free beer on the tour… and/or maybe having a spontaneous game night with friends.

If we get really motivated perhaps I will even get the raised bed  garden set up, and some berry bushes. I’ve got it all planned out, we just need to go get the actual supplies: dirt, vermiculite, seeds, & plants. We shall see how we are feeling. I also need to meal plan, and prep some things for next week.

Food Total: $114.44

Remember how I said I wanted a low grocery bill this week?… yeah…

I had this whole game plan mapped out, and set up a calculator to count down from $75 so I knew how much was left of what I wanted to buy. I diligently compared ads and sales, and checked my cabinets and freezer before making any plans.

grocery shopping lists and plan

I thought I totally crushed it at Kroger, even with a few things I picked up here and there. My calculator told me even with all the planned purchases I had $17 left over for “splurges”. There was a great sale on coffee, and I had a $3 off coupon! Well… what I didn’t realize is I accidentally grabbed 4 cans of the wrong size… and the sale and coupon didn’t apply to them 🙁

I also picked up some organic chicken breasts and a small brisket roast to treat the boy. He was gone out of town all week on a work trip to CT. And let me tell you, Connecticut in March is not the most fun. IT WAS SO GOOD. I forgot how mind-blowing brisket is… But, I remain committed to the 80% vegetarian thing, going to keep trying.

brisket

And then dried chickpeas were on sale for 0.99/lb! I cannot pass that up, since I use them so much in my homemade hummus and various salads. It is (almost) always cheaper per pound to buy dried, and I don’t mind the prep of soaking them overnight. I usually just toss some sort of bean in water overnight on a Friday or Saturday, then use my slow cooker all day Saturday or Sunday. Easy peasy, I have cheap protein ready for all week.

soaked chickpeas in the crock pot

To be fair, the Moscato was a hostess gift for the person who planned the baby shower I went to, and the diapers and wipes were a gift for the couple, obvs. Also in good news, the cake pops were a HUGE hit! Who knew.

second batch of cake pops

Lessons Learned

When I have a very specific list, it might be better to send in the boy. He hates grocery shopping, and will whip in and out of the store in the time it takes me to just look around the produce section.

That’s not a bad idea actually…grocery shopping to me is like a game, an adventure to find the best deals. I almost always wind up with some purchases I didn’t plan on. Of course, they are also almost always justifiable (crazy mark downs, actually the best sale price I’ve seen all year, etc.) but still… unplanned for $ spent.

Anywho, the point is, I definitely went over my desired goal of $75, and my stretch goal of $100. Again. Meaning March was wayyyy over the $400 total I’m supposed to spend. Sigh. No more food shopping until April, that’s for sure. I’m determined to do better next month. Maybe the boy really will become the default shopper.

I definitely learned the importance of cleaning out the refrigerator now and then! There were tons of little odds and ends and leftovers that I ate this week. Good thing the boy left for a while, it was mostly the soups and veggie options! 🙂 But clearing out your refrigerator and rearranging every week or every other week is a great habit to start. It reminds you of what leftovers are around and what other ingredients you have to work with for the next coming week.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 3/19/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

So, remember how we had five 20-year-olds at our house for St. Patrick’s Day? Turns out they are just as much old people as we are! They got in around 8pm, we played some games, and then everyone headed for bed around ten. They are welcome back anytime! 🙂

st. patricks day preparation

I made a big green breakfast spread for them, and they hit the road early so as to get home, presumably to sleep for 16 or so hours. What is it about sitting in a car for hours that just exhausts you?

st. patricks day green breakfast

Then on Sunday, I realized Monday was the next Bull City Food Swap! I had some pierogi in the freezer so I took those out, but I wanted another item too (you can never have too much to trade), and I had found a recipe for sweet potato biscuits I really wanted to try out. So I whipped up a batch and OH MAH LAWD Y’ALL…

sweet potato biscuits

Biscuits. Are. So. Good.

Fresh and hot out the oven, drizzled with butter and honey… swoon

fresh sweet potato biscuits from the oven with butter and honey

So I packed up a few packages of biscuits to trade too, but kept a good batch for us to nom all week. I also prepped some overnight oats, since the steel cut kind is not my favorite to microwave.

refrigerator full of overnight oats

Monday:

Breakfast – Tried the overnight oats, with golden raisins, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. I added what I thought was a “pinch” of salt but whoa boy, it was too much for even me, the die-hard salt lover. Good thing my office drawer still had a jar of my favorite breakfast. I split it in half and mixed in some non-salted oats and all was well.

Lunch – I made a much more successful batch of black beans over the weekend, and brought in a big container of beans & rice.

black beans and rice with hot sauce

Snack – I was an unstoppable snacking machine today. I had some grapes and strawberries just before lunch.

strawberries and grapes

Then a handful of pistachios in the afternoon.

handful of pistachios

And finally a granola bar on the drive home so I didn’t gnaw my arm off. What the heck?

granola bar in the car

Dinner – I tossed a bunch of cans into a slow cooker, and came home to Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup. Deeeeeeelish and soooooo easy.

slow cooker tortilla soup

The Bull City Food Swap was fun, even with me showing up almost an hour late! I got my times mixed up, thinking it started at 8 when really it was at 7. So I rush in at 7:45, just as the swapping part is wrapping up…

cutting fresh bacon

But, since I had high-value trades, I still made out like a bandit with 3 types of energy bars, granola, gingersnap cookies, chicken sausage, and homemade carrot cake. People went nuts over the pierogi… maybe 3 hours for a few dozen really is worth it?

bull city food swap trades

Tuesday:

Breakfast – More overnight oats, which does not make for exciting pictures, so I spared you 🙂

Lunch – Leftover refrigerator soup

refrigerator soup

Snack – A mixed berry pecan energy bar from the swap. They are sort of Larabar like, made mostly from dried fruit, nuts, and dates. And hot damn are they delicious…

berry pecan energy bar

Dinner – Since it was the first official day of spring, I made my Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi! With cut up chicken sausage added, because seriously, if I could put a scratch-and-sniff on this screen for you, I totally would. IT SMELLS SO GOOD.

spring green creamy gnocchi with chicken sausage

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey, & fresh pineapple. I love that pineapples have been on sale a lot lately.

sweet potato biscuits with honey and pineapple

Oh, and we woke up to a dusting of snow… happy Spring?

second day of spring snow

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the rest of the beans and rice. For once I actually felt really full after lunch 🙂

spring green gnocchi beans and rice and salsa

Snack – I didn’t even want to snack until almost 4pm, when I cut up some mini cucumbers and had it with turmeric hummus.

cucumbers and turmeric hummus

Dinner – One pan salmon, asaparagus, and potato wedges. We gettin all fancy up in here. (By fancy, I mean lazy).

one pan salmon, asparagus, and potato wedges

Dessert – We don’t often have dessert, unless popcorn and/or wine counts. But since we had high-quality carrot cake in the house, we split a piece, and totally inhaled it. Addictive, for sure. This is why I don’t keep it around!

homemade carrot cake

Thursday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits and honey, and a protein shake

sweet potato biscuits with honey

Lunch – Last of the tortilla soup

leftover tortilla soup

Snack – Berry/nut energy bar. These things are seriously so good. On my list of things to figure out how to make now.

Dinner – Split pea soup!

split pea soup ingredients

Super easy, nice and warm on a cold day, and totally delicious with some multigrain bread.

split pea soup

Friday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey. I almost forgot to take a picture I inhaled it so fast! And a bag of honeydew & pineapple.

sweet potato biscuits

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the tiny bit of leftover salmon and potato wedges. Waste not, want not!

gnocchi and leftover salmon

Dinner – I looked at my fridge and realized I had a batch of slow cooker pinto beans that needed used ASAP, and had a half a cabbage. Turns out there aren’t a ton of recipes using those two ingredients, but one with pasta sounded interesting, so I did an experiment.

cabbage pinto bean and carrot pasta dish

It turned out decently too. I steamed the carrots and cabbage for about 20 minutes until soft, then added in the beans, about 1/3 lb of spaghetti noodles and 1 cup water, and simmered for 10 more minutes. Then I sprinkled on some garlic salt and cayenne, and it was actually pretty tasty! And super cheap.

 

The Weekend

This weekend I’ve a baby shower to attend, so I’ll spend a little bit on a gift for that. I think I’ve come up with the best way to contribute to the food at a low cost to me.

baby shower cake pops

I have a white cake left over from my “3/3” party (I made Tres Leches cake, but the mix made enough for 2 so I froze one). I thawed it, and made my own cream cheese icing, to create cake pops! Then I decorated them with sprinkles, and they are totally adorable, and basically free (given I already had all ingredients paid for).

And I also have a girls’ night planned, which will include dinner at a local Thai place (SO EXCITED!) and probably a drink or two afterwards. I think it is so important to have friend groups to just hang out and relax with. Whatever the expenditure ends up being I consider worth it, and an investment in my health and happiness!

 

Food Total: $27.66

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

This week’s food total is something I am quite proud of! I based my meal plan havily around pantry staples, and with making my own bread products plus the trades from the Swap we ate like kings on very little cash. I needed to balance out last week’s spendiness.

Staples $7.49 Fruit/Veg $18.45
Vanilla frozen yogurt quart 3 Asparagus 1 lb 1.09
peppermint extract 4.49 Green grapes 1.5lb 3.04
Bananas 7 1.85
Kiwi 4 1
Cabbage 2.6lb 0.77
Avocado 4 1.94
Russet potato 8lb 2.79
Frozen peas & onion 1.98
Honeydew 3.99

And this is even with factoring in the “splurges” to make Shamrock Shakes (frozen yogurt, peppermint extract) and green breakfast (honeydew, kiwi, grapes) on St. Patty’s Day.

shamrock shakes

Lessons Learned

I really need to incorporate more soups in the meal plans! It is unfortunate the boy is not a big fan, but I’m slowly bringing him around. The split pea soup was something I was nervous about (he HATES peas) but he actually said it was pretty good! Soups made with pantry staples and legumes are soooooooo cheap y’all. I’m going to shoot for a similarly low bill next week too.

It can also never be said enough, but eating leftovers is so important to saving money and being frugal! I ate tons of leftovers this week, which is basically like free meals. You’ve already paid for the ingredients, and cooked the meal, so re-eating it is free. Whereas if you don’t eat leftovers and trash them, you are contributing to food waste and throwing away dollar dollar bills. Just suck it up and eat the leftovers! The world and your wallet will thank you.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 3/12/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Oh man, this week was ups and downs all over. First off, Sunday was my tea party! I had such a blast getting all dolled up, when I have a theme I go ALL IN. The group of women was a great mix of personalities and it led to some really great conversation. Maybe after a while I can convince them to talk finances? 😉

tea party dress and hat

The downside of having the party hosting bug is that I go ALL IN. This means occasionally I over-do it, and I definitely over-did-it. I spent way too much on groceries, and it turned out we didn’t even use a good chunk of the food! I even tried to keep telling myself that it’s tea, not a full meal, but… I just can’t help myself!

tea party finger sandwiches

I’m gonna blame this one on my mom, who is the world’s most awesome party planner, ask anyone who knows her (she planned my amazing destination wedding for <$10,000!). I grew up with lavish parties on a shoestring budget, and a big weakness for making sure when there are 10 guests, I have enough food to feed at least 25.

tea party tea and sugar

 

Monday:

Breakfast – Waffles with fresh berries. I made a batch of waffles on Saturday and stuck them in a ziplock for breakfasts this week. And I’m so glad it’s spring, and berries are on sale again! It is not quite blueberry or strawberry season, so I know they’re greenhouse grown or imported, but I’ve missed fresh berries!

waffles with fresh berries

Lunch – Leftover 5 Bean Chili with leftover koftes mixed in. The boy didn’t love these re-heated and honestly neither did I (most things are best fresh) so I just mixed them into the chili. I figured, hey, lentils and onion go great in chili! And it tasted just fine.

chili and a salad

Dinner – Changed our minds from stuffed baked potatoes to mac n cheese! Two reasons: 1) we got a “wintry mix” of rain/sleet/snow which made for a yucky cold night and demanded comfort food and 2) I had soooo much cheese leftover from the tea party!

pesto mac n cheese

Made a big pot of “lazy black beans“, and then accidentally got caught up blogging and burnt the bottom. 🙁 I still put them in the fridge, we will see if they’re salvageable.

lazy black beans on the stove with onion and orange

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Leftover biscuits from the tea party warmed up with some strawberry jam.

tea party biscuits with jam

Lunch – I made this black rice and radish salad, with a few differences. I added lemon juice and zest to the dressing, laid it all over a bed of torn kale, and added thin sliced cucumbers.

herby black rice and radish salad

Snack – Then after lunch I had a triple chocolate brownie (from last weekend’s 3/3 party) and it was heaven. If this isn’t your definition of heaven I don’t want to know how you define it, and probably don’t want to go there.

triple chocolate brownie

Dinner – I made some crispy baked tofu for myself and ground turkey for the boy, and we had Taco Tuesday! My tacos were a little smoky but I figured it was from the fire…

tofu Taco Tuesday

We lit up a fire in the backyard and ate outside. It was still super chilly, but really nice. I can’t wait for it to warm up so we can do this more often.

fire pit in backyard

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Waffles with strawberry/OJ sauce. I just microwaved a cup of cut up berries in about 1/4 cup juice and poured it on.

waffles with strawberries

Lunch – Leftover chili and mac n cheese mixed together

leftover chili and mac n cheese

Snack – Finished the beet hummus and some veggies

beet hummus and veggies

Dinner – Sooooooooo I made a big batch of black beans… and today I tried to eat them with stir fried veggies and rice.

I choked down part of a bowl because I’d already dished it out, but the burnt flavor was just too much. I had to throw out a whole pound of cooked black beans, and my heart broke a little  🙁

burnt black beans

I had a follow-up bowl with the rest of the tofu and more rice.

black bean rice bowl
And yum-yum sauce, because, YUM

Thursday:

Breakfast –Roasted sweet potato with white beans. I loved this combo last week, but for whatever reason I took 2 bites and just could not…

roasted sweet potato with white beans

Snack 1 – good thing I had a granola bar in my lunch bag

peanut butter granola bar

Lunch –The last bit of leftover chili mac, and leftover Black Rice & Radish Salad. I’m glad I had double the lunch since I had such a lackluster breakfast appetite.

leftover chili and mac n cheeseleftover black rice and radish salad

Snack 2 – I did also make a bunch of kale chips yesterday, so I packed up the half I didn’t immediately inhale for an afternoon snack

kale chips

Dinner – I had no idea what to make, so I made refrigerator soup! It’s basically when you just pull everything out of the refrigerator and toss it together with some water to make soup. I added the sweet potato and white beans I couldn’t finish, plus some rice, some of the tofu, and other veggies.

refrigerator soup

It’s different every time, and a great way to use up bits of leftovers so you don’t have to throw them away. The boy said that with extra chilies and hot sauce it wasn’t even that bad!

Friday:

Breakfast – Great Grains cereal with Almond milk. Yet again, a cereal the boy requested, and I’m the one eating it. 😀

great grains cereal

Lunch – In cleaning out the fridge, I found out that I’d hidden a few pieces of the spinach artichoke pizza! So I dug those out to finish it off. I also had 2 lonely beet veggie burgers hanging out, so I nommed those too.

leftover spinach artichoke pizza

Things came up at work, so by the time I got back to my desk it was after 3pm. I was ravenous, and never more happy I had double the lunch than this moment.

beet veggie burgers

And now I can almost see the back wall of the refrigerator! Time to cook something…

Dinner – Stir Friday! I made my oven baked tofu and topped a stir fry of frozen veggies and extra odds and ends for a tasty, frugal meal.

crispy tofu stir fry

 

The Weekend

My sister and her friends were in Florida this week for their spring break. Since I’m halfway-ish on the drive back to Ohio, they asked to stay at our place to save on a hotel. Of course I said sure! So we will have 5 20-somethings in our house on St. Patty’s Day! Hahaha we will see how us old folk fare, if we can still hang. 😉

green beer
Please forgive me for drinking food coloring! Its only once a year I promise.

We got all the fixings for Shamrock Shakes! Not as healthy as the one I made a few years ago, but definitely tastier!

shamrock shake

Plans beyond Saturday morning? Sleep. Sit. Read. That’s pretty much it. 🙂 Well, maybe start some sweet potato slips.

 

Food Total: $122.81

Ugggggggghhhh… this was a death by a thousand cuts. No one thing was super expensive or put me over budget, I just went a little party planning crazy.

When I was looking up tea party recipes, I kept finding more and more sandwiches and sweets that I wanted to make! I ended up with five different kinds of finger sandwiches! FIVE!

But… you know… they were all delicious, and everyone seemed to really like trying one of each kind to see which was their favorite. So I can’t be too mad. At least I had plenty of tea so I didn’t have to buy any of that.

Harris Teeter

Dairy $15.43 Staples $20.92 Fruit/Veg $18.56
Sliced cheese 5 5.98 Almond milk 2 3.94 Lemons 1lb x2 4
cream cheese 0 Pancake mix 1.99 Pears 2 1.46
Goat cheese 3.99 Cereal 2 5 Pineapples 2 1.94
Quart half and half 1.47 Blue agave 9.99 Baby carrots 2 1.68
Fage Greek yogurt 0 Strawberries 2 quarts 4.98
plain Greek yogurt 3.99 Mini cukes 6 1.99
Kale 0.99
Bananas 6 1.52

Harris Teeter has email coupons just for eVIC card holders. I always check because there is usually at least one free or very marked down item that we use. This week the Fage Greek yogurt and cream cheese were totally free. Which is great, because the finger sandwiches needed cream cheese.  🙂

I admit, the blue agave syrup was a total splurge. We have started using agave as our main sweetener for tea, oatmeal, etc, rather than sugar. This was a HUGE bottle, marked down $3. So I went for it.

Kroger

Staples $23.48 Fruit/Veg $15.97
Tofu 2 3 blueberries pint 1.78
clif bar (should be free) 1.5 avocado 6 4.14
tortillas chips wtf also should be free 1.29 markdowns red bell peppers 2 0.99
buffalo sauce 0.89 markdowns yellow squash 3 0.99
hot pepper sauce 1.09 organic dill 1.99
green and red curry sauce 4.98 radishes 1.29
Hot pepper sauces 6 6.58 markdowns Serrano peppers 0.99
burger buns 0.89 markdowns apples 4 0.99
bread loaf x2, rolls 2.27 Mushrooms quart 1.99
French bread loaf 0.99 Roma tomato 4 0.82

At Kroger, they do Freebie Friday deals, and I usually wait a few weeks to get several at once. The tortilla chips and Clif bar were included, and I would not have bought them if not free, but they didn’t ring up.

I noticed once I got home and was filling in my spreadsheets… but is not quite $3 worth going back to the store to fight over? Probably not. Just very annoying.

 

Lessons Learned

More ugggggh… I hate food waste! Hate it. And having to toss a huge batch of my favorite frugal food (black beans) kills me. Plus it throws off my plan of eating black bean breakfast tacos, and beans and rice for lunch. So this week was a bit of a scramble. I plan to do better next week.

I’m considering doing intermittent fasting for a bit, due to my weird dislike of breakfast lately. I used to be a devoted fan of breakfast for many years. Now it seems like nothing sounds good, and even when it does, I take a few bites and then am over it. I don’t want to waste food, that’s for sure. So maybe my body’s just changing in my 30s, and trying out not eating until a little later in the day will help.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 3/5/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well, we picked a great weekend for a dinner party! Harris Teeter was having a 10% off all wine sale, and I also got a coupon for $20 off an order of $100 or more. Without the booze for the party, I would not have hit that $100. Yes, I know, it is justifying spending I didn’t necessarily have to make. But between the sale and the coupon, the alcohol was basically half price!

the Budget Epicurean weekly eating

The party was on March 3rd, so I had a “3” theme. I made three dips: buffalo chicken, beet hummus, and vegan spinach artichoke dip, along with a nice antipasto platter. I had homemade pickles, bacon jam, olives, nuts, figs, dates, and prunes.

antipasto platter

Then I had three different types of pasta (one of which was tri-color) and three sauces: marinara, pesto, and alfredo. That way people could mix and match with whatever they wanted; alfredo plus pesto was a popular combo.

three types of pasta

And for dessert, triple chocolate brownies with chunks of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate sauce drizzle, and a Tres Leches cake! It was totally awesome and delicious. We had a great time chatting, and playing games late into the night.

tres leches cake

I paid for it on Sunday though! Good thing it’s supposed to be a day of rest, because I didn’t leave bed all day.

Monday:

Breakfast – Oatmeal with golden raisins & craisins. I don’t know if this is a different type of oatmeal, but the individual oats keep their shape and don’t stick together well. Even after multiple rounds of microwaving. I like my oatmeal to be more mashed-together like, so I was pretty unhappy with it. But I ate it anyways. I’ll have to try it as overnight oats and see if that goes better.

raisin oatmeal

Lunch – Leftover pasta, made new by adding some veggies and shrimp from the freezer, with a lemon garlic sauce.

veggie pasta with lemon butter

Dinner – Spinach Artichoke Melts + Tomato Soup. I had a ton of spinach artichoke dip left from the weekend, and read that one way to use it is to put it into a grilled cheese… well, hell yeah!

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

It turns out whoever wrote that is a flipping genius, and these sammies were hands down AHmazing. Not sure I can have a “plain” grilled cheese ever again…

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

Snack – a chocolate peanut butter granola bar in the car on the way home. Good thing I put one in the pocket of every coat…

choc peanut butter granola bar

*Soaked beans overnight in the crock pot for tomorrow’s chili

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Uh, so, I’m usually pretty behind the times with food trends. I’ve heard of “sweet potato toast” for years, where you thinly slice a sweet potato and just toast it like in a toaster. So I decided to try that. One of the slices ended up kind of charred on the end, and the other was evidently so thick that even putting it through the toaster four times, it was still crunchy… so I microwaved it for 2 minutes and that did the trick.

sweet potato "toast"

Once softened, it was pretty dang tasty. I spread a smashed avocado with lemon on one for the bougie-est toast ever, and then I had some more cooked white beans, so I figured, what the hell why not. DUDE. Why did no one ever tell me that white beans and sweet potato is a DELICIOUS combo?? With a squirt of lemon, sprinkle of salt, I was in heaven. New favorite.

sweet potato "toast"

Lunch – I had bits of random veggies all over the fridge, and a batch of cooked rice, so naturally I whipped up a super quick stir fry. The boy was funny, he goes “awww I got all excited because it smelled really good, but then I look and it’s just vegetables”  😛

veggie stir fry

Dinner – Slow Cooker 5 Bean Chili. We stirred in a few spoonfuls of spinach artichoke dip too, just for funzies, and it was pretty ok. Not a thing I’d be sad about not having, but it used up more dip, so, win.

5 bean chili with spin artichoke dip

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Pineapple Kiwi Green Smoothie! with a pear tossed in because it was bordering on spoiled.

kiwi pineapple smoothie

Lunch – Leftover white bean soup and a big salad. I also used the lemon tahini yogurt dip from last week’s Turkish koftes as dressing

white bean soup and salad

Snack – Beet hummus with cut veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Bowtie pasta with meatballs, of course. We had a LOT of pasta in the fridge…

bowties and turkey meatballs

Evening snack – herbal tea and a Stroopwaffel!

Thursday:

Breakfast – Peaches & Cream Smoothie

peaches and cream smoothie

Lunch – Pasta with meatballs, a salad, with roasted sweet and hot Brussels sprouts

pasta and brussels sprouts

Dinner – Roasted beet & sweet potato veggie burgers. I used cooked brown rice and breadcrumbs as the binders, and tossed in the little bit of cooked white beans left along with the roasted beets and sweet potato. These were softer than the last batch but I liked the flavor better. Still working on the exact right blend.

beet veggie burgers

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana walnut bread

banana bread

Lunch – Vurgers on rice cakes w hot sauce and lettuce

beet veggie burgers on rice cakes

Snack – Beet hummus & veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Pizzas! Pork and pineapple for the boy and a veggie for me using the last of the artichoke dip and some peppers and olives

spinach artichoke pizza and hawaiian pizza

The Weekend

Saturday is a lazy day for me, but the poor boy has to work the weekend. A big project launched this week, and he is ”on call” for fixing all the things. So I’ll be cleaning the house, lots of grocery shopping, and prepping for Sunday.

Sunday I’m having a tea party!! If you know me on Twitter you’re probably already aware, I am simply bursting with excitement! I adore parties, and tea, and tiny sweet and savory snacks. I’m super pumped to have a half dozen lovely ladies over in our Sunday best to sip oodles of tea, use terrible fake British accents, and talk about life. Hopefully it will be an absolute blast and become a regular thing.

mountain of tea
Uh, yea, that is all actually tea or tea related items. Bags, loose leaf, herbal, matcha… a French press, honey of different flavors, cups with built in spoons, and more…

And guys, I realized, I have a serious tea problem… I’ve always loved tea and everyone knows it, so between being unable to stop myself around new flavors and gifts from family and friends, I have amassed a formidable collection. The newest addition, of which I am most proud, is this gorgeous porcelain cup and saucer:

yellow gold rose tea cup

I was at the thrift store, and sifting through the housewares section (honestly, in search of a tiered serving tray for this party, which I sadly did not find). The cup jumped out at me with its’ royal pattern and those big yellow roses just immediately made me think of Beauty and the Beast. I had to have it.

I carried the cup around the store another 2 aisles, hoping to find a saucer that looked at least okay with it, but it was coming home with me regardless.

And then, when I was about ready to give up and leave with my few gems, I saw on a lower shelf THE MATCHING SAUCER! It was clearly meant to be. The universe wanted me to have this set. And for only $1.48 total, how could I say no?!?

yellow gold rose tea cup

Food Total: $75.52

Man I’m excited about this week, pretty much nailed it! Even with the impulse purchases and tons of produce we came in at our $75 goal. I’ve also decided that alcohol gets its own category now, so the booze we got for our dinner party was not included here.

Dairy $21.72 Staples $28.38 Fruit/Veg $22.63
Greek yogurts 10 8 Pretzel crisps 2 bags 5 Fresh beets 3 2.99
2lb sharp cheddar cheese 7.99 Canned tomatoes 12 5.64 Bag spinach 2.49
Dozen lg eggs 0.77 Canned garbanzo beans 2 1.54 Fresh stir fry veggies 1.5
Cream cheese 2 2.38 Brownie mix 1.69 Stir fry veggies frozen 1.98
Evaporated milk 0.59 Yellow cake mix 1.49 3lb clementines 2.99
Sweet condensed milk 1.99 Crackers 2 kinds 5 Bananas 8 2.12
Northern beans 2 cans 1.54 Frozen spinach big bag 2.99
Stroopwaffel 8 3.49 Bag spring mix 1.99
Pasta sauce 2 2.5 Cucumber 0.59
3color bowtie pasta 0.49 Basil plant 2.99

Lessons Learned

I did totally give in to temptation at the store when I saw a whole shelf full of Stroopwaffles! I held a box in my hand, then put it back, almost walked away… picked it back up… and then put it in the cart. At least I checked the “per unit” prices, and though the bag full of tiny waffles was close, the not-individually-packaged box of 8 was the best deal, so that is the one I chose.

shelf full of stroopwaffels

Part of me wants to add breakfasts into the meal plan. But then the other part of me knows it is currently the least predictable part of my day. Some mornings a smoothie sounds amazing, other mornings toast is the only acceptable answer. And more and more frequently lately nothing at all sounds good, so I just open the fridge and force something in my face because I can’t in good conscience not eat breakfast at all… c’est la vie, we all go through seasons of eating.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 2/26/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

This was the best week for meal planning yet! I put together a complete plan, compared the ads for all three of my favorite grocery stores (Kroger, Harris Teeter, and ALDI, in case you wondered) and discovered that neither of my two closest had good enough sales or coupons this week to justify them. So ALDI it was, even though it is (sadly) the most out of my way. It is 90% of the time the cheapest overall option, though, so I wasn’t too torn up about it.

storefront of ALDI in Durham NC

I mentioned it was recently remodeled right? Good lord do I wish I lived closer, I would be here almost daily. Okay, maybe I don’t wish I lived closer… But, it is gorgeous inside, and I found all the things I needed and then some. They had hemp hearts! And some cool rice and quinoa blends. And lentils and split peas on sale. I am 99% sure you could live off this week’s groceries for at least a few weeks.

Oh and remember how much we liked the Raleigh Beer Garden last week, even though it was rainy & gloomy? We went back again and it was sunny and 70s and perfect! Yeah we spent 2 weekends in a row here, what of it? Tell me you aren’t jealous.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I also finally made chana saag (spinach & chickpeas), which I had been jonesing for ever since my trip to Sitar. It wasn’t quite on par with theirs, but I’ll work on it. I just love the flavor combo here, it’s like the Indian version of red beans & rice.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh, and I made a new batch of my favorite granola bars! Sure they have processed pretzels in them, but when they satisfy the same craving as a Snickers bar with far less fat and ingredients I control, I’m okay with it. Balance, people. This batch came out quite oily, which is disappointing. But it won’t stop me from nomming them all.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh, AND, one more thing, it’s the last weekend update I swear. I made pizza dough, which was fine. It was the toppings I was particularly proud of. My family visited a few months ago, and one thing they bought was a jar of BACON JAM for the boy.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Yup, you read that right. And it’s been sitting in my cupboard, because I’m at a loss as to what to do with it (for some reason I got a weird look when  I suggested he eat it with a spoon…) BUT. Turns out, it makes a really great pizza topping!

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

With some shredded Brussels sprouts and goat cheese, OHMAHLAWD y’all. To. Die. For. Pizza.

Monday:

Breakfast – the last of the Cracklin Oat Bran! I’m sad to finish this box off, it made fast mornings so easy… but, alas. I cannot allow myself to get into a $5 per box habit.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Chana Saag and brown rice. Deeeeeeeeeelish.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh and I saw this ad in the hallway! Super exciting, and since we don’t eat many eggs anymore, I only buy about a dozen every other week. I think this is do-able, and will be a great step towards eating as locally as possible.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Hummus & cut veggies. Isn’t it so pretty?! Carrots, celery, and cucumbers.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza <3<3<3

Tuesday:

Breakfast – A Rainbow Smoothie! Not a Rainbow Of Smoothies, that’s an ongoing series. It was one smoothie, with a s*#t-ton of different fruits and veg! This is what happens when you have a LOT of fruit in the house.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Bagel & pear. I forgot I even had these bagels, and needed to eat them before they went bad, as well as the pear. So it made for a great snack time.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – White bean soup. This one was sans ham, but I added some wheat bran to thicken it up more. It’s even better overnight.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato, lentils, & spinach. This is one more step on top of one of my favorite simple hot breakfasts. Just simmer sweet potatoes and lentils together in water for 25-30 minutes while you get dressed and pack lunch. Toss in some spinach at the end and boom breakfast is served.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – The rest of the Chana Saag, with some quick tzatziki

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Fruit & nut goji trail mix. I’m slowly working on the last of this travel mix. I think I got my money’s worth for how long it’s taking me to finish this.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Then I got hungry again near quittin time, good thing I also had a Nature Valley bar and some blueberries.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – I decided to try a new recipe, and used this one for Turkish Koftes. It’s basically wheat and red lentils and onions, formed into patties and wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I whipped up a quick lemon tahini yogurt dressing to go with, and I thought they were pretty great. They were a bit too watery (my fault, I just didn’t want the lentils to burn…) so I baked them at 400 for 15 minutes and that helped solidify them.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Ohhhhhhh and fresh chocolate chip cookies for dessert! We rarely have dessert here in the BE household, because neither of us is crazy about sweets (I know, I know, what kind of monsters are we… the kind that thrive on salt, apparently). But I’d had these in the freezer for a while, from the Dec Food Swap, and decided it was time.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Boy, am I glad I did! Straight from freezer to oven, they came out slightly brown outside but ooey-gooey-chewy on the inside. Be still, my beating heart. I want more. Like now.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Corn grits with spinach, white beans, and an egg. I don’t know where I come up with these things either. I had some grits left from the weekend, and I think the internet told me that savory grits go with spinach well, so I pulled that from the freezer.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I decided it needed more protein, so I threw in a handful of white beans (I had a huge batch I made in the slow cooker over the weekend) and a fried egg on top. It was surprisingly tasty!

Lunch – Big salad with goat cheese, beets, and pepitas, and some leftover white bean soup. I love canned beets, they are so easy (no roasting or peeling required) and are awesome on salads.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Nature Valley bar. I meant to throw one of my granola bars in my lunch bag but I forgot… luckily I had one of these hidden in my desk so I didn’t have to gnaw my arm off before driving home.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I also found out that there is a food drive happening at work! This is great news, because it makes it super convenient to donate the food I’ve been buying at each grocery trip.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – Was not feeling black eyed peas (nor had I soaked them overnight) so we had leftover buffet, which translated into tacos for the boy and leftover lentils and sweet potato with rice for me. This is why I consider the meal plan more of a guide than a written in stone requirement every week.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I had a bunch of bananas that were turning waaaaaaaay brown, so of course that is just begging for banana bread! I whipped up a banana walnut loaf, and holy cow, fresh and hot out the oven with some butter, mmmmmmmm mmmmmm! I must say, this might be my best one ever.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana bread, and a green smoothie

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Last of the Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza. For the boy, to whom one large pizza is basically one meal, at best two, this is utterly confusing and disturbing that I can turn my one pizza into 4 different meals.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Also it was not quite enough to satisfy me, so good thing I planned for that and brought a few of the leftover koftes!

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – It was Stir Friday of course! I made my sweet & spicy Asian beef with a giant batch of stir fried veggies and brown rice.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

The Weekend

We are hosting the first dinner party we’ve had in months, and I’m so excited! I absolutely loooooooooove having people over and feeding them, and winter has dragged on for all of time. It’s on 3/3 so I’m planning a meal of 3s, 3 appetizer dips, 3 different pastas, 3 sauces, etc. I don’t think anyone will have met each other prior to this besides myself, so it should be interesting! I love bringing together people of all different personalities, and hope this sparks some great conversation and deeper friendships.

 

Food Total: $59.69

I totally killed it this week with meal planning. Mostly because I made a meal plan relying heavily on dried legumes and pantry items, and stuck to my list. This might be the first time I only had 2 impulse purchases (the hemp seeds and fabric softener).

Dairy $8.07 Staples $24.50 Fruit/Veg $16.39 Extras $9.46
Plain Greek yogurt 3.49 Diced tomatoes 2.48 Romaine heads 3 1.99 Fabric softener sheets 1.89
Blueberry Kefir 4.58 Chickpeas canned 2.2 Kiwi 6 1.29 Vanilla extract * 6.98
Pesto 1.99 Pineapple 2 whole 3.5 Seltzer 0.59
 white beans 32oz 1.99 Bananas 5 0.74
Split peas & lentils 2.38 Garlic 3 head 0.79
Hemp seeds 4.99 Cucumber 0.85
Rice blend 16 oz 2.99 3 Bell peppers 1.99
Quinoa 16 oz 3.49 avocados 3 1.17
20 flour tortillas 1.99 onions 2lb 1.09
Spinach 12oz 2 2.98

Lessons Learned

Practice what you preach, babe! I go on and on about how meal planning and lists save you money on groceries, but even I, with years of practice on my iron will, capitulate to the siren song of BOGO deals, markdowns, and impulse buys. But the closer to plant-based we eat, and the closer I follow my plan and list, the more we save!

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?