About Me

Friday, February 28, 2014

Just So We're Clear...

I just realized that I post a lot about how inexpensively we eat. What I am not always clear about is the motivation. Anyone who knows Doug or I will not be surprised by this: we have little to no self control. Asking us to deprive ourselves, especially for something as frivolous as staying within a budget would NEVER fly!

The secret is that we eat and plan and shop the way we do because of two incredibly selfish reasons -

  • Laziness
    • If you plan the month's meals in advance and shop so every ingredient is in the house, you can make dinner without having to put real pants and shoes on.
    • I only have to think about what to have for dinner once a month!
  • We are snobby eaters
    • We like the stuff we eat and think most processed food is gross.
    • We want to have control over the kids' diets.
The awesome thing is that when I started keeping track of what I spent, I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how cheap it was! It is rare that you find such a nice perk to being lazy and snobby!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eating Well on the Cheap, pt 3

So, the first two posts in this series (Part 1 and Part 2) show how we really eat in our house (for the most part). If we have more money to spend, we often do, but it isn't necessary, just fun. :-) 

But, what if you are hit with an unexpected expense and have to REALLY cut back? This is what I would do. Notice that I don't cut out all the meat, or all the snacks, even cookies! Just because things aren't going your way doesn't mean you should have to do without all the good stuff. As a matter of fact, if things aren't going well, you might need more cookies! There is no reason to feel deprived the whole month (or months), you can still eat delicious food, the only difference is that it might not be as varied as when you have more money. That being said, changing up the spices can make two dishes with the same ingredients seem way different! Whole chicken is by far the most economical meat, especially considering the stock you can easily make that will make the bean dishes feel more "meaty". Ideally, you have been slowly building up your pantry and freezer so that you could absorb a grocery budget cut without much changing at least for a month or so. 

Could you spend less? Yes, but if you are in a situation where you have less than $100 to use for groceries for your family for more than a month or two, then you could, and should seek assistance, that's what it is for.



What if you only have $100?

Thrifty Meals (number of meals--name of meal--times I will make in the month)


2 Chicken pot pie X2
2 Chicken and dumplings
2 Spaghetti
2 Lentil loaf
2 Chili
2 Tomato and bean pasta
2 Chicken alfredo pasta
1 Potato salsa chicken X2
1 Frittata
2 Vegetable bean pasta
2 Chicken and veg pasta
2 White bean curry
2 White bean chili
1 Baked pot with chili
2 Diced pot with chk alfredo
1 scrambled eggs, pancakes
2 Beans and rice



Thrifty snack list:


Tuna
Tortilla chips
Pretzels
Granola
Peanut butter
Bean dip
Cookies
Bread
Raisins
Oatmeal
Saltines
Peanuts
Bananas
Pumpkin muffins




2.00
flour
2.99
frozen mix veg (32 oz)
1.00
carrots (2 lb)
1.50
baking powder
5.00
CA blend veg (60 oz)
0.79
celery (1 stalk)
0.05
salt
1.00
frozen corn
1.40
onions (2 lb)
3.00
shortening
1.00
frozen peas
1.75
potatoes (5 lb)
2.50
milk


2.50
bananas (20)
3.00
eggs (2 dz)
1.88
rice (2 lb)
1.00
green bell pepper (2)
4.58
old fash oats (2)
1.00
lentils (1 lb)
1.00
garlic
1.50
brown sugar
4.00
pasta (4 lb)


5.00
olive oil
1.00
spaghetti (1 lb)
3.00
sand bread (2)
1.35
bouillon cubes
6.50
dried beans (6 lb)
1.50
loaf bread
1.79
sugar






2.00
peanuts
1.80
can chili beans (3)
15.00
whole chicken (3/4-5 lb)
1.89
peanut butter
0.79
can pumpkin


1.19
tortilla chips
1.20
can tuna (2)
1.50
tomato sauce (2)
1.69
raisins
0.79
refried beans
0.50
tomato paste
1.49
jar alfredo sauce


2.40
can diced tomatoes (4/14 oz)
2.00
crackers (2 boxes)


2.00
can crushed tomatoes (2/28 oz)










47.67

34.63

18.52
100.82  TOTAL

That's the class, folks, minus the recipes and cooking, obviously, you have to participate for that :-). Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eating Well on the Cheap, pt. 2

Part two of this series also comes from my notes from the upcoming eating class, see part 1: HERE

Today we get some details, yea! I'm a super nerd and numbers make me happy! But first, some tips:

Grocery shopping

  • Only (mostly) buy ingredients - buy as few pre-packaged things as you can!
  • Have a list of all the things you ever buy at the store to help make your list. See mine: Master List
  • Remember to take your list with you!
  • Be open to change if there is a good sale or something sounds good
  • Use any extra money to stock pantry
  • What about coupons? I keep meaning to do that…but...
    • Mostly processed foods
    • I’m lazy

Recipe adaptation

Just because you are eating at home doesn't mean you can't make the things you love from the packages and restaurants. You can not make McDonald's fries at home. Other than that, just about everything else can be made at home for cheaper, with fewer questionable ingredients, and usually in very little time. Think about it, when you order food at a restaurant, the kitchen makes it (along with dozens of other people's food at the same time) usually in under 15 minutes. The secret is having the ingredients prepped, but you can totally do it! There are other great reasons to cook at home, too. It is really annoying for everyone involved to have an allergy when you eat out, making meals at home cuts out that risk and frustration. Plus, if you are eating at home, you control the ingredients making things almost always healthier. I'm not a fanatic, really. I know a lot of people who would be horrified by some of the things I'm fine with - yes, I know shortening is bad, it is also cheap and dairy free, so I'm using it - yes, I know that some people think cans cause cancer, I'm slowly starting to use more dried beans and freezing some tomatoes, but cans are just too easy, so I'm not giving them up - yes, I know making condiments is a thing, but I'm just fine with my store bought mayo, mustard, and barbecue sauce, and I'm for sure not giving up my Sriracha!

Some examples from our typical meals:
  • Make-at-home fast food or restaurant food (and where I stole the dish)
    • Salmon nuggets with spicy aioli (a little Cajun restaurant that lived for a short time in Holts Summit)
    • Chicken alfredo (every chain or Italian restaurant ever)
    • Jambalaya (our trips to Destin, FL)
    • Curry (every Indian restaurant)
  • Allergies (I am dairy free, but all allergies are safer at home)
    • Pizza
    • Desserts
  • Healthier choices (I substitute whole wheat flour and no preservatives obviously)
    • Pot pie
    • Biscuits 
    • Desserts 
  • Taste preference
    • Everything! Make it how you want!

Why Do It?
  • Quality. Period.
  • Easy. If you are lazy, like me, cooking at home with some simple prep work is easier than finding your shoes and keys and dragging a toddler anywhere, that's for sure!
  • Self esteem - Being the one to feed your family from your own hands is amazing. Teaching your children how to care for themselves and the people they love gives a purpose to your life in a way that few other things do.
  • I want to scream when people tell me McD and Little Caesars are cheaper than cooking at home. It certainly isn't (see the chart below). 

Cost Comparisons
Item
Cost per serving
Meal Options with cost per serving
Apples $1/lb (about 3 apples)
Carrots $.35/lb (4 servings)
Canned beans $.70/can (3.5 servings)
Eggs $1.50/dz
Tilapia or cod $3/lb
Salmon $4/lb
Chicken, whole  $1.25/lb
Pasta, dried $1/lb (8 servings)
Potatoes $.35/lb (2 servings)
Rice, brown $1/lb (11 servings)
Frozen veggies $1.00/lb (6 servings)
Canned tomatoes $.70/can (3.5 servings)
Whole wheat bread - $3/16 slices
Oatmeal $2.29/30 servings
Dried fruit $2/8 servings
Vanilla yogurt $3.30/2 lb (6 servings)
.33
.09
.20
.13
.75
1.0
.31
.13
.17
.09
.17
.20
.19
.08
.25
.55


Homemade
Salmon, rice, veggies, apples - $1.59
Egg, oatmeal with dried fruit, toast - $.65
Tomato and bean pasta, carrots - $.62
Chicken noodle soup w/veg, yogurt – $1.16

McDonald’s
McDouble, fries $2.50

Little Caesar’s
Single topping pizza $1.59 (3.5 servings per pizza)




Grocery list with approximate prices for typical month (meals listed HERE): 
Notes:
The bulk of my prices are from Aldi or are store brand items.
I buy organic produce when it is reasonable, but most of the prices here are conventionally grown products. 
We probably actually spend another $10ish on fruit a month, but most families would be fine with the amount listed. 
Levi is seriously addicted to crackers, so we buy more than most people, I also make some and he still wishes we had more.
We are drinkers here :-) but booze has its own budget and is mostly purchased by Doug, so I don't include it.

4.00
flour
2.99
frozen mix veg (32 oz)
1.00
carrots (2 lb)
1.50
baking powder
5.00
frozen CA blend veg
0.79
celery (1 stalk)
0.05
salt
2.00
frozen juice 
1.40
onions (2 lb)
3.00
shortening
2.49
frozen strawberries
1.75
potatoes (5 lb)
2.50
milk
1.00
frozen corn
2.59
mini bell peppers
4.50
eggs (3 dz)
1.00
frozen peas
0.50
green bell pepper
6.87
old fash oats (3)


8.00
apples (20)
1.00
sour cream
5.00
pasta (5 lb)
4.99
mandarin oranges (1 box)
6.00
olive oil
1.00
spaghetti (1 lb)
3.00
bananas (20)
1.35
bouillon cubes
1.88
rice (5 cups)
0.89
cilantro
1.79
yogurt
1.00
lentils (1 lb)
1.99
spring greens
1.50
brown sugar


1.00
garlic
1.79
sugar
1.89
pretzels


2.50
honey
4.00
cashews
2.36
can beans (4)
2.00
seasonings
4.00
peanuts
1.80
can chili beans (3)


1.89
peanut butter
0.79
can pumpkin
4.69
steak (12 oz)
3.99
hummus
1.20
can tuna (2)
3.50
ground beef (1 lb)
3.78
raisins
1.58
refried beans
7.99
salmon (8 filets)
2.00
mixed dried berries
0.50
can black olives
4.99
med. shrimp (1 lb)
1.19
tortilla chips
0.50
tomato paste
3.00
andouille sausage
1.99
pita chips
2.40
can diced tomatoes (4/14 oz)
12.00
whole chicken (2/4-5 lb)
9.00
coffee
2.00
can crushed tomatoes (2/28 oz)
4.00
chicken thighs (6 thighs)
1.99
shredded wheat
1.50
tomato sauce (2)


1.69
cheerios


1.50
loaf bread
1.99
straw preserves


2.19
hoagies
1.49
jar alfredo sauce


1.50
sand bread
7.00
crackers (5 boxes)








90.92

71.25

42.53
204.70 TOTAL

So what would you like to learn in a class like this? Or what tips do you have that you would like to share?

In the next post, we will look at a super thrifty $100/month plan, stay tuned...