Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheap Food!

A recent endeavor of mine is seeing how cheap we can eat while still eating food we like.  i.e. I know we could eat for about $5.00/ week if we ate pasta w/ jarred spaghetti sauce every day.  But let's face it, that is not going to happen any time soon.

Mission: eat a variety of meals, try new recipes, bake snacks for students, and still keep it in our budget.  our tight budget.  

Added challenge: I am usually teaching from 3:30ish until 6:30 or 7:30.  We share one car so I go pick Ben up from school when I'm done w/ lessons and then we head back home for dinner.  It's 7:30 or 8 by that time... so the other part of this mission is finding food that can be prepped ahead of time i.e. when I have time to make it in the morning.  (and I'm definitely not complaining about this at all.  we like our schedule and our 1 car.  just learning to adjust cooking accordingly.)

Things I'm trying/ learning:

1.  I make my menu plan for the week (or for 2 weeks) based off of the Hyvee (grocery store) 3 day specials & get everything else at Walmart.  if chicken is on sale, we eat something with chicken.  if beef is on sale, beef it is.   Usually more than one main meal ingredient is on sale.  I plan what I'm making around that & use similar ingredients across the board.  This doesn't take as much time/ planning as I thought it might. 
2.  Walmart brand is usually cheaper - even when I have a coupon for the regular brand.  The only things we are particularly choosy about are cereal, orange juice, butter substitute, toilet paper, and probably some others that I can't think of right now.  Everything else, we get generic.  And all those things, I buy only with coupons.
3. Stack manufacturer coupon with store coupon with sale.  Bingo!  This doesn't happen very often and I don't spend a ton of time couponing, but when it does, I feel great :) 
4.  buying fruits and veggies that are in season is cheaper than, for example, trying to get pineapple and watermelon in January in the midwest.  it is what it is. 5  frozen fruit for smoothies goes a long way - snack, breakfast, or lunch!
6. yogurt in big container instead of little ones.
7. i am trying to snack on the fruits and veggies that are in season rather than junk food.  junk food is SO expensive.  seriously $3 for a bag of chips or 33 cents/ lb of bananas.
8. Leftovers. [happy sigh]  Ben eats leftovers almost every day for lunch so we don't buy a lot of lunch food (deli meat, bread, etc...)
9. Soups go along way on the budget :)
10.  I try to make things that call for ingredients we already have around - like marinaded chicken with oil, vinegar, herbs, or cheese, eggs, etc...
11.  i try not to make another trip until we are out of food. seriously.  we go through all the pasta before I go back to the store.  Some people buy in bulk on the sales.  For just the 2 of us, I've found that it makes more sense to only buy the things on my list for that week's meals and eat until it's all gone.  If I plan for 5 days of meals, but we end up getting dinner with friends one night and eating a frozen pizza, then we just keep using what we have until it runs out.  i think this saves us a lot of money.  although i can see how this strategy might change with little ones around.  [also i think we waste less food this way]
12. some meals are cheaper than others. and we don't go over in food budget for the month.  so sometimes we eat tuna casserole, spaghetti, or pancakes.  :)
13. we don't keep a lot of fun drinks around.  wah wah.  i love fun drinks - juices, teas, coffees, sodas, all of it!  Ben likes pop too!  but we just don't really buy it.  Lemonade on sale in the summer and OJ.  other than that, it's just coffee and water around here.  And the cheap maxwell house coffee that comes in a big container on sale for $8. Not the 1lb of dunkin donuts coffee that is $10/bag.  little changes go a long way.
14. we pay cash for food.  as I count it out at the register, I am very aware of how much we are spending on food, and how much we are able to spend on food... and how big of a difference a couple bags of chips and a couple 12-packs of soda makes.
15. Don't eat out.  We are minimizing the amount we eat out.  i.e. PB & J with an apple on the go when we're rushing out the door to small group instead of fast food.  Peanut butter = $3.  Jam = $3.  Bread =$3.  PB&J lasts about 3 months around here... those containers are huge!  Bread every other week at most.  So, $24 for 3 months of PB & J on thursday nights or $12 minimum for a stop at Jimmy Johns. The math is easy.  The discipline is NOT!  This is new for us and we are not even close to mastering it... just working on it one week at a time. 

not sure why I felt the need to share all this.  sometimes it helps me to organize my thoughts by just getting them out on "paper"... or on keyboard.  also, i think cutting $50 a month from groceries is $600 a year.  and most people in the circles I run with could use the extra $600.  

happy shopping and happy SAVINGS!!


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