We usually only eat dinner together. Breakfast and lunch are on our own. Jeff tends to skip breakfast and lunch all together or snack on fruit and obvious leftovers. I eat toast or cereal for breakfast and generally there is some soup or leftovers I’ll heat up for lunch.
I need a new food plan. How can I reduce my food spending? By making myself some of the expensive items, being more resourceful with what I do have and starting each week with a food plan, I think will all help immensely.
For my breakfasts, I’m going to bake from scratch English muffins. Store bought bread (and you know me, I like the nice locally made kinds ) usually runs me around $4 a loaf (10 servings). By making my own English muffins it’ll cost me $1 for 8 (8 servings). Plus homemade English muffins are delicious! The big problem will be not eating more than a muffin a day.
For this week I am going to make a healthy and filling soup to keep on hand for lunches. I’m thinking vegetable barley or a chili sounds good for this cold and snowy week. I also have everything on hand to make curried butternut squash soup. If I make a big batch and use dried beans, bulk barley and frozen vegetables I can keep the cost down. I will also use the stock I made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass as the base.
Dinners are the big meals and we usually have a main dish, vegetable and fresh fruit salad. The dinner goal will be to make everything from scratch and avoid expensive fruit and veggies. I’m going to say keep fruits under $2 a pound. That will probably rule out things like strawberries, blue berries and pomegranates unless they are in season or a really good deal comes along. For vegetables, I’m going to look at seasonal things like squash and root crops this winter. Also frozen vegetables are less expensive. Also there is quite a stash of frozen food that I will explain further when I get to the post on reducing food waste.
So as I head out to the grocery store today here’s what I am keeping in mind:
· Dried beans not canned
· Bulk barley not those little gourmet bags, or canned or 5-minute instant
· Fruit under $2 a pound
· Frozen or less expensive seasonal vegetables
· No extras, I need to stick to my list and budget
· Do not buy processed food that aren’t healthy or that I can make (no bread, no cereal, no chips, no cans of soup, no mac n’ cheese)
I’m sure there are more things I can be doing, but at the moment I can’t think of them. I’m going to have to watch myself so I can see what exactly it is I am spending the money on. This means keeping receipts so I can itemize and see which areas I can improve on.
I went to the store. I chose to go to Fareway over several other grocery store options because Fairway:
· Tends to be less expensive
· They are a local chain (i.e. not Walmart)
· They have an excellent fresh produce section
· They have fewer heavily processed food items
· They don’t have a fancy cheese and olive section to temp me
I bought dried beans, 15 lbs of flour, 5 lbs bags of potatoes and onions. I feel like I have stocked up for at least the week and I should have flour for the month. This is extra good because there is now at least a foot of snow on the ground and we are supposed to get up to a foot and a half. A bonus to going grocery shopping with a plan is I won’t need to run out and get a forgotten ingredient.
The most expensive item on my receipt is the $3.63 I spent on a block of provolone cheese. Oh wait there is also the $4.99 I spent on pecans. These are both things we don’t need, but I compared prices and I am willing to use them sparingly. I don’t want to cut expensive items out all together, but I am using them much less. I have chosen not to buy meat. I have two reasons for this, one it is an expensive item and two, if I buy meat it is one of the items I am want to spend the extra money on to buy organically and locally. I’ll get more into that when I write about being a responsible consumer in a couple days.
I sat down with Jeff and we looked at Mint.com and our finances. He guessed we spent about half of what we had spent last month on food and dining. I’m not the only one who was surprised. We went over the whole budget and looked at where we can do better. We also agreed that there are always unexpected expenditures every month and we will have to allow and plan for that. Since we are both unemployed, this is a good time to work on managing our money. We can focus and really learn some good habits so we won’t have to struggle when we do get jobs and have less free time.
Up next is creating a food plan for the week. I have some ideas sketched out, but I'm going to solidify how I am going to use the groceries I just bought to feed us for the next week. Stay tuned.
Create Healthy Breakfast, Lunch and Dinners at Home Every Night
Yesterday I set the goal of spending less than $300 a month on food and dining. Today I am examining the meals I make at home. Where are all those expensive groceries going?