Well, we made it to the end of another $100 food month! We tried some new recipes (shredded chicken tacos, anyone?), came in a few dollars under budget, and also ate almost exclusively gluten free the entire month. I thought that this month I would just share a list of the dinners we ate, plus a few tips on how we stretched our budget. If you need proof that we really did come in at $96 and some odd cents, I’ll add my shopping list to the post! Keep in mind that Jeth and I both get free lunch at work twice each week, and one free dinner at our weekly International Student Ministry meetings. If we didn’t, though, I’d just make sure we had some extra leftovers to eat for lunch.
As is usual in our household, the only meals that I really plan are dinners: There are just two of us, but I will often make something that serves 4 or 6, so that we have enough for lunch and possibly dinner the next day. There is no way that we could eat this inexpensively if we weren’t okay with seeing the same meal repeated a couple of times each week. For breakfast, I have been making a big jar of pre-mixed instant oatmeal over the weekend, which we work off of during the week. There are usually a couple of more fun, cheap breakfasts, (like eggs and fried potatoes or waffles) thrown in there to keep mornings interesting. I stocked up on cranberries after Thanksgiving when they were under $1 a bag, and have been pulling them out of the freezer to make baked cranberry oatmeal every once in a while, too. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for discounted food after holidays, especially if it’s freezable or shelf stable.
Since we are in the middle of winter (and a cold, snowy one at that…ugh), most of our vegetables have been of the frozen variety, plus potatoes, cabbage, kale, and carrots. Things like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini are so expensive since they’re out of season. If we had space to store food, I would freeze or can our own produce over the summer, but alas…little house problems. To me, getting enough fruit and veggies in our meals has always been the hardest thing to do on a budget, but I’m getting better. If the main dish doesn’t already have a couple kinds of vegetables in it, I’ll just saute up some kale or frozen veggies (a little butter and some herbs or spices go a long way in “classing up” a bag of frozen vegetables).
I mentioned in a previous post that spending a little more time in the kitchen can save a lot of money. Whenever I roast a chicken, we eat the meat off of it for a few meals, and then I cook it down and pick scraps off the carcass. This will usually provide a couple mason jars full of broth with bits of meat, perfect for soup. Cooking dry beans instead of canned saves us money, too – in fact, we don’t buy any food that’s “ready to eat” (like instant rice, preshredded carrots, breakfast cereal, etc.).
Any time I buy an ingredient that’s doesn’t have long lifespan (like most veggies and meats), I will plan a couple of dinners that week that call for it, so it gets all used up. Less food waste = less money waste around here. We also save money by buying meat in bulk from Sam’s Club. Chicken is usually $.20-.80 cheaper per pound there, so we buy several pounds worth, portion it into 1-lb servings, and then freeze it to last the whole month or more. This isn’t by any means an inclusive list of money-saving tips, but it’s a few ideas to get you started!
And now, our meal plan for the past month:
Roast chicken with potatoes and carrots
Pancit (This is the closest recipe to mine, which I have yet to post. We used rice vermicelli in ours.)
Chicken soup (with homemade stock from Monday’s chicken)
Kielbasa and Cabbage Soup
Sausage, Rice, and Beans (we use a pound of Jimmy Dean hot sausage, half a bag of black beans, and a bag of Vigos seasoned yellow rice)
Leftover sausage, rice, and beans
White Bean/Kale Soup with Kielbasa (the Kielbasa was leftover from last week’s soup)
Black bean & quinoa salad
Mexican chicken soup (with white beans, chicken stock from last week, and leftover black bean salad thrown in…that whole “not wasting” thing)
Chicken picatta (We made a gluten-free version with GF pasta and rice flour to dredge the chicken.)
Shredded chicken tacos
Chicken fried rice, made with peas and carrots
Lentil soup and naan (only half of this duo is gluten free)
Leftover chicken curry
Almond flour-buckwheat waffles with chipped beef gravy (using corn/potato starch for a GF version) and braised kale
Split pea and carrot soup, made with a ham hock (ours came in a two-pack, so I’m saving the other one for a dinner next month)
Roast chicken with mashed potatoes/gravy and kale
Black bean & quinoa salad
Chicken and veggie soup