It has only been a few days into my Food Budget Challenges but I wanted to share some of the discoveries that I have made so far.
One trick to save money on groceries that I have heard often is to meal plan. I think this is a good strategy. However, my strategy for this week was to find the cheapest healthy ingredients and, then, figure out what I was going to make with these ingredients. But, I am a bit excited because it will help me to expand my repertoire of foods and recipes. For example, I have rarely eaten eggplant in restaurants but have never cooked it at home. However, Sprouts Farmers Market was having a sale of $.88 per eggplant. So, I bought it. I ended up making an amazing pasta dish that I will definitely make and eat again. I will definitely post the recipe later on too. It was rather simple and made eight servings so it lasted a while for my two person household.
I love discovering new items. This week I found a new favorite at Trader Joe’s: frozen Fettuccine Alfredo. I have an intolerance to garlic and so a lot of Americanized Italian food is not a possibility for me to eat. But, as I discovered when I went to Italy last year, Italians tend to use a lot less and, a lot of the time, they use no garlic at all. So, when I saw that Trader Joe’s imported their Fettuccine Alfredo from Italy, I was excited to look at their ingredient list. No garlic! It has been such a long time since I have had Alfredo that I knew I had to deviate from my list and splurge on this item.
The Fettuccine Alfredo was $3.99 for about 3 servings. Each serving was 370 calories. This would be a perfect economical dish for a busy single person because it is microwaveable and the package contained 5 little nests of frozen fettuccine with the Alfredo in little chunks so you could easily separate the bag into individual freezer bags of 2 nests each. If you purchased 2 bags, that is 5 meals for $1.60. Add in some frozen veggies to those bags and it would be a more balanced meal and still be under $2.
After grocery shopping, I could not wait to try the Fettuccine Alfredo so I made it for dinner that night. I made it according to the package directions for the stovetop but added in one serving (½ cup) of canned pumpkin ($1.99, 3.5 servings) and ½ package of their frozen organic broccoli ($2.49, 5 servings) at the end and cooked it for a few more minutes on low heat. Since I did it on the stovetop, I cooked the broccoli separately first. It was delicious! The pumpkin made it feel like an indulgent fall treat. After plating, I added a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese. We had gotten so busy with shopping that we had skipped lunch that day so we ate it all that night. Split in 2, it was about 607 calories per person but this could have easily been 4 servings.
$3.99 for Fettuccine + $1.25 for organic frozen broccoli + about $.55 organic canned pumpkin = approximately $5.80 ($2.90 per person)
As I said previously, I tend to overeat when I am going through difficult times. So, I knew I would be tempted to eat all of my snacks. And then, the bulk items would not be saving me money but making me fatter more quickly. A solution I found was to put serving sizes of the snacks (especially the ones that I would be more likely to eat lots of in one sitting) into Ziploc bags. This way I will not be tempted to eat as much and I will maintain my savings.
I love tradition and rituals, not only the ones that lead to healthy lifestyle like meditating over lemon water (see previous post) but also ones that bring people together. So, I have a ritual with my Mom that we go out for bagels and hot chai and then sit in the park on Sunday mornings. It is a way for us to connect once a week despite how busy we might be the rest of the time. It is also our cheat day so we do not feel bad about eating an unhealthy meal. But, now that we are trying to stick within the Low-Cost Plan, we are more aware of the price tag for our little outing. We wanted to get the same emotional benefit without spending close to $20. Last Sunday, instead of buying hot chai with almond milk, we bought one Venti iced tea from Starbucks and brought a second cup to share. Then, we bought one bagel to split and brought another snack from home. We spent around $5. A savings of nearly $15! Plus, we saved some empty calories as well. We enjoyed our time together at the park just as much. I also kept the Venti cup to help me drink more water throughout the day. I have good intentions in the morning to drink water but my other glasses do not hold as much liquid so I will forget to fill it again. Now, I get three times the water in one glass. We are also limiting our “coffee runs” to once a week.
We also like to have dinner or lunch out once a week. We often spend upwards of $40-45 for one meal. When our weekly budget for the rest of the month will be $102.01, this is simply out of the question. My goal for this week is to discover a place where we can have the fun of going out without the hefty price tag. I would like to see if we can spend $10-15.