Food Budget Challenge Week One: 4 Discoveries

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.

Discovery #1

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.

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Discovery #2

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.

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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.

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$3.99 for Fettuccine + $1.25 for organic frozen broccoli + about $.55 organic canned pumpkin = approximately $5.80 ($2.90 per person)

 Discovery #3

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.

Discovery #4

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.

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8 thoughts on “Food Budget Challenge Week One: 4 Discoveries

  1. ckcomputersolution

    Wow. I’ve never heard of those apps that you were talking about. I know what it’s like to live on a budget and am always looking for ways to save money. I will check these out to see if it will help us get more for our money. Thanks for the information.

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    1. livinwholly Post author

      Thanks for checking out my blog!

      My upcoming blog for this week will delve into which apps I have had the most success with so far. But, I will tell you that Favado is the best for comparing weekly deals among chain stores and it allows you to create a weekly grocery list. My other top favorite is Ibotta. Ibotta, like several of the others (including ones that I did not list here), puts up a list of items for $.25-$1 off usually. You can use several of these apps in conjunction to save on the same item. All you do is look through these apps to see what is on sale for the week, go shopping (after using Favado to get the lowest price) and, then, scan in your receipt. It’s that easy.

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  2. w1sefox

    This is a great post. I start each morning with a blended veggie smoothie, and like to use only organic veggies and fruits. One thing I have learned is that eating healthy and smart is really expensive. I know there is an organic farm Imwalle Gardens in Santa Rosa you can get a lot of stuff well priced. Beats a trip to Whole Paycheck (whole foods). Your right, food in Italy does tend to have less garlic (I went a year ago). Love to hear how you conquer the night out on 10-15 dollars.

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    1. livinwholly Post author

      Thanks for checking out my blog!

      That is so cool that you got to go to Italy. The slow food movement started in Italy. The food was always so fresh. It’s a wonderful place that I hope to return to some day. But, traveling there is definitely not cheap!
      Yes, I have heard several awesome things about Imwalle Gardens, quality and price are great. Plus, it’s a local institution!
      I try to eat as much organic produce as possible, not only for the reduced harmful hazards like pesticides but also its been proven that the soil content is much better meaning that you get more healthy nutrients. So, I include health benefit costs in addition to the dollar price when considering what I buy. Although, I think eating conventional is OK every once in a while, if you know where it comes from (you trust your store or it’s from a local farm) and it is not on the dirty dozen list. But, I personally eat almost exclusively organic. So, when I started this, I thought it would be difficult to find organic produce for less. But, there are often sales on organic produce too and almost every store carries organic. One of my new favorite apps is Favado where you can compare sale prices among stores to find the lowest price, including organic.
      Finally, I did say that I would be honest about failures and successes. A major failure for me this week was eating out. I definitely did not make it under budget there. In my upcoming blog post, I will discuss my ideas about how I was planning to make it happen and how/why I failed.

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  3. foodlikenothing

    Wow! This was a very informative post. I don’t know how to cook much, so I usually just go out to eat. After reading this though, I feel inspired to cook more and eat healthier. The great thing is that I am able to do this on a budget, too. My only problem would be limiting the amount of food I eat because I think I would eat more than just one serving of these meals. #cs5711

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    1. livinwholly Post author

      Thanks for checking out my blog!
      Eating too much at home is definitely a problem for me but most foods that I got eating out even the “healthy” ones are higher in calories than what I would consume making a similar foods at home but at a much higher price tag so even if I eat more at home it is less calories and money. But, ways that help me to eat less at home, include the dividing up bulk items into individual serving sizes (this goes for when you make a meal too – when you make it, right away divide it into individual serving Tupperware) that way you will be less tempted but also setting and forcing yourself to stick to a strict food budget for the week prevents over eating too because, if you eat it all now, then you will be hungry later. I’m still tempted to eat out but I have been doing better.
      I also understand not knowing how to cook very well. When I decided to start eating better last year which meant eating more at home so I knew what was going into my meals, I knew very very little plus I wanted it easy. I know a lot more now but I still cook as easy as possible. You can definitely eat healthy in as much time as it would be to drive and order something out. Plus, I am a huge fan of bulk meals. I make meals that last several days. I make a smoothie in the morning, a salad for lunch (buy the greens that are triple washed so you can even skip that step), and make a bulk meal loaded with vegetables and you can easily eat healthy without much knowledge or time. I will also be posting more easy recipes so you can check those out in future blogs.

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  4. nbower1

    I completely agree with Discovery #3. I bought a 44oz pub mix box at costco, and now only a few days later, only the pretzels I don’t like are left, rationing would have been a great idea. Luckily while I was at costco I bought a near lifetime supply of plastic baggies.

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    1. livinwholly Post author

      Thanks for checking out my blog!

      The individual bags is a new trick for me but it has been working. I was inspired by a friend who made bulk meals one day a week. She puts individual servings in Tupperware for each day so that she can have something nutritious quickly throughout the week so she is not tempted to make poor choices. This technique has helped her to lose weight. And, so, in the case of keeping a food budget, it would help to spend less money.

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