Tag Archives: budget

Eat The Rainbow: Food Budget Challenge Week 4

So, this was Week 4 of my Food Budget Challenge, a month long challenge to eat healthy while on a budget. I was hoping to come out with some big celebratory post but we did not make my goal. However, while my family surpassed our budget limit of $497.30 for the month based on the average two person household on a Low-Cost Plan as according to the USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food Report for August 2014, we have become a lot more conscientious about our food choices. Even though we did not make our goal, mainly due to the pitfalls of eating out Week 2, I am confident moving forward that we will be able to stick well within the Low-Cost Plan and, hopefully as we continue to learn through our successes and failures, to eventually get our own food costs to be within the Thrifty Plan of $390. But, for the months of November and December, since this is such a plentiful food based time of year for many Americans including my family, I will be focusing on eating healthy (not over indulging) while on a Low-Cost Plan. In the new year, I will get more thrifty. But, I will continue to provide tips and tricks about eating healthy while on a budget. So, for this week:

#1: Eat the rainbow

It is important to get a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Each has different important nutrients that you should try to get into your daily diet. An easy way to remember is by “eating the rainbow,” eating fruits and vegetables by color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and indigo/violet (purple). You can easily attain this while on a budget. Here is how to plan your weekly shopping list and weekly meal plan:

1. While going through ads or using the apps that I have suggested in previous posts, look for the weekly deals on fruits and vegetables keeping in mind the rainbow of colors. These are usually fruits and vegetables that are in season. For example:

Red: tomatoes, raspberries, red apples, beets
Orange: carrots, oranges, pumpkin, sweet potatoes
Yellow/White: bananas, garbanzo beans
Green: broccoli, leafy greens, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, avocado
Blue/Purple: blueberries, eggplant, grapes, cabbage

2. Plan your daily intake incorporating these fruits and vegetables

Breakfast: vegan protein shake with berries and banana
Snack: apple with almond butter
Lunch: vegetable soup or salad
Snack: baby carrots with hummus
Dinner: 1-2 green side dish (broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts)
Snack: 1/2 c. frozen grapes

An easy way to accomplish this is by making a vegetable soup, stew, or chili that incorporates all of the colors that you can eat all week:

Eat the Rainbow Vegetarian Chili

Eat The Rainbow Vegetarian Chili

Red: kidney beans, tomatoes
Orange: butternut squash, carrots
Yellow: onion, pineapple, mushrooms
Green: spinach
Blue/Purple: black beans

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 medium onion
2 cans kidney beans
2 can black beans
1 can mushrooms
1/2 cup pineapple
3 tbs tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups spinach
3 cups vegetable broth
4 tbs coconut oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chipotle or chili powder
2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbs coconut sugar

Directions: 

1. In a large pot, sauté onions on medium-high heat in 2 tbs coconut oil until translucent, about 7 minutes
2. Stir butternut squash and carrots, stirring and cooking for 3-4 minutes
3. Stir in spices (cumin, chipotle/chili powder, salt, pepper, and coconut sugar)
4. Stir in beans, mushrooms, broth, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and pineapple
5. Once at a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the carrots and butternut squash can be easily pierced with a fork
6. Stir in spinach and continue to cook the chili on a simmer for 5 minutes
7. Taste for spice level, if too spicy, add in 2 tbs coconut oil and cook for 3 minutes. If not spicy enough, add in more cumin and chili/chipotle powder.

Enjoy!!!

This will easily count as at least 2-3 servings of vegetables per bowl, but, remember to still get enough fruits and vegetables in other meals throughout the day.

Tips: You can experiment with the formula but make sure to get all of the colors covered. For example, you could use 3 sweet potatoes instead 1 butternut squash or any hearty leafy green like Swiss chard or kale.

#2: “Whatever You Do, Don’t Throw That Away!” – Jeff Yeager

So, you have cut up your butternut squash and now you have a bunch of seeds leftover. As Jeff Yeager, known as the “Ultimate Cheapskate” and one of my favorite people to seek budget advice from would say, “whatever you do, don’t throw that away!”

Butternut Squash Seeds

 

Instead, clean and rinse the seeds. Lay them out on a clean cloth or paper towel in a single layer and set aside to dry. Once they are dry, toss them in a tsp or so of oil and a pinch of salt (or whatever spices you would like). Finally, bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. They are edible just like pumpkin seeds.

Then, once you are full on chili and squash seeds, I highly recommend that you go check out Jeff Yeager’s YouTube Channel: The Cheap Life. I am far from mastering a budget lifestyle but I draw on him for inspiration. He has mastered living a thrifty (cheapskate as he calls it), happy, and healthy lifestyle. His videos are produced by AARP but his videos are awesome for all ages. He gives great advice with a sense of humor and lots of personality.

Preview: No Electricity Required Hummus 

Next week, I will be sharing another recipe video. I just did not have it quite completed for this week. This video will cover a great way I discovered to make smooth hummus without a food processor or blender, no electricity at all so it would be excellent for camping or on the go. Hummus is another one of those foods that I love but have been unable to eat for a long time due to my garlic intolerance so I can never find it at stores or eat it at restaurants. And, I cannot make it at home because I lack a high-speed blender/food processor. Lumpy hummus is not delicious, there is definitely something about texture when it comes to hummus. So, when I basically stumbled my way into creating this awesome recipe, I could not wait to share.

 

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Moving Forward: A Food Challenge Update

#1: Eating Healthy For You

To be honest, I have never been a huge fan of salads. I know they are a healthy meal and an excellent way to get vegetables in my daily diet so I always buy the supplies. I appreciate people who love salads, but, I always have a hard time finishing everything before it spoils. So, in order to not waste food (and consequently waste money), I no longer insist that I eat salads. I focus on other ways to get my servings of vegetables so I buy greens that I can freeze. For example, I will choose to buy spinach instead of romaine lettuce. To be budget-friendly, before I go shopping, I compare between packaged frozen and fresh. Furthermore, I am careful to look at serving sizes on the package. In appearance, a package of fresh may look like you are getting more but you may be getting more in a smaller package of frozen. Also, the nutrients in frozen can be more because it’s packaged and frozen rightaway. If I find fresh is cheaper per serving, I will rinse it right away and put it into freezer bags. Then, I can be really creative in the way that I use my servings of greens in dishes like soup or pasta. Soup is so awesome on a cold fall day! For example, I made this Rice Lentil Veggie Soup where I included freshly frozen spinach.

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Veggie Lentil Rice Soup

#2: Save $ by Shopping Around Before You Step in the Store

Grocery List Creating App = Favado

This app is great for comparing weekly deals among your favorite stores.
You can see a list of all of the weekly deals by store or you can create your list by searching for each item. I found searching was the best way for me because I could find the lowest price on items that I wanted amongst all stores.

Then, once you find the deal for your item, you add each item to your list and it creates a weekly list for you, grouped by store, that you can print out and bring with you.

No need to search ads!

If you live in Northern California, the only downside is that Oliver’s Market is not included. However, I created my list and then compared it to Oliver’s ad online. This will be true for any local grocery chain in your area.

Money maker apps = Snap by Groupon, Shrink, BerryCart, Checkout51, Ibotta, Saving Star

Lots of apps but lots of savings. Each one of these apps give cash back (usually $.25 to $1.00) for making purchases on certain items. It also does not matter if an item is already on sale at the store, it still works. All you do is open the app and scan your receipt. Once you reach a certain amount like $20, they will send you the money. That’s it!

This week, I earned $7.75 in savings.

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#3: Fuel Your Body, Fuel Your Car

One area that I did not realize I would be saving so much money is on gas. As a huge foodie, I would drive out of my own city limits several times a week to go to my favorite restaurants. These trips are anywhere from approximately 20 to 40 miles round trip. Driving is relaxing for me (well, except in rush hour traffic) so the time it took me to drive these places was not a problem for me so I never really considered how much gas I was using per week to go get food. But, I was noticing as I was shopping more locally once a week, that I was using up a lot less gas. So, I decided to calculate this extra expense. I have a car that gets about 20 miles to the gallon. Even if I were to buy gas at its lowest current price of $3.19, if I eat out 3 times a week, that is anywhere from $9.57-$19.14 per week or $38.28-$76.56 per month. Instead, when I plan out my grocery shopping, I would spend about $3.19 per week or $12.76 per month. A huge savings!

If you eat out every day even if you drive to where you eat within your city or town limits (let’s say 5 miles one way, 10 miles round trip), your cost on gas alone if you have a similar mpg would be $11.17 per week or $44.66 per month. This only calculates the price of gas and not the wear and tear that occurs on the car. Do you know how much money you are spending per week or per month just on gas from getting food? There are definitely hidden savings when you start eating at home.

When I realized how much I was spending on gas, it inspired me to start saving on gas. Usually, I stop by the best priced station near my home or I let my gas run down to the point that I need to refill it at the closest station. I always like to save a few cents but, overall, I thought it would be too difficult to truly find the lowest price around. Again, my philosophy is that time is money. But, it does add up eventually and since I found such success with apps, I went searching for one for gas prices. Sure enough, there are some free apps. My favorite is Gas Buddy (see above picture for icon). It is extremely easy to use. You can even get points towards free gas by logging in local gas prices. And, the prices are updated frequently. Now, that I plan ahead for my weekly food consumption, I am planning ahead for gas.

For example: You need to fill up and have $15 to spend

Station A which is on your daily route near your home is $3.59/gallon so you get 4.18 gallons
Use the app, you find Station B which is a few blocks away but not on your daily route is $2.93/gallon so you get 5.12 gallons
A savings of $.66/gallon, you would get almost 1 more gallon!

I will definitely be using this app and not letting my tank near empty so that I can make wiser, more cost effective choices for gas.

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Source: PublicDomainPictures Pixabay.com

#4: Beware Extra Trips

I am really great at finding deals and getting lots of healthy foods for less but I am not the best at keeping track everyday on how much that gets spent on the extra trips. As I have said before, I am a work in progress. And, this week was particularly difficult. Whenever I found some great recipes that I wanted to try or I wanted a treat for when I was feeling down, I went to the store a couple of extra times. I even went out to eat an extra time. When life is overwhelming, I think a lot of us turn to food. And then, not only do our waistlines grow but also our wallets shrink. We ended up spending $111.17 in these extra trips out and to the grocery store. Eek!!!

This week, we spent a total of $271.05 which is $169.04 over my goal of $102.01 per week. Now, I have $40 total for the next two weeks to work with. It will be an exercise in extreme frugality. No eating out. This is a learning process.

Although I am a bit less optimistic than I was going into week 2, I still think I can pull off my challenge without starving in Week 3 and 4. It just gives me an opportunity to be extra creative. Through my successes and failures, I definitely believe I have the tools to improve next month and to keep this going long term. There is no reason not to eat healthy on a budget.

How do you stay healthy while on a budget? I love to get your advice and I will continue to share my tips and tricks. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

 

Disclaimer: I am not paid by anyone to make reviews or recommendations. I simply want to share what products and apps I find useful.