More meal plan woes...
So I had my checkup, and the doctor did a blood test, and she wants me to lower my cholesterol. I need to point out that:
- I am not overweight (I weigh about 110 lbs and am 5'-2")
- I don't drink alcohol
- I don't eat red meat (or any mammals)
- I don't eat processed foods at all (except tortilla chips from Trader Joe's), not even cereal!
- I don't ever eat fast foods (and rarely eat out)
- I do eat fish
- My diet is full of vegetables and fruits
- I don't drink fruit juice
- I exercise regularly (min. 4x/week)
- I don't smoke and have never smoked
- I eat a variety of grains (brown rice, buckwheat, sorghum grains)
- eat cheese and sour cream (but I am reducing massively as of this morning)
- eat a couple of eggs a week (maybe 3 per week)
Imagine how high my cholesterol WOULD be if I didn't have the lifestyle I already have!
Going to try to cut the dairy and exercise another two days/week. Also add fiber (she said vegetable fiber isn't enough, so recommended psyllium husks).
This may have a positive effect on our grocery budget since I'll be buying less dairy.
But I've decided that our budget is probably normal (or even a little low) after looking at the USDA's standards. I feel like it's high, but maybe that's just because I'm watching our grocery budget rise a little each year. I just need to face it, right?
Viewing the 'Frugal Food' Category
More meal plan woes...
I am trying to save money on groceries....
Here is what we already do:
- meal plan/make a list
- don't each very much processed food
- eat generic
- no prepared foods unless it's a special treat
- no prewashed salad or precut carrots or fruit
- no pre-grated cheese
- we eat mostly vegetarian (some chicken, fish but no meat/pork/lamb)
- we waste almost no food
- F and I drink only water; we never buy juice or anything like that
- we only shop once a week
- I cook from scratch
What I won't skimp on:
- we buy some organic (strawberries and a few other things)
- we buy organic eggs
- I buy a lot of fresh fruit and veggies for snacks for F
- I like to be generous with guests (like my friends or F's friends when they come over)
I am trying to figure out why our grocery bills are so high... Here are some ideas:
- we buy GF bread and bagels (about every 2 weeks; we aren't big bread eaters) and GF pasta (pasta once a week) and GF oatmeal which are more expensive
- nuts (but if I don't buy nuts then F's snacks would be empty calories)
- we don't eat out a lot so we have to buy more groceries
- dairy; because we don't eat meat, we eat more dairy
- we don't have an Aldi here
- we don't use coupons (because they seem to be only for processed foods)
- D's coffee and beer (but having these at home is less than getting these at Starbucks or a brew pub)
- it takes us a long time to go through milk/almond milk so we can't use the whole thing before it's spoiled (otherwise, very little waste)
Some ideas to fix the problem:
- one week a month could be eat out of the pantry/freezer week (but I'd still need fruits and veggies)
- better meal plans
- less dairy
Maybe groceries are just more expensive than they used to be.... What do you do to save on your grocery bill?
Just made this week's meal plan...
- still have cinnamon raisin bread on hand
- scrambled or fried egg
- hash browns
- granola and plain yogurt with fruit
- tuna wrap
- avocado/radish wrap
- caprese on toast
- hardboiled eggs
- lentil coconut soup
- salmon souvlaki bowls
- posole from the freezer with edamame
- jackfruit tacos
- artichoke pasta
- chinese chicken salad with toasted almonds and cabbage
- roasted berbere vegetables (sweet potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, chickpeas)
So that's one fish night and two chicken nights (but not a lot of chicken in either recipe). The rest are vegetarian or vegan. Sometimes I am not sure how to explain to people how little animal protein we eat (because we are not vegetarian but we never eat red meat or pork and eat so little chicken. But I just saw an article on the Flexitarian Diet, and I guess that's what we are. Lots of vegetables, also grains, fruit, nuts, fish/chicken a couple of times a week.
Total grocery bill was $119.
Do you eat less animal protein than you used to? If so, is it for health or cost savings or planet-saving or ethical reasons? Or a combination or some other reason?
So one thing I'm always interested is how people shop, what they eat, what their grocery bill is. It borders on obsession.
Did I tell you about the girl M in F's Advisory Group? Her parents give her money for lunch every day, and every day instead of buying the hot lunch with it, she gets an Arizona Tea, a cinnamon roll and a cookie. Each is a dollar, and the hot lunch would be $7 so she pockets $4. The Advisor is freaking out, and she told M that she was going to contact her mom.
Anyway, in case you are like me, here is what we're eating this week, but also our shopping list and prices!
S - Hearts of Palm with Asian Slaw
M - Fagioli Stew (turkey, beans, carrots, celery, tomatoes, etc)
T - Baked penne
W - Lemon Crumbed Fish, Rice, Broccoli
Th - Chimichurri Rice and a salad
F - Jackfruit Tacos
Breakfasts - oatmeal with fruit, toast with fruit, scrambled eggs, granola with yogurt and fruit
Lunches - red pepper with quinoa/beans (which we have in the freezer), tuna wrap, goat cheese on toast with beets (which we had today), avocado/tomato wrap, leftovers, burrito...
plus a fruit, a starch (like chips or crackers) and a veg (like carrots, cucumber with hummus).
The shopping list:
- Broccoli $1.52
- Spinach $1.29
- Cilantro .69
- Garlic .50
- Green Cabbage $1.27
- Beets $1.99
- Red Pepper $1.25
- Red Cabbage $2.99
- Red Onion .94
- Radishes .69
- Tomatoes .41
- Yellow Onion .35
- Avocados $3.29
- Carrots .79
- Cucumbers $1.00
- Hearts of Palm $5.98 (this is our main!)
- Marinara (tomatoes, salt only) 2 cans $4.58
- Kidney beans .99
- Cannellini beans .79
- Diced tomatoes $1.99
- Tuna 2 cans $2.98
- Pears $3.04
- Pineapple $2.50
- Grapefruit .99
- Mangos $1.98
- Apples $2.99
(we still have a bag of cuties in the fridge)
- Oats .26
- Jasmine Rice $2.76
- GF tortillas $5.99
- Olive oil $6.99
- Canola oil $2.49
- Almond Milk $2.69
- Plain Yogurt $3.29
- Cheddar $4.01
- Hummus $3.29
- Cereal for my husband $2.99
we still have granola for F in the pantry
- Bread for my husband $2.49
we still have our bread in the fridge
- Chocolate Chips $1.99
- Eggs 3.69
- Ricotta $2.99
- Ground Turkey $5.59 (also our main)
- Tilapia $7.44 (another main)
Labor Day weekend! We are getting together with friends tonight at our house, and tomorrow night at our neighbor's house.
Tonight - I have a huge crockpot of chili bubbling away. My friend is bringing a salad and cupcakes. I'll have tortilla chips and sour cream and cheese. I figure I spent $30 on all of the ingredients, and the sour cream and cheese will be used for other things as well. We should also have at least one more meal for the freezer out of this depending on how much we eat.
Tomorrow night - Not sure what I'm bringing, but I always have the ingredients for a nice Mary Berry Tunis Cake on hand.
The rest of the week:
Tuesday - F is leaving for her class trip on Wednesday, so she requested Stir Fried Cauliflower and Rice for Tuesday night (she is afraid there won't be much to eat on the trip that she likes, and that is probably true, but they've already talked to her about her GF diet and there are two GF teachers). Anyway, the ingredients for this recipe totaled $5.62. I already have ginger, garlic, green onions.
Wednesday - F will be on her trip (eating frito pies; they told her the menu) so we'll have frito pies, too. We'll use some of the sour cream and cheese from chili night, some of the green onions we already have. We have all of the ingredients for red chili sauce on hand (we do live in NM afterall!) and probably have a side salad with it. Total $3.78.
Thursday - F still on her trip (by this point I will be missing her so much!). She is having pasta that night (they are buying GF pasta for the three of them since the others are having pasta), and so are we. We already have peas and pasta, lemons and garlic. Just needed bacon, goat cheese. So $5.48, and the remaining goat cheese and bacon can be used for other meals.
Friday - F requested kebabs for when she gets back. We have chipotle kebabs with chicken, courgettes, red pepper and mushrooms and a really yummy yoghurt sauce. Ingredients totaled $5.80 because we already have plain yoghurt and other ingredients for the marinade and sauce. We just needed veggies and a lime.
Saturday - We're having tortilla espanola. We have a housewarming party to go to, so we may put this off to Sunday if there's enough to eat there. We will probably bring a salad. So... maybe this is Sunday. Anyway, I bought more mayo for the sauce, but obviously we only use a little bit. Half a thing of eggs, and three potatoes. $8 (and that includes the entire jar of mayo).
I still spent a ton on groceries this week even though are dinners aren't super expensive. I had to get F snacks for the trip because the other kids will be given things she probably can't eat. Also bought GF graham crackers so she can participate in s'mores. They told me no nuts of any kind (there is a severe nut allergy) so I opted for chickpeas, dried fruit, and a fruit/chia bar. I spent a lot on snacks.
Total grocery bill this week is $141 which is a lot more than usual, probably due to the snacks for the trip. And some staples. And feeding chili to everyone tonight! But it's so worth it to hang out with our friends!
Grocery shopping again - must be Sunday!
I shop on Sundays because there are no alcohol sales before noon on Sundays so the store is quiet. I go to two stores - Sprouts and Trader Joe's. At Sprouts, I check my receipt in the car before I head home, and 1 out of 3 times there is a mistake! Today I bought ginger, and it was like 39 cents, but then there was another charge for ginger right below it for something like 1.8 POUNDS of ginger for $5.59!!! I went back in the store for my refund. They wanted to give it to me in cash.... nooooo! I asked for it to be put back on the credit card.
Here is this week's menu plan:
S - salmon souvlaki bowls (kalamata, cucumber, red pepper over rice) and tzatziki (fish)
M - pad thai with bok choy (veggie)
T - frittata with spinach and onion (veggie)
W - chili from the freezer with a salad (turkey)
T - ottolenghi red rice/quinoa with pistachios, apricots, rocket (veggie)
F - asian meatballs (turkey mince) with rice (turkey)
S - pan fried hearts of palm with coleslaw and corn on the cob (veggie)
We also bought fruit for snacks (grapes, melon, plums, strawberries) and jicama (a little lime, a little chile powder - yum!). And Trader Joe's bean and seed mix. And we always have dried fruit (dried pears from TJ are our current favorite) and nuts.
Lunches will be artichokes, deviled eggs, tuna wraps, turkey wraps with green chile, salad with avocado and sunflower seeds.
I am also working on cleaning the pantry shelves one shelf at a time, top down. They need cleaning, but it also helps me remember to use things up! And I moved some things around a little (we don't eat a lot of cereal, so it doesn't need to be eye level!).
Other food-related thoughts:
- We are watching Eat Well for Less; there have been a couple of good recipes including one for breakfast tray-baked eggs. We always have veggies that we could dump in there..
- I have had so much work these past two weeks I haven't baked anything, but I want to. Maybe lemon-poppyseed cake? Chocolate seems too heavy right now.
- I bought kebab skewers which was exciting (rather than using the disposable bamboo kind)
- We've been using this recipe but with only a little bit of chicken and mostly veggies (courgette, red pepper, mushrooms) https://www.thefrugalgirl.com/2015/07/chipotle-chicken-kabobs-with-cilantro-lime-dipping-sauce/
- We made this Asian Thai salad for lunch last week and it was awesome! https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/thai-crunch-salad-with-peanut-dressing.html except I made half the dressing and used only a tiny pinch of sugar (there is already honey in it)
- We went to my friend's 50th bday last night and it was a BBQ. We brought a salad to share, and they had two types of veggie dogs (this is a good friend so I didn't feel bad digging through her trash to read the labels - one was gluten free and the other wasn't so we had the gf ones!). We were planning on eating a little more when we got home, but we didn't need to!
- Today we went to the "beach" (down by the lake half an hour from here), but we ate before we went. We had TJ tamales instead of going out to eat.
What are you having for dinner this week?
We spent $117 on groceries this week.
S - Friends over - spaghetti with courgettes and bread (and my friend brought a salad) - vegetarian dinner
S - asian cauliflower stirfry with rice - vegetarian dinner
M - kimchi quesadillas - vegetarian dinner
T - chili with cornbread (has turkey in the chili)
W - potatoes with rosemary, kale salad with avocado and other veggies - vegetarian dinner
T - crustless quiche (with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, broccoli) - vegetarian dinner
F - elote pasta - vegetarian dinner
S - not sure...
We are eating more vegetarian meals, but trying to make sure they are packed with good protein and good fats, especially on soccer practice nights! Kimchi quesadillas has beans and cheese, crustless quiche is eggs/cheese. Soccer is T/Th this week.
I went to my friend A's house yesterday - she's going away and her garden is producing a ton, so she gave me a huge pile of vegetables! Yay!!!
We invested in a bowl shaped thermos for F's lunches after seeing a really cool vending machine called Farmer's Fridge in the Chicago Airport. We're inspired to try different grain bowls and salads for her lunch (I realized - duh - that I can set the rice cooker overnight and have rice or other grains in the morning to use in a bowl). Check out their website. https://www.farmersfridge.com/ I looked it up for inspiration for different things to put in the bowl.
They have a greek salad, a cobb salad, a peanut sauce thai salad. Southwest salad, napa salad (F says - "I want that one!"). There are bowls, too, with rice or noodles or quinoa. Lots of good veggies, avocado, etc.
All of this is super easy to make at home! Need to look up some dressing recipes.
My grocery shop used to be about $100-120 per week and now it's more like $115-130.
I have a few theories about why this is:
- F is almost a teenager and eating A LOT
- F and I both have to eat gluten free which is slightly more expensive
- I buy organic where possible and now that we've paid off our mortgage, this is the one place I've bought better ingredients and skimped less
Here is our meal plan for this week:
- frito pies
- hearts of palm with coleslaw
- gambino crime
- salmon cakes
- crustless quiche
- chicken taquitos
Here, for the record is what we bought (this is a long list, sorry, but just in case anyone is interested; I shop at Trader Joe's and Sprouts. I wish we had an Aldi). Total spend was $127.98:
Dinner Ingredients for 7 dinners ($44.28):
Frozen chicken, 2.5 lbs (3 meals worth) - 7.49
Cream cheese (also for breakfast) - 1.99
Goat cheese (also for lunches) - 4.99
Sour cream (will last 2 weeks) - 2.99
Plain yoghurt (also for breakfast) - 1.99
Eggs - 3.99
Frozen edamame (2 meals worth) - 1.79
Green onions - 1.29
Bok choy - 1.99
Tinned salmon - 3.29
Corn tortillas - 1.29
Salsa verde (also for snacks) - 1.99
Hearts of palm - 2.99
Broccoli - .71
Cilantro - .50
Green cabbage - .57
Lettuce - .99
Lime - .50
Red pepper - .50
Red cabbage (some used for lunches and salads) - 1.44
3 ears of corn on the cob - 1.00
Almond milk - 2.69
Irish breakfast tea for D - 2.49
Advisory Snack (we are responsible this week) ($5.98):
String cheese - 2.99
Crackers GF - 2.99
Breakfast items ($19.01):
Eggs - 3.99
D's bread (also for sandwiches) - 2.49
our GF bread (lasts 2 weeks) - 4.99
our GF bagels (last 2 weeks) - 4.49
2 potatoes - .98
yellow onion - .31
Large grapefruit for me and F - 1.76
Lunch Items and snacks ($37.45):
Sliced turkey for D (this will last 1.5 weeks) - 4.99 x2
Cookies for F - 3.99
Carrots - .79
Crackers - 2.29
Crisps for D - 1.99
Crisps for me and F - 2.29
Seaweed snack - .99
Tortilla chips (large bag) - 4.49
Apples 2 lb - 2.99
3 bananas - .57
Mandarins 2 lb - 2.99
Larabars (2) - 2.00
2 mangos - 1.00
Strawberries - .98
Cucumbers 2 - 1.00
Avocado - .99
Kiwis - 1.00
Radishes - .50
Tomato - .18
Baking ingredients ($9.03):
Chocolate chips - 1.99
Dark chocolate 1 lb. - 4.99
Sugar 2 lb - 2.05
Sunday lunch (we get something like this instead of eating out on the grocery shopping day!) ($3.69):
Trader Joe's black bean taquitos - 3.69
I know there are places we could cut back (chips!!), but I try to remember that this is 7 days of meals, three meals a day, and we don't eat out this week.
I think my daughter is HANGRY. She played all 70 minutes of the soccer game today and that doesn't include the warmup. I have, of course, been feeding her all day, before and immediately after and since the game. I am going to go make dinner in 5 minutes.
But first, while I'm thinking about food...
Here is our meal plan and "why it's frugal."
S - flacas with mini peppers (flacas are two corn tortillas, dry pan fried with beans and cheese) - Frugal because not meat-based, corn tortillas are a cheap grain, we already have some extra mini peppers on hand...
S - asian meatballs - Made with ground turkey instead of ground beef, we put in a couple of diced green onions and some garlic and ginger, make a sauce with leftover marinara/rice vinegar and add some rice - nothing exotic or expensive. Usually a vegetable on the side - whatever is on sale.
M - pasta with zucchini and goat cheese - No-meat meal. Goat cheese from Trader Joe's is affordable - this uses about half a package and we use the rest for lunches.
T - aloo gobi with rice - Makes a ton! No meat, two potatoes, one head of cauliflower and some onion and spices - I think the whole dinner is less than $5. This is made in the crockpot which is good for soccer night.
W - lemon crumbed fish with veg and cheddar bay biscuits - The fish is not cheap but we buy whatever vegetable is on sale at Sprouts and make our own cheddar bay biscuits. I have the breadcrumbs from bread heels in the freezer ready to use. Probably one of our more expensive dinners, but definitely under $15 total.
Th - freezer and salad - We have some posole and chili in the freezer, leftover from a crockpot meal specifically for soccer nights when we don't get home until 7:30 at the earliest. We make a salad with lettuce ($1) and some radishes, shredded carrot and sunflower seeds. Homemade salad dressing that I always have in the fridge.
F - tacos - One last soccer night to deal with. Corn tortillas, a little bit of shredded chicken made in the crockpot, sour cream, salsa, lettuce... Or we might do these veggie with avocados instead of chicken.
Now time to feed one hungry girl... and two hungry adults... and a dog and a cat.
Just a disclaimer: we don't eat beef or pork or lamb, but we do eat chicken, turkey and fish. A lot of our meals are vegetarian. Even when we are eating animal protein, we bulk it out with vegetables.
These are all on heavy rotation because they are inexpensive and really yummy:
Salmon cakes with leftover potato, a whole red pepper; made with canned salmon from Trader Joe's. Served with a big salad.
Frittata with spinach and cheese and onions
Crustless quiche - 10 eggs, 1 c milk, with cooked broccoli or other leftover vegetables, sundried tomatoes, leftover chicken or not, leftover potato or not, whatever we have on hand!
Mexican eggs - https://www.nigella.com/recipes/mexican-scrambled-eggs
Asian meatballs - https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/slow-cooker-asian-meatballs/79c76dca-ff5a-4992-8386-fb5d259bfaf3 with rice (crockpot recipe!)
Easy chili with tortillas - 1 lb ground turkey, 1 can kidney beans, 1/2 onion diced fine, 2 cans (or 1 lg. can) diced tomatoes, 26 oz can tomato sauce, package Trader Joe's roasted frozen corn, some chili seasoning (another crockpot!)
Posole - 2 lb bag posole (hominy?), 13 oz tub New Mexico green chile, turkey thighs, 1 onion chopped fine, 1 can Mexican tomatoes, some oregano, water to cover and soak up posole (also crockpot!)
Aloo Gobi - Indian potatoes and cauliflower in the crockpot!
Vegetable Pad Thai
Asian Cauliflower Stirfry with Rice - I use more than one cauliflower! - https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-spicy-roasted-cauliflower-stir-fry-224291
Tostadas - corn tortillas, refried beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream
Enchiladas - with refried black beans and roasted corn and green onion
Baked Polenta with red sauce and mushrooms, and a vegetable on the side
Polenta and Black Bean Casserole - https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/black-bean-and-polenta-casserole-with-chile-butter - but double the recipe!
Bad Breath Pasta - with spinach, capers, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and kalamata olives
Pasta Carbonara with a big salad or vegetable - weirdly Gwyneth Paltrow's is the best - https://www.popsugar.com/food/Gwyneth-Paltrow-Carbonara-Recipe-41083033
Pasta with zucchini and goat cheese - https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/pasta-zucchini-goat-cheese