Budget Day 38: Parfaits to the Rescue

There’s one thing I forgot to mention about this whole real food on a budget project. Yes the food has to be “real” and yes it cannot exceed $125 a week, but the other part I’ve neglected to mention is that it must also taste good too! I might have overlooked the importance of this issue before, but as of late I’ve decided this is a must for me. I absolutely cannot eat just for sustenance. I cannot eat the same thing over and over again. And I struggle to be satisfied with a meal that feels like it is just a bunch of random things thrown together. Unfortunately I am finding that meeting this latest requirement could very well be the hardest part of all when it comes to having a budget drive our choices!

All of this is top of mind after our dinner last night. For the better part of yesterday afternoon, the back of my mind was occupied with what in the world we could possibly eat for dinner. I was experimenting with not going to the store at the start of my budget week (like I normally do) and instead trying to “survive” by eating what we had on hand. Yes, “surviving” may sound a little dramatic, but that is how it feels! Monday night wasn’t so bad, but then last night every dinner option I could think of had some sort of roadblock. I was originally thinking fried rice or stir fry (which, by the way, can be a great meal when you are trying to make a bunch of random stuff something special). But then I realized we did not have an onion, and I just couldn’t imagine starting the dish without that key ingredient. Next, I thought I could somehow incorporate fettuccini alfredo since I happened to have some cream on hand, but then I realized my supply of paremsan cheese was next to nothing (which is necessary for that dish). Then after spending some quality time in the back of my freezer I discovered some whole grain polenta that I’d forgotten about. We hadn’t made polenta in a very long time and most importantly it sounded good. But, yikes…how in the world could I make a complete meal out of it???

My husband is normally creative in the kitchen, but he was no help. And everything that I thought would be fabulous with polenta (mushrooms, sausage, shrimp, onions!, spaghetti sauce) just did not exist in our house. So in an effort to “save” dinner as best I could I made a smoothie to go with it. Not just any smoothie though…a smoothie layered with (what was left of) our granola in fancy martini glasses. I just had to do something to make dinner appealing, and luckily our cute little daughters were very excited about the outcome. Because yes, I even let our THREE-year-old carefully eat hers out of a breakable martini glass too. They thought it was pretty special though, and even though parfait smoothies and polenta (topped with spinach) don’t at all go together…I was honestly relieved that we were not just eating for sustenance because meal time can be (and should be) so much more than that!!

On another note, let’s address this whole experiment of mine to hold off going to the store. I have to say it was completely pointless. One would think it would make me spend less money this week, but what I found was that instead of “scrounging” at the end of the week while we wait for the next budget day to roll around we just did the very same thing at the beginning. And it was almost worse because I had the money this time and was constantly tempted to buy missing ingredients for every meal that I thought to make. So long story short – I am not going to do that again! When I finally did go to the store today I tried shopping at Bi-Lo and this is what I got for $35.56 (almost all of which was organic)…

  • 2 Lara bars $3.00
  • Brown rice cakes $2.59
  • Triscuits $3.00 (on sale)
  • Whole-wheat flour $2.98
  • All Fruit spread $2.45
  • Plain yogurt $3.84
  • Baby carrots $1.25 (on sale)
  • Bag of yellow onions $2.99
  • Bag of potatoes $3.99 (we have potato soup on our future!)
  • Bananas $1.37
  • Green grapes $5.20
  • Cut honeydew melon $2.18

This was my first time budget shopping for real food at Bi-Lo and while they did have some decent organic choices, I didn’t think their non-sale prices were anything to write home about. They have a store very close to us though so it might be a good “last minute” store alternative to our usual Harris Teeter, but overall the pricing does not make it worth my time to shop there. Not to mention the amount of “non-real food” products at their store that I have to weed through to get to the good stuff.

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  • Comments

    1. sherry |

      If Rachel can share recipes in this format, I am really interested in that Leek and Lemon Pasta with chicken! Also, I am a little confused–was it “Cream Cheese Chicken” or Cream cheese chicken and veggie soup”? Not sure if that is one dish or two, but Cream Cheese Chicken sounds intriguing.

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        It is fine with me for her to share on here! :)

    2. sherry |

      Was just re-reading these and noticed the query about whole grain risotto. “Risotto” is very good made with barley instead of arborio rice and I have seen a number of recipes for “risotto” using quinoa.

    3. |

      I have noticed you buy cut melon a lot, is it cheaper than a whole one (not per ounce, just up front)? If I recall usually it is more expensive, at least per ounce…

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        I buy it like that because my youngest daughter is the only one that really likes it that much. I think it is okay, but I will eat any fruit and she is very picky so I have to buy the few things she likes.

    4. Paula |

      I think it is very interesting to compare, as I work my way through your 2 challenges, the prices on the East Coast vs. the West. I saw you quote shrimp for $1/lb?? Amazing! If we find $4/lb. that is awesome for here! And I was shocked seeing your 2 lb. bag of onions for $3 – ours are a quarter of that price!

    5. Kathy |

      You’ve mentioned a couple times that you don’t like greens, but we sometimes do a quick supper of soft polenta with sauteed collard greens (or kale, or chard, or spinach…) Here in the south we call it grits ‘n greens. Of course they are better with onion, too, but you can sautee with garlic and finish with a few drops of balsamic. It’s a satisfying dish by itself but if you have some cheese for the polenta and a couple scrambled eggs to top it off, it’s even better.

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