Budget Day 72: Hosting the Holidays

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It’s been a little bit of a challenge to track our real food budget over the Christmas holiday…especially since we hosted this year. I tell you what, I already felt like our real food diet caused me to cook and clean and run our dishwasher all of the time, but hosting family for the holidays took things to a whole new level. I of course had some extra helpers, but I also probably took on more cooking than I should have over the last week. I am feeling a little burnt out to say the least!

Regardless of how many dirty dishes we went through, the food highlight this holiday season was definitely the local lamb loin that we had on Christmas Day (I wish I had a picture!). We’d never cooked lamb before so we were a little concerned about how it would turn out, but my husband (who can cook by the way) made a rare appearance at our stove and managed to exceed all of our expectations. His simple preparation consisted of cooking the meat in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil, garlic, red wine, & rosemary…and it was delicious. Even our 3-year-old, who hardly even eats meat, was digging in. I was beyond shocked by her response (but of course pleased!).

The lamb, among other things, of course came out of a separate entertaining budget, but prior to the arrival of our guests last week I attempted to stick to our regular $125 a week budget. And shortly after the week started I ran out of money faster than ever. I only shopped at two stores in addition to our local milk delivery (which was $40.93 this time because I experimented with ordering some local eggs and butter) and this is what I got….

For $68.56 from Earth Fare:

  • Rolled oats $3.80
  • Peanut butter $3.47
  • Brie – free (thanks to an Earth Fare coupon)!
  • Sour cream $1.49 (with coupon)
  • Pimento cheese – free (thanks to an Earth Fare coupon)!
  • Whole wheat flour $2.50
  • Olive oil spray $2.63 (with coupon)
  • Unsweetened coconut $2.79
  • Raisins $1.67
  • Pretzels $5.29
  • Triscuits $2.99 (with coupon)
  • Ground ginger bulk $3.02
  • Ground nutmeg bulk $4.55
  • Ground turkey $4.99
  • Apples $3.07
  • Bananas $1.62
  • Lemon $0.50
  • Mango $1.25
  • Mushrooms $2.99
  • Onions $2.49
  • Oranges $0.75
  • Asian pear $1.99
  • Pear comice $3.83
  • Spinach $3.87 (which I later returned…long story!)
  • Zucchini $1.56
  • Tomatoes $4.61

For $19.09 from Trader Joe’s:

  • Plain yogurt $2.99
  • Cheese $2.16
  • Frozen raspberries $3.69
  • Cheddar $4.29
  • Pumpkin seeds $5.49

Now as I previously mentioned I’ve been warming up to Trader Joe’s, but I must share that they were out of 2 things that I had on my very short shopping list. I actually wanted frozen organic blueberries (but had to get raspberries instead) and I also needed some canola oil, which they didn’t have at all. I know it was the busy holiday season, but it is hard for me to accept a grocery store that doesn’t have a single bottle of canola oil in stock!  Anyway, with the groceries that we did get we had something that was a very special treat in this house…turkey burgers (albeit small ones!). And now that the holidays are behind us I look forward to getting things back to “normal” around here.

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34 comments to Budget Day 72: Hosting the Holidays

  • Hi. Just and fyi – Trader Joe’s didn’t have canola oil because it’s genetically modified and that is against their policy. Most of their clientele (including me) don’t want genetically modified foods so it’s comforting to have one less thing to watch out for when shopping there. Hope you had a great holiday!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I agree it is comforting to know they would never sell GMO oil, but I guess the girl I spoke too wasn’t informed as to why they were out!

    • I love Trader Joe’s, but they do actually sell some GMO products (anything with soy or corn that is not organic is generally GMO). However, Trader Joe’s private label brand does not contain GMO’s, so those should be safe! :)

      On a side note, not all canola oil is GMO. It can be made with organic or non-GMO canola seeds, but it’s usually much harder to find (and more expensive)!

      From Trader Joe’s website:
      “*All Products In The Trader Joe’s Label Promise:
      NO artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
      NO MSG
      NO genetically modified ingredients
      NO added Trans Fats
      Sound good? Look for ‘Trader Joe’s’ on the label.”

  • Have you ever tried using Absolute Organics produce delivery. I’m not sure if it work for you because you are a master planner, and you sort of have to rely on what they send you, but it may cut down on your organic produce at the store. Just a thought for you to look into.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I have heard of Absolute Organics, but decided against it since it is not 100% local…we did a CSA box with a local farm instead this past year (which was all local produce). Either way though, I agree it was difficult for me to cook with food that I didn’t pick!

      • A friend of mine gets a delivery from Absolute Organics every two weeks, and while convenient, it is not ideal in my opinion. Yes, everything is organic. But – most everything is from California. The produce comes with the same labels that I see for sale at the grocery store. Particularly at this time of year.
        Personally, I’d rather shop at my local Harris Teeter or Earthfare and look for the “local” or “regionally” grown labels for my produce.
        I work 50+ hours/week and delivery of things sounds tempting, but I’m going to have to go to the store anyways…


        • 100 Days of Real Food

          I agree with you…Absolute Organics might be a good choice for some, but I think I am far too picky to let them make my produce selections for me (especially when it isn’t all locally grown)!

  • Meg

    @HealthyMamma – Surely there is organic canola oil that does not use genetically modified plants?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Technically “organic” is supposed to mean it is not GMO…but either way canola oil is a sore subject for many! (It is cheap though!)

  • @ Meg – Canola oil is Canada’s genetically modified version of rapeseed oil. There are USDA organic versions (Spectrum makes one) but there is controversy as to whether or not canola can ever truly be organic. The proponents of Canola (especially Canadian producers) say that Canola is a hybrid and therefore okay, but obviously everyone isn’t buying into it. If you Google it, you’ll see there is a lot of conflicting info and a wide range of opinions on Canola. I personally would prefer not use it simply because there are plenty of other uncontroversial alternatives. I suspect Trader Joe’s feels the same way. Saying that, I do have some in my cabinet that’s at least a year old. I use it occasionally, but probably won’t be buying it again. I used it the other day because I’m having hard time getting my popcorn just right. In desperation, I tried the canola. It didn’t help. In fact it tasted nasty. Don’t know if it’s old, or I’m just used to good oil now…

    • We use Olive oil for our popcorn. I put 3 tablespoons of oil in a 3qt pan on medium heat. I put 2 popcorn kernels in with the oil. When those pop then the oil is the right temp. Then I add 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels. I shake the pan back and forth on the stove a little to roll the kernels in the oil. and wait for them to pop.

      I don’t know if your recipe is just like this or not…I just thought I would share..because my kids only want this kind of popcorn now…LOL!!!
      I hope this might help you.

      • I don’t know why I haven’t tried olive oil. I guess because lately I’ve been making kettle corn for the kids and I thought it might impart a strong olive oil flavor that they wouldn’t like. But maybe not… either way, now I want to try it with regular popcorn for me. I bet it’s yummy. Thanks for the tips.

        • Megan

          How do you make the kettle korn? I’ve been looking for a good recipe but the ones i’ve found are more like caramel corn.

        • Laura J

          I know this is a long time later, but coconut oil is amazing for popcorn!
          Also, canola was developed the old-fashioned way of selective breeding – not what we think of as contmporary genetic engineering. (google Gregor Mendel) However, the majority of canola seed available now has been genetically modified.

  • TJ does stock canola oil, they have their own brand. They do sometimes run out of it, of course, and I could imagine that would happen during the busy holiday season!

  • Jan

    I was just curious about which store you liked the best- we have Whole Foods and Trader Joes about 50 minutes away. I think WF is VERY expensive. I like TJ quite a bit but the drive is a little far. We are getting Earth Fare this spring close by. Does EF have good prices?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I think Whole Foods is more similar to Earth Fare (which is my favorite store) than Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is a good place for things like cheap nuts, seeds, yogurt, and other items that you need to stock up on. I do not like their produce or meat options though. A lot of people think Earth Fare is expensive, but they have great coupons and in some cases their items are cheaper than other stores. It just depends on what you are shopping for. I have managed to keep shopping there almost every week though without breaking our super tight budget…so I think that says a lot!

  • alexis

    I use grapeseed oil as an alternative, its high heat, mild flavor without the controversy. It’s sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joes etc. You can use it for everything from baking, cooking, salads etc!

  • AC

    You can also by an olive oil spray bottle, LOTS cheaper than PAM. Look at Lilian Vernon or Homegoods, etc.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I used to have one a long time ago and it broke…that is a great idea to try again! I keep wanting to buy the pre-packaged canola/olive oil sprays, but they are expensive.

      • Christy

        If you have a friend that does Pampered Chef, their version has lasted me longer than my Misto’s did, i try to keep two, one for olive oil and one for coconut. Plus they come with an extra nozzle (assuming you can remember where it is when your first nozzle messes up) About the same cost without a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon.

  • Betsy

    @Jan–we used to live near a large Earthfare (Asheville), and we loved to shop there. Now, we live 90 minutes away from a small EF (but in my hometown, so we get there frequently). The small store is okay, and it’s great for some specialty items, but I find it expensive, and it’s not ever going to be my one stop shop.

    This is HUGELY because I have a lot more options, though (I live intown Atlanta). If I was more limited in my options (as I was in Asheville), then I’d like EF a lot more.

  • I would like to hear the spinach story ;P

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      LOL…the story isn’t anything too crazy, but I will share! I am obsessed with trying to eat “local” whenever possible and I especially hate it when I buy something from the grocery store that is also in-season and can be purchased from our farmer’s market. I had not opened the spinach from EF by the time our farmer’s market rolled around that week so I returned the spinach the morning before the market. Little did I know there were hardly any bags of spinach available (due to the cold weather we’d been having) and the person in front of me bought the last bag right before my eyes! The demand is incredibly high at our market and it can get a little competitive in regards to who gets what before they run out! I was incredibly disappointed especially b/c I had already returned the unopened package. So after all of that we ended up with no spinach (and it is one of the few veggies my 3-year-old will eat)!

  • Charlene

    I used to live in Atlanta. I would go to the Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur (3000 E. Ponce De Leon). They have excellent pricing and you can buy bulk for the week. They have organic coconut oil for very reasonable pricing too. Coconut oil is a very stable oil and much better for cooking with. Olive oil which turns rancid and carcinogenic when heated should NEVER be used for cooking. Return to Eden is also a good place to shop. Whole Foods and Earth Fare, although lower in pricing do support corporate america and and take away from local small businesses. Hope this has been helpful :)

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I’ve been wanting to try coconut oil, but it always seems expensive where I shop…soon our budget project will be over though so maybe we will be able to give it a shot!

      • Charlene

        Yes I understand the budget game. There are some online places that are reasonable as well. luckyvitamin.com is a good one. They have a $5 flat shipping rate! Check them out, you may find many things you enjoy at a fraction of the price (including coconut oil).

  • Oh, if you ever get to Atlanta, you should definitely check out DeKalb. It’s where I do my weekly shopping. It’s like the mecca of real food. So much fun! We also have great ethnic markets, great ethnic food, lots to see and do, and well, you should spend a weekend in Atlanta sometime! LOL

    I also shop some at EF because of our time in Asheville. I still remember when there were just 2 sort of dark, small EF stores, and so going there brings back good fuzzy memories of that time. They may be corporate, but they are a small, regional corporation, so I’m okay with that.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Good to know about Atlanta b/c I might have a girls trip there coming up soon! And no matter how corporate they are getting…I love Earth Fare too!

  • Elizabeth

    Have you considered starting your budget on Saturday? That way, the farmer’s market would be first on your list and it would be easier for you to afford local items each week.

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