As we approach the halfway mark of our little project I want to announce that we are going to take a short 2-week hiatus from eating real food on a budget. The break will only be from the budget part of course, not eating real food :). Like a lot of you, we will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with family, but once that is over we are also lucky enough to be going on a fun little trip. In honor of our 10-year-wedding anniversary my husband and I are going to escape to Argentina for a bit…sans kids! Exploring the cuisine of a new culture is one of the many things I look forward to on a trip like this so my plan is to simply enjoy our meals rather than blog about every little detail. I’ll definitely be taking lots of pictures though, and will share some of the highlights when we return. Let’s just hope the language barrier doesn’t make it too hard to seek out the most delicious real food we can find once we are there! Upon our return, I will be picking things right back up where we left off with “Budget Day 50” on Monday, December 6. And if all goes well with preparing for our trip I may set up one or two automated little articles to be posted in my absence…although I won’t be around to answer emails or comments from those posts during our vacation. Every girl deserves a break, right?
Archives for November 2010
I might as well get used to never following my weekly dinner plan because that is slowly becoming the norm rather than the exception. That’s okay though…it makes me feel “flexible” (even though I know my Type A Personality is really nothing of the sort!). Anyway, we were supposed to have our chicken and rice casserole last night, but we didn’t. My husband was out of town and I didn’t feel like working that hard in the kitchen in his absence. So, on a whim, (see, I am flexible!) I surprised my girls with whole-wheat banana pancakes for dinner. We’ve had “breakfast for dinner” a thousand times in this house, but for some strange reason it is always an egg dish. I have no idea why it never occurred to me to serve a different breakfast meal for dinner? Well, let’s just say the pancake surprise was a pretty big hit. I think my 5-year-old ate as much as me and my other daughter combined. Tonight we were supposed to go to Earth Fare (free kids night) with some friends, but those plans changed as well. So I decided we should have last night’s chicken casserole tonight. The only problem was that the girls and I were unexpectedly out running errands until almost 6:30 P.M. The whole way home I was worried about how in the world I would manage to make dinner, feed them, bathe them, and still get them to bed by 7:30 (my kindergartner has to get up at 6 A.M.!) all while my husband was still out-of-town. I admit that I was tempted as I drove past Chick-fil-A.
I am so excited I can hardly stand it. It only took me 43 days to do it, but finally for once I came in under budget! Woohoo! And not only did I come in under budget (with my purchases from Earth Fare today), but check out how much food I got. I could barely fit it into the picture there is so much. After scrounging for food all weekend (since the budget week ends on Sundays) having this much food in our house at one time feels like a bountiful feast! I planned to spend $82 today, but my first round of groceries surprisingly left me with 10 bucks to spare. I certainly could have saved this unexpected $10, but I am a spender by nature so instead I decided to get a few “extras” that weren’t on my original list. So to my cart I added my beloved mozzarella cheese (the kind that floats in the water, which is the bomb), another bag of organic whole-wheat flour since I seem to be running low on that lately, and some more mushrooms. Even after purchasing those items the bill only came to $81.50. I was more than thrilled that I got to splurge on my favorite cheese and still end up with 50 cents to spare. It seems like every other time I go to the store I plan to spend $25 and I end up spending $30…so this is major progress for me!
Oh my gosh…here on day 40 I can’t help but think about how we are almost halfway there. I still plan to be on a budget when all of this is over (and we will still of course be eating “real food”), but I am pretty sure I will be giving myself more than $125/week to spend. And it is hard not to look forward to that! In the meantime I will just have to keep dealing with the temptations of all the delicious expensive food I see (and can’t afford to buy) every time I go shopping…including things like artichokes, scallops, mangoes, proscuitto and other cuts of meat, fresh mozzarella, and olives. This list could just go on and on! So back to reality…as I mentioned I tried shopping at Bi-Lo the other day, but couldn’t get everything on my list so I had to make another run to the store. I still needed some staples like nuts, seeds, and cheese, so I decided to go to Trader Joe’s since they seem to have the best deal on those items (and I also needed bread which is right next door). Here’s what I got for $31.74 from Trader Joe’s…
I absolutely love ordering Tomato Bisque when out at restaurants and was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the outcome can be at home too. We are at the very tail end of tomato season here in N.C. (thanks to the warm fall weather we’ve been having) so we did use fresh tomatoes, but this recipe can easily be made with canned tomatoes as well. I should also mention that my kids (who are not even tomato fans other than spaghetti and pizza sauce) loved this dish! They even asked for seconds. So enjoy and don’t forget to freeze the leftovers.
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.
Tonight I attempted to be creative with what we had on hand instead of going to the store (even though I normally go on Monday’s since it is the start of my $125 budget week). At first, we were actually going to have a decent dinner of quiche until some lovely errands and laundry caused me to run out of time to wait for it to bake. So I opted for a quick broccoli/cheese omelet, and no one seemed to mind the change in plans except for my 5-year-old. I guess I made the mistake of originally telling her we were going to have quiche, but she normally loves eggs so we of course told her to eat what she was served because that’s what was for dinner! I am sort of planning to make a run to the store tomorrow, but I am wondering if we could manage to survive if I try to wait even one more day. Of course we would “survive”, but would the monotonous food be too difficult to bear?
Yes, I am almost broke and here’s why. Can you believe that the jar of local honey pictured below cost $11.99?? And then as if that was supposed to be a good deal the big jug of 100% pure maple syrup (grade b) was on sale for $18.99! I thought I might come out ahead this week after having our leftovers from the party get us through the beginning of the week, but as it turns out I could have never bought these sweeteners without that help! Luckily, the super expensive syrup should last us a long time (I do use a little in my mocha on most mornings), and I am going to have to start watching the honey more closely. But my guess is that jar will last us 2 – 3 weeks since I use it a couple of times a week to make granola. Speaking of granola I figured out a super cheap way to make it. I was planning to buy all of the ingredients I normally use (cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds) when I realized that a Trader Joe’s bag of sunflower seeds is much cheaper than their pumpkin seeds and a bag of almonds is a fraction of the cost of their cashews. While we prefer to have all of those goodies in our cereal (the cashews are my 3-year-old’s favorite part!) it is good to know that if I am tight on cash it doesn’t mean we have to skip the granola all together.
As previously mentioned we are experiencing a complicated budget week between hosting a party and house guests. My parents arrived the day after our Halloween Party and we all took advantage of the leftover food, but I knew it wouldn’t last us throughout their visit. I did buy a few extra things from the farmer’s market last weekend (from a separate entertaining budget) in preparation for their visit including bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and apples. I was feeling kind of guilty that I bought some things outside of our regular $125 budget, but thinking back that isn’t really that much food! In addition to those extras, this is what I got with our remaining $19.85 last week from the Farmer’s Market… Broccoli Cucumber Tomatoes Two dozen eggs Bag of spinach So this is how things totaled up at the end of week 4 after I spent every last penny!
This is going to be one complicated week when it comes to budgeting. First of all, our Halloween Party (which involved feeding dinner to 90 people) was of course not included in our weekly grocery budget of $125. Let’s just say we spent even more than that on just the one evening of food for everyone! And we ended up with some leftovers after the party, which we’ve of course been eating (and didn’t technically “pay” for out of our grocery budget). The second complication is the arrival of our first set of extended houseguests since starting our budget. You obviously need extra food for extra people and I don’t know about you, but when the houseguests are my parents they inevitably end up buying some groceries of their own (more on that later)! Back to the party. I thought it would be a little easier to just serve one big dinner as opposed to making a bunch of separate little dishes or appetizers. So everyone knew to expect some grub and in exchange they each brought an “adult beverage” to share with the crowd. And, oh a crowd it was! Part of our invitation went like this: