$70 Per week Grocery Budget: The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

The month of June is coming to a close, and I have successfully completed my minimalist money challenge to only spend $70 on groceries each week.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- Grocery shopping every week is HARD. 

Up until this week, my husband and I only had one car to share between the two of us. His work schedule is different almost every day, and so planning times to go grocery shopping every single week was pretty difficult. It was also tough brining my daughter with, since I had to be very meticulous in calculating the prices and sticking to a list. It was hard to be so distracted while shopping, and I know the trips weren’t quite as enjoyable for her.

I think that sticking to a budget is doable, but I might have to go grocery shopping for two week stints at a time. This way, I’m not having to drag my baby to the store each week, and I can save myself some stress in the meantime.

2- While I’m not a coupon-clipper, shopping the sales is totally worth it.

I usually wouldn’t pay attention to sales at all. I’d just stick to my list or throw whatever looked good in the cart, regardless of the price. But I found that shopping the sales at Aldi was very helpful in allowing me to stick to my budget. It also made me try some things I normally wouldn’t try, and that leads me to my next point…

3- I can form my meal plans around what I can afford, rather than try to afford all I want to meal plan.

I would go to the store with a rough list that was roughly priced out, but if I saw sale items, I would alter my list. In doing this, my meal plans would usually get bungled. But this month I learned that I can create my meal plans around what I can afford within the budget, instead of just buying things I want to make, which may or may not be the best price at the time. This made me go a little out of my comfort zone and try some new recipes and combinations of foods. I think I’ll probably stick to this method of meal planning because it’s helpful to the wallet, and it’s not too much trouble for me to do. It also limits my options so I don’t get too carried away planning out crazy-intricate meals that are probably unrealistic to make anyway.

4- Rationing snacks is very helpful in preserving their “life” for  the week.

I came up with a system to ration snack items so that they lasted more than one week. This way, I wasn’t always having to buy Lara bars, cashews, and veggie straws at every single trip to the store. I packaged the dried fruit and bars so that only what we could eat for the week was set out in the pantry, and I did the same with the chips and crackers and other items that usually go fast. Then I hid the rest in a basket up high on the shelf that was clearly off limits. This way, nothing got devoured in too short a time.

I actually started doing this before this month-long challenge, but I found it to be very helpful for June as well. Some things were still weekly purchases (like OJ and spinach), but this helped me save money and helped get our snacking a little more under control. I’ll be keeping this up for sure.

Here are some pictures of the great deals I found at Hope for Joliet (read more here):

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Here are some of my family’s favorite meals I made this month:

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And there you have it folks! That’s what I learned on my month of strict grocery budgeting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure and have been challenged to save some pennies while you shop for your family’s food.

 

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June Minimalist Money Challenge: The first 2 weeks

It’s been two weeks of grocery shopping with a $70 per week limit. If you’re new to my version of this challenge, check out my last post for a quick overview.

My first grocery shopping trip totaled to $69.98. I cut it that close. I am not kidding.

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Reusable grocery bags are a must for trips to Aldi. And no, that blue bottle of window wiper fluid was not included in our trip…

It was a bit longer of a trip than I usually like to take with my 15 month-old daughter, as I had to write down the prices, add up the total, calculate sales tax, and put some items back so as to keep within our budget. But we left the store with four cloth bags full to the brim, and one giant watermelon that was on sale. And Esther still had some of her veggie straws left to munch on during the drive home. I’d say it was a success.

 

You can sort of see some of the sales on the meat are marked (those red stickers in the first photo say “$1 off” or “$2 off”). Watermelon, blueberries, spinach, and asparagus were also on sale.

While I didn’t document my second week of groceries, I did only spend $68.40, and was pretty pleased with how many leftover items we still could use from the first week.

I’ll be sure to snap some photos this week, but some of the meals we made these past 2 weeks were as follows:

For Breakfast: Veggie frittata, peanut butter apple oatmeal, eggs over baked potato and leftover roasted veggies, toast with peanut butter and banana, hard boiled eggs with avacados.

For Lunch: Salami spinach tomato wraps with watermelon, mango chicken panini’s with carrot sticks, ramen noodles with peas, carrots, green beans, and corn, leftover pulled pork on top of sweet potatoes and veggies, apple and swiss curry panini’s.

For Dinner: Blueberry waffles, bacon, and over-easy eggs (yes, breakfast for dinner is amazing), bacon wrapped steaks on the grill with roasted asparagus and macaroni, homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, pulled pork with potato wedges and steamed broccoli, brats with potato wedges and roasted veggies, shepherd’s pie with watermelon, ground turkey tacos with avocado, salsa, black beans, and roasted onions and peppers.

You guys. These are pretty amazing meals right here! I could really get used to this. So far I’m finding that shopping with this type of budget just takes a little more effort, planning, and flexibility in meals.

I’ll share more of the benefits and drawbacks when I can look back on the entire month, but so far so good!

Tomorrow I’m headed with my daughter and best friend to Hope for Joliet, a location where food items that are almost past the sell-by date are sold for a fraction of the price, and ripe produce is literally GIVEN away. I have no idea what things will be there, so I’ll have to be pretty flexible in what I plan for this next week’s meals. But I do still have leftover frozen chicken, ground beef, some cauliflower, and a bunch of other things I can use as a base for a few meals.

Next week I am also cooking for 10 college students, so my shopping may include extra so as to feed those hungry mouths (I will be reimbursed for this, so it will not be included in the $70 budget). I am also going to make a meal for my friend who just had a baby! This will be included in the $70 budget.

I’m excited to do more documenting of meals and of our shopping excursion tomorrow! Stay tuned!

The Most Colorful and Texturized Salad You Will Ever Eat

IMG_6567I just made this amazingly tasty and healthy salad and I wanted to share.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Handful of leafy greens- I used Organic Girl’s 50/50 from Mariano’s

1/4 of a cucumber sliced into quarters

6-8 slices of carrots

1/6 of a raw red beet, sliced into thin sticks

2 eggs boiled and sliced- I used some from my cousin Annie’s chickens at Corben Acres!

6 raw green beans cut into smaller pieces

1/4 cup of tabouli salad with tomatoes (here’s the brand I used)

1/8 cup heated coconut oil

A few shakes of himalayan pink salt and a few shakes of black pepper

A dash or two of cayenne pepper

Here’s what you’ll do:

Mix or layer all ingredients save the coconut oil and spices into a large bowl, then shake and dash the salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper on top, and drizzle with the coconut oil.

Wha-la! Enjoy your crunchy and deliciously healthy salad!

 

Veggie Meatloaf: A Florine Family Kitchen Staple

About three years ago I became an un-vegetarian after seven years with no meat, which is a long story that I’ll save for another time. That being said, I am still in love with veggies and still learning to cook meat in new ways that I haven’t done before.

One of those ways is meatloaf. 

lentil loaf-11I think I have been avoiding this particular dish because it just doesn’t sound good to me…. “meatloaf”. I don’t know, the word itself just sounds kinda gross. I still wish it had a different name. But suffice is to say, it is not gross at all, and indeed is pretty darn tasty– at least my recipe is!  

One of my November goals is to be more aware of healthful choices in the kitchen, and also with saving time and money. So I found this recipe to be helpful because it uses organic products and is packed with veggies (a former Vegetarian’s dream!), and also because I can make it in larger batches and freeze it. When we have like, 17 kids, this will be even more useful, but even with just me and the hubby this method is working great so far! 

Anyway, enough chit-chat! Here is the recipe:

Side note: You can make these into 7 mini loaves, forming the single-serving loaves with your hands, or you can spoon the mixture into a bread loaf pan and make a larger one. I have little mini-loaf pans and I made 3 mini-loafs with this recipe. 1 mini-loaf served 2 people with a fist-sized serving of meat per person (the recommended amount), but it did not leave room for second helpings. I hope this information helps with portions.

You will need:

  • 1 small zucchini (chopped finely)
  • 1of a yellow onion (chopped finely)
  • 1of a red bell pepper (chopped finely)
  • 3 garlic cloves (chopped finely)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • dried thyme to taste
  • dried oregano to taste
  • dried basil to taste
  • coconut oil
  • 1lb organic grass-fed ground beef (you could probably use ground turkey or another kind of meat too)
  • 1egg
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8 ounce) can of organic seasoned tomato or pasta sauce

Steps to Make:

  1. Combine the vegetables and seasonings to taste in a pan and sauté in coconut oil for 10 minutes on medium heat. Allow to cool to room temperature (I put in the fridge to speed things up).
  2. In a large bowl mix ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, 1/2 of the tomato sauce (4oz), and then finally add the room-temperature vegetable mixture.
  3. Pat into 7 small meatloaves on a foil lined backing sheet, or spoon the mixture into a larger bread loaf pan, coating the inside of the pan with foil. Make sure to spray the foil with cooking spray (I have a pump sprayer that I fill with coconut coconut oil for this).
  4. Top each loaf with the remaining tomato sauce.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

And that’s all folks! If you made multiple loaves that you won’t eat yet, or if you doubled the recipe, you can let them cool, then wrap them in foil and places them in freezer bags to save for later. Just make sure you mark and date the bags so you don’t forget about them! This method saves me a lot of time because then all I have to do when preparing dinner is make sure to pull out the meatloaf to defrost. 

I served this meatloaf with baked potatoes and a bitter mixed green salad with kale, red cabbage, spinach, and swiss chard; I sweetened it up with some homemade raspberry vinaigrette, pecans, and some dried cranberries. This salad actually brought out the sweetness of the red pepper in the meatloaf but the bitter greens worked with the buttery baked potato– in short; dinner was on fleek

How I Prepped Dinner:

Sunday night I made the 3 mini-meatloaves. I froze 2 and put the 3rd in the fridge. I like to prep for the week on Sunday night because the weeks get really busy (especially the evenings) and I don’t usually have time to cook a real meal. This is the only way we have good and healthy food for the week!

Monday morning, I placed a few small potatoes in the crockpot lined with foil and set it on low to cook. This takes literally 2 minuets, and I do it while making coffee.

Monday late afternoon/early evening I mixed the green salad (I had already made the vinaigrette last week) in a large bowl and set in the fridge until dinner time. Since I didn’t have to chop anything for the salad, it only took about 3 minutes to do.

When we were about ready to eat, I re-heated the meatloaf, sliced it in two, added the potatoes from the crock pot, sliced and topped with butter, then forked some of the greens on the side of the plate. Wha-La! Bam! Shazam! Donezo. Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 12.51.16 PM

After the initial making of the meatloaf on Sunday night, the Monday night meal itself only took about 10 minutes to prepare. Next week it should be even faster since all I’ll have to do on Sunday is defrost the previously made meatloaf!

And that’s one way I’m working towards my goal to simplify time and money in the kitchen. And since the meatloaf was so healthy and tasty, I think it’ll be a Florine Family Kitchen Staple.

Try it out and see what you think! Let me know how you liked it.