$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!

Minimalist Money Challenge: $70 a week for Groceries in June

I’ll be honest, I was inspired to do this challenge by a blogger I admire and read pretty consistently: Crystle Paine from moneysavingmom.com. That said, I cannot claim credit for this idea AT ALL. If you want to check out her challenge, here is a link to her site.

This is also my version of the challenge. Unlike Crystal, I can’t spend even ten minutes a day scoping out sales or store hopping for the best deals. Because of my current car and baby situation, I can only really do one store a week, and then the rest has to be online delivery options, for the sake of my sanity and schedule. I also noticed that, while Crystal has more children than I do, her kids are older, and they can grab one “snacky” dinner a week pretty much by themselves. This isn’t the case for my family. We also only eat out about once per month for a date night.

So I’ll clue you in on how my version of this challenge may be a bit different than her’s.

My challenge also includes a no Starbucks rule. You guys. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on coffee. Coffee that I can easily make at home. Coffee that I don’t need. Coffee that is way too over-priced, yet enticing because, well, I’m a “gold card” member and so I can collect stars and do menu challenges and get bonus stars for future free drinks (which I also do not need). I’m telling you, Starbucks is probably the most ingenious marketing system out there. So while my challenge will not include our monthly date night, it will include other little excursions, so Starbucks has got to go.

Since I won’t be store-hopping or sales-hunting, my physical store purchases will be limited to Aldi. Anything else I can’t find there, I will get those delivered.

I currently am loving Amazon’s Subscribe and Save monthly options, and I manage to get my lactation vitamins, specialty cat food (because my cats are apparently high maintenance), and some household staples (plant-based laundry stain remover for cloth diapers, chia warrior bars, Spicy V8, Honest Company baby shampoo, organic flour, and Tiny Footprint coffee) delivered in a huge box to our doorstep. It’s such a great tribute to my minimalist shopping ritual, because it takes almost no time or effort now that it’s all set up!

But please note: my $70 a week spending goal does not include these items from Amazon’s Subscribe and Save.

However, if I can manage to grab the bulk of our food necessities at Aldi for under $300 a month, this is great progress from what we’ve been spending at the grocery store the past year.

Maybe once I complete this challenge for the month of June, I’ll be inspired to cut costs even more, or just differently. I do know I will be working on a process for buying our meat in bulk for the fall/winter, so stay tuned for that adventure sometime in August.

So here are the sales at Aldi for this week! I will be taking advantage of these sales, plus purchasing some other items to complete our meal plan for this week.

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I have made a semi-specific list of items to get tomorrow (the first day of June, and the first day of my version of this challenge), but I will show you all what I actually end up purchasing and how much the total was so you

can see how I did! It will hold me accountable and hopefully inspire you too.

I will also share with you my meal plans for the week and perhaps some recipes, especially if I make something really tasty (and cheap!).

If you want to join in on ANY version of this challenge, comment below! I could use the accountability, and we all could use encouragement to spend less, couldn’t we?

 

 

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.

November Goals: 10-Hanger Wardrobe, Local Food, Yoga Challenges, and Made-Over Mornings

Each month I will be posting my goals. I’m going to try to be as ambitious as possible while still being realistic and I’m going to try to stick to a max of 10 simple and SMART goals (more than that is probably not realistic). We’ll see how this goes…

Monthly Goals for the Month of November:

1.) Complete the 10 Hanger Project by only wearing clothes from a very limited wardrobe for the entire month.

2.) Be able to do a headstand without a spotter, and a handstand with a spotter by practicing with the #GrowWithTheFloat Yoga Challenge.

3.) Build upper body strength, hip and spine flexibility, and balance by completing the #BuildYourBird Yoga Challenge.

4.) Come up with a meal planning system involving freezer cooking, using my crock pot, and strategic budgeting to save time and money in the kitchen.

5.) Stick to our family’s monthly budget by being wise in spending and planning ahead.

6.) Perform a self-choreographed praise dance for my church family.

7.) Complete the P90X3 program that I started at the beginning of the fall.

8.) Finalize my bedtime and wakeup routine so that I can make the most of my mornings and get enough sleep.

9.) Complete my Cycle Certification with FitTour.

10.) Find a local CSA to order from to save time and money, and also to be more supportive of local farmers and find ways to make seasonal and healthful cooking a priority for our family.

At the end of the month, I’ll check back in with you all to let you know my progress. I’ll be as honest as possible, since I need you all to keep me accountable.

What are some of your goals for the month of November? I’d love to hear about them–Let’s be accountability partners!