Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 40- Some more cheating

Spent some of my gas money on a bag of chips. I know, naughty j.

In more promising news, I ate lunch (another dozen potstickers) at a reasonable hour, and finally roasted (and fried) the egg plant, so I can put it on pizza.

Which is what I was planning to do last night before I gave into the call of the chips. At least I didn't blow 3 more dollars and pick up soy sour "cream". Tasty, but... too much, I think.

A couple ways to lower the food bill-
  • Pre-portion dinner onto plates- Then put *most* of the rest of it away for left-overs/ lunches. Think about portion sizes while making up plates, and how much people *need* each day. If you serve steak or chicken in slices the "meat and potatoes" crew might be a little put off at first, but you'll have more left for later. Also, starting with smaller portions means that if someone isn't as hungry as they thought you aren't left with a plate of half eaten food. They can always refill if they eat it all. Bonus- only have to clean cooking dishes, no serving dishes. <--working on this one
  • Have a (cheap, easy) snack before dinner- tortilla chips and salsa, or veggies and dip- home made hummus or salad dressing. You get more veggies, and it takes the edge off your hunger. Bonus- it's starts the climb to satiation, so you feel full faster- instead of sometime after dinner. If you live with someone who doesn't eat veggies- is there something healthy/ cheap they *would* eat as a snack? Even a quick pbj? <--bad at this. Snack becomes dinner.
  • Try having dinner as "courses" to slow down food inhalers (Hi, dad!). If you start off with soup and/or salad, then have the main course after that dinner takes longer to eat. You can do this with lunches as well, by packing a couple different things rather than just a frozen entrĂ©e and bag of chips. apple, soup, leftovers, cookie. Your co-workers will envy you and you won't feel as deprived when they all go out to lunch. Starting off with a soup or salad also allows you (and everyone else at your table) to fill up on stuff that's less expensive, since mains tend to be where the money goes.
  • Instead of cold cereal, try home-made muffins for breakfast. There are thousands of recipes on the web, and a basic fruit/bran muffin takes no more than 10 minutes hands on time- including washing up. I've even seen (but not tried) savoury muffins with egg and bacon in them. If you have kids they could do this with you over the weekend- learning about flavor and baking all at once.
  • Don't give protein top billing on your plate. Protein is usually the most expensive part of a meal (unless you're me, then it's asparagus), and it usually takes up the biggest part of the plate. Try to mix things up in ways that allow you to use less, while still looking like it's very "meaty". I do this by making stirfry, and that can work. Stew is a good choice in winter.
  • Try new foods from regional cuisines. I'll be trying cold soba in dipping sauce once it heats up a bit more here. I like lentils, and they're cheap. look at the foods eaten in the poorest parts of the world, and think of how to recreate them in your own kitchen. Try substituting out things that you don't have/ can't get, or that are too expensive- like split peas for red lentils. The flavor difference isn't that big once you spice it. Substitutions can be found all over the internet.
  • Make one night a week leftover night. or if you've got no leftovers, or live with someone who *won't* eat them, have pantry night- everything you use has to be already in the kitchen, bonus points for using things that have been there the longest.
These ideas work better if you only feed yourself. If you feed other people too, don't change a bunch of things all at once. You might have a revolt. But change one thing a week, or (if they're young enough, or easy going enough) sell it as an adventure. If there's just two of you, sell it as healthy eating, together time, a chance to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, whatever might work. Oh, yeah- and try to get your other eaters involved in the food process- from the budget to the table, so they can see where everything goes, and how it all balances. Learning opportunity for kids, chance to calmly work on budget and money goals for couples.

With all the work involved in keeping everyone happy, I just don't get why anyone gets married and has kids. Dogs are easier. ; )

Anything else you guys/ ladies do to lower your food cost without always feeling hungry? Anything you remember your mom/ grandmother doing that lowered the food bill?


  1. it seems like you always make a meal at a time. One thing that we've done to lower the food bill is cook a big pot of something and freeze half. Spaghetti and lasagna are really cheap (and obviously there are non-meat versions), and those can make up to 12-15 servings! There are also some quite tasty soups that I do this way in a crockpot.

    The way we would do it is to make the 12 servings, freeze 6, and then eat 6 through out the week. (So you don't get sick of it.) You can even freeze them portioned if that makes it easier for you to just pull out your $.50 sized amount for dinner.

  2. I really like this post and how you have used your experiment to help other people. The thing I do to save on grocery bills is going over to mom's house for dinner once or twice a week. She loves having us over and I don't have to cook or do dishes. Thanks for the awesome post and keep up the good work. And don't beat yourself up too much for that bag of chips.

  3. if you are a carnivore, shop in the evening later in the week (rather than the weekend). This is when you'll see manager's specials on meat cuts that the need to sell quick.

    i also shop later in the week because i can look at the sunday paper ads for the loss leaders and plan my meals around what's on sale.

    like mmmmbah - i cook in batches - freezing half or more in portion sized batches. i do the cooking on the weekend when i have more time.

    mostly though, i think you just have to plan ahead. not planning is always WAY more expensive than planning.


  4. Ditto, mmmbah. I just cook for myself, but it's much easier and cheaper to make a whole pot or crock pot of something and freeze half. Lots of days with no cooking and I love that!

    On Sunday I made large servings of spiced black beans, brown rice and a big loaf of rosemary garlic bread. I can do a lot with that during the week and still froze some for another time.

    Just add a warm tortilla, fresh chopped veggies, a little shredded cheese and my meal is ready! Yum!

  5. Thanks for the tips! Too bad you don't have an Ingles down there. I got 8 lbs of potatos for $1.98 Tuesday (5 lbs of Idaho and 3 lbs of red). They had a pretty good deal on mushrooms also ($1.50 for a package of portobella slices or regular whole).

    Harris Teeter is having TRIPLE coupons 03/24 - 03/30 on any manufacturers coupon up to $.99. It may be a good way to save tons of money on the things you need over the next few weeks. There are tons of places online to go to get the manufacturers coupons, too.

    Happy shopping!

  6. Just discovered your blog.
    Love the idea, as I am striving to be vegan/vegetarian, reduce my consumption and footprint on this planet, and save money for more important things in life (like fun and travel!).
    Even if your diet isn't perfect, sounds like you are eating relatively healthily.
    Best of luck, great recipes. Will try to do the same intermittently.

  7. @mmmbah- Yeah, the batch cooking thing is a marked fail for me so far. It's on my list of things to work on. You can tell how off my radar it's been- I didn't even think to list it!

    @Kaitlin- that's a great tip- just remember to reciprocate sometimes. Moms are great for food.

    @Maureen- that's a great point about later/ end of the week. Some stores mark down produce in the evening as well... And you're dead on with the planning.

    @One Heart- that rosemary garlic bread sounds good- do you make it yourself? If you do- can I get you to share the recipe on your blog? I think I can find cheap rosemary in a store. Or I can always... liberate... a few branches from someone's yard.

    @Chris- that's a GREAT deal on the potatoes! I'm gonna take your word on the mushrooms- I'm allergic, so I've got no idea what a good price for them is. Triple coupons, though... now that's something to get excited about. just have to find coupons worth enough to make it worthwhile to go down there. Now what did I do with that 75cent coupon for soy milk...

    @Mina- Yay, welcome! I don't know about *healthy*, but I'm still alive, and no one's checked me for a pulse in the last month, so it can't be that bad. Yay for trying, too- i firmly believe that when more people try crazy stuff and don't fail hugely, more people see that crazy stuff can be done.

    Yay crazy!