Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cheap Eats

I may have mentioned once or twice, or twenty times, that we are trying to spend less money and pay down debt. The first few months were the hardest, but now it's become a way of life. Plus, because we are doing this with the ultimate goal of getting out of Florida we're more motivated than ever. Even if we see something we really, really, really want (I'm looking at you Toyota Prius--sigh), you can bet we don't want it as much as we want to get out of this god forsaken state. (Although I really want a Prius. REALLY.)

The grocery store is where I've had my most challenges. We do our main grocery shopping every two weeks when Jay gets paid and for the most part we do pretty well and stick to our budget. What gets us into trouble are all the small trips back to the store in that two week period between paychecks. We go in with the intention of just buying milk, but end up spending $40. Sometimes we make three or four trips back to the store before the next paycheck and obviously it all starts to add up. Because of this, Jay and I have made a few changes in our eating habits and those of our family.

For one thing, we are making a conscious effort to eat what's in the house before going back to the store. We're cutting back and money is tight, but let's be honest, it's not as if the pantry is ever empty. We always have food. It may not be the food we want, but we have food.

Secondly, Jay and I eat a lot of really cheap, boring foods. Pasta. Beans and rice. Rice and beans. Beans and pasta. Chicken and rice. Chicken and beans and rice. Beans out of the can. Peanut butter sandwiches. Boring yet healthy stuff. We try to incorporate new dishes into the menu. Like this pasta salad, which is delicious:(The recipe can be found here. And while you're over there, read this.)

Thirdly, I have to make the kids food. I can't just send them into the kitchen to grab something prepackaged. There isn't much prepackaged in there anymore. Yesterday I made english muffin pizzas in the toaster oven. (Where did I even get a toaster oven? I don't remember this coming into the house. Can it be used for anything else other than english muffin pizzas?) Anyway, these went over strangely well. Considering my grocery store regularly has buy one get one free deals on pasta sauce and english muffins, I have a feeling I'll be making these a lot this summer.Lastly, I've been shopping from the "discontinued" bin, which is how I end up with things like this:

Spongebob Cream of Wheat or as the girl calls it "Spongebob Dinner." My grocery store was practically giving this away, that's how cheap it was.

In a lot of ways these changes are easy for me. Of course I love good food, but I have no problem eating cheap or generic food. Two things I will not skimp on though are organic milk and organic apples. All the hormones given to cows totally freak me out, and non organic apples just don't taste good to me anymore. I think we all have our own quirky food rules. And yes, I do see the silliness in pouring $6 a gallon milk over 'Chocolate Lagoon' flavored Cream of Wheat.


Maria Rose said...

Where are you planning to move?

Yes, I have been working to whittle down my grocery budget as well. Moving to a small town has really reduced my options so we are eating lots of whole foods now, it's making me a better cook.

Karen said...

That looks delicious.

Cheese alone is sending us to the poor house.

kraftykash said...

Are you moving to Nebraska? Cuz...I could start scouting a house for you....just sayin. :)

I have no problem bin shopping & generic is great for me. I do try to stock up on sale items. And Im finding Im cooking more things for the kids now that it is summer.

Kiley loves to grill out & we love his grilled food. He makes extras so we can reheat it for another meal.

Ive never had organic milk. My neighbor drinks "fresh" milk, & truthfully it freaks me out!

I think you are doing a great job! Keep it up!

Nowheymama said...

I think half of our money goes to soymilk.

We eat a lot of egg-based meals these days. And hooray for the CSA bin!

Betts said...

Moving to Vermont? We'd sure have fun together.

I'm wondering if you lose, gain or maintain weight eating a lot of rice and beans. My daughter's a big fan of english muffin pizzas. I enjoy them once in awhile myself.

Tammie said...

for those who asked: we haven't fully decided where we are moving to yet, although there are a couple of cities in the running. so far the portland oregon area is in the lead. it has the bigger city stuff we want, but the cost of living there is still affordable.

maria rose: yeah ive had to get creative. i want to eat cheap, but healthy too so at times ive had to put more thought into the meal process.

kash: we like to grill too. in this 90 degree heat i hate turning the oven on.

betts: so far i would say losing weight. plus, beans are pretty filling. ive noticed i havent been craving my sweet afternoon treats as much.

Daphne said...

Portland is so amazing, I can give you lots of encouragement for Portland! I'd move back in a second if I could.

Terri swears that organic milk tastes 'grassier' and she hates it, so that saves that expense. I don't drink milk (although I eat dairy) so I wouldn't know. I saw coconut milk in a carton (like soy milk) the other day. Now *that* I could get behind!! PS I grew up on raw milk and thought skim milk tasted soooooo disgusting!

Carla said...

We are so in the same position Tammie! Too ironic. Groceries are the worst to budget on successfully but it can be done. I officially have nothing left in my budget this month so I'm not one to talk to right now, especially since there are still two weeks to go. I suppose I can get buy on just purchasing milk...hmmmm.

Not Your Aunt Bea said...

We're on a cleaning out the pantry/freezer kick right now because we're on a budget too and the grocery store prices have not come down. It is so expensive especially the fresh fruits (some have to be organic- I totally agree). Thank goodness the garden is doing well. The salad looks delicious- will have to make it as I happen to have orzo in my pantry!

Tammie said...

daphne: grassier? really? interesting. i insist that organic milk tastes creamier and fresher, but its probably all in my head. and whenever i eat a non organic apple it tastes like im eating one of my daughters plastic toys. id rather buy no apples than conventional apples.

carla: i know. it can be hard cant it? and the thing is, jay and i dont really mind eating the cheap stuff, but we dont want the kids to feel the pinch too much so we try to buy things that they like, that are healthy, and that arent too pricey. it can be a mental workout at times.

not your aunt bea: i keep waiting for the grocery store prices to come down. it kills me what i have to pay for some things.

Tammie said...

carla: also, what i find so frustrating is that when i do go over budget, its not as if im buying extravagant items. im not buying lobster and $18 cheescakes. im just buying regular everyday food, which makes it hard to know what to cut out and where im going wrong.

Mari said...

Food has just become so expensive. We are saving money by cooking rotisserie chicken, I can get 3-4 meals out of one, and then I make stock with the carcass. We are making our own chili and spaghetti sauce, which are super cheap. We'll eat it one night, then freeze the rest for a quick meal when we don't feel like cooking. And, like you, I'll do pasta with a lot of veggies and some parm for a quick cheap meal, -but it doesn't taste cheap, it's good food. That is important to me. I won't do fake ingredients.

Mari said...

That came out sounding wrong at the end! I meant that I'll do mac and cheese, but homemade, and it has to be real cheese, not that powdered fake stuff out of a box.

Tammie said...

i completely understand. i'll buy the mac and cheese in a box for the boy if i can get it on sale. it fills him up in between meals. (hes a bottomless pit) but when it comes to actual meal time, i like there to be as many "real" ingredients as possible. i like to know whats in everything.

Dani said...

I have to buy Heinz ketchup. And real Dr. Pepper. I don't care how poor we are.

That grocery thing. I don't think there is an easy solution. I go each week and then we have a couple of Whole Foods trips in there as well. I stick to my list and plan meals in advance. Each week my bill is within $20+/- of our goal so it has been easy to budget.

Beans and rice, rice and beans man.