Monday, June 10, 2013

The Thrifty Table

So budgetting is a huge part of my life now. I am a thrifty girl to start with but when you combine the fact that I am a food lover and the fact that I need to save money, things become quite a challenge.

The first night that Chris and I ran some errands, we found ourselves at a Walmart, where we collected a number of food like items. First mistake. It was our first night, and we had nothing at all in our cabinets or refrigerator, and we were hungry. I have heard before that you should never go shopping while you are hungry, but it did not occur to me after we ate, that we should have left the shopping for the following day. At Walmart we bought juice, and cereal, and some snacks, but we did not plan any meals.

Sunday, after church and after we put more more effort into mise en placing our apartment, we sat down to make a schedule. I figured that it would make good sense to plan out the meals for the week so that we would know what we could make out of what we had. The only problem was, we didn't have much. Chris mentioned that we needed some base ingredients in order to make meals that would keep us from the grocery store for at least a week. So we found a Price Right, which I had never been to before although I would liken it to an Aldi's. We brought a calculator and aisle by aisle we bought the ingredients that would stock our kitchen- those which would be around for a while; oil, flour, sugar, condiments, etc.
$15 = 10.5# of Spare Ribs = 7 meals for 2 people

After spending just over fifty dollars we found ourselves satisfied with our countless items that would start us off. I guess getting the base food was probably the hardest part. The other hard thing for me is that I like a variety of food, so although it would probably be cheapest to buy all ground beef and potatoes I don't think that would make me very happy, or healthy otherwise. But we are buying in bulk. We bought five pounds of ground beef and had tacos one night and a couple of days later Christopher made a fabulous chili. So there is some variety. But I insist on staying healthy and having balanced meals.
$9 = 3 growing herbs = countless seasoned meals

The next big adventure that we took on was the Rochester Public Market. In the past year neither of us have been to a farmers market and really the only exposure that I have had to a farmers market was Pike's Place Market in Seattle, which makes it pretty hard to compare other markets too. But this market was wonderful. We bought two baskets of green beans for one dollar, a bag of vine ripened tomatoes for two dollars, fresh escarole and lettuce- one dollar for the two. We bought plants of thyme, rosemary, and mint, three loaves of rye bread a dollar a piece, and more. All together we bundled our fresh produce from the farmers market at fifteen dollars. I couldn't believe it. I kept wondering how the people could have been ripping us off, but really what you saw was what you got. Now in our freezer we have: two loaves of bread, two pounds of ground beef, fifteen pounds of pork ribs, four pounds of green beans, pirogies, and some frozen assorted vegetables. The market will be some place we will do our best to get to every week in order to grab fresh eggs and vegetables for a good price. I am all for supporting local and buying from those farmers who are providing for our area.
1$ = 4# self cleaned green beans

I have come up with a few tips that might help you stay in budget as I am attempting to do. It's pretty tough not to splurge on those Klondike bars, believe me I know. And now that I am of legal drinking age, I have to take in consideration the special drinks that I may buy to accompany dinner or the bottle of sparkling Rose Regale (my favorite wine) that is in our fridge now. Anyway here are some of the things I have learned in the past week, some of them may have not crossed your mind.

  • Make good use of your bread ends two ways- A) If you are completely against eating them, stick them in the zip lock bag with the cookies your mother sent you and in a matter of time your rock cookies will become soft. B) If you are skeptical about the bread ends but are willing to eat them (which you should be because the crust includes most of the nutrients) Make your sandwich with the crust side in. You (or your child) will never know that it's the end!
  • Do not store bananas near your apples or vice versa. Each of these fruits contain gaseous hormones that rots the other. So while a fruit bowl was a genius concept, I suggest keeping your fruits apart. 
  • Similar to the above: potatoes and onions should be stored away from each other. This is because when these underground growing vegetables are combined they create one gas that destroys the both of them.
  • You should not over stuff your refrigerator because this decreases airflow which will spoil your foods at a faster rate. In Europe, because of limited space and the abundance of fresh markets, they usually visit the markets once a day. 
  • Many people keep produce that keeps better at room temperature in the refrigerator. Onions, tomatoes, and squash are items that are more likely to last longer on your counter top. 
  • If you have a garden, you can keep the rodents away by planting garlic or onions mixed in with your flowers. 
  • Use the butter wrapper to grease your pans. 
  • Take a butchery course! Although I am pretty biased because I have already been taught to cut up meat, learning to fabricate a chicken is not only easy but very useful. From a whole chicken you get two breasts, two thighs and drumsticks, two wings, and you can use the bones for a savory stock. Just think if you buy a whole case how much money you could save and how many meals you could make!
I hope some of these tips were helpful. Check out The Frugal Foodie Cookbook by Lara Starr and Lynette Shirk for similar hints. I have included a day by day picture meal plan for this week. Things are rolling let's hope we are as successful with our food-filled budget plan next week.
Day1 =$17 dollar pizza&free aqua panna=leftovers
(a splurge for night one) 
Day 2=$9 dollar tacos for 2&orange/cranberry juice
Day 3= Free Birthday Dinner @ my parents
Day 4=$11 perogies&kielbasa &
Mike's hard courtesy of my mom

Day 5="one of the few items we had in the pantry": penne pasta
with Classico tomato&basil sauce spiced up Chris' way with spinach
& two glasses of a $14 bottle of Little James' Basket Press voignier wine (not my favorite)
Day 6= pre bought tomato soup, grilled cheese
 (rye, muenster,&horseradish mustard)
and a side of $.25 worth of escarole
Day 7= Chris' homemade chili &baked potato
($17 all together) with mojitos = leftovers (turns out it cost more than we expected)
Day 8=$12 for 20 wings, $.50 for two ears of corn,
 and $.50  worth of cottage cheese and $3 for assorted beverages
Day 9= Chris' Stir Fried Rice Noodles ($5 for two people)
Gotta go, I'm hungry and it looks delicious!

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