Tag Archives: frugal vegetarians

day two

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.64 yesterday, January 3, 2011.


pumpkin & caramelized banana baked oatmeal again, we have 3 days worth $0.37


shahi paneer over a cup of brown rice $1.56
1/2 cup peas (frozen) $0.10


seitan mole chili $1.30
leftover red onion, crema, and cheddar cheese toppings (freebie)

dilly beans (freebie from our home canned goods)


banana $0.25
handful of leftover pretzels (freebie)
leftover coffee with ¼ cup almond milk $0.06

– Hmmm, I’m thinking we didn’t eat enough food for the day. Ultimately we want to calculate nutrition on sparkpeople.com, but we already have a lot to log and calculate for now.
– We’re not off to a great start on day 3 since it appears Levi ran out the door without breakfast, and there is the added challenge of me (Krista) now being on an opposite sleeping schedule from everyone else. However, the oatmeal continues to be a huge hit and everyone agrees it gets a little better each day.

– The seitan mole chile was pretty darn delicious. I adapted a Rachael Ray recipe by substituting a pound of seitan for half the chicken and 2 cans of white beans for the other half. The only freebie ingredients besides spices were the onion and garlic, but hey, that’s the last of our onion stockpile.
– Seitan is not something we buy a lot, but it was another Grocery Outlet score. I found 8oz packages for $1.79 each. Anyone else have an outlet grocery store nearby?
– I discovered my favorite Rapunzel brand vegan bouillon cubes are pricier than I realized at 40 cents a cube. I don’t think I’ll switch back to using the cheaper bulk broth powder that always ends up dried out, and I really hate buying liquid broth that is expensive and puts a lot of packaging in landfills.
– The dilly beans were not exactly a good complement to the chili but Rachael Ray suggested pickled veggies and that was what we had. On their own they are amazing. The one pictured earlier is not actually levitating, but being snatched by our 14 year-old pickle addict.

I’m off to bed. Hopefully I’ll wake up with plenty of time to make it to produce happy hour at our local Thriftway. It’s a once a week situation.


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day one

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.13 yesterday, January 2, 2011.


pumpkin & caramelized banana baked oatmeal $0.37

egg salad on leftover sprouted bread $0.47
2 large organic carrots $0.19
Fage Greek 2% yogurt $0.62 (half-off dairy markdowns)


shahi paneer over a cup of brown rice $1.56
1 cup peas (frozen) $0.21

organic cameo apple $0.40
banana $0.25
handful of leftover pretzels (freebie)
leftover coffee with ¼ cup almond milk $0.06

Notes and things:

– Here’s the link to the oatmeal recipe again in case you missed it above. We doubled the recipe and baked it in a 9X13″ pan, cutting it into 9 servings instead of 8. They are still plenty big!
– The baked oatmeal was extra cheap for us since we had pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, and dates as freebies in our cupboard. We bought almonds for half the nuts/seeds since they were the cheapest nuts. If we didn’t have those ingredients on hand I’d probably halve the nuts and buy bulk raisins.
– Bulk oatmeal works out to under 20 cents a cup (dry)
– We have two favorite store bought brands of bread. Dave’s Killer Bread and Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery. Awhile back we stocked up on those two brands on sale plus big coupons we got at Veg Fest, but we’ll be using up our last loaf this week. Maybe we’ll bake some bread after that? At $4-$5 a loaf we will need cheaper options.
– Since the bread was a freebie the cost for the egg salad sandwich was mainly $0.34 for two eggs and $0.13 for a couple green onions. It was jazzed up with home grown chives (that are not producing so well now that it is winter), homemade pickles, smoked paprika, and a little mayo and spicy brown mustard we already had. Again, if we have to replace something like mayo we will include it in our cost but for now it’s not reflected.
– We’ve been buying local, free range eggs from our Co-op for $1.98/dozen. Organic eggs would be way more expensive. Sometimes we splurge for organic, but our hope is to get chickens this year and feed them organic.
– I scored half gallons of almond milk from Grocery Outlet for $1.99, so it works out to 25 cents a cup.
– We’re pretty sure our organic cameo apples got rung up as not organic somehow, because we had calculated a much higher price of $0.75 per apple and therefore only bought 3. It is going to be hard to get much organic at $5 a day.
– If you know us, you probably know we are obsessed with that shahi paneer. We already had onion, ginger, and garlic, so the cost per serving would go up a tad without those. We actually intended for this to be our final meal before we started the project. It surprised me the ingredients were so cheap. The recipe makes 5 cups, which we split into 6 servings.

There is nothing quite like the smell of paneer frying in your kitchen. The only place we can find paneer in town is the co-op, and we are probably getting an awesome deal on it at $5.01 for just over 14 ounces.

– Our modifications to the Show Me the Curry Shahi Paneer recipe are to use ghee in place of oil to fry the onions and a can of light coconut milk (99 cents at Trader Joe’s) in place of the milk while reducing the water by 1/4 cup. We just don’t usually keep dairy milk in our fridge, and I thought the recipe could eventually be attempted vegan if we were willing to give up the paneer and use cheaper and lighter tofu or tempeh. The gravy is rich with intense flavor, so I think the vegan version would be pretty awesome.


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$5 per person per day

In January of 2009 we challenged ourselves to a month-long project to try out a new recipe every single day for the entire month. Some days it was really fun, and some days cooking was the absolute last thing in the world we wanted to do. It turned out to be a really rewarding experience, and in 2010 we kind of regretted not doing something new. We still cook a lot of the recipes and look back fondly, so in the months leading to 2011 we have talked about wanting to challenge ourselves again.

And then mid-December this Facebook status update happened:

“We just helped Levi plan cheap food for himself for a day for his imaginary budget for health class. For $4.41 he is eating oatmeal, banana, and soy milk for breakfast. Brown rice, beans, cheese, and broccoli for lunch. Apple and yogurt for snacks. Spaghetti, vegetarian meatballs, and peas for dinner. $4.41!”
December 14, 2010 at 9:39pm · · Like · Comment

We were all inspired and agreed that trying to feed our family on $5/person/day would be a good January 2011 project. Even Levi was enthused. We have talked about improving our grocery budgeting for what seems like an eternity. I have been asked in the past how much we spend on groceries, and the answer is “I have no freaking idea.” I even tried to go through bank statements once to figure it out (I know, I need to start using mint.com), but in the end our grocery budget is mixed in with our “everything else” category that includes things like take-out and entertainment and household items.

So, $5 a day. You could be thinking, “OMG, I could never do that.” Or you could be like, “And so?” Maybe you have a meager budget or maybe you spend way, way more than that. We don’t buy a lot of processed food, but we do buy a ton of produce and fancy ingredients for our cooking and drinking exploits. Generally we try to eat out only once per week and each visit the coffee shop once per week. We’ve been pretty successful on the coffee front, but we have gotten really out of control with the eating out. For the month of January we won’t be eating out at all. That alone is going to be a big change around here.

And we don’t want to spend the month of January eating Top Ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese. We want to push ourselves to see exactly how healthy we can eat for $5. As we started to really plan for this, a lot of questions came up. We figured we could approach it one of two ways: take out cash and buy our groceries from that, or calculate the cost per serving and portion our food carefully. We decided on the latter, because if there is anything we need to work on around here it is portions.

Now as we are working out the kinks, we realize it would have been wise to try to clear out the fridge and cupboards during the month of December. That didn’t happen, and we figure those extra ingredients will help us ease into the process. So that can of pumpkin in the cupboard is a freebie, although we may try to calculate something in if it is a particularly expensive ingredient. And the food we so carefully put-up this year is free, but we won’t rely very much on that. Staples and spices will be free, and admittedly we keep a well stocked spice cabinet. But if we have to replace a staple during the month we will try to add that cost in. And of course our garden is another freebie. All we’ve got left at this point is kale, leeks, and a brussels sprouts crop that is looking like we might lose it to bugs.

Dang, I really wanted those brussels sprouts, too.

We allowed ourselves the 1st to celebrate the holiday and have our last meal out. We spent a good chunk of time plotting our first 3 days worth of food and grocery shopped. It was not easy, even though we had already brainstormed a long list of meal ideas. In fact, I wanted to bash my head against a wall repeatedly while I was working up the menu and grocery list after 10 hours at work. And then there was the staying up late to make our breakfast and lunches since I would need to take them to go the next day.

We might be in a little over our heads, but we persevered today. Come back tomorrow to find out what we ate for $4.13 per person!

xo Krista


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