Tag Archives: grocery budget

Healthy eating on a budget

Since some of our readers are new (Hello new readers!), I added a page to the blog with an index to one of our favorite projects from January 2011. After helping Levi come up with a cheap grocery budget for health class inspired us, we decided to limit our food budget to $5 per-person, per-day as a month long January challenge.

You can now access an index of the day-by-day posts up at the top of the blog next to the “About” page link. Or if you don’t want to scroll up click here.

We still make many of the dishes we came up with during that challenge, and reminisce about how well we ate during that month.


day seven: hulled barley, pico de gallo, avocado, and a poached egg breakfast for 60 cents per serving


day ten: banana & steel cut oatmeal brulee for 22 cents per serving


day fourteen: baked eggs with grape tomatoes & feta for 86 cents per serving


day nineteen: veggie breakfast pizza for dinner $2.10 for 1/3 a pizza

Each day we posted all the food we ate and broke down the cost of different recipes. If you missed it, go check it out!

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Make it from Scratch: vegan seitan nuggets

One of our biggest strides this year has been in the “buying less processed food” department. This is an exciting development. If we learned anything when we were eating for $5 a day, it was that making things from scratch beats any coupon hands down. Look at our homemade soy milk. The numbers are in: we spend about 53¢ on a half gallon of plain organic soy milk compared to the $2.69 store bought containers. A little quick math:

($2.69 – $0.53) x 2.5 (average half gallon containers per week) X 52 (weeks in a year) = $280.80 annual savings

Just like that, we trimmed $280 from our annual grocery budget by making one grocery staple at home. The more things we start making ourselves, the more we save. Another big budget saver for us lately has been cooking big batches of beans in the pressure cooker every week instead of buying cans. Organic canned beans aren’t cheap. I haven’t done the math, but there are significant savings there. This is the financial benefits alone. We are also creating less garbage and eliminating weird chemical ingredients from our food and its packaging.

The next step is to keep trying new recipes for food made from scratch. We need to find recipes we like that are easy enough to work into our busy schedule. Yes, our time is valuable, but we’re not superheroes for spending an extra 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there in the kitchen. Or even an hour or two when you are multi-tasking a few recipes at a time and making double batches of them all to stock up the fridge and freezer.

A big budget item for vegetarians can be meat analogues. All those veggie burgers, nuggets, and sandwich slices are spendy. For our budget and our health, we try not to buy that stuff too often. It is processed food, and it is easy to fall into the trap of buying and eating it a lot when things get hectic.

When I came across Joanna Vaught’s seitan nugget recipe, I was intrigued. I’ve made my fair share of homemade seitan, veggie sausage and burgers before. Never nuggets! I loved the way she compared the nutritional values of different nuggets. Hers win! So I decided to test them out.

They were a huge hit with the whole family. We loved them. In all honesty, of course we prefer the texture and the junk-foodiness of some of the store bought veggie nuggets. We don’t allow ourselves to buy them very often, though, so homemade nuggets will be a welcome addition to our dinner schedule. The recipe really was faster than some of my other homemade seitan making experiments. I made two batches pretty quickly, and plan to make more soon to put in the freezer.

Next up: I’m going to test out a couple of Vegan Dad’s lunch meat recipes(Veggie lunch meat and Hickory Smoked Veggie Turkey). Wish me luck.

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day thirty!


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.68 today, January 31, 2011.

BREAKFAST

steel cut oatmeal $0.10
2 tablespoons raisins $0.08
small handful toasted pecans $0.19
2 teaspoons brown sugar $0.02

LUNCH

day-old everything bagel $0.50
3 tablespoons light cream cheese w/ scallions $0.24
carrots $0.16

DINNER

spicy stuffed pepper $1.56

coleslaw $0.33

SNACKS

banana $0.25
grapefruit $0.25

total $3.68

I didn’t exactly plan to go out with the most colorful dinner possible, but somehow tonight’s dinner turned out extra snazzy, don’t you think? It’s like Funfetti, but made out of real food that is good for you. The stuffed peppers had a real kick to go along with that colorful display. Levi actually got to eat two portions and then asked if he could eat some leftover filling I baked into a ramekin for breakfast. I’m a little concerned he’s going to grow a couple inches while he’s sleeping tonight.

Wow, last day! I have to admit, I am kind of burned out on calculating the cost of everything. I won’t miss that at all. There are so many things I am going to miss. We are busy coming up with ways to incorporate this stuff into our daily life going forward, and figuring out how to continue sharing some of it with y’all. And in the coming week we plan to post some reflections and calculations and maybe even an interview with Levi.

xo Krista

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day twenty-nine


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.78 yesterday, January 30, 2011.

Uh-oh, only one more day after this! Are you going to miss us?

BREAKFAST

8 ounces TJ’s organic plain yogurt $0.70
1/4 cup cocoa hazelnut granola $0.22
2/3 banana $0.17

LUNCH

tempeh & fried egg sandwich with sprouts & chipotle aioli $1.31
mineola $0.42

DINNER

red bean chipotle burgers on multigrain buns $1.11
baked onion rings $0.85

total $4.78

Whoa, that cocoa hazelnut granola recipe rules! And bonus points for being cheap yet decadent. We wanted to make some homemade organic cane syrup, but it always seems to come down to time. Even though it was not advised, we subbed honey to keep things simple and it still tasted great. I was surprised this was so cheap, hazelnuts and all. We are keeping the serving size small to keep it healthy. If you’re curious about nutrition, Jess calculated the info.

Those burgers were pretty great, too. It is tough to find a good veggie burger recipe. We are trying not to get all of our protein from soy, and trying not to buy so much processed food. There is so much highly processed “health food” and vegetarian products on the market today. It’s great to have that option, but we’re trying to do better as much as we can. I used chickpea flour as my flour of choice for the recipe. They definitely tasted like bean burgers, but they were good, flavorful bean burgers. Good thing we liked them, because I made a double recipe which will be four dinners for our family. At 22 cents a pop, they sure do make Boca Burgers seem like something we won’t need to buy for a very long time.

And holy crap, BAKED ONION RINGS! Those were the highlight of the meal. Maybe not as good as the real deal, but unbelievably close. Thanks, Martha.

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day twenty-eight


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $2.23 yesterday, January 29, 2011.

BREAKFAST

caramelized onion grits with a poached egg $0.50

LUNCH

leek & potato soup $0.52

DINNER

Big-Hearted Macaroni & Cheese with Artichokes $1.21

total $2.23

We aren’t exactly winning any nutrition awards today, now are we? We started off with good intentions and just got busy. We meant to eat other fruits and vegetables throughout the day and it just never happened. It seems like every weekend there is a big long list of things we want to accomplish, and it feels impossible to ever get to them all. Do you know the feeling? Well hey, at least we got to go on a date to see Blue Valentine at our favorite little theater in Tacoma.

And hey, how cool is it that we had enough leftovers in our fridge to eat different meals for lunch and dinner?

I do have to admit that Levi ate some fast food french fries. That sounds kind of terrible, but I swear there is an explanation. He was drawing a still life of salt and french fries for an art project, and he paid for the fries with his own money. This from the kid who could probably count the number of times he’s had french fries from a fast food chain on one hand. He blew some minds in health class this semester when they found out he has never eaten at McDonald’s ever before, and we didn’t break that record since he thought the Wendy’s package would be more attractive.

Oh, and grits with caramelized onions? A+. We intended to add cheese and realized it didn’t need it. Now if only grits had a significant amount of dietary fiber we’d be set.

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day twenty-seven


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $4.53 yesterday, January 28, 2011.

BREAKFAST

steel cut oats (from 1/3 cup dry) $0.10
1 tablespoon slivered almonds $0.06
2 teaspoons brown sugar $0.02

LUNCH

Big-Hearted Macaroni & Cheese with Artichokes $1.21
grapefruit $0.25

DINNER

tempeh bacon & egg sandwich $1.50

DESSERT

affogato (Tahitian vanilla bean gelato with stovetop espresso) $1.39

total $4.53

Here’s an inside shot of the sandwich. It is locally made six grain bread with chipotle aoili, tempeh bacon, tomato, a fried egg, clover sprouts, and avocado. We planned to make coleslaw for the side, but dinner was running late and everyone was tired. Turned out the sandwich was a very filling and satisfying meal on its own.

We love chipotle aioli around here. We simply used a tablespoon of light mayo for each person, a teaspoon of lime juice, and pureed chipotles in adobo to taste.

For once we didn’t buy day-old bread. We found plenty of day-old options, but all of them were mostly white flour. Even at full price we found fairly affordable whole grain bread for 23 cents per slice.

And what good is Friday night without dessert? While we were out shopping we found a fancy $3 pint of gelato.

One of our all time favorite simple desserts is an affogato. The word is “drowned” in Italian. You simply drown some ice cream or gelato with espresso. You end up with this wonderful, creamy ice cream espresso float. You can also add liqueur to kick it up a notch, which we skipped this time since we’re on $5 a day.

Happy bellies all around and still under budget.

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day twenty-six


(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.75 yesterday, January 27, 2011.

BREAKFAST

multigrain waffle $0.31
2 tablespoons maple syrup $0.15
banana $0.25

LUNCH

tempeh curry $0.66
1/2 cup cooked quinoa $0.18

DINNER

Big-Hearted Macaroni & Cheese with Artichokes $1.21
1-1/4 cups broccoli $0.32

SNACKS

3 peanut butter no bake cookies $0.21
1/3 cup almond milk (with coffee) $0.08
Fuji apple $0.38

total $3.75

Part of our idea of eating “healthy” on $5 a day is that we are trying to mostly eat whole grains. We haven’t completely eliminated white bread and pasta, but we’re trying to make it something we eat only occasionally. I love pasta. Who doesn’t love pasta? And homemade macaroni and cheese is a major weakness. So I was intrigued by this recipe for
Big-Hearted Macaroni & Cheese with Artichokes.

Sure, we’re eating pasta, but instead of a ton of cheese and a roux of flour and butter, it uses silken tofu, skim milk, and only an ounce of cheese per serving. I think the addition of artichoke hearts is what really sucked me in. The verdict? It really hit the spot. It does not compare it to decadent homemade mac & cheese, but it was a delicious “healthier” casserole. And I feel inspired to try to come up with some healthier recipes that feature whole grains. Hmm.

We divided the recipe into 8 portions for only $1.21 each, and only had one freebie ingredient: free organic non-fat milk!

I use non-dairy milk for just about everything. Macaroni and cheese is an exception. Something about the sweetness of even plain soy milk makes it taste off. So we got to use one of the coupons from our $20 local coupon book. It doesn’t take long to make back the $20 when you use it toward $5.29 for a half-gallon of organic milk. Holy crap!

I dunno why that receipt says 2% milk. It was non-fat milk. There was no 1% option at that particular store. I’m no expert on this dairy milk thing.

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