Sunday, February 27, 2011

A new feature! "Eating on a Budget"

We're all stretched these days. Paychecks are thin, where they even exist at all. I have a job, thank God, and a second job because the first job's salary isn't enough to live on, which gets me to barely where I need to be to break even. I have no extra money and little time because I am working so much. I'll share some tips about eating on a budget. I'm good at it.

I am single and a vegetarian. I don't eat red meat, white meat, or seafood. This is because of cost, access to freshness, and personal taste. Admittedly, not buying these items helps a lot in cutting the budget. But it isn't good to eat a lot of red meat in the first place, and a much of meat and seafood simply isn't healthy, given the animals' living condition. And what about the Gulf of Mexico? All that oil. Last, given costs, it is likely you have already cut down on these items anyway.

The main things are to [1] prepare a budget & stick to it, and [2] plan when you cook your meals. There is one thing you cannot plan for, and that is what you will cook. That is because of important item [3] -- buy only what is on sale and make your meals from those items. There is some advance planning you can do with that if you get the grocery store's sale flyer and circle what you are going to buy ahead of time. Because my time is limited I just veer over to whatever is marked "Manager's Special", ".99 cents" or "On sale." I figure out later what to do with the items.

I'll give more details in the weekly posts to come. This week I made Salmon-potato patties, cantaloupe-grape fruit salad, Penne with tomato sauce, Green bean Casserole, and steamed potato and butternut squash. The salmon was from the can- not the good salmon but the kind that you have to pick out the bones. The potatoes were the Dollar Store's version of instant potato flakes. This dish is like Hamburger Helper. The potato flakes stretch the salmon meat. I sauteed half an onion, and mixed it with the salmon meat, the cooked instant mashed potato, salt, pepper and a few crushed Dollar Store style Ritz Crackers. I formed them into patties and fried them in a bare amount of oil. It made nine patties. I will use them atop a romaine salad or in sandwiches, (good with tomato slices! Sliced paper thin of course). These will be my lunches and dinners most of the week.

The cantaloupe was shrink-wrapped and marked 99 cents because it was slightly pocked. There was no mold on it so I bought it. The thing about almost gone-over fruit is that when you buy it, you are making a commitment to eating it quickly. So to that end, I scooped the seeds out and sliced it all into a big bowl. That way when I am on the go or really hungry, I have a ready snack. This will be my dessert from my lunches this week, with either cottage cheese added or other fruit, for variety.

I made green bean casserole because cans of green beans were on sale for 33 cents, along with cream of mushroom soup for 65 cents. Crushed Ritz-style crackers made the topping.

I am not embarrassed at going to the Dollar Store for my food. Canned goods, irradiated packaged goods like chicken broth, cereals, spaghetti, all are much less expensive. I forego the brand names. Sure, I prefer Barilla pasta over Dollar General's, but that's the way it is. The people living through the Great Depression in the 1930s ate what was in front of them, period. So do I. Moreover, the small mom & pop grocery store and the dollar store are 8 miles from my house. The larger grocery store is twice as far, using more gas and more time to get there. It is more expensive, too. And because the chain store is bigger, it has more variety which only means increased temptation to buy more, anyway.

I have figured that with my $30/week fresh grocery budget and $15-$20 Dollar Store budget that most of my meals are under $1.50 each. More specifics next time. Just remember, budget, plan, and forgo the big stores like Whole Checkbook Foods, Publix, and Ingles. Buon Appetito!

1 comment:

Tammy said...

Another great place to Aldi's. All of their canned vegetables are .49 cents a can. Aldi's is all over Atlanta now...and popping up all over Georgia.