I have been doing a Budget Week on and off for over eight years. I talk about it some in one of my older posts, as well as give other tips on how to reduce spending. How the budget week works: I do a cheaper-than-normal grocery haul and don’t use my credit card (or cash or any other money) for an entire week. I, of course, pay my bills though. It really helps my budget for the whole month, but even more so resets my mindset that I don’t need to impulse purchase anything. No coffee runs, no unnecessary trips to Target, no new books. If I really need something, I buy it the next week. But usually I can go without. On top of helping my budget, it helps me clean out my pantry and kitchen. I always have few extra pantry staples that I skip over when planning meals because I didn’t love them, bought too much, or they take too long to prep. This is the week that I eat those items and spend more time in the kitchen. It’s usually really enjoyable and gets me feeling creative. I try to stick to some guidelines when I’m doing my budget week grocery haul. My goal is $30 or under (that varies depending on what I already have; sometimes I can go as low as $15, sometimes it’s a little more) and it usually looks something like this:
- Milk or other dairy
- One perishable carb, like fresh bread or tortillas
- A source of protein
- 3-4 different vegetables
- 3-4 different fruits
- 1 wild card item
I focus on perishable, healthy items so I’m forced to pair them with the shelf stable products I already have. I’ll ‘shop’ my kitchen for ideas before I make my grocery list. I haven’t done a Budget Week since March (mostly because we are staying put because of the coronavirus and we are saving money by default) so I have A LOT in my kitchen right now. Here’s what I’m already working with in my kitchen this week:
- Lots of spices and condiments; cooking oils and vinegar
- Protein: 10 eggs, a pack of chicken sausage
- Carbs: half a box spaghetti noodles, plenty of white rice, 1 box Triscuit crackers, oatmeal
- Beans and legumes: 2 cans of chickpeas, dried lentils, 1 can of pinto beans, 1 can of kidney beans
- Canned: 2 cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 can of coconut milk
- Produce: 1 banana, 2 onions, 3 sweet potatoes, 5 oldish carrots, half of a cauliflower, a bag of limes, almost a full bag of radishes
- Frozen: peas, veggie mix, edamame, 2 sliced bananas, cauliflower rice, half a bag of fruit mix, 2 Indian dishes
- Other refrigerated: half a container of almond milk, about a cup of Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, cream cheese, miso paste, olives, capers, some strawberry jelly, maple syrup, half a jar of kimchi
- Other pantry items: sunflower seeds, peanuts, a fourth of a jar of peanut butter, a couple granola bars
Grocery List (I’m cooking for two people): Total: $32.86. I usually spend $90-$100 a week, yes I know that’s high, and I usually spend closer to $25.00 during my budget week. I’m trying out some new recipes so the avocados and blueberries wouldn’t normally make the cut.
- Sourdough bread, $2.99
- Celery, $1.89
- Avocados, 3, $3.87
- Cucumbers, $2.69
- Mushrooms, $2.29
- Strawberries, $2.79
- Blueberries, $3.99
- Oranges, 2, $1.58
- Cheddar cheese, block, $3.79
- Walnut, this is my protein for the week since I’m working on a vegetarian post and have enough eggs to last me the week. I normally default to ground beef or chicken thighs. I picked raw, unsalted walnuts so I could control the salt and I picked ‘baking’ walnuts that are pieces instead of whole and saved a few dollars, $4.99
- Wild card: canned jackfruit, $1.99
Because my post for next week is vegetarian focused, I’ll be cooking and retesting some of those recipes during my budget week. That helps me align what I bought and what I can use up. Here’s my plan for the week:
Breakfasts: overnight oats with fruit and bananas; eggs (and sometimes avocado) on sourdough toast with a side of fruit. And coffee.
Lunches: Leftovers; ‘tuna’ sunflower seed salad with crackers; jackfruit ‘chicken’ melt
Dinners: Burrito bowl with vegan ‘ground beef’; Poke bowl with seasoned tomato ‘salmon’ and smoked carrot ‘salmon’, spaghetti with walnut and lentil ‘bolognese’ with frozen meatballs (sue me); vegetarian chili; curried chickpeas with veggies; leftovers
Snacks: nuts and fruit; boiled eggs; toast with whatever I’m feeling to put on top
And here’s how my week actually went and everything I used for each meal. My husband usually skips breakfast and snacks and eats larger lunches and dinners. So lunch and dinner are for two people, while most breakfasts and snacks are just me. Check out next week’s post as I go deeper into the meat substitutes recipes.
Monday: B: Two eggs, an orange, coffee with milk; L: Saag paneer from the freezer, one slice of toasted sourdough bread; S: banana, granola bar, English breakfast tea; D: Walnut, mushrooms, and lentil bolognese and spaghetti (loosely based on this recipe, minus the zucchini because I didn’t have), frozen meatballs.
Tuesday: B: One egg, one slice of toasted sourdough with cream cheese, coffee; L: Leftover bolognese on a slice of toasted sourdough (very good BTW); S: An orange, Earl Grey tea; D: Burrito bowl with vegan ‘taco meat’ (loosely based on this recipe), lime rice, pinto beans, frozen corn, avocado, feta cheese, and some radish.
Wednesday: B: Overnight oats with one banana mashed in, blueberries and strawberries, coffee with milk; L: Leftover bolognese on a slice of toasted sourdough with a fried egg and diced olives; D: Rice bowl with leftover vegan taco meat, lentils, kimchi, Asian sauces. (this would have been good with a soft-boiled egg, but I didn’t think about it).
Thursday: B: Overnight oats with one banana mashed in, blueberries and strawberries, coffee with milk; L: Two chicken sausage per person cut up into leftover rice, hot sauce; S: A cup of frozen fruit, thawed; D: Curried chickpeas with onion, cauliflower, carrots, and frozen vegetable mix, over sweet potatoes (sauce is based on this recipe, then I just used what vegetable I had).
Friday: B: Sourdough toast and strawberry jelly, thawed frozen fruit, coffee with milk; L: Leftover curry on baked sweet potatoes; S: Leftover overnight oats and blueberries; D: ‘Tuna’ sunflower salad, based off of this recipe, celery sticks, and Triscuits. (I planned on switching lunch and dinner, but the sunflower seeds needed more time to soak).
Saturday: B: Smoked ‘salmon’ carrots, cream cheese, capers, homemade yogurt bagels (We both ate this. For the carrots, I used this recipe. For the bagels, I used this recipe. I’ve made these bagels four times now and they’re amazing and super easy) L: Poke bowl with seasoned ‘tuna’ tomatoes, smoked ‘salmon’ carrots, rice, kimchi cucumbers, and avocado (For the seasoned ‘tuna’ tomatoes, I used this recipe. Kimchi cucumbers: I just soak sliced cucumbers in rice vinegar, fish sauce, and kimchi juice from a jar of kimchi); D: Last of the vegetable curry.
Sunday: B: Leftover vegan ‘carrot’ lox and yogurt bagels (We both ate this); L: Leftover poke bowl; S: Leftover ‘tuna’ sunflower salad and kimchi cucumbers; D: Vegetarian chili (beans, lentils, and diced tomatoes) topped with onion and cheddar cheese.
Half the point of my Budget Week is to reduce what I have crammed in my pantry and elsewhere in my kitchen. Let’s see how well I did. What I ate from my pantry:
- Protein: 10 eggs, a pack of chicken sausage
- Carbs: half a box spaghetti noodles, some of my white rice, a box Triscuit crackers, most of the oatmeal
- Beans and legumes: chickpeas, half a container of dried lentils, pinto beans
- Canned: Both cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, coconut milk
- Produce: 1 banana, 2 onions, 3 sweet potatoes, 5 oldish carrots, half of a cauliflower, 3 limes, half the radishes
- Frozen: all the veggie mix, some of the edamame, all the fruit mix, 2 Indian dishes
- Other refrigerated: almond milk, Greek yogurt, some of the feta cheese, most of the cream cheese, strawberry jelly, some of the kimchi
- Other pantry items: half the bag of sunflower seeds