Last grocery haul, I had no meat in my freezer or fridge. Now the opposite is true. My freezer is packed and I’m going to try to make a good dent in it this week. While my last grocery haul I spent a lot of time making lots of stuff from scratch, I know not everyone wants to put that amount of time in their kitchen. So this post is a little more practical and reflects how my normal Budget Week goes. If you haven’t read my first Budget Week Grocery Haul post, a Budget Week is where I spend a small amount (usually $30 or less on groceries), then besides bills, I don’t spend money on anything else for an entire week. It helps balance my spending, gets me to use more of the items I already purchased, and helps me get creative in my kitchen and home.
We are about to go on a ten-day road trip, where we won’t be home and will obviously be eating out more often (although we do plan on cooking in our Airbnbs), so I wanted to eat as much food from our kitchen as possible. I usually do my Budget Week the first or last week of the month because that’s easy to remember, but you can pick what works for you and your schedule.
Typical Grocery List: I usually stick with the list of items below and depending on what I still have at home, go from there. I usually only buy perishable items to make sure I’m staying healthy while working my way through the pantry items I already have. This week, I already have a decent amount of produce, meat, and eggs which will help me keep my bill down even more. Although I don’t go for the highest priced items this week, I don’t tend to go for the cheapest of every category. Sometimes I will if we are really trying to save, but if I can get the bill below $30.00 (when I normally do closer to $90), I feel accomplished. Here’s how I usually lay out my grocery list for a budget week:
- Milk or other dairy, like a large container of Greek yogurt or a block of cheese
- One perishable carb, like fresh bread, tortillas, or naan
- 2 sources of protein: usually eggs and either a cheaper cut of meat (like chicken thighs or ground beef) or a couple cans of beans, lentils, etc.
- 3-4 different vegetables
- 3-4 different fruits. Mostly for breakfast and snacks to stay healthy. And citrus for cooking.
- 1 wild card item. Whatever I need to complete a recipe. I didn’t have to do that this month because I had so many random ingredients.
Here’s what I’m already working with in my kitchen this week:
- Lots of spices and condiments; cooking oils and vinegar
- Protein: 11 eggs, 2 frozen salmon patties, a pound of frozen ground beef, 1 frozen chicken breast, frozen kung pao chicken, 2 filets of mahi mahi, 2 filets of salmon
- Carbs: half a box spaghetti noodles, plenty of white rice, oatmeal, half loaf of sourdough
- Beans and legumes: 2 cans of chickpeas, dried lentils, 1 can of chili beans, 1 can of black beans
- Canned: 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of coconut milk
- Produce: 1 head of celery, 2 cucumbers, 1 large carrot, 1 cauliflower, a few limes, half a bag of radishes, a handful of blueberries
- Other Frozen: peas, corn, veggie mix, half a bag edamame, 2 sliced bananas, 3 bags! of cauliflower rice, half a bag of fruit mix, 2 bags of frozen dumplings
- Other refrigerated: half a container of almond milk, a large container of Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, miso paste, olives, capers, raspberry jelly, maple syrup, half a jar of kimchi
- Other pantry items: sunflower seeds, walnuts, peanuts, a fourth of a jar of peanut butter, kelp granules, granola, raisins
Grocery List: Total: $28.19. I bought everything at a Safeway by my house and it really made me realize that they aren’t that cheap. I’ve always assumed I was saving money when I went there. I have a discount card and it just feels like things would be cheaper. Maybe because it’s in the middle of the city that the prices are higher. I would have probably saved $5 if I went to Trader Joe’s.
- Milk, organic almond milk, $4.49
- Tofu, firm, $2.50
- Romaine hearts, 3, $3.99
- Green onions, one bunch, $1.49
- Asparagus, 1 lb, $4.53
- Onions, 1 lb: $1.99
- Lemons, 2, $1.50
- Strawberries organic, $4.99
- Nectarines, 4, $2.71
What I plan on making:
Breakfast: Overnight oats with fruit, parfait with Greek yogurt and granola, eggs and toast
Lunch: Leftovers, dumpling soup, spruced-up ramen, Mediterranean spread
Dinner: Chili, Pad Thai, Mahi Mahi with vegetables, Kung pao chicken, curry
Here’s what we actually ate. Lunches and dinners are for my husband and me, but Sam usually skips the breakfasts and snacks, except on the weekends, so most breakfast and snack portions are just for me.
Monday: B: One egg, cream cheese on toast, one nectarine, coffee with milk; L: Chili with onions and cheddar; D: Trader Joe’s kung pao chicken, green onions, and cauliflower rice with soy sauce, Lao Gan Ma (Chinese crispy pepper oil), and furikake (Japanese sesame seed and seaweed seasoning). The seasonings I put in the cauliflower rice made it taste so much better than what I’m used to.
Tuesday: B: Two eggs, cream cheese on toast, one nectarine, coffee with milk; L: Miso and dumpling soup with a few frozen dumplings, diced tofu, mushrooms and green onions; D: Chicken and tofu “pad thai” with spaghetti, onion, carrot, asparagus, celery, mushrooms, and peanuts (sauce loosely based off of this recipe).
Wednesday: B: Sourdough French toast with maple syrup and strawberries, coffee with milk (we both ate this); L: Leftover Chili with onions; D: Baked mahi mahi with lemon, asparagus, and carrots.
Thursday: B: Overnight oats with raisins and strawberries, lemon water; L: Ramen with soft-boiled egg, soy-sauteed mushrooms, frozen corn and scallions; S: Greek yogurt, granola, nectarine; D: Caesar salad with grilled salmon and peas (mostly going off this recipe, sans croutons).
Friday: B: Granola with milk, plain coffee; L: Leftover Caesar salad; D: A bag and a half of Trader Joe’s frozen dumplings, steamed, with my favorite dipping sauce: 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part black vinegar, a spoonful of Lao Gan Ma, edamame for a side.
Saturday: B: Homemade waffles with peanut butter, blueberries, strawberries, and maple syrup; L: Baked tofu with the rest of the asparagus and celery with soy sauce and rice; D: Pseudo cacio e pepe but with rice (so it slightly resembled risotto. I got the idea from this recipe), peas, and two grilled salmon patties.
Sunday: B: Big batch of overnight oats with frozen bananas and fruit mix, milk, Greek yogurt, walnuts, coffee; L: we skipped over because we were both out of the house and still full from breakfast; S: Homemade hummus with cucumbers and cauliflower; D: Veggie curry with chickpeas, cauliflower, coconut milk, frozen veggies and rice.
Besides saving money, another point of this week is to clear out my kitchen. My ‘pantry’ is just a shelf in my kitchen and one shelf in the hallway closet, so I run out of room often. Let’s see what all we ate this week:
- Protein: 11 eggs, salmon patties, a pound of frozen ground beef, 1 frozen chicken breast, frozen kung pao chicken, 2 filets of mahi mahi, 2 filets of salmon, tofu
- Carbs: half a box spaghetti noodles, some of the white rice, half loaf of sourdough
- Beans and legumes: 2 cans of chickpeas, 1 can of chili beans, 1 can of black beans
- Canned: 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of coconut milk
- Produce: 1 head of celery, 2 cucumbers, 1 carrot, 1 cauliflower, a few limes, a handful of blueberries, lemons, nectarines, strawberries, asparagus, romaine hearts, green onion
- Other Frozen: Some of the peas and corn, veggie mix, half a bag edamame, 1 bag of cauliflower rice, 2 bags of frozen dumplings
- Other refrigerated: half a container of almond milk, most of the large container of Greek yogurt, most of the Parmesan cheese, some cream cheese, some miso paste, some maple syrup
- Other pantry items: some peanuts and walnuts, all the peanut butter, some granola and raisins
This is one of my better weeks in cleaning out my kitchen. My freezer is almost empty and I was able to eat all the produce I was worried would go bad. Although several of my meals were not from scratch, I felt like it was still a fairly healthy week. I put a good amount of effort into thinking of recipes that use several ingredients I’m trying to consume, so if you try this and it seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Even a few recipes with this mindset will help your budget and your clutter. It’s okay to substitute most ingredients in recipes. Remember, it’s just you and whoever you live with eating, so not every dish has to perfectly follow a recipe. And if the dish sucks, just add hot sauce.
Have you ever done something similar, either for space or a budget? What guidelines do you use? What are some of your favorite, cheap recipes to clear out your pantry?