Whoops, I was posting at a good clip there, then the holidays happened (They were GREAT! How were yours?) and so on and so forth. Gotta get back in the habit. I’ll start by talking about one of my New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll post all of my resolutions tomorrow, because everyone is dying to know them, right?). Out of both desire and necessity, one of my resolutions is to stick to my grocery budget. It’s $60 a week, which I know we can do, because we have done it before.
But first, budgeting is hella hard. I can’t bear to look at it on paper, which is doesn’t really bode well for a successful budget. So far, I’ve been going to the grocery store once a week with $60 cash. No debit/credit cards. That works for me. We’ve been trying to only buy staples, though Paul and I have differing views of what constitutes a staple. Me: Milk, eggs, bread- anything from that Sesame Street cartoon. Him: bagels, cookies, and beer. I’m not saying I don’t help him consume his staples, just saying. Writing a list and sticking to it helps. Sending the adult who is most likely to stick to the list helps. Not ‘stocking up’ helps.
So, once I got the excess spending under control, I started looking at the convenience foods that we buy. I stopped buying frozen lunches for Paul last year and started making my own. He usually just likes the pasta with red sauce or pesto kinds, so I just would make a big batch and freeze them. Much cheaper and (probably) much healthier. What else could I cut out of the budget by DIYing? A pantry/freezer check and I realized we partake in more convenience foods than I realized.
So, what do I do here? How do I justify some of these things, which, while convenient, are either wasteful (both money AND packaging (I’m looking at you, apple sauce pouches)) or unhealthy/high in sodium? Here’s the goods. I’ve tackled some of these things already. Let me know if you have any advice!
- TRADER JOE’S SALSA VERDE– This is my everything. I love this particular salsa verde. But today I made my own salsa verde. It was so easy that it’s actually embarrassing that I didn’t do this sooner. It took me maybe five minutes of prep and ten minutes of actual cooking and it yielded the equivalent of 2.5 jars of Trader Joe’s stuff. And it’s TASTY. I put some in the fridge and some in the freezer. Hoping the freezer stuff fares well. If so, I’ll make a double batch next time.
- CANS OF BEANS-We are a vegetarian family and use lots of beans and I’m not good at planning ahead so canned typically works best for us. I did make some dried chickpeas and freeze them a while back, which I just used. But yesterday, I made my own refried beans. It yielded TEN CUPS and probably cost me all of $2, plus it’s lower sodium. I made burritos with some of it and froze the rest. Other than the planning ahead (soaking overnight and having a few hours to cook them), it was pretty easy.
- HUMMUS– Used the aforementioned freezer chickpeas. Again, so easy it’s embarrassing. My family isn’t as huge of hummus eaters as I would like us to be, but maybe that will change.
- RAVIOLI– Planning on making my own ravioli this week. Will keep you posted.
- WAFFLES– Made a huge batch of waffles, froze them, and now just pop them in the toaster. Easy peasy, super cheap, all stuff I had on hand already. Plus, I know what is in them, they ain’t that bad. Super easy for busy mornings and if we nix the syrup, she can eat on the go. And I snuck some ground flax up in there.
- CANNED OR JARRED TOMATOES AND PASTA SAUCES– I use these to make my own concoction of sauce. Some pasta sauce or a can of tomatoes (I buy bpa free cans or glass jarred) mixed with fresh veggies and seitan, usually. Currently, I don’t know that it’s cost effective to make my own ‘base’. I plan on trying my hand at gardening again this year and hopefully will have a ton of tomatoes I can can. Haha, can can.
- MADERAS LENTILS– Tasty Bite brand. For some reason, my kids love these. Well, I know why. Because their sainted former nanny used to feed them lentils, so that’s ok. If she hadn’t feed them lentils, Ramona would have gagged on principle. I ain’t complaining. Yeah, I’ll get these going soon. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right?
- TRADER JOE’S BEAN BURRITOS AND BLACK BEAN TAQUITOS– Dude. I am so proud of myself. I made 36 taquitos and 3 small bean burritos for the cost of one 8 pack of Trader Joe’s taquitos. It was super easy, they froze really well, they are baked, not fried like the TJ ones are (I think), and the ingredients were healthier. It’ll be even cheaper next time, now that I’m making my own refried beans. I made ten rice and bean burritos with the homemade refried beans too, they were a hit with the kids and with me. And I still have seven cups of refried beans left over.
- BOXED MAC N CHEESE– Planning on making a big batch of homemade and freezing it…as soon as I have some more freezer space. Not sure if it will be a cost saver, but surely will taste better. I need a good, cheap recommendation for a baked mac n cheese. The Martha Stewart one is amazing, but ends up costing $30!
- APPLE SAUCE POUCHES– WHY are these so flipping expensive? And they are finished in two seconds. I haven’t been able to justify the cost/time with the cost of premade sauce, maybe if we go apple picking in the fall, but I did buy reusable pouches. They are kind of a pain to fill, but whatever.
- VEGGIE BURGERS– I have a ton of these in my freezer, so once I’ve cleared them out, I’ll try my hand at making my own. Any recipes or hints are welcome!
- SEITAN-Upton’s brand, either chorizo or Italian. I love Uptons and they are old friends of mine, so I will always support them, but I might try my hand at making my own seitan. I have gluten in my cabinet waiting for me to get up the nerve.
- MORNINGSTAR FARMS VEGGIE BACON– I eat too much of this. I’m certain that it’s not great for me, sodium wise. I haven’t found a veggie bacon that is as thin and crispy. HALP.
- GENERIC NUTRIGRAIN TYPE BARS– These have replaced fruit gummies as Ramona’s most whined for treat. Don’t know if that is good or bad. I have granola bar molds. I don’t know what I’m doing. Hi.
- TOFU– I won’t be attempting my own.
- CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE/GREEK YOGURT/COTTAGE CHEESE– I won’t be making my own, but I DO buy the cheapish block of cheddar at Costco and shred my own. Pre-shredded cheese contains anti-clumping stuff. Fresh shredded cheese melts better and tastes better and is just cheese. Also, even though I said that not stocking up is helpful- it’s not always. We buy our dairy staples at Costco, you can get organic for much cheaper. Did you know you can freeze dairy? We freeze butter and cheese if we have too much and are at the breaking point.
- VEGETARIAN BOUILLON– Upgraded from buying cartons, because I always ended up throwing away 2/3rds of it. Now make it as I go. Someday soon I will try my hand at making my own.
- PASTA– Doesn’t seem worth it. Am I wrong? I’m sure fresh pasta is great, but it’s the kind of thing I need to have on hand as a pantry staple, not a fresh thang.
- SANDWICH BREAD– We go through so much now that Ramona brings her lunch to school, and I just don’t know if making my own is in the cards. However, my sister gave me a great tip for the heels that no one wants to eat. Put the crust side on the inside. Why did I never try that before?!
Our freezer is full. I can’t wait to empty some of it so I can try some more of this stuff. I dream of a chest freezer, but alas, no where to put it. So, where else can I be cutting corners? Help me, you amateur Dave Ramsey’s!