Saturday, February 20, 2016

Groceries: $20.88

What could you do with $20.88?  That's what I spent on groceries yesterday, and it will pay for lots of meals.  It makes me crazy when I see news reporters online swearing that they've tried doing minimum food budgets for a week and then complaining how they've been starved.  The plain fact is that they don't seem to understand that they need to do three things:  learn how to cook, learn how to adjust, and learn about protein combining.

I'm no grocery expert.  I don't use coupons.  I just live by my wits and maybe a little common sense.  And I do pretty well for a disabled vegetarian getting by on a tiny income while eating healthy food.

Right now, I am very fortunate to have some basics in the fridge and the pantry (sometimes I don't)--milk, cheese, butter, flour, pasta, rice.  That makes a huge difference--otherwise I'd have spent twice as much.  This is my food budget for this week and a bit beyond.  I don't plan for a single week at a time; I plan for how many meals I can prepare with whatever I can purchase inexpensively--that's a very big difference in thinking.

Okay, first thing:  ramen.  Yeah, I probably shouldn't have that because eating a lot of processed food is not wise but it makes a fast meal in a pinch and I add lots of veggies when I cook it.  Also, as a general rule, I use only half a packet so one 6-pack can last for twelve meals.  The very first thing I do is get rid of the flavor packet (actually I save them for a neighbor who uses them for soup stock)--for one thing it's meat-flavored and for another there's msg.  Instead I rely on the vegetables, cider vinegar, and some herbs for seasoning.

The loaves of French and braided potato bread are store-made and day-old so they were clearance-priced.  I will have a few slices of the French bread with cheese for a couple of meals but the rest of the loaf will become bread crumbs. 

Bread Crumbs for when you can't afford Panko!
Process small pieces of day-old bread in the food processor until they become nicely chunky with some smaller crumbs--a combination is best.  Spread crumbs in a medium thick layer (too thin will burn; too thick takes longer to roast) on a heavy baking sheet (more likely to burn on a thin one).  Roast in a preheated 325 oven.  Check every five to  ten minutes and stir to ensure even browning.  Remove from oven when brown and crispy and cool on the baking sheet on a rack. 
By the way, save empty plastic containers from Parmesean cheese--they are excellent for storing and dispensing bread crumbs, and they keep nicely in the freezer without taking up extra space.


The eggplant and canned tomatoes will become Pretend Ratatouille.  (I've shared that make-do recipe here before.)  I will probably add one of the zucchini to it this time.  The other zuke will likely become a Zu Canoe (that's stuffed zucchini, and I'll use tomato, garlic, and potato bread for that).   The tomatoes (ten of them) might be used here and there in sandwiches, ramen, or snacks but I'll also plan to use some of them with the rest of that potato loaf for making Tomato Dressing.  Bananas are for snacks (believe it or not, I like them fried!).  There's a large amount of broccoli--plenty enough for creamed broccoli soup (five minutes to make using the Vitamix), steamed and served with baked potato,  and I'll add some to a Veggie Upside Down (recipe also given previously) with some other veggies that I've already got.  The tomato paste (and garlic!) will become pasta sauce.  And, truthfully I haven't given a thought to the red potatoes but they were on sale:  5 pounds for $1.09.  The price alone makes it worth the effort to come up with something good--maybe I'll make some Golden Potato Soup (a recipe I haven't written down yet but which I created years ago as a hungry college student one bleak cold winter) along with some russets. 

So the point is that I'm not thinking one meal at a time here--I guess you could say it's more global planning.  I'm working toward augmenting what I already have so that there's a variety of stuff I can keep in the freezer along with foods I can eat fresh.  This isn't a weekly menu plan; it's a lifestyle.  That's why those reporters can't make a tiny budget work and why they go hungry.  They think small; this is about the bigger picture.

.....Three hours later:  8 one-cup servings of red gravy, 7 one-cup servings of ratatouille (I already ate one!), and a Veggie Upside Down that I will be cutting into 8 to 12 servings (depending in what size I elect to make the pieces).  That's a lot of stuff!  And I'm planning to see what else I can accomplish before I run out of freezer containers.  (It would be great if everything matched but it doesn't, and really that isn't necessary, although it would look nicer.  I just take whatever is available and I don't throw away anything I can re-use.)

The expense of time on a Saturday afternoon absolutely pays off in the long run!  This not only saves me money but it will also save me time later when I can get what I want out of the freezer. 

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