Friday, March 27, 2009

$18.75 for a week's worth of groceries

I had a good test of my grocery budgeting skills this week. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm using Dave Ramsey's cash-only system to pay for weekly stuff like groceries, gas, etc. After paying various bills from my paycheck last week, I was able to set aside $40 last week to pay for groceries until my next paycheck (next Friday, thank goodness). I had $18.75 left to purchase next week's groceries. I took a big gulp. I wasn't sure if I could make it work. Looking through this week's Food Lion circular, there was not a whole lot of good sales either. My heart was thumping...I was pretty nervous about this! I thought that maybe I should make an exception; after all, I was still trying to recover from a financial set back. But I steeled myself, thinking that if I don't learn to do this NOW, then I will always have financial problems. With that thought in mind, I set out to accomplish my goal.

I looked through all of my cookbooks, searched all of my recipes on my email, and looked on both Allrecipes.com and EatingWell.com. NAYY. By the way, EatingWell.com adds a nice variety to my resources for healthy, good eats but their recipes required ingredients that are generally slightly more expensive (sometimes a lot more expensive). Even the "cheap meals" aren't cheap enough. I actually chose one of their meals, one of their vinagrette chicken salads, for dinner next week, but I had to cut corners. The ingredient list called for 12oz of chicken, but the smallest chicken I could buy was $5.71. With tax and all of the other things I had to buy, I went over budget buy 2 cents. I didn't have 2 cents to spare in the grocery budget. I had to choose 10oz canned, cooked chicken instead. It was $2.19. The sodium content isn't too bad...about 24% of RDA...okay, that is pretty high! But I'm hoping that if I rinse the meat very well before adding it to the salad, that would reduce the sodium by a quarter. I won't actually know for sure but rinsing canned beans reduces their sodium content so it should work for canned chicken, right?

Back to the the chicken salad. I decided that if I need an extender for the salad, I could add a small can of tuna or serve the dish over rice. Depends on how the whole salad tastes, I don't want another food fiasco like I did last week! Then I'll really have to break from the cash-only rules just to feed myself. The remaining ingredients for the salad was a large tomato, $1.18, no problem there, and a can of black beans. Even easier at $0.59 for the store brand. Brilliant, dinner was covered.

Planning for breakfast took a lot of forethought and searching. Again, I needed something hearty, healthy and something I would eat. As it turns out, I'm a bit picky about my breakfast foods. I don't like yogurt. Or hot oatmeal...and I had just eaten a week's worth of Honey Peanut Granola. BTW, it contined to be awesome with the vanilla soymilk but I'm tired of the granola now. Regular cereal isn't filling enough. Likewise for fruit. All of the eggy breakfasts were too expensive or weren't healthy enough. This was getting tough. I went to good ol' Allrecipes.com, my trusty online, and thankfully, free recipe resource.

I'm going to go into a side-bar for a moment here and talk about the search engine at Allrecipesc.om. They have fantastic recipe collections that you can "prioritize" by rating, relevance, etc. I generally sort by rating, because I don't want to cook up a dud. I found a recipe that I wanted, one of the banana breads, but I neglected to bookmark it. So I went back the next day to look for it; I couldn't quite remember the exact name so I just searched for "breakfasts," after all, that's how I found it the first time. The search engine returned a huge amount of breakfasts, but after looking though 5 or 6 pages, I still hadn't found the one I wanted. I was confused, because wasn't this how I found it the last time? No, it wasn't! I had clicked their actual "breakfast recipe collection" the day before. I re-traced my steps and found what I was looking for. So lesson learned, their search engine won't give you the exact same result list as their actual recipe collections.

The thing I loved about this particular banana bread recipe, was that I only had to buy banana and a small container of sour cream. I omitted the nuts because I don't like nuts in my banana bread, or muffins... or cookies, for that matter. And besides, most nuts are too expensive anyway. Two bananas were $0.44. Awesome. And the 8oz container of sour cream was on sale for $0.99 cents. Store brand. Awesome again. Add potatoes (for the lunch stew) for $4.49, 5lb bag on sale. And add half-gallon of vanilla soymilk at $2.99. My grand total was (drumroll please)....$13.32, including sales tax. I could have danced a little jig at the check out. And I could have bought another tin of chicken breast, but I figured I could use something else to help extend that salad if need be. Or I can just go back for another can. It felt so good to stay within my budget.

I have about $4 and change to go towards the grocery budgeting cycle. I decided to put those leftovers into my emergency fund. Hey, every little bit counts!

Until next time!

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