Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We Need a Grocery Budget!!!

I am taking a break from reporting about the out-of-town wedding I attended to discuss a matter that has become of upmost important to me: food.

I've always loved food, don't get me wrong. And I have already learned my lesson about the perils of buying lunch at work. But ever since I started dating Boyfriend I have become alarmingly domesticated. I've been cooking! And not just pasta or scrambled eggs but actual meals. Truth be told before he came around for dinner I mostly ate:
  • Canned soup
  • Ramen noodles
  • Frozen dinners
  • Frozen ravioli
  • Chef Boyardee ravioli
  • Pasta, lots and lots of pasta
  • Mac and cheese out of a box
  • Hot dogs
  • PB & J
In my defense, my Mother is not a great cook and didn't really teach me anything about cooking. At all. So I went straight from her house to college where I had unlimited access to the dining halls. No kidding. They changed our meal plans to unlimited in my junior year. Eat whenever you want! Oh to be a student again....

After college I lived at home and ate Mom's cooking again before finally heading back to law school where I lived in a dorm that had a kitchen but I didn't have time to cook so I survived on tomato soup and hot dogs. Seriously. That's all I ate for one year. But I aced Contracts!

My second year of law school I moved into my first apartment! Independence! A kitchen of my very own. A whole set of used cookware handed down to me with no instructions. I expanded my horizons to the occasional omlette but mostly I stuck to that list above. I've now lived in that apartment for four years and the most elaborate meal I've made there is chilli.

Then I met Boyfriend! We courted - during which time I discover his culinary habits are even worse than mine. Instead of making it a Mac n Cheese night he orders in. Every night! I reaped the benefits of this habit at first. Don't get me wrong. When you're first dating a great guy and he wants to order you a baked ziti dinner for delivery so you have time to, um, watch a movie, you go for it.

Then things really got hot....in the kitchen. It started with football season of course. I made for my new Boyfriend the only thing I'd ever really learned how to make: chilli. It took me all day in the Crock Pot but we loved it. A tradition was formed. We started going to the grocery store together and planning meals. We were a couple who cooked for each other. Life was good.

I started taking pictures of the meals I made to email to my Mom to prove that yes I do know how to make pork chops.

Yum, I made this shrimp stir fry a couple of weeks ago. And while yes it's cheaper than going to a restaurant the items you see above were really damned expensive. The shrimp was reasonably priced but when you add in the baby corn plus the scallions plus the snow peas et. al it was probably about a $30 meal. Obviously we can't afford to eat something like that every night.

Boyfriend and I shop for food for his condo together and I want to start chipping in more as I've been kind of lax with my grocery money contributions the past couple of trips. I've been reading a lot about stockpiling staples when they are on sale and I think it's a great idea. However on my limited budget I can't exactly buy much of anything in bulk. Browsing the weekly grocery store flyer I noticed that bread crumbs are 10 for $10. I think that sounds like a fabulous deal. I ain't so sure where we have the room for 10 boxes of bread crumbs though. Oh wait, how about my Really Expensive Storage Facility around the corner?

I think we need to do a little more meal planning so that we can effectively set our grocery budget. We always buy things on sale except for lunch meat and beer but we need to stock up on more of the basics....especially because, guess what, it's snowing in October!! So stay tuned for more on my culinary adventures.


asgreen said...

As you find them I would love if you would post frugal recipes as well! I'm not much of a cook but I'm always looking for new things to try.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sallie's Niece - I love your blog and am in a similar situation. :( My super cheap, kinda tasty, and basically healthy food is lentils. A big bag costs about 1.50 and you get can a few meals out of them. I like the green ones and usually make a chicken and lentil soup with them - it helps stretch out more expensive items like chicken and fresh vegetables. Good luck!

Coupn Artist said...

You don't need to buy 10 boxes. That is a common grocery story trick/ myth. Each box of bread crumbs will be $1... they just phrase it that way to get you to buy 10 when really all that is required to get the price is 1.

(the exception is once in a while Walgreens while run a megasaver where you have you have to buy more of the item to get the low price, but this type of thing is clearly marked)

Daizy said...

Because of comments like the one from anonymous above, I have bought my first bag of lentils. I haven't done anything with them yet...maybe someday. I am a spaghetti, quesadilla, chicken alfredo person. That's almost all I ever eat. I'm just not that adventurous since I only cook for myself and I don't want to waste money on something I might not like. That is great that you are trying new recipes!

PiggyBankBlues said...

i think i spend less money when i go in the store with meal plans, rather than succumbing to sensory overload in the aisles and tossing everything in my cart.

one thing i've been really enjoying lately is chicken soup. roasting a whole chicken is super easy and tasty. then you just make chicken stock, freeze it in individual containers if you want, then throw it in a pot and reheat with little cheese tortellinis or orzo. maybe toss in carrots and celery. roasted chicken, it's the meal that keeps on giving!

Sammy said...

Cooking is so much fun. I would love that shrimp recipe - it looks divine!

Amber C said...

I'm jealous. We live in smaller than small town and I can't find baby corn anywhere. I have searched and searched.

I'm a horrible cook even after 20 years of marriage. So I don't have any suggestions. We do a lot of stir-fry and living in the south we can usually get fresh veggies.

Anny said...

You don't need to buy all 10 items to get the 10/$10 price. Besides - how long would TEN boxes last unless you start coating everything?

http://couponmom.com/ breaks down weekly deals by store and matches them to coupons for you. This saves a ton of time.

And if you ever DO end up with ten boxes of bread crumbs try sites like CookingByNumbers.com to find new ideas for old staples :)

paisley penguin said...

One of my favorite and cheap recipies is one of those roasted chickens you can get at the store for around $7.50, ramen noodles (chicken flavor) or spaghetti noodles, sauce of your choice, frozen stir fry veggies (I found an awesome packeg for $2 that had carrots, broccoli & waterchestnuts. Sometimes I add veggies I have on hand. Throw it all in a wok or pan (after you cook the noodles seperately) and you have at least two to three meals per person.

Sallie's Niece said...

Thanks for the tips everyone. Yeah ten boxes may be a little insane so here's hoping I can get them to give me the discounted price for just buying one box (we're actually almost out of bread crumbs). All you housedwellers may have room for bargains but we live in apartments!