Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I was legally emancipated when I was 17. I have lived on my own pretty much since then(except for a  roommate I had for a year and my current husband) and have been independent on how to spend my money on things and had a very limited income to buy things. This brings up a lot of what could be sensitive topics..... but I'm very open to discuss money and living styles and I think it is important for it to be an open forum so that we can learn from each other.

                         ~Budgeting Food~
This post is just about spending money on food/cooking and is inspired by a conversation I had with my sister-in-law this weekend.

Eating at Home:

#1.While I'm not completely opposed to going to restaurants... I do HATE going out to eat! It is such a financial, environmental  and most of the time nutritional waste in my eyes. Feel free to argue. You should save your breath. I won't be swayed.

#2. I prefer home cooked food. I know where it was cooked, how it was cooked and what ingredients are used and despite the time spent cooking it and cleaning it up it's always worth it.

#3. Going out to eat can have hazardous effects on our local farmers(financially) and cause negative environmental  outcomes.

#4. Fixing meals at home can involve your kids and teach them values and living skills that are critical in becoming a well functioning adult in society. Do you want your kid to be 28 and microwaving all their meals on a regular basis? Do you know how many kids in a Pre-K class i worked at didn't know what a green apple was? 14 out of 20....and  NONE of them had ever seen an avocado either.

#5. We don't eat completely organic. We don't eat completely name brand. I use basic ingredients and usually  
buy whatever is cheapest by quantity without sacrificing quality.

 Our weekly grocery bills with the cleaning supplies and basic necessities is usually between $60-$100 once a week. We make a meal plan before we go and this also includes all of our packed lunches for the week.All of our meals include a vegetable and usually some kind of fruit or salad( i buy whatever is in season and is cheapest). I only buy things we need when we run out. By keeping our meals and budget routine we are never shocked if one week fluctuates to the next by $10.00 to $20.00.
Breakfast Examples: oatmeal, smoothies, eggs, peanut butter toast, or a cold cereal with a banana and cranberries. Moe's favorite right now: oatmeal with a cut up banana, dried cranberries, a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon and pecan chips sprinkled on top. He washes it down with whole milk mixed with a nutrition mix.
Lunch Examples:
me-pita and hummus
      a turkey sandwich on whole wheat
       leftovers from a dinner
     greek yogurt with fruit and honey
        bean/avocado/cheese wrap
       hard boiled eggs and a small salad
       peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat
Brian- (his is always the same or very similar) so I will just give this example
         ham & cheese on whole wheat
         a small bag of chips
       a few pieces of candy or a few cookies
         a low fat yogurt
Moses- almost always school lunch
             sometimes he will ask for something packed and the school lunches are absolutely gross but he likes them and they are budget friendly
Dinner Examples: 

Usually once a week we do:
*  Omelets- each person can pick what they want to throw in theirs. Do this towards the end of the week and you can use the leftover lunch meat and vegetables like mushrooms, green peppers or that half an onion that is about to go bad. Serve with homemade hash browns and toast.
* Pasta Dish- this can be spaghetti, spirals or anything else.. i mix it with half a onion, half a green pepper, and 1lb. of lean ground beef, and a light sauce.You can sub the meat for tofu. I buy one block every other week and mix it in something.
*Grilled Chicken- this can be on top of a salad, part of tacos, or just as an entree served with rice. I almost always either marinate it with fatfree Walmart brand Italian dressing or light balsamic vinaigrette.  
*Homemade Pizza- make your crust( you can make this pretty easily), use that leftover pasta sauce and again we top it with what we like individually. Moe and I love pineapple. Brian likes some kind of meat and veggies.
*Salmon-yes. you can eat "fancy" at home. Season it with sea salt, coarse ground pepper and a little olive oil then grill it. Serve it with rice or some pasta. Make some homemade bread and you are at a fancy italian restaurant with 1/3 the cost.  
*Leftovers- make enough so you don't have to cook 6 nights a week or you can combine the leftovers into a different dish.                

Our list is always very basic and looks really bland at times. We buy stuff that can be fixed in many different ways. Some cheap stuff that will give you your bang for you buck includes: a bag of  red potatoes, a deli loaf of french bread(pizzas,sandwiches, garlic bread, croutons), a container of greek yogurt, canned or dried beans, rice, a bag of frozen skinless boneless chicken breast or frozen salmon from Walmart(this is where we buy basics. shop wherever you want),a large bag of shredded mixed cheese, eggs, and boxes of pasta. Veggies that last us longer so we can fix them different ways and don't have to buy them weekly :onions, green pepper, mushrooms, spinach, celery and carrots. This is a realistic menu that works for US. I try to get and make things that are nutritious without going overboard. You seriously do not NEED to buy 5 different fruits every week. Stick to a bag of apples, a pineapple on sale or some grapes, then buy a frozen bag of mixed berries to add in smoothies or oatmeal and be done with it. Variety is the spice of life but can't always be budget friendly.

Buying stuff: Aldi's or Kroger for cheap but quality  produce(if you can't buy locally or grow your own) Walmart for your basic stuff.. they also price match so if you are extra thrifty you can get your paper Sunday and scan through it before you go shopping and see if anything on your list can be price matched. Milk and laundry detergents are always cheaper through price matching. 

I hope this helps some of you strive towards a better lifestyle. If you have questions send me an email and I will try to help or reply. Again I must stress this is good for "us" and may not be good or realistic for someone else. This post is suggestions and I would never tell anyone how to live or spend their money. But just for an example Brian, Moses and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings last night with family. Our bill(for just the 3 of us) was close to $50.00 and nothing we had was worth the money spent. This is also half of our weekly grocery budget. A book suggestion to give people a different perspective Hungry Planet: What the World Eats 

I'm doing the ~Budgets~ post once a week until I get tired of it or run out of things to talk about. Enjoy~!


  1. Thanks for sharing Margo! I agree with you, eating out is usually a waste of time and it never tastes as good as a home cooked meal! We try to live the thrifty budget for cooking as well, but we still eat like kings! :-) I love frozen veggies/frozen fruit from Sam's club because they never go bad, and you always have a fruit/veggie on hand to work with.

  2. Good on Moses for eating school lunch. I lived within site of my high school, but chose to eat hot lunch instead of going home and LOVED it.

  3. Very well written! I make a lot of soups. They are inexpensive and really good on a cold night. Another thing I do - I cook a big batch of something for dinner and then I put the leftovers in small containers and freeze them. For work, I just pull out a container and pack it in my lunch box.