Sunday, January 3, 2010

On Dinnertime and the Budget

Here's something that changed for me in 2009 - I started to like getting groceries. I used to dread doing it. I would put it off and gripe to myself about it. I'm not sure why I hated doing it - I just did.

I have enjoyed cooking for quite some time now, but for some reason, this year the two finally grasped hands, with me in the middle.

I began to really embrace the process of deciding the week's menu, making the list, gathering the food, cooking the meal. I finally saw it as part of the fun. One of my favorite ways to love my family is to put a home-cooked, colorful meal in front of them most nights. And face it, that's not going to happen if I refuse to shop.

Every now and then, I shop alone. Mostly, I shop with two pint-sized helpers. We go over the rules in the car: No asking, no picking things up. And then we get our kicks in the produce section as a pretty happy threesome.

That's where all the fun is - the produce section.

That's why I will be danged if I cannot keep my weekly trip to $50. I really need to just accept it, and move on.

I shopped earlier tonight and walked away $69.92 poorer. Man oh man, I thought I had it this time. No meat on the list! No laundry detergent!

Here's what kills me every time: $26.04 from the produce section. And I'm not counting my pita bread or my feta, which technically came from the same place.

I simply cannot walk away from the fruit. I have tried, and I just can't. We're not really a bag-of-apples kind of family. This week, we're a bing cherry family. A berry family.

And fresh basil in January is a total clown. It grabs hold of me and won't let go. It mocks my months-away garden. It knows that I want to ignore it, but I can't.

I know the day is coming when I may very well have to tame the beast within me. But until then, I will dream about what sounds good, put it all on the list, and pretend that this week just might be the week.

What we're eating this week:

Monday: Mini Honey Mustard Meatloaves with Roasted Potatoes
Tuesday: Reuben Crescent Bake
Wednesday: Tortellini Soup
Thursday: Chicken Artichoke Pizza
Friday: These Enchiladas

My lunch: This sandwich


  1. I need to work on keeping my weekly shopping trips that cheap! Dinner for the week sounds delicious, I think I will try some of those recipes :)

  2. I am definitely in the season of life where I dread grocery shopping and meal planning, but it must be done. Thanks for a peak at your menu for the week. That pita sandwich sounds delish.

  3. That must have been a typo. Did you say $50.00 a week? You are trying for $50.00 a week? Oh my goodness sister...where are you shopping and what are you buying? That would be a miracle sent from above if I could get out of the store under 50. My husband might even re-marry me again he's be so dang proud. I am VERY impressed. The menu for the week looks good too. I'll be over for Friday nights din - din. Salsa and chips in hand. :)

  4. The sandwich is calling my name. I haven't gone to the store in weeks (teenager with new drivers license has it's upside) but since I need to pick out veggies myself - picky - I will have to make a trip asap. Yum!

  5. Exactly - it can't be done for $50 a week! (Except that it can be done. My SILs regularly do it for about $30. I know!!) I have $350 for the month, for everything we need, including eating out. We usually cheat on the eating out thing by the end of the month, but this month I'm really, really going to try not to. Really. If I keep hitting $75/week that gives me $50 left for eating out. (My SILs have surely never been more ashamed of me...) ;)

  6. My boys blow through raspberries and blackberries like it's going out of style. I'm so thankful for Costco!!

  7. And seriously...write a post on how to shop for 50 bucks/week. Or make your SILs guest post secrets to $30/week. That's incredible!

  8. I wish someone around here could put together a menu and shop for the food! Shopping in Europe is a bit different. People do not usually shop for an entire week, they shop for a few days. Being an American I really dread that, I would rather do it once.

    In the city when you return from grocery shopping you get to circle the block several times waiting for parking. Then you haul all those groceries up three flights of stairs to try and push all that grocery yumminess into your very small European style fridge. Later, you can try and figure out how to cook a normal size meal in a miniature size oven. When the dinner is done there is the added bonus of washing dishes without a dish washer.

    What I really need is a wife! ;)

  9. I love grocery shopping. Of course I am into it for the hunt of the deals too. Just recently I went and saved $64.00. The original bill was $126.00!! I love to shop alone too. It is so quiet and I like to go at night if I can. :D Like the new pic header btw.

  10. I go back and forth between love and hate when it comes to grocery shopping. I TRY so hard to keep it low but..

    I love to feed my family good meals. Not junk. Why does it cost more to feed your family good meals?

    Bing Cherries always get me too.

    I sent you an email. I didn't post your comment just so your email wouldn't be out there for everyone to see.

  11. I think I'm coming to you house for dinner this week! Your menu sounds amazing!

  12. Ok.. what am i doing wrong? Why am i not only spending $60? Say what? I need to know how you do that. I also need to sit at your table and eat your dinners. Yum Yum. I hope you post your menus often with the recipes. I need ideas like that. Thanks.

  13. Amazing that you are trying to keep groceries under $50 a week! I am retired and hubby has taken 2 (yes, 2) pay cuts this year, so we've really had to watch our spending. Here are a couple of things I've learned that might help you, based on your receipt.

    1 - Fruits such as blueberries are usually less expensive when bought frozen, and they are frozen at their peak of freshness. And in my experience, kids LOVE to grab a handfull of frozen berries out of the freezer for a snack! I like using frozen veggies - as opposed to canned - for the same reason, they are frozen at their peak!

    2 - Walnuts and other nuts (as well as things like Craisins) can be found in bulk bags at wholesale clubs such as BJ's (my choice), Sams Club, etc. Three pound bags run about $8-9, and I store them in the freezer so they will keep longer.

    This past March we 'invested' in a freezer package from a local butcher. It had ground round, baby back ribs, filet mignon, chuck roasts, pork chops, chicken breasts, bacon, cubed steak, ribeye steaks, etc. in it. I added extra ground chuck to the mix, and we are still eating from it about 9-10 months later. I did buy a few things in between - usually meats on sale and boneless/skinless chicken breasts at the local Tyson store (there's a Tyson plant in our town and you can get 20# boxes of b/s breasts at market price. Last ones I got were $28, which is @ $1.40 a lb.) but it has served us very well! The initial investment was well worth it - so much so that we are going to do the same thing again this year!

    And one more tip - invest in a Food Saver!!! They are really great for keeping foods longer and therefore saving money!

    Sorry I ran on for so long, but this is a topic near to my heart! Thanks for listening, Becky

  14. so glad i wandered here! what an inspiration! your blog name is what caught my eye. : )

    eager to read more.

  15. You bet it can be done! We have five children, and our monthly grocery total, including non-food items is generally somewhere in the 600 dollar range. So I don't see why a family smaller than ours couldn't do it for 100 dollars a week. The secret is preparing your own simple meals at home. I use a cookbook called Quick and Healthy. It is full of quick and easy meals that are also good for you, and don't break the bank. I would highly recommend it to anyone that wants to save money on groceries, and save some calories at the same time. That takes care of two of most people's resolutions for the year. Lose weight and save money!
    I'm like Becky above me, this topic is something I could ramble on about all day, so I will stop here. :)
    Hope you have a great day! Beth.

  16. I have a dirty, little, secret....we own a grocery store. There, it's out. Yep, my family has owned a small, but thriving, health food store for the past 40 years in our little town. When I got married at the ripe old age of 20 and we moved to Texas....first time in my life I had ever bought groceries. I grew up getting all our grocery store items for free. Had no idea what the rest of the world paid for a gallon of milk. I then learned what a cruel, cruel world it was out there in the check out lane at Albertsons. Oh, and love every, single, minute of bing cherry eating this week. Your healthy little bodies will thank you!

  17. Now I'm really, really hungry. Really. I just strolled through your "food" archives looking for the reuben cresent bake (the link took me to the tortelinni soup). Can I come to your house for dinner every night this week?

  18. Thanks for the red alert, Autumn! I just fixed the link for the Reuben bake. Let me know if you give it a try. We love it!

  19. Oh this is such a hard area for me too! We even shop at Aldi to keep our costs low, but it's just so hard when you have little ones at home eating full-time every day. We buy lots of fruit & veggies, and all the other stuff. I'm so blessed to be a farmers daughter because I get to buy 1/2 a beef really cheap for our meat & it lasts a long time! I've never had to buy hamburger, steaks or roasts at the store - I guess I'm spoiled in that respect!

  20. YUM! Look who's becoming quite the little foodie these days!!!

    You got me beat on the weekly budget that's for sure...but I'm an organic snob so that adds a bit of $$$ to the budget...

    Looking forward to more of your recipes!

    :) T

  21. Your menu looks fantastic. What time shall I be there for dinner?? And, lunch? That pita sandwich with all that crumbled feta makes my mouth water.

    Back to the subject: the food budget in my house is way more than that. My hubby and I vowed that we would be more diligent in creating a menu and looking to save big bucks here. Thanks for the post!!

  22. Shannan! Great goal. I used to do $50 a week, but then got away from it when I didn't budget and bought what ever struck my fancy! I was spending $100 at the meat market alone. I know! Can you imagine! Now that I'm not working and being more frugal, I'm back to budgeting. Way back when, I used to make my menu for the week, and then the grocery list, and SAVE both with the receipt from shopping. I have a file where I can go grab a menu, and then I have the grocery list right there, and know a ball park figure of what it will cost. I too love grocery shopping and menu planning! My new saying is....wanna cut your grocery bill in half? Then eat half as much. Hardy har har.

  23. ooooh. Can't wait to try new recipes. I too am trying to budget my food spending, but I am learning to plan ahead and make meals that go a long way.

  24. this is such a great idea! I like cooking but the grocery shopping is still such a chore for me! I hope you rub off on me because my goal is to cook more this year. And as far as I'm concerned that produce you're buying is super healthy for you so I would keep eating it! Do you ever go to costco? It seems to be more cost effective for produce.

  25. Yum...making me hungry just looking at the menu. I hear ya about the groceries...especially in winter when the tomatoes and berries come from far away. I still get the cheapest berries frozen at Sam's. I like your new picture btw, I love trees.

  26. If only I could spend that little in the grocery store! How do you do it???


  27. There is an Aussie website called which is dedicated to saving money not just on groceries but on everything ..if anyone is interested. I have found some great ideas from there but still have to apply it to my weekly shopping I'm afraid as I spend way too much! Apparently Australia is the dearest country to go shopping for food and I can vouch for that! If you're spending around $75 for food each week that's excellent! take care, Maryann

  28. Hello~ I enjoy your blog and you have a darling family and I read another is on it's way.Bless U!

    I think I will try the Tortellini Soup Yummo~

    I always try to read the adds first then I make my weekly menu off of what's on sale first. U may do this already as well.It is hard to stay under that 50.00. Just wait until they are older. I have teens and they eat lots-n-lots.

    I started a new blog and I am looking for blog friends~ If you are interested I am having a Giveaway for 2 Gifts if you would like to follow me? Come on over~ Thanks for sharing~Kim

  29. Do you really only spend $50 a week? How??? I can't get out of the store for under $200????

  30. It kills me how much I spend at the store, and that doesn't include detergent, and household items, and then it seems it is all gone in a day! ha! I need to be more diligent about making dinners, I am just pooped when I get home...but I am printing out your meatloaf and enchilada recipes and I am going to make these..the soup sounds good, but if I put that in front of the pool man he would scuff! :) Happy New year sweet girl! xo, Tara

  31. mary from michiganJanuary 5, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    I try to get most of our groceries once a month. After that, it's a quick stop when we're out of milk and bread, and this cuts down on the time/$$ spent in supermarkets. Time in a store=$$ spent! We also eat a lot of vennison and salmon harvested locally by us! I buy and freeze chicken and pork when they're on sale. One thing that has helped this years budget is: last summer I bought herb plants on clearance. I brought them in in their hanging pots before our first frost and they are staying green in my windowsill. It helps beat the winter blah's to have some fresh basil or parsley to snip off! Helps beat the budget, too!

  32. hi there! i've been reading your blog for a while, and i love it! you've always got some wit to pepper your post, and both your family and home are gorgeous. i wanted to comment on this post to let you know that i used your recipe for tortellini soup today--well, as best i could on my college student budget--and it was de-li-cious! thanks for the idea, and i look forward to reading more!