The $50 a Week Grocery Challenge: Week 1

Make yourself some coffee, grab a cookbook or two, and let's get started!

Make yourself some coffee, grab a cookbook or two, and let’s get started!

This is one installment in a series of posts about my attempt to curb my crazy grocery shopping habit. Click the link for The $50 a Week Grocery Challenge to read my other posts!

In which I,

  • Break down and go to Trader Joe’s for wine and snacks! (BTW, I’m totally back on the coffee and wine train because, well, isn’t it obvious?)
  • Grill stuff!
  • Give you ideas!
  • Come in under budget!
  • Try a new cookbook!
  • And, tell you everything I’ll be making this week!

Last week, I did my meal planning and grocery shopping on Sunday, as per usual. But, towards the end of the week I just really wanted some eggs and wine (not to be eaten together), which I’d run out of, and some other stuff at Trader Joe’s, so I broke down and went there. Oh well, it happens. I still followed my meal plan and cooked everyday, so that’s a win!

This week I’ll be chopping and freezing the celery I have leftover from last week so I can throw it in soups, stews, or sautés whenever. (Hint: freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet or something before throwing in a Ziplock bag so that it doesn’t become a giant icy mass of stuff!) Last night I grilled hamburgers (already had everything for those in the freezer), asparagus and a giant peach that we shared for dessert.

For breakfast this week I’ll be working my way through some blackberry muffins and steel-cut oatmeal, which I made and froze a couple of weeks ago. For lunch I’ll either have leftovers, or whatever needs to get eaten: fruit, veggies, bread, canned soup over rice. I’ll make a big pot of rice to eat over the course of the week. This is easy to do and makes for an instant, satisfying lunch. Sometimes I just eat a bowl with soy sauce, furikake (a Japanese condiment made from dried and chopped seaweed, salt, sugar and roasted sesame seeds) and a dash of sriracha. (Mark has coffee for breakfast and usually PB&J for lunch.)

Dinner is where most of my planning efforts go. I’m working my way through The Frugal Foodie cookbook, which I checked out from the library, and one of the recipes I flagged is for Columbian Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice). I’ve never had the Columbian version but this is one of my most favorite meals ever and I’m super excited to try this recipe. I’m cooking it up tonight and will let you know how it goes. Leftovers will be dinner tomorrow (and hopefully one more dinner or two lunches for the freezer).

Wednesdays I’m usually on my own and plan to use up a box of mac and cheese (already have) with a side of roasted kale chips this week. Thursday I will chop and sauté Portabella mushrooms and greens with garlic and shallot and serve with quinoa and lentils. Friday is pizza night and I’m realizing–as I type this–that I forgot to get toppings, so I’ll have to get creative there and see what’s on hand.

Yesterday I bought my groceries at Whole Foods, because it is the most pleasing of all grocery shopping experiences, and I love it. Otherwise I go to Trader Joe’s or, on occasion, Ballard Market or PCC. But I really love going to WFM. It is my guilty pleasure and is, in my opinion anyway, pretty tame for a guilty pleasure.

The reason why I can get away with buying so few groceries is that I already have a lot of stuff on hand, like rice, quinoa, and condiments. The salad dressing I bought this week will last at least a few more. My point being that by using what you have, you can spread out stocking up on pantry staples and thusly lower your weekly spending while keeping versatile ingredients on hand. It’s a win-win-win!

I didn’t include unnecessary things like wine and snacks because, well, they aren’t necessary. We have decided that these things fall under a different category than groceries and we just try to keep it to a minimum. If you’re curious, though, our two bottles of wine and one box of Annie’s cheddar bunny snack mix (SO GOOD it should be illegal) came out to about $12.50 which isn’t bad but I think does a great job illustrating one of the main benefits of making food from scratch–you get way more food for way less money.

Item Quantity Price
Shallots 2 $1.40
Garlic 1 bulb $1.02
Yellow Peaches 2 $3.83
Pluots 2 $1.00
Portabella mushrooms 2 $3.94
Kale 1 bunch $2.99
Light Caesar dressing 1 bottle $3.99
Pizza sauce 1 can $2.19
Chicken thighs (with bones and skin) about 2 pounds $7.02
Olives and Mama Lil’s peppers from the antipasto bar about a cup $2.90
Baby spinach, loose about 1/3 pound $2.59
Asparagus about 1 pound $5.39
Bell peppers 1 green, 1 red $2.98
Romaine lettuce 1 head $2.49
Total Spent: $43.73

As always, I’d love to hear from you about your own grocery shopping and meal planning tips, tricks and hilarious failures. Drop me a line on the Contact page or leave a comment here.

2 thoughts on “The $50 a Week Grocery Challenge: Week 1

  1. Forget the topping,the pizza and the boxed macaroni. None of those “foods” have nutritional value equal to cost. Poor people get fat and starve eating boxed and pre-prepared food consisting of processed flour /lard/sugar with a tsp of topping. I doubt you want to reinforce those bad habits, although you are free to indulge yourself.
    If I fed my family all the “leafy rabbit food” on your list, we would starve before Christmas. We must live on a very tight budget year round. This is not a game to us. I plan every meal, including all 5 food groups and a generous portion of in-season raw fruit and vegetable every single day. I can’t afford to feed my family on pre-prepared flour/lard/sugar. I won’t offer my family a “yuppie sup” of mushroom/tofu/leafy green salad because every mouthful counts around here. It is not a game or a challenge. It is a real world way of life.

    • Your comment made me laugh because it was not thought out properly. You told her you disapproved of her unhealthy yet “yuppie rabbit food” meals and then boasted how you serve all the food groups for less money because you’re “real” and “this isn’t a game!”

      I think the blogger has a great thing going. She’s planning healthy meals that are well-rounded and fit her lifestyle. Why would you try to crap on that and then puff out your chest like you’re better. It’s not a contest. It’s her personal challenge that she’s decided to share to inspire others.

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