Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheap Eats

So, did you hear the economy is/was/still might be tanking?  Yep, most people are trying to slim down their budgets.  

Finally, I say.  Too many people have been living past their means for too long.  Sheesh.  ...of course, not that I was that much better until about a year or two ago.  It took me FOREVER to learn that my economic status was not the same as my parents' status (imagine that, a theatre grad not having the income of a family who had been working for decades, who'd a thunk).  Anyway, I figured it out, paid off the bills, slowly (I mean slowly) got a budget, and have been getting better gradually ever since.  Took me long enough.  But my husband has always lived frugally ("It's like Monopoly," he says, "you can't spend more than you've got!"), and I've been doing pretty well for a while, so I got a head start on the people who just started getting cheap last fall.

Anyway, I'm now at a point where I can look at an item in a store and know whether or not it's a good deal.  That's important, and not as easy as it seems if you're not used to it.  Here in Chicago, you're lucky to find ground beef for less than $2.50/lb, boneless chicken breast for $3/lb, and apples for less than $1.50/lb.  Add in all the fancy stuff that "people are supposed to eat", and the grocery bill can add up fast.  I swear, when I was in college, I would sometimes spend $100 a week on food.  A WEEK.  For one person.  It was in the name of it's-healthy-for-me, but it was WAY out of budget.  Kinda dumb.  I'd love to eat all natural free range organic happy everything, but I just can't afford $10/lb meat.  Or oranges for $1.50/lb.  Or a box of cereal that's less than a pound for $5.  It's just not possible.  I feel bad for the animals and the earth, I know it's not as good for us, but there's just nothing to be done about it.

So, let's look at what I've prepared over the past week or so:

Beef roast with mashed potatoes and salad:  Beef, buy one get one free, $2.50/lb.  Potatoes, $.50/lb for a 10 lb bag.  Salad with tomatoes and cucumber, about $1.50.  Per serving:  $2.00.

Tuna salad sandwich: Tuna, $.59, mayo/mustard, $.25.  Croissant, $.60.  Apple, 5 lbs/$3, about $.55.  Total:  $1.99.  (The croissant did me in.)

Pasta with tomato-beef sauce:  Pasta, $1.  Beef, $2/lb.  Tomatoes in a can (2), $1.50.  Onion & other, $.50.  Per serving: $1.75.

Chicken Rice & Spinach casserole:  Chicken (breasts, frozen from before I realized I shouldn't buy the easy kind), $2/lb.  Spinach, $1.50. Rice, $.50. And some other stuff.  Per serving: $1.50.

Beans, cornbread, and salad:  Beans, $1/lb.  Cornbread, about $2 homemade.  Salad of tomatoes  cucumber, $1.50.  Per serving:  $1.25.

Eggs & toast:  Eggs, $2.50/18.  Bread, homemade, $2.00.  Per serving, $.50.

So I'm doing alright, I think.  I'm finding meat on sale, buying a lot, and freezing it (wrapping in foil and writing the date on it first).  I can get chicken leg quarters for $.75/lb at the corner store normally, and sometimes on sale for $.50/lb.  Heavy produce (apples, potatoes, oranges) have better prices by the bag.  And although I don't typically buy onions by the bag (why not, who knows), I think I'll start.  Since we're chocaholics we always have some choclatey sweet stuff around, and my husband likes the good stuff -- Ghiradelli.  It's hard to go back to store brand chips... so that's our splurge item.  It's typically $3.89 for an 11 oz bag of chocolate chips, I can find them for 2 for $5 every month or two.  So I stock up, and we go through a bag every 2 weeks or so.  Cereal is SO expensive here, normally $4-5 a box, depending on what you get, so that gets passed up for eggs and bread.  Or oatmeal.  And I fill a casserole or pasta/rice dish with beans to pack in more protein and fiber, and that allows me to be able to serve a little less meat.  Any little bit of healthy filler helps.  And it also helps that Matt likes pretty much everything I've made, or I'd be totally frustrated with trying to please him and our wallets.

I normally shoot for a $5 per person per day food cost.  That's $250 - $300 per month for the two of us.  I guess that's not too bad depending on who you ask.

And tonight: I'll make oven-roasted fries for later this week (have to do *something* with the potatoes) and some sort of baked sweet.  It's been 48 hours since we've had baked goods in the house, I might get divorced if I don't correct that soon.  Since I found 500 bijillion tons of nuts while rearranging the kitchen this evening, I think it'll have nuts in it.  And chocolate.  (But that goes without saying.)

Shop on.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to comment on the bread post (because Matt just made a fairly decent loaf of sourdough last night), but then I was eating lunch, and I thought about how much I like food.


    We've got some pretty simple (cheap!) recipes that we've been using -- I'll send them when I get a sec.


    Hi to Matt. And hi to you!