Wednesday, September 14, 2016

50 Buck Challenge, Week 3

               We don't have Kroger as a store option but I have always loved the name.

I want Oreos, or potato chips, or chocolate covered peanuts, or a Starbucks iced light vanilla latte, or Bruster's apple strudel with cinnamon ice cream, or a steak, or a McAnything, or a baked sweet potato, or some oranges, or, or, or. . . .

What I really want is to walk into the store and buy whatever I want, whether it is budget friendly or not, and not buy anything just because it is this week's best buy. I am pound cake indifferent, but I found myself salivating over one at the store the other day.

I am tired of trying to come up with ideas to make what I am able to buy for 50 bucks a week work in a non-repetitive menu plan.  So far everything has been really tasty but it takes a lot of work and thought. (More than I would be willing to give it if I had to do this every single day, I think.)  Oh, and rice, I am tired of rice.  I seriously hope the food ads next Wednesday are much better than this week because there was really nothing I truly wanted to eat that was a very good deal. And I especially want a really good deal on coffee! (Ack!  No good deals on anything!)

I honestly believe this is helping me understand some of the frustrations those living with extremely limited food budgets face. I also think all of this meal planning and work will enable me to share this along with some shortcuts I had not thought of before but could make their meal planning and execution so much easier. (Like cooking enough brown rice for several meals at one time) I keep reminding myself that the end goal is to put me in a position of  understanding and compassion which will help me serve someone who needs a little help.  Fingers crossed!

The Shopping:
Asparagus @ 1.98 lb  1.64    ate it all
Cucumbers 2/1.00  1.00         2 cukes left
Bell peppers 2/1.00  1.00       gone
Radishes 2/100 .50        none eaten
Red grapes .88 lb 2.30        gone
Roasted cashews 4.99 lb 3.74  more than half left
Brown rice .50 lb. .55            still have at least 1 meals worth
Ground chuck 3.99 lb 5.85       gone
Oatmeal .50 lb  .47            still have nearly all of it
Red beans* .99 lb .50         gone
Green beans* 99 lb 99       gone

Cheese crackers 1.59  gone
Queso dip 1.49   still have it
Sharp cheddar 1.69  have about 1/2 of it
Milk 2.69  have about half of it
Red onions 1.00  2 remain
Smoked sausage  1.99
Cauliflower 1.99   have half of it left
Chicken 3.24  (I have never bought any proteins at Aldi.  The jury is still out)** have 4 thighs frozen
Pineapple .99  still have it
Eggs .69 dozen 1.38  have 13 eggs left
chocolate chips 1.69 half the bag remain

Piggly Wiggly
Pasta 4/ 3.00  1.50
Butter* 2.13 have 3 1/2 sticks remaining

Lake Farm Stand
Tomatoes 4.00 have 1 tomato left
Cucumbers 3.00  gone

Flowers Bread Store
Rolls .99  (2 dozen rolls!) gone

Chocolate milk 1.79 gone
Bananas            1.05 2 left
Total spent 52.75

Week 1 spent  48.75
Week 2 spent  50.13
Week 3 spent  52.75

Currently I am 1.63 over budget.  The food ads this week look bleak, so we will see what happens.

TheHub  still eats the same thing everyday so these are my breakfasts only during the week.  The weekend meals are for both of us.
Wednesday  cereal milk bad coffee
Thursday cereal, milk, bad coffee (I am out now) grapes
Friday  Coffee  only (Had to run to the lake to meet the bug man Thursday afternoon.  Brought back a couple of ounces of coffee.  Goodness it is so much better than the Dollar Tree stuff)
Saturday Coffee, grits
Sunday Coffee, cheese toast
Monday Coffee, toast with leftover egg salad
Tuesday needed to be at Independence Place early so I just took a cup of coffee with me

TheHub eats lunch out everyday so these are mine except for the weekend.
Wednesday Between taking Mom to the dr.,  grocery shopping and other errands there was no lunch
Thursday Tossed salad, dinner roll
Friday Leftover tossed salad, leftover grilled portabello
Saturday Ate lunch at Mom's.
Sunday  Egg salad sandwiches with lettuce and tomato
Monday leftover, leftover, leftovers Ate the last of the chicken tetrazzini
Tuesday leftover cauliflower salad, hunk of cheese, glass of milk

Wednesday  Red beans and rice, okra
Thursday  Ground beef with zucchini, onion, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, mushroom, and brown rice seasoned with Southwestern spices, cucumber, tomato, and onion salad, dinner rolls
Friday Grilled chicken thighs (Boned and skinned) rice pilaf ( using the broth made from the thigh bones) steamed asparagus
Saturday Cauliflower salad (cauliflower, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, cornichons, mayonnaise and herbs) (I had about 2 tablespoons of cornichons  in a jar in the fridge, otherwise I would have chopped some dill pickle and put in the salad) Bread pudding with salted caramel sauce
Sunday Spaghetti sauce over spaghetti noodles (Sauce used remaining ground beef, and a boat load of vegetables:onions, mushrooms, and shredded carrots, and the leftover sauce from last weeks ziti, cookies
Monday green beans , corn from last week's purchase  that I froze on the cob, tomatoes, onions and okra (Had about 7 pods from the garden and this was the only way to use them.) cornbread
Tuesday used the remaining sausage sliced in thin (I am talking seriously thin here) coins, bell pepper, onion,

We didn't do much snacking this week.  It was a busy week and no one but me was home Saturday so I didn't need ball game snacks. Cheese crackers, cookies, popcorn, grapes, a couple of bananas,


  1. I think that cauliflower salad sounds fantastic. Do you steam the cauliflower first, or is it raw?

    I would have a tough time without my beloved, very specific coffee.

    I think your frustrations do very much reflect how anyone living with a very restricted income or a very tight budget feels at times, or maybe all the time. I'm super grateful that we have enough wiggle room in our budget to not have to worry about whether or not I go over some months. I once tried doing a strictly cash budget for groceries and it was really, really stressful for me! The visual reality of NOT having any more money was really distressing to me. I actually stay within budget better by using debit or credit cards (paid off right away). So I think the psychological aspects of scarcity -- perceived or otherwise -- definitely take a toll!

    1. Well, it's not so much that I stay within budget better as much as my stress levels are much lower using cards vs. cash. I'm in budget either way, usually.

    2. I do think the frustrations are about not having a choice as much as anything. It is disheartening to go shopping on Wednesday and knowing that there is under 10 bucks left in the budget.

      I chop the cauliflower very small and just use it raw.

  2. Anne,
    Remember, you have the luxury of shopping for bargains. Imagine not being able to drive where you want. To me that would be so horrible. Imagine the hopeless feeling when you know there is a bargain out there but there is no way to get to it. I think it is admirable that you want to experience some of what people face.

    1. I am not in the same circumstances a lot of people are, but I do know from talking to several people who use food assistance that many do not know how to shop, plan menus or have any idea how to stretch their dollar. (Most of the people I have talked with live within a 3 mile radius of me and have the same shopping options. I understand perfectly not everyone has the same local shopping, but I am not trying to reach everyone. Though I am not opposed to having a network to reach everyone someday) I am keeping very good records of recipes and how to use available food, stretching it to its maximum. I am not trying to experience what they face as much as experiencing just how far 50 dollars a week will or will not go. I can do this in theory until the cows come home but I would have no idea how disheartening this could be without this experience, and I think it will make me a bit more approachable when a mentoring program is in place.

    2. I worked for a program that furnished down payments for a home for first-time homebuyers. We had programs for all sorts of money saving classes--shopping, cooking, banking, etc. The woman who was teaching it was just not in touch with the lives of the people we served. She could put on an insulting blank look when someone in the class tried to explain how a store was too far away or that she could never get in the store in time to get meat specials. At least you are coming to this cognizant of what people might be facing and you will be more approachable.

    3. Anne, I work with folks who all have Medicaid and many do get food stamps. Most I personally know prefer fast food- they are so accustomed to that taste, homemade food doesn't appeal to them. The dollar menus really entice them and they use their SSI to buy. I don't judge- they do the best they can with their resources. Even the staff in many group homes know little about cooking and I include my youngest daughter who never cooks. Either it's very simple like a sandwich or her husband makes it.

    4. I understand that but I do believe there are people who would do a little better if they new how. if you grew up eating fast food it takes a while to develop a taste for different foods.

  3. It is amazing how hard it is to stick to a strict budget. Also cooking from scratch is time consuming, but delicious.

    1. It is seriously time consuming, and sometimes delicious, but we have had a couple of meals I just count as fodder.

  4. You are braver than I am - it sounds very frustrating & challenging! Your menu does sound delicious (if time intensive), so great work.

    1. It is really not brave, it is necessary for the learning curve (mine). The menu has been mostly fine but it has been a little labor intensive. I am keeping records of what I could have/should have done to simplify everything to pass along later.

  5. A few comments. Anytime you try something new, there's a learning curve and it's difficult. If continue to do this you will learn more tricks and also get stocked up on things when they're cheap and have more to choose from for your meals. These techniques can be passed onto others.

    I have also seen that many people with very limited incomes have not had the luxury to learning to live frugally. They don't see examples and are often worrying about something else. And as you have found out, it takes work and energy to eat well and frugally. If your energy is focused elsewhere, frugal eating will suffer. It's great that you are helping them learn.

    Also, here they have classes in cooking with things commonly found at food banks. Interestingly, food banks usually have a lot of baked beans. Although many of the Hispanics are quite familiar with beans, they do not like the sweetness of the baked beans. They have made up recipes to help with this.

  6. I think if I were doing this exactly like SNAP I would have just started out the month with 200 in total and then subtracted from that. Doing it that way I would have been able to stock up on a few things. Spending just 50 a week covers the bare bones of what you need to feed two people with very little , if any, in reserve for stockpiling.
    Interesting that your food banks have baked beans as their overage. Here it's cans of green beans. I used to volunteer at a local bank and there were times they quit taking green bean donations. I learned a lot working there, like after New Years Eve you always had cans of pate, or champagne crackers, jars of baby corn, nice donations but totally impractical.

    1. Oh that's so true! When Mom died, I emptied out her pantry to donate- she must have had 35 cans of green beans. I think every time she shopped, she'd pick up a couple! I used to volunteer a lot in a food pantry and clothes closet- we never could keep pasta because of bugs ick. I try to donate mayo and nicer condiments plus lower salt soups.

  7. I stopped in at the support centre for the Homeless this morning with some donations for their weekend packs. I have really had my eyes opened to the difficulties people experience without access to a kitchen or hot water. And where weight is an issue.
    I admire what you are doing, and can well believe it is both difficult and frustrating.
    Mind you, I am ashamed to say that even not sticking to a tight budget I sometimes get locking in the same old, same old menu.

    1. I lock into a routine easily, but our "in a rut" go to situation is always toss something on a grill and make a huge salad. I am finding portion control, especially with proteins is a necessity. I am also finding the easiest and least expensive foods to pad the meals with offer smaller nutritive value relative to the portion size. Even in our most restrictive budget times we had a little wiggle room or at least some family support thanks to Nana and Granddad's gifts from their garden. (Both fresh and frozen)

  8. Our budget is a lot tighter these days than it used to be and we manage quite well for basic foods but yes, it's a bit tiresome to walk past things I would dearly love to buy and know that they are just not practical.

    Things like take away coffees, great cheese, yummy cakes etc

    This experience will be invaluable to you as you work in your mentoring program.

    1. I hope the experience will make me more approachable and non-judgmental. And oh I understand the wants like a cup of coffee while you are out and about.

  9. I understand the experienc-have had very low budgets and wanting just one luxury beyond basics. This has been an interesting series follow.

    1. This has been hard to do,especially since we are years beyond having to watch every single penny. The other night TheHub wanted a single serving dessert from the bakery at one of our local stores. I had to bake the cookies that night because it was not in our budget to buy a slice of cake for 3.97. Ordinarily he would have just stopped on the way home and gotten whatever he wanted.

  10. You are a trooper!!! I think the bad coffee would send me over the edge.
    When I was young and first on my own, I had $40/week for groceries for 2 adults and a baby. It was miserable!!!

    1. When we were young we had a severe budget too, but we had options. My folks lived about 45 minutes away and every time they came to see us they either took us out to eat or brought food in.Whenever we visited them they loaded us down with leftovers. TheHubs parents lived in the same college town we lived in then. We would go to their house at least once a week for dinner plus they always had a huge garden and would share tons of vegetables with us. So even at our bleakest times we had a lot of family support.

      The bad coffee is almost a deal breaker, but it is surprising how much less I drink when it is bad. Because I drink it black bad coffee tastes especially bad. One morning I actually put a little milk and sugar in it just to mask the bad taste, but then I remembered why I drink it black. We are going back to the lake tomorrow night and I will be able to have more good coffee. Can't wait!

  11. oh and I think i would prefer to drink water than bad coffee!

    1. If I did not require the caffeine kick in the morning I might too!

  12. You are doing very well with keeping to your weekly budget of $50 for two. I am sure you will be able to meet your goal for the month. Knowing how to meal plan based on what's on sale that week and shopping the sales are important skills. Also knowing what's a good sale price. I prefer to keep to a monthly budget (of $75 for one person, for food items, only), rather than a weekly budget (which would be $18.75) as it allows me to stock up when things go on sale and allows me a little more spending flexibility.

  13. I am learning more about SNAP as I talk with some people who use it. The benefits card comes once a month, so it will allow for stocking up. I am self imposing this to be a difficult as I can make it, because I realize some months/weeks things just don't go as planned and I am trying to simulate a strict budget, working around the food ads.


Hey y'all thanks for leaving a comment. They are much appreciated. I read them all and do my best to respond to them, except for trolls or spam and I delete those suckers forever.