Cheap Food February

We made it through the first week of February! I’m still reeling from the fact that it’s even 2016…but time marches on, whether we’re ready or not.

Like I said in an earlier post, we’re going to explore different monthly challenges. This month was going to be vegan month, but it came up so quickly and our budget wasn’t quite ready for all the vegan exploring we wanted to do.

So naturally, we came up with Cheap Food February.

Cheap Food February

What we mean by cheap food

I don’t mean that we’re going to eat dollar-menu takeout every day. I also don’t mean that we’re going to be eating Instant Ramen or macaroni and cheese.

The goal for the month is to fill up on healthy, inexpensive foods like beans, potatoes, eggs, rice, frozen and fresh veggies, and certain fruits. We’ll be eating chicken occasionally, but since I’m not a big fan, it will probably be once every week or two.

We’re exploring new recipes and planning carefully to avoid food waste.

How much are we going to spend?

A middle-of-the road food budget for two is around $550. I think there have been months where we get close to that, but typically we’re under $450. It can be difficult to determine exactly because the bunnies cost us around $50 in fresh veggies each month, and we often share their kale, parsley, and cilantro.

For the first week, we planned to spend $80. We have spent $68.41, but we’ve also had a lot of dry ingredients and leftovers from last week that have helped keep it low.

For the next three weeks, we’re going to vary our costs:

  • Week Two: $70
  • Week Three: $65
  • Week Four: $60

None of these will include rabbit food expenses or booze expenses. We’re only planning on going out for food once (maybe for my birthday on the 18th, but I actually might prefer to stay in and cook).

Also worth noting: we are using cash only for groceries so that we can keep a good tally of what we’re spending and to avoid going over our budget. It’s new for me, since I’m surprisingly not a very mindful grocery shopper.

What we ate this week

So, what did we buy with our $68.41?

  • Kroger brand olive oil
  • 4 packages of frozen cauliflower
  • 4 packages of frozen brussels sprouts
  • 2 lbs zucchini
  • 4.5 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 5 lbs golden potatoes
  • 1.5 lbs on-the-vine tomatoes
  • 1.25 lbs leeks
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 gallon coconut milk
  • 2 lbs chicken breast
  • 2 cans mixed beans
  • 2 cans organic crushed tomatoes

We didn’t need rice, oats, eggs or any spices this week – that’s the key to this. Stock up on bulk dry goods and spices when you can, then you can eat kingly foods on a meager budget.

I could have saved a bit more by just buying bulk dry beans instead of the canned ones, but I didn’t get my act together in time to soak and cook them before dinner.

Here’s what we’ve made and links to the recipes we used:

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Super simple mixed bean chili

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Roasted veggies are my life

I also made a couple of egg and rice dishes to get through ingredients before they went bad, but no recipes worth sharing.

We supplemented everything with green smoothies made from frozen spinach and fruit that we had on hand.

Next week will be more interesting because we’re running low on existing supplies! Plus, I want to add in a few more raw things like salads and more spiralized goodness (we just got a spiralizer with my husband’s birthday money, and it was well spent).

What are your favorite healthy, inexpensive recipes?

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9 thoughts on “Cheap Food February

  1. Those recipes sound amazing! I bookmarked the chili with sweet potato and avocado. It is definitely hard to stick to a budget when prepared foods are so tempting: I’ve started realizing just how much more it costs to use a rice mix instead of rice, boxed mac n’ cheese instead of pasta, packaged frozen veggie burgers instead of homemade.

    My favorite rule of thumb for healthy vegetarian eating is “a grain a green and a bean” at every meal. For this reason, when my groceries run low, I can always rely on a grain (rice usually), a green (can be canned or frozen in a pinch, combined with fresh onions and garlic) and a bean (canned or dried, or tofu/tempeh). All these ingredients together wind up making a pretty satisfying tasty meal of relatively non-perishable ingredients for cheap. Of course, I always prefer to have the veggies be fresh; I spend most of my grocery money on produce.

    • I’m so happy to share them because they’ve all been really good! I currently have some chickpeas soaking and some black beans cooking – getting them dry is so much cheaper, like the rice & other prepackaged foods you mentioned.

      I love that rule! I agree about fresh produce, but having frozen stuff on hand can really save you in a pinch. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Kroger brand? your midwest is showing 😉 (unless you actually have a Kroger up in LA instead of a Ralph’s. i was pleasantly surprised to figure out that Ralph’s is Kroger, and vice versa 🙂
    Was this only at one store? or did you go to a couple of different stores/farmers markets?
    I was always under the impression that Trader Joe’s was so expensive, but for quite a few things, it’s really not that bad.

    • Hah! So it is 🙂 We have a Ralph’s, although the generic store brand is still Kroger brand. I was happy to find that too! It sounds a little silly, but having a familiar grocery store helped me acclimate better.

      This was all at Ralph’s! We have a Trader Joe’s right next to that store, and I’ve found that there are certain things that are cheaper there. However, the produce isn’t always as good and can get pricey depending on the item – also they package a lot of produce and I prefer to avoid unnecessary bags and containers if I can.

      • I totally understand what you mean about having a familiar grocery store! Back in Michigan, I used Meijer (I miss it so!) for at least 95% of my grocery shopping. There is a Trader Joe’s in the same plaza as our Ralph’s (did i mention it’s RIGHT across the street from our apartment?), so we’ll get a few things from there instead of Ralph’s (they have really reasonably priced dried cranberries that I love to snack on).
        If I’m buying loose produce (that’s easily bagged), I’ve actually saved up a few of those red mesh bags that oranges, etc. come in. I carefully cut open each end, then tie one end in a knot, and tada! a produce bag that I can reuse over and over again 😀 (usually I’ll knot the open end once I have it loaded with whatever produce i’m stuffing in it. Tho after an incident this past weekend (where Kevin didn’t bother to knot the bag after filling it with potatoes and the bagger grabbed the bag by it’s bottom, dumping them on the bagging table), I’m considering trying to figure out how to employ a more simple closure method, ie. a drawstring :P)

  3. I love this idea. I am also planning to take part on a budget food week! It’ll be interesting to see how my diet changes over the course of a few days and ways in which I can conjure up simple recipes.

    Will definitely be looking here for resources! I enjoy simple rice bowls with beans and veggies I have on hand. Herbs, spices and various condiments are always handy for making these more interesting. I personally love the tahini and lemon combo.

    • That’s great! I find it’s making us way more careful about food waste and it has become a more frequent discussion – which I love because everything is more intentional now. Rice bowls are a perfect way to use a random assortment of ingredients, and I also love doing veggie soups.

      Tahini + Lemon is a combination I have somehow never done, so I’m going to need to work that into my meal plan soon 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Woohoo cheap groceries that actually *are* cheap! I swear I keep falling onto blogs about food that only make me confused how much money people must make. Less than $70/week for 2 people is right up my alley. Go you!
    My go-to simple meal is red-pepper pasta (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/quick-and-easy-roasted-red-pepper-pasta/)
    This sauce is amazing! I could just drink it by itself. I serve it over pasta and steamed broccoli, with grated Parmesan cheese (I tweak the recipe a bit; I don’t use nearly that much cream, and no broth but just more dry spices. I find its liquid-y enough)
    Just found this blog – I’m excited to read more!

    • Yes!! I researched what the average couple spends and I was blown away. (Although I must admit we have gone waaay overboard some months, and I want this challenge to help rein in our grocery spending).

      That recipe looks incredible. I’ll have to try it! Thanks for the tip 🙂

      Glad you stopped by, and welcome!

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