We made it to March! And the numbers are in: we ended up spending under $300 for groceries, but it wasn’t as precise as I initially planned. My birthday was in the middle of the month, and my request for a home-cooked meal ended up a little pricier than anticipated.
Aside from that though, we did stick to meal planning, list-making, and sale-seeking.
To wrap up my series on our “Cheap Food February” challenge, I wanted to share a bit about what I’ve learned after a month of intentional shopping.
What is intentional shopping?
I’d like to think of myself as an intentional shopper (I’m sure most of us do). But this month of a lower, more strict food budget showed me that I really had become quite mindless at the grocery store.
It’s not even just having a list and sticking to it that makes shopping intentional – it’s the whole planning process.
It’s kind of like what I look for if I need to shop for new clothing – something that’s multipurpose, is something I love and something that’s easy to mix with other things. Put that into context of food, and this is what you should be looking for:
- Food that can be prepared in different ways.
- Food that always (or almost always) hits the spot.
- Food that goes well with a variety of other foods.
Basically, beans, rice, leafy greens, chicken (if you’re into it), and root vegetables (sweet potatoes rock my world). Having these things on hand taught me another valuable lesson: to try and make one more dish before shopping again.
Making a dish from what you already have
Since I want to use every little bit of food that I can, I’ve been putting grocery shopping off just one more day. And maybe because sometimes I get a little lazy, but don’t we all?
I then face the challenge of making do with what I have – an awesome challenge to help reduce your food waste. The typical solution? Bean soup.
I usually have tomatoes, onions, carrots and sometimes celery. Boom, there’s a base for the soup. I’ll toss chicken or veggie bouillon in as well for an extra punch of flavor. Black beans are my usual favorite, but I’ve been getting into pinto beans, great northern beans and venturing into lentils as well.
I’ll switch up the spices – cumin, garlic and cayenne for a Mexican-style soup, coriander, ginger and curry powder for an amazing curry. I love this recipe, which also has you poach eggs in the soup before serving:
Takeaways from “Cheap Food February”
While I didn’t completely overhaul my diet, I did find myself making better decisions about food. My husband and I had way more conversations about it, and it became a much more important part of our days.
So here’s what I’ve learned:
- A little prep can go a long way. Soak beans when you get home from work, then toss them into the crock pot on low for the night. You’ll have beans for tomorrow – and they’re cheaper than the canned ones.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables can save you tons. My favorite use so far has been for smoothies: 99 cents of frozen spinach can make 4-6 smoothies. I blend mine up with hot water (to thaw it for consistency), then add in frozen pineapple, banana and today I added zucchini.
- Look for “scratch and dent” produce. I found a little corner in the back of the Ralph’s (Kroger) that has shelves of pre-bagged produce that is either too ripe or blemished. For 99 cents a bag, you can get several pounds of apples, bananas, potatoes, squash, etc. I check there first and either toss the produce into the freezer or cook it up right away.
- Healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. We’ve been eating produce-heavy meals this month, and if you do it right, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Stews and soups use up a huge variety of veggies, and you don’t have to waste anything. Stretch them by putting them over baked sweet potatoes or brown rice!
We’ve also started talking about creating a hanging garden outside of our apartment on our railing. We want to start growing food for the rabbits! And for ourselves, too I guess. So keep an eye out for that soon.
This is definitely one of those changes that are going to stick with us as we move forward. No more unprepared grocery trips for us!
Are you an intentional shopper? Do you have any tips to share?