It's no secret I like to stretch my dollars. And since most of my bills are not variable or negotiable (think car payment, insurance, medical bills, etc.), my food bill is one area that I feel I have some control over. In times where I realllly need to stretch my dollars, like now because I've been off work for a while, I meal plan and make meals that are not expensive, will last for several meals, are freezable and of course healthy. One of my favorite places to grocery shop is Aldi's. It's a no-frills national grocery chain and I love it because I can buy a lot of food for about 30% less than the other grocery stores. Here's my most recent shopping trip:
The meals I pre-planned to make were chili, corned beef, turkey meatballs in a homemade tomato sauce, chicken salad (using canned chicken), salads (which I also top with canned chicken or hard boiled eggs as my source of protein), canned chili for times I'm caught without a meal, and of course a restock of my daily breakfast stuff: eggs, spinach, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms. Also pictured are snacks like bananas, radishes (yes, I like to snack on them), cheese puffs (my one unhealthy splurge), chicken broth to cook my rice in (tastes WAY better than cooking rice in water), and salad materials. All for... DRUM ROLL...
$58.40! Considering my corned beef was $11.00, 99% of my groceries only cost me $47. With the cost of groceries these days, that's a good deal in my book. I can stretch chili into 2 or 3 days worth of lunches or dinners, same with the corned beef, canned chicken/chicken salad, salads for lunch, etc, and that is close to 2 weeks worth of food.
The meatballs in homemade tomato sauce
My daily breakfast, in stages
Add a little kick
One final tip of a way I save money is to avoid soda vending machines at work. They are expensive. Sometimes you want something a little more than just water. So I pack this and restock it each week. The Snapple drink mixes I found in the dollar section of Target for a 10 pack. I bought 6 boxes. The crystal light ones I buy as they are on sale and I have a coupon, and I love both hot and iced herbal teas so I keep those on hand, too.
I also recommend doing your meal plan no later than Friday for the following week (sooner if time allows) so you can get all your grocery shopping done and then spend Sunday morning/afternoon prepping/chopping/dicing/slicing, cooking, and if need be freezing your meals for the week. It sure makes you enjoy your week more when you aren't coming home from work at 5:00 starving with nothing made.
Sometimes it feels impossible to cook healthy yummy meals when you are on a budget, but with a little planning it's doable. Once you've done it two weeks in a row, it will become very habitual and easy. Look to buy foods that are multi-purpose, like ground turkey, which can be made into burgers, meatballs, tacos, etc., or canned chicken (or canned tuna works) which can be eaten on salads, made into chicken salad or even used in a warm sandwich. Eggs are also great, using them for both breakfast, lunch (hard boiled sliced on salads or even eaten as a snack), and made into either frittatas, quiches or omelets for evenings.
Well, off to finish getting my evening chores done before bedtime. Have a good one.