Grocery Habits: Changing it Up for May

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I’ve been reflecting on the terrible, horrible month of April as far as the grocery budget goes and have decided to implement a few changes for May. I’m not really all that fussed about breaking the budget, but I am annoyed that most of my shopping this month felt like it used to, when I didn’t give much thought to what I had on hand and bought mainly what looked good but also to stock-up because I’m pretty sure that genetically I’m part squirrel. At least when it comes to putting away food! Over the last few months I’ve really managed to stock up on all sorts of foods, and we have quite a healthy pantry (even after my challenges). So for May, I will NOT be stocking up on anything. I’m tempted to give myself the “once in a lifetime deal” caveat, but I know that if I go down that road, I’ll never stop seeing “once in a lifetime deals.” And really they come around pretty regularly, so I can just cool it on the stocking up for a bit. Within reason — I may purchase ground beef at BJs, but I won’t plan on filling my freezer. I have a few other ideas for ways to shake it up a bit, too.

I’m not going to be doing an official pantry challenge or grocery fast or anything like that. But I am going to pull together a box of pantry items that really need to be used up and set it out on the kitchen table. My goal will be to use all of those items up in the month of May.

I’ll also be implementing “official” meal planning. Or, well, as official as it gets for me. I’m not going to do anything crazy like assigning specific meals to specific days or anything like that! Also, we don’t need for me to cook a new meal every night, but we do eat much more healthfully if I spend some time prepping breakfast/lunch/snack items that we can eat all through the week. My thought is that I probably need to plan for three meals during the week and one over the weekend, plus a soup and salad or sandwich for lunches, a breakfast food and a snack food. Possibly multiple snack foods. I’d like to maximize some of that prep time to be items that can be kept in the freezer — but am not going to beat myself up if that doesn’t happen.

I’m going to continue trying out at least one new recipe each week; I got a little off-track with being ill, but I have mostly stuck to this so far in 2017 and I have enjoyed this challenge. Previously I mostly tried new recipes focusing on ingredients I already had on hand, but I’m going to be a bit more intentional about allowing myself to buy items specifically for the recipe. To some extent — if you’ve read my spice cabinet organization post, you’ll know that I don’t really need to bring in more ingredients that will just linger there for perpetuity.

I’m also really going to be focusing on fresh, fun foods. I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a rut with heavier meals and snacks, although this could just be the change of seasons that is calling out to me. Whatever it is, I want to get back in the habit of eating a wide variety of fruits and veggies. I am really craving them, lately!

I also want to try out some semi-convenience foods over the next several months. My schedule is going to get even busier in the fall when I have an internship in addition to school and work. It’s not realistic that I will make every meal totally from scratch, so I’d like to have some things on hand or that I know and trust to grab in the grocery store each week. But I’m a little out of the loop on that kind of thing so want to spend some time while I have time and mental energy evaluating those items. I’m thinking mostly of salad mixes and maybe some freezer entrees, although if anyone has suggestions please let me know!

Finally, I’m going to use all cash. This is not generally my tactic and is really the only goal that is related to the actual budget. Since I track my spending (less well in April, but I still do it), I do know how much I’ve spent, but I’ve found that cash only is a good way to reset my spending if I go off track.

To summarize:

  • No stocking up — buy only what we need.
  • Pantry box — use up some odd items on hand.
  • Intentional meal planning — my style, which is still pretty loose.
  • Continue trying new recipes — don’t be afraid to buy specific ingredients.
  • Fresh fruits and veggies — lots of variety, lots of flavor.
  • Convenience food taste test — preparing for an intense 17/18 school year.
  • Cash budget — reset my spending habits after a free-fall month.

Daybook, April 24

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Monday, April 24

Outside my window…….the sun is shining and a few folks from the neighborhood are getting in their morning walks. A lizard is taunting one of my cats who is perched on the windowsill; this is pretty much a daily occurrence.

I am thinking…….about what I need to do this week, especially as I am going out of town this weekend.

I am thankful for……the end of the semester! I am so grateful to be (almost) done. I have a paper due in my Thursday evening class and a Wednesday afternoon obligation, but then I have 10 days of no school at all. I am looking forward to that short break.

From the kitchen…..the breakfast dishes need to be cleaned up and the dishwasher started. The fridge is full, so I’m not worrying about cooking until dinnertime.

I am wearing…..pjs, shortly to change into cropped jeans and a t-shirt.

I am creating…..a couple of articles for work.

I am going…….to visit my family at the end of the week!

I am reading……..the New Yorker and some cooking magazines that have accumulated.

I am hoping……that I get everything done before flying north on Friday morning.

I am hearing…..two cats “negotiating” with each other, and another cat enjoying a cardboard box (we had an air purifier delivered — the box is big and the cats are in heaven).

Around the house…….I need to tidy everywhere and get on top of the laundry.

One of my favorite things……cats and boxes. 😉

A few plans for the rest of the week…..I’m working the first half of the week. For school I have some edits due to a classmate this afternoon and then that paper I mentioned earlier. I should also brush up my resume. It looks like Michael is getting sick now and since I blew through all the cold medicine we had on hand, I’m going to have to make a trip to Walgreens, too. We’re slowly but steadily working on getting the really rough (nasty) parts of our lawn in order, so I’m planning to spend a little time today and tomorrow tearing out some weedy, scrubby bushes by the shed in our back yard. And I’ll be packing for my trip to visit family (my grandmother is turning 90!). As usual there are some bills to pay and I also need to schedule eye appointments for each of us.

Here is a picture I am sharing…….the beach a Cumberland Island. It was pretty and so quiet, which is my favorite kind of beach.

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What I Spent, What We Ate

What I Spent

This week I spent $34.95 on groceries. I need to sit down and tally everything, but I am pretty sure that I am over $300 this month, which is $100 over budget and a consequence of allowing busy-ness and illness to get the better of me. And spending a whole lot at BJs in the beginning of the month. I’ll share all those gory details, though, in my grocery journal at the end of the month. For now, let’s talk about this week. I visited two stores, Publix and a discount grocer. I only needed fruit and didn’t feel like making the trip to Aldi, even if it would have been cheaper. I spent $14. Then I met up with my friend who is willing to explore discount and salvage groceries with me; like the previous month I had intended to only spend about $10, BUT they had my coffee at a great price, so that skewed the total a bit. I spent $20.95 there.

sheps salvage and discount

At the discount grocer, I picked up mostly snacks and 2 pounds of coffee beans. The coffee beans were a great deal — $4.99/lb; even at BJs I pay $8/lb for these beans. Tortilla chips, crisp bread, tea, chewing gum, and chocolate covered almonds. These aren’t exactly needs, but we will eat and enjoy them. I was very tempted to buy a case of Ghirardhelli chocolate caramel candy bars, but even I couldn’t justify that much chocolate, no matter how good the price.

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At Publix the fruit was my primary objective, but also wanted something snacky and salty. The fruit wasn’t the cheapest, but it’s all very good and I’ve decided that the time factor may be important enough for my filler trips to just go to Publix or Winn-Dixie. I’m not tempted to buy things that aren’t on my list, and both stores are so close to home that I pass them no matter where I am heading.

What We Ate

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Sunday — Easter Dinner: Ham, Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Deviled Eggs, Rolls, Raspberry Almond Cream Puffs

Creamy ham and veggie soup 2

Tuesday — Creamy Ham & Veggie Soup, Rolls

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Wednesday — Fajita Bowls w/brown rice and black beans

Monday, Thursday and Friday we had leftovers. I had also made ham and cheese egg cups, which factored into different meals throughout the week.

The upcoming week is my last of this semester, for which I am profoundly grateful. I am hopeful that the summer semester is less intense and that I can get a grasp once more on a work/school/life balance.

Creamy Ham and Veggie Soup

Creamy ham and veggie soup 2

It might be a bit of a stretch to call this a new recipe, since I didn’t follow one, but I’ve also never made this soup before so…I’m counting it as a way to get back on track! Usually I make ham and bean soup with leftover ham, but thought that ham and potato sounded good this time, plus I have a ton of potatoes on hand. And then I decided that I should just add some extra veggies so that I could in good faith call this a one-pot-meal. It’s pretty simple.

Creamy Ham & Veggie Soup

Serves 8 – 10

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 extra large carrot, chopped (my carrot was a monster — you want roughly the same amount of carrots and celery, so use that as your guide)
  • 2 onions, chopped (again, see above — I wanted an even ratio of carrots, celery and onion)
  • 1 T. olive or vegetable oil
  • dried herbs and other seasonings to taste (I used a Bavarian blend, but dried rosemary would be good)
  • 4 -5 potatoes, chopped
  • 6 – 8 cups broth
  • 2  cups chopped ham
  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 pkg. frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 – 2 T. cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • heavy cream (optional)
  • green onions and shredded cheese to serve
  1. Heat oil in large stock pot. Saute celery, carrots and onion until onion is translucent and the other veggies seem slightly softened.
  2. Add desired seasonings and potatoes and continue to cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Add ham, creamed corn, broccoli and continue to simmer until heated through.
  5. Make a slurry using some of the broth and some cornstarch. Stir into soup and cook until slightly thickened.
  6. Stir in cream or half and half if desired (I added about a 1/4 cup), and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve with chopped green onions and shredded cheese.

Enjoy! We had ours with leftover rolls, but biscuits or crackers would be tasty, too. Or just on it’s own.