Shelf-tober

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So. I missed out on the whole Shelftember thing that a number of bloggers are participating in. But as I’ve been trying to minimize in many areas of my life, one space in my home that has come under more serious scrutiny is our pantry and freezer. I’ve already mentioned that I’ve had a bit of a mindset shift regarding what I stock up on in our deep freezer — namely, stuff that we’ll eat. You know, you type these things out and they seem even more obvious than you know they are (which is really obvious!). Still, it’s taken me a while to shift from buying the best deal to buying the best deal on food we like. Partly I think because I feel a little…ashamed maybe?…about not loving food x or y or z when they might be a super low-cost and nutritious food.

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In the pantry I’ve had some similar perspective shifts — I used to like to keep a super wide variety of grains and beans on hand because it made me feel like I was ready for any event or any recipe that struck my fancy. But honestly I make a lot of the same things over and over — the oat bran, cracked wheat and spelt hadn’t been touched in a very long time. Similarly, I used to just reflexively buy pasta when it was BOGO. Then one day I really took stock of what I had and realized that I had 24 boxes! I use half a box each time I cook pasta, which makes four servings for us. I tend to make pasta about twice a month (more recently, but still), which works out to one box of pasta/month. Do I really need to have 2 years worth of pasta on hand? I completed the pantry inventory in February, I think. Since then (and even before on some items), I have been really intentional about not bringing in new stuff* if I already have those things on hand and using up what I have. For example, I really prefer to make pasta pomodoro with angel hair pasta. We have not died or suffered culinary indignation even though I’ve used spaghetti, linguine, etc. the last few times I’ve made that dish.

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The other day I reorganized the over the fridge freezer (benefit of having totally wiped it out — you can create a whole new system!) and got a bug to go through my pantry as well. I tossed a number of grains and flours and beans that had been sitting around for a while and were either rancid (most likely), well past their prime and would take forever to cook, or just simply things we don’t use and won’t use and keeping it on hand was just cluttering up my space and causing me stress. I still have work to do in there — I’ve been storing extra glass jars, not canning jars, just nice glass jars, just in case and realized that I’ll never use all that I have and I buy things packaged in jars all the time, if I really need one — but now feel like I’m breathing more easily and like my stored food is less of a burden and more a blessing, which is what it should be.

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Anyway. The point of this whole post is to say that even though I didn’t know about Shelftember in time to really make it happen this month, I am committing to a Shelftober. I’ll follow the basic plan set forth on FunCheaporFree, although since it’s just the two of us I’m going to drop the weekly amount to $15. That will be what I can spend on fresh produce, dairy & eggs. I will keep shopping every other week, though, so my actual amount spent each shopping trip will be closer to $30. Otherwise I’ll be shopping solely from my pantry. Happily I have plenty of coffee on hand so no caffeine motivated emergencies are likely to crop up. 😛 Is anybody else gearing up for a pantry challenge in the next month or so? If you’ve been participating in Shelftember, how is it going?

*Ok, I’ve totally been buying that Rana refrigerated tortellini and ravioli. But only recently and we make eating that a priority — because it’s yummy. What can I say?

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Groceries: Sept. 17 – 30

This two week deal continues to work for us, although I should point out that we purchased some snacks as part of our hurricane prep shopping trip. About $30 worth of basically junk food. I am undecided as to whether or not I should include these items in our grocery budget or in the life happens fund. We’ll see.

M&M Imports 9_16_17

On Friday the 15th I had Michael drive us (I’d had a migraine for three days — I do not usually require a driver) to the Import/Ethnic store nearby. I specifically wanted to pick up some locally baked, SOFT pita bread. While there we also picked up filo pastry, 5lbs of couscous, and wasabi peas. The total came to $18.85. I’m going to put the price of the individual items under their appropriate category, because it turns out I like seeing where and how I spent my money.

On Saturday I decided to take advantage of the fact that Sam’s Club had opened it store’s to everyone as a way to help out following Irma. I was especially interested in checking their price on sugar and seeing what flour products they had available. They have better prices on some items than BJs, including on dried black and pinto beans. I think the rice is also better priced there, and they had 90/10 ground beef, which I prefer, although the 88/12 at BJs isn’t all that different. Anyway, not sure that I’ll change over to Sam’s but it was nice to take advantage while I could. I also hit Aldi and Publix. Aldi was wiped out of A LOT of dairy and produce – they had no eggs at all, and hardly any milk. My goal when shopping is to have my savings equal or exceed what I spend. So far I have been meeting that goal!

Bread 9_16_17

BREAD & PASTA

  • Rana Ravioli/Tortellini, 4 bags @ $4.29/ea BUT BOGO + 2 $1 off coupons
  • Artisan Rolls, $3.89 BOGO
  • Hot Dog Buns, $.83
  • Everything Bagels, $1.59
  • Filo Pastry Dough, $3.50
  • Large Pita Bread, $1.85

TOTAL: $18.24

Dairy 9_16_17

DAIRY

  • Stonyfield Whole Milk Yogurt, $1.75 (I had a BOGO coupon)
  • Brown Cow Yogurt, $1 (BOGO coupon)
  • Daisy Cottage Cheese, $2.69 BOGO + 2 $.50 coupons
  • 1% Milk, $2.09
  • Good Culture Cottage Cheese, FREE + $.44 credit/moneymaker
  • Arla Cream Cheese, $.30 (I had a digital coupon for a free packet, but it only covered $2.99)

TOTAL: $6.39

Pantry 9_16_17

PANTRY & SNACKS

  • Brown Sugar, 7lbs @ $4.38
  • Publix Pancake Mix, FREE
  • Pringles, $1.75 BOGO
  • Raw Florida Honey, $11.28
  • Ranch Dressing, $.89
  • Old El Paso Dinner Kit, $3.29 BOGO + $1 off 2 coupon
  • Vlasic Sweet Gherkins, $2.99 BOGO
  • Hatch Chili Peppers, $1.89 BOGO
  • Squeeze Ginger, $3.99
  • Couscous, 5lbs @ $8.75
  • Wasabi Peas, $4.75

TOTAL: $42.96

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PRODUCE

  • Romaine Hearts, $2.29
  • Spinach, 2 8oz bags @ $2.99 BOGO
  • Naval Oranges, 3lbs @ $3.69
  • Red Seedless Grapes, 2lbs @ $1.78
  • Bananas, 3lbs @ $1.38
  • Strawberries, $1.29
  • Potato Puffs, $1.89
  • Carrots, 5lbs @ $3.28
  • Cabbage, $1.69
  • Cauliflower, $1.99
  • Grape Tomatoes, 2lbs @ $5.48

TOTAL: $27.75

Proteins 9_16_17

PROTEINS

  • Publix Fried Chicken, $7.99 + .56 tax
  • Chicken Strips, $4.99
  • Eggs, 2 doz @ $1.39/ea
  • 90/10 Ground Beef, 6.10lbs @ $20.34
  • Nathan’s Hot Dogs, $2.89
  • Bacon, $3.99

TOTAL: $43.54

My total spent on groceries this weekend was $138.88. At the beginning of the month I spent $158.14. Some of this week’s groceries ARE making up for what was lost when the fridge died, but for the most part they are just regular groceries. This brings my total for the month to $297.02. That is just enough left in my budget to grab another container of half and half if I run out. 😛 Also, since I shopped at Sam’s today, I don’t think I will really need to make a trip to BJs next month, at least not for any super large item. I’m still pleased with the two week shopping/meal planning routing, although it backfired a little last week w/the power outage. The hurricane snacks would bring the total up to $327.02. All in all not a bad overage considering the lost food.

Food Lately: Musings & Meanderings

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This photo looks like it is trying out for the “one of these things is not like the other…” game

Honesty I don’t  remember exactly what we ate over the last couple of weeks, but these are the things I managed to grab photos of…

  • Skillet Lasagna
  • Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry
  • Pasta Pomodoro
  • Sausage, Sauteed Cabbage, Mashed Potatoes

Actually I did make curried butternut squash soup, although unfortunately I ended up having to throw it out because I didn’t remember to snag it when the power went out. You can see that quick and easy skillet meals are my saving grace right now.

The storm, as I have mentioned, wiped out a lot of food in my fridge and freezer. Not the big deep freezer, but my over fridge freezer. For possibly the first time ever, I have ZERO bananas in my house, fresh or frozen. Because I’ve been working to keep a more reasonable amount of food on hand, our fridge wasn’t as stuffed as it might have been. Which probably contributed to how quickly things warmed up, actually, but also meant that my losses there were comparatively low. My freezer, on the other hand, was pretty much not salvageable. Partly because that freezer has become the place where I throw things to “save” them but that we really don’t want to eat and because, frankly, everything just melted. The few things that I had in there to prolong life, but not because they need to be frozen, are what survived. Namely, nuts and yeast. I am looking on this as a golden opportunity rather than a tragedy. I’d like to use that space much more efficiently and keep only a small selection of convenience foods, anything that needs to be defrosted for the upcoming meal plan, and baking supplies that I use regularly in the small freezer. Basically this means moving the whole wheat flour from the garage freezer and stowing in a basket the frozen ravioli and precooked chicken that have made my life easier this semester. One other basket will hold items for the upcoming meal plan and one final basket will hold opened bags of fruit or vegetables so that I make sure to use them quickly.

I’m also getting serious about using up some of the stock that is STILL in my deep freezer. Several big roasts are on the meal plan in the coming six weeks or so, just to finally get them out of there. Going forward, I then plan to do a better job of storing food we actually eat rather than food I think we should eat. For example, the 40lb purchase of chicken breast from Zaycon was actually a good buy — we’ve almost completely eaten that down. The turkeys I bought after Thanksgiving, on the other hand, are not, since neither of us really ever feel like a full turkey dinner and for the two of us it’s kind of ridiculous. And so on and so forth. On the one hand I feel a little frustrated with myself, but on the other I’m pretty excited. This is me settling in to a better, more efficient way of thinking about food and cooking for us that reflects who we are rather than some mythical vision of us that absolutely doesn’t exist.

Groceries: Sept. 3 – 16

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Buying and meal planning for two weeks at a time worked really well for us last month. I’m hoping to maintain this routine as it cuts one errand down by half and grants me a little more time each week, something I really appreciate! This weekend I went a little crazy with the meal prepping (more in a later post), but going forward I think my weekly prep sessions will be pretty minimal. I just had a few things I needed to manage to avoid waste. Anyway. That is not the point of this post — my groceries are! This trip included a stop at BJs so the total is a little high, but I think that actually we’ll pretty consistently come out under $300, too, so perhaps I’ll be able to lower my grocery budget again. We’ll see.

Anyway, this week I stopped at BJs ($84.58), Publix ($30.37), and Aldi ($43.19). My total spent at all three stores was $158.14, and quite a few of these items will last beyond two weeks so I’m hopeful that I can stay under $100 when I shop next. I did all my shopping on the same day (yesterday), but I had to combine my Publix trip with a different errand, so I couldn’t combine everything in one photo by type. But I liked doing that last time, so I just took lots of photos this week!

dairy 09_03_17

I had zero eggs left by the time I went shopping again, but that was largely due to a baking spree on Saturday. I think two dozen is probably a good amount for us over two weeks. I was also pleased to get my favorite Pecorino-Romano cheese at BJs; the shredded Parmesan from Aldi was ok, but honestly I’d rather pay more for something I really like. And I’ve got a lasagna on the menu where I’d really like to taste the cheese; I thought Aldi’s version was pretty insipid, all things considered. I do still have quite a bit of half and half, but want to avoid the stores so just grabbed another quart anyway. The dips will be for lunches and snacking; even though I still have hummus, these don’t expire for a little while and I like to have some variety.

  • Eggs, 2 dozen @ $.89/doz
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, 16 oz @ $10.99 – $2 coupon
  • Sharp Cheddar slices, $1.79
  • Ricotta, $1.69
  • Half & Half, $1.99
  • 2% Milk, $2.95
  • Marzetti Dips, $3.69 (BOGO)
  • Feta cheese, $3.19 (BOGO)
  • Liberte yogurt, FREE

Total: $26.07

proteins 09_03_17

We really liked the Tyson chicken tenders I bought last trip, so I decided to pick up the larger bag at BJs; there was also a store coupon, which brought down the price a little. These are really quite convenient for lunch salads. I don’t really need much other meat right now (there is quite a lot of chicken still in my freezer), but I do like to use Italian sausage in my lasagna and we were out. This 3lb package will last us through the end of the year. The tuna is for those times when both time and energy are against us.

More hummus — I had a coupon for a free pack of singles when you bought two of the 10oz size; of course my cashier had a problem both reading the coupon and then taking off the appropriate amount. I pointed out the correct amount to be removed, and it was eventually corrected but not without a little stress. (First she tried to take off $2.99, claiming that she could only take off the lowest amount, but neither product cost $2.99. And the coupon clearly stated that the singles were supposed to be the free item. Ugh. I hate correcting over coupons, especially when others are waiting in line. But I also feel that I shouldn’t be intimidated by the process when I’m not doing anything wrong! The actual amount to be taken off was $4.99. I had only two coupons, too. This is why coupons stress me out.)

We ran out of crunchy peanut butter and I just grabbed a small container at Aldi, since I forgot to stock up when the larger containers were available.

  • Tyson Chicken Strips, frozen; 3.5lbs @ $13.99 – $2.50 coupon
  • Sweet Italian Sausage, 3lbs @ $7.99
  • Cocktail Peanuts, $1.99
  • Tuna, 4 cans @ $.99/ea
  • Tofu, $2.99 (BOGO)
  • Hummus, 2 10oz @ $3.99 (BOGO)
  • Hummus, singles @ FREE
  • Bush’s Cocina Latina beans, $1.69 (BOGO w/coupon)
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter, $1.39

Total: $35.49

produce and bread 09_03_17

Since I bought just the bagels this time, I decided to combine produce and bread. Everything is spread out on the table instead of on the stove, so it looks like a bit less fresh stuff. I do still have cabbage and carrots from the last trip, and actually just used up the last of the fresh broccoli and peppers last night. So I’m pretty confident that this should last us the next two weeks without a problem. This is all pretty typical stuff for us; my biggest ‘excitement’ was realizing that onions, romaine and the baby spinach were all cheaper at BJs than at Aldi. And the grape tomatoes from BJs are by far the best I’ve bought anywhere. Since these are a favorite snack of mine, I am happy to pay a little more for them.

  • Mushrooms, $1.29
  • Grape Tomatoes, $5.49
  • Celery, $1.39
  • Mini Cucumbers, $1.79
  • Seedless Watermelon, $2.99
  • Romaine Hearts, $1.99
  • Broccoli Crowns, $1.69
  • Pink Lady Apples, 3lbs @ $4.49
  • Strawberries, 2lbs @ $1.29/ea
  • Pineapple Chunks, $.99
  • Seedless Grapes, $1.98
  • Yellow Onions, 3lbs @ $1.49
  • Raisins, 4lbs @ $7.99
  • Baby Spinach, $3.69 -$1 store coupon
  • Bagels, $1.59

Total: $40.43

snacks & pantry 09_03_17

We could also call this the convenience and junk food category, I guess. Right now I am feeling unapologetic about the Diet Dr. Pepper as it really is a nice pick me up during the day and the cans are easy to take with me to school and/or my internship site. The peanut butter crackers and Nature Valley biscuits are similarly convenient for lunches/snacks on the go. Those almond butter biscuits are pretty amazing actually. After my baking spree this weekend I ran out of all-purpose flour and almost depleted my white sugar and canola oil supplies. Those and the coffee beans are pretty much essentials! I also bought a bag of white cheddar puffs at Aldi that somehow escaped getting in the photo.

  • French Roast Coffee Beans, 40oz @ $19.99 – $5 store coupon
  • KA All-Purpose Flour, 10lbs @ $6.49
  • Canola Oil, $1.89
  • Lance PB Crackers, 40 ct. @ $6.99 – $2 store coupon
  • NV Breakfast Biscuits, 30 ct. @ $12.99 – $3 store coupon
  • White Sugar, 4lbs @ $1.49
  • Org. White Cheddar Puffs @ $1.49
  • Diet Dr. Pepper, 4 12pks $5.29/ea (B2G2)
  • Sourdough Pretzels, $3.49 (BOGO)
  • Tax (on soda) @ $.75

Total: $56.15

This time the snacks were the highest expense category BUT these will mostly last through the whole month. I’ll probably need to buy more pretzels or something crunchy the next time I shop, but otherwise we’re set. I’m pretty consistently spending between $40 and $50 on produce every two weeks, which seems to be the right amount for us. I may grab a few bananas at some point mid-way through these two weeks but maybe not. Michael hasn’t been eating them as regularly as usual and I eat them only rarely. They are easy to freeze, but I have plenty in the freezer to use up, too. So maybe we just need a break from bananas!