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Pandora Black

HELP I’m poor!

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Someone  PLEASE talk me down from the ledge I’m so frustrated about how much this is costing and my lack of food and money I’m ready to just throw up my hands and quit. I have pantry foods that I can eat that aren’t compliant and they’re calling to me. I have $65 to last two weeks. I’m out of all produce and have about 4 days worth of meat left, tops. 

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Most stores will have one variety or another of frozen veg on sale. I get mine at ShopRite for $0.99 each. Lots of that will get roasted straight from frozen. Other times, I'll turn it into soup. 

Get the meat that's on sale. Conventionally raised is fine and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Keeping it simple makes it less expensive. You can do it. 

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Massive hugs @Pandora Black. I get it... I really, really do.
Now please take my hand and come back inside, because if I join you out there I'll either fall or get sunburned. :)

I agree whole-heartedly with @laura_juggles. Keep it simple and skip the stuff that's too expensive. The labels don't have to include all that lovely wording like organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, free-range, etc. for it to be compliant AND healthy.

Skip recipes that call for uncommon ingredients that cost more and/or you're unlikely to use again very soon... or sub in something that you already have on hand (or know you'll use).

Check out the frozen veggies (and opt for store-brand if they're cheaper), and don't be afraid to grab more than you'll need for the week if it costs less per pound or ounce to do it that way, as long as it's something you'll use.

See if there's a good sale on "bulk package" items, like 5 lbs of russet potatoes or 3 lbs of yellow onions. Even if you know you won't go through that much in one week, these packs usually have a lower per-weight cost than buying loose items, and you can easily prepare and freeze things for future use, cutting down your overall costs.

Skip the expensive boxes of baby spinach, 50/50 salad blend, etc. I have perfectly lovely salads made from Romaine and sometimes baby spinach (from a bag, and not always organic despite preferring organic for my salad greens). If you want some sprouts or other light-weight items that tend to cost a bit more, see if a local store has a fresh salad bar that you can pull these from... the cost by weight is often extremely low as long as you don't grab heavier items. My mom does this often with Earth Fare's garden bar.

Check for a vegetable bargain bin, and see if you can find the Manager's Special meats, especially if the stores nearby aren't running great sales. For both of these, you'll really want to either cook or prep/freeze it all right away, but the savings can be pretty big.

Ground meat will almost always be cheaper than any other form, and it'll be less expensive in a bigger package. I would still buy my ground beef in 5 lb packages even if it was only me and I was only using 1 lb per week, because overall it's so much cheaper and it's simple to store it in freezer bags... and 73/27 is fine.

Bags of frozen chicken breast can sometimes be found on sale for cheaper than the fresh stuff, so that's an option worth checking.

Like Laura said -- you can do this!

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I'm not sure where you live, but if you're feeding only yourself it shouldn't be all that difficult to make $65 last for two weeks.

Frozen meat and veggies are absolutely fine--just as nutritious as fresh and often a lot cheaper.  If this was me trying to eat Whole30 compliant for two weeks on $65, this is what I would do--I live in a large midwestern city with a pretty low COL and I pulled all information from Kroger's and Fresh Thyme's (a natural-type grocery, kind of like Sprouts but not as pricey as Whole Foods) weekly ads:

Kroger:

Split Chicken Pieces (I would get thighs here because that's my preference): $.99/per pound x 4 pounds = $3.96

Ground Beef (80/20, sold in a 3lb roll): $6.57

3 dozen eggs: 18 ct/$1.29 x 2 = $2.36

25.5 ounce bottle of olive oil: $5.79 **Note on this--I picked the big bottle to use for making a batch of mayo and also to use as cooking fat, but they have a smaller bottle ($2.69 for 8 ounces) if you were feeling up to making your own ghee for cooking fat--you can get a pound of butter for $2.99 and turn that into a BUNCH of ghee which would be cheaper ounce per ounce if you're willing to put in the time**

Simple Truth Organic Coconut Milk: $1.89

Frozen broccoli: 12 oz bag/$1.00 x 2 = $2.00

Frozen Brussels sprouts: 12 oz bag/$1.19 x 2 = $2.38

Frozen spinach: 12 oz bag/$1.39

Frozen 3 pepper and onion blend: 12 oz bag/$1.39

Frozen cauliflower rice: 12 oz bag/$2.19

Frozen Stir Fry Veggie Starter: 12 oz bag/$1.39

Total: $31.31 if you get the bigger olive oil, $31.20 if you decide to make your own ghee for cooking fat (basically the same cost at the outset but a pound of butter will net a lot more ghee than the olive oil)

Fresh Thyme (all fresh produce here):

Avocado: $1.49

Green Onions: $.50

Radishes: $.69/bunch

Tomatillos: $.99/pound 

Sweet Potatoes: $.99/pound x 3 pounds = $2.97

Russet Potatoes: 8 pound bag/$1.99

Lemon: $.50

Lime: $.50

Baby carrots: $1.29/1 lb bag

Total here is $10.82

Grand total for both places: $42.23

So, what I would do with these things:

  • Toss the broccoli, carrots, and radishes in some of your cooking fat, garlic powder, and salt and roast at 425* for 20-25 minutes (until they're all crispy and delicious)
  • Roast your Brussles sprouts in the same manor--you can even do them at the same time!
    • I would recommend using half of each amount of the veggies each week just so they don't go bad before you can use them. The carrots and radishes should last just fine in your crisper for a week.
  • Poke holes in 2-3 of your sweet potatoes and let them bake for awhile--baked sweet potato is an easy way to get some starchy veggies in with any of your meals, I usually have them alongside my breakfast but I always keep some in the fridge for when I'm feeling uninspired
  • Dice up some of your regular potatoes and toss them in a cast iron skillet with some of your cooking fat and some of the pepper and onion mix--cover the pan so the potatoes will cook through and get nice and crispy on the bottom and you have an easy potato hash to pull on for the week.
  • Take some of your frozen spinach and some more of the pepper and onion mix and cook until it's thawed, drain off some of the liquid, season with salt and pepper as desired, and then pour in 12-15 of your eggs scrambled up with a little bit of water.  Put the whole skillet in the oven at 425* for 15-18 minutes until just browned around the edges and set in the middle--there's a week's worth of breakfast frittata.  Do this again the next week--I have a veggie frittata with some baked sweet potato and topped with some sort of sauce or dressing for breakfast every day and it is amazing.
  • Take half of your ground beef and just cook it in a pan with some neutral seasoning.  Let it cool and freeze in individual bags so you can pull out and mix with cauliflower rice or stir fry veggies for some quick meals--I love taco seasoned meat with cauliflower rice and some salsa verde (I'm getting there!) and put it inside a mostly-hollowed out sweet potato skin for a pseudo-burrito.
  • Take the other half and make yourself some burger patties--freeze individually to pull out as quick "emergency" proteins. They'll go nicely with either kinds of your roasted veggies you made above.
  • Take your olive oil, and egg, and some of the lemon juice and make a batch of homemade mayo. I like Everyday Maven's immersion blender recipe. That should last you close to the two weeks and will be amazing delicious plated fat to top your burgers.
  • Take your avocado, half the can of coconut milk, and the juice from the lime along with some salt and mix that together (with your immersion blender if you have it) for an easy avocado sauce to top your breakfasts or anything kind of mexican-inspired.
  • Take your tomatillos and chop roughly and then blend with salt and pepper--easy salsa verde.  Take half of it and keep it for your sweet potato burritos, and put the other half in a slow cooker or dutch oven with some of your chicken thighs.
  • Some more of your chicken thighs--get your cast iron skillet rocket hot, put in some cooking fat, and put the thighs skin side down for a few minutes to get them deliciously crisp. Salt the meat, flip the thighs over and reduce the heat to cook through.

This list and meal prep directions should easily keep you well fed within your budget for the next two weeks.  It's not always the most exciting food but it will be tasty, filling, and healthy.

Let me know if you have any other questions or want any other tips.  Sorry this was so long!  I'm pretty enthusiastic about meal planning and cooking and I love a challenge like a budget.  ;)

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, EmilyK said:

I'm not sure where you live, but if you're feeding only yourself it shouldn't be all that difficult to make $65 last for two weeks.

Frozen meat and veggies are absolutely fine--just as nutritious as fresh and often a lot cheaper.  If this was me trying to eat Whole30 compliant for two weeks on $65, this is what I would do--I live in a large midwestern city with a pretty low COL and I pulled all information from Kroger's and Fresh Thyme's (a natural-type grocery, kind of like Sprouts but not as pricey as Whole Foods) weekly ads:

Kroger:

Split Chicken Pieces (I would get thighs here because that's my preference): $.99/per pound x 4 pounds = $3.96

Ground Beef (80/20, sold in a 3lb roll): $6.57

3 dozen eggs: 18 ct/$1.29 x 2 = $2.36

25.5 ounce bottle of olive oil: $5.79 **Note on this--I picked the big bottle to use for making a batch of mayo and also to use as cooking fat, but they have a smaller bottle ($2.69 for 8 ounces) if you were feeling up to making your own ghee for cooking fat--you can get a pound of butter for $2.99 and turn that into a BUNCH of ghee which would be cheaper ounce per ounce if you're willing to put in the time**

Simple Truth Organic Coconut Milk: $1.89

Frozen broccoli: 12 oz bag/$1.00 x 2 = $2.00

Frozen Brussels sprouts: 12 oz bag/$1.19 x 2 = $2.38

Frozen spinach: 12 oz bag/$1.39

Frozen 3 pepper and onion blend: 12 oz bag/$1.39

Frozen cauliflower rice: 12 oz bag/$2.19

Frozen Stir Fry Veggie Starter: 12 oz bag/$1.39

Total: $31.31 if you get the bigger olive oil, $31.20 if you decide to make your own ghee for cooking fat (basically the same cost at the outset but a pound of butter will net a lot more ghee than the olive oil)

Fresh Thyme (all fresh produce here):

Avocado: $1.49

Green Onions: $.50

Radishes: $.69/bunch

Tomatillos: $.99/pound 

Sweet Potatoes: $.99/pound x 3 pounds = $2.97

Russet Potatoes: 8 pound bag/$1.99

Lemon: $.50

Lime: $.50

Baby carrots: $1.29/1 lb bag

Total here is $10.82

Grand total for both places: $42.23

So, what I would do with these things:

  • Toss the broccoli, carrots, and radishes in some of your cooking fat, garlic powder, and salt and roast at 425* for 20-25 minutes (until they're all crispy and delicious)
  • Roast your Brussles sprouts in the same manor--you can even do them at the same time!
    • I would recommend using half of each amount of the veggies each week just so they don't go bad before you can use them. The carrots and radishes should last just fine in your crisper for a week.
  • Poke holes in 2-3 of your sweet potatoes and let them bake for awhile--baked sweet potato is an easy way to get some starchy veggies in with any of your meals, I usually have them alongside my breakfast but I always keep some in the fridge for when I'm feeling uninspired
  • Dice up some of your regular potatoes and toss them in a cast iron skillet with some of your cooking fat and some of the pepper and onion mix--cover the pan so the potatoes will cook through and get nice and crispy on the bottom and you have an easy potato hash to pull on for the week.
  • Take some of your frozen spinach and some more of the pepper and onion mix and cook until it's thawed, drain off some of the liquid, season with salt and pepper as desired, and then pour in 12-15 of your eggs scrambled up with a little bit of water.  Put the whole skillet in the oven at 425* for 15-18 minutes until just browned around the edges and set in the middle--there's a week's worth of breakfast frittata.  Do this again the next week--I have a veggie frittata with some baked sweet potato and topped with some sort of sauce or dressing for breakfast every day and it is amazing.
  • Take half of your ground beef and just cook it in a pan with some neutral seasoning.  Let it cool and freeze in individual bags so you can pull out and mix with cauliflower rice or stir fry veggies for some quick meals--I love taco seasoned meat with cauliflower rice and some salsa verde (I'm getting there!) and put it inside a mostly-hollowed out sweet potato skin for a pseudo-burrito.
  • Take the other half and make yourself some burger patties--freeze individually to pull out as quick "emergency" proteins. They'll go nicely with either kinds of your roasted veggies you made above.
  • Take your olive oil, and egg, and some of the lemon juice and make a batch of homemade mayo. I like Everyday Maven's immersion blender recipe. That should last you close to the two weeks and will be amazing delicious plated fat to top your burgers.
  • Take your avocado, half the can of coconut milk, and the juice from the lime along with some salt and mix that together (with your immersion blender if you have it) for an easy avocado sauce to top your breakfasts or anything kind of mexican-inspired.
  • Take your tomatillos and chop roughly and then blend with salt and pepper--easy salsa verde.  Take half of it and keep it for your sweet potato burritos, and put the other half in a slow cooker or dutch oven with some of your chicken thighs.
  • Some more of your chicken thighs--get your cast iron skillet rocket hot, put in some cooking fat, and put the thighs skin side down for a few minutes to get them deliciously crisp. Salt the meat, flip the thighs over and reduce the heat to cook through.

This list and meal prep directions should easily keep you well fed within your budget for the next two weeks.  It's not always the most exciting food but it will be tasty, filling, and healthy.

Let me know if you have any other questions or want any other tips.  Sorry this was so long!  I'm pretty enthusiastic about meal planning and cooking and I love a challenge like a budget.  ;)

 

 

 

California does NOT have prices like that, I’ll tell you right now. Lemons are almost a dollar each. Avocados are $1.49 each. And so on.

Thank you anyway though.

I’m going to see what wal Mart has that’s affordable.

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3 minutes ago, Pandora Black said:

California does NOT have prices like that, I’ll tell you right now. Lemons are almost a dollar each. Avocados are $1.49 each. And so on.

Thank you anyway though.

I’m going to see what wal Mart has that’s affordable.

Well, you can certainly adapt this to fit your local grocery prices if needed.  (Also, avocados around here are also $1.49 each which is why I turned the one into the crema/sauce so it'll last longer than just eating it plain on top of your food.)  And even if you shift a little more into frozen veggies than fresh, etc. you should still be able to use some of the tips and meal ideas here to stay within your budget--that's one reason I didn't spend the full $65 quoted so you've got some wiggle room.  :)

My experience is that frozen veggies are pretty consistent across stores, and I did just scope out Foods Co. in Sacramento and their ad this week actually has even better prices on some things I noted above (lemons are on sale for a quarter apiece, avocados are $1.25, and they've got pork chops for the same price as my grocery has the chicken pieces, all the frozen veg looks to be a buck a bag)--you can totally do it! Your meals might not be as exciting or gourmet as some of what you've eaten so far (I checked out your food log, too) but they will absolutely fit the bill.  Making your own condiments will be a huge cost saver for you, too.

If you're having trouble figuring out what you can do with your money and your food, I am happy to look a little deeper if you'd like.  I know it can be overwhelming and it sucks to not be able to spend unlimited money on all the delicious foods, but you can do a lot with a little if you know where to look and how to cook.

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2 hours ago, EmilyK said:

Well, you can certainly adapt this to fit your local grocery prices if needed.  (Also, avocados around here are also $1.49 each which is why I turned the one into the crema/sauce so it'll last longer than just eating it plain on top of your food.)  And even if you shift a little more into frozen veggies than fresh, etc. you should still be able to use some of the tips and meal ideas here to stay within your budget--that's one reason I didn't spend the full $65 quoted so you've got some wiggle room.  :)

My experience is that frozen veggies are pretty consistent across stores, and I did just scope out Foods Co. in Sacramento and their ad this week actually has even better prices on some things I noted above (lemons are on sale for a quarter apiece, avocados are $1.25, and they've got pork chops for the same price as my grocery has the chicken pieces, all the frozen veg looks to be a buck a bag)--you can totally do it! Your meals might not be as exciting or gourmet as some of what you've eaten so far (I checked out your food log, too) but they will absolutely fit the bill.  Making your own condiments will be a huge cost saver for you, too.

If you're having trouble figuring out what you can do with your money and your food, I am happy to look a little deeper if you'd like.  I know it can be overwhelming and it sucks to not be able to spend unlimited money on all the delicious foods, but you can do a lot with a little if you know where to look and how to cook.

Maybe I should go to Foods co instead of Wal Mart. Hmm.

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1 minute ago, Pandora Black said:

Maybe I should go to Foods co instead of Wal Mart. Hmm.

Check the ads online--they'll give you a good starting point.  Also, Sprouts is having a 72 hour sale starting tomorrow with even cheaper prices on things like avocados (2/$1!), etc.  Definitely worth checking out/planning before you head out.

Also, Foods Co's site, you can put stuff in your cart and it will automatically total it up for you so you know how much you're spending without having to take a calculator down the aisles or prioritize on the checkout belt.  Then you can print your list with quantities and totals to help streamline your shopping, too.  :)

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I will second checking the online ads -- these have saved my grocery budget like nothing else, especially where they're available to do a "preview" during the week before they become active. What I usually do is look at the ads for stores I'm likely to go to (assuming there is anything worth going for), and I make a list in my PC notepad, showing what's on sale (and for how much) where... THEN I build my weekly meal plan based around what's on sale, even if it means I'm getting things from 3 stores (as long as there's enough from each to make it worth actually going to that store). I LOVE a good deal :) especially when it's something I actually will use within the week!

Sprouts is amazing because their ads run from Wednesday to Wednesday, which gives you a whole day (on Wednesday) where the old ad overlaps with the new ad, and you get the best price between the two... I can't imagine that's just a regional thing, so worth checking if the local one does it as well.

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Well I’m back from Foods co and I think it’s going to be ok. I managed to get everything on my list and took advantage of the sales! Some great buys: 3 lbs 80/20 ground beef $10. Mangos .67 each. Lemons .25 each. Frozen cauliflower $1 bag. Bubbly sparkling water $3.37 for 8 (this was my “splurge” item). Spaghetti squash .99 lb. Butternut squash .99 lb. Bag of Fuji apples 3.00. 

 

Thank you thank you everyone! You really helped.

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