Follow our family's weekly vegetarian menu, access recipes, and download weekly grocery lists, during my quest to get our weekly grocery bill down to $70 per week, while supporting local agriculture and eating healthy organic foods!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 3

Goal: $70
Actual: $70.76


  • 1 Bunch Garlic
  • 1 pkg Tofu
  • 1 JalapeƱo
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple 
  • Peanut Butter
  • 1 lb Black Beans
  • 1 lb Chickpeas
  • 1 small can Tomato Paste
  • 1 large block of cheese
  • 6 pack Cliff Bars
  • Dry Milk
  • 1 Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Brown Rice
  • Vinegar
  • Eggs
Included in CSA share:
  • Turnips
  • Kohlrabi with small greens
  • Beets
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprout Greens
  • Scallions (green onions)
  • Cilantro
  • 1 orange
  • Sweet potatoes

     The only additional recipe used this week is the Whole Wheat Flax Tortillas and a bread machine pizza crust.  It is by far the most delicious and softest pizza crust I have found. When I make it, I cut it in half to make two pizzas or use half for another meal. For instance, I will only loosely follow the kolhrabi empanada recipe. Mainly for the filling, but I will use half the dough to make kohlrabi pockets instead of following the recipe to make the empanada crust. I find this to be easier on me and less wasteful. It just stretches our budget. As you will also notice, I found a new recipe website. I use for a huge portion of our meals this week. This is mainly due to the ability to search their page for recipes that include specific ingredients. This made planning around our CSA share a breeze! So far they have all been  pretty good. I am going to start rating the dishes on a 5 start scale, just so you don't have to randomly try unrated foods, like I make my husband and daughter! 

Bean Burritos: When making a meal with pinto beans, or black beans cook the entire lb of beans. Save half to make bean burritos a couple days later. For instance, this week we have Costa Rican Style Black Beans and Rice. I used half the black beans in that recipe and then saved the remaining beans and the juice the beans were cooked with. In the next day or two I use the beans to make refried beans for burritos.  
  • Refried Beans
    • Beans in juice
    • 1/2-1 onion diced
    • green or red pepper if on hand
    • 1 bunch of greens stemmed and cut thinly or left over cooked greens, if on hand
    • 2 Tbls oil
    • Ground Chipotle pepper to taste
    • Smoked Salt to taste
            Blend beans in juice and set aside. Heat oil in skillet or wok and add onion and green pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Add ground chipotle pepper to onions and cook for about 1 min. then add blended beans. Cook for several minutes and add smoked salt and greens, if desired. Cook beans and stir constantly, until beans reduce and thicken. 

  • Whole Wheat Flax Tortillas:
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 6 TBL ground flax (You can use 2 TBL of butter  or shortening instead of flax seed. If you do decrease water by 1/2 cup.)
    • 2/3 +1/2 cups warm water
    • 1.)Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then gradually add the water while mixing. Mix into a dough, cover and let rise for 20 mins.
    • 2.) Roll into a rope and divide into 10 equal pieces
    •  3.) On a lightly floured surface knead each piece into a flat circle and use rolling pin to make tortilla.
    • 4.) Cook on stove top on medium to low heat. Tortilla will bubble and then flip.

       Our grocery bill was actually $80.33 plus a couple dollars for frozen pizza, I had my husband get on his way home one night I was sick. The difference includes toiletries and Valentines Day items. I would like to work these types of items into our $70 budget, but I am giving myself a little wiggle room for the first little while, and counting only the food items in the actual. That being said, I won't spend more than $10 on these additional items. I also want to point out the cliff bars are my husband's daily lunch. I tried the home made option this week and they were great and very simple. My husband still has to weigh in, so it is still up in the air whether or not we switch to home made. 
      Central Texas just weathered an extreme unseasonal freeze. It definitely impacted our CSA share. Our CSA received major damage to their crops. This was one of my biggest worries when joining a CSA. Your share is based on the success of the farms which is directly related to the weather. In the 20 weeks we have received shares I am positive we received a great deal more than $30 worth of vegetables in our weekly shares. Most weeks my very large grocery bag is overflowing with vegetables. Even in these previous two smaller shares, it has been enough to get us through a week. I also realized these weeks of surplus and weeks of less would also occur at the grocery store. Vegetable prices at the store are also based on industry yields and disasters. If I gave myself a $30 budget at the grocery store for veggies, there would be times when my bag was fuller than others. Even during this time when our CSA is adjusting and replanting, I know I am getting the better deal, and healthier fresher vegetables, and supporting a local farm all in one shot. I am so glad we gave it a chance. It really has been one of the best decisions we have made for our health and budget. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 2

Goal: $70
Actual: $84
  • Chickpeas 
  • Black eyed peas 
  • 1 dozen eggs 
  • Whole Wheat Flour 
  • Onions 
  • Tofu 
  • Coconut Milk 
  • Quinoa
  • Raisins 
  • Limes 
  • Lemons
  • Millet 
  • Cottage Cheese 
  • Lentils 
  • Cheese 
  • Soy Sauce 
  • Cliff Bars 
  • Brown Sugar
  • Almonds

  • Spinach 
  • Carrots 
  • Beets 
  • Chard 
  • Scallions 
  • Turnips 
  • Bok Choy 
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Dill 
  • Cilantro
Notes: We went over budget this week, due to a number of things. I make my dog's food every two weeks. This week was the week I needed to get the ingredients. Which were lentils, millet, and cottage cheese. I need to figure out how to buy these things and the rest of our groceries without going over budget. I also used an additional $3.29 to buy some almonds to make almond butter. I made some using my food processor and 1 tsp of cinnamon. It seems almonds a a source of calcium. The cinnamon almond butter was delicious! 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 1

Goal: $70
Actual: $75

Dinner Menu: 

Breakfast Menu:
Grocery List:
  • Start your shopping in your pantry! We were able to eliminate a lot of needed items from the list, b/c it we already had it. We only had to buy: $45
    • Black strap molasses
    • Basil
    • Chickpeas
    • Dry milk
    • Raisins
    • Yeast
    • Tomatoes
    • Bananas
    • 1 large block cheese
    • 1 package of Parmesan cheese
    • Tortillas
    • 1 dozen eggs
    • Cliff bars
    • Soap
    • Sugar
  • Our CSA share included: $30
    • 1 bunch of carrots
    • 1 head of cabbage
    • Turnips with greens
    • Rutabaga (Swedish turnips)
    • Cilantro
    • Dill
    • 1 head of cabbage
    • Beets with greens
    • 1 bunch rainbow chard
    • 2 large sweet potatoes
    • Brussels sprouts with greens
    • Big bag of broccoli
    • Green onions
If you choose to go the CSA route, your share will have a different variety of veggies. Be creative. You do not have to follow recipes to a the letter. Substitute and try variations! 

Next week I will work on posting a complete shopping list in case you don't have everything we have on hand. 

  • Any menu item with a hyper link will lead you to the recipe I used. Those without a hyper link are listed here. 
    • Chipotle Chickpeas:
      • 1 lb dry chick peas, soaked over night, cooked and drained
      • 1/2 TBL ground chipotle pepper
      • 1 TBL oil
      • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place oil, chickpeas and chipotle pepper in 9x13" baking dish. Shake until chick peas are evenly coated. Cook for 20 mins. Shake and cook for another 10 mins. 
    • Roasted Root Veggies: 
      • Use any root veggies you have. This week I used sliced turnips and rutabagas.
      • 1 TBL oil
      • Pre-heat over to 400 degrees. Place veggies and oil in 9 x13" baking dish. make sure veggies are fully coated with oil and cook for 45-60 mins.
    • Greek Yogurt with dill:
      • Make yogurt. We use non-fat dry milk and a yogurt maker. Here is a video on how to make yogurt without any special equipment. 
      • Once your yogurt is ready to use, strain the whey completely using a coffee filter. Save whey for other uses. 
      • Chop fresh dill and stir into yogurt.
    • Smoked Black Beans:
      • 1 lb dry black beans, soaked overnight, and cooked. (do not drain.)
      • 1 tsp smoked salt or to taste
      • 1/2- 1 onion, diced
      • Once beans are cooked add smoked salt and onion and cook for about 15 mins. Save left overs to make refried beans. 
    • Raisin Oatmeal:
      • Follow banana oatmeal recipe, omitting the bananas and adding 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/3-1/2 cup raisins. 
    • Pesto:
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1 bunch basil
      • 1/4 olive oil
      • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
      • Combine all ingredient in a food processor and blend. 
    • Whole Wheat Flax Tortillas:
      • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
      • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
      • 1 1/2 tsp salt
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 6 TBL ground flax (You can use 2 TBL of butter  or shortening instead of flax seed. If you do decrease water by 1/2 cup.)
      • 2/3 +1/2 cups warm water
      • 1.)Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then gradually add the water while mixing. Mix into a dough, cover and let rise for 20 mins.
      • 2.) Roll into a rope and divide into 10 equal pieces
      •  3.) On a lightly floured surface knead each piece into a flat circle and use rolling pin to make tortilla.
      • 4.) Cook on stove top on medium to low heat. Tortilla will bubble and then flip.
Omitted and Substituted: 
  • I try to avoid canned and frozen ingredients. When a recipe calls for canned beans I use dried beans. When a recipe calls for canned tomatoes I use diced fresh tomatoes. Anytime a recipe calls for a variety of veggies, I check my current stock and use whatever I have. For instance, I used carrots, broccoli, cabbage, onion and garlic in the stir fry, and did not even pay attention to the veggies they called for. I did not have red pepper on hand, so that was completely omitted from the sun-dried tomato stew as well as navy beans instead of white kidney beans. I have carrots but not parsnip, so carrots were used in the cabbage stew. There are many many more examples. The key to keeping the bill as low as possible, is to use what you have so there is no waste and don't buy things you don't really need. So far flavor and satisfaction has not suffered. I also always mix greens while refrying my beans. This ensures veggies in the meal and it is a great way to sneak them passed my 2 year old. At the very end of the week, I was out of a lot of items. For instance, when I went to make the oatmeal dinner rolls, I realized we had eaten the eggs for breakfast. Instead of running out to get more eggs or skipping the rolls, I did a quick search for egg replacer substitutes. I found 2 TBL of cornstarch is the equivalent of 1 egg in baking. The rolls turned out great! 

One More Time With Feeling

Have I ever dropped the ball! Sheeeeesh! Well no more, I am back to updating weekly. I also found a group of veggie food bloggers doing this same thing. You can check them out with the tag "Project: Food Budget" and I am sure they will pop up and give you a ton of really great ideas!

My loyalty to this blog ebbs and flows with our wallet....Our budget currently restricts us to $70/week. I think it will continue to be like this for a long time to come. So I will be planning our weekly menu again and posting it here. I look forward to this practice and hope that as our wallet expands I can keep being frugal with our grocery budget. Seems like a great way to save money and one day build wealth. 

Check out the hillbilly housewife. She has an emergency menu posted. Very frugal. She also makes recommendations such as using dry milk instead of fresh. We gave that a try and paid $5.49 for a box that makes 5 gallons of milk. 5 gallons of fresh milk would have cost us $14.95. Meaning we saved nearly $10! She also has great tips on improving the flavor. I loved the suggestion for putting blackstap molasses in the milk! While I hate the stuff my 2 year old loves it! 1TBL blackstap molasses has 25% of daily recommended iron and 20% calcium. (This varies with brand and from bottle to bottle. So read the labels!) I put a tsp of black strap molasses in her milk at each meal. She loves it and I feel confident that she is getting a huge dose iron and calcium.

Our weekly grocery budget must include everything from groceries, cleaning supplies to personal hygiene products. You will see links to info about cleaning with vinegar and making home made deodorant. It is not just food.

I will also start couponing, but not in an extreme way. The goal of my grocery list is simplicity. I am going to try to limit the variety of item we buy each week. After a very short try at buying local organic produce at the farmer's market, I have come to a strong realization that this is too expensive. We once again signed up for a CSA membership. This has been amazing. A huge variety or fresh organic veggies for $30/week. We have been able to try veggies we would have never tried, and have enough fresh veggies for every meal. I would highly recommend joining one. Check out If money is tighter than time, most CSAs offer a work share. Meaning if you work on their farm for so many hours they will give you a free bushel. I am not able to do this as paying for child care while I work the farm is more expensive than the share. We use Johnson's Backyard Garden. They have multiple incentives, such as being able so swap things you don't like for things you do like as well as one free item if you pick up your share at the farmer's market.

The new formula to keep our weekly grocery bill (CSA cost included) under $70 is:
1.Use our CSA share(use greens at the beginning of the week and tubers and ground veggie later in the week.)
2. Buy a similar list of groceries each week.

  • whole wheat flour
  • 1 type of grain
  • 2 types of beans
  • favorite versatile spices (cinnamon, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, smoked salt)
  • dry milk
  • One block of cheese
  • eggs
  • Oats
  • Various baking supplies (baking powder, yeast, sugar, vanilla)
  • peanut butter
  • vinegar
Buying these core staple items, we should be able to build up a little bit of a variety, while  keeping the bill very low. We also will not have to buy all these things every week. I will also be able to make complete rounded meals. I am going to start posting the menu and grocery list after the week has passed. This will allow me to make a rough menu and cook our meals based on what we have on hand instead of making a strict menu that requires a lot of different ingredients. I have found a weekly menu with a long list of small ingredients equals a very large grocery bill. This being said, I substitute and eliminate a good deal of ingredients in recipes. For instance my refried bean recipe calls for green pepper and onions. If our share did not have green peppers, I only use onions and I add chopped greens. 

We have also cut many things out. We no longer buy cereal, soy milk, more than one package of cheese or more than 1 dozen eggs. I make oat meal, granola bars, or sweet bread for breakfast. Oats are the most versatile food. Nutritional data is great and the price is very low!

I hope you will follow my blog again, and keep me posting! :) Ok, Ok! I will stick to it on my own. :)

Thanks for reading!