Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Real Food on a Budget - yes, even food from Whole Foods...

When I left work to go on maternity leave, we decided to cut back - way back - to see how it would be to live on one income. One of the budgets we slashed was our grocery budget, which we sliced by about a third to $300 a month, or $75 a week. At one point in my life $75 seemed like a lot of money. Now I know that $75 will buy you about one 8lb brisket at Whole Foods. Ouch.

Yes, we shop at Whole Foods and are not about to deprive ourselves by forgoing our addiction to good food. We've read too many books and watched too many movies (like Omnivore's Dilemma, Real Food, and Food, Inc., all of which I all highly recommend) about the state of the modern day food chain to go for the status quo when it comes to food - mainly in regards to CAFO meats and industrial produce. When we tell people we shop at Whole Foods I'm pretty sure they think that we're food snobs and spend a fortune...but that's definitely not the case (at least when it comes to the money part - as far as food snobs, well, call a spade a spade). It's all about planning out your purchases, limiting your protein and being able to say no to that delicious Gouda they are sampling at the cheese counter that is not on your list. But maybe next week it will be...

We now spend some time every Saturday morning planning our food for the week to make the most of our shopping trip and to make our food stretch as far as possible. A sample for this week -

Week of April 14

Sat - Salmon (from local fish monger) with wheat couscous and sautéed spinach from the garden
Sun - Lamb Steaks (from the freezer - a lamb we purchased at the local 4H auction) with mashed potatoes and salad
Mon - Asian chicken salad (minus the lo mein noddles to save some cash)
Tues - Chicken tostadas
Wed - Chicken Pasta (something thrown together with the final left over chicken and whatever we have left in the fridge, like cilantro, which we'd make into a pesto)
Thurs - Lentil Fritter Pitas
Fri - Freezer Meal (see what random Trader Joe's items are in the freezer, like fried rice or pot stickers)

As you'll notice, the key to many of these meals is chicken - we bought a chicken from Whole Foods and are grilling it up on Sunday night along with the lamb so that we can use the leftovers throughout the week. One of the main ways we cut back on spending was the fact that so many of the meals use similar ingredients, such as the chicken, or items that we already have at home left over from last week's meals like Greek yogurt or cilantro (we always take stock of what is in the fridge or freezer when getting inspiration for the week's meals). The grand total in spending for this week between Trader Joe's and Whole Foods was less than $60. Not too shabby!

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