So I’m trying something new.
I’m tired of the way I’ve been budgeting for groceries and meal planning, so I’ve thrown the whole thing out the window. My old process included pouring over recipes, picking out meals for the week, then shopping according to that meal plan. Sounds good, right?
The problem was mostly budgetary. I found that my grocery list was always more than my budget. Not only that, but on top of not being able to purchase everything on the grocery list for the upcoming meals, I wasn’t able to buy other things I needed (ie toiletries, odds and ends the boys would need, household supplies, etc).
Our grocery budget comes out of one of the two paychecks my husband receives each month. From that money, I would divide it by four, and that was the amount I would have to spend each week. And that was the amount that wasn’t quite cutting it.
So now, I’m trying something different. It’s liberating. It’s meeting our needs. And it’s taken a huge burden off my shoulders. Here’s my new plan:
Our monthly grocery budget is the same. I didn’t change the amount we can spend in total over one month’s time. What I changed, was how I dispersed it. Now, I use my first shopping trip of the month to stock up on all of my household’s necessities. I calculated in advanced an average of how much of an item I go through in a month and then buy based on usage, not a recipe. For example (this is just a portion of my master grocery list):
4 boxes whole grain pasta
4 bags of lentils
2 bags brown rice
1 bag white rice
2 bags quinoa
1 coconut oil
8 cans black beans
4 cans chick peas
8 quarts of vegetable broth
5 loaves of whole grain bread
2 jars salsa
4 bags of chips
1 box graham crackers
1 jar almond butter
8 bags of frozen veggies
1 pack of toilet paper
1 dishwasher detergent
1 pack of pull ups
I created my master grocery list, including these grocery staples, household needs and toiletry items, and then allowed myself to spend 80% of my overall grocery budget. The final 20% was divided by four (in cash). From here, each week I will go to the store with that week’s budgeted cash and will only need to buy fresh produce and refrigerated items.
It felt so good after that first shopping trip to come home with everything I needed. I didn’t have to wait until next week to buy the laundry detergent, I didn’t have to drop any items from my grocery list. But I also didn’t have the pressure of having to find or splurge on certain ingredients to make a recipe work. I just stuck to the list of staples.
The trade off, now, is that instead of having a meal plan, I have well a well stocked pantry and fridge. Each day I create meals based off the things I have in my cupboard, not in my cookbooks. This process is definitely a new challenge and is certainly stretching me, but I’m enjoying it so much. It’s forcing me to be creative, think outside the box, and be resourceful.
Sometimes I still reference tried and true recipes just to confirm measurements or to see what combination of spices I should use, but by and large, I’ve been simply creating things on the fly. It’s been fun!
I don’t profess to be a recipe developer, but one night I was asking for some thickening tips from a friend and she asked for the final recipe that I came up with. (Hi Allie!) So here you have it, a His Girl Friday original recipe!
Coconutty Vegan Pasta
2 TB coconut oil
1 C coconut milk
1/4 C flour
1/4 C nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 C diced onions
1 bunch spinach, chopped
1 1/2 C cooked pinto beans (or 1 can)
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (undrained)
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 C cilantro, chopped
2 C whole grain pasta (penne, spiral, bow tie, etc)
1 Avocado, diced
Cook pasta; drain and set aside.
Saute onions in coconut oil until soft.
Add flour to pan and stir until onions are coated.
Slowly whisk in coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
Add spices, salt and pepper to taste, beans, tomatoes and spinach.
Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens.
Stir in noodles, cilantro and green onions.
Serve immediately, topped with diced avocado.
Note: You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy this dish! However, if you want to include dairy, just use milk for the coconut milk, and real cheese instead of the nutritional yeast. You can also use any type of bean that you prefer, and add in any vegetables that sound good.