Monday, August 4, 2008

Experimental Eating

"Do you think you could feed the four of us healthy, fresh meals for five days on $45?" Chad asked this question a couple of weeks ago. I replied, "Are you joking?" So began the saga of the J. family "food game" as it has become known in our home. We had to sell it to Ingrid, especially. She is our little snacker...grazer...7 meal a day girl.
The rules
1) Freshly-prepared meals (as little prepared foods as possible); fresh produce;
2) Common pantry items don't count, such as herbs and spices, salt, mustard, ketchup, incidental sugar or flour;
3) Dry rice, cups of flour or sugar, oats and pasta do count;
4) The experiment will last from Monday breakfast through Friday afternoon snack (technically it's not a week, but we're just starting out...);
5) I can pull protein (chicken, beef, pork, seafood) from our chest freezer. I've had some amazing steals recently.
So yesterday, I went to the local grocery store and Commissary (that's the grocery store on a military installation for you civilians). Sunflower Market specializes in both an amazing assortment of hard to find produce, deli items, imported foods, organics, local produce and bulk. They also have some of the best prices around. The Commissary claims to save military members 35% on their grocery bill. I think this is accurate. These two stores are my best-bets in Almost Mexico, Arizona. I kept a mental tally (next time I'll bring a calculator) and got out of both stores for a combined $55. So we missed the mark by $10...and I was scrimping.

My meal plans:

Oatmeal (rolled oats, not prepared, which we have never done anyway) or toast made from healthy homemade whole-grain bread or cereal with yogurt. Some kind of fruit is required, but it can be frozen like blueberries or blackberries. I get coffee...I'm gonna need it.

2 Snacks
(For the girls -- I don't really snack) Mid-morning and mid-afternoon. These have been a stumbling block for us...the girls are constantly wanting snacks, and we need to reign this in...just because it's become a bad habit. If you read the blog post below about popcorn popper, this will be a best-bet...1 pound of bulk organic unpopped popcorn at Sunflower is only 99 cents! (A one pound jar of Orville R's cost me $3.95 at Target.) They like dry cereal, and healthy cereal at that's simple. Cheese and crackers, fruit, whole carrot to munch, etc. Nothing prepared other than crackers or cereal.

Mac & Cheese - they dig it. I make Kraft (aaakkkk - but how can you beat 15 boxes for $9.75 at the commissary?) but I use nonfat plain yogurt instead of milk and butter instead of margarine.
Grilled cheese on homemade whole grain bread.
Cheese and crackers
Cheese quesadilla
Peanut butter sandwich
Kosher hot dog
Plus a homemade fruit smoothie, fruit, veggies, etc.
Some kind of a dessert...a well-chosen dessert goes a long ways towards promoting goodwill with the girls since I'll be saying "no" to the repeated snack requests.
This is where I get to cheat a little bit. I can pull from our stash of amazing bargain meat that I've purchased recently. The local Kroger-brand store (Fry's) had bone-in chicken breasts for .49 cents a pound. I bought about $30 worth! They also had family packs of lean pork loin chops - I got 10 chops for $1.99!!! Both items were loss-leaders -- I talked to the butcher because I wondered if these were close to pull date. Nope. I have lean ground beef chubs from Costco.

Monday: Grilled chicken breasts, rice, fruit, veggies
Tuesday: Chicken caesar salad with the leftover chicken from Monday, homemade focaccia
Wednesay: Corn chowder, green salad, leftover focaccia or fresh bread if focaccia is gone
Thursday: Pasta with either pesto or marinara and meatballs and salad
Friday: dinner will be out as a reward...we think pizza (of course -- where else do we go these days if we go out?) But, Chad doesn't know that I actually bought ingredients for homemade pizza (the cheese and toppings) within the $55, so we COULD stay in. (I always make my own crust.)

Now that I've shopped for this once, I'm going to do it for a true seven day week, but I'm going to say we need $60. I think these are going to be key: extras like cookies, snacks, and breads have to be homemade; there's no room for chips, cookies, lots of crackers or prepared foods in the budget; items have to be on sale, or the cheapest in their category; shop for produce that is in season.
Suggestions or sarcasm is welcome.

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

my boys have recently started snacking on trail mix - i get the "tropical" type which is dried bananas, apricots, pineapple, white raisins, macadamia nuts and cashews... they love it and it's a pretty healthy snack.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...