I can't believe I'm writing about our grocery budget again... but I am. I don't know quite what I want to say about this topic, except maybe, sadly, I bet that this isn't the last time it'll come up.
How do you do it? How do you eat well, eat interestingly, and entertain friends and family, all in the same month, without playing fast and loose with your budget?
I haven't figured that out yet. When I was living on my own (and exercising almost daily), I knew how. Eat frozen black bean burgers for dinner and a rotation of tuna with mac and cheese or turkey and cheese sandwiches every day. Splurge on a $6 frozen pizza on the weekend and eat leftovers for a couple days. Also splurge on the Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches. Chips and salsa played a main role in my evening snacking. Meat? What meat? Maybe a bag of frozen chicken for the month. But that kind of thing just doesn't fly for me as a married gal. For one thing, I want to feed my husband with the labors of my hands. For another I've developed an aversion to frozen chicken. I want the good stuff now. Fresh, no hormones, no antibiotics, free range. For another, the guy has quite an appetite. Lasagna that would feed me for a week is gone in three days.
Got a little off track there. Sorry.
Okay, I have a few money-saving ideas. But I don't love them, really. Not yet. Because so far this grocery-budget-ignoring has not resulted in me not getting my hair done or skipping my Starbucks or cancelling my gym membership (although I haven't darkened that door in a couple of weeks).
I suppose, to truly embrace them, I need to view this budget and my money-saving ideas as challenges. I've always been one to like a challenge. Give me a fitness chart and I'm happy to fill it in daily - same thing with a food diary or a to-do list. So here we go. My plan. To be revised as needed.
1. If you have someone over for dinner, let it be a bring-a-dish event. Friends always ask, so trust them and say yes. What they bring might not be the ideal complement to the simple-elegant meal you planned, but it might just be a recipe you'll love for years to come. And people like the feeling that they've contributed to a fun evening at someone else's home.
2. Use more beans and whole grains. As fillers, as bases for a main dish, as side dishes. Fiber, protein = filling, satiating.
3. Simple meals. Whole ingredients. Like baked fish with a sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. Or chicken breasts with roasted carrots and a salad. Foods that don't need a whole lot of dressing up to be delicious. This is nice for time management, too.
4. Use the leftovers. Insist upon it!
5. Plan ahead. Way ahead. If you want to have friends over for a game night AND co-host a baby shower AND have the whole family over for dinner in the same month... well, you're going to have to cut back and you're probably going to have to start doing it at the beginning of the month. Don't experiment with a new salad dressing or buy extra salmon just for the satisfaction of a well-stocked freezer or allow for two yummy, nutty loaves of bread a week or buy extra bags of tasty oat crisps just because they're on sale. This isn't the month for it. I know this from experience. We should have been eating black bean and barley patties every week this month.