Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Plan Update

This was an interesting week for me. I went to a birthday dinner, and got an $11 entree (and water). I figured this was going to put me way over budget, giving me grocery money of $8.88 for the next week (from the 12 cents of last week plus the dollar over the $10). But as an awesome matter of circumstance, I didn't actually pay for my meal. It was kind of neat eating out at a restaurant. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed doing stuff like that. One negative byproduct of doing a highly restrictive food budget is that unless you exempt eating out (which I don't), it's very isolating. Most of the time when my friends want to go out for dinner or do something that ultimately winds up resulting in eating out (such as going to the movies; because really, who goes to the movie and doesn't get popcorn?) I can't go. Well, I could, but then I couldn't buy food that week. It's a downside that anyone on a restrictive food budget is aware of, and I'm not convinced that outside circumstances of necessity (i.e., you really only CAN afford to eat for the week on a highly restrictive budget), it's a good way to go. It's not part of my rules currently, but I think the next time I do a challenge of this sort, I might allow myself two meals a month of eating out. That way I could do fun things with my friends too. Anyway, I had these amazing chimichangas. My plate came with 2 (who can eat two?) of them, once with a spicy-ish chipotle sauce and one with a tangy green sauce. I enjoyed them both, but I liked the green one better. Everyone I convinced to sample my food seemed to enjoy it as well (also with a preference for the green one). Had we not been going bar-hopping directly following the meal, I would have taken my leftovers home with me. You all know how much I hate wasting food. I also enjoyed most of the foods I sampled from other people's plates as well. All in all, it was a great time and it totally would have been worth it to go way over budget to participate in the birthday festivities.

You saw all the things I went through last week, and since I've been making food faster than I can post it (since I so dislike making more than one post per day), your viewing of my eating is actually a little bit behind. So, where we're at right now is that for the most part, what you see one week is actually what I ate the previous week. Unless I start subsisting on frozen shells and things I've posted in the past, it'll probably be like that for a little while. Hope you guys don't mind.

In terms of freezer progress, I've eaten some of the shells in the freezer and added some cheese breads to it (uncooked - freeze the dough and cook it from frozen). The mangoes I thawed went back into the freezer and then later into a smoothie (my blender is back from vacation!!!!!!!) and I really enjoyed it. That also used up the remainder of the almond milk in the fridge.

I took the Velveeta (gross; how is it I had that to begin with, when I know I don't even like "processed cheese food?") out of the freezer in order to make queso (not gross) and made pita chips to dip in it. This queso is my pedestrian recreation of Magnolia's Mud. It worked out pretty well, though it wasn't exactly the same.

I still haven't made the cocktail onions I intended to use the whole, frozen onions for, so I guess it's a good thing I've yet to thaw them. I'll get to it eventually, I'm sure. And, I still have corn and peas. Oh yeah, also about 4 cups of pumpkin mash. I might just thaw some and eat it (with Francis) plain. In terms of fruit, nothing has really changed in this area. The orange juice is still in the freezer, so I haven't needed that. I'm still torn as to whether I want to use that bag of mixed fruits to make a pie (which has the side benefit of using up the frozen pie crust), for smoothies or just to eat by itself. I portioned out some of the curd and froze it. I'm strongly considering adding it to a modified pancake batter and making pancakes. It's so delicious, but so gross to look at. For meats, I used a chicken breast. I think I have 4 or 5 left. Still got the sausage, some bacon (though I used some of that), the salt pork and the tilapia.

I've still got 3 kinds of pickles left: slices, klaussen halves and the Arabic pickles. I haven't eaten up all the olives yet, nor the makdous (isn't my restraint impressive?). I am, however, going through those pickled banana peppers like wildfire. They seem to be on my shopping list nearly every week. I can't stop eating them. I guess that's not too bad, since there's a massive amount of flavour to be added to everything imaginable, for the low-low cost of $1.39. Not bad at all, really.

I think I've reached the point in my freezer purging where everything is going to disappear in the span of a week or two, or where I move along at a snail's pace. I'm just not pulling things from it quickly anymore. I'm not sure if that's because I'm not particularly interested in what's left in there, or because I'm preserving it. It's hard to say, since it's most likely a combination of the two possibilities. I'm just not self-aware enough to know for sure. Additionally, I seem to be adding leftovers to the freezer which is less than optimal. I mean, it's great for days I don't feel like cooking, but it's not great for purging the freezer.

Anyway, that's my progress. On to the spending!

It occurred to me that sometimes my grocery store purchases seem really disjointed and random. A wonderful benefit of having been a long term food storer (hoarder?), and one that really is necessary for making a highly restrictive food budget work, is that I am really good at looking ahead. I know pretty much all the time what food is in my house (well, at least the part I'm allowed to use), and I also know what I'm getting low on but don't really need at the moment. So if I have room in the budget, I buy the things that I know will be needed around the bend so I don't put myself in a situation where I didn't shop "because I didn't need anything," only later to go over my budget because I ran out of a bunch of stuff at once. That's pretty much what happened this week. Aside from some sort of snack food (and probably more banana peppers), I didn't need a single thing. So I decided to get things I knew I'd be out of in the relatively near future. I only had enough matzot to get me through this week, and maybe (but unlikely) next week, so that went on the list. I only had 5 cans of tuna left (I don't know why there were five since I mostly use tuna in pairs of cans, not singles), so that went on the list too. And I've only got enough bread flour left for either a large batch of bread or a batch of pizza crust (I think we all know what I'll use it on). So that was on the list too.

When I got to the store, I could've bought matzot and bread flour, bread flour and a snack item (Triscuits, in this particular case), or matzot and a snack item. In the end, I decided that since I've probably got 3-4 pounds of all-purpose flour left, and I've been replacing some of my normal flour with whole wheat, that I may as well just leave the flour for another week. So that's what I did.

This week I spent:

Banana peppers: $1.39
Avocado: $0.50
Tuna (2): $1.24
Matzot: $3.69
Triscuits: $2.75

Total: $9.57

That puts me completely back on track, so I'll actually get the full $10 next week. I was curious how much I've actually spent on food since I started this challenge (because I figured I should've spent $90, if I'm correct on how long I've been doing this), so I tallied it up for us. I think I'll do this weekly now, so we have an accurate measure of what's happening here.

Total spending during challenge: $92.24/$88.24

That total includes the $4 kraut mishap, and I think we decided to leave that off since I didn't know Wal-Mart would fix it next time I came in. So really, the spending total is $88.24. So I'm a little under budget. I might see if I can make up the $2.24 just in the interest of curiousity, but if I don't, so be it. I'm not going to sweat it since according to the rules, I'm really $1.76 under budget for the time being.

7 comments:

  1. Reading about your budget and your freezer clearing has been so helpful and inspiring for me - thank you! I'm also happy to learn that I'm not the only one who uses matzot year-round! :-)

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  2. You're welcome, Astra! I'm glad it's helping in some way (other than helping myself, of course :)). Oh, I'm glad to know you eat matzot year round too; I was beginning to think I was the only one!

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  3. wait, sheets, or meal? the whole pieces make great pizza base when I can't be bothered making dough. So speedy and nummy.

    Otherwise, W00t on the whole under budget thing. You're showing unusual restrain with the pickles. When is your summer budget over? Do you have to stretch it until student loan kickbacks in mid-september?

    also, that Magnolia cafe might be the place that has the vegan queso... I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

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  4. Nope, I lied, but the site of the queso makers say it's at 2 Austin Whole Foods stores. No idea which ones.

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  5. The whole crackers. I don't think I've ever owned meal in my life. Agreed though - they do make excellent pizza bases!

    It is really, really hard to eat all these pickles slowly. Really hard. But, I'm trying to not have to spend several weeks worth of food budget on pickles.

    I'm not 100% sure when the challenge ends. P gets back from Chicago on like, the 8th, so there's a temptation to stop at that point. But, I don't get my school monies until around the 23rd. And somewhere in the middle of those two dates I'll be vacationing for about a week. So what I'm considering doing is ending the challenge on the 8th instead of the 21st (which would be the end of the budget week preceding school starting), but still maintaining online accountability of my grocery spending so I continue to limit my spending even if I'm not only doing $10/week. I've wasted so much less food, and eaten so much better since I started doing this that I can't see a good reason to not continue to regulate my grocery budget more carefully than I had been.

    My guess would be the store on 6th street for sure. I'm not entirely sure how many other WF are in Austin, other than the one on 6th and the one on 183. But the 6th street store for sure would have it. Is it Kirby Lane that has the vegan queso?

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  6. I'm not totally sure, and the website they just put up doesn't say (it's *brand new*). I'm thinking about requesting it at the healthy food stores here, but I don't know if they'd carry it. After all, how many people could want vegan queso?

    I bet, if you restocked once a month from the Cave, you could go, comfortably, until New Years. Gotta rotate stuff, anyway. Might as well enjoy it, right?

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  7. You never know. I guess if there's a large(ish) vegan community there, perhaps it would sell well?

    Yeah, I totally agree. I'm really going to have to sit down and figure it out. I think I could still manage $10/week w/ P here, especially using the Cave. But I know he likes some pretty particular items that don't fit at all in a $10/week budget. I'll have to work on that to figure out how to best do it; modifying the budget to account for his items, or something.

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