Monday, July 27, 2009

Trying To Be Economical

It's been very difficult lately to reduce our grocery spending, even though we've been buying more bulk foods and dry beans, seeds, and grains. We just like food too much! Plus, organic foods are more expensive, as well as some necessary processed items like soy milk, juice, and cereal.

This is our typical grocery list:

Farmer's market produce - 1-2 green vegetables, green beans or broccoli, 2 cucumbers, a few tomatoes, a few squashes or potatoes, 1 bell pepper, chives or onion, pint of blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, and a few peaches (whatever fruit is in-season and cheaper).

grocery store produce - lots of bananas, 2 large avocados, tomatoes (if none available at the farmer's market), lots of carrots, 1-2 oranges or grapefruit

bulk foods - 3/4-1 lb raisins or dried cranberries, 1/2-1 lb wheat flour, 1/2-1 lb spelt flour, 1 lb dried beans (pinto, garbanzo, or lentils), 1/2-1 lb rolled oats, 1/2 lb quinoa or millet

2 Pearl soymilks and 1 large store brand vanilla soymilk
1 package firm tofu

1 can diced tomatoes or 1 can tomato sauce

1 box cereal, maybe 1 bag chips or crackers

once in a while- tahini/seed butter, flaxmeal, pumpkin seeds, non-dairy yogurt, salsa, dark chocolates

We make our own breads, muffins, and desserts generally (healthier and cheaper), and our protein sources are cheap beans, tofu, tahini, and homemade veggie burgers (instead of buying expensive frozen foods and store-bought veggie burgers).

So, we really try to be economical, but our grocery bill is still pretty high - like $100-130 - (but that also includes some personal non-food items. And, we admit, we do splurg on new products that we are eager to try :)

Any suggestions to be even more economical? We seem to cook and bake so much, because homemade foods are cheaper, but any ideas to be economical and quick in the kitchen?

So, here are some dinners we've enjoyed these past 2 weeks, for which we've tried to be economical:

Homemade Tomato Sauce with lots of garlic and olive oil. We had a pizza with homemade tomato garlic sauce one night, then used the pizza crust to dip into the sauce and had the sauce over broccoli.

Homemade Salsa - easy and tasty! Just blended 1 can diced tomatoes, lots of chives and garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro. Here we used the salsa over black beans, served with fresh green beans and homemade corn muffins.

Homemade Healthy Refried Beans - delicious and nutritious, packed with protein! We love creamy foods, and pintos are so creamy.

(Adapted from World's Healthiest Foods Cajun Bean Chili)

1 clove minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 Tb Mexican seasoning or chili powder
1/4 tsp thyme
3/4 - 1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
3 - 3 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans
2-4 Tb water to make desired thickness/creaminess
pepper and olive oil to taste

Saute onion for 4 min, or until just translucent, then add garlic and cook 1 min. Combine remaining ingredients, reserving 2-3 Tb of pinto beans. Place everything in a blender and blend until creamy. Then add the remaining 2-3 Tb pinto beans and mix until just combined (don't blend). Serve in a burrito, with chips, or in rice bowls.

Have a great week and stay cool (it's 100 degrees for the next 3 days here in Oregon)!


Anonymous said...

I live in Portland too!!! Yay!

To save even more money, you can make your own tahini-so simple and sesame seeds are very inexpensive. I'm sure you already do this but, you can make your own granola too. I used to buy boxed cereals to mix it up a bit, but homemade granola is so versatile. I stopped buying boxed stuff (although People's Co-Op has a very cheap and tasty bulk bran flake cereal!!!).

Another way to save money on groceries is to make a weekly meal list and then base your shopping needs off that (incorporating basic necessities like soy milk, juice, tp, whatever). My partner and I typically spend $85/week on mostly organic foods/groceries/toiletries, but it used to be more.

And while the berries at the farmers market are tempting, picking your own is so much cheaper! I picked cherries this year for $1 a pound. I guess this tip only helps if you have your own transportation, but it does save lots of money and provide some solace in the outdoors!

I can totally relate to wanting to try new, fun products!!! Sometimes it's just hard to resist...

Hope you both keep cool in the crazy heat! I am about to melt!

Andrea said...

I know what you mean about how hard it seems to keep food costs down. I've always found that planning meals and keeping to a list is most economical. It's all the little extras that really add up. Buying in bulk and cooking from scratch (like dried beans) really helps. And carefully comparing prices is an eye opener. I needed Sucanot, and found it at our co-op in the bulk bins, cheaper than the package. But then I found in an adjacent bin, an identical, unbranded product for $1 less per pound. Always check the "reduced for quick sale" produce for bargains, too. And store brands, as you mentioned, for necessities can be money savers. At Whole Foods, we find 365 brand organic foods far less expensive than many popular brands. Also, many stores will give you a discount if you buy a case of something, sometimes as much as 20%. Just ask the manager.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to ask, how much onion do I need for the refried beans recipe? Thanks!

Mihl said...

I'm not the person to ask, I spend too much money on groceries, too.

Vegetation said...

I am of absolutely no help. I try to make as much as I can from scratch, but I'm an absolute sucker for an expensive food item I've never seen before (hello vegan prawns, I'm looking at you!!) and as much of a sucker for an overloaded pantry *blush*. I could feed 3 armies with what's in my pantry alone!

Linda said...

The good stuff is always expensive. :) I like your grocery list.