Thursday, April 14, 2011

Now let's get started - Cooking for $5.50 a day

So here's the essentials:
- Meal Planning
- Ad watching
- Coupons; when it's something I had originally intended on purchasing
- Freezing & storing food
- Making the most use out of leftovers

Initially, I was not sure that it's possible to work with around 5.50 a day, to feed two people 3 daily meals without those essentials. So here's what you need to do to get a little more confident: sit down and make a list of both of your favorite foods & meals.

My husband, loves chicken. And I do too, so this is a staple in our house. We buy from a large Warehouse Store chicken breasts, thighs & legs for less than a dollar a pound. That's a crazy great deal, especially since they carry natural chicken. This is where you'll see me buy most of my groceries; in big, large quantities because I do something I call 'Staple Cooking'. I went ahead & made up the term to encompass what I do. I have about 15 things I use to make a month's worth of meals that were mentioned in my Food Challenge Blog.
We both love, slow cooked home made tomato sauces that are actually cheaper to make, and have an indescribable level of complexity that is only experienced once you taste a homemade sauce. So, I buy a 5 lb can of tomatoes, nothing special done to them (the ones that are crushed, etc. tend to cost more from my experience) for about 2.20. It's crazy cheap - and I do so many things with it that I hope will influence you to try!

So once we sat down, I got a general grasp of what we both like, and from there, I can start. This is what you should do, too.

About once a month, we hit the higher end markets, to buy a big lamb leg to slow roast - and it's our treat that we financially account for through our 'fun funds' budget allowance. We know, it's costs us about 30 bucks, and that is really about 3/5ths of what we spend on food in one week, but i'm a firm believer in splurging to have fun - because you know what? Budgeting the whole way through, gives you the money & excitement of totally splurging on something you both love.

Things you're going to see here that are going to help you
- Meat reduction/reducing pricey ingredients from dishes. I do a stuffed cabbage, where I reverse how much rice & meat should be used. I do 3 cups of rice, instead of meat - and vice versa. So that automatically trims money from a dish, that ended up being far more heart healthy!
- Making big dishes at dinner to become leftovers for lunch the next day. I hardly pack my husband or myself lunches that weren't derived from dinner. For example, let's say we had Falafel's or Meatloaf the night before.. What I do is transform it for a yummy lunch that if I weren't to point it out to my husband that it was last night's dinner, he would have hardly a clue. I'll do something like Stuffed Falafel Pita Sandwiches, with Tahini, Hummus & a salad. Really yummy, and even the bread is cheap, if you'll remember from my Bread rant & rave Make your own baked goods! 
- Milk is amazing. Amazing, amazing and more amazing. From making plain & greek yogurt, to ricotta, to being used in baking, and making rice pudding creamy & delish. We'll be using it a lot, so make sure you have a place where it's decently priced for the gallon. I go for 2 gallons for 4.25 all total. (I'm telling you: WAREHOUSE STORES are amazing. Not for everything, but if you can do the simple math of pricing by oz, you are set. Email me or Twitter message & i'll give you the breakdown) Along with milk, we'll use staples like this to create a whole array of wonderful foods!
- When I say 5.50 daily - I am talking about as an average from an entire month. Weekly you'll spend anywhere from 40 - 55, and once you divide the days out of the week is once you get this average. I've seen blogs & sites where it's 5 dollars meals - but we're talking 5 DOLLAR DAYS! All meals included. It's all about smart shopping. Which is so much easier, than paying for premade foods that cost you extra time at work to pay for. And did I mention, it's not very good if you can't pronounce more than 5 things on the package!

Get your list together & locate the Warehouse Markets, Discount Stores & where the loss-leaders are (not sure what this is? weekly, stores post ads w/ specials on the front - this is where they are losing the most money, and it's the best time for you to take advantage).

See you guys soon!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is this even possible? The $5.50 a day food challenge

You read that right!
I've seen 5 dollar dinners, 5 dollar lunches, 5 dollar breakfasts - but I am talking about 5 dollars a day for 2 people to eat 3 times. Sounds bizarre, but we've pulled it off for 6 months & I want to begin by sharing with you my journey as to how we do it, and how you can too!

What's essential for you to understand:
- The cost reduction when making things at home
- Using leftovers to plan future meals
- Purchasing items in bulk that are the basis for many recipes (Ex: Cornmeal = Polenta, Corncakes, Cornbread, Muffins, Fry Coatings, etc.)
- Portioning, freezing, and where to not spend money
- Why it kills your pocketbook to pay the store to make foods for you (Hummus = one of the easiest things to make, and by cost per ounce at the store, is very expensive!)

So what I want to do, is for the month of April, compose my recipes I use, show you how to stock your pantry in a way I did, and how to shop for what you need to pull it all off. This will be my first blog of many, so I hope i've captivated your interest during the time I will be putting this all together for you!

Here's a sample of some of the things you're going to see:

-          Carrot Soup & Veggie Soup
-         South Western Salad, Chicken Caeser & all kinds of Veggie dishes

-          Polenta
-          Corndogs
-          Cornbread
-          Cornmeal Berry Muffins

-          Soup
-          Burgers
-          Spicy Lentil Dip

Rice & Beans
-          Mexi Dinner
-          Burritos
-          Bean & Rice Bake
-          Rice: CHXN friend rice

-          South Western Burritos
-          Chxn: w/ garlic roasted potatoes
-          Chxn: tacos
-          Chxn: enchiladas
Garbanzos (AKA: Chickpeas)
-          Hummus
-          Falafels w/ Hummus, & Salads
-          Pita Sandwiches

Ground Turkey
-          Stuffed cabbage
-          Stuffed Meatballs
-          Meatloaf -> meatloaf pita pockets for lunch
-          Eggrolls
-          Lasagna


- Bread
- Pizza Dough
- Pancakes


- Baked egg breakfast dishes
- Breakfast sandwiches


- Flax & Fruit loaded oatmeal
- Granola
- Cookies


- Yogurt
- Greek Yogurt
- All types of baking
See you guys soon! - BCB