This was my first week taking a hard look at how I spend on food. Living in Portland with an abundance of dining options, my main challenge is NOT eating out every night. Because I could, probably at a different place every night #blessed.
BUT I also want to pay my bills and mortgage and go to Europe so I decided to rein it in. I found that my husband and I were throwing out a ton of unused food from eating out too much, which is just a bummer, man. When faced with eating chicken thighs and salad, again, or going to the new cool oyster spot, oysters have a tendency to win that battle. By creating a diary, I want to see where my money is going and also get creative with the foods already in my kitchen.
And with that, I give you my first food budget diary:
We went to the comedy club Saturday night so I am not feeling…great. We wake up late. I make coffee for both of us and bacon, eggs, and Ezekiel toast with avocado for my husband (aka ‘J’. He’s very mysterious). I can’t really muster the enthusiasm to eat yet so I decide to go down to the new Natural Grocers down the street.
Now, I’ve already made this mistake once: this place is insanely expensive and has 20 kinds of gluten free crackers. BUT they sent a coupon in the mail for $1.99 bacon and a free wedge of organic cheese. While there, I also picked up eggs, tortillas and some juicy looking cherries, which were, as you might imagine, INSANELY EXPENSIVE.
Total spent at Natural Grocers: $22.25 (even with the discounted bacon and free cheese, $16 is a bit much for eggs, tortillas and fruit.)
When I get home, I make myself a quesadilla with my newly scored pepper jack cheese, tortilla and some leftover lamb and pea salad from Saturday brunch. YUM.
As per usual, there is about two pounds of meat in my fridge about to expire. I throw the chicken thighs and pork chops with a nice spice rub into my smoker (my FAVORITE way to cook btw, more on that another day). I whip up my new fave side dish, Greek yogurt cucumber salad. I’m feeling sweet toothy so I send J down to the bodega for ice cream. He also brings back some beers for us to drink on the porch since the weather is so beautiful today.
Total spent at local bodega: $24.07
We have coffee and hold out until lunch. Today, lunch is salad with some leftover chicken. I have a ton of produce in my fridge to use up: Cabbage, peppers, carrots, red onion, cucumber and my nemesis, snow peas.
I order groceries on Amazon Prime mostly, which will deliver from New Seasons, the nice (less expensive than Natural Grocers but not a bargain) grocery chain in town. I was psyched to see snap peas and ordered a pound. The delivery dude brings snow peas, which are like sad, deflated snap peas. I have SO many so I keep chopping them up and throwing them into everything.
The salads are lovely but not filling enough so hanger begins to set in around 3:30 pm. We head down to the BBQ cart by our house and split a pork butt sandwich. We also grab some happy hour drinks with friends at our neighborhood pub. We spend way too much money here but the people are nice so that’s ok.
After drinks, we are hungry again so I make this perfect peanut sauce and toss it with some noodles for a late dinner.
Total spent at BBQ Cart: $10
Total spent at pub: $36
So yesterday was a bit of a slip-up in the not-eating-out category so I vow to not spend anything today. It’s coffee for breakfast. Lunch is salad for husband and cheese, crackers and cherries for me. I can only salad so much and prefer to eat like a French toddler.
There are mushrooms (surprise) about to go bad so I whip up Saint Martha’s mushroom soup. I don’t bother with the straining part and add some orzo at the end to make it more filling. This soup is elegant but can be made in less than 30 minutes, which is my sweet spot for weeknight cooking. For dessert, we have ice cream.
It’s a caffeine breakfast followed by a salad for J. It’s national hot dog day so I meet my super pregnant, hot dog-aficionado friend for a late lunch. I snack on cherries until then, and once there I order a pork frankfurter and a pint. It’s good to spend some time with her one-on-one before the baby arrives!
Total spent at hot dog place: $12
After lunch, I head to the seafood market to grab some fish for dinner. We have a couple friends coming over whom we have not seen in some time so I decide to splurge on some super fresh salmon and giant buttery scallops.
Total spent at seafood market: $25.75
I do a Dijon mustard rub on the salmon and toss the scallops and some frozen shrimp I had at home with butter and garlic. I cook it all up on the smoker and it tastes like heaven! For sides, I made a pasta salad and grilled a few ears of corn. Our guests bring wine and ice cream bars for dessert.
Coffee and then salad lunch for J. I add some chopped vegetables to some leftover pasta and toss with that yummy peanut sauce for my lunch.
We have another guest coming by for dinner tonight and I plan to repurpose our leftover grilled seafood into little fried cakes. I have not had the best track record when it comes to seafood cakes, but you have to keep trying right? In the food processor, I pulse the salmon and shrimp with garlic, an egg, scallions and a little sugar and fish sauce for a Vietnamese style cake. I form the patties and refrigerate them until our friend arrives, hoping this will keep them from falling apart when fried.
My friend arrives (with wine yay!) and I heat up some grape seed oil to fry the cakes. Success! Only one falls apart and they taste great. On the side, I serve broccoli slaw: finely chopped raw broccoli, shallot, Greek yogurt and apple cider vinegar topped with sliced almonds. We have ice cream bars and wine for dessert.
I’m really excited because I haven’t let anything spoil this week! I make a salad for J with the rest of our veggies and have my French toddler lunch of cheese, crackers, carrots and cherries.
To celebrate not wasting anything fresh (and frankly I’m a little stir crazy from only eating out twice this week), I make dinner plans at a French bistro with a good buddy, Troy. Before I go, I make J’s favorite spaghetti carbonara. I’m rushing so it ends up more like scrambled egg breakfast pasta…whoops! He says it still tastes great which is why he’s a keeper.
Dinner is very decadent: chicken liver mousse, steak tartare, butter lettuce salad and heirloom cherry tomato salad with anchovies. Troy surprises me by picking up the whole tab! Thanks Troy! Instead of dessert there, we go back to my house to watch The Royle Family and have ice cream bars for dessert.
I make J his weekend breakfast of coffee, bacon, eggs and avocado toast. For me, I spread leftover chicken mousse with some Dijon mustard on toast and have some cherries. It’s time to re-up on groceries.
Using Amazon Prime, I select my list and manage to stay under $100. That means I have about $150 dollars to spend or save for next week. Here’s what I bought:
2 avocados: $3.34
Stumptown Coffee beans: $14.99
Red bell pepper: $2.50
Sweet onion: $1.06
1 lb Flank steak: $14.99
1 lb Boneless skinless chicken thighs: $5.60
2 Corn cobbs: $1.34
3 lime: $1.80
2 cucumbers: $3.18
1 lb Ground chicken: $5.99
Kosher dill pickle jar: $2.99
1 lb heirloom tomatos: $5.99
Total with $7 delivery tip: $73.27
J needed some red meat so I made a Korean-style beef and broccoli bowl with the flank steak, subbing out the white rice for rice noodles. It was just as yummy as takeout without the added cost!