This week the budget is going to get tight, skinny jean tight. So I thought I would share how I make it through on weeks like this without pushing my bank account into the red or throwing my diet out the window for some cheap processed food. It is time to get smart.
The first thing I am going to tell you is that my pantry is prepared for weeks like this, which I know as a teacher will happen. I have rice, gluten free pasta and sauces that make for quick meals and spices. I have to admit to hoarding gf pasta for times like this and special occasions. It is simply too expensive for me to have on a regular basis. Spices are the key or one of the keys, but I will get to those later.
If there is a sale on one of my staples and I can afford it, I buy extra. I just don’t go crazy. Buy One GetOne Free at Publix is one of my favorite ways to do this, even if they rarely if ever have something that I can eat or want to eat. I really don’t eat enough pickles in a year to justify buying them in large qualities. Chicken broth however is really useful and does go on sale every couple of months. (It is especially useful when you have accidentally gotten poisoned with gluten. I like to warm it up in a mug and drink it slowly until my tummy feels better.) Whole Foods on occasion offers either a BoGo or two for a four dollars on gluten free pasta. When I can I pick of Taste of Thai sauce packets which rarely go on sale. They have several that are gluten free, easy to make as well as delicious.
Sales and the occasional boon from Momma are the reasons that I have spaghetti and pesto sauce that can be supplemented with the chicken thighs that I found on sale at Target. Normally, I would have gone to Fresh Field farms, but I didn’t want to spend the gas and Target was on the way. I can normally buy meat and veggies for a week for twenty five to thirty dollars, this includes snacks like carrots and fresh fruit. Other incidentals normally run another ten to fifteen dollars.
This week though with Luke still under the weather, I didn’t want to take the time to prep my salad jars or cook up a big pot of curried meat and veggies. The two combined really stretch my budget. Prepping meals ahead of time is the best way I have found to make things easier on myself and keep cost down. Cooking individual means would be time consuming and it would be too tempting to say the heck with it and go out to eat.
This week, I put together my menu based on what I had on hand and could purchase from Publix and Target which were both on the way to my folks house.
Last night’s- Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza sprinkled with feta cheese. The cheese was left over and the pizza a comfort food splurge to help me de-stress.
This morning, eggs with onions, peppers and salsa. Everything in this meal was left overs from the last week’s shopping. I normally buy two dozen eggs at Fresh Field Farms. These I can turn into snacks by hard boiling them or like I did this afternoon assist in the making of cookies. All made from ingredients on hand. (The gluten free flour that I use was purchased in bulk and order slip between three people.)
Lunch was skipped by accident which brings me to dinner. (Sorry Momma) Coconut Salsa Chicken served over rice. I portioned out the chicken I purchased at Target (It was on sale other wise I would have waited.) I placed the chicken in a zip-loc bag and spooned in leftover Coconut Salsa. I kept one out and frozen three others for use for dinner or lunch. I also have frozen Talapia that can be cooked up quickly and served with some frozen veggies.
Breakfast is Van’s gluten free waffles. I toast one and put some peanut butter on it. (For ingredients not label gluten free or unprocessed, I used the ShopWell app to check if they are safe or not.) This week, I got lucky and didn’t need to buy peanut butter. The biggest part of my budget this week went for gluten free burritos. I like to call them emergency burritos. One is actually enough for lunch although I prefer two. Normally, I would supplement an emergency burrito with some carrots, but not getting to Fresh Field Farms means no carrots.
The keys for keeping to my gluten free diet when the budget is tight are as follows:
1. Taking advantage of sales whenever possible and stock piling versatile ingredients like rice, broth and fish.
2. Keeping spices on hand to add flavor to food.
3. Keeping meals simple and preparing a head of time.
4. Letting myself have small things like waffles and burritos which are pricier in their gluten-free forms, but save me time where I need it. They also keep me from straying and over-spending by eating out.
5. Use internet or other coupons to save money whenever possible, but not stressing over having to have a coupon for it.
6. Avoiding most overly processed ingredients.
All total I spent around thirty-five dollars for this week’s food. Next week, I will have to spend more thanks to wearing down my stores, but most likely not as much as I planned to go back to Fresh Field Farms. I feel a curry week coming on.
The biggest and probably the best thing that I did for myself was falling in love with food. Fresh food can be found at reasonable prices at a farmer’s markets and places like Fresh Field Farms. I expect to pay more for some foods so over time I have weaned them out of my diet and gotten used to using the K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid!) rule when it comes to cooking. I used my freezer and pantry to my advantage whenever possible.
I know that being able to cook is the most useful skill I have in keeping to a food budget and while I woke this from the perspective of someone who is gluten free I hope everyone can find something useful in it.