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Grocery Challenge Week 1



Each time you go to the grocery store with your kids, it is a potential learning opportunity. In order not to overemphasize materialism, focus on other things to do with money. In 'Beyond the Lemonade Stand,' I try to emphasize the importance of saving money, and of using it to help other people.



Bill Rancic

A month or so ago we had friends (SparksBesty & family) over for dinner. We got to talking about grocery shopping and budgeting. I mentioned the I spend roughly $100 a week.


Her husband almost choked on his dinner. 


So...


A few weeks ago she challenged me to do a month long blog of menuing and budgeting so that she, or others could do the same.


As I started going through some things I realized that this was going to be tough. You see, I have a great pantry. I have a system. I buy a cow so my beef is never in the monthly equation. I buy boxed chicken breasts when they go on sale (gross I know, but economical) so that too isn't in my monthly equation. I buy at Costco 4 times a year so I have ground chicken in the freezer, I don't put that in the equation either.


To be TRULY honest I have to factor in my meat costs. 



New Challenge: 
Grocery shopping for a family of 5 
(3 adults & 2 kids) 
for $135/week

The Terms

My grocery shopping includes:
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Personal care products 
  • Household supplies 
Does NOT include (We buy these items at Costco and how much we buy varies throughout the year... depending on how many visitors we have :) Take out could be McDonalds, pizza, Chinese food, etc.  To keep it simple I didn't include them):
  • Take out Thursday 
  • Toilet Paper 
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Paper Towel 
  • Coffee Beans


Tips to Budget Successfully

Menu Plan

A MAJOR part of budgeting is menu planning.

The first thing I do every week is check my local flyers. I check my PC Point offers and my Check Out 51 offers. By doing that I can plan my menu around sales and what will give me the most points. Over the summer I collect points. This helps in the lean winter months. This year I collected almost $400. When my grocery bill is larger at Thanksgiving, Christmas, when we have family come in and birthdays... I use points :). With Checkout 51 I get back about $100 every 4 months. This equals $700 of FREE groceries a year!!!

Don't Be Wasteful

While making your menu, look through the fridge. I try to pick meals using whatever I have leftover from the week before. Honestly, I rarely have leftover items but shit happens. Sometimes I just don't feel like cooking and we make Kraft Dinner instead of Chicken Parmigan lol. Another thing about menu planning is, if you have all the ingredients in your kitchen you can move things around. You do not HAVE to eat pasta on Friday if you feel like having pasta on Tuesday. I can be flexible. ;) 

Use What You Have

When looking at a recipe, look at what you do have rather than what you don't. I like fresh herbs but if I only need rosemary in 1 recipe, I will use dried rosemary (just remember dried has a stronger taste, so use less) If I don't have buttermilk, I will add some vinegar to milk to make it buttermilk. If a recipe calls for broccoli but you have green beans, use the beans! 



Be Mindful of Surrounding Factors 

Another thing I do is look at our schedule. I try to keep it realistic. Can I make Shepherd's Pie from scratch on a day where SBean has gymnastics and I have to get Hot Lunch ready? Probably not. I plan crockpot meals on busy days, soups on chilly days, salads or vegetarian after a beef heavy few days, and so on. BTW, notice how I said from scratch? Yeah, a HUGE part of saving money is making from scratch. Time is money right? Your time saves you money at the store but might not be realistic in regards to your schedule. If you are working, you may find buying precut veggies a time saver. This will increase your bill but again, time is money, so it is up to you how you want to save it :)

Be Kind To Yourself

I also give myself a night off every week. Every Thursday is take out night. Everyone gets a night off, so dinner makers should too! Also, Thursday is our cray-cray day, SBean has Swimming lessons in the morning then I have to get her home for lunch, we eat quickly (as quickly as SBean can go lol) and go pick up HBear for gifted. Drop her off and race home for nap time. I wake SBean up and go get HBear and then take her right to Broadway. An hour later I go get her and we are at 4pm. Dad and Ninja have Bowling at 6:15 and I have to pick up HBear's Besty at 5:45 to take them to Brownines. We also get baths in there and take home reading. Doesn't leave much time for dinner prep though. Take out it is!

Stock Up 

This is also a MAJOR part of budgeting. Some weeks (especially in the summer when we eat lighter) I don't come close to spending $135/week. Those are the weeks that I buy things for my pantry. I also buy when things are on sale.


For example: While making Monday's stew I ran out of Worcestershire sauce. I went to my pantry and got a new bottle. Then, I write it on the whiteboard on the side of my fridge. 




I know my new bottle will last a while. Therefore, I have time to buy my next pantry bottle. Maybe it will go on sale? Maybe I will have "extra" money (those weeks I spend less than my $135 budget). Whatever, the point is when your run out of staple items you don't want to get stuck buying them all at the same time, that would be a large grocery bill. Spread it out and it will save you money PLUS you won't run out and have to run to the close (but extremely expensive) store nearby to pick it up later!


Time Management


This is extremely important for another reason, convenience. I don't work but I volunteer, get my kids to activities, keep the house clean, do yoga, write a blog and PLAY with my family. I don't have "extra" time. Does anyone? Some days I chop all my veggies before I even take HBear to school. I tend to do my prep at lunch time while SBean is having her lunch. The point is I make it work. Yes it would be easier to buy a bottle of teriyaki sauce. It is also more expensive and waaaaay less healthy. I find that a better budgeted meal is the same thing as a healthier meal. Like I said it is all about what you equate time to. Time is money so if you don't have time to make that sauce, buy a bottle. Caesar dressing is pennies to make and expensive to buy. If you have the ingredients at hand it takes 3 1/2 minutes to make. I know, I make it every 2 weeks :) The key is having a plan, making the time and having the ingredients on hand.


MENU WEEK 1


Monday: Beef Stew with Breadsticks and Marinara

Tuesday: Hawaiian Turkey Meatballs, Rice, Green Beans 
Wednesday: Vegetable Soup and Caesar Salad (I originally planned this for Tuesday but switched it when the sun came out on Tuesday. Who wants SOUP on a beautiful spring day?)
Thursday: Take Out (will be McDonalds as Checkout 51 has $5.50 worth of coupons this week!)
Friday: Chicken Teriyaki Casserole
Saturday: One Pot Mexican Skillet
Sunday: Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes and Vegetable Stirfry

Staple Items

These items are ALWAYS in my pantry or fridge. This tip bears repeating... As soon as I see an item running out it goes on the whiteboard on the side of the fridge. If they come up on my PC Points list or go on sale, I buy them. We have a second fridge in the garage, so I always have eggs, mayo, soy sauce, etc. on hand. It may take you a while and some money to get this system going but once you do... your wallet will thank you :)

Things I need for this week's menu that I already have in my kitchen (my staple items):



  • Oil (I have olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil,  and peanut oil) 
  • Beer
  • Tomato Paste (usually a recipe calls for only a tablespoon or so. I put the rest in a tupperware container in the freezer to use at a later date.)
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Marinara (I buy Classico sauces when on sale) 
  • Sugar 
  • Paprika
  • Potatoes
  • Frozen Peas
  • Frozen Fruit (SBean loves smoothies)
  • Bay leaves
  • Rice (we like Basmati)
  • Eggs
  • Panko
  • Onion Powder
  • Ketchup
  • Soy Sauce (Low Sodium!)
  • Ginger
  • Brown Sugar
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Margarine
  • Salt
  • Honey
  • Corn Starch
  • Salsa (I buy at Costco every couple of months)
  • Macaroni Noodles (I try to keep noodles stocked but the boxes take up a lot of room, so sometimes I buy when needed)
  • Black Beans
  • Beef Broth (I used to buy bouillon but I find the Campbell's tetra boxes much more flavourful. It is much more expensive to buy the tetra pacs, but sometimes you just have to splurge for better taste. If you like the bouillon you can buy it in bulk and save yourself a few dollars)
  • Chicken Broth (I usually have homemade broth frozen in freezer but by the end of winter I am out) 
  • Whole Grain Mustard
  • Cheese (I buy bricks, Feta, Asiago or Parmesan and shredded, they all keep for the whole month)

From Last Week
I always go through my fridge BEFORE I go shopping. If I have veggies I need to use, I don't buy more :)


  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Bacon
  • Sour cream
  • Parsley
  • Breadsticks (not usual but we made a special dinner and I bought bake your own. I have some left so I want to use them up)
  • Caesar Dressing (homemade. I make it very 2 weeks)
  • Lettuce

In the Freezer
We have 2 deep freezers in our cold room. 


  • Stewing Beef (we buy a half a cow every 20 months for $1600. That is about $20/week)
  • Ground Turkey (buy at Costco in sets of 4 for $5.00/package)
  • Chicken Breasts (boxed, we stock up when it goes on sale for $25.00. We go through a box/month, that is about $6.25/week ) 
  • Pork Tenderloin (We usually buy a pig avery 20 months but this year we had so much leftover that we didn't purchase one. I buy pork 1 a week if on sale)

Shopping List

This week I had to go to 3 stores to get the best prices, also, I like produce shopping at Quality Greens. The quality is better, they are local and they have great sales. I live in a small town so this is not a problem for me:


*NOTE: pp means PC Points


Dinner:



  • Superstore Roma Tomatoes (3)
  • Quality Greens Cilantro 
  • Superstore Tomato sauce
  • Quality Greens Broccoli
  • Quality Greens Snap peas
  • Quality Greens Bell peppers 3 (I bought 1 pepper at Superstore but the price was high so I hoped for better at Quality Greens. It was MUCH cheaper at QGs but then I kicked myself for hours after for buying that 1 pepper at such a high price! LOL)
  • Superstore Celery 4 stalks (only need 2 but nice for lunches)
  • Superstore Green beans
  • Superstore Green onions
  • Superstore Canned diced tomatoes 2 (large 28oz) 1 will be for Pantry item
  • Superstore Canned corn 2
  • Superstore Pineapple juice (The rest I will use for Smoothies)

Staple items: On sale or PC Points
***I don't NEED these things but I will at some point so I want to take advantage of their sale prices now***


  • Superstore Campbell's chicken and beef broth (on sale)
  • Superstore Tropicana pp (on sale)
  • Superstore Honey (on sale)
  • Superstore Bretons (on sale)
  • Superstore Hellmann Mayo (on sale)
  • Superstore Becel (on sale)
  • Superstore Deodorant (on sale and Check Out 51)
  • Superstore Kids Tylenol (almost out and my white board tells me I need to get more)
  • Superstore Pork Tenderloin (on sale)
  • Superstore Potatoes (I made a special trip on the weekend because we didn't have enough for mashed on Sunday)


Lunch Items:


  • Superstore Cheese Strings
  • Superstore Fruit Gummies (on sale)
  • Superstore Small carrots
  • Quality Greens Fruit (whatever is a decent price. This week I bought cantaloupe, which got recalled! and grapefruit)
  • Superstore Yogurt Drinks (on sale)
  • Superstore Bananas
  • Quality Greens Black Forest Ham
A typical lunch
Breakfast (last week Peanut butter was on sale so I picked up a big jar. I won't have to buy it for a while. We make jam in the summer so I usually have that on hand but I also buy Smuckers once in while too):


  • Superstore Old Mill Bread pp

Household Items:


  • Dollar Store Aluminum Foil
  • Dollar Store Medium "ziplock" bags (All our bags last a long time, we wash and reuse them)
  • Dollar Store Large "ziplock" bags

My PreTotal at Superstore was $87.25 
I get gas at Superstore and use my PC MasterCard, this gets me $0.07 back on every Litre. This week I had 2 coupons that totalled $8.76

My Superstore TOTAL = $78.49 and I got 1700 PC Points.






My Quality Greens TOTAL = $13.61




My Dollar Store TOTAL = $7.00




My Meat (Stewing beef, Ground Beef, Chicken Breasts, Ground Chicken. I didn't factor in the pork under meat as I bought a replacement tenderloin at Superstore every week I buy pork so it is already factored in my Superstore total) TOTAL = $31.25


GRAND TOTAL FOR WEEK 1: $130.35

I am $4.65 below my weekly budget! I can either "bank" it and know that if I go a bit over next week, I'm OK. This is what I do. At the end of the month anything I have left over is my spending money. Last year I saved all my $4.65s and that was our spending money when I took Ninja to Las Vegas!! OR would you look at that! That is the same price as a Starbucks Grande Vanilla Latte! You could always go treat yourself :)


****NOTE: On Sunday I realized my potato stock was low so I ran and bought more for $3.68... It's a good thing I saved that $4.65!!!





MY NEW GRAND TOTAL FOR WEEK 1: $134.03

I am officially $0.97 below my weekly budget :)


Now let's get to this week's recipes!



RECIPES:

Monday: Beef Stew and Breadsticks






This is the ultimate comfort meal! You can brown the beef and throw it in the crockpot if you are busy. It also left us with 2 bowls of leftovers for lunch the next day.


Tuesday: 
Turkey Meatballs, Rice, Green Beans (I doubled up my rice recipe to have leftovers for Friday's meal)



Green Beans: I steam my green beans for a few minutes, drain the water and add a bit of butter and salt and pepper. Delicious! A trick Ninja taught me is to NOT cut the ends off the beans until they have steamed. It keeps them snappy :)



Hawaiian Turkey Meatballs
Adapted from Little Spice Jar

1 pound ground 
Turkey 
3 large cloves garlic, pressed (divided as per directions)
1 large egg
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder

3 tablespoons ketchup
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
½ cup pineapple juice
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
⅓ cup brown sugar





Preheat the oven to 475. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I use silicon mat), set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, pineapple juice, 1 clove of garlic, red pepper flakes and brown sugar over medium high heat, allow to come to a boil, reduce the heat so it simmers. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes. 




Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools.



In a large bowl, combine the ground 
Turkey 2 cloves of garlic, salt pepper, eggs, panko, paprika, and onion powder. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together. DO NOT OVERMIX, it will result in drier meatballs.



Shape the meat mixture into balls, about 3 tablespoons of meat per ball or you can use an ice cream scoop. Place shaped meatballs on prepared baking sheet. 



Bake for 11-13 minutes or until the meatballs are completely cooked.

Using a large spoon, dip each meatball into the sauce. 

Place back on the baking sheet and bake for an additional 1-2 minutes. 


Serve with remaining sauce.






OMG this was one of my favourite meals in the past few weeks! It was so flavourful and light. It also took 30 minutes from start to finish so it is a perfect weeknight meal. Cheap, fast, healthy and delicious!


Wednesday: 
Vegetable Soup and Caesar Salad (I like all the fixings for my Caesar Salad :), I made croutons with 2 pieces of bread. I left them out on the counter and then cut them up and threw them in a pan with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Soooo much cheaper than a bag of croutons plus they taste better! 




I had 5 pieces of bacon in the fridge from last week's breakfast dinner, I saved them for this weeks salad.)


Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Cooking Classy


2 1/2 tablespoons oil
2 small onions, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tetra packs chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
3 potatoes, peeled and 1/2-inch thick diced (I used 4 because they were small)
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 cups green beans, chopped
1 can corn, drained
1 cup frozen peas




Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute 3 - 4 minutes,




then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. 



Pour in broth and add tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, bay leaves, thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. 



Bring to a boil, then add green beans, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 - 30 minutes, 




then add corn and peas and cook 5 minutes longer. 








This soup was intense. I love soup. It is filling, healthy, and perfect for a rainy day. It takes 30 minutes to cook so if your veggies are prepped this is an great weekday meal. Again, buying precut veggies is helpful for time but hard on you wallet. When I am cooking for a week where I need a lot of prep, I do the veggie cutting on the weekend and bag it. Then I just have to take what I need for each recipe. You can also use frozen carrots (they are already cut). It is worth it to have a delicious soup midweek to help you get through the rest of week. All soup is good for the soul :) I put the rest in the freezer for a yummy dinner next month :)





Thursday: Take Out

We had McDonalds. Like I previously mentioned McDonalds was on Check Out 51 this week so I received cash back.

Friday: Chicken Teriyaki Casserole (I made extra sauce so I can use it next week)

Teriyaki Chicken Casserole
Adapted from Oh, Sweet Basil

3 cups leftover rice
3 breasts of chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup diced carrots
12 snap peas
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons corn starch
3 tablespoons cold water

Using leftover rice from Tuesday, make a batch of fried rice.



Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, honey, ginger, sesame oil, and garlic. bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.



In a small bowl, stir together the water and cornstarch. add 1 teaspoon of the hot soy mixture to the cornstarch mixture and then slowly pour everything into the boiling soy mixture, whisking until it begins to thicken. Set aside.



Place the chicken in a greased baking dish and pour 1 cup of the teriyaki sauce over the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes.



While the chicken is in steam the veggies,




and then add the veggies, 3 tablespoons of sauce and rice to the chicken and stir to combine. 




Place the rest of the sauce in a tupperware container for later use. 



Place the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes.






Friday is HotLunch Day. I am gone for the majority of the day. I made the fried rice in the morning before I left, got the sauce ingredients ready and cut the veggies to be steamed. That made dinner super easy. I liked this but it was a little bit salty. Really with that much soy sauce I wasn't surprised lol. (NOTE: I changed the measurements from the original recipe to my favourite teriyaki sauce after we ate this so the salt content should be MUCH better now) Also, although it was neat to have a 1 dish meal, I would have preferred having fried rice, steamed veggies and teriyaki chicken. With that being said, this would be a great casserole to make up, freeze and pop into the oven on a busy night.

Saturday: Mexican Skillet


One Pot Mexican Skillet Pasta
Adapted from Damn Delicious

1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground beef
2 cups uncooked elbows pasta
2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream


*** I made a mistake. Usually I keep black beans stocked. But I must have used the last can a while back and forgot to add it to my whiteboard! Silly silly so I didn't have any black beans to add. Instead, I added a red pepper and an onion. Also, I was craving tortillas with salsa and sour cream for lunch this week and I used up all the sour cream LOL so there is no sour cream for garnish :( I guess I could've gone to the store and grab some but it's on my list for next week as it is a PC Point item... so I will just wait.***

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. 

Add ground beef and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.


Add peppers and onions. Cook for  2 more minutes. 


Stir in pasta, salsa, chicken broth and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 13-16 minutes.



Stir in tomato, corn and black beans, and gently toss to combine. 



Top with cheese and melt under broiler until bubbly, about 1-2 minutes.



Top with cilantro and a dollop of sour cream and serve. 








I tend do do my One Pot meals on Saturday. That might be weird for working Moms, but for me, that is when I have the least amount of time. I want to go out and enjoy my family on the weekends. I rarely do housework or cook a big Saturday meal. This One Pot Mexican dish was EXACTLY what I wanted! So silly easy and so bursting with flavour! There was enough for 2 lunches the next day and we fought over who would get them! LOL The only thing that could have made this better was the black beans!!!!!

Sunday: Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and leftover vegetables (I go through the fridge and whatever veggies we didn't use get sauted with some garlic and oil for a quick leftover stirfry) 




This was great the first time we had it and even better the second time! I got the sauce ready early, stuffed the tenderloin with garlic and let it marinade all day. Then we could go out for the day and not worry about dinner! While the pork cooked Ninja whipped up the potatoes and the veggies and dinner was on the table when HBear and I got home from 5:30pm swim lesson!
So there we have it! Our first week is complete!


How was it?


Join us next Sunday to continue The Challenge and make healthy and delicious meals for under $135/week!


Don't forget to share this post so more people can learn these amazing "secrets" LOL :)



Wow Us Wednesdays #263

3.02.2016



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