Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget – February Check in!

So I’ve got bad news and good news about my budget this February.

The bad news is… I went to New York for 4 days and spent a lot more money than I would have in Sacramento…mostly on some delicious food.

The good news, however, is three-fold! First off, I looked at my average spending over the last 6 months (not including February) on WellsFargo.com, and I spent $700 less in February than my average, and $1,000 less than last month (!!!). That’s including my trip to NYC (not including airfare, which I paid back in December). Secondly, I was finally paid my first installment of unemployment benefits last month, and on Monday was paid 3 of my remaining 4 weeks. This will help out a lot, especially since I took two unpaid days off for my trip, and will definitely be a welcomed supplement to my income. I have had a HELL of a time getting through to EDD on this (obviously, since I’ve been employed since mid-January now and am just now getting paid for November/December…), including about 35 phone calls in a <25 minute time frame last week to finally get through to an operator. Third and finally, I broke even this month. This is a huge victory for me, considering the 2/3 pay cut I took a couple of months ago. It means that I have started to really adjust my spending!

Anyway, I have not included the expenses from my New York trip on my budget breakdown for this month because, like last month, I basically considered them one time purchases. It was vacation, after all! Last month, I didn’t include my Macy’s card payments and a few other purchases (e.g. my replacement iPhone)…and I think that was largely why I stayed within my budget. The absence of a Macy’s credit card payment and some self control when it came to online shopping apparently really went a long way in managing my budget this month.

IMG_3811

I did make a pretty big splurge at Target right before Valentine’s Day (see above), and an impulse Kate Spade online sale purchase (about $150 total between the 2), but I generally kept it light on any other miscellaneous purchases this month. And besides those 2 slip ups, I didn’t go shopping!

Otherwise, I think my adjustments from January’s budget (the fact that I took half of my restaurant budget and put it into the dodgeball bar/entertainment categories) were smart. Check it out:

foodbudget february

Groceries

IMG_3844

I unfortunately only made it to the Farmer’s Market once this month. It was rained out one week, I was in New York for another week, and I was just plain dead from a long run the other week. I have, however, been taking major advantage of the Safeway Just4U app when I shop at Safeway. Check out how much I saved on my grocery bill when I went this weekend- I spent $56 and saved $33!

IMG_4514 IMG_4513

Yes, you’re reading correctly, I got 2 jars of Nutella for $2.99 TOTAL! #score

Miscellaneous purchases included a six pack, one bottle of wine, and some nail polish and fake eyelashes from CVS 🙂

Going Out

IMG_4172

Stayed within my dodgeball bar budget this month! This is surprising, considering how often I end up getting the above “dinner” on Thursday nights… IPA and a basket of fries. Of course, this usually supplements a pre-dodgeball protein bar/banana/snack. OK, that doesn’t make it much better, does it? 😛

IMG_4332

Last week, I treated myself to my first lunch out since starting my new job. It was a rainy day so I couldn’t bike, and I didn’t want to walk all the way home (walking there and back takes up about half of my lunch hour) so I decided to treat myself! Pasta salad at at Ambrosia never disappoints…it is a lot more pricey than my usual stir fry at home though, so it may be a while before I do this again 😛

photo 4

The bulk of my going out spending this month was thanks in large part to a few birthday parties and Sacramento Beer Week. I need to either learn how to get guys to buy me drinks, or how to stop being the hero and offering to buy rounds of drinks!

This month will be a different story, as I am hereby swearing to be a hermit these next two weeks leading up to my half marathon! I am most likely passing up on a trip down south to the Democratic Convention this weekend, for fear of not being able to do my last training run or doing something stupid and injuring myself a week before my race.

IMG_4528

I still stayed more or less in my overall food budget this month. If you add in my New York trip, it’s a different story…However, even including my trip, I broke even, and for that I am super proud of myself! *pats self on back*

What was your last big splurge?

Getting bought drinks at the bar– what’s your secret? 😉

Advertisements

Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget – January Check in!

It may be a few days into February already, but I haven’t forgotten that I promised you all an update on my budget.

This month was definitely what I would call a work in progress as far as the budget goes. I had a few unforeseen expenses, like having to purchase a new iPhone after mine fell in a river (with me attached) in Oregon over New Years. I also had to pay last month’s Macy’s bill, which wasn’t pretty after all the Christmas shopping I did there 😉 I bought an awesome onesie for this weekend’s pajama pub crawl. But I did not include these extra costs in my budget this month because I thought of them as one time purchases, and really wanted to focus my budget goals on limiting my spending in the areas I could control — groceries and going out!

Let me jog your memory on the budget I gave myself for food in January:

foodbudget

All pretty self explanatory! $30 per week for groceries (split between the farmer’s market and the supermarket), and $75 for any other stuff.

Going out, also self explanatory – $10 per week at the dodgeball bar (I go 2x per week), $10 per week for other bars or activities, and a whopping $20/week for restaurants.

budgetapp

I kept track on my handy dandy budget app, Pocket Expense. Unlike other budgeting apps, you have to actually manually add in all your expenses. I was actually pretty good about doing this on the reg, and on days I was lazy and didn’t add whatever I spent, I at least always kept my receipts so I could go back and do it later.

Now……..to see how I did!

foodbudgetjanuaryfinalNot too shabby, right?!

Groceries

So, I only went to the farmer’s market twice this month. I haven’t gone in three weeks…ever since the weekend I ran 9.3 miles, I have been way too wiped out after my long runs to make it over to the market, or I’ve just run out of time (umm, apparently running 10 miles takes a bit longer than running only 7!). So I did most of my grocery shopping at Grocery Outlet and Safeway. I used my Safeway JustForU app to get some great deals this month! Remember this fun quinoa salad thing I made for lunches one week?

IMG_3378

Yeah, that chopped salad was FREE thanks to a Justforu coupon! Using MAYBE a quarter of a box of quinoa, I made 3 days of lunches for less than $2 total! Cha chingggg.

Another way I saved some money on groceries was by stopping by the parents’ house a couple of times this month! Why is it that food tastes SOO much better when you don’t cook it yourself?

IMG_3374

Thanks Mom!

Miscellaneous purchases this month included a couple of Friday night bottles of wine, a six pack of beer, some stamps, a new phone case, and a trip or two to CVS for some nail polish 🙂 All very exciting, right?

Going out

I am shocked that I stayed under my dodgeball bar goal this month. I actually had to go back at my app and double check that I remembered to enter in all my drinks… I did! {It’s not that I get trashed twice a week at dodgeball, but the bar does have a $10 minimum for card purchases and since I rarely have cash, I often find myself offering to buy my friends drinks so I can meet the minimum!} I must admit I had several drinks bought for me by friends who owed me money 😛 Near the end of the month, when I knew I didn’t have much more “entertainment” money left, it became a lot easier for me to just say “oh well!” and grab a cup of water instead.

Because I only went out to eat twice this month, I did, however, start to sneak a few drinks into the “restaurants” column on Pocket Expense since I knew I wouldn’t be using that money. This allowed me to make sure I was still staying within my overall budget for the month, and made me realize that I may have misjudged my spending habits when I set up my budget last month!

Also, seeing that I spent just as much money going to bars/the movies/a roller derby (lol) as I did on groceries makes me think maybe I should start spending more evenings like I spent this one:

IMG_3146The beer was less than $2 in a six pack, and who doesn’t love Princess Bride?!

Based on how this first month went, and how much my first paycheck (!) was, I think I am going to largely keep my budget the same this month. Luckily, I was FINALLY paid some unemployment benefits this week. I will probably only get 5 weeks worth or so (not the full 8 weeks I was unemployed…) but at this point I’m just happy to get something! I’m planning on using the extra money to pay down my credit card bill from December/January and to *ahem* pay for a little trip I have planned… More on that in a few weeks 😉

Here’s my modified budget for February:

newfoodbudget

Sorry for the weird text on all of these.. I turned on my computer last night to realize that my Photoshop is busted, so I had to use a janky website to edit my budgets! Anyway, I allotted half of my restaurant money to the dodgeball bar and other activities. If we’re being realistic, I probably won’t even spend $40 at restaurants…But maybe if I know I have the money set aside, I’ll suggest dinner with friends one night instead of drinks!

Wish me luck!

Do you budget?

Do you and your friends treat each other to drinks?

Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget

New Years Resolutions…Such a divisive topic. Around the first of the year in 2013, I set myself a few Fitness Goals for the year and checked in occasionally (see my last check-in in September here) to see how I was doing. Having a blog and stating my “resolutions” publicly for the internet to see definitely made me more likely to hold myself accountable.

If you read my About Me, you’ll see that I call myself a 20-something on a budget. When I wrote that, I basically figured that since I didn’t make much money, and didn’t spend a ton each month, I considered myself to be living “on a budget”.

Welp, it may not have been before, but that’s about to become literal, folks.

Next week, I start a paid internship, and although it is exactly the job duties and experience that I’m looking for, it pays a little less than I’m used to making. 1/3 less, to be exact…and teetering close to California’s minimum wage. So instead of fitness goals, I’m resolving to establish a monthly budget for myself – and actually follow it!

Because I don’t own a car, I don’t have to worry about a lot of the costs associated with a vehicle, like gas/insurance/parking/repairs. Our rent is on the pricey side for Midtown Sacramento, but my roommate and I are pretty frugal when it comes to utilities and internet bills.

The budget about which I am going to have to be more wise from here on out is my food budget. (OK, and no more shopping sprees on my Macy’s Credit Card…)

I constantly hear that eating healthy is not only more time consuming, but also more expensive than just relying on fast food or pre-packaged/processed meals. I’m here to prove that while the first half might be true, it is absolutely doable to eat healthy on a budget! Here is the monthly food budget that I’ve established for myself:

foodbudgetMy average monthly food spending in 2013 (including groceries, bars, and restaurants) was about $425, with almost 1/4 of that being spent in bars each month. (Thanks, dodgeball)

I’m hoping to spend $15/week at the Farmer’s Market and $15/week at the grocery store. I rarely spend more than $20 at the Farmer’s Market, and the only times I’ve gotten close were when I’ve bought flowers (#TreatYoSelf!). If I do most of my shopping at Grocery Outlet and use coupons at Safeway, that will be plenty. An extra bit of miscellaneous spending money in case I run out of anything during the week or want to treat myself to a bottle of wine or nail polish from CVS will provide a safety net. (again…#TreatYoSelf)

Going out is another area where I can save a lot of money. I will be limiting myself to $10/week at the dodgeball bar (which is actually almost 3 drinks + tip!) that I frequent twice a week, and $10/week to spend on other evening activities, such as other bars, movies, ice skating, etc.

Finally, I am limiting myself to $20/week in eating out expenses. This is actually a generous allowance, since I don’t eat out often.

You’ll notice there’s not a lot of extra money allowed for alcohol. That was no accident…I’m just trying to follow through on improving my lifestyle for maximum Half Marathon success!

Now…for this week’s groceries.

DSC_0966

Before I go into what I bought, let me tell you what I already had in my fridge & pantry. I was pretty low on perishable goods, since we were gone to Oregon for 4 days.

ALREADY HAD:

1/2 bunch kale
1/2 head broccoli
tub of farmer’s market salsa
pasta
onions
quinoa
old fashioned oats
candy/chocolate/etc leftover from christmas
half a dozen protein bars
chocolate peanut butter spread
crackers
a few wedges of Laughing Cow cream cheese
frozen tilapia filets
frozen fruit
most other pantry staples (garlic, ginger, oil, vinegar, butter, etc)

Here’s what I bought:

foodbudgetweek1DSC_0965

How epic is that 2 lb bucket of hummus for just $2.58?! Thank youuuu Grocery Outlet! Unfortunately it expired yesterday, lol, so I’ve gotta eat it fast!

Since I have enough bread and beans to last me for a couple of weeks, next week I’ll probably stock up on tortillas and almond milk instead. It’s all about divvying up the staples between grocery trips!

DSC_0967

And to finish, here are some ideas of meals I will be eating with these groceries and what I already had:

Breakfast

Toast with hummus or Laughing Cow wedges or chocolate PB
Eggs and cheese (with or without toast)
Breakfast nachos
Oatmeal with frozen fruit
Toast with eggs

Lunch

Stir fry (brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower) and toast
Salsa, eggs & stir fry veggies
Grilled cheese sandwich

Snacks

Protein shakes with frozen fruit
Chips and salsa
Hummus and chips/crackers
Cheese and crackers

Dinner

Tilapia with sauteed greens
Cauliflower soup
Black bean soup
Moar stir fry (it’s my fave)
Roasted acorn squash stew

.

Now if I could just tackle the whole “it takes too long to cook and eat healthy” part… Looks like I am going to get back into the Sunday Food Prep routine come next week!

Would you be able to live on $30/week for groceries? (Assuming you’d only be shopping for yourself)

I already asked this yesterday, but how do you keep track of your budget? I downloaded Pocket Expense to use for now, but have heard good things about Mint as well.

Week in Groceries

Calling all grocery shopping cart voyeurs!

Am I the only one who thinks it’s super interesting to see what other people buy during their grocery shopping trip? I hope not, because this post is allllll about groceries.

As I’ve mentioned before, where I shop for groceries is mostly a matter of convenience. I don’t have a car, so if the store in question is more than .5 miles away, I probably don’t shop there regularly. This is the same principle that keeps me away from Target (thank heavens) and, until Saturday, Trader Joe’s.

The funny thing is, both of these places are actually only 2 miles from my house. Could totally bike there if I wanted…but I don’t. So Safeway and Groc Out it is.

I decided to wander outside my norm this weekend. I batted my eyelashes at T-Man and asked if he’d drive me to Trader Joe’s…And I had every intention of just buying some “bulk” items at TJ’s, then biking the (gasp) 20 blocks, or 1.6 miles to get the rest of my produce at the Sunday Farmers Market bright and early the next day.

20130306-085327.jpg

Needless to say, the Farmer’s Market never happened.

I was really surprised at how cheap TJ’s in season produce (cauliflower, broccoli, oranges) was. Soo I piled it in.

It had been over a week since my last grocery haul, and this was a big “stock-up” trip for me, as I recently ran out of essentials like rice, quinoa, lentils, etc. Even T-Man found a couple of things he liked (he has been RAVING about their lobster ravioli that he found in the refrigerated section).

So here’s what I got:

TJsgroceries

Produce: Cara Cara oranges, kiwis, onions, a russet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, bag of baby lettuce mix, and a bag of pre-cut kale (this stuff is amazing. So much more tender than full leaf kale)

20130306-085400.jpg

Bulk items & Dairy: lentils, quinoa, hybrid corn/flour tortillas, brown jasmine rice (this 3 lb bag lasts me over 6 months!), a can of beans (I already had black & garbanzo beans at home) plain Greek yogurt, flavored nonfat Greek yogurt (I tried 1 so far which wasn’t fantastic, but the price was right), and eggs.

20130306-085410.jpg

These are two new-to-me products I was really excited about because I’m a food nerd I’ve never spotted them at Safeway before: red lentils and quinoa! I always get green lentils, or plain old quinoa. I haven’t tried the lentils yet, but the quinoa was yummo 😀

20130306-085423.jpg

Miscellaneous: tortilla chips (these are DELISH), Luna bars, almond butter, chicken broth, peppermint tea, and light coconut milk

20130306-085432.jpg

I spent a lot of time looking through all the protein and nutrition bars, and settled on my tried and true Luna Bars. So many bars are too high in calories and fat, or don’t have enough overall nutrition for me to justify buying them. And the ones that did were all superexpensive. So Lunas it is! I haven’t tried the Chocolate-dipped Coconut or Peanut Butter Cookie before. YUM!

And my grand total (which I’m predicting will last me nearly 2 weeks) only came out to: $54.28!

I was really surprised at how little I spent for so much stuff! Lots of things (coconut milk, tea, yogurt) were actually cheaper at TJ’s than Safeway. And I probably saved a lot by avoiding the frozen/refrigerated aisle.

Also, I had another one of my famous “weird illogical theories” (dubbed so by T-Man of course :-P), I was convinced it would be cheaper to make almond butter than buy a jar.

20130306-085439.jpg

I quickly ditched my 1 lb, $6.99 bag of almonds for the MUCH cheaper $5.99 jar. Those almonds would have hardly made one cup of butter!

So what have I made with these groceries?

I made a vague meal plan for the week. Check it:

Breakfast: Used the plain yogurt I bought, and frozen fruit and granola I already had, to made a batch of Lindsay’s Frozen Yogurt Bars. Those bars plus my yogurt cups and Fiber One brownies will suffice for two weeks worth of breakfasts! And if I run out, there’s always oatmeal at the office. 🙂

Lunch and dinner:

Monday: burrito bowl for lunch (black beans, broccoli, hot sauce & tortilla), Kale & Broccoli pasta dish for dinner

Tuesday: leftover pasta for lunch, happy hour & drinks for dinner {I ended up having fries & wine, haha, so I supplemented it with fruit & a Luna bar!}

Wednesday: burrito bowl for lunch (with chicken this time), some kind of lentil + coconut milk dish for dinner

Thursday: lunch with a friend, leftover lentil dish for dinner after dodgeball game

Friday: Wing it! Bike home for lunch, or if not enough time, have emergency soup cup at the office. Make nice dinner with T-Man?

While this isn’t a full list of what I eat every day (there’s been at least one snack of leftover crackers + cheese from my office’s reception each day, plus dessert and other random snacks), I usually stick to a plan much like this…e.g. make dinner Monday and Wednesday, eat leftovers for lunch the next day.

Since I’m just about over my cold, my workouts have been pretty scattered. Usually, I plan my workout days first, then my meals…That way, I know to plan for protein-packed meals on workout days. This week, I’ve just been cookin’ with what I have, and supplementing my meals when I should.

Do you meal plan?

Do you create a weekly fitness plan?

Do you like Trader Joe’s, or do you like Trader Joe’s?

A Week in Groceries

Today, I was planning an update on my jogging/health/etc, but I decided to put it off because I’ve been too busy working on my darn Halloween costume that I haven’t had much spare time to do what I really want regarding the update (which is make a training plan to run a 5K on Thanksgiving!). So I thought I’d do a little something out of the box:

OK, more like out of the Safeway shopping bag…

I’m sharing my grocery shopping, what I generally like to stock my kitchen with, and what I make with what I buy!

First up, my grocery haul for the week from Safeway. There was a tiny version of this photo included in this week’s Weekend in Photos, but here’s the full thing:

Apples, Swanson’s Flavor Boost (‘cuz I had a coupon), Greek yogurt, multigrain tortilla chips (Food Should Taste Good has the BEST chips!), frozen burritos for lunch, granola, frozen chicken breasts, quick oats, cinnamon – pumpkin pie spice – poppy seeds, a sweet potato, and sage. For a total of $38.26!

The next day, I also picked up a spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and a pack of whole wheat English muffins to add $10.99 to the mix, which made my total just about $50.

Notes: I usually do a full grocery trip every two weeks, with a small trip in between. This was actually a pretty expensive grocery week for me, as I invested a good $10 on the spices and stocked up on a few pricier things (see italicized items above) that will last me a while. I usually buy things like tortilla chips, canned goods, and spices at Grocery Outlet (an extreeeeemely cheap bargain grocery store), but their stock frequently changes, and I didn’t find anything good there this week.

Lest you think I survived on these things alone this week, here is a peek at what was already in my kitchen:

Beans (garbanzo and black beans), several whole grain pastas, quinoa (hiding), brown rice, another sweet potato (never keep them in the fridge!), green chiles, an onion, Pop-Tarts, and there is also a giant bag of fun-sized candy hidden behind the penne. Ahem, I bought it for the trick-or-treaters me me me.

And now I apologize to my roomie in advance for exposing the world to the disaster that is our fridge, but…

Pretty much everything in the bottom two rows is mine. Hummus (I ALWAYS have hummus), tortillas, peanut butter, almond milk, a jar of homemade balsamic dressing, bacon, and a thing of sour cream that has probably gone bad. Also, there are brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce in the crisper drawer. Surprisingly, no wine at the moment.

As for the freezer…pumpkin puree, broccoli, and corn. That’s about it. 😉

With the exception of the two squashes and the sweet potato I bought, I’m pretty low on fresh produce at the moment. I was relying pretty heavily on the Farmer’s Market by my work this summer for produce, and as the summer has left, so has it unfortunately. There’s a big market on Sundays, but for some reason I never find myself with the motivation to wake up early enough!

Anywho, here are some of the things I made this week with the above groceries.

Strawberry greek yogurt + Strawberry vanilla granola = Sooooo yummy. A filling breakfast at only 250 calories. Holla. My breakfast each morning is either this, or oatmeal packets at work.

Spaghetti squash tossed with olive oil, fresh thyme, and basil from my parents’ garden. Notice how I have real spaghetti sitting on stand-by, just in case? Haha. Luckily, the squash (plus Mom’s meat sauce, fresh bread, and salad) was just enough to feed me and my parents. Next up, I think I’ll get T-Man to try it out!

Peanut butter and apple sandwich on an English muffin (if you look real hard, you can see some honey too!). I had this for lunch twice this week! I felt like a 6 year old, but it was totally worth it.

I don’t have a picture of me eating a frozen burrito, haha, but here’s one of my soup cups. I pretty much alternate which one I buy each week, and have at least a couple of each on hand at all times.

I used the butternut squash and sage to make soup! So far, that pot is half gone, and it’s served as dinner for me and a two-bowl lunch for T-Man. He’s been holding it hostage at his house since Tuesday…..I’ve been craving it alllll week.

Other lunches this week included quinoa mixed with whatever veggies & beans I had…Other dinners included a quesadilla, sweet potato fries, and baked chicken with broccoli.

Also, it’s safe to assume that I ingested a lot of chips and hummus. As I do..every week.

.

THE TAKEAWAY:

  • My main goal when I’m at the grocery store is to buy things that will either last me a long time, or that I can easily make into single servings, since I’m buying for just myself. Also, to save money, obviously. (I never bought meat in college because I didn’t know how to properly preserve it before it went bad — now, I know how to manage my poultry, haha.)
  • I try to keep my kitchen balanced with carbs, proteins, veggies, and just a couple of snacks and sweets (e.g. chips and hummus, Halloween candy).
  • Quick meals like soup cups and burritos are a must for lunch, but for dinners I like to utilize the season’s produce.
  • You won’t find a lot of store-bought sauces, salsas, or dressings on my side of the fridge- I think it’s cheaper, healthier, and more fun (!) to make them yourself. (In fact, most of the hummus I ate this week was homemade, not the Sabra stuff.)

How much do YOU spend on groceries, and how often do you go? Which things do you always make from scratch, and which do you tend to buy ready-made from the store?

An Olympic Weekend in Photos

So, did anyone else spend most of the weekend watching the Olympics? I mean, I did a lot of other things, but it felt like every second I had some downtime, on went the TV and on came some random Olympic sport! Who knew archery could be so intense? I don’t have a TV at home, so I’ve been DVRing everything at T-Man’s house, or watching at nearby bars. Or, on my computer at work….which I may or may not be doing right now…

Friday evening, we went to an INCREDIBLE dinner at Formoli’s Bistro, a very well-known restaurant in East Sac. I’ve been wanting to try it for a while, especially since T-Man just moved nearby. Our opportunity came when he got the evening off on Friday. We shared a Chicken & Brie flatbread and their famous Whiskey Burger (possibly the best burger I’ve ever had!) and finished with this chocolate cake & port.

Next up came the Opening Ceremonies! Watched the festivities at home, then during the Parade of Nations walked to our favorite pub & caught the rest!

Saturday was Launch Festival. A group of friends from out of town came and we caught some awesome bands like Fame Riot, !!!, Grouplove, and my two favorites: DJ Shadow (right) and Chromeo (bottom left).

Another week, another gimpy trip to the grocery store! I got ingredients to make Thai Beef for T-Man to eat in his lunches for the next few days — My still-awful right handed handwriting — I came up with some amaazing cherry recipes, which I’ll be sharing later in the week!

What did you do this weekend? And which olympic events have been your faves to watch so far?