Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget โ€“ 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.ย 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! Lastย 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.

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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:

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Groceries

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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!

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Going Out

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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? ๐Ÿ˜›

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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 ๐Ÿ˜›

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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.

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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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

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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?