Rein It In

Buenos dias, babycakes.

Let’s cut straight to the chase: My food spending is OUT of control and I desperately need to rein it in. This realization was sparked, in part, by a weekend trip to LA where I was once again on roomservice-only lockdown. Eating a $25 omelet feels much the same way I’d imagine eating $25 in quarters would: agonizing, excessive and shamefully wasteful. Also gross.

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Smarter(er… ish) Grocery Shopping

I got all those groceries above for $60. I was really pleased with myself.

I spend an outrageous percentage of my income on food. Back when we lived in a shithole, I definitely spent more on food than housing, which is really not how it’s supposed to work, but the tables have turned and I’ve traded organic unsulphured apricots for, you know, a washing machine and cable.

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Now that I have normal human expenses and can’t blow all my dollars on obnoxiously overpriced things like, hello, $5 green tea soy lattes, I am tapping in to some rather useful grocery budget tools to help me along.

  1. Evernote for menu planning – Meal planning for the week is, I think, the best way to shop conservatively and utilize everything you buy. If you’re not using Evernote (on your computer and phone), you crazy. I guess it’s kind of like Pinterest but more private and less obnoxious. It’s like a big e-notebook where you can collect and organize anything you find on the web. It’s great for keeping track of recipes from your favorite blogs (cough, cough). They also¬†just released a new magical Moleskine paper notebook that you write in like a real human being, but everything is transferable to your computer. Probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. See their blog post on how to use Evernote for menu planning.
  2. Grocery IQ and Ziplist for shopping lists – Two smart phone apps for creating, organizing and sharing shopping lists. I like these two because they integrate with full websites so you can plan from your laptop or desktop and then pull it up on your phone from anywhere. Everybody knows shopping with a list is the only way to keep you from buying cookie butter and that’s a fact.
  3. Starbucks Gold Card – I know. I know. I’m out of control. But I decided that if I can’t beat ‘em, I might as well join ‘em and get free soy and unlimited free refills and drinks on my birthday and a shiny gold card. The Starbucks gold card is not a deal if you’re not already consuming Starbucks coffee on the regular. If you’re not, maintain this habit. I applaud you. But if you are and you don’t have the gold card, you’re an idiot and you’re throwing money away. On every 15th drink you get a free ANYTHING YOU WANT. I’m talking all the shots, syrups and unicorn dust you can think of. Fo’ FREE. It’s free and all you have to do is sign up and register a gift card, any gift card. It’s actually kind of a good way to manage your expensive coffee habit, too, because you can just load your card with a limit each month and then not reload it as soon as you run out like I do.
As you can see, I have yet to really perfect the art of budget shopping. But I am at least trying. See you at Starbucks. (I am the worst.)

Dollar Store Tacos

Spicy black bean spinach tacos in baked shells

For my final project in my nutrition education class, we had to identify a barrier to health and create an instructional video to incite behavior change in spite of that barrier. People tell me all the time that eating healthy is too expensive and too time consuming. As one who is both broke and busy, I get it. I really, really get it.

But I also know that with a little creativity (and education), healthy eating can be affordable and accessible to anyone.

So I decided to address this issue by creating a healthy meal using ingredients purchased exclusively at my friendly neighborhood Dollar General.

Cheap and easy. Just like Ralphie.

I ended up making spicy black bean and spinach tacos with roasted sunflower seeds in baked corn tortilla shells.

I’d never made anything remotely resembling this, and I think you can tell in the video that I was legitimately surprised by how good it was. I hope it shows that you can find healthy food in unlikely places and that it doesn’t take a lot of culinary skill to turn it into an impressive meal.

I’m really proud of this project. Check it out:

Spicy Maple Tempeh

Maple tofu, lemon dill potatoes, beans and quinoa

Spicy is relative here. I think that the addition of a scant teaspoon of chili flakes qualifies as “spicy.” No one else does, least of all Stew.

But what a feast we had for lunch today. Despite being ready to eat around 11am, when it came time to prepare lunch I kept uncovering more and more things we needed to use up before grocery shopping tomorrow they perish.

The potatoes were sprouting eyes so I peeled those off, chopped them up, doused them in olive oil, lemon and dill and threw them in the oven at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes (flipping halfway through).

I always need quinoa for the week, so I made a big batch to get that prep out of the way, and our bag of cheap frozen beans was just begging to get out of the cold so I boiled that.

For the tempeh, I sauteed diced onion in olive oil before adding the tempeh, maple syrup, liquid aminos and chili flakes. I let it cook down for about 10 minutes, added veggie stock for moisture and let it go another five minutes or so.

So so so good. All of it. And cheap? Let’s see…

  • Quinoa – $0.13
  • Green beans – $0.25
  • Onion – $0.10
  • Tempeh – $0.56
  • Potatoes – $0.30
  • Maple syrup – $0.17
  • Olive oil, liquid aminos, chili flakes – $0.10

Total for my plate (I made enough for three+ servings) – $1.61*

*Leftover cupcake not included

Back to School

Muesli and coffee

After three days free of classes in the first week back to school, my university flipped the bird at Mother Nature and announced: “We will be operating on a full schedule Thursday, January 13.”

The only problem I see with this (other than me being thiiiiis close to getting the full first week off) is everything. The roads have re-iced over and it was all I could do to not fall flat on my face trying to take Waldo out for a poop last night (which, by the way, he strategically placed on the SIDE OF A LAMP POST).

So far, so good as dog people… so far. He’s only peed on one (indoor) wall and that was after seeing Weaz for the first time.

Ralph and Weaz have spent their time sitting about three feet away staring a hole through the poor dog’s soul. Their curiosity is encouraging though. I was concerned they’d be hiding under the bed or hissing in his face for two weeks.

Stew’s on zookeeper duty while I’m at work all day followed by a night class.

I fueled up with a bowl of muesli and decaf coffee. (Can you “fuel” with decaf? I do.)


  • 1/2 c oats – $0.07
  • 1/4 c nuts – $0.37
  • 1/4 c raisins – $0.24
  • 1 c almond milk – $0.50
  • Raw buckwheat, coconut, cinnamon – $0.10*

Grand total for one bowl – $1.28

*Estimated price