October 21, 2013

Dinner For Two // On A Budget

One of the main things that I absolutely despise about moving two or three times per year is re-stocking our kitchen with the essentials. The ketchup and the mustard and the BBQ sauce and the salad dressings and the peanut butter and the jelly ... all of those things add up, and they add up fast.

We've kind of just been winging dinner for the past two weeks, but yesterday I decided to be mindful and create a mealplan that utilizes many of the same kitchen staples but in different, tasty ways so that I don't have to buy every single typical kitchen essential all at once.

This week's menu consists mainly of chicken, pork, ground turkey, honey, dijon, garlic, Frank's, coconut, panko crumbs, flour, grape jelly, BBQ sauce, bacon, eggs and blue cheese. All staples in our house.

(Th) Coconut Chicken / (F) Grilled Apple Turkey Meatballs / (Sa) Wedge Salad / (S) Date Night

According to the USDA's official cost of food for individuals and families (as of April 2013), a family of two spends anywhere between $378.50 to $750.60 per month on food.

Life would be much cheaper if boxed mac and cheese, bagel bites, Ramen noodles and the Dollar Menu were healthy ... but it's important to me to create somewhat nutritious meals. And as important as health, nutrition and fresh fruits and veggies are to me, it's equally important that we're stretching each dollar as far as it will go each time that I'm at the grocery story. 

Now that we're settled and TJ has officially made the team (seriously ... he came home last week with his hockey bag and I panicked and immediately asked "WTF is that thing doing here?!?") I've set a maximum budget of $125 per week for all food, pet food, cleaning products, toiletries, alcohol, and dinners out ... and I'm definitely challenging myself to stay under that threshold each week. I know that we could probably do without the wine and nights out ... but I want to have date nights with TJ, and I want to allow us to splurge just a little bit a few times per month at different restaurants in Denver.

I'm planning on utilizing grocery lists, meal plans, coupons, shopping store brands, and centering the backbone of our meals around what's on sale at Safeway and Target to stay under budget. This website is awesome, and Lauren makes couponing a breeze. I try to buy only what's in season, and we do eat some type of meat at every meal because that athlete dude of mine needs protein, and a heaping plate of legumes just isn't his thing. I mainly stick to chicken (mainly because I can't cook a good steak), and I always try to look at the cost per serving rather than the cost per pound. Rice and veggies are our typical side dish each night unless I'm feeling fancy.

Groupon and Living Social are surprisingly pretty awesome here in Denver. I always get so excited to find awesome deals on clothes, shoes, accessories or home decor at places like TJ Maxx and Marshall's, I guess it was only a matter of time before I started doing the same with restaurants and local things to do.

I'm not stockpiling 92 bottles of ketchup yet, so y'all don't have to be worried about me. Yet.

I'm curious:
What do you budget each month for food and/or entertainment?

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45 comments

  1. Buffalo chicken grilled cheese?? That sounds amazing!!!

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  2. I don't even know what we spend on food! Too much, that's for sure. This inspires me to make a budget.

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  3. We just started planning out meals, and the grocery shopping is quite a bit cheaper and we don't waste veggies and meat like we used to. So it does pay to plan ahead a little I guess. Also I think it's important to set aside some money and time to go out to eat once in a while for something different, and to get out of the house.

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  4. TELL ME ABOUT IT! That recipe has mayo and celery in it .. I'm just going to mix shredded chicken with Frank's and shredded cheddar though. Yum yum!!

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  5. It definitely takes the anxiety out of grocery shopping (at least for me anyways!) I hate going into the grocery story and thinking hmmm what am I going to eat tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday ... having a plan is definitely key for me!

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  6. I TOTALLY agree! I've been doing a little bit of research on budgeting and couponing, and one website said that dinner nights out with your husband are an investment in your marriage. I liked that :)

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  7. I totally agree with the moving and restocking thing! Spices are also a pain in the butt. We love bulk food stores for that sort of thing. They are even great for baking essentials like flour, oats, brown and white sugar! I've also recently discovered Walmart groceries. They have some very reasonably priced meat in larger quantities. When we get home, we separate it into freezer bags. Costco is also good for this, but Costco is also dangerous and I try to avoid it at all costs!

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  8. Ps. What's the weather like in Denver? Steve's trying to pack for the road trip and we heard you guys got snow the other day!

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  9. these are great tips. i get pretty lazy with eating at home/cooking good food, but i need to start making a better plan. helps with eating healthier and saving money!
    -- jackie @ jade and oak

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  10. Spices, flour, sugar, etc are such a pain!! I bought all of ours at Walmart before we left and we traveled with them, and it actually alleviated a little bit of stress. Walmart does have reasonably priced meat, but I've twice had ground beef from there go rancid within 24 hours of buying it so be careful and don't be afraid to bring it back if that happens!!

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  11. Meal planning has to be the best thing ever! My husband & I started doing Yeast Free 2 weeks ago & it's all about meal planning & prep! Before we were eating out all of the time (because I had gotten lazy & out of the habit) and money was just flying out of our account. Now that we're not eating out for so many meals a day & week, our acct is quiet & we're eating SO much better for all of our meals!! It's a life saver in so many ways!!

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  12. I don't even know what to tell you, lol ... we woke up to snow on Friday, it was gone by afternoon, and then Saturday it was 75F and I didn't even have to wear a jacket to the rink. Supposedly this is normal, so tell him to pack for cold and warm-ish!!

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  13. For sure it does save money!! ... I usually utilize Pinterest for meals, and I only choose ones where I already have a majority of the ingredients on hand. If a recipe has a spice or something that I don't have and I know I'm only going to use for that one recipe then I don't bother trying it. It can be a pain to prepare a meal plan, but it's nice to have a little action plan for the week instead of wondering at 5pm "ughhh what's for dinner?!"

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  14. I totally agree with you Shayna! I enjoy cooking, and I like asking TJ for help with cutting meat or something easy (aka, something he can't screw up or get in my way, haha!!) ... it's sort of become a fun way to spend an extra 5 or 10 minutes together without our cell phones, ya know? How is the Yeast Free going?! I'd love to hear more!

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  15. That's a nice way of thinking about it. I think cooking together can be a nice thing too if you don't have money to go out. But really I like all these justifications for eating out :)

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  16. Me too! Whenever we eat out I make sure to order something that I know I couldn't (or wouldn't want to) make at home like a steak or something...I don't mind a salad if it's a nice mix of something, but I can make one of those at home and usually a steak is only a few dollars more than a salad at a restaurant now-a-days!!

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  17. I do the same thing! With me it's normally seafood since my bf doesn't care for it I don't cook it much at home. I hardly ever get a salad when I eat out, unless it's one of those really cool ones with loads of things and crispy noodles and some fancy dressing.

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  18. Yes, Matt & I have found that same thing! It's a way to disconnect from everything else & reconnect with each other. But, sometimes it is hard when I'm in a mood where I just "want to do it all myself!" LOL! YF is going great! I can def tell a difference in my body size & puffiness! HA! & My skin is so much more clear now too! Despite the lack of sugar we've had my energy level is way up too! We're kicking it in high gear these next two weeks to see how good we can do at our 1 month mark!!

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  19. That's incredible. I've heard of people doing this, and I'm going to definitely look into it. It's a big positive to hear that it hasn't been too difficult and that you're looking to the days ahead instead of dreading it!!

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  20. I love meal prep! Mostly because it helps me to plan out my macros/diet for the week and it helps me to stay on track. But it also helps when it comes to budgeting and saving money! While everyone else in the office is eating out for lunch, I pull out my prepped egg whites and rice. :)

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  21. i don't set a budget on food but i basically do as cheap as possible. which mean no drinks at dinner only water when eating out. i try to only get wine if its happy hour and definitely pre-game at the house before night out. i havn't bought a drink at a bar in so long because i always drink enough at home before we leave haha

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  22. I have boarded the same budget train when it comes to all grocery shopping. And all I say to the hubs is...challenge accepted.

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  23. Meal planning has really helped us. I haven't done it in awhile but it is something that I need to start again!

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  24. we are back to using E Meals and they have a clean eating option check them out they give you a shopping list and menus and you can set it for the number in your family. Which is a plus, I recently saw a coupon/deal for them on Living Social for a year for $29

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  25. I am all about meal planning, fresh and local is best, coupon using, sales..you name it if it saves me money I am there (to an extent). Shopping for my family of 4 is around $350/week or about $16/meal. Alot I know BUT we eat out once a month. I make breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. I bake my kids lunch snacks weekly. Fresh fruit and veggies are a necessity. I buy my meats at a butcher (bulk is cheaper) once every 6-8 weeks. Target every 2 months and farm stands weekly. Expensive i know (I live in CT) but other than a cold we are never sick (which I attribute to healthy eating) thus no extra doctor or meds which saves us $$.

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  26. We try to spend around $600/month on groceries for the 4 of us (this doesn't including eating out which we do maybe once or twice a week on weekends) and I try to do meal planning. I've started using 'clean eating' from Emeals and have gotten some great recipes and ideas from there!

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  27. i love that coupon website! i know i'll have to use that when we move back to the states. right now we split our 'entertainment' money from our 'grocery' money. but it's usually 350 for groceries and 175 for entertainment. sometimes we have some left over at the end of the month and we just roll it to the next month to splurge on a nice meal out

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  28. Good job! One of my favorite ways of keeping the finances in check is with the grocery budget. I spend €375/$510 a month on groceries including wine and dogfood and stuff and €100/$135 going out to dinner but I'm always looking for ways to cut back. I hate that coupons aren't big in France.

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  29. I usually do the water at restaurants thing too - we hardly ever go to bars anymore because we're like a grandma and grandpa, but when we do I stick to cheap beer like Coors Light. I like your style, Nicole :)

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  30. Hahahaha, right? I love a good challenge ... plus, I must be really growing up or something because I find a lot of joy in researching yummy new recipes that are within budget!!

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  31. For sure! I hope that it will keep our finances in check, and that I learn more about couponing. I've seen ladies with overflowing tables full of stuff and they write "I only spent $7 on all of this!" ... I secretly want to be one of those people, hahaha!!

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  32. I bought EMeals last year and I never, not once used their service. Woof!! I saved all of their email though so thanks for reminding me :)

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  33. I'm totally going to be you once we have children. I think there is a difference between being frivolous with your money and food, and buying (sometimes expensive) organic, fresh, food. CT is sooooo expensive, too! I would rather bake treats and know what goes into them, than purchasing chemical strewn crap at $2 a box. I was just talking to TJ about how we're going to have to break up our shopping between Safeway and Target maybe every other week to score the right deals. I agree ... we're never sick either, I wonder if it does have to do with healthy eating?

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  34. I love that! I've thought about trying to wrap my brain around that and make it a blog feature...we shall see :)

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  35. I'm so terrible, Darlene! I bought EMeals last year and I never, not once cooked a recipe from there!! I saved all of the emails though so maybe I can actually start to utilize them!!

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  36. The website is seriously so awesome, Chelsea! I've seen other websites and they charge a fee for what she's doing for free. Definitely bookmark her! Are groceries expensive there? It was dirt cheap when we lived in Germany, I could usually shop an entire week for us for like 40 euro. I miss that.

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  37. No kidding! I saw a blog once and the table was overflowwwwwing with food and tampons and baby food and all kinds of other crap, and she said she had only spent $7 on it all! Crazy! Did you know that in some states you can actually get cash back, too? If the coupon is for more than what the item is worth, the cashier gives you money back. I'd like that lol.

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  38. Yeah, we never saw coupons when we were in Germany, either. Is it expensive in France? I could usually spend like 40-50 euro a week on groceries, and then it only cost like 20 euro to go out to dinner. I miss that country!

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  39. I wish I could wrap my brain around macros and all that jazz! You go girl :)

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  40. I am really trying to make an effort and meal plan more often. I find when I don't do it I just end up buying the most random things at the grocery store and can't make meals out of it. This in turn results in food been wasting and my poor wallet suffering. Meal planning on a budget for the win!

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  41. YES! If I don't plan out our dinners I go to the store, panic, buy a ridiculous amount of crap that I can't even make a meal out of, and come home and wonder what the heck I bought because we have nothing!! Too funny, I'm glad you can relate!

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  42. it's not outrageous by any means. i would say it's comparable to the states but if you want the comforts of home you're going to pay about twice as much for those products : (

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  43. Let me know if you want me to send you more info on it! I've got stuff that explains it all & gives you grocery list, etc. Also, I get a ton of recipes from Stephanie @ snhblog.com.

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  44. I've made the buffalo chicken grilled cheese before ... yum! Also I spend about $70/week at the grocery for my family of 4. I usually only buy what is on sale and make meals based around that. We've recently cut back on eating out so maybe only one meal a week is eaten out. If everyone says they want pizza then I make our own dough and make a pizza instead of ordering take out. My method lately has been if they want it I will figure out how to make it for cheaper! Budgeting is hard but so worth it!

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  45. WOW, that is super impressive, I'm jealous! After reevaluating our budget I'm sort of on a mission to cut it under $100. Homemade pizza is my absolute FAVORITE - it's so fresh and delicious, and I love knowing what's going in/on it!!

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