Saturday, March 30, 2013

Premise #5: Meat Is For Creatures Who Run


So here it is Wednesday again, and I did not do my due diligence and take inventory on Monday, make a meal plan on Tuesday morning and a shopping list on Tuesday evening, so I had to do it all today. Blah.

Also, (alas), I must report that I did not do so well with food dollars this week.

We went out. More than once. The kids had $16 for snacks in the food court. Mr. Gomez and I spent $27 at Johnny Rocket's (including tip) for a burger that we shared, onion rings, fries and two milkshakes. I bought two teas and an apple fritter at a Wawa for $4. I spent $30 all by myself at Ram's Head for two ciders, a burger, an order of fried pickle chips (could've been good, but weren't) and some fries I didn't want. HOWEVER, because I was out with friends and they didn't want their fries either, I brought home half a burger and an abundance of fries to some very grateful teenagers.

So that's $77 worth of crap food, which I count more as entertainment than nourishment.

In the You Need Less Than You Think department, sharing a burger at Johnny Rocket's is something Mr. Gomez wouldn't have considered were we not on a restricted budget, but as it turned out, we were both stuffed, and saved ourselves ~$10 on not ordering two burgers. One of the teas from Wawa is in the fridge- I didn't drink two on the road. Last year at Ram's Head with these same friends, I had soup and a beer and called it good, spending only ~$12. I'll know better next year- order just an appetizer and save both $ and calories for beverages.

Premise # whatever it is, Meat is for Creatures Who Run is blatant heresy against the meat marketing industry. However, I am a daring sort, and will dare to say that we don't need nearly as much meat as we consume. We certainly do NOT need bacon at breakfast, sliced beef at lunch and roast turkey at dinnertime, nor do we need to clutter our salads (leaves! in a bowl! to eat!) with crumbled bits or whole slices of animal product, we just don't. We don't NEED meat every day. We may have become accustomed to that, but our ancestors, (not that long ago, in the scheme of things), did not get meat every single day because why? Because they had to CHASE it. And then they gorged on meat, had to gnaw sticks and walk a lot to avoid constipation, then went back to eating nuts and berries until the next bit of meat ran past. We contemporary Western humans just barely walk from our sofas to the car, from the car to the supermarket (and back, yes, back), and then we return to our natural state of mitigated stasis. Certainly we don't have to run to get a meal. Also (and I think this is important) unless we've strayed very far afield, there is nothing chasing US.  By and large, running away (or after) and climbing trees are no longer part of our everyday activities. We don't traipse through dense forest in search of sticks before we can be warmed by a fire, nor do we shiver in icy streams or cold rains when we bathe. Our human and pre-human ancestors, they burned some calories, man. But we? Not so much.

(This is the part where I decide to not complain that the seat heater in my car isn't working.)

Look, a cheetah needs meat. But it doesn't get an antelope every day. If it did, it would soon be too fat to chase one, and then it would starve.

Meal Plan

Wed- Asian stir fry & rice, w/chicken? (from last week)
Thurs- chicken soup (still haven't made it yet)
Fri- tuna casserole
Sat-spaghetti & garlic bread
Sunday- Easter Dinner with Gomez's family
Tues- yams, corn and black beans
Wed- salmon cakes

Okay, so I just made that meal plan and haven't even hit Post, but already rearranged the order 3 times. Problem is, I don't know when Gomez will be home.He likes tuna casserole but not salmon cakes. Yams, corn and beans is not his idea of a real meal. I'm not even going to bother making spaghetti if he's not home- if I need a meal, I'll make Stupid (cook the pasta, heat the sauce, throw on a handful of cheese, DONE.) but I just can't bother with cooking meat when the kids and I don't care very much.

Speaking of which, when we were at the grocery today, I found I had a surplus of a few dollars. Like, seven. I told the kids they needed to agree on how to spend it, but they could choose how it was spent, since I'd found all the things I needed. They could choose Saturday cereal and candy, or, hey, here's the meat case.

"Eh," says Pugsley, "we had meat last week. Also, we'll have meat when we're at Auntie's for Easter. Let's have junk."

Alrighty, then.

Shopping has been done, and also Pretend Shopping, which I did first, so there are a couple of items that don't appear as "hard" figures. Based on other Pretend Shopping trips, I can estimate.

List:                                                  Target                                  Costco, Aldi

Milk                                               3.89                                       2.99 (Costco)
Butter                           (2.50 x 4) 10.00                                       7.50   "
Baugettes                                        5.00                                       5.99   "

Sugar                                              2.99                                       1.89                                                                          
Cream                                            1.69                                       1.49
Tuna                                               1.35 x3 =2.05                         .79 x 3 =2.37
Angel hair                                       1.22                                       1.69
Peas                                               1.14                                          .95
Green beans                                   1.14                                       1.49
Penne                                             2.00                                       1.00
Salmon                                           2.79 x2= 5.59                        2.69 x2= 5.39
Saltines                                           2.54                                          .99
Shaky Cheese                                 2.99                                        2.39
Saturday Cereal                              2.50                                        1.99
Candy                                            1.45                                           .69
Sweet Potatoes                              2.15                                         1.19

  Estimated Food Total @ Target: $47.24        Actual Food Total: $47.50

Yogurt                                              2.39                                         1.99
Dog Food                                        11.00                                        8.99
Hmmm. Unless my estimates are off by more than a 'few' cents, it might've been simpler just to shop at Target this time around. Hmmmm.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Story I Promised

This is not actually the first time I have done comparison shopping. Try to contain your gasps of shock.

A couple of years ago, I was working with parents of young dancers, teaching them how to make their students look good for performances. I'd been doing Wednesday's makeup for years, and had a wee moment when she was three or four of worry that I was headed down the Jon Benet path. Then I saw the photographs and got right over it. Studio photography and stage lighting are not kind to skintones or, really, anything. It was my job to convince parents of performing dancers to put on makeup, and in many cases, to purchase makeup especially for the show. The dancers also needed a basket to hold their things, wipes for cleaning up, hair brushes, pins, and so on.

I had already discovered that many parents were completely daunted by the prospect, never having worn cosmetics themselves, or not wanting to sexualize their child-daughters (sons was a whole OTHER kettle of fish), or not knowing where to purchase supplies and so forth.

I've been a 'dance mom' since my son was five. This stuff is as natural as city parking to me. But I can't catch a cab to save my soul, so I tried to lead gently by example and instruction with physical examples and store receipts. I bought a 'kit' at Target, one at Rite Aid and one at Wal Mart. The kit was a laundry basket, wipes, hairpins, a brush, eye colors, eye liner, mascara, lip stain, blush, hair nets, elastics, cotton swabs, tissues, brushes and a puzzle or book of coloring or crosswords.

I don't remember the totals of these items precisely, but the total I expected was in the $25 to $40 area. I do remember the figures did NOT match my expectations at ALL. For one thing, I came in over $32 every place I shopped. I shopped at Target first (I like shopping at Target) and then at the Rite Aid (it may have been Walgreen's) and lastly at Wal-Mart. The drug store, I was surprised to note, came in a few (five, eight, something) dollars higher than Target. I thought the drug store would be cheaper. Surprise! I expected Wal-Mart's prices to be higher than Target's, because Wal-Mart hollers about how much cheaper they are than everyone, and if they really WERE that much cheaper, they wouldn't need to do all that hollering, in my opinion. Plus, they have things specially packaged in weird sizes so it's mind-bendingly difficult to compare prices on identical items. I figured Wal-Mart would be higher than my other totals by five or seven dollars, maybe. I actually was hoping to be surprised, that they'd be competitive, or lower, even. HAH! My Wal-Mart receipt was almost fifteen dollars more than the one I had from Target.

This is significant if you have to scrape for bus fare.

I thought people should know about this. I still visit Wal-Mart more frequently than I'm comfortable doing- curiously, their pharmacy rates are by far lower than any other in my neighborhood, but I have to remind myself to leave the shelves alone.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013



You may have noticed I'm rather haphazard with this 'recipe' idea. There are certain things for which specific measurements are more ideal than not (cornbread, quiche, cookies), but many other things have a lot of what I call "wiggle room".

I'm kind of a 'dump' cook: Dump it in, stir it together, plate and serve.

I'd like you to think of my recipes less as specific project instructions and more as general how-to, like a You Tube video.

Cheating Chili

1 large can stewed or diced tomatoes
2-4 cans chili beans
2 cans kidney beans
1 envelope taco seasoning
1/2 -1 onion, chopped
additional seasonings as desired

Dump all ingredients into crock pot, liquid and all. Cover and cook at Medium all day.

Serve with shredded cheese, chopped onion, sour cream, salsa and cornbread or tortilla chips. It's Taco Salad without the Salad part.

Bean Pot

1 can each kidney, pinto, green, Lima and white or Great Northern beans, liquid included(substitute others if you prefer; I usually avoid Black beans in Bean Pot, as they make it look grimy.)
bay leaf
dried minced onion
fresh ground black pepper, plenty of it
garlic powder or minced garlic, 1 teaspoon or so

Dump everything together in the crock pot or slow cooker. Cook on Medium-Low all day, or at Medium High for two to three hours. Serve like soup with bread and butter, or over leftover rice or cornbread.

Corn Bread- Preheat oven to 450*F

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1/3 cup milk
1 can corn or creamed corn
2 Tablespoons bacon grease

Melt butter in iron skillet. Pour off into medium bowl or measuring beaker. In separate bowl, blend dry ingredients together. In bowl with butter, add milk and egg. Beat well. Add corn. Melt bacon grease in skillet. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, scraping wet bowl well and folding gently to combine. Pour into hot skillet. Cook on stove ~3-5 minutes to create crispy crust, then put in oven ~20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with solid crumbs clinging to it. Cook 3-5 minutes before slicing into wedges.

White Bean & Chicken Burritos

2 cans white beans (or Great Northern, if there's a difference)
~1 cup chicken, shredded
~1 cup diced tomatoes
hot sauce
cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded

Drain beans.Dump in large-ish bowl. Stir in spices, chicken and tomatoes, and salsa, too, if you wish. Onto each tortilla, plop two large spoonfuls of bean mixture. Top with cheese. Add a small bit of cheese to the edge of the tortilla, to glue it together when you roll it. Place all burritos (I made 8) in baking dish. Top with additional cheese, if you wish- it doesn't change the flavor, but makes them reel purdy.  Bake at 350*F for 20-30 minutes. Serve with salsa & sour cream. Pitcher of margaritas optional.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chicken Stretch


Let me begin thus: I don't like chicken. I don't like to eat it, and I sure don't like to cook it. Those of you who are willing to buy a lovely raw chicken and roast it yourownself have my blessing and admiration and probably three or more additional dollars in your pocket.

For me, a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket is a gift from the universe. There it is, already cooked, smelling nice, in its own little plastic capsule, ready for liftoff from the shelf, transport through the space-time continuum, landing on the dinner table to be consumed by ravenous aliens over an extended period of time.

The first night is chicken and veggies. The next night, a vegetarian meal. Another night incorporates some big-ish chunks of chicken, another  vegetarian meal, then small bits of meat, then stew, then soup.  Presto! Week of meals. This works for me, and we did it a lot when the kids and I kept ourselves to $21 a week, but I'm trying to demonstrate as much variety as possible. Also, I don't really like chicken.

Shopping went well. I made only one true 'impulse' buy, and that was Spaetzle noodles that I saw on the Aldi shelf. Sure, I could've used some of the pasta that I had in my cupboard, but I was curious.

And now I don't need to buy Spaetzel again. Nobody loved it.

All the other 'non-list' items I purchased were on the 'wish' list.

Oh, and when we went to Big Lots! for toilet tissue, there was a jar of Not-Tella (fake Nutella) for $1.00, so I bought it, even though we weren't out of it.

I haven't done pretend shopping yet, though. Maybe I should wait and post all my pricings together?

And now I have done pretend shopping. The Shoppers in my neighborhood has had a facelift, and it looks nicer, and it has a lovely assortment of international food staples, but it's still in the same crappy neighborhood (mine) with the same trailerpark patrons, so not really much of an upgrade, in my opinion.

Item, Estimate                 Aldi                           Costco                             Shoppers

chicken, $5                                                              4.99                                   6.49
milk, $3                                                                     2.99                                  3.99
cheese, $3.80(16oz)                                                  5.60 (32oz)                       8.99                    
eggs, $4                                                                    4.69 (3doz)                        6.78
fruit                                2.49(bag of clementines)                                                3.99
cocoa                                  1.20                                                                         1.49
white beans                          1.18                                                                         1.54
chili beans3.60                     3.60                                                                         6.00
green beans x3                    1.50                                                                         2.10
corn x3                                1.50                                                                         2.10
cream of chix soup               1.18                                                                         1.78
frozen veg$2.30                   2.20                                                                         5.00
sour cream, $1.50                1.29                                                                         1.59
taco seasoning x2                   .70                                                                          1.80
Saturday cereal, $2                1.89  (frosted flakes)                                                2.50
buttery crackers, $1.80          1.80                                                                         2.39
biscuit mix, $3                        2.00                                                                         2.79
Spaetzle (impulse buy)            1.99                                                                         2.49
bread, $1.50                          1.30                                                                         1.89
tortillas, $2                             2.00                          Big Lots!                                 3.20
Hazelnut Spread                                                          1.00                                     3.79(Nutella)

  Aldi, Costc & Big Lots!: $47.11                    Shoppers Total: $72.69*
Stupid Lunch Date:            $ 3.00
Total Food Spending:        $50.11

Stupid Lunch Date is Gomez and me going to the 'restaurant' area of Costco after we've shopped and buying a hot dog & soda combo for $1.50 each. The sodas include free refills, the dogs are all beef, and you can get sauerkraut with them if you ask for it.

* I'm not sure it's fair to include the real Nutella in the Shoppers' total, as I'd never have bought it if it hadn't been only $1. If we disallow it, the Shoppers Total becomes $68.90. That's a $21 difference, but ~$70 is still pretty good for a week of groceries that feeds teenagers & a truck driver.

Dinner on Wednesday evening was lovely: I used 1 1/2 bags of the frozen California Medley, 1/2 bag of Spaetzel and some of the chicken. We will count the whole prices of All The Things, and the rest of the week, those things count as Free!  Chicken, $5. Pasta, $2. Vegetables, $2.40. All told, $9.40 for a meal that gave dinner to 4 of us, and lunch to 2, which breaks down to ~$1.60 per serving.

And we still have chicken for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Premise #4: No Food, Only Ingredients


I stole that phrase from a young friend of mine, who was quoted by his mother. He wanted frozen pizza. She had cheese and tomato sauce. He wanted chicken nuggets. She had frozen chicken breasts. He wanted hamburgers. She had ground beef. He complained, "Mom! We don't have any FOOD in this house, only INGREDIENTS!"

Which, so, okay. I mean, yes. We like the convenience of hastily prepared meals, like frozen burritos, frozen fish sticks (I'm afraid I can't even TYPE that phrase without thinking of South Park and snickering- sorry.), pizza kits (Ah, Joe Corbi! How I miss thee!), packaged cookies, sliced cheese, Lunchables... but we begin to wander into the territory of what Michael Pollan refers to as "edible food-like substances".  Some of these (cheese puffs? Velveeta? Slim Jim?) I'm not sure even rate the term "food-like", as they really are not. I do not kid myself when I'm consuming half a bag of puffed corn product covered in orange dust that this is "food". It's not. It's cargo, and I'll be carting it around or physically offloading it later.

What was my point, here? I'm distracted because the kids and I were talking the other day about food tax. Which items do we tax? I'm in favor of a soda tax, and a tax on chips and cheese curls. So we were talking, the kids and I, about how food is currently not taxed, even the dubious food-like products, but dog food and baby wipes are taxed. So where's the line? Pugsley said "prepared foods. Like Lunchables should be taxed, but not lunch meat."

"From the deli counter, right," I agreed, "but what about, say, tuna salad at the deli counter? Clearly, we don't tax tuna in a can, but tuna salad at the counter, is that taxed?" Pugsley thought it ought to be. "It's prepared," he said.

Where's the line? Do we tax pastries, but not bread? Or do we also tax bread, but not flour or yeast? Do we tax crackers, pudding, yogurt? I see where legislation could get very sticky, and Nabisco has plenty of lawyers to tie the whole thing up for decades.

Here's my shopping list for the week:

Aldi                                                              Costco
                                                                          astronaut chicken*
apple juice
cheese x2
cream of chix soup
frozen California medly veggies
sour cream
canned beans: 1 white, several chili
canned veggies
biscuit mix

Wish list: Yams, crackers, piecrust, cocoa powder, saurkraut, hot chocolate, Saturday cereal, peaches, shaky cheese, salmon, tuna kits, pesto sauce,  pineapple and cottage cheese

*This refers to a rotisserie chicken, already cooked and packaged like an astronaut in a plastic capsule. I wish I'd come up with the term, but it was Stephen King in Duma Key. I must content myself with having coined 'snowceries'. It'll catch on, I'm certain of it.

"So what did you have?" I asked my friend, owner of the 'no food, only ingredients' offspring. "Pasta," she said, "like we usually do."

Pasta. Yep. Brown that ground beef, dump a can of soup on, open a can of green beans, boil the pasta, call it done. Boil the pasta, heat the sauce, top with shredded cheese. OR... and we've done this... take the Ingredients, warm them and serve them together like a meal. OF COURSE you can. I have baked sweet potatoes in the microwave, heated a can of corn and a can of black beans (separate pots), spiced up the beans with some pepper and cilantro, dropped a generous pat of butter on each finished potato, and served up plates of sweet potato, black beans and corn to happy eaters. It's a warm, nourishing, comforting colorful meal that is always more filling than I remember- I usually have something left. I have been known to give cinnamon toast and half a yam as breakfast, with no complaints.

I may drop Saturday Cereal from my list this week and buy raisin bread instead. French Toast is food, you know.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Planning Again


It feels as though I've just barely finished shopping for one week when it's time to plan for the next week. This is an illusion. Or it's me, not keeping track of time very well. Anyway, it's planning time again.

CORN last night was successful- no additional cooking, no science projects, and two lunches, plus I know what I have/don't have on hand.

I'm out of: salmon, shaky cheese, bananas, Saturday cereal, bacon, white sauce, angel hair pasta, and corn.
I'm nearly out of: cocoa, eggs, milk, butter, tortillas and bread.

Assets include frozen stir fry veggies, envelope of Asian noodles (remember those from Week #1?) canned tomato products, two cans of kidney beans, rice, one can of white beans, half a bag of apples and some boxed pasta.

Some of what I buy will be based on what's gone, but mostly it will be based on what I need in order to cook this week's meals.

Tuesday: (teach downtown, date in DC): Beanie Weenies (this is leftover Last Week planning)

Wednesday: Rotisserie Chicken, vegetables & pasta
Thursday: (gig in DC) Vegetarian Crock Pot Chili
Friday: Stir Fry veggies & rice & noodles
Saturday: Chicken & White bean burritos
Sunday(volunteering all day at yarn event): Chicken Crock Pot Stew
Monday: CORN
Tuesday: Free Chicken Soup

I'll post my shopping list later today, or maybe tomorrow. I'll go Pretend Shopping at... hm, maybe Shoppers? this week. I was surprised by Giant's price difference being smaller than Food Lion's. Though I have a Wal Mart story that I'll share with you later that illustrates pretty clearly the difference between What Is and What You Think It Is.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Price Comparisons


I promised to pretend shop for my groceries at 'regular' stores, because there are people who have no access to budgetary godsends like Aldi and Costco. What is a realistic amount of money that someone without Costco or Aldi might spend?

We shall find out. Meanwhile, I have done sufficient comparison shopping to implore you to never ever ever buy groceries at Wal Mart unless it is an urgent situation (like Snowfall! Accumulation! Scary! on the news), because Target has some actual competitive prices on food items, but Wal Mart is another story.

And this is another situation in which You Need Less Than You Think can be useful. How much DO you spend on groceries every week? Do you even know? I didn't. When I checked my checkbook register, I was regularly spending more than $100/week, with the occasional $300 week. Now I look at those totals and think, WHAT was I buying?

Do you know the price of a gallon of milk? Dozen eggs? Pound of butter, bag of sugar, box of cornflakes? When you start paying attention to what each of your food items costs, you can know for sure whether the Great Value! sign is lying or not.

Item Estimate               Aldi                    Costco                    Giant
Milk, $3                                                      2.95                           3.99
Frz Veg, $7                                                 6.70/80oz                  7.17/106oz (32oz bag x3)
garlic bread, $4                                           3.99(olive cibiatta)       2.50(Italian loaf)
granola bars, $12                1.98               12.70(didn't buy)            2.49 (bought)
tortillas, $2                         1.98                                                      4.22
beans, $2.40                      2.38                                                      4.00
cheese, $7.20                    7.16                                                     10.76
salsa, $1.80                       1.69                                                        2.89
taco spice, $2                    1.05                                                        3.00
fruit, $4                              6.04                                                       5.69
red sauce, $2                     3.60                                                        4.00
Ovaltine                                                                                            3.99 (bought)
cream, $2                           1.49                                                       2.39
sour cream, $2                    1.29                                                       2.10
crackers, $2                         1.69                                                      2.69
yogurt, $2                             1.99

Totals:              Aldi                   Costco                                    Giant
                        27. 77                       $13.64                                  $61.88
Weekly Grocery Total: $6.48
                                         27.77  =   49.88
There's a very good reason that this experiment was begun in March rather than earlier. December is holiday foodstuffs. January has family birthdays at each end. February is Pugsley's birthday month, and I will tell you that I spent $60 at the Italian pastry shop because he wanted a surprise assortment from Pedigrota rather than a cake. So it's March, and other than the odd wish to cook corned beef and cabbage in my slow cooker this Sunday (odd because I'm not Irish, and Gomez, who is, isn't fond of corned beef OR cabbage), there's no holiday food purchasing to be done. Oh, wait... When's Passover?

Hm. Better budget for some matzoh.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Premise #3: You Need Less Than You Think


You Need Less Than You Think proved itself to me over and over.  Until we tried an extreme eating plan (for example, $21/week for three of us), we really had no clear idea how much we usually consume. Nor how much we consume because we need it versus how much we consume Because It's There. In just the two weeks we've been at this so far, we've carried over AT LEAST one planned meal from one week to the next. This means fewer required meal purchases for THIS week, leaving us room for a 'luxury item", like the round buttery crackers instead of salted squares, or (in my case) a quart of cream.

Three dozen eggs have lasted four weeks. One gallon of milk (usually) is enough for a week; sometimes half a gallon is plenty. If we're not baking, we usually don't use more than one stick of butter a week. Two cans of black beans with rice serves 4 people, or three for dinner and two for lunch the next day.  One box of Saltines usually lasts two weeks. One can of peaches can be divided into two (generous) portions, or stretched to six, in wee containers. The box of pudding that 'serves 4' usually gets me 6 wee pudding cups, (though I'm not yet convinced this is a moneysaver when I can get a 4 pack of pudding for .90 cents; the math escapes me) and a box of instant oatmeal may last a month.

A word about portion sizes: When you make a limited amount, everyone takes less . If each person gets one decent sized serving, it's enough. I have been know to offer to cook more when there was only Enough, and almost always been told, "No, that was fine. Really, it was." Impressed? No? But what if I remind you that this is from the mouth of a 17 year old boy, how about now?

When you're eating simple, good food, less is more filling. Sure, a second helping is nice, and I usually try to plan for second helpings AND leftovers to be lunch, but it's not REQUIRED. Most of us are putting into our bodies a lot more fuel than our bodies will burn. Many of us also regularly consume empty calories, and those aren't fuel, they're cargo to be carried as extra pounds.

When I make burritos, if it's just the teens and me, I can get away with using only one can of beans and half a block of cheese. This makes 5 burritos. If the kids are very hungry, they'll eat 2 each, and I have one. Usually, Wednesday wants one, Pugsley has two, I eat one, and there's one left that I'll divide in half for their lunches the next day. When Gomez is home, I double everything, everyone eats as much as they wish, and I usually still have one or two burritos left.

What are you buying that you don't need to buy? What are you eating that you don't need to eat? How many things can you not keep in the house with little to no impact?

So it's Shopping Day, and I need to make my list. I need to make my Meal Plan first, though. Before that, I ought to do Inventory, except what with last week's Whoops Snowceries and so on, I have a pretty good idea what I have.

One thing I have is the makings of Mock Beef Stroghanoff, which I put off making twice last week, so there it is. That's tonight.

I also have in the freezer many hot dogs, ground beef and at least one piecrust. The fridge has a bit less than half a gallon of milk, one block of cheese (not cheddar), half a block of cream cheese, plenty of Romaine, half a loaf of bread, most of one celery, a bit of leftover red sauce, a fresh bottle of Caesar dressing, half a jar of salsa, almost no sour cream and one (maybe) glass' worth of apple juice in a giant bottle.

When I made Psyche last week, Wednesday was disappointed. She wanted Beanie Weenie. That's a can-do. Gomez is sad if he doesn't get to eat spaghetti at least once a week, so that's a third meal. CORN is a fourth, and since I've explained about the burritos, I'm suddenly sort of craving them. That's five. Six could be quiche (I even have 2 slices of bacon left from Giant Snowday Breakfast), and I've just heard a request for soft tacos. (I asked Gomez what he'd like this week, and his first two requests were spaghetti and burritos.)

Meal Plan
Wednesday- Mock Beef Stroghanoff and green beans
Thursday- Bean & Cheese Burritos
Friday- {Pugsley may be going to a party}Quiche
Saturday-{morning tech duties, evening poetry reading}Spaghetti- sauce in the crock, salad & bread
Sunday-{friend's home for party, may not even need dinner}Soft tacos
Monday- CORN, or Stupid
Tuesday- {teach class downtown} Beanie Weenie in the crock pot

You see already that I may be planning more meals than are necessary.

Shopping Lists

tortillas, 2 pkg,          $2                                          dog food, $9
beans, 4 cans,           $2.40                                      yogurt,     $2
cheese, 4 blocks,      $7.20
Salsa, 1 jar,              $1.80
Sour cream,              $2
Cream,                     $2
raisins,                      $2
taco seasoning,         $2
fruit,                         $4
red sauce,                 $2
TOTAL                              ~$22.00

milk, $3                                                                                       cat food,$12
frozen mixed veggies, $7                                                            cat litter,   $15
granola bars for lunches, $12                                razor blades for Gomez  $30 (?)
bread for garlic bread, $6
TOTAL                               ~$28.00

If my estimates turn out to be a bit high, I want to also buy crackers, graham crackers and bagels.

But I don't NEED them.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Premise #2: Know What You Have, Use What You Bought

Last Week, Part Two:

Know What You Have, Use What You Bought is something I have come to only gradually. I used to keep a million of everything, never plan dinner more than a day or so in advance, usually only an hour in advance, and run out of things and STAY out of them because I couldn't remember to put them on my list. Then for the next four months, I'd buy that thing EVERY time I was at the market. So we went from having the tiny scrimy end of a bottle of ketchup, to no ketchup, to still no ketchup, to two bottles, one for the fridge and one for the cupboard, to three bottles because I forgot I'd already bought ketchup, to four bottles because Gomez thought we were still out of any of this familiar? No? Just me?

At any rate, that doesn't happen (much) anymore. I try to never be ALL out of a few things: Angel hair pasta, red sauce, tuna, shakey cheese (Parmesan, Romano or a blend, don't care), ketchup, some other sort of pasta, cream of mushroom soup, coffee, at least two kinds of beans, instant oatmeal, popcorn, flour, boxed mac & cheese, sugar, crackers, frozen mixed veggies, butter and block cheese. Okay, that's more than a few. Still, I don't buy sardines anymore unless I intend to eat them in a day or two.

If I run out of eggs, I put them right on the list. Milk, too, unless the second half of the gallon went sour, which it sometimes does. The kids cycle through milk consumption- sometimes very little, sometimes quite a bit. Bread crumbs, Caesar dressing, croutons and Romaine go on the list when we're out. If we use the last of the ground beef in the freezer, I sometimes put it on the list, but often I wait until I want ground beef for some meal, and restock the freezer then.

I am still guilty of buying things sometimes that aren't on this week's Meal Plan. Sometimes, that's a good thing. Like, when you've used your entire food budget buying Snowceries.

I took Inventory. My Inventory included 2 bags of Tortellini from Big Lots! ($1.80 each), many cans of beans, plenty of rice, several boxes of mac&cheese, many hot dogs, several sorts of pasta, many cans of tomatoes, one frozen burrito, age unknown, one bag of frozen green beans, two boxes of Cheesy Dinner In A Box (brown your own ground beef, add the stuff in the box, throw down a pickle for a veg, call it done), a couple cans of soup, a couple cans of tuna, two and a half blocks of cheese, one of them mozzarella (which took four tries to spell correctly), frozen meal from Lovely Gourmet Sister ("You'll need to cook your own rice to go with this- wait, you can cook rice, right?"), and the leftover bits from last week's meals.

Based on things we had already, I managed dinners for the week without additional purchases.* Here was our plan:

Wednesday- Veggie Mac, (but not; we had Bacon, Eggs, Toast, Donuts, Juice and Cocoa.)
Thursday- Free Beef Soup & refrigerator biscuits
Friday- Mock Beef Stroghanoff, (but not; we had Veggie Mac)
Saturday- Black Beans & Rice
Sunday- Cheese Tortellini with Red Sauce
Monday- Rice & Frozen Chicken Dish from Gourmet Sis (there was nothing for CORN)
Tuesday- Mock Beef Stroghanoff, (but not; we had Bean Pot )

Because school was cancelled on Wednesday (though in our neighborhood it only rained and rained and rained and RAINED), the kids enjoyed Operation Saturday Morning on Wednesday, and Gomez slept until noon, so we didn't have Giant Snow Day Breakfast for breakfast. We had it for dinner. On Tuesday, I taught a class downtown, so I wanted to put supper on before I left, rather than scramble when I returned home, so I opened Lima beans, pinto beans and white beans and threw them in the slow cooker with the last of the red beans I'd opened to give the kids red beans and rice for Tuesday's lunch (Monday's was leftover tortellini, but there was none of the Gourmet Sister Chicken dish left, only rice that yes, I can cook, thanks very much) with bay leaf, pepper and some other spices, and mixed up the dry ingredients for cornbread, and dinner was perking away nicely when the kids and I arrived home.

*Disclosure: Tuesday, we had Meatloaf Redux early, then went to a restaurant/bar to see Channing & Quinn, and we ordered pizza and fries while we were there. $35, which really is more entertainment than food. I suppose we could've just had sodas, but being in a restaurant with teens and NOT eating is...well, plus it's maybe rude to the venue? We ran out of milk, and it was Saturday morning. Pugsley and Gomez went and bought milk. ~$4. Saturday afternoon, Gomez went out on the road and returned home Sunday dinnertime with some pork fried rice, because he "had a craving". $8. (I guess. He didn't say). Sunday, Wednesday coaxes me into the Wal Mart under pretext of wanting hair dye, and we exited with also 2 boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts ($4 each), 2 sleeves of Pringles($1.50each), a box of lunchbox cracker snack packs($2) and an order of McDonald's fries. So, not counting our evening out, 'non-shopping-day' food purchases came to $25, bringing our real food expenditure for the week to ~$75.00.

Free Beef Soup

Put the crock with drippings from Crock Pot Meatloaf on the heating element. Add liquid saved from olives & artichokes from White Pasta, liquid saved from beans for Psyche, leftover Psyche, any leftover veggies, the good parts of that onion that's about to go bad, the limp ends from the celery, two beef bullion (five attempts to spell that one) cubes, herbs and spices as desired. Let simmer for several hours. Shortly before serving, add leftover cooked egg noodles from Meatloaf Redux. Serve with biscuits.


Last Week:

Tuesday evening, I picked up the kids from a school function and brought them home. Because only Pugsley and I had been home to eat Sunday night meatloaf, and Monday was CORN, we had Meatloaf Redux on Tuesday evening.

And then the news came on. It was channel after channel of Snowstorm! Accumulation! Be Frightened!

So, okay. Wednesday is my usual Shopping Day, and I hadn't really planned my week, but we slapped together a list so that Gomez and I could go out Tuesday night, Just In Case We Couldn't On Wednesday Because Of The Snow- I believe it was past ten, and we needed cat food, so really Wal Mart was the only option.

We did not do great shopping that evening. In fact, what we did was buy (and I've coined a new term here) Snowceries. Yes, not groceries, but snowceries. Snowceries are what you buy when the forecast makes you suspect you'll be housebound with the people who know you best and don't bother to wash their feet or brush their hair for you. For many people, this includes giant packages of toilet paper, three or more loaves of bread and four gallons of milk. Everyone's needs are different. Our family requires bacon, cocoa and cookies, apparently.

Our list included milk, breakfast goodies (bacon, cinnamon rolls, cheese, something like that), Saturday Morning Cartoon cereal, cat food, cocoa, sour cream, cookie ingredients, laundry soap and apple juice.

Our cart included those things, plus a bag of cheese puffs, a package of Chips Ahoy! cookies, mini marshmallows, corn meal and a bag of tangerines.  And came to $50, not including the cat food and laundry soap.

See? Snowceries.

Monday, March 11, 2013



I'd promised to go comparison shopping, and I did so.  I already posted the prices I actually paid for things from Aldi and Costco, which came to ~$59.00 (I didn't check; this is memory at work.). I was going to do a side-by-side comparison, but I've lost track of the piece of paper on which I wrote the Food Lion Prices. I am SO sorry about this.

However, Pugsley helped me find the prices, and it was a dollar here and a dollar there.  I'm quite spoiled getting tuna for .70 or .80 cents (tuna packed in oil is more expensive) when everywhere else, it's around $1.30 a can. The butter also was a big contributing factor (because grocery store priced butter x 6 comes to rather a lot), and the total for the things at Food Lion came to ~$77.00, maybe $78. Still quite a reasonable total for a family of 4 for a week, but a difference of nearly $20 is going to keep me shopping at Aldi for, well, maybe ever.

Plus, ACK! I forgot to check the price of ground beef at Food Lion! So, even MOAR money!

Found the paper with the prices!
Food Lion

Milk                       3.08                                                    Costco: 2.99
pasta                      1.80
taco spice               2.98
mac&cheese (4)      2.12
asian noodles           1.00
cheese  (2)               6.18                                                  Aldi:       3.60
black beans (4)         3.00                                                                2.40
soup (3)                    8.37                                                            
tuna in water (3)        2.54                                                                    .69
tuna in oil (3)             3.27                                                                     .79
saltines                      1.66                  
cereal                        1.60                            
avocado                    1.29
bananas                     1.00          
yogurt                        2.61
rice crackers              2.89                              
wheat bread              1.99              
trail mix                       1.99
ground turkey             6.98
quick oats                  3.29
ground beef , 4 lbs.(ack! forgot to check!)                                      Costco: 12.83

Tuesday, March 5, 2013



So, I may have mentioned (haven't I?) that Crock Pot Meatloaf is made just like regular meatloaf. Then it's put into the slow cooker on Low and cooked all day.

I used (this time) ~2lbs ground turkey, ~1lb ground beef, 3 bread heels soaked in 2 eggs and ~1/3 cup of milk, the other container of diced tomatoes, 1 package dried onion soup, some BBQ sauce, some A-1 sauce, parsley, salt & pepper and I think that's all. Sometimes I toss in oatmeal, or seasoned bread crumbs, or the last of the pasta sauce. Depends what I have that I think belongs in meatloaf. If the family compliments me on it, I tell them, "Enjoy it. It will probably never be just like this again."

(inspired by the TV show Psyche)

CornBean Baconsen (1 can, 2 cans, 1/2lb)
Timothy Onionslice (1, sliced thin)
Kristen NelCelery (4 stalks, chopped)
Dijon Hill (3 tablespoons)
James Sweet Baby Ray (5 tablespoons)
Marjoram Lawson
Special Psyche Ingredient (1 can)

In a baking dish (not the lasagna dish, the smaller one), cook the bacon until it's done but still soft. Drain most of the fat and remove the bacon. DON'T WASH THE DISH. Lay onion slices on the bottom of the dish (just one layer), celery on top of that. Tear the bacon into bite sized pieces and put atop the celery. Drain the Special Ingredient, reserving the liquid. Drain beans and corn. Combine beans with Special Ingredient juice, Dijon, bbq sauce and marjoram. Spread the Special Ingredient on top of the bacon, then spoon the bean mixture on top of this. Top with a layer of corn. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-40 minutes. Serve with biscuits or bread & butter.

Anyone who watches Psyche regularly will know the Special Ingredient. If you don't, but want to, ask me in Comments.

I've made a Meal Plan for next week, but don't want to post it yet, because my Gomez is home and I want to run it past him first, in case he has requests. Once I've done that, I'll be back with the Meal Plan and the Shopping List. I've done Inventory already.

Tomorrow, Premise #2: Know What You Have, Use What You've Bought.

Monday, March 4, 2013



I think planning is important. That's this week's premise, that planning can save money. Which it does- my once-a-week outing to the market means fewer opportunities for impulse or hunger buys. When we run out of milk, I can tell the kids I'll buy more on Shopping Day, and they know they do not actually die from doing without milk for a couple of days. (Swapping the order of the meals isn't a big deal to me- I expect that.)

It's important to recognize that any plan is just a rough outline based on an imagining of the future. Should the future be other than as imagined, (and it usually is), it's good to adjust. This is one of the reasons Rebecca Currie of Less Is Enough prefers to shop for food  every few days- she doesn't know what she'll "feel like" eating several days from now, so it's best to not buy what might be wasted.

Me, I hate hate HATE the question "What are we having for dinner?" mostly because the question REALLY is "What are you cooking for us to eat for dinner?" and I? I don't like cooking, am not that interested in food and many days could care less whether I eat dinner (or any meal) at all. For me, cooking is an unpleasant chore I do because I love my family. Like scrubbing the toilet. Anything I can do to make that chore less irritating is going to make me feel better about the whole thing, especially since I'm inclined to fix a meal for the kids and eat a bowl of instant grits or oatmeal for myself. Most people don't feel this way about food, I know.

If I could eat only Romaine lettuce, salmon, artichokes, avocado, tea, eggs, cheeses, citrus fruits, garlic-cheese grits with maybe some crumbled bacon and the occasional slice of 12 grain bread, I'd be quite pleased. Unfortunately, the job description of Mom doesn't permit such self-indulgence, and I frequently am faced with cooking things I don't like, don't want or flat out can't eat because of nightshade allergies.

When it's 5:30 and I'm writing or knitting or considering a nap and someone says to me, "What are we having for dinner?" what I hear is "I am hungry and you need to go into the kitchen to fix that for me." I am already irritated the moment the question is out of my loved one's mouth. Not knowing what I have or how I'll put it together adds stress to irritation.  The meal plan means I already know that I've planned for dinner, I've shopped for it, and have all the required ingredients.  (People who wrinkle noses at me and say, "But we wanted hamburgers/sushi/anything but what you just said" do so with full knowledge that they are putting themselves in mortal danger.) People who want certain things to eat ought to take an interest in the weekly meal plan, offer input, suggestions and requests. Hell, they could even (gasp) volunteer to cook.

Change of plans: Pugsley said the school is providing pizza for the cast and crew of tonight's show, so I don't need to feed him dinner. Sometimes there is an extra person at suppertime, or one fewer, if someone was invited to a friend's house.... last night, Wednesday stayed with her friend and Gomez didn't make it home at all, so only Pugsley and I ate meatloaf and veggies, so there's plenty for a whole other meal.. (I forgot to serve the biscuits that were left from Saturday night's dinner). Wednesday's vegetarian girlfriend will be coming over mid-week, so we'll have veggie mac casserole on that day. See?  I'm rearranging the week's menu again, which may impact next week's plan.

New Revised Meal Plan:
Monday: CORN
Tuesday: Meatloaf, noodles & veggies
Wednesday: Veggie mac casserole
Thursday: Beef and veggie soup
Friday:... oh. Hey. Now I'm planning next week.

Oops. I usually wait until after Clean Out the Refrigerator Night to do that. Which is what I'll do.

Wandering into the kitchen while I'm cooking and asking "What are you making?" or (better) "What is this deliciousness wafting in my nose?" is completely acceptable and does not incite rage. Go figure.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Operation Saturday Morning featured Jackie Chan, and now I want that closing theme as a ringtone. This has nothing at all to do with food.

The avocado was perfect. I had it as my breakfast with the 4th hard-boiled egg. The kids had Krunch.

Last night's supper, Tuna Melt, is all gone. No leftovers, except the portion of tuna salad that didn't fit on six slices of bread.

Cyb's Sketchy Tuna Salad Recipe
3 cans tuna, drained a little- more if they're packed in water, less if they're packed in oil*
3 hard-boiled eggs, or 4 maybe. 1 egg per can of tuna, plus one.
3 stalks celery, chopped smallish, or largeish, or more celery if you like a salad-y tuna salad
2 slices of onion, minced
salt & pepper -some, not too much. The amount you like
dill. -you know, some
parsley -some. As much as dill, or more, or less if you prefer dill.
mayonnaise or ranch dressing, enough to moisten and make it all stick together

You notice there is no pickle in this recipe. Yeah, do what you want. I don't like pickle in my tuna.

*Leaving the oil in means using less mayonnaise. Why take out and throw away something (fat) you want to put back in later? Plus the oil tastes tuna-y and doesn't have that weird mouthfeel.

That's it. Tuna Melts are simply slices of bread covered with tuna salad then topped with cheese. I have made them in my iron skillet on the stovetop, but they were much easier and far less burned last night because I put them in a stoneware baker in the oven. Pizza stone would also have worked, but because my pizza stone doesn't have edges, I find it hard to handle. Food falls off, which defeats the point of having cooked.

 I made 6 open-faced sandwiches. Wednesday requested cheddar cheese, and ate two sandwiches. Pugsley didn't care, so the rest had Swiss, which is my preference.Wednesday ate two, I had one, and Pugsley had three. I count that a successful meal. Since the tuna is the only thing I bought for that meal this week, this week's grocery purchases don't factor much into calculating the cost, but here's a go.

3 cans tuna      $3
3 boiled eggs    .50  (I buy eggs $4/3 dozen; ~.12 per egg; we'll say .50)*
celery             1 .80 (a whole...bunch? head? I didn't buy it. Mother said, "Take this." I did.)
onion              $2 (for a whole bag of yellow onions, and I used a portion of one of the halves in the fridge             ...know what? We're not gonna count the onion. Cuz if I'd been out of onion, I'd've used minced onion from the spice cabinet. We also won't count the mayo. I have no idea how long that jar has been in the fridge. I probably paid $2 at the Aldi for it in August. We don't use much mayo. You may have picked up that I kind of don't like it.)
bread                .60 ($1.30 for the whole loaf. 20 slices to a loaf; we used less than a third.)
cheese           1.80 (I used roughly half a block, but 2 sorts of cheese; we'll count a whole one.)

That's looking like $7.70 for dinner. About $1.29 per sandwich. Which throws the Five Dollar Foot Long from the category of Super Cheap Food! into Not That Reasonable, Really.

(Also, I have, as mentioned, some tuna salad left over. It's maybe two or three sandwiches worth of tuna salad. Is it now "free", since my calculations for Tuna Melt included ALL of the tuna salad?)

*Unlike the onion, egg is not optional to my tuna salad. Wednesday got out ingredients for me, and when I'd assembled stuff asked. "Where's the egg?" I told her the egg in tuna salad needed to be boiled. She said, "Well, how long does THAT take?" She was willing to wait the additional 10 or so minutes it would take to boil, cool and peel eggs in order to have it the way it "should" be. Where are the Ravenous MUST EAT NOW Teenagers I heard about when I was a young mother? Ideally, I'd've put in all 4 of the eggs I boiled, but I wanted the last one for my breakfast. Sure, I could've cooked another one. Shaddap.

One of the benefits of a food cost analysis experiment like this one is the inevitable reevaluation of what constitutes a good value and a responsible assignation of food dollars. When the kids and I did our $1/day experiment a few summers ago, $3 for 6 donuts stopped looking like a good deal.

It's been mentioned to me that I am fortunate enough to have found an absurdly cheap place to purchase food, one that isn't universally available. If I were a Good Researcher, I'd take my Meal Plans and Shopping Lists to the Giant, the Safeway, SuperWalMart and Food Lion, comparing my totals, averaging them, figuring out an approximate budget available to Most People. Because of Circumstances, I simply can't do so- every $3 I save is almost a gallon of fuel for the car, and yes it is That Bad, and has been for awhile. HOWEVER. What I can do is take my register receipts to other groceries and write down their prices on the items I purchased. I'll do Food Lion today.

I plan to add to the blog little gadgets and stuff, but this morning realized that fiddling with gadgets was NOT ACTUALLY WRITING.  It was using my time, and I wanted to write. So, gadgets later, when I don't mind spending the time fiddling instead of writing.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Last night, I went shopping with a belly full of sadness and quite empty of food, in the dark. Any one of these is dangerous. Combined, they can be deadly to a budget. I walked into the Aldi KNOWING this.

My impulse buys were

tri-color rotini                       .99
Asian noodles                       .79
rice crackers                        1.49
Asian trail mix                      1.99
bananas                                 .96
avocado                                 .59
1 more mac & cheese             .39
Kiddie cereal                        1.99
TOTAL                                9.19

I can justify the extra mac & cheese as stock-up, because they were .39 rather than the .45 I expected. I didn't NEED the rotini, but I LOVE tri-color rotini, and once I'd realized that Circumstances had burned Too Much Time for burritos to be feasible (and feed the gaping maws before 9 pm), I was going to switch up to White Pasta instead and by damn, I NEED that tri-color pasta.

The Asian noodles were a special deal- Aldi doesn't always have everything it has- that I thought might be nice to try instead of rice with stir-fry veggies. I adore avocados, and there was just the one lonesome one left on the shelf, and .59 is a good price. Of course, it's rock hard, but it probably will be my breakfast on Saturday morning when Wednesday and Pugsley are eating cereal and watching cartoons.

Aside: One Saturday during Winter Break in January, my son, who was then 17 years old, went downstairs to his sister's room- she's 14- and woke her for Operation Saturday Morning. They poured bowls of the "fun" cereal Pugsley had requested and snuggled into the squishy blanket-rich sofas and turned Netflix to a show about medieval mice in an abbey... maybe I'll remember the name of it before I hit Post, but anyway. Edit: It's called Redwall. When I came downstairs, I found my teenagers crunching sugary cereal and watching cartoons. Awwww. Last week, it was Rugrats. This, by the way, explains the kiddie cereal- a Cap'n Crunch knockoff.

The rice crackers and Asian trail mix were due to my extreme hunger and self-pity. I ate about half of the trail mix before I even got home, but didn't open the crackers.

Ordinarily, I would have gone to Costco next (or before, probably), but.... Circumstances.

Yesterday I went to the Costco during the day, feeling okay about everything, and got in and out of there with only

ground beef      12.86
butter                 7.49
milk                   2.99
TOTAL                      23 .34

Aldi Total                    35.95
GRAND TOTAL         59.29

Well, shit.

If I'd've avoided those impulse buys, I'd've missed my target by only 10 cents. However, taking Circumstances into consideration, $10 isn't awful. Still, since I have actually fed me and the kids on $21/week for a couple of weeks a few summers ago, it's a trifle embarrassing. I'll do better next week.

Although, in the interests of full disclosure, I didn't NEED six pounds of butter. I have one whole stick in the freezer, and a partial stick in the fridge. But at under $2 per pound, I can't beat the price anywhere, and so buy 6 at a time every other month; more often only if we're baking frequently.

Because of bumping burritos from Wednesday night in favor of White Pasta, I need to rearrange my Meal Plan. I'd intended to make a big Veggie Mac casserole on Thursday, so that Pugsley could have large portions of leftovers at school  during his Extremely Long Rehearsal, but he said he wanted to go out somewhere to eat with his friends. I gave him $10.00

Which brings me to another issue. If I give the kids money to eat out, does that make my budget invalid? Do I need to include Away Meals in the budget? I'm going to say No, it doesn't ruin the experiment, because I could have said "No, you can have Veggie Mac and not spend the money" or made him use his own funds (He did volunteer to use his own money, but since I don't give them allowance, I try to take care of their 'social' expenses, within reason.) But if I do hand out money for them to eat out, I'll say so, so you can include it in the Weekly Food Cost total if you wish. I gave Wednesday $10, too, even though she doesn't need to stay for Extremely Long Rehearsal, as freshmen aren't permitted to do much of anything. She has a half-day, though, and might socialize awhile.

At any rate, large portions of leftover Veggie Mac weren't necessary for Friday, so I moved Veggie Mac to Tuesday and had burritos last night.

White Pasta Recipe:
1 jar Alfredo sauce                  $2-$3 (I bought it last week & don't remember)
1 can black olives, pitted         $1  (purchased last week, and I DO remember)
1-3 large spoonfuls of pesto sauce   $2.50 (not sure- jar was purchased sometime in 2012)
1 can or jar of artichoke hearts        $2.50 (again with the not sure; purchased more than 2 weeks ago)
1 box pasta                                $1

Boil water for pasta. Dump Alfredo into large saucepan. Add black pepper and pesto to the sauce, stirring gently over low heat. Reserve liquid from artichoke hearts and slice them into bite sized pieces.Drain olives, reserving brine, and slice them with an egg slicer. Add artichoke and olive to the sauce. Add enough of either or both liquids to keep the sauce saucey and not clumpy. Boil pasta until it's as done as you like. Serve sauce over pasta, with salad or bread or both.

The White Pasta was dinner for 3 of us, lunch for 2 the next day and there are still 2 dinner or 3 lunch portions. For about $9.00, only $1 of which I spent this week, and that works out to about $1.30 per serving.

 It's one of my more expensive meals, but it only takes about 12 minutes to prepare, and I happen to love it. The kids eat it, but it isn't one of their favorites, so we don't have it very often, once every other month, I'd guess. I do tend to restock those ingredients when I use them, because it gives me mental security to know that I have the elements for a meal that makes me feel special with almost no work.

Burritos used a whole block of cheese, a can of black beans, one of the two containers of diced tomatoes in the fridge, 1/3 jar of salsa, 7 tortillas and 1 packet of taco sauce mix.  There are 2 burritos left, which is 1 dinner or 2 lunches. I think we won't need soup on Monday night.

New Meal Plan:
Dinner                                                                 Lunch                                                    Breakfast
Wednesday: White Pasta                                  Lasagne & salad                                  oatmeal
Thursday: Burritos                                             White Pasta & salad                           banana & yogurt
Friday:    Tuna melt                                          Pasta and snacks (lunch out)                 banana & yogurt
Saturday: Psyche Casserole & biscuits           Oh. Hm. Not sure right now.                    cereal & milk
Sunday: Crock Pot Meatloaf                              Ditto Saturday                                     eggs & quesedilla
Monday: CORN or soup and sandwich             Psyche Casserole                              smoothie or oatmeal
Tuesday: Veggie Mac casserole                 Leftover meatloaf? Psyche? Tuna?          egg & toast  or oatmeal    

CORN (have I said this?) is Clean Out the Refrigerator Night. Our garbage day is Tuesday. I have many fewer scientific discoveries in my fridge since we started CORN once a week. Sometimes I'll even wipe off a shelf while we're at it.

I will try to photograph my receipts and by some magical incantation make them show up here. Dog food, vitamins, bathroom tissue, laundry soap and so on I don't include in my food cost calculations, but they will show up on the register receipts.