We’ve all gotta have it, we’ve all gotta buy it (except for the freegans among us), it’s a necessary part of life, yet the ways to consume it range from five star to down home. I’m speaking, of course, about every frugal weirdo’s favorite topic (second to greyhounds): food. Grocery bills and eating out can wreck a budget–or, they can be reined in and rational. I think it’s all too easy to assume that our groceries are a fixed expense, when in reality, they’re positively rife with opportunities for savings. Rife, I tell you.
I’ve discussed the fact that we don’t meal plan, shared how we’ve eaten everything out of our cupboards, divulged the dirt on frugalizing groceries, maligned food waste, exposed breakfast for the hidden destroyer it truly is, and given you the keys to our frugal kingdom: Mr. Frugalwoods’ epic rice-n-beans recipe. Yet over and over I’ve received the query: “but, what do you eat???”
Our total grocery bill for two adults ranges from $300-$330/month. That’s all in folks. Since we don’t eat out or get take out, this amount includes every scrap of food and drop of drink we consume all month long including alcohol and coffee.
Mr. Frugalwoods, our resident chef, cooks all of our meals–primarily from scratch–and doesn’t use many packaged or processed ingredients. We could spend less every month if we scaled back some of our produce, but that’s not a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I am a frugal weirdo to the core, but some things are worth spending money on.
Full disclosure, I honestly don’t know if this is a totally boring topic or not, but folks have asked and hey, I’m all for transparency. So, here’s what we eat–and shop for–on a regular basis. I feel like this is tantamount to sharing pictures of your breakfast on Facebook, but then again, I have shared pictures of my lunch on Twitter… more than once…
Behold, The Frugalwoods Weekday Menu
- Oats (bulk, raw, $0.10 per serving):
- With a banana for Mr. Frugalwoods
- With dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice for Mrs. Frugalwoods
- Organic apple
- Conventional banana (for Mrs. Frugalwoods; Mr. FW ate his at breakfast)
- More seltzer
- Green Tea
- Option 1: homemade hummus with raw broccoli, raw green pepper, and air-popped popcorn (if you’ve never dipped popcorn in hummus, you haven’t truly lived)
- Option 2: frozen salmon (don’t worry, we thaw and cook it first) with a salad of mixed greens and homemade vinaigrette
- With, obviously, seltzer
- Dried fruit (OK, this is super expensive even though we buy it in bulk from Costco. But, we both crave a little sweet at the end of the day and this is the best idea we have for a healthy, yet tasty, treat).
- Tea or hot chocolate (true confessions, I’m the only one who drinks the hot chocolate. Mr. FW is far more noble with his tea-only consumption in the evenings).
This menu plan (or lack thereof) works really well for us—it’s mostly healthy, the only meat is the occasional fish for dinner, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables. And, it’s uber frugal. Do we deviate from this? Absolutely! And six months from now, we’re likely to have a completely different rotation of dishes going on. But this beautiful system of efficiency and money-saving goodness is simply scrumptious to us.
Getting Frugal & Funky On The Weekends
We consider the weekends a time of “treat” meals, so we typically indulge in higher calorie dishes like pastas and the occasional–though infrequent–meat. We’re not going out for our Friday and Saturday night dates, so Mr. FW is known to cook such exotic things as:
Homemade guacamole (yes, we do buy packaged tortilla chips to dip)
- Pasta puttanesca (Frugal Hound’s personal favorite due to the nip of anchovy she gets every time he makes it)
- Homemade breads of sundry shapes, sizes, and persuasions (boules, loaves, baguettes, even the occasional roll)
- Homemade blueberry pancakes
- Scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, and greens
- Homemade scones
- Homemade soups: split pea, vegetarian chili, lentil, and more
Frozen pizza! This is the one glaring, gigantic outlier and exception to our otherwise processed-free/packaged-free pantry. We eat a frozen–and absolutely delicious–Costco pizza for dinner every Friday night. And we loves it. Is it healthy? Heck no. But is it a tasty treat and a break from cooking every single other meal for Mr. FW? Heck yes!
As the resident sweets baker, I’ve been experimenting with a number of different quasi-healthy/quasi-dessert recipes in an effort to wean us off dried fruit and onto a cheaper option. I’m trying to strike a reasonable balance between tasty and healthy, so if you have recipes that fit this bill, let me know! Recently I’ve made:
Banana bread: delicious but not terribly healthy
- Pumpkin oatmeal cookies: delicious but not terribly healthy
- Sugarless oatmeal spice cookies with applesauce instead of butter: not gonna lie, these don’t taste all that great… I think I swung too far to the healthy side. They’re sort of like dog biscuits…
- Chocolate chip cookies with applesauce instead of butter: probably my best success at incorporating good flavor with less fat
How Do We Shop?
Since it’s difficult to encapsulate what we buy in weekly increments, I went ahead and outlined what we buy throughout the year. I’m sure I’m forgetting things on this list, but this is the basic composition of our shopping list on an annual basis. This doesn’t account for fancy, outlier meals (such as Thanksgiving, which we host every year) or snazzy desserts I make for celebrations.
We unfortunately don’t have a reasonably priced CSA or farmer’s market in our immediate neighborhood. And, we lack the land to grow a garden and are still on the waiting list for the community garden (just a few drawbacks to city living…). Thus, we’re reliant on Costco and our discount supermarket, Market Basket.
Bought in Bulk Every Few Months (from Costco unless otherwise noted):
20 lb bag of basmati rice
- Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Spices (from Penzey’s Spices)
- Chili Paste
- Organic peanut butter (from the grocery store)
- Pasta (10 boxes in a pack!)
- Anchovies (used in pasta puttanesca)
- Olives (a tasty snack)
- Capers (delicious on pasta)
- Baking supplies: baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, almond extract, etc
Bought in Bulk Every Month (from Costco unless otherwise noted):
- 7 lb box of oats
- Quinoa: sometimes we have quinoa for lunch in lieu of the rice-n-beans
- Lentils: for lentil soups
- Split peas
Black beans: for use in the rice and beans
- Garbanzo beans: for homemade hummus
- Frozen wild-caught salmon
- Block of cheese!
- Crushed tomatoes
- Frozen pizzas: for Friday nights, woo-hoo!! These pizzas are also on-hand in case of emergency. Since we don’t eat out or order in, we need these babies in the freezer just in case something wild happens and we can’t cook dinner one night.
- Dried fruit
- 1 box of red wine (which sometimes lasts more than a month)
- 1 12-pack of beer (which lasts more than a month)
- Organic half-n-half (from the grocery store)
- Hot chocolate
Weekly From the Grocery Store:
Organic mixed salad greens
- Organic apples or pears (whichever is cheapest)
- Green pepper
- Avocado, cilantro, limes, tortilla chips (if making guacamole)
- Miscellaneous other vegetables for recipes
- Popcorn (kernels, which we pop in our air popper)
We eagerly await the glorious day when we’re on the homestead and can grow our own food (and hopefully not kill it all before harvest time…), but until then, we’re grocery-bound. Our methods aren’t perfect, but we feel like we’ve struck a reasonable balance between healthy, frugal, and relatively quick meals. What do you think?