Frugal February Wrap Up & Lessons Learned

I’ve learned a lot about myself during this 4-week challenge. I’ve learned that if I plan my beverage purchases correctly (Coca Cola specifically) I can save a lot of money. I estimate I usually buy 2-3 Cokes a week from CVS. At $2.09 apiece, this averages out to about $20 a month on Coke alone, and that’s not drinking it every day. I’ve also learned that the more the restrict myself the more I want to rebel. Okay, I knew this already, but this definitely reinforced it. If I had tried to just cut out soda the entire month, I would have not lasted the month without buying soda.

This challenge also reinforced that I overeat because I am trying to avoid my feelings. For someone like me, who is highly emotional, this can be a disaster. There were a few occasions where I purchased food specifically to soothe myself. It was not food I needed, and certainly not calories I needed. Watching my budget so carefully really made those purchases stand out.

Onto the food! As I write this I just finished my last portion of Slow Cooker Beef Arepas with Homemade Pico de Gallo and they were SO YUMMY. By the end of the week my arepas became crunchy, which, to be honest, I kind of liked. Usually they’re more like a thick corn tortilla and have some flexibility.

Slow Cooker Beef Arepas w/ Homemade Pico de Gallo

Making Pico de Gallo in a food processor is the easiest thing on the planet. You don’t even need to use super prime ingredients: I used the stems of a bunch of cilantro, some scallion scraps, wrinkly grape tomatoes, fresh jalapeno and some (decent) limes and made a very serviceable pico.

Spicy Asian Chicken Soup w/ Soba Noodles

I made this delicious spicy Asian chicken soup with the bones I carved the chicken from last week. There was still enough meat on “them bones” to give the soup plenty of protein, and the soba noodles really “beefed” it up. I had a teensy bit of liquid broth seasoning I’d bought from the local Asian market over the summer, so between that and the homemade chicken stock from the bones it was deeply flavored. The only thing I had to buy was the cilantro!

Bingley even helped by making sure the chicken bones didn’t burn in the broiler.

The Shakshuka came out so good, too.

Shakshuka w/ Pita

If I can use pita to shove anything into my face I’m on it. I mean, pita is a pretty perfect food, amirite?

Homemade Balanced Break

Snacks were homemade Balanced Breaks. I never wound up making the Boston Brown Bread, but I did use the cottage cheese and frozen berries I bought to make a yummy dessert. All I added was some vanilla and sucralose and blended it all in my food processor and it made a delicious ice-cream-like product with TONS of protein (17g). It freezes pretty hard though and I broke the plastic container it was in trying to scoop it out later in the week!

Berry & Cottage Cheese Frozen Dessert

I made it until February 27th without purchasing anything AT ALL from CVS! And even then I spent $3. Not bad.

Onto the money: my final total for this 4-week challenge is $153.13. Still significantly below my usual monthly budget of $230! So I managed to save almost $80 this month despite my extracurricular purchases. If only some of that extra money hadn’t gone to buying beer for strangers because a date decided to buy a round on MY tab. (Long story, but let’s just say there will NOT be a second date. In fact, I’m giving up on dating altogether for the moment, but that’s a tale for another time and place.)

So all in all, despite the emotional eating transgressions, I’m pretty darn happy with myself. I’m even continuing the trend, albeit on a little less strict basis. I’m going to use up the meat in my freezer as best I can before refilling it, unless there is a SUPER good deal, but I’m going to be a little more relaxed when it comes to snacks and restocking my pantry. A little bit of flexibility in the hard edge of budget actually helps me be less rebellious.

How did your own personal challenges go? Let me know in the comments!

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Frugal February Week Three Wrap Up and Week Four Planning

This past week was kind of stressful. Less emotional than the week before, but stressful nonetheless. I frequently forgot to take pictures of my meals and I had an unplanned meal out. As for the pics, several of the meals, like the chili pasta with cheese, and the protein porridge with Greek yogurt, weren’t very photogenic.

Pork Chops w/ Blueberry BBQ Sauce, Mixed Grain Pilaf and Asparagus.

The mixed grain pilaf wound up being so delicious I definitely want to make it again! I used some leftover steel cut oats, the rest of my quinoa, the rest of some Texmati rice I had, and some pumpkin seeds and seasoned it with chicken stock (from bouillon granules). The texture was great!

A delicious Swedish Meatball meal for lunches. Didn’t have to buy a single thing for this meal.

Things I am proud of: I STILL have not purchased any convenience food from CVS since I started this challenge!

Things I am less proud of: I have continued to purchase a few (inexpensive) things on a whim. This weekend it was a French baguette and a package of sandwich cookies. It was about $3. I did wind up buying a Diet Dr. Pepper at the bowling alley Sunday morning for $2. Still cheaper than CVS, amirite?!

So onto week four!

What I’m working with this week:

  • 8 lbs picnic shoulder
  • red pepper walnut dip
  • 6 oz. andouille sausage
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 pkg. chuck roast
  • split chicken breasts + extra bones for broth
  • wheat germ
  • wheat bran
  • rye flour
  • whole wheat flour
  • gingerbread cookie dough
  • sofrito
  • 1/4 loaf sprouted protein bread
  • frozen mixed vegetables
  • frozen edamame
  • freekeh
  • maftoul
  • Israeli couscous
  • spaghetti
  • elbows
  • rice noodles
  • rice paper wrappers
  • soba noodles
  • sticky rice
  • jasmine rice
  • a little masa
  • masarepa
  • a little yellow cornmeal
  • white cornmeal
  • grits
  • brown rice flour
  • bulgur
  • coconut flour
  • unsweetened coconut flakes
  • crushed pineapple
  • jello
  • marzipan
  • craisins
  • prunes
  • flaxseed meal
  • dried egg whites
  • PB2
  • Dominican hot chocolate mix
  • instant espresso
  • orange drink mix
  • sugar free Kool-Aid mix
  • A little steel cut oats
  • old fashioned oats
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 28 oz. can tomato sauce
  • pasta sauce
  • kombu
  • white flour
  • white sugar
  • granulated brown sugar
  • sucralose
  • honey
  • 100 calorie packs – almonds, cocoa almonds
  • scallions
  • lemons
  • limes
  • carrots
  • onions
  • potatoes

Breakfast for this week will be Shakshuka! I’m so excited because I had everything I needed to make this from scratch except for feta, a bell pepper and I was two eggs short. So I got a pepper, eggs (which were on sale for $1.99 for 18ct) and some pita to dip in it. I also grabbed some bananas and a jar of peanut butter for breakfasts later in the week on the protein bread I have in the freezer.

The baguette I enjoyed as a snack while driving around running errands.

I still have some Swedish meatballs left for lunches early this week, and I plan to make Instant Pot Red Beans & Rice for the remainder of the week, so I bought some red kidney beans, celery and scallions for that.

The chicken bones I had left over from last week still had some meat on them, so I’ll use them to make a Spicy Asian Chicken Soup with Soba Noodles, so I’ll get some cilantro for that, which I’ll also use later in the week in my Slow Cooker Beef Arepas w/ Homemade Pico de Gallo. The arepas will used some chuck roast I have in the freezer, the masarepa, as well as some tomatoes I bought on a whim a couple weeks ago that are wrinkly but still good enough for Pico de Gallo.

Snacks will be homemade Balanced Breaks and leftover Almond Joy Protein balls, which were delicious! I might also make some Boston Brown Bread. I think I have all of the ingredients for that.

The “GV VANILLA” are the sandwich cookies I did not need.

I wasn’t super enthused by anything on sale at the grocery store this week, again. But this time, despite buying unplanned things, I didn’t spend very much at all. Between Shoprite and Walmart I spend $19.02, less the $0.10 from an iBotta rebate, so $18.92. My running total for this 4-week challenge so far is $132.65. Still significantly below my usual monthly budget of $230!

How are you own personal challenges coming? Let me know in the comments!

Frugal February Week Two Wrap Up and Week Three Planning

This past week… was weird. By that I mean I’ve been hyper emotional. Okay, if we’re fair, I’ve been hyper emotional since Super Bowl Sunday. I’ve been dealing with some very deep rooted emotional things for a while now. I’m on month 5 of dealing with this, and while I know I’m better than I was, there is still a lot to work through. There isn’t anything I can do to change anything, except work on myself and try to heal, which is made extra hard by how strongly I feel about the situation. If there was anything I could legitimately do get a second chance I would do it. But it’s out of my hands.

So in most ways this Frugal Food February has been good for me, in that I’m spending less money and not spending heaps of time cooking, but it’s also bad in that I’m not spending heaps of time cooking, and thus spending heaps of time thinking… or I should say, overthinking. It’s a curse. I’m working through it with meditation and processing the emotions as best I can when I have some quiet time. Anyway, onto the food!

Baked Coconut Shrimp w/ Twice Baked Seasoned Potatoes, Mixed Veggies and Sweet Chili Sauce

So I wound up having way more shrimp in the freezer than I anticipated, so I actually got 5 meals out of it! Of course I totally forgot to prep my lunch for Friday on Thursday night, but luckily I remembered I’d stashed a serving of Rajma Masala w/ Jasmine Rice & Spinach in the freezer, so I wound up having that. The cottage cheese blintzes were good but not mind blowing. However they DID give me the opportunity to experiment in making YouTube video tutorials, so I now know I can do that once I get my video quality in order. I also wound up having to buy a quart of milk ($1.59) because I forgot I needed milk for the crepe mix I used for the blintzes. I filled in breakfasts with cheesy eggs on toast, topped with salsa and sour cream I had leftover from a few weeks ago.

Meatball Panini w/ Tomato Salad

Lunches were Korean Style Chicken and Eggplant Stir Fry w/ Sticky Rice, which was SUPER tasty, plus Chili Spaghetti with Shredded Cheese. And I used up the to meatballs in my freezer by making 2 meatball paninis (with the last little bit of shredded pizza cheese) with tomato salad.

Korean Style Chicken & Eggplant Stir Fry w/ Sticky Rice

Things I am proud of: I have not purchased any convenience food from CVS since I started this challenge!

Things I am less proud of: I have purchased a few (inexpensive) things on a whim and eaten them in one sitting when they’re multi-serving items. Oops. Yay, emotional eating! Oh well, it’s been less than $6 worth of stuff, which for me is amazing because, like I said, I’d buy 20oz. Cokes at CVS for $2.09 apiece a few times a week.

Cottage Cheese Blintzes w/ Blueberries

So onto week three!

What I’m working with this week:

  • 8 lbs picnic shoulder
  • red pepper walnut dip
  • swedish meatballs
  • blueberry bbq sauce
  • 6 oz. andouille sausage
  • 2 4-pks pork chops
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • split chicken breasts + extra bones for broth
  • wheat germ
  • wheat bran
  • rye flour
  • whole wheat flour
  • gingerbread cookie dough
  • sofrito
  • 1/4 loaf sprouted protein bread
  • frozen mixed vegetables
  • frozen edamame
  • freekeh
  • maftoul
  • Israeli couscous
  • spaghetti
  • elbows
  • rice noodles
  • rice paper wrappers
  • soba noodles
  • sticky rice
  • Texmati rice
  • jasmine rice
  • a little masa
  • masarepa
  • a little yellow cornmeal
  • white cornmeal
  • grits
  • brown rice flour
  • bulgur
  • coconut flour
  • unsweetened coconut flakes
  • crushed pineapple
  • jello
  • marzipan
  • craisins
  • prunes
  • pumpkins seeds
  • almonds
  • flaxseed meal
  • dried egg whites
  • Swedish meatball sauce mix (2)
  • 2 servings protein porridge
  • PB2
  • Dominican hot chocolate mix
  • instant espresso
  • orange drink mix
  • sugar free Kool-Aid mix
  • Lingonberry Jam
  • A little steel cut oats
  • old fashioned oats
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 28 oz. can tomato sauce
  • pasta sauce
  • kombu
  • white flour
  • white sugar
  • granulated brown sugar
  • sucralose
  • honey
  • 100 calorie packs – almonds, cocoa almonds, cashews
  • scallions
  • lemons
  • limes
  • carrots
  • onions
  • potatoes
  • apples

The beginning of this week was kind of complicated. Sunday I spent the entire day with my girlfriends in Jim Thorpe, PA for their Winterfest. It was a great day and the weather was good but I definitely ate too much. On Monday I was treated to lunch by my Godmother, and Tuesday night was my monthly Sci Fi book club, where I ate out, AGAIN. Sheesh! Seems like all the money I’m saving on groceries I’m spending on dining out.

Breakfast for this week will be using up some leftover protein porridge mix I had sitting around. I’m cooking that with milk, apples and cinnamon and topping it with vanilla Greek yogurt and egg and cheese on English muffins. Lunches are more Chili Spaghetti with Shredded Cheese and later in the week, Swedish Meatballs in Cream Sauce with Potatoes and Lingonberry Jam. Dinners will be Pork w/ Blueberry BBQ Sauce and Mixed Grain Pilaf w/ Asparagus.

Snacks will be homemade Balanced Breaks and Almond Joy Protein balls, made with all my scant remaining protein powder, almonds, cocoa powder and shredded coconut.

Because I knew I was going to be out of town all day on Sunday, I dropped Bingley off at my ex’s house Saturday night and ran over to Walmart to pick up a few things there. But also grabbed some things I decidedly DID NOT need. I wanted to get some lunchmeat and a roll to bring on my day trip with me to avoid spending money on two whole meals. I also needed Greek yogurt for breakfast. Well, as it was 8:30 and I was exhausted from my work week I also bought carrot chips, potato chips, and a mini pie. OH and a box of mini Saltines. Total was $13.95 but 1/2 of that was junk food I didn’t really need. Bah.

I wasn’t super enthused by anything on sale at the grocery store this week, yet somehow I managed to spend more than I wanted to. I blame it on the emotions!

I only technically needed two things at Shoprite this week: I had a super coupon for asparagus that made it 99c/lb so I grabbed 2 lbs of that, plus they had chunk cheese 2 for $2 with a super coupon too, so I also grabbed those. I got 4 packets of low sodium tuna for snacking on this week (extra protein), plus some cottage cheese and frozen mixed berries to make a sort of ice cream/sorbet thing. Should be interesting. In total I spent $16.05.

Then of course, I realized Tuesday that I was out of coffee. Since today we’re having a big snow storm and I have the day off of work, I decided to run to Walmart while I did laundry… where I bought coffee… AND a protein drink. That puts my total for this week at $34.71. Which isn’t awful but definitely more than I’d planned to spend. Oh, I did wind up saving 20 cents from iBotta, so $34.51. My running total for this 4-week challenge is now $113.73. Actually I’m pretty pleased with that, considering my normal monthly budget is $230!

How are you own personal challenges coming? Let me know in the comments!

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