My Personal “Frugal Food February” Challenge!

February is the shortest month of year, and, as such, it’s easy to give yourself a challenge when a month is only 28 days long! I’m attempting to save some money for a down payment on a car, so wherever I can scrimp and save will be helpful, but here I’m just going to focus on food and food related items (like paper plates/paper towels, etc.). Technically I’ll be doing this February 3 through March 2 since Sundays are my shopping days.

A few years back I did a similar thing (Frugal May Days challenge) to see how much I could save on feeding two people for 4 weeks. I’m going to do this same thing this February, but for one. My rules are very similar to the original challenge, but I’m going to adapt them a bit. Here they are:

Just some of my pantry items.
  • Work the pantry/freezer. I’ve got a lot of things taking up space in my cabinets and freezer that I can use up and later replace with newer food. The goal at the end will be to scrub the inside of the freezer at the end of the month before filling it up again.
  • NO convenience purchases. I work within walking distance of a CVS Pharmacy and when I’m hungry and want a snack or a diet soda I usually just walk over there and buy something. A 20 oz. Diet Dr. Pepper is $2.09 at CVS! If I shop sales and buy 12 packs when they’re on sale at Shoprite then 12 oz. cans are less than 30 cents apiece. (If you do the math, that’s 4x more expensive per ounce!) This will be tough if I accidentally don’t plan well enough to bring snacks to work, but I’m going to work really hard at it.
  • Keep eating out to a minimum. I have two planned eating out experiences a month for the Meetups I’m in, and I’m starting to date now, so I’ll need to limit that too. (It doesn’t count if my date pays! 😉 )
I’ve got lists of all this stuff, too.

Here’s what I have to work with in my freezer and pantry:

  • 8 lbs picnic shoulder
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • Paulo’s chili
  • 4 Palestinian chicken legs
  • 2 homemade frozen meatballs in sauce
  • red pepper walnut dip
  • swedish meatballs
  • blueberry bbq sauce
  • 6 oz. andouille sausage
  • 2 pork roasts
  • 2 4-pks pork chops
  • bag of cranberries
  • wheat germ
  • wheat bran
  • rye flour
  • whole wheat flour
  • gingerbread cookie dough
  • 5 bananas
  • sofrito
  • 1 loaf sprouted protein bread
  • frozen mixed vegetables (3)
  • freekeh
  • maftoul
  • Israeli couscous
  • penne
  • 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
  • pumpkins seeds
  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • flaxseed meal
  • crepe mix
  • dried egg whites
  • Swedish meatball sauce mix (2)
  • 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
About half of my spices.

I’m not including a list of my spices and condiments since I have a HUGE selection, but I’m sure you know I won’t need to buy any of those.

Right off the bat just looking at the list I can come up with some ideas that only involve purchasing one or two additional items to make a full meal. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Swedish Meatballs w/ Cream Sauce & Lingonberry Jam (Add potatoes and peas for a full meal)
  • Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast (Add some vegetables for a full meal)
  • Coconut Shrimp w/ Jasmine Rice (Once again, some veggies make this a meal)
  • Chili Spaghetti w/ Cheddar (Add salad for a full meal)
  • Coconut Flour Banana Bread

Already sounds like a good start to me! Do you have any ideas as to meals I can make out of what’s listed here? Let me know in the comments!

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When is a Chicken More Than a Chicken?

Answer: when it’s 3 different meals!

I think a lot of us get stuck in the rut of buying the same old cuts of meat all the time and getting a little bored trying to figure out new and exciting ways to prepare the same old stuff. I almost always buy just plain boneless, skinless chicken breasts (only when on sale of course) with the occasional dabbling into leg quarters if I really want something with crispy skin. In my area, boneless, skinless chicken breast rarely goes on sale for less than 1.99/lb, and sometimes a) I just don’t want to pay that much for meat and b) I really crave chicken soup and just plain old chicken breast isn’t the best option for a really good chicken soup.

A whole raw chicken with a bad joke for a caption.
Buy me when I am CHEEP. (Hardy har!)

So recently my grocery store had whole chickens on sale for 99c/lb. While that’s not the cheapest I’ve seen them, it’s still pretty cheap (although in all honesty they did not HAVE any of the advertised 99c/lb. chickens when I went shopping and I wound up paying $1.78/lb. which I didn’t realize until it got rang up and I was too lazy to argue).

I knew I didn’t have to just eat roast chicken all week if I played my cards right, and I could make that chicken last more than a week if I wanted to!

So last Sunday I bought the chicken and seasoned it only with salt and pepper. I roasted it whole at 425, breast side down to start, then flipped her over halfway through the cooking process. The breast was juicy and perfect and the thighs were cooked through (your cook times may vary depending on the size of your chicken so I’m leaving the times out). The skin was perfectly crispy and the meat succulent so this method was a good one for me and I will definitely use it again.

A whole roast chicken behind a plate with a roast chicken thigh, garden salad with ranch dressing, and roast potatoes.

I started off by eating the thighs and legs, simply accompanied by roasted potatoes and a garden salad with ranch dressing. Comfort food at its finest. That was enough for 4 meals for me.

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wraps with Carrots and Celery Sticks

Once the carcass was cooled, I carved off the breast meat. Part of the breast meat I used for a couple of lunches. I warmed some of the meat, sliced, then enrobed it (yes, ENROBED) in more ranch dressing with some Frank’s Red Hot mixed in, then folded it up in a Mission Carb Balance tortilla (I bought this brand specifically because they’re burrito sized but only 110 calories and have 8 grams of protein per tortilla, but they are NOT a frugal choice, considering a package of 8 was almost $5, ugh) and served alongside carrots and celery sticks for buffalo chicken wraps. I had two of these for lunches during the week.

Chicken and couscous soup with harissa, cilantro, lemon and egg.
I’d like to eat this forever, if I’m honest.

Lastly (and this is the dish I am most proud of), I used the leftover breast and the meat picked from the bone, plus a chicken stock I made from the bones and skin in my Instant Pot, to make a delicious Tunisian-inspired chicken and couscous soup flavored with harissa, cumin, lemon, and cilantro, and topped with a soft boiled egg. It was truly divine. I won’t be sharing the recipe here because I plan on adding it to my cookbook, but I hope you get the idea of how to use one chicken for 3 different meals. I’m one person and I got 4 servings of roast chicken, 2 servings of buffalo chicken wraps, and 5 servings of that harissa chicken soup. That’s 11 meals out of one chicken, and I didn’t just have to eat roast chicken the whole time!

So I hope you are inspired to try your own One Chicken Three Meals Challenge (okay, there’s no official challenge, I just made the damn thing up). Let me know what dishes you’d make in the comments!

The Faint Rumblings of Change

I find myself feeling boredom a lot lately. Things bore me. Lots of people bore me. My therapist (yes I’m seeing a therapist again) says it’s okay for me to just take some time for myself to heal and adapt and adjust to my new single life. Logically I know she’s correct, but I can’t help but hear the whispers of guilt in my ear that says “you’re stagnant… you’re not DOING anything…”

In 2017 I had a very concrete goal. It took me a long time to build up enough internal courage to start working on that goal. It was a huge life change, leaving my marriage, and the strength it took was boosted mostly by adrenaline.

They say that change is only made when staying the same hurts more than changing. I feel in my blood that there is more change coming for me. I get a lot of people asking me when I’m going to write again, but I’m still fighting the depression that keeps me from doing the things I used to love. The fact that I’m here today says a lot about how far I’ve come.

The good news is I’m starting to get ideas for new blog entries. I’m contemplating a Frugal February meal plan. We shall see! Anyway, thought I’d actually publish something here for a change. I’m not dead: I’m becoming the butterfly.

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