Frugal February Challenge – Week One!

Week one has begun! It’s Wednesday so technically it’s half over but I’m going to update you on my purchases and then I’ll do a wrap up and preview of week two on Sunday.

Here was my biggest dilemma: Coca Cola. I like to have a Coke Zero Sugar in the afternoons. I ONLY buy soda when it’s on sale, except for the 20 oz. bottles I purchase as convenience drinks at CVS, which I already said I’d be avoiding. So in order to not go totally crazy during this challenge, I hunted around to find the best deal on Coke Products. Surprisingly, that was at Walgreens. They’re on sale 3 for $10, which is a really good price these days. Still, I can’t lie that I’m feeling a little guilty about spending $10 of my grocery budget on calorie free liquids, especially since it’s not really a necessity, but I think it will make not buying soda at CVS for a super inflated price easier. Here’s my receipt from Walgreens:

As you can see Coca Cola was 3 for $12 with a $2 digital coupon, plus I had a $1 rewards redemption from using my rewards card. This made each can $0.27, which is way better than the $2.09 +tax for a 20oz. bottle at CVS. So I consider that a win.

Also, I know I didn’t really *need* any more meat, but when ground beef is on sale for $1.99/lb with a super coupon, it’s impossible to pass up. So because I bought ground beef, I planned to make kofta kebabs! I already have all of the spices in my pantry so it would be easy. I used half of the package for kofta and threw the other half in the freezer for another week.

I got two 4-packs of 100-calorie popcorn bags, and as you can see they were $1.49 each on sale and I had a $1/2 manufacturer’s coupon, making them 99c each. I also got 2 pints of grape tomatoes at 99c each to accompany the bagged salad I already have in my fridge. I got rosemary for the Rosemary Cranberry Slow Cooker Pork I planned on making, along with 2 heads of cauliflower for roasting and serving with the pork. I also got a 5lb bag of potatoes for next week, since they were on sale for $2.50.

My favorite deal of the day, though, was apples. ShopRite had this special deal where if you bought a 2lb bag of Snapdragon apples you got a 2lb bag of Ruby Frost apples for free, which meant I got 4lbs of apples for $3.99, but I ALSO had an iBotta rebate for $1 off the Snapdragon apples, so I got 4lbs of apples for $3! Awesome, right? They’ll last a few weeks, too!

Strawberries weren’t particularly cheap but they were on sale for $2.50 so I grabbed a package. My best deal of the day was the individual containers of Friendship Cottage Cheese with fruit. Perfect for snacks, loaded with protein, and on sale for 4 for $5… buuuuuuut… iBotta had a rebate for $1 each up to 5 offers, so I got 4 of them for $1! That’s a really spectacular deal. I also grabbed a bag of light string cheese for snacks. Frigo was on sale for $2.99 for a pack of 12, and I had a $1 off manufacturer’s coupon too, making them $1.99 or $0.17 apiece!

My total at Shoprite was $34.59 minus the $5.10 in iBotta rebates, or $29.49. Not bad. Next up was Walmart.

I didn’t need much at Walmart, luckily. I got a box of store brand crispy rice cereal that I intended to make chocolate peanut butter protein rice treats out of, except I didn’t realize I didn’t have enough chocolate protein powder to go around. Oops. I got some honey smoked turkey to wrap around the string cheese for snacks (this has proved to be delicious, btw) and I had a $0.75 off manufacturer’s coupon for that, which made it a 16oz. package for $2.73. I got a quart of vanilla Greek yogurt I intended to strain and use as a spread for my Coconut Flour Banana Bread, but I got lazy, so I’m just eating it on the side.

Coconut Flour Banana Bread with Walnuts: Everything was from my pantry or freezer!

I also got a large red onion I only used half of in the Roasted Vegetable Maftoul that went along with my kofta kebabs, seen here:

Delicious beef kofta with Roasted Vegetable Maftoul: I used maftoul, olive oil and spices from my pantry.

For the Maftoul, I also went to Produce Junction (a discount produce store) and got a 2lb bag of Indian eggplant for $3 (I only used half so I have some leftover for next week) and 3 bunches of cilantro for $2.50, or $5.50 total.

Slow Cooker Rosemary Cranberry Pork Loin with Roasted Cauliflower: all I needed to buy was the cauliflower and rosemary.

All in all, this week I spent more than I really wanted to, but I got a lot of things that will carry over into next week. My total was $53.20, but I know I can spent a LOT less next week. My regular grocery budget is $200 plus $30 for produce. This week I spent $22.60 on produce alone, but again, I have 5lbs of potatoes, 1 lb of eggplant, a half a large red onion and 2 bunches of cilantro left for next week, so there’s a lot of carry over here. Plus the Coca Cola should last me for the entire month if I don’t go overboard. I’ll figure out what sort of snack I can make with the crispy rice cereal, too. Maybe use up some PB2 and honey! We’ll see.

Are you doing your own challenge this month? Let me know what your best deal was in the comments!


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!

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!

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