Cooking and Budgeting Again


With the end of my current work contract looming on August 5th and not much of an income in sight, I’ve had to get down and fruggle with our expenses. Starting a PhD program in the fall will allow me to work as an RA, which will bring in a pretty miniscule paycheck. Not that I’m not grateful for getting the job, but we will definitely have to start living on less and mostly on Ep’s income.

As is my personality, I’ve been visiting the local public library and gathering books on how to better budget and control my expenses. Like a lot of people, the biggest weight on our monthly credit card is eating out. Ep and I are total foodies and we both come from foody families. Going to a restaurant is the way we’ve always celebrated, even the little things. This would be okay, if we didn’t celebrate everything, like Jackson, our pup, learning “High Five” or it being a week before my birthday, a couple days before by birthday, and then my birthday. We also use restauranting to cull boredom, as a quick fix for laziness in the kitchen, or for convenience when we are just really really hungry and not home.

So, back to the library I’ve been and home again with books about cooking, eating in, and not eating out. I blasted through Living Large on Less by Christina Spence and am now enthralled in The Art of Eating In by Cathy Erway. I read through Dave Ramsey’s book on finances as well and have created a budget of “Fixed and Variable Essential Costs” (thank you Christina) as well as a “Debt Snowball” to tackle (yay Dave!). I’ve also become increasingly more active on Pinterest in search of delicious meals and fruggle food shopping.

Now for goal setting, because a I LOVE TO SET GOALS! I’m going to try to spend $300 a month on groceries. Ep will have an additional $100 a month for the subsidized food he gets from the cafeteria at work. Then, we will each have $40 a week to spend on whatever else we want. This includes alcohol, coffee, going out to dinner, etc. This is based on an average of what we spend on food over the last six months. So, I’m thinking it’s manageable with a little planning, thought, and control.

I probably won’t be able to see how well I do with this until a month or so in as my fridge and pantry are already pretty full. However, I’ll be keeping track of what I spend per month and what I’m buying. Some ways I anticipate being able to do this is:

  • only buying things I need (and not that fifth bottle of salsa or that expensive premade sushi)
  • making bigger meals and freezing leftovers
  • buying bulk products (such as lettuce) instead of smaller packages (such as those pre-shredded lettuce boxes)
  • making stuff at home (like bread or jam (I’ll have to check if it’s actually cheaper to make jam at home instead of buying it in the jar) or salsa or hummus)
  • buying more when things are on sale
  • be more conscious of what is in the fridge (especially that veggie drawer which sometimes is forgotten) and don’t throw out food
  • eat lots of leftovers
  • make creative things with what’s left in the fridge or pantry

This will probably also make me more of a vegan than I already am. I currently don’t eat meat or dairy but do eat fish, shellfish, eggs, and honey. Fish is sort of expensive so I might get the good salmon only once in a while. If i crave the stuff, I can always make canned tuna salads which is pretty cheap.

After cleaning my fridge and, gulp, throwing out a lot of things in jars that we never ate, I’ve put my apron on, spoon in hand, and started to cook. The pantry is next on the cleaning list, although I hope to eat a lot of stuff out of it before I tackle that monster!

For tonight, it will be left over minestrone soup I made for a dinner party the other night, egg salad sandwiches, and vegan blueberry muffins for dessert!

Minestrone Soup: I used this Mario Batali Food network recipe and added vegetable broth. I somehow made way more than 4 servings (I managed to feed 5 people the other night and still have about 6 servings left). I probably put the same amount of veggies but more noodles and broth.

Half Egg Salad Sandwiches: Boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, pepper, and garlic salt with spinach on Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed (expensive but delicious).

Vegan Blueberry Muffins: I used this recipe but used apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, a heaping tablespoons of coconut cream, cashew milk instead of almond milk, honey instead of sugar (I just kind of eyed how much honey), and no oil except coconut oil to grease the muffin tin.

Leftovers: More soup (in the freezer for a later dinner), egg salad (for lunch tomorrow?), and blueberry muffins (for any and every occasion until they are gonzo)!


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