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I’m On A Diet. A Food Spending Diet, That Is.

Posted Feb 21 2011 3:54pm
I read an interesting column in the business section of the Trib last Monday headlined, “ Go on a spending diet !” (It was the word “diet” that caught my attention since I’m not really a business section kind of girl.)

Amy Dunn’s attempt to spend no money in February really piqued my interest, especially this part: “We will eat breakfast, lunch and dinner from the stash in our pantry and freezer…And we’ll set aside $10 a week for milk and an infusion of fresh produce.”

No doubt you’ve noticed the marked increase in food prices lately. From this CNNMoney report : “Over the past 12 months, the food index has risen 1.8%, its fastest pace since 2009, and gasoline prices have soared 13.4%”

I’m feeling it. I’m sure you are, too. That’s why after reading Amy Dunn’s article, I decided a “food spending diet” was in order for me. I took an inventory of my “pantry” and decided I have at least two weeks of meals waiting to be prepared, I can eat well on $10 of fresh produce a week, and I don’t need to eat out.

The "pantry."
So yesterday, I paid for my last meal in a restaurant for at least two weeks (a lunch date with my daughter and her boyfriend) and committed to eating only food I prepare or someone else prepares or pays for (like a “real” date, which isn’t likely…lol). I went to the grocery store and spent $9.54 on spinach, blackberries, a grapefruit, bananas, onions and a mango. I already had frozen fruit and veggies in the fridge, so I should be OK for produce through Saturday.

It will be fun to get back in the kitchen again. I’ve been woefully neglectful of the culinary arts, lately throwing meals together haphazardly and subsisting on omelets, PB2, yogurt and salads. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but I’m more creative than that, and god knows I have the time.

Besides, I like my kitchen. I like to cook. It relieves a lot of stress. It also gives me a chance to catch up on my music listening. I put on Pandora on my computer in the “dining” room (which actually has no table; I eat at my computer or in the living room. I know, I know…but I’m mindful, really I am). Then I chop and mix and bake and clean up. It’s all very cathartic.

My kitchen is huge, but has very few cupboards and little counter space. When I moved here, I brought along two bakers racks, a two-foot-high wooden table for the microwave, a butcher’s block counter on wheels and a bookshelf (I use the word loosely) from my antique store that was probably some kid’s wood shop project in 1930, if they had such classes back then. But the bookshelf is my “pantry.”

Back to food spending. In the mail Thursday was the Penny Saver (that’s how I know it’s Thursday). I’m a coupon cutter, but only for things I already use. This week’s best deal is from Save-A-Lot (a wretched excuse for a grocery store): a free carton of eggs. No purchase necessary. I go through eggs like g-baby Maelie goes through diapers, so I’m all over that.

Some of the meals I’ll make will include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, beans and canned tomatoes. I have a half pound of dried pinto beans so hello refried beans! I made horseradish hummus on Friday, which will last a few more days (recipe below), and I have another can of garbanzo beans to make it again to take to my friend Debbie’s house Saturday night.

The freezer.
I have four servings of lentil soup and five garbanzo bean burgers in the freezer. Since my divorce, I haven’t broken the habit of cooking a full batch of soup or whatever, thus I only eat three or four of the six or eight servings. This “food spending diet” will hopefully help me break that or at least keep me mindful next time and cut the recipe in half. I’m still new at the whole cooking for one thing.

So…have you had any food spending challenges lately? Could you eat healthily from your pantry if you had to for a week or two or three?

If you’re looking for more money-saving tips, check out one of my favorite bloggers, Cammy from Tippy Toe Diet. She shared some of her favorite money-saving sites in last week’s blog, " Frugal Friday ". I totally forgot I had an eBates account until I read it! And Groupon is awesome.

Wishing you a frugal February!

As promised, my horseradish hummus recipe:

1 can (15.5 oz) garbanzo beans, drained, but reserve liquid
1-3 (or more) cloves garlic
2 T lemon juice
2 T tahini
2 T freshly ground horseradish (like you find in the jar in the refrigerated section, not horseradish sauce)
Freshly ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined, adding bean liquid as needed (I usually use about half of it). I do a taste test halfway through processing to see if it needs salt or more pepper or horseradish. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
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