Thursday, June 27, 2013

Eating Clean On A Budget - Tips and Tricks

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What can you get for $50?

So this week is a toughy. We live on a single income, for four of us. I've always heard that eating healthy or clean is near impossible under those circumstances. I say balderdash. This week, I'm proving so. We are literally down to our last dollar until pay day. So, the hubs pulled $50 cash out of an account that we rarely touch, ya know the one he has money automatically put into and we pretend it doesn't exist except for emergencies.

Any who, so he gives me $50 and that's it. That's all I have to work with and I have to make it work. Tonight I set out to prove that it is totally possible to make it work. 

First off, there are a couple of items we buy each month (or week) that cost us a little extra money, rather than buying from a grocery store. We purchase one gallon of Raw Milk from a local dairy farmer, per week at the rate of $10 per gallon. (Totally worth it... do the research.) We also purchase grain and soy free farm eggs, 2 dozen every 1-2 weeks depending on how many little man devours, from a good friend of mine. Again, totally worth the $3 per dozen, and I dare you to research the problems with soy, more specifically the USA and GMO corn. 

When we run out of Raw Milk, we do buy a locally produced Whole Milk, which comes in glass jars, and has a $2 deposit on the bottles (I'll discuss how this comes into play). This milk, while pasteurized, is still better than anything you'll ever buy in a plastic jug or paper carton. It is hormone free and the cows are pastured.

Aside from those two items, we try to buy as much organic produce as we can afford. Some weeks it isn't as much as others. There are a couple of things that I will always buy organic -- Spinach, Baby Spring Mix, and Sweet Baby Lettuce. That is because I can purchase it in bulk and it's cheaper that way. ;) Another way to buy organic cheaper is local farmers, specifically at your Local Farmer's Market.

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ALDI - $1.72 PER POUND??? Our local grocer cannot beat that! And when turning the package over... Ingredients: Chicken, sea salt. Definitely a win in my book.

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Here's how that chicken turned out tonight! Chicken sprinkled with Mrs. Dash salt free Chicken Seasoning, with a side of brown rice and green peas.

Moving on... First stop Aldi. Aldi's is a grocery store... a cheap grocery store. I'm struggling with how to describe it. Basically their food is either store branded or obscure branded you've never heard of and the prices are a third of national chains. SOLD! They have a lot of products that change constantly as well as your staple products. And occasionally you will find brand name food (Dole, Del Monte) and the occasional mass chain toys (Mattel, Play-Doh).


Asparagus (1 lb) $2.49 x 2
Green Onions $1.19
Green Grapes $2.98
Strawberries (1 lb) $0.99 x 2
Blueberries $1.69
Mini Sweet Peppers $2.49
Roma Tomatoes $1.29
Baby Carrots (3.26 lbs @ $0.29/lb) $0.99
Bananas $0.95
Limes $0.19 x 2
Lemons $0.39 x 2
Cucumber $0.49
Peaches $0.49 x 2
Plums $0.49 x 2
Avocado $0.39
Fresh Chicken Tenders (2.69 lbs) $4.63
Confetti Cake Mix* $0.99

Subtotal $28.16
Tax $1.44
Total $29.60

Next stop is Price Chopper. Price Chopper is our locally owned grocer where we earn fuel points for every dollar we spend. So not only do I shop there for the deals, but it helps us put gas in the tank a little cheaper. Not to mention the kids can score a free cookie at the bakery (They see this as a real treat, and if they misbehave, it doesn't happen.) The kids can also look for Clifford. Clifford is a chicken (on a piece of cardboard) and get a freebie (donuts, candy, piece of fruit) from customer service.

As I mentioned above, when we have to purchase milk from the store, the brand we choose comes with a $2.00 refundable deposit on the glass jars. So prior to starting our trip we returned 6 jars, which netted us $12.00 cash.

Start                +$50.00
Aldi                  -$29.60
Bottle Refund +$12.00
Running Total  +$32.40


Whole Milk (1/2 gallon) $2.59
---Bottle deposit $2.00
Granny Smith Apples (0.90 lb @ $1.99/lb) $1.79
Pink Lady Apples (0.81 lb @ $1.99/lb) $1.61
Organic Spinach $3.99
Cherry Tomatoes $3.99
Romaine (1.58 lb @ $1.99/lb) $3.14
Jicama (0.97 lb @ $1.49/lb) $1.45
Sack Refund -$0.05
--- (I bring my own cold grocery totes)

Cherry Tomatoes Sale -$1.00

Subtotal $20.64
Tax $0.95
Total $21.46

Start                +$50.00
Aldi                  -$29.60
Bottle Refund +$12.00
Price Chopper -$21.46
Running Total  +$10.94

So as you can see... I did it! I came home with cash in my pocket. Now had I not had the bottles to return, obviously I would have had to leave something behind at the store. *Also the cake mix was a purchase made by my 4 year old. :/ She threw that on the belt when I was trying to pay attention to the register. :P I went ahead an allowed it, only because the 4th is coming up and I will have to drag something to the party and well... this is something she can help me with and she finds it new and exciting because I don't allow her this pleasure often. ;)

It takes a little thinking, planning and common sense, but shopping for clean eating is completely doable if you want to make it happen. You're probably wondering where's the protein? Cause you know, less than 3 pounds of chicken isn't going to last all week. As I said before, I love buying in bulk. So I have a freezer stocked with ground meats and chicken breasts that I will use to accompany all the produce. I shop for the meats once a month and produce weekly, or as needed.


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Asparagus: First off, Asparagus can be super expensive in the store... enough so it makes me want to scream. Now, if you have the time, by all means you can forage for your own wild asparagus. But for those that don't, don't buy it unless you can find a deal!!! I've seen it as high as $4.50 per pound. :( Lucky for me, cause I'm digging raw asparagus these days, Aldi had it for $2.49 per pound in one pound packages. Price Chopper... $3.49 per pound and their bundles vary in weight.

My Tip: To keep your asparagus, for up to one week, place it up right in a container, loosely, and fill the container with water. Asparagus isn't a fan of the fridge and needs air to breathe. Just make sure you change the water daily and use sooner rather than later.

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Green Onion:  We love green onion. We do a lot of salads in the summer time and I love some onion on my eggs in the morning. So you could say we go through our share of onion. Since we buy a lot at once I've some what perfected the art of cutting it up quickly.

My Tip: Begin by holding two to three onions upright at the opening of a large mouth jar. Using sharp kitchen shears, snip the onion into the jar. Once you get to the white part of the onion, lay it down and continue to cut it using a paring knife. Personally I like this trick because when I try to cut the tips of the onions they end up bouncing all over the floor. Problem solved!

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As you can tell, by now, I'm a huge fan of glass. I don't like that most plastic can leach into our foods, even if they say they are BPA free. I'm all for food prep. It makes life easy, it makes eating clean easier and I love being able to see what fresh food I have on hand. I like to store chopped green onion, chopped mini sweet peppers and cucumber, as well as fresh grated organic cheese. The possibilities for jar are endless!!!!

But my favorite thing to store in a jar??? Romaine lettuce. Lettuce is 1) Expensive 2) Wilts so quickly 3) Should be in everyone's refrigerator. Through trial and error I've found that Romaine does NOT need oxygen to survive, unlike its counterparts Kale and Spinach.

So I break out a half gallon Mason jar, rinse and dry each leaf, chop and pack it in tight. (The red funnel is specifically for canning, they come in two packs, and quite frankly they are a life saver... no need to clean the rims when you're done packing.) Once it's packed in tight, yes that really is an entire large head of Romaine, I place the canning lid on top, followed by my Food Saver, wide mouth attachment, close the sealer and press "canister." Voila! Every time I open it... fresh Romaine. Yes, you can vacuum seal it after each use to keep it longer, but honestly we go through it so fast that it doesn't hang around a week. ;)

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So, there you have it... my trip to the store today and a few tips to get you through your next food prep. Have any questions? Feel free to comment. I love getting ideas for posts from you guys!


Heather said...

Our farmers market is so much more expensive then the stores. We do have Aldi though and I love it!!

Telly V said...

Thanks for the asparagus tip! Never knew that.

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