The Budget Kitchen Challenge

This week we've got a different kind of Kitchen Challenge. As of this morning, I was desperately in need of a trip to the grocery store. Its gotten to the point where I can't remember the last time I went shopping, and my fridge is down to just the condiments on the door and the box of baking soda on the top shelf. Every once in a while work will take over my life and dragging my butt to Wegman's after a 14 hour day is the last thing I want to do. As a food blogger, I'm ashamed to admit this.
Anyways, a few days ago I was reading a post by blogger Andrew Hyde called "How to Live (comfortably) on $36 a Month for Food" and I was intrigued. At first glance, I was highly skeptical. $36 a month seems sort of impossible. Unless you're eating rice and Ramen every night, this really didn't seem feasible. After reading his whole post, it came down to spending about $.33 per meal. His suggestions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were very sensible, however, I remain fairly skeptical. As skeptical as I am, I couldn't help but testing (to some degree) his methods.

Since couponing is just about my least favorite thing in the world to do, and I don't live any where near one of those discount/12-hours-away-from-expiring stores, I gave myself a little higher budget. I planned on spending no more than $1.11 per meal, and no more than $25 per week. The parameters of my personal challenge are as follows.
  • I must have 3 complete meals a day plus at least 1 snack.
  • Each meal must contain a protein, a starch, and at least 2 vegetables or fruits.
  • All meals must have a reasonably low sodium content (so no Ramen!).
  • No starving! 1300-1500 calories minimum.
For this meal plan, I did have a few basic things at the house. I had Almond butter, pasta, spices, oil, vinegar, and rice. So these things are not included in my grocery bill.

Breakfast - Strawberry Raisin Parfait $.97/serving
  • Plain Yogurt (32oz) $2.19
  • Frozen Strawberries (16oz) $2.99
  • Rolled Oats (.33lb) $.80
  • Raisins (12oz) $2.49
 I spent a total of $8.47 on supplies for breakfast, but will use half the oats for this week and half for next. Same with the raisins. That brings the breakfast total down to $6.83. I got 7 decent sized servings out of the above ingredients.

I'm going to skip lunch for now, since I plan on eating mostly leftovers.

Dinner -

Pasta with Meat Sauce and Bread & Butter $.72/serving
  • Pasta (No Cost)
  • Lean Ground Beef (5.3oz) $1.28
  • Tomato Sauce (29oz) $.69
  • Garlic (No Cost)
  • Onion (1/2) $.55
  • 100% Whole Wheat Bread (4 slices) $.38
I spent a total of $2.90 for this meal and will get 4 servings out of it. Obviously I purchased a little over a pound of ground beef, and a whole onion, and a full loaf of bread. I calculated the total cost of this meal as a fraction of those larger collections.

Asian Stir Fry $.46/serving
  • Rice (No Cost)
  • Frozen Broccoli (6oz) $.37
  • Fresh Sweet Corn (1) $.25
  • Onion (1/4) $.28
  • Celery (2/8) $.42
  • Asian Stir fry sauce (No Cost)
  • Chicken Thigh (1) $.51
This is another 4 servings (2 lunch, 2 dinner) at a total  of $1.83. We're up to 4 Dinners and 4 lunches.

BBQ Chicken Thighs with Sweet Corn on the Cob and Broccoli florets $.73/serving
  • BBQ Sauce (No Cost)
  • Chicken Thighs (4) $2.05
  • Sweet Corn (2) $.50
  • Frozen Broccoli (6oz) $.37
4 more servings brings us up to 6 Dinners and 6 lunches. I was able to get some pretty big whole corn on the cob for $.25 a piece. I plan on cutting the cobs in half and serving them with each meal. This whole thing cost me $2.92.

Mexican Style Salad $1.52/per serving
  • Ground Beef (5.3oz) $1.28
  • Ice Burg Lettuce (1/2 head) $.75
  • Sweet Corn (1) $.25
  • Tomato (1) $.76
  • Plain Yogurt (Negligible)
  • Mexican Spices (No Cost)
This should yield about 2 big servings, making the total of meals 7 Dinners, and 7 Lunches. This is by far the most expensive meal I've put together so far. However, this could theoretically yield up to 3 servings, but I figured its okay to have leftovers to snack on.

Snacks -

Tuna Sandwiches $1.01/serving
  • Tuna (5oz) $.99
  • Whole Wheat Bread (4 slices) $.76
  • Onion (Negligible) 
  • Celery (2/8) $.42
  • Mayo (No Cost)
I can get 2 servings out of this.

Lettuce Cups $.96/serving
  • Rice (No Cost)
  • Ground Beef (5.3oz) $1.28
  • Onion (1/4) $.28
  • Raisins (Negligible)
  • Lettuce (1/4) $.37
2 Servings out of this, making the snack total 4.

PB&J $.80/serving
  • Whole Wheat Bread (4 slices) $.76
  • Almond Butter (No Cost)
  • Jelly $1.69
This will make 2 sandwiches. I purchased a jar of jelly for 1.69, but I'll use half of it (or more) next week, bringing the cost of it down to $.84 for the week. We're up to 6 snacks!

Ants on a Log $.84/serving
  • Celery (1/2) $.84
  • Almond Butter (No Cost)
  • Raisins (Negligible)
 This is a great way to finish off the snack total at 7, and use up all that extra celery!

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