Last week I spent a grand total of $19.25 on groceries for our family of two in New York City. That’s the power of the pantry my friends!
Here’s what I bought:
grapes, popcorn, eggs, half and half, tofu, frozen snap peas, frozen green beans, frozen garden peas, frozen mixed veggies, frozen broccoli
We ate eggs and fruit for breakfast (I also eat leftovers for breakfast sometimes since I don’t love breakfast food) and Chili and Fried Rice for lunch. I plan our leftover meals so that we never have to eat the same thing for lunch and dinner, which is a real luxury. Eating the same thing for every meal is a great way to slash your grocery budget but I appreciate not having to do that anymore.
Now onto the food pictures! Here’s what we ate for dinner every night:
This delicious pantry chili didn’t even require a trip to the store and we had plenty of leftovers for lunch! Since my previous week included a higher priced shopping trip, at $45.86, this week our meals were comprised of more pantry/freezer items. Doing this low week/high week (or pantry week/grocery week) pattern allows us to have lots of variety in our diet (not just pantry meals all the time) while still staying under $200 a month for groceries.
I seasoned my wok fried rice with fish sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, Chinese 5 spice powder, galangal powder, and garlic powder. The key to really crispy restaurant style tofu is frying it on its own. I fried the tofu first, set it aside, made the rest of the fried rice, and then added the tofu back in. It’s a little more labor intensive but the tofu will crumble and fail to brown if you don’t do it that way. I also whipped together a little sesame oil, water, and hoisin right at the end and drizzled it over the whole thing to make it extra saucy.
If you’ve never heard of flap steak you should check it out! It’s similar to flank steak but it’s typically cheaper and kind of hard to find. Only certain stores seem to carry it (Costco being one of them). My theory is that it’s unpopular due to its somewhat unappetizing name. FLAP STEAK.
It’s kind of like the now popular Chilean Sea Bass whose original name (believe it or not) was Patagonian Toothfish. For some odd reason it didn’t sell well under that moniker. I can’t imagine why. But today even fish can be re-branded! Enjoy some Flap Steak now before it starts getting labeled as Norwegian Beef Shanks and priced at $7 a pound.
TUESDAY- Indian Lamb Korma & Paneer Makhani (from our favorite Indian restaurant in the neighborhood)
Almost every meal we eat is homemade so when we do get a little takeout or go out to dinner it feels like the luxury it is! One key to frugal living is to keep treating luxuries as luxuries (assuming you have no debt and can afford said luxuries while still hitting your savings goals).
If we started eating out all the time, just because, it wouldn’t even feel like a treat anymore. We’d start spending more and more for mere convenience and suddenly our entire monthly budget would be thrown for a loop. If we ate takeout meals just three times a week we’d be spending $360 dollars a month on restaurants. In 15 years that would add up to $64,800 spent on takeout alone.
This is one of those dishes that smells and tastes even better than it looks! When it was in the oven our whole apartment was filled with the dreamy scent of roasted tomatoes, basil, oregano, and garlic.
I added a little bit of half and half and chicken stock to the tomato sauce to give it some depth. I also used one of my favorite frugal tricks to thicken it: I cooked the rice directly in the casserole pan (in the oven). When you cook rice the starch releases from the grains and goes into the liquid. Since my rice cooked directly in the casserole pan (and I didn’t rinse it) the starches released into the tomato sauce and made it extra creamy.
That wraps up my grocery update for last week. I’m super excited that I was able to stay under $20!
I hope this shows people how essential it is to have a fully stocked freezer and pantry. The average American family spends something like $730 a month on groceries while we spend $200 despite living in mega expensive NYC. Bulk and sale shopping is not just for homesteaders or large families with a bunch of kids. The fella and I live in a small apartment with limited storage space, but dedicating what little space we have to food storage saves us thousands of dollars a year.