22 March 2014

Thriving on a budget

Since I lasted posted, a lot of people have been asking me about if I'm really living on $30 a week for groceries. Sure $30 doesn't sound like much, but it is entirely possible to not just live off of, but thrive on thirty dollars a week, so I figure today's post will be dedicated toward how to manage your grocery spending.

First off, I think it is important to say you need to be realistic. Different people have different eating habits. For instance, I don't eat meat, so I am able to save a lot of money in that department. I'm also a small person, so I probably eat less than people who are normal height (unless you put nachos in my face, then I'm going to eat an alarming amount). Different people also have different amounts of time that they can feasibly devote to cooking, and also like cooking (and doing dishes) to different degrees. If you hate cooking prep or just want to cut down on clean up time, then make sure you factor in the cost of these prepared foods into your budget.

Second, it is wise to start by making a small cut to your current spending. Early last year, I would fluctuate up to forty dollars a week on how much I spent weekly on groceries. Once I was aware of this, I tried a budget set around roughly the average of how much I was spending then. Later on, I lowered this budget to $40 a week. Shortly after, I realized that I was routinely under my $40 price point, so I lowered it to $30. If I had started with my original spending and immediately imposed a $30 budget there is no way I would have been successful and so I think it's really important you do what you need to do to make sure you don't feel unhappy with your food options.

Third, when reducing your grocery costs consider what is in season or locally sourced. These products tend to be cheaper, and if it's locally you're sourced, you're doing the environment a favor, too. In the winter in the northeast, I realize it can be difficult to stay fully stocked on fresh fruits and veggies, because nothing is in season near you. I suggest then that you look at whether there are fruits and vegetables that keep well and that you can buy in bulk at your local grocery store. For example, Wegmans has a terrific deal on family packs of granny smith apples. While these apples are not the gigantic apples I used to feast on, they are crisp and juicy, and at $2.99 for 3 pounds, they are a steal! In addition, do some sleuthing around your freezer section. Your store might offer flash frozen, unseasoned vegetable or fruit medleys. These are often cheaper than what you would buy fresh and they are extremely versatile! {Never}homemaker recently reviewed how the frozen vegetables from Wegmans help her stay on track with healthy eating, but her post also highlights how affordable and handy they are! I try to always have a few bags of the different Asian medleys on hand, so that at night I can throw together a vegetable and tofu stir-fry in just a matter of minutes.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, be in the habit of planning out your meals. I don't mean that you should be planning in the sense that you should be watching your nutritional content intake, but you should have recipes picked out for the next week. This will help you stay within your budget by making sure you don't make a thousand elaborate meals within the span of one week and at the same time it will limit how much time you spend wandering up and down the aisles, throwing whatever looks good into your cart. Perhaps most exciting for me, planning out my meals gives me the chance of trying out new recipes on a weekly basis!

Do you have any tips for staying on track with grocery shopping? Chime in! Otherwise, be sure to enjoy your weekend. I'll be back with a round-up of recipes I've tried out recently and loved as lunches to bring into work!

04 March 2014

Strawberry Raspberry Chia Jam

Chee-a? Chai-a? Chia. As in, those furry grass-like pets from the 80s.

I got into eating chia seeds in the past two years when they blew up in the food world for being rich in omega-3s and fiber.

They're these tiny little seeds and as a vegetarian and someone with a fickle stomach, they just seemed like a no brainer to add to my diet. I bought them in the organic section at my regular grocery store and like to top off my yogurt with them, throw them in smoothies, and even use them as an egg-like binder in vegan baked goods. Most recently, I've been using them to make jam!

Strawberry Raspberry Chia Jam
Lightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Yields: 2 cups


  • 1 cup raspberries, frozen or fresh
  • 2 cups strawberries, halved, frozen or fresh
  • 2-3 tbs maple syrup, honey or agave
  • 1/2 tbs vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs chia seeds
  • In a small pot, bring your fruit to a low boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and continue to stir for 5-7 minutes until most of the fruit falls apart. 
  • Add in to the fruit, your sweetener, extract, and seeds. Continue to stir the mixture for an additional 7-10 minutes or until it has thickened up to a jam consistency of your liking.
  • Remove jam from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature before serving or storing. It should keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

I've been putting this jam on top of my oatmeal in the mornings to sweeten it up without the addition of raisins, honey, and the like. What's your favorite use for jam? 

03 March 2014

Life right now

Life has changed significantly since I last posted, but that's to be expected when I last posted over a year ago. What exactly has changed since then? Well, to start, I picked up running. I began by running a 5K in April 2013 and in September I had completed my first half marathon. In fact, I'm training for my second major race right now! I'll be running the Broad Street Run, a 10-miler, in May. I'm also looking at a half marathon in Wildwoods, NJ two weeks after. It also feels like I dived into adulthood practically overnight when I decided to adopt Pepper, my now 8-month old black kitten this January. I was already starting to pay more attention to my finances, but now I'm cleaning the dishes after every single meal, sweeping, Swiffering, and vacuuming on a weekly basis, and abiding by a tight budget. To top things off, in the past year I've been following a 'gluten light' diet, because it turns out my body is less than pleased with gluten consumption, although my tastebuds beg to differ.

Surprisingly, I've never felt more productive or motivated in the kitchen. I spend no more than $30 a week on my groceries, but I truly look forward to crafting my grocery list each week. It's fun to be constantly challenging myself to stick to my budget, while trying out as many new recipes as possible. So it's a new year and a new me! I hope whoever it is that is reading this, that you enjoy seeing how far $30 can go and the recipes that come out of my kitchen.

TLDR; I'm back.