Thursday, June 12, 2014

Menu Madness

I have a little secret to let you in on.  I'm not very good at staying within my grocery budget.

Shhh.  I won't tell if you don't!

We don't eat fancy.  I don't often buy treats.  Nope.  My downfall is specials.  Not specials of stuff I don't normally eat.  Just the regulars.  Especially meat.  I have an upright freezer, with a drawer (or so!) dedicated to meat.  I rationalise that by only buying meat on special I'm saving us a lot of money over the year.  I buy chicken drumsticks at $5 or less per kg.  I buy prime beef mince at around $10-11/kg and pork mince at $10 or less.  A lot cheaper than full price.  But this habit can have a downside:  running out of cash before the days in the month have run out.  I used to do a big grocery shop just once a month, and buy fruit and veges in between, but have gone back to fortnightly/weekly shopping recently.  I'm finding it a bit hard to get my head around.  I've been either buying too much, too early (like that tube of toothpaste I thought I needed a few weeks ago that I still haven't opened yet).  Or I've been forgetting things as I've not had my big master list to jog my memory and remind me to check the sugar container, and the spice rack, and so on.  So I've re-worked the big master list into something more compact, and am trying to get into a good rhythm of shopping once a fortnight at the supermarket, with the Farmers Market and bananas in between.  Work in progress.  But I did manage not to go to the supermarket last weekend which was a bit weird and somewhat liberating.  Grin.

I've also concluded that I will probably still have a 'bigger' shop at the beginning of each month. It's just easier to stock up on staples for the pantry and we still run a monthly household budget anyway.  So I did that this month.  Lovely full pantry.  Slightly skimpy wallet.

I have $100 left for the rest of the month.  NOT what I'd hoped for.  Not what I'd usually have at this point.

I'm feeling a little apprehensive.  I nearly gave up instantly.  I so wanted to rationalise that we bought 4kgs of gluten free pizza mix which cost $35, a significant amount out of the month's grocery budget.  But there's often a big purchase like that.  I can't keep 'borrowing' from next month.  I mean, eventually there will be nothing left to borrow!

So I'm going to have a go at sticking to it.  $100.  Two and a half weeks.
I'd already put aside egg money for our free range egg lady.  I've worked out I need about $15 for my Farmers Market veges on Saturday.  And $25-ish for fruit and a few other items later in the month.  So that leaves me $60 for the supermarket.  The list came out.  The tomato paste moved to 'next time' (a secondary list scribbled on the back!).  I don't NEED it, do I?  Hmm.  Just what am I going to cook anyway?  A new menu was created (I usually do one every fortnight around shopping time).  And I discovered that I do not need to buy ANY meat.  After a look through the pantry and fridge I now know that we need pears, carrots, bananas, kumara, and onions.  A tin of pasta sauce, one of pineapple, some grape seed oil (for the breadmaker), some dried fruit and some dairy products.  I will be taking a calculator.  I might or might not get the oregano and marjoram on my list.  I suspect the vanilla will likewise move to 'next time.'  After all, I managed to bake this week too so I really shouldn't need vanilla. **Oh, just remembered, I FOUND an unopen vanilla bottle in the cupboard after writing the shopping list.  Bonus!  In my defence, the cupboard is up way above my head.  But I should have known I need to stand on a chair to make sure I haven't missed anything.

As requested by the lovely Elizabeth, here's my menu for the fortnight...
I create it with my diary in front of me, as I have to take into account late classes, what days my husband will cook, when he's got work after dinner so we need to avoid soup and go for rice instead, etc.  The days are written in pen, with everything else in pencil as it usually gets multiple changes before being blu-tacked to our microwave.

Sausages and veges (probably do sausages in a devilled type sauce with potato/kumara and some stir-fried veges as we have pak choy from the garden to use)

Chow Mein with shredded chicken and pak choy

Coconut curry and rice (chickpeas, pumpkin, kumara, coconut milk) 

Tinned tuna or salmon bake (with breadcrumbs on top as there's a bag in the freezer waiting to be used!)

Honeypork and rice (pork mince with veges done in a very nice sauce - Destitute Gourmet meal and a favourite!)

Pea Soup and toast, perhaps with fruit pudding dessert (soup in freezer - I love soup so we have it pretty often, this one is super fast and easy and uses frozen peas and bacon, very good!)

Boyo cooking spaghetti bolognaise (tin of pasta sauce)

Sausage casserole (probably use tin of pineapple)

Pork and lentils (my own variation of this recipe from Stonesoup - amazing, I have my man loving LENTILS!!!)

Meatloaf (to use up more breadcrumbs with some mince)

Rice paper rolls (with pork mince and hoisin sauce)

Brown rice and (our last, boo-hoo-hoo!) homemade pasta sauce (Boyo the non-brown-rice-eater says this is surprisingly tasty!  Will use fish stock again to cook rice as it was even better I think than the usual chicken stock when I'd run out last time!)

Egg Fried Rice (our Share Meal - eating simpler so others can share in our wealth, we donate what we save on dinner to supporting girls go to school in Cambodia)

Boyo cooking Sticky Chicken and veges (family recipe)

Fish 'pie' (thus labelled because I hate the fuss of fish pie, so will probably do the hoki in a white sauce, and serve it beside mashed spuds instead of baking it under them in the oven!)

There you go.  And I still have available in my freezer a meal of blackbeans (leftovers from this week), a meal of chicken pieces, one lot of mince, 1 of fish stock, 1 of chicken stock, 2 of sausages, and enough bacon for bacon and egg pie.

Here's hoping I stick to my resolve and come in on budget!!



Maxine D said...

WEll done Amy - I have yet to write a menu as such, but I often have 'regular' meals that I buy for 'on the hoof' as it were.
Love and blessings

Elizabeth Collins said...

Ohhhhhh - well done you; the menu sounds lovely, and I might just have to pinch a few ideas off you for my next menu!

But I understand the panic - we have just redone our budget, and am hoping to be as good as I was last fortnight and come in right on target (which is officially $50 less than what we budget for, so we can save some for GF purchases)!

Shirley said...

I admire your super organizational skills. I have never ever been organized like t hat. We now have five chooks so I am going to get creative egg-wise!!