Someone once said that the hardest addiction to break is a food addiction…because we *have* to eat. In our case, I used to joke with my husband that we could tell if we had gained weight just by looking at our credit card total at the end of the month. If the bill was high, our scale read high. Basically, we eat out too much.
Our food budget is always of great concern to me. Here I am, toddling along, reading Early Retirement Extreme and Mr Money Mustache, thinking wow! Isn’t it great to spend so little on food and groceries every month! Then holy crap, I realize that our monthly food/wine budget (and expenses) almost equals the *yearly* expenses of those people. I’m just. In awe.
After this subject was brought up again by blogger friend Angella (in which she confesses the same problem I have), I had to really sit down and figure out why. Taking out the wine that my husband buys for his classes (required), we’re still spending too much money on food. And – the bigger problem to me is – we barely even enjoy it.
Here is our monthly snapshot of our food expenses for the month of February:
The Alcohol and Bars category is all wine for mandatory education purposes. His career is expensive.
Of the grocery budget, $347 of that was spent at Costco ($30 was reimbursable for work expense) and included $64 in diapers for the month. Another $50 went to Grocery Outlet (astoundingly unimaginative place to shop, but some good deals). Which leaves around $100 for actual grocery store spending, which included Tylenol for the kids and other cold-related items.
Which leaves…$451 for dining out?
Sooo…why? These aren’t even fantastic places we’re eating out at (last CPK bill was $70, an experience that basically ensured that we would not eat there again for a while), not food that was dynamite and worth remembering. In short, we’re eating out just to eat. There were two dining experiences this month that were memorable (and costly), but long and short is that we enjoyed the heck out of ourselves there and so it was worth it. There are a lot of small lunches for the family when my husband brings the boys to visit me at work – lunch and seeing the kids is a small price to pay. But everything else was just…filler.
I used to cook all the time. I used to make healthy meals, experiment – I used to get excited about cooking. I even used to have a food blog! And I realized, in really thinking about it, was that I was in a food rut because I was in a grocery rut. Costco is not the most imaginative place to cook at. It doesn’t allow me to buy small amounts of things to make meals that don’t need 25 pounds of beans, or 5 pounds of steak, or 3 pounds of ginger. Ever since we had our Great Money Scare (long-term unemployment), we had taken on a very frugal mindset (for us) when it came to food. Costco was the cheapest place to buy food, and we found ourselves there twice a month buying the exact. same. thing. Rotisserie chickens, organic apples, pears, carrots. Splurging on pizza ($1.99) and a hot dog ($1.50). Home. Eventually the list got a little longer and more exotic (chili powder!), but rarely does a trip to Costco ignite thinking of, “Hey! Let’s make a Romesco sauce!”, or “Here are some marked down cuts of beef – Let’s make a Chimichurri Sauce!”. My son, who used to be a champion eater, now refuses to eat anything. True he is smack-dab in the terrible twos, but really. I think it’s because his taste buds are bored (because mine are) – and the proof lies in the food I made this past weekend that he (gasp!) ate a rather large amount of. After spending an unhealthy amount of time on Pinterest to revitalize my cooking chops, our weekend menu read:
Breakfast: Breakfast “Muffins” – sausage, egg, & potato bake
Lunch: Whole Foods Kale Salad, Quinoa Salad (2 kinds), Turkey Meatballs, Taco Salad Bowl
Snack: Energy Balls! (see below for recipe. Mouth Balls? Power Balls? Trying to think of a good name.)
Dinner: Gingery Peanut Noodles with Chicken, Rocky Road Ice Cream
Breakfast: Pancakes and peanut butter
Lunch: Leftover Salmon and rice, Chicken Caesar Salads
Dinner: Tortillas rolled with Chicken & Peanut Sauce (from peanut noodle night), Chicken Caesar Salad for mama
I will be working in the future to do meal planning that will not only help my creativity return, but also my family’s appetite for things other than rotisserie chicken and rice. As for my ball recipe…
Mouth Balls. Gluten Free Energy Bites. Energy B Ballin’. Nuts for Ballin’. Balls for your Mouth. (thanks to my nanny for that one.)
1 7oz box of Coconut Manna , melted in hot water
1/2 c peanut butter
2 c old fashioned oats (gluten free if you’re super picky about that)
3/4 c chopped pecans (or whatever nuts you like)
1/2 c raisins
Heat the peanut butter in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds, and add to the Coconut Manna. Stir until incorporated. Dump the other ingredients in a bowl, pour nutty coconut mixture on top, and mix, mix, mix. Take a tablespoon measuring thingy, clean hands, put a heaping tablespoon of ball-stuff into your hands and press and form, press and form, press and form. Eventually the mixture will come together in your hands, and shape it into a ball. Put it on a plate with its ball friends (not touching!), and stick it in the freezer. After it sets in the freezer, it will be good to go to put in them a storage container and leave them in the fridge. They are good even out of the fridge – they hold their shape. I think if it gets really hot, they may start to fall apart.
But! They are sugar free, gluten free, packed with protein and energy, and, as my husband said, “Delicious!” (he doesn’t usually say that about my weird healthy eating experiments.)
Let me know if you like them!