Planning is Key

My meals were planned for the week and in a perfect world everything was going to be just as I had worked out on paper. Except… I forgot to put my chicken in the crock pot yesterday morning. That’s ok. We just had pasta (again) for dinner and I planned to make the chicken tacos today. Except… I ran out the door without putting the chicken in the crock pot! I remembered before I even left the driveway so I ran back in the house and started the chicken. I was already running late this morning before the crock pot incident and even considered not making a lunch for my husband or myself (the kid was going to a friend’s and would be fed lunch there) but I knew we didn’t have money in our “food stamp” budget to buy lunch. (Note: you can’t buy fast food or prepared food with CalFresh benefits. For the purposes of this challenge any food purchases are to be included in our allotment. If you have seen “EBT Accepted” sign at a fast food place, that is for homeless or seniors only who may not have kitchens to prepare their food.) The result of all of these plans going awry this morning: I was late to my meeting. Not good.

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Tuna Pasta dinner from Tuesday night

When you are already working long hours, maybe working at two jobs, taking your kids to and from day care, and staying up late worrying about how you are going to pay your bills and feed your kids, your plans don’t always work out how you, well, planned. Running late can happen to anyone. But when you are already distracted at work because of the stress of not knowing how you are going to put food on the table, running late to work is just another thing working against you. You are probably worried about the security of your job at this point. I’m just guessing how someone on this sort of food budget might feel. I really don’t know but I do know I have been more distracted, tired and overall feeling less productive since I started this challenge. I can only imagine how scary all this would be if this was really the life I was living.

I would love to hear how you plan and stay on track for your meals without having to go for take out when things don’t work out as you intended. I think this is something many of struggle with whether or not we receive CalFresh/SNAP benefits.

 

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All I Think About is Food

Day one of the challenge and I’m already struggling. All I can think about is food.

9:30 am. So far I’ve had cereal with milk and a glass of juice plus I just finished an apple and I am hungry. Plus I’m getting a wicked headache from the caffeine withdrawals. I can’t afford coffee so can I afford the Advil? Probably not.

This is sad. I’ve just started this challenge and I can’t stop thinking about food. I think this is part of the problem. When you don’t have much money for food its going to be on your mind constantly. What can I eat next? When will I be able to eat again? It adds to the stress you are already feeling because of whatever situation you are in.

10:00 am. Is it too early for lunch?

10:09 am. Eating carrots out of lunch.

10:22 am. Kid finishing his sandwich and banana from his lunch. Oh and day camp was cancelled this week so that’s five more lunches that need to be prepared. This could get interesting.

10:49 am. Eating my bean and cheese burrito that I prepared last night. Added a 20 cent tomato that I had on the counter.

12:36 pm. Found some expired Tylenol in the medicine cabinet. I sure hope it works on this headache.

12:59 pm. Headache subsiding. Kid didn’t want his gogurt today. Considering eating it myself.

1:20 pm. Eating the gogurt.

2:07 pm. I’ll just keep drinking water and holding out for the pasta bake with broccoli I’m making tonight.

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Ingredients for pasta bake.

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Budget Challenge

I have been dreading this the most: planning what groceries to buy for the week of challenge. And I love to cook and plan my meals! I feel like I already buy just the “basics” but I know I spend more than $47 a week on groceries. (I’m using the household average or $47.60 for the five days for my family of three.) In fact, I spend 3.5 times that!

I planned my meals and priced out some items online. I think I am still over budget but won’t know for sure until I go to the store tomorrow. I do have a $5 off coupon so that will help some.

Breakfast : Cereal with milk and juice (while juice lasts)

I usually have yogurt and fruit with my latte for breakfast and while my guys are more likely to cereal than me, they usually have eggs. I thought I would be relying on eggs this week for breakfast and dinner but they didn’t even make the list. And now I am remembering I have to go latte-free next week! I was hoping tea would make the shopping list but unless they are giving away tea at the store, it isn’t happening. Hot water with a lemon from the yard perhaps? My husband loves to drink juice and I usually buy about three bottles a week. I can only afford one. Might have to mix with water. Will anyone notice?

Lunch: Deli meat sandwiches with carrots and banana for the hubby and bean and cheese burritos for me.

Summer is a time when parents can struggle more than usual to put food on the table because their kids are not receiving free or reduce price lunch at school. This week our kid happens to be in summer day camp where they will feed him. I honestly don’t know how we would feed him on this budget without that or where he would go if we couldn’t afford the camp which we probably wouldn’t if we were on this type of budget.

I don’t eat lunch meat (or much meat at all) so I will be making bean and cheese burritos out of a can of black beans with a little seasoning and tortillas. We will see how much cheese get used during dinner and if there will be enough for my burritos. I can make four burritos out of a can but will stretch it to five. Also, I usually put sliced cheese on my husband’s sandwiches but couldn’t afford it on this budget. Hmmm. I did price pre-sliced and pre-shredded cheese… maybe I need to consider a block of cheese and slice/shred myself. That will be more economical.

Snacks: Gogurt and trail mix.

I’m not sure there will be any snacks. I’m trying to keep the gogurt for the boys but am not sure that will happen. Trail mix is out as is the additional fruit and protein bars we usually have. Oh and no graham crackers either. Yikes!

Dinner

Monday: Ravioli Bake Pasta Bake

Ravioli is way too expensive so I will substitute the ravioli for whole wheat rotini. Whole wheat pasta is usually a few cents more than enriched pasta but I am hopeful I can still afford it. I plan to add broccoli or carrots to every dinner meal. I don’t think there will be any side salads this week.

Tuesday: Chicken Tacos

This recipe will use the same tortillas I’m using at lunch and the chicken will be used again on Thursday. I hope I have enough tortillas…

 

Wednesday: Tuna Pasta

The recipe called for tuna in oil but I plan to get tuna in water and for crushed tomatoes and fresh garlic. Those too items combined cost three times as much as a jar of pasta sauce so we will use a jar.

Thursday: Chicken Quesadillas

Using chicken from Monday. I hope we have some carrots left for the vegetable. I’m already missing vegetables and we haven’t even started.

Friday: Leftovers

I don’t know what we will do if there isn’t any pasta bake from Monday or tuna past from Wednesday leftover…

Just realized no peanut butter to go with our apples either. Or tomatoes for the tacos. Wow. This is going to suck.