Encheapifying, Part I

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Two weeks ago, we got a report from the credit card company that aggregated and charted our spending habits for the past 12 months.   Nothing like seeing all our expenses laid out in pie chart glory to put a fine point on how much money is marching out the door, and for what.   Not surprisingly, the amount allotted to groceries was pretty high, despite the fact that we hardly bought any foie gras and, like, zero caviar all last year.   But the fresh whole chickens, the Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, the meats, and certainly the wine, do add up to a pretty penny.

The positive outcome of this analysis is that we were inspired to reel in the grocery expenses a bit;  we can afford to eat less meat, can experiment more with root vegetables, can buy cheaper wine.   A challenge!   Let’s see how little we can purchase for a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, no meals out.   Let the credit card breathe.

First things first, I went through the pantry, fridge and freezer to find out what we could make use of:   shallots, coconut milk, bread flour, artichoke hearts, frozen home-made pizza dough, a couple ounces of goat cheese, parmesan, cabbage, some fresh herbs, vegetable broth, fish stock, one frozen sausage, yeast, oatmeal, 100 different kinds of rice, barley, couscous, farro, cornmeal, orzo, frozen pasta filling, asaparagus, refried beans, and eggs.    Plus staples.   And liquor.

Next, we sat down and connected the dots bewteen the items on the “have” list.  Let’s see, we could make coleslaw with the cabbage, and that could go with inexpensive fish and chips;  and maybe fried cabbage with some home-made perogies;  we can cobble together pizza toppings to go on the dough;  can make some pasta to become ravioli with the frozen filling…   how about artichoke and asparagus risotto?    salad with goat cheese dressing?


The only “brand new” meal on the menu turned out to be bacon and butternut squash crepes.   I suppose bacon is rather expensive, but a little goes a long way:  we can add it to the perogy filling, the crepes and then make some BLTs for lunch so we’re not constantly eating leftovers at noon.

We took the bus ($3 return for both of us) and used our backpacks to get the groceries.  $89.60, including two bottles of wine.   Under $100 is an all-time low, a new record.   Plus, I made some whole wheat bread, some chocolate chip cookies and the pasta.    More work than usual, no question.   More rewarding, too.