Dollars and Cents: April Recap

Hello! Not long after starting this project, I decided it would be a good idea to devote one post each month to taking a look at how close my grocery spending comes to the $6 per day that I targeted.

With 30 days in the month, my total grocery budget in April was $180.

Having completely blown it in March, I was determined to do better in April. Drumroll, please …

I did it! I got through the month of April with grocery expenditures of $153.39. Not only is that below my $180 target, it’s slightly under $4 US per day, which would work out to $155.26 CDN for the month. Yay!

What Made the Difference?
I wish I knew — then I could replicate it. Sheer determination might have played a role. I know that I was very careful every time I walked into a food store. But I also know that prices for fresh produce have started to come down in my hometown of Edmonton, which is great news for us prairie frugalistas.

Less Dough in the Resto
The $68.73 you see below represents two restaurant meals and my contribution to one potluck dinner. (I also bought myself lunch in an A&W one weekend day when I was about to pass out from hunger, but I counted that as part of my grocery bill.) I’m happy with this degree of spending on dining out.

Actual grocery expenditures = $153.39
Restaurants and potluck  = $68.73
Grand total = $222.12

So, when we crunch the numbers, my total food spending in April was $222.12 and a mere 23% over budget. This is the best I’ve done so far.

What’s Changed?
I’m still cooking a lot, which is good. Beyond that, April was a crazy busy month for me, so I can’t say that have any new culinary insights. Those thirty days just seemed to whiz by in a haze.

One thing I did do in April was to write myself three little scratchpad inventories: what’s perishable, what’s in the freezer and what’s in the pantry. As I’ve mentioned before, I live in a communal household, so it’s really simple to forget you’ve bought something. And then buy it again. And again. When I did the inventory, I was quite surprised to see how much food I had actually stockpiled in the pantry.

I’m a little anxious about how I’m going to manage my spending in May. I hosted Mother’s Day lunch this past weekend, and I have houseguests coming for roughly seven days.However, with more people in the house, that means I get to spend more on food. And that just might work out in my favour … I’ll let you know next month. Thanks for tuning in!signature

Sweet or Savory Pineapple Salad

Hello!

Today, we’re tackling a salad with a split personality. It can be either sweet or savory. (Kind of like some people.)

pineapple_salad

Savoury Pineapple Salad
Good, fast, cheap … and remarkably photogenic

You’ll won’t find this recipe in the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) but it’s on page 30 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
I made the savory version of the salad and it takes:

  • pineapple
  • cilantro
  • chili pepper
  • salt

I used canned pineapple and a tiny Thai chili.

How Did It Taste?
Let me digress for a moment and talk about a concept called the Iron Triangle, which I learned about when I was taking project management. Imagine three sides of a triangle. One side is GOOD, one side is FAST and one side is CHEAP. According to Iron Triangle theory, any project (and this includes recipes) can have two sides of the triangle, but never three. For example, you can have fast & cheap, but you have to give up good. Or good & cheap, but forget about fast.

I believe that this little salad has smashed the Iron Triangle. It’s delicious, it’s cheap, and it goes together in a jiffy. Take that, oppressive polygon!

Now, about the taste. It’s really good. The salt brings up the flavour of the pineapple and I’m completely biased in favour of cilantro. If you use a Thai chili, you’ll get lots of heat that plays off the sweetness of the pineapple. (I’m not sure that I would recommend that you actually eat uncooked Thai chili, however. They’re pretty fierce. If you want to tone it down, I’ve tried this recipe with a jalapeño too, and it’s still really good.)

Time and Money
The salad goes together in less than ten minutes. I made a full recipe, which would serve two people as a side. (I was really hungry and managed to eat the whole thing myself in one sitting.) The total cost for this was $1.41, which works out to 71 cents per serving.

Let Me Tell You the Story of a Man Named Jim
(No, this is not the theme song of the Beverley Hillbillies. The man in that story is named Jed.)

Jim goes to my church and a few Sundays ago, he asked for a quick meeting after the service to talk about a fundraiser. When I got to the meeting space, Jim was standing behind a table with about a dozen different kinds of canned fruit in front of him and asking some of the ladies how much canned fruit costs. (You can probably imagine the question mark now hovering over my head.)

As it turns out, Jim had gone to a public auction for a grocery store that was shutting down in the small town of Andrew. He bought what he thought was three shelves of fruit, but when he went to claim his winnings, it was more like nine shelves of fruit.

Undaunted, Jim hatched a brilliant scheme. He donated the fruit to my church, and has been selling it at the amazing price of 4 cans for $5.00. His timing is fantastic. The pineapple in today’s recipe was purchased this way, saving me somewhere between 75 cents and a dollar on ingredients. I see it as a win-win all around! I save on canned goods, the church gets some easy fundraising and Jim gets his garage back.

And that’s that. I’m very intrigued by our next recipe, which is a caesar salad made with kale. I’ll admit I’m skeptical. Tune in soon and find out if this really works!

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Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Well, hi there!

Today is our first-ever double header: soup and a yummy sandwich.

tomato_soup

Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich:
A comfort food classic from as far back as I can remember

You’ll won’t find these recipes in the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) but they are on page 29 of the print version.

Soup Ingredient Notes
The soup takes:

  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • broth

From the optional ingredient list, I added:

  • heavy cream
  • basil (more about that in a minute)
  • lemon zest

The only detour from the instructions was that I used chicken broth instead of a vegetable broth.

Sandwich Ingredient Notes
The sandwich takes:

  • bread
  • grated cheese

I used an aged cheddar and added the optional Dijon mustard.

How Did It Taste?
The soup tastes great. The only thing I’d change is to cut back on the vegetable broth by about one-third — I found the finished product a little thin, but that was easily fixed by simmering it for awhile.

The sandwich is equally delicious! The technique of using grated cheese is brilliant. It melts much more evenly and quickly than slices. I wouldn’t change a thing here.

Time and Money
I forgot to time myself, but you should be able to knock this together in about half an hour. It’s very easy.

I made a half-recipe of the soup (serves roughly three) and one sandwich. The total cost for this was $7.74, which works out to $2.13 per generous serving of soup and $1.34 per sandwich.

pesto

A small jar of pesto = a world of tasty possibilities


Add Some Zest-o with Pesto
Here’s a way to get a little of the flavour of fresh herbs without the stupidity of supermarket prices. Pesto!

Traditional pesto (which is what this is) is made up of basil, olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese. This little jar cost me $2.98 at the Italian Centre Shop and I used a 2 teaspoons of it in the tomato soup, in the place of  a tablespoon of chopped basil leaves and two cloves of garlic.

You can also use pesto on pasta, sandwiches, in sauces … you name it. And it’s cheap, which is what we’re all about here at Library Life Hack.

Ta dah! That’s a wrap. Next week, we’re headed into the salad part of “Good and Cheap”. See you then!

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