This week I spent $17.12 on groceries, which was pretty amazing. I also spent $15 on a meal out, which brings my total to above $30, but if this were an allowance that could roll over week to week, then I'm totally still within my budget!
I often will plan for making slightly more food than I need each week (better to have too much food than not enough), so I still had some stuff left over to make one more shrimp burrito bowl. I don't actually think I like lettuce in my burrito bowls, but it makes me think I'm eating healthier when I add it.
A few weeks ago I visited my family, and my dad gave a whole box of Champagne mangoes. Mangoes are my favorite fruit, but I still had way too many mangoes to eat in one week. I had save this Cashew Shrimp and Mango Stir Fry recipe from How Sweet Eats a while ago, and I figured this was the perfect opportunity to make it, especially because I also had a bag of cashews that I didn't know what to do with.
I'll admit that this dish seemed a bit strange while I was making it, but it turned out to be delicious. I'm not a huge fan of nuts in my stir fry, but the cashews really worked. (It also helps that I really like cashews) The recipe only called for one mango, but I used two since Champagne mangoes are a bit small.
The other main dish I had for this week was Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta from Budget Bytes. This is my #1 go-to recipe for something quick to make when I'm completely unprepared to make anything. I had leftover cream cheese, since I bought it to eat with bagels a few weeks ago, and the only thing I know to use cream cheese in are bagels and this pasta.
And finally, I really wanted to have some dumplings on hand, so I made a batch of those. I love chives, and I've been wanting to make pork and chive dumplings for a while. But less pork and more chive. I went to two different Asian grocery stores and waited in line at the meat place forever just so I could get the best prices on these ingredients.
I like having dumplings in my freezer because I think they make a really good breakfast. You know what else is a great breakfast? Eggs.
Spoiler alert for next week, but I've already gone over budget. I don't actually need to buy too many things for my meals, but seafood is on sale, and you know how I am about seafood...
I feel like I keep telling people about this $30 a week challenge that I really want to try, but keep failing at. Well, this past week was the first week in a while that I could actually cook, and so I tried the challenge again. And I did it! I spent $27.79 on food, and that's even including eating out once. And this "week" actually started Thursday night of last week, and went til today. So it's technically longer than a week.
Okay, so maybe this was cheating, but I had a bunch of frozen seafood already on me. Including crab legs, which I bought a month ago since they were on sale. It was a good thing I had them, plus romaine lettuce because that meant when I drove back from my family's place, I didn't have to buy groceries that same night.
And wow, romaine lettuce really does keep for a long time in the fridge. I'm pretty sure they were sitting there for a month, but they still seemed perfectly fine for eating this past week. I was able to make a few Caesar salads with shrimp (yup, I also had that in my freezer already). I considered buying croutons, but then I had this wonderful idea to just toast a bagel (that I did buy this week) and cut it up into little cubes. It turned out great, but I definitely need a break from romaine lettuce for a while.
Look, I had scallops already in my freezer too! But only scallop pieces, because I'm cheap like that. (Yep, this definitely feels like cheating) I looked up scallop recipes and decided to make Garlic Butter Scallop Bowls from Damn Delicious. (Technically, I used Budget Bytes's Cilantro Lime Rice recipe) I still don't quite understand the key to making good scallops, though the fact that I used the scallop bits and pieces probably didn't help. I really liked the flavor of them though. I wasn't as huge a fan of the pico de gallo. I feel like it had a little too much lime, so I'll have to look for a different recipe for that next time.
In trying to really stay under budget, I decided to make some shrimp burrito bowls, since I could utilize some of the unused pico de gallo, cilantro lime rice, and romaine lettuce. All I needed to buy specifically for this dish was a can of black beans. I used the shrimp and black bean parts of Budget Byte's Chili Lime Shrimp Bowls recipe. It was delicious.
Okay, not everything I made utilized impulse-bought seafood from the past. Of course I had to make some tacos too. I used Damn Delicious's Mexican Street Tacos recipe. Instead of using skirt steak, I actually found pre-cut beef at Aldi, which was also cheaper than their skirt steak, so win-win. I also used sweet onions instead of red onions because I think sweet onions are far superior.
So, I will be attempting to stay under $30 again next week. And maybe it'll feel less like cheating with less seafood already in freezer.
When my sister was living with me, I was cooking almost every day. We kept cooking and cooking, and it seemed like we had so much food, but whenever I took a break from cooking for one day, it's like all the food disappeared. Well, I had this crazy realization this week that when I'm by myself I could cook three dishes during the weekend and then not have to cook at all during the week.
I know, that's what meal prepping is. But when people say they meal prep, I always envision them cooking two dishes on Sunday and then dividing everything up into individual portions in tupperware containers. Which sounds boring. I like to make every meal feel like a special accomplishment.
And you know what I accomplished this week? I only spent $16 on groceries! On the flip side, I also ate out four times, but one of those meals was on my company's dime.
I'm trying to make sure I include some low effort meals that will last me a while. This chicken rice dish requires very little chopping, and I can make it last six meals. With pasta, I try to not make it last so many meals because I get sick of it easily, but this rice dish still tastes great on the sixth day in a row.
What's nice about this dish is that I can split up the rice and chicken, and then use those individual parts for other meals. I saw asparagus on sale at Aldi for $1.49/lb, which usually isn't that great because Aldi tends to stock suuuper skinny asparagus sticks, and who wants that? But this time the asparagus actually looked decently sized!
I actually made this same asparagus recipe about a month ago when my mom visited, but it didn't quite turn out so well since I was flailing in my kitchen trying to cook three things at once. This time I could just focus on asparagus. The recipe calls for shallots, which I replaced with onions because no one on a budget should ever buy shallots. The recipe also said to cook these for 20-25 minutes. That is way way way too long. I had these in the oven for about 12 minutes and I still think they were in there for a tad too long.
I was very satisfied with the way the asparagus turned out though. The combination of bacon, onion, and parmesan made it very flavorful.
My final dish of the week is Huevos Rancheros, which I was happy to stumble upon a recipe for it since it's probably my favorite brunch dish. Now I personally hate the idea of brunch. You take two perfectly good meals and squash them into one meal, and then get charged way more than you should be charged for either meal. Why would I ever choose to eat one meal over two meals? I've been to a lot of hipster brunch places, and they all feel exactly the same. They serve pancakes, chicken and waffles, and a bunch of random things with an egg on top. And then they try to get you to buy alcohol to make the meal even more extravagant.
But having brunch at home? That's a much better idea. Of course, I didn't make these for brunch. I ate these for breakfast and still had lunch later.
These Huevos Rancheros were okay, but I think the recipe could use a lot of tweaks. The salsa has way too much water, so I would cut that in half. It could also use some more salt and maybe some other spices. I just found it lacking. I also think two eggs is too much. There are plenty of days where I only eat two eggs for breakfast, so having that plus a bunch of other stuff is overkill. The recipe just says to arrange two tortillas on a plate, but I think it's better to first make sure the tortilla is toasted and crispy, and then break it up into nacho sized pieces.
I also substituted the refried beans for some pulled pork that had been sitting in my freezer for a while. Having to use three pans to cook breakfast is a bit much so I wanted to take whatever shortcuts I could. But...I guess this is supposed to be a brunch recipe. And brunch is fancy.
Oh, also I just really wanted to post a picture of more fajitas since I had this two more times this past week. This time I toasted the tortillas on the pan and threw some cheese on top which made them even better.
Yup, life got busy. Too busy to be worrying about a blog that not very many people read. But the blog has always been in the back of my mind, and my brain is still constantly thinking about food. I'm going to be taking this blog in a different direction. Instead of having posts that feature recipes that I've tried out, I'm going to be doing weekly food recaps of my life.
Last year I had a goal to only spend $30 a week on food. I wanted to bring back this goal now that I'm cooking for just myself again, and week one was already a failure. I spent close to $40 on groceries AND I ate tacos at Taco Town!
So, what else did I actually cook this week?
Spinach Tomato Pasta was the first meal I intended to make this week, but when I got home from the grocery store, I looked in my fridge and realized I was missing cream cheese. I don't know why I thought I already had cream cheese, and even if I did it definitely would have gone bad in the weeks I was away from my apartment.
Then later in the week, I wanted to make fajitas, but when I got home, I realized I didn't have any onions! And then later that day, I decided to make some Ramen Eggs, but as my water was boiling I realized I didn't have any Mirin! My meal planning was not off to a good start. But, I guess I could always make salads.
My mom eats salad all the time. And as silly as I think her salad habits are, I have to say she makes a really beautiful Caesar salad. So that inspired me to make my own Caesar salad! I don't know how she makes hers so aesthetic because mine did not turn out that nice.
Also, washing and drying lettuce leaves is such a pain. I really don't understand how I'm supposed to dry my leafy greens. I basically just wash them hours in advance and let them sit out, but they're still too wet, and then I use some paper towels to pat them dry, but that's not terribly effective either. I know I could invest in a salad spinner, but I think that seems like a waste of money to buy a tool just for drying lettuce.
Even though I delayed making my pasta and fajitas a day later, I still went ahead and made the ramen eggs since I figured I had to have something that would work. I replaced the mirin with some rice wine vinegar and sugar. I also used seasoning sauce instead of soy sauce, and the eggs still tasted great.
Finally, I ate instant noodles twice this week which is WAY more instant noodle than I should even be eating in a month. But that's what happens when you scramble and keep forgetting a single ingredient in your meals. At least I got to throw my ramen egg in it!
At this point, I've got a ton of veggies to use up, so hopefully that means I won't need to buy too much from the store for next week.