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A Week in My Kitchen

October 21, 2011

As the end of the first week of my budget challenge approaches, I’m feeling pretty darn pleased with myself.  I kept within my budget (even though I shared some of my meals with others), tried some new things with lots of success, and didn’t even spend my whole week cooking.  Before my head swells too much, though: I spent yesterday traveling for work, and enjoyed a work-sponsored pumpkin spice latte at breakfast and tacos for lunch.  Also, tonight, which marks the real end of my week, I’m having dinner with my grandparents, who never let me pay.  But I didn’t take either of those things into account when I made my meal plan, and definitely would have had enough leftovers to last comfortably.

Grand total: $37.50.  Plus $18 for the flat of tomatoes that are now jars of sauce in the pantry and cubes of paste in the freezer.


Saturday (My culinary week begins on Saturday, with a trip to the farmer’s market.): Soft tacos with pinto beans (dry, cooked in the slow cooker) and homemade tortillas.  Of course with tomatoes, cheese, and cilantro on top.  By the way?  Homemade tortillas are dead easy, and so much better than the rubber circles from the grocery store.  My recipe came from the River Cottage Bread Handbook, but I’m sure there’s something comparable online.  Beans were from the pantry stash.

Sunday: Lasagna and Garlicky Green Beans.  My roommate’s (secret recipe-I’m not allowed to share!) homemade sauce and bechamel instead of ricotta are key.  When I realized how much lasagna noodles would dent my budget, I almost decided against lasagna, much as I was craving it.  And then it occurred to me that I could make the noodles.  And it wasn’t hard!  Just flour, water, and salt, rolled thin and cut into lasagna noodle-sized strips.  I used Mark Bittman’s Eggless Pasta recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  So worth it.  (This, by the way, was a total craving-satisfying, once-in-a-great-while meal.  I’m not spending $7 on a block of mozzerella every week, and I don’t always have time for a multi-step recipe.) Green beans from the freezer pre-date the challenge.  Possibly they also pre-date my dog, but let’s not go there.

Monday: Taco leftovers

Tuesday: Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Tahini.  Oh yum.  The only things I bought here were a red onion and cilantro.  Squash and dried chickpeas were in the pantry, and I’m using up the ancient remnants of a jar of tahini.

Wednesday: Rich and Creamy Leek Soup.  Adapted from a zucchini soup recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  Remind me to share this sometime soon.  I bought leeks for this recipe; eggs, rice, garlic, onions, and veggie broth I had on hand.

Thursday: Soup leftovers.  And then lasagna leftovers, because a girl’s got to have something to keep her going through a long night of work.

Friday: Dinner with the grandparents.

Lunches were leftovers.  Breakfasts were leftover beans with a fried egg, hot sauce, tomatoes, and a handful of cilantro: surprisingly less effort than eggs and toast.   Snacks were pears, edemame (also ancient and from the freezer), and the odd hunk of cheese from the office kitchen.

I relied a lot on what was already in my pantry, though I did spend $5 on a bag of flour (I ran out of flour!  I’m not sure that’s ever happened.)  That’s good, as some of the things in there have been decorating the shelves for way too long, but I’m a little worried about what happens to my budget after my stash has dwindled.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2011 2:19 pm

    I ‘attempt’ to plan my meals but I often go astray and just make whatever we have that’s quick. Is it difficult to plan meals? Like use the same ingredients but to have a different outcome of food?
    Note that I’m 21 years old living with my boyfriend and I do all of the cooking x_x
    Thanks :)!

  2. Ashley permalink*
    October 21, 2011 3:07 pm

    Hi Kristina,
    Meal planning definitely takes a little bit of practice, but once you have a routine it’s really pretty easy. I’ll do a more detailed post about how I plan meals soon, but there are a couple of things that are key: (1) keeping a seasonal list of relatively simple meals that I’ve made before and know I like, and (2) thinking in advance about the upcoming week and deciding when I’ll have the time and energy to cook and when I won’t. When I sit down to plan meals, I look over my list of possibilities, consider what’s in my pantry and refrigerator and what sounds good, and pick the meals I’ll make for the week. Nights when I know I’ll be home late or when I have something else on the schedule are for leftovers, or something really simple like sauteed veggies with pasta. Those two things usually are keep me mostly on track. But if you look at the meal plan in the picture and what I actually did, you’ll notice they don’t totally line up. I switched some things around because of changes in my schedule, and it all worked out fine because I had everything I needed already. Honestly though, sometimes you just have to scrap the plan and make do!

  3. October 21, 2011 3:27 pm

    This post is incredibly helpful, thanks for detailing your week! I am on and off with meal planning, but it is really the only way to be consistently healthy and cost-effective. I hope this becomes a regular post.

    • Ashley permalink*
      October 21, 2011 5:13 pm

      I’m so glad it’s helpful! In addition to being healthy and frugal and all that, I’m so much calmer when I don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner on a weeknight. It’s always such a relief! I do plan to make it a regular post – maybe weekly for now, and then less frequently as people get bored. 🙂

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