This year has seen a lot of changes for my family, the biggest one being me cutting down to working part time. While the change has made our lives run much smoother and stress-free, it means we do have a little less money in our pockets, especially when we like to save and spend all the extra on travel.
After watching our grocery budget for the past few months, I came to the conclusion that we were spending way too much on food. Since we’re not eating out anymore, our grocery bill has increased as we eat all our meals at home, but the cost was getting pretty extravagant.
I challenged myself this month to try and spend $100 a week on groceries. And as an incentive, if I spend less than $100, we can use the remaining money for a dinner out. This week, I’m proud to report, I spent a total of $70, so we’re looking forward to spending $30 out for dinner somewhere!
While I’ve been incorporating my tried and true Homemade Kitchen rules, the biggest change I’ve made in cutting my bill in half is being particular about where I shop. Because I do have some extra time on my hands these days, I’ve made it a priority to hit up my local international farmer’s market. On my first trip there while unloading my cart of food, I did a mental tally of what I assumed the cost would be. I had guessed around $70, and to my happy surprise the total was barely $30! Ever since, I’ve been a complete convert, making the trip once a week with my best friend, who’s also trying to save some money. The experience isn’t as nice as shopping Whole Foods; it’s crowded and not very pretty or organized. But the savings make it worth the hassle.
Of course, I can’t get everything I need at the farmer’s market, so for everything else, I’ve been shopping at Trader Joe’s. I really didn’t shop Trader Joe’s before because I found the store somewhat limiting for someone who doesn’t eat prepared meals. However, since I’m getting all my produce at the farmer’s market, I’m now finding Trader Joe’s to be the perfect place to pick up extras, like tortilla chips or hormone-free cheese on a budget. Even there, I’m always amazed at how the bill is cheaper than expected. It kinda makes me regret all my shopping trips to Whole Foods last year, knowing what I know now. All that money I overpaid in food could have funded that trip to Thailand we keep talking about taking…
Beyond watching where I’m shopping, one thing that has become apparent when saving money on food is the use of grains and beans. Full of good nutrients and super cost effective when bought in bulk, I’ve been trying to make them the center piece of all my meals these days. At the farmer’s market, I’ve been able to get two pounds of dried beans for under $4!
The great thing is, you can cook up a large batch at the beginning of the week and use them in different meals all week long. For example, these Enchiladas I’m sharing with you today use part of a crock-pot of Refried Beans, but I’ve also used the extra beans in veggie nachos and mixed with rice for lunches this week. Cooking this way has really stretched my budget.
With the cuts in the food stamp program, it seems I’m not the only one trying to eat more on less. Can you imagine trying to eat on a budget of $33 a month?! One of my favorite blogs, Eating From The Ground Up, touched on this topic, and if you’re looking to save on your groceries be sure to check out the comments. There are some amazing suggestions all from Alana’s readers on how to save money on food.
Whether or not you’re on a food budget, I know you’re going to love these Enchiladas. They are full of flavor and the perfect warming meal on a cold winter night. The leftover beans freeze well for future batches, though I like to have them for lunch with a dollop of Greek Yogurt on top and some chopped tomatoes and peppers.
I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions or tips on how you save on groceries and stretch food in your home. Please do share in the comments!
- 1 Pound of Dried Kidney Beans
- 4 White Onions, divided
- ½ Cup of Butter
- 4 Tablespoons of Canola Oil, divided
- 4 Cups of Tomato Sauce
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, divided
- 2 Tablespoons of Chili Powder
- ¼ teaspoon of Dried Oregano
- 12 Whole Wheat Tortillas
- 3 Cups of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- Soak the Kidney Beans overnight in a large bowl filled with Water. Drain them and place them in a Crock-Pot with 3 Cups of Fresh Water and 2 of the White Onions, chopped. Cook the Beans on high for about 3 hours with the lid off, checking on them every 30 minutes to stir and determine if they need more water, adding a Cup at a time. After 3 hours of cooking, mash the Beans with a potato masher, stir in the Butter, and Salt to taste. Continue cooking the Beans until they are the right consistency, thick, yet liquidy, like Greek yogurt. Reserve 2 Cups of the Beans and refrigerate or freeze the remaining for other meals.
- Start the Enchiladas by making the Tomato Sauce. In a saucepan, add in 2 Tablespoons of the Canola Oil and 1 Onion, minced. Cook until the Onion yellows, and then toss in the Tomato Sauce, 2 Cloves of the Garlic, minced, Chili Powder, Dried Oregano, and Salt to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Make the Enchilada filling, by heating the remaining 1 Onion, chopped, in a skillet until it browns. Add in the reserved 2 Cups of Refried Beans, Salt to taste, remaining Clove of Garlic, minced. Heat until it bubbles.
- Assemble the Enchiladas buy pouring half of the Tomato Sauce in the bottom of a 7x11 Baking Dish. Pour the remaining 2 Tablespoons of Canola Oil onto a plate. Dip each Tortilla in the Oil, lightly coating each side, and then fill the Tortillas with about ⅓ a Cup of Bean filling. Sprinkle the filling with a pinch of Cheese, and roll the Tortilla to enclose the Beans. Place each Tortilla flap side down into the Baking Dish. Repeat until the Dish is full and the Beans are gone. Pour the remaining Tomato Sauce on top of the Enchiladas and sprinkle them with the remaining Cheese.
- Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until the the Sauce is bubbling and Cheese has melted. Let cool for 5 minutes and then serve.