Category: Food


Cheap eats! Vietnamese noodle soup

Having the most frugal grocery budget in the world isn’t going to help you any if you can’t put together at least a few healthy, tasty, and cheap eats! Every month, The Outlier Model features a cheap recipe idea, along with the cost breakdown.

If you haven’t had pho, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup, truly you are missing out. It is a wonderfully rich, broth soup made with slow simmered beef bones and served with rice noodles and thinly sliced meats. Most people know pho as a cheap meal out, but it’s also an economical soup to make at home, both in terms of time and also money.

Pho

What you need:

  • Pho seasoning pouch or block (<$1)
  • beef bones ($2-3 for a giant bag)
  • tops of  daikon and carrots (free! – save these in your freezer until you use them in soup stocks)
  • 1 small onion, roasted ($0.20)
  • 1 small ginger root, peeled, sliced thickly and roasted ($0.35)
  • bean sprouts ($0.30)
  • fresh basil, whole ($0.5 half a bunch)
  • green onion, chopped finely ($0.33 a bunch)
  • cilantro, chopped finely ($0.50 half a bunch)
  • 1 package rice noodles ($1.49 a package)
  • hoisin sauce and chili sauce (<$0.25 per serving)
  • salt and sugar (<$0.10 per serving)

Nice to have:

  • star anise (your flavour pouch should have this, but it’s nice to toss in a few whole)
  • meat of choice – brisket or chicken breast is easy to use, but experiment to see what you like!
  • white onion, Thai chili or jalapeno

Or, tempt fate by "roasting" over a bare element!

Clean and cut in half the onion and the ginger. Roast for a few minutes in the oven or toast on an unoiled pan until browned.

Fill a large pot with approximate 3L of water and bring to a boil. Add beef bones, daikon top, carrot tops, roasted onion, roasted ginger, and flavour pouch or block. If you intend on making cooked meat for the soup, add the cut of meat you are using now.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least one hour.

Strain the mixture into a new pot. If you are using pre-cooked meats (slices of leftover chicken, pork meatballs or tripe), add them now. If you had added meat earlier, slice it now and add it to the pot. Put the soup on low to simmer and add salt and sugar to taste.

Blub, blub, blub...

Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water and cook rice noodles according to the package directions. One package makes 5-6 servings of rice noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, wash bean sprouts, cilantro, green onion, and basil. Chop the cilantro and green onion finely. Slice white onion and red chilies or jalapenos.

Divide the cooked noodles into large soup bowls and add broth and meat. Garnish with fresh herbs and veggies and serve with hoisin sauce and chili sauce on the side.

Servings: 6+

Cost per serving: It really depends on how many servings you get, which depends on how much water you used initially and how concentrated you allowed the broth to get.  If you assume only 6 servings, your cost ranges from about $1.40 to $1.75 per serving depending on what kind of meat and how much, if any, you include.

Remember, pho is not meant to be a meat-intensive meal!

Feeling adventurous? Use thinly sliced raw beef and add them to the bottom of your bowl before adding noodles or soup.  Then, allow the meat to cook in the hot soup just before eating.  Or, try other popular toppings, such as tripe or tendon.

Frugal hack: Use leftover cilantro, basil and green onion to top a stir fry or instant noodles later in the week.  If you store washed and chopped herbs in a sealed container, they will keep for quite a while.  At the moment, I have fresh cilantro in my fridge that is almost two weeks old.  It’s still green and crisp!

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First yard sale of the year

I’m a big fan of yard sales. I’ve picked up a lot of stuff for next to nothing and even more stuff for absolutely nothing. Brian and I went to the first sale of the year (that we knew about) this morning and. Walked away with a free deep frying “spider” skimmer. (PS – I had to look up what they were called.  If you didn’t know either, check it out.)

Its awesome because I like to make spring rolls and samosas but I don’t have (or want) a deep fryer. I just boil oil and plunk the food into the pot. I’ve always had to use chopsticks to fish out the food but now I can place everything into the metal mesh, fry it, and simply lift it out of the oil via the handle when I’m done. Hooray!

Here’s some other things that are great to pick up at yard sales:

Kitchen stuff

I’ve picked up dishclothes for free, my first electric beaters (I used a whisk for years because I refused to spend the money on beaters that I only used once a month…) and even an awesome waffle maker. I still have and use all of these items.

You can also usually get a decent selection of plates, cups and mugs for free or nearly free. A lot of people have no use for mismatched sets but if you get a nice variety, it gives your place settings an interesting eclectic feel. Random mugs and plates are also great for leaving at work so that you’re not reliant on buying microwave-safe containers for storing lunches. The sale we attended today had mugs and plates for 25 cents!

Board games and puzzles

Love board games. Do not love board game prices. A new board game can easily cost $40 or $50. I picked up a mint copy of Ticket to Ride at a yard sale incentives for $5. Five dollars! The colour cards were still wrapped in plastic!

Its also a great way to pick up an old Monopoly or Scrabble set to get extra pieces or to replace missing pieces from your own set.  And, I’m not sure why this is, but there always seems to be a good selection of “travel-sized” games at yard sales.  Might be worth hitting up a sale or two before a camping trip or long drive?

Books

I get lots of books at the library but sometimes it’s nice to have a book that you don’t have to return. I buy some books new – usually from my favourite 2-3 authors. Other books I get from yard sales!

I remember wanting to read “In Defense of Food” for the longest time but was unwilling to spend $20 on it. I didn’t want to get it from the library because it takes me a long time to read non-fiction. Then one summer day, I found it the hardcover edition at a yard sale… for $1!

Picking up random books for 25 or 50 cents is also a fun way to get introduced to new authors. If I decide I don’t like the book enough to keep it, I sell it or pass it on. Sometimes, you can even find entire boxes of free books to take home and browse.

*****

All in all, I’m pretty happy about getting the frying skimmer spider thing and looking forward to visiting more yard sales as the weather warms up.

Kitchen tips: How to keep herbs fresh

I love having fresh Thai basil on hand for soups and stir-frys.  But if you stick them in the fridge and don’t use them within a few days, they tend to wilt and then I feel bad about wasting money.

A great way to keep Thai basil fresh is to treat it like a flower.  Cut off the ends of the stems and stick it in a glass of water.  Put the glass in an area that gets indirect sunlight, like your kitchen window sill, and ta-da!  Your herbs will stay fresh for days or even weeks.  I bought this bunch of basil last week and they are still perfect.

This technique is good for stalky herbs like Thai basil and mint.  If you’re lucky and the herbs do take root, pop the cutting into some moist dirt and you’ll soon have your very own basil or mint plant.  I did that myself last year when I had a patio to grow herbs.  I probably won’t attempt it this year because I don’t have outside space and Thai basil and mint don’t seem to do well indoors for long periods of time.

More fragile herbs such as parsley or cilantro need to be kept in the fridge.  To extend their fridge life, wash the herbs as soon as you bring them home and then let them dry in a strainer or salad spinner.  Cut off the ends of the stalks as well as any pieces that are starting to yellow.  Then, chop the herbs coarsely and pop them in a tupperware.  Now you have fresh, washed herbs to use at your leisure.  I did this with a bundle of cilantro three weeks ago, and I still have healthy, green cilantro left over.

Free and Fun: Eating Out

Cutting down on your spending money may seem like a big sacrifice. In a consumer mindset, it’s easy to equate spending money with having fun.  I’ve found that reducing your spending does not have to reduce your fun. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at common areas where it can be easy to overspend and provide some free alternatives that are just as fun and entertaining!

Eating Out

Last night, I was out at a local restaurant with the gf. I thought to myself, “how do all of these restaurants stay in business?” It is truly amazing to me how often the average person lets someone else they’ve never met do their cooking for them. As CF rightly pointed out, I do underestimate the actual number of people there are in any given city, but the sheer number of restaurants is a testament to the normalization of eating out. Eating out should be a treat; as Art of Manliness points out, delayed gratification can increase the pleasure of an experience.

Returning to the focus of this series, eating out can be a very enjoyable yet very expensive activity. Here are some simple ways to spend less (or not to spend at all) when indulging yourself for a night out.

Become a Mystery Shopper

Yes, it’s possible to eat for free! I can’t take the credit for this one though. Recently, CF signed up to be a mystery shopper. What is mystery shopping? In the service industry, one of the best ways for a company to evaluate it’s employees is to test them when they’re not looking. As a mystery shopper, you receive a set of instructions about what to look for, but after that you’re like any other customer, except that you have to write a report after. The great part about this, is that this includes restaurants! For what amounts to less than two hours of work, you could be ‘paid’ up to $70 to go out for dinner. Not a bad deal.

Events and Seminars

If you’re a student, you can often go to seminars on various topics and enjoy free food afterward.  Your student society or faculty will often advertise events.  Clubs and other groups on campus will also usually provide free food… if you’re willing to listen to their sales pitch!

Even if you’re not a student, professional associations will often sponsor seminars and networking events with food.  CF goes to a monthly users group on bioinformatics, for example, which is accompanied by free pizza.  It’s a great way to get a free dinner and learn something as well.

Free Lunch

Sometimes, you can just get a free lunch with no strings attached!  At UBC, you can get a free lunch once a week through a non-profit group dedicated to reducing food waste.  You just need to bring your own container!  Donations are welcomed, of course.  Perhaps there are similar programs in your communities!

(Food waste here refers to dented cans, blemished fruits, etc. which may not be fit for retail sale but are still edible).

*****

I hope that this series has helped you question what is normal and given you some ideas to try out in the coming months. Please message me or leave comments if you have additional tips or alternate experiences, I’d love to hear about them!

Having the most frugal grocery budget in the world isn’t going to help you any if you can’t put together at least a few healthy, tasty, and cheap eats! Every month, The Outlier Model features a cheap recipe idea, along with the cost breakdown.

This is a great meat-efficient recipe that produces soup stock as a byproduct.  I used daikon (a large, white radish), but regular radishes and carrots would work, as would large chunks of cabbage.  Basically, you want veggies that will absorb flavor well.

What you need:

  • ribs ($2.50 for 4-5 servings of meat, where each serving was 2-3 large ribs or ~2oz of meat)
  • 1.5-2 cups of root vegetables or cabbage ($1)
  • 15ml soy sauce (< $0.10)
  • 10ml fish sauce (< $0.05)
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce (< $0.10)
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (< $0.05)
  • 1 small knob of ginger ($0.40)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (~$0.06 when bought at $0.79 for 3 bulbs)
  • Salt and sugar to taste (for the broth)

Boil the ribs for 1 hour in a medium to large pot of water.  Add a bit of salt and sugar to season the broth – not too much, as you can always add more later.  After one hour, remove the cooked ribs and set aside the broth – you can use it to make soup later!  If you’re not going to use it right away, let it cool, skim off the fat, and then freeze it.

Chop the ribs up into individual ribs.  If you have a cleaver, cut the ribs into halves or thirds to make it easier to marinade.  Place the ribs into a mixing bowl and add soy sauce, fish sauce, chili sauce and sugar.  Mix well and set aside.  Peel and chop root vegetables into large chunks.  I used half of my daikon for the braised ribs and half for making soup with my leftover broth.

Heat up oil in a small-medium sized pot.  Toss in ginger and garlic.  Add ribs and sauce mixture, and brown for 3-4 minutes.  Then add your veggies, fill the pot with just enough water to almost cover everything, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a low simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Taste at half an hour.  Add more soy sauce or chili sauce if needed, and continue cooking.  If you use daikon like I did, you can tell when it’s done because the daikon starts to absorb the colour of the sauce!

When finished, serve on top of jasmine rice.  Yum.

<This is where a picture would be if I could find the picture I took!> Grr…

Servings: 4-5, plus bonus soup broth!

Cost per serving: About $1, not including any soup you might make

Feeling adventurous? Don’t use meat!  An assortment of braised cabbage, daikon, carrots, beans and fried tofu – served with rice – is one of my favourite meals.  If you don’t use meat, skip straight to heating oil in a pot and add the sauces directly to the veggies.  You can buy pre-fried tofu for about $2 for 10-12 large chunks.

Links: What is braising?

Celebrating neighbourhood stores

Recently, a new grocery store opened up about 7 blocks away from my apartment.  It’s sort-of-kinda-related-but-not-really to the giant grocery store I go to once a month, but smaller. 

The downsides: The prices are a tad higher for some products and being a smaller store, there is less selection.  They do not have a fresh deli or seafood section.

The upsides: The store is clean… OH SO CLEAN!  There are less people, less children (I’m sorry, but the children at Superstore seem universally hellish), and the service is infinitely better.  I actually had both my cashiers thank me for visiting.  At Superstore, you’re lucky if they even say hello.  I asked a stock boy about a price and he actually investigated it rather than just telling me it “wasn’t in his department”.  And best of all, I can walk there!

Importantly, this means that I can trim more money from my monthly car budget!  Currently, we allocate $200 a month towards using the Car Co-op.  Usually, we only spend ~$150 and have a bit of buffer left over.  We put part of the buffer towards saving up for a car of our own (… if it turns out we ever need one!)  Now, by cutting out one of our longer car trips per month we can safely cut down on our car budget, while still preserving a buffer.

I haven’t made the changes yet – the bf and I will wait another month or two to get a better idea of how much less we’re spending on the car.  Then, we will probably put some of the savings towards our grocery budget to account for the slightly higher prices (only if needed – the prices differences may not affect our budget) and the rest towards a savings or investing goal.

For the convenience factor, it’s a bit disappointing that there isn’t a seafood or deli section, but we don’t usually buy deli or seafood from the grocery store anyways.  We live near several excellent year-round farmers and community markets which have high quality deli meats, breads, cheeses and seafood for sale, so it should not have a negative affect on our shopping. 

Overall, I’m super happy at this new development.  I love my neighbourhood and the new grocery market just makes it even better.

When to go out for lunches at work

Yesterday I brought my lunch to work.  I had cheese tortellini with carrots on the side and a banana.  Yum.  I bring my lunch to work almost every day, while there are people in my office who go out for lunch every day.  I’ve never asked them why – maybe I should? – but I am often one of only three or four left in the office when everyone else goes out to eat.

While I’m happy to just bring a lunch every day, I will almost always join the office out for lunch on Fridays.  Working downtown, this can put a dent quite a dent in my monthly spending allowance, as lunches range from $10 to $20 without a drink.  I only get $100 – $150 a month to spend!  So why do I do it?

Usually it’s not for the for the sake of lunch itself.  The food I make at home is better proportioned and more nutritious, if all I want to do is get full.  But eating is not just about getting full, otherwise we’d all eat nutritious, calorie dense food and forgo the seasoning.  To me, eating is, and should be, an experience. Eating is pleasurable – so why not enjoy it?

It could be as simple as the experience of enjoying a well made home cooked meal, such as when a family sits down to dinner or when I unpack my lunch to taste something the bf made for me last night.

Similarly, when the bf and I go out to eat, we do it for the experience.  We like having decadent food and great wine, once in a while.  We like attentive service and innovative restaurants.  We rarely go out to eat purely for the sake of eating.  When I do mystery shops for restaurants, the food itself takes up only a small portion of the report.  The larger part of the report asks – how was the dining experience?

When I go out to eat with my co-workers, it is for the social experience.  Friday lunches are when people have a beer, loosen up, and talk over a leisurely (and over-priced) meal.  If I never went, people would have a harder time getting to know me.  By going once a week, it gives them a chance to see how I am “outside” of work – this is especially important in temporary jobs, such as mine.  When I go back to classes, I want them to remember someone who worked hard but was also a fun colleague.  I do not want to be the “aloof” intern who was “too good” to have lunch with the boys.  I want them to remember someone that they would work with again.

It is not worth sacrificing $10-$20 a day every day simply to get full.  But it is worth sacrificing that money once in a while to get a social eating experience with friends and colleagues at the end of a work week.

How to butcher a whole chicken

If you are strictly being economical when eating chicken, it is usually cheapest to stick with drumsticks or thighs, which can almost always be bought on sale at $1.50/lb or less. Usually, I get chicken drumsticks at $0.49-$0.79/lb. But it’s easy to get “bored” of eating drumsticks and understandable to want a variety of white and dark meat. Buying whole chickens can be an economical way to get a variety of cuts of chicken. Knowing how to butcher a whole chicken lets you use the bird economically and efficiently, without feeling like you have to roast or bake the entire chicken at once.

I bought this bird for $7, which is pricier than I normally would buy it, though anything between $5 and $7 for a whole chicken is a decent price.

Step 1: Preparing the workspace

Prepare ziploc bags, plastic wrap, containers, spare veggie bags or whatever you want to use to hold the chicken pieces. Make sure you have a sharp chef’s knife and a good sized cutting board available. Have a small “garbage” bag ready for tossing in bits of fat and trim.

Step 2: Preparing the chicken

Wash the chicken and pat dry. Lay the bird breast-side up on a cutting board.

Step 3: Removing drums and thighs

Using your non-cutting hand, extend the leg. With your other hand, cut through the skin between the thigh and the body. This will allow you to fully extend the leg from the body. Then, with the leg fully extended, cut through the joint between the drumstick and the thigh. If you find the cartilage between these two parts, the knife should slide through easily.

To remove the thighs, you have two options depending on what hardware you have available.

With only a chef’s knife: Pull the thigh away from the body and turn the bird so that the back is facing upwards. Bend the thigh towards the back until you hear the joint pop out. At this point, you can cut around the joint with the blade flush to the ribs to remove the thigh.

With a butcher knife: Pull the thigh away from the body but do not separate the joint. Instead, with the breast side still facing upwards, cut through the back of the bird using the butcher knife to remove the thigh.

Step 3: Removing the wings

Pull on the on the wing to extend it away from the body. The “shoulder” joint of the wing is actually withing the breast muscle. To cut through it, you will also need to cut through some of the breast. This is normal. Simply make an incision through the breast close to the joint and cut straight through. Then, the drummette and the wing can be detached from each other by cutting through the joining cartilage.

Step 4: Removing the breasts

Turn the chicken back around such that the breast side is facing up. Find the midline of the bird and place the knife flush against it. Using the sternum and ribcage as a guide, make shallow “slicing” motions to separate the breast from the bone.

Step 5: Packing up

Almost finished… But don’t throw away the carcass! Trim off the excess skin and fat, pop it into a plastic bag – the ones from the market for fruits and veggies works well – and stuff it in the freezer. It can be used for making chicken stock. I like to package the rest of the meat as drums and thighs, wings, and breasts, separately.

Everything goes into the freezer, and you’re done!

Cheap eats! Vietnamese “Sour Soup”

Having the most frugal grocery budget in the world isn’t going to help you any if you can’t put together at least a few healthy, tasty, and cheap eats! Every month, The Outlier Model features a cheap recipe idea, along with the cost breakdown.

Simple Vietnamese “Sour Soup”

Vietnamese sour soup, or cahn chua, is typically made with seafood in addition to an assortment of fruits and vegetables, and using tamarind for seasoning.  It’s a refreshing soup which can be eaten alone or spooned over rice.  In my family, we’ve traditionally prepared it without seafood and even without tamarind, making it a very economical but filling soup.  It’s a great soup to make when you have some leftover tomatoes and celery!  Here’s my version of the family recipe.

What you need:

  • 1 cup beansprouts ($0.20)
  • 3 large tomatoes, quartered, or 5 small tomatoes, halved  (5 romas for $1, at 79 cents/lb)
  • okra (10-15 small ones, $1)
  • few stalks of basil (< $0.25, when bought at $1 a bundle)
  • 1L homemade stock (chicken or veggie, < $1*)
  • a bit of dried parsley and basil

Bring the stock to a boil.  Add herbs, tomatoes and okra and bring down to a simmer.  Once the tomatoes and okra are cooked (15-20 minutes) and just before serving, add the beansprouts.  Season to taste with salt or fish sauce.  Serve as-is or over rice.

Servings: 4+, depending on whether it is eaten with or without rice
Cost per serving: About $1, at most

Nice to have: Fish or shrimp, 1-2 tsp of tamarind for the “sour” taste, chunks of pineapple

Feeling adventurous? Traditionally, the Vietnamese use fish heads!  If you are not so keen on having your food look back at you, look at buying salmon trimmings from your local fish market.  These are typically tails or sides that are leftover after fillets are cut.  Granville Island in Vancouver, BC has an excellent fish market with great deals on trimmings.

*I estimate the cost of homemade chicken stock as follows:

$7 for a chicken, which I cut into legs ($0.50 x 2), thighs ($0.50 x 2), wings ($1) and breasts ($1.50 x 2).  That leaves the “cost” of the carcass at $1, from which I make 1 to 2L of stock/chicken scraps.  The scraps I peel from the bones and save for other uses (-$0.25), leaving the cost of the carcass/stock at $0.75.  I add herbs to the stock and seasonings, which I consider a minor cost (< $0.25).  Therefore, I estimate the cost at $1 per batch, at most.

A grocery budget for 2!

Last time, I posted my grocery budget for singles, including a breakdown of where this money went over a three month period. This was basically how I ate while I was in university. I lived alone (stupid, stupid, stupid… !) and given the high costs of housing in Vancouver, I had to learn to maximize my budget. It worked out pretty well for me. I cooked most of my meals at home and supplemented this budget with the occasional dinner at my parents’ house. If I decided to go out for a meal socially with friends, I took this out of my Entertainment/Spending money.

But like most people, eventually we find that after adapting to feeding just ourselves, we add more people to the mix! When my boyfriend and I moved in together, I had to once again rethink the grocery budget. It helped that he liked my cooking and I could tolerate his. I also helped that we both enjoyed eating rice frequently. But he needed more cereal and milk, while I needed less meat than he was used to. So it was back to the drawing board.

What supplies do we have already?

Chances are, if you are a individual moving in with another individual, you are not starting from scratch. The exact details will vary, but I’m going to assume that you have some seasonings(salt, peppter, maybe a few spices), a bit of the necessities (oil, flour, maybe a few sauces), and some odds and ends in the fridge and pantry. Not stellar, but not an empty kitchen either. If you ARE starting from scratch, it is still possible to use this budget, though your first few months may be out of whack as you accumulate things or you may have to go without certain items until the next month.

What are we going to eat?!

We decided to do 2 major shops a month, with sporadic trips to the local market to pick up fruits and vegetables during the week.  At the major shops, we would get staples, meats and canned goods, as well as bulk packaged fruits and veggies such as potatoes and carrots.

For the first shop in the month, we usually go to Superstore.  This is a large, chain supermarket which carries just about everything.

For the second shop of the month, we usually go to an Asian supermarket which has excellent prices on ethnic foods, fruits and veggies, and prepared items such as BBQ pork.

You’ll also notice two new categories: Personal and Shop Meal.

    Month 1 Month 2 Month 3
1st shop Meats Beef – ground or roast cut ($11) Chicken – 2 whole or legs/thighs ($11) Pork – side ribs, chops, tenderloin ($11)
    Eggs – 2 dozen ($4) Eggs – 2 dozen ($4) Eggs – 2 dozen ($4)
  Fruits and Veggies Assorted ($30) Assorted ($30) Assorted ($30)
         
  Dairy Milk 2L ($2) Milk 2L ($2) Milk 2L ($2)
    Yogurt ($5) Yogurt ($5) Yogurt ($5)
    Cheese ($5) Cheese ($5) Cheese ($5)
  Grains Bread ($3) Bread ($3) Bread ($3)
  Misc Canned goods ($20) Cooking supplies ($20) Dry goods ($20)
  Personal Anything ($10) Anything ($10) Anything ($10)
  Shop Meal Anything ($10) Anything ($10) Anything ($10)
         
    Month 1 Month 2 Month 3
2nd Shop Meats Seafood eg. Bag of shrimp or fish ($10) Seafood eg. Bag of shrimp or fish ($10) Seafood eg. Bag of shrimp or fish ($10)
      Other eg. Sausages, deli meats, tofu or bacon ($5) Other eg. Sausages, deli meats, tofu or bacon ($5)
  Fruits and Veggies Assorted ($30) Assorted ($30) Assorted ($30)
         
  Dairy Yogurt ($5) Yogurt ($5) Yogurt ($5)
      Cheese ($5) Cheese ($5)
         
  Grains Rice 40lbs ($30)    
    Artisan breads ($5) Artisan breads ($5) Artisan breads ($5)
      Rice noodles($5) Chow mein ($5)
  Misc   Anything ($15) Anything ($15)
  Personal Anything ($10) Anything ($10) Anything ($10)
  Shop Meal Anything ($10) Anything ($10) Anything ($10)

What’s personal?

We realized early on that there were some things which only one of us ate or wanted!  He enjoyed the occasional bag of nachos and salsa.  I have great fondness for marinated tripe.  So, we allocate $5 each from each $100 grocery shop towards buying anything for ourselves.  We’ve found this to be a good compromise as it lets us “cheat” on our otherwise healthy diet and buy something that we enjoy.

What’s a shop meal?

We also found that we would be exceedingly grumpy and hungry after grocery shops!  When we got home, we’d rush to make dinner and just end up tired and exhausted at the end of the night.

So we decided to put $10 from each shop towards buying something for dinner.  Sometimes we get a pizza, sometimes we get a bit of Asian fast food with rice.  The important part is that we are guaranteed a dinner that requires little to no preparation!  The reduces stress considerably and also lets us enjoy a meal immediately after getting home.  A win-win situation.

In the end…

It’s important to note that these are just general guidelines which summarize our grocery buying habits. Sometimes we buy more fish if it’s a good sale or if salmon is in season. Sometimes we stock up on canned goods when we have coupons. But these guidelines are the starting point from which I base my shopping.