Light at the end of the tunnel…

This is the final week of the “Jewelry Diet”. I have not tallied all of the grocery receipts, but the last notes I made showed me coming in around $7 per person, per day. Definitely not my goal of $5, but also a pretty decent savings over what I typically spend per month. I briefly considered including my dogs – 2 chocolate labs – in on the total daily allotments when they ate a wedge of Parmesano-reggiano. I had briefly set it on my kitchen counter so I could answer the phone…that lovely bit of cheese was one of my indulgences, carefully budgetted into my menu, so I was not so happy with them that day!!

What have I learned from this experiment? First and foremost I have learned that with a little planning and some flexibility it is NOT difficult to eat good, wholesome food on a budget. We ate well. I know that if we were in dire need of saving I could have cut back even further…it would have taken a bit more creativity, but it could have been done.

Second, I have learned that when unnecessarily putting your family on a budget – especially when they are not used to being on one – DO NOT TELL THEM!! If I had said not one word to my family (one member in particular) they would never have known. I did well keeping the foods and portions the same…

Third: We did eat well; however, I discovered that despite the fact the foods I eat are ‘pure’ and wholesome and un-processed, I don’t eat enough vegetables. I do well with everything else. We eat whole grains (breads, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, etc.) and plenty of fruit; the meats we consume are from grass-fed, humanely raised animals. We may possibly eat the minimum daily recommended amount of vegetables, but I’d say it’s borderline…this is something for me to work on.

Fourth: As much of a Whole Foods advocate as I am, they are not perfect. I was disappointed to find out much of their ‘365’ brand of frozen vegetables, which are labeled organic, come from China. I did a little research and discovered there really are farms in China classified as organic; however, I worry that with all of the pollution in China the acid rain negates a lot of the organic effects. I have not delved deeply into the matter, but I plan to spend more time researching and sorting fact from fiction. It is so convenient to stock up on frozen vegetables for those times I don’t have a lot of time to spare, and their brand was an inexpensive and good-tasting choice…

The big question: Will I continue my ‘Jewelry Diet’ in the months to come? This experiment highlighted the fact that we spend a lot of money on food. Being on a budget this month, I did not waste much food at all. And I ended up going to the store only once, at most twice, per week…this forced me to plan my meals, which is often the most difficult part of making dinner in the first place. My goal is to keep this going; however, I am not going to be quite so restrictive if I want to make a particular meal that happens to cost more.

We are past the halfway mark!

With slightly less than half of February to go, I came really close to caving in to temptation tonight and ordering take-out for dinner. But then I considered what my choices were, which were even fewer once I limited myself to places that delivered. As we leaned closer to ordering Italian I thought of the whole wheat penne pasta in my pantry, the can of diced tomatoes – also in my pantry, and the chicken which I had defrosted and which was ready to be cooked into some delicious creation of my choosing. Then I looked in my refrigerator…I noticed the spinach which would soon expire…Dinner was suddenly and enthusiastically back ON!!!

The menu I concocted consisted of breaded and baked boneless chicken breasts (breaded with whole grain bread ground together with garlic, salt and pepper), whole wheat pasta tossed with a tomato sauce made of diced tomatoes, onions, red wine and garlic, and finally, the spinach sauteed with garlic and the few mushrooms remaining in my fridge. You know what? It was all ready within 45 minutes, start to finish…including most of the clean-up. The take-out place we would have ordered from would have taken about that long from the time we called in the order. Once the time to figure out what everyone wants to order is taken into account, it would be closer to an hour. The best part is that the meal I made was healthy and nutritious and delicious, and everyone left the table feeling sated and happy…and just in time to watch the day’s Olympic events coverage…

It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Evolution – it’s making me change (my experiment)!

The experiment is evolving. Due to teenagers – I mean circumstances – beyond my control I am going to track my dinner expenses only. Certainly I can keep within the $5/per person/per day limit if only dinner is taken into consideration. Actually, I know that over time (as I build up reserves of my main staples) I can keep within that limit for the entire day. However, I have one person in my house convinced he is not getting the same amount of food as he was prior to the experiment, and I am now taking breakfast and lunch out of the equation to keep the peace, or at least try to regain it. Even adding a little extra to the budget to make sure lunch is hearty will keep me well below what I had been spending each month. Dinner was the meal I had been spending the most on. I refuse to give up now that I am halfway through.

Tonight’s meal was pork chops (from a sustainable farm in TX), creamy mashed potatoes, green beans and a hearty salad. I was FULL at the end of the meal…did not feel deprived one bit. And I got a bonus today: my husband came in a couple of days early (okay, two bonuses…), and that means ten extra dollars to add to the $15 I have yet to spend for the week to stay in budget!