02 April 2009

Changing the Way I Do Things

I've been thinking about how I can become more frugal in my cooking. How can I still get great tasting stuff without spending too much money? Now, I know there are a million and one blogs out there on the subject, but I too can jump on this bandwagon. Everyone is doing it now.

I've been doing pretty well with keeping our grocery budget at a decent level for living on an island where nearly everything has to be shipped in. Shipping costs money, and as far as I know, it's taxable at both ends of the shipping process. There have even been national news stories on how much a gallon of milk costs in Hawaii. For the Nerd I buy a half gallon of organic milk every 2 weeks, and it is 6 dollars for that half gallon. There is a Big Island dairy that is selling milk at my nearby grocery store for 8 dollars a gallon, but I need to see how long it lasts. The bf likes stuff that will last a while because he might not get around to drinking it fast enough, and then the money is wasted. The organic milk lasts for about a month because it is ultra-pasteurized, something I just learned. This means it is pasteurized twice instead of once like other milks. This may destroy some of the valuable nutrients in the milk, but it's how they can guarantee its freshness by the time it arrives in Hawaii (since it comes by boat, not plane). I have seen news articles about milk here, that is not ultra-pasteurized, going bad nearly the day after people get it home from the grocery store. That's ridiculous.

So, how can I live more frugally here? Well, that's something I'm just going to have to learn to do.

I thought I was going to do that this week when I decided to buy two 5 pound bags of potatoes for $4.50, and when I decided to buy a 5 pound whole chicken for $8 (yes, that's on sale for $1.59 per pound, non-organic, non-free range, Foster Farms). Granted I am shopping for the chicken at what is the most expensive grocery store in the state (according to multiple sources), I thought I could do even better than $100 for this week.

Nope. My total cost guess for this week's meal plan is $94.10. There is tonight's meal, which as you all know includes multiple people (only 5 this week), which adds a little more than normal, but not too bad. I'll be feeding everyone tonight for $2.60 per person. I've also got a big meal of curry for the Nerd and I this week that is $2.60 per serving. I was going to serve that tonight, but the coconut milk is too fattening and doesn't meat Weight Watcher's requirements for one of our friends, but that's totally fine.

The Nerd and I are also planning on visiting the new farm stand just up the road later today. I'd like to see what they have available. I want to start including more fresh fruits and veggies into our diets, especially as snacks. Chips and salsa is not a healthy snack to me.

Last night the Nerd and I discussed what we could do to eat healthier, and he expressed that he feels we're doing really well. We only eat beef one two times every two weeks, we don't eat pork, we don't eat a lot of processed sugars (no sodas, no store bought cookies, cakes, etc.), and we eat quite a few vegetarian meals. I just want to make sure we're doing all we can, without being deprived, to eat well.

I read so many things that tell me that I could be doing better at this than I am. I could eat more fish, more vegetables, more fruits. I see how well other people eat, and I feel like I'm not keeping up. Although, I do see how poorly some people eat and I feel like a health nut, or at least just sane.

So, I guess I'll keep doing what I'm doing, maybe cut back on the eggs in the morning and go for smoothies instead. Eat yogurt and little bits of fruit for snacks. I need to get the Nerd into eating cut up veggies for snacks. He's just not into them.

He has issues with some health food because of how he grew up. His dad didn't use spices in his cooking. Okay, he used what he thought were spices. He would use beets to spice up steamed potatoes or turnips. Blech. The Nerd could never go back to eating carob because he ate it as a child and when he finally had chocolate he thought "Why am I eating this crap?" So, now he likes to eat lots of spices and lots of sweets. Spices are good, so I need to figure out how to do them more healthily and I need to wean him off too many sweet treats.

A friend of his told me "If you want him to eat something, just put it in front of him. Don't ask."
Oh, I bet you all are wondering where in the heck the meal plan is, alright, I'll stop rambling:

Thursday Night: Veggie Stuffed Red Bell Peppers from The Gluten-Free Vegan and a salad which a guest will bring.

The rest of the week:

It appears to be a Julia Child week. It's good to learn the basics, and I am trying. I'll actually be making my own vinaigrette to go along with the salad.

Here's what the shopping list looks like, and my rounded up estimates of prices:

  • Tofu (2 packages) on sale 2 for $3
  • Apple Juice $4
  • Whole Chicken (5lbs) $8
  • Chopped Green Chiles (1 can) $2
  • Northern Beans (1 can) $3 (normally I'd buy beans dry, but I have no future plans for this type of bean)
  • Dijon Mustard $4
  • White Wine Vinegar $3
  • Shallot (1) $1
  • Bananas (2 bunches) $4
  • Chocolate bars (5 for the Nerd) $3
  • Yogurt (non-fat, plain) $5
  • Kitchen String (for the bird) $3
  • Zucchini (3) $4
  • Mushrooms (1 tub) $2
  • Red Bell Pepper (5) $10
  • Cauliflower (1/2) $4
  • Okinawan Sweet Potatoes (4) $8
  • Ginger $1
  • Potatoes (two 5lb bags) $4.50
  • Lettuce (1 head romaine) $3
  • Lemons (2) $2
  • Onions (5) $5
  • Celery (1 bunch) $1
  • Carrots (1 bag) $1
  • Eggs (local, free range) $4.69
  • Parsley $2
I do have onions and a little bit of celery and some carrots in my fridge, but I'd like to keep these staples around, so I'll buy more. Kitchen string is a long term investment, and I won't have to buy it often. The Nerd must have his chocolates to be very happy, and that's how I like him to be. I didn't have white wine vinegar, only red wine vinegar, and I had no Dijon Mustard, just standard yellow mustard. Bell peppers are expensive here no matter white time of year it is, because the reds always seem to be from Mexico, and the Nerd won't eat green peppers. Apple juice is just that expensive here, that's all there is to it. And, the eggs are my splurge to help save the planet, be kind to the chickens, etc.
I am working on eating more locally, and if the Nerd would eat green bell peppers I could get local ones and they'd be less expensive. Hrm, that gives me an idea. Maybe I'll serve everyone else green bell peppers and get one red one for him. That's an idea for sure.

Talking with you all is very inspiring. Perhaps I should have done this last night when I was having a meal plan mental block.

Oh, and one of the cashiers at the smaller grocery store calls me "The Notebook Girl" and always checks to see if I have it. I carry a spiral notebook with me which contains my meal plan and shopping list. She saw a girl with a notebook last week and thought she was me, but I showed up later with notebook in hand.

**EDIT** I ended up grabbing a couple of other useful things, like peanut butter, so I came in at $103.


  1. Sweet you have a notebook buddy wandering around!
    To keep green onions fresh you can plant them in a pot of dirt on the sill until you're ready to use them (don't forget to water them like a house plant!) - they keep much better then dying in the cold dark fridge. ;^) Just pull them out of the pot when you're ready to use again. Can you grow your own red bell peppers? And wow! Milk sure is expensive there - so are potatoes! But, noticed how cheap the ginger is. How much is a lb of coffee?
    Oh and if the chips don't feel healthy enough use celery to dip into the salsa. =)

  2. Just Jenn-

    Thanks for the tip on the green onions. I may have to do that. I'm going to post this evening about what I currently have growing.
    I am planning to have a good sized raised bed garden in the future, but I have to get the Nerd to give me the green light on it.
    There's a brand of coffee on sale right now for 4.79 per pound (had to look it up because I get mine for free from a friend), but there are definitely more expensive brands, especially since Hawaii is famous for its Kona coffee (which you can get for about the same price some places).
    Potatoes are supposed to be one of the cheapest foods, but since they're not really grown here, and it's more of a western food versus an eastern food they're not as cheap as they are elsewhere.