Why Chinese Takeout Will Be the Death of Me

I had a mini-food-tantrum when I got home from choir.  It used to be a lot worse…food is the bane of my existence, seriously.  Before I was medicated, I would get really upset when I didn’t feel like there was anything good in the house and have a meltdown.  Crazy, eh?  I still have them every now and then, but they’re much milder.

Anyway, after a GREAT choir rehearsal, I got home and….nothing looked good.  Joey offered to get me something, so I sent him out for Chinese takeout.  I realized about five minutes ago that there’s leftover baked ziti in the freezer which would have been perfect:(.  I could have saved money.  Bleh.  At least our grocery bill for the week was only $36, so I’m not really kicking us out of our budget.

This is turning out to be the longest week. 



The Haze of Burning Sweet Potatoes

They smell freaking terrible:(.  I decided tonight that the Mexican Pizzas didn’t sound all that good and Joey observed that we were a little low on cheese anyway, so I decided that I just wanted some oven-roasted sweet potato chunks.  Joey agreed to make them while I was finishing up a reading assignment and I told him to roast them on about 475*.  I didn’t realize that he was going to dice them so small, so when I finished my book, I asked him if he thought they were ready, and they were tiny, black, charred nuggets:(.  There were a few salvageable ones, but I put them in the fridge and the narsty burnt-sweet potato smell turned me off on that dinner choice.  So…eh….I sent Joey to Taco Bell for a salad for me (Fiesta salad, no meat, guac added).  It came out to $7.  This brings us to $30 in takeout total in January.  I was disappointed in myself for wanting takeout, but when I looked at the total, we’re really right on schedule!

Monday night’s Corn Chowder was INCREDIBLE!!

Here’s the recipe.  I didn’t adjust too much; I did use cornstarch instead of flour as the thickening agent.  Unless you’re making a roux, I don’t know that just chucking flour into a pot of soup is a good idea, and I didn’t want to use butter and whatnot.  The cornstarch worked just fine!

Tuesday night was spicy baked potatoes (again) which Joey made, and last night, we hit the leftovers.  We also made it to the gym on Monday and Tuesday (we planned to go tonight, but it was monsooning outside and we just decided to stay in).

School is kicking my tail a little.  I read a novel on Tuesday and another one Wednesday.  We also had a half-day of corporate training today, about excellent customer service.  Good info, but a long time away from my desk, which left me in a panic the rest of the day trying to get caught up.

Knitting news:  I’m working on a bell-sleeved shrug.  I haven’t had time to knit on it since last weekend.  I want to be able to knit some more on it soon.  I’d like to be able to wear something that I make.

Weekly Menu Plan and Budget Update

On this beautiful MLK day, we finished our grocery shopping after a good, hard workout at the gym!  We came in just under the wire at $49.  I was a little worried that we weren’t going to make it, but we managed!  About $30 of the groceries were from Aldi with the other $19 being from Wally World.

Takeout confessions:  Saturday night, I had an incredible hankering for Taco Bell, and Joey went and got dinner for us.  It only ran us $8, so I don’t feel bad about that at all.  I got a salad with no meat.  They gave us cinnamon twists for free:).  Today, we had lunch at Chipotle, which ran us $14.68.  I wasn’t thrilled with the price, I’ll be honest.  Qdoba is much more affordable and has more options, so I’m not seeing a lot of Chipotle in our future, but we’d been wanting to try it and we like to do special things like meals out when I have a day off.

Here’s our Menu Plan for this week:

  • Monday:  Corn Chowder
  • Tuesday:  Spicy Baked Potatoes
  • Wednesday:  Leftovers/Scrounge night
  • Thursday:  Mini Mexican Pizzas
  • Friday:  Possibly Takeout…if not, I’ll improvise something
  • Saturday:  Tofu “lo mein” with the rice noodles we bought
  • Sunday:  Spaghetti with marinara sauce + breadsticks + salad

When I planneed the takeout night, we hadn’t gotten any takeout at all in January, so I may decide that we should do something here rather than get takeout, but, since we were so far under budget on our Taco Bell takeout, I won’t be really upset with myself if we do.

And, for your viewing pleasure, I give you Shelli in a snuggie/Vellux sandwich:

Take-Out Addiction: A Frugal Battleground

Boy, do I love my Chinese food!  Hardly a week goes by where we don’t get Chinese takeout.  We’ve been in that habit for over a year, and for a long time, it was our only “splurge” meal, so I didn’t feel too guilty about it.

However, as with most things, we begin to give ourselves a little too much leeway over time and get comfortable with the ease of grabbing a quick takeout meal rather than cooking at home.  A couple of weeks ago, I printed off the last four months’ bank statements to further examine how much money we were spending on takeout and food.

If you’ll recall, my extreme-frugality goal was $100 per month in groceries and then the 1 Chinese meal per week, which would amount to about $60 total over the month.  What I found, though, was that we were averaging about $250 in takeout each month and $300 in groceries (including toiletries).  We’d been spending three times our budgeted amount in groceries ALONE!  And almost $200 more in takeout than we’d intended!

Why do we fall into this “takeout trap?”  Why do we overspend so much on food?  Well, laziness is the most honest answer, but there are others:

  • when I come home from work, I’m too exhausted to cook anything
  • we don’t plan our grocery purchases well, so when it’s time to get something together, “nothing sounds good”
  • we’ll make multiple trips to the grocery store during the week “just to pick up a few things” that ends up amounting to another week’s groceries

It’s funny…I always complained about not being able to buy organic and local food, but after looking at how much money we were just pissing away in mindless purchases and eating out, I don’t really have any grounds for that, do I?  We could literally double our grocery budget and still have plenty of money for other things!

Thus, the plan was hatched….we’re increasing our grocery budget to $50 per week (double our original amount), and we’re going to do our best to limit our takeout to about $60 per month (the amount of four events of Chinese takeout).  I’ve got to be honest, this seems a little daunting to someone who’s used to being lazy, but I also decided that planning our meals in advance would really help cut down on that problem, too. 

I sat down on Saturday and decided what I’d cook this week and I’ll make enough for leftovers to eat as lunch the next day.  Here’s what’s on the dockett:

  • Sunday (Yesterday):  Falafel and salad (success!!)
  • Monday:  Veggie fajitas
  • Tuesday:  Tofu/veggie stir-fry
  • Wednesday:  Clean out the Fridge/scrounging night
  • Thursday:  Calzones (homemade dough and fillings!)
  • Friday:  Japanese vegetable/tofu/rice noodle soup
  • Saturday:  I forgot
  • Sunday:  BRINNER!

I know, I forgot Saturday, but I do actually have all of this written down at home.  I made a list of things that we could get at Aldi and things that we’d have to get somewhere else (Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s).  Saturday morning, we hit up TJ’s to get the tofu, rice noodles, and some good mozarella cheese for the calzones.  Yesterday, we went to Aldi, and Joey’s hitting up the Wally World today.  So far (without Wally added in), we’re at about $30 bucks for the week.  Not bad!!  And part of that was probably two weeks’ worth of meat replacement, etc from TJ’s!

If you’re struggling with your budget, I encourage you to take a hard look at your bank statement; you may very well end up shocked and appalled at where you’re wasting money (like I was).  Eating out/Takeout is such an easy trap to fall into; however, a little forethought and planning can make cooking at home a breeze!

I’ll update again after the Wal-Mart tally comes in:).