Grocery Geek: Getting Back on My Game

Adding a few creative ingredients to your grocery cart can help you regain your passion for cooking and help get back your mojo.

(Heads up! If you make a purchase through any Amazon links in this post, I do receive a small percentage of the sale.)

It’s been a quiet couple weeks around Good Cheap Eats, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’ve been having a hard time getting on my game. I fell off the vitamin wagon and am definitely feeling the effects of that. Exercising went kaput. I haven’t really wanted to cook. I’ve been tempted to get more takeout.

I’ve done some reevaluating and some more careful meal planning to see if I can boost my energy and get my cooking mojo back. I started reading a great book about eating and cooking simple, real food; it’s made me eager to get back in the kitchen. The Husband and I went grocery shopping on date night so that I could have more raw materials to work with. The kids and I spent a happy morning prepping a large salad and veggie tray. They devoured it in two days.

And the produce box had cherries this week. Things are clearly looking up.

This past week I’ve been cooking a lot. One day I made homemade aprium jam (a cross between an apricot and a plum), baked bread, made homemade ice cream, and used a heating pad to make yogurt. However, these are not any recipes of my own to share. I’m happy to draw on the wisdom of those who’ve gone before me.

I did do a few experiments that have worked out really well. Homemade hummus (without the tahini because I don’t like the taste or the price point) was a great hit with the aforementioned veggie tray. We’ll be making that a lot more in the coming weeks.

And one night I made a huge pan full of roast potatoes, onions, carrots, and chicken. It was fab. Hubby said it was missing something. The day he took the leftovers to work he called to say he ate them cold and it’s the ideal potato salad. So, I guess we have some more testing in our future ┬áto verify that it’s just as good cold as it is hot.

For grocery shopping this week, I tried not to go many places.

Vons

One morning I made a quick run to Vons. I’ve been doing that more often since I signed up for their Just for U program. The savings have been significant. All this food: croissants, mushrooms, cilantro, avocados, strawberries, bananas, eggs, milk, and half and half. Some items, like the organic strawberries were pricey ($4.39), but the other things were at some of the lowest prices I’ve seen, justifying the splurge on berries.

18-ct eggs $1.70
gallon milk $2.60
quart half and half $2.69
15-ct croissants $5.00
bananas $.39/lb
avocados $0.97/each
mushrooms $0.65/pkg

Total spent $24.

Date Night Grocery Shopping

I love it that my husband doesn’t mind spending date night in a grocery store! We prefer to spend the time talking so we rarely go to movies. And we can shop and talk just as well as sit and talk. Oh, we’re so efficient.

We did runs to both Albertsons and Trader Joe’s that night.

Sorry for the poor picture. It was late, and I was tired.

Albertsons

To be honest, the trip through the regular grocery store (Albertsons) was a little distressing. All the sales and deals were for highly, HIGHLY processed foods. I just really don’t get that. So, I guess you could say that I’m voting with my pocket book.

My purchases at Albertsons were limited to olives, water chestnuts, and laundry soap. I stocked up back in October and just used up the last bottle. These six bottles should last us about three to four months.

I spent $25 at Albertsons.

Trader Joe’s

I breathe a little easier at Trader Joe’s because of their no GMO, no artificial colors guarantee, and the dairy is hormone-free. Many foods are still processed and I still have to read labels, but I can let my guard down a little more.

I think part of the lull in my cooking was not feeling like I had enough to work with. So, while I didn’t have a plan per se for each item I bought, it lifted a huge burden knowing that I had stuff to be creative with, pasta, cheeses, peppers, cucumbers, etc. The kids devoured all the fresh produce within a few days. And we’re stocked on pasta, cheese, and a few basics.

(Yeah, I got some junk food, too, for a birthday boy. He’s never had a pop tart. So, these are “organic”. Hehe.)

I spent $110 at Trader Joe’s.

Abundant Harvest Organics

We continue to enjoy our weekly box from Abundant Harvest Organics. I’ve switched to the home delivery option so that I can save the time. We’ll see if that continues to work out. So far, so good.

In our box we had cherries, strawberries, basil, tomatoes, zucchini, radishes, lettuce, onions, garlic, chard, apriums, peaches, potatoes, and snap peas. The apriums made a fabulous jam. And the basil went right into a garlic-infused compound butter that I froze for another day. Can’t wait to try it!

I spent $42 on the produce box.

After the shopping trips, it confirmed it for me. Adding a few creative ingredients to your grocery cart can help you regain your passion for cooking and help get back your mojo. I spent a tad more than I normally might, but it’s worth it to make sure we’re not getting take out — or worse, eating like bachelors. ;)

Total spent this week: $201

Total spent this month to date: $738

I’ve put the produce box “on vacation” for next week since we’ll be going out of town. We’re pretty well stocked on milk, cheese, and meats. So, I think the $62 left in the budget should be good for us. I’ll have to do a lot of baking to make it happen, though. We’ll see…

How do you use grocery shopping to help you be a better cook?

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Comments

  1. Eckert S says:

    I save where I can and reinvest the savings in more critical areas. I try to stretch the budget by saving on the basics like using dried beans (cooked ahead and kept in the freezer instead of canned), making our own Greek-style yogurt by the gallon, and making most of my own cleaners. I’ve had great success with the 3 ingredient, no cook, no grate laundry detergent from this blog: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/04/super-fast-and-easy-homemade-laundry-detergent.htm (it costs about 10 cents a gallon to make and works great!)
    Pinterest has been a great inspiration, and your batch cooking and budget menus have helped quite a bit in battle to eliminate trans fat, reduce refine sugars and use higher quality dairy and meat products.

  2. Rachael Waller says:

    Albertson’s is the really only major chain in Billings, MT (aside from Walmart) and I haven’t had much luck there. I’d be so excited if you could share some insight on getting deals there :)

    • Jessica says:

      The funny thing about Albertsons is that they aren’t owned by the same parent company. The California stores are owned by SuperValu, the same brand that owns Cub Foods. So, they aren’t the same and they don’t have the same deals or policies nationwide. I don’t really shop there often because the deals just aren’t that great here, either. I go to Vons (Safeway) and Ralphs (Kroger) much more often.

  3. I too recently lost my interest in cooking, a bit unusual for me! Like you, a book helped me get out of the funk: “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler. Two things I took away from the book continue to stick with me. First, I don’t need a recipe (or even a meal plan) to pull off a decent meal. Second, more often than not I have everything I need in my pantry and fridge/freezer. While my kids and I have always loved seeing what comes in our Abundant Harvest box every Wednesday, I haven’t always sustained the energy and creativity to use it all up within the week. Adler’s push to just get a pot of water boiling has helped me use that produce in many great meals lately. Have fun getting reacquainted with the miracles of cooking :)

  4. Fun fact for you… I live in Australia and we don’t call them apriums, but pluots!!!

    • Jessica says:

      We actually have pluots, too! But they are 3/4 plum and 1/4 apricot, so they look a lot different than the apriums. To be honest, the apriums look just like apricots and the pluots look just like plums. To me, anyway.

  5. I don’t know if there is an Indian Grocery store where you are, but that’s where I found my tahini for half the price of the grocery store.

    • Jessica says:

      @Lisa, it’s pretty easy to find here. I actually have a jar in the cupboard, but I just don’t like how it tastes in homemade hummus for some reason. Not sure why. But, thanks for the tip! That’s a good one.

      • @Jessica,
        Try using sunbutter inyour homemade hummus instead of tahini. I make it with peanut butter sometimes Kids love it.

        • Jessica says:

          That is a great idea! I omit it because I don’t like the taste of it in the hummus. Weird, but yes, that’s how it is.

  6. I do hope you plan to share the tahini free recipe. I really want to do homemade hummus, but I am so not paying $10 for a jar of the stuff when I don’t know if my family will care for it. I loved it in Cali but can’t find a store bought version I like.

    • Jessica says:

      @Lisa S, I really like Tribe and Trader Joe’s brands — that’s what’s prevented me from making it homemade. But, this was amazingly easy and pretty near close to what I like. I’ll be posting it soon.

  7. Rosemary says:

    Do you get a large or small box from your CSA ? Only 3 tomatoes for a week seems like a small amount.

    • Jessica says:

      We get the large box. However two of the three tomatoes are very large. About the size of 2-3 normal tomatoes. Also, it’s early in the season. We were inundated with them last summer. I’m learning that things vary from week to week, especially with weather issues. A recent hail storm decimated a lot of crops.

  8. Amanda Y. says:

    Will you post the hummus recipe?

  9. fresh cherries! oh, I can’t wait until we have them here. :)

  10. Perfect post at the perfect time. I’ve been in a cooking rut, and running a lot with school stuff, baseball, soccer, and blogging stuff. I need to get to Costco, but never thought of doing it as a date night with my dh.

    LOL. I just asked my dh about it, and he said it was clever packaging because it’s still shopping. I bet he’ll change his tune when he has my full attention for an hour. ;)

  11. I’m in awe over how cheap those mushrooms and bananas were! I love these posts where you break down your purchases.

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