A Week’s Worth of Groceries for Under$25

You know you have the coolest job ever when you don’t even look up from your assignments until nearly 4 pm!

When I finally snapped my head out of the books I’d been taking notes from, I realized I had a short window of time to decide on a produce stand to head to after work. My veggie stash had dwindled to half a box of alfalfa sprouts and a lonely onion, and the situation needed to be remedied pronto.

As I’ve shared before, one of my favorite grocery bill-slashing secrets is to purchase my fruits and vegetables from a fruit stand or farmers market. Not only can I walk out with an abundant week’s worth of fresh goods for under $15, but I also feel better about supporting local businesses whenever possible.

A handful of web reviews for Orlando produce stands pointed me in the direction of Clemons Produce. After taking Haley for a quick walk, I headed off to check out their bounty for myself!

Clemons Produce in Orlando

At first, I was expecting an open-air booth of sorts, and I passed it by – twice – before realizing that it was in a shopping plaza!

Once I ducked in, I was met with far more goods than I’d expected. Naturally, there was a wide range of standard goods:

Clemon's Produce Stand

As well as several specialty areas – fresh cheeses and meats, dried beans and nuts, grains and even dressings and honey!

dried nuts selection

Although the fresh, outdoorsy feel was notably absent from the fluorescently-lit indoor market, the selection and prices more than made up for what it lacked in atmosphere.

Clemon's Produce

An incredibly budget-happy total of $8.80 sent me home with:

  • 5 Ruby Red Grapefruit (locally grown)
  • 2 boxes of strawberries – unbelievably only $1/each (locally grown)
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 peaches
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red potato
  • 1 six-ounce carton of blackberries
  • 6 assorted peppers (organic)

assorted organic peppers

Apparently I wasn’t the only shopper who found $.69 bunches of kale to be a great bargain – by the time I’d gotten there, the entire stock was gone!

I supplemented my Clemon’s Produce haul with a few items from Publix and Dollar Tree.

cheap groceries

 

Naturally Fresh Italian Dressing

Although certain items are hit-or-miss, it’s entirely possible to find healthy foods at dollar stores! Somewhere beyond the off-brand Fritos, canned artificial beef products and sad excuses for cake mix, I scored a shelf-stable box of WestSoy Soy Milk and a jar of Naturally Fresh Italian Salad Dressing.

The only catch with Dollar Tree is to keep an eye on the expiration dates. Thankfully, the soymilk is good until January 2012.

soymilk expiration date

Sold!

 

A final stop at Publix rounded out the week’s groceries:

Publix groceries

After spending a whopping $8.80 at Clemon’s, $2 at Dollar Tree and $10.96 at Publix, I managed to bring home an entire week’s worth of groceries for under $25. Although having a meat-free shopping list and only one mouth to feed does contribute to the low expenses, I’m always thrilled to lower my weekly food spending whenever possible!

Okay, darlings, off to whip up a hearty breakfast from the depths of my well-stocked fridge! Have an awesome Tuesday!

What did your last grocery bill come to? How much do you budget weekly/monthly for food?


The College Kid Kitchen – A Cheat Sheat

Well hello, calendar. It’s August 18th, you say? Are you KIDDING ME? Wasn’t it just June?

This year I’m not wandering up and down the aisles of Target, grabbing sparkly pencils (What? You mean I’m not still in sixth grade?) and extra-long twin bed sheets to stuff in the trunk of my car in anticipation of move-in day at my university.

I may be the only person in the world who gets done with college with nothing but amazing things to say about dorm living…but I can’t lie, I loved it! My campus was gorgeous, the dorms were (relatively) new and (relatively) stinkless, and there was always something going on. Having the majority of my friends within a five minute walk was an added bonus!

The only downside of living on campus was the meal plan requirement. Our cafeteria left MUCH to be desired, yet all residents were required to purchase a pass for a minimum of 10 meals per week. Most of the time I’d eat about 7 of those in the cafeteria, getting the rest of my food from my minifridge or a fast food joint.  Looking back, I would have done far better relying more on the former and less on the latter – no surprise there! Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Dairy Queen does not a healthy diet make.

By the last semester of my senior year, I had a pretty good handle on my health, began stocking my fridge much more wisely, and got creative with dormifying recipes. There was a far better balance of appropriate choices to go along with the requisite pizza consumption.

With enough planning, it’s entirely possible to avoid the freshman 15. There really are quite a few nutritionally viable options for the lucky dorm-dwellers of 2010!

Breakfasts

  • Oatmeal. NOT the flavored, sugar-infused individual packets from Quaker, but the plain and simple instant rolled oats in a canister.
  • Natural Peanut Butter. Not only is it a perfect fat-and-protein packed oatmeal topping, but smeared on an apple (which you can often klepto from the cafeteria), it’s a perfect study snack.
  • Greek Yogurt. These bad boys take up minimum fridge space and are portable enough to bring along to your 6 am class if you oversleep.
  • Cottage Cheese. Pair it with a piece of fresh fruit for a no-prep-required light morning meal!

Lunches

  • Deli-style sandwiches. You can’t get much easier than a few slices of lean ham or turkey (or hey, even Tofurkey!) with a slice of part-skim provolone or cheddar and a squeeze of mustard!
  • Dippers + Hummus. A classic assortment of veggies (such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli heads) and a slice of whole wheat pita are a fab midday pick-me-up paired with a substantial dip like hummus.
  • Cold salads. Most major grocery stores offer small bins of pre-made lunch salads, such as tabbouleh or a cold couscous. Check the chilled cases near the deli for selections, but avoid mayonnaise-loaded selections like potato salad and cole slaw.
  • Salad kits. Look for a bag that includes a dark leafy green like romaine, extra veggies such as carrots, cabbage, and mushrooms, and a satiety-boosting component such as shredded chicken or mozzarella cubes.

Dinners

  • Low sodium canned soups. Amy’s is my go-to brand for their Low Sodium Lentil and vegetarian Minestrone, but Muir Glen and even Progresso have viable options. Just don’t forget the can opener!
  • Microwavable instant brown rice. The possibilities are endless: Top with a sliced avocado, organic canned black beans, and salsa for a Mexican theme; use feta crumbles + cucumber + canned beet slices for a Greek variation, or organic canned pinto beans + part-skim cheddar.
  • Amy’s frozen dinners. While I normally don’t advocate resorting to microwave meals, the reality is, in college, it happens. Her Indian and Spanish choices are on the better end of the frozen meal scale and stick with mostly respectable ingredients.

Snacks

  • Nuts
  • No-sugar-added dried fruits
  • Clif/Luna/Lara Bars
  • Whole grain pretzels + Part-Skim Cheese
  • Raw veggies + honey mustard, dijon, or a light ranch dressing
  • Dry cereal (Kashi is always a good place to start)

Have any questions or concerns about staying or getting healthy during college?  As a fresh-outta-college gal, I’d love to give my perspective on them! Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let’s get a dialogue going!


How to Navigate a Buffet Like A Pro

I really could kiss the mastermind that developed the concept of a buffet. In terms of important inventions, this one may rival running water or air conditioning.

I mean seriously…massive quantities of food from multiple cuisines, already cooked and laid out to be dished up and and devoured consumed in a civilized and ladylike manner? Sheer genius.

It’s daunting – but definitely possible – to pull together a healthy meal at a buffet.

I’m the kind of girl who likes to arrive with a game plan. My offensive playbook maximizes food-samplage while carefully crafted defensive plays prevent against waddling to the car on injured reserve with a food baby.

In the locker room…

  • Some coaches subscribe to the “get your money’s worth” theory; I’d like to rename this “getting your tummy’s worth”. True, you’re paying for unlimited food, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat like it’s your last meal. (Unless, of course, it is, in which case, get your sorry self away from the computer and find something more last-day-on-earth-worthy!) Don’t skip meals leading up to the buffet!
  • If necessary, pop a quick snack a bit before so you’re not tempted to just bring a fork up to the buffet and eat straight out of the serving line.

At kickoff…

  • Take a quick survey of the offerings. This is doubly important if you follow a special diet. I’ve had times when I’m so thrilled to see a good vegan/vegetarian option that I snag several scoops of the first dish I see, not expecting there to be much else available for me to eat…until I get to the next table, packed with bigger and better things, and no room left on my plate. A pre-game go-round lets you prioritize!
  • Beeline for the salad bar. Even buffets I’m not usually impressed by tend to have a fairly hefty selection of leafy greens and toppings!

  • Keep portions small the first time around. Not only does is it reduce waste in the event that you don’t like something you chose, but this way you don’t have to deprive yourself of the more indulgent selections. The beauty of a buffet is that you can always go back for seconds of the good stuff!

For the win…

  • Seek out volume-eating heavyweights (or, more aptly, lightweights!) such as raw, steamed, or sauteed veggies, fresh fruit, and broth-based soups.

  • Watch your sauces. Creamy salad dressings, pasta sauces, and cream-based soups hide a great deal of fat and calories. Meanwhile, teriyaki and marinara varieties are often packed with added sugars.

  • Take advantage of the rotisserie for a smart lean protein option.
  • Splurge smart and maintain common sense. Sure, you can have your cake and eat it too, but make sure it doesn’t follow a slice of pizza, chicken tenders, spaghetti and mashed potatoes! When you make your rounds upon arrival, pick one treat and plan around it!

If there’s a dish that you wouldn’t feel good about ordering or making at home, don’t feel compelled to try it just because it’s available to you. Stick to your guns!

How do you stay healthy at the buffet?