Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Marathon Eating on a Budget

I mentioned a few posts back that I was focusing my pre-training marathon training by honing in on my nutrition to really find out what works and what doesn't work in order to keep me energized and avoid being a ravenous beast (oh, and not spending a million dollars trying to feed myself and family). As two post-college, debt-to-our-ears, new home owner, young-er parents, our budget is pretty tight.

Shawn and I are not creatures of habit when it comes to dinner-eating. Growing up, I always knew that we'd have American Chop Suey (ughhhh) one night, pizza one night, tacos another... I like to try different things and different styles of cooking. I don't LOVE to cook, but I do LOVE to eat delicious food, and food that I know is fueling my body for the miles I've been, and will be, putting in. The problem with making "good" food fuel is that it is often preceded by an expensive grocery bill. So here are a few money-saving tips for both marathoners and non-marathoners alike. I'm no pro couponer (I'm actually the worst couponer...), but I've learned some lessons over the last few years!

1.) Make a list. For as long as I can remember, I've been planning out our dinners for the week before going to the grocery store. This not only saves money because you aren't buying things you don't need, but it also saves the time of filing up and down the busy aisles of the store for no reason. I have a chalk board at home that I write our menu on so I remember to take meat out of the freezer, or prep something the night before (it also saves my sanity by not answering the "Whats for dinner?" question

2.) Because there's just the three of us (and Cameron eats like a bird, so he hardly counts as a human consuming dinner), I often buy things that we can use for multiple meals, so precious food (and money) isn't being wasted. For example, a 3-pack of chicken breasts can be used for two or three meals, depending on how its being used. I could use one breast for a stir fry on Monday night and grill the other two another night for dinner. This way you're only buying one pack of meat, but its being used for 2 meals. The same with veggies, like asparagus, that are usually packed together in a bundle. Plan ahead and use it for two different meals instead of cooking it all once and wasting it when its not all eaten. At Market Basket we can get a bag of mixed greens for $2.50. That bag will be a side salad for almost every dinner of the week for all three of us. I can get creative with a portion of the meal and throw a handful of greens on the plate and BAM! Yummy, energy-giving goodness.

3.) If I find a recipe using asparagus that I want to make, but I know I'm going to have leftover asparagus, I head right to Pinterest and search for asparagus recipes - bonus points if it'll use that extra chicken breast, right!? ;) Pinterest is my recipe heaven.

4.) Some things are worth making extra of. Often times there are things you can't just split up easily (like a lb of hamburg) or that is cheap enough to make extra (pasta), but the best part of that is...left overs! I hate sandwiches and we really can't spare the cash to get lunch out, so I love nights that we have left overs to take for lunch the next day.

5.) Buy store brand. I think that's why I can't be a good couponer. I just don't find it worth buying two boxes of Honey Maid graham crackers to get $1 off, when I can buy 2 boxes of Market Basket graham crackers (or realistically, just one box) for less than what the coupon would take off. We save a lot of money by getting store brand products like cereal, peanut butter, yogurt, canned goods, paper products, etc.

6.) Portion control. I could fill my plate and throw my hand back in the bag of trail mix a dozen times, but guess what, the normal serving size for trail mix is just 4oz - and believe it or not, it's plenty for a snack! For our waist lines and our wallets, we really try to have one serving at dinner (the thought that I'd have to have a sandwich for lunch the next day is often enough for me to leave some for leftovers!). We never leave the table still hungry, and we don't buy too much food just because we CAN eat it.

7.) Produce and meat are always the bulk of our grocery bill, so as stated before, I try to use the meat I buy for multiple meals, and do the same for produce, but most often, you can buy just one tomato or one avocado, so they get used up quickly. When I'm meal planning, I go for in-season fruits and veggies. Have you SEEN the price of zucchini lately? Eat. it. up! The summer is the best time for fresh produce, but even once winter hits, there are many tasty and delicious fruits and veggies that you can find. Here's a simple list of produce by season that I refer to often.

I've got a couple of recipes and new products that I'm looking forward to sharing. Delicious, inexpensive, nutritious and energy-giving foods for the whole family (marathoner-in-training included). Stay tuned!

Help me add to my list of money-saving food tips! What is one (or two or three) things you do to save on your food budget?

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