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o, hai there. (a parentheses heavy post)

Hi friends and readers (who are friends I just haven’t met yet). How have you been?

::stares at computer screen like Dora, waiting for your answer::

Good!

¡Bueno!

I’ve missed you!

¡Te extrañé!

Hey, remember how we quit cold turkey from spending money on food from restaurants (or fast food joints (or coffee shops))?

Yea, I do remember. So, how’s that going AllisonO?

I’m glad you asked! It’s going well. It’s not going perfectly, but it IS going well.

My first slip up occurred on the 11th of this month, when I bought a $3.05 chai tea latte at a cafe downtown.

First slip up AllisonO? As in there have been multiple slip ups? And I thought you said it was going well?

Ok, so maybe let’s back up to the successes then, before cataloguing the failures, shall we?

I did successfully do “Once A Month Cooking”, or a subset thereof. I made 15 meals in one day and stuck them all in the freezer. It worked incredibly well, actually. I grocery shopped the night before (after bedtime to so I could go by myself without burdening DanO), did all of the chopping and prep in the first half of the day, and then assembled all the meals during nap time. It means that I have meals on hand and (permitting that I remember to take it out of the freezer in the morning to thaw) all I have to do is heat them up (via grill, oven, microwave, or crock pot). This has been the most helpful thing I’ve done to help us (mostly) succeed.

Packing a lunch (straight out of grade school: pb&j, a nectarine, oreos and wheat thin crackers) has saved me 3 times. It’s not a glamorous life, but it’s an on-budget one.

I have also needed to be flexible with my concept of dinner, meaning left overs, breakfast for dinner, or sandwiches are all fair game. It’s food, eat it and be sustained (again with the glamorous life thing).

Ok, so about those other failures. They were actually two in close conjunction, because I was out of my house for 14 straight hours. (True story.) I DID eat breakfast before leaving, pack a lunch and even copious snacks, but it’s darn near impossible to last that long without more sustenance. (This is the part where I skip over the tiny little detail that I was “forced” to tag along on a shopping/girls’ night adventure during which I “had to” eat Swedish meatballs at Ikea and then “pressured” into ordering a ($4) appetizer pizza at a nice restaurant. It’s a rough life, but someone has to live it.)

So, in all that, we (and by we I mean I) have spent almost exactly $15 on eating out this month. To be fair, DanO and OBaby ate out on Friday (while I was gallivanting around Ikea and stuffing my face with lingonberry sauce) but DanO’s brother picked up the bill. (Thanks, Paul!)

But, y’all. It’s the 21st of the month, and we’ve only spent $15 on eating out.

THAT DESERVES APPLAUSE.

(Or maybe that deserves Chipotle burritos being delivered to my front door. I’ll let you decide.)

(Carnitas, extra rice, black beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and lettuce.)

(Please.)

30 Responses to “o, hai there. (a parentheses heavy post)”

  1. julia

    way to go!! so hard to change that habit. i’m thinking of keeping track of our food/grocery/eating out bill more too.

    good job!

    Reply
  2. jen

    wow. seriously wow.
    if my kids weren’t in bed and i knew where you lived i would bring you that chipotle.
    which sounds a wee-bit stalkerish. but … you’ve met me in real life … i’m not too incredibly scary.

    Reply
  3. Maggie

    Way to go! I’m just embarking on my own personal budget adventure. You’ve been open and we’re benefiting from your honesty! I know I’m just a single gal, but knowing you can do it gives me hope that I can, too. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. ashley

    Way to go girl! I admire your strength, and am even inspired to give it a whirl myself! I spend waaaaay to much a month on a $2 drink here, and a $3 drink there, etc. Question: What meals did you put toghether to freeze–did you find recipes anywhere in particular {or can you pretty much freeze most meals}?

    thanks girl!

    Reply
  5. Alissa

    You go girl! :-) That’s great! It becomes such a part of our life…grabbing on the go…that it’s tough to stop. I took your lead and have made an effort to quit eating out/driving thru when running errands. I’ve gone twice this month so far, which is a HUGE change! Can’t wait to see the savings in my bank account!
    Thanks for a great blog!

    Reply
  6. Faith

    Absolutely great job! I could really use that as some inspiration over here. I’ve really considered freezer meals, but the thought kind of frightens me. Oh boy!

    Reply
  7. Amanda

    Way to go!!! I think a similar challenge might be in order for my family… I am always horrified at the amount we spend on restaurants and fast food. We’ve been using Mint.com to better keep track of our budget, and it’s helping… but it’s also kind of scary to see where the $$ is going! The meal planning/monthly cooking is definitely a great habit, and one I’ve fallen out of lately. Thankfully, my mom is happy to babysit one extra time a month, so I just need to take her up on it! (Cooking all day with a toddler is so exhausting, yah?)

    P.S. I’m glad you’re back! I’m one of those “friends you just haven’t met yet”, and yours is one of very few blogs that I really miss when you go on breaks. :) But I love that you recognize your need to put first things first… a good reminder for us all!

    Reply
  8. Lindsey@ClassicIvory

    Wait a minute…you aren’t saying that your Chipotle actually delivers, are you?!?

    And way to go, doing this is much harder than it seems! We are unofficially trying to do the same thing around our house. I haven’t tracked our eating out…but I think that would really help. I have been meal planning and shopping once a week for all our major food, and then making a second trip for a few things to finish up the week, if needed. Next up is actually doing the shopping on a budget. I am doing okay without one, but I think I should be able to cut back even more.

    Reply
  9. Tiffany @ MomNom

    Wow, you are doing REALLY well. I’m not sure I could quit cold turkey EVER. That being said, I really should give it th “ole college try” and see how I do. I think my husband’s head may explode if he saw that I only spent $15 in a month. You’re amazing. But, we already knew that.

    Reply
  10. Cara

    This is awesome! I think you have to “allow” for some “slipups”– Life is exactly that and sometimes you don’t know what all is going to happen but considering it is the 21st and you’ve only spent $15 out that is such a huge effort!

    Reply
  11. Elizabeth

    awesome work! i think we’ve only eaten out once or twice this month, which is good for us (usually we eat out once a week at a place that has take out so i can get a break).

    i’ve been watching your twitter. i can’t wait to see pictures of the new upstairs!

    Reply
  12. katie

    there’s nothing wrong with a pb + j brown-bagged lunch! =) i had more or less the same lunch every day all through gradeschool — chocolate milk, peanut butter and honey, some kind of fruit or yogurt, and some little dessert — and now i’m in medical school and packing myself the same thing every day. (except the milk…because that’s kind of weird to bring from home, and apparently californian vending machines don’t sell milk like they do in the midwest. so much for trying to be a dairy state…)

    Reply
  13. Gina

    Would love to hear more about what meals you made for your once-a-month cooking foray. I’ve always envied the people who can get their act together and plan, plan, plan like that. But I never know what to make!!

    Reply
  14. The Mom Venture Blog

    Great Job! I’d love to know what the grocery bill was for those 15 freezer meals too, though, I’m sure you’re planning a post on that (-: Wish my husband could squash the eating out temptation like DanO can! lol

    Reply
  15. alissa

    bravo! do you have those recipes, or or other ideas for your once a month cooking? i share a freezer with the family i live with but if i could get everyone on board, or do maybe a 2 week instead of 1 month deal i would LOVE to give it a try!

    Reply
  16. Amy

    Hi Alison! I’m one of those readers of yours. I just wanted to comment n say congrats on accomplishing this! I track my spending and every week, probably half of what I spend is on meals out and impulse “snacks”. I would love to try once a month cooking to reduce the amount of times I just pig out because I’m too tired to cook. Could you post the recipes that you used for your OAMC? It would be greatly appreciated.

    Ps. I love your blog. Yours is one of my most anticipated reads!

    Reply
  17. Valerie

    Where is your post about how much you WERE spending on eating out?

    We are the worst, I’m pretty sure. I am trying to allow some inspiration, at this very moment, to start something like this myself. Thank you for that!

    Reply
  18. Kellyn

    That is fabulous! Don’t worry about the slips, no one can go through this without some sort of slip. And those were social so I don’t even call them slips!

    I LOVE OAMC! I do it each month and it has saved us so much, both sanity and financially.

    Reply
  19. Mary

    Good for you!!! I’m impressed a whole month cooked in a day! I like to do one week at a time but I’m a single so it is relaxing to spend Sunday afternoon listening to music or Prairie Home Companion etc and cook! Like you – I plan out good food, shop a day or so ahead then do things all at once but in stages – chop, prep etc then put together………

    Here’s a well loved recipe for easy and really good Chicken Soup. Introduced to my sister when her two children were tots and they still clamor for it at 11 & 13. Jane never mentioned the word spinach – and her kids just know as good chicken soup. Sneaky huh? We’ve shared recipes together forever along with our sisters in law. We all look for ways to “cheat” on a good recipe – faster, cheaper, easier etc.

    Forgive me that it looks long – but your readers seem less familiar so all written is meant to be helpful for the newbies to cooking at home – not to be hard.

    Mary & Jane’s Favorite Chicken Soup

    Notes before you start – trade offs!!!

    The key is the fortified broth. Do that with chicken, parm and garlic – then add/change/delete your veggie likes/choices.

    What you shouldn’t “cheat on” – You will need the rind end of parmesan cheese. The key to “fortifying” the broth. About 1.5 inches square. I save the hard ends in my freezer to use. Doesn’t have to be one piece – just that dried end. Grated does not work so that’s why this can’t be “cheated”. Jane & I figured that out a long time ago. If you’re not grating your own parm – big budget saver – looks expensive until you figure out the cost/ounce for grated. Keep the rind ends in the freezer for almost forever. I always have them but if needed would ask the cheese person to just cut off the rind end at the store for me – so don’t need the hunk to whither in your frig.

    You can cheat and use frozen spinach but it is not as good. Yes, it’s cooked in the soup – my sister won’t use it – I will in a pinch if I forgot it for my list.

    Chicken meat – if you’re a must only eat white meat – go ahead and use only white. Because the broth is fortified with parm cheese and garlic flavor – white meat only eaters have been converted for this soup. And huge budget saver. You can buy skin on with bones or skinned boneless – less work or not. Up to you and your budget. I buy skin on and bone in and just take the meat off easily after it’s cooked. If you’re doing skin on/bone in – best to cook then leave in frig overnight take the fat off easily the next day.

    Don’t worry about the amount of garlic – if you’re using jumbo cloves use 3-4. Small cloves use more. Don’t skip garlic. If you’re worried about garlic breath – don’t be – just use at least one or two. You’re going to strain the broth and chicken so don’t bother to peel the garlic (fresh garlic a must!). Just smack the cloves with the side of a knife and toss them in.

    Carrots – I can’t stand those bags of so called baby carrots. I use either fresh green top carrots or if you want to skip the peeling/slicing – buy frozen sliced and reduce the time to cook.

    Broth:
    – (2) approx 30 oz boxes low salt chiicken broth
    – 1.5-2 lb chicken thighs
    – 1.5 inch piece rind of parmesan cheese
    – 4-8 cloves of garlic (depends on how large the cloves)

    Put all in your soup pot. Cook to a simmer (do not boil!!!!) until chicken is done and then slow simmer 20 minutes more. Total time is about 45 minutes but you can let it sit on low simmer however long.

    Once cooked to this point – strain the broth into a bowl. Pull chicken out and discard the garlic, parm rinds. Put the broth back into the pot. Cut or tear chicken into pieces and add back to the pot.

    Either skim the fat or put it in the frig so it rises to the top and pick it off.

    Finishing Mary & Jane’s Favorite Chicken Soup –

    10 oz of fresh spinach – roughly chopped – the whole point of getting greens easy
    4-6 fresh carrots, peeled, sliced into bite size pieces (good frozen is fine)

    Optional – toss in some frozen baby peas near the end – only need about 3 min to cook Try then decide how many or which vegs work for you.

    Add the carrots and simmer till carrots are tender to you taste. (10-15 min) – frozen only 3-5 min should do it. Add spinach last 5-6 min.

    Noodles – we use bow tie noodles – kids love them………….or your favorite noodle in chicken soup.

    Me – I cook mine separately – I love noodles so always toss too many into the soup. So I cook them separately then toss the cooked into the finished soup. Or if I’ve made the soup ahead – just keep and toss my right amount into the bowl with the soup and reheat for dinner.

    If you’ve done the broth earlier – finishing to table is about 20 minutes. Add your favorite crusty bread – you have your veggies and greens all set to go!

    Freezing – you can freeze at the broth and cooked chicken stage or finish and freeze. Either is good. Me – still like my noodles “fresh” so if I freeze I don’t put the noodles in. Jane does and they still love it. I think cooking the noodles separately and adding rather than cooking them in the pot of soup keeps them fresher tasting. You figure your own preference.

    Reply

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