Project Fix The Food Budget Update

Believe it or not, even though I haven’t talked much about this lately, we’ve been pretty successful in cutting back our food budget like we set out to do.

(If this is the first you’re hearing about this, check out my previous posts about the project.)

In July, we spent $489.92 on groceries. That’s just over $100 a week for the month and is the least amount we’ve spent on groceries in 6 months. Obviously, we have a little more shaving to do, but I’m pretty confident that we can get below $100 with a little careful grocery shopping and some intentional meal planning.

I know August is not going to be nearly as pretty. We’ve had a couple outings – a much needed date night, a great visit with old friends, a girls’ night with some newer friends, a trip to the zoo – which all necessitated a little more relaxation in our budget. I’m not sure yet how to consider those outings. On one hand, I don’t want to take them out of the food budget altogether. After all, shouldn’t we be able to do a date night without blowing the budget at a nice restaurant? On the other hand, a restrictive budget for those kinds of things will mean we do them less often, which is a problem in itself.

Those issues aside, I’m really happy with how well I’ve been able to make a meal plan and more or less stick to it. We’ve had good weeks and bad, but we haven’t had to throw away a head of lettuce in over a month which feels like an amazing accomplishment in itself. I’ve been sticking to very simple meals that are fairly easy to pull together in 15-30 minutes, and not being shy about using convenience foods where they make my life easier. Frozen hamburgers, taco seasoning and shells, frozen pizza, I’m not shy about using any of them if they’re going to help me get dinner on the table and stick to a budget at the same time.

Which brings me to this: my favourite chicken. One of the goals of this whole thing is to find as many “back-pocket recipes” I can find, the recipes that don’t feel like a hassle to make, the ones I can whip up without thinking at a moments notice as long as I have all the ingredients on hand. This is the first. Mostly, it’s not actually a recipe. I guess it is, but it doesn’t feel like it. Either way, it’s delicious and simple simple simple.

Baked Montreal Chicken

1 package of chicken thighs
Montreal chicken spice to taste

Yup, that’s it. I suppose I could make my own Montreal chicken spice, and maybe one day I will, but for now, I just buy it. I preheat the oven to 350*, lay the chicken out on a broiling pan, and sprinkle pretty liberally with Montreal chicken spice. Sometimes, I decide to toss the thighs with a little olive oil before the spice mix, in which case, I do it in a bowl before laying the pieces out on the pan. Then, I bake the chicken for about 20 minutes, maybe half an hour if the pieces are a little larger than normal, until they’re cooked all the way through.

And, that’s it.

I’ve served the chicken on a salad, or with veggies on the side, or however I feel like it on that particular day. My favourite method, hands down, is the one shown here – wrapped up with all the fixings in a tortilla wrap. Any leftovers get popped into a tupperware container and saved for the next day’s lunches, sliced thin with avocado and goat cheese on toast, or added to a soup later in the week.

What have you guys been eating lately that you’ve loved? Do you have any “back-pocket recipes”? And, tell me – how do you deal with date night, dinner with friends, and any other kind of outing in your food budget?

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