If you’re like me, you struggle to stay within budget and maintain healthy fridge levels of fresh veggies, fruit, and proteins. Proteins especially are just so expensive. I’m talking about pork, steak, chicken, etc. We need a certain amount of protein each day in order to fuel our bodies appropriately, but buying enough to stay within financial limits is increasingly difficult as prices rise.
I live alone and this essay is aimed mostly at those who live alone or perhaps in a pair. I shop at Kroger. At Kroger, in almost every section, they have a small set-aside part where they put the marked down items. This is true for produce, cheese/cold deli, bakery, hot deli, flowers, gourmet/organic, and fish. One clerk told me that buyers like the marked down items and Kroger likes them because they hardly ever have to throw anything away. If you shop at a different store, I’d encourage you to search out if they also have a marked down/nearly expired section. If they don’t, you could always ask them to start.
A while ago I discovered the fish section’s marked down area. I do not eat meat, but I do enjoy fish. If anything, fish is even more expensive than meat! In the regular section of the fish cooler, Kroger has a pre-made ready for the grill skewer of medium to large shrimp. Five shrimp for $1. Five medium to large shrimp is a portion. I learned years ago that one protein portion should be about the size of your palm. Even more enjoyable, they are already de-veined. Ick, I hate deveining shrimp.
Here are my dinner proteins for the week:
The above represents 6 dinners this week with a fresh protein, for $5.50 total. Not bad, eh?! I try to stay under $40 for the week, and aim for $35, so $5.50 represents a good balance of the total budget.
Any time you can get a protein serving for a dollar or less it’s frugal.
I’ll likely cut the plain tilapia into nuggets and lightly fry them, the other half I’ll cook as a filet and serve with a salad. The seasoned tilapia will halved and sauted. Inside the brown paper package are the two skewers of shrimp. I ate one last night in Pad Thai, which consists of rice noodles, pea pods, tofu, lemon juice and shrimp covered in a Pad Thai tamarind sauce. The other skewer I’ll saute and serve with rice and veggies.
For the protein during the rest of my day, I’ll have quinoa-oatmeal in the morning, and there’s tofu, eggs, chia seeds, peanut butter, nuts, and other kinds of proteins I can combine, like beans and rice, cottage cheese with fruit, etc.
You might wonder how I’ll keep the fish fresh for 6 days when the common advice is to use it up within three. Well, the first 3 days I’ll cook it as the evening comes. On day 3 I’ll cook the rest and then eat the cooked versions as the other 3 days go by.
Now you know why this works for a single person. You can’t do the same frugal shopping with a family, buying one filet at a time! When shopping for a family there are different skills and tricks to employ so as to stay within budget.
Now, I can’t be this lucky every week. Sometimes the sale sections are picked over by the time I get there. Other times, things are on sale that are still too expensive for me, like lobster. Sometimes there are good reductions in price on items I just don’t like to eat. Frugality can be tiring because it demands a constant vigilance and planning ahead. But the results are worth it.