Grocery Budget Challenge Weeks 3 & 4

I meant to write this post last week after we finished up the grocery budget challenge but I was distracted with visitors all last week.

Even though we went over budget in week 3 again, it was a much better week than the previous week we went over budget. We went over budget by €40.10 with a total spend of €140.10, and much of the overspend was on restocking our freezer with meat and buying some basics which had run low. I may have overindulged again on the treats but it is so hard to resist ice-cream when it’s so warm outside, and we also bought a few beers to drink at home.

We had loads of Indian and Greek food in week 3, much of which was vegetarian which I loved but himself was desperately looking for some meat by Thursday evening. In our meal-plan for that week, we ate chickpea curry (4 servings), spaghetti carbonara (2 servings), spanakopita (4 servings), baked pork with yoghurt and cardamon (2 servings), moussaka (4 servings), wholegrain couscous with chicken and courgettes (2 servings), sausages sandwiches for Saturday and Sunday lunch, and the most beautiful piece of pork belly complete with crackling for Sunday dinner.

What really struck me about week 3 is how well we planned it, we made a meal plan on Monday evening, bought groceries on Tuesday and just stuck to the plan. Everything we had in that meal plan- packed lunches for 3 days, breakfasts to eat at work, a packed dinner for me on Friday night as I was travelling for a 5km race that evening, snacks to eat at our desks – just happened.

Amount Veg & Fruit Carbs Protein Dairy Treats Lunches Caffeine Other
€140.10 €24.94 €16.00 €28.60 €9.74 €17.07 €6.00 €13.34 €24.33

Week 4 was pretty much spot on as well. We only spent €60.12 as I had done a grocery shop on Sunday afternoon which meant that we only had to buy a small amount of groceries. At this stage, it seems that €17-ish is our standard spend on junk food and treats, and it is something that we need to work on.

I brought in lunch every day that week, and every dinner was cooked from scratch apart from a lazy Sunday dinner of pizza. The meal plan for that week was leftover pork belly from Sunday dinner, chicken goujons (2 servings), chickpea curry (4 servings), spaghetti carbonara (2 servings), spaghetti alla Norma (4 servings), chilli con carne (4 servings), more sausage sandwiches for brunch, pizza, loads of smoothies and 1kg of fudge.

Amount Veg & Fruit Carbs Protein Dairy Treats Lunches Caffeine Other
€60.12 €16.25 €4.77 €3.67 €6.41 €17.28 €0.00 €6.76 €4.98

So the total spend for the 4 weeks was… drum roll… €391.13… just within the €400 budget. I was absolutely delighted to see that we were under the limit. The budget covered 20 meals a week for 2 people over 4 weeks, so 160 servings of food with all snacks and drinks included.

I was worried that we would end up feeling deprived and eating cheap carbs to bulk out meals but we ate like kings for the 4 weeks. I really thought hard about how what we should be eating and how to get as many nutrients as cheaply as possible. We ate so many vegetables and so much protein in those 4 weeks. Honestly, I think this is the best my diet has been for months, even with the occasional treat.

Even now that the challenge has ended, we are still concentrating on bringing lunch to work as often as possible. We are cooking most dinners to be brought in the next day for lunch as leftovers. Meal planning and only buying what we actually need is also key to keeping our budget under control, especially as we have limited storage space. We managed to limit our food waste pretty well, mostly because we only bought what we needed and used up leftovers as we were bringing in lunch and snacks most days.

I’m going to keep going with watching our budget (won’t be blogging about it though) and I’m also planning on doing a no junk food month/ no spend month in a while.

Robin Redbreast

 

 

You really don’t see much wildlife around the area where I live. The only animals I ever see are the stray cats hanging out on our fire escape and the noisy nest of pigeons living in the next building, so imagine my surprise when I saw two robins hanging out on our balcony on Saturday evening.

One of the birds was quite shy and flew away when I opened the apartment door. The other fellow was so calm, and stayed on the railings as long as I stood relatively still and made no sudden movements or noises. It was a beautiful moment with nature in the middle of a busy city, and I really hope they come back again for another visit.

Robin

Art of the Brick

 

 

 

 

I’m very late posting this photo from The Art of The Brick exhibition in the Ambassador in Dublin which I attended in nearly 3 months ago! Some of the artwork from Nathan Sawaya is absolutely mind-blowing, even when you simply consider the amount of lego bricks which go into making even one of his sculptures. It might be finished its stint in Dublin but I would wholeheartedly recommend checking out his work on his website.
The Art of The Brick

Grocery Challenge Week 2

Week 2 of our grocery budget challenge was not as much of a success as the first week. We over-spent on our budget by €15.79 with a total spend of €115.79, which breaks our challenge goal of €100 per week. Failure on the second fence but we’ll continue on!

I would like to dismiss this over-spending blithely but it was due to complete and utter laziness and poor organisation. We had gone away for a night away on Monday for Colm’s birthday, and this threw our schedule for the rest of the week.

We both ended up having to buy lunch 2 out of the 3 days we worked in the week, and I have to say lunch from the canteen in my workplace pales in comparison to the lunches we bring in. I also overspent on junk food during the week and accidentally picked the wrong (more expensive) bottle of wine off the shelf and only realised after I left the shop. All in all, a terribly mismanaged week!

The only thing we did well in was not spending money on caffeine, I cut down on my Coke Zero intake, resulting in a terrible caffeine headache!

Our budget that week made 2 brunches of sausage sandwiches, spaghetti carbonara (2 servings), wholewheat couscous with chicken and courgettes (4 servings), baked pollock with baby potatoes and sauteed broccoli (2 servings), butternut squash risotto with leftovers made into aranchini (4 servings), the makings of 5 smoothies for my breakfast, fruit and nuts for snacks, some milk for tea and coffee, 4 lunches and so much junk food.

Veg & Fruit Carbs Protein Dairy Treats Lunches Caffeine Other
€14.26 €9.66 €20.41 €9.10 €20.76 €19.78 €7.88 €13.36

The main lesson from week 2 has to have been get organised! It is so much easier to save money on your groceries when you actually plan what you will be eating, instead of panicking when you go to the supermarket and wasting money unnecessarily. Either way, my plan is to balance out this overspending in the final 2 weeks.

Goals for 2014 Update

Seeing as it’s now July, I think it’s appropriate to look back on the goals I set on New Years Day and see what I’ve managed to achieve and where I need to do some work. I also realise there are some goals I won’t be able to achieve this year as I got a bit too enthusiastic earlier this year!

Personal

Achieved! I have read 52 books already as I read 2 books on average a week. I may have to do a few reviews on what I’ve read. We also moved to a new, warm and mould free apartment in January. I also grew my hair out to my collarbones.

Ongoing- My mental health is good and I am quite happy these days. I’ve also been trying really hard to be more organised and be better at keeping in contact with people. The big project though is learning how to drive and I just got my renewed learners permit in the post.

Need to do- I need to decide when I’m going to do my no spend month and my junk food free month, I’m thinking sometime in Autumn.

Never going to happen- I will probably not get around to taking French lessons this year, I’m just too lazy!

Health & Fitness

Ongoing- I recently joined the gym and started running again so hopefully will be posting some 5km results soon. I also have started doing yoga classes in Fitzgerald Park which Cork Himalaya Yoga are running in support of the Simon Community, and taking TRX classes. My diabetes is well under control as well!

Need to do- I know where the climbing wall are in Cork, and I just need to book a climbing course… again, sometime in Autumn!

Never going to happen- Learning how to swim is being put on the backburner for this year again, next year maybe!

Blogging

Ongoing- I’m trying my best to blog more frequently but unfortunately it all slipped to the back of my mind in recent months as I have been so busy with work… but I’m going to try harder.

Photography

Achieved! I bought a new camera body, a Nikon D7000 and am delighted with it.

Ongoing- I’m trying to be more active with my photography, going out more frequently with my camera and will join the photography club here when it is active again in Autumn.

Cooking & Baking

Achieved! I think I have found the perfect chocolate fudge cake, I’ll post the recipe soon!

Ongoing- I’m still organised my cookbook collection and menu planning each week. I’m experimenting more in the kitchen and eating more vegetables and fish than I ever have before in my life!

Need to do- I planned on making my own bread this year but to be honest, I don’t really eat that much bread any longer. I will make sure that if I am eating bread, it’ll be homemade.

Travel

Ongoing- So far this year, I’ve gone up to Dublin for a few days, spent a weekend in Limerick, and gone exploring in Cork where we live and in Galway where himself is from.

Need to do- I said that I would visit more friends who are living abroad but so many of them are visiting Ireland this year or have moved back, that these plans have been pushed out.

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I think I’ve actually done pretty okay so far this year with regards to my goals but I need to push on with some of them! I’ll update in 3 months and hopefully this will keep me motivated to complete them.

Grocery Challenge Week 1

I’ve been majorly delayed getting this post up as we were away on a night away for Colm’s birthday in Castlemartyr Estate. It was as fabulous as you would imagine it to be, and I have been feeling so relaxed since then.

Back to the business of grocery budgets and the first week of the challenge was an unbelievable success with a total expenditure of €75.12  out of a budgeted €100.

Part of our success was due to Colm visiting his mum for the weekend, and as any good Irish mammy, she kept him very well fed during his visit! While he was away, I met up with a friend who very generously treated me to lunch and also cashed in my weekly takeaway funds for some Dominos pizza on Sunday night (so not sorry!). Still, I’m delighted to see that our budget was well within target.

We had a mostly meat-free week, and even our dinners with meat focused more on vegetables than the meat. We both managed to bring lunch to work on 3 days which really helped to rein in the budget, and I managed to ignore some of my caffeine cravings.

From the €75.12 spend, we managed to make a very large pot of carrot and coriander soup (6 servings) with toasted ham & cheese sandwiches, penne carbonara (2 servings), sweet potato falafel (4 servings), chicken & kale stew (6 servings) and a rather delicious dark chocolate & orange birthday cake. We also bought a Goodfellas frozen pizza, loads of fruit, yoghurt, milk for teas/ coffee/ breakfast cereal and some treats. I had to buy lunch twice in work but managed to bring in leftovers and soup 3 days last week.

Sweet Potato Falafel

Looking back on what we cooked and ate, we managed to cook and eat 19 meals each on a very reasonable budget. I’ve put the breakdown below of what we spent the money on, and we really could cut back on our budget even further. It amazes me that a couple of treats and our caffeine addictions actually cost us the same amount as our vegetables and fruit for the week- and we definitely hit our 5 servings a day of fruit and veg last week!

Veg & Fruit Carbs Protein Dairy Treats Lunches Caffeine
€18.24 €7.17 €11.61 €8.80 €10.58 €7.00 €11.72

The main lesson that I learned from last week’s budgeting is the key to bringing my lunch to work is preparation – either doubling up recipes to make enough food for dinner and lunch or preparing a pot of soup at the beginning of the week. Mornings become so much easier when all you have to do in the morning is put your lunchbox in your bag.

 

Lough Derg, Killaloe

 

 

 

Lough Derg 1

Lough Derg 2

For the past month, every weekend has been endless days of sunshine and blue skies. Having decent weather makes it so easy to enjoy the facilities available here, and I have been grabbing them with both hands.

On the June Bank Holiday weekend, a quick trip to Limerick resulted in a spontaneous swim in the mind-numbingly cold water of Lough Derg. I grabbed these shots of the lake on the trip back after my numb fingers finally defrosted!