Budget Menu & Dirt Cheap Recipes Cooking for Two Moving out. Please help!

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    • #272889

      Hi, everyone, I’m new here and am in desperate need of direction. I come from a home where there was never grocery shopping or use of coupons. I was raised by 2 yuppie dads who sneer at coupons and say “eww”.

      Well, not really, but you get the idea.

      Anyway, our day proceeds as follows:
      – wake up, drink diet coke, go to work
      -work, eat at restaurant, go home
      -get home, drink diet coke, sleep

      I mean seriously, we never eat here unless my step siblings are here and we order take out. It’s just that rediculous.

      So let’s get into the meat of things…my boyfriend and I are moving into our own home next month. I use coupons for most of the things I buy because I’m obsessed with money and finance, debt, etc… So I’m familiar with coupon usage just not for well, food.

      lol My boyfriend said he’s giving me grocery money and letting me “handle it”. lol Which is probably good since he’d leave with a hundred bucks and come home with Mountain Dew, a Red Baron, Bubbilicious, and the change. :118:

      What do I need to buy to stock our fridge? How do I menu plan? He’s a meat eater, I’m not crazy about meat.

      What do I set as our budget per week for food? I just need help help help! :dash1:

    • #420486

      Since you aren’t used to shopping or cooking yet you may want to start of slowly.
      There are a lot of great menu plans on this site that people post. Look for simple recipes that don’t use too many ingredients. You don’t want to spend a fortune on spices that you may only use once or twice. The pantry list is great but may overwelm you right now.

      Find a cookbook at the library that has 5 or less ingredient recipes to get you started, you can always expand from there.
      Buy items that you can use for a number of things, example: Italian salad dressing can be used for salads and also is a great marinade for chicken, you don’t need 3 or 4 different kinds. Bisquick mix can be used for waffles, pancakes, buiscuits and some great basic meals (recipes on the box or go to website) so you don’t need to buy a bunch of different mixes. Cream soups are great for lunch with a sandwich and can be used in many quick recipes.
      If you start with cooking from scratch with a few basic simple meals you will avoid the trap of convienience foods which always cost a lot.

      It’s hard to determine what your weekly budget should be until you get some staples on hand and figure out how many meals you will need to plan for each week. Planning out your meals for a week at a time will be a big moneysaver. Getting a crockpot and starting your supper in the morning and having it ready when you come home will be something helpful, some great dump recipes here and most of them don’t require a ton of ingredients.
      Don’t worry, you’ll learn as you go.

    • #420489

      I would also agree that you should start slow. Buy a few different meats, chicken, steak, seafood, you probably don’t need more than 1 lb of each kind to try them. Find out what your boyfriend likes and plan a few meals.

      Have some staples in your house too like bisquick and bread, veg. oil, eggs, milk, pb, pasta, rice, potatoes and whatever veggies and drinks you like. That should be a good start.

      after a little while you will start to learn more of what you need. Good Luck

    • #420502

      How often you plan for depends on how often you get paid! I only get paid on the 1st of each month so I plan for and shop only once a month. Hopefully you have money coming in each week.

      That way you can only plan for a few days at a time and makes it much easier to learn as you go. What stables to have on hand depends on how you cook. I would suggest flour, salt, baking powder, oil, eggs and milk.

      I make my stuff from scratch but lcove2000 suggested having bisquick which you can use to make pancakes and biscuits from that mix instead of making them from scratch. So it depends on what you will actually use. You’ll figure that out in the first few weeks of shopping and running your household!

      Make sure to involve your boy friend! If he doesn’t cook and doesn’t want to learn then maybe he can set the table and then wash dishes afterwards! If he does cook or wants to learn then you can take turns cooking and cleaning up so one person doesn’t get stuck with all of it!

      there are tons of ideas and recipes on this site if you have the time to go browsing! good luck to you as you start your new life!

    • #420526

      When I moved out of my house I was clueless too. My family was very much of the grab some fast food or get it out of a can variety. I suggest always having: cereal, Milk, eggs, bread, jam/jelly, pasta, pasta sauce, oil, flour salt, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, pepper and some fruits and veggies on hand.

      I also tend to but chicken breasts and cook several at a time and then make several meals out of it. Chicken soup, on top of a salad, Enchiladas…etc. I usually keep a pound or two of hamburger in the freezer just in case.

      Buy the fix it and forget it cookbook. It has lots of tried and true crockpot recipes in it and can be a real life saver. You just dump it in the morning and it’s ready when you get home.

      Sometimes I make a double batch so I can freeze half and have a meal down the road that doesn’t involve cooking. In fact any time I cook I make extra to freeze. Now when I make up a grocery list I usually plan on one one or two days a week pulling something out of the freezer for dinner.

      I also have single serving containers I freeze in and use this often for lunch.

      I usually spend about $75.00 every other week. The first couple months of setting up house I spent a bit more then this. It takes a while to get build up your pantry and I didn’t want to go crazy the first visit to the store.

      I do not like to stop at the store in between my bi-weekley shopping trips. I find when you make those quick stops you end up going way over budget. I just started using coupons when I joined this forum and that’s been a big help.

      Hope this helps a bit

    • #420551

      @Niddi 116825 wrote:

      Since you aren’t used to shopping or cooking yet you may want to start of slowly.
      Don’t worry, you’ll learn as you go.

      Niddi, That’s a really good idea! I also am intending on planting my own herbs. As soon as we get in and the dust settles that is.

      Thank you!

    • #420552

      Thank you all for your posts! I’ve got some great ideas and motivation.

    • #420600

      Depending on you and your boyfriends budget, you may want to start slow. if you have any kind of discount grocery stores (Aldi, save-a-lot etc) in your area you should shop there for basics (condiments spaghetti sauces, noodles, vegetables, etc). that will probably be a large bill since you dont have anything.

      if possible, throw a house warming party and ask your guests to bring a useful household or food item. this can be a great way to stock up without buying all the necessities. when i moved out years ago it was rough, i lived on ramen for quite a while until i got comfortably situated.

      you may have some tough times but you will pull through. You will see that indepandance feels wonderful!!! Good luck!

    • #420611
      Avatar for PennyPinchermos

      I agree with all of the ladies here…make a budget and take it slow, gradually building up your pantry. go to the pantry forum! many ladies have posted great lists on what to have in your pantry.

      good luck and let us know how it’s going;-)

    • #420743

      It has been a long time since I had an empty (start from nothing) pantry so I really had to do some thinking to come up with a list for you. If I were starting out with nothing, and I had to get everything from the store, this is what I think I would start my food pantry with:

      flours (white and whole wheat and multi-grain)
      corn meal
      rice (brown and white)
      salt, pepper, herbs and spices
      mayo, mustard and other condiments including syrup, jams and jellies
      Baking Supplies: baking powder and baking soda, corn starch and yeast, cream of tartar,cocoa, baking chips and nuts, cinnamon, vanilla and other extracts
      sugars (white, brown and powdered)
      peanut butter and other nut butters
      pasta (egg noodles, spaghetti, macaroni etc.)
      powdered chicken, beef and vegetable soup base
      canned beans and dry beans
      canned tuna and other fish
      canned meat
      canned and dried Fruit
      canned Vegetables
      canned tomato products (diced, paste, crushed and sauces)

      Canisters with tight fitting lids to put the dry goods in. A can opener. A good pair of kitchen shears (to open bags, etc.)

      In a cool, and dry (out of sunlight) place I would put a bag of potatoes and a bag of onions and some garlic.

      My refrigerator would get: fresh stuff–eggs, butter, milk and orange juice. Several different kinds of cheeses.

      My freezer would get a good selection of meat and poultry (once home, before putting it in the freezer it would be cut up and divided into small bags of one or two serving size pieces).
      Also, a good selection of frozen fruit juice concentrates.

      I believe the best meals come from a collaboration of well-stocked freezer, pantry, and refrigerator.

      (If I had the money to do it in one trip, I would. If not, I would add a little each week or each time I shopped). Only buy the items that you will use.

      Rotate items in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. A good rule to follow is First In, First Out.

      This list would give you the ability to cook from scratch and to make your own mixes.

      Hope this helps. Thanks; Virginia

    • #420812

      I found this ziploc vacuum bag system on clearance for 2.50 at Tom Thumb grocery. It came with 3 bags and the vacuum. I think that’ll come in handy when I find meat on sale.

      I was also given a really pretty copper canister set. I was also given one of those basket type situations that you hang and it has 3 tiers to put veggies or fruit in. I love it!

      The bf’s sister bought us silverware as a house warming gift. She also gave me numerous Kitchenaid mixing bowls and a large bowl w/lid. Let’s see…oh yes I got a lot of picture frames from her.

      And a pretty afghan from his mother.

      This is way off subject but I’m so excited. It seems we’re starting off nicely. Thank you all for your posts!

    • #420822

      Glad you are getting off to a great start! Great that you have some support as you get started! I got one of those vacuum seal systems last month too but haven’t tried it yet!

      got to figure out where the kids put it all!

    • #420855

      Moving out on your own is so exciting! i just moved out with my bf about a year and a half ago, and we are still learning new things everyday. You’ll soon see that it is very much a learning process.

      And it’ll take some time to get used to grocery shopping. We still don’t have a set plan or way of doing it. I get paid once a month and I love to cook so it’ll vary depending on your pay period and whether you like fresh home-cooked meals or you don’t mind having frozen ones.

      Here are some options:

      !. You can go once a month, in a huge bulk-style shopping. You might want to go to BJs or Sams club or Costco for large wholesale items. We usually go and get a few freezer items that’ll last longer than our normal shopping, so we have backup when we run out of food.

      2. You can go every few weeks, like a 2 week shopping and restock your fridge and get items for meals. You can do this by pre-planning the meals or you can do like I do, and plan the meals after I get home for each week.

      My bf HATES following a list, I’ve begged and tried to go on my own, but he really, really, really likes getting new foods that he hasn’t tried yet. So we try our best. What also happens with this 2 week style is that the “Fresh” foods like fruit and veggies and fridge-items like milk, eggs, etc. start going bad.

      So what we do is eat those first, then start in on the canned items and frozen items.

      3. You can go weekly, or even daily. But I’ve never really tried this.

      We just do one big shopping for about $150 and that’ll last us 2-4 weeks and we might have a few $20 shopping trips throughout for things we need or have run out of. This is probably the most ideal because you’ll buy just the food you need and everything can be fresh and healthier. But it seems like too much hard work and you’ll need a flexible schedule.

      About all the condiments and such, our fridge kind of started out empty and slowly built its way up. I don’t think you need to really worry about stocking your fridge with those items until a recipe actually calls for it.

      I usually always make sure we have: frozen veggies and canned veggies (which you can get on sale for 50 cents or $1 each), and then fresh veggies whenever you shop. You should then try and have some pasta and rice for meals too, if you want. We buy bread and buns and freeze them since the two of us don’t eat them fast enough.

      And about you not liking meat but your bf does, has he tried any of the Boca or Gardenburgers? They taste so much like the real thing nowadays, especially with BBQ sauce. I actually like them better.

      We buy the veggie hot dogs too because I like knowing what’s actually in them, unlike real hot dogs (no offense lol).

      You’ll also notice the first 6 months you feel like your always buying things for your new home but eventually it slows down and you wont need to go shopping so often for household items. Good luck and PM me if you have any questions.

    • #420892

      Lots of great advice here!

      Becca is right about just buying what you need to start you off. Only get things you know you will use/need. It helps to have a plan of action aka a menu in place before you start shopping.

      Use the ads to plan your meals around what is on sale for the most bang for your buck. Before we moved in together I made a menu complete with 3 meals, snacks, and desserts for a month and that helped me plan and shop. Sign up for the Kraft magazine for lots of great cooking ideas – it’s free!

      Since it has not been that long since I started with a bare pantry I will list what I can remember we bought in that first food trip. I was slowly learning to cook myself. We spent quite a bit to get the kitchen started, but we had planned for that.

      Produce section:
      lettuce, radishes, green onions, tomatoes, fruit (whatever is on sale), cilantro, carrots, bell pepper, lemon juice, limes, lemons, mushrooms, bag potatoes, bag onions, celery, lime juice. – salads, baked potatoes, kabob veggies, veggies for pan roasting, salsa, drink garnishes, etc.

      1 or two roma tomatoes, a few squeezes of lime or lemon juice, some minced garlic, some cilantro leaves – no stems, a very little green pepper, and a green onion put in a small food chopper (I got mine at walmart for under $20.00) makes a great fresh salsa for chips or tacos. Sorry I don’t measure! I just add stuff and blend till it tastes good.

      Bakery section:
      Bread, sliced french bread, & flour tortillas – quesadillas, tacos, sandwiches, garlic bread, brushetta, etc.

      Condiments & spices:
      mayo, mustard, PB, jelly, pepper, salt, parsley, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, a good steak/burger spice, mrs. dash (yellow one), cinnamon, olive oil, non stick pan spray, 2 ranch and 2 Italian salad dressing bottles, ketchup, pancake syrup, nutella, tea bags, lemonade mix, kool-aid,

      Jiffy or Bisquick baking mix (very versatile), brown, powdered, & white sugar, all purpose flour, cake mix, pudding, jello, jiffy small box mixes (muffins, pizza crust, etc. great for two) – pancakes, pot pies, muffins, pizza, cookies, biscuits, etc.

      Meats & cheeses:
      Lunchmeat, chicken, ground beef, 2 small steaks to celebrate moving in together, beef chopped for stir fry and cubed for kabobs, pork chops, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, – chicken cordon bleu, burgers, stir fry, SOS (white gravy with chunks of ham lunch meat served over toast), biscuits and gravy, etc.

      Canned & boxed items:
      can chicken, can tuna, cream of mushroom & chicken soups, ramen (great noodles for stir fry), mac & cheese, tomato sauce, dry gravy mix, pasta noodles, pasta sauce, rice, can fruit, mashed potato flakes, can beans, sauerkraut, pickles, olives, can veggies, minced garlic, oreos, dry onion soup mix, bagged cereal, – chicken salad, tuna salad, chili, ham & beans, casseroles, spaghetti, meatloaf, kraut dogs, Spanish rice, etc.

      Milk carton (expiration date is really long on organic milk which is great for two), mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream, eggs, Pillsbury canned items, butter, – dips, quiche, croissants, cinnamon rolls, etc.

      peas & carrots, fajita veggie mix, mixed veggies, blueberries, vanilla ice cream, pizza, bag of shrimp, tater tots, chopped onion, chopped bell pepper, – fajitas, shakes, tater tots used for hash browns, etc.

      This lasted us almost a full month with 1 more small trip for perishables and gave us a nice variety each night from meatloaf to shrimp kabobs. I made my own bbq sauce by pairing ketchup with lemon juice, onions, and brown sugar poured on pork chops and baked in the oven. Yummy!

      I will say that not every dish was gourmet, but it was filling and what we could afford.

      Try to find a really old paperback cook book called cooking for two from Betty Crocker (it is part of an older small white boxed set with red writing at the top and each book has a circle picture on it) and it was my cooking bible since the menus/recipes in the book were scaled for two people. I would have been lost without this. I got it at a library sale for 50 cents, but I later purchased the entire set on ebay and gave the extra book to my friend who had just got married and needed it.

      Good Luck!

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Budget Menu & Dirt Cheap Recipes Cooking for Two Moving out. Please help!