BC: What is the Budget Challenge?

I love food. I don’t mind eating a nice, big marbled steak now and again, and I am a big fan of being very unladylike and sucking the juices from garlic baked shrimp. I don’t really care how much my groceries cost, food is important and I have plenty of other excuses should that one not be to your liking. However, with this budget challenge I want to see if I can make good menus for a decent price too.
There’s a bunch of reasons for it but mainly it just sounded kind of fun to do. And it is the easiest way to shut up people who eat expensive take-away a lot and always complain that they have no money. Ok ok, deep down I am really a big softy and it’s kind of my way to try to help out people for whom the economical situation is not working in their favor.
The challenge is not just an eat-for-as-little-as-possible week, which would be impossible to keep up for much longer (unless you are a student and can live off dried cup-noodles). During this challenge I will try to make good food that is well-balanced and not too unhealthy (which in my world means that I will use plenty of veg and will try to refrain from deep fried horrors).
I have a 1 person household (which is a fancy way of saying I am single, but don’t be too quick feeling sorry for me, I definitely don’t. More food for me!) and pretty much all budget meals require at least 4 mouths to feed, or requires you to eat leftovers 3 days in a row if you don’t want to store it in the freezer – let’s face it, many leftovers that go in never leave. My goal is to provide week-menus which are fresh, diverse and tasty. While staying within a budget. And with budget I mean realistic budget, not the meals where they claim something costs a certain amount while omitting pantry items or using a fraction of an ingredient that you won’t really use for anything else, and still counting only the fraction used for the price of the meal. That’s why I also include a shopping budget.
I realise that this budget might be more than what you have to spend. I will try to give some tips on cheaper alternatives as well, such as storing frozen fish and vegetables, which allows for diversity while getting the most for your money. I am not taking sales into account either. I can advise you to first see what is on sale this week in your supermarket before planning your weekly menu. Planning a menu and shopping only once a week will save you money.

BC01-2-Fish Curry
Each week I will post a weekly message, providing the grocery list, costs and the meals that I made. I will post the recipes in the recipe section, with links in the weekly overviews. The recipes itself will be coded with “(BC)” behind the recipe name, indicating it was part of the Budget Challenge.

BC01-0-Groceries
For the challenge I have a few rules/guidelines:

  • Max cost per meal: Fish/meat €3.50. Vegetarian €2.00.
  • Spending money: €20,- max for 9 meals (7x dinner, 2x lunch). Shopping is allowed to cost €25,- to allow for extra pantry items (like pasta).
  • The aim is for 2x fish, 2-3x meat and 2-3x vegetarian dinner a week. Lunches will be semi luxurious, no PBJ-sandwiches.
  • The portions must be of decent size. We’re not on a diet.
  • The portions are 1 person sizes, which makes this a lot more challenging.
  • The food must be good. Fresh or frozen ingredients to make diverse and tasty food.
  • Meals must be balanced. This means that (most meals) will have proteins, vegetables and starches. It is allowed to have a meal which misses one of these items, but it should fit with the meal and within the weekly menu.
  • Meat and fish will preferably be over 125gr. I will aim for 150-200gr for most meals. Less is only ok if other days balance it out.
  • Vegetables will be at least 200gr. Less is only ok if other days balance it out.
  • Be realistic. However cheap it is (and delicious), nobody should live off spaghetti with garlic and oil.
  • Pantry items are calculated into the price.
  • Pantry items need to be realistic. I might have a lot of ingredients but I will stick to simple ones that have many uses.
  • Leftovers are allowed to be frozen, but they still add up to the shopping budget of max 25 euro a week. So using half a can of coconut milk does add a full can to the shopping list. This means I will aim to avoid leftovers.
  • One shopping trip to the supermarket/market, which I do on Saturday.
  • Food must be relatively simple and should not require hours in the kitchen. I might love cooking and even I can be immensely lazy after getting home from work. The budget challenge is for normal people.

This is based on where I live. Adjust your meal planning according to what is cheap near you. Fish is very expensive here, as is lamb meat. If these items are cheap where you live, by all means add them to your menu, and take out more expensive items. If you want help (or a copy of my pricing excel sheet) send me a message.

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