My Healthy Food Budget: Sept Month 11 / Week 2

My Healthy Food Budget Weekly total: $165.95 (extra long week!)

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. My husband occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

September – Month Eleven, Week Two

The official “Project Food Budget” is coming to a close in a couple of weeks, but my full year of budgeting will end in October. I’ve decided to adjust my “budget week” as Sunday to Saturday, as I think it’ll make it a lot easier to stay on track.

This week, I spent $165.95, with a monthly total of $296.71. That leaves $103.29 for the rest of September, calculating to about $50 per week.

Our dining-out spending was through the roof this week, but since we didn’t take any vacation time this year, we wanted to treat ourselves to one last blast of summertime fried (local) seafood. We’re so lucky to be on the coast!

Dining Out: $64.34
Groceries: $101.61

Spending Details

Mann Orchards $15.12: (Friday) half peck of local Mac apples (.99/lb), 1/2 gallon local apple cider, local green peppers, onions, lemons, garlic

Whole Foods $46.64: (Friday) 2lbs grassfed 90% ground beef (not local, but on sale), Tamari soy sauce, organic bananas, organic grapes (sale), kerrygold cheddar, bulk sucanat, bulk raisins, organic cashews (Canada), organic pasta, (2) fair trade chocolate bars, artichoke spinach hommus

Seven Acre Farm $7: (Saturday) 2 dozen jumbo eggs

Andover Farmers Market $4.50: (Saturday) bunch of “red” baby bok choy from Gaouette farm and three potatoes from Farmer Dave’s

Trader Joe’s $20.13: (Thursday) organic raisins, (2) peanuts, raw almonds, (2) organic pasta, feta cheese

Market Basket: (Thursday) Not part of my food budget, but I bought two Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap 32 oz bottles for only $6.99 each, in tax-free New Hampshire! whoo hooo!

Lowell Provisions Store (Thursday) $0 free coupon for 1 lb ground beef

Local Farm stand $8.22: (Saturday) Green pepper, large scallion, rainbow chard, (2) apples, (2) pears

Week of Meals

I’m adjusting my budget “week” as Sunday to Saturday, so there’ll be extra meals this week.

  • Thursday: Baked egg & brown rice with cream, radish greens, onions, garden eggplant & garden tomatoes topped with mozzarella 
  • Friday: Grassfed beef burger sandwiches with roasted peppers & onions and steamed green beans
  • Saturday: Take out
  • Sunday: Dining out fried seafood shack (splurge for end of summer)
  • Monday: Chicken broth soup with vegetables (carrots, scallions, baby bok choy, garden tomatoes) and quinoa
  • Tuesday: Pasta with garden tomato sauce
  • Wednesday: Leftover quinoa with tomato sauce
  • Thursday: Baked haddock (frozen from DH’s fishing trip) with leftover quinoa topped with butter & cheddar
  • Friday: Beef Meatloaf topped with stewed garden tomatoes with brown rice and side of steamed carrots
  • Saturday: Baked eggs & veggies (garden eggplant, baby red bok choy, bell pepper, garden Carmen peppers, scallions with a little bit of leftover brown rice)

Who Else is Budgeting?

project food budget

Find the details.

True Blue Bay Tuna from West Coast Seafood

Important Disclaimer: Although there are organizations like the MSC (marine stewardship council) that suggest certain seafood choices are sustainable with an abundant supply, I don’t believe ANY seafood or meat can be completely sustainable, because there are just too many people eating it! Restraint is always needed; United States caught tuna should not be taken for granted and shouldn’t be over-consumed even though it’s a much healthier choice than imported tuna.

I was contacted by West Coast Seafood to try their albacore tuna in pouches. Since I love USA-caught tuna, I happily agreed. I received two 6 oz pouches of tuna: “no salt” and “garlic & pesto” flavors.

true blue bay tuna - sample packs

True Blue Bay albacore tuna is packed in pouches, not cans, which is more environmentally-friendly, since it’s lighter to ship. Their tuna is cooked once, which they say retains 6x the omega 3 fatty acids, unlike canned which has to be heated/cooked twice.

It’s also much lower in mercury than the big commercial brands (Starkist, Chicken of the Sea, etc) because the fish are smaller when caught. And of course the tuna is caught in the US, not Asia, with hook & line, which is a more environmentally friendly method.

The tuna is packed in the US, unlike Wild Planet which unfortunately packs its US-caught tuna in Vietnam, stating there is no US sardine or tuna cannery capable of processing their larger volume. :(

Yes, Wild Planet is my usual brand of tuna, and yes, I do worry sometimes about the quality-control regarding packing outside the US. I’m concerned about the possibility of their product being altered or tainted somehow. But it’s still heads & tails above any grocery brand of tuna.

For more information about the problems with big commercial grocery tuna brands, check my prior post. In the post, I also include reviews for American Tuna & Wild Planet.

True Blue Bay Albacore Weight

As I said above, I received two different flavors of tuna from them. We consumed the “no salt” flavor first.

I weighed the liquid (natural juices) in the pouch, and it weighed 1.25 oz, while the full package contents weighed in at 5.85, just slightly under the 6 oz claimed on the package.

In my prior tuna reviews, both American Tuna and Wild Planet cans contained 1 oz natural juices and American contained 5 of solid tuna (6 oz can), and Wild Planet contained 4 oz (smaller 5 oz can.) I’ve since weighed the Wild Planet 5 oz can, and the liquid weighed under 1 oz this time, at approximately .65oz. The total weight of both liquid and fish was over the 5 oz as well at about 5.5oz.

Note: Don’t discard the natural juices from these premier brands, they contribute to the tuna’s full flavor.

how much liquid in pouch

how much total tuna in pouch

True Blue Bay Tuna Taste Review

I tasted the tuna, and I’m sorry to say that it was a bit bland. Yes, it is unsalted, but that doesn’t automatically mean it is flavorless. The true flavor of the tuna should shine whether on it’s own or mixed with other ingredients. Unfortunately, the True Blue Bay tuna tasted a little boring and “washed out.”

I then mixed the tuna with avocado, lemon juice & a little Earth Balance “mindful mayo” and made yummy sandwiches for our lunch. There was enough for sandwiches the following day as well.

tuna with avocado, lemon and vegan mayo

In general, we both enjoyed the tuna. Even though it was a little bland, it is so much tastier than commercial supermarket brands, it’s fresher and more flavorful, just like “real” tuna should taste.

A few days ago, I opened the 2nd pouch, garlic pesto, and only added Earth Balance mayo. I made tuna & spinach sandwiches for lunch, with a side of fruit. Yummy. I’ve never tried flavored canned seafood, so it was a first for me. It tasted good, but I prefer a pure no-salt version. That way I can add my own flavorings.

tuna spinach sandwich with a side of fruit
tuna spinach sandwich with a side of fruit

There was enough tuna for one more sandwich for lunch the following day.

So, would I purchase the True Blue Bay tuna again? As it is now, I have to admit probably not. If they sold at Whole Foods grocery (or another local outlet) then yes, I would probably consider it again.

My usual brand of Wild Planet can be found at Whole Foods, as well as through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save at less than $3 per can.

I have bought American Tuna a couple of times at Whole Foods, and it is a good tuna as well, but at $5 per can, it’s a budget buster.

True Blue Bay tuna is offered as low as $5 a can (inc/shipping) when purchased in as an “unlabeled” 24 pack from their web site, but it’s a big commitment to plunk down over $100 to purchase such a large quantity all at once. Again, I would consider them if they were available in a store in my local area.

So, bottom line, the True Blue Bay tuna is a little bland, but still delicious for sandwiches, similar to other US-caught canned brands, but the expense would probably deter me from purchasing again unless I could find it locally. It’s too bad, because they are a great company, and I’d love to support them, but after shipping costs, it would make more sense to purchase locally caught fresh tuna instead.

Important Disclaimer: Although there are organizations like the MSC (marine stewardship council) that suggest certain seafood choices are sustainable with an abundant supply, I don’t believe ANY seafood or meat can be completely sustainable, because there are just too many people eating it! Restraint is always needed; United States caught tuna should not be taken for granted and shouldn’t be over-consumed even though it’s a much healthier choice than imported tuna.

Eating From the Freezer

I have decided to try to eat what’s in my freezer before purchasing any more meat or seafood.

I have lovely scallops, shrimp, boneless chicken, whole chicken, ground beef, etc. and I think it’s important to save some money and just concentrate on eating what’s there first.

So far so good! I roasted a chicken on Sunday, and it’s given us 6 meals! 4 dinners (including soup!) and 2 lunches!

I can’t believe that I haven’t been to Whole Foods since the end of August! I did shop at the local Market Basket grocery store to pick up a few things, I desperately needed a bag of King Arthur white whole wheat flour, yogurt, and some bananas.

This week, I’m glad that there isn’t much on sale again at Whole Foods. I’ll just pick up a few necessities at Market Basket, and grab all my produce from the local farms and from my CSA share at Farmer Daves.

With our lower meat consumption, I could actually be sustained for a few weeks, and possibly not need to visit Whole Foods until October. Wow, now wouldn’t that be a feat!

But for now, one week at a time!

Wild Alaskan Salmon One Day Sale at Whole Foods

Troll caught wild Alaskan salmon is on sale at Whole Foods Market – one day, Friday for $8.99/pound.

Quoted from Whole Foods:

Coho salmon fillets from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fishery are on sale. They’re hand selected by Whole Foods Market’s Alaska port buyer who spends the summer at Alaska’s port openings choosing the freshest salmon to send to our stores—within 48 hours or less of the catch! The blue and white “Certified Sustainable Seafood” MSC seal ensures that the salmon are abundant and come from a well-managed fishery. And, having our own port buyer means that only top-quality salmon that are bright-skinned with a firm texture are chosen.

I love Whole Foods’ one-day-friday sales! I’ll be heading there for sure tomorrow to take advantage. I was concerned about storage, so I spoke to the seafood dept and they said they could certainly wrap it tightly for freezer stockpile. Since Mike doesn’t like much seafood, I am the lone salmon lover/eater.

I feel I should also mention that just because this salmon is MSC certified, doesn’t mean that it’s safe to consume huge portions. We need to remember that no animal product is completely 100% sustainable, especially at the current rate we’re consuming! We can never stop worrying about our seafood supplies, and the only way to keep our future safe is to consume LESS, but spend MORE for higher quality responsibly-caught seafood.

Here are some intriguing recipes from Whole Foods web site. I like the burger recipe, looks like the rating is not to hot, but the recipe comments have suggestions to make it better!

Wild Alaska Salmon and Avocado Salad
Poached Wild Salmon with Skillet Tomatoes
Rosemary-Lime Wild Alaska Salmon Kabobs
Grilled Salmon and Lemons with Herbs
Mini Wild Salmon Cakes

EDIT: The salmon was lovely! Beautiful and fresh! I purchased 2 pounds, and came home and sliced it into 6 individual servings. 5 went into the freezer in freezer bags, and I ate a piece for lunch with some homemade guacamole. Wonderful!

Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Imported Shrimp

I found the quote “Friends don’t let friends buy imported shrimp.” on page 30 of the book “Cooking in the Moment – A Year of Seasonal Recipes” by Andrea Reusing. Those words should be an inspiration to us all!

I adore shrimp! I wish I could eat shrimp more often! But US wild-caught shrimp is expensive, so it should be savored and cherished as a special treat!

I have long refused to buy imported shrimp but it looks like I’m in the minority. Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the US, but since 80-90% of shrimp is imported from Asia and Mexico, it looks like consumers are either not aware of the dangers or just don’t care.

I always knew there were big health and environmental risks with imported (wild and farmed) seafood, but I just read an older article on the subject and it really hit home.

quote from the article:

Properly run shrimp farms yield up to 445 pounds per acre. Food & Water Watch, which has long studied aquaculture, has documented that many foreign shrimp farm operators densely pack their ponds to produce as much as 89,000 pounds of shrimp per acre.

Oh my Lord, can you imagine the pollution, bacteria and illness this causes?

And then the article goes on to state that less than 2% of imported seafood is actually checked and/or analyzed. And what IS checked has been found to be hazardous to our health.

Consumers blindly trust that if it’s allowed to come into our country, then it must be safe. Consumers expect our government to constantly check and re-check products, whether imported or native, but it’s been proven time and time again that it’s not being done!

When will we wake up!? I am doubtful we will.

It’s the American way to demand lower prices, but look what’s happened to the quality of our food! We need to demand better quality food, but not expect to pay rock bottom prices. We need to start paying a little more, and appreciate the quality of the product!

So, please FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS EAT IMPORTED SHRIMP! Support US wild caught shrimp!

Canned Tuna Reviews: American Tuna & Wild Planet

Important Disclaimer: Although there are organizations like the MSC (marine stewardship council) that suggest certain seafood choices are sustainable with an abundant supply, I don’t believe ANY seafood or meat can be completely sustainable, because there are just too many people eating it! Restraint is always needed; US tuna should not be taken for granted and shouldn’t be over-consumed even though it’s a much healthier choice than imported tuna.

american tuna canned tuna sandwich

Americans consume approximately 3 lbs of tuna per year. Canned tuna is a billion dollar business, but it remains a confusing food for consumers to purchase.

Most tuna from large commercial brands contain mercury, plus the way these companies catch tuna is deplorable! For skipjack and yellowfin, they use a large net to catch massive amounts of tuna. For albacore tuna, the most used method is a longline. Problem is, other fish like shark, dolphins, & rays plus sea animals like turtles can also be caught using both these methods, and because the fishermen only want tuna, the unwanted fish are thrown (dead or wounded) back into the ocean.

Sustainability conscience companies use the troll and/or poll & line methods. The first method, trolling is a useful way to ensure that younger smaller tuna fish are caught, which are much lower in mercury.

There are only a handful of companies that offer tuna caught in the US. I like the idea of eating US caught tuna. I cringe when I read the label on the can and see “product of Indonesia” or Thailand, or China. Even companies like 365 from Whole Foods don’t offer tuna from the US. I assume the main reason is the expense. Consumers don’t want to pay a premium for premium products!

A can of tuna from Starkist or Chicken of the Sea is under $2 (sometimes under $1), but a can of higher quality USA tuna is $4-$5. Yeah, that’s a big difference! Americans have become so used to cheap food, but they don’t bother to think about the reason as to WHY it’s so cheap. The old saying “You get what you pay for” should apply to our food as well!

Buying American caught tuna is supporting the US, and you’re getting a much higher quality product (lower in mercury, higher in Omega 3 fatty acids). The quality of the tuna can’t be compared. The texture and taste is similar to eating freshly cooked tuna. It does require a little time to get used to the taste of higher quality tuna, as our nation’s taste buds are dulled by the taste (or lack there of) of main-stream commercial brands of canned tuna. But once you learn to appreciate it, it’s so much better. I think it’s worth the extra money.

Another positive aspect of purchasing a higher quality canned tuna is that it’s packed in the tuna’s natural juices, not in water or oil; there is no need to drain the can first. So, what you are paying for is TUNA, not canning liquid like the more popular brands; canning in natural juices also allow for a higher amount of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids to be retained.

Recommended Tuna Brands

I really enjoy two brands of US tuna: Wild Planet (See my update below) and American Tuna

Continue reading “Canned Tuna Reviews: American Tuna & Wild Planet”

Whole Foods Scallops $9.99/lb Sale Friday

This Friday, June 10th, Whole Foods Market is having a one-day sale on wild-caught sea scallops! At 9.99/lb it’s a great deal!

I’ve been told that the scallops have been caught just off the coast of Eastern Canada, and are frozen at sea to lock in their flavor. And they’re from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fishery, which can be a plus, although personally, I don’t always trust their judgement. :(

I’ll be shopping for scallops on Friday for sure. I do love scallops, although I don’t eat them very often. I know organizations like the MSC suggest certain seafood choices are sustainable with an abundant supply, but I don’t believe any seafood or meat can be completely sustainable, because there are just too many people eating it! So restraint is needed; scallops are lovely, but should be considered as a wonderful treat, not to be taken for granted.

Scallop Recipe links from Whole Foods:

UPDATE 2011-06-10:
Went to the local Whole Foods market today, and bought about 2.5 pounds of frozen scallops on sale. I loved that they offered them frozen! And they weren’t in a big frozen clump, they were each individually frozen, so you could thaw as little as needed. I transferred them to a freezer bag. Yum! Hopefully if we savor them, they will last all summer long! YUM!

whole foods one day only scallops on sale

Maine Mahogany Littleneck Clams

Just checked out the new sales flier from Whole Foods for the week, and I’m excited to see Moosabec Mahogany Littleneck clams are on sale for $1.49.

I’m adding them to my shopping list this week for sure. I’ve never made fresh clams EVER, but it’s a great opportunity to try something new and be adventurous!

I might even buy a larger quantity so I can freeze them to make clam chowder later.

Obviously I do not have personal experience cooking clams, but I’ve seen them prepared many times on various cooking shows and videos. I’m thinking about steaming them, removing the meat, chopping, then adding them to pasta with a ricotta cheese garlic oil sauce. Could be delicious! (Hmm, I realized afterward that it’s an old cooking rule never to mix cheese with seafood!!! But ricotta cheese is more like cream than cheese, so I don’t know if it counts!)

According to wikipedia, the smallest clams are called countnecks, then next size up are littlenecks. I’m not a big fan of big clam bellies, so hopefully, they’ll be just right. Can’t wait!

UPDATE: Friday night, I bought 9 clams (little over a pound). Made pasta with garlic clam sauce. DELICIOUS!!!! I’m going back for more!