The $25 Shopping Cart, v. 18.0 – Extreme Edition

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It’s been a LOOOOONG time since I’ve done one of these, and yet we’re still all the way up to #18! Pretty cool, and what an adventure it was.

My health being what it’s been lately, it’s become harder for me to find the best place to work (I still have hope that I can find the right work environment that will be accommodating of my condition), so I’ve been bare bonesin’ it like crazy lately! I “splurged” in the mornings during the #PGEWbreakfastchallenge, but otherwise I’ve been keeping things really lean around here.

It’s not so bad, though. I rather like the way I have to get super resourceful during leaner times. Boosts the creative juices and all. But even if I’m good at making the most out of random scraps of this, that and the other, I eventually run out of ingredients. And the ones I run out of most frequently, as I’m sure is the case with most folks, is the produce.

I get very nervous when I’m out of avocados… and tomatoes, but that’s a WHOLE other blog post. (Seriously, winter/spring is sheer agony for fresh tomato lovers!)

Now, I would normally go to my favorite Sunday farmers’ market for my produce fix, but the situation was pretty dire. I’d been completely unable to move or walk for three weeks because of a pretty terrible PRE-herpetic Neuralgia flare (yeeeee), so I was out of a lot. Because my condition is considered an autoimmune disorder, I absolutely have to eat as balanced as possible so I stay as healthy as I can. That means a lot of fruits and vegetables (though back in the day before I got sick, I could get away with just bare bones staples on their own). While it might seem like waiting a few days for the farmers’ market wouldn’t hurt, I’ve learned the hard way that it actually does! So this was an emergency fresh food run.

Since I only had the $25 for food and nothing else (not even bus fare… eek!), I needed to find a place that would be A) within somewhat reasonable walking distance because I was still hobbling, B) really cheap, and C) had fairly decent produce. The only place that really fit that description in my area was, believe it or not, Food Source.

I did a $25 Shopping Cart run at Food Source a few years ago and left quite content with my purchases. Prices were even better back then, so I was able to get a decent amount of food. But we all know food prices aren’t going anywhere but UP, and that makes it a little tougher to tackle this challenge. Still, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, so shop for fruits and veggies (and kitty food!) I would do. Without further ado, here’s the list of what I got:

  • 6 avocados @ 2 for $0.98 – $2.94
  • 1.53 lbs bananas @ $0.58/lb – $0.89
  • 2 bunches of cilantro (4 bunches for $0.98) – $0.49
  • 1 English cucumber – $1.09
  • 1 2.62 lb head of green cabbage (3 lbs for $1.00) – $0.87
  • 1 2 lb bag key limes – $2.99
  • 3 lemons @ $0.39/each – $1.17
  • 2 mangos @ $0.69/each – $1.38
  • 1 8 oz. package of white mushrooms – $1.69
  • 1 bag reduced-for-quick-sale hot house tomatoes (not sure the weight but about 4lbs) – $1.00 (!!!)
  • 1.81 lbs roma tomatoes @ $0.68/lb – $1.23
  • 2 Serrano chiles @ $0.89/lb – $0.06
  • 18 large eggs – $2.79
  • 4 cans Friskies kitty food for StuKitty @ $0.58/each – $2.32
  • 2 packs turkey & rice baby food for Beni (my 17.5 year old kitty who’s having a hard time right now) – $2.36

Grand Total: $23.46!!!

Now, before some folks get a bit worked up, yes… I realize my produce was not organic and that my eggs came in a styrofoam container. I hate that. I’m used to knowing how my produce is grown because I usually get it at the farmers’ market and ask my farmers how they do things (the majority use the same pesticide-free practices the big organic farms do; they just can’t afford that uber expensive certification). I also abhor styrofoam. But like I said earlier, this was an emergency food run and I had to do what was needed for survival mode.

Like limes. This lime shortage is going to put a damper on summertime! Yay for key limes still being semi-affordable, though.

And that’s just it. I get a lot of flack from some who say I should promote this diet or that, or that eating a particular type of food is the ONLY correct way to eat (Ohhh, sanctimonious eaters… just live and let eat! No one method is “right” for everyone.). But that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about survival and making the most of what you have when you have it.

What I had this time was $25 in cash and the need for enough ingredients to stretch out what I had at home until I get another job or my next blog revenue payment comes in. When I have the means available, I do pay more for things like cage-free eggs, organic produce and sustainably raised meats, and have no problem at all doing so. But when every. single. penny. counts like it does right now, some of those (wrongly) overpriced items are, unfortunately, not an option.

Don’t get me wrong – in the long run, it is definitely possible to buy organic and sustainable foods and not have it break the bank completely. I’ve done it before. But again… the current focus is on survival when you have absolutely NO financial cushion whatsoever. Here’s a reality check: not everyone has a savings account with an emergency fund, or a spare credit card for “just in case” purchases. Some people truly have only what’s in their coin purses and that’s it. It’s not always easy to understand that if you’re not living it, but that is the reality for many folks these days. I hope that changes sooner rather than later.

So again, as much as I would love to buy organic produce or the freshest cage-free eggs in more environmentally friendly containers, when things are as tight as they’ve been, I do what I have to do. And I know there are several families who live like this everyday. I totally get it. And you shouldn’t feel judged for doing the best you can with what you have available, especially when you’re still making an effort to eat as many real foods as possible. Better that than a frozen single serve pizza laden with sodium and fat, or something from the nearest fast food joint.

*steps off soapbox*


What do I plan to make with all this deliciousness? The possibilities are endless! I have a fair amount of brown rice and farro, a little bit of pasta, a tiny bit of quinoa, and plenty of dried legumes. Oh! And a whole chicken just waiting to be roasted and used a dozen ways. So when I add the new produce to these Bare Bones staples and other ingredients, I can do a LOT. Including…

  • Tangy Coleslaw Quinoa Salad 
  • Mushroom Fajita Omelette
  • Quinoa with Mushrooms, Tomatoes & Scallions
  • Caribbean Jerk Chicken & Mango Stuffed Avocados (hey, when mangos & avocados are that cheap, I’m going to make this!)
  • Chunky Pico de Gallo (and possibly an attempt at my mom’s salsa fresca) to put with my eggs
  • Black Bean, Chicken & Mango Stew
  • Curry Chicken Tacos with Thai Cucumber Relish
  • And a slew of random new things that I’m sure to come up with whilst playing in the kitchen, like a new farro salad that just popped into my head as I typed this.

Of course, I’m not going to have all of these things, but you get a general idea of what could be done with my new purchases and what was already in my kitchen. I could also just make a ginormous chopped salad or pot of soup and call it a day. Again, these are just suggestions to keep things fun and exciting at mealtime, even if times are tight. Remember, the $25 Shopping Cart method of food shopping is for those extremely lean financial times when you have to stretch out what you have at home as much as possible. It’s not your everyday food shopping mode. This is why doing inventory before I go shopping is so important. Helps me make my reverse shopping list, or Things I Don’t Need To Buy At This Time.

Which gives me a bit more wiggle room to buy random scores like these slightly overripe tomatoes… about 4lbs for just $1! Hellooooo, salsa fresca!

If you take anything away from my $25 Shopping Cart posts it’s this: never leave the house without taking inventory from your fridge and cupboards first. Like I just said, this will save you money by not double-buying what you already have at home (happens to be best of us). You’ll also know what you have to work with, so that when you’re shopping you can decide what items will go best with what’s in your kitchen. Other than that, have at it! This is YOUR shopping run, so feel free to buy the things YOU like, not what’s on my list (unless you really like ‘em too, haha).

That’s it for this edition of The $25 Shopping Cart! If you’re into stretching out that food dollar a bit more, stay tuned over the next few weeks as I touch upon some ways to work around the higher prices and food shortages that are affecting many of us this year. It’s certainly made things more challenging for me, and I’d like to help make this a bit easier on all of us. New recipes, a recap of the #PGEWbreakfastchallenge, and the unveiling of Tip #16 coming soon!  : )

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