Budget vs. Tastebuds

One thing I really miss about living on my own is having my own kitchen. I think I got spoiled with knowing it was always clean, where everything was, and having a fridge with ONLY my food, instead of 4-5 other people’s.




I have only had gnocchi once before. Mark made it for me and I never actually knew how to cook it. I decided to give it another try tonight, in my own way. 🙂




I found a recipe for Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi from eatingwell.com and decided to give it a try. I made a few modifications, like leaving out currants.


The first step was to boil the gnocchi. I brought water to a boil, plopped them in, and waited until they floated to the top which took about 3 minutes. I drained them, and added them to a skillet to brown.




Meanwhile, I chopped up an entire bag of baby spinach (8 cups) into smaller pieces.




I also chopped up two (2) cups of butternut squash, two (2) shallots, and drained one-15oz can of chickpeas.


DSC_0905 DSC_0906


Once the gnocchi was done browning, I transferred it to another bowl. I added in a spoonful of minced garlic, olive oil, butternut squash, and the shallots. After a few minutes, I added a 15-oz can of veggie broth, the spinach, chickpeas, and gnocchi.




While it was cooking, I sprinkled in some sage, salt, and pepper. The sage really made the kitchen smell amazing!


The recipe called for balsamic reduction to be drizzled over top of the finished product, but it was still cooking when the reduction was ready. I went ahead and stirred it into the pot, which made the flavors really mesh together.




Wow! This was seriously delicious. The combination of the sage, butternut squash, and balsamic went very well together. The smell filled up the kitchen and made it feel like winter time.


Mark cooked a piece of tilapia for us to share as well. He covered it in sage, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar before searing it in the pan. It went so well with the gnocchi salad!




As per the October Grocery Budget challenge, the cost breakdown:


Spinach $2.49
Butternut Squash $1.81
Tilapia Fillet $2.04
Sage $3.99
Veggie Broth $0.99
Gnocchi $2.49
Shallots $1.69
Chick Peas $0.63
Total Paid $16.13
I paid $8.00
Total October Grocery Bill $66.72


This meal was an interesting challenge. I was in the mood to cook a delicious meal (with company) but it ended up costing more than was really in the budget. I got to thinking, at what point does the cost matter enough to sacrifice doing what makes you happy?


Sure, we could have eaten a box of macaroni and cheese for $0.83 and saved a ton of money. My stomach would have been satisfied (as in, not hungry) but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the pleasure of trying a new recipe, experimenting with new foods, or having a fun night with Mark!


Even though $16.00 for a 4-serving meal isn’t outrageous, it still isn’t cheap. Interesting thing to think about.


Is cooking important to you? Is it something that brings joy to your life, or simply something that you find a necessary part of life? Where do you draw the line in terms of budget vs. taste buds?


❤ MegaNerd


19 Responses

  1. When I was in college and just after, I have to admit that I sided with budget more times than I probably would have liked. However, I also wasn’t as into cooking as I am now. Now, I definitely think it’s worth it to cook and eat tasty food. My boyfriend and I enjoy cooking together too so I understand your point of view. I guess if you look at it as a date night it’s a really cheap date night compared to a movie or going out to dinner.

  2. I have that debate with myself very often. In fact, I had it with my husband last night!

    I argue that the meal you made is something more of a “restaurant” meal – that if you and mark had gone out, your dinner would have cost a lot more.

    Once in a while, I love to make a “restaurant” meal – keeps things exciting!

  3. I used to look at price much more, now I look for quality. I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, and as a lot of what I eat tends to be cheap (tinned pulses and tomatoes, dried pasta/ quinoa) then when something is more expensive I feel I have the money to spend on it. You know I could go to Macdonalds every night and get a cheap and nasty veggie burger, but I would rather spend more and have wholesome foods. Plus, like you say, its the fun of cooking and experimenting. 🙂

  4. What a great meal for such a stable budget. I love gnocchi but I especially love the spin you took on this recipe. Sounds and looks delicious!

  5. Once u get in a more stable livig situation, an herb container garden ia a great way to save money!

  6. That sounds delicious! I love gnocchi so much – I saw a delicious Nigella Lawson recipe where she fried them like mini roast potatoes – yum!

    The budget thing is tricky. If you’d gone for the mac n cheese option, you’d have lost out on not just the yumminess but also all the nutrients! I think there’s a compromise to be reached – splurge on the wholegrains, veggies and pulses, and try to buy meat and fish only when it’s on special offer. That’s what we try to do, anyway 🙂

  7. I agree with Heather – that’s more of a “restaurant” meal, in which case you should be proud for doing it so cheaply (vs. going to a restaurant). My girlfriend and I clip coupons and stock up when staples are on sale – pasta, marinara sauce, frozen veggies can all be had for bargain prices. And, they make for easy weeknight meals so that we can afford the occasional night out or steak dinner at home.

  8. I always consider anything that’s an “experience” to be worth whatever money you put into it. I’m atrocious in the kitchen, but the few times I do entertain for friends, I definitely have no problem going over budget. Same thing with eating out…if I just get takeout for myself, I think it’s money wasted, but a great meal out with good friends? Totally worth it. 16 dollars for a fun night in sounds like smart spending to me.

  9. I think if you look at this as not only your meal but your entertainment, the cost is amazing. I also think about brand. Do you insist on a specific brand when you can get a house brand for cheaper. Do you forgo taste for price? Me, specific things HAVE to be brand and no substitutions will work no matter what the cost. That meal looks delicious!

  10. I actually love cooking together with my dates! It’s super fun and we get to spend time together!

  11. Meal planning and staying within a food budget is a challenge. My boyfriend and I have found it becomes easier with practice. Once you start really looking at the cost of meals, you can set up your weeks so that you can better stay within budget. So, you still get the best of both worlds. Maybe one night a week you make the more expensive meal and fill the rest of the week with more budget friendly meals. I am however, a firm believer in the idea that food should taste good and be satisfying, not just hunger wise, but taste wise. 🙂

  12. Cooking is very important to me. It’s my hobby, and serving healthy, tasty, varied meals is one way I take care of those around me. I would always rather cut back a little more elsewhere in the budget (which lately has meant eating out once less time each week) to still spend more on ingredients for dishes.

    However, to stay in check, we’ll do some cheap “pantry meals” each week, too, and a few meatless meals, which also cuts back on cost.

    The squash/spinach/chickpea/sage combo sounds delicious!

  13. I have tried to find a nice balance. I plan several no-frills, cheap meals each week and just a couple more adventurous ones. I also coupon like crrrazy! I try to save as much as I can on things like Morningstar frozen foods, canned items, pasta and rice, snack foods, etc…things that constantly have sales and coupons…so that I can afford the fresh produce we love adding to our meals.

  14. About once a week cooking is something fun & exciting, like a date-night-in with the fiancee where we both learn how to make something new together. Most days it’s just me heating up something quick and convenient on the stove that we’ll both enjoy, like a tofu stirfry. I think most meals that people eat are pretty routine, and not every meal has to be a beautiful gourmet masterpiece. Just think about breakfast – during the week you probably eat cereal, but on weekends you take the extra time to make an omelet or something special like pancake truffles 🙂 I’m the same way with dinner – keep it simple during the week while you’re busy with other stuff. Lunch is always leftovers or a sandwich/salad/soup/something else routine to save $$$.

    I learned quickly how to substitute/avoid expensive ingredients in fancy recipes – like if it calls for prosciutto, you can usually get away with thin-sliced ham, and most recipes will taste just fine without the long list of herbs & spices (i.e. fresh basil or an expensive spice like cardamom).

    And PS – gnocchi is AWESOME! I think Publix also carries a whole wheat sweet potato version 🙂

  15. That sounds incredible!!! I think it’s worth it to splurge on something you REALLY want rather than just something because it’s cheap.. because part of eating is ENJOYING your food, it’s a whole experience!

  16. That gnocchi recipe looks amazing- I’ll have to try it!

  17. even though I am on a budget too. Good food always trumps a small budget. I would rather spend more money on a meal than go shopping for 2 weeks.

  18. […] night, I had leftover Spinach, Chickpea, Butternut Squash, Gnocchi for dinner. I also ended up having a glass of milk and apple+pb before going to bed because I felt […]

  19. I’ve kind of came full circle, now that I’m an accomplished home cook. I place more value and appreciation on inexpensive foods. Any one can make a great meal with expensive ingredients. You know you can cook when you can do it the cheapest products. I look towards other cultures to see how they survive on low cost meals. Ethnic grocery stores can offer amazing ideas and prices. I recommend all cooks in training learn how to make the basic flatbreads. The kids and adults line up when I make these simple flat breads like chapati, roti, naan, paneer, etc , they are little more than flour, oil, water and some technique. But they make almost any meal taste better and make it seem like an special event, just by making homemade bread.

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