Last week completed four weeks of spending only $25/week on groceries. I am so happy that we saved as much money as we did, but I am also relieved that the challenge is over! I’m going to review how I did on my goals, and then share a bit of what I learned during the past month.
- To cut my grocery budget dramatically. I definitely did this. We stuck to $25 week, with the exception of grabbing cheap food out twice during the month. (I confess. One of those times was Wendy’s. That’s between you and me, okay?) I normally spend about $75/week, give or take, so I cut my bill by 66% and saved $200 this March.
- To use up the food that I already have in the house. Mission accomplished. We cleared out a ton of freezer vegetables and fruit, ate all the applesauce, and relied on our homemade jams to sweeten oatmeal and yogurt. I am surprised, however, by how much we still have left from our garden preservation!
- To make smarter, healthier purchases. I’d call this one half-accomplished. I couldn’t spend the money to buy super-fancy organics and the like. However, I shopped sales first and foremost (smarter purchases), and didn’t buy any snacks for the the month, so we were pretty much stuck with eating whole-food meals from ingredients we mostly already had (healthier purchases).
- To make and grow more at home than I get in the grocery store. Check. I made yogurt and sourdough each week. I bought sprouting seeds and grew them to cut back on the price of greens. My husband started some of our garden seeds, which will help us to continue our money-saving/healthy-eating cycle for next year.
Now, on to some lessons learned.
The Bad and the Ugly. (Let’s get it out the way, shall we?)
- I was listlessly pacing my kitchen one night, opening one cupboard door after another, and finally complained, “WHY don’t we have ANY snacks?!?” My husband kindly reminded me it was because it was my idea to do a $25 grocery challenge for the month of March. Right. Apparently I like snacking, and apparently I don’t have much experience in practicing self-control.
- I’m pregnant. I want pickles. And brownies. And greens and crunchy salads. (Not all at the same time.) I have to admit, I had some frustration in saying no to every craving.
- My kids threw no less than 2-3 fits on each trip through the grocery store about something they couldn’t have because it didn’t fit in the budget. I never realized how much I gave in to grocery-aisle-child-bargaining. Whoops.
- It really wasn’t that hard to have enough food for our family on $25/week. (Remember that the dollar amount could be different for your personal challenge.) This is largely due to my husband’s diligence in the garden, for which I am unspeakably grateful. It made me realize I could probably spend much less on a regular basis if I practiced a bit more restraint.
- Shopping from our pantry first inspired me to continue doing this throughout the rest of the spring and summer, until this year’s garden begins to bear. Why not plan my meals around what I already have?
- This month’s budget encouraged us to embrace moderation- both in eating and spending.
- We all got a little better at not simply giving into every craving.
- My kids heard a lot of “no’s” this month. While this was hard for them (and me), I think it supported the idea that they will not die if they don’t have the pretzels or the bagels or the cheese or the juice that they really want. That canned applesauce is really good, even if we couldn’t splurge on grapes. And that maybe they won’t miss the things they can’t have quite as much as they thought they would?
- We realized how blessed we really are. Here we are, eating three square meals a day on what most people would consider a shoe-string budget. How many children around the world are literally dying to have a grocery budget of $25/week? And how hard is it really for us to cut back significantly on the things we like so much to save? We have SO much in front of us, and most of the time we are blind to the riches we already have.
It wasn’t a perfect month, and I won’t say that I completely enjoyed the challenge. But we learned a lot, we saved a lot, and we grew through the experience. I may make this an annual challenge for myself, or perhaps try to gradually work down my grocery bill on a regular basis.
Have you ever significantly cut back on your grocery bill? What did you learn during that time? Would you do it again?
I’m thrilled and relieved. It’s my LAST week of the $25 Grocery Challenge! You know the drill by now, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet this week.
Week 4 Grocery Bill:
- 18 white eggs. $2.98 (For Easter egg dying. The conundrum of a blue-egg laying hen owner.)
- 1 gallon whole milk $3.55
- Oatmeal $2.69
- All purpose, unbleached flour $1.79
- Coffee $5.49
- 1 quart grape tomatoes $3.99
- 3.58 lbs bananas $1.75
Total spent: $22.24. That’s $2.76 under budget!
Week four menu plan:
I’m not planning. Sorry, I know that’s anti-climactic! (Plus, it’s against all frugal foodie advice to not plan.) But since maple sugaring will be a full time job for the next week or two, I know I won’t have a ton of time for cooking in the kitchen. How will we make it through without resorting to junk?
Rice, veggies, & meat. Pasta & homemade sauces. Simple, throw together soup or chili. Eggs plus whatever else is on hand. It’s gotta stay simple! My priorities will still be to use what we have and keep the focus on nourishing whole foods. Head over to our recent real food recipe round-up if you need some menu ideas.
I’m excited to share with you some lessons learned from this month-long challenge next Monday! 🙂
It’s week three, and we are officially over the hump in our $25 grocery challenge!! Also, completely unrelated, in honor of this week’s holiday, I’m sharing a couple photos from a St. Patrick’s Day my husband and I were lucky enough to spend in Galway, Ireland seven years ago:
As with the first week, I had a couple of menu tweaks during week two. However, I managed to stick to my grocery budget (and avoided impulsive runs to the store). Here’s my grocery bill for week three:
- Three packs of Thomas English Muffins, $4.39. I know, I know, it’s pre-made bread, probably with additives. But it was buy 1, get 2 free, it will make my life a little easier this week, and store-bought bread is a rare purchase for our household. Go ahead and judge if you will, but I feel okay about it. 😉
- 4.35lbs bananas, $2.52
- 4 lbs oranges, $2.99
- 2 lbs gala apples, $2.99
- 11 oz baby greens, $2.99
- 5 lbs potatoes, $1.98
- 2 lbs grapes, $2.99
- 2 lbs onions, $0.98
- 1 gallon milk, $3.63
Week Three Total: $25.46. Slightly over budget, but I’ll call it close enough.
I wasn’t able to get any organics today, because the cost is still prohibitive at this particular store. Alas! I take comfort in the fact that our canned and frozen garden food is all organic, and that has been the bulk of our menu-base this month.
Week three menu:
- Monday: Turkey pot pie or casserole, depending on how much time I have (using my home-canned turkey soup as a base)
- Tuesday: Shepherd’s Pie- St. Patty’s Day, of course! 🙂
- Wednesday: Creamy Pumpkin Soup
- Thursday: Cheddar Cheese Spaghetti
- Friday: Fresh bread (maybe this overnight cheese bread?) plus fruit + veggies + a whole-foods dip. We will be out teaching this Friday night, and some days I just want a nibble dinner anyhow.
- Saturday: Greek-style squash dinner with my leftover pumpkin from Wednesday. Inspired by this Greek-stuffed acorn squash recipe.
- Sunday: Breakfast for dinner
Now, lest anyone is getting an unrealistic picture of me, I want to remind you that the point of this challenge was strictly to cut our grocery bill. We still spent money on other items over the past couple of weeks, like some improved maple sugaring supplies and a pack of disposable diapers for outings & nighttime. We grabbed some discounted hoagies at the store today between church and my singing rehearsal because I forgot to pack lunch. (Should that be added to my grocery bill?) I want to keep it realistic!
Regardless, this challenge is still saving us about $50 a week- which will add up to $200 over the month! Only one more week to go after this one!
Anyone still with me? Have an idea for menu planning or frugal shopping tips? We’d love to learn from you!
Alright, friends. I mentioned in a previous post that I kind of fell off the boat this winter with healthy eating (and maybe smart shopping too?). Now that I am feeling (mostly) better with this pregnancy, I need to kick it into high gear and reform my grocery habits.
Also, besides my eating habits, I need to make sure that I’m not spending money needlessly at the grocery store. So, I think a budget challenge to myself is in order. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers do a “no spend” month challenge- I think this is a great idea! But this is a busy season in life for us, and I feel that planning an entire month of no-spending in all areas would be a bit overwhelming right now. So I’m deciding to focus on the one area that I can change most easily: my groceries.
Instead of my usual Saturday “Good Pickins’,” I’m going to take today to announce next month’s challenge to myself.
For the month of March, I want to spend less, waste less, and eat smarter. This will break down into four main grocery goals.
- To cut my grocery budget dramatically.
- To use up the food that I already have in the house.
- To make smarter, healthier purchases.
- To make and grow more at home than I get in the grocery store.
Here’s my plan to accomplish each of the above goals.
- I’m going to give myself only $25/week for my grocery budget this month for my family of four. This will be to buy only the necessities that I don’t have preserved or laying about- milk, fresh produce needs, or the stray ingredient that I need more of.
- I will shop first from all my autumn preservation. This food will be my mainstay this month. I’ve got to empty out some of my pantry and freezer. What’s the use of doing all that work if it’s going to lie unopened?
- $25 a week doesn’t leave room for snacks and junk food. I’ll have to be more constrained with my purchases, and make sure I’m only buying that which is nourishing.
- No convenience items allowed this month. If I need bread, I will make it. If I need yogurt, I will culture it. If there’s no room in the budget for sprouts, I will have to sprout them myself. Etc., etc.
Rules of the challenge:
- $25/week is my personal challenge, because I know I can feasibly accomplish this with how well stocked my pantry is. If you have a bigger family or that number just won’t work for you, pick a higher weekly budget. The goal is not a competition to see who can get closet to starvation- rather, it’s to cut our grocery bills dramatically by eliminating unnecessary purchases for this month.
- I must shop from my pantry and freezer first. Now, for the record, I’ve got a lot of frozen meat, fish, and some chicken. I’ve got a few pounds of frozen cheese. I’ve got jars and jars of canned fruits and veggies. I’ve got pasta, grains, oils, etc. I’m starting off on a good foot. Maybe you won’t have this same luxury. That’s okay. Shop your home food store first anyway- you might be surprised by what you do have. But, as in #1, you can always adjust your budget target if your cupboards are bare. Just stick to a reasonably low bill for YOU.
- I will focus on budgeting one week at a time. I didn’t want to do a $100/month challenge… because, frankly, I think it’s hard sometimes to plan a month in advance- and to space out my budget accordingly. If I just take it one week at a time, it’s easier.
- I will plan for each week’s meals. This will be the only way to stick to it.
- I will report my weekly meal plan and spending. It will keep me accountable, and it will help give you some meal plan ideas too. 🙂
Does your grocery bill need some reformation? How do you save money, waste less food, and make smarter choices?
Will you join me in my challenge this month? I’d love to have you along for the fun. 🙂