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$25 Grocery Challenge: Lessons Learned

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.

25 Grocery Challenge


  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

The Good.

  • 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?