This is going to be hard, but not impossible.
I'm nervous that it won't work out, and I'm not claiming to have a great formula for success here. But I am willing to try.
For the month of October I will spend no more than $400 on groceries. And you know me, this is going to happen while maintaining our whole foods, mostly plants kitchen. I might be crazy!
This budget includes all consumables with the following exceptions:
- Pet Supplies.
- Wine/Beer - it's not that much, but it is does cost some money.
- Final orchard trip - $100 budgeted separately for that.
- I was planning to budget an additional $20 weekly for our farm visits - to stock up, freeze and can for the winter. But on Saturday's trip we learned that our farm is closing early for the season. It hasn't been a great growing season and they've decided to take the time to re-group for next year.
- Ordering in or dining out. It's not something we do very often, maybe once or twice a month. We don't have many great restaurants around here so dining out is usually not worth it. But sometimes it's a convenient option and gives the cook a night off (which is of great value).
Today is October 3rd and so far for the month I've spent $83.33. With the 1st of the month falling on a Saturday, and me doing most of the shopping on the weekend, this is not a bad number.
I'm not doing this because I think we spend too much on groceries. Good quality groceries are an investment in our health and support our political beliefs as well.
I'm doing this because I believe that tightening our belts and living as simply as possible makes for smarter/more clever living and is good for the soul too.
In my work, people come to me from all different economic backgrounds. I need to be able to guide a wide variety of budgets on the whole food path.
For me, this month is about feeling a little bit more connected. It's about squeezing as much from the almighty dollar as possible. It's about creativity in the kitchen, from menu planning to dinner prep, to lunch and snack options. It's about saying yes to exotic, lovely foods on occasion, and appreciating the humble simplicity of rice and beans as well.
And in all honesty, with yet another heating season right around the corner, now is as good a time as any to be pinching pennies.
I won't be giving full play by play throughout the month of every little thing we buy, that would be great but I can't imagine having the time to be that detailed. But I will check in with a report each Monday to share an overview of how the week went, what I spent, frugal stand out recipes we enjoyed, and a general synopsis of how dang hard it was or how awesome and creative I feel. Let's hope for the latter!
I spent some time this weekend making a list of what we already have on hand (I'll type up my notes and include that info next Monday, it's quite a list). That was a natural place to start. Next, I made a menu plan and got myself organized mentally for a little extra time in the kitchen. I spend plenty of time in the kitchen already, but a little re-dedication to the act of cooking everything from scratch is a good idea.
The two biggest factors for saving money in the kitchen are menu planning and cooking from scratch. I think both of these are essential.
My family is starting the month with plenty of food on hand which helps me feel confident I can do this. My goal however is not to "live off the pantry" as sometimes people challenge themselves to do (which is really cool too). But rather to move through the pantry and freezer at normal pace and continue to shop and cook with plenty of fresh whole foods - mindfully stretching my creative cooking muscle along the way.
I'm not talking about doing this challenge ramen noodle style. But you guys know that. This is about real food, creatively prepared and planned, on a small budget.
For instance, dinner tonight was going to be Heidi Swanson's Quinoa Patties. I only have a 1/2 cup of quinoa so I've cooked up a pot of short grain brown instead. Sure, it'll be different, but they'll come together just the same.
My basic approach to this is going to include a lovely, somewhat indulgent meal once or twice a week and less expensive, dollar stretching whole food the rest of the time.
Would you like to join me?
I don't have all the answers about how to do this, but I am willing to check in here each Monday and share my week, support you in hearing about your week, and answer any questions that I can.
Does it have to be under $400?
No. I have a family of three. Depending on your family size and your location, your number may be different. The point is to make a significant goal and be up for the challenge. I chose $400 because it is about 1/2 of what I normally spend each month. You can decide what makes sense for your family.
Or, if you prefer to watch from the sidelines, you can just visit here each Monday to cheer on my craziness! That would be lovely too.
For those who would like to join, I've made a button for you! Copy and paste the code below the image into your blog. Visit here each Monday to share how the week went for you. You can either discuss within the comments or leave a link to something you've written on your own blog.
<a href="http://beautythatmoves.typepad.com/beauty_that_moves/400-grocery-challenge/"><img src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6216/6208194545_c122d2ee51_o.jpg" width="200" height="121" alt="$400 Grocery Challenge" /></a>
Do I think I could feed my family on $400 a month year round? No way. Not the way we eat, and not in our location. But, I do think it's a good practice to leave a little extra in the bank once in a while, and take the time to appreciate how good we truly have it all the time.
So... that's what I'll be up to this month, wish me luck!