March 2017 Low Budget Grocery Challenge–End of Week 4


I made the last week of the grocery challenge into a school assignment.  I gave the girls a list of what I needed, and told them they could spend $38 dollars, not including the soap.  I would pay for that since it wasn’t food.  I loaded coupons onto my Safeway card, and looked up the Fred Meyer ad on-line.  I gave them a list that included soda pop and goldfish crackers, as well as the needed items, and told them to get the most important things first.  Do you see that loaded cart?  I was amazed–they did so well.  They only spent $39 and a little change.  They bought milk, eggs, salad stuff, 2 cases water, 1/2 and 1/2, sour cream, 2 lbs cheese, and more.  I got dish soap and laundry soap.  They did not buy goldfish crackers or soda.  They had me drive over to Fred Meyers for the 99c eggs and got 2 cartons and one other thing I forgot.  I forget what that was now.  Hmmm…..  At home, I had them write up what they had learned, and what they would have done differently if it was their shopping trip.  One would have bought chicken instead of 1/2 and 1/2.   They both thought coupons were a great idea.  I plan to repeat this assignment later on and have them do more of the planning.

So, we ended the 4 week period of the challenge at $101.   We did not suffer at all.  I have almost $100 left over to do what I want to with.


I can really see some spaces in the freezers and on the shelves in the garage.  I’m excited about that.  I’ve also been going through the camper and pulling items that were opened last summer and forgotten in the cupboards in the move.

I used:

Home-canned and frozen items:  Green beans, canned peaches, home-canned grape juice, jam, berry syrup, tomato products, salsa, frozen broth, hamburger, turkey burger, steak, ham bits I froze earlier, hazelnuts, lemon poppyseed muffins I made a while back (all gone now)

Pantry: Gluten-free pancake mix (1 bag emptied), syrup (gone), navy beans,  Hershey Kisses from Valentine’s Day, chocolate chips and all odds and ends of M and M’s and other white chocolate chips from camper, Rice Krispies (huge bag and box gone), marshmallows (used all I had in garage and camper–some pretty old), a box of gluten-free bread mix, random cookies and crackers and chips, gluten-free pasta, mushrooms, cream of rice cereal (all gone), cocoa powder, some peanut butter from the camper, baking supplies (all gluten-free), ho chocolate mix and tea, potatoes, onions,

Fridge: carrots, celery, milk, eggs, 1/2 and 1/2, butter, sour cream,

Garden:  Swiss Chard.  I picked a large handful of leaves 2 times this week from what I planted last fall and stirred it into spaghetti sauce.  No one, even the pickiest eater around here, seems to care if there is some chard or spinach in the sauce.  I’ve been doing it for years, to add vitamins.  The plants are not very tall, so I’m very careful to take only from the outside of the plant and I take sparingly.  The leaves are young and tender, and wilt down nicely into the sauce.


I served spaghetti, ham and bean soup, steak with baked potatoes, hamburgers, waffles, eggs, leftovers, chocolate cookies with assorted goodies in them, Rice Krispie treats (3x), chocolate chip cookies,

I wanted to make a few freezer meals.  When I made the spaghetti, there wasn’t enough left to freeze, so I made it again Saturday morning and froze that batch.  One time it was turkey and one time, beef.  Rob made a huge batch of waffles and we froze a bunch of those.  I cooked a soup bone in my Instant Pot and froze the broth and bits for a stew later on.  I also cooked taco meat and froze it, ready to go.

I will say that the natives got restless on Saturday.  I ended up getting completely spoiled when Lovana decided to take us out for lunch.  She’s been planning on it for a while now, and Saturday turned out to be a good day.  We went to a Chinese buffet where they focus on vegetables and seafood.  I was delighted to not get sick.  I chose carefully, but buffets are always a gamble for me.  I ate a lot of plain-looking sauted shrimp, sauted mushrooms, and stir-fried vegetables.  THEN, Ja’Ana talked her into ordering pizza for dinner.   So, with the large breakfast Rob cooked, the only food I cooked that day were the freezer meals.  We could have eaten at home, but that is what she wanted to do and we gratefully accepted.  We thought it was very sweet of her.  So, technically, this was 1 day short of a full week, but since I made freezer meals, it evened out in the end.

I learned:  We have a very well stocked food supply.  We can make good meals out of the things we have.  My garden (frozen and canned things at this time of year) saves me a lot of money.  It’s worth it to invest in large quantities of things like meat and pasta, as long as we have times like these where we use them up so they don’t go to waste.  My family will fork out their own money if they don’t like the offerings I serve, or just want a change.      That being said, they will eat Mexican food 5 times in one week without a single complaint, and also eat Swiss Chard in their spaghetti, happily.  There was a little bellyaching, but not much more than usual.  There’s always a little!   In the end, I was very proud of them.  We were 1/2 way done before the kids even figured out what we were doing.  Trust me, when I do spend the extra $100, they will all know what we buy, and I will make sure they like what we get, to encourage them to see a tangible benefit of saving.  In reality, it saved me more than $100, because I can easily spend over $200 in a month for the 5 of us.

Having a list of rules for my challenge that fits my family and situation keeps me less stressed.  If I had to only use $100 per month  without any little trips for fries or ice cream with the kids or my hubby, it would be very, very hard.  But, I could do it, because I did for years in the past.  I’ve just gotten softer in my middle age.   Also, having that extra $100 set aside that I could use if I needed to, worked well for me.  My life is really busy, and can be quite stressful, so it’s very important to me to keep things balanced.

I made more casseroles and desserts than normal and we also ate more carbs (i.e. potatoes, bread, cereal) and I’m afraid I gained a couple of pounds.  Yes, really.  Yikes!  It would be much easier in the summer when we had a producing garden to stay on the challenge and to eat more fresh veggies.

What’s next?  Rob and I agreed that we don’t want to think very hard during spring break, which is next week.  We both have the week off from work.  We have some fun things planned with the kids, and I envision home-cooked meals, some freezer meals I made this week, a picnic if it stops raining for 5 minutes, and probably eating out at least once.  I plan to go grocery shopping within the next couple of days and get a few things replaced, like  pancake syrup.  I may even spring for soda and goldfish crackers for spring break treats.





29 thoughts on “March 2017 Low Budget Grocery Challenge–End of Week 4”

  1. Great job girls! What a great lesson! That is a great picture of them. You do a wonderful job on the grocery budget to feed so many for so little. I budget $250 a month but rarely spend all of it for just the two of us but we do have an eat out budget and take advantage of that a few times each week. My husband loves to be able to say, ‘Let’s go out’ and he keeps that budget in cash. Some weeks I just get sick of all the meals out but it blesses him so much to be able to treat me that I mostly just don’t object. I am being pretty strict on ‘what’ we eat out now though.

    Having been horribly allergic to most common foods for 27 years I certainly can understand what a nice thing it is to eat out and not get sick. And both of our daughters are gluten free. I am blessed to have been cleared of my food allergies by an alternative medicine practitioner. I still pinch myself sometimes to believe that I can eat anything and not get sick. We did not eat out to speak of for decades because it was such a risky thing for me.

    1. That is wonderful that you can eat most foods now! My only issue is gluten, but it is a big one. It has been a blessing, though, once it was figured out a few years back. It has made a big difference in making me feel better.

      My husband likes to treat me, as well, in one way or another. It’s sweet.

      I’ll bet it IS very hard to find restaurant food that is within what he is supposed to eat! Hopefully, you will find some good ones, since that is something he loves to do.

    1. I think so, too. I want to repeat it and give them even more responsibilities in the planning of it all. They enjoyed it and I love how practical it is.

  2. Way to go girls. Practical math and home economics!

    Have you ever made up a price book with the best prices available at different stores? I learned about making one in the Tightwad Gazette books. Just thought that might be a fun project for them.

    So wish I had learned those skills as a teenager. Thankfully, I had some very patient college roommates who helped educate me.

    1. That’s a great idea. I’ve heard of them before, but never thought of having them make one. I’m going to get them at least a 1/2 credit of Home Ec. this term, so that’s another great idea. 54 hours, plus some measurable/gradeable work of some kind. I will use the aprons they made, their cooking, the exercises in shopping–all of it will add up. Normally, I would have them enter the 4H fair, but we will have to see if they have any time for that in their super busy summer they have already been planning! Keeps Rob and I and Alissa’s parents young (?) –hopefully:)

      1. Just a thought – but you could also include a little computer science if you have them make the price book on a spreadsheet. Could also introduce unit pricing to them – but maybe you’ve done that already. A little hint about myself – I’m a little bit on the nerdy-math-science side of things.

  3. What a wonderful lesson for the girls, and they did an excellent job. Know you were proud of them.
    This past summer, while my daughter and her girls were out of school [daughter is a teacher]. She decided
    that they would cook supper one night a week [each girl picking their night]. She gave them a budget,
    and rules — such as, they had to fix a meat and 2 vegetables/side dishes…. They did really well, and
    the meals turned out well. The kids learned, they could cook and they could buy groceries on a budget.ha
    Hope you all, have a wonderful spring break.. ENjoy

  4. Your girls did great with shopping this week. It was such a valuable lesson, one that will save them a fortune in the future.

    As for me and my challenges…I just survived.

    There was one FANTASTIC miracle, my husband said, “What is a pantry, refrigerator and freezer all stuffed full of food good for when the only person (in a two person family) who knows how to cook, is sick?”

    I suggested he go buy himself a pizza but instead he went through the freezer and fixed broccoli and brussel sprouts for dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE COOKED DINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The next meal he put a roast (he had fun digging in the freezer) in the crock pot!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so proud!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have not been to the grocery store in two or maybe three weeks. Having a full pantry really is worth the work when life falls apart.


    1. I’m sorry you haven’t felt well, Jeannie. It’s fantastic that your husband felt able to cook things. Now that he knows the secret recipe for roast (throw into crock pot, turn dial to low), he might do it more often:)
      Hopefully, you will feel better soon.

  5. Way to go on the grocery shopping, girls!! You have so much to be proud of, Becky! 🙂
    You are doing so well with your budget and using what you have on hand. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to throw some spinach leaves in the pasta sauce- I think that would go over well in my family. Thank you for sharing these things that you do. 🙂
    I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week, Becky!

    1. Thanks! I have some spinach that overwintered. I’m waiting eagerly for a few of those leaves to get big enough to “rob” from the plants. Then, I’ll throw them in a salad. I’m not sure that Swiss Chard would go over in a salad, although I planted this variety (plain green) on purpose because it’s supposed to be milder than some varieties. But, because I can grow it and it’s full of vitamins, I am searching for a way to get people to eat it cheerfully:)

  6. Swiss chard grows like a weed for me. I use it in salads when it first looks like a full leaf and very young. To me it just looks like spinach. When it gets older, I stir fry just the leafy part, taking out the center rib, and use it like spinach. I also have a casserole where the bottom layer is a cheesy polenta, then a thin layer of greens, topped with more cheese. I also use the ribs chopped up ln place of celery in a stirfry.
    I’ve learned all these different recipes basically because I haven’t yet been able to grow spinach but do great with the chard. What do they say – use what you’ve got?
    BTW, I really appreciate how you take the time and energy to comment on everyone’s comments.

  7. I don’t know if you’re familiar with but there are several specifically gluten free recipes on their website, along with a ton of regular recipes. (Note that it is .ca not .com)
    There is an alphabetical Recipe Index on the right hand side of the web page waaay down below all sorts of other info.

  8. I spent years thinking I was gluten intolerant. Only to find out with a blood test for allergies that I’m allergic to peanuts and corn products. Corn products are in everything or so it seems. Makes me eat less processed foods that I prepare at home. The garden will be bigger this year for sure! I have to be careful in restaurants too. Hard but have finally figured out a few I can eat at and what I can eat. I like home cooked foods the best and finally putting all my cook books to good use instead of just reading them like story books. lol. Awesome that you are teaching the girls to shop / cook / use coupons and look at ads. If you have a copy of the Tightwad Gazette let them read a bit of that. There are some far out ideas to save money but some really make sense. I will be up in Oregon – Albany and Keizer / Salem for 18 days next month – could you please tell the rain to stop or at least slow down. lol. But then again it wouldn’t be Oregon without some rain and the occasional fog (which we hardly ever get here in Nevada) I’m an Oregon girl born and raised. Miss it a lot sometimes. Take care.

    1. I’m glad you finally figured it out! I felt so much better once it was determined that gluten was the issue. I really can’t describe what a relief it was to finally know. I was sent down a couple of rabbit trails myself, before it was finally decided:)

      You really are going to be in my nick of the woods! But, the rain is much, much more prevalent this year than usual, so I guess you should bring boots, raincoats, umbrellas, waterproof mascara……OR, maybe it will rain itself out one of these days:) (Yah, right!)

  9. This is such an important skill for your girls. My mom taught me to cook. She never taught me to shop for foods and didn’t even begin to instruct me why she bought certain things until just days before my marriage. Too little too late. I was a sahm with Katie and was able to teach her this sort of thing. She had to prepare four dinner meals for $20. I told her that she could have every penny leftover. That girl quickly learned to plan good inexpensive meals. She also learned to ask me what I’d paid for certain items (always bought on sale) and she’d buy from me at my purchase price, lol. I’d thought at $5 a meal I was being extravagant but she soon had that budget trimmed to $2 for four people per meal and happily pocketed her savings, lol.

  10. Your girls did amazing on their shopping trip and learned some important lessons too. 🙂 That was sure sweet of your daughter to treat you all to lunch. You do have great kids! I’ve loved reading how you have kept your budget so low. It really does help to inspire me too! Be blessed!

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