$75 a Week Grocery Challenge

Two out of the last three Septembers, my family has done something called “30 Days of Nothing”.  You can check out the details by clicking the link in my sidebar, but basically we’ve spent a month experimenting with spending a little less money.  Seeing how far we could stretch our resources and what we could get by without.

This September we’re doing something similar.  In honor of my new book Family Feasts for $75 a Week, I’m going to aim to spend no more than $75 a week for groceries for my family.  I have to explain that the $75 in the title of the book actually refers to food costs for a family of 4, NOT a family of 11.   Most months I spend $800-$900 for groceries for our clan.  But during September I’m aiming for no more than $300 — or $75 a week.

Along the way I’ll be sharing spending tips and recipes from the book.   Whether you feel like doing this with your family or not, I hope you will find something useful in this series.   But  I’d reallyreallyreally love it if a bunch of you would join us in this challenge.

How much do you spend a week?  Could you feed your family — well– on $75? For some of you this may be a cinch, for others it may seem impossible.   Wanna try anyway?

I want to reassure you that we are not talking about major deprivation here. No kids will be going hungry. My husband won’t even be doing without coffee creamer.  But we probably will be eating a few more beans. Skipping paper napkins. Resisting impulse buys. Cooking more from scratch. And a bunch of other things.

Anyone interested in doing the challenge along with us? Here’s how:

RULES

Decide on a spending challenge for your household, and then blog about it at least once a week. Tell us what worked for you and what didn’t. As far as goals, you may aim for $75 a week like we are. You may just decide to shave $50 off your monthly average. You may do something different. The choice is yours. But I challenge you to aim for something that seems a little hard, a little bit of a stretch. I think we get into spending ruts sometimes, and don’t even realize that we could be doing more with less. One more thing– if you’ve bought my book and it ends up being a help to you in this challenge, I’d love to hear about it.

I’ll be putting up a Mr. Linky on September 1st, so that everyone can easily visit the participants and hear how things are going for others during the month.

Questions? Ask away! I’m looking forward to this!

{ 50 Comments }

  1. Mary,

    I just got your book and love it. It really helped me refocus on saving more on our food. We’re doing a month of no spending in October…it will be interesting.

  2. I’m assuming that this challenge does not include health & beauty products. I tend to shop for those at the same time as groceries. I could definitely take on this challenge if it’s only for food. (Maybe you could do a H&B challenge in the future!)

  3. WOOHOOO! I’ve been waiting for this. I loved following you guys last year. I’ll be doing something similiar to you. We currently only spend about $50 a week now, $200 a month for a family of 4. So in Sept. I plan to only spend $50…for the whole month! I’m hoping it works.

  4. Hi Mary,

    I have been reading your blog since I read the review of your first book on the Notes from the Trenches blog. I enjoyed your first book…whenI finished reading it I informed my husband I wanted 10 kids! He shook his head NO! ha! Anyways, this time of year is always a time when I set goals for myself, reorganize, and for our family get the budget going again. I used to teach..this is my third year home with my boys. And this time of year is my favorite as a teacher…a new start with a fresh batch. Anyways…I bought your new book and love it. You commented on my blog the other day when I made the zucchini bread. Yesterday we tried your big biscuits. I love all the little tips and it has give me a lot to think about. I just wanted to let you know that I look forward to your posts each day and am curious about your September challenge. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I don’t comment much but know that I am reading and absorbing.

    Sarah

  5. Wow if I was able to spend a whole $75 a week for my family of 5 we’d be living like kings! And I have to include formula etc in the grocery bill and that’s expensive.

  6. I am in! Normally we spend $400 on food alone. On top of that clothing, eating out, toiletries, pet food, etc. My goal for September is $200 total for any spending above and beyond the bills and gasoline. We should save about $800 over the month. Can’t wait!

  7. Are you including cleaning products, or is this strictly food? This is becoming more do-able as I think about it! 🙂

  8. Hi Mary,
    I’m a newcomer to you and your site, finding you just a few weeks ago. I wish you lived next door! It is so refreshing to find someone “on the same page”! And like the earlier poster I read your first book and was ready to go to ethiopia and adopt! 😉 we are still working on the logistics of that , though…
    Anyway, I’m in for this challenge! I’ve read the book and it has already saved me money, so now I’d like to see how low I can go! There are seven of us, dh and myself, and 4 boys and one girl, ages 3-14. With all these boys, esp the 14 yo, I need all the help I can get with groceries!
    So, my goal for Sept is $500, which is about half what we spend now.
    Looking forward to this challenge with everyone!
    Carrie

  9. Chinamom4– I will be including all grocery store purchases, including soap, shampoo, cleaning supplies, and pet food in my total, just as I do each month. I DON”T include chicken food since I buy it at the farm store (illogical, maybe, but that’s how I roll! Makes for easier accounting!) You can set up your challenge however you want. Only you know what is challenging without being impossible.

    And for those of you who already spend less than I suggest, wow– I bow down to you! 🙂 Maybe you can challenge yourself to make the food yummier than usual on the same amount of money?? Or maybe you can challenge yourself to make a new item from scratch? (Though I suspect that if you are feeding 4 or more people on $50 or less a week, you’re probably already making a lot from scratch!)

  10. I am totally in!! Right now we spend about $650 a month for a family of 5 and I would really like to see us trim that down. I am aiming for $400 in the month of September. . $100 per week. I would love tips and ideas for saving! I haven’t read your book, but it sounds like I need too.

  11. I can totally do this!

    As long as I do lots of shopping before Sept 1 and fill up my pantry 🙂 Would that be cheating? LOL!

    I used to be fantastic at stretching the almighty dollar but have fallen off the bandwagon since adopting our youngest and going back to college. For me less time=more money spent BUT I would love to take the challenge and will post on my blog. I will try for $75 a week (food only) to feed 7 + one 19 yo son who eats here a lot + lots of friends who eat here a lot which=lots of food!
    Ann

  12. Normally, I spend at least $300 per week to feed our family of four. Lately, I’ve been wondering how I can shave that cost. I will be checking back to see how it’s done, and I’m considering buying your book!

  13. You can certainly stock up now for September. Just don’t spent more than usual for August. 🙂

  14. This is a great challenge! We are on a new mission of cutting our budget (goal is $600 a month!), so I am going to go the “just grocery store items” route for ease as we are newbs. 🙂 We normally spend around $350 – $400 at the grocery store a month, so my September goal will be $300. Little steps are still a stretch for us!

  15. i’ll ALL in! i’m going for $75 for a family of 5.

    AND, Mary LOVE your new sidebar picture!

  16. I am so in. Since we got our new 9 kids back in January I’ve been trying to figure out what we should be spending a month. When it was just the four of us we spent $200 a month, but I bought beans, rice, and lentils in bulk from a coop so it was pretty easy to do. I’ve been really struggling to figure out a new budget especially with 2 teenage boys who are bottomless pits!!!! LOL! So, we are going to try $200 a week for just food. That would be $800 a month for a family of 13. Very excited to see if this works! Thanks!

  17. I am eager to give it a try. Our challange is we eat organic and it is much more costly. I spend about $700. per month on groceries. I would like to cut at least $200. We are a family of 5 with 2 boys with big appetites and 1 finicky little girl.

  18. I’m all in for this one. I won’t blog about it, but I am definitely looking for ways to cut back on our grocery bill. We’re starting year 1 of grad school, and have two littles, so our purse is lean this year.

  19. Hi Mary-
    I just got both of your books delivered from Amazon today. I am already well into “Family Feasts…” and am saving “The Sane Woman’s Guide…” to read in the hospital next week after I give birth to our 4th baby. Thanks so much!

  20. I definitely need to cut back our grocery bill. I have gotten a bit carried away lately shopping at health food stores and trying to buy as much as possible organic…in reality, I need to face up to the fact that the money is just not there to buy everything organic and stop going over budget every single month. I am considering doing this challenge, but I still need to think about the specifics.

  21. Mary,

    I have been enjoying my new “All You” magazine that I got in the mail today. And there you are!!!! Congratulations on your book mention and article! Way cool. I will be following this challenge with interest.

  22. Oh, yay! I’m so glad you’re doing this again this year! I’ve followed this challenge the past two years (in fact, I think it’s how I came across this blog in the beginning… probably as a search result for frugality… I forget now).
    Unfortunately, I’m not really in the position to join in the fun as I’m not the primary grocery-shopper in the household (I still live with my parents), but it’s still very inspiring.

    ALSO :), I was actually stopping by to mention that I was at a Barnes and Noble here in NE Kansas last weekend looking at books on wine and spirits when the cover of your book caught my eye on the facing side of the aisle. I recognized the title instantly and scooped it up. It was a total impulse buy (ironic, isn’t it? :)), but one of the best I’ve ever made! I’m reading it cover-to-cover and have never learned so much nor been so enthralled by any other ‘cookbook’ before. In fact, today I made the granola that you gave the recipe for and it is sooo good! Tomorrow, I’ll be trying the eggy breakfast muffins, as we’re always in search of a quick, healthy, and substantial breakfast for those who work.

    Thanks sooo much! And keep up the good work!
    Monica

  23. Mary,

    I love that you are doing this again. I have been following your blog for over a year and even tried to do all of Lenten on nothing as my own 42 days of nothing- 6 weeks is a long time:-). After seeing your 30 days last year, we have consistently tried to stay under $75/week for a family of 5 and it works as long as we stay vigilant- it is easy to for it creep up.

    Thanks
    Heather

  24. I would love to do this with you Mary. I think I will aim for $100.00 per week.

  25. I’m in. I read along last year as you did this and it made me re-think my spending habits. Last year our average monthly grocery bill was a little over $800 for the 4 of us…..this year I’m trying really hard to get it down to $600 a month…I’ve cut back overall….but have been very bad this summer. So I am going to take your challenge and only spend $50 for the whole month of September (and that money will go to the milk man). I will try my best not to step foot in a grocery store at all….Not til Oct. 1st.

  26. Can’t wait to take the challenge with our family of 11!!! Feeding 9 children each week costs us about $250-300 w/o coupons, but if I work it and shop the sales, I can get it down to $125 most weeks. I will post this on the Morristribe blog, I love a good challenge!!

  27. I am so excited for this challenge!! I have a med. sized family that is relatively young (two girls 4yrs. and 3yrs. and one boy 2 weeks!) But we sure do EAT ALOT! First of all, my husband is a carpenter who has a very physically demanding job, so he definitely puts the food away; I personally have always had a high metabolism (in addition to being a very busy mom AND I am breast feeding) and I eat just as much as my husband, sometimes more! Most people may think of toddlers as being picky and not big eaters but NOT my 4 yr. old. Every since she could eat, she has eaten alot. Just as an example, the other night we had pizza for dinner and she ate 5 pieces all by herself. My younger daughter who is 3yrs. eats almost as much as her big sister. So breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks for 5 very hungry people can be costly! We have been trying to cut down our food budget for some time now and we find that $75/ week is our new average. So for Sept. we are going to try only $50/ week. One of my other favorite “mom-blogs” besides yours is the Moneysavingmom.com. She feeds her family of 5 for $30-$40/ week–no joke!! Happy shopping!! 🙂 Thanks Mary!!

    Ps. I also think the amount of money you spend on food depends on where you live–some places food is cheaper, in other places it is more expensive.

  28. We’ve been doing $100 per week for a family of 5 for the last year. I am always so surprised at how much other people spend of groceries! I’ll be watching to see how everyone is doing…and I am ordering your book right now!

  29. I’ll be following this! But considering the fact that I’m 8 months pregnant, I’m just not up to the challenge this year… I do always enjoy all the tips you share though, so I’m sure I’ll love this as well. We will be living frugally for a while, because my husband just got laid off his job. He already found a new job, but we had to do without a month’s wages so we’re taking it easy financially for a while.

  30. I’m in!
    I spend about $1,000.00 a month for a family of 6. But 2 of those are infants and community services pays for their formula and diapers (we are foster parents). Since my husband accepted a job closer to home but with a massive pay cut (half of what he was making) we are desperate to save money!

    I am thinking of trying to spend only $500.00 this month. My challenge is cooking more from scratch, with a three month old and a six week old, most days seem to be over before I even know it!

  31. I would love to try and do this, I only have one child (and one dog) so I should be able to do it for $75 per week! I always seem to spend 100 or even $130 when I go a little crazy. Is this amount just for food for the week, not inc. toiletries etc/cleaning products? That’s probably why my bills may be a little higher.
    I asked my library to order your book and they have done so 🙂 I’ll be the first to read it when it comes in.

  32. this is perfect timing for me — my friend Beth and I are starting a new devotion and budgeting accountability exercise in September because we both want to improve how we handle our overall budgets for the home. so i’m in and hopefully Beth will be up for it, too!

  33. I’d like to join in. Our budget is $140 a week for our family of 4-5 including everything lightbulbs, diapers, cat food,gardening etc. I know I can do this we have one at college most of the time in September and get WIC for our foster child and as foster parents ability have some access to the food bank. I need to do this because hopefully in the next few months we will finalize this adoption and get a lot less assistance and Mary has got me thinking we need to adopt from Ethiopia if we don’t get anymore placements soon. I don’t have a blog though.

  34. I’m definitely in! We budget about $150/week for a family of 5 in the Chicago area, but lately I’ve been able to keep it down to $100-125/week. I’m going for the $75/week! Plus, we are going to eliminate eating out for the entire month – far too much of our money has been going to eating out this summer. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge!

  35. Hi Mary! Loooveee you blog.
    Well, I am a 21 year old college student currently working with teenage street girls in Bolivia for six months. So, I probably won’t be joining the challenge this time, maybe in a few years! 🙂

    BUT, I did want to see if you had heard of the More-With-Less cookbook?! It’s WONDERFUL. It’s Mennonite and all the recipes are about getting tons of energy and nutrients from less food- using less meat and more lentils, that type of thing- aka less expensive AND very globally friendly!

    Definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it, I think you’d love it! The recipes are easy and delicious (my favorites the tomato soup with dumplings- my roommates and I fed several dozen friends with it on Sunday nights this year and everyone left happy).

  36. Just found this site when I was looking up your book someone mentioned purchasing. I love the idea of the challenge for September. I have a family of 10. I gotta lay out my rules and limit, but I am definitely in for the challenge. $75 sounds really reasonable for us too even with the allergies and special diets. I look forward to the stories & support.

  37. As you know, I live in a different part of the world! New Zealand.
    I would love to try this challenge. Having done a conversion of currency, then we usually spend $250 per week, which is $171 USD. So I am looking at spending only $200 / $137 USD.
    Will see how it works down under. Will keep you posted

  38. How stocked will your pantry be when you start this? Mine is pretty low right now, but I would love to do this. Not sure I could be virtuous enough to get down to $75, but $100 might be doable. Will you be posting your menus each day?

  39. we are a family of 5 and i tend to spend $250-300 a month on groceries (including tolietries and cleaning). i think i will try to cut down the take out and such which is about another $50 though.

  40. We’re in! My DH and I compromised on $85 a week for a family of 6. I think we’ve been spending $600+ a month so this will be a real eye opener about what we really need. Thanks for the challenge.

  41. This is how I found you last year! I have been enjoying your blog ever since and can’t wait to join the challenge this time around. Although I am a little freaked out about it. I normally spend $100/wk for our family of 6. That includes everything I buy in a week from office supplies, to clothes, to homeschool supplies and diapers. It would be great for us to save any extra money right now, especially when getting close to Christmas. I think I will try to go for the $75/wk. Following along will be just the encouragement I need to do this!

  42. I’m in! In fact, I went shopping for the first week today and didn’t do to bad w/$58.33. We are a family of 5, but the kids are still little and don’t eat too much. I was hoping for under $50, but this is still good since we used to spend WAY more than $60/week. I’ve been working on the grocery budget for a while, so this is a fun way to go about it for a few weeks. Thanks!

  43. i would love to do this! i will look at our budget today and pick a number… i buy for 2, not for or 11… but, i know we can cut back and still do well, too!! 🙂

    melissa

  44. I’m book marking your page. We usually spend around $700/month for 7 people. Dh is being laid off in two weeks so we are trying to save every penny and pinch the ones we have to let go of.

  45. I’m in. I’m shopping today. I have to shop for 2 weeks and I am determined to do it for $75 a week. I will blog about this tomorrow. Mary, you need a banner for this challenge!

  46. I love this. We are a family of 5 & have normally spent 400 a month on food, toiletries & cleaning supplies. Right now we’re in a slump & I’m getting by w/ a small garden & 50 a week.

    I have found I save a lot by planning everything including snacks. That way kids aren’t just accessing the pantry whenever they please. I’m also saving by making my own laundry & dishwashing detergent. I’m getting 180 loads of laundry for under $2.

  47. Sounds like a good challenge! This really motivates me to stick to a grocery budget. I just read this post called the “anti” grocery challenge and it suggests making a larger budget for two weeks, instead of just a budget for one week.

    http://blog.greensherpa.com/index.php/personal-finance/macro-budgeting-the-anti-30-day-shopping-challenge/

    What do you guys think will be the most effective?

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