$200 at the grocery store all month? (I might be insane)

Two years ago when we did 30 Days of Nothing, we spent $318 the whole month on food. Of course besides that we had our regular bills for utilities, gas, housing, etc. But we cut out all non-essentials. No clothes, books, eating out, or other extras. I felt good about what we saved that month, especially considering that at that time we usually spent $600-$700 a month on groceries, and another $100 or more on books.

These days I usually spend $900 a month on groceries. I’ve been hoping that in September I could get by on $400 for the month. Only problem is, I just tallied up our groceries for August. I spent $1100, $200 more than usual. It’s the stock-up urge: grab more of this, get another one of that — I don’t want to spend money in September. Problem is, the challenge is meaningless if I just shift all our expenses to August or October.

I decided I’ll just consider $200 already spent for September. That’ll leave us $200 to spend in the month. Yeah. $200 for the whole month. Fifty measly bucks a week. I usually spend that much before I walk 50 feet in WalMart, let alone all the way to the back of the store to grab eggs. I may be insane.

But here’s the thing: even though I spent a bit more than usual in August, I bought with economy in mind. I bought good, healthy, versatile, long-lasting items. Our cupboards are bulging with food — it’ll be at least 2 weeks before we run out of much of anything. (Oops, except I already ran out of powdered sugar making cocoa mix today to take camping, and my son just informed me we’re also out of plastic wrap. Eeek). But the point is, we have a ton of food and a huge garden. Even if we only spend $200, we won’t be starving anyone. And — don’t worry — if we truly need to spend more, I will. I may go waaaaaay over my measly little budget.

But I’m gonna aim for $200, and I’m stoked. I’ve got the start of a meal plan for the month-I am planning a bunch of new recipes to try to keep things interesting. (Frugal food does NOT have to be boring, after all.) I am excited that so many of you have mentioned that you’ll be playing along too. feel free to grab the button to mention on your blog. First thing Monday morning I’ll be putting Mr. Linky up at the top of my blog so that everyone who is playing along can link up. And of course everyone can visit around and see what other people are doing with the challenge. Remember, the rules are up to you. You decide what’s ‘essential’ to your family. Decide what to give up. Decide what to keep. You can even decide to do the challenge for a shorter or longer period of time if you’d like. It’s up to you. So come on– take the challenge!


  1. I have been buying more this month as well. Only I have been buying stuff for the house I WANT or clothes for the kids for winter since I normally start that in September. I have no idea how I am going to make it through next month but I am going to try. I am sure you will inspire me to keep going though. I really enjoyed reading how you guys did 2 years ago.

  2. So glad to see this post this morning as I was just wondering what you were doing to prepare for September. I’ll be watching your progress. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing other than eliminating all non-essential expenses.

  3. Wow only $200? I’m a bit floored. We are going to play along but I don’t think we can match your money. I’ll blame it on our lack of a garden and pre-stocking up. Hummm $400 – Maybe.
    Thanks to you my head has been cranking throught all the need only scenarios I can think of.
    I’m totally excited to get it on.

  4. Last year I did a three month experiment of only shopping in local stores (no big box stores), as well as buying local food items whenever I had the option. What I found happen, much to my surprise, was that my food bill dropped…in fact, in went from $450 a month to about $200 (for our family of five). Now, a year later, I still spend about $200 a month on food…by buying almost NO prepackaged items, no meat (I am vegetarian, my hubby is a hunter…so I cook game for him), and by using local seasonal produce (much cheaper!). Obviously, my family is considerably smaller than yours, but with such a well stocked pantry, and that amazing garden of yours, I bet you can make it happen! Either way, won’t the challenge of it be fun?! I can’t wait to read about this month…I loved reading about when you did it before!

  5. i’m so intrigued — and will definitely talk to my husband about this. since we live in an apartment, we don’t have a garden, so it would look different for us. but, i’m really interested. we live in a rather cosmopolitan city and fighting materialism is a constant battle.
    even if we don’t participate “officially,” it will be fun to read about your journey and what others are doing!

  6. we’re in.
    please share your recipes?? In the midst of the kids beginning school, I’m trying to start figuring out how to best use what we have already as I plan the meals for the beginning of the month…
    thanks for sharing as you get ready with your family.

  7. Well, since we live in the middle of nowhere, my shopping trips are sporadic and limited – so we often have spurts of nothing as a way of life – like it or not. Not this year for me – I might happen to be somewhere with a real store during the month of September and with the cost of gas I have to take advantage of every opportunity to spend/save money that I can.

    That is one thing I have noticed since we moved here – I don’t get a chance to hit the good sales anymore.

  8. It’s hard to keep the grocery bills down. Especially with a growing family. Good luck.

  9. good luck mary!!! looking forward to reading all about it.

  10. You’re in trouble if your kiddos are big milk drinkers. My three drink 3-4 gallons a week. And you have 8 still at home. Yikes!

  11. So do you know you can make powdered sugar at home? Stick regular granulated sugar in your blender and (wait for it…) blend. Apparently this is all you need to do, although I stuck a spoonful of cornstarch in for good measure. It seems when I had to do this last it took less then thirty seconds to transform. Good luck!

  12. We’re in the same boat, trying to keep our expenses down. With the move and my loss of job, every little measure we can make to make our money last. Hopefully God will provide a new source of income for us quickly, but until then, we’re cutting out the extras and thanking God for what we do have!

  13. I sure would like to know how you are going to cut your bill down to $400 for the month with a family of ten (or is it 12 with the adults?). I can’t get away with less than $400 for household supplies and groceries if I wanted to and I WANT to. I remember when my son was a baby, 18 years ago, I could get 2 overflowing baskets of groceries for $200 with the help of coupons. Now…it’s only a pipe dream.

  14. Okay …. so I’m really struggling with the food budget. Currently we have NO garden. We’re in the process of an out-of-state move, yet in a season we really need to be cautious of spending (okay, so we always have … it’s just an extra lean time). SO! .. we have a family of 7 now (total) with the older two boys requiring adult portions now. What is a realistic food budget for a family of our size? I’m talking a normal month, not the 30 days of nothing. 🙂 Insight??? Please??? Would be SO greatly appreciated. 🙂

  15. Shelly, In comparing numbers with other frugal people, it seems that if you are spending$100 or less per month per family member, you are probably shopping pretty carefully. You can go less than that, certainly. But if your numbers are lots higher than than, take changes gradually, and don’t be too hard on yourself if getting new habits takes some time…


  16. I thought it was interesting when you first mentioned this a while back, because I too have felt the nudgings to do this again. I participated when Tonia first did it, and I don’t know… it just feels like its time. Will be praying this weekend about what my particular brand of Nothing will be this time. Thanks for doing this. I really loved reading the other participants posts last time.

  17. I’m with you Mary. I think you can totally do it. I’m going to be joining in on the September 30 days of nothing. I didn’t do so well trying it in August, but I’m going to try again. We kinda have to this month, everything’s going to be very tight in September.

  18. Ok, I’m in. I KNOW in my heart that I really should do this, even though i ma freaking out just wondering if I can make it a single week… starting September. *whew*

  19. You’ve inspired me to see how far I can go as well! I’ve planned out a month’s meals and shopped for them, too. See my post about it at:


  20. What a great challenge! I love to do this……. since we live in Hurricane Alley and it’s peak season, I’m actually using up what we’ve got in our freezer so that we lessen our risk of losing food if we should happen to get a bad storm. Yes, we have a generator, but it’s a good thing to do anyway. I’ve made our menu for the month based on what we’ve got at the house – in the freezer, fridge and pantry…and nobody will starve this month. 🙂

  21. connie ostyn says:

    This is a great idea. Our food budget comes from my contribution to the household income and right now we are only working half weeks. So this comes at a great time. I even have time to plan meals now. Thanks for all the tip ideas! I dont have my own blog , but if anyone has tips you can email me redhed944@aol.com

  22. You are amazing. I just found your blog today. I am 4 days behind the challenge but I am going to go out on a limb and JuMp! Thank you for the push and the inspiration!

  23. We’re in, too. And you know what? Things are already breaking around here, too. I guess that makes it all the more interesting – and gives us more to blog about!

  24. Was that really TWO YEARS AGO? Oh my gracious. Time sure flies! I’m awed by what you do – and inspired.

  25. I just found this blog and your 30 days of nothing. I’m late getting on board but I’m going to participate too. Started this week. I looked though all my cupboards, HUGE deep freezer, spare fridge in the garage, overflow pantry in the garage. I’m ashamed to say that I have 54 meals waiting to be used. I have a stocking up addiction I think ~lol. My goal is to use up all of my stock. In counting, I’ll be on this 30 days of nothing for over two months. Until November 7th to be exact. Since its such a long time, I put myself on a $25 perishable restocking budget per week for milk, bread, fruit/veggies, eggs, tp, juice.


  1. […] the plunge too.  Or more accurately, we took the plunge.  Inspired by Owl Haven’s post about feeding her family of 12 for the whole month on $200, we have decided to do her 30 Days of Nothing experiment.  For the month of September we plan to […]