$300 cash: how long will it last?

A few months ago we got ALLL our debt paid off except for the house— hooray!!! But that increased ease in the budget left me a bit too relaxed, and I’ve gotten way too lax with our grocery budget. Basically we’ve been eating the spare money that I was so much looking forward to having. Β Arg.

My hubby says, no problem, we’ve gotta eat. But I’d love to use that cash for house fix-ups or Christmas or other fun things. I know I can be more careful while still feeding our family well. For August I’m back to spending only cash at the grocery store, a little trick that makes me think way harder about what I’m spending.

$300 Grocery Challenge

I’m starting with $300, and I’m going to see how long it can last. We typically spend around $800 a month to feed 8 people. In the past few months that’s ballooned up to over $1000 a month. I think I can pretty easily make the $300 last two weeks, which if done twice would be $600 spent for the month of August– a nice bit of savings. But it’d be cool if I could make it stretch even further.

My first assignment: Β a careful look through the cupboards, a menu based on the food we already have, and a precise shopping list detailing what I’ll need to buy to fill out what we’ve got.

I’ll keep you posted! And by all means, if you’re up for a grocery challenge this month, let me know in comments, then tell how your month goes either in comments or on your own blog. Β I’ll update you once a week and tell you how it’s going here.

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  1. We’ve had bad grocery months this past little while. A little ridiculous and out of control. But I have my meal list up on the fridge for this month and we already have almost all of the ingredients! So I’m hoping for better!

    • Awesome! Planning helps soooo much!

      • We spend about e$800/month on our family of 11. Sometimes I kinda feel like if I am extra-frugal one month, I have to make up for it the next month because I have used EVERYTHING up! Do you ever feel that way?

        • Yes, sometimes it feels like that, and one thing that may cause me to spend more than I planned is if staples go on good sales. We’ll see how we do…

  2. Been reading your blog for a few years– I always look fwd to reading about how your garden does. Do you have one this year? That should save you a ton right?

    • Yes, it’s still early for most things, but we just got our first cukes last week. That and our freezer leftovers from last year’s garden should help us some for our August budget, though it really helps the most in September, when most things are ripening at once. πŸ™‚

  3. I have enjoyed your blog for many years!! such practical advice…. I have a question on the $800 per month… is that strictly food or does that include personal care items…. shampoos, laundry soap, TP, etc.? We have the same size family and I have a hard time spending less than $1000 per month.

    • Heather, That includes toiletries, paper goods, cat food and dog food. We shop a lot at the dollar store for toiletries and mostly use cloth towels and cloth napkins in the kitchen to keep our paper use minimal. There are a lot more tips in my cookbook if you haven’t read that yet.

  4. Good luck to you! We’re in a budget crunch this month and I’m squeezing every penny until it screams. We started off with making your Ethiopian Sloppy Joes on homemade hamburger buns. What a yummy dinner! :o)

  5. Mary- Just curious if you find it easier in the fall to stay more on track because of school schedule? Or do you have a fairly set schedule even in summer?I do really well menu planning for a while then do bad at it for a while then get back on track again. My kids go to public school and we pretty much stay home on weekdays during the school year so I find that it helps me stay on track better…. I spend $400 a month on groceries just for my family of 4 and probably about $100 a month at Target for household and clothing stuff. I spend cash at the grocery store and at target but for sure need to do better at only spending cash everywhere we go πŸ™ I know I can do better, especially if you can do it with your family size. Our goal this year is to double up on student loan payments and hopefully the truck payment to be out of debt except the house πŸ™‚ YIPPEEE!!! I love your blog and check it alomost everyday and have read your books, now I just need to buy Familly feasts….

    • I go back and forth with menu planning, but it’s the first place I start when I feel like we need to cut back on the budget a bit. And I do SOO badly at Target that I try not to go there in the first place. πŸ™‚ Just too many pretties for me to resist, apparently.

  6. Angela Mayer says:

    I hear ya! We’ve been blessed with a little extra cash this summer and we, too, have eaten a portion of it right up. Just today I was thinking about this very thing, wondering how tight I can keep this month’s food budget and how much I can save toward our trip to take our oldest to college in L.A. at the end of the month. Our household budget for food and non-food items is $700, plus another $100 or so for our produce co-op. That’s for 8 of us. I usually end up stretching this a bit with hubby’s overtime, and I’d so like to be able to stick to the plan more closely. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Stephanie says:

    I’m up to the challenge…family of four here, and I had become pretty adept at a $100 a week grocery budget but have become pretty lax about it over the past few months. I want to “retire” again and to do so, we have some debt to pay off. Would love to sock the extra money we are “eating” toward that goal…I’m going to shoot for $400 for August – will pull that cash out and see how long it lasts!

    • Stephanie says:

      And I should have said that we do a lot of farmers market shopping, buy all local if at all possible, and maybe 80% organic/non-GMO. That ups our bill, plus we live in a big city. I can do it though…I love to cook and make most stuff from scratch…gonna get your cookbook back out and see what I can come up with!

  8. Howdy neighbor! I am up for the challenge. I won’t be able to start till September. My month is busy with my son’s wedding. We are a family of 12, my inlaws live with us, really curious to see how low can we go πŸ™‚

  9. Grocery prices are skyrocketing. Until this month I was able to buy bulk bacon at the meat counter for a $1.99 a pound. The same bacon is now selling for slightly over $4 a pound. Boneless chicken breasts used to go on sale for $1.79 to $1.99 a pound or now about $2.50 a pound. Milk is running just under $3 a gallon IF I buy it at Wal Mart.

    I’m trimming expenses but paying more as it seems inflation is hitting hard.

  10. Mary, today my hubby told me we could have 600 a month for our family of eight and that did not include our 150 for house hold items. I budget that separate. I am up for a challenge to save some money as well. We have a family of eight. I do get lazy as well and spend too much some months. We are heading into some tight months so I want to do better.

  11. I am in. There is only 2 of us and 2 dogs. I figure $200 (normal amt is $350 but has ran up to $600 with eating out included). My garden is coming in some but I have been putting it in the pantry because I still have some left from last year.Even though I am a Personal Chef,(menus is the norm) I don’t do a traditional menu for us. I have certain proteins on certain days . I am now adding certain color of veggies and fruits also to some what follow the rainbow diet. Plan to blog about it also.

    Glad to see I am not alone in the budget going up.

  12. We just did our budget last night, and I have $400 for the month, for a family of six (including one in diapers and formula). Can it be done? I think so…we’ll find out. I’m doing cash too–looking forward to following along and hopefully picking up some tips!

  13. We just bumped it up to $900 a month for 6 of us in Nampa. Infant in diapers, and the next one up regressed back to diapers. Hubby sure loves meat. We could probably shave that. I have shopped for menu for years, but I’ve been buying expensive items like juice and blueberries. If we can get it back down to $800, that’s $1200 a year saved. And we definitely have a use for it.

    Woo hoo! to those paying off debt. We did it in ’07 but are still on a budget because we figured out we can meet some good goals if we control ourselves!

    Cloth napkins and no juice, and I should really go make supper right now….

  14. Becky D. says:

    Our budget seems huge compared to most of yours. It’s 850 for five of us. We’ve still been over budget this year. I had surgery last month and with medical bills and back to school even as homeschoolers we need to really stick to budget and under would be nice. The 850 includes everything eating out diapers for our 1 yr old cat food and litter vitamins allergy meds etc. I think the snack food type stuff is one place our budget has creeped up the fruit snacks chips ice cream crackers type stuff

  15. Have tried very hard to keep spending to $50 a week for the four of us with an additional $50 a month for toiletries. We don’t eat red meat and eat TVP instead, eat tons of fruit and vegetables, lots of soup, eggs, hobos, and homemade pizzas. Buy about $10-15 of that weekly at the farmers market with the remainder eggs, milk, rice, noodles, and chicken and keeping baking products stocked. We also use cloth napkins, eat no prepared foods or prepared snacks, and drink water all day long. The kids love muffins or toast with tea for snack before bed.
    Have been spending any ‘extra’ earnings on paying down college loans and putting more into savings for when I will need a new vehicle. Only have college loans and house, yeah! Feels good to not have a ton of debt.

  16. Christine says:

    We are in Massachusetts and it is very expensive. My new goal I set yesterday was $600 a month for the four of us using cash only. We don’t garden; I know that can save a lot. I do love to cook, but last year when I went back to work full time we ate a lot of take-out. I am hoping to see what I really spend in a month and maybe cut it back some more. I am in the middle of a cook and freeze frenzy in my kitchen. I think I am inspired to aim for $500 for the month. I’ll keep you posted.