My $300 is gone

A pix from last year's garden  (apples are not ready yet this year!

Just a quick update on the food challenge for the month.  After two weeks of cash spending, I have literally a buck in my wallet, along with a tiny jingle of change. Confession:  my accounting was less than stellar.   I used some grocery cash for school supplies and other randomness, just  because I was too lazy to separate things.  To balance it out, a couple times when I was buying mostly non-grocery items, I used the debit card and also tossed a few groceries on the conveyor.  I THINK the casualness in both directions pretty much evened out. Probably.  But, yeah, there’s a reason I never became an accountant.

It is exactly that type of casualness that puts me over budget some months, so I’ve resolved to turn over a new leaf for the remainder of the month.   And since our garden has leaped suddenly into harvest mode– green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, cukes, peppers and soon plums— I’m going to aim to spend no more than $200 for the rest of the month.  We’ll see how it goes.  At the moment there’s a great price on ground beef at Albertsons– $1.88/lb–  so probably 1/4 of that $200 needs to go for ground beef.  But I’ve got lots of other food in my pantry and freezer, so I think with a little care I should be able to make it through the month.

On the menu:


Are you trying to cut down your grocery spending this month?  How’s it going?  What do you like to cook when you’re really focused on penny-pinching?



  1. Must admit, it made me chuckle to be staring at a photo of a head of cabbage while reading that you are going to turn over a new leaf. 🙂 I had planned to do a low-spend grocery challenge last month, which went reasonably well until some pricey purchases at the end of the month that threw the whole thing off. Darn that pure maple syrup and olive oil! I have a monthly grocery budget allotted, but some months are higher and some are lower so I try to just make sure the year-to-date amount averages to that monthly figure. I spent excessively much in early May, and have been halfheartedly trying to get back on track ever since. I did resolve that this month I would have to keep the spending to only half the budget amount, which would swing my average back to exactly correct. We are halfway through the month, and I have used half the reduced amount, so it is looking good so far. We are not in need of anything, there is plenty of food in the house, and I’m rather hoping to come in under budget.

    I tend to stock up and even overstock things when they are on sale. During penny pinching times, it is easiest to not even look at the sale papers but just force myself to look at what I already have and find meals from that. This is probably an easier feat in my household of 2.5 (that teen boy can EAT) than in your house of 10. I also find we eat more pasta than typical, simply because it is so much less expensive than other (albeit healthier) things. Vegetarian meals in general are obviously less costly, but finding ones that the kid doesn’t realize is missing meat/seafood can be challenging.

  2. Please come to my house and cook for me!! 🙂 All your meals sound delicious! I need to start adding more veggies into all of my food. I just sat down today and menu planned for the week and wrote out my grocery list and figured out what coupons from the grocery ad I was going to use. I also put an order in for a quarter of a cow so it will cost quite a bit when it comes in but will sure help in the long run.

  3. Girls and I went on ‘day’ trip to our local department store which is one hour away to purchase work clothes. Well, I get to the cash register and am waiting for total and when told hand her my cash to pay. She asks if I want the store credit card which can save me 10 percent on all my purchasing. But when I ask her about the percentage charged on it- she hemmed and hawed at it maybe 12 percent or so but maybe higher. I replied that I had never had a credit card and at 55 don’t see any reason to get one now.
    The man in line behind me struck up a conversation about my living without credit cards/debit cards and I was able to have a very nice conversation with him for about fifteen minutes. The man asked the cashier for scissors and proceeded to cut all his right there and then!!!! He commented that he had been trying to figure out how to live without them and what the reality of that looked like. But because he knew no one that lived without credit cards he had no one to ask his questions to. A good thing I was in line in front of him.
    I have used the envelope way of budgeting for 30+ years and have found it to work like a charm. The best advice for anyone who wants to live without credit cards is to: BUDGET YOUR NEEDS NOT YOUR WANTS

  4. I always find it hard to eat really healthy when I’m budgeting. At the same time, though, cooking meals from scratch and menu planning always help to save money and keep us eating healthier than if we’re eating out or buying convenience foods. Mexican style dishes are my favorite budget meals, and you don”t have to sacrifice flavor!

    As an aside, my HSLDA magazine came in the mail today, and it was so fun to see your family featured!

  5. I was just under the $300 last week. I’m at $372 after this weekend’s grocery shopping. The good news is I should stay below $500 for the month for my goal. Really watching what I’m spending has shown me 1- take cash I had just $60 after hitting the farmers market and buying milk for food this week and I tweaked the list and menus to stay under, 2-some meals cost too much to have more than occasionally or pick one higher meals each week, This week we’re having a meatball recipe we all love that uses cranberry sauce and chili sauce so it’s yummy but pricey 3 watch the snacks and drinks. Adding the bag of chip some ice cream and some drinks for after my husband’s runs can add $15 easily each week.

  6. Hi Mary, our son is married and I am ready to begin the challenge starting September 1st. I do have some pantry items already but know that will not last too long. Wishing our garden had done better. We will be canning peaches this week. I need to get a copy of your cookbook. Do you have any available? I think we live close to each other. I didn’t see you at JEM volleyball this year to ask you then. Excited to see how we do. Our home has 4 adults & 8 children ages 17, 15, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6 & 1. I am pretty sure $300 won’t work for us either even if I did everything perfectly. Curious to know how little we can spend.

    • Hi Randi,
      You can get my book on amazon or on bn,com. That is probably the easiest way to get it. 🙂 Keep me posted how the challenge goes for you. I am thinking of aiming for $600 in September. That’s still $200 less than we usually spend and should be doable.

  7. I have stayed in budget. Spent half the grocery money on items to prepare for winter. Garden is coming in strong in some areas and lacking in others. We are eating from the garden mostly adding rice, potatoes, pasta that our son gave us when he moved and what ever protein is in front of the freezer because it’s the oldest.

  8. Mary,
    I LOVE your honesty. 🙂

    I think if I shopped my pantry super careful I might could do a crazy cheap month, but not $300 cheap. Cheap for us- with a family not as big as yours but still bigger than average (8, 7 of whom are eating non-babyfood)- would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $700/month? Maybe?

    Needless to say when I saw your original post, I was amazed, and now I’m just glad that you’re honest… it makes me not feel so terrible about our own spending. LOL.

    Thanks for keeping it real. 🙂