Join my spending challenge?

small treasure

It’s Frugal Friday today, and  after rassling with the contents of my fridge, pantry and freezer this past week,  I decided it’s time to give myself another spending challenge. I usually spend around $700 on groceries in a month and during the month of September, I’m going to try to get by on $300. Honestly, I think we should be in pretty good shape– I have LOTS of meat in the freezer right now and the produce is pouring out of the garden lately.   I’m going to start by challenging myself to see how many days I can get without shopping at all.  7 days?  10 days? 2 weeks?  We’ll see.

Would you like to be part of this challenge? Pick a dollar amount that seems doable yet is a decrease from what you usually spend.  If a whole month seems too intimidating, you can challenge yourself for a shorter time– maybe just two weeks?  But the goal is to use what you have as much as possible, and decrease your spending for the month in the process.  If it goes well, you’ll have a bit of cash left over to tuck away, maybe for Christmas spending in a couple months?

I’ll report every Friday how I’m doing. I’ll share what we’ve been eating and how I’ve been making do when we run out of things here and there.  I always find it to be an interesting challenge. If you want to play along,  comment each Friday and share a report of your own.


Notes from other years I’ve done this challenge

A funny post from our 2006 Spending Challenge

Start of the 2009 Spending Challenge

Day 1 of the 2013 Spending Challenge



  1. Leslie Creech says:

    I’m totally going to do this. We want to take a short vacation in the fall and maybe this will give us just the extra money we need to do it. Thanks for the challenge. By the way, I’m going to start with 2 weeks.

  2. I am totally in! I am committing to $25/wk for month of september. We dont have a garden but we have cans of veggies. So the amount will be for milk and perishables for my family of 5. Our move is rapidly approaching but I still seem to be stocking up good deals.

  3. I am going to initially shoot for one week without eating out. I have been way too lax about this since Scott left for his current deployment (extra $$ in the budget and no one to go home to makes it easy to do). I have some commitments that will keep me from making the streak longer than that, but I am going to make it as minimal as possible for the month of September!

  4. After our Labor Day vacation, want to see if we can go one week without buying anything either- just using what’s in the cupboards. We have gotten very creative with rice and quinoa as well as waffles. After that week would like to get my grocery bill down to $25 a week–total.
    We are seeing groceries of all kinds going up up up with seemingly no end in sight. One of our favorite fruits kiwi used to be .25 a piece they are .99 normally, grapes are normally $4.19 a pound, and eggs have been as high as $2.59 a dozen for plain old normal medium sized eggs! And this is not a fancy grocery store or anything either.

  5. I am going shopping today but then I am going to try to wait two weeks to go shopping. I am going to try to keep it to $400 for the month including todays shopping. We are almost out of meat.

  6. My goal in food only groceries is $400/month. August I over spent by $25, so I’m going to try to spend $375 this month to make up for it.

    We’re also trying to cut way back in eating out. We set a goal of $70 for August, which we overspent by $10, so I’m going to keep September’s under $60.

  7. Christine says:

    I really need to do this. I am aiming for $450.00 for the month. We have no garden so I buy all of our produce, and we try to eat a lot of it. School is back in session. We both work in schools, so it I will be packing four lunches a day with lots of snacks. That gets very expensive. I do let both kids buy lunch at school twice a week. I am not going to include that in my food budget. If I can do the month of September with $450.00 starting today (8/30) I will be very proud of myself. That will include toiletries as well.

  8. Hi Mary,
    I read your Family Feasts book long ago and have checked in with your blog from time to time! We recently revisited our budget because a) we had our 6th child and b) hubby wants to start saving for 2 cars. A bigger van for the family and a replacement commuter car for him. We both drove 2001’s and they are running ok right now. But the thought of a car payment and/or saving for a car on our one-income family seems overwhelming. Needless to say, I made a list this week of everything we can try and change now to save money.
    I would love to do this challenge!!! But, I was sparse with shopping this month with a newborn in the house and trying to empty my freezer. So I’m almost out of meat and perishables!!! I was going to meal plan and stock up today.
    I suppose I could run a report in our budget program to see how much we spent on food the past few months and set a goal significantly lower? Would that count!?
    Thanks for being encouraging in this!!

    • HI Annie,
      Of course! Set your own goal and do what works for your family this month. Also keep in mind that with a new baby, you may not have the time to do tons of cooking from scratch. Be realistic in your frugality! 🙂

      Keep me posted!!

  9. I don’t know how much we are spending per month on groceries. For some reason we fail at budget systems. We have tried over and over…..

    So, yes, I need to cut how much we spending on food, but I don’t know how much that is. I do like your – no shopping for 10 days or two weeks idea. that might work for us.

    BUT here’s the thing. I find groceries so so expensive that I have been scrimping and on them for awhile… to the point that my sister (who came to visit with nice big containers with lids to redo my whole pantry) found I had NO food stores whatsoever. There was nothing left at all. No sacks of beans, or rice or oats or nuts in the freezer or anything. SO I just remedied that and spent a whopping $500 on basic food. 50 lbs of beans, rice, grains, etc… feels good. We have a large garden and fruit trees of our own, and lots of fruit being given us. I think I can safely do the challenge… and keep a balance, too.

    We did save big time recently. We traded our 12 passenger van – (that was needing a $3,000 dollar transmission job done ) on a 9 passenger suburban. Straight across. NO money involved at all. And the dealer knew about the transmission problem, too. 🙂 We are not doing foster care anymore, so it was time to downsize and it is going to be so nice to have 4 wheel drive. I’m not going to have to put chains on this winter!!

  10. We did this last week — tight month with vacation expenses and a broken water heater. We used frozen chicken and pork, and even brought things to a pot luck! It’s good to be forced to be creative with what’s in your pantry. And my freezer looks uncluttered now. 🙂

  11. tia bennett says:

    I’m starting today. Making a bunch of meals for the freezer today to kick it off.

    Thanks for the challenge, it’s always a lot more fun doing this with friends.

  12. ME TOO. Our main deep freezer died and took all of my spring and early summer harvest and $300 of roasts and whole chickens with it. I want to have the medical bills paid off,(grandson we just got custody needed medical attention ASAP plus clothes that actually fitted him). I want the rest of winter clothes bought for grandson and a new deep freezer with money to fill it up with meat that goes on sale around Thanksgiving.

    Let’s see…let’s do half of what I’ve been spending $350 including non food for the month.

    Thanks Mary for starting this.

  13. Another blog I follow has a pantry challenge in Jan and July every year. July was simply not a feasible month for me to participate this year, so I’ll jump in on this one! I updated the inventory of the outside freezer today (and defrosted it) so I know what I have there. (and am quite pleased that it was not too far off from the one I did in Jan and have been manually adding/crossing off since) I should really do a list of what is in the dry goods cabinet as well. I’m going to aim for 50% food budget although my greater goal is simply to use up some of what I already have.

  14. Read with interest Angela Ford’s post about not being able to budget. She is certainly not alone in this. For years we could not figure it out until….we started using envelopes for all expenses.
    Nowadays most income is direct deposit but before you spend anything; go to the bank and get that money out in cash. Put away the credit and debit cards–don’t use at all. Until you have your budget figured out and flowing for at least six months or more- don’t use them ever.
    Now put all your cash in labeled envelopes… mortgage, health insurance, car insurance, telephone, internet, electric, heat, house maintenance, car maintenance, food, miscellaneous. That is all the money you have for the month- no more no less. Using that cash, you can now write out checks when you have the cash to pay that particular marked envelope. When it is gone it’s gone.
    It really makes a person sit back and pay attention to their spending. When you have to hand over hard earned green bills- a person tends to spend much less than they would with plastic or a check.
    Even for people who have a solid budget- this is a valuable experiment. Schools use this format when teaching budgeting to high schoolers. Something about seeing money and then not seeing it goes a long way to determine how we are going to spend it.

    • Thank you. Have been listening to the Dave Ramsey CD’s again…. I think you are right. Until we decide to use the envelope system we may never be able to accomplish this properly!