July was a great month for us! We spent less than we normally do thanks to a tight $50 grocery budget and restricted shopping. I wrote about our initial $50 grocery budget plan at the beginning of July and provided an update for you all two weeks in. And remember my list of ultra-cheap meals? We used that a lot too.
It was tough but we made it through. For the last week of July, we had $0.69 left. What does that even buy these days?? One small onion. It was $0.67 so with tax we went a wee wee bit over but the fresh onion was so worth it.
The top five actions we took to be successful at such a low budget:
- We didn’t buy pre-packaged food. I even went so far as to buy loose carrots at Sprouts. They are $0.99/lb so I was very aware of how much I was buying every week .
- We ate through what we had. I am very guilty of leaving things that are “meh” sounding in my pantry and “plan” to eat them later. Example: We had bought cous cous a year ago and stored it in a jar. This last week we craved something different than rice (or just better rice) so I begrudgingly took out this old jar of cous cous and cooked it up. You know what? It tasted SO GOOD. I prepared it differently than before so it tasted better than I remember. To us this food was “free” since we had bought it so long ago.
- We ate leftovers. I know to some the thought of leftover food, even just the next day, is unappealing. You know what is appealing though? Not cooking. I love not cooking. We eat leftovers every other day so we are cooking less and doing less dishes. We even took leftovers from the gatherings we went to. Granted, they were at my parents’ house so I didn’t feel awkward taking their leftover food, but it was nice to know that it wouldn’t be thrown away in a few days and that we didn’t have to buy much more food.
- We meal prepped like mad. Sundays are now our day of relaxation and meal prep. We take two hours and cook beans, rice, sauces, veggies, etc. all at once so we don’t spend 45 minutes cooking and cleaning every night.
- We didn’t eat out. With a four month old baby, cooking a full meal every night can be hard and I totally see how easy it is to fall into the habit of ordering out every night. We ordered a pizza that cost us $13 from our budget. I wish I wouldn’t have done that! That should have been a weeks worth of food. I definitely regret that.
I am very proud of our $50 (and change) grocery budget from July. It has made me feel accomplished but also very privileged. I mean privileged in the sense that I live in a nice suburb of a medium size city. There are a plethora of grocery stores near me. I have a car that I can drive to them in. Some stores are so close that I could walk to them if I have to.
There are dollar stores in my suburb but they are not the only option. If my only option was the “dollar” store, all of my dollars would have been gone by week two. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in a food desert. I am very grateful to not. This is a privilege.
My eyes have also been opened to the amount of food waste that happens. Waste that is not only in our house, but in my friends’ and families’ houses and what I assume happens everywhere. Remember my love of leftovers now? What would happen if I just threw them out as a result of my inability to measure how much I’m cooking? So much money ends up in the trash. That is money that could have been saved and invested, it could have been spent on Little Guy’s school, it could have been spent on so many things.
I hope that you attempt a reduced grocery budget either this month or the next. The feeling of cleaning out your pantry by actually eating it is a wonderful thing. What are your favorite tricks to cleaning out your pantry and keeping your food budget low?