Monday, July 15, 2013

The $20 Grocery Challenge

Last week, I challenged myself to get through the week spending less than $20 on groceries (without relying on eating out). I'd like to say that the inspiration came from wanting to save money or an overwhelming desire to be a good steward, but the reality is I was just too lazy.  With the busyness of summer, Sundays have become my "Grocery day" and last Sunday, instead of grocery shopping during naptime, I decided to take a nap instead.

When I went to the kitchen to throw something together for dinner, I realized that we had A LOT of food.  Not the food that I would have purchased at the grocery store, but food that I had stockpiled and bought without a real plan.  I decided right there and then that I would get us through the week using what we had in the house. 

 So I took $20 and headed off to Aldi to buy a few necessary items.  What did I get?
  • Two gallons of milk (whole and skim)
  • A loaf of whole wheat bread
  • Cheese (We have some very picky eaters that I'm pretty sure survive on air and cheese)
All told, I spent less than $10.  The rest of our weekly menu came from what we already had on hand.  So, what did we eat?

Breakfast was a mixture of everything we had on hand:
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancakes
  • French Toast
  • Eggs
  • The last little bits of cereal from 4 different boxes
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Fruit
Lunch ended up using little bits of everything I had in the fridge and freezer:
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Quesadillas
  • Hot Dogs
  • Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
  • Turkey Wraps
  • Homemade Pizzas made from hot dog buns
  • Lots of fresh fruit and veggies(watermelon, cantaloupe,  grapes, blueberries, bananas, carrots and other leftovers from our Batman Birthday Party)
  • Canned fruit
Dinner went surprisingly well even though I made things that aren't normally on our menu:
  • Breakfast for Dinner - waffles, eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit
  • Bacon-wrapped tilapia with Parmesan noodles and frozen veggies
  • Fried Pork Chops with Brocolli & Rice casserole and corn on the cob
  • Turkey and Boca Burgers with sweet potato fries, carrots, and cantaloupe
  • Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with salad and fruit
  • Friday night we took the kids to Chick-fil-A for Cow Appreciation Day (I don't count this as going out since we ate for free.)
So, what did I learn from my little experiment?  How blessed we are that we have A LOT more food in the house at any given moment than I would have thought!  Yes, it takes a little more planning to hunt through the pantry and search for things to put together, but I was more than able to make a week's worth of menus.  In fact, I could probably have put together a few more if I had to.  Not to mention the fact that I was putting off using things (like the pork chops) because I didn't feel like making them.  Silly really!

Best of all, by not doing a big grocery trip for the week, I saved my family about $80!  I'm not sure if this is something I could do every month, but it's definitely worth looking into and trying out at least every 2 months.  What a wonderful way to save money and use up all the little bits of things hanging out in the freezer and the pantry.

If you've never tried to push back a grocery shopping trip, I highly encourage you to set aside a week to use up everything in your kitchen.  Get creative with meals and see how far you can stretch what is already in your kitchen.  I bet you'll find that you have a lot more food than you realized.

I'd love to hear from you if you've tried something similar with your family.  How often do you go grocery shopping?  How much do you typically spend a week for your family?

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  1. What if you've already used up everything in the kitchen? :(

    1. Adrian, I actually tried this because I "thought" I had used everything up, but when I went digging I found a lot more food than I realized. If you truly have used everything and still want a "$20 week", I suggest inexpensive meals that focus on beans, vegetarian meals, soups, and cheap ingredients like eggs. I find that I can take a package of chicken breasts and stretch them into a week's worth of meals if I'm creative. I also use casseroles and beans to stretch the meat that we do eat. We eat a lot of chicken, fish, and ground turkey. Get creative with leftovers and have fun with it! Also, check to see if there is an Aldi or similar store near you. Good luck and let me know what you come up with :)

  2. What if you've already used up everything in the kitchen? :(

  3. Rename your post, MILK BREAD & CHEESE for under 20 dollars!