I hope some of you climbed aboard the food challenge train this month! Although I have practiced frugality for a long time, I still learned a few things this past month. But first, I will share the budget numbers.
My original budget for January was $300. That seems high for one person, but my food budget includes non-food household items and vitamins (some people separate the two, but I find it easier to put them together as I shop for both at the same time). My January spending totaled….
I saved $106.94 – a little less than 1/3 my planned budget. I would have liked to save more, but I will call my food challenge a success!
Remember, this was not a diet, or a cheapskate challenge. I did not miss meals, and I did not carefully divide the two-ply toilet paper into one-ply. But I did make some changes:
I signed up for online store memberships.
I had a membership to one store, Price Chopper, but had never signed up to receive special sales notifications or hidden deals. Shaw’s has a free MyMixx online membership that took the place of their membership card, but again I didn’t pay attention to it. Signing up for both online memberships helped the budget by offering instant coupons as well as free items offered over the weekend. This month I picked up a box of organic yoghurt tubes, a package of granola, and two small containers of cottage cheese, and a 10 oz. bag of ground coffee. The membership also offered additional discounts on some store specials. Without the food challenge I may not have checked out these free programs.
I went back to basics.
Back in the day I made more things from scratch to stretch a family budget. Since becoming single, I’ve grown lazy, feeling as if it’s a waste of time to make a huge batch of noodles or bake cookies for myself. The challenge forced me to look at how much I was really paying for things I knew how to make. So I started making noodles again (the cost is about 30 cents for two meals), homemade pancakes and bread from the sourdough starter, and 3-ingredient cookies that were perfect for those times when I wanted a sweet snack. Overnight oatmeal takes charge once again a breakfast staple – I had forgotten how delicious it is! The raw ingredients stretch so much farther, and I throw less packaging into the recycling bin.
I check my receipts.
This is an area where I have been sloppy – shopping, paying, tossing the recipt in the bag, and never looking at it again. Now I take time to look at the items and make sure the numbers match and the discounts have been applied. All was well this month, but it made me more aware of what I was spending.
I stock up when possible.
If there is a sale for an often-used product, I will take advantage of it. King Arthur flour went on sale at the beginning of the month, so I grabbed 20 pounds of it. I have enough flour to last through February. When Cabot cheese went on sale, I bought extra and used it as a meat replacement. One store announced a manager’s special on organic free-range eggs for 89 cents a dozen (really – less than a dollar for organic eggs!). I have a dozen left that will move into February’s meal line-up.
I think about leftovers.
Leftovers have always been a part of my meals, but I didn’t plan for them until now. Now I figure out how many meals I can get out of a pound of ground beef or a pot of squash soup. The refrigerator is now a holding center for future meals instead of a corral for dying dinner leftovers. And remember the turkey bones I happily toted home from a friend’s house? The resulting broth was divided into smaller containers and frozen, ready for use as liquid for one-skillet meals, sauces and soups.
February’s food budget has a great start, with flour and other items in stock. Do you think I can move the budgeted amount to $200?
Update: Long-time blog followers Sam and Phyllis Turner tried the food challenge. They reported $317.48 for the month of January, and also mentioned a $100 total for dining out. “We usually go to Macao’s when they have a two for one deal,” says Turner, ” or we have breakfasts at Jerry Bob’s or Baja Cafe or First Watch or The Corner Bakery.” Two for one deals are a great idea when you are watching the dollars – Cash Crone has a post about dining out here.
Here’s the deal – the food challenge is not about doing without. It is about paying attention. Utilize coupons or deals to lower costs. Use up what you already have instead of letting it hide at the back of the cabinet or refrigerator shelf. Waste less. Try new things with free coupons. Have fun while you are saving money!
I’d love to hear your comments!