It’s week three of the $600 Real Food Grocery Budget Challenge and I started the week with $182.85 left to spend on groceries. This week I spent $156.36. That leaves me with $26.49. I have the menu planned through Sunday, June 23rd and I get paid on the 28th, which is when this challenge is set to end. Still, that’s only $26.49 for five people, for five days. I have NO idea how that will work, since milk alone is $14 per week. And that’s with me only using a splash in my coffee and otherwise leaving it for everyone else to drink.
This week when I went grocery shopping, I felt a little anxious. I’ve planned very carefully and had a lot of food and pantry items on hand when I started this challenge. I’ve blown through my stock piles and cut back my own food consumption so that this challenge wouldn’t affect my children. They are already used to following a daily menu, so even though our food expenditures are at least double the challenge amount each month, having to follow a carefully planned menu is normal to them.
Something happened early on this week, however, that made me see just how stressful it is to have to carefully plan for the use of each food item that is purchased. When you’re on a tight budget, there can be absolutely no waste. On Tuesday morning, my youngest son attempted to make chocolate milk for himself using cocoa powder and my precious $20/gallon, local, grass-fed, low-temp pasteurized heavy cream. I was in the shower and was unaware of what he was doing. When I walked into the kitchen I saw the cream, mixed with chocolate, coating the sink basin. I peeked in the fridge, I saw that the half-gallon of cream that should have lasted at least 10 days was gone, save for about three tablespoons. Apparently, my son didn’t realize that the cocoa powder was not sweetened and couldn’t figure out why his chocolate milk tasted bitter, so he poured it out and remade it three times.
Instead of a calm lecture on asking for help and not wasting food, I blurted out, “You have GOT to be KIDDING me! I can’t buy more of this until I finish this stupid challenge! Do you have any idea how much this stuff costs?!”
Of course, he didn’t. And, of course, I was overreacting. It’s just cream. It’s replaceable. It’s not worth that sort of relationship-damaging reaction.
What if I only had $600 every month, though? How stressed would I be? How stressed are millions of people who have to provide a healthy diet for their family on a tight budget? And this is where I felt embarrassingly out of touch. That cream is a luxury, not a necessity. It doesn’t even have to be included in a healthy real food diet at all. I shouldn’t have made the choice to buy it, because that $10 could have been put toward some other less-expensive-but-still-nourishing ingredient. Lesson learned.
So, what did I get for my money this week? What will my family eat for the next seven days?
Breakfasts: Monday–Oatmeal, Tuesday–Eggs, Wednesday–Sausage and Eggs, Thursday–Grain-free Pancakes, Friday–Eggs, Saturday–Bacon and Sunday–Crispy Potatoes and Eggs. (This breakfast menu will remain the same throughout the month.)
Lunches: All leftovers. (Leftovers for lunch is how we usually do things. I only hope that I can continue to make enough for dinner each night this month to have leftovers for everyone at lunch.)
Dinners: Monday–Chicken and Rice, Tuesday–Butternut Squash Fritatta (this dish has been requested over and over by my boys!), Wednesday–Pasta, Thursday–Veggie Soup, Friday–Chicken and quinoa and Saturday–We will be out of town, Sunday–Lentil Stew. (So glad I had pastured chicken on hand! We normally don’t eat this many vegetarian meals in a week. Good quality meat will not fit into the $600 grocery budget, so I’m opting to simply eat less meat.)
Snacks: (The boys eat two snacks per day. I usually have a morning snack at work of fruit and cheese. Hubby doesn’t snack.) Homemade pudding, lara bars (those probably won’t appear on the menu after this week!), organic corn chips (this was a sacrifice–they are cheap and are something the boys aren’t used to having and so it will provide some novelty.), yogurt (not homemade this time), fruit, fruit leathers, home made fudge, home made grain-free banana bread or brownies, cheese, home made grain-free cookies.
I hope we can make it through the week with these snacks. They were cheaper and healthier than buying pre-packaged snacks, but it took me several hours in the kitchen today to bake them. (I love baking, I just don’t always have time and time is money.)
2 gallons raw milk
7 oz Colby Jack Cheese
4 dozen cage-free eggs
1 qt organic maple syrup
18 oz organic raw honey (got a clearance deal on this, or it wouldn’t have bought it)
2 bags organic corn chips
2lbs organic carrots
7.5 lbs organic potatoes (they were suppose to be $.99/lb, but I just noticed that they overcharged me! Ack! I paid over double for them. Normally I wouldn’t have even noticed, but now I want to go get my $10 back!)
2 jars pasta sauce (not organic, they were BOGO and it made sense this time)
4 containers of mandarin oranges (not organic, but I’m running out portable snacks for my youngest)
Cocoa powder (not organic)
White rice pasta
Large container full fat Greek yogurt (not organic)
16 oz sour cream (not organic)
2 containers of strawberries (not organic)
3 lbs grapes (not organic)
1 bag lentils (not organic)
1.5 lbs butternut squash (not organic)
2 lbs white flesh peaches (not organic)
2 Lara bars (some were clearance again this week)
2 lbs pears (not organic)
2 lbs bananas (not organic)
5 lbs apples (not organic)
As you can see, I’ve given up organic produce in favor of actually having some variety of fruit in the house. I’m okay with that because it’s for a limited time. I don’t think that non-organic fruit is the ideal, but I also don’t think it’s the worst possible food my family could be eating.
Notice, I didn’t buy any meat this week. I have a hard time supporting conventional meat. I’d almost rather not eat meat at home if I can’t get it grass-finished. I’m pretty conflicted. I’d rather save my “dirty” meat eating for restaurant visits. Regardless of your ideals, feeding a family on a budget will challenge them, for sure!
Check back next week to see if I can prepare for the final week of the month on just $26!