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It’s week one of the $600 real food grocery challenge and we’re off!  This week wasn’t too painful.  I was careful and planned every meal and snack, but I still spent $234.87 $251.87 .  Now, I’m no mathematician, but . . .
*gulp*
(Update:  I bought a gallon of milk and another 3 dozen eggs during the week, which added $17 to my weekly total.)
I’ve got $365.13 $348.13 for the rest of the month.  That gives me only $121.17 $116.04 per week. Since we spent around $25 per week on raw milk and pastured eggs alone, that really gives me less than $100 per week.  That’s going to take some creative planning, for sure.
Here’s the thing.  I had my full $600 going into this.  What if I hadn’t had it all at once?  I wouldn’t have been able to spend a little more this week to off-set costs later in the month.  For instance, I found a great deal on coconut flour on amazon today.  For half the price of what it costs at the grocery store, I can buy coconut flour in bulk.  But not if I don’t have the whole amount to pay right then.  What if I need coconut flour now, but don’t have the extra money to buy a few extra bags, even if it does save me money in the long run?  Well, clearly, I’d either spend twice as much on coconut flour, or more likely, I’d go without.  This is something that those on restricted grocery budgets must weigh.  Buying in bulk saves money, but only if you have the money to pay all at once.
I had to make my first food-quality sacrifice this week.  My farmer was out of pastured eggs.  The health food store carries a brand of pastured eggs that, while not local, meets my quality standards.  The only problem is that they are $6.99/dozen.  Uh-oh.  My farmer’s eggs are half the price.  We need eggs.  They are an inexpensive form of protein and I needed them for the baking I had to do to avoid buying pre-packaged snacks.  At a minimum of 3 dozen eggs per week, buying $7/dozen eggs does not fit within a $600 monthly food budget.  I chose, instead, to purchase extra large, cage-free eggs.  Cage-free means very little to me, just as the terms organic or vegetarian fed mean nothing special.  But at $2.78/dozen, it was what I could afford.  These are the kinds of choices that folks with a limited grocery budget must make.
So, what did I get for my money this week?  What will my family eat for the next seven days?
The Menu
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–Sweet Potato Pancakes, Tuesday–Pumpkin Risotto, Wednesday–Quinoa with Roasted Veggies, Thursday–Chili, Chicken, Friday–Butternut Squash Fritatta and Saturday–Chicken, Sunday–Chicken and Veggie Soup.  (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, 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.)
The Groceries:

4 Lara Bars (would normally buy these in bulk online, but not with a tight grocery budget.)
2 lbs organic butter (not grass-fed, as I’d prefer.)
2 lbs of organic cane sugar (for the kombucha, but @4.48/lb, I’m questioning if organic is worth it.)
Organic cheeses (14 ozs Colby Jack, 7 ozs mild cheddar, 3 oz goat cheese, 4 oz Havarti.  I’ll have to give up my goat cheese and Havarti the rest of this month.  I questioned purchasing them at all this week and probably should have used that money for something else.)
2 (BPA-free) cans of organic diced tomatoes
3 dozen cage-free eggs
22 ozs of raw, organic honey
1 bag of frozen, organic peas
1 bag of frozen, organic spinach
32 oz of organic, grade B maple syrup
1 cannister of organic raisins
1.26 lbs of organic arborio rice
2 boxes of gluten-free crackers (an impulse purchase at the register.  A $600 real food grocery budget has NO room for impulse buys.)
16 oz organic sour cream
2 bags of organic corn chips
5 containers of full-fat yogurt (Would rather make my own raw yogurt, but we need the milk for drinking and can’t afford extra milk for making milk-products with this month.)
3-12 oz packages of nitrate-free bacon (almost $20!  Will be able to afford our weekly bacon the rest of this month? I have no idea.)
3 lbs of ground chuck (it’s not even grass-fed, you guys.  It was $5/lb.  They call it grass-fed, but it’s actually grain-finished.  My farmer only charges $3.50/lb, but he hasn’t had any beef lately.)
1 box nitrate-free breakfast sausage links (10 links)
1 bag of organic apples
3.5 lbs organic bananas
2 bags of organic carrots
1.5 lbs organic onions
9 lbs organic potatoes
2 lbs organic sweet potatoes
1.35 lbs organic butternut squash
1 bag organic coffee

I will need more eggs and more milk at some point this week, as well, so my total for the week is more realistically around $250.

Tune in next Sunday to see how much I spent and how it will be used in our weekly menu!

$600 Real Food Grocery Budget Challenge Week One

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