Cutting the Grocery Budget & Debt-free a Year Sooner

At the end of last month, I was looking over our budget, trying to figure out ways that we could get out of debt sooner than March of 2015.

I came up with a few ways:

1.  Sell my coveted Alt Summit ticket.
I did, & it was hard.  I mean, really hard.

But.  Savings from not going to Alt?  About $1400.

2.  Figure out a way to increase our income by $600 a month.
Not sure if this is going to work, but I hope to find a teaching job in Texas–a few yoga classes a week could mean a couple of hundred bucks a month.  I’m also thinking of adding a paper route–the boys are old enough to help, & I think it would be a great lesson in teaching them how to work.  I also think if we tell them why we’re doing it (so we can get out of debt), they’ll have a better understanding of why it’s a good idea to be debt-averse.

If we can figure out how to scrape together an extra $600 a month, that’s $7200 in years time.

3.  Reduce our date/fun budget to $100 a month.
Savings?  $1800 a year.

4.  Cut our grocery budget.
We used to spend $800-$900 a month on groceries, for our family of 6.

This month?  Our budget is $0., and so far, so good.

How we are doing it:  rice, beans, & canned items from my parent’s ample food storage.

My parent’s have enough rice & beans stocked up to feed a family of 4 for at least a good 6 months.  They can’t make a dent in it, so I figured we’d give it a try.  I am amazed at how far a bag of rice goes.  The 30 lb. bag I opened at the beginning of the month looks like we’ve hardly touched it, & we’ve eaten rice every day this month.  I’m now realizing why a good portion of the world subsists on rice–it’s cheap, it’s filling, & despite some to the contrary, it actually does have nutritional value (& I’m not just talking brown rice).

I’ve never wanted to touch our grocery budget.   I see money spent on food as the one splurge in our life.  Good wholesome food, is worth it, I’ve told myself.  But I have to be honest–it’s a BIG splurge.  I admit, I’ve been a bit of a stickler on this point–spend money on high quality, organic (when possible) foods, & whatever extra cost is worth the benefit of better health/longevity.  I’m now realizing that this is not necessarily true.  I fear I’ve bought into a bit of a half-truth.  Yes, it is important to eat wholesome foods.  But I don’t need to spend $800 a month on those foods, & there doesn’t even have to be a great deal of variety to be healthy.

One the best examples of the benefits of simple eating, is from The China Study.   Dr. Campbell points out that the rural Chinese subsist on a simple diet primarily of rice & vegetables & this diet has served them well–heart disease, diabetes, & obesity, among other diseases of the Western world are virtually non-existent.

I’ve known this for a good long while.

Yet, I’m lured by the variety that exists at the supermarket (red quinoa, black forbidden rice, gluten-free flours, cashews, non-dairy ice creams) & I love cooking & trying new recipes.  I’m a sucker for pinning recipes & collecting cookbooks.  But this hobby is expensive (not to mention time consuming) &, is not crucial to my health & well-being.

I thought, what if, what if, we really did just eat very simply?  How low could I get our grocery budget, realistically?

So this month, I decided I would not go grocery shopping.   At all.  And see if I could live off what is in my parent’s food storage.  I cringed at the thought of no fresh fruits & vegetables.  No tofu or daiya cheese.  No Whole Soy yogurt.  No curly kale, oranges, or fresh pineapple.  But we’re doing it.  Half-way into this “experiment” & I’m pleasantly surprised at how simple it is & how not deprived me or my kids feel.

When we move to Texas in December, our new food budget will be $175 & will consist of beans/lentils, oatmeal, rice & potatoes, & a small amount vegetables & fruits & no room for any food splurges (like soy yogurt).

But the payoff?  If we can actually live on $175 a month for food, that would save us $600-$700 a month!

That’s a whopping $7500+ in a years time.

5.  Hold off on buying a second car.
Joseph will need a commuter car as we will not be living on base when we live in San Antonio.  We had budgeted $7500 to buy a reliable used Toyota or Honda, but then decided we could get a reasonable, still in fairly good condition (although higher milage) car, for $4000.  That would save us $3500.  But then my parents offered to let us borrow their Toyota for the next year & a half while they are living in Mexico (they will be serving an LDS mission).  This will save us $7500.

Total Savings:

All in all, these “little” tweeks (a total of $25,400) make a difference of getting out of debt a year earlier (!).

No longer will we have to wait until March of 2015 to be rid of our $61K in debt.

If we can stick with changes, we will be debt-free by March 2014, only 15 months from now.

Yipee!

♥♥♥

Have you ever made hard choices to reduce your spending so you could get out of debt or save for something you wanted?

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Comments


  1. Denielle
    on March 31, 2014 at 6:45 am said:

    So it is April 2014 tomorrow, how did you do at the end of your journey? Did you make your goal? What lessons did you learn?

    We have a family of 6, I am trying to trim our food budget down. Keep it simple and still be very nutritious for our children. The children do not like rice and I am not a fan of pasta. We eat a lot of Mexican which for us includes beans, corn, peppers, onion, in a tortilla, tortilla chips or salad. We ate vegan for health issues for 1 1/2, but we are eating a few eggs and a little dairy (cheese & sour cream), not nearly what we use to consume. I do try to buy the dirty veggies Organic. I feel it is an investment for long term health. Health issue seems fine with these small amounts and no meat.

  2. KellyB
    on November 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm said:

    Hi
    I would love to hear what your ideal meal plan is for a day or 2 once you move. I’m guessing you have some meal ideas planned out to be able to come up with $175/month.
    This fall I started back to work after being a stay at home mom for almost 10 years. So I am trying to simplify meals since I’m not home all day to plan for them.
    thanks

  3. Joya
    on November 18, 2012 at 6:48 am said:

    I’m with you on this one. The last few months have been slim around our house due to alot of unplanned expenses. It had made me stop and look at all the places we could cut back. Food was one of them. I had already cut back alot on the extras, the monthly order from Swansons on fun stuff like coconut oil, teecino, and whatever else I thought I “needed” ;0). But my husband and I agree that eating simply is the best way to live anyway. An occasional treat is okay but learning to eat cheaply is never a bad thing. We have found that if we bring home tortilla chips, for example, our meals center around them (taco salads,etc) until they run out instead of making our own from super cheap corn tortillas or cooking a pot of rice instead. I hate to admit that we can be wasteful with food sometimes, and having a budget that we stick to really cuts out on waste because we are sure to use what we have before we buy more.

  4. on November 17, 2012 at 8:23 pm said:

    I used to spend $500-$600 on food for just MYSELF, because I also get caught up in buying all of the fancy, healthy food (not to mention I was eating a high amount of fruit and vegetables back then). Over the past year, Dallas and I have been really working to keep the food budget small, and our meals simple and healthy. It’s challenging sometimes, but I’m rediscovering the beauty of our slow cooker, as a homemade soup can cost us about $6 and last for a whole week. We’ve also made a deal where I cook every night and he does the dishes, so that neither one of us is left with all the work. And we really try to think hard before splurging on more expensive food items we want. I do agree- rice is a great way to save money, and we eat a lot of it. I eat a lot of oatmeal, too. We now have our budget down to $400/month for the both of us, which is pretty good since we both eat a lot all day long :)

  5. Anna
    on November 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm said:

    Thanks Janae for your great blog entry on getting out of debt faster! I can’t tell you how comforting and inspirational it is to see someone else encountering similar obstacles and having great and practical ideas for solving this problem that so many of us struggle with. I love your empowering tone and how proactive you are, and I also admire the fact that you have been able to step out of your comfort zone and make cuts in places you wouldn’t have considered before.

    I returned to work part-time after a 9 month maternity leave for our second child, and though I work only 2 days a week (2 twelve hour shifts) we are spending about $1200 a month on daycare for the two kids. We can’t seem to ever catch up and my husband is frequently upset about the daycare expenses…actually he’s so upset about it that he says he doesn’t want any more kids because of the cost (which is really sad for me). I’ve been trying to figure out where we can make cuts but I never really thought it would be possible to significantly reduce the money we spend on food. When you mentioned soy yogurt and cashews etc. that really resonated with me (and made me laugh!) and I will very seriously consider living much more simply and not going to the grocery store several times a week. My husband is from South America and I know that he grew up on simple foods like rice and brown lentils so I will try to channel that into our family now…

    Good luck to you, I know that you will be successful because you have a great attitude and determination! Do you think any changes you plan on making will affect your weight goals? Do you think that your husband will be “satisfied” with what food changes you make? I wish my four year old would go along with whatever foods I gave him, but he is currently a very picky eater and basically refuses to try different things (like a lentil). Do your kids eat everything you give them?

  6. Melissa
    on November 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm said:

    I coupon for household items (toiletries and laundry-related especially!). The money I save can be staggering. But food is harder to coupon for because a lot of it (as I think you’ve blogged about before) CAN be over-processed. But, there are coupons for savings on rice, beans, canned foods, soy and rice products, etc. In fact, I’m still working my way through 1lb bags of rice I got for $.07 thanks to a $.75 coupon and a store deal that made each bag only $.82 to begin with! (Mind you, this is WITHOUT double-couponing, since no stores I go to permit it around here.)
    When we get a house (more storage space) that is also closer to work and school, and I am no longer being a 1.5-hour each way commuting full-time student, I will try to get back into it more full time. For me, that is how I am better able to justify food-related splurges — why not buy this or that, since I got my shampoo for $.50 and my deodorant for $.75! (And I can’t even remember the last time I spent more than $2 on laundry soap or haircolor…)

    • Melissa
      on November 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm said:

      Oh! And regarding your car — that’s awesome!!! Monico and I just bought a used car (we only had one vehicle too) from a friend. It’s not fancy, but it gets 35 MPG, and THAT is worth putting up with manual transmission for. :)

  7. Colleen
    on November 17, 2012 at 7:08 am said:

    The paper route….don’t do that to your kids. It’s not their problem that you’re in debt. My parents did this to me and I felt it robbed part of my child hood. I felt like an indentured servant!

    Second thing is you may want to consider growing vegetables. This is much cheaper than buying them. And get your kids involved in that…they will love it and learn at the same time.

    I question if you and your kids are getting enough nutrients and healthy fat on brown rice and canned beans…short term gain but long term pain. Make sure you take your vitamins and minerals!

    • on November 17, 2012 at 8:07 am said:

      Colleen: While I agree it’s “not their problem,” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching kids how to work. I think there’s too few opportunities for kids to learn how to work in our modern society. Further, this debt has nothing to do with frivolous spending on our part. It’s a combination of educational debt & the fact that my husband was unemployed for over a year after graduating. I don’t think working together as a family is a detrimental thing, especially when approached the right way. That said–perhaps a paper route will not be right for our family. Your words have definitely given me something to think about, though. Thank you!

      And yes, we will have a garden–yay! I hope that the longer growing season will enable us to have produce for a good chunk of the year. I’m actually really excited about that aspect of living down south. Hopefully the the learning curve won’t be too steep. I only have experience growing things in Utah where the weather & dirt are very different.

      Regarding fat: they get a daily dose of pb, chia seeds, ground flax, pumpkin seeds &/or almonds. & I sometimes use olive oil when making mexican or “fried” rice & coconut oil when making popcorn for them.

      And, regarding vitamins & minerals. I suppose I should have been a bit more clear. This month we’re living on my parents food storage. Just to see if we “could.” This includes canned fruits & vegetables, which do have nutritional value. Also, my mom has picked up a few things fresh items from the store which I’ve included in our meals, but I myself have not gone shopping our spent any money on groceries. Once we move to Texas next month, I will include some fresh items & we’ll have a garden when the season . And my kids *are* taking a great multi :).

      Thank you for your thoughts & concern, they’re well taken.

      • on November 17, 2012 at 9:27 am said:

        My Mom had a paper route when I was younger, and I really admired her for it. We used to love helping her with it — especially when we got to go with her early in the morning. Happy, fond memories. When I grew up to be a teenager I got my own paper route, and so did my siblings. We didn’t have a lot of money but paper routes taught us a lot about self-regulation and hard work. It helped us to have independence, too. I don’t think it’s a bad idea…my two cents.

        Also, I think I am forgetting who you are. Super-smart, Wal-Mart shopping mamma. I am just now remembering how MUCH produce YOU are able to buy with $30-$50 a week. I am not that skilled a shopper. So, for me, it would be a show-stopper.

        Ultimately, it’s up to you. And, your kids sound super-healthy. Dr. McDougall says that eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, with seeds and nuts for kids, more than meet the nutrient needs of children. He’s pretty much against vitamin pills (except, of course, for the B12, which is what you are giving to your kids.)

        It sounds like things are going well, and I am on your side! Go Janae!

        ~Ash

        • on November 17, 2012 at 9:55 am said:

          “We didn’t have a lot of money but paper routes taught us a lot about self-regulation and hard work. It helped us to have independence, too. I don’t think it’s a bad idea.”

          Exactly. I think if you do it right, working together can be an incredible opportunity to build family unity & teach kids the principles of work & responsibility. I love that you also have fond memories of working together.

          One thing Joseph & I feel strongly about, is really teaching our kids to be independent & to know how to work, & to work hard & well. And you know what, in our cushy, modern lives, I’m finding it’s hard to do this without some deliberate set a part activities (ie. a paper route).

          Don’t get me wrong, we’re also big advocates of play/fun family time, but that comes after work, & is something that ought to be earned, at least from our perspective, & for our kids. I think one of the great disservices parent’s do for their kids is not allowing them opportunities to work & learn independence. It gives them self-confidence & help them have an easier transition into adulthood.

          Thanks for your thoughts, Ashlee!

  8. Dana
    on November 17, 2012 at 5:16 am said:

    Janae- I’m so proud of you and how hard you are working toward your goal! And how fantastic are your parents to share all the food in their pantry? Wow! But, I have to say (as the token 50 y/o uber worryin’ Mom here) I’m with Ashlee, and would caution you not to get too militant about eliminating all fresh food/produce from your diet. Just from my own experience, when I’ve gotten too radical about any lifestyle change, it frequently didn’t end well. I would just suggest sticking to your plan for the most part, but adding in some low cost fresh fruits and veggies- even if its just non-glamorous carrots/celery and oranges/apples you find on sale- something fresh w/ some snap I think would go a long way on brightening up your plate. Just my opinion, of course and I support you 100% in what you are trying to accomplish. In my life, I try to balance the living in the moment aspect with the planning for the future aspect, since we don’t know how much time God will bless us with. But again, this might be an easier perspective from a “car with a few miles on her.” Keep us posted on how you are doing!!

    • on November 17, 2012 at 8:43 am said:

      Ah, sweet Dana, thank you, as always for your kind thoughts. I do agree with you & Ashlee. I suppose I should have been a bit more clear. But a 750 word blog post doesn’t always warrant that.

      When we move to Texas (in a few weeks!), I will have room in our budget for fresh produce. And yes, it most likely will be things like carrots, oranges, & cabbage or lettuce, or whatever is in season/on sale. This month I just wanted to see if we *could* live without going to the grocery store. And yes, we can. Some of the foods we’ve eaten include: peaches, pears, green beans, lentils, rice, black/red/pinto/white beans, split peas, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (canned), salsa, applesauce, corn tortillas, tortilla chips, peanut butter, crackers, granola bars, potatoes, quinoa, corn, onions, oatmeal, soy & rice milks, apples, cabbage, carrots, grapes (from my parent’s backyard), grape juice, apple juice. A few things (like the apples & cabbage) were picked up from the store by my mom, but I have not bought anything & I happen to know she didn’t spend very much on the little food she has purchased.

      We will have a garden (super excited for the longer growing season than what I had in Utah) which will hopefully afford us a good amount of produce during many months of the year & as I said before, I will definitely be buying fresh produce, just not as much as previous, & it will be carefully planned & served (I can’t tell you how much fresh produce I know we’ve been guilty of wasting in the past). Also, I’m kind of hoping that produce will be cheaper than it is here in Washington, which ironically, is much more expensive (despite the fact that I’m surrounded by crops & farms).

      Also, I don’t think I’ve mentioned, we actually have a rather large food storage (which is currently in storage) that I plan on using up within the next year once we move, which should enable us to have a bit more in our budget for fresh things.

      Anyway, I sure do love you, & I love how concerned you are about me. Thank you for that! Hope you have a lovely weekend.

      • Dana
        on November 18, 2012 at 5:41 am said:

        Thank you, Janae for elaborating! It sounds like you have a fantastic plan going forward and I can now erase my mental images of you and the kids getting rickets for lack of fresh veggies! : ) I love your passion and drive and know you will be succesful in your quest to be rid of that debt. I know exactly where you are coming from on that one and scrimped to pay my mortgage off way early, don’t carry a c/card balance, paid cash for my car, etc. It is hard work- yet, I am so super blessed to have the ability to save and pay as I go. I know so many folks out there just don’t have that luxury and live hand to mouth- and have to rack up debt to put food on their table-especially in these tough economic times. Anyway- can’t wait to hear the stories of your settling in when you get to Texas. It is so close! Isn’t it crazy how this time, challenging as its been for you, has flown by? It’s a beautiful crisp day filled with sunshine and promise here in WV- hope you have a similar day out on your side of the country!

        • Dana
          on November 18, 2012 at 6:09 am said:

          Or maybe I mean scurvy, not rickets… Whatever that old timey disease was that sailors would get after months out to sea w/ no fresh fruit/veggies in their diet. :)

  9. on November 17, 2012 at 4:46 am said:

    I dunno’, Janae.

    The fastest way for me to start getting grumpy about life is to not buy any fresh produce. I love the staples, but the fresh produce is what makes every recipe sing.

    If you get too strict with yourself, it might backfire. I have extreme tendencies that are similar, and Paul is always reminding me to try and take a more “middle-of-the-road” approach. You might give yourself a little more wiggle room. Just something to consider.

    I greatly admire your working so hard to get out of debt (even giving up your alt summit ticket!).

    ~Ash

    • on November 17, 2012 at 8:27 am said:

      You & Dana are both right. I agree. I LOVE fresh produce & it is an important part of diet.

      When we move to Texas I have every intention of having a garden again, this time for a good chunk of the year, since the growing season is much longer in Utah, we’ll have more produce for a longer portion of the year. So there’s that. Also, I should have been more clear. I will have money in our budget for fresh produce. It just won’t be nearly as much as previous, & it certainly won’t include things like celery root & parsnips. Whatever is on sale. For this month, I just wanted to see we *could* live on food storage–& turns out we can! And it’s not that we aren’t getting any fruits & vegetables, they’re just not fresh. I know, not ideal, but really, there’s still nutritional value & my kids haven’t complained once. In fact, I’ve never had less fuss with my kids about eating than now. Perhaps it’s because I’m not trying anything fancy–just straight forward, plain & simple food. And since it’s cold, we’re eating a lot of soups & warm, cooked foods, so lettuce & other raw veggies aren’t necessarily the first on our priority list.

      And yes, boy oh boy, giving up my Alt Summit ticket was H-A-R-D. There will be other years though.

      Thanks for the love & concern, girl–I appreciate it!

      • on November 17, 2012 at 9:33 am said:

        I would love to know what kind of soups you are making that your kids like, and they don’t even have to be a recipe…maybe just methods like rice+beans, add celery and spices….and how you do that? Just if you have time…no biggie.

        That’s awesome you will have a garden. Paul is the expert green thumb in this family, and I just try to help as much as I can. Out here in the mountains we have a really short growing season, which makes it quite difficult to have a successful garden. I sure hope you have more success with it in sunny Texas, than we do here!

        • on November 17, 2012 at 9:47 am said:

          Actually, my kid’s favorite soup is this navy bean soup my mom makes. It’s ridiculously simple & the LOVE it. I will dissect her brain, & get back to you with the recipe! My mom’s actually full of really great, simple, simple frugal recipes.

          I’m excited to have a garden. Really excited. I don’t think I would go so far as to say I have a green thumb, but we’ve had a good 5 or 6 years of experience with gardening, & I have learned a thing or two, but there’s still so much to learn. A new climate, dirt, & growing season may give me much more to learn than I had bargained for!

  10. on November 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm said:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I actually just sat down to evaluate our spending and where we need to make changes now that I am a SAHM and only working part-time. It really is amazing how quickly you can spend money on groceries, I am awful at it especially when I see a good sale.

    • on November 17, 2012 at 9:35 am said:

      Yes, that “good” sale can be quite the budget buster, can’t it. I know I’ve made far too many impulse purchases because something was on sale (I love a good deal). But, I’m learning, it’s only a good deal if it fits into the written plan.

      And yes, groceries tend to be the easiest thing to overspend on (especially for a wannabe foodie like myself).

      How are things going as a SAHM, btw?

  11. Kristi
    on November 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm said:

    Thank you for completely inspiring me. I am feeling guilty because I went grocery shopping today and I spent $4.99 on stinkin’ dog treats and $3.99 on a box of black chai tea. That’s $9 right there I should not have spent. The dog loves any kind of human food scraps as a treat and i already have tea at home, just not chai. I am, however, getting better at grocery budgeting. Now to convince my husband that eating out is completely unnecessary……

    I would love to find a simple way to make an extra $600/month, too!

    Thanks!!

    • on November 17, 2012 at 9:42 am said:

      “I went grocery shopping today and I spent $4.99 on stinkin’ dog treats and $3.99 on a box of black chai tea. That’s $9 right there I should not have spent. The dog loves any kind of human food scraps as a treat and i already have tea at home, just not chai.”

      Oh dear. Do I KNOW this scenario all too well. I actually have about a dozen or more varieties of herbal infusions/teas that I haven’t touched. They look so fun & alluring at the store, then I guess I lose interest once I take it home. It’s bad. Tea is the first thing to go, but I suppose it’s okay since I’m well stocked for a good year or so!

      Those grocery stores, especially places like Sam’s, Costco, & Wal-mart where it’s not just food. It’s SO easy to end up getting so many other impulse/non-essential things. This is why the cash system for groceries is brilliant. That’s all you have for the month, once it’s gone it’s gone, so spending money becomes a bit more painful & you think twice about those doggie treats or that cool tea.

      Thanks for sharing, Kristi! You are most definitely not alone in this dilemma.

  12. Leanne
    on November 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm said:

    Happy for you!! We are on a budget to get out of debt, but it is hard…I go food shopping every 2 weeks, which helps with our food buget (we live 40 minutes from the grocery store we prefer to use). My goal is to spend under $200 every 2 weeks for a family of 4. We are not 100% vegan, but close. This amount also includes toilet paper and such as it is cheaper at our grocery store than Walmart. I try to stay out of Walmart and Target, or any store for that matter. You save more that way!
    Good luck in paying down your bills!

    • on November 17, 2012 at 9:05 am said:

      “I try to stay out of Walmart and Target.”

      Me too! I’m such a sucker for all the bright & shiny, clean, & pretty things at Target. I get into a trance once I walk through those doors & all reason & good sense seems to leave me.

  13. Laura Hunter
    on November 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm said:

    Will you share some of the ways you’ve prepared beans for your meals?

    • on November 17, 2012 at 9:23 am said:

      YES! Thanks for the request.

  14. Lfwfv
    on November 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm said:

    I love your food plan. We spend a lot on groceries. We don’t buy any processed foods besides buns from our bakery and a few cans of tomatoes etc. but I buy TONS of produce. I choose the least expensive but it still really adds up. I know I would be much better off financially if I ate more grains and less romaine, but I love eating the volume of crunchy raw veggies :/

    • on November 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm said:

      Oh believe me, I think I love crunchy raw veggies as much as you. But, it’s a relatively small short-term sacrifice for a more secure financial future. March 2014, March 2014, I’m just going to keep repeating that to myself. When we’re finally debt-free I’m going to go blow a bunch of money on lots, & lots of raw produce.

      (& since Texas has a longer growing season, I hope to get a lot of produce from our garden!)

      • lfwfv
        on November 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm said:

        Honestly, we try to eat as frugally as we can on this whole food plant-based eating plan, but i do still splurge on veggies. I know if we needed to, we could cut back on them (and just keep the essentials), and cut back on the spices/condiments my husband uses. Right now, i think we’re doing pretty well. Our basic foods each week are:

        *apples, bananas, and any other in-season, cheap fruit
        *romaine lettuce (Costco)
        *carrots (Costco)
        *cucumber (Costco)
        *celery (Costco)
        *green beans (my current other green veggie)
        *red potatoes (Costco)
        *sweet potatoes or “yams” (my splurge right now is sweet potatoes…i limit to two per day though)
        *squash (currently in season and cheap…won’t buy when it’s not)
        *frozen veggies to use in one-pot recipes (spinach, peppers, etc.- try to buy on sale if possible)
        *brown rice (Amazon…cheapest lundberg i can find (GF). We eat tons of this!! Even just plain to fill up on…always have a huge batch in the fridge)
        *quinoa, millet, brown rice pasta (limited each week, Amazon)
        *beans (dry, Amazon)
        *peanut butter
        *ground flaxseed
        *walnuts (Costco)
        *raisins (Costco)
        *whole wheat buns (from local bakery…no oil, flour ground on site)
        *oatmeal (Costco)
        *corn tortillas
        *puffed brown rice or rice cakes (on sale, or Amazon)
        *frozen blueberries for occasional oatmel-cooling (Costco)
        *spices (as many as we can at Costco, then Amazon, then grocery store)
        *mustard (Costco)
        *vinegars (Costco and grocery store)
        *canned tomatoes and tomato sauce (Amazon, use infrequently)
        *nutritional yeast (Amazon)
        *applesauce (grocery store, on sale)

        From that, i cook all of our meals from scratch. We could definitely cut back if we needed to, but i think we eat very healthfully, but as cheaply as we can for the most part right now.

  15. on November 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm said:

    This is so admirable. I’m a student so should really be keeping a tight budget. I do pretty well in most areas but groceries are my downfall. I’m a sucker for “exciting” looking, specialty products like those you mention…I look forward to your tips and tricks! How are you not buying fresh fruits and veggies though??!!

    • on November 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm said:

      Emma: Not buying fresh fruits & veggies IS hard. It’s the hardest part. My parents have a huge stash of canned diced tomatoes, green beans, (organic!) jars of applesauce, pineapple, pears, & peaches. Not the most well-rounded (or fresh) assortments of fruits & vegetables, but it works. I think we have to remember we’re a bit pampered & spoiled to have an abundance of fresh produce year round, when 100, or even 50 years ago, people didn’t eat berries or lettuce in the winter. I’m not going to lie though, it’s not easy, but saving the money (for now), is worth it.

  16. Jennifer Ott
    on November 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm said:

    I would LOVE to see exactly what you eat for a week. I have 4 kids (and homeschool), recently became vegan (after being vegetarian for 2 years), and would love to get more ideas! We are on a tight budget, as my husband is in school while working a low-paying internship (LPN student…), and while we’ve budgeted quite a bit for grocery money, I like the idea of simplifying!

    • on November 17, 2012 at 9:27 am said:

      I think the easiest way to simplify, is well, to simplify! I asked the kids at the beginning of the month if they wanted to eat rice every day & they cheered & all said yes (they love rice). So we eat rice every day. It’s an easy, no-fuss base to any meal. I plan on sharing more details of how we’ve been eating in an upcoming post. & for the record, I know how hard it is to support a student-husband. And in combo with all your mom duties (& you homeschool!). It’s not easy, but you have to believe it’s worth it (& it is!). Hugs to you, for all your doing. You can do it.

      • Jennifer Ott
        on November 17, 2012 at 10:25 am said:

        You are so sweet and kind to share what your family does! Thanks for the encouragement! I love reading all your posts!

  17. April
    on November 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm said:

    The past 2 months I have been trying hard to stick to a household budget-I’m probably calling it the wrong thing but I mean what we spend on groceries and household products combined. I’m trying to cut it down by probably 25-50%. It is HARD! I cannot seem to stop myself from buying what I think we “need”. The last 2 months I did a pretty good job even if I did go over (slightly) what I had allotted. I’d really love to hear more about the food situation. If we at every scrap of food in our house w/o replenishing I”m sure we could easily eat for 2 months. But i have a hard time not buying since cooking is my “hobby”. So please share more-even if it’s a boring recipe of 1 can of beans and 1 cup of rice. I’d love to get inspired!

    • on November 17, 2012 at 10:04 am said:

      Oh the great dilemma of “wants” vs. “needs.” It’s a balance for sure, & it’s not always clear cut. I try to keep things in perspective. Watching movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” & “Hotel Rwanda” & others (I know, extreme examples), help to broaden my world view & help me to realize that a good portion of the world’s population lives remarkably different from us Americans & that we live like kings here! Even on a tight budget or small salary, we live very pampered lives.

      I’d rather self-impose a strict budget so we can get out of debt & get in a good place financially, then be forced to have a strict budget because I mismanaged our money. A little pain & discomfort now is worth peace & prosperity for the future. I try to keep this in mind when making purchases, & remembering that (as cliche as it is to say) a dollar saved is a dollar earned. Since I no longer earn the money I once did, I feel a great obligation to spend each penny wisely.

      And I will share some of the things I’ve been doing. Thanks April for sharing your thoughts.

  18. bitt
    on November 16, 2012 at 11:56 am said:

    Good for you! I admire your plan and determination. We cut our food budget way down. I still make fun things I see on blogs, just less often and that way it’s even more of a treat. We found ways to get good organic produce a lot cheaper through a local farmer’s cooperative. I also had to cut out fruit, which cut the budget unintentionally. Yes fruit is better than other snacks but organic fruit adds up quickly and veggies are much more nutritious if you have to choose.

    As for the paper route, I am curious to see how you’d do it. My husband did it for awhile after college and he had to wake up at 2am to pack and deliver everything by 6am. He only had the weekend route too. It was exhausting and a lot of gas and not a lot of money. But maybe if you could find a later time slot and with helpers you could get it done faster. And with GPS it might be easier too, back then the first few weeks were tough figuring out the route (I helped him for about a month then got my own second job that was a different shift).

    • on November 17, 2012 at 9:36 am said:

      I’m not sure if the paper route thing will pan out, but like you said, if we can figure out a shift that works & a route that doesn’t use too much gas, we can make something of it. Otherwise, we’ll make a plan B. I *know* paper routes aren’t easy & they can be taxing. I suppose we won’t know if it’s a good fit for our family until we try. I’ll keep you posted.

  19. Lauren
    on November 16, 2012 at 11:50 am said:

    I think it’s great that you’re starting to look at your grocery budget. I would love to follow a blogger who is vegan and gf who also needs a really tight grocery budget. I just recently have cut mine back and am still trying to figure out how to be creative. You should share the simple recipes that you find!

    I have the same hobby that you do, I have an Evernote notebook with literally 271 recipes saved in it, which grows each week. I need to find a balance between loving to cook and try new recipes, and keeping my budget down.

    I really appreciate following this journey you’re on!

    • on November 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm said:

      I think the best recipes are the un-recipes. Seriously, ridiculusly easy (perhaps “boring”?) my 7 year old could make it!

      Funny, gluten-free vegan foods abound in the plant world–& a large portion of the world’s population lives on these foods. Rice & lentils? Staples of the Indian diet & gluten-free & vegan. I’m learning how to rely on changing the spices up when I cook rice. More on this in upcoming post…

      • Lauren
        on November 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm said:

        Yeah, I realize that, but I guess as you continue to do it you’ll become more creative in how to mix it up. I would get tired of the exact same thing over and over again.

        I also understand that that’s how a large portion of the population lives, but I guess I’m still transitioning my thinking, even after being vegan for 2 years.

        About the changing up the spices when you cook rice – that’s really what I meant about “recipes”. So yes, please share!

        Also, I always tend to burn my rice way before it should be done (it’s still hard) even though I use the ratios that people say to use! Any tips? :)

        • on November 17, 2012 at 9:09 am said:

          Yes–I feel I’ve become somewhat of an expert in the ways of cooking rice, I will definitely keep you in mind & share some of things I’ve discovered when I post about rice cooking. Few things are worse than burned rice!

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