Monday, January 2, 2012

The January Challenge

For the month of January I am imposing a reality check on our grocery budget.  Lately it has gotten way out of hand.  I thought back to my budget as a single mom and quickly realized that there was a dramatic difference.  I used to pride myself on how low I could keep my food budget.  I shopped almost solely at ALDI and like stores.  Presently, I find myself shopping more at our local grocery stores and even Walmart more than ALDI.  That is a quick way to add extra $$ to the budget.  Now, I will say, that I do feel that we eat better now than we have in the past.  Due to my son's health issues, I have always had to be very cautious about getting enough fruit in his system.  He needs to have 4-6 full servings a day of fruit and only one of those servings should come from juice.  I used to depend more on canned fruit and applesauce and such, but now we indulge in a lot more fresh fruit.  That is a big change.  When I was a single mom, fresh fruit was a rare and oh so special item.  Even now fruit is still pretty much considered dessert at our home.  Most of the time I make some sort of a fruit salad with dinner and that is the last thing the kiddos get to put on their plates.  That being said, our food budget was still way over the top.  I knew that I had to pare down.
That brings us to my January challenge to myself.  I am determined to feed our family of four for the month of January on $150.  That breaks down to about $37 a week.  Phew, even typing that overwhelms me a bit.  I have done it on less though, so I know it is possible.  Now in full disclosure, I have a freezer with quite a variety of meat.  That will dramatically help in keeping costs down.  I spent some time taking inventory of our freezer last week in preparation for this.  It took about 2 hours and some good gloves.  I also usually have a well-stocked pantry, but with the holidays, it has really taken a hit.  Some of my staples are running low heading into this month, but that's okay.  I do have 6 quarts of fresh homemade applesauce that my mom and I canned on Saturday, so that helps (it was seven quarts, but we already demolished one whole quart!).  I must say that I long for the day when I walk into my pantry and I see jar after jar of fresh fruits and veggies all nicely canned.  There is something so special about hearing that pop when you open up a jar.  It is as though you are releasing summertime into your kitchen.  Until that day of a beautifully stock pantry arrives, I must rely on what my grocery store offers.  I spoke with a friend of mine yesterday about this little challenge and she (being a wonderfully frugal mom) suggested that I simply buy the fruit that is on sale at ALDI.  Now, being a gal that feels the need to plan out her menus two weeks in advance, it can be difficult to wait and see what is on sale once I get to the store to figure out what I am going to feed my family.  I have determined that I will still plan out my menus, but with a big asterisk for the fruit part of the dinners.  If I see a great deal on fruit, I can scoop it up and simply substitute it for the fruit that was planned.  Plus, I can go online (they don't mail out their ads) and check out the ALDI ad before I head out so I have an idea what to look for when I'm there.  So, can I do this?  Can I feed the four of us well balanced meals, 3 meals a day and snacks on $37 a week?  I am going to give it my darndest!
The little unexpected kink that has been thrown into all of this is that Sunday morning (after I had already determined to do this challenge) one of our pastors approached us about hosting our mid-week prayer service at our home again for (wait for it!) the month of January!  (If you remember, we are out of our church building and we are currently a "gypsy" church!)That might not seem like it is related at all, but please realize that I am a girl that feels the need to offer some sort of food to any potential visitor to my home.  I don't know why, but it just doesn't seem right to have people in my home and not have them munching on something.  The last time we hosted prayer meeting I provided freshly baked cookies, clementines, pretzels and other little goodies.  With this challenge, I am either going to have to set aside my desire to play hostess, or I'm going to have to get very creative as to how I am going to make this work.  We shall see how this all works out!!
Now there is a part two to this challenge as well.  Although I am not enforcing a strict toiletry budget (that hasn't been blown out of whack like the grocery budget), I am banning myself from Walmart.  It is simply too convenient as it is right around the corner and has pretty much anything I could want or need.  The problem is that it is also too easy to go there for three items and walk out with ten.  So for the month of January there will be no Walmart for this lady.  The only exception is their pharmacy as that is where I go for the children's prescriptions.  This will not be easy.  This will take some planning on my part.  I can't wait until I am out of something and then run up to Walmart to get it.  I will be relying on stores that are in town, so I will need to make good use of my trips to town.  There was a day that I lived by the thought that if I couldn't find it at ALDI or Dollar General, then I didn't really need it after all.  For the month of January, we will be pretty close to that!
So I start off today on this challenge.  I will finish planning out my menus for the next two weeks with my freezer inventory in hand.  I will learn to be more flexible with our fruit choices and I will put aside my fear of serving a vegetarian meal every once in a while.  If I can get enough time, I will even post our menu plan for the next two weeks.  This morning I am starting off with a bang though and I will be making a big batch of cinnamon rolls to freeze.  This is a new recipe and I am so anxious to try it.  It won't seem like we are really cutting back when I get to greet my hubby home for breakfast with freshly baked cinnamon rolls throughout the month!

~I would love to hear thoughts and tips from any readers.  Am I crazy to try to make this work?  Do you think I can still cut back more?  Let me know!


  1. You can do it, with His help of course! As for your question of "can I still cut back more?" just stick with what you planned and then you can gradually cut back more.

    Some ideas--
    1. Rice. Cheap rice. We make fried rice which uses our leftover veggies and a very small amount of chicken (one breast is plenty).

    2. Breakfast for dinner (pancakes and eggs) is a treat and doesn't seem vegetarian, even though it is.

    3. Spaghetti with just a little meat in the sauce. Cheap, great way to stretch the budget!

    4. Check out Crystal at Homemaking on the Homestead. She's phenomenal!

    1. Thanks, Amber! You are such and encouragement and inspiration to me!

  2. I need to go see if there are updates (sorry, first time visitor from GCC!) ... but wanted to tell you: you can sign up for Aldis emails to get the sales ad delivered to your email. I get it at work and that determines if I want to make the drive on a weekend or not (mine is not close, they are still opening more down here in South Florida, I'll take what I can get!) ... off to find out how you made out!

    1. Thanks for the tip! I'm sorry you don't have an ALDI closer to you. The one we have is farther away than our store in town, but not by much. It has been a budget saver! Thanks for stopping by!