Budget · Food

Food Challenge: Reflections and Lessons Learned

I finished our first $200 grocery challenge and my end conclusion? It was hard. Much harder than I expected and I am glad we did it.

We are going to do it again next month, only with cutting our entertainment budget (which includes our dining out budget) down to $200 as well.

Overall, I would highly recommend a challenge like this for every family at some time.

Our food waste has plummeted. There was no option to make waste. If I didn’t feel like making something, I still only had those ingredients to work with. Reducing our food waste has been something Z. and I have been working towards and this felt like such an accomplishment.

Secondly, our meal planning was on point.

Finally, it was really empowering to accomplish this goal. Our food budget has always felt ridiculous and this let me know that we can do better and we can live on much less than we were.

But this takes a lot of planning. A lot of planning.

And blogging this experience has upped the accountability of this process, but it also has made me feel massively guilty whenever we deviated from our meal plan and at out. The guilt is entirely self-imposed, but is the reason for the restrictions in our entertainment budget.

Finally, you have to be ok with limiting your options. I have the hardest time not buying a sale item or passing up something I want. We had to buy one or two snack items for the week and let that be it, which I will admit got old. But it also meant I ate the healthy snacks in my house because, well that was it.

So, what would I recommend if you were to try this?

-Get a grocery list app. Z. and I both add to it as we run out of something, which reduces the need for the midweek grocery run.

-Planning, planning, planning.

– Cutting your budget in half for your first grocery challenge is stupid. A wiser move would have been to cut it by $50 or $75 and then keep moving down.

– Figure out how committed you are to this idea. If something goes bad too quickly, I chose to re-plan my meal because I couldn’t bring myself to go out to the store and blow my budget. You might choose differently. Just decide before hand so the rules you set for yourself are defined.

For some grocery shopping advice:

  1. Cut your meat consumption (if you eat meat) in half. Seriously. Z and I can eat as much fish as we do because when we buy a piece, we cut it in half and make a whole meal of it.
  2. Shop seasonally. I love asparagus season because it is so cheap, but as soon as the cost goes up again because it is out of season, we will not be eating it again unless it is a very special occasion.
  3. Pick a menu and stick with it. Seriously.
  4. Only buy what you need. As someone who love sales, I find that I just end up with an excess of food that I never get around to eating. Buy intentionally and thoughtfully.

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