It started with a pantry challenge at the beginning of January
I was very pleased that we were able to cut over $200 from this month’s grocery budget. When we joined in the annual Homestead Pantry Challenge over at The House & Homestead, I had assumed/hoped we would decrease our spending. However, our main reason for participating, was to challenge our self-sufficiency and reliance upon chain grocers. You can check out our other reasons here: Taking control of our food supply with a challenge • Crafting Our World .
Even though I was glad that we did save (almost 30% of our budget!), it made me question if we were over-spending before.
“Of course you saved money, you didn’t go to the store!”
Well, actually…we did. This was a flexible challenge, and we set our own limits. I didn’t want to go to the store, but knew we would need to replenish fresh items. There were 2 physical shopping trips and 1 virtual during the month. Our first trip happened 10 days into the month. We hadn’t been to the store since just after Christmas, and didn’t intentionally stock up for the pantry challenge. Also, I generally visit the biggest of big stores (Costco) every 3 weeks, and we hadn’t been there since before Christmas, so a visit there was the second shopping trip a week later. I did have some guilt, due to shopping during this challenge. However, I did notice how much more intentional the shopping was, and that made it worth much more than just the fresh produce, meat, and dairy we bought.
How much “should” a family spend on groceries each month??
This was the question I was asking when I found out that we’d cut over $200 from our budget during the challenge. Are we over-budgeting for our family? This is definitely a concern when you are trying to save money. I looked it up, and found lots of websites/blogs with articles on grocery budgeting. Apparently, it’s kind of a hot topic. Who knew? Many of the sites source the USDA’s Food Plan, which is updated monthly. So, I looked to see what we “should” be spending. It turns out that our personal family grocery budget, which covers most eating out we do (which isn’t much), in an area which has a relatively higher cost of living, falls into the “Thrifty” domain. So, we definitely aren’t over-budgeting our groceries according to the USDA.
Let’s get thriftier: Cutting even more from our grocery budget…
Seeing that we are in the thrifty realm, I am feeling motivated to stay extra thrifty! Who wouldn’t want an extra $200 or more a month?? This will be so much easier when the garden is up and producing, and the chickens laying more consistently. Meal planning is also a great way to make the shopping list much more intentional, and avoid unnecessary spending. We did NOT get better at this, but recognize it as a great tool to support our budget goals. However, we were able to make our shopping so much more intentional, even beyond groceries. By knowing what we had on hand, AND keeping track of it, makes easier to not “over-shop”. This is incredibly valuable and we will continue doing this. We’ll try to meal plan more too…
Be creative; Use what you have!
Part of what helped us cut over $200 from our thrifty grocery budget was getting a little creative and using what we had in the pantry. My favorite example of this, is a non-dairy “ice cream” my hubby made. We don’t do terribly well with dairy so, occasionally, we will treat ourselves to a pint of non-dairy frozen dessert from the grocery store. Even on sale, these will run around $4 for a pint, and often, they aren’t great. Well, hubs found a recipe online, and using what we had in the pantry, he threw in some pecans and mini-marshmallows from the baking stash, and voila! Dairy-free Rocky Road! It was awesome.
If you haven’t already, I invite you to challenge yourself to become a more intentional shopper, and get creative with what you already have in the pantry. It’s a great way to stretch your budget and increase your self-sufficiency.