$200/month grocery challenge – Part V

This is the fifth installment of a 5-part series.  Missed the first four parts?  Go here, here, here, and here

My family and I recently completed a 4-week experiment in which we aimed to drastically reduce our spending on groceries and continue to eat well, perhaps even better than before.  Did we make it?  Yes and no, but we sure did eat well.  If you’re curious, here are our weekly meal plans for the month.

$200 reflections montage2

Reflections 17 things I learned while doing this experiment:

  1. Always make broth with whole chickens!  It’s very handy for soup season and avoids embarrassing situations like this.

    Looks frugal, doesn't it?

    Looks, um, frugal doesn’t it?
  2. You can make quiche without cheese (or crust)!IMG_3883
  3. Speaking of cheese, it turns out we can survive a whole month without buying it.  Who knew?
  4. Milk and (good) coffee are expensive, but non-negotiables for us.
  5. Green tomatoes are delicious even without a fried crunchy crust.   DSC_0414
  6. Unripe oranges make an acceptable substitute for lemons in a pinch. Helpful to know if you have an orange tree and no lemons.DSC_0395
  7. You can grind your own cinnamon.DSC_0633
  8. Homemade bread makes any humble soup seem like a special dinner.   soup, bread & butter
  9. You can make something out of almost nothing.
  10. We wasted a lot less food when there wasn’t so much coming in each week.
  11. Baking (muffins, oatcakes, bread) makes cheap and satisfying eats.  (Look for my recipes and cost analysis on those in upcoming posts.)DSC_0703DSC_0553
  12. It’s worth giving quinoa a second chance.  DSC_0519
  13. Zucchini can be eaten everyday without complaint if you vary the dish.  It’s remarkably versatile.    zucchini montage
  14. Making homemade yogurt may not be a huge cost-saver, but when you have extra milk and a tight budget, why not go for it. It only takes 10 minutes.   DSC_0683
  15. There are a million recipes out there, but the best are the ones you adapt to your liking.   DSC_0309
  16. You can see evidence of summer turning to fall over the course of my meal plans (note how tomato salads give way to roasted tomato sauces and other heartier tomato preparations).       tomato's seasonal changes
  17. My family will eat nearly anything and support whatever crazy plan I devise.  (Thank you, Loves!  You’re the best!)DSC_0386 DSC_0131 DSC_0550
  18. But not this…

    Tomato hornworm.  We named him Carl.
    Tomato hornworm. We named him Carl.
  19. Or this…

    Failed bread attempt.  not even I tried to resurrect this one.
    Failed bread attempt. Not even I tried to resurrect this one.

Random thoughts

Five random thoughts I had while doing this challenge.

  • Planning for the weekend is tough.  Sometimes we have no set plans and I don’t know whether we’ll end up needing a quick lunch, a leisurely one, or none at all since we are out and about.  Having leftovers or something stashed in the freezer would be the best way to address this, making something available at a moment’s notice, but that won’t go to waste if we don’t eat it.  I think I need to make (or buy) a batch of frozen burritos.  (Will write a post on that if I do!  Make, that is.  There wouldn’t be much to say about buying burritos.  I’d go to Costco and buy Amy’s bean & cheese.  There, now you know just in case.)
  • Having a stock-up list would be helpful.  It’s annoying to buy butter at full price.  (Since realizing this I’ve made a spreadsheet to assist with this.  Watch for a post on that coming soon.)
  • I hope we don’t run out of wine.  I’m not buying any this month.  Yay for hosting friends who bring beer!  I’ll trade dinner for beer any day.  (In a potluck sort of way.  I won’t actually be skipping dinner.)
  • I can’t believe how much food we still have in the pantry.  Am I a hoarder?  I should probably do an intensive grocery challenge twice a year (at least), with mini ones along the way…    DSC_0388
  • Better yet, I should create a permanent strategy that relies on buying stock-up items whenever they’re on sale and minimizes weekly purchases otherwise.  Hmm, I think I’m on to something now…

Afterword Reflecting on some of these observations further led me to develop an entirely new strategy on meal planning and grocery shopping.  I’m currently writing that up and developing some tools to share with you.  Stay tuned for future posts on my new strategy to eat primarily organic for just $350$400/month indefinitely, and without relying on year-old soup to do it.  And yeah, there will be spreadsheets.  Bonus!!


Happy Friday everyone.  I hope you enjoy whatever you get up to this weekend.  I will be roasting heirloom pumpkin, hitting up the farmer’s market, baking muffins and oatcakes, pulling out our fall/winter clothes and watching a lot of sports.  Go Red Sox, Dodgers and Bills!!

6 thoughts on “$200/month grocery challenge – Part V

  1. Admiring your well organized grains in stackable containers – wow! Quinoa is a very good one ; I even like looking at it with all those sprouted seeds. How about polenta !!? Sweet or savory, also a lovely base for beet greens simmered in tomatoe sauce with maybe mushrooms or beans. And a pumpkin polenta is worth your while,too!!

    1. Thanks! I love those OXO containers. I decided a few years back to invest in them. We had such a tiny cabinet for food and the round glass jars I was using were really wasting precious space. Plus I find it makes cooking grains, legumes and the like from scratch much more appealing. They beckon me from their pretty little cubes.

      Mmmm, pumpkin polenta. That’s sounds delicious. I have a half can of pumpkin in my fridge now just waiting to be used up. And I recently scored a hook-up for free beet greens! Can you believe people (including me until a few months ago) threw those away? They are my favorite green now, exceeding even my love for chard.

      Thanks for the tip!

  2. Who knew frugality looked so good!?! I’m so impressed with the blog. It looks like I’m gonna have to break my unofficial/unintentional grocery store boycott and try out some of these recipes. Especially the ones I’ve already had the privilege of trying and can vouch for. (You heard it heard first- those zucchini cakes with quinoa are actually delicious. Even to this meat and potato lover)
    I can’t wait to read more. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks, Scil! And I promise to deliver a meat recipe this week, as you requested.
      Love, Sarah of EatHome (get it? Cute, huh?)

    1. You got it! I’ve been working on a master strategy, but I’m going to chunk it down for the blog. I’ll try to get my first set of tips posted next week.

      And thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *