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.
Reflections 17 things I learned while doing this experiment:
- Always make broth with whole chickens! It’s very handy for soup season and avoids embarrassing situations like this.
- You can make quiche without cheese (or crust)!
- Speaking of cheese, it turns out we can survive a whole month without buying it. Who knew?
- Milk and (good) coffee are expensive, but non-negotiables for us.
- Green tomatoes are delicious even without a fried crunchy crust.
- Unripe oranges make an acceptable substitute for lemons in a pinch. Helpful to know if you have an orange tree and no lemons.
- You can grind your own cinnamon.
- Homemade bread makes any humble soup seem like a special dinner.
- You can make something out of almost nothing.
- We wasted a lot less food when there wasn’t so much coming in each week.
- Baking (muffins, oatcakes, bread) makes cheap and satisfying eats. (Look for my recipes and cost analysis on those in upcoming posts.)
- It’s worth giving quinoa a second chance.
- Zucchini can be eaten everyday without complaint if you vary the dish. It’s remarkably versatile.
- 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.
- There are a million recipes out there, but the best are the ones you adapt to your liking.
- 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).
- My family will eat nearly anything and support whatever crazy plan I devise. (Thank you, Loves! You’re the best!)
- But not this…
- Or this…
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…
- 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!!