We did it! We did it! This week, we stayed under our $75 budget limit. Whoo hoo! And, we were even able to slip some not-on-the-list, but deeply discounted items in (the bags of Bare Naked granola rung up at 50¢ each on sale at Joblot with a coupon).
And, we also completed the overall challenge, learning a few things. What?
MONEY MATTERS: Granted, I spent more than my allotted $200-$300 on groceries this month, but still stayed under the $400-$600 I have been spending. And, in doing so, I proved that although it is difficult for me to keep our grocery receipts to $75 or less a week, while still offering mostly organic, whole foods to my family, it is possible to keep them from going over $100 on a regular basis. With discipline, planning and time to bake, I can provide healthy, filling meals and a variety of snacks for Mike, myself and the kids without further exacerbating our financial inflow-outflow problem each month. Moving forward, I am hoping to maintain my dedication to utmost frugality in the grocery store!
HABITS: Prior to the challenge, I was more likely to look toward our local grocer than toward our pantry or freezer when planning meals. I tended to think of the pantry and freezer as back-up for busy days or really out-of-money weeks. Now, I am developing a habit of looking at what we have on hand first, and, then, supplementing at the grocery store. This will serve us well, I think, so long as I still keep some handy foods for tight money-and-time weeks.
CREATIVITY AND EASE: The Challenge encouraged me to get more creative with thinking about what I might serve my family with just what we had on hand, supplemented by low-budget grocery trips. Even though I have always been someone to use recipes more as guidelines than anything else, this forced-creativity helped me substitute even more ingredients with good success. (Just how many kinds of vegetable/leftover-enriched pancakes and waffles did I make?!) It also made me realize that having theme nights – soup and sandwich, build-a-tortilla, breakfast-for-dinner – can make menu planning easy, but also requires creativity and adaptability so as not to fall into rutts or boxes that are hard to get out of. Here, I mean the rutt of always having the same type of soup and sandwich, breakfast for dinner, etc. and the box of thinking a particularly themes meal must come on a particular night. Time crunches, ingredients in the cupboard and fridge, etc. demand flexibility!
GOOD WILL: Although we didn’t trim huge amounts off our monthly grocery tally, we did trim some. Plus, we found food in our pantry we wouldn’t eat anytime soon. So, I was able to keep to my plan of increasing tithes and donations and putting money toward home repair (in a way) and homeschooling expenses. As noted in a prior post, we donated a bag of pantry items to local folks through freecycle and we also plan to give a little more at church this weekend. In addition, even though we did not save enough to pay for any of the needed home repairs on our list, I was more comfortable in paying our coming-overdue-mortgage this month – so we are one step closer to keeping our home without fear! Also, I bought some white paint and glitter for the kids play-and-learning projects – one of those “extras” I often put off buying or feel incredibly guilty about purchasing, because they are a “want” not a “need”. (We used the paint and glitter in the fun snow dough we made while doing a snowman book study.)
So, all in all, I came away from the challenge feeling good – about money, about habits, about being able to use our financial gifts towards charitable and learning causes. And, yes, I can say that I am truly grateful for the plenty I realize we have, even when we are cutting back…
So, now, what will my Provider of Healthy, Economical Foods challenge for next month be? Perhaps starting a Price Book to help keep our$75 a week food budget going and expanding our repertoire of theme night selections… Wish me luck and let me know how your own challenges and goals are going.
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