Budget Day 1: Getting Organized

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Wow, day 1 is barely over, and I already feel like I’ve proven that organization is key when it comes to budgeting! I spent almost an hour this morning figuring out what we had on hand (too many greens), what meals I could make with those items, and what exactly I needed to buy.  The days of going to the store with a partial grocery list are definitely over, but we did end up with some tasty lasagna tonight as a result. More on that later though, first things first…the votes are in! And based on everyone’s feedback it looks like we will be attempting to eat real food on a budget of $125/week. It was a surprisingly close race between $125 and $150 and I appreciate everyone who shared their opinion (but especially those who wanted me to have more money to spend! LOL).

So here are the rules:

  • We have $125/week to buy food for our family of four, which includes my husband, our two daughters (ages 3 and 5), and me of course. This budget will cover our food from Monday through Sunday each week, and if for some strange reason I end up accidentally going over-budget it will be deducted from the following week (yikes!).
  • What’s not in the budget:
    • Eating out: We will have $20/week for eating out and since most fast food restaurants don’t fall under the realm of “real food,” I am estimating that the four of us could eat at a restaurant maybe two or three times a month. I will be tracking and sharing the outcome of this category.
    • Household products: These expenses will not be part of this project, and will cover things like household cleaners, paper products, and alcohol. No one needs to know how much we spend on our alcohol, which helps us get through these pledges in the first place. :)
    • Garden Harvest: I already spent about $30 on seeds and plants for the fall, which just about filled up 6 out of our 7 raised garden beds. Any veggies we harvest ourselves will be considered free!
    • Pantry/Freezer Stock: With the exception of meat and seafood (which can obviously be a big expense) we can use any ingredients, pre-made frozen meals, canned goods, or other items that we already own at no charge. I will also make a point to restock some of these items as I go, but I do believe an important part of budgeting is learning to use what you have on-hand!
    • Travel and Entertaining: If we are out of town or entertaining guests we will obviously be under different circumstances. Therefore food that falls under these categories will not be part of our weekly budget nor will it be tracked for the blog.
  • As far as what we can eat…we are going to stick to our original real food “rules” from our first pledge as much as possible, but we will have to the ability to waiver on occasion since the focus this time is on how much we spend.

So back to my morning….as I mentioned, organization and planning are key, but I still have a long way to go before I master this whole real food on a budget thing. I started off by figuring out what produce we have on hand and pictured you will see the overwhelming amount of greens that I uncovered (from some recent CSA boxes). And I am not kidding when I tell you that I have no idea what the three items in the bags are or how I should cook them for that matter. I am also not kidding when I say I don’t even think I like most greens and my daughters are pretty much in the same boat as me on that one. So after that fun discovery I made a list of things I can make this week:


Monday: Swiss Chard Lasagna with a side of Green Beans (mission accomplished!)

Tuesday: Leftovers and a Salad (for the adults)

Wednesday: Bell Pepper Fajitas (I will attempt to throw some of the greens into the pepper mix)

Thursday: Butternut Squash Soup and Zucchini Bread or Biscuits

Friday: Eggplant gratin with some sort of meat (if we can afford it by Friday!)

I am not sure what I will end up doing with all of the greens that are not accounted for…maybe give them to my neighbor or just force feed them to my husband? I will do a lot for this new budget, but eating some sort of mustard or other greens on a daily basis is not one of them! Anyway, I also made a grocery list for Earth Fare this morning so I could get what I needed to make these meals, and I set a goal to not spend more than $60. I came up with this number because it would allow me to save $30 for our milk bill (we get 4 gallons delivered every Thursday morning…I know you are wondering how long this will last on our new budget!) and about $30 for the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Plus it is always good to have a few bucks you haven’t accounted for yet, which unfortunately already came in handy.

I did my shopping and stuck to my detailed list, but while I was checking out I seriously had to give the cashier back at least a half a dozen items that I couldn’t afford to buy (mental note: bring calculator next time). After we got through that little embarrassing moment my bill came to $67, which I was okay with. I used to very easily drop $200 or more at Earth Fare so I feel like today was A LOT of progress for me. I had to suppress my desire to impulse shop many times and let me tell you it was not fun! Later in the week I will share the list of what I bought for the $67 and an update on how our little weekly meal plan is going so far!

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148 comments to Budget Day 1: Getting Organized

  • This is very inspiring. My husband and I lost our house and two cars in a recent flood and are now getting ready to move. We owned our house and now we will have a mortgage, but we have a plan to pay it off in four years. Which means I am going to up my couponing game even more and need to plan our meals much better. I think I need to cut our grocery budget (not including baby food for my five month old princess) to about $300 a month to keep on schedule. Hopefully these recipes will help me do that. Wish us luck! ((better yet…pray to Jesus! lol)) xoxo

  • Miss A

    To Erica & Ashley,

    I have similar issues with my 6 year old twins and 3 year old singleton rejecting many vegetables I put before them. I make meals and separate out some of the ingredients along they way as my “back up” to them rejecting the final dinner. For example, a meal containing chicken, pasta, vegetables & a sauce. Everyone gets the final meal, but should they REALLY not eat it I will offer them some of the items separately. It’s a lot less stress and allows me to still put new dishes in front of them to try. I hope that helps.

  • Megan M

    Hello! I love reading your posts but I have a question. I’m 24 and only have to worry about myself. I am curious how much you think I should budget for food a week?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Megan. I would say you could easily cut Lisa’s budget in half. Follow her principles of planning and using leftovers and it will simplify stretching your dollars. ~Amy

  • Hannah

    how do you help sugar cravings?

    • Cyndee

      Yes indeed. I am in 10th day of this and the sweet cravings are strong.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Hannah and Cyndee. Refined sugars in all its forms and especially high fructose corn syrup are incredibly addictive and can easily create insulin resistance which in turn leads to constant and often uncontrollable cravings. It is normal that cravings occur but there are many recipes, say one of Lisa’s muffin recipes, that should satisfy that sweet tooth: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/10/25/recipe-whole-wheat-carrot-applesauce-muffins/. That said, it may be necessary to cut out even natural forms of sugar for a period of time to completely rid yourself of sugar’s addictive qualities. ~Amy

      • Linda

        Assistant to 100 Days(Amy)
        I m curious, while cutting and changing habits(for the better) has anyone lost weight in the process?
        Thank You in advance.

        • Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

          Hi Linda. Absolutely. We don’t focus on weight-loss here but when people cut out processed food, it is not at all uncommon for them to find themselves losing weight and feeling better. Once your body stops taking in a bunch of chemicals and empty calories, it can function far more efficiently. :) ~Amy

        • Annette

          My aunt started this process a year ago and has lost a total of 132 lbs…so very proud of her and will start the process myself asap

  • Robyn Zerebniak

    Is this 100 days on a budget in the book? If so I may buy a copy so it’s easier to read all in one place.

  • christina

    with a family of five i have a hard time making sure there is enough for the entire month. with my boys they are big eaters they are growing boys but dose anyone have any way to help to keep food or other food ideals that would fill them up

  • Kristi

    I appreciate what you are trying to do here, but for a low income person on a budget $125 a week for groceries is unrealistic. We are a family of four and we have a budget of $70 a week for groceries. And like most families, our grocery budget includes all the items you choose not to include in your budget. We rely on eating real foods because you have to when your budget is so tight. I love your recipes and think that you are setting a great example. I just don’t see how it would be difficult to spend only $125 a week on groceries alone.

    • Tina

      Hi Kristi, I come from the other end of the spectrum in that I thought th at $125 was unthinkable for real food for a family of 4 for a week.. I guess it all depends on the prices of food in your area and if you are including lunches and breakfasts as well.. As a family of 4 I am trying to eat and prepare more wisely and my budget has actully grown but we are feeling much better and spending less money on takeout/medications/etc….

  • […] is milk. I feel the same way about hot chocolate, too. Forget the water…use milk! At the start of our budget pledge last year I tried making oatmeal with water as a cost saving measure and my 6-year-old would have […]

  • Debbie

    It is just myself and with my SS, I get $70 a month for groc.
    I do not usually eat a lot of processed foods no do I eat out, maybe once every 2 or 3 months. Could use a little help with what to make on that kind of budget. Thanks in advance.
    or and I do not have cable, buy clothes, and use dial up for my internet.

  • BK, the Oceanskater

    Do you have any examples of how this might work with a gluten-free budget? 3 out of the 4 are also soy & dairy free, and 1 is corn free.

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