Budget Day 100: Victory!

Pin It

photo credit: Shannan Casper Photography

I honestly can’t believe it. For 100 days our family of four (pictured) survived on real, fresh, whole, organic, local, non-processed food for less money than we would have if we were on food stamps. At times, I truly doubted that this could be done. For only $125/week we repeatedly enjoyed fresh local milk (which was delivered directly to our house) and food from both the local farmers’ market as well as (what some would consider to be) an upscale health food store, Earth Fare. It’s not to say that there weren’t some (okay, maybe lots of) sacrifices, but we somehow found our way in the “tight” budget world and more than survived. As a reminder, and especially for those that are new here, check out the ten reasons why we cut out highly processed food in the first place (no matter the cost). And I would also love to remind everyone about some of the benefits we’ve personally experienced since changing our diets at the beginning of 2010…

  • Our youngest daughter’s constipation was completely “cured” within 5 days of cutting out highly processed food. And things continue to be pretty regular in that department…for all of us actually (how embarrassing to share)!
  • In 2009, this same daughter suffered from five separate episodes of wheezing (due to mild asthma) as well as croup and bronchitis. She did not have a single occurrence of wheezing (or croup or bronchitis for that matter) for the entire year of 2010, which was of course after we changed our diets.
  • All four of us have made it through this winter (thus far) without getting any fevers or significant colds. Neither child has missed a single day this school year due to sickness. Our youngest had one 12-hour stomach bug after a plane flight, and this has luckily been the only virus we’ve dealt with so far this season (knock on wood)!
  • Overall I feel like I have more energy and need less sleep.
  • My husband and I have both lost a few pounds.
  • Just imagine what else has changed in our bodies that we don’t even know about yet…like reduced chance of certain diseases even including some cancers.
  • And in addition to these changes in our health we’ve also all been lucky enough to experience a change in our palates (for the better) including less desire for the junk. My husband and I also seem to need to eat a lot less food in order to feel full…because real food is filling!

For more details on our health benefits check out this “Day 47” post from the middle of our first 100-day pledge.

Now I don’t think I need to list the reasons why one would want to save money while food shopping. So instead here are some valuable lessons I learned that helped us stick to real food and keep it cheap…

  • Be organized and plan out meals for the week
  • Minimize waste (i.e. put uneaten food back instead of throwing it away)
  • Know and use what you have on hand (especially if it’s perishable)
  • Make substitutions in recipes to reduce how many things you have to buy
  • Maximize “cheap” foods like bananas and beans
  • Make sacrifices (i.e. water instead of milk)
  • Reduce your consumption of meat and desserts
  • Buy produce that’s in-season
  • Check your receipt after you get home to make sure your money was spent wisely (most grocery stores accept returns!)

After all of those warm and fuzzy benefits and budget tips I am allowed to complain a little, right? Because as much as I love and believe in all of this real food stuff I am so happy the budget pledge is over! And just for the record we will still be on a food budget going forward, but it will provide me with a little more money and a lot more flexibility. I know you blog readers didn’t do it on purpose, but reporting out every last detail of my food purchases to all of you was a lot of pressure. Now that it is over I don’t have to worry about the world crashing down if I accidentally lose a receipt or heaven forbid buy the same boring items week after week. :) So, aside from that pressure this is what I disliked the most about being on such a strict food budget…

  • Having to meticulously record and worry about every penny spent, which is surprisingly hard to do sometimes
  • Not being able to stock up on certain items before we would completely run out
  • Not being able to make impulse purchases on basic items like a lemon or an onion “just in case” I needed it
  • Not being able to take advantage of sales by doubling up on great deals
  • Having to say “no” to my daughters when they begged me for innocent (and expensive) items like a pineapple or string cheese!
  • The fear of trying completely new recipes because I could not afford to waste food if it wasn’t a success
  • Having to restrict our milk consumption in order to continue to afford “the good milk” that all of us love so much
  • Rarely being able to satisfy my sweet tooth since “desserts” were one of the first things to go
  • And last, but not least…having to repeatedly put items back when I was checking out at the register, because I could never seem to predict exactly what I could afford

So for those reasons…I am so glad we are done with this pledge! But as painful as it was, I would be lying if I said I didn’t learn from it. Throwing myself into the fire like that was definitely the best way for me to figure out how to shop for real food and stick to a budget at the same time. And I certainly needed all of the help I could get because before this little project my spending was getting out of control. Stay tuned because even though this pledge is over there is more to come. In my next post I’ll share what we did with our last $15 over the weekend, and also the first items I plan to “splurge on” now that we have a little more money to spend. Woo hoo!!

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

134 comments to Budget Day 100: Victory!

  • Susan Mathias Stavridis

    I read every post of your ’100 days of Real Food on a Budget’. I congratulate you. You are an inspiration. However, I just want to note that I have four very active, athletic, teenagers, two boys, two girls, and a hard working husband who does not travel and takes a lunch to work everyday. We have been eating healthy, whole foods for years and although, you inspired me to see where I could cut my expenses, there is no possible way I could feed my family of six on your budget. What I did was use the $7 per person per day formula and have been sticking to it most of the time. It is difficult and I have made many sacrifices. I read somewhere that people were skeptical about your budget and I understand what they are thinking but realise that you have two young girls and your husband seemed to travel a bit and therefore not need food at home. It may be more difficult to attempt this budget when your beautiful girls are older and more active. (I’m sure you will keep your girls active and healthy and assume sitting in front of a TV or computer for hours a day will not be happening in your home.) Again, I love your blog and follow you on Facebook. I’m going crazy trying to find those Ziploc containers here in Canada! I just thought I would share my thoughts on where the skepticism and unnecessary criticism of your budget may have been coming from. People may forget that you have young girls. Your lunches are brilliant, healthy, full of protein, and certainly enough food for them. Perhaps people are thinking of what they eat, or what their older children are eating. Or perhaps, as most of America, they are just feeding their children too much. Thank you for inspiration. Sue

  • [...] family of four was gearing up for our “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget” pledge. But once the pledge ended (in January 2011) I stopped sticking to our strict food budget of $125/week, and I often wonder how [...]

  • [...] scary. I had no clue that giving up white flour, sugar, and other processed junk would cause my daughter’s asthma and constipation to disappear as well as result in a 50% increase in my HDL (a.k.a. “good”) cholesterol! And here I already [...]

  • Sandy

    I am checking into this more as I have already started making small changes. But, we only spend $90 per week on food–and there are 6 of us, including an almost 9 year old boy who can eat a LOT! I’m doing what I can, and came here partly to look for recipe ideas. But I’m not sure how much more I can do on our budget.

  • I totally get all of your bummers. I LIVE in that area! nearly 2 years ago, we moved. We’ve always had a tight budget, but now we’ve been paying rent, PLUS the mortgage on our house we can’t sell. We have cut out every single thing (except for direct tv which my hubby refuses to give up! lol)…and we are left with a bare bones budget of $200-$250/month for food for our family of 4. It’s enough to cut out most of the fake ingredients, but not enough for all organic or all local meats/milks.

  • Amanda

    Good for you Lisa, keep up the good work! Thank you for sharing your family’s experience with the world!
    We live in Canada and let me tell you, food here is INSANELY costly! I have a hard time staying under $250 per week, menus planned and only eating at home! But I always aim to find new ways to make my weekly grocery bill go down :-)

  • Bre

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks a ton for you sharing this experience with your readers. It is very exciting to know that broke and healthy can go hand in hand! That being said, I’m a grad student living on, well, grad student wages. While most of your posts are “family focused”, I was curious as to whether or not you might have some insight or suggestions for affordable and clean eating for one? Thanks again!

    Bre

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Bre. While you could considering cutting recipes in half, don’t be afraid to cook full recipes and freeze leftovers. Cooking in bulk is actually less expensive. Also something to keep in mind, when cooking only for yourself you do not have to worry about pleasing the tastes of many. Enjoy it and experiment with foods/flavors because it is likely to get more complicated later. :) ~Amy

  • […] family of four was gearing up for our “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget” pledge. But once the pledge ended (in January 2011) I stopped sticking to our strict food budget of $125/week, and I often wonder how […]

Leave a Reply