Budget Day 100: Victory!

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!!

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  • Comments

    1. 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!


      • 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

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