Real Food Tips: 12 Ways to Keep it Cheap

During this time last year our 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 I even managed to do it. Just the other day I was reading some of my old budget blog posts, and on one shopping excursion I somehow left my favorite grocery store (Earth Fare) after only spending $67. If you want to know what I spent at Earth Fare earlier this week….well, just add about $100 – yikes! It is amazing how much more you spend when you don’t have a specific budget in place to help you keep it cheap. The scary thing is though, I sort of was “trying” not to spend a lot the other day. Now my effort didn’t go beyond a conscious thought in my head, but I should know by now that just thinking about being on a budget never really works. :)

As some of you know, my husband and I were fortunate enough to go on a very adventurous – and expensive! – trip to Asia earlier this month. So, for us, there is no better time than now to get back on the food budget bandwagon. I won’t be doing another official budget “pledge,” but since I’ve already proved this could be done I don’t really have any good excuses to convince my husband to let me off the hook (darn!). So for all of us – me included – here are some budget tips that I could never be reminded of enough. And if you have any advice I left out please share in the comments below… Continue Reading »

Post Budget Pledge 1: Some Relief and Revelations

I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that our budget pledge is over! But what I didn’t expect was the guilt I would feel when I finally could (and did) spend a little extra money last week. And not only was it guilt about spending more money, but also about the possibility of us not finishing all the food I’d bought before it passed its prime. That was certainly one of the nice things about being on a tight budget. I could never afford to buy more than we could eat, and this past week brought back memories of how much spoiled food we’d end up throwing away in our pre-budget days.

Before I dive into the things I splurged on at the store let me finish up our last budget week. As I previously mentioned we had $15 left and instead of buying more groceries with that money we decided to put it towards a nice family brunch out at a new local restaurant. I am just thrilled each time I hear of a new restaurant opening up in Charlotte that serves local food! It is about time our city hopped on this bandwagon. And since each and every time we buy food we are essentially “voting with our dollars” I want to do everything I can to support these restaurants. Although I will say…local doesn’t necessarily mean “whole grain” or “no sugar”, which are also two very important rules to us, but hey – I guess I can’t always have it all!

So we went downtown to eat at Halcyon, which is connected to Charlotte’s new Mint Museum of Art. I was thrilled they were offering a brunch menu because breakfast food is by far the easiest thing to order for my girls when we are out (since I almost never order off the kids menu). Continue Reading »

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… Continue Reading »

Budget Day 97: Some Mistakes

Our final week is coming to a close so this could very well be my last little bullet point list of all my groceries! I plan to keep blogging though…I am just not quite sure what the frequency will be yet. Speaking of, if you have any topic ideas that you would love to hear about please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’ve already gotten some great ideas from the Facebook fans, which is quickly turning into a growing list of things that I plan to tackle once this is over.

Anyway, as I previously mentioned I did most of my shopping for this week on Tuesday when we were on our way home from the airport. Not only were we fresh off the plane (it was just me alone with my 3-year-old and 6-year-old by the way…my husband was on a separate business trip), but I was also trying to squeeze in a quick trip to Earth Fare AND the bread store before taking my daughters to their weekly gymnastics class. This was all before we even made it home to drop off our luggage. A case of an overplanned mom? Absolutely. It was very much one of those days. Continue Reading »

Budget Day 94: An Empty Refrigerator

I can’t believe it. This is my last full week of only having $125 to spend on groceries! And just to clarify, we will absolutely still be on a budget when all of this is over. I will probably just give myself a slight increase…maybe around $150 a week. And I do think the extra $25 will make a big difference. Plus I won’t be “charging” myself for items out of our freezer that were purchased pre-budget, and I will no longer be reporting out on every single food item that I buy…so overall I am looking forward to feeling a lot less pressure! And I do hope 100 days was a long enough period of time for people to realize that this absolutely can be done.

Anyway, back to our final week, although I should probably wrap up last week first. As I previously mentioned I pretty much spent our entire food budget last week at Earth Fare prior to a big snowstorm that hit Charlotte. And with those groceries we managed to stick to our original dinner plan, which included the pictured chicken nuggets and baked purple sweet potato fries with homemade honey mustard…yum. My total spend last week came to $124.09 and this is how it was divided up… Continue Reading »

Budget Day 87: Almost Done!

So here we are with only 13 days left of our real food on a budget project. I haven’t stopped shopping at Earth Fare (which some people think is expensive), and I most definitely have not stopped ordering our unbelievably fresh and delicious local ($30 a week) milk either. And I can’t help but notice…has this project failed in any way shape or form? Here we are successfully buying organic, local, whole grain, non-processed foods for a family of four on less money than we would get if on food stamps. Granted we have some wonderful resources at our disposal like plenty of places to shop for food, some decent cooking skills, and plenty of kitchen tools. And I will be the first to admit that I’ve been frustrated (and broke) at times, and we’ve had to cut down on our meat consumption as well as our “desserts” (which were just about cut out all together). The point though is that we’ve not overspent even by a penny and we’ve not starved ourselves and we’ve by no means had to compromise by eating highly processed cheap crap to stay within budget. It may be too soon to celebrate, but I can’t help but wonder how many people doubted that this could even be done???

So on that note…here’s what I’ve been doing with our $125 this week. Our area of North Carolina got hit with a pretty big snowstorm early Monday morning so I actually went out and spent almost my entire weekly budget on groceries the night before the storm. Continue Reading »