Saturday, March 01, 2008

My $38/Week Food Experiment

I am trying an experiment. Can I get all of our food and household items for $38 a week? My “official” food and household budget is $75 a week. This includes Hubby eating out one lunch a week with a friend. They always go to the same cheap Mexican restaurant, and Hubby only spends around $4, so I am left with $71.

I get most of our toiletries and household products for free or for pennies at Walgreens and Rite Aid by using coupons and rebates, but the one expensive household product I am brand-loyal to is Tide with Bleach detergent in a particular scent (clean breeze). I usually buy the 142 oz. box at Target for around $12. I haven’t kept track of exactly how long it lasts, but I know it’s over a month (I only use about ½ the recommended amount). I have decided to set aside $3 a week to save up for detergent and any other larger household products that won’t fit into my regular weekly budget.

I have also decided to set aside another $3 a week to save for Christmas portraits. That way, by the time we get them taken in early November or so, we will have around $100, which should get a decent small package.

Now, for the tricky part. Our family is growing, and it would be handy (almost necessary, especially when hauling luggage and gear for two young children on trips) to have a minivan rather than our compact car. I am going to try to set aside $30 a week out of the food budget to save for a minivan. Yes, it would take a long time on $30 a week, but if we combine that with the small amount we could get for selling our car, plus perhaps the economy-stimulus check that is supposed to be coming in May, there could be a used minivan in our future within the next couple of years (hopefully before we have a third child, because it would be next-to-impossible to squeeze three car seats in the back of our car!).

So, $75 - $4 for Hubby eating out - $3 for portraits - $30 for the minivan fund = $38 a week. Take out $3 for the detergent fund, and I’m left with $35 a week. Now, I am not starting from absolutely nothing. In the pantry, I have quite a few cans of tomato products and tuna, a couple bags of flour, a supply of oats and rice, some brown rice pasta (easier for us to digest than wheat), peanut butter, applesauce, etc. In the freezer, I have several pounds of frozen hamburger. I also stocked up on cheddar cheese and grapefruits last week when I found a sale.

We like meat around here, and I rarely make meatless dinners. I am going to try to buy chicken one week and hamburger the next, and freeze some of each so we can have a combination of both every week.

Yesterday, I went to two stores—a Kroger-chain store and a discount food store. Here’s what I bought for this week:

2 large packages chicken drumsticks $8.49
2 baking potatoes $.53
2 small heads of broccoli $.54
1 bunch grapes $1.43
1 large tomato $.50
1 bunch celery $.37
1 qt. plain yogurt $2.34
1 package raisins $3.98
1 roll plastic cling wrap $1.73
4-pack lightbulbs (to replace the fluorescent bulbs in our floor lamps) $.88
2 dozen omega-3 eggs $4.10
1 gallon organic milk (I used a $1 off coupon) $3.99
1 large bunch organic bananas (we like the taste way better than regular bananas) $2.34

Total for these two stores: $31.22

Today I went to the produce market and bought:

1 huge head romaine lettuce $1.39
2 oranges $.43
1 large bulb garlic $.50
1 large onion $.41
5 red delicious apples $1.20

I spent $3.93 at the produce market—only five cents over my budget, for a total of $38.05.

Here’s what we will be eating this week:

Breakfasts: Hubby likes the same thing every morning—toast with peanut butter and applesauce. Dear Little Fellow and I usually have scrambled or fried eggs along with some fruit, muffins, or oatmeal.

Lunches: Hubby gets lunch for free at his work cafeteria. Dear Little Fellow and I usually have leftovers and fruit.


Friday: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Saturday: Baked Chicken
Sunday (lunch): Chicken Soup; (dinner): eat at church
Monday: Hamburger-Broccoli Quiche
Tuesday: Fried Rice with Chicken
Wednesday: Tuna-Veggie Casserole
Thursday: Mexican Rice Bake

For side dishes with our dinners, I usually make either a green salad or a fruit/yogurt salad, or we just have fruit slices.

I am excited to try this experiment this month and see if I will be able to make it work on a long-term basis!


Andrea said...

Good luck with your new budget! I bet it's completely doable with all the planning you've put into it!

Monica said...

Great job on budgeting and planning meals:) All that your learning now will pay off as your family grows!

Monica said...

Great job budgeting and planning meals:) All that you are learning will pay off as your family grows!

prayzgod said...

Wow, you got the brocolli and celery for really cheap! I usually pay almost 2 dollars for brocolli, and almost 2 dollars for celery. :-? Maybe I should just get my produce at Aldi's, like I used to. :-)

As for a mini van, when I had just my three boys, I used to dream of having a red, Dodge mini van. I called it my dream vehicle. Well, at that time, we ended up getting two. :-)

Before the mini vans, I would sit between two car seats in the back seat, and the other car seat would be in the front seat. :-|

My mini van cost about 150 dollars. Hubby got it from an auto auction, and it ended up needing very little work. It just needed the torque converter bolts tightened, and the A/C charged.

The other mini van was also bought for around 150 dollars, from a junk yard. That was hubby's pet project - his personal work mini-van. He rebuilt the engine and transmission for that one.

If your hubby can do auto work, then look into buying a mini van from the junk yard, or auto auctions. You'll save mega bucks. ;-)

Melonie said...

I just found your blog via Money Saving Mom, so you may have this laid out elsewhere in your archives - but for produce, especially things like lettuce, you might be able to save yourself some out of pocket cash by investing in a few small planters and growing lettuce and other such things in a window box, flower bed, etc. Of course if you have a good sized yard you can do more "edible landscaping" to offset your costs, including berries and such.

If you prefer organic the seeds may cost a bit more, but all told through the year you'll save on the grocery bill, especially if you choose "cut and come again" varieties of lettuce and such. :-)

Good luck with the budget and the van savings! I agree with the other commenters - you've put a lot of thought and planning into this, you'll make it!

Anonymous said...

Good for you! You can totally do it. It's amazing how careful bugeting feels like you've gotten a huge raise!! It's a challenging adventure. :) People would be shocked to realize how cheaply you can eat still-delicious, nutritious meals.

About cheap veggies: I don't know how much of a porch area you have, but it's easy-peasy and really fun to grow lettuce from seed, and it's gorgeous to watch it grow! If you can scrounge up a few pots and some potting soil, or even mooch a plot of garden space off someone you know (I grow a summer's worth of lettuce at my folks'), you can grow more than you'll ever get through for the price of a head!

Of course, you have to deal with baby slugs, but they're sort of cute, and they rinse right off. :D DLF would get a kick out of helping water and harvest dinner! (Um, that shouldn't rightly follow the slug comment, but...) ;)

Love you lots,


Anonymous said...

Thats wonderful! Keep up the great work =D