Years ago, when we first arrived to Florida for Ben to start flight training we were quite short on money. Our only income was my $9 per hour 35 hours per week job as a customer service rep at the airport where Ben flew. During that time I used to say the dollar menu at McDonald's was a major financial decision. In many respects it was.
Endeavoring to live within our means, we set a $50 per week limit for groceries. By groceries I mean toiletries, cleaning supplies, food, everything. My work schedule was such that I had 3 days off each week. I'd spend one day planning out my purchases and the next day cooking and freezing meals. I admit there were many times I'd go to the grocery store and lust strawberries or any other luxury items we simply couldn't afford. There was just no way I could spend 10% of the week's grocery money on a box of berries, no matter how mouth watering.
In recent years I haven't given any thought to my grocery bill. Advancing through the company to a manager position and Ben gaining employment meant we had more than enough to live on. I'd buy whatever I fancied and didn't worry about coupons, sales, or whether I could afford organic.
As we arrived this week to our new home for bible college, unemployed and living on the generosity of others, we've reassessed the areas we spend. Groceries is one of my easiest places to go over board so we've established a $50 per week grocery budget challenge. Don't worry, I won't resort to feeding my family rice and beans (unless of course it's Huevos Rancheros which we gobbled up for dinner tonight! Spanish eggs, rice, black beans, and salsa. Yum!).
Part of the budget challenge is to make sure I am still serving healthy, well balanced meals. Of course if I need to spend more than $50 to feed my family then I do it. And it'll be ok to splurge for strawberries should one of us really want them! The idea is to purchase what we need/will consume each week. We want to avoid impulse purchases and buying that extra box of elbow noodles because it's nice to have on hand and I can't remember if I have one at home already....you get the idea.
Yes, it takes work to successfully plan a $50 week. I am grateful for our earlier years when I learned to plan, shop, and cook on such a budget by absolute necessity. And this week? I've purchased the fixings for 5 dinners and all we need for lunches and breakfast. Total bill so far is $43.16. What's on the menu? Tuna melts and tomato soup, cheesy pasta with carrots and green beans, loaded baked potatoes, Huevos Rancheros, and Gypsy toast with British style baked beans. I need two more meals for under $7. I'm thinking chicken curry and chili with corn bread. The challenge is on!