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Week 1 – Our Epic Food Budget Challenge – Four Couples, $50 a Week, Budgets Commence!

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I'm excited to take this food budget challenge and save on groceries this month!

Before reading any further, please understand that I know that $50 a week for food is totally doable and many people survive on way less.  My hubby and I have simply been overspending.  This challenge is only meant to motivate, not to pour salt into any wounds.  Thanks!

In this post a few weeks ago, I summarized a rough end-of-year for my friend, Dee.  She approached me with a food budget challenge she found online.  I wanted to tackle it but with a little more leeway than the original challenge entailed.  I convinced my hubby that we should participate, and then two sets of our other friends jumped in too.  Our challenge was born – $50 a week per couple for all food for 4 weeks straight from January 2-29, 2017.

Our Two Caveats

In our challenge, we can use all of our pre-existing food.  For Len and me, that means any perishables in the fridge, lots of pantry goods, and the deep freeze of mystery foods.  All of the challengers started with some reserves we need to clean out.  We just weren’t allowed to stock up in December for this challenge.

Also, I’ll make a note or point it out when we use a gift card, but that’s okay too.  I can’t be the only one that holds onto gift cards WAY too long after Christmas, right?

Meet the Challengers!

Dee and Vee have been married about 1 1/2 years.  Dee is a teacher, 4 months pregnant, and is lactose intolerant but ignores that frequently.  Vee just started a new job that requires a lot of travel around the city and prefers classic dishes like meat and potatoes.  This challenge was Dee’s idea.  She wants to reduce food waste, use some of their frozen reserves, and grab control over something that is actually controllable that will help reduce their overall expenses.

Len and I have been married for 11 1/2 years and we’re fully self-employed.  We aren’t actively avoiding many foods, though I’m staying away from caffeine and other anti-pregnant people stuff right now.  I want to prove to ourselves that we can eat balanced diets on WAY less than the $600+ per month we have been spending.  I also want to reduce our dependency on unhealthy convenience foods and save that $2400+ a year for something more fun!  Len agreed to give this a real go because Dee and I asked.

Kay and Andrew have been married for 3 months and are both teachers.  She avoids processed foods, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners.  He avoids carbs…like all of my favorite foods are ones he rarely eats if at all.  They love exotic foods.  They jumped on to the challenge to cut back on their spending, waste less, and to incorporate more fresh vegetables and fruit into their diets while cutting back on meat.

Hillary and Gary have been married for 10+ years.  She runs a small business’ office and is a professional pet sitter, and Gary is an Uber driver while he finds where he wants to plant his flag next.  They are eclectic eaters.  They joined the challenge since Gary lost his job last month, dramatically decreasing their income.  Plus they already keep their spending in check and are keeping us on our toes.

As you can see, we have very different tastes and lifestyles, so this challenge should be fun to “watch”!

Week 1 Results!

We all did very well!  The spreadsheet results are below, but to summarize:

Dee and Vee hit $87 but mainly to stock up their freezer.  Dee is being the most detailed.  She sent me over a full spreadsheet with exactly what she bought, how much was used, how much was frozen or leftover, and lots of notes.  It’s impressive as all hell.

This $87.27 total included $26 of meat that has been frozen for later including 3 pounds of ground turkey and a whole spiral-sliced ham.  She also has lots of “half left for next week” notes, which is the same for a lot of the food we all bought.  Dee nearly cheated on a bad day, but Vee convinced her to stick to the challenge.  They didn’t eat out.

Dee and Vee Lunch Examples Food Budget Challenge Week 1

Len and I came in around $45 and have a lot of food leftover for Week 2, but we had a large dinner bought for us towards the end of the week (my late birthday with the in-laws) and one of my husband’s fellow refs bought him breakfast yesterday.

We already had a frozen spiral-sliced ham to cook leftover from a Thanksgiving sale, which factored into our low bill this week.  I also nearly cheated on a bad day, but Len convinced me to come home to eat instead.  We received some gift cards to fast food for Christmas but I’ll note it here when we use them during a challenge week.  We didn’t eat out.

Crystal and Len Main Grocery Trip Food Budget Challenge Week 1

Kay and Andrew, the natural eater and the low/no carb eater, hit about $63.  They were invited out to a live basketball game, so $17.50 was for snacks at the game.  I’ll never judge because I would have got some nachos too if I got free tickets!

Hillary and Gary stayed right below the $50 mark.  This total included $3 at a vending machine.  They also used a Texas Roadhouse gift card for a couple of different meals.

Food Budget Challenge Week 1

Steps We’re Using

  • Meal planning for the win!
  • Shopping lists based on those plans.
  • Keeping a list on the fridge of what we have left to eat.  This helps!
  • Freezing anything we’re not using during the current week.

I’ve started using our slow cooker more often, and the leftovers can be saved in single serving containers (wrapped in plastic before I put the lid on) to reheat as wanted in the future.

You Are Welcome to Join Us!

Interested in working on your food budget too?  Set your own terms, comment below, and hop on in!  We’ll be tackling this from January 2-29, 2017.  You can totally be more or less strict than us, and all participation is welcome!



FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $80,000-$100,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  I even have all of my favorite tools on a resource page - I hope they help you too. Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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4 thoughts on “Week 1 – Our Epic Food Budget Challenge – Four Couples, $50 a Week, Budgets Commence!

  1. One thing that made a tremendous difference for us was when I started putting a label on everything that goes in the freezer. NEVER ever do I allow myself to say “Oh, I’ll remember what this is.”

    It’s amazing how quickly things become “mystery dishes” once they have frozen. This takes the mystery away and makes those frozen servings much more attractive.




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  2. @Georgene, I agree! It is way more welcoming to defrost a labeled item knowing what you are going to get versus the mystery bag. We started labeling way better last year but those are not the items still on our deep freeze, lol. 🙂

    @Money Beagle, I have the exact same feeling when I read posts about uber-organizing and minimalism, hahahaha.

    @Revanche, yes, we started doing that about a year ago too…but that’s not what’s left in our freezer, hehehe.




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