On this grocery trip, we spent a total of $40.73 (including $1.32 at the convenience store for milk). We also took a top-up trip in the middle of the week. I lost the receipt, but I checked our credit card: it was $6.84. Those two trips left us with $60.06 in our Challenge budget.
We decided to economize more dramatically this time. At the time, we had $107 and two weekends left. At $60 a weekend, we would fall short without taking measures. After looking back over our past grocery trips, we realized that we haven’t been trying that hard. Sure, we talk and agonize, and sometimes decide to make small substitutions, but at the end of the day, we hadn’t made any major changes to our diet.
That wasn’t good enough anymore.
Out with meat, in with beans
When I did a price check, I found that dry black beans were about 10¢ per serving, canned black beans about 20¢ per serving, and the cheapest fresh meat we could find was about 40¢ per serving (assuming serving sizes of ¼ lb). That’s why we bought a pound of dry black beans and had bean adventures for a week.
It occurred to me that another way to economize was to use meat as an accent rather a base. Protein can come from many places, but we love meat because it tastes good. So why not use it just for the flavour rather than the protein it provides? That’s also why we bought bacon, because it packs such a flavour punch.
Using less meat worked pretty well – 1 lb of ground pork lasted the whole week, and we weren’t craving meat during that time. The only problem is that meat appears to be more calorie dense – I found myself getting hungrier earlier and had to increase my portion sizes.
Cabbage, potatoes and onions
Those three have got to be some of the cheapest produce around. I actually like cabbage, so I don’t mind getting it. Potatoes have been on my mind a lot, so I wanted to get them in bulk. Onions go well with my potato imaginings, are useful in the own right, and Hide loves them, so we got those in bulk too.
After successfully economizing on everything else, I talked myself into the luxury of ice cream. First I bought a pint of milk with which to make vanilla ice cream. Then, as I started writing a series of blog posts about homemade ice cream, I realized that my recipes needed further work. So then I bought another half gallon. Two steps forward, one step back.