March Budget Challenge: Wrap up!
So the final budget is in, and drum roll please... $194.35!
We did it - we stayed under $200 for the month of March! So what were the key takeaways from this challenge?
1. Find a grocery store that brings high value for the products.
Before this challenge, I never really minded going to higher end grocery stores that were closer to home and "pay for the convenience" as I would reason with myself. This month, I did *basically* all of our grocery shopping at Walmart and Aldi. Those options really made it a lot easier to stick to our budget and not feel deprived. We were still able to have some of our favorite snacks around the house (within reason) because Aldi's prices made it reasonable.
For example, one of Anthony's favorite snacks are peanut butter filled pretzels. At Target, we would normally buy a container of 44oz for $8.79. At Aldi, their container was 24oz for $3.99 for their generic brand. Per ounce, Aldi wasn't crazy cheaper - but it did help our smaller goals of not endlessly snacking. Having less in the house meant we spent less overall, and we made sure not to overeat our treats.
2. Cheap protein is mandatory for staying in budget.
I love steak and seafood. Any beef or seafood recipes are my go to. I used to go out of my way to only search for recipes I wanted to make without considering cost. But it is never nearly as cheap as finding chicken thighs, ground turkey, or just seeing what is on sale that week and deciding what to make based off of that.
I found it much easier to take favorite chicken recipes and swap out breasts for thighs, or simply utilizing sales for meat that had to be used in the next couple of days. At Aldi, I found a huge container of chicken wings, that with the extra coupons since they had to sell it in the next couple of days - I got it for $2.21 for 24 wings!
Not only did this help keep me in budget, but it really helped me step out of my comfort zone and try different recipes I would have never tried before that!
3. When prepping food for someone who isn't a weight loss surgery patient - get cheap carbs or vegetables with lots of fiber - and make them eat it!
There are certain parts of a meal that are expensive. Protein and the sauce tended to be where a lot of the cost was for recipes I made. Being a weight loss surgery patient, that was fine because I really only eat 1-2 cups of food at a time depending on the day. For someone who isn't a weight loss surgery patient, much less a young man with a high metabolism like my husband - that meal would get very expensive if he could only fill himself up on the protein and sauce. I started making sure to have a lot of rice or pasta prepped for him to add bulk, and lots of vegetables.
The other night, I pulled out a couple frozen salmon filets from our freezer to cook up. Along with it, I sauteed a ton of mushrooms that were on sale, cooked a whole steamer bag of green beans, and a couple cups of rice. When the first plate didn't fill up my hubby - it was the veggies and carbs he got seconds of. A lot less expensive than eating another serving of a protein!
4. Know what you already have.
This month made me very aware of what ingredients I had ready to use in my pantry and freezer to buy the least amount of items. Towards the end, I also made more "hodge-podge" meals with what I had available in my freezer, like a turkey burger without the bun and a whole lot of vegetables! It wasn't anything fancy, but it was filling, healthy, and cheap!
Anthony and I have both decided to stay on the $200 budget track for future months to keep encouraging us to live below our means and force us outside of our comfort zones!
A few people asked me for links to some of our favorite recipes while doing this challenge, here are some we used:
We also made our own Taco Bowls (pictured) that were a huge hit in our house - no recipe for that, we just threw in ingredients that we enjoy in our tacos!
What do you think - will you try to reduce your grocery budget this month?
Is there one tip that you think is worth implementing with your family?
Let me know in the comments below!