We have been budgeting for a while now, and one thing that I have found to be true EVERY month, is that where a lot of our money disappears to is frivolous spending on food. When we first got married we would go out and buy salmon and other extravagant things, which meant our monthly food budget was as high as $800 a month – once we reigned ourselves in and got used to spending out of the same account this easily reduced to $5-600 a month. And at our best we were managing between $60-$80 a week (which if we could have managed it consecutively would have been $320 a month!!)
Enter the $350 a month challenge – This relies utterly and completely on forward planning, and self discipline!
Here is the first draft!
Halfway through the month it’s already changed drastically (for the better) as we got more frozen meals out of my soup than I thought we would, and I thought my brother would be eating with us an extra day.
Here’s draft number two – with dinners totalling only $99.80 this time!! It may go up from here, as since then I found some cheap meat to go in the freezer so we may eat that rather than saving it for April.
Plans often change last minute at our house so I’ve found it pays to be organized – but also flexible! This will probably change several times before the month is out as well!
You’ll notice that several days have a strike through as we were away – but then we also had my brother coming to stay for just over a week, so although this isn’t exactly an average month, I think it still evens out!
Freezing meals is one of my greatest tricks to having cheap meals! I plan ahead and shop for cheap meat and veg to bulk out stews and soups to save both time and money. I used to think that $10 per person was a good deal, but it really shows that everything is seen by perspective – now I think that $5 per serve is pretty steep!
You’ll notice that there’s a provisional amount of $1 on each night that we have rice or bread – we have a breadmaker that we use almost every day for lunches, so it would be about half to a third of a loaf that we use with soups, which I’ve approximated as $1 – and rice would usually actually be much cheaper, but we use fair trade rice (available in bulk in NZ here) so we pay a bit more for that.
The “Fish and Chips” nights average out at about $4 for two people, as we use the BirdsEye crumbed fillets (usually averages $1 per fillet especially if you stock up when they’re on special!) and then 1 1/2 potatoes per person, cut into fries, tossed in oil and baked with a sprinkle of salt.
We use YNAB (you need a budget) as our budgeting software and I CANNOT rate it highly enough. It is the best thing we’ve done for both our finances and our marriage. They offer a free trial with training and then you can choose to buy the software, or take what you’ve learned and apply it to whatever other system you would like to set in place. They have such beautiful report charts I think it’s worth it though. It’s available here.
We’ve found that getting our food budget sorted has actually helped us get the rest of our budget in line – because psychologically having to make the conscious choice to eat frugally each day helps us to keep our goals in mind and not blow money on other things. Plus it puts things into perspective when you’re in a cafe deciding whether or not that $8 panini is worth it or not.
I invite you to follow along with this little series I’m doing, take the challenge yourself (making necessary edits if you have a larger/smaller family) and share how you’re going and what recipes you’ve found that help you out!
Remember that living frugally is not living in poverty. It’s about making wise decisions with your money so you can decide what else you’d like to put it towards (who knows, maybe you like to make sacrifices on other days so you CAN have that $8 panini every now and again…)