I woke up Sunday morning ready to get started with the Food Stamp Challenge. When I rolled over and grabbed my phone, I noticed a text message that read “breakfast at 10?”
My family loves to get together most weekends for breakfast or lunch to catch up. Of course, I responded “yeah, we’re in.”
As I showered, I remembered the challenge budget – $28 for the week.
When Second Harvest Community Food Bank asked me to join others in the challenge, I thought it would be something I could manage. I’ve always been budget conscious – something I picked up from my parents growing up.
Of course, like many, I went through most of my twenties strapped for cash. I was on a starting reporter’s salary - using student loans to pay rent and racking up credit card debt to pay for groceries and other bills. I remember when the credit cards reached their limits and the bills seemed impossible to pay. I finally managed to get my finances under control and pay off my debts. But, I learned along the way how to pinch pennies and get the most out of each paycheck.
Even though I have a little more wiggle room in my budget then I did in my twenties, I still keep tabs on spending. I love to cook, so that helps extend my grocery budget. But, we also enjoy dining out on the weekends, which can quickly add up.
That brings me back to Sunday’s breakfast. I decided to splurge, knowing I had about $7 left over from my Food Stamp Challenge shopping trip the night before.
When I looked at the menu, I knew the $7 limit really would be a challenge. I managed to get pretty close.
Now, with no cash to spare for the week, I moved on to planning for the rest of the day.
The $21.70 I spent on groceries Saturday night included items that I’m hoping will last through the week.
I found pasta, pasta sauce, pretzels and oatmeal among the selections in the $1 section of the grocery store. I picked up some tuna – two for $1. I also found cream of chicken soup on sale for $.65, so I grabbed a can to put with a tuna-casserole style dish. I will use half of the pasta for that and half with the marinara sauce. I plan on getting at least 3-4 meals from that.
After I nailed down the main course items, I went looking for lunch and other must-haves that I wanted to fit into my budget.
I wanted to include produce into the plan, but I had to change up my normal routine. Instead of convenience, I went for items that were the least expensive.
I switched out my routine bag of salad mix and mini carrots for a head of lettuce and full-sized carrots. Also, I grabbed some oranges that were on sale six for $1. A little prep work saved me about $4 on my total bill. I’ll have carrot sticks and side salads with my daily meals.
My menu for the week also includes turkey and cheese sandwiches. I bought some butter to grill the sandwiches for a little extra flavor, rather than spending money on mayonnaise or mustard.
Sunday’s lunch (grilled turkey and cheese, carrot sticks and pretzels):
Sunday’s dinner (pasta with marinara sauce, salad, toast):
Finally, my biggest craving throughout the week is chocolate. So, I squeezed in a brownie mix I found on sale for $.95. The only additional ingredient is water.