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Thursday, November 13, 2014

$100 Proof of Concept Month

I set out to prove our Thrifty Month in a real-life experiment. "Haven't you done this before?" you might rightfully ask. Well, that's a darn fine question and the truth is that I'm not terribly great at sticking with anything or following rules so we had pretty much followed it and I based the meal plan off what we actually ate one month, but I wasn't able to say with certainty that we hadn't cheated.

First, my definition of what I mean by a $100 month is that two adults and two roughly 13 year old children can eat three meals and about two snacks per day without being hungry. This is not enough to make you stuffed every day, but also isn't so little that you have to go to bed hungry. This means 120 breakfasts, 120 lunches, 120 dinners, and about 200 snacks, loosely using the following breakdown of food cost per meal:

breakfast - $5
lunch - $33
dinner - $47
snacks - $15

What I found was that I had cheated more than I thought I did and current prices had changed a bit, but, overall I claim 90% success. If you knew there was really no more food coming, you would need to eat some smaller portions some days than we did and perhaps add a few more dollars (to make up for the meals we ate out) but it would absolutely work in an emergency month.

In our case, this was not an emergency situation and we did eat out several times so a true meal count didn't happen. We had a very busy month where we were out of the house a lot for a variety of reasons and while that isn't a great excuse, it is what it is. Here is that breakdown:


  • 2 Colton's (leftovers added to bean dip and muffins) - We had a fundraiser for Project Graduation one night and just went to see daddy one day. *4 dinners, 4 lunches*
  • 2 hot dogs and 2 pretzels at concession stands for Kolbi and Lucille - It is really hard to sell things and not eat them... *1.5 dinners*
  • 1 small pizza for Doug and Kolbi - late night munchies :-) *2 snacks*
  • Volleyball banquet - We took a salsa potato side dish, but ate a whole meal *3 dinners*
  • Pantry meeting at Panera for Kolbi and Lucille *1.5 lunches*
  • Big kids ate at Culver's for Student Council fundraiser *2 dinners*
  • Chick-fil-A for everyone while we were cleaning our rental house for the new tenants.  *4 dinners*
  • Pizza for everyone - A new place opened around the corner, how could I say no, seriously? *4 dinners*

Totals: 18.5 dinners (15% or $7.05), 2 snacks (1% or 15¢), 5.5 lunches (5% or $1.65) or generously $10 would need to be added to make up for all the meals eaten out.


In order to make sure I didn't cheat by using things not on the list, I removed all the food other than the spices and condiments from the kitchen.

I did all the shopping for the month in one trip to avoid any temptation to buy extra, with the exception of half the bananas and a loaf of bread because they wouldn't still be good by the end of the month.

I will admit to cheating by adding 1/4 pound of bacon ($2.29 for the whole pound) to some black bean and potato soup. It turned out so well I added it to the latest version of the print book. It would have still been good without it, I'm sure, but I had a craving so I caved and splurged on 57¢ worth of bacon .

More cheating:  I let Paige keep some frozen fruit and flax seed that she uses for smoothies (about 3 cups of mixed fruit, plus she used 3 bananas that were on the list.) I also increased the amount of flour and added vegetable oil and apples to the original list printed in previous versions of the book, but added them to the updated grocery list (below) and it still was close enough to $100 (before tax) that I think it counts.

Paige and Doug were each sick for two days so they didn't eat much those days.

I didn't follow the meal plan exactly because some days we simply felt like something else, but I didn't buy any more food, just used it differently. I consider this an acceptable deviation.


Updated grocery list:

4.00
flour (10 lb)
1.00
baking powder
0.10
salt
2.90
shortening
3.00
milk (1 gal)
4.50
eggs (3 dz)
4.60
old fash oats (2)
1.20
brown sugar
2.60
olive oil
2.00
vegetable oil
1.70
bouillon cubes
1.60
sugar (4 lb)

1.00
tomato sauce (32 oz)
0.40
tomato paste
2.40
can diced tomatoes (4/14 oz)
2.00
can crushed tomatoes (2/28 oz)
1.20
carrots (2 lb)
1.40
celery (1 stalk)
2.00
onions (3 lb)
2.30
potatoes (5 lb)
2.50
bananas (20)
3.00
apples (12)
.90
green bell pepper (4)
1.00
garlic
2.00
sandwich bread (2)


1.80
can chili beans (3)
0.90
can pumpkin
1.40
can tuna (2)
0.80
refried beans


2.00
frozen mix veg (32 oz)
5.00
CA blend veg (60 oz)
1.00
frozen corn (16 oz)
1.00
frozen peas (16 oz)
12.00
whole chicken (3/4-5 lb)
1.50
rice (3 lb)
1.00
lentils (1 lb)
1.80
penne pasta (2 lb)
1.50
elbow pasta (2 lb)
1.00
spaghetti (1 lb)
7.50
dried beans (6 lb)
2.00
peanuts
1.70
peanut butter
1.20
tortilla chips
1.25
raisins
1.70
jar alfredo sauce
2.70
crackers (3 boxes)
102.05
TOTAL

So what does that amount of food look like? More than I expected, honestly;



The middle shelves (with the toaster and wine glasses) hold my spices. I admit that not everyone would have quite as many as I do, but I don't feel like I need to add any to the grocery list as most people would have enough to make do and I did include chicken bouillon and salt.


The beer and wine shown are obviously not in the grocery list. The things shown that I did not list that we used are pickle relish, margarine (one tub of regular and one tub with garlic added), and two eggs that were left in the carton. It should be noted that only one half gallon of soy milk is shown, but the grocery list is made with one gallon of cow's milk. In actuality, we used about three quarter's gallon of soymilk (there is some in the door.) These items are also found in the door of the fridge: mayo, ketchup, two kinds of mustard, syrup, sriracha, barbecue sauce, worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.  

And the receipt to prove it:


One question that may come up is, "what did we do with all that flour?" We are certainly not gluten free, everyone in the house absolutely loves bread. Ten pounds is equal to about 38 cups, and this is how we used it:

  • 4 batches of muffins: 2 pumpkin, 1 banana, 1 sweet potato (1 1/2 c each)
  • 1 batch banana pancakes (2 c)
  • 2 batches scrambled pancakes with sugar glaze (yeah, it's not a health food, sorry) (1 1/2 c each)
  • 3 batches of biscuits (2 c each)
  • 2 pot pies with biscuit topping (2 c each)
  • 2 batches of tortillas (2 c each)
  • 1 loaf bread (4 c)
  • mini pizzas (3 c)
  • 16 cinnamon rolls and 16 dinner rolls (5 c)


We did end up with some extra food that came to us for free:

  • 1 biscuit mix from The Pantry (2 partial spilled bags that couldn't be used there)
  • 1 small head broccoli from a community garden
  • 5-10 cherry tomatoes from our garden (we actually harvested a lot more than that, but diced and froze them for after this month, these were the ones we snacked on while dicing)
  • several bunches of fresh basil from garden used for a pesto-like dip and pasta
  • about 2 cups pasta salad from church
  • sandwich size ziploc of raw carrots, celery, and broccoli from church
  • One pint salsa verde from our garden
  • Halloween candy

What is left over after our month? Not a lot as you may suspect:
  • over half a can of baking powder
  • about 1 pound of shortening
  • 4 bouillon cubes
  • about 2 pounds of sugar
  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • about 2 cups vegetable oil

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