Can I feed our family of nine people on only $200 in March by being creative and using what is already in the freezer and pantry?
A few years ago, my husband and I decided to get out of debt and we were almost able to do so by using the system in Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover“. When we were close to our goal, a series of circumstances beyond our control including an unexpected crisis with the adoption we were in the middle of, a real estate holding disaster, the area of my husband’s work being hit hard by the economy, and one of our daughters becoming gravely ill, led us back into a debt as large as the one we had just clawed our way out of. Dave Ramsey’s system is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme or a strategy of getting out of debt easily. It is hard work and just as it took time to get into debt, it takes time to get out of debt.
After we descended back into debt, we abandoned Dave’s system, largely because my husband’s income could not be counted on and because of how overwhelmed we felt. Even though we knew the system worked, we were afraid to look at the numbers (ie: the truth!) and create another budget and debt repayment plan. Things only got worse. Burying your head in the sand helps no one!
Finally, we decided that we would begin Dave’s Total Money Makeover again on the first of March. This week, I sat down to run the numbers and fill out the worksheets and come up with a plan. What I found is that we will need to be very creative to find extra money to put down onto our debt. I came up with a few ideas and the first is a grocery challenge, whereby we could cut $1000 off what we normally spend a month for groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries and apply that onto a debt. The way we would do this would be to eat out of our pantry and freezer and buy as few groceries as possible for March.
I have set the amount we are allowed to spend on groceries at $200 for March. Considering that we have seven children, including two teen boys and two pre-teen boys, this is no small feat! What I did was to inventory everything that is currently in our freezer and pantry. I then tried to create as many meals as I could from that list. My goal was to come up with 31 suppers and 31 lunches. Breakfasts will be oatmeal and perhaps eggs or pancakes on Sundays (if we can fit syrop into the budget!)
Chicken Fried Rice
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Basa topped with Salsa, Rice, and frozen vegetables
Shrimp Stir Fry *will need peppers and mushrooms
Chicken Teriyaki, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Corn
Asparagus and Asiago Quiche
Cod and French Fries
Frittata and Hash Brown Casserole
Sweet Chicken Tostadas *will need tostadas
Meatballs and Rice
Lemon-Mustard Chicken, Basmati Rice, and Green Beans
Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, and Peas
Beef Stew *will need potatoes and carrots
Lemon Mustard Chicken, Green Bean Casserole
Meatballs and Rice
Teriyaki Chicken, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Creamed Corn
Pinto Tortilla Soup
Baked Pasta *will need mushrooms and peppers
Beef and Bean Burritos *will need peppers
Voila! 31 Suppers!
For the lunches, the list is mostly soups, (Pumpkin Soup, Minestrone, Black Bean, Mushroom Cheddar, Lentil Soup, Tomato etc.), Bean Casseroles, and Pastas.
Snacks will be the most difficult, but I do have some baking in the freezer that can be used and some of the applesauce left that I made in the Fall.
The only things that are on the” approved list of things to buy” are milk, eggs, Good-Night diapers for Dancing Queen, and the few items needed to finish the above dishes. I am excited to see how it goes!
Not only will this free up a big chunk of money to put towards a debt, it will also clean out the pantry and freezer and ensure that none of the food gets wasted!
I think that this grocery challenge will really get our new financial life off to a great start. I will let you know how it goes!
Here are some of the soup recipes I will be using:
Update: You can now read the Grocery Challenge results.