Today is Friday, grocery shopping day.  I like getting it out of the way before the weekend so that I can actually do some relaxing.  I usually pull out the store ads, scan for good deals, then put together a menu and shopping list for the week.

If I’m honest with myself, I pretty much buy what I want.  I compare prices, but organic usually wins, and I do pick up items that some would consider luxury (cave aged gruyere?  Yes!)

But I rarely like the total that I see at the register.  (How did I spend $200?!)  At the end of the month I generally find that I’ve spent about $800 on groceries, supplements, cleaning items and toiletries.  And I don’t like it.

So starting today, it’s gonna be different. 

I am challenging myself to live on the maximum SNAP (aka food stamps) for a family of 3 – now only $497 a month – for at least the next 30 days.  Slashing our food budget by nearly half, while still eating better (this part is not negotiable,) may be a serious challenge for the entire family.

I have often heard the following:

  • “Eating healthy costs too much.”
  • “You can’t eat healthy if you’re on food stamps (SNAP.)”
  • “Processed food is cheaper.”
  • “You can’t beat the fast food $1 menu for value.”
  • “If you are on a tight budget, starch is your friend.”
  • “Food prices are higher in Colorado, it just costs more.”

So can we do it?  Eat healthy on $125 a week?

We’ll both know the answer by the end of the month.  I’ll be sharing my penny-pinching-eating-better journey with you.  All of it.  The good, the bad, and hopefully the inspiring.

Starting with a pantry raid.

This week, nothing gets on the menu without at least part of the recipe coming from a half empty box or can of something in the pantry.

Here is what I found:

Pasta – No less than 15 boxes and half-empty bags of various pasta noodles.  Apparently I don’t know what to do with the remaining ounce or two of elbow macaroni left over after making chili mac.  I just buy a new box.  I’ll be spreading this treasure trove of noodles out over the month.

Grains – A half box of couscous, a pound of kamut, about a cup of quinoa, some pearled barley, a nearly full bag of bulgur and a half bag of Jasmine rice.  I also have a big tub of organic rolled oats.

Dried Beans and Lentils – About a cup each of red and brown lentils, ¾ of a bag of black eyed peas (how old are these?,) and a  half cup of small red beans.

Canned and Miscellaneous – 3 cans of Great Northern beans and one can of chickpeas.

Fresh Food Left Over from Last Week – A small butternut and spaghetti squash, 3 sweet potatoes, half a bag of organic russet potatoes, 2 oranges, a mango, yellow onions.

In the Freezer – 1 lb. ground beef, pasta sauce with spicy Italian sausage, 6 Italian mini-meatloaves, frozen berries, a bag of artichokes and a bag of shoestring fries.

With all of this food in the house, I am surprised I need to buy anything.  But there is a really good sale at Sprouts this week, and I need to use my $125 wisely.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, I’m basking in the glow of my accomplishment – a very clean and tidy pantry.  Here is my (embarrassing) before and after picture.