May 2, 2013

May Budget Challenge – Tightening our belts, how little can we spend?


March and April were expensive months for us. Between work projects around the house, major car repairs and a 60K check-up, licence/tab renewal, insurance renewal, spring break, dining out too much, and forking over a major lump sum to pay off our students loans, we’ve had a couple expensive months in our household. We still lived frugally – but there were lots of expenses that we just couldn’t avoid (and many we could have), that really added up.

So. . .after balancing our checkbook and finances this week, my husband and decided that our goal for May would be to CUT BACK big time and spend as little as we can on groceries, avoid eating out at all costs, and basically do our best to spend as LITTLE as possible. I have no idea what this number will be, but I’m hoping it’s under $200 for our family of four.  I’d be downright giddy if I could get it under $100, but that might be hard to do since I could probably spend this much on produce and milk.

Ways I’m hoping to accomplish this: 

  • Good meal planning
  • Make the best use of current pantry, stockpile and freezer ingredients
  • Shop only the best of the best bargains each week – mostly produce and perishables
  • Plan ahead to avoid eating out
  • Get my coupons organized again
  • Neighborhood garage sale scheduled this month – hoping to sell extra stuff to make some extra cash!
  • Do without. Sounds depressing, but seriously – the best way to save, is to do without. We’ll be cutting out most of the “extras” this month in an attempt to save more.

We do all of these things anyway – in some way or another – to live frugally, but we’ve been lax lately. So this month we WILL do all of these as best as we can.

I’ll bring you along for the journey:
For the month of May I’ll be reporting everything we spend on groceries. I’ll be posting a meal plan and sharing our budget challenge with you through regular posts. I have no idea how this will all shake out. We are starting the month with a full freezer and a strong stockpile. Please keep this in mind – without a stockpile and freezer foods I think it would be nearly impossible for a family of four to to only spend $100 – $200 on groceries.

We have my husband’s birthday celebration and a trip planned this month – we already have our budgets for these two occasions, so they will be excluded from this challenge. I have at least one “review” scheduled this month for Grocery Outlet – I use gift cards for those and this will not be counted as part of our total since it’s “work” related.

Why don’t we do this every month?
You might be asking – why don’t you just do this every month? Well we do try our best every month to live frugally and I think we do a pretty good job. I don’t generally report all our shopping trips because it’s a lot of work to blog about every dollar you spend. But I’m committed to trying it this month. Also, as we use our stockpile this month, it would be harder to do this next month when our stockpile and freezer foods are in shorter supply. It’s generally all about balance for us – what can we stock-up on, where can we save and how can we make the most of what we have? This month, however, we are going to try and go extreme and get creative to save even more.

Things to consider if you want to do a month-long budget challenge:

  • Are you and your spouse or partner on the same page? You really need to sit down and discuss the plan together. If only one of you is on board, it isn’t going to work.
  • Be realistic about how little you can spend. As I mentioned above we have a strong stockpile and a stocked freezer. This means we will be able to stretch our dollars more this month.
  • Take this as an opportunity evaluate all expenses in your house. Can you cut back cable or call and ask for a better rate?
  • Sell or barter items you don’t need anymore. In addition to cutting back – can you also sell some extra stuff to make some extra money? Or perhaps you can barter with a neighbor for things you might need?

I think that’s it. That’s our May Budget Challenge. Stay tuned for updates . . .


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  1. when you say $300-350 on groceries is that just food products? I have a family of 6 and our budget is $400 but that includes food, drink, cleaning supplies, hygiene products/toiletries, diapers, dog food and alcohol. we also have to purchase a lot of specialty items due to food allergies. i use coupons, price match, shop sales farmers markets, etc and i usually bring home around 600-800 in product for around 400. we do have a food storage, but whatever we deplete from one month to the next i am always replacing so that we maintain a 6-8 month food supply. meal plans make this possible for us, and i do not repeat the same dinner twice in the same month so no one gets bored 🙂 starting in june, i am hoping to further decrease our food budget to around 250-300.

  2. For your produce needs. Have heard about/thought of Bountiful Baskets? It’s a co-op where you contribute $15 on Monday-Tuesday, the pick up Saturday. You get 11-12 items, half fruit half veggies. It’s enough for the produce needs of a 4 person household (depending on your “produce intake”). It averages about $45-50 worth of produce. You don’t know what you are getting until you pick it up and that is half the fun! You get to try things you normally might not think of getting. If interested in more info check out or email me at

  3. May is definitely not going to be a low food budget month for us, as we are hosting graduation parties for my daughter who is graduating from high school. Since we home school, we do not participate in a traditional “walk through” graduation, but rather have a family celebration, and this year there will be 2. One for her friends and another for important adults in her life. And since my husband is in the food service industry, and his love language is FOOD, this will be a couple of blow out weekends. The good part is, financially, we are doing very well. He received an sizable raise in Jan and we are enjoying it. But, I did remember the days of watching every penny!!! I had 4 kids 6 and under, and my food budget was $250/month! We ate a lot of rice, beans, pasta and breads. In addition, we had fresh fruits and veggies, milk, eggs and other dairy. Just no eating out! I got very good at packing our meals to take to the park, etc.

    Just wanted to share that we all go through different seasons and it is fun to be apart of the journey. BTW; we will not have to cook much for several days after the parties, as there are always left overs. And right after the 2nd party 1 daughter goes to South America for 2 month mission trip, 2nd daughter will move to the university to begin college classes this summer, so it will be just my son and I, so I think he and I will be able to save a little $$ on groceries. Although, he is 16 and working as a life guard this summer, so he eats ALL THE TIME.

  4. When you say you do reviews, how do you get signed up for that?

  5. I will be following along too as we see to have hemorrhaged money in the last few months on major auto fixes, household repairs, etc. I decided to take action and created our “May-ke Money Month” challenge! I am posting items online for sale, trimming our grocery bill, took back recent whim purchases because we really didn’t need those items. Make crafts for sale, offering babysitting services to friends who are in need. So far, I am off to a great start!

  6. Good for you Heather! Our normal grocery budget is around $100/week, so about $400/month. When I tell people, they are shocked. I have two littles too, and it’s SO hard to avoid eating out! I really like that you said you will just do without sometimes. People don’t really understand that either. It’s a standard in our house. If we’re out of milk, we’re out til I go to the store. Thanks for being brave enough to share your journey with us!

    • I’m embarrassed at how much we spent eating out last month. I was lazy when it came to meal planning so it’s time to reign it in. I would say we generally spend $300 – $350 a month on groceries. This includes ingredients I use for recipes on the blog. Some months it’s more. I need to get back into the habit of watching it closer.

  7. April always seems like an expensive month at my house. A couple months ago I had a goal of not going to the grocery store for as long as I could and eating things out of our pantry and freezer. I did pretty good and it was great to get through a bunch of meat that we had previously frozen.

    I keep saying I should have a garage sale, but then I get lazy and just donate it all to goodwill. Good luck with yours!

  8. Nicole Flory says

    Even with a small stockpile I still spend a ton on groceries! Even if you spend 200 on food that’s amazing. I just spent that in one trip (with coupons) :-/ I really need to figure out how to bring my monthly grocery budget down! We are kind of in the same boat as you, last month was major events (my daughters birthday and party then 4 of my nieces and nephews, vacations, house stuff) so this month we are going to try and tighten the belt as well. I will try right along with you!

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