A Year of Good Food: Cook for the Week

One pan dinner--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Happy November! I am very proud to report on our October food spending. Due to a week away at Disney and Mr. ThreeYear being away for a week, we spent the lowest amount on groceries that we did all year.

Not that it was easy. There were complaints (from the Big Guy). So many complaints! Apparently if the fridge doesn’t look like the produce aisle then something’s wrong.

But I held fast and we survived, and we clocked in our month way under budget.

The Reason for This Experiment

This year, our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food so we can save and travel more. Last year, I adopted one habit a month that would translate into better money moves for our family. You can read all about our A Year of Good Habits here.

That experiment worked so well that we tried a new one this year. In 2018, we are challenging ourselves to do better at our food spending. Last year our family spent over $12,000 in groceries, or $966 per month.

This year, our goal is to spend 20% less on groceries. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s almost $200 per month in food savings. The extra $200 per month is going into a travel savings fund, so we can see the results of our hard work in spending less on food.

We could have adopted a radical goal to keep our spending under $500 or something like that. But we know better. We thought it made much more sense to consistently hit our modest target, month after month, for an entire year, to show ourselves we could do it, than to maybe hit the $500 goal once or twice and then face plant with more $1000+ grocery bills.

And if we consistently hit sub-$772 spending, then perhaps we’ll challenge ourselves next year to shave off more.

Each month, we’re trying out a new way to save money at the grocery store. Last month, I just kept doing what we’ve been doing that has worked: shopping at Aldi, keeping side trips to a minimum, making a list, making a meal plan, and taking inventory before I go to the store.

cooA Year of Good Food: Cook for the Week www.thethreeyearexperiment.com


October dawned warm and ended cool. It’s so nice to experience fall in North Carolina, because it’s very slow to arrive, and then gets blessedly cool at night and in the mornings, but warms up during the day.

The leaves are actually just starting to turn here, at the beginning of November. When we went camping in the mountains, two and a half hours Northwest of here in Pisgah National Park, we experienced much cooler temps, but here in the city it’s not as cold.

Checking out the Davidson River while camping

Further Reading on Our Spending and Saving: 

The Details

Total Budgeted For october: $772.00 US

Total Spent for october: $604.84 US

I am very proud that we came in under budget by almost $170. It has definitely helped us to continue to shop at Aldi. We’re also cooking a few big meals and eating those all week.

Weekly Expenditures:

Week 1: $97.52 in four different trips.

During Week 1 of October, we were vacationing at Disney World, so we bought a few groceries before we left but we didn’t have a big shopping trip.

Chewbacca Disney
It was a special moment when Mr. ThreeYear met Chewbacca.

Week 2: $128.98

We bought a big load of groceries when we got back from vacation, and I actually stretched it to make us last a week and a half.

Side trips: $35.32, two trips to Harris Teeter

hurricane days
When we got back from vacation, Hurricane Michael actually came through, so we had two extra days off school (I was not excited, but the boys were!). Here we are at the library while the storm rages outside.

Week 3: $58.62, Aldi and $7.56 Panaderia

Mr. ThreeYear left for a week-long work trip so I bought a small amount of groceries for the three of us. I normally go to the store on Friday, but I waited until Wednesday to go (we were really out of everything) and just bought fresh fruits and veggies plus meat. Also I discovered this Latino bakery next door to Aldi where pastries and bread are $1 each, so I bought us some treats.

Aldi groceries www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Week 3’s grocery cart, under $60: Aldi.

Side trips: $23.98, Mr. ThreeYear in New Hampshire, and $4.28, me at Dollar Tree (I buy Coconut Milk there).

Week 4: $84.22, Aldi. At this point I had my eye on the prize and I was purposefully spending under $100 to see how low we could go on our monthly spending.

Aldi groceries www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
This grocery cart cost under $85, including the mums and pumpkin.

Side trips: $36.77 in three side trips (which I strongly discouraged)

They were to buy fruit, something that always seems to run out in our house first.

Week 5: $120.60

We had spent so little so far that I decided to go “wild” since my friend was coming and ended up spending $120.60 at Aldi.

Week 5 Aldi www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Aldi groceries, Week 5.

What I Learned

Wow! I learned that we can keep our grocery spending around $600 for the month if we’re gone for part of it! Ha.

I actually learned that if I keep shopping at the same grocery store (Aldi), I get really good at being more efficient. For example, yesterday, on the first day of November’s shopping trip, I “went crazy” and just bought whatever I wanted, and I walked out of the store with $104 in groceries.

I also learned that I have to buy enough so that my family doesn’t rebel and make me go to the store midweek for more food.

And finally, I learned that if I cook more, there’s more food, less waste, and more delicious things in the fridge. My friend (a professional chef) and her husband and new baby came to visit, so I decided to cook for them (because when do you get cooked for if you’re a chef?). I made a ton of food, including this delicious pork ragu, homemade bread, and a mango curry chicken recipe, which coincidentally, used up a lot of leftovers I had. They loved all the food, especially her husband, and it made me excited to cook again (I’ve been in a cooking funk for awhile).

root vegetable soup www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
This soup used up all my leftover vegetables, including pumpkin, and it was sooo good. Plus homemade sourdough bread.

November’s Focus

Holy moly, it’s November. Two more months of this experiment. I feel like we may have lasting change in this area. Will we go for an even lower budget next year? Somehow, I feel like $700 is about as low as we can sustain without major fussing (especially since we’re not trying to pay off debt or have another urgent pants-on-fire financial emergency). 

This month, I’m going to make a couple of big dishes early in the week and have us eat them for the week, a la my pork ragu. This week, I’ve bought a beautiful beef roast, so we’ll see how that goes. I love making bread and it’s beloved by the fam, but it may not be so good for our waistlines, so we’ll probably accompany our weekly meals with salad for awhile.

Hope you have a wonderful November! I’m thankful for your readership!! How’d you do with food spending this month?

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

5 thoughts on “A Year of Good Food: Cook for the Week”

  1. i’m glad you ate that pumpkin. it was going to be my first question. we haven’t gotten one yet this year but pumpkin soup might be on the menu. we’ve made more sourdough now that the weather has cooled too.

    1. Yes–I actually have two more to eat! I’ve roasted them and frozen them, so there’s plenty to use for later. Pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie… am I missing anything?

  2. I would be apprehensive cooking dinner for a chef. Nicely done. The mango chicken curry sounds delish (pins recipe for later). I say thing resulted well going crazy at Aldi’s. I may need to give that grocer’s a try again.

    1. Ha, I was! Luckily it all went well and her husband was absurdly grateful (just like the cobbler’s son goes unshod, the chef’s husband goes unfed, or more accurately, just eats a lot of leftovers). Aldi’s is great–I definitely recommend another try. It’s a store that takes a while to fully appreciate because it does have its quirks, which is the reason it’s able to be so cheap.

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