A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals

one pan salmon dinner

Hello from sunny (very, very sunny) North Carolina! Our family has moved and is now living in the charming town of Davidson, North Carolina. We’re enjoying our new air conditioning, as the heat here is intense in July.

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, we focused on staying in budget while moving houses. We kept our expectations low–I knew I wouldn’t be able to consistently meal plan or regularly grocery shop, so the idea was to do as well as we could despite the chaos.


I feel like I’ve been writing the same report for months now, but June felt absolutely crazy-pants chaotic. I had to take it one day at a time. We had the end of school, the boys’ birthdays, the start of a new graduate class for my master’s, good-bye parties, a big work conference Mr. ThreeYear and I both needed to attend the week of the move, plus all the regular packing and moving details involved with a move. We spent $691.78 for the month, well under budget, in nineteen separate trips to the store. We tried to eat up all the food in our fridge this month, but did a lot of eating out as well.

Yard sale-www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our spectacularly unsuccessful yard sale in late June (small towns aren’t great for yard sales, we learned).

A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Further Reading on Our Spending and Saving: 

The Details

Total Budgeted For june: $772.00 US

Total Spent for june: $691.78 US

Memory is a funny thing. I can remember some events so clearly, especially travel. But these last four months of moving have been a blur. I don’t remember grocery shopping at all. I’m sure it happened. But we fit it in around packing, birthday parties, goodbye dinners, and everything else. We were on auto-pilot.

Weekly Expenditures:

Week 1: $45.69 and 34.20, Hannaford

This was the second-to-last week of school for our family, and I was testing students like crazy. We also participated in Civil War Day as a family, and Mr. ThreeYear and I were medics in the field hospital tent (I was bloody because of all those amputations!).

Civil War Day
Mr. ThreeYear and I participated in Civil War Day at our elementary school.

Side trips: $101.99, local market and Hannaford

We made seven separate side trips (apart from our two “main” grocery store trips) this week alone!

Week 2: $75.73, Hannaford

Since we bought so much during the first week of June, this week was a little calmer.

Side Trips: $41.46, local market 

In three separate trips.

taco bar www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our taco bar outside, when the weather finally turned nice

Week 3: $94.81 and 114.74, Hannaford

Two big trips to the grocery store, because my mom came to help out and I wanted to make sure there was food to feed the kids while Mr. ThreeYear and I were at our work conference.

Side trips: $32.03, Hannaford

Week 4: $114.74, Hannaford

Our last week of shopping in New Hampshire. I have no memory of what we bought, but I do remember thinking, “This is the last time I’ll be shopping here.” We ended up giving away a fair amount of food to our neighbors because we had more than we were able to eat (of course). They were happy to accept it, just like I was happy to accept it when my friend moved out of the area the year before.

Side trips: $39.93, Hannaford and Priceright

Little ThreeYear had his birthday party at the Trampoline park and we ran next door to get snacks for a child who was gluten free.

What I Learned

I (re-)learned that moving is so much harder than I remembered or even anticipated. I knew it logically, but going through the process, day-by-day, made mince meat of my brain. Even now that we’re in our new house, staring at boxes all day makes me a little crazy. I know this is temporary and things will get better, but I had truly forgotten how nuts it is to move states. I’m just so grateful we managed to stay in our food budget.

Moving www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The movers somehow fit all our posessions in our moving truck. It was a very tight squeeze!

July’s Focus

We are now in the land of Aldi. I made my first stock-the-fridge trip, with my sister, who is now a convert! Aldi is truly an amazing grocery store for low-cost food prices. And they have tons of organic produce, too! We got organic strawberries for around $2/quart, and organic raspberries for $2.50/pint. Plus tons of other fresh produce. Our focus this month is going to be easy meals. It’s summer, and it’s hot, so our suppers need to be quick to prepare and easy. My first go at this was last week.

One pan dinner--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our one pan dinner from last week. 400 F for 20ish minutes. Make sure you cut the potatoes in small pieces because they take the longest to cook.

All food was from Aldi. The dinner was a hit. Last week, the first week in our new house, we also had Sloppy Joes with ready-made pulled pork, turkey burgers and watermelon on July 4th, and pasta and bean salad (what a combo).

I’m thinking pasta salad, wraps, and food that’s ready in under 20 minutes, because that’s all my brain can handle right now. I’ll let you know how it goes in August.

Hope you’re enjoying your July! Happy food budgeting!

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!

4 thoughts on “A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals”

  1. Way to go staying under budget with food, Laurie! Love your focus on simple, summery meals. Salmon is in season here in Nelson, BC…that plus fresh veggies makes for an amazing, nutrient-dense, easy dinner!

    1. Thanks Dana! Oh wow I bet you get amazing salmon in BC! I could eat salmon every night of the week. So could my oldest! We make ceviche a lot. 🙂

  2. mrs. smidlap just got turned on to aldi. we got some chicken there that was fantastic. is that your cast iron with the eggs? i’ve been putting everything possible on the grill in this hot weather with no a/c in our house.

    1. Yep–that cast iron cooks amazing bacon and eggs. I feel for you, Freddy, with this heat wave the Northeast is having and no A/C! That’s been the nice thing about moving. It’s hot, sure, but our house has A/C here!

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