Food Spending Challenge: How I spent $31.74 in six days.

Posted on Posted in Food, Smart Shopping


To me, a food spending challenge is not about restriction. It's about appreciating how each dollar can nourish me.
How about a new perspective on food budgeting? Appreciate how your dollars can nourish you. Appreciate that you get to decide how your money is spent. This challenge will open your eyes to whether you are nourishing yourself or throwing your money away.


Food Spending Challenge!

This month, I am keeping a careful eye on my food spending. I asked my Facebook friends on the Erin Dubich Nutrition group page to do this challenge with me.


Track your food spending, and gain awareness in many ways:


  • You come face-to-face with exactly what you are spending money on.


  • You can see that sometimes nutritious foods cost more, and sometimes they can actually cost LESS than the empty calories you are buying.


  • You can see whether you are spending WAY more than you think.


  • You can set a food budget for the upcoming months based on what you learn is reasonable.


  • You can take it a step further and see what other stores charge for your beloved staples, you become a smarter shopper.


  • You can see how much more money you spend when you are not intentional about meal planning.


  • You can become more aware of food waste and how to avoid it.


  • You can become aware of your purchase ratio of healthy foods and not healthy foods


  • You can see whether you are spending more money on beverages (tea, coffee, alcohol) than food!


  • You can see where most of your money is going.


  • You can determine why you spent a lot one day, and why you didn’t spend money for several days.


Day 6 Check-In

After 6 days, I spent $31.74. Here is the run-down on my receipts:


May 3: Chipotle pepper hummus, 12-ounce blackberries, 14-ounce Persian cucumbers

May 3: $6 tip at Tribe’s

May 4: two 85% dark chocolate bars, 1-Liter unsweetened coconut water, fleur de sel caramel, chopped frozen spinach, 12-ounce blackberries

May 5: bunch of cilantro, frozen pineapple tidbits, avocado, 1-lb bag of limes

Three small purchases from Trader Joe's, and a sticky note reminding me about the $6 tip I spent at Tribe's Alehouse.
Three small purchases from Trader Joe’s, and a sticky note reminding me about the $6 tip I spent at Tribe’s Alehouse.


What else have I eaten?

Is that all I’ve eaten? Certainly not!

I made extremely good use out of what already existed in my freezer, fridge and cupboards.

  • I finished five bags of frozen fruit and veggies (raspberries, asparagus, green beans, mango and spinach) to make side dishes and smoothies.
  • I used two 8-ounce frozen grass-fed burgers that Trader Joe’s kindly gifted to its employees a couple months ago.
  • I made a delicious dish with wild rice, pinto beans, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and pepper. They were all things I had in my cupboard.
  • I made 15 protein balls with ingredients I had.
  • My co-worker Bill gifted me a half-dozen fresh eggs from his hens.
  • My co-worker Karen split bags of Organic Bartlett pears and Jazz apples with me. (I have some sweet friends at work.)
  • My co-workers Jake and Laura shared their homemade dinners with me when my homemade chana masala hit the floor in its glass Pyrex bowl. It shattered into hundreds of pieces. I’d made that dish from ingredients I already had at home and I was craving a home-cooked meal, so they were kind to share with me.
  • Peanut butter is an inexpensive source of nutritious calories. Enough said.


How little can you spend and eat nutritiously?

Back in grad school (2007-2009), I had $35-$50 per week to spend on food. I was dead-set on being healthy and continuing to lose fat. As a woman always on a mission, I learned to eat really healthfully on a budget.

It CAN be done. You may not get to buy all the healthy foods you want to (like grass fed steaks and wild salmon), but there certainly are a lot of affordable foods packed with nutrients. Beans, oats, peanut butter, eggs, frozen fruit and veggies, for example. I don’t consider pasta to be nutritious, and I know it’s cheap, but I keep that out of my grocery list.

Living on such a small budget taught me to appreciate the food that was in my home. I ate a lot of chili, soup and oatmeal. That goodness is actually inexpensive, nutritious, AND hearty. All kinds of gratitude for meals like that.


What’s next?

Stay tuned this month for updates and more tips on how to be a smart shopper. In the meantime, read some of these very helpful blog posts I’ve written on smart shopping and bang-for-your-buck foods (also here).