Food For Thought

Photo Credit: The Inadvertent Gardener

Once upon a time, I bragged that my wife and I could go a month without going grocery shopping, simply by eating out of our cupboard. I was wrong.

Eating Our Way Out Of Debt

My wife and I are dedicated to getting out of debt. Four weeks ago, we were looking at our debt snowball budget and realized that if we really cut back on spending, we could hit a major debt target sooner than planned. We budget pretty tightly as it is, but we did find one place we could cut: food.

When we started our Dave Ramsey program in July/August 2011, we were spending $120 per week on groceries. By the end of 2011 we were spending under $60. By mid-year 2012, we were spending under $50 a week.

Even with all that trimming, we had a full cupboard. I love cooking, and by extension, I love shopping for ingredients to cook with. So almost 1 1/2 years into our marriage, I bragged that we had stockpiled enough ingredients to feed us for a month without shopping. It was time to prove it.

No More Grocery Shopping (sort of)

So four weeks ago, Ruth and I decided that we wouldn’t shop for groceries again until our cupboard, freezer and refrigerator were bare. We gave ourselves three caveats:

  1. We could buy essentials – bread, eggs and milk.
  2. We could buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. If we needed additional ingredients in order to to use something up, we could get them. For example, if we had everything for a recipe except for one crucial ingredient, we could get that ingredient.

We’ve stuck pretty closely to that rule, with few exceptions. We haven’t really needed to invoke rule #3. I love being creative in the kitchen, so cooking with only what I have on hand is an enjoyable challenge.

The Results

During the last four weeks, we went from spending an average of $47/week on groceries to an average of $14/week. That’s $132 we’ve saved from our grocery budget alone! And the funny thing about being disciplined in one area, is that it often carries over into other areas.

Since starting our “no grocery shopping” plan four weeks ago, we’ve actually managed to save more than three times that amount by saving money elsewhere too. And our cupboard and freezer are only about half empty, so we can probably make it a while longer without shopping.

My point: you can do almost anything if you set your mind to it. If you’re currently in debt, there is hope. You can get out. You can beat it. Ask me how.

Side Note

Getting down to $14/week for groceries might seem like an accomplishment, but it’s not really. For some families in our nation, that amount could be their actual weekly grocery budget. USDA data shows that in 2010, Americans spent 5.5 percent of their income eating at home (3.9 percent on food away from home).

In 2012, an average family of two living at the poverty line makes about  $15,130/yr. If they spent 5.5% of their income on food at home, that’s $832/year. Divided by 52 weeks, that’s about $16/week or $8/person for groceries. Per 2010 Census figures, 15.1% of the U.S. population (approximately 46.2 million people) lives in poverty. Sobering.

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