Hola! Welcome back or bienvenidos if this is your first time here. Grab your cup of Cafe Bustelo and let's get started, because this is going to be a long one!
A few weeks ago I came up with a $20 grocery challenge to show people that, YES, you can be on a budget and eat healthy, delicious meals. When my birthday came around, I received a gift card and decided this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out! One of the biggest myths of eating a plant-based or vegan diet is that it's expensive! Which is so crazy to me that people think this way. Now granted, many products or restaurants that are promoted as vegan are on the pricier side. But veganism isn't only about eating the newest vegan cheeses or trying out the hottest new spots in town. Yes, it is fun but unless you're balling like the 1%, then I'm pretty sure we want to save some pennies when eating or cooking.
Why did I want to try out this challenge? Because of the large amount of people in the U.S. (let alone this world) living on food stamps, paycheck to paycheck, living in poverty or on a college student budget. I too was raised on food stamps and I also ate $1 pizzas while studying fashion in NYC. Should anyone have to live this way? No! But it's what we do with that small amount of money that we have and how we plan to utilize it, that will help us save and allow us to progress in other aspects of our lives.
Over the past 2 years I have gotten way better at grocery shopping. I've learned the importance of the dollar and how far it can go. Another thing that is important to me is shrinking down on waste. Far too many times food and the plastic it comes in goes to the trash which then continues to pollute our ecosystem. With this challenge you will learn many things, the two most important being how to budget and make your money go far and how meal prep + purchasing only the groceries that you need for the week and how that will help reduce your carbon footprint. We’ll talk more about this at a later time in another post, but for now let’s keep the program going and let me show you how to eat home cooked meals when you're on a tight budget.
Now, how did I make this challenge work? Well of course there is a method to my madness. I'll keep it simple for the sake of the lengthiness of this post my process is as follows:
Shop your kitchen! Seeing what ingredients you already have in your fridge or pantries saves you tons of money! I already had some fruits, veggies, & cooking staples on hand.
Jot down meal ideas for the week for M-F. Include breakfast, lunch, and dinner + snacks. Look for inspiration on Pinterest and YouTube.
Look at your store apps and Ibotta app for any coupons or rebates on possible purchases that you'll be making.
When at the grocery store look for hidden clearance sections and shop sales for fresh produce.
Purchasing frozen veggies is super convenient and cheaper, because they last longer and they are picked/frozen at their peak.
Prepare snacks for the whole week. I made Chia seed pudding and hummus.
Capitalize on leftovers! Make enough beans or grains to either freeze or to have for lunch the next day. This will stop you from wanting to eat out for lunch or dinner, therefore saving you more money.
Grocery Budget: $15-$20
Shopping List: bread, garbanzo beans, dried beans + grains, green vegetables (broccoli), carrots, squash, fruits (bananas, lemon, & lime), tomatoes, pasta, pumpkin & bread crumbs.
Meal Ideas for the week: Falafel, Pasta+tomato sauce, Autumn-inspired soup with rice, some type of veggie casserole, pumpkin spice french toast, rice & habichuelas guisada (stewed beans), smoothies, sandwiches, salads, hummus, & oat energy bites.
Carrots $1.29 - $0.25 Ibotta = $1.04
Del Monte Canned Corn $0.99 - 20% TC = $0.79
Del Monte Canned Peas $0.99 - 20% TC = $0.79
Market Pantry Breadcrumbs $1.24 - 5% TC = $1.23
Cambell's Soup $1.99 - $0.75 TC = $1.24
Market Pantry Canned Tomatoes $0.49 - 5% TC = $0.48
Simply Balanced Organic Pasta $1.77 - 5% TC = $1.76
Goya Garbanzo Beans $0.92
Market Pantry Lentils $1.49 - 5% TC = $1.48
Market Pantry Dried Garbanzo Beans $0.92 - 5% TC = $0.91
Market Pantry Bread $1.87 - 5% TC = $1.86
Market Pantry Frozen Broccoli $0.99 - 5% TC = $0.98
Target Receipt $15.97 (with tax) - $0.25 Ibotta = $15.72
Organic Yellow Squash $2.99
Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs $1.99
Canned Pumpkin $1.29
Marca El Pato Salsa (Clearance) $0.50 x 2 = $1.00
Sprouts Receipt $7.76 (with tax) - $0.25 Ibotta = $7.51
That's a Grand Total of = $23.23!!!
Now granted I did go over my budget by $3.23, but I am fine with this because some of these items will last me a few weeks, or if I freeze them, it will last me a couple of months or in my pantry.
Breakfast - Pumpkin Spice French Toast w/ Kiwi
Lunch - Hummus Veggie Sandwich with Peach
Dinner - Lentil, squash, & potato soup w/ brown rice
Breakfast - Chia Seed Pudding with Fruit
Lunch - Leftover Lentil Soup and Brown Rice
Dinner - Falafel Sliders w/ Corn & Cucumber Salad
Breakfast - Fruit & French Toast
Lunch - Leftover Falafel with salad
Dinner - Stewed Garbanzo Beans w/ Brown Rice & Broccoli
Breakfast - Pumpkin-Banana Pancakes
Lunch - Leftover Stewed Beans, Rice, & Broccoli
Snack - Hummus & Whole Grain Crackers
Dinner - Pasta with Homemade Sauce & Broccoli
Friday - (Sorry, it was a busy weekend getting ready for my organization's Pride events... so no photos)
Breakfast - Green Smoothie
Lunch - Friday Freebie! It was pay day so I treated myself to a vegan chick'n mock sandwich from Whole Foods
Dinner - Leftover Lentil & Canned Tomato Chili with Corn & Green Beans
I hope that this challenge helps to inspire your creative side. Together we can help each other save this beautiful world, while cooking delicious meals and saving pennies to reach our goals while doing so! Have a great week and make sure you subscribe for more frugal tips, waste-free hacks, & recipes coming soon.