Eat on $30 – Day 1 – A slow start…and a giveaway!!! October 12, 2009

30-drawing It's official – Eat on $30 has started. I need to say, first of all, that I am overwhelmed by the support for this event out there in the blog-sphere. There has been a lot of lively dialogue, re-posts, re-tweets and all around positivity about what we're doing. It's working…and people are talking. THANK YOU!

Day 1 for me was not exactly how I imagined starting this week off. For those who don't know, I am part of an Eat on $60 with my BF, who is also blogging about it on the blog he created for this event.We were in Nashville this weekend spending time with friends. So, Sunday morning was a wash for us after a late-ish evening and not-exactly-an-early-start back to Atlanta. After breakfast was provided for us (which made me crazy guilty), we got on the road. We didn't have any money in our budget for our normal road trip snacks of milkshakes or ICEEs…so 3 1/2 hours later, two grumpy people trudged to the farmers market to buy stuff for the week. 

Since we have a $60 budget for two of us, it initially SEEMED like a luxurious amount of money after doing it on $30. Yeah….not so much. Even in the first minutes of the shopping trip, I went right back to the tactics I used when I did this challenge the first time:

– I weighed EVERYTHING. On a normal day at the store or market, things get haphazardly thrown into my cart.

– There is ZERO room for impulse purchases. Even the things I consider staples like coffee quickly become a luxury…and by luxury, I mean…not purchased.

Sale, sale, sale. I looked for sale stickers. A package of ham filled tortellini was on sale at 20% off – this package which was our dinner tossed with a little butter, green peas, and onions allowed us to eat (with some leftovers for Mike to take for lunch) for about $4.00. Our farmers market marks down their produce as well – the squash I scored for 20% off, as well.

We scored a pretty good first round of groceries: 2 lbs. of chicken thighs, 2 italian turkey sausages, a large bag of frozen peas, a bag of arugula, 2 lemons, a head of garlic, one white onion, 3 gala apples, the tortellini, a large tub of brown lentils, a medium sized spaghetti squash, green onions, 5 zucchini, 5 roma tomatoes, a small container of roasted red peppers, a carton of chicken stock. Our total for that trip was $30.75. There was half of a bottle of cheap white wine in the fridge from when we left – I paid $5.99 on sale for it – so we had that with dinner. Adding $3 to the budget for that, we're now at $33.75! My plan is to go through the weekend paper, get coupons, and supplement what I bought with cheese, eggs, bread, and sandwich meat.

We've had a few more people take on the Eat on #30 Challenge since I posted on Friday. Everyone has been doing a great job of talking about their experience on Day 1. Please read and support the other participants:

300x250_CT_v1 So….what about this giveaway!? I was contacted by Macy's (after just seeing an ad for this campaign during Top Chef – all of us there nodded and thought it was a great idea) to help spread the word about a fight-hunger initiative they've started. While I normally champion local charities, which I will do this week as well, this particular event has the potential to change lives on a large scale.

Macy’s has launched COME TOGETHER, an innovative awareness and fundraising campaign that aims to feed 10 million people suffering from hunger. COME TOGETHER invites the public to rally around the cause by hosting special dinners in their homes and asking their guests to pledge a donation to Feeding America. In return, Macy’s will match these donations dollar-for-dollar until the total goal of 10 million meals is reached.

To get involved the public may participate in three easy ways: Host, Give and Shop.

· HOST – Friends and families across the country can host dinner parties from casual to formal, send invitations and manage party details including themes and recipes on In lieu of bringing traditional host gifts, guests are suggested to make a donation to Feeding America.

· GIVE – Donate $1 directly at any Macy's register, one dollar provides dinner for seven.

· SHOP– Macy's customers can shop for the cause and get special savings in-store on October 17, when Macy's hosts a national Shop For A Cause day. A portion of the $5 in-store ticket sales will benefit Feeding America.

They have generously given me two $25 Macy's giftcards to give away to
my readers as a way of encouraging dialogue and participation about the
campaign and the issues behind it. To win, leave a comment on this post
telling me your best budget cooking or shopping tip/tactic.
Two winners
will be chosen at random on Wednesday, October 14th. The cards will be
mailed to the winners. Goods can only be shipped to US
addresses or used in Macy's stores which are US only. One comment per
person please!


Carrie Neal Walden Oct 12, 2009 07:10 am

What a cool thing Macy’s is doing! Totally joining in that effort. Yay!

sylvia Oct 12, 2009 08:10 am

Hi – love your challenge and ability to create global awareness regarding hunger!!!!
My budget tip: CROCKPOT cooking! I HATE throwing food away so not-so-fresh but not moldy veggies get thrown in the crock pot with chix stock and a can of beans and a cup of rice and 6 hours later, heaven!

Emily Robinson Oct 12, 2009 08:10 am

I don’t really have anything too earth shattering or original, but I like to stretch my grocery budget by using the warehouse clubs, Jarlsberg cheese at BJ’s is $0.20 less/lb than Costco and $2.79 less/lb than Publix. You do get a giant block, but I can get through it or it can be frozen.

Cat W. Oct 12, 2009 08:10 am

I just discovered the Eats on $30 thing and would love to see how it goes. (thanks Twitter!) Budget tip… let’s see… One of my favorite meals is half a can of lentils on top of a serving of rice w/ feta. Not exactly a cooking tip, but a nice reminder that every dinner doesn’t have to be a production/expensive.

Amy Oct 12, 2009 08:10 am

Great idea! And I absolutely agree: I don’t know how people are expected to easily maintain a $30/person budget for food, not without tons of coupon clipping. The most successful strategy I’ve found is to wait for double coupons and go through all the store circulars to plan the shopping trips.

Vicki Oct 12, 2009 08:10 am

I don’t think I could do $30…Don’t shop when you’re hungry, it’ll keep your bill much lower!

Kathy Oct 12, 2009 08:10 am

My habit for years is to buy extra staples that won’t spoil (peanut butter!) when they are on sale + use coupons to drop the price further.

Rachel Oct 12, 2009 08:10 am

my biggest budget tip is to make large meals and freeze them for later. i often don’t buy in bulk because i can’t use it before it goes bad, but it is so much cheaper to do so!
also – find a local blog in your area that finds the deals for you. i live in richmond and there is a great woman here who writes about the local deals – everything from festivals to food stores!

Carmen Oct 12, 2009 09:10 am

My tip, which is really nothing new and no secret, is to PLAN. I plan out every single meal (based on what’s on sale at the grocery store – I look at the flyers online) for the week down to every little snack. Then I make a grocery list based on my meal plan, and I don’t buy anything extra off of it (impulse purchases). It limits waste because I only have what we need for the week and I use everything I buy – nothing gets thrown out/wasted.

Theresa Oct 12, 2009 10:10 am

Use coupons and sales to your advantage. I stock up on non perishable staples when they are on sale.

Bevin Aguero Oct 12, 2009 10:10 am

Any meal that will last through dinner, lunch the next day and possibly another dinner is something I try to do on a regular basis. Foods good for this are: savory pies, vegetable soups, pizza… With just two people you can really stretch the meal out for the week.

Preston Craig Oct 12, 2009 11:10 am

Has anyone here used ? I’ve been curious to see how well it works out.
BTW… my brother eats on $15-30 dollars regularly a week. It’s not luxurious… but he eats a balanced meal. It ends up coming down to making things in bulk (like chili or arroz con pollo) and making it work for the week.

Holly Oct 12, 2009 01:10 pm

THE BEST website to take ultimate advantage of coupon gorcery shopping: She takes every grocery store’s circular,pairs it with newspaper coupons AND internet coupons(you can use one of each per item at Publix & Kroger)…AND gives you a printable grocey list. I save 50-65% on groceries every week with the help of southernsavers!

Lynn Oct 12, 2009 02:10 pm

I save money by going meatless as much as possible and have a batch of recipes that I like to make; black beans and saffron rice, Egyptian edamame stew, greens and beans stew. I am single and so will eat a serving or two and freeze the rest.

Kelly Oct 12, 2009 03:10 pm

Plan meals. Even better, plan with the current contents of your freezer in mind. It’s only helpful to freeze leftovers if you remember they are in there later!

penny aka jeroxie Oct 12, 2009 04:10 pm

HOw do I join in? Can I do it from Australia?

Wendy Oct 12, 2009 05:10 pm

I am a long-time frugal person by necessity. I am disabled and have a small fixed income. A year ago I was subsisting on $573/month disability and $10 food stamps. Now life has improved dramatically and I get $761 disability and $185 food stamps a month. Each month I focus on stocking up different foods. Since I had a big garden and am awash in vegetables, I was able to stock up on meat this month. Here’s my story…

doodles Oct 12, 2009 07:10 pm

wish I would have seen this earlier………not able to participate now but will in two weeks and will blog about it…….thanks

Palila Oct 13, 2009 06:10 am

I like to double up on coupons: I clip the ones in the sunday paper, then look at online coupon places like Shortcuts and load those coupons to my kroger card. A $1 off paper coupon + $.50 e-coupon can add up quickly! (especially when there’s a sale.)
I also made a shopping list of all the things we buy most frequently- helps when glancing through the ads and looking through the fridge/pantry, and helps us avoid multiple trips to the store.

Brittany Oct 13, 2009 07:10 am

My budget tip – go vegetarian, at least part of the time. It really does save a ton of money and it ends up being super healthy as well.

Dani Craig Oct 13, 2009 08:10 am

Love your blog and love this project.
My tip…I never buy meat (chicken breasts, steaks, pork chops, roasts, etc.) unless they are on a great sale. Then, I’ll snatch them up and throw them in the freezer until I’m ready to cook them. My freezer tends to have a nice little variety to choose from, and I’m not breaking the bank by going out at the last minute and paying $15.99 a lb. for steaks on date night!

Jen Yu Oct 13, 2009 08:10 am

Don’t count me in on your giveaway, but I wanted to let you know how much you absolutely rock. Thanks for the kick in the pants, sweetie. And I’m sorry about the coffee – Jeremy is feeling your pain. xxoo

The Frugal Hostess Oct 13, 2009 10:10 am

Two tips:
1. Keep a jar or tupperware in the freezer for leftover servings of vegetables. When full, add chicken stock and make soup.
2. Shop only once or twice per month. Studies show that about 60% of what we spend is unplanned. The fewer trips you take, the fewer chances you have to impulse buy.

Kristina Oct 13, 2009 10:10 am

I’ve learned how to cook cheap, flavorful cuts of meat. One lamb shank can flavor a whole stew or pot of beans.

Muse Oct 13, 2009 07:10 pm

I don’t mean to sound .. belittling or anything, I think what you;re doing is fine. But seriously, I think your sights are kind of set really low. I mean I make enough to survive. I have a really good job in accounting (I’ll be replacing the comptroller when she retires), but I still collect social assistance every month to top me up. Between my daughter and myself our monthly food plus extras (eg., vitamins, antiperspirnt, clothes, booze, movies etc) for “grocery store items” runs the line of 150 a month on average. I mean sure our main meat is hamburger and weiners but so what, we’re half-way vegetarians because meat is just too hard to chew (not trying to be funny), and of course our diet is supplemented by the garden even if by christmas the only thing left is onions & carrots … But still … I think 30/week is *really* high for a “suffer thy neighbour’s shoes” kind of challenge. Does anyone else think this is a high amount for one person? I was so totally shocked.

tami Oct 13, 2009 07:10 pm

This is not an effort to “live in someone’s shoes”. I need to make that clear. This is to bring attention to the fact that this type of budget – and as I said the national average across the country is $101 per month per person (many states some in at close to $120-130 a month) so many people DO receive around $30. Many people receive less.
We’re not trying to do the “suffer thy neighbor’s shoes”. Just trying to make people see that budgeting for food – something many “foodies” don’t do or think about – and eating on a fixed budget is something that is more common place than those of us in the blog world realize. We take our ability to buy whatever we want/impulse shop for granted.
Thank you for following along and for commenting.
– t*

kara Oct 13, 2009 08:10 pm

My budget tip: The whole chicken. Whole chickens can be bought for relatively cheaply. Roast one up, and you have dinner, plus leftovers for a pasta dish, enchiladas, or whatever, for another meal. Take off the skin and use the body to make chicken stock — perfect for risotto, soup, you name it! Good luck with your project here.

Kerry Oct 14, 2009 06:10 am

These aren’t lifechanging, but made a big difference for me.
1) use lentils. Cheap, versatile, abundant, filling, nutritious.
2) Throw nothing away. Veggie scraps, meat bones, all of it into the freezer. When you have a decent pile, boil them all to make a stock. I also work at reinventing leftovers to keep from getting bored with food. Leftover pork scraps get boiled off the bone, mixed with beans and spices and ta da, cuban pork soup stuff.
3)Garden. Herbs are 3$ in store, or weeds that grow anywhere voractiously.

Carrie Neal Walden Oct 14, 2009 09:10 am

I am a self-admitted “bad” budgeter. My best and most cost-saving thing to do is to make something like my pasta salad, which I a) love b) will eat for days bc it keeps and c) the total for the whole recipe is under $10.
Ingredients: 1 box “short” pasta like gemelli; 1/2 bottle vinaigrette dressing (I like Newman’s Own, the lite one with parm-regg), 1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, half-carton cherry toms, 1/2 c parm, s&p to taste, 1/4 t garlic powder, optional- red or yellow bell pepper. I usually add 1/4 bottle of dressing at first then more as needed, so it doesn’t get soggy, and add add’l s&p and garlic salt as needed.
Lasts me 5-6 days per batch!

haley Oct 14, 2009 10:10 am

In college I limited myself to $25 per week in groceries. I made a big pot of vegetarian curry/soup/whatever in my crockpot and ate it throughout the week with homemade bread or rice. So good for stretching ingredients.

kate Oct 14, 2009 11:10 am

Every weekend I make at least one meal with significant leftovers (this time of year usually a stew or soup) to use for lunches for the rest of the week. Not only are soups and stews usually budget stretchers to begin with, but having leftovers for lunch rather than buying deli meats (or worse – lunch out daily!) is very cost effective. Not to mention how delicious and fullfilling soup is at lunch time on a cold fall day!

Katie Oct 14, 2009 11:10 am

I cook up large batches of dried beans and freeze them in can-sized portions (about 1 1/2 cups). It saves a ton of money and they taste better, too!

Melissa Oct 14, 2009 12:10 pm

I have a few tips: plan your week (including leftovers and snacks), put a list of what’s in your fridge and freezer on the front of the fridge and add/subtract as you use things up or buy more, and keep a stock-up pantry separate from your pantry storing your dry goods if you can (I have all cans and jars in my laundry room and all the dry stuff and cereal in my kitchen). Keeping these separate saves my sanity and helps me plan meals with a clear head.
Oh, and putting a list of breakfasts on the fridge is also good for mornings before you have your coffee and don’t want to stand there sleeping on your feet while you decide what to make….

Christy B Oct 14, 2009 01:10 pm

I try to purchase most perishables when they are discounted and then utilize couponing techniques as much as possible.

Deanne Oct 14, 2009 01:10 pm

Best tip for saving money: take your vegetable peelings (onion skins, carrot peelings, celery leaves, mushroom stems, etc) that you can’t eat would throw away and stash them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, put the veggie bits in a pot of water, simmer for a half hour and voila, vegetable broth! You can also combine this with leftover chicken bones to make awesome chicken stock (or other animal stock depending on what kinds of bones you have).

alice Oct 14, 2009 01:10 pm

Shop the bulk bins for what you need only esp. spices.