The January 2011 Brilliant Frugal Living Challenge – Feed a household of four people for $300/month!
Let 2011 be the year you give YOURSELF a big raise!
Ready to save thousands of dollars in spending this year, without sacrificing quality? Keep reading (and keep your money in your pocket!)

Happy New Year, everyone! Here in Chester County, PA (about an hour west of Philadelphia), it’s all about the Mummers Parade! Where else do you get the chance to see Philadelphia’s proud male citizens wearing gaudy dresses up Broad Street. And where else would you WANT to? Lordy.

Okay, it’s officially the New Year, and it’s time for some bold financial moves that are easy to implement, and pay off HUGE. Pay freezes and pay cuts are everywhere in the news, and perhaps even a part of your life at this point. My hat is off to each and every one of you for making your budgets work despite these financial handcuffs. If you’re looking for the opportunity to make your money stretch MUCH further this year, stick around. Each month of 2011, I’m doing a separate challenge (each with simple strategies) that can save THOUSANDS of dollars over the course of the year for your household as well.

Which leads me to January’s Challenge – Easily taking the food budget (for a household of four people) to $300/month!
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household of four people spends $800/month on food. I’m about to show you how to easily accomplish that for $300 instead. The $500 savings each month will turn into $6,000 by year’s end – how’s that for a great raise?

www.AmeliasGroceryOutlet.comThe easy strategy to pull off this $6,000 raise? I’m doing every single bit of my grocery shopping at a fantastic store near me, Amelia’s Grocery Outlet. For those of you not in the Philadelphia area, Amelia’s is a discount grocery outlet with the best in brand names, fantastic produce, dairy, breads, frozen foods, everything. You name it, you need it, they’ve got it, for usually 50-70% off retail. Not only do I adore shopping here, but I’ve also had the recent thrill of being their Official Spokesperson, so my frugal glee knows no bounds. If you don’t live in the Philadelphia area, you can easily find discount groceries near you by sitting down at Google, typing in your city’s name, then type “discount grocery”. Depending on where you live, that simple search will turn up anywhere from 5-20 discount groceries near you. Scope them out, and find the ones near you that fit the bill for your family.

Okay, in keeping the bill to $300 or less for the month ($9.67/day), there are some simple rules at play. First of all, I’m addicted to my caffeine, high quality food, and good amounts of protein. Add to that the fact that everyone in the house is used to eating at least a pound of fresh produce a day, and I’ve got some planning to do. We’re going to keep it simple:

Daily coffee: 0.25. See my earlier notes on being a coffee junkie. Not to worry, fabulous coffee brands at Amelia’s are up to 70% off on a regular basis, so a minute with my calculator tells me that I’ll be getting my daily fix for .25.

Protein: .40/day. If nothing else, I have to start my day with some serious protein. Two hard boiled eggs for breakfast (with another two for significant other!) makes for at least four eggs consumed per day. With eggs at Amelia’s going for $1.20/dozen, I’m taking care of basic protein needs for .40/day

Kids’ breakfast: 0.20. the kids have always been easy in their breakfast needs. They love a quick banana muffin recipe that’s been in my family forever. They’re fast, easy to eat on the run, and it’s inexpensive to boot. I priced the muffins out ages ago at .05 each (gotta love that). If the kids each enjoy a couple of muffins for breakfast, we’re taking care of business for them for .20/day. Cool.

Produce: $4 per day. with everybody in the house (two adults, and two kids) eating at least a pound of produce a day at meals and/or snacks, I’m aiming for 5 pounds per day, just to play it safe. Fruit of choice in this house is apples, and Amelia’s has loads of different varieties for .66/pound. FAB. Bananas cost even less, we may go with those a bit more often that we do now. Veggie of choice is salad, and Amelia’s has romaine ready to chop into quick salads. Love that. Price per day for my house, about .50. Total cost of produce per day will be 3.80, I’m going to round it up to $4 per day, just to keep my sanity relatively intact.

Adult lunches – $1.50 total/day. My husband likes simple bag lunches for work. It’s usually two hard boiled eggs, a pound of produce (apples, pears or oranges), and a can of tuna. Quick, easy, and a very inexpensive combo at Amelia’s. I can easily put that together for $1.50/day. As for my lunch, I’m working from home, so I’m going to have whatever is left from dinner the evening before. Easy, simple. Totally works.

Kid lunches – .70/day. 3-year old Robbie is home with me, so he can share dinner leftovers from the night before. Katie is in kindergarten this year, so she needs her bag lunch & a small morning snack. We’re going with cheesy crackers or granola bars for snacks, and one apple juice box, a cheese sandwich (or a PB&J) and two cookies (or a muffin) for lunch. Costing out every combo, her snacks & lunch will cost no more than .60/day.

Okay, so far our total is running at $7.05. If I keep the house on the straight and narrow thru the afternoons, that leaves me a somewhat daunting $2.62 to put dinner on the table. I adore a solid frugalista challenge, so bring it on! (that, and I’m sensing some serious pasta nights in my future, maybe two a week??…) Also, with frozen chicken running $1.99/pound or less at Amelia’s and ham, pork roasts, etc available for similar great values, I’m certain I can manage nightly dinners that uses no more than one pound of protein and some high quality starches like brown rice, barley, corn, wheat berries, etc rounding out the side dishes. If I really cost carefully, I’ll get some desserts in there as well. It CAN be done!

So far, the first day of the challenge has played out beautifully! Super easy breakfast of eggs for adults, muffins for kids, lots of fruit for snacks (not going over the 1#/day limit!) my beloved coffee & lots of water to drink, and I’m at the point where I’m planning dinner. I’m thinking Italian. I’ll do the (earlier mentioned) salads, and with Penne Regate at .50/pound, a jar of Paesana sauces to top it for $1, we’re well below the cost limit, even with a generous (.50) sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. I put a yellow cake in the oven earlier, and topped it with a homemade buttercream icing. Total cost of cake & icing was $1.97, which I’m rounding up to $2. It’s easily going to cover dessert for 4 nights, so I’m costing it out at .50 for dessert tonight.

Day One Cost of Food Total: $9.55! WOO HOO! One day down, another 30 to go! Bring it on!

Send in all of your comments, ideas, and MOST IMPORTANTLY – inexpensive, easy menu ideas! Happy New Year, everybody!