Snackuary: January Food Budget Challenge

It’s the first monthly budget challenge of the decade.

This month we’re working on reducing food costs!

If thinking/talking about food isn’t a good fit for you right now, please check out our rad 20 in 2020 Challenges (there’s 5 to choose from) and skip this month’s challenge.

If seeing food content isn’t good for you - You can click at the bottom to mute this thread you don’t see this category in the “latest posts”!

(see how here)

Snackuary will run from January 1 to January 31.

The goal is to reduce your food costs in some way. Many of us have a complicated relationship with food, and at the end of a day, it isn’t an expense we can make go away entirely because it’s fuel! For many households, it’s the 2nd highest expense in their overall budget (after housing).

Your Snackuary goal could be as strict as a no-eating-out-all-month ban or as simple as a goal for “no takeout on fridays”. Or making coffee at home or skipping happy hours after work.

Maybe your goal is to cook more - batch cook each week or bring a packed lunch to work everyday. Perhaps you want to focus on reducing food waste! Or maybe you want to set a cash weekly budget for groceries and not go over it. Maybe you just want to track your food costs for once.

Whatever it is, make sure the goal is generally aimed towards reducing food costs overall.

Snackuary will have a special forum badge and even a STICKER for people that complete the whole month, that will (probably) be cat themed.

Basic rules:

  1. You must establish your own rules about how you are going to lower your food costs this month. State them in the first few days of the month to get us kicked off in the right direction.
  2. Each weekend you will report how you did on your challenge for the week on this thread. You can report on where you’re at, and what your biggest challenge and victories of the week were. Then, you’ll put your predictions/goals down for the week ahead.
  3. If you want, build in a celebration meal (fancy cheese or a dinner out) at the end of the month. It’s nice to have a reward!

Who This Challenge is For

Anyone who wants a little public accountability and discussion about reducing food costs. If you liked any of our previous challenges and want to keep it going, here we are!

This challenge pairs very well with Dry January and Uber Frugal January

What do you get out of participating?

  • Lower food costs ideally!
  • Lower environmental footprint than dining out and/or wasting food.
  • (maybe) healthier food choices
  • A community to support you as you resist getting takeaway for the 4th time this week
  • A CUTE forum badge for participating in the weekly check-ins
  • And if you do all 4 week check-ins, you get a STICKER mailed to you.

Resources

If you’re in to participate (or on the fence and need encouragement), comment below with your goals for Snackuary.

7 Likes

This is us. I’ll discuss rules with the rest of my household before committing, but I’m thinking:

  • home made lunch minimum 3 times per week
  • grocery delivery every Friday.
  • meal plan the week before.
4 Likes

My goals for Snackuary:

  • meal planning every week; real, written down meal planning
  • pack lunch for (non-food service job) work every day - medium hard, as I’ve gotten used to working from home, and now I’ll be doing a lot more working all over the place and need more food packed
  • 1 week I batch cook/meal prep (and photograph it so I actually do it!)
  • MAX 2 days of “eating popcorn instead of dinner”
  • only one eating out excursion, maximum $12 USD, this should be easy for me, as I don’t tend to eat out unless other people want me to do so, I suspect it will be fine. I think there might be a “welcome” lunch at my new gig but I’ll steer us towards the food carts and away from fancy meals.
6 Likes

oh hai I need this real hard

Still thinking about my goals, but tentatively:

  1. $300 max budget for the month (this includes restaurants/coffee shops/groceries/alcohol, for myself and some shared dinners w/ Brown Bear)

  2. At least 2 servings of vegetables a day (hey, gotta set that bar somewhere…)

5 Likes

I think I’m happy with these and that they will be useful guidelines… we’ll see!

• No getting coffee out unless with friends (limit 3 times)

• No eating out unless with friends (limit 3 times)

• Meal prep weekly at least: 1 batch grain, 1 big pot legumes or curry, one breakfast baked good.

• Do 1 substantial shopping at Trader Joe’s — it’s not a convenient store for me to do a big shopping at but a) I love it and b) I have a $100 gift card.

Have some tentative food and drinks with friends plans, and I want to prioritize spending time with people outside of work a bit, especially as that’s harder to do in the winter.

3 Likes

:joy::joy::joy::joy: this is me right now. I clicked because I thought this was something to do with @smacky. But it isn’t.

I’ve often worked on food costs in January, memorably the time I eventually went a month without eating out. But I’m, weeks 33-37 of being knocked up and working make me think I’m not doing it. I ate a pizza tonight and immediately realized that I’ve been finding sleep impossible because baby was hungry.

But I’m here to cheer people on!

13 Likes

I think my challenge is no eating out alone, no buying prepared food or snacks when alone.

Maintain the habit of batch cooking for lunches at work, eaten at least 4x per week.

10 Likes

You were the last person who I thought would do this challenge this month since your main goal will be getting a hungry human out of you.

8 Likes

Yes I am in!

I want to get our monthly food spending back down to $400.

  • 1 meal a week from stuff we already have in the freezer/cupboard or leftovers.
  • No going out to eat alone.
  • Keep cheap and easy but tasty stuff at work at all times. Pasta and tomato sauce? Rice and beans with salsa and cheese? Rice with fried egg and tofu and soy sauce? Yes plz.
7 Likes

And yet the person most attracted to the word snack :kissing_cat:

8 Likes

I’m in. I’m generally happy with my food spending (I average $150/mo groceries (includes household items) and $50/mo eating/drinking out), but food waste is a problem.

Too many things, mostly produce, languish in my fridge until I get around to composting them. So my plan is to start the month with a fridge inventory, identifying food items that won’t be good by the end of the week and making a plan to eat them. Then do that. Repeat each week.

9 Likes

So I will do this, mostly because I am already doing it in the context of continuing Eat Down the Pantry from December, so it should absolutely be achievable for me, and not that hard (I know, I’m sorry, I need a win). Eat Down the Pantry in December had a list of about 35 items (although some had multiple units) I prioritized to eat down, as the items have been, erm, kicking around for a while. Thirteen (13) of those things have been consumed to date (with possibly one or two more before January 1). However, I also have a broader list of around 100 items of things to eat down within the next six months - essentially the entire pantry, or as much as possible. That list does not include spices or certain condiments, or certain staples, but does consist of pretty much everything else. (I am including finishing old jars of spices as “wins” though, and am mostly not adding to them except in small quantities from the bulk bins.)

The ultimate goal is (1) to eat down the items on the original list (the “old” items), and (2) generally eat down everything, especially home grown and frozen or canned stuff or home made stuff, because that was a lot of work, yo. This will take some time (more than one month). The action to achieve this goal is to attempt to commit to a 2 Out:1 In rule with everything except certain perishables I consider essentials (things like milk, half and half, butter, eggs, fresh vegetables, AP flour) plus a few condiments I use quite frequently (mayo, say sauce) if necessary. This would mean, for example, in order to buy a new bean I would need to have used up two other beans first. This doesn’t need to have a direct relationship (ie, beans don’t have to be replaced by beans), just that two existing items need to be used up before bringing in new non-essentials. New, non-essential things brought in will be small quantities from the bulk bins, if possible. The rule might be amended later as variety dwindles, as I am not trying to enforce some sort of vow of poverty or anything, though this might not yet be an issue in January, but rather, later on. I am attempting to reduce waste but this is not intended to be a crazy making exercise.

I’ll document everything coming in and being used up weekly, but I’ll likely not include the entire giant list here as it literally is like 100 things and I know I won’t get through everything in only one month. I have a paper list for master tracking.

In addition to paring down stock, I expect that I’ll almost certainly have a grocery spend of < $100, given that this month (December) I am currently at only $66 and I do still have a fair amount of variety (for the moment). There is little to no chance I can reduce that particular value, as I have only once before been that low, and it feels really extreme. Again, not trying to make myself crazy.

6 Likes

Goals:

  • Meal plan at the start of each week. (all of this is going to start on the weekend of the 4/5th Jan, as I’m staying with parents until then)
  • Not buying any groceries that aren’t on the meal plan.
  • Bring sufficient food to work that I’m not snacking on biscuits.
  • Eat out only on pre-planned social occasions- max budget of £40 for this.
1 Like

My goals:

  1. Continue to track foods I eat and minimize problem foods
  2. Meal plan and bulk cooking weekly

Goals tbd but at a minimum I want to

  1. Do a lot of meal prep/batch cooking and stock the freezer with easy meals while I’m unemployed, so that we can do less cooking for a while once I get another job lined up.
  2. Use up our freezer banana stash. I keep buying bananas to make a chia seed pudding for breakfasts, and we keep not making it and then tossing the bananas in the freezer when they start to go bad.
  3. Actually make at least one batch of chia seed pudding because we have a lot of chia seeds. Or figure out something else to do with the seeds.
5 Likes

Goal (Draft):

  1. Eat down the pantry - including freezer;
  2. Eat at least 2 salads / week;
  3. Make at least 2 pots of soup.
2 Likes

Re: Reducing Food waste.

One of my problems was buying produce and then not using it up while it was fresh. I started chopping things up and freezing them for use in cooking (celery, onion, bell peppers), or drying things (apple slices). If I am particularly clever that day - I measure, label, and date the container with the chopped vegetable (e.g., "~1/2 c celery 12/19). Small amounts are put in small ziplock bags.

5 Likes

I’m in. My goals so far (subject to change/addition):

  • I’d like to limit our groceries (does not include household items like dish soap or booze) to $350, $300 as a stretch goal. This is for two people. Our freezer and pantry are extremely full, and I’d like to prioritize eating that down, especially my freezer.

  • I have a few friends in town, and it’s my husband’s birthday in January, so eating out will happen (the friends specifically want to see a vegan place I told them about). I’m gonna try to limit our restaurant eating to $125, $100 stretch. Again, for two people.

  • For the 2020 Bingo challenge, I’m trying to make 12 recipes from cookbooks I own in 2020, so in January my goal is to make one cookbook recipe!

4 Likes

Oh yeah, I need this one.

My goals are:

  • spend no more than $80 every 2-week pay period on groceries. (I budget per pay period, not month; I’m paid every other Friday.)

  • get real about how much food I actually need to eat during my work day and bring that amount of food to work. (I, uh, actually have a lot of shame about this one. I feel like the amount of food I need to not be hangry is enormous and embarrassing - but, if I bring tiny meals that I feel “should” be enough and then end up eating out of the vending machine because I’m so hangry I can’t concentrate on my job, that’s not helpful.)

  • this is not really budget-related, but Boyfriend and I are planning a January Cleanse in which we will not eat any grains. We have been relying too much on carbs and it shows in our appearance and our energy levels, OOF.

I feel like this is going to be really challenging for me because I’m going to get crabby about not being able to eat pasta or rice or oatmeal or anything bread-related, so I fear I’ll end up splurging on fancy non-grain stuff out of sheer deprivation.

Oh yeah, and:

  • stop with the fucking frozen pizzas, OMG, enough already!! We are addicted to Home Run Inn. It is bad. We usually top it ourselves with veg, but still!

ETA: is this eating out too? I have been limiting my eating out to $100/month, which has been pretty do-able. I will see how much lower I can get it this month.

5 Likes

I’m in!

I’ll make this my eat down the pantry/freezer month. Goal grocery spend $200, stretch goal $150 for the month.

Brownie points for working through tea and random spice mixes.

4 Likes