The $14 Challenge.




That’s what we have left in our budget until Friday.




We stick to an all cash budget most weeks, but honestly, if we go a wee bit over and need to use our debit card to get us by, most weeks we just let that go.


But this week, I’m determined to make it until Friday morning (at exactly 9AM Eastern Time) with no more than the $14 I have right here.


Will you join me?


(Misery loves company, you know.) 🙂


Hop up.


Yup, step away from the computer.


Or your phone.


Go get your wallet right this very minute.


See how much cash really is in there.


And decide to use that.


Only that.


For the next 96 hours.

Really, it’s NINETY SIX  HOURS. We can do this.


As I shared in today’s Facebook live video this morning (scroll to minute 15 of the video to watch ~ I’ll update you on Stitch Fix shortly), we’re in a way different season today than we were 20 years ago when we first started penny pinching 20 years ago. 


And (thank heavens!) if we spent an extra bit of money this week it really wouldn’t break the bank.


But we can so quickly blow through $20, or $50, or $100 if we’re not careful.


Most importantly though, we have a 16 year old, 13 year old, and 9 year old who are watching closely right now how we choose to spend our money.




So we’re choosing to stay on track.


Here’s what we’re sacrificing this week to stick to our goal:

1. Trash Bags.


We’re completely out of trash bags, but rather than going and spending $5-$10 on a big box of bags (these are the ones I normally buy), we’re going to use grocery sacks for the week.


2. Paper Towels.


For years (and years and years), I pretty much refused to buy trash bags because those were simply not a luxury we could afford while paying off debt. In the last few years I’ve splurged on paper towels (and I’ve got to admit, they’re glorious!) but when I realized we’re almost out this week I knew I could go back to using plain old rags.


This is such a tiny savings, but if it keeps me at home and away from the grocery store when I’ll probably buy more, I’m taking it as a win for the week.


3. Eating out.


As I’ve shared (a bunch!) this last month, eating out is probably one of the easiest places to bust your budget each week. So, like we did last month, we’ll be eating at home (I’m using the Whole Foods Menu Plan from Eat at Home Cooks), and choosing to skip the drive thru this week.


(Note – I did spend $60 on groceries yesterday for the weekly menu plan, and we already had a decent stash of produce, milk and snacks to get us through the week. That helps!)


4. Our piggy bank.


Like many folks, my husband collects his change in a jar each day, so IF we absolutely need some extra moo-lah, I may have to count some coins to pay. As I shared in today’s video my kids are usually the ones who ask for money (not all that often, but occasionally), so if I absolutely think they need it (which is doubtful), I’ll give them the option of the raiding the piggy jar.


While this would still be technically considered “spending money”, I guarantee we won’t spend as much change as we would if we went to the ATM and took out more cash (or pulled out a credit card – eek), but I think this will help us have a “no excuses” week this week.


Do you need to join me?


Go ahead.


Count up your cash.


Hunt down your coins.


Take stock of what’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer.


And determine for the next 96 hours to stick with me. 



We can totally do this, and watching what we save today will make our long term goals come just a little bit closer.


Happy penny pinching! 😉


More posts like this: 



Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Challenge: Final Update


Okie dokie, we survived one more weekend of our No Spend Challenge, which brings us right up to Spring Break starting next week! While we didn’t stick to our plan perfectly, we did stay pretty close on things, and goodness, it was so eye opening to see where our money really goes each week.


Friday night Caroline had friends over to spend the night (kind of as a very belated birthday – I promised her we’d do something eventually, but we kept pushing it back!) We ordered pizzas with a coupon code, and thankfully had plenty of 2-liters in the pantry (since our kids aren’t allowed to drink them normally but I’d gotten them for just a few pennies several months ago when they were on sale.)  I picked up extra water bottles and some Wyler lemonade mixes at the Dollar Tree . . . those lemonade mixes were a huge hit. (Who knew?)


We debated a cake since it really wasn’t a birthday party, but she’d been eyeing this one on Pinterest for months. I used frosting and a cake mix from our pantry as well, and picked up mini M&Ms and Kitkat bars at Kroger. The cake was so simple to make, and the kids (of course) devoured it. 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.12.00 AM

For breakfast we had Fresh Thyme strawberries and a triple batch of homemade cinnamon rolls (Caroline’s favorite), and once every one left our family ate leftover pizza for lunch. We grilled out for supper (so thankful grilling season is just about here!), and ended up saving by just choosing to eat home all day. (Weekends are when we tend to go over budget eating out, so eating at home is always a tiny success for our bunch!)


After church we had Chipotle (thanks to a gift card!), and ended up splurging on drinks too. (I know, I know – but I was so ready for a diet coke, and since we had the gift card we decided it was okay to enjoy them!) I really don’t know that we’ll stick to water only while we’re eating out in the future, but seeing how much soda is costing our family at restaurants was pretty shocking, so we’ll at the very least choose water more frequently. (I’m really thinking I’ll pick up some of those Wyler’s lemonade packets to keep in my purse – I’ve seen a friend do that and it might just make restaurant water more appealing!)


Our total spent for the weekend was $14 at Chipotle and $40 on pizza, + $10 in candy for Caroline’s cake. While it wasn’t perfect, I was thrilled that we were able to stay within our budget and get everything we needed for Caroline’s get together. If you’ve been struggling to get your budget in check, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend you try challenging your family to really reign things in for a few weeks. Deciding as a family to really look at where your money goes can really transform your spending habits.


Here’s a breakdown of how our (modified) No Spend Challenge looked these last few weeks:

  • We determined to spend no more than $50 each week at the grocery, primarily for fresh fruit, veggies, and dairy products.
  • We drank only water when eating out (at least until yesterday!) 🙂 My daughter Reagan used the money we saved to go towards missions.
  • We limited ourselves to two meals out per week, using coupons and choosing less expensive restaurants when we did eat out.
  • We cleared our pantry, fridge and freezer by menu planning based on what we already had at home. This was huge, and really helped us save so much (plus forced us to eat up some food that would otherwise go to waste.)


I’m heading to Kroger tonight to re-stock on cereal and granola bars while they’re at such a good price in their Mega Sale, but other than that shouldn’t be shopping the rest of this week. So, we just about made it ~ woohooo! 😉




And on a completely random side note, a friend brought over dry ice for the kids to play with Friday night, which was a huge success. She’s a science teacher and had some left over from school, so her daughter showed the kids a few experiments using  the dry ice. I couldn’t get over how long they played with it, and my 14-year-old and his friend were just as interested in checking it out! If you have a birthday party with tweenage kids anytime soon, this is a great way to (literally) break the ice. 🙂 (Find dry ice experiment ideas over HERE.) 


Print Friendly and PDF

Laurie’s Shopping Trip: Aldi & Fresh Thyme + No Spend Challenge Update

I’m so stinkin’ excited about the little fun deals I scored yesterday at Aldi & Fresh Thyme Market! Because we’re sticking to our No Spend Grocery Challenge I really wanted to limit what I spent, but goodness these were just too good to pass up. Aldi had a ton of houseplants that looked great on sale for $1.99 (a good price I think?), and while I’m sprucing up my home for Easter I just couldn’t pass it by. Here’s what I bought:



  • Italian Seasoning $1
  • Ivy Basket $1.99 (I took the pot out and will re-pot it to brighten up our kitchen)
  • Total $2.99


Fresh Thyme

  • Organic Apples $.99/lb $1.24
  • 5 lb bag potatoes $.99
  • 4 packages strawberries 4/$5
  • Total $7.23



Since I’d spent $41 earlier at Kroger on groceries this week, this puts us right under our $50 per week No Spend Grocery Challenge goalI feel like we have plenty to get us through until next week (I will need to run to Kroger before the Mega Sale ends Tuesday to stock up on cereal, milk and granola bars), but we have plenty of food still in our kitchen to eat at home until then.


Have you scored any great deals on whole foods lately? I’d love to hear what you’ve gotten, and if you’d like to share your picture with others send me an email with your purchases and I’ll post them here for other folks to see! You can also post them over on the PPP Facebook page to show off your savings. 🙂


Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Challenge: Days 13, 14, 15, & 16


We survived another weekend in our No Spend Grocery Challenge, and while it isn’t as hard as I’d expected, I’m amazed at how quickly money can get spent even when we’re working to really stick to a tight budget!  With a family of five there are just a lot of expenses (eating out is huge), but we’re sticking with our decision for the month and didn’t do too badly this weekend.


Friday night Jackson and Caroline were out for the night so we just had Reagan with us. We spent Friday afternoon working to finish up our taxes (bleck – not a great way to spend a Friday afternoon), and by the time we finished we were famished. We’d promised Reagan we’d go see Cinderella though (it was so good!),  but the next showing was too soon for us to sneak in dinner. We ended up spending a small fortune on popcorn and drinks,  and by the time it was done it was too late to even get dinner! Between the tickets and popcorn we spent $45 (Y.I.K.E.S.) but it was worth every penny. We all loved the movie (I highly recommend this one!), and my sweet seven-year-old even shed a tear or two. 😉

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 11.53.37 AM

don’t judge – some days  you just need a butter burger 🙂

Saturday we headed to Culvers with coupons in hand and spent $12 for lunch for the three of us, and after church yesterday all five of us had pizza for $17. Honestly, drinking water while eating out saves a ton, but goodness if I’m being truthful with you it’s hard to do! We don’t go out all that often, and my kids only drink water and milk when we’re at home, so they’re really missing those sodas.


We did the math with them though yesterday, and the same $12 that we could easily shell out for drinks for the five of us would purchase 3 salads, 3 orders of breadsticks or 3 orders of wings. Right now we’re adding that money to donate, but it’s a good lesson in how much those drinks can do to bust your budget!


Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.04.06 PM


I made a trip to Kroger to get some groceries (we were out of milk), and by the time I re-stocked on some produce and dairy products (as well as half gallons of milk – they’re $1 per half gallon this week in our area!), I’d spent $41. As long as I stick to my budget throughout the week we’ll still be on track (our goal was no more than $50 per week), but it definitely reminded me that every time I step into the store I’m likely to spend a little more than I’d planned. (Which is why skipping shopping completely is often my favorite way to save!)


So, our total including today that we’ve spent is $70 during the last four days. (I’m not counting our Cinderella splurge – because it was really entertainment and not eating? ahem.) We’re finishing up our challenge at the end of the week as we near Spring Break, but it’s definitely been so worth keeping track of where we’re at to know where our money really goes each month.  I so fought the idea of taking on this challenge, but am loving staying on track in what we spend on food, so we can enjoy splurging on the things we really love! Here’s where we’re at for the month so far:

  • Day 1, 2 & 3 = $5.17
  • Day 4 & 5 = $15
  • Day 6, 7, 8, and 9 = $67.89 (this included several meals out while I was out of town – we knew we would go over for those few days)
  • Days 10, 11 & 12 = $48.34 (including $30.34 in groceries)
  • Days 13, 14, 15 & 16 = $70
  • Total = $206.40 for all groceries and several meals out


I’d love to hear if you’re joining us this month how it’s gone for you, as well as any other tips you have to stay on track. Leave a comment to share your thoughts!

Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Challenge: Days 10, 11 & 12


We survived a few more days of our No Spend Challenge this week! While we’ve had a few small splurges we’ve (mostly) stuck to it, and it’s been really good just to really see where our cash goes each week.

I made a trip to Fresh Thyme Market and just couldn’t pass up their ground beef price. We still have plenty in the freezer (we don’t eat all that much ground beef), but at $2.99/lb for grass fed ground beef I  just couldn’t pass it by! Since we’ve stayed under the budget for the most part, I decided this might just get us through summertime hamburger grilling. 🙂


Here’s what I bought:

  • 2.35lbs grass fed ground beef at $2.99/lb = $7.04
  • 2.80 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast at $1.77/lb = $4.95 (we didn’t need chicken anyways, but we are getting low on that and $1.77/lb is such a good price!)
  • 3 lbs onions $.99 (turns out we have plenty of onions in our fridge ~ will chop those up this weekend to freeze)
  • 1 lb carrots $.99
  • $.60 lbs cluster tomatoes at $.88/lb = $.49
  • 3 lb bag golden delicious apples $2.99
  • green leef lettuce $.88
  • iceberg lettuce $.99
  • navel oranges 5/$1
  • organic 5 lbs potatoes $2.50
  • 2.76 lb bananas $1.52
  • Total = $24.34


My husband also picked up two more gallons of milk at Kroger this week, so our total was $6 for milk. I’m really debating heading to Kroger for some of their crazy good deals, but we only need cereal so we’ll see!



And, for our big splurge 🙂 my husband and I met for lunch yesterday at Cucinova, and we completely should have split a pizza (they’re not a big pizza but would have been big enough to split) but were both starving so our eyes looked bigger than our stomachs. We both ended up eating exactly half and our kids ate the leftovers last night. We spent $16 on our lunch which wasn’t impressive at all but it’s been weeks since we’ve had time for lunch together so I’m good with that! Next time we’ll remember though that splitting one is more than enough for us. You win some, you lose some. 🙂


So here’s our totals since we started this month. Typing it out now I’m not all that happy with our splurges – but am being honest in how things have gone for us! We’re still definitely lower than we would normally be, so I’ll take that as a success?

  • Day 1, 2 & 3 = $5.17
  • Day 4 & 5 = $15
  • Day 6, 7, 8, and 9 = $67.89 (this included several meals out while I was out of town – we knew we would go over for those few days)
  • Days 10, 11 & 12 = $48.34 (including $30.34 in groceries)
  • Total = $136.40 for all groceries and several meals out


Are you joining us in our no spend challenge? Check out these posts to learn more if you’re interested, and I’d love to hear how you’re doing too!


Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Grocery Challenge: Days 6, 7, 8 & 9



We’ve survived the first nine days of our No Spend Grocery Challenge, and so far it hasn’t hurt all that badly! I flew in late last night from Alabama after scrapbooking with friends (well, for me digital scrapbooking), and we had just the best time.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.41.19 PM

The retreat center that we scrapbook at provides all the meals for the weekend, so other than a pretzel that I grabbed before my last flight home in Chicago last night I didn’t spend a penny. The food that Cindy makes is fantastic (seriously . . . so stinkin’ good), and just the time spent enjoying friends and not having to plan or prepare a meal for anything is the absolutely the nicest gift.


My husband was sweet enough to send me an update of how they did over the weekend on their own (I was so impressed!) We did budget for some meals out, so here’s how things added up for them:

  • 3 meals out $51.08 (used a $15 gift card at one restaurant)
  • Grocery $17.71


Their total for the weekend was $68, which wasn’t too bad considering we’d only spent $20 for the rest of the week. (And, he handled three kids and a puppy all by himself ~ that alone was worth more than a few pennies!) Since we started the challenge last Sunday our total spending is $88 which included restaurants and all of our groceries. Not too bad all things considered!



This morning I dumped my kids all time favorite meal in Mrs. Potts, and was thrilled to find this cream of chicken soup substitute when I looked in our pantry and saw we were down to just one can of cream of chicken soup. The kids said the chicken and dumplings were the best one I’ve ever made, so next time I’ll substitute both cans out. Not only will it be less expensive to make, it’ll be a (little) healthier too. 🙂


Are you joining us in our no spend challenge? Check out these posts to learn more if you’re interested, and I’d love to hear how you’re doing too!


Print Friendly and PDF

Menu Plan: Week Of 3/9/15 (No Spend Challenge Week 2)




Here’s this week’s menu plan and grocery shopping list! We are working on week two of our No Spend Grocery Challenge, and so far (I think?) things are right on track.


Having a menu plan in place makes saving on eating out oh-s0-much easier, so it’s definitely worth it to take a few minutes and plan the week out. We also usually have the option of breakfast for dinner or even pb&j sandwiches if the day didn’t go as planned, but just starting out with a plan seems to help us stay on track!

I’ll be making my menu plan and grocery list on the weekends and will share those over on my new Pinterest Menu Planning Board, and I would love for you to join me! You can also use this handy dandy free printable google doc for you to print if you’d like to follow our menu plan – hopefully it makes your life a little simpler this week (let me know if you like it!) If you’re new to Google Docs, here’s how to print your list:

  • Open the document HERE
  • Click “file” in the top left hand corner of the screen
  • Click “print” at the bottom of that menu and print your list


Here’s this week’s menu plan . . . 

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 7.12.20 AM

And here’s what items you’ll need to make these too if it’ll help get you started this week . . .
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • taco shells
  • taco seasoning packet (or make it from scratch if you prefer)
  • 16 oz macaroni
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • taco fixings – lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa, sour cream
  • frozen bread dough for pizza (can also make from scratch or use refrigerated pizza crust)
  • pizza sauce
  • mozzarella
  • additional toppings

Side Dish Extras

  • bag salad
  • canned, fresh or frozen veggies

Pantry Staples

  • milk
  • salt & pepper
  • flour
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • fresh garlic
  • fresh ginger for slow cooker chicken teriyaki – I may skip this ingredient
  • corn starch


Check out my recipes to try board on Pinterest, and see more penny-pinched recipe ideas.  This post is linked up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday where you can find lots more menu planning ideas! 



Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Challenge: Days 4 & 5


Good. ness.


This whole no spend challenge thing was for the birds today.


Yesterday we did great – the kids were on a two-hour delay from school, so before they headed out in the morning they helped me make Monkey Bread and Jello, and we managed to spend $0 throughout the day. 


(My hubby even took his lunch to work without any potato chips ~ serious sacrifice folks.)


I did grab these $14 Twinkle Toes for my daughter. (Although we’re only really counting groceries and food in our challenge, I’m still trying to pay attention to all of our spending.) The price is back up now, but they were too good a deal to miss!  We had ravioli and salad for dinner in between driving kids back and forth around town, and stuck to our budget completely ~ woohoo!


And then, I almost made it today. 🙂


This morning I flew out of Columbus to visit friends for the weekend and scrapbook, but was determined to stick to my No Spend Challenge as much as I could. When James and I went to Utah a few weeks ago I was reminded of just how ridiculously priced airport food was, so I purposely packed snacks to take with me not wanting to shell out $10 for a bagel.


My flight through Charlotte was fine (I was shocked with the crazy weather going on everywhere!), but once I was in Charlotte we sat, and sat, and sat. I stayed away though from the temptation of Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s and Einstein Brothers as I walked through the airport, and enjoyed my Nature Valley Bar and Smart Pop. 🙂


However, I didn’t expect the flight to be delayed until 4 PM, so by the time the plane finally took off I was starving.  My friend Shannon and I were planning to meet for dinner though, so I figured I could hold out a little longer. 

When we flew over Huntsville though, the ground was covered in snow (I thought), but the roads were actually covered in ice so there was no way we could get together. I headed out of the airport looking for something to eat, and saw those lovely golden arches just beckoning me.


So I pulled in, decided I could survive even McDonald’s, and after waiting at the drive thru for at least eight minutes realized they were closed. Along with every single other restaurant I could see – so I was completely stuck ~ and famished!


Thank heavens there was a Subway a little ways further down the road with lights on, and sure enough they were open. I ran in, grabbed my Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich (I love those things!), and came to the hotel to catch up on blogging before enjoying most of the weekend off.


So, there you have it. I talked to my hubby tonight and he baked a frozen pizza for dinner, then splurged and took our kids to Dairy Queen as a treat. I think the total damage for the day was around $15 – not too awful all things considered? I’d love to hear if you’re joining us how things are looking in your family – it really is possible to save (and so worth it when you consider what you really want rather than what you want right now.) 


Interested in joining us in our No Spend Challenge? Here’s how we’re starting . . .

Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Challenge Day 3: $0 Spent Today

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.48.29 PM


The weather here in Ohio was just plain old nasty out, so I’m so glad we didn’t have to head out for anything today! 


Reagan and I started out the morning making Homemade Maracroni Grill Rosemary bread,

and brining a pork roast that had been in our freezer since the fall.


While we were cooking she asked when we could fill her jar for missionaries, so we added $10 from the money we’d saved last night by drinking water (she was so excited!)

While the kids were at school our bread machine got the dough ready (see more on why I love that here), and as soon as Caroline got home she was ready to get the dough ready to bake. (I noticed this great deal on a similar bread machine to the one I’ve had for fifteen years – if you’re considering purchasing one, this is a great price!)

Of course, my sweet Caroline being oh-so-sweet-Caroline, decided that we needed to go all out and bake up some brownies for dessert too.


Since we had a bunch of cake mixes in the pantry, Caroline found this recipe and they turned out so well! So, our total spent for the day was $0.  I’m guessing our dinner tonight cost around $8 including pork roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, salads, bread, and applesauce ~ not too shabby!


Interested in joining us in our No Spend Challenge? Here’s how we’re starting . . .

Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Grocery Challenge Update Days 1 & 2: Spent $5.17 (Almost?)

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.48.29 PM

This post is a little L-O-N-G – grab a cup of tea and hang in there if you’re up for it! 😉



We’ve survived two days into our No Spend Grocery Challenge, and while we started off on a roll we kind of messed it up just two days in. 


(Keep reading.) 🙂


We woke up yesterday to lots more snow – and it snowed most of the day. While we normally eat out on Sundays after church (which we planned for during the challenge!), we ended up staying home and listening to church via podcast, and skipped heading out to lunch.


While searching for a podcast to listen to during our make-shift-church-at-home lesson, 🙂 our kids shared this video they’d recently seen. My youngest has a jar to raise money for the project, in and was trying to figure out how to earn money to add to it. We decided as a family to donate the money that we’re saving by drinking water at restaurants while eating out the next few weeks, and she was pretty excited. It’s amazing how quickly those $2 drinks can add up, so we’ll see how she does!

I found the best price on bacon last week at Costco ~ 4 pounds for just $2.50! The food’s not all that pretty, but you get the idea 😉

My 14-year-old (who loves to cook), decided we should make a big brunch at home, so we ended up making eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy ~ my bunch all love breakfast, so everyone was pretty pleased. (And I was thrilled because I’d frozen leftover gravy at Christmas and wasn’t sure if it would re-heat well or not ~ it turned out perfectly!)


While we were cooking Jackson and I had a long discussion about finances. As he’s getting older I’m not always sure that he “gets” money as much as I’d like (and goodness, we only have a few more years to teach it!) He asked how much we probably spent on brunch at home (I guesstimated $7), and then we talked about how a single meal out last week for our family had been a whopping $60. S.I.X.T.Y. D.O.L.L.A.R.S. 


The sad part? Even he agreed that the food we had out at that restaurant wasn’t even that good, and we spent more than six times what we spent eating in our own kitchen.





For dinner I roasted the chicken that I’d gotten last week at Fresh Thyme, and used half the meat for nachos and the other half to freeze for soup.

I did grab a bottle of Pantene and Herbal Essences on Amazon for $1.37 each (they were a great deal, and I wasn’t sure if we had enough shampoo in our stockpile to make it the whole month!), so $2.74 was our total spent Sunday. Success!


And, for the rest of the story, here’s day two. 😉

We started out pretty well, until I called my husband and he decided he “couldn’t pack a lunch” because their were no chips in the pantry. (This has been a nineteen-year-debate at our house – he’s convinced that a packed lunch doesn’t count without potato chips . . .  I’m convinced that pretzels and fresh fruit are a much healthier alternative so I rarely buy chips.)  I guess I’ve got to go buy a bag of chips because in 19 years I haven’t yet won this battle (ugh!), but he did spend just $3.17 on lunch at Wendy’s trying to help stick to our no spend goal. 😉

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 6.21.09 PM

I was thinking we were oh-so-ahead-of-the-game even after his (tiny!) splurge, until he texted that we were heading out to eat for dinner because of a success he’d had at work today. (We’ve had a standing rule for years – whenever either of us have success in our businesses, we treat the family to dinner that night!) We headed to Max & Erma’s, used a $5 off coupon, and all stuck to water (um, one of my kiddos was not too pleased about that!)  It’s always so nice though to enjoy a success with a bit of a splurge, and I think our total spent was around $35 + tip. (Just amazing the difference drinking water makes!)


Here’s the biggest thing about this challenge for our family. We’ve penny pinched for years to get to a place of financial freedom, and whether or not we stick perfectly to our goals this month isn’t really the point of the challenge for our family. But just like anyone else, we so often look at our food budget and wonder four days in to our two week budgeting system where our money has gotten to. So this is our way to really see where exactly where we’re at, and decide where we want to go.


I want to help our children learn to be good stewards ~ whether in plenty or in want.


And honestly? I want to be a good steward of all that we’ve been given. 


Even just two days in our family has had conversations we wouldn’t normally have, and we added $8 to my daughter’s donation bin tonight by drinking water. While I definitely started this out a little anxious about whether or not it would be worth it, I’m convinced that it’s worth it for the lessons we’re already learning, and am curious about what other conversations will come up over the next few weeks!


If you’re joining us I’d love to hear how you’re doing too (remember it’s not too late to start!) 



Print Friendly and PDF

No Spend Challenge: Get Ahead On Lunchbox Duty


This is a re-post from a few years ago, but one of my favorite tips to make lunch-box-making at home go a little more smoothly, especially while we’re working on our No Spend Grocery Challenge this month!  At this point my kids each school lunch a few days a week just to make life easier, but I feel like the meals we make at home are so much healthier and less expensive than what they get there. Take a minute to read the comments on the original post HERE if you have a minute – so many great tips!


I have a confession to make.  I have been horrible this year at keeping up with my kids lunches, and every morning live in chaos before racing my kids to the bus because I just don’t have it together!  Soooo. . .  I thought I’d remind you all (and myself!) of how to get ahead on lunchbox duty.  (I’m determined to get my fridge back in lunchbox shape over the weekend!)

Found these super cute Lunchbox kits on Amazon ~ I’m thinking they’d be perfect for our sandwiches that are pre-wrapped each day!


When I saw this post last year from Money Saving Mom, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to make at least a week’s worth of PB&J’s instead of pulling out all the lunch supplies each day.  (Duh???) You might even try making sandwiches ahead for the entire month and freezing them, but we start by preparing a week’s worth of lunches each Sunday afternoon  . . .


Note the “C” for Caroline – she likes only peanut butter, Jackson can’t survive without jelly 🙂

I’m not quite up for those homemade Uncrustables (thankfully my kiddos enjoy their crust . . . however I do applaud you mommas who de-crust your children’s sandwiches!)  Just taking a few minutes though to prepare our lunch supplies makes such a difference in our mornings, so I’m determined to get my act together again.  When I’m completely on top of things, here’s what our lunch stash looks like in the fridge . . .



The drawer below this one holds the fruit stash:  fresh apples and strawberries. I could definitely use some tips though on how to  pack fruit like strawberries or grapes ahead of time so that they don’t get soggy, because I have a very picky eater who keeps complaining about soggy grapes. If you have any ideas on keeping fruit fresh for lunches, I’d love to hear them!


I also try to keep items wrapped up for snacks – popped popcorn and wrapped homemade brownies make great inexpensive treats, as well as a few pre-packaged items found on sale . . .


My goal is to pack their lunches as soon as those lunch boxes are unpacked after school each day, which only takes a minutes when I have my supplies in order.  My kids can even pack their own lunches when I take the time to catch up, so this one is definitely on my to-do list for the weekend. . . I’m so ready for more peaceful mornings around here!


Do you have any great tips on handling lunch box duty (and suggestions besides PB&J for your children’s lunch box meal?)  I’d love to hear them, so take a minute and leave a comment to share!  


Looking for some super cute lunch box ideas?  Check these out . . .

These are all way fancier than I’m up for . . . we’re just sticking with the basics here.  But aren’t they so stinkin’ cute???

Print Friendly and PDF

Menu Plan & Printable Grocery List (+ Our No Spend Grocery Challenge For March!)



Link to this week’s free menu plan and grocery list 

Here’s this week’s menu plan and grocery shopping listMy husband and I have been discussing our family budget over the last few weeks, and are going to try to do a “No-Spend Grocery Challenge” through the month of March leading up to Spring Break. I just purchased a new kitchen table and chairs (so excited for them to get here – I scored a great deal!), and while we’re waiting for that to be delivered we thought it would be fun to see just how much we could shave off our weekly grocery expenses by eating from the pantry.


So, what does that look like for us? We’ll still have budgeted money for specific items – we’re just really trying to keep things simple by saving on groceries and eating out. Here’s what we’re planning:

  • 2 meals out per week as a family. We usually choose “high end” fast food places (i.e. Chipotle) ~ sit down meals for our family of five are just so expensive, and we rarely have time for them! I have a few restaurant gift cards because I was taking advantage of 4x fuel perks at Kroger this week, so we’ll use those first.
  • Only water while eating out. (This will be tough – we sometimes enjoy sodas at restaurants but they’re such a budget buster!)
  • Possibly one lunch date out for my husband and I on the weeks we can meet, limited to very inexpensive restaurants. We enjoy the chance to get together without kids so much when we can – but for a few weeks can survive with the dollar menu (I think!)  Getting the chance to catch up with one another is what we love about our lunch dates, and we can do that as easily over baked potatoes at Wendy’s (honestly though, this one will be tough for us!)
  • Spend $50 or less at the grocery store through March 27th. I *think* we should be able to spend much less (between $20 and $30?), but know that milk and fresh produce alone can quickly get spent, so wanted to be realistic in my goals.

(Note: the only exception may be next weekend ~ I’ll be out of town scrapbooking with friends, and since my husband’s in charge of feeding our bunch, I’m betting he’ll tweak things a bit!) 🙂

I’ll update you all throughout the week with how things are going – I’m hoping we’ll be able to stick to this, but we haven’t really tried this before so we’ll see! 

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 10.08.34 AM



Curious what that means for our menu plan? Well, our fridge and freezer are pretty well stocked, so I think we should be able to fairly easily use up what we have. I just did a quick inventory of our freezer, and here’s where things stand:

  • 10 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (I have issues, when I see a good price on chicken I can’t stand not to stock up!)
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 lbs ground beef
  • 1 pork loin
  • 1 beef roast
  • 4 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs salmon (have been waiting for grilling season – but may try to bake it in the oven and see how it goes!)
  • 2 steaks
  • 4 frozen bread loaves
  • several bags frozen veggies

I don’t have much (any?) cheese in our freezer, so I’m sure some of our weekly budget will go there. So, here’s what we’re planning for our first week . . .

*Note – for easy roasted potatoes I quarter roasted potatoes and put in square pyrex, sprinkle with Lawry’s seasoning salt, and spray with a little Pam cooking spray (could substitute with olive oil easily I think), then bake at 350 for 40 minutes.


And here’s what items you’ll need to make these too if it’ll help get you started this week . . .
  • 2 1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast
  • 1 package ravioli
  • 28 oz jar spaghetti sauce
  • 8 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 16 oz can black beans
  • 16 oz can kidney beans
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 10 oz frozen corn
  • 2 14.5 oz cans rotel
  • onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • frozen pizza

Side Dish Extras

  • bag salad
  • red potatoes
  • cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips (for topping chili)

Pantry Staples

  • Italian seasoning
  • salt
  • pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • vegetable oil
  • dijon mustard
  • maple syrup
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • fresh ginger for pork loin (I’ll probably omit this since I don’t have any)
  • chili powder

I created this handy dandy free printable google doc for you to print if you’d like to follow our menu plan – hopefully it makes your life a little simpler this week (let me know if you like it!) If you’re new to Google Docs, here’s how to print your list:

  • Open the document HERE
  • Click “file” in the top left hand corner of the screen
  • Click “print” at the bottom of that menu and print your list
Do you have anything yummy on your menu plan this week?  I’d love to hear what you’re having, and if you have any great recipe ideas please leave a comment to share, and join my Pinterest Menu Planning Board to for more ideas!



Check out my recipes to try board on Pinterest, and see more penny-pinched recipe ideas.  This post is linked up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday where you can find lots more menu planning ideas! 





Print Friendly and PDF