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Week 3 Spending Report


Week 3 was our big NO SPEND WEEK for groceries and I’m super pumped to say WE DID IT!

In my Week 2 post I said I’d allow myself $10-15 to get some fresh produce if needed and I’m proud to say I was able to grab some sale fruits/veggies for only $10.18! That leaves us $98 for our last week of groceries. Plus, we still have a freezer full of Dream Dinners meals and plenty in our pantry. This is totally do-able.

Meal Planning

Not like its a big secret, but the reason we were able to stick to our No Spend Week is that we planned all of our meals around foods we already had on-hand.

For example, I found this old can of Cream of Celery Soup in the pantry and noticed the recipe on the back – containing all ingredients we already had! Bingo! This was dinner one night:

I will say it wasn’t the kids’ favorite, but everyone got fed and we went on to live another day. I swear, part of this process is retraining my BRAIN with how I think about FOOD. Like, I love food. It is so good. But I have to remind myself that food is FUEL. Not every meal needs to be this gourmet experience. Not every meal needs to tickle the taste buds and excite the senses, you know? This is good practice because I really want to start a diet and exercise program soon. Remember how hubs’ is a certified personal trainer? I’ve been bugging him to put together an at-home workout program for me – at least 4-6 weeks. If/when this happens, I’ll be sharing the deets on the blog so it’ll be like free personal training for YOU, too! 🙂

Avoiding Budget Busters

There was one thing I was worried would blow our “No Spend Week” this past week. There was a “Camping Under The Stars” town event that we had signed up for months ago. Hubs and I used to be avid campers. We really scaled it back since having kids, but we usually take them once in Fall to camp on our nearby mountain and every spring we look forward to this specific town camping event. But typically, our camping trips include TONS of money for planning and prep and FOOD. We already own all the camping supplies (tents, sleeping bags, grill, lanterns, etc.), but we stock up on snacks and carefully plan out meals, etc. Then go to the grocery store and stock all up. I swear, it can be $100 just for 2 days worth of food! (Note – we were only camping on Saturday night, so we only needed food for Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast plus camping snacks).

I knew I wanted to avoid all the over-spending this time around so I took my own advice and shopped our fridge/freezer to see what I could do differently. Instead of hot dogs or hamburgers (which would’ve requiring the purchasing of food since we don’t have hot dogs and we don’t have any buns, etc.), I decided on a recipe I found online for bacon and chicken-wrapped asparagus!

picture source

We already had some week-old asparagus that really NEEDED to be eaten. We already had week+ old bacon that NEEDED to be eaten. And we already had chicken breasts in the freezer that just needed to be thawed out. Bam!

Before leaving for the camping trip, I prepped all the chicken/bacon/asparagus food and put into foil packets so they would be easy to cook on the grill. With the chicken cut into thin strips, they didn’t take long to cook and although the asparagus ended up a little over-done in my case, they weren’t inedible or anything. It all worked out well and tasted GREAT! Way better than a boring old hot dog!

I did buy a bag of jet-puffed marshmallows (which happened to be on clearance for only 98 cents!! Great deal!) – that was part of the $10 I spent. But, instead of doing full s’mores (which also would’ve required graham crackers and chocolate bars), we stuck to just marshmallows. It’s everyone’s favorite part anyway. Typically, I’m the only one who even really eats the s’mores. Hubs and the girls just like the roasted marshmallows solo.

We also took snack-foods we already had in our pantry. Some granola bars, a bag of chips to share, and box of cheddar bunnies.

For breakfast, I decided to do something I’d already had in my freezer – breakfast burritos!! I don’t make breakfast burritos often, but when I do I always make extra to freeze. Typically, the plan is to pull them out and microwave for a couple minutes on busy school mornings. But I thought this was a great opportunity to eat them up – they were in a frozen state but would have all Saturday to thaw out in our ice chest, and then we’d just throw them on the grill (also in foil) to warm through on Sunday morning. It worked like a charm and the whole family gobbled them down! Best part was they required zero prep and zero dollars!

Week 4 Ahead

Heading into Week 4 with $98 remaining of our grocery budget I feel hopeful and excited. I’m going out of town a couple days this week for a conference up in Phoenix (all meals are included and the conference and hotel costs were paid by my department so $0 out-of-pocket for me aside from gasoline to drive there). Often, when I’m traveling hubs’ ends up eating out with the girls. He’s a great griller (which is awesome when we’re in grill-season like now), but he’s not the best kitchen cook. BUT, I’ve found that Dream Dinners really helps with that because he can quickly and easily throw something in the oven or on the stove top when it’s simple and requires no prep or fancy kitchen techniques, gadgets, etc. I’ll have him pick a couple of his favorite Dream Dinners from the freezer before I leave so he has them in the fridge ready-to-go. Speaking of Dream Dinners – I did not sign up for the month of May so that I could try to save that money. But I’m a little nervous because I’ve found that we’ve become somewhat reliant on them. They’re just so easy and require zero thought whatsoever. So I’m considering doing an at-home version myself. Like a month of freezer meals one Sunday or something? I know I could do it for cheaper than at Dream Dinners.

Anyone have good tips or recommendations for making a month of freezer meals? Any great websites, freezer-friendly recipes, etc?



  • Reply Shanna |

    Good for you! That kind of creativity and planning can save you a LOT while you are paying off the new credit card debt.

  • Reply Theresa |

    Go you! You are right sometimes it is just a Tuesday and you have to check the dinner box. It might not be gourmet and it might not be memorable but at the end you are full. I haven’t really tried too many freezer meals but I like to have the frozen fish and chicken strips from Costco on hand to prepare- protein, frozen vegetable and some fruit. you are done. I also have premade the sloppy joes or ground beef taco meat the night before a busy day or on a Sunday afternoon. There are a couple stir fry recipes I like and I chop all the vegetables the night before and premix the sauce. that helps a lot. Or what about breakfast for dinner? pancakes can be fun for dinner breakfast sausage reheats well. I have also found that keeping a list of our favorite recipes organized by protein helps me meal plan. It helps remind me of something that we haven’t had in awhile. Keep working at it.

  • Reply Deeanna |

    Check out Once a Month Meals website. You can get a free meal plan which has everything or follow them or subscribe to their email list. Then you just have to put this together.

    We just did 14 meals last Saturday for the freezer. That’s enough to feed our family with leftovers and we spent under $120 at Aldi. I’m following the Keto diet so this was a bit more expensive that if truly did budget friendly meals. But I’ve never felt better. So, it’s trade off.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    Onceamonthmeals..com does freezer cooking meals and has a variety of different kinds of menus. You did great this week. I challenge you to try and go a step further and see if you can make $22 dollars to add to your budget. Look around and see if you can find $2 to add to the $98 you already have for debt and $20 to use for food this week. Finish the month strong! 🙂

  • Reply Katie |

    Good for you! I think cooking creatively comes with practice, practice, practice. I remember being amazed when my mom came to help me after I had my daughter unexpectedly early. She just looked in the fridge, saw what I had, and whipped up a dinner. It’s been 10+ years since then, and now I can pull that off. Shopping at Costco got me used to just buying staples, and figuring out what to do with them.

  • Reply Sarah |

    Not to encourage Dream Dinners but do you know someone else who also orders from them? You can split your order so you aren’t responsible for all 36 servings. A friend and I do that sometimes. Or, more like I piggy back on her orders since I might not want 36 or 18 orders.

  • Reply debtor |

    just wow. what a difference planning makes. I need to take this energy and transfer it to my own weight loss goal. Losing weight and paying off debt are so closely related. Good job! I think your commnet of food as fuel is spot on!

    we are just so programmed to think that everything needs to be an Experience otherwise we are doing something wrong. Good reminder that it’s not always the case.

  • Reply Den |

    Great job! Sounds like you are getting back to the basics!

    It’s simple, but when I plan a weekly menu we stay within our budget….when I don’t plan a menu, we always go over budget!

  • Reply Jazz |

    Great job Ashley! We tried to keep our grocery budget under $250 this month and have $7 left with a meal plan in place through Saturday.

    I found a once-a-month cookbook on Amazon that really helped us get food into the freezer and minimize takeout/eating out. It lays out the ingredients, prep order, and instructions very clearly. I also have a large collection of crockpot meals that I’ll prep and freeze when our 40 lbs. of chicken comes in. While spending an entire Saturday or Sunday in the kitchen isn’t ideal, it’s worth it to not have to stress about food for a few weeks.

  • Reply Jennifer |

    I have never done freezer meals. This week finds us eating….chicken grilled on Sunday!
    Monday- chicken and baked potatoes
    Tuesday- chicken in a salad, bread
    Wednesday (sick of chicken day)- pork that is thrown in the oven for 30 minutes, roasted sweet potatoes, stuffing and pears
    Thursday-chicken, rice, broccoli
    Friday- chicken sandwich, fruit salad, chips
    We are creative on weekends and try new recipes
    The chicken thing works. The variety is in the side dishes. Give it a try 🙂

  • Reply Kacy |

    Another vote for once a month meals! We cook one day a month and do mainly crockpot meals. We can customize the meal plans for what foods we like or what’s on sale the day we’re going shopping. We make 15 meals x 2 for a total of 30 meals a month. There’s always leftovers for the next day’s lunch. We plan the meals to be less than $250 a month for those groceries. Then another $50 for fresh veggies and snacks.

So, what do you think ?