A Month to Recalibrate Our Food Spending

by Katy on September 5, 2023 · 30 comments

August was a discombobulated month. Due both to our two week trip to the East coast, but also thanks to that damned Covid! Our trip was both more and less expensive than we’d planned, but mostly it was a bit of a bummer. Yes, it was great to spend extra time visiting with my sister, but I kinda wish we weren’t responsible for her first case of Covid.

We splurged on takeout, groceries and restaurant meals and picked up the tab whenever possible, which had been our plan all along. I don’t need to run the numbers to know that it wasn’t a sustainable amount.

September is a fresh start. I’m still post-Covid, which means I lose steam easily and have to pace myself. However I still have goals and am setting September to be a month to recalibrate our food spending.

My main goal is to mostly cook from scratch and see if I can reign the grocery budget back in. Food prices are all over the place, but I have almost endless tricks up my sleeve. Simple meals, buying in season, using what we already have — you know . . . the basics! Doesn’t mean we’ll be slopping our plates with unseasoned gruel, as cheap food can be amazingly delicious. I made that blackberry Dutch baby pancake using free almost expired milk from my daughter’s schwanky grocery store and a handful of foraged blackberries. Hardly a sacrifice.

I considered setting a monetary goal for the month, but instead I’m going to just track our food spending with an eye to keeping it as low as possible. I’ll keep you posted.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

kathy September 5, 2023 at 3:34 pm

Entering September coming off a 5 day marvelous trip to Maine.
1. We planned our meals so we used up everything perishable before leaving.
2. However, like you we “ate” out a lot on our visit and picked up most of the tab. However, we could never had a trip like this otherwise We did use air miles and rented a car.
3. I’m off again Friday-Sunday. I’ve shopped and will have entrees in the freezer and other items in the pantry /refrig for hubby.
4. Switched from boneless chix breasts to boneless thighs. Big savings and not as dry to.
5. We’ve reduced portion sizes and we are loosing weight


Jann from Maine September 5, 2023 at 3:43 pm

Glad you enjoyed Maine! We are lucky to live here! Vacations are budget busters but that is why we cut corners in other areas.


Kathy September 6, 2023 at 3:37 am

Maine was so beautiful. We’re lucky friends extended an invitation join them. We used air miles which helped.


Edie September 5, 2023 at 5:06 pm

I am so glad you in the post COVID phase.
I am with you- I am in the process of eating out my pantry and garden – not a sacrifice at all, to be honest! I have a garden full of tomatoes, greens, cucumbers and herbs, and have eggs from neighbors PLUS a lot of rice, quinoa and beans, so eating will be both hearty and healthy this month.


Mary Ann September 5, 2023 at 5:13 pm

Last Month’s “low buy” August was a huge success. I am going to repeat it for September not counting the $1,000,000 trip to Michigan (hyperbole – kind of) which I just got back from and which was a smashing success. So I am really starting today and counting it as a month because, as I tell my students, I am the point master of all games, grades and assignments and can make up any rule I want to make up. 🙂

1. About two years ago I read How Not to Diet by Dr. Greger and it change my life. His breakfast is a BROL bowl. Barley, Rye, Oat groats, and Lentils. I purchased the ingredients in bulk and still have enough to last till the Zombie apocalypse. In August I was determined to use it up. I added sorghum ( which my husband grows.) I store the dried grains in a big, old pharmacy glass container mixed up except for lentils. I put 2 cups of grain, six cups of water and some salt in my instapot for about 35 mins. Then the lentils go in for about 5. Now I have a huge amount of food. In August I went sweet. I took 20 little tupperware containers added the grains, fruit spread ( non UPF), walnuts from hubby, a little vanilla, and ate it for lunches. I still have about a quart left of plain that I froze. This month I am going savory. I defrosted it, put it into single serving containers and will use it as a starch. Tonite I piled three fried eggs on top of it. Yum. Healthy and it costs a total of about .50 cents. It is not exciting, artistic or diverse. But it is key to my weight goals, budget goals, and health goals.

2. I am midway through my healthy food challenge – five ingredients ( or so) and only ingredients I would have in my own kitchen. Hmmmmm! Chocolate is a challenge not just to find but to afford. No lecithin means small batch. Then – a miracle: at Grocery Outlet 2.6 ounces of Theo Gingerspice milk chocolate. Normally $5.00 a bar. Now .99. I bought 28. a third of a bar a day and I am into the holidays when I love pumpkin stuff. Ingredients: cocoa beans, cocoa butter, cane sugar, whole milk, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg. Delicious.

3.I mended the lining of my everyday purse which I love.

4. I have a new ( used) flashy water bottle from a niece and a new ( free) coffee thermos DH got for buying a bazillion dollar tractor. The thermos travelled all over Michigan and the 26 hydroflask is refilled twice a day at the only cold water fountain on campus which is of course in the admin building. Students beg to go fill it up for me. It has become and honor I bestow 🙂

5. I have set a retirement date after 35 years of teaching. Jan. 1 2025. I am going to start saving for a trip to Antartica as a present for myself. It almost sounds like saving up for a lear jet but then 35 year of teaching probably deserves a learjet. 🙂


Jennifer September 5, 2023 at 5:20 pm

Traveling can throw everything off. We were gone 2.5 weeks in July and I feel like I am still getting back into the swing of things (got back early August). Now that we are back in school, with new paycheck amounts and new budget amounts for other things, and new goals we are reworking it all. And looking to spend as little as possible in order to save more. I can’t wait to hear your grocery totals. We don’t really have discount anything where I live so shopping the sales is the way to go for me. And sales are finally starting to come back after a long hiatus after covid supply chain and price increase issues.

I hope you can truly kick your covid very soon.


Katy September 5, 2023 at 8:43 pm

Thank you, it’s easier said than do to do as little as possible.


Coral Clarke September 6, 2023 at 1:43 am

My all time favourite, high quality, goldy/bronze, real leather, bigger inside than out side, goes with anything bag has one strap about to give up! Bought it second hand , more than 20 years ago, for a couple of dollars, Similar size, not as nice, same brand $200AUD plus! Biting the bullet, getting it fixed, $22 for ONE strap repair! My lovely cobbler closed his doors last Christmas, and all that is available now is mall shoe and key kiosk! Hope he does a good job of it, not feeling a great deal of faith in him , to be honest! We are slowly loosing niche craftsmen, a society that throws things out instead of fixing them has no place for them any more! Will have to wait until the weekend for the return of my bag!!


Heidi Louise September 6, 2023 at 8:01 am

I agree with you about losing small crafts-repair-niche people, some I’m sure due to aging workers, and some that it isn’t profitable without charging more than people wish to pay. Our town has seen the retirement of the fabric and sewing store people, (including sewing machine repair and tune-up as well as lots of practical sewing advice from the friendly couple); the shoe repair store, (notoriously grumpy but good work); and just now the single jewelry store, (watch repair and battery replacement, ring-resizing, sales); and soon the old-fashioned barber my husband likes.
I hope your bag is returned just as you want it to be!


K D September 6, 2023 at 2:42 am

I hope your energy level increases every day Katy.

We had some very expensive Costco trips in July and August. That led to very full refrigerators, freezers, and pantry goods. I have been focused on using up what we have the past several weeks and the grocery bills have been low, mostly produce and chicken. It feels good to not spend so much.

While hurricanes do not normally hit our area we have had power outages from tropical storms (hurricane remnants) in the past and that is another reason to not overstock perishable food.

I look forward to your food spending report(s).


Q September 6, 2023 at 4:53 am

Katy, I hope you feel better soon.
This list is really for a couple of weeks, as I have been visiting family, etc.

1. While on vacation, a seam of my backpack ripped out. My travel companions said time for a new one, but I was able to buy heavy duty thread and a needle and repair it very quickly. Also on vacation, we bought our souvenir t-shirts at the St. Vincent’s thrift shop for $1. I got a tie dyed Alaskan league hockey t shirt for my souvenir. We cooked meals at home, and were able to borrow a car to get around, saving the cost of car rental. (We treated our hosts to groceries, drinks, meals out, etc.)
2. I snagged a table (that just needs a scrubbing), some beautiful slate tiles (same), and a sculpture on Facebook Marketplace. My yard is looking great, and lugging the slate, etc, is counting as exercise.
3. I finally completed and submitted the paperwork for a $500 rebate for purchasing and planting $500 native plants. The plants are doing very well. Double savings, as native plantings thrive with less water and maintenance required.
4. I returned a large tote bag of library books and checked out a pile of new ones. I bought 2 cases of #2 (seconds) cooking tomatoes, and have been enjoying them for eating as well as for cooking. They are so delicious, and are my treat to myself, as it is very difficult to grow tomatoes with the wildlife in my backyard.
5. I have saved money on gas as my car keys have gone missing somewhere in my house. Inspiration to do a deep dive cleaning today. That is good, because I need keys but also am hosting old friends who will be visiting this weekend.

Katy, I am with you on the food budgeting, as well as all around budgeting. I had set September as my goal to organizing my finances as I begin my second year of retirement.


Heidi Louise September 6, 2023 at 8:04 am

The native plant rebate is quite forward-thinking of someone! Is it a state program?


Christine September 6, 2023 at 2:44 pm

I love how you bought your souvenirs at St. Vincent’s thrift shop. I did the same while visiting Minnesota in 2018. I came home from the Salvation Army thrift store in Minneapolis with a blaze orange vest to wear while walking wooded trails back here at home. All for .99 and I still use it every year during deer hunting seadon.


Christine September 6, 2023 at 2:44 pm



Vickey September 16, 2023 at 5:26 am

I’d love to hear more about the native plants rebate! Enquiring minds wanna know.
Our son gave us Air Tags for Christmas, and now we each have one on our keys. It’s been a huge help, “calling” our keys when they go on walkabout around the house. 🙂


Bee September 6, 2023 at 5:03 am

I’m glad that you have begun to feel better. Post-covid exhaustion is difficult. I was not interested in food for months and am glad to hear that you are.
I also had a discombobulated month.(I love that word!) The month of August began with a week-long trip to visit family and ended with hurricane preparations. There was also a great deal of activity and chaos in between. As a result, I had a abnormal amount of food waste this month. This is something I usually pride myself in avoiding. I also ate rather poorly, and thus endured a rather uncomfortable doctor’s visit as we reviewed my blood work at month’s end.

I also wish to retrench in September. I have set 3 goals:
1. Eat down the freezer – I usually try to have this done by August as we enter the height of Hurricane Season. It also gives me a nice empty freezer as we enter the holidays. Better late than never.
2. Reduce food waste – this involves better planning and a more mindful approach to food prep.
3. Eat a diet that is richer in vegetables and lean protein.

Gods luck with your goals!!


Bee September 6, 2023 at 6:35 am

That is supposed to read: Good luck with your goals.
At least the spelling correction was not profane!


A. Marie September 6, 2023 at 7:27 am

Actually, Bee, I like “Gods luck.” Perhaps it could become a noun on its own–“Godsluck,” similar to “Godspeed,” etc.


Bee September 6, 2023 at 10:57 am

Yes, I do believe you are right. Godsluck does sound like a special blessing,


A. Marie September 6, 2023 at 5:35 am

I’m always up for a “spend less” food challenge. Me, I’d just like to try to eat less this month. I’ve noticed that I’ve had some uncomfortable bloating after eating a couple of hearty meals lately. I’ve also got my 6-month checkup/Medicare wellness exam coming up in October, and it would be nice to shorten my PCP’s usual lecture about my weight, lipids, BP, and glucose levels. (I’ve started referring to these as “the Four Horsemen of the Overfed American Apocalypse.”)


Selena September 7, 2023 at 7:22 pm

And even if you got the Four Horsemen under control, PCPs would find something else to kvetch about.


Ruby September 6, 2023 at 8:09 am

Katy, you are the master of delicious, cheap soups, so let the soup pot help you out when your energy is low. It takes a while to get back up to speed after Covid.

We did replace our vintage, rusting to bits little chest freezer with a small upright, so now I can see and get to what’s in it and have been using things up. Our grocery totals have dropped by about 30%.

The delivery guy took our old freezer home with him, as it was still running, although the steel frame was rotten with rust. I was glad the little workhorse got a new home.


Madeline September 6, 2023 at 3:44 pm

Pretty much EVERYONE I mean everyone I know who has traveled has gotten covid this summer..and a lot of people who have stayed home , too.. so don’t be too hard on yourself about your sis. My July 1 case of covid took about a month to get over the fatigue.Feeling better now.

Eating frugally tastes pretty good.,people think you “suffer..” .hah! I love a pot of chili and cornbread, a costco chicken that makes 4-5 meals for me and my hubby, beans and rice with homemade pico de gallo, lentil stew with potatoes, homemade bread. I know you’ll be back on track promptly.


Ashley Bananas September 6, 2023 at 3:49 pm

3 of my neighbors have covid right now….trying to avoid it like the plague!!! literally!


Hawaii Planner September 8, 2023 at 6:32 am

I’m getting over COVID myself, and food has been such a problem. I usually eat really pretty healthy, but all of my normal things don’t taste right. I ate a ton of ice cream when I was sick (it felt so good on my throat, and I could actually taste the richness), and ate a bunch of popcorn (the salt & the crunch). I’m back to my normal eating habits, but salad is my normal staple & lettuce tastes super bitter to me. I’ve tried four different types (we get free lunch at work) & have checked with coworkers, and it’s just me getting the bitter taste from lettuce. That is not good! I feel bad, as I’ve been wasting food, and not eating my normal healthy array.

We are okay with grocery spending at the moment, but we never do takeout & did quite a lot when I was sick. Both for me (I was quarantined in one room, to avoid my husband/the kids getting it), so I could just go to the door & pick up Panera soup or whatever & later, when I wasn’t contagious but tired & my husband was out of town…I ordered takeout. Anyway, we need to get back into the groove. Unfortunately, I leave for an international work trip on Sunday, so my recovery window is very limited!


Katy September 10, 2023 at 10:51 am

Yeah, food still tastes weird for me as well.


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