Posted by: mahlbrandt | July 22, 2008

Using Cash for Food

I think everyone should go through a period (either by choice or not) of buying food on a very tight cash budget. It will really open your eyes and help you to establish your priorities. It will humble you and it will make you very conscious of what you up in your mouth.

Let me start-off by saying Jason and I are not starving …or, at least not against our will. We made a couple of slip-ups financially in the past couple of years. Nothing major but to get back on track and to stick to our beloved Dave Ramsey’s plan of using cash and getting out of debt as fast as possible, we have tightened up our budget A LOT. As part of this process, we are sticking to a very tight cash budget for food (going out and groceries.) It’s a challenge that we are not afraid of. It definitely sucks at times but it will be worth it in a few months.

When you only have $20 or $30 to spend on food in a week, you have to choose wisely. There is breakfast. I bought a box of generic raisin bran cereal last week and I’ve been eating dry cereal for breakfast everyday for the past week and half. Then there is lunch, which is usually at work. That means Ramen, Chef Boyardee and Michaelina’s (all costing $1 or less.) The “snack shop” in the kitchen at work sells Cup-a-noodles and microwave ChefB for only $0.50. Dinner is tricky. We can make inexpensive things like speghetti and meatballs (Jason makes an awesome homemade sauce with our fresh herbs) in large quantity and get 2 or 3 meals out of it. We have found ourselves shopping for the day more often. We’re not buying things we don’t absolutely need. If we have a couple of ingredients for a meal, we’ll stop at the grocery store and get the other necessary ingredients. There is no risk of over-spending by making multiple trips. If you only have $6 in your pocket, that’s all you get.

It’s very tempting at times to go out to eat and splurge. Friday night we went out to eat. After eating poorly all week Baja Burrito never tasted so good! Last night I made mexican rice for a rice-a-roni I found in the pantry (getting to the bottom of the barrel…) I added some left over corn, red pepper and onion. It still seemed too bland for a meal, even with chips so when Jason got home, we went grocery shopping. We had $50 to get food for this week (which is more than usual.) We were both obviously craving fruits and vegetables. We also managed to get some meat, lunches, pasta and tissues. The cheese and black beans we added to the rice made it much better and Jason added some cilantro from the garden. Yum. My splurge was pickled banana peppers. I knew the $2.19 would be hard to justify but I enjoyed them so much in my salad today! Jason’s splurge was pierogies. I added wrong and I thought we didn’t have enough for a frozen pizza. Turns out we would have. We have $8 left for the rest of the week. So many possibilities!

Side Note: I can’t wait until the tomatoes and watermelons in our garden are ripe.


  1. this is my main problem. the foods that i need to eat to stay healthy, fresh, are expensive. . . and i’m not willing to sacrifice the vitamins/nutrients and fresh qualities of those foods for every meal.

    i mean we have the cheap stuff around, but once i got started eating much more healthily – i have a hard time going back.

    however, i know i eat too much of everything. i think quantity is my biggest issue.

  2. i’m glad you guys could afford tissues! heheh. ugh i’m so bad right now. i don’t watch what i spend at all. my motto is – the only “debt” i really have is my student loans, and they aren’t going away any time soon [granted, i have some credit cards, but if i use them, i pay them off in full the next month]. however, then all my $ goes to bills and not in savings or towards loans…i have money in savings…butttt i need to pay attention to what i spend more i know it!

  3. heh, any comment about cupcakes is fine 🙂

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