Introducing … Project Food Budget

Project Food Budget 2015

My friend Emily Levenson is always coming up with fun ideas that kick-start you into making changes for the better. Most of her ideas involve food, which makes sense because that’s kind of what Emily does for a living.  So, when Emily recently asked on Facebook if anyone would be interested in doing another round of Project Food Budget with her – where together we would track what we’re spending each week on food and commit to better meal planning and other changes – I was all in.

And then I completely forgot about the whole thing.

Until Emily reminded me, like … yesterday.

Because, you know, that was the first day of Project Food Budget.

What the hell, I thought. Sure, I’m still in. Why not? What do I have to lose?

A lot, I think.

My boredom with the same-old-same-old recipes because I don’t take the time to plan menus.

My frustration with not being able to make anything that everyone in this house will actually eat. (Or want to eat.)

My crappy attitude toward cooking dinner.

My guilt over throwing away fruits and vegetables that I buy intending to use during the week … but most of which usually goes bad before I can think of the perfect recipe to use it in. (Or remember that I have it.)

Project: Food Budget is designed to help with all that and save some money in the process.

Here’s how this will work for the next 12 weeks (basically, the entire summer):

1. Choose a weekly food budget for yourself (and your family). You can keep it to grocery spending only, or include eating out in your budget. Some people have even included all household items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. What you include is up to you, just make sure to spell out what you’re tracking.

2. Write at least one blog post per week about your efforts. You can include your weekly menu, what you plan to spend each week, how many people you are feeding, and even how much each particular meal costs.

3. Publish your post every Tuesday. Make sure to place the graphic on the top of each post, as well as including a link to Project: Food Budget and the list of participating blogs.

4. Share it everywhere! When sharing on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), please use the hashtag #pfb2015 so that we can find each other!

Simple enough, right?

So, here are my specific goals:

Goal #1: I’ve decided on $150 per week as the weekly grocery budget amount for the food shopping that I’m responsible for. * That’s for a family of four – two adults and two 13-year old twins. The four of us are mostly vegetarians (although the kids will eat chicken), with myself being vegetarian and gluten-free. That $150 also includes paper products and various household goods, as well as my morning breakfast (I tend to buy a coffee and gluten-free muffin at work) and my lunches.

* Allow me to explain:  I do the majority of family’s food shopping at Aldi; however, there are several items we need during the week that I can’t always purchase there because they don’t carry them. The Husband usually stops at Giant Eagle once during the week to get those additional items while picking up some medications. Giant Eagle drives me crazy; I think they’re overpriced and there are always a million people stocking the shelves whenever I’m there, making it ridiculously impossible to navigate the aisles. I mean, I know the shelves need to be stocked but I try to avoid Giant Eagle as much as possible because it takes me too long to get through the store. It’s convenient for The Husband to pick up those additional items there, though. So, the $150 weekly grocery budget does not include whatever he gets because trust me, it’s just going to be easier if this remains my little project.

A Trader Joe’s just opened up not too far from us and I’m looking forward to shopping there more often.

Goal #2: Buy as much local produce as possible.
Here in Pittsburgh, we have an abundance of farmers’ markets throughout the city and the surrounding county. (Edible Allegheny has a great list broken down by county.) This is an extremely doable goal because Farmers @ Phipps and Oakland Farmers Market are very convenient to my workplace and held on Wednesdays and Fridays. (Tip: Farmers @ Phipps opens TOMORROW!)

Goal #3: Bring my lunch to work more often. 
I tend to buy my lunch at work. A lot. Like, nearly every day. I know. I know. My goal for this summer is to bring my lunch at least three days per week, if not more.

Goal #4: Make meal-planning more of a habit.
I’m a very sporadic meal-planner. On the weeks that I do it, things really do go more smoothly. It works for me. Then, there are weeks I’m lazy, telling myself it’s just easier to go right to the store because “I know what we need.” I am very, very good about doing what I call a “food inventory” before leaving for the store: I check the pantry, the fridge and the freezer to see what we need. Then I look at the sale items. Sometimes I take the next step of making a meal plan. Sometimes I’m able to come up with two or three meals and I decide to wing the rest of the week. Sometimes I just say, screw it.

Like most people, I have a huge recipe collection. I have cookbooks I love and haven’t touched for ages. I’d like to get reacquainted with them.

That’s it. Those are my goals for Project: Food Budget. Maybe I’ll think of some others as we go along.

Want to follow along with our progress? Check out these participating Project: Food Budget bloggers for tips, recipes, and inspiration.


… and happy food budgeting!

Thanks for sharing this post!

7 thoughts on “Introducing … Project Food Budget

  1. redpenmama

    It is frustrating to me that Aldi doesn’t have more of a vegetarian selection. I’ve actually been shopping more at Target because of that. It’s more convenient to my Aldi, and it’s still less expensive than the Big Bird! I can’t remember the last time I really shopped at a Giant Eagle — although I did recently get a six-pack of beer at one, so there’s that!

  2. Angelica @ Gardening in High Heels

    I love your goals. I too want to get rid of the boredom around my menu. After reading through everyone’s posts, I’m convinced I should suck it up, forget the Fuel Perks, and try Aldi and Trader Joe’s for my groceries. I couldn’t buy cheese at GE yesterday because they had the entire aisle torn apart! So I agree, it’s a frustrating place.

  3. Meg Campbell

    I love this post! I’m a gluten-free Aldi junkie, too. The only reason I skipped them this week was I wanted to see what other stores prices were like. I work in Oakland too and am looking forward to visiting both of those farmers’ markets.

  4. Kelly G

    It’s funny how we differ so much on our grocery store opinion. I know Aldi is cheaper, and every couple months o get so fed up with Giant Eagle’s prices, I swear I’m only shopping at Aldi and then I go there and get frustrated all over again. Partially because it’s just not routine for me. I usually forget a quarter. The produce and meat are always a huge disappointment. I think it’s just my particular Aldi, because my mom loves hers, too. And I like my Giant Eagle (which I know most people dislike) If I coupon, and shop sales, it doesn’t turn out to be as expensive as it looks at first glance. Anyway, that’s why I’m looking forward to everyone’s posts. Figure out what I’m doing wrong (at Aldi and elsewhere). What I wouldn’t give for a Wegman’s around the corner!

    1. Melissa Post author

      Oh, I hear you about Wegmans! My mom lives 10 minutes (if that) from a Wegmans and she’s there every day. I probably would be too. It’s one of my must-visit places when I am back home in Philly.

      Our Aldi and Giant Eagle stores here in the ‘Burgh ARE very hit and miss – different from one location to another, it seems. Funny how that is.

      Looking forward to reading your posts!

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