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My Spending Diet: Week One

Let me run you through a normal week in my eating life:

  • Saturday: Glance through cooking magazines, cookbooks and notebooks to try to decide what to make this week. Ignore all of it and make a rudimentary meal plan … write a grocery list, trying to remember everything I need. Go grocery shopping with the kids and fail to buy everything on the list (thought process: “Eh, we don’t really need that.”) Inevitably forget a key ingredient (or two … or three).
  • Sunday: Cook 3-4 recipes, mostly testing new recipes for work. Share with family and friends. Things are off to a good start.
  • Monday: Defrost appropriate meat per meal plan. Decide at 5:30 that I am too busy to cook dinner and order a pizza instead.
  • Tuesday: Don’t feel like cooking dinner, but force myself to so the meat from Monday doesn’t go bad.
  • Wednesday: Stick to the meal plan. Feel good about it.
  • Thursday: Forget (ok, maybe it’s a semi-conscious decision) to defrost ingredients for dinner. Make a quick pasta in a pinch after going to the grocery store for the ingredients.
  • Friday: Decide that I am so stressed out over food and need a pick me up. Buy a sandwich at the deli and feel better. Remember to defrost everything for dinner but realize that I never bought the ingredient I forgot on Saturday. Hit the grocery store too, and am ultimately seduced by things we don’t need. Make the dinner that was supposed to be eaten on Tuesday. Realize that I skipped two days of planned meals.
  • Saturday: Feel awful about the fresh ingredients that I didn’t use during the week. Wonder how I can use them. Some end up going to waste. Start the whole process over.

It’s stressful since I rarely stick to the plan and often change my mind. But those things are unnecessary. I make last-minute menu adjustments because I can … That doesn’t mean I should. So, I decided to do something about it. I decided to go on a Spending Diet. As a result, this week was 100 percent different.

The Plan:

No spending from Saturday until the following Saturday. Cash in wallet can only be used in a true emergency.

What Happened:

In any given week, I go to the grocery store at least three times. By the third run, I hate it and think how absurd it is that I can’t consolidate all the shopping into one trip. But until now I haven’t really done anything to shop the cycle.

This week I did. After several trips into the city last week for work and a dinner party on Saturday, I felt like any more spending this week would be way too much. I needed a spending break … so I took one. I haven’t stepped foot into any stores all week and although I have done some heavily online window browsing, I haven’t bought anything. This week was a $0 output week.

I described it to a friend in an email how this week was turning out to be awful and wonderful all at once. It really was. My house is always pretty well-stocked with food, so we did have everything we needed on hand. Plus, by following the meal plan I wrote, I actually was never left dreading a decision about dinner. Also, since I knew that the grocery store wasn’t an option, I didn’t forget to defrost anything.

Ultimately, we ended up being a lot more efficient and I got a little more creative. It was really a great experience.


The biggest trouble came yesterday when hamburgers were planned for dinner. Originally when I planned for this week, I intended to hit the grocery store for the rolls so they would be fresh, but once the spending diet kicked in I couldn’t. That’s how I ended up making rolls. And you know what? It was totally worth the effort — not only did I save $3, but they really tasted great.

There were other spots of imperfection too. Since I didn’t make the plan to stop spending until after my last grocery shopping trip, we did run out of a few things: peanut butter, bread, milk … but Shawn picked up some milk to supplement. Obviously, I need to work on the planning aspect of things, which I have been. I started a running list of all the things we need and I feel like my shop tomorrow will be way more successful than any other one.


  1. We used pretty much everything we bought/purchased for the week. Leftovers became lunches. Pantry items supplemented for convenience items.
  2. We used up several perishables (like the sundried tomatoes in the pasta above) that would have otherwise gone to waste after being forgotten.
  3. We were able to get a clearer picture of what we really need to buy. It’s easy to overlook needs when you make a bunch of mini trips to the store.
  4. The money in my wallet has stayed there. My bank account has grown.
  5. I, personally, ate fewer calories. Also, instead of losing hours to trips to the store, we spent more time outside this week (which the good weather clearly helped with).

What’s Next?

Tomorrow is Saturday – the day when I can officially shop again. I plan to take my list and meal plan and pick up all the things we need, get some gas (I am down to about a half tank — which is fine, but this is about curbing mid-week spending) and do any other errands that involve money. On Sunday, I will start week two of my Spending Diet.

I am considering this somewhat of a spending detox. Next week, I will take a look at how things went and decide if I want to continue or allow a little more flexibility.

Have you ever gone on a spending diet? Why? How did it work for you?

Focaccia Hamburger Buns Recipe
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Thursday 17th of June 2010

Wow, I love this post and your spending diet journey so far. Would you mind if I took your idea and did one on my blog too? .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Dance of the Gods and Valley of Silence =-.

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Wednesday 24th of March 2010

Great post Sarah. I do exactly the same things you wrote about - from reading the magazines/ cookbooks to just ordering a pizza. And with a 6 mo. old, it's easy to give in. Also, my husband manages a grocery store, so it's very easy to text him to bring this & this home with him. I'm ashamed at the amount of fresh ingredients I throw away weekly because I didn't put them to use.

Beginning in April, we've decided to do a $100 Challenge which I'll post about too. We'll spend less than $100 that month for groceries & dining out, while still eating good meals. Should be interesting. I'm also going to start trying to cook a few meals to freeze for the week on Sundays. .-= Tonia´s last blog ..Red Velvet Cake Balls =-.

Ally @ Sweet & Savory

Monday 22nd of March 2010

Great post, just found your blog! I've been doing this for awhile...using up what we have at home, improvising, and only doing our major grocery shopping every 2 weeks. It's hard, but worth it. I end up making more things from scratch, and feel so much better about it!