The Grocery Challenge

A few years ago, Mark and I decided to get out of debt and we were almost able to do so by using the system in Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”.  When we were close to our goal, a series of circumstances beyond our control including an unexpected crisis with the adoption we were in the middle of (agency went bankrupt, stranding our kids with three days of food left half a world away), a real estate holding disaster, the area of Mark’s work being hit hard by the economy, and Gracelyn becoming gravely ill, led us back into a debt as large as the one we had just clawed our way out of.  Dave Ramsey’s system is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme or a strategy of getting out of debt easily.  It is hard work and just as it took time to get into debt, it takes time to get out of debt.

After we descended back into debt, we abandoned Dave’s system, largely because Mark’s income could not be counted on and because of how overwhelmed we felt.  Even though we knew the system worked, we were afraid to look at the numbers (ie: the truth!) and create another budget and debt repayment plan.  Things only got worse.  Burying your head in the sand helps no one!

Finally, we decided that we would begin Dave’s Total Money Makeover again on the first of March.  This week, I sat down to run the numbers and fill out the worksheets and come up with a plan.  What I found is that we will need to be very creative to find extra money to put down onto our debt.  I came up with a few ideas and the first is a grocery challenge, whereby we could cut $1000 off what we normally spend a month for groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries and apply that onto a debt.  The way we would do this would be to eat out of our pantry and freezer and buy as few groceries as possible for March.

I have set the amount we are allowed to spend on groceries at $200 for March.  Considering that we have seven children, including two teen boys and two pre-teen boys, this is no small feat!  What I did was to inventory everything that is currently in our freezer and pantry.  I then tried to create as many meals as I could from that list.  My goal was to come up with 31 suppers and 31 lunches.  Breakfasts will be oatmeal and perhaps eggs or pancakes on Sundays (if we can fit syrop into the budget!)


Chicken Fried Rice

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Mexican Lasagna

Not-so-chili pasta

Basa topped with Salsa, Rice, and frozen vegetables

Shrimp Stir Fry *will need peppers and mushrooms


Chicken Teriyaki, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Corn

Beef Hash

Soup made from leftovers

Asparagus and Asiago Quiche

Cod and French Fries

Tamale Pie

Frittata and Hash Brown Casserole

Sweet Chicken Tostadas *will need tostadas

Tortellini Soup

Meatballs and Rice

Soup made from leftovers

Beef Hash

Lemon-Mustard Chicken, Basmati Rice, and Green Beans


Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, and Peas

Tamale Pie

Beef Stew *will need potatoes and carrots

Lemon Mustard Chicken, Green Bean Casserole

Meatballs and Rice

Teriyaki Chicken, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Creamed Corn

Macaroni Casserole

Pinto Tortilla Soup

Baked Pasta *will need mushrooms and peppers

Beef and Bean Burritos *will need peppers

Voila!  31 Suppers!

For the lunches, the list is mostly soups, (Pumpkin Soup, Minestrone, Black Bean, Mushroom Cheddar, Lentil Soup, Tomato etc.), Bean Casseroles, and Pastas.

Snacks will be the most difficult, but I do have some baking in the freezer that can be used and some of the applesauce left that I made in the Fall.

The only things that are on the” approved list of things to buy” are milk, eggs, Good-Night diapers for Sedaya, and the few items needed to finish the above dishes.  I am excited to see how it goes!

Not only will this free up a big chunk of money to put towards a debt, it will also clean out the pantry and freezer and ensure that none of the food gets wasted.

I think that this grocery challenge will really get our new financial life off to a great start.  I will let you know how it goes!

Here are some of the soup recipes I will be using:



5 responses to this post.

  1. Wow! What a great job at using up what’s in your cupboard and freezer. I also try to do that every week so that my grocery shopping list isn’t too bad. Good luck to you!


  2. Posted by shannon on March 2, 2011 at 4:04 am

    HI Sharla,
    Thanks so much for the post, I have been trying to also get my head out of the sand and face up to reality as well. ( The bankruptcy as well as now needing to trips to ET ) I was a bit discourage , This post sure helped me.
    I am looking forward to hearing how you make out with your menu planning.
    I have Dave’s book but it has been dusty for way too long will be digging it out today.
    I am going to join you in my own way , I am singles so my food bill should be easy and will also see how much I can stretch out of my pantry and I am aiming to try not to shop for anything in March.
    Thanks for sharing.


  3. Posted by Michelle Q on March 2, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Wow, Sharla – you’re amazing! This looks great. We follow Dave Ramsey too and are in the process of trying to sell our house for a smaller one, so we can get through the baby steps faster. I think he has such a great plan and am so glad we stumbled upon him.
    Good luck with this Sharla! I can’t wait to hear how you do.


  4. Love it!! Work it, girl!


  5. Okay – my comment was supposed to be on the Big Hair 🙂 But work it on the Ramsey too!! lol

    🙂 Sara


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