$120 Food Challenge

An expedition into my pantry this weekend turned into a Hitchcock thriller. Attack of the Moths. We seem to be harbouring a colony of flying creatures. I know that is bad. I know it makes a statement about my housekeeping skills – but hey I’ve never put my hand up for Homemaker of the Year.

So we proceeded to remove every item and do a clean out. This proved a good thing. Over at the $120 Food Challenge Sandra Reynolds has produced a blog that shows people how to feed a family of four on just $120 a week. I’m a little sceptical but given the state of our bank account it can’t hurt to try.

The first step in the process is to do an inventory of all the food you are currently hoarding. The exercise highlighted that we probably don’t need eight boxes of opened but only half used boxes of cereal. While one particular item, out-of-date in 2009, seems to have moved house with us three times – even my clutter-bug tendencies are willing to let that one go.

After the tossing finished I sat down to do a menu plan for the next seven days. Here’s what I came up with:


Spaghetti with roasted tomato & garlic


Vegemite on toast.


Baked fish with ginger and soy


Fruit salad & yoghurt.

Ham & salad wraps.

Chorizo, fennel and potato tortilla


Avacado and cheese on toast.

Ham & salad wraps.

Lamb & bacon meatloaf with Sweet tomato & onion chutney


Museli and yoghurt.

Meatloaf & chutney sandwiches.

Chicken parmigiana


Scrambled eggs on toast.

Chicken schnitzel sandwich.

Slow cooked mild beef curry.


Vegemite on toast.

Tuna salad.

Chicken, tomato, feta bake.

Then I hit the shops, armed with my list. Which is where my plan fell down a little. I spent $175.57. Sandra’s estimate for the seven dinners was $84.90 which I think was pretty spot-on. However, I went a little overboard in supplementing for the breakfast/lunches/fruit side of things. My family eats a lot of fruit so spent too much there,  I also bought a few things I had run out of, and I had to get a few spices for the dinner dishes which added a bit to the total.

If we take off some of the “pantry” items I brought – anchovies, baking paper, dog food, frozen peas, frozen beans, capers, dishwashing detergent, tuna, plus some of the extravagant fruit, strawberries, blueberries, then the orange juice, yoghurt, and a mystery item I can’t remember what it was but it cost $5.90 so I’m deleting it too we get the bill down to $136.42.

This still leaves in one orange juice, bread, wraps, milk, heaps of fruit, bananas, pears, oranges, apples, plums and lots of spices cardamon pods, nutmeg, oregano, garam masala, cloves, cinnamon stick (which I won’t have to buy again if I use the same recipes next week).

So essentially, I went closer than I thought possible. I’m banning myself from visiting the supermarket during the week so we will see how we go in just eating what I’ve bought. I’ll let you know the result.

13 thoughts on “$120 Food Challenge

  1. Oooh, that looks good, Janine. What time is dinner? I may be dropping by with that menu on hand. I remember well, trying to feed teenagers on a single paycheck. I spent 3-4 hours on Sundays clipping coupons and comparing the sales pages, then making lists and combing them with coupons. It was a never ending job. Unlike you, I went to a different grocery store just about everyday to fulfill my list items.

  2. Good one! An importand post. I save my money on doing grocery and avoiding trips to fastfood drive-through’s.

    Hehe, I eat Ramen noodles and rice in exchange of traveling. 😀

  3. It is not until we read these posts that we realise how similar people are. Money off Coupons, buy one get one free, and sale items we are all looking for them..:) good ideas….

  4. hello janine – i’m happy for you. you’ll feel peaceful knowing what to make your family. what is vegemite?

    joy and happy, healthy week!

    • Well thanks for today’s challenge Noreen – describing vegemite – let me see – it’s a “concentrated yeast extract” (I know that sounds a bit like a fungal infection but stick with me). It’s a black spread that you put on sandwiches or toast. The flavour – ummm – salty?? It’s very Australian and probably a taste that has to be acquired as a tiny child. If you are feeling really brave email me your address and I’ll send you some. (shambolicliving@gmail.com or the email you have for me from the comments on your blog – either will get to me). Any other Aussies want to have a go at describing Vegemite for Noreen?

  5. I wonder sometimes why I tend to make the same things over and over when there is a treasure chest of food in my pantry. There used to be a show where a celebrity chef would cook a gourmet meal from what you had on hand. We should all inventory every week or be like me, who now has 10 head of lettuce, 48 yogurts and not enough meat to feed a cat.

    • I wonder what a celebrity chef would have done with eight boxes of stale cereal? Good luck going vegetarian and that delicious plate of lettuce with yoghurt dressing – the family’s gonna love it.

  6. We had a moth infestation too, and we had a ginormous pantry clean out this weekend too. Who knew!? I think I need to do these periodic clean outs (and probably more often than I do! The fridge is next. Watch out, fridge! I am trying to change our family’s eating habits, but our whole weeknight habits are shifting with new sports schedules and the like. I’m not sure I can do it all at once. I’m looking forward to seeing how you get along with this!

    • So far some of the meals have been delicious – the fish with ginger and soy was a big hit – I just find it difficult if meals take longer than 30 minutes to prepare – tonite I announced we are having meatloaf – no it takes an hour – we are have the chicken parmigiana – no I can’t be bothered to crumb chicken – we are having the chicken, tomato, feta bake. Hippie Child has been off sick for two days and she’s eaten all the ham and avocado and drunk all the orange juice, so despite my best intention was back at the supermarket this arvo to replace those things (because she ate them out of the order of the schedule!!!). Thanks for dedicating the time to commenting I see it’s still not fixed. Lauren’s blog is still + life.

  7. I’m impressed.

    Also, I know a lot about the attack of the moths. When I lived in West Philadelphia after I had a mouse invasion (ew ew ew ew ew), I had the moth invasion. Needless to say, I avoided eating in that apartment as much as possible. I saw things in a box of rice I never EVER want to see again. I’m sorry, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

    Glad to hear the problem’s fixed now though 🙂

  8. Pingback: Diary of the $120 Food Challenge | Shambolic Living

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