How I Ate Cookies and Put $1,000 in the Bank

Saving money. Something we should all be doing, right? Putting money away for a rainy day, for those worst-case scenarios we hope never happen: I lose my job, I get injured and can’t work, a family member needs care. Or the simpler things: we need a new car, a new air conditioner, a new roof.

It feels good to have some money in the bank. It feels good to have a little cushion to ease the fear and stress that come with living from paycheck to paycheck. But it isn’t always easy to save. It takes discipline and diligence. It means skimping on some things to have the money to save in the first place. But every little bit, even if it’s only $5 here and $10 there, adds up.

When the new year began, I wanted to rethink my grocery shopping. I was frustrated with battling crowded stores and frustrated by my lack of planning. And I didn’t like how much money I was spending each week just to feed our household of two. I decided I would reduce our grocery bill by $20 a week.

I shifted my schedule around so that I could devote more time to menu planning. Now, each week I take a careful look at what we have in the fridge, pantry and freezer so I don’t buy anything we don’t need. Then I make a list of what we’ll have for dinner each night of the week — it’s not set in stone; I just want to be sure there is something available for every night. I also make a list of what is available for lunches and breakfasts.

I make my grocery list based on what I need to fill the gaps and pick out a few interesting things to make for the blog and for some variety. The next morning I head to the grocery store as early as I can to beat the crowd. As things go into the cart and get marked off the list, I use the calculator in my phone to keep track of my bill. If the total passes my limit, something’s got to go. Usually it’s some little luxury thing like a pricey cereal or cheese.

This week it was granola bars that got thrown back. We both have been particularly busy, so having granola bars to pack for snacks seemed important — but I couldn’t afford them. Since I’ve been careful about taking inventory and making my list, though, I knew I’d have enough ingredients at home to make something from scratch.

And so all week long, we’ve been enjoying Cranberry and Pistachio Quinoa Breakfast Cookies. They’re better than granola bars any day! I already had the ingredients at home, so this week, they cost me nothing to make. And the recipe yielded far more cookies than would ever be in a box of granola bars. Plus, they’re made with whole-wheat flour, quinoa and oats for a healthy punch. The recipe is from Bon Appétit. I used half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour and pistachios instead of almonds.

Twenty dollars a week. It doesn’t sound like much. But it’s $1,040 a year, and that sounds like a good start on a rainy-day fund.

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13 Responses to How I Ate Cookies and Put $1,000 in the Bank

  1. I really enjoy your blog, Karen. Not just for the recipes, but for your wisdom as well. I am trying to plan more carefully as well–it makes the week much easier. I have been using a website called thescramble.com (or something like that). It allows me to plan our menus, and print out a grocery list, which I can then cross check with what we have. What I really want now are your cookies. :)

    • Thanks Jamie! If you make the cookies let me know how they turn out! Planning does make things so much easier- and we don’t even have a kiddo in the mix, so I imagine it is doubly important for your family.

  2. Annie says:

    Wow! I am sooooo impressed. Good for you!!! Good for both of you!!!
    love, mom

  3. stephchows says:

    These sound amazing!! Can’t wait to give them a try! I thought at first you were saying you reduced your bill to $20 a week and I couldn’t even imagine how that was possible… darn reading too fast :) Great job reducing it by 20!!

  4. Mel says:

    I’m also trying to cut back on how much I spend on groceries, so these delicious-looking cookies might help with that!

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  6. I am so glad I ran across your blog. I went through the same type of transformative thinking, however I got my grocery act together because I lived so far from a store. I spent some time developing a pantry of staples and then set my mind to developing varied recipes using just the items in the pantry. That way I could stock up and have many recipes at my disposal. I also save money by making fewer grocery trips!

    • Having a pantry full of staples is so important! And ultimately, spending time planning menus means shopping is less of a hassle, I think. Thanks for reading! I’m about to hop over and check out your blog!

  7. Jessica Lea, RD says:

    What an inspiration! :)

  8. Amy says:

    I came for the breakfast cookies (via The Kitchn) and stayed for the grocery shopping tips. Great post, you have a new reader!

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  10. Tracee says:

    We did the same thing. We were overbuying because our cupboard was so packed full we didn’t know what we had! Unfortunately, a lot had to be thrown out because it had expired by a few years! That’s what happened when we were both working and had our kid in childcare. We were hanging by our fingernails for several years and one of us would stop and buy something to make for dinner or we would eat out! Now that I’m not working, I can work the list and we can buy in bulk, and stretch our bucks. It’s amazing how far we can make one whole chicken go! One of my favorite things to do is to start with dried beans and just start throwing fresh veggies/greens/potatoes in a pot with some sort of protein and we end up with a huge vat of yummy soup that we eat for days! We have reduced our food bill from over $400 a month to less than $260. That’s pretty good considering we are heavy protein people, hubs and I have a serious diet coke and coffee habit, and the daughter has a serious milk habit (two gallons a week!). I’d say we probably spend close to half in drinks alone! That’s crazy I just figured that out~oh man…we gotta do something about that…ewwww

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