Posted by: Hil | November 1, 2008

Great Thanksgiving Challenge

The Lemonator and I have decided to join in on Kath’s Great Thanksgiving Challenge.  Her goal?  To spend under $126 on food between now and Thanksgiving.  According to her rules, whatever you  have in your fridge and pantry on Nov. 1 is fair game.  One meal out a week is allowed and doesn’t count toward your total.  Kath and her husband are also planning to donate a percentage of their grocery money to Heifer International.

Like Kath, I know that I spend more money than I need to on food.  Some girls walk into shopping malls and can’t resist a pair of cute shoes on sale.  I am iron-willed at the mall, but frequently fall prey to the impulse purchase at the grocery store.  Show me some beautiful produce or bread or spices and I have a very hard time resisting.  Cooking is my favorite hobby, so I prioritize spending a little bit of extra money on it.

I read Kath’s challenge literally two minutes before hopping in the car to go to Costco.  Thinking about whether I could manage her challenge, I began to mentally tick off a list of the things I already had in my pantry, fridge and freezer.  Holy cow!  Among other things, my pantry has a big container of farmers market granola, a large assortment of dried and canned beans, canned vegetables, whole grains, whole grain pasta, Kashi TLC bars, baking supplies, oils, vinegars, a jar of tomato sauce, soy sauce, spices, seeds, nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate.  My freezer has a few bags of frozen fruits and veggies, some chicken tenders, butter, shrimp, coffee, and half a pint of vanilla ice cream.  My fridge was a little bit more bare, but its more exciting contents included a container of tofu, some cheap steaks, a jar of peanut butter, a mostly full carton of eggs, and some chevre, string cheese and shredded mozzarella.  WOW.   Granted, I had no bread, crackers, milk, yogurt or fruit left, and only one meal worth of fresh vegetables.  But knowing me, I typically would have bought plenty of other things on a whim without thinking about the absolute bounty that I have in my house already. 

For me, I think this challenge really will be about remembering to be thankful for (and use!) everything that I already have rather than constantly looking to the next item that I want.  And I hope that having to watch what I buy for a few weeks will remind me how lucky and blessed I am to be able to afford many of the things that I do. We are going to wait until I get back from the farmers market tomorrow morning to decide for sure what our budget will be–we might go with a slightly different number than Kath’s $126.  I’m guessing that LA food prices are a bit higher than those in North Carolina, but we aren’t hosting Thanksgiving this year, so perhaps that evens things out.  I will report back tomorrow on our final decision.  Regardless, after Thanksgiving we will tally up what we spent, compare it to what we usually spend, and donate the difference to a local soup kitchen.

First challenge:  Costco.  Costco is the source of amazing savings, but also frequently lures us into buying things that we never would have otherwise bought.  It’s hard to see, say, a gorgeous piece of wild salmon or a flat of mangos on sale and not take them home!  Today we bought two gallons of milk, a flat of Jonagold apples, and a gigantic package of chicken thighs.  Total = $17.34.  Not too bad for all the food we got.  Next, Whole Foods.  *Cue scary music*  Whole Foods may not be a cost-cutter’s dream, but they do sell whole grains and whole grain flours for good prices in their bulk section.  Since we are going to be baking bread at home to manage our budget cuts, whole grain flour was a necessary purchase.  We emerged with three pounds of whole wheat flour, a little under a pound of rolled oats, and a container of half and half for $3.49.  My little container of half and half cost as much as the flour.  I don’t regret buying it, but it’s suddenly seeming like a lot more of a luxury!


So, thus far, we have spent $20.83 on food, and at least a few of the items should last us for the entire month.  Not too shabby.  I need to get some vegetables at the farmers market tomorrow, and we should be set for the week.

I got hungry mid-afternoon and went rummaging for a snack.  It was amazing to realize that I had only four Kashi TLC bars to get me through the next month!  Suddenly those little bars have become a precious resource to be hoarded!  Ditto to my granola, apples, and dried fruit.  I ended up settling on a smallish bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a sprinkle of raisins and sesame seeds.  Much less expensive.  And, in the end, just as tasty and satisfying.

I am really excited for this challenge.  I think it will teach me a lot.  And I think it will make Thanksgiving seem even more bountiful and special.  In my religion, we go through cycles and seasons over the course of the years.  Some are feast seasons, while others are penitential, while still others are “ordinary.”  Typically, big feast seasons are preceded by a few weeks of penance, prayer, and perhaps fasting.  It’s a way of quieting the mind and spirit to prepare ourselves for the feast season.  When the feast arrives, we appreciate all of the beauty and bounty and bombast so much more because of the quiet simplicity of the preceding season.  This feels like a very similar thing to me.  What better way to prepare for a feast of bounty and celebration than by spending a few weeks living simply and realizing just how many things we have to be thankful for?  Thank you, Kath, for a wonderful idea!  

And if it sounds like something you would be interested, I really encourage everyone to think about joining us!



  1. I’m really excited to see how this goes for you!

  2. Thanksgiving in Canada was already celebrated back in October, but I am definitely going to try to reduce the amount of money spent on groceries this month! Good luck!

  3. So glad you’re joining in!!

    And we live in NORTH Carolina – where food is a little more expensive than our Southern Sister 🙂

  4. Kath–Whoops, my mistake! I got mixed up because you go to school in SC. I’ll fix that. But I still think LA has Charlotte beat when it comes to high food prices. 😉 We have the dubious honor of being the second most expensive city in the US.

  5. Bobby and I are debating doing this challenge. It sounds so hard! We’re thinking we might do it slightly differently and lower the amount but not include Thanksgiving… so like $100 until Thanksgiving, not including Thanksgiving. Good luck!

  6. this is a great challenge! i wish you best of luck 😀

  7. Good luck with the challenge!

  8. Best of luck with the challenge!! I look forward to following your journey with it.

  9. Very cool. I think you’ll be surprised at how cheaply you can shop at Whole Foods. Good luck.

    Oh and glad the Lemonator likes the name Hangry Pants!

  10. Oh, yes… yes I do. In fact, I have been known to say ‘hangry pants’ randomly during the day because I like the sound of it that much.

  11. i wish you tons of luck w/ this challenge – its a great thing u are doing!

  12. Wow, this idea is fantastic! And being a student I am ALWAYS looking for ways to save money. I’m on board! Even though I won’t be celebrating your American Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll have a big feast that day anyway hehe.

  13. […] Challenge Begins As I blogged yesterday, the Lemonator and I have decided to hop on board with Kath’s Great Thanksgiving Challenge.  […]

  14. Thanks Lemonator!

    And likewise, there is a little store near my house called “Blueberry Hill.” I don’t pass it often, but when I do, I always say, “I gotta take a picture for Hil.” 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: