Move Over Gwyneth, I Got Your 29.00 Right Here


This was in my drafts folder from a few weeks ago. 

Here’s a reasonable 29.00 food challenge.

First of all, I think we can all agree that feeding even one person for 29.00 for a week would be difficult. I didn’t read the Gywneth article. All I know is the headline and the puzzling large number of limes in the picture. The point is, I don’t know how many people that 29.00 was supposed to feed for a week.

How many of us could actually do that? All you would need is one night of the following:

Me: Do you feel like cooking tonight? Because I don’t feel like cooking.

Randy: I’m not fucking cooking. Nope. No way. 

Me: I’ll get onions on half. Do you want pepperoni or sausage?

Then the whole week’s budget would be blown.

Today is Friday and I got to leave work a little early today. I had to do manual labor for three long days during our beginning of the season sale. I still smell like chlorine. My week was so far out of my normal routine that I am completely out of sorts. Out of sorts is where I go when my anxiety runs wild. My plan was to come home, read Tina Fey’s book and then take a nap. Instead, I laid in bed watched TV and thought about Gwyneth Paltrow and her grocery challenge thingy.

First of all, there is no damn way we could get away with spending only 29.00 all week on groceries. However, I probably have enough underused groceries already that we could get away with using nearly acceptably aged food and supplement with no more than 29.00 in new groceries.

Because when you are ridiculously exhausted and when your anxiety levels are at Def Con 2, it’s a good idea to shake up your already frayed routine.

That’s cool, though, it’s my iffy decisions that make the most interesting stories.

I did a quick inventory and found I have the following items:

I would take pictures and post them here, but I’m pretty sure if any of you saw the state of my refrigerator, no one would ever read anything I wrote ever again based on general principle. 

3 lemons that are neither shriveled or slimy. I probably have two days before that happens.

Celery that is about 5 minutes from being rubbery.

A fuck ton of unidentified spices in a plastic storage box.

Then a cabinet of food that is heavy on tuna, kidney beans, green beans and pasta and at least one can of coconut milk and a can of salmon.

I have some chicken mixture for enchiladas in the freezer. (that may or may not be freezer burned).

I have corn in the freezer. (that may or may not be freezer burned). 

Let’s just go ahead and assume that all the freezer contents may or may not be freezer burned.

There is also spaghetti sauce, some jalapenos, some poorly chosen frozen dinners and about 6 packages of what I assume is meat of some sort that is wrapped in foil. Pretty sure it’s mostly chicken.

Okay, that isn’t an exhaustive list, but we hit the highlights.

The rest of this post will be written over the weekend. We’ll see how it goes.



My family was ambivalent about my 29.00 food challenge. By ambivalent, I mean they hated the idea.

Randy: Beer doesn’t count. Beer is an entertainment expense, not a grocery expense.

Teen boy: Can I just have cash to buy my own food? I’m not eating ‘expired surprise’.

I agreed that beer was an entertainment expense which only made the challenge slightly more acceptable to Randy. The teen boy won’t speak of it and made plans to hang out with friends during the dinner hour.

We decided we wouldn’t shop until Sunday morning and make due with thawing mystery dinner from the freezer.

I found some chicken enchilada mixture that I know Randy likes. I’d put it in a casserole dish with some shredded cheese and Randy could dump habanero powder on it and he’d be fine. I found some chili for me and decided chili spaghetti sounded perfect.

Only it wasn’t chili.

It was meatballs that Randy made from some article on Pinterest that claimed they were the best meatballs in all of history or some shit like that. They weren’t.

I love bacon. I could eat bacon in nearly anything as long as it’s not cold like ice cream or popsicles. If someone told me that bacon could ruin a meatball, I’d tell them they were crazy.

His meatballs tasted like salt balls dipped in salt and served with salt sauce. Randy liked them, though, so we froze the leftovers.

I decided to bite the bullet and give the salty mcsalterson balls a second chance.

They were not edible.

But, no fear, all was not lost, my pasta had not been sullied by the salt balls of death. I had a jar of spaghetti sauce that only expired in December. How bad could it be? Relatively speaking, it had only barely expired. Besides, it was from my favorite Cajun restaurant in Covington, Ky. Dee Felice cafe wouldn’t let me down.

Turns out, that 4 months expired is long enough to make the sauce inedible.

I had a bagel with butter and honey for dinner Saturday night.


I only spent 26.72 on groceries. Randy smirked when I added a box of brownie mix to the cart, but it was on sale for 1.19 and I felt it was actually my best choice.

We bought enough eggs to make Cool Hand Luke shake his head. We bought sour cream and celery and potatoes. We bought onions and English cheese and milk. Randy insisted on getting buttermilk because he wanted to grill out the hamburger we thawed and decided to make onion rings to go with them.

We spent the day Sunday hard boiling eggs and frying bacon and making tuna salad for my lunch. We chopped and grilled and baked enough food to take us through Wednesday. The days after Wednesday? Well, The freezer is still 3/4 stuffed. And there’s always that box of organic mac and cheese in the cabinet.

Besides, there is still a lot of food that is very nearly stale but not quite bad from last week’s shopping trip. The reason so many things end up languishing is the new groceries ending up getting behind some plastic container that has either creamy chicken and rice or chicken pot pie filling that we made when the little blue Christmas tree was still in the front window.

Which isn’t as gross as it seems because I didn’t take that tree out of the window until the end of February. 

Maybe next time we take our 29.00 grocery challenge, the first step to the plan should be to clean out the fridge.

Whether we follow through on this very poorly thought out plan, I did prove to myself that with the help of my underused and neglected groceries that we could actually get away with spending 100.00 less on groceries for the week.

As we cleaned up the mess from cooking all day on Sunday, I was reminded of the one and only poem I’ve ever written:

Ode To A Vegetable

So, what do you think? Think you can use your neglected groceries and get by on 29.00 for a week?

I say whoever is successful gets to buy some new shoes.


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  • When I was younger I spent a few years subsisting on food stamps. I appreciated the point of the 29 dollar challenge but felt that the execution was flawed. To this day, if times get tough, the grocery store is the easiest place for me to tighten our belt because of how I learned to feed 2 people on $175 a month in my early 20s.

  • Can I cut the experiment and just buy the shoes anyway? We could probably survive on the contents of our freezer for several weeks – not sure anyone would be speaking to me afterwards!
    On the subject of unidentifiable meat, the dog has a raw food diet, so his meat comes in frozen half kilo packs. Caught hubby frying some up with some onions, he complained about the amount of bone but throughly enjoyed it (I never told him it was beef intestine and green tripe…)

  • Here’s what’s typical in my household — there rarely is a happy median, we either have too much food for the week and it gets neglected (goes bad) or we’re totally out of anything edible and the boys may get desperate enough to use my almond milk in a bowl of multiple cereal combinations (the little bit left in each box because throwing the box away would be too much work ya know). And what did Gwyneth plan to do with all those damn limes??

  • I can make a pizza last a week, at least if it’s deep dish. And if it’s one of those bake-at-home pizzas you get at the store I’m pretty sure I could get at least three for $29.00. But that would be if I were shopping for only one person–me–and even I would get tired of pizza after a couple of days. And it wouldn’t be healthy, which I think is part of the point.

  • GP is a pretentious twat without a clue what it is to live in poverty. Her brilliant idea filled with organic veggies and bullshit wouldn’t fit the life of people working for min. wage. Long hours, hungry kids, and food needing to be prepared from scratch? Do you realize the average young, single mom just out of her teens doesn’t know how to make Mac & cheese from a box?
    Rawr… Your challenge was better… And a shit ton more realistic.

  • I don’t spend much more than that most weeks, as I’m on a very limited budget. It does mean that meat isn’t an option most days. Not that that worries me too much as I can make mean veggie curries etc.

    If you were starting from scratch with that budget it would be nigh on impossible though.
    Your freezer sounds like a scary place

  • With the amount of food in my freezer and cupboards we could probably get away with only buying bread, milk and salad ingredients for at least a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the family would end up trying to lynch me when I try to feed them the unidentifiable crap out of the freezer.
    I really don’t understand Gwynnie’s need for so many limes, but I don’t get most of the shit that woman does.

  • 29.00?? As a gluten free person I spend that much on my bread, crackers and cookies.

    hmmm….come to think of it, I could totally just eat gluten free chocolate cookies for a week!

    Bring it on.

  • I have a list of meals that I can make for five dollars each. Each meal will feed me and my brother for dinner and have leftovers for his lunch the next day. When money has been extremely tight I have made those meals for an entire week. That’s a total of $35. If I had to, I could probably trim another six bucks off. But I probably wouldn’t have any limes.

  • I would do almost anything to earn myself a shoe shopping trip! But…

    We buy meat in bulk (quarter of a cow at a time), so it really wouldn’t be fair for me to try this experiment. And I don’t really like limes unless they are garnish on my drink. Can I go get some new shoes anyway?

  • I love your poem! I could probably live on various canned goods and other non-perishables (pasta lasts forever, right?) for a while, but you just know that’s when the zombie apocalypse is going to hit. And then I’ll starve because I had to do this challenge!

  • I wouldn’t want to add up all the $$$ I’ve wasted on frozen food that we never ate. It’s mortifying. We could probably live for weeks on what we’ve got in our pantry and freezer. Bring on the earthquakes!

  • My ex and I lived on Mac and cheese in our early twenties when we were both on graduate student stipends. So I know it can be done. Not healthily or tastily, but it can be done.

  • $29.00 is ridiculous. I am too old to eat ramen every meal and I don’t think it comes organic. Nothing wrong with a tuna sandwich. Or tuna salad.

  • I’ve been poor for most of my adult life, and I was a line cook for about ten years, so if I have a kitchen, I can do it for myself. I don’t know about two of us any more, as prices have gone up, but I have certainly done it in the past. We don’t have a kitchen at this awful place we’re staying, but I was still able to feed us for $5 a day (from the dollar store) for a long while using a rice cooker and a microwave. Our finances have improved considerably lately, so I’ve been eating a lot of super gourmet burritos from Berkeley Bowl.
    I have mixed feelings about these food stamp/ minimum wage challenges. On one hand I feel like if more people become aware of what it’s like to subsist on so little, they might empathize with poor people more, and that would be a good thing. But as for the celebrities and politicians themselves? They’ll never actually learn what poverty is like from restricting their budgets for a week, or even a month, because all along they will know that when it’s over, they can just go back to the spending they were doing before. And all along they know that if something dire happens to them or someone they care about, they have the resources to fix it. Perhaps a year would be long enough to begin to understand the challenges of poverty at a realistic level, but only if they actually lacked access to resources the whole time. As an educational gesture, I think it’s OK, though. And even I sometimes have to throw food out, as much as I hate doing so. Briana eats a lot of salad, so when cucumbers were on sale, she bought four of them, but only managed to eat two before they got all soggy and gross…

  • Wellll…. I just did a shop earlier this week, so pretty sure I could get by with whatever is in my fridge for an entire week and still have money left over for for a bite at the schwarma place near the beach if I started today. Does that count, or do you have to start with only expired ketchup, half an onion and things with freezer burn on them?



  • My kids eat $29 worth of food every time they open the fridge! My grocery bill is the second largest bill in my house next to my mortgage. It’s ridiculous. However, I could use the opportunity to clean out the pantry so I might just give this a go.

  • Ummm…is it possible we have the same freezer? Today I bought an $8 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at Costco, because I can stretch that bird into several meals for 2. Which was my plan. Then, around suppertime, my 16 yr old daughter mumbled something about pizza, and I realized I hadn’t had any in about 3 months cuz I’ve been trying to “be good”. So I said fuckit to healthy eating and we each got a small pizza with a drink… $21. Nailed it!! What? Oh, $29/week you say? HAHAHAHAHAHA. That is not difficult, it’s impossible. Especially here in Canada, where 4 liters of milk (a little more than a gallon jug in States, I believe) costs over $6. A loaf of crummy sandwich bread is over $3, as is a dozen eggs. A pound of butter $4. Don’t ask about meat. Man, that was good pizza. (Happily, no limes were killed in the making of said pie.) Tomorrow I will work a 16 hour shift and come home to cold, leftover pizza. And I won’t think of GP at all. But I might wonder about our mysterious frozen foil packages. I like your poem. Please write another.

    • Hmmm…another poem. I’ll have to think about that. I’m not much of a poet.

      I laughed about your chicken because we do that..we freeze raw chicken, then go by cooked chicken because the raw chicken is frozen.

  • The food bank people left a bag by my door today so I could donate unwanted canned goods. But that’s the thing– I don’t have ANY extra food in my house. I buy a week’s worth at a time, I eat that shit, and by the following Sunday there better not be a natural disaster because I will have NOTHING. The only things I always have are butter, an onion, and powdered sugar. Always. Everything else? MOMMA EATS IT ALL.

    This comment has no actual point and will therefore not have a conclusion.

    • I don’t know…that seems to be the way to do it. You can come to my house when the robots take over. I’ll have food. I mean, we might have to lick spices, but it’s something.

  • Oh, how I LOVE this post!! Are you kidding me? Survive on $29.00 a week? That’s just lunch for one day for three of us!!! Anyway, this post is hilarious and I can’t stop laughing over “expired surprise.” AWESOME!!!!!

  • Thank God someone else’s freezer sounds like ours. Unless it’s waffles or ice cream it is probably freezer burned. Unfortunately Babboo won’t let me throw anything out without his approval. It’s a zombie apocalypse thing.

    I will refrain from making any comments regarding the meatball paragraph.

  • Oh my gosh, I needed that laugh after a long shitty day and not nearly enough alcohol yet.

    The salty mcsalterson balls. Still laughing…!

    I gave up trying to budget for food. My plan is this…if the budget is tight, we skip the grocery store altogether. Except that that could mean we ALWAYS skip the store, which would mean we’d be on an effing diet from hell. Except that our cabinet is so full of food that there’s no room for ANY MORE FOOD, but it’s all food I canned last year when the garden was great, but guess what? None of that “sounds good” now, so guess what I hear a lot of..? “There’s nothing to EAT.”


    To answer your question…no, I couldn’t do $29 a week, even for one person, and I should get the shoes anyway.

    Happy Mother’s Day too– Hope you have a lovely day my dear!!

  • I just laughed so hard, I peed a little. Thank god booze doesn’t count, because a box of wine is like $18, and we require at least 2 of them a week. Which means we’d be over budget AND have to choose between booze and food. I’m pretty sure I know which one would win, which means my kid would get nothing but freezer burned corn, Ikea meatballs, and expired sour cream all week. Child services may have to get involved. I think it’s safe to say that this challenge isn’t a good fit for my family.

    Dear Gwyneth,
    Does the $29 include how much you paid your staff to take care of everything else in your life while you were feeding your family this week? Because I don’t even have a cleaning lady. Pizza is required at least once per week at my house, just so I have time to provide my family with clean toilets.
    Love, Megan

  • So, you know about my Mormon upbringing and the secret room? Well, that shit rubs off on you – I tend to hoard food. Theoretically, should the zombie apocalypse happen tomorrow, me and my kids would probably be able to survive for at least three months – maybe more. The food would probably not be the best – and not a superb well-balanced mix of carbs, fat, and protein – but we wouldn’t die. However, reading this post made me realize that, while I cleaned out my freezer just a few weeks ago – I have not cleaned out my cupboards or looked through the canned food on my ingenious can rolling dispenser in the garage for…at least a year. You are not alone, sister!


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