Well, today is the last day of the All You Challenge and I'm really glad that I entered! At the beginning of the four weeks, I set four personal goals:
1. Spend, on average, only half of the allotted amount of $150.00. I ALMOST succeeded: My average was $78.00.
2. Find ways to make healthy changes without too many grumbles from four hearty teenagers who are all runners and very active. This was probably my biggest success, which makes me very happy! Some changes included: substituting water for sweetened drinks and having no dessert or fruit for dessert at the noon meal, buying pretzels or low fat tortillas/chips rather than my high fat weakness, buying lower fat alternatives for mayo, dressings white bread, and butter, baking healthier desserts from scratch (and using low fat ingredients, less sugar and whole wheat flour) instead of relying on cheap but unhealthy prepackaged items: rice pudding, carrot and pumpkin cakes, sugar free jello and angel food cake, and substituting whole wheat/grain bread for white bread.
3. Find ways to do all the month's regular activities without breaking the budget: This included a steak dinner on July 4th, two 2 day trips that required eating out, entertaining friends two times and providing produce for friends, having a birthday party for my son (14 guests!) and perhaps the most difficult-spending a week of vacation time, having some annual not-so-healthy treats (smores, red hotdogs, lobster) and STILL staying on budget. My goal was NOT to delete special things from our diet completely, but rather to eat healthy a majority of the time and then feel no guilt when it came time for treats!!
4. Prove to myself and the naysayers that having teens doesn't mean you can't eat healthy foods on a budget.
Kids live what they learn. Sure it's hard, but you can do anything you put your mind to!
As I mentioned in my blog, I did a victory dance when my kids told me after week 3 that they thought the challenge was already over and that they really hadn't noticed a big change--i.e. I was the one who thought it would be difficult, not them! My husband mentioned just today that he felt we were eating better for the last month. This is a huge success in my books!
When I first started down the road to saving money, I would find myself looking at other savers and would make excuses about why I couldn't do what they do, things like: She doesn't work outside the home; they don't have 4 teenagers, they have a pantry stockpile to fall back on, he has a garden, she uses coupons....you get the idea. Now, instead of making excuses, I ask myself , "Why can't I do that?" And I do. Sure, we live in the city, but we plant a little garden anyway. I don't have time to be an extreme couponer, but I have enough of a stockpile that I could survive for a week on what I have (and I pretty much did!) Yes, I work outside the home, and some weeks it gets a little hectic, but with planning, I can still have home cooked meals most nights. I have realized that excuses are just that, excuses. Maybe I have to turn off the TV for a couple of hours and bake a few things, or stop at an extra store on my way home, but I can make a difference in how my family eats. Now I also know that we can eat healthier for less, and I will continue on the journey. Thanks, All You, for giving me the motivation to take things a step further!!
Breakfast: cheerios/oatmeal, coffee, OJ, milk
Lunch/Dinner: family reunion time! I provided a cake, baked beans, lemonade, and potato salad. The best part? My brother provided the lobster and steamed clams---ahhhhhh, what a way to finish the challnege! Thanks, bro:)