Can you go into the kitchen and think outside of the box to create something out of very few ingredients? In this article I will discuss and challenge you to shake up your eating and participate in the $40 grocery challenge. This challenge touches your own personal creativity to reduce your carbon footprint to allow you to free up some extra money to give to your favourite charity.

How the challenge works?

You have $40 per person in your household for your weekly grocery shop: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

You challenge yourself to think outside the box to try something new each week when it comes to groceries and cooking.

You commit a part of what your previous grocery budget was to your favourite charity.


How can you challenge yourself? I’ve included five ways this challenge has challenged me:

1. A kitchen garden?

Do you have a garden that you could more effectively utilise for food?

My balcony garden in my inner city Brisbane apartment


Spring onions I grew from vegetable scraps

2. Ethical eating?

When exploring some of the information online and thinking about the waste that ourselves as Australians and Kiwis make each year it seems a great shame not start talking about making changes in regular habits to address these issues.

By actively reducing my food waste I have instead been able to focus on another area that matter a great deal to me, spending the money to buy ethically produced eggs, milk and meat when possible.

3. Combat plastic

I have used this challenge as an excuse to stop using small plastic bags for my fruit and vegetables, bringing my own bags to the supermarket instead of using the plastic shopping bags and trying to choose products with less packaging.

4. Research

During my five years of study and living in Wellington I became interested in the slow food movement and the concept of reducing food waste. I got into the blog SimpleSavings and really into the work of New Zealand Chef, The Destitute Gourmet. After learning to cook this way I rarely throw out food, plan my cooking around the ingredients I have each week. This skill has continued to help me plan my cooking and cook creatively:

  • It gave me the ability to eat and survive on a very small income while I was completing my thesis (I still cannot believe I was surviving on $239 a week for rent, food and bills back in 2010 – it was hard but I just made it work)
  • It gave me the ability to save $10K in less than 6 months on a $36.5K income between May-October 2011 to allow myself to move from New Zealand to Australia
  • It gave me the ability to save $30K to fund a 6 month backpacking trip in 2012-2013
  • It has continued to give me the ability to travel and work towards my different financial goals

5. Explore culture and stories around food

When I am thinking about new dishes to cook I am often online searching and reading about food in different cultures. It often brings me back to various countries I have travelled to, places I would like to go and food I would like to try. How can you share food that matters to you and experiences with people you love? What foods were important to you growing up? How can you use food to tell stories and to educate?

When my friend and I travelled around Vietnam on an Easy Rider motorbike trip in 2012 I noticed the bugs for sale for human consumption at the markets each night. One evening when we were eating dinner with our guides, Philip and Quy, a bug flew across the table, Philip reached for it, looked at it and then went back to explaining his experiences during the Vietnam war when all the crops were destroyed by the Americans. He said in this time food was scarce and bugs were an important part of their diet.


Charity and giving is something we can all do more of. My challenge to myself this year is to focus on pushing my regular donations from $20 a fortnight up to $40 a fortnight. By reducing my grocery costs is this an easy hack for me to find the extra money in my budget to give to charity. Accountability to a charity that matters to you it makes you more motivated to stick to the challenge.

Some tips to start the $40 a week grocery challenge:

Review your pantry, fridge and freezer before grocery shopping. What needs to be used? What sorts of other ingredients do you need to complement what you have.

Buy what’s on special and in season. Each week for my smoothies vary my green vegetable and fruit in my smoothies depending on what’s in season and whats a good price at the supermarket. This week I used celery and rock melon, last week I used banana and broccoli.

How can you think outside of the box?

I have got making my own homemade vegetable or chicken stock down to a fine art. I freeze the end bits of vegetables throughout the week that I used to throw out. Once my bag in the freezer is full I cook these with water to make homemade vegetable stock. I also make my own chicken stock from my chicken caucuses. These stocks are much nicer and better for you than the pre-made items from the supermarket.

When I was studying in my fourth year at university this meant trying out making a Feijoa cordial from the skins of the fruit and making my own relishes for Christmas presents when money was tight at the end of my thesis.

Have fun with it and don’t give up. Every little bit counts, even if you are reducing your grocery costs by $5 a fortnight that is a really positive contribution towards your favourite charity.

You can document your journey on Instagram using the hashtag #40grocerychallenge

The Economiss is a single, female, millennial on a mission to buy her first home in Australia. A Kiwi by birth, she jumped over the ditch after she finished her tertiary qualifications in search of employment. The narratives quite often showing up online overshadowed her thoughts of buying a house alone changed in 2017 The Economiss started super charging her finances and saved over 30% of her after tax income towards her house deposit as well as cash flowing four overseas trips. In 2018 The Economiss decided to create a new narrative and share her journey saving 36% of her after tax income for a $60,000 house deposit by December 2018. Do you have some tips to share or want to be featured on the blog, please get in touch!

How to reduce your grocery bill to $40 a week

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