Book Review – “The $21 Challenge”

  • Posted on June 23, 2010 at 6:50 AM

The $21 Challenge, by Fiona Lippey and Jackie Gower

They say that they will show you how to feed your family for $21 a week.

Can it be done?

Julia has been a member of for a number of years. At first, she was not super tempted by the book as she thought that it would just be a double up of information that was contained on the site. One thing that she was forgetting however, was the satisfaction of reading an actual book rather than hints posted online in forum threads and the “vault” on Simple Savings. The fact is the book is a nice complement to the website – they both work well and fulfill slightly different functions.

The $21 Challenge book is broken up into parts. The first parts of the book detail what it is all about, reasons to do it, how to succeed with a plan for how to go about it, recipes and then finally a section on recapping with how you went.

One of the misconceptions about this book is the idea that one can feed a family for $21 week on an on-going basis. This is not what it is about at all. The key idea behind the book is the fact that most families spend a lot more on groceries than they need to. That being the case, the argument is that most families will have some sort of surplus that they can add to by way of spending a small amount on food for that week to see them through. It may not be $21. Just being aware of how much is spent on food, Fiona and Jackie point out that the weekly food cost can be drastically reduced in a tight week with a bit of creative know-how.

Some key points to consider:

  • The amount of $21 is less important than the idea of making use of surplus food and making do with what is on hand. The Sensible Sisters like this concept as that is what they are all about as well
  • Suggested reasons for doing the challenge (saving money!), guidelines for successfully completing the challenge (rules!) as well as lots of handy tips and advice such as tables to fill out to track progress (which can be printed out fromĀ )
  • $21 (or whatever amount you choose) is for food only – it is not to include other items such as toilet paper or cleaning products
  • A decision also needs to be made as to what meals and snacks the challenge will cover. For example, when Rowena did her version of the challenge, she did not include her fiance’s workday lunches in the challenge as she felt that it was too restrictive with his nutritional requirements as he is so physically active
  • A few different ways of looking at food are discussed – eg, we don’t normally associate food with being a form of clutter. Also, there is a nifty idea about ‘bonus’ items which are often lurking at the back of the pantry
  • A very comprehensive list of common ingredients and what to substitute them with if one is not available is also included – very helpful when trying to make use of ingredients to hand without having to dash to the supermarket for one missing ingredient
  • There are lots of personal anecdotes through the book which help personalise the information and recipes

Whilst the Sisters would consider themselves to be quite thrifty and savvy in the kitchen, they enjoyed the $21 Challenge and took different ideas away from the book that worked for them.

There are some very good basic recipes in the book that the Sensible Sisters will road test and post our results. One in particular that Rowena is keen to road test is ‘Star Wars Stew’ as her fiance is a huge star wars fan!

Overall, the Sensible Sisters would highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested in reducing their food costs. It contains some helpful reminders as well as some handy new information, all in a very user-friendly format.

Well done Fiona & Jackie!

You can order a signed copy of The $21 Challenge here!

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5 Comments on Book Review – “The $21 Challenge”

  1. Woolfienz says:

    I loved the book,but I must admit I have not done a $21 challenge week myself yet, I still use a lot of hints from it.

    Your website is great, I look forward to more

  2. Julia says:

    Hi Woolfienz, thanks for your positive comment! Glad you like our site…don’t worry – there is definitely more to come!

  3. Paula says:

    There is nothing in the book that is not basic common sense. It’s also written in a highly excitable and patronising style which gets irritating by about halfway down page one. (Multiple exclamation marks, anyone!!!!?)

    I borrowed it from the library to see if I could gain anything useful from it and I’m very glad I didn’t waste a cent of my money on it. There’s nothing new in it, and that includes recipes which can be found with a quick Google search. If you’re still curious, my advice is to borrow it first before spending your hard-earned cash.

  4. Julia says:

    Ah well – I am sure I could google “star wars stew” or similar but that is one recipe I had never heard of and still would not know about if not for reading The $21 Challenge.

    I still think the book was a good read – nothing wrong with borrowing it from the library though as is the case with any book that one may want to read but would like to try before we buy (or not)…

  5. Michelle says:

    This book and the Simple Savings site challenges the way we spend out time and our money. It has certainly contributed to my family’s change in lifestyle.

    Congratulation Paula – you must be well on your way to financial independence.

    STAR WARS stew rocks; especially with hungry boys in winter!

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