Grocery Challenge: Recap!!

I can’t believe it has been 3 months already and that my grocery challenge is done! (Check out Month 1, Month 2, and Month 3)

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And that I did as well as I did. I’ll be honest, when I first started the challenge and set the goal of $300 per month, down from $425-450 that we had been spending, I didn’t think I would get even close. . . not only did I make 2 out of the 3 months (and the 3rd month was only $7 over). . .

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I have changed the way that our family spends money at the grocery store. A skill that we will use to continue to help us save money forever. Now, that is going to be worth a lot of money over the years.

Even though the challenge is over, I am still using cash at the store and using the envelope to keep track of spending. . .

I took Scott and Luke to the grocery store this weekend with $100 in cash to get us food from Sam’s Club and Cub Foods. Along with a few coupons from Cub and a fairly decent grocery list. . . I knew it would be close, but that we could do it. <—I had just completed 3 months of my grocery challenge, of course I could do this! Famous last words. Winking smile

First up: Sam’s. Typical buys – milk, eggs, fruit. Total spent: $27.02.

Not bad, right? Over $72 left to spend at the grocery store.

And it was going ok. . . things were adding up. I was keeping track of our total on my iPhone. Quite a few staples were on sale, so we were getting more than what was on my list.

And I had our total up to $85.

Panic.

We have credit cards, so we can still pay for groceries, but I wanted to stick to our cash that we had left.

So, we decided to take our haul through the self service lane. *mistake* I had a full cart of stuff, which annoyed people in line behind me. I use my own bags that the self service lane always has issues with.. . I think the manager had to come help us no fewer than 8 times! And I was ringing things up to try to figure out what we weren’t going to have to put back to make our cash goal. . .

Only to get to the very end (we ended up putting cherries – spendy! – back), and for me to realize that I had grabbed the wrong $5 off $50 or more coupon. . . there were 2 at home, one for the 1st part of the month and one for the 2nd part.

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I seriously almost started crying. We ended up putting a can of Amy’s tomato soup back (super good if you have never had it, but a little spendy). . . and we finally made our goal.

Total spent: $72.18.

$0.80 to spare. If that’s not cutting it close, I don’t know what it.

So, while I am happy that we persevered and stuck to our cash spending goal, the entire trip was way more stress producing than a trip to the grocery store should be. . . But the money we are saving does add up and is worth it.

So, what I am going to keep doing in the future?

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Here were my original goals for the challenge. . .

  • Use Pantry/freezer items
  • Buy staples only on sale
  • Buy only what is needed for the week ahead
  • One weekly trip to the store(s)
  • Menu plan weekly and start by looking at the pantry, freezer and fridge and seeing what I can work with that we already have or will go bad soon
  • Start using coupons – I started following our local grocery stores (HyVee and Cub Foods) on Twitter and signed up for weekly emails from Cub Foods and I am going to start checking out some online coupon sites.
  • Go vegetarian for one dinner each week
  • Take Jodi’s advice and check out Wal-Mart for cheaper prices
  • Continue to bring my own bags – it’s only 5 cents, but each little bit helps, right?

And I had the most success with:

  • Using the pantry/fridge/freezer items for meal planning before going to the grocery store
  • Buying only what is needed for the week ahead
  • Using cash only
  • Keeping cash in an envelope in the kitchen and keeping track of spending and totals for the month
  • Buying staples on sale or with coupons –> I kept a list of staples that we needed and checked prices/sales when I was at the store
  • I didn’t specifically make a plan to eat vegetarian weekly, but we usually did – normally something with eggs. ..

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I am going to continue doing the things that I started doing during the challenge to keep our grocery bill under control. If you are going to try a few things to lower your grocery bill, the things that were the most successful for me are:

  1. Using cash/keeping cash in an envelope in the kitchen.
  2. Using the pantry/fridge/freezer to meal plan and only buying what is needed for the week ahead.

Have you ever had a melt down at the grocery store? Any tips for saving money?

22 Comments

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22 Responses to Grocery Challenge: Recap!!

  1. I know I keep saying it, but I’m so impressed! You’ve inspired me to take a look at our food budget and work on cutting it down. It’s insane to think about what we spend a month on two people, so I’m going to take your tips and see what happens 🙂

    Congrats on a finishing your challenge!!
    Emily @ The Good Era recently posted..Take Time TuesdayMy Profile

  2. I think you still did really well! I use SavingStar to get extra savings (they actually give you cash back), and I only buy produce and meat that’s on sale.
    Kelly @ Kelly Runs for Food recently posted..Rainy TuesdayMy Profile

    • KT

      Is SavingStar an app? And agree for meat on sale. I also like to buy meat from Sam’s Club sometimes. ..

  3. Thanks for documenting your journey. We started our cash envelopes up again this past week:-) I’m assuming you have a separate category for Target type trips (ie personal care items/diapers, wipes, etc?). Care to comment on that at all?…I lump ours together as if I’m shopping at Walmart I’m typically buying all at the same time…this challenge was a good motivation to those that followed:-)
    Gina recently posted..Back to Work!My Profile

    • KT

      Oh my goodness – YES! We have a separate category for Target, household, baby stuff. When I am paying for stuff via cash in an envelope, I would pull that stuff out and pay for it separately. This actually helps my husband when he does the budget, he separates everything out so we know what we are spending for each budget line item.

  4. Have I ever had a meltdown at the grocery store? YES! Was it related to how much we were spending? No! My store meltdowns are usually related to the little Monkey who is running up and down the aisles!!

    But seriously, thanks for sharing your grocery challenge with us. It’s been fun to follow along and learn new ways to save!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..4 Things That Are Adorable on a Child But Not an AdultMy Profile

  5. Ugh – I hate the self-checkout lanes! They never work and are not worth it unless you just have one thing and the normal lines are long!
    Becky @ Olives n Wine recently posted..Marathon Training – Week 8 RecapMy Profile

    • KT

      I know, I need to remember to avoid them in the future. . I seriously don’t know what I was thinking!

  6. Meltdown—definitely. But it usually has to do with the people waiting in line for samples at Costco. Hello people, move…I’m actually trying to shop here! I swear some people just go there for samples!

  7. I am so impressed with you. Our “tight” grocery budget is $150 a month for jus two people!

    We eat a LOT of fresh produce, though, which I think is what really racks up our cost…and while I try to stick to things that are on sale or in season, sometimes you just really want a mango, ya know?
    Logan @ Mountains and Miles recently posted..Free Fitness ClassesMy Profile

    • KT

      Wow – I am super impressed that you are able to have a budget of $150. What are some of your tips? And I totally know what you mean, sometimes, you just want something. . . a few weeks ago, I really wanted to make a strawberry cake. So, I did! 🙂

  8. I love this challenge, I kind of want to do one myself. There are only 2 of us (my fiance and I) and I feel like I’ve been spending too much at the store each week (on average $90/week). We both have some serious appetites, but I’m sure there are things I can do to save quite a bit of money each month. I will definitely be giving this a try!!
    Jamie recently posted..Berry Spinach SmoothieMy Profile

    • KT

      Give it a try! You will be amazed at the little changes you can make – buying staples on sale. Buying fruit and meat when they are on sale or you have a coupon. I only buy the fruit at the store when it is on sale – which limits you somewhat – but helps with saving money overall.

  9. Wow – this is awesome, so cool that you were able to stick to a budget! We are Terrible about how much we spend at the grocery store. I swear I could probably put a kid through college if we actually set a food budget for ourselves.

    Thanks for the great insight into how to set (and stick to!) a budget
    Wornout Soles recently posted..The Triathlete: A National Geographic SpecialMy Profile

    • KT

      I think everyone can improve their spending at least a little bit. I was suprised by how much I saved when I just started paying more attention to prices and sales at the grocery store.

  10. I’m so impressed by this. There are a lot of ways I know I could save on groceries (one being that I make multiple trips to the store weekly). Thanks for all of the suggestions!