Tag Archives: grocery challenge

Unexpected perks from my Grocery Challenge

When I did my grocery challenge, I was happy to save some money, decrease our monthly spending amount and learn some new grocery shopping tricks. BTW I still need to check out Aldi – I hear their prices are phenomenal.

And yes, Jodi, I know, I still need to check out Wal-Mart!! Smile 

But, since finishing the challenge, I have found some unexpected benefits from doing the challenge, that are awesome!

I found some new recipes that I can make myself and customize how I want for breakfast, cheaper and healthier than just buying granola bars. I didn’t want to spend money on granola bars, so I did some digging in our pantry and found some recipes that I could make using ingredients that I had on hand. This ended up being cheaper and easier than I would have thought. And I enjoy eating them for breakfast much more than a store bought bar.

My favs are my chia peanut butter protein bars and fro yo breakfast bars.


There is less stress during the week around dinner time because of meal planning .. .


I now meal plan before I go to the grocery store and then write it down for the week. So, there is no getting home at 6:30pm after a long day at work and having to figure out what I can throw together for dinner. And Scott knows what’s for dinner, so if he gets home first, he can get things started too. Of course we deviate from this at times – sometimes  you just need some pizza and sometimes we have extra leftovers, but for the most part, meal planning –> awesome.

We don’t overeat. We really didn’t have a huge problem with this before, we both stop eating when we are full. . . but now we are much more aware of our portion sizes. We need the extra food for a “leftovers” meal and I use leftovers for my lunch at work. I also save everything. We used to just finish the last 4 strawberries or last handful of chips, even though we might be full. . . now I throw the leftovers back in the fridge or in a container for another meal. We also buy a stash of fruit from Sam’s every weekend, which has to get us through the whole week. .  so instead of just eating through a whole pint of blueberries (because they are so good!), we eat some and then put the rest back in the fridge for another night.

I know none of these things are rocket science – and it’s not. .. it’s just the little things that make the difference and add up over time.

What are the little things you do in your house to save money??


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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)


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). . .


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.


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.


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?


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. ..


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?


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Grocery Challenge: Month 3: Week 3

Wow. I can’t believe that my 3 month grocery challenge is almost done!

I had success for Month 1 and Month 2. . .

And for the 1st half of the month 3.

And, I ended up going a little bit over my $300 goal for month 3. I am so bummed! I should have known I would have a problem after saying how it seemed like it was getting easier. .. Winking smile 


Since my last check in, I have done quite a bit of shopping. .. first up was a few items for the weekend before vacation. We totally splurged and bought some steaks at HyVee and corn on the cob from the local corn stand and some adult beverages at the liquor store. .. it was a really good meal!


HyVee –> $14.43
Corn stand in St. Peter –-> $6
MGM Liquor –>$6

Then, I headed back to the store to stock up on food for our Lake vacation. And I was doing really well, until I needed to make an extra stop at the grocery store on the way to the Lake to pick up some extra food that I realized we were missing. I had to spend more than I had planned, which ultimately put me over my $300 limit by $6.69. Sad smile


Sam’s Club –> $31.30
Cub Foods –> $61.28
Corn stand in St. Peter –> $11
Market Place –> $21.98

The silver lining is that even though I went over by $6.69 (fingers crossed that I don’t need to go back to the store before Thursday), I am still doing much better with the challenge overall, than when I started almost 3 months ago! Also, even though I planned like crazy for groceries for the vacation, there are always a few extra things that come up. I could have saved money by not making a batch of Special K bars (recipe coming soon!) and a double batch of rice krispie bars –> but that’s what vacation is all about! So, it was totally worth it to me.

So, even though I went over for this month, I am not giving up. . . I have a 3 month recap of the things that worked the best for me and things that I am going to continue doing to save money and keep our grocery spending low!! Smile 

Have you been watching your spending at all? Any tricks to share??


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Grocery Challenge: Month 3: Week 1-2

Missed my last update? Check it out here!


I think the longer we keep up with the challenge, the easier it is becoming. It is just standard to check the fridge, pantry and freezer and meal plan before going to the grocery store. I am much more thoughtful about my purchases with regard to what we are planning on eating that week. While it is becoming easier, it is still a challenge! We made 2 trips this weekend, Sam’s Club and Cub Foods.

Typical haul at Sam’s Club: fruit (raspberries and strawberries), frozen fruit (for smoothies), eggs and milk. Total spent: $29.45

Cub Foods. Mostly staples and stocking up on sale items. Total spent: $50.05 


-–> Scott went by himself, forgot to use cash, but was super proud of the fact that he saved 28%. Smile


And now we have $142.30 left for the rest of July. About right for being halfway through the month.

We are headed up to the Lake for a week at the end of July to hang out with some friends, so I am a little nervous about extra spending that might happen around that time. I am already trying to meal plan and dessert plan ahead of time, so I can be prepared and stay within budget. I am already planning on making Special K bars thanks to Melanie for putting the thought in my head. Winking smile

As always, any suggestions for saving money is appreciated!! And have you ever had Special K bars?? I think I will have to do a post on them to share their awesome-ness with the blog world. Winking smile


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Grocery Challenge: Month 3!!

Missed my last update for Month 2: week 3? Check it out here.

Success for Month 2!!


With $9.55 to spare. Smile

We ended up buying an emergency gallon of milk for Luke at Kwik trip for ~$4. And then I spent $10 at the Eau Claire Farmer’s Market. It helped that we were at the Lake all weekend for Country Fest and my parents supplied most of the food. To be fair – I did bring a big container of cookies and made a big batch of rice krispie bars –> so I wasn’t totally mooching! Winking smile 

I think the most helpful tips continue to be:

1.  meal planning using what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer,

2. using cash (really helps limit impulse buys if you only have $20 with you to spend!), and

3. keeping an envelope right in the kitchen that I keep a running total of how much I have spent so far and how much I have left for the month, that I fill out right after I put the groceries away and I still have the receipt handy.

And now we are onto July. The final month in my 3 month challenge!


I made one trip to Cub Foods on Tuesday to pick up ingredients for the burgers I made for 4th of July (Maple-Bacon Beer Burgers – holy yum! –> IMHO, only add 1/8 cup of beer, otherwise they are a bit loose and fall apart on the grill). And fruit and some staples. Total spent –> $35.63.


And our obligatory Sam’s Club trip for the week for fruit (blueberries, grapes and bananas) and milk. Total spent –> $18.39

And Scott says I need to be totally honest about that trip. . . I went to the store with no cash from the envelope. And he says I need to tell you about how he “saved” the challenge by having $20 in his wallet for us to use at Sam’s Club. .. which really curbed spending because I was planning on getting a few more things! Mainly ketchup and frozen fruit for smoothies –> how’s that for a tasty sounding combo? lol. Winking smile

And I also spent $12 at the Mankato Farmer’s Market, $5 at Schmidt’s meat market (their beef sticks are awesome), and $1.18 at Kwik Trip for 2 tomatoes. Winking smile 


$221.80 left for July.

I went through our freezer, pantry and fridge again this weekend and have a list of all the food that we have to eat. . . we have a big freezer in the basement that is pretty much full of food, so even though we have been eating a lot of what we have on hand, we still have a big stash left. . . I am finding that I am quite the food hoarder. I like to buy stuff and then save it, instead of eating it. . . which helps for this challenge (because I have a huge build up in the freezer), but not long term. . . more to come when I put my final thoughts together at the end of the challenge this month.

Have you made any changes to your grocery/spending habits lately?? How do you save money at the grocery store??


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Grocery Challenge: Month 2 week 3

Another week already???

This week I just went to Sam’s Club and Cub Foods. We are still focusing on eating what’s in our pantry and freezer, so more fruit, veggies, and milk this week. And a few staples that were on sale. . .

Sam’s Club: total spent: $18.81 (milk and strawberries, blueberries, bananas)

Cub Foods: total spent: $31.09

There might be cake mix and whipping cream on my Cub receipt. . .


After swearing that we were going to eat all of the desserts in our freezer before making anything new last week, I came across this recipe for strawberry and white chocolate buttercream cake –> and I HAD to make it for a BBQ this weekend with friends. Totally reasonable, right? Winking smile


While I am totally into this grocery challenge and using everything in our pantry/fridge/freezer, I still want to do/cook/bake and that’s the balancing act.

Total left for the month of June: $23.55

Total doable! 6 days – I got this!! Smile


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Grocery Challenge: Month 2 week 2

Another week of grocery shopping done! This week I went to all 3 stores in town. . . Hy-Vee for their brats, Sam’s Club for the usual stuff, and Cub Foods for cereal and fruit (on sale!).


Sam’s Club: total spent $32.77. Bought the usual milk, blueberries, bananas, as well as a few things for the BBQ: cream cheese and chips.

Cub Foods: total spent $20.73. Stocked up on fruit (on sale – otherwise I buy most fruit at Sam’s), avocado, cereal, buns, free banana via Kid’s Club and corn on the cob (first of the season!).

Hy-Vee: total spent $26.39. Bought brats and hotdogs for BBQ, yogurt, sour cream, sausage.

Total left for the month: $73.45

I wish it were more! Stocking up on staples last week really made a difference. It a good thing that I stocked up on staples when they were on sale, that’s all part of the plan. . . we will just be more frugal going forward for the rest of the month, and diligent in using up what we have.

Also, Gina mentioned that I should get a Cub Kids Card for Luke. You can pick one up at the Customer Service desk and it is good for one piece of fruit every time you shop with your kid. So, Luke got a free banana! Yes, it’s only $0.27, but every little bit helps! Just like you get $0.05 for each bag you bring to use at Hy-Vee. I’m already going to bring my own bag, so if I get an extra couple of nickels for them, bonus!!

I did spend a little extra for the BBQ on Saturday, with buying brats, hotdogs, buns, chips and cream cheese (for a dip). But, that’s part of life and that is what part of the grocery budget is for!! I saved on dessert because we are really big on making big batches of cookies and bars (when Laura and I have a cookie palooza), and so I used what we had on hand and made a dessert platter!


**This helped too because last week when Scott was putting away my latest bars, another container of bars fell out of the freezer and onto the floor, causing a few to spill out. . . So, he said that I can’t bake anymore until our freezer is empty!! And with blogs and Pinterest, I am always finding new recipes that I have to make, so you can imagine me just tapping my foot while we try to work our way through our current stash of desserts! Winking smile Oh well, also good for the challenge too, right??

This week it was key to check the sales – fruit and corn on the cob was cheap at Cub, and finding out about the Kid’s Card at Cub is awesome too!!

Now, back to the fridge, pantry and freezer to use up what we have for the rest of the month!! We still have a pretty big stash – especially in the freezer, we haven’t eaten any of the Let’s Dish meals from last month or the ones I bought last week! They are sitting right next to all the desserts… Winking smile


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Grocery Challenge: Month 2: week 1

Thank you all so much for all of your encouraging comments on yesterday’s post! I still haven’t made a decision yet, but I know that no matter which race I choose, I will have lots of support along the way! Smile 

On to month 2 of the Grocery Challenge! After my success of Month 1, I ready and excited to take on Month 2!!


In addition to wanting to use things in my fridge, freezer and pantry. I still had a Let’s Dish gift card (from another previous Groupon purchase) that has been collecting dust on the shelf. So, I decided to use that and get a few more pre-made meals for this month. I have realized that I really like to get stuff and keep it. I will buy things that I want to try/make/cook with and sometimes I keep it for so long instead of using it, that it goes bad! I hate wasting food, wasting money and not getting to use the stuff that I bought for a reason. So, I am really trying to use up the stuff we have and then moving forward, buying things to use in the short term. Another place where meal planning is super helpful!! And starting the meal planning process with what I have on hand already. **Super good/useful tip for me!!


So, I had enough on the gift card to cover the meals with $17 out of my June budget. And then one trip to Cub last weekend for some groceries. And I found some pantry items on sale, so I stocked up on those items. **but not too many!! Total spent: $65.94. And total fail because I had cash with me, but since Luke was melting down, totally paid with my credit card instead! #fail

This week, I headed to Hy-Vee because I had a very special anniversary cookie cake to pick up! And bought a couple other items – bread and cheese. Our favorite mango salsa that we can only get at Hy-Vee. and frozen veggies – our fav garlic cauliflower were on sale. And total impulse buy – Pearson’s sea salt caramel nut goodie. Total spent: $40.05.

$177.01 left for the month. Having family over for a Father’s Day BBQ next weekend, so already menu planning for that based on what we have in the house! Don’t worry guys – it won’t be all leftovers. Winking smile So far so good. It helps that Scott has been really supportive and impressed with how well we I am doing with the challenge. Positive reinforcement is always helpful!!

Any tips to help me succeed in month 2??


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Grocery Challenge: Month 1

I made it!! For the month of May, we spent. .  .

$299.25!! Just under my goal of $300. Smile 


As a reminder my overall goals for the challenge were:

  • Use Pantry/freezer items –> YES!
  • Buy staples only on sale –> getting better.
  • Buy only what is needed for the week ahead –>YES
  • One weekly trip to the store(s) –> YES
  • 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
    –> this is going really well and is very helpful for meal planning!!
  • 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.
    –> still just using the Cub coupons we get in the mail. Haven’t had a whole lot of success with online coupons or anything on Twitter.
  • Go vegetarian for one dinner each week –> Done. Usually eggs.
  • Take Jodi’s advice and check out Wal-Mart for cheaper prices –> haven’t taken the plunge yet!
  • Continue to bring my own bags – it’s only 5 cents, but each little bit helps, right? –> Yes!

Overall, a really really good month. When I started the challenge, I really didn’t know if my $300 goal was even attainable given how much we were spending .. up to $425+ each month. ..

My number one tip so far has been using the cash in an envelope. It helps to curb spending so much knowing you just have a certain amount to spend per trip. It also forces you to really look at prices. It has raised my awareness of prices of items and has made it easier to comparison shop as well. We continue to go to Cub Foods as well as Sam’s Club each week. Staples for us at Sam’s include: milk and fruit weekly (+eggs and chobani yogurt once per month ). **We also buy toilet paper, paper towels, etc at Sam’s, but we keep a separate household items budget that isn’t part of our grocery budget.

I am so happy that we are doing this challenge, and I am looking forward to keeping it going for the next 2 months.  ..

after the next 2 months, I anticipate increasing the budget somewhat after our pantry and freezer stash is depleted, but more on that later!!

I know quite a few of you have being doing your own grocery challenge too – any tips to share or things you learned from this month??

Missed my previous updates? Check them out here!


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Grocery Challenge: Week 3

Missed what’s up with my grocery challenge? Or last weeks update?

Another week down. . . only 12 days to go. But whose counting?

As I mentioned in my weekend update, I went to Trader Joe’s while I was in the cities this weekend. They had some decent prices on produce and fruit. I snagged some romaine hearts. I was limited in what I could get, because I was 90 minutes from home. I was able to store some things in my parent’s fridge and freezer, but I couldn’t stock up as much as if I just lived down the road from TJs. I ended up getting more “things I want to try” than actual staples. I needed lettuce and rolls for hamburgers, which I got. But I also picked up pesto filled tortellini, plantain chips, orange mandarin chicken, fire roasted bell peppers,  dried cherries, and a new to me LUNA bar – peanut butter cookie.
Total spent: $23.82.

Which is a total victory. If I would not have been on a budget or keeping track of how much I spent because I only had $25 in cash – I probably would have spent way over $50 at least. . . I have a list now of things I want to try from TJs. Seriously, they have so many good things in that place.

So, on Saturday, we still had a few staples we needed to pick up. So, we headed to Sam’s Club and Cub Foods. Again, no coupons this week. I do have a $5 off $50 from Cub, but I wasn’t planning on spending $50 this trip- so saving that for June 1st!!

At Cub, we got cereal, water (for the Lake), tomatoes, and grapes (on sale).
Total spent: 21.03

At Sam’s, we got our usual milk, bananas, and strawberries. Total spent: 12.60.

Then, we had to stop at the liquor store because it is Summer Shandy season according to my husband, who I am pretty sure lives for Leinenkugels beer in the summer at the Lake.
Total spent: 12.03.

So, when we started this week, I had $70.76 to spend.

-23.82 (TJs)
-12.03 (beer)
-12.60 (Sam’s)
-21.03 (Cub)
= $1.27

Whelp. . . only $1.27 left for 12 days!

My first response was to panic and maybe give up. But on second thought, I am already super proud of how awesome this grocery challenge is going and I feel like we have already saved a bunch of money this month and going forward. But I am not giving up! We have more than enough to get through the next 12 days, with the exception of milk. We may have to dig deeper into the pantry. And instead of just going to the store to pick up stuff for the Lake, I will bring things I already have at home. Thinking about maybe making cream cheese chicken chili! And we will be headed to Chicago next weekend for a wedding, so car snacks will be stuff we have already -no trip to Target to load up on their awesome trail mix selection. Sad smile So, I am trying to be optimistic right now, and planning for the best! But, I will keep you updated!!

Have you made any changes to your grocery buying? Any tips to share??


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