Category: $200 a Month Grocery Challenge


Fresh garden produce comes in handy when you’re watching what you spend at the grocery store. It tastes better than store bought too. We had a freeze last week so our garden is done for the year. The bounty shown above is my second to last harvest. My last harvest consisted mostly of peppers, which I processed for the freezer, to stuff and also to add to chili, stir fry, sausage and peppers, etc. I’m happy to report that there will not be a need to purchase overpriced peppers at the store this winter.

I’ll be sharing what was spent for the final shopping trip of September later in the week. I went a little over budget as I started to stockpile for the winter, so the challenge has come to a close. It must be the squirrel in me, or maybe it’s just smart to be prepared in case we are trapped in the house because of a blizzard, ice, or frigid temps. 😉 Sometimes it’s nice not to have to do a weekly shopping trip, especially when the weather is nasty or just downright cold.

What do you do to prepare for winter?

We started out the month needing to stock up on a few pricey items, but these purchases will carry over into future months. This may cause our balance to be over the limit, but because we looked for sales and cost compared, it will save us money in the long run.

The purchase of kitchen trash bags, tp, and cocoa totaled $19.45, but will carry over into future months.

Our entire Giant store trip totaled: $84.27

Some deals worth noting include a FREE Luna Protein bar, purchased with store coupon, Smart Balance butter spread for $.35 with high value coupon, and four packages of Lender’s bagels for $2 using a store deal of buy four specific items and get $3 off.

I saved a total of $37.77 which means without coupons and other frugal shopping practices my bill would have been $121.70 = OUCH!

My Wegmans trip totaled: $48.08

It consisted of organic milk, produce, brown rice, a splurge on shrimp, and bulk boneless, skinless chicken thighs, as well as cat litter and a $2.99 bag of candy that I did not put into the cart. I’m not sure how it got in there. It must have been my shopping counterpart. Most of the purchases were made in hopes of a shift to even healthier eating. I notice this kind of shift always causes rebellion in the ranks. 😉

Total so far this month: $132.35

It’s the end of the month and time to see how we did.

Balance to date: $179.84

At trip to Wegmans to purchase a few items for Sweet Saturday: $16.11

Grand total: $195.95

I’d say not a bad amount. We were a little over last month and a little under this month. I can’t wait to see what kind of challenges next month brings.

This past month we used the bounty of the garden to put up some pears and tomatoes. You can read about the pears here. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing how easy it was to can the excess tomatoes from the garden.

It’s almost apple season. I enjoy apple picking directly from the orchard. We make it a family event and also try to bring a few friends who have never been apple picking. This year I’m thinking about canning cinnamon applesauce and maybe even some cinnamon apple slices. I’ll definitely be making apple pies, apple dumplings, and my homemade caramel apples for Halloween, and can’t wait to share these adventures with you.

 

I’ve been thinking lately that the name I have given this challenge may be misleading to some so I am taking a moment to clear up any misconceptions. Even though the label states groceries, I’m feeding a family of three and two dogs and two cats. In addition, this small outlay of cash, in comparison to an average monthly budget for such expenses, is providing all personal, cleaning, and paper products for our family. I am challenging myself to be more mindful of my spending and while I envy the extreme couponers who seem to get a lot more for a lot less, I feel I’ll definitely be challenged by this goal and it will keep me focused.

What are some of my strategies for making this possible?

Once or twice a month I shop Aldi for several items that I know I can’t get cheaper elsewhere. I know in advance what the prices will be. This allows me to budget without a lot of effort of searching and clipping. On my most recent trip $21.33 was spent.

Here are a few examples:

10# white potatoes $3.99

Mac n cheese $.39

3 pk scrubber sponges $.99

Condensed soups $.59

There is a slight possibility I could do better with coupons. My daughter likes the mac and cheese occasionally for something different for her lunch. We’ve tried name brand, which is supposed to be soooo good. She prefers the Aldi brand and found there is even more in the box. It seems to make more for the same size as the name brand. Maybe it’s our imagination? We also tried other store brands. Aldi won on both taste and price.

A recent trip to CVS scored me $5 extrabucks that I can use on a future purchase. I stocked up on shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash, and even got two cans of tuna for $.38 per can. Total spent $11.51 Total saved $24.77 + remember I get $5 to use in the future. If you’ve been keeping track of my shampoo purchases you’ve probably noticed that I have quite the stock pile. The key is to buy when it costs the least so you will never have to pay full price.

Giant and Aldi are very close together, so we almost always hit Giant after Aldi. I always take cash into Aldi so we use the leftover cash at Giant and try to get all we need with what is left. It’s fun to try to do this. It really makes you price compare and consider each purchase carefully. I know many use the cash envelope system. It does work. I find it more difficult to track expenditures when using cash but there probably isn’t an excuse to not use cash exclusively for groceries. When we get through the check out line we always use the cash first and then our bank card. Some may justify that since they do not have enough cash to cover the amount that they would rather pay with only one source and use their bank card or write a check, etc. It would then be tempting to squander that cash in your pocket. You can pay however you like in whichever combination though, at least at our store. Check which kinds of payments are accepted and the policies of your store before setting out to do this. Total spent $29.85 ($20 cash and $9.85 check card) Total saved $12.76

A few deals and strategies worth mentioning:

BBQ sauce was on sale and combined with a coupon was FREE.

Two Zone Perfect bars with coupons were FREE.

A B1G1 free deal on laundry detergent turned out to be the best deal even without a coupon, and I have a lot of detergent coupons. Always check! Sometimes using a coupon is not the best deal. Also make sure to compare cost per load. I noticed a lot of variations at the store that day, especially with the new pods. Does anyone have any experience with the pods? I noticed you get less loads per package, but you don’t have to measure, so could you actually use less maybe? I’ve gotten a few samples in the mail and feel the pods work fabulously, even one pod to a washer full of clothes, lightly soiled clothes. This is something to look into in the future.

Check out the store brand. This isn’t always the case, but most often the store brand is just as good as name brand without the inflated price. We saved approximately two dollars by buying store brand cream cheese and o.j.  If you’d do this every other week for a year it would total $52 in savings. That equals four trips to a movie matinĂ©e for us.

We decided on Wegmans for our meat purchases this go round. Earlier in the year I was really trying to strive for all organic meat and dairy purchases. Evidently this is not the season of my life to undertake such a goal. We still do buy only organic milk, other organic dairy items when I find sales and/or coupons, and organic meat on occasion. In the meantime, as long as my ground beef does not contain that “pink slime” I am content with non organic. We are eating less meat too. Here are a few ideas on how to make that work for your family.
We purchased ground beef, boneless and skinless chicken thighs and pork country style spareribs in family size packs to divide and freeze at home. Total spent $34.48

Total spent so far this month $179.84

We are into the first two weeks of August and are right on track. Expenditures so far total $82.67.

My most recent trip to Target looked like this…

I know it looks like quite the hodgepodge, but my method is to buy what you can while it’s cheap or free and you won’t need it when it’s not.

This haul contained:

2 bags of dog food (not pictured, that scored us a $5 gift card to use in the future)

10 cans of cat food

A Ritter Sport bar (a once in a while indulgence)

Fruit snacks

Bugles (husband’s indulgence)

4 bags of frozen veggies

Cleaning/disinfecting wipes

Comet stainless steel

Pens

Scotch tape

Pantene shampoo and conditioner

Garnier shampoo and conditioner

$43.98 spent

$22.97 saved

Ducked into Walmart on the way home because someone remembered they broke a boot lace. I happened to have coupons for tissues they carry and someone also decided they wanted a candy bar. Here’s a hint. Someone isn’t me.

$2.24 spent

$1.50 saved

Earlier in the week we made a trip to Wegmans because it’s our closest organic milk source. Also, daughter had a hankering for chocolate so I picked up a couple of Ritter Sport bars. This is where I noticed how much cheaper they are at Target and is why I grabbed one to keep back the next time we shopped there. I don’t eat candy bars often, but when I do, I find this European chocolate to be worth the calories. They seem pricey, but you have to keep in mind that each bar contains three servings. Remember to keep that in mind while you’re eating it too. 😉

$10.77 spent

We also ran into Giant for ingredients for pasta salad that we needed to make for a picnic. While there I spotted a B1G1 free deal on bread and another store deal that scored me some rock bottom prices on cat litter and feminine products, even without coupons, so we stocked up.

$25.68 spent

$16.11 saved

Remember: In order to reach a goal you need to set one first!

July has come to a close. It’s a good thing because the grocery money allotted for the month has been spent. We weren’t perfect but did pretty well.

A trip to Aldi for $21.67

to Giant at $21.85,

and Target at $23.12 – $4.00 for clothing or $19.13,

and with $4 spent on corn on the cob and cantaloupe at a local produce stand,

the month rounds out at exactly $14.48 over budget. Not too shabby. I can only imagine what it would have been without diligence and planning. Hopefully we’ll hit closer to the mark next month.

Some may argue the point about wasting gas to get to multiple stores. This is not the case in this instance. I started out at a haircut appointment and worked my way back home not deviating from the same road the entire trip. It was very convenient and cost effective, allowing me to visit multiple stores and get the best deals at each, making the most of my money. While doing so I scored a nice top at Target for $4 by pairing a sale with a coupon and a free pack of ballpoint pens using a store coupon. Aldi has many items that are just as good as name brand for a fraction of the price, including some quick lunch options my daughter requested, and Giant was having a great sale on the meat for a couple of special meals that were requested. I hope to do even better next month and can’t wait to try.

Whatever reasons we have to try to save money, whether it be to have more to save or invest, have more to give, or to have more to pay down debt, it’s always smart to let someone in on your plan, to help keep you accountable. Of course first you need a plan. Thank you for sharing in my goals by following along with these posts and keeping me honest.

How do you stick to your money-saving goals?

%d bloggers like this: