October Grocery Challenge — How Did I Do?

by Katy on November 4, 2014 · 43 comments

october grocery challenge

I had hoped to do more blog posts about the October Grocery Challenge, but instead I only wrote two. But just because I wasn’t writing about it, didn’t mean that I wasn’t working on it. And to be completely honest, one of the reasons who I didn’t write too much about it was because my husband likes to do big grocery trips on days that I work, which include budget-busting items like fancy desserts and premiums meats.

So I was kind of scared to sit down and add everything up. My written goal was to stay under $450, my secret goal was to stay under $400 and I just knew in my heart that I would fail to meet either goal.

Sigh . . .

So I’m very happy to announce that my family only spent $408.56 on groceries for the month of October!

I guess all my scrimping and saving on groceries kind of balanced out my husband’s proclivities for the finer things in life. (At this point I would totally understand if you’re picturing him wearing a waistcoat and monocle.)

However . . . we did spent $93.31 eating out during the month. But this includes the restaurant and coffee shop on my son’s 19th birthday. This also includes taking my son out for a one-on-one lunch and me buying one work lunch and a large amount of freshly baked cafeteria cookies to share with my co-workers. And umm . . . I drove through Burgerville to use up some Chinook Book coupons from my neighbor and step-mother that were about to expire.

I did not include the $66.72 that I spent on apples, as I use the applesauce for gift giving. Yes, we eat it as well, but I just couldn’t stand to include it in the budget. (Yeah, this is manipulating the numbers. So sue me!)

One thing I didn’t do was to hold back on buying good quality food at any point during the challenge. I did put my slow cooker to work for a number of bean based meals, but those were always paired with fresh baked bread, biscuits or cornbread. If anything, the food was better than ever since as almost everything was home cooked.

And compared to the $707.70 that we spent on food in September, it’s pretty damned amazing! Plus we went to the grocery store 18 times instead of 36 times! (Keep in mind I almost always batch walking to both Fred Meyer and New Seasons in a single trip as they’re just two blocks apart.)

Did you participate in The October Grocery Challenge? Or maybe you just kept a closer eye on your food budget? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

michele November 4, 2014 at 10:06 am

Awesome job!


Katy November 4, 2014 at 10:20 am

Thanks! Life just gets so busy and it’s easy to not plan meals, so I think the main difference is that I always had a plan in place.


Susan November 4, 2014 at 10:13 am

Awesome! I’m well impressed! I spent £59.00 this week on food for my family. I usually aim for around the £70 a week for food. I don’t know, food is the biggest expense in my life next to my rent! For the record, we hardly ever throw anything out so I know for a fact, we eat all the food I buy.


Katy November 4, 2014 at 10:19 am

I think that food in England is so much more than here in the U.S.


Cheyanne November 4, 2014 at 10:26 am

Over the weekend I totally cleaned out my pantry, fridge and freezer and am embarrassed at how much food had expired/gone bad. I had a few cans of cream of mushroom soup that expired in 2013! Ooops. Anyway, I’ve recommitted to reducing my food waste and think this will really help me lower my monthly grocery budget. I have plans to make chicken pozole this weekend! Hominy expires in February 😉


Katy November 4, 2014 at 10:34 am

I love posole! Such a wonderful autumn dish. Makes me wish I lived in New Mexico again!


Cheyanne November 4, 2014 at 10:40 am

Right? SO good! 🙂 Love the way the house smells while I’m cooking it.


WilliamB November 5, 2014 at 7:35 am

I expect the can dates were “best used by” date rather than actual expiry dates. Unless the can is bulged out or actually open to the elements, the contents are safe to eat, although the taste/texture may have deteriorated.

Best Used By dates are, in my judgement, mostly a scam perpetrated by manufacturers to make us think we can’t use what we have. There are only a few things that actually become unsafe to eat: fresh food, fresh eggs, fresh dairy. There are a few more foods that eventually won’t do what they’re supposed to: primarily food with leavening (so cake mix, bisquick, self-rising flour); some icings will separate and need to be kneaded back into shape. Frozen food can become freezer burnt or dried out, but that’s a question of taste, not safety.


Mairsydoats November 5, 2014 at 11:41 am

I also cleaned out my pantry this week. I mentally drew a bright line at 2010, and determined that I wasn’t comfy eating anything that was “best by” 2010 or before, and it HAD TO GO. Yes, it’s true. I had canned goods hanging about for upwards of 6 years. So those have left the building, and I’m working on ACTUALLY USING UP the ones from 2011 to this year. You know, before buying new things. Onward and upward…


Mairsydoats November 5, 2014 at 11:47 am

No, nothing is bulging, and I always sniff & look, as well as take an exploratory taste before committing completely.


Cheyanne November 5, 2014 at 11:51 am

Yes, probably “best by” dates but frankly, my diet doesn’t have a lot of room for cream of mushroom soup…

I briefly considered donating but then remembered how embarrassed my mom would be when we would get expired goods from food banks when I was a kid. Nope. Don’t want to put another person through that.


WilliamB November 5, 2014 at 7:04 pm

That is separate – and entirely rational – basis for determination. And for consideration for others.

Mairsydoats: about that 2010 date… last month I found some instant vanilla pudding with a best by date of 2008. Ahem. Right into the compost pile, that went.

Dawn November 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

Good job! I shopped carefully but I don’t have the numbers all together. I know I cut our food buying in half. I’m proud of that for sure!


livingrichonthecheap November 4, 2014 at 10:53 am

My husband is exactly the same, I can go to the grocery store and come home with five bags full for $20. He comes home with $8 stuffed olives and $9 lunch meat lol. I try and make sure the fridge is always full to counteract his expensive grocery ways, not always successful I might add.


Molly November 4, 2014 at 11:53 am

Wait you guys have hubbys that will step into a grocery store??? Jealous!


Trish November 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm

exactly what I was thinking!!!


Cheyanne November 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Heck yes! I’m NOT doing all the shopping myself! 😉


Betsey November 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I feed myself and occasional guests for $50 a week. That does not include my yearly meat purchases.
I buy 1/4 of a steer and 12-15 free-range chickens each year. All in all it costs me around $700. If you divided that by 12, you’d add around $60 per month.
The steer comes from a farm where I know the treatment of the animals, and it is slaughtered by a local packer. I cannot eat all the steak, so I sell/give some of that. The ground beef is packaged in 1 lb increments and I use that to donate to shelters or as gifts because I cannot eat that much.
The rest of my meat comes from sales on fish (tilapia) and canned tuna. I also love brats and pork roasts, so I wait for a good sale on those.
I will also pay more this year because of the high price of beef. But it’s worth it.


Josie November 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only single household that buys a portion of a steer. I split a quarter with a friend and give some to my family. The herder lets me make installments while he is raising the cattle, so when it finally comes in it’s mostly paid for. Grass fed, humanely raised and delish.


WilliamB November 5, 2014 at 7:37 am

I do that also. I’m taking a break from half pigs but am considering a fraction of a cow. I use it all … eventually. The 6 lbs of lard are taking a while :->


Lesley November 4, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Katy, that is great progress from last month’s totals.

I have to say, I’ve been really trying to lower my “screen budget” over the past few months (tend to get sucked into surfing and then lose an hour here and there), but your blog is staying in the “budget”!

One question: as a nurse, what are your feelings about getting too much carbohydrate in the diet? I mention it because of the beans + bread topic in today’s post. Cheaper often means higher in carbs, and my waistline doesn’t like it. Thoughts?


Katy November 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm

The bean soups include carrots, celery, peas, etc. I do eat a lot of carbs, but they’re not empty. Lot of fiber and vitamin-y goodness.


WilliamB November 5, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Just a note: not all carbs are starchy. Potatoes and bread are starchy; carrots and apples are carby; beans are middlin’.


patti November 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Good job!!! And just think if you save $200 – $300 per month in a year you will have saved $2400- $3600!!! Eventually, you will have your meals planned out and it will become easier ( unless you are like me and keep trying new recipes). Actually, I have been writing my meals on my calendar this year in hopes of being able to mix and match next year a little better. I started Weight Watchers and am doing it more for the health factor than the money factor. But I bet it is going to help the bottom line of the budget, too, just because I, like you, have a plan every day. Keep up the good work!!


Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom November 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Wow, even with the fudging of the numbers you still cut your spending by, like a lot! Did you notice any difference what you were eating day to day, or did you just shop smarter?


Tonya November 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Amazing! You really did great. My budget for October did not go down at all, but I have done everything I can do to cut, and might just be as low as I can get. I have two growing teens. 🙂 We’ll see what happens in November.


Tonya November 4, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Oh, and honestly, one of the biggest grocery budget busters for us is good beer (we are in Denver, lots of amazing local brews) and we’re just not willing to cut those out.


Patricia November 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Katy glad to see the challenge went so good for you. Its a shame I wasn’t subscribed then. What I am doing now…I don’t set a figure say $300…because you will find you will stick around that. What I do is just try to keep it as low as possible and have been coming in around $68 per week. If you tell yourself…you will be that….so that’s my thinking now and its working for me.


Linda November 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm

When everyone talks about spending X dollars/mo. on groceries, are they including all the other stuff we buy at the grocery store (like laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc.?) I’m trying to figure out if my spending is way out of line w/the general population or not.


Katy November 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I only included food. But there’s not that much I buy at the grocery store besides food. I buy toilet paper at TraderJoe’s, soap and shampoo at The Dollar Tree and detergents at Costco.


BreeAnna McManus November 4, 2014 at 5:49 pm

18 times to a grocery store a month?? How? Why? I go max 6 a month.


Katy November 4, 2014 at 6:04 pm

There are two of us that shop, and I shop certain items at different stores. We are very centrally located, so we walk past the grocery stores most days.


Mairsydoats November 5, 2014 at 11:51 am

And I know you’ve said that when you walk to the grocery, you can’t buy a large quantity, as the transportation of it would become, erm, difficult.


Alycia November 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I am always so inspired by you!


Chrissy November 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Just totaled up all of our receipts for the month and we came in at $318. We did not eat out once. This total includes organic milk for my daughter there are 3 of us in our family.


Kandace November 4, 2014 at 8:44 pm

That’s great, especially with two teenage boys! Our food costs have skyrocketed as we have focused more on local food lately (esp meat). Goodness, it’s expensive. And our kids are still small, but they eat so much already!


cathy November 4, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Wow, that’s awesome!!
I’d love for you to continue with a November Grocery Challenge, and post a bit more often–even just to ask your readers how they’re doing. I’ve been trying to get my grocery expense down, and can use all the motivation I can get. It’d also be great to see how low we can all go (at least those of us who are interested in this) with a big food holiday this month.
Thanks for the inspiration.


Katy November 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

I may just do that.


Diane November 5, 2014 at 5:01 am

My goal is only once a week for groceries with a menu plan. Staying out of stores eliminates temptations for me and if I want a treat in between, I make it at home. Homemade Cheese Its are to die for!

Also, I am buying meat for only 1 meal a week.


Katy November 5, 2014 at 8:45 am

I’m good about not making impulse purchases, so it doesn’t really change things if I walk over to the store every few days. My husband? That’s a different story!


Stacy November 5, 2014 at 6:46 am

My numbers are misleading, because I actually spent more at the grocery store in October than September. We ate out more in September though, and in October we only ate out twice. I was trying to make sure I cooking most of our meals. Also in October we had a bunch of extra teenage boys for two weekends, so that contributed to the higher amount. My total for October was $507, September was $428.


Katy November 5, 2014 at 8:44 am

“A bunch of extra teenage boys” will certainly bump up anyone’s grocery budget!


K D November 5, 2014 at 10:15 am

I love reading about this but just don’t have any idea what we spend on groceries. I know they say you must measure things to know if you are succeeding but I buy food items at good-to-great prices and we don’t eat out much so I just let it go.

Thank you Katy and those that leave comments for such interesting reads.


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