October Grocery Challenge Update

by Katy on October 10, 2014 · 14 comments

october grocery challenge

Here we are, ten days into the October Grocery Challenge and it’s time to check in with how my family is doing.

Which is poorly.

Not poorly in the sense that anything’s wrong in our lives, poorly because my family of four has spent $182.88 on groceries so far, which doesn’t bode well with my goal to spend under $450 for the month. (And my secret goal to actually keep it under $400.) However, I’m not beating myself up too badly since I knew we’d be spending out this week due to celebrating my older son’s 19th birthday. It’s not unusual for my mother and step-father to take us out to eat for family birthdays, but this year we mixed things up and hosted them. (Can’t be too much of a mooch!) My son absolutely loves steak, so I planned a steak dinner, which becomes prohibitively expensive when eaten in a nice restaurant. (We ate at Morton’s a few years ago, and I think the bill came to over $500 for the six of us!)

Here’s how much we’ve spent on groceries so far for the month of October:

  • 10/2 Grocery Outlet – $25.35
  • 10/3 Safeway – $39.41
  • 10/6 New Seasons – $13.97
  • 10/7 Costco – $80.76 . . . hellooooooo rib eye steaks!
  • 10/9 Fred Meyer $23.39

Which adds up to $182.88

Multiply that by 3, and you get $584.64, not a sustainable budget. However, we’ve been eating with an emphasis on frugality since Tuesday, and will continue to shop and cook with the budget in mind. Although my mother’s birthday is on the 21st this month, so I’ll have to start thinking about a special yet not insanely expensive meal to serve.

Here’s what we’ve eaten for dinner this week:

  • Monday: Frozen homemade baked ziti, which then became lunches for a few days.
  • Tuesday: Rib eye steaks with baked potatoes, roasted green beans and pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.
  • Wednesday: Fajitas, which used up the small amount of leftover steak.
  • Thursday: Roasted potato, egg and black bean burritos, which used up the leftover baked potatoes.
  • Friday: Mixed bean soup with cornbread.

See how that one expensive meal lent itself to a few other meals?

I do have a decently stocked pantry, although I’ll replace and take advantage of sales as much as I normally would. I haven’t been doing meal planning more than a day in advance, but that works well for me. I plan based on what I have on hand, and what needs to get eaten up. And I generally shop based on having standard ingredients on hand, rather than what I need for specific meals.

And a big thank you to everyone who shared their steak cooking tips on the blog, as they were very helpful! I ended up bringing the rib eyes to room temperature, sprinkling with kosher salt and pepper, searing in blazing hot cast iron pans and then finishing them off in a 500º oven. (After placing a pat of butter over each steak.) I knew they were appreciated because everyone was completely silent during one point in the meal, which was a first!

Are you trying to keep an eye on your food budget for the month of October? Please share your progress in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Maureen October 10, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I am including personal care items and animal food and supplies in with my grocery budget and I’m using up my budget very fast. I do have a plan for the next few days for food, so we’ll see how this week goes.

We think our cat has diabetes, so we’re switching from dry to canned cat food and its expensive. And we have to find certain cat foods as well — not the cheap stuff. Oh well.


Katy October 10, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Poor kitty.


Lilypad October 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I’m a vegetarian, but my husband is a meat-eater and buys those packs of steaks (rib-eye is his favorite) about 3 times per year. He wraps them up individually and freezes them for when the steak craving hits or when nice weather brings on the urge to grill things over a manly fire. (No gas grill for my husband—he’s got one of those “Big Green Egg” type things although his is a less costly brand, naturally.)

Your mention of Morton’s reminds me of my husband’s late grandfather, who used to fly into town a couple of times a year and treat us all to a magnificent meal at very fancy restaurants. I’m sure it cost him $500 – $1000 at a time but he LOVED treating us. He did not live a fancy life the rest of the time. He started out life in a Jewish shtetl in Russia and ended up quite comfortable in the U.S. and I’m sure it thrilled him to be able to do that for us.


Katy October 10, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I hope to be able to be that generous in my later years.


Lilypad October 11, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I know, wouldn’t it be fun to do stuff that like for others? He was the most generous person I’ve ever known and it really inspired me.


Jane F October 11, 2014 at 6:35 am

What a nice story of your grandfather-in-law. As wonderful as it is to be treated in general, it means so much more when then the person treating you is clearly delighted to do so.


Lilypad October 10, 2014 at 4:33 pm

I meant to say those packs of steaks at Costco. He thinks they taste the best and are the best quality for the price.


kathleen October 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I’m suffering sticker shock from my grocery shopping today. I made a trip to Costco and to my local grocery store, and I spent more than I have EVER spent in one day . But our kitchen is going to be out of commission for at least a couple of months, and we will be making due with slow cooker (which also has stove top and oven settings…love Ninja) and microwave. So I am preparing meals ahead and freezing. The groceries today will be the majority of our food budget for at least two or three months. Spent the past week menu planning, preparing shopping lists and defrosting the freezer in preparation. Trying to get through this as frugally as possible.


Kathie October 11, 2014 at 11:07 am

I’ve been trying to cut down on our grocery budget for about 2 1/2 months. The one thing that has helped me the most is to use the calculator on my phone to total my groceries as I shop. This one simple practice has helped me reduce my grocery bill from $700 to about $500 a month. It’s still more than I want to be spending, but I’m still trying to figure out what I need to change to bring it down even more. It just makes me very aware of what each item costs and I find myself questioning … do we really need this item this week?


cathy October 11, 2014 at 11:46 am

I really like that idea! I try to pay attention to what each item costs as I put it in my cart, but I haven’t tried keeping a running total. That might help me keep the little splurge items on the shelf.

I have a general question for Katy or, really, anyone. Whenever there’s an awesome sale on something we regularly eat, my inclination is to stock up. But, I’m never quite sure how much to buy. Years ago, when I first read The Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyczn recommended buying enough to get you to the next sale. But I can’t imagine knowing how much you go through w/o keeping some sort of running tally in your pantry/fridge/freezer AND having an idea of when the item will go on sale again. Does anyone have some advice?


Betsey October 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Amy also suggested having a price book, which I do. I keep tabs on the regular things I buy and can tell when it’s a good sale or not. I do stock up on things I will eat when they go on sale. I order a quarter beef once a year and make it last (I only cook for me and guests once a week). Last year’s price was $2.21 a lb.
My shopping book permits me to buy chicken, fish, and pork when on sale. Meat is more of a flavoring than a main dish. I can get 8 tacos from 1 lb of meat. One of my favorite meals is a taco stack. I make rice or use a tortilla. I place a mound of rice or 1 tortilla on a plate and add taco flavored meat. Then I use whatever vegies I have and stack those on top. I cover it with a home made cheese sauce. I can feed 8 people for this.
Another recipe I love is my sweet and sour surprise. I bought brats on sale for around 75 cents each. I had some leftover celery, carrots, peppers, onions, and zucchini which I sautéed. I added 2 chopped brats, some sweet and sour sauce, and fed 4 people from this.
There is not much to being frugal: know your prices, be creative with what you have, and never apologize for your concoctions!!!


frugalscholar October 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

The woman who does the Grocery Game (I am not a subscriber, nor do I use coupons, which the Grocery Game advocates) said that sales come around @ every three months.

I basically use the stock up on sale “system.” It must work because my family has always spent under the “food stamp budget” without trying very hard (and even before we knew what the food stamp budget was).


Molly October 11, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Our grocery budget is $100/week for the 2 of us, and darn if it goes fine until alllll the trader joes staples go out at once!


Sarah October 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I know it’s important to strive, and I keep tabs on every cent spent, so I know my food budget this month is already about $100 too high…but I’m feeding 7 so that’s not completely out-of-bounds though I’m still a little freaked, but when I stress too much over the food budget I begin to compromise on having enough vegetables, trying enough new recipes, and in general, creating a more abundant meal. I’m actually trying to ease up on the food budget pressure, which is hard when I’ve so conditioned myself, and instead focus on the quality and joy I bring to the table…ooh, don’t I sound like such a goody-goody, but I actually mean it. I caution about taking up too strict of a budget, it can become a real tyrant.


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