October Grocery Challenge

by Katy on October 3, 2014 · 61 comments

october grocery challenge

There are few budget categories that have as much wiggle room as food. Sure, you can turn off unused lights and use a clothesline to bring your electric bill down, but those measures only have the potential to save you tens of dollars. But put an effort into saving money on your food budget? That’s where you have the potential to save hundreds upon hundreds of dollars.

Although I do keep an eye on how much we’re spending on individual food items, I rarely take the time to look at how much we’re spending per month. (I’m so focused on the trees, that the damned forest takes over!) And since my family of four made an effort to not eat out last month, I took a few minutes to tally up how much we spent on food during the month of September.


Crap. That’s a lot of money. Yes, I stocked up on sale Tillamook cheese ($4.99 per 2-lb loaf!) and I filled the freezer with 12 loaves of outlet Dave’s Killer Bread, but still, that’s so much more than I’d like to be spending.

This number includes one takeout meal from a Mexican restaurant, pizza before a soccer game and two forays into my hospital cafeteria. It also included any non-food items (like cat litter) purchased from a grocery store. However, I buy shampoo, conditioner and soap at The Dollar Tree and household detergents from Costco. And feminine hygiene products? I don’t buy them at all, since I have a Moon Cup. And single use items like paper towels or napkins? You already know I never buy those!

My husband and I went to the grocery store a whopping total of 36 times, although I usually walk to both Fred Meyer and New Seasons on a single trip, as they’re both just a few blocks from the house.

We can do better.

New month, new goals. I would like to stay under $450/month, but I’m a realist and know that life gets busy and I’m not the only person picking up groceries in my marriage. Then again, I also know what my husband needs to see when he opens the cupboards or refrigerator door in order to not head out for a $50 bag of Trader Joe’s goodies. (If we’re out of any staples, he will spend at least $30 – $50 on food that’s unrelated to any particular meal.)

On the other hand, I may be cheap with my money, but that doesn’t mean that I’m cheap with my food. I buy the quality brands I want, but I use coupons and stock up when it’s on sale. I take advantage of the monthly Safeway $10-off-$50 coupon to buy the stuff that never goes on sale and I know when brand loyalty makes no difference. I keep the kitchen stocked with fresh fruit, but it’s what’s in season/on sale. And when we buy meat, it’s almost entirely from New Season’s, which ain’t cheap. Also, we’re feeding two teenage boys!

Here’s what I plan on doing to bring our grocery budget down for the month of October:

  • I will meal plan to avoid last minute trips to the store.
  • I will shop nontraditional grocery stores to take advantage of available bargains. (The Grocery Outlet, ethnic markets, Costco, etc.)
  • I will continue to use paper coupons for the items I normally buy. (For example, I’ll use coupons for Tillamook sour cream, cereal, pasta, etc.)
  • I will cook from scratch whenever possible.
  • I will take advantage of Safeway’s Just For U digital coupons when putting my grocery lists together. (Coupons for eggs, milk, tea, etc.)
  • I will keep the cupboards and refrigerator organized in order to minimize unnecessary purchases and food waste.
  • I will keep a few made ahead frozen meals to combat busy nights when takeout sings its sweet siren song.
  • I will make sure I have a plan of what to bring for my work lunches. (My husband is better than me when it comes to making his lunch the night before work.)

Life is busy, and we’re feeding four adult-size mouths in this house, so I suppose I should cut myself some slack; but I know that being organized and deliberate will not only save us some significant cash, but will likely better our meals and decrease meal time stress.

Although I’m starting this challenge three days into the month, I think we’ll do alright. Just yesterday I shopped at The Grocery Outlet and took advantage of their crazy good prices. I was good about avoiding temptation, (no chips made it into my cart!) and even used a $3-off-$25 coupon from my Chinook Book.

Here’s what I bought:

  • Large bag of tortillas $2.99
  • 5-lb bag of potatoes 79¢
  • 2 tins of smoked oysters $1.98
  • 4 32-ounce cans of organic tomatoes $3.96
  • 1 large bag of assorted plums and apples 99¢
  • 1 bag of assorted bell peppers 99¢
  • 1 box of lovely Italian Pizelle anise cookies $1.99
  • 1 large bag of salami ends and pieces, which I’ll freeze to have on hand for homemade pizzas $4.49
  • Garlic salt 99¢
  • Garlic powder 99¢
  • 2 cans of pumpkin puree $1.98
  • 2 bags of dried black beans $2.18
  • 8 assorted cups of yogurt $3.66

Total $25.32

Today I’ll spend my $10-off-$50 Safeway coupon, which should A) fill our cupboards and B) keep us out of the grocery stores for awhile.

Although October includes two family birthdays and Halloween, I think we can stay within the set budget if I just make sure to stay on top of things. I put two huge pasta dishes into the freezer the other day, so that’s taken care of, and with all the stuff I stocked up on last month, we should be good.

Do you see your food budget spiraling out of control? Please share your thoughts and money saving tips in the comments section below. And if you want to follow along in whatever way seems right to you, then please add your two cents as well.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne October 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Okay, that’s a tiny bit high for a food budget, but you ARE feeding three men.

What really shocked me was 36 trips to the grocery store. That’s 9 per week, more than one per day. ???? \

Hide husband’s wallet?


Katy October 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Remember that whenever I go to Fred Meyer, it’s almost always a trip to New Seasons as well. (They’re a block apart.) I guess it’s also relevant that I usually walk my errands, so there’s only so such I can carry.


julie October 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm

May I ask what area of town has these two stores so close together? I love to shop at both but it’s a drive into Portland. Thank you


Katy October 3, 2014 at 4:40 pm

The upper Hawthorne neighborhood.


Anne October 3, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I certainly like and admire the walking of errands, but in the interest of cutting the grocery shopping down, perhaps you could limit yourself to just one trip to Costco/the Grocery Outlet/Jack’s per month, and no more than once per week to Fred Meyer and New Seasons.

Although you would probably have to use the car it might really force you to use what is on hand.

On the other hand, judging by the other commenters, your current food budget doesn’t seem far off from theirs. Good luck!


Katy October 3, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I’m often walking out any about anyway, so it’s on my way.


Amelia October 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm

So glad you are starting this challenge! We noticed last month that our food spending was way out of control. When I am on my A game, I plan meals for the week that are based on the grocery store circular. We live in a small town and so don’t have access to things like Costco or an outlet, but still…I can do better.

One of my favorite tips is stretching out a roasted chicken. We did that this week: the first night, we ate it as our entree. The next time, I pulled the rest of the meat off and made it into chicken enchilada soup. Tonight, I’ll toss it into the slowcooker and simmer it til it falls apart. Then I will use it for chicken and dumplings.

One of our challenges is that I am pregnant and on a diabetic diet, which of course means high protein. One of our daughters is deathly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, to the point that we don’t have them in the house. So finding sources of protein — that don’t also pack a carbohydrate whollop — has been tough.


Tracy Stone October 4, 2014 at 4:57 pm


You can get lots of protein without eating lots of meat. Please check this out! Lots of vegetables have plenty of protein. You’ll feel better, too, without all the meat. Plus, WAY cheaper!


cathy October 5, 2014 at 11:01 am

My kids are both anaphylactic to tree nuts, and one also to peanuts. So I completely understand. That peanut allergy ties in w/ allergies to most beans and legumes for my son (he can eat garbanzos & black beans, but no peas, lentils, other beans). Do you have this same issue with your daughter? If not, there are quite a few good suggestions on the link Tracy Stone provided. If beans/legumes/seeds are a problem, there still seem to be some good alternatives, especially if you can tolerate soy and quinoa. If you haven’t tried quinoa, you can sub it for almost any whole grain. I made a quinoa tabbouleh for a large party and it was the only thing people asked for the recipe.


Ms Frau October 21, 2014 at 11:44 am

Hi, I love cooking like that – taking a main meal and then using it several different ways, but I wanted to comment on what you said about your diet. I don’t usually comment this way, but since you’re pregnant (Congrats!) I wanted to just give a quick shout out and heads up.

I hope I don’t sound in any way critical, but it was the comment “which of course means high protein.” You might have meant that as in eating less of the starchy, high glycemic carbs, and just used the term “high-protein” as a general term, but if you truly meant a “high protein” diet, I’d urge you to see a professional who specializes in diets for pregnant women with diabetic issues. And if you did, you might want to consider a second opinion. Not every nutritionist is a great one, and many are confused about diabetes.

See, most diabetics don’t do “high protein” diets, primarily because of the other issues that surround diabetes – an insidious disease that often damages kidneys, liver, other major organs. They generally follow a diabetic plan designed to control or to keep blood sugar on an even keel. There’s a fine balance between protein and carbohydrate that has to be maintained, and the right type of carbohydrate is really important.

Usually, the focus is more on eating less of things that raise blood sugar quickly, more of things that keep blood sugar at an even level. Carbs are a key focus – both the type and amounts and the timing, because blood sugar is so important. Generally things with a high-glycemic index like fruits, potatoes, flour products, pasta, rice, peas, carrots, are severely limited. The focus is on eating a LOT of the so called “good” carbs and a lot of fiber.

A nutritionist or Dr. will generally go over a diet based on your individual needs, test results, goals, weight and physical activity, keeping the fact that you’re pregnant first and foremost, and recommend the amount of carbs you should be eating at every meal – which is different from a “high protein” diet.

So, I hope I’m not just being too pushy here and didn’t understand the way you meant the term! 🙂


April Nelson October 3, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Oh, too good a column to not reply. There are two of us in this household, although one night a week we also have my elderly parents over for supper and make sure there is enough food to send home leftovers for another meal. We average $200 a month, with another $25 or so for household items (dish detergent, toilet paper). I monitor the food spending casually unless I feel it is creeping up, then I monitor it strictly to see where the holes are. I cook a lot from scratch, I buy no name brand foods, and in the summer there is a garden (some of which ends up in the freezer for winter). I also make large batches of soups and freeze a lot of it for later. Good luck–can’t wait to hear how October goes!


Trish @ Modern Thrifter October 3, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I’m with ya! I try to be careful with how much we spend at the grocery store, but we are also picky about the quality of meat we buy. I also try to buy as many local brands as I can afford. I used to be really good at planning a week’s worth of meals at a time and limiting my grocery trips to once or twice a week. Getting lazy about that has meant wasting more time and money than I need to.

Jaimie Oliver has a great recipe book called “Meals in Minutes” that comes in really handy. It takes some planning, but each “meal” includes a main, one or two sides, and a dessert. I can usually find a handful of recipes that have overlapping ingredients so I don’t have to buy a million ingredients or waste a bunch of food. The recipes take me a little longer to make than the suggested 30-45 minutes because sometimes they include prepackaged things like pie crust that I, instead, make from scratch.

Sometimes I get frustrated that my family eats so much. Then I remember that I’m not feeding toddlers anymore and my husband really does need more calories than me.


Kristen October 3, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I usually spend about $600/month to feed my crew, so $707 doesn’t seem super high to me.

(We’re six people instead of four, but Zoe and Sonia don’t eat ALLL that much. I do have two hungry teenagers who are growing like weeds.)

Like you, most of the meat I buy is toward the humane side of things, so that bumps us up a bit. And I do buy a lot of fresh produce.


NMPatricia October 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I love when my two favorite bloggers overlap.


Lori October 3, 2014 at 6:24 pm



Emilee October 3, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Your budget sounds totally reasonable. I have been wanting to create a grocery/food budget for awhile now and you have given me the motivation to get started! But I have a couple questions for you: How do you decide when to buy organic vs. non-organic produce? Do all you look at is price? Also, when you freeze a meal, how to do heat it up? let it thaw in fridge? Go straight from freezer to oven?
Thank you for your great post!


Katy October 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I do look at price when deciding whether to go organic or non-organic. And when I go from freezer to oven, I rarely bother to defrost it first. It takes a long time, but that’s not a big deal. I suppose if I knew I wouldn’t be home ahead of time, I’d take it out of the freezer in the morning.


Julia October 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm

we have lots of stuff in the pantry so I should clean that out. We have all been sick and eating lots of soup — ordered in from Chinese restaurant. Our food budget went nuts in the short month of Sept. So I’m with you — back on the wagon. Planning meals again. One day at a time.


Martha October 6, 2014 at 7:23 am

I try to keep chicken broth and rice and/or noodles on hand in the pantry so I can make quick “sick soup” even when I myself feel under the weather. If I have eggs which I usually do I can make my own egg-drop soup (usually whisk in a bit of corn starch to give it that “Chinese restaurant” consistency) which my mom used to call “Chinese penicillin” when we were sick.


Kristy October 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm

This is kind of an ‘ouch’ subject for me. We’ve recently gone from being a family of 5 on a single income with no excess and free lunch at school just 2 years ago, to a higher single income family and a grocery budget of $800. I never really thought about how much I was spending because I suddenly had the freedom to put what ever I wanted into my cart without thinking about it. Thankfully this mindset does not apply to all aspects of my life but it was nice to put the calculator away in the store.

Then people started commenting on how much I was putting in my cart. While I was offended and felt that it is rude (and yes it very much is no bodies business how much I buy at a BULK foods store) I started questioning my shopping. We went from spending $350 per month to $800 per month ($400 per paycheck). I do my shopping every two weeks. I don’t like shopping at all. I decided to check how much Food Stamps would give a family of 5 and try to base my spending off of that. The maximum (in Oregon) is $771 and the average is $551. On the maximum side I’m not too far off.

I decided to start meal planning and make a shopping list after taking inventory of what I have on hand. This last time we used up all the food in our house before buying more. Now I’m spending just what I need to (with an occasional extra here and there) and I’m shaving off about $100 a month. I could possibly do better than that but I switched my families diet to whole, organic, non processed food. I decided I would rather pay top dollar for quality food than continue to reap the consequences of making ourselves sick, because all we could afford was fake food. I now buy organic grass fed meats, dairy, fruits and veggies. As you all know that can get expensive. I also like being able to pass out snacks to the neighborhood kids my kids play with.

I make my own bread, cereal, breakfasts, lunches and dinners for everyone but we also have an additional $150 restaurant budget. For our family that can mean 3 times in 2 weeks depending on where we go.

Yeah I need to keep working on it and will continue to try to do better.


Katy October 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Wow, it sounds like you’ve been able to find a terrific middle ground!


Kathleen October 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm

This is a difficult issue for me. I know I could save money on food, but I also know that food choices have huge environmental, social, and health impacts. So I save money by not buying any convenience foods beyond pasta, cereal, and bread (no premade sauces or treats) and buying more of certain things when they are on sale (although without a car bulk shopping really isn’t feasible). At the same time, I buy high quality (and more expensive) meat, cooking oil, and produce, because the environmental and health impacts of my choices are big here.


Cyndi October 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm

We spend about the same for 3 “adults” but I really don’t worry about it.

1. I know we are spending a much smaller percentage of our income on food than most people in the world and no where near the true cost.

2. We have almost no food waste. In fact, my parents often bring over their leftovers and food that’s going to go bad before they can eat it.

3. The food budget also includes most of what other people would spend on transportation, entertainment, and healthcare.


surviving and thriving on pennies October 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Well I can really relate to this. My budget for a month of groceries is $800. That includes any household things such as toilet paper, shampoo etc. But I don’t use coupons rarely ever because I buy lots from the farmers or grow my own so there is no need for coupons. One thing that helped save us $$ and save calories was to ditch the dairy all together. We don’t drink soda, don’t eat junk food and rarely ever go out. Its a a comfortable budget and I usually have a tiny bit left over for projects around the house. I have a family of 6 (4 girls equals the stomachs of 2 boys right? ) and I think its a pretty good budget. BUT hubs gets paid 3 times in October. One of those checks will be for Christmas $$. So my budget will be cut by $200. So I will have to slim down to $600 for this month. Easy peasy I got this!


diana October 3, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I paid 5 bucks for 3 cuts of meat on sale and made 9 qts and 14 pts of veg beef soup the entire veg budget was 5 bucks = learn how to can


cathy October 3, 2014 at 11:01 pm

When our income was cut by 1/3, I finally had a good, long look at how much we were spending on groceries. We’re committed to eating whole foods as much as possible, including organic, and humanely-raised/caught meat/poultry/fish. We also have boys with severe food allergies and allergen-free food is really expensive (think $4.59 for a 12 oz bag of rice pasta). One of those boys is also a teenager so he’s always hungry.

The biggest thing I did to save money was switch where I bought my food and some of the brands for packaged food. I used to buy almost everything at Whole Foods. But Sprouts has the best overall prices on produce. I probably spend half what I used to spend. I discovered that I liked the *experience* of shopping at WF more than Sprouts. The same with Trader Joe’s. It’s more enjoyable–easy layout, good music, blah blah. When I realized how much I was saving, Sprouts suddenly became a *much* nicer experience! I buy by the case at stores that offer a case discount. I have a regular list of “ingredient” foods that I buy (since I cook/bake almost everything from scratch) and buy to re-stock those things. I don’t usually purchase ingredients based on special recipes. I’ve found that certain stores have the best prices for specific items–and it’s not always what you’d expect. I keep a price book, and take it with me when I shop. I grocery shop with a list, which helps me avoid buying stuff we don’t need. And I always say yes when someone offers me garden produce. There’s a lot of that right now as people are harvesting the last of their gardens.

After I get home from shopping, I tally what I spent. I usually do several stores on the same errand since all my grocery stores, except Costco, are within blocks of one another. I’ve definitely found, for me, the fewer trips I make to the store, the less I spend on groceries. I also do a separate tally of “splurge” items. Those are the items I’m trying to keep out of my cart. This is especially hard at TJ’s where virtually everything comes in a package. Have you noticed there are no scales at Trader Joe’s?

We were spending between $800-$1000/month (though this did include some non-food items). Now we’re spending around $500 (not including non-food) and had several months where we spent between $400-$500. That $400 is elusive, but it’s my goal. Thanks, Katy, for this post. I needed some extra inspiration!


K D October 4, 2014 at 3:58 am

Many years ago I kept our food budget to $50/week for a family of 3 (at the time the 3rd was a small child). Since then food prices have increased, our diet has improved, and our income has increased. I honestly do not know how much we spend on groceries. I still stock up when items are on sale (and I usually have coupons if applicable) and cook using the pantry principle. We don’t eat out very often but occasionally do takeout: one meal of Chinese takeout will feed two of us, as will one meal of Chicken Tikka Kabobs.

I look forward to reading your blog posts and following the resulting comments but I am happy with our food spending (but trying to empty the freezer and pantry a bit more).


Diane October 4, 2014 at 4:04 am

Food is expensive! I need to go on the banana and carrot diet as those are the 2 least expensive items I always come across.


chicknlil October 4, 2014 at 6:14 am

As a farmer this post is near and dear to my heart! My whole life revolves around growing and harvesting food for my customers. It is interesting to see other people’s perspectives on food and learn that they are concerned with animal welfare issues and chemicals and pesticides in food.
My food budget has ballooned this summer as well. I subscribed to a csa for our vegetables this summer. Unfortunately we aren’t using quite all of it but it gets shared with my folks so very little goes to waste. Same thing with milk, I have a gallon of organic, grass fed milk delivered each week. Usually I make my own yogurt in the crock pot, but had to buy it recently due to time constraints. My farm recently expanded by 10 times and the new farm needs a lot of infrastructure and planting. I’ve also added two employees. I was busy before but now— wow! I raise most of the meat we eat so our freezer is usually stocked very well. Right now we’re using up the last of our beef and more will come in November.
My suggestion for excellent meat at the best price is to buy in bulk from a farmer. Most sell whole animals for a serious discount compared to the farmers’ market. The farmer takes the animal to the butcher for you and the butcher calls to get cutting instructions from you. You get the quality you want, a price break, and you get the cuts you want. You don’t have to do anything but pick the meat up from the butcher and write a check. You don’t have to buy a whole animal. Usually, large animals like beef and hogs come by the half. A lamb will fit in your refrigerator freezer. You can buddy up with a friend to split the order as well. It’s nice to come home and shop your freezer. I don’t have to run to the store at the last minute and I know the quality is excellent. The same thing can be done with fruits and vegetables. Just ask the farmer if they have seconds. They will freeze fine and you’ll save the farm wife from freezing and canning yet another cooker!
Winter is coming so my schedule will relax some. Even with freezers full of organic free range chicken, turkey, pork, and beef ; my husband has coined the term pizza Wednesday (: I hope to get back on track and reign in our grocery spending.


Katy October 4, 2014 at 6:44 am

Thanks for your thoughtful reply and the view from a farmer. I don’t shop from farmer’s markets, but I would like to think that I’m buying thoughtfully and deliberately. Could I do better in this category? You betcha’, but I’m working on it. 🙂


A. Marie October 4, 2014 at 11:26 am

I heartily endorse chicknlil’s suggestion of buying meat in bulk from someone who raises the animals. DH and I buy 1/4 cow and 1/2 pig from a friend with a small operation–and although this might seem like too much for the two of us (especially since we are making efforts to reduce our total meat consumption for health reasons), I sell a lot of it to neighbors at our cost and give a lot of it for the holidays. No way am I going back to grocery store meat. This is not only way cheaper but way better.

I’ve also been cleaning out the freezer in preparation for the arrival of this year’s meat later this month–so the food budget has prospered accordingly.


Greta October 4, 2014 at 7:08 am

This is all fantastic. Although once again, I must admit the Moon Cup horrifies me!


Tracy Stone October 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm

This one’s funny! Maybe Katy could devote a column to that. The comments could be fun! I use the Diva cup. I don’t know the differences in the two, and have to say that it took a little bit of getting used to, but when my cycle got crazy cause of perimenopause and cysts, it was great to have that to use. It’s actually less of a mess than tampons. Probably tmi, but I’d be interested in knowing why the horror…


emmer October 4, 2014 at 7:13 am

wow! this is interesting. over the years i have been in many different positions, from food stamp using single mom to subsistence farmer feeding 6 and selling a bit to foster mom to day care provider to cooking for diabetic and cardiac special diets to hosting a weekly dinner event for a table-full.
along the way i have tried many tricks to cut my spending. the one that consistently works the best is just stay out of the stores and make do with something in the pantry. if i go to a store i too-often come home with more than i planned to, and it is a time suck to shop daily.
i go to the local farmer’s market twice a month in season.(i have only a tiny garden at my townhouse). i am a drop point for an azure standard bulk food delivery 4 times a year. i am at new seasons most wed morns buying whatever looks good to make into the weekly wed supper. and i shop fred meyer maybe 3x a month. i think i spend an awful lot of time spent pursuing food, but it makes only 4 or 5 times a month.
we spend a lot on food–almost all is local/regional and organic/free range/grass fed. not everyone can do that and not too many yet have the mindset that allows that food ought to cost more than the 10% american’s spend on it. we don’t vacation expensively–the pacific northwest has so much variety that we need not go far from home for vacation experiences. and our public transit covers about half of our metro travel inexpensively. i guess you could say we use our gas money and vacation fund to buy food…definitely worth it.


Alison October 4, 2014 at 11:32 am

Hi Katy, Have you heard of the no poo movement? I hadn’t until three months ago. Out of curiosity…I tried it…and am a true believer now! In the last three months I have washed my hair many times…but only with water. On top of that…I have shampooed only twice. I urge you to try it…for your own sake and the sake of your followers. Google it….there is a whole movement (no pun intended) going on! This will help save the earth…some money…and possibly have health benefits (No chemicals) I too am a nurse…so cleanliness if importnat to me. I do belive my hair is clean…after a good wash with frictcion and water! I am curious about your thoughts 🙂 Love your blog a lot!!!


Katy October 4, 2014 at 11:51 am

I have very thin hair, which gets greasy if not washed every other day. I’ve tried just washing with hair and I ended up looking awful. And BTW, I used to wash my hair every day, so every other day is a big improvement.


Alison October 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Katy, if your hair gets greasy every other day…you are the perfect candidate for the no poo movement…really! Please do read up on it…it is quite astounding. I challenge you to try it…before being a naysayer. That people are having to wash their hair every second day…is directly due to shampoo! It IS the culprit…not your thin hair. For me…hearing you give an excuse for not trying it…(at least for 6 weeks) is like hearing someone else give excuses for things that you deem no brainers in terms of caring for our world. (I do hope this email does not come off sounding critical..it is meant to be a genuine and kind challenge/invitation) I had the luxury of trying it out first in the summer…when hats are in…and my work hours were minimal…timing may be everything for a challenge like this 🙂


Anne October 5, 2014 at 7:33 am

Like Katy, I have fine hair and also an oily scalp and wash a minimum of every other day. I have tried washing only with water and it was a disaster.

I think people who are successful with this strategy have curlier or thicker hair that does not like directly onto the scalp. You are going to have to trust me that the “less wash” simply does not work for everyone.


Amanda Steyer October 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm

We’re a family of seven with a gluten-free household, multiple food allergies/issues (including needing to avoid hormones in meats and milk and pesticides in produce), so need to buy gluten-free everything, and organic when we can. Our kids are 15, 14, 12, 9, and 6. I haven’t tallied grocery bills in a few months, but would estimate we spend $700 per month on groceries, or $100 per person. I also feed a 2 year old breakfast and lunch five days a week, and occasionally feed my kids’ friends lunch or dinner.
I do a beginning of the month Costco run for the things we can get least expensive there. I shop sales on meats, combine sales and coupons for nonperishable and some perishable food items, we’re members of an organic CSA that runs June – October and provides enough veggies for those months plus a freezer stash, and we bake our own bread, cookies, etc, for the most part. I work our meals around what we have in our pantry, fridge and freezer. I stock up on items I can get a very good prices. I also run a monthly Frontier co-op, and shop at the Mennonite store (for bulk spices, mostly!) when we visit our in-laws in PA.


Betsey October 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I feed myself and various guests for $200 a month.
My meals are simple:
Breakfast is oatmeal with fruit.
Lunch: sandwich with vegies and another fruit or homemade soups.
Dinner: varies, but I usually eat meat, vegies, a potato/rice dish, with a homemade dessert or yoghurt.
I buy 1% milk, lots of eggs, fresh vegies, frozen vegies, spaghetti fixings, chicken, fish, pork sausage, fruit in season, and very little beef.
What beef I do buy would be a roast which I can make stew and sandwiches from. Tip: add a cup of V-8 juice to the stew along with the homemade gravy and it tastes better. I rarely buy hamburger, but when I do, I use it in soups and casseroles to stretch it. I can get 2-3 meals out of a pound.
One of my favorite recipes is to take carrots, celery, green pepper, and an onion to stir fry with bratwurst when it’s on sale. Add a bit of sweet and sour sauce, and I have 2-3 meals.
I buy fish and chicken breasts in 10 lb. packages which last for the month even when I have guests. That way I can take what I need out of the package.
I never buy junk, never. I simply do not eat it. I also do not waste food. I stopped buying lettuce for example because I could not eat it all before it spoiled. I just eat vegies instead.
My cholesterol count is excellent.
And I never, ever go hungry! I just cook for myself. Love those grilled cheese sandwiches with fresh tomatoes!


WilliamB October 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Here’s a different perspective: I could get my food spend to almost nothing for any given month because I have so much food in the house, both cabinet and freezer. I’d just need produce, eggs, and milk.

But in the long run it would cost me more because I’d miss out on good deals.

Frex, after mostly eating down the freezer I went to buy some chicken. Not only is my supermarket now stocking happy meat each package had a $1 off coupon. I now have a milk crate full of parts for an average of 1/3 off. If I’d waited till next month I’d’ve paid a lot more. IOW, unless my circumstances change, what I do now works best for me.


WilliamB October 6, 2014 at 8:24 am

Oh hey – upon reread a couple of days later, my last line sounds snippy. Sorry about that!


Dawn October 5, 2014 at 8:22 am

This is a constant area of work for me. Thanks for the tips!


Carol October 5, 2014 at 8:35 am

There’s a great online class called Grocery University that you can Google. It costs something like $20, but I cut my grocery bill by 1/3, or $30 a week, by following it. I recommend it.


frugalscholar October 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Eating inexpensively is my main frugal pastime. I have often thought I should shop for other families! I guess it helps that we are a family of bean burrito lovers. And soup lovers. My husband bakes bread and makes yogurt also.

No real secrets except for cooking/stocking up around the specials.


JD October 6, 2014 at 5:16 am

I’ve shopped to keep my food bills very, very low at times, with a strict budget, but as we’ve aged (ahem!) I find that quality is going to have to come first. I buy a lot of food directly from farmers — grass fed, organically fed, and raw dairy. I buy organic produce as often as I can, we garden as much as we can with limited resources, and I avoid junk food, convenience foods, and pre-made foods like the plague. My bill is too high — probably 400 a month for two people, including the costs of our herbal supplements, but we both have health conditions — Type I (juvenile) diabetes and Crohn’s, and this diet and the herbs have helped tremendously.


Sloan October 6, 2014 at 6:16 am

What do you freeze meals in? I would love to have some freezer meals, but don’t want to buy disposable containers and also don’t have a lot of extra dishes/containers that I can spare. What is the middle ground for this? Buy disposables and wash them? My husband helps a lot around the house and I don’t know that he would be too into that. I’m just not sure. Any advice would be great!


Tonya October 6, 2014 at 9:32 am

I always look for glass, Pyrex-style casserole dishes at yard sales and Goodwill. I have about 7 currently. I can make 4 or 5 freezer casseroles and still have a couple for day-to-day cooking.


Katy October 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I have one lidded aluminum casserole dish, and I wish I had more as it’s fantastic for freezing meals without having to use wasteful aluminum foil. I’d buy more if I came across them. I also have a three extra Pyrex casserole dishes, which I do freeze with aluminum foil on top.


Ms Frau October 21, 2014 at 11:54 am

Sloan, what I do is line my casserole with a heavy foil, enough to wrap across the top, freeze the whole works, then remove the contents after it’s frozen, wrap well. Take some care not to totally crumple up the foil so you are able to seal it well, though. Problem solved, casserole back in use. When ready to cook, pop item back in the casserole.

I also use the plastic containers like Glad that you can pick up at the store – some consider these disposable, but I don’t, and Ziplocs – Don’t reheat in plastic, though.


Ashley October 6, 2014 at 7:37 am

I made friends with the butchers at my grocery stores. They told me when mark down day is at the stores. I am pregnant with #3 and due to give birth within 2 weeks. I stopped in 2 weeks ago and bought 25 lbs of meat for $55. Retail was over $200. This was for porkchops, sausages, chicken breasts and ground beef. I came home and split everything into packages so it’s ready to pop out and cook.


Jenn October 6, 2014 at 7:57 am

I could have written this post. I paid off 2 major debts this year and yet and still wondering where all the money goes each month. I think it goes to the grocery stores.

Our Costco membership expired and I let it go. While I could avoid most temptations there, I was buying way too many Christmas/birthday gifts for my 12/21 b-day boy, and was stocking up on things like Brownie Brittle. My son has plenty of gifts headed his way and I can make brownie brittle from internet recipes if I really want.

I’m not a couponer because I rarely find things I want. Most of the coupon items are for processed foods.

Where I have found an interesting way to save is through these apps:
* Checkout 51
* Snap Groupon
* iBotta
While many of their rebate items are on things I don’t/won’t buy, there are items I do purchase: milk, bread, eggs, Pull-ups/diapers, etc. I love that I can cash out my rebates for checks or for gift cards.

I’ve got a coffee date with a girlfriend this week to do some menu planning. We both have busy families and are interested in freezer meals, but don’t want to commit to a full month of the pre-made ones. We’re going to pick some meals and either prepare them together or make separately & share. I love using a Crockpot but often find that our 10-hour workdays are too long for most items that can be prepared in them.


Carolyn S October 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I know this post is a few days old, so you might not see this – but I wanted to chime in about your crockpot comment just in case. I’m also in the situation where I can’t do crockpot recipes during the day because my husband and I are away from home too long. At some point though, we realized that we could just put a recipe in the crockpot over night, and portion it out the next morning before leaving. Works great if you take leftovers for lunch during the day, or just to have something ready to re-heat for dinner in the evening. It is a little weird to wake up in the morning to a house smelling like chili or stew though… 🙂


Tonya October 6, 2014 at 9:29 am

Good luck, Katy! I look forward to following your progress. I’m always working on cutting the grocery bill and love reading what you and others are doing to do the same.

We have a family of 4 and despite being a pretty frugal shopper and meal planner we are also typically at about $700. I try not to get too freaked out since we are thin folks and I know my active kids really need a lot of calories just to exist, and also that the food they need to grow is expensive. I do lots of beans, oatmeal, PB and J, scrambled eggs, quesadillas, and other cheap and healthy vegetarian meals.


What's Linda Cooking October 7, 2014 at 5:57 am

I think of myself as an expert on low cost food budget. My food bill has crept up over the past year but I feed 4 people on $70 per week. I buy some organic produce and meat but only when on sale. My family loves seafood, so I buy fish every week but I found that I can buy “chowder fish” for $2.99/lb. These are just smaller cuts of fish. I just cook it like I would a fish fillet. My family does not notice the difference.

I buy most of my produce from a local produce market who sells to restaurants. Whenever the restaurants do not want a particular item, it gets sold at the market Right next door, they have a Gourmet Outlet that sells the exact same items for 5 times the price. I buy Olivia Organics Spring Mix, Baby Kale, Baby Spinach for $1 per package. I buy 5 lbs of cut up Romaine Lettuce for $1. Slice onions, sliced peppers, sliced carrots for $1 for a 5 lb bag. I just throw them in the freezer and use them for sautéing. Yesterday, I bought heirloom cherry tomatoes for $.50 per pint.

I go to a local meat market that sells chicken leg quarters for $.69/lb. The butcher cuts them up for me and packages them to my specification.

Yes, it does mean that I have to stop at 3 different markets but they are all within a 1 mile radius of each other. I have just learned to make a loop to all three when I go out shopping for food. I now only shop once per week to make sure I am not spending too much.

I know I could get my bill down to $40 per week if I stopped wasting food and also stopped buying specialty items for my kids. If we needed to cut the food bill, I could but right now we are fine with our $70/week spending. Of course, we do bake and cook at home 3 meals per day. Occasionally we go to a restaurant that has a $6 steak and fries or $6 shrimp and fries special or one that has $2 Tuesdays with hamburgers, chicken pot pie, etc.


Katy October 7, 2014 at 7:18 am

I love that you’re shopping nontraditionally. Thanks for the ideas!


Tammy Brackett October 7, 2014 at 8:34 am

Katy, what a great post and I love all the comments and great ideas to reduce food spending. I am a perimeter shopper. I know when my markets reduce items and I can shop for salad mix, deli items, yougurt, etc on days that these items are deeply reduced. My main market has a scratch and dent section and it’s my go to aisle for canned and boxed items. I’ve been tracking my total spending since January and work each month to reduce total spending and grocery spending. Happy and grateful that in September I spent $212.00 and saved $86 with digital coupons, physical coupons and sale items. We’re a family of two adults and two doggies. The $212.00 included items to stock my emergency pantry. My bills increase dramatically in the winter and I’m trying to offset power and home heating oil expenses by using food from my pantry. The pantry is a new thing for me. So thankful for the good advice from you and the folks at your facebook site for all the advice and info to start and maintain one!


J. Pario October 7, 2014 at 9:44 am

I feel your pain!

My husband is gluten intolerant and that is most of what is driving up the grocery bill. He’s going to start making his own bread soon, and that will help.

But I’m still amazed how much our grocery bill is when there is only 2 of us and we garden!

Here’s my post on if comparison grocery shopping is worth it.


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