Final Pantry Challenge Shopping Trips (Grocery Geek)

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I’d like to say that I was a rocking shopper this month during my Pantry Challenge, but I can’t. I was counting the days until it was over. And in the last week, it ceased to be fun.

I did reduce my grocery budget significantly, but there were some downsides to not shopping like normal. I’ll share more about that in my Pantry Challenge Wrap-Up tomorrow.

However, I did get more practice in being a more methodical shopper this month. I checked the ads more carefully. I stayed away from Costco wherever possible. And I got some practice on shopping with coupons again. I’d let that habit slide a little over the last year.

Here’s what I bought in the final week of my Pantry Challenge shopping:

Stater Brothers:

Oats were $1.88 for 42 ounces and bacon was $2.50 a package. I had dollar coupons for all 7 items. I also bought a few other things and ended up spending $9.

Ralphs & CVS:

I cruised the clearance aisle at Ralphs and found some markdowns on bread, cheese, produce, and chocolate. I also bought the things that we “had to have.” I spent $53. Also hiding in here are some CVS purchases. I spent ECBs on those.

So, out of the $95 I had left to spend, I spent $62 at these stores. I have $20 cash left and I paid the kids for allowances and lost teeth with the other $13. We’re done.

And true confessions: I went shopping for next week a day or two early because I just couldn’t stand it any longer. Don’t hate me.

How’s YOUR grocery geekiness going?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. I don’t hate you. I tried to do a pantry challenge this month I only ended up spending $50 less than normal. Now to be fair I had a birthday party and had to provide snack for Sunday School (30 college students!) twice so that ate up quite a chunk, but still, I was not happy with the outcome. With only a couple days left in January I am aching to go to the grocery store. I know I will spend a chunk of my Monday with my ads, coupons, pantry lists and menus so that Tuesday I can hit the stores running.
    I have really been feeling the loss lately of a local grocery store I frequented quite often. It was just a small store, but I found SO many good deals there. The produce lady provided out of date veggies for my chickens and would point out the best deals in her section to me. Sadly corporate closed the store down this past fall. I lost my favorite store and some nice friends when they left. Now I have to travel a bit further and the deals are much less forthcoming. So, I trudge on…

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Tami, trudging on is a good thing. And maybe you’ll find a new store or a new strategy to put a little spring in your step. One can always hope!

  2. It’s just a challenge — there are no pantry Nazis. I’d say you made your goal — you cleared some space, ate the food you had on hand, and fed your family for a little less. More than I did this month! January was my McDonald’s month, unfortunately.

  3. I had not intended to do the pantry challenge, since we have 4 birthdays in January. But I checked our grocery budget for the month this morning and realized that (aside from cakes and special birthday meals) we’ve only spent about $127 on groceries for our family of 7 all month. Around here, the average family of 4 spends about $600. So I guess it’s no surprise that my freezer and cupboards seem so empty!

  4. I don’t hate you either, I think you did great!! And I am like KP groceries around here are crazy expensive and 600 is about what we spend too, though I wish it was much much lower. There’s 5 of us, 1 in diapers, 1 in nightime only pullups and we are a family where I am the only bean eater so cutting back on meat and such is just not an option here. I do the best I can with what I can and at the end of the day try not to beat myself up because of it and neither should you!!

    Love the posts, and love the pantry challenge, keep them coming!!

  5. Denise C. says

    Meat I am good on (less ground turkey that we used the last of tonight for nachos). Other than that I am due for a big shopping trip. My kids are 4.5 & 2.5, they are eating EVERYTHING!

  6. tuxgirl says

    Out of curiosity, have you ever tried getting oats in bulk? We get our oats in 25lb sacks, that we pour into food-grade storage buckets. We can get a sack for less than 10$. The buckets were less than 4$ each and are reusable, so I feel like we are doing pretty well with it. (plus, I dont need to get more oats for a long time)

    • Where do you find 25lb bags of oatmeal? I would luv to do that!

      FishMama…I think your blog is lovely and inspiring!

      • Jessica Fisher says

        Thank you!

      • tuxgirl says


        I’ve gotten it through a bulk-buy group in my area, and also a few times from a local grocery store called WinCo. (I can’t stand the store for anything else, but their bulk section is wonderful!) I think I saw it once at a restaurant supply store, too.
        Hopefully if you look around a while, you might be able to find it someplace…

    • @tuxgirl, Where do you get your bulk oats from? And your food grade buckets, for that matter? Thanks!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @tuxgirl, thanks for the tip. I know that I could go that route and have ordered from the co-op once. But, I dropped the ball on finding food safe buckets. The 50 pound bags of flour have been sitting on my kitchen counter for three months! LOL

  7. Sounds like you used up some items from your pantry and did not spend everything on food so sounds like you did fine to me. My goal the last couple of weeks and will continue is to do is to hide $20.00 of my weekly grocery budget and not spend if possible. So far I have had to break the $20.00 but make me think about it. I have put into my piggy back about $13.00 a week not spent . Now if I see a good deal on meat then may have a problem since the freezer is pretty bare.

  8. I was doing a modified pantry challenge but after the second week most of what I was trying to use was gone (although I’m still wondering why on earth I chopped and froze so many peppers last fall. What was I thinking?). I didn’t really see the point of using up every bit of meat in my freezer because then I’d have to go out and buy more anyway. Ha ha.

    I have been much more conscious of my spending this month noting areas I tend to overspend but more importantly the areas where I don’t. I came to the important realization that my spending goals for groceries are often not realistic for the way we eat so I need to spend more time focusing on other things. I also rediscovered Aldi’s and all the great deals I can find there.

    Another very important realization was how well freezer cooking has been working for me. I don’t use canned beans any more and without my normal freezer stash I was lost. We ran out of frozen cooked chicken and ground meat as well so I was really stuck. After waiting and waiting for our co-op to put ground turkey on sale I finally sucked it up and bought 7 lbs for full price at Trader Joe’s. Maybe not the best financial decision but it made life a whole lot easier.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Beth, well, I think stock rotation is one important reason, especially if you have meat from July. Ahem…..

  9. My successes this month were in planning meals better around what we had and utilizing leftovers. I threw away MUCH less food this week than in the past. I also packed my lunch each day for work, limiting my trips to the cafeteria. I did shop, but I shopped more meaningfully and purposefully. I also used cash for groceries for the first time in forever. All in all a succes in my book.

  10. just a granny says

    Dear Jessica,
    It has been just a little over a year that I discovered your blog – when I discovered “Eat From the Pantry Challenge”. Over the years I had gotten a ‘little’ lazy with keeping with what was on the pantry shelf and in the freezer, and it really was time for an ‘extreme makeover’ on that front. The ideas shared on your blog were just the thing to give me the kick-start I needed.
    Now, it is important to know this about us – we are an ‘older’ empty-nest, retired couple (living in a too-big house, but with grandchildren living nearby). And for several years after all our 5 kids left home, I still cooked like they were still here – cooking large. Now I only do that maybe 8 times a year, and so last year the pantry challenge made me pay attention and I revisited some old habits, and developed new ones: I re-investigated using coupons, paid closer attention to food ads, I inventoried the pantry and freezer, tried my hand at some OAMC, kept up with weekly menus (lots of ideas online), kept a written record of (most) food expenditures, and learned a lot (for a spunky old broad – and BTW – Feb 1 is “Spunky Old Broads” Day. And did you know Feb 5 is Nutella Day? Do you have a favorite Nutella recipe?)
    So, moving right along now – thanks for all the inspiration. I am so glad to be following your blog.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @just a granny, hooray for Spunky Old Broads! (Love that!) So glad that I got to play a role in your extreme makeover. How fun!

      I don’t do Nutella anymore, much to the chagrin of my 10yo, but our toddler has a nut allergy to almost every nut, so it’s a banned food at our house. Sorry to say. But, I love it on crepes, and my kids like it on waffles.

      Happy eating!

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