Grocery Geek: Ending the Pantry Challenge?

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At the end of last month I knew that I had a ton of food in my pantry and freezer. So, I set upon a Pantry Challenge, trying to make the most of what we already had instead of “shopping as normal” at the grocer’s. I didn’t make any hard and fast rules or make a spending limit. Rather, I tried to be mindful of my purchases and not to let things go to waste.

Well, the month is up, and I’m still finding treasure at the bottom of my freezer. Most of the items are of the quick lunch variety, like individual soups and calzones, but there’s also a turkey and several packages of fish, burgers, and brats. That turkey is got to go this week!

Come back tomorrow for a peek at my meal plan. And you can read what we really ate during the Pantry Challenge over on Good Cheap Eats.

I think I have the basics for another month’s worth of meals! So, unless there’s a screaming deal on meat or pantry staples, I’m going to try to stick with my dairy and fresh produce lists.

Grocery Geek This Week:

In addition to random trips to CVS ($3 gallon of milk), Trader Joe’s ($15 sunbutter and misc dessert items chosen by hubs and 2 boys) and Costco ($5 just milk!) these are the food purchases that entered the house:

Walmart is not necessarily the cheapest when it comes to dairy (Costco has that title), but it is a close second. Since I know the more I shop, the more I’ll spend, I’ve been avoiding Costco like the plague. I know I will be tempted to stock up on other things that we’ll use, but that will prevent me from using what we already have.

I’ve been baking a lot of Artisan Bread this month, but buying sandwich bread. Costco is cheaper on that, too. Hmmm…. maybe I need to rethink my Costco strategy?

I ended up spending $40 on groceries at Walmart this week on dairy and a few dry goods.

At Henry’s I loaded up on produce, eggs, cheese, and another gallon of milk? For a total of $52 I got organic lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, bananas, and celery as well as conventional grapes, mushrooms, cilantro, green onions, potatoes, cuties, carrots, and onions as well as a few dry goods and dairy products.

I also made an Amazon coffee order. I told you awhile back how much I loved the convenience of having a coffee machine thingy. With sales and Swagbucks I was able to get this big box of 50 K-cups for only $5!

My grand grocery total for the month is $445.

I’m actually quite stunned. I used very few, if any, coupons, and just focused on adding (mostly) whole foods to our household. I’m not sure what this means for the coming month, but I’m amazed that I spent so little on food costs. We ate out a few times during the month, but that totaled only $115, much lower than most months. So, I’m going to say that this challenge was a success!

Plus, I lost a pound or two. Which, at my age, is priceless.

How did you save this month?

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. All there is near me are BODEGAS and weird super markets. Walmarts are nowhere to be found.

  2. I have been trying to use the things in my freezer and pantry this month. I save money mostly by just sticking to my $50/week budget. This week, I will probably just buy 50-100 pounds of flour with my money and just eat the lettuce and raspberries from the garden and try to finish off frozen veggies and fresh stuff in the fridge. I hate to waste food!

  3. Debbie says

    Great job Jessica!! Thanks for sharing. I try to avoid Costco too but ventured out there this week for contact lenses and cheese!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Debbie, well, we managed to escape with a quick lunch, milk, and socks last week. But, this week will be a different story, I’m afraid.

  4. Congratulations on only spending a little over $400 for your family’s groceries, quite a feat! With the exception of yesterday’s grocery shopping, taking inventory and meal planning has really helped shave some money off our grocery bill. I would say that I’ve cut about 10% of the bill every week and we’ve been more purposeful about eating together as a family. For me, that’s priceless!

  5. Tabitha says

    Question. You mentioned using your swagbucks for your amazon purchase. I’m wondering how many swagbucks (gifts cards) you are able to use on a purchase? I feel like it’s only one per order but I’m hoping I’m wrong…

    • Charlene says

      @Tabitha, You can use as many as you want to. I’ve used $5 Amazon gift cards that I bought with Swagbucks to buy my books for grad classes, and I’ve used several per order.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Tabitha, yes, exactly what Charlene said. You can use as many Amazon cards as you want. You just can’t redeem all your Swagbucks at one time. There are limits on that.

  6. Congratulations on a successful shopping (and saving) month! I love it when we can make that happen!

  7. Jessica says

    Won’t cooking that turkey heat up your house?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      You know it might, but we haven’t been having the heat wave that the rest of the world has had. We’ll see. I could be in for a surprise!

  8. Funny, I was doing really well on my grocery spending this month until I bought $300 worth of chicken yesterday.


    To clarify, every fall I buy a dozen chickens from a local farmer. This year I upped it to 18 and also purchased a few packages of chicken and turkey brats and breakfast sausage. Yesterday was Chicken Day. It’s kind of a running joke for my friends.

    So my spending was up this month but it was in the budget and I’m stocked up well into next spring. 🙂

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Beth, I have had some very weird chicken experiences this past year. I would totally do it your way if I had a good source.

  9. I had chicken and some other meat and bread in the freezer I used up. I have been getting weekly vegetables from a CSA so the last couple of months I have only been buying milk, eggs and items I find on sale that I need. Last week at CVS I got a $4 off $20 of groceries and many items were 1/2 off so I got about $50 items for about $15.

  10. teresa says

    I’m curious what your normal monthly budget is for groceries? I’m trying to budget ours more accurately, but I think I’m trying to cut it too close. I feel like I can’t buy anything! But, I’m aiming for $500 a month. Family of 6.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @teresa, I normally shoot for $600 to $700 for eight people. It went a little higher during intense recipe testing for the cookbook. I think I may be able to recoup some of that this next couple months if I can do what I did in July.

  11. That is awesome Jessica! I loved reading your pantry challenge. It inspired me to focus on my pantry before I went out and purchased any new food.

    And yes I agree anytime adding more whole foods to your diet you will lose a couple pounds. Besides freezer cooking and make ahead meals simply just adding more healthy whole foods to my diet I have been able to lose about 40 pounds since Oct 2010.

    Thanks again for writing about this challenge. Looking forward to your meal plan.

  12. Sinea Pies says

    I love it that it can be economical to do the coffee maker thingy! I had jumped to the conclusion that it was a financial impossibility but I am going to re-evaluate it. Coffee from a Keurig tastes SO good!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Sinea Pies, I found a brand that is really strong, so it makes a lot of coffee. Green Mountain extra bold, I think. You can brew it on the largest cup setting and it’s still strong coffee. I think that is what will help me stretch my K-cup dollars.

  13. I have been really concentrating on price matching at Walmart which works surprising easy. We are a house of two but my husband has a limited diet due to allergies. Saving any money on my budget is amazing! Thanks for all the guidance.

  14. Laura says

    Great deal at Stop and Shop!! Barilla pasta-it appears all types are on sale for $1.00. Used Barilla Piccolini coupons for $0.55 which double to $1.10. Had 12 of them-Hence FREE pasta with a profit!!!

  15. Great month for you! Stuck to a budget AND lost weight. Wow!

  16. Vanessa says

    I love Tillamook cheese (and ice cream)! I miss that living in the Northeast.

  17. Way to go on the weight loss! It is truly priceless!

    I’ve been holding off on a Costco trip, too. I’m also trying to avoid bringing my dh who will add stuff to the cart, just because we’re there. As I said on Facebook, you and my sil have been inspiring me to use stuff up, both in the fridge and the freezer. We truly have a lot of food. I just need to get the milk, cream, and fresh produce weekly.

  18. I was able to spend $20 on food this month for our family of 8, which I consider a huge blessing after these last several months of not shopping/barely shopping (I did spend $40 in June on some bulk herbs; I also spent $35 on canning lids and pectin in July).

    We were able to glean a lot of fruit, and we harvested from our own garden, so I’ve been canning, and freezing fruit, and canning, and canning some more!

    As you know, we’re a lot more long-term living from the pantry; I’ve spent just at $1000 for the year for groceries and tolietries and diapers. I’d love to be able to spend more, but that’s where we’re at right now. We’ve had a lot of blessings come our way, too, that have really helped us this year.

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