Grocery Geek Presents: Pantry Challenge, Week 3

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This is almost the end of the Pantry Challenge, and I might not keep it under budget. Hmmm…. Just saying.

I didn’t buy a ton this week, but I’m not sure how much longer we’ll hold out. Needs and wants arise. We’re definitely going to spend less than most months, but, well, we’ll see.

This week my shopping included the following:


I cruised the clearance items, finding bread and dairy items marked down. We “needed” garlic, brown rice, tortillas, and garlic, so I picked those up as well. The toothbrushes were free after coupons and the veggies and soap were just pennies thanks to sales and coupons.

I ended up spending $15 total.


Since our toiletries stockpile has been dwindling, I’ve renewed my CVS shopping. I had ECBs to roll from last week. After this purchase, I spent $26 out of pocket, and still have another $11 to spend at CVS. So I guess you could say I “spent” $15 there.


Braeburn apples were $0.49/pound, so I had hubs pick up 40 pounds on his way home. Yes, a whole box. We can live off apples for the rest of the month — if need be. That was $19.60 spent there.

If my math is right, I spent just under $50 this week, bringing my monthly total to $293.24. However, there is probably something I haven’t accounted for as there is just $95 left in my grocery envelope. Either way, we may be able to squeak under $400 this month, but I’m not making any promises.

How do YOU keep track of your grocery spending?

What works best for you?

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  1. I use the Savings Tracker in excel that floated around at the beginning of the year. I used it last year as well, and it automatically totals my savings and budget standing when I put the numbers in from my receipt.

  2. Well, a rough estimate from this post is 15 + 26 + 19 = 60, so you might want to check your totals again. That might account for the missing money. 😉

  3. Old-fashioned pencil & paper. I have a tablet of accounting ledger paper. I record the grocery purchases as soon as I’ve put groceries away. Once a week, I add the numbers so I know where I am compared to the grocery budget. (I was an Accounting major back in the very early 80s, in the days before computer spreadsheets, so it works for me!)

  4. @Sharon, I agree, I think she used her “spent”(after ecb) total from cvs instead of her oop… That would account for an $11 difference.

  5. Do you have a date for the final Pantry link up? Just curious. I went WAY over my budget goal already, but I managed to stick to the other three goals I set up, so I’m not beating myself up over it. 🙂

    1. @Carrie, I may go over, too. And, I’ll be finishing on the 28th, making it an even four weeks.

      Final link up will be on the 30th. I know it’s not the full “month,” but folks will have time to link up at their convenience over those next few days.

  6. We also have a store here with 49cent/lb apples. Do you call ahead and request a box? Just curious how you get 40 lb. Thanks!

    1. @Michelle, we just go and ask the produce man. It’s never been a problem. Usually the full box has better quality apples than the ones on display, too.

  7. We just got back from our monthly trip to the TJ’s and whole foods. Our budget for this month is 250 which is a 50 dollar increase! Woohoo!

    I spend the most of our money on our monthly trip. This month it’s 150 but that’s for all of our meat and special items that we can’t buy anywhere else. Doing one big trip keeps me from over spending week to week. I just use the rest of our money to pick up odds and ends. When we run out of money then that’s it. No more shopping

  8. i use gnucash to handle all of our budgeting. It’s a free app that does a lot of the stuff that apps like Quicken do.

    I spent more this month than I intended, because one of the two grocery stores I use started its “closing down” sale, and I wanted to take advantage of some of the savings on non-perishables before they got wiped out.

    What do you do when all of your favorite grocery stores shut down? This is the second store in our area to shut down in 3 months. The stores left are all either *really* low quality (as in the meat and seafood areas reek and the fruit has all been previously frozen), or overly expensive.

    Once a month, I drive about 30 minutes with my mom to go to the navy commissary to get some great deals, but I just lost my “between commissary trips” store.

    I tried our local “discount” store recently (the one that just kicked my favorite store out to the curb) and the quality I found of the produce was so low that I actually was afraid to give the produce to my 1-year-old. (Yes, I’m a snob about food quality…)

    I’m stuck!

  9. I use the envelope system. When the money is gone, it’s gone. My budget for our family of 6 is about $400. That includes toiletries and paper goods too. By the last day of the month I’m usually pouring the last cup of milk. But I feel good when we stay under budget.

    1. That is awesome, $400 for a family of 6! I have a family of 4, I have a goal to set my budget at $400! 🙂

  10. I use an Excel spreadsheet for our whole budget, with a separate worksheet for our grocery. I just record all the spending, it totals it up on its own and I go from there.

    We recently moved back to Australia from Texas – I had our grocery budget in Texas at a reasonable rate (lets just say I cut it 50% from when we went back to the States after I learnt to coupon and take advantage of sales and loss leaders). But down here, groceries are OUTRAGEOUS. I surveyed my friends when I came back about their grocery spending and it basically averaged out to $100/week per person. So for our family of 4, I could expect to spend $1600/month. No joke.

    I thought that was extravagant and I could use the stockpiling principles I’d mastered in the States and apply it here. We have NO coupons here (again, no joke). So I set our budget at $1200/month. I’m proud to say I have made it every time, sometimes just barely, and now that we’ve been back for 3 months and have a stockpile again I am hoping to start cutting it a little each month. My friends can’t believe how little I spend. I also shop at about 4-5 stores or markets a week (they go to 1) and have started a price book for Australia prices.

    Here’s an example:
    Main grocery store bananas – $4.49/kilo (or $2.25/pound); at the market $1.99/kilo or ($1/pound)
    Main grocery store apples (fuji) – $7.98/kilo (or $4/pound); at the market $2.50/kilo (or $1.25/pound)
    Chicken – not on sale, $13/kilo or $7.50/pound

    Like I said – OUTRAGEOUS!!! I miss my coupons sooooooooooooo much. My husband is currently on a flight back from the US, he went back for business, and he went to Kroger and stocked up on taco seasoning, Uncle Ben’s rice, chocolate chips, Annies Mac & Cheese, Skippy. Even though he went completely unarmed with coupons (can’t print them down here) and there’s no sales going on – we will save TONNES of money and be eating some of our favorite things. My friends think I’m nuts (and can’t let go of the US), but I think I’m shopping smart!

    He goes back again in two more weeks with my son, so they are packing in one suitcase and taking three empty duffle bags to bring back more food and Fall/Winter clothes for the kids (don’t get me started on those prices….)

      1. @Shannon L,

        Hi Shannon,

        No, you don’t have to pay an export fee out of the US (as its not being sold commercially overseas, its for household consumption – they’d know the difference mainly based on quantity. Plus, they don’t even look at it when you leave). You also don’t have to pay in import fee to Australia for the same reasons, its not for sale, its for home consumption, and its not like we’re bringing $1000 worth of food in (if we were, then we could be up for duties).

        You do, however, have to be mindful of what you’re bringing, as Australia has very stringent quarantine laws. For instance, about 8 years ago I tried to bring whole-egg mayo over (it was before we could buy it here) and it was taken out and “confiscated” at quarantine as it was an egg product, so you can’t bring that in. They always inspect the ingredient list on Uncle Ben’s Wild rice, but I’ve never had that taken away. You can’t bring in fresh fruits and veggies (you can’t even bring it across Australian state lines), so I never bring those. I just follow the quarantine laws to a T and I’ve never had problems. Also, if they ever question something (which was only the mayo) I just say “no problem” and hand it over. You can check out each country’s quarantine laws on their websites.

        I also pack strategically. I will put all the food in one or maybe two suitcases (depending on weight) and I’m very forthright with the fact I’m carrying in food. When we relocated here again 5 months ago, we had 13 pieces of check baggage, two carseats, a pram, etc. I had packed all our food goods in three bags and told them straight away – they X-rayed everything and just said “put the bags with food here for examination”. They are very thorough and had no problems with anything.

        Hope this helps!

        1. @Jennifer,

          I personally have never been out of the country, but I have heard stories of others being harassed about food. I’m glad that you have figured out a way to save some money, even if it is coming from another country. 🙂

  11. I track my spending using an iPhone app called Spend. It lets me record all my receipts before I leave the parking lot, which helps me to remember to record them. I’ve been doing well with the pantry challenge, but today I managed to blow 2 weeks’ worth of grocery budget in one afternoon. We were out of all kinds of staples and I went to Costco, where nothing’s cheap but lots of things are a good price per ounce. I just hate looking at my budget and seeing that I have -$49 available from now through Friday, and I’ll be over budget again next week because I work on $50/week.

    1. I’ve never heard of Spend, I’ll have to check it out! Costco is good in so many ways, the items add up fast!

  12. I check my bank statement, sadly it’s not a good method because I will see several transactions for Wegmans (my main grocery store), Costco (every 1.5-2 months), & Super Target….way too often there. I have a spare notebook, & am thinking of writing down all my totals in it. I want to set a budget of $400 for the month of Feb. I have a family of 4.

  13. I don’t…seriously, I SUCK at keeping track of my budget…I use to be SOOOO good at keeping up w/it because I HAD to, my income was the only thing I had for me and my 2 girls…but now that I’m w/my now husband, ughhh, I SUCK at keeping track of my shopping budget..I’m a BAD thrifty and frugal tracker, ughhh…I made a post on the blog last week about how bad I suck at it, lol w/links to various spreadsheets…and you know what??? I STILL haven’t done ANY of my OWN suggestions, lol I’m horrible!!

  14. I’ve had a hard time saving any money this month too! I started the month with a deficit which I’ve been able to overcome, and I still have some gift cards in my wallet that I purchased off the boys with this month’s money, so it’s not as bad as it seems. I had to buy a bunch of $10 items at Costco last week that we were out of – I’m thankful I had the money to do it! I have enough in my freezer/pantry to carry on for a few more weeks, but I am going to have to be content with the way it works out! I think you’ve done great on your spending this month!!!