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Frugal Living: $150 Monthly Grocery* Challenge Wrap Up

31 days ago, I gave myself a challenge to feed my family of three on a grocery and dining out budget of $150. That works out to $50 per person per month, or about $1.61 per person per day.

Going into the challenge, we were spending roughly $400 a month on grocery and dining out; the latter is minimal as we rarely eat out these days. With this challenge, I had to slash my grocery budget by 62.5% which is not an easy feat.

After all was said and done, I was able to meet most of my goals as I had:
  • used up food from my pantry and freezer
  • tracked receipts in a mason jar
  • prepared make ahead meals for busier nights (ie. homemade frozen Hawaiian pizza)
  • reduced my trips to Costco for only the bare necessities
  • posted my weekly receipts every week
  • searched for loss leaders, shopped at neighbourhood stores and clipped coupons

How Much I Spent This Week

As of March 22nd, I had only $7.14 remaining. This week, I ran out of milk for both my husband and little man. We decided to only purchase milk for my little man since we had limited funds. I also purchased two cartons of large eggs as I had a coupon for Buy 2 Get $1 off and the eggs were a loss leader sale item. This resulted in purchasing eggs for 50% of what I normally pay.

Then I discovered Sunrise Market (will post more about this place later). I managed to find unbelievably cheap produce. I wish I had discovered them earlier this month. I spent $12.53 for 4 large bags of produce (see the picture below). Had I shopped at my regular grocery stores for the same items, I would have likely spent at least double if not triple the price.

For this last week in March, I spent $20.20 on groceries. Here's a breakdown:

Produce: $12.55*
Grocery: $2.76
Milk: $4.89

* Canada eliminated the penny in 2013. As a result, any cash purchases are rounded up/down to the nearest nickle (5 cents). Thus, my $12.53 purchase was rounded up to $12.55 (what I paid in cash).


And the Grand Total is...

In March, I spent $163.06 for groceries and dining out. I went over my $150 budget by $13.06. The pessimist in me is screaming "Failed Failed!", but the realist (accountants are rarely optimistic) in me is telling me that I did not fail.

Here's why.

The produce I bought from Sunrise Market will last me at least a week and save me money next week. The same goes for the milk and the eggs I purchased.

I could have easily came under budget by buying a smaller carton of milk that will last my little man until April rolled around, or held off buying the eggs and produce. Had I deferred my purchases, I would have pay twice the price for eggs, milk and produce this coming week. By choosing to take advantage of sales, I was saving money.

More over, I learned a lot about having a grocery budget.

What I Learned From This Challenge


1. Communication

The most important thing I learned was communicating with my husband on our $150 grocery budget. At the beginning of the challenge, I did not communicate with him how much was remaining in our monthly grocery budget. This led to some awkward discussions in the middle of the grocery store as my husband would insist on buying certain items and I would wind up having to put things back.


2. Allocate Money For Sale Items

Another thing I learned was to allocate a portion of the monthly budget for stockpiling sale items. Sometimes you come across deals that are too good to miss. For example, the eggs I purchased at half price saved me $2.76. And of course, the produce I bought from Sunrise saved me at least $15: zucchini for $0.29/lb, tomatoes for $0.49/lb, 1 lb of strawberries for $1, small honeydew melon for $1. The next best prices I have seen lately is $1.29/lb for zucchini and tomatoes; a pound of strawberries costs $2 and honeydew melons cost $1.99/lb.


3) Allocate a Weekly Grocery Budget

In my first week, I spent 40% of my budget. That was not a very smart move. What I should have done is allocate a budgeted amount to each week; taking into account any events that may affect the grocery purchase for that week and using the remaining amount to stockpiling sale items. Lesson learned.


4) Shop Beyond the Big Box Stores

Big box stores are convenient and offers one stop shopping. There is a price to be paid for convenience and ambiance. Personally, I love shopping browsing at WholePaycheckFoods and roaming the aisles makes me feel so inspired to cook. However, the frugal side of me can never bring myself to purchase anything from WholePaycheckFoods unless it is a steal of a deal. My usual places to shop have been mostly Costco (I am easily seduced by samples!!) and Superstore (a no-frills grocery store). However, after discovering Sunrise Market, I realized how much I was overpaying for produce at conventional stores.

Though a weekly trip to Sunrise Market is too far from where I live, it has inspired me to search out alternative stores. And also visit Sunrise Market at least once a month when I'm in that neighbourhood.


5) Habits Add Up

I gave up my Starbucks gold card in March. Each year, to fulfill the 30 stars, I was spending about $60 to $70 trying to score a few free drinks. I decided that to coincide with my $150 monthly grocery challenge, I would give up my Starbucks habit and make coffee at home for a fraction of the price.

6) Check Before You Shop

With a limited budget, I always checked my fridge, pantry and freezer to make sure I was not buying something I already had at home.

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