the return of the may grocery challenge

happy first of may!

i don’t know about you, but for me, may kicks off the summer season. it is blissful to think about the upcoming four months of summery weather that lie ahead [september first = autumn, in my book, and we have to start thinking about the return of colder temps – ick].

last year this month, i conducted a personal grocery challenge. at that time, my goals for the thirty-one days of may were simply to track my grocery spending and use coupons/take advantage of sales. i wanted to get a grasp of where i was at – it was an eye-opening experience!

this year, i’m reinstating the grocery challenge, but with a twist. here is the theme for this month:

if it’s not on sale, i am not buying it.

and here are the rules and escape clauses details!

  1. i will only buy groceries that are at a specially reduced/temporary sale price.
  2. i can shop at any store. between valumart, zehrs, sobey’s, food basics, shoppers, bulk barn, the health food stores, etc. [yes, specialty stores do have sales! i scored a box of envirokids peanut butter panda puffs for $2, the other day, at eating well organically!] i have many easily accessible shopping options at my disposal, and it will be easy to hit any of these stores at pretty much any time.
  3. coffee and carbonated water are exempt. i need my diet coke substitute morning java and i need my bubbly. the good thing is that some brand of carb h2o is very often on sale somewhere. and i have a well-stocked pantry of instant coffee. [oh the irony….it is not lost on me how much money would be saved by drinking diet pop in lieu of water and coffee…eesh].
  4. i can mooch all i want. watch out mom and dad, sil ana – your cupboards may be ransacked – haha! free handouts are allowed.
  5. i am going to try to come in at under $400 total grocery spending for the month. for some of you, this may be a high amount, for some of you a low amount, it matters not, but according to my tracking, this is a feasible budget to aim for.
  6. if i end up spending less than $4oo, the extra money gets specially marked in my disney fund [so, for example, i can say, “this is the tshirt i bought with my may grocery challenge savings!”].
  7. money spent during coffee shop outings with friends is exempt because this falls under ‘”entertainment” in my budgeting system.

the hypotheses that i hope to prove:

  • you can eat healthfully while purchasing only sale priced goods
  • you can save a lot of money by reading store flyers and searching out sales
  • you can enjoy a wide variety of products even when only buying sale items
  • it’s ok to deviate from the norm: for example, i always use lite catalina dressing on my salad. what if it is not on sale and i have to try something else? that’s ok!
  • you can save a sh!tload of money by shopping this way. or will this theory backfire? will i see that x is on sale and buy it just because it is a deal??

this is going to be a fun – and funny? – experiment. the worst case scenario: luckily, cereal and milk are always on sale, somewhere!

i think i’ll do a once-a-week update for the month of may about the challenge….so, stay tuned!

bland/boring question: do you like grocery shopping? i do! dad does! mom does not!

nosey/prying question: how much do you spend on groceries a month, and do you think this is a lot or a little? it is probably a good thing that whole foods is not in my ‘hood (although we do have the indy vincenzo’s which is very similar) – i love that place and would have no control on spending, if given easy access to their products!

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  • Dorry (@dorrybird)  On May 1, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I love this challenge, and I often buy things that are on sale, but some items – like my almond milk, I’d have to buy even at full price…OR buy it in bulk when it does go on sale (which is quite often…at least in Texas, it was.) I’m so bad with grocery budgeting, but Billy keeps track of all our of finances and budgeting in a spreadsheet. gotta love him. 🙂

    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      yes, almond milk is frequently on sale here…at the drug store! (shoppers). at the health food stores, it’s usually regular price – you save if you buy a case! i’d love to see billy’s spreadsheet! mine is very basic!

  • Nicole  On May 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Cathy, you can do it! I’m happy you’re doing this grocery shopping challenge. I love hearing about people consciously buying at sale prices, perusing flyers and using coupons. I literally can never justify doing a full on grocery shop at Zehrs. If it should ever happen (out of pure laziness), I actually feel disgusted with myself because, no matter what, I leave that store spending $90 for one bag. I usually shop at Food Basics (minus the meat) and I can easily get 3 bags of stuff for $40-$50. That being said, we spend about $100/week on grocery. It may be a little more if I had a little trip to Costco. There are certain items that I never buy at full price, like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap, PB, OJ. I scan those flyers on Thursday night– I love it. Zehrs has their $1 sale going on right now. FB has berries on sale for $1.44. I could probably go on and on…. The title of your blog post actually excited me!!! 🙂

    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      thanks for your enthusiastic and informative comment, nicole! i love talking grocery shopping! i am laughing because i find it very fun to scan all the thursday flyers, too. since i started shopping at fb, i have cut my grocery bill in half, kid you not. and i am with you on refusing to pay full price for certain items. you have a great budget for feeding your family – way to go! don’t you just love how mrs january posts all the grocery store sales on the blog? great resource!! can’t wait til you’re done school and we can go for coffee! 🙂

  • Zo  On May 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    I used to love grocery shopping…it’s lost its luster (more of a chore).
    I would guess I spend 275-325 a month of groceries (mr. sc and I take turns/split costs…so this is just me).
    I’ll be interested to see how the challenge goes! I am also curious about how much time it will take you (to read flyers/go to different grocery stores)..because I know when I watch couponing shows, it’s clear that they put a lot of time into getting deals (will you be using coupons?)
    I love that you’ll be saving the money for Disney!

    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      sorry to hear grocery shopping is “meh” for you right now, zo! how can that be?!! you are in the U.S. AND you get to go to trader jo’s??!! 😀 good plan on splitting the grocery bills with mr sc. coupons are allowed, and i do think i will have to put more time into sourcing sales…depends how important it is to me to find x item, maybe? luckily, the stores that i mentioned are within walking distance, so that is helpful. it helps to have disney as a goal!

  • Gina Unger  On May 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    what a great challenge to take on, cath! good for you. i am one of those who do not really enjoy grocery shopping… so i take along my kids to keep me company. it’s more fun for me. 🙂
    i’ve never calculated what our food/necessity costs are per month b/c superstore has everything else in it, too (clothing, medication, school supplies, toys, books, bedding, photo area, ETC.!) so i am challenged now by your blog to tally up my bills for a month and see where we’re at for food and basic necessities. i figured out that we spend between $600-$700 total per month at grocery stores (superstore/safeway/costco). now i’m very intrigued to see how much is ‘extra’ stuff and how much is essential.
    thanks for this inspiring post today! and all the best in your search for sale items! just did some stock-up sale shopping today myself. 🙂

    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      ooo, yes, please DO track your grocery/necessity purchases for the month, gina!!! i would love to see what it comes out to because i am nosy like that! 🙂 so cute that the kids ADD to your grocery shopping fun – most people complain about taking the children, so i am glad you enjoy that outing all together! i wish we could go to costco together…although that would not end up being cheap for me, i fear! glad you started off the month by finding some sales today!

  • g2-55680831163e76fec0743a15184137d2  On May 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I love grocery shopping. I buy organic when I can, local when I can, and always gluten-free. Therefore, I spend more than most folks do for a single person household. I spend less than $500 but more than $400. It varies. I do shop sales when I can find them on items I already buy regularly and I always always use a list. If it’s not on my list – I don’t buy it. Looking forward to seeing how you do.

    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      “if it’s not on my list, i don’t buy it.” -> GREAT money-saving strategy, johanna! it’s so true that those spur-of-the-moment add-ons add up! yes – GF products DO cost more, up here in canada, too. like wayyyy more. sounds like you have honed your shopping skills – glad it’s a “chore” you enjoy!

  • Lisa  On May 1, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Oh, I’m so excited to follow you on this! I mean, I can’t do it myself. I’m phobic about budgeting. Especially on food. But it will be really fun to follow along!

    I like the rules, especially the mooching one. lol.

    I love grocery shopping, but I’m extremely aimless about it. I rarely go with a list, and always come out with things I didn’t plan on and/or don’t need. My dad loves to grocery shop too, but my mom really does NOT like it! There we go again, being twin families 🙂

    I’m so bad that half the time I don’t even swipe my shoppers club carb because I know that nothing I buy will be on sale. I need lessons in bargain shopping!

    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

      thanks, lisa! i am excited because it’s kind of a wacky idea, and i don’t really know how this is going to end up! yes – gosh, another twin family example – scary!!!! i ALWAYS shop with a list so i think you could give me random shopping lessons!!

  • Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count  On May 1, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I LOVE grocery shopping, just for the chance to look for deals! I love the challenge idea. I don’t know how much I spend but I will start tracking Today! I buy a lot at the produce market which isn’t on sale really just cheaper overall. I shop at Aldi which is discounted to begin with. I’ve been meaning to start tracking and now you’ve challenged me. I like the weekly update idea. No plans to shop today so I can get my brain wrapped around the idea. Ok, Cathy! Way to get the month started!

    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

      fran, i LOVE grocery shopping in the states. seriously. every time i am in the U.S., i make it a point to give myself time to meander around a grocery store as you guys have a lot more variety than we have up here!! such a fun part of a vacation!! YES!!!! ooo, i hope you do join me and track your spending for may!!! it’s really interesting to see what you spend when you have not tracked it before. think on it, and i hope you join in!!! aldi sounds like a neat spot!!

  • The Orchard  On May 1, 2012 at 7:11 am

    This will be fun to see how you do. I am not huge fan of grocery shopping, mostly because I feel like I DO not do a good job of looking for sales and deals. In theory I would love to shop around and get everything on sale, but in reality, I don’t have time to go to several stores. I often hit a big store (like SuperStore) where I can get everything I need in one place – but then I am certainly not getting all my items at a lower cost.

    For our family of 5 we currently have budgeted $840/month which I know seems insanely high. But when I talk to other families it seems that they also spend this much / month or more! We go through almost 2 bags of milk/week (the milk that has 3 smaller bags inside) and we go through lots of fruit and vegetables per week. I do a lot of baking and baking supplies add up. We also drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of cereal. I would love to see what others spend on groceries. I think I need my mind eased a little! 🙂

    I definitely know I could spend less and save more money and I hope that when I have more time (will that ever be possible?) I can shop around more.

    Good luck!


    • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 8:21 am

      thanks for sharing about your family’s grocery style and budget, tricia! your budget does not seem unreasonable AT ALL for five people. yes – with three kids, i can see that one stop shopping is much more TIME efficient for you, and that in itself is an important consideration. thanks again – i really enjoyed reading your comment!!

  • Johanna G.  On May 1, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Cath! Zehrs has Kraft salad dressing on sale for ONE DOLLAR this week (ends Thursday). Get thee to the Zehrs! 🙂
    I’m a big fan of shopping the specials, flyer shopping, price matching, coupons and anything else that’ll save me money at the till as you know! I don’t mind grocery shopping but I can always think of something else I’d rather be doing. When I’m scoring on good deals I like it better! 🙂 My grocery bill seems to vacillate a fair bit depending on our needs – how much I can live off my very modest stock piling, how great (or not) the sales are on any given week and whether or not I’ve run out of ketchup, TP and advil all at the same time (you know those weeks when you’ve run out of EVERYTHING all at once?). This past month I spent about $400 for the two of us which is a bit on the high side for us. Hoping next month settles down a bit! 🙂

    • Johanna G.  On May 1, 2012 at 7:00 am

      PS – Good for you for trying this – I’m not sure I’d be that brave since I know there are things that I’d like/need that won’t go on sale when I want/need them! Can’t wait to watch the results!

      • 1970kikiproject  On May 1, 2012 at 8:23 am

        oh, i totally hear you on those weeks where you run out of essentials all at once – murphy’s law! thanks for the salad dressing tip!! that’s a good one for sure (lite catalina is $3.69 regular price at valumart!). thanks for sharing your budget – you do very well with a $400 for you two!!!

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