Grocery Geek: Pantry Challenge On

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grocerygeek-gceSo, this ends the first official week of the Pantry Challenge. However, in order not to invalidate the challenge, I needed to put governors on the other weeks in the month. You’ll remember that I divided the month up and gave this week a $100 allowance.

I realized that I go to the store many times in the week, so it was okay to wean myself from the “we might need X” syndrome. There were several items that I bought last week that weren’t on a particular stock up sale, but I bought them “just in case” and didn’t end up using them.

I guess that’s how I end up with randomness in my food storage.

Here’s how the week’s shopping played out:

ralphs week one challengeRalphs

Like last week and like the days when money was super tight, I walked the stores with a calculator. This was such an eye-opening experience. Usually, I just keep mental notes. This week I even weighed my produce.

Interestingly enough, Ralphs scales didn’t jive. I paid more at the check stand than the scales in produce predicted. It wasn’t grossly over, but I realized this could make or break someone’s budget. The produce scale could very well have been wrong, but it probably shouldn’t be. Why have it otherwise?

Anyway, here’s what I bought:

  • milk $2.99/gallon
  • sour cream $1.99/16 oz
  • Peets Coffee $5.99 after coupon
  • eggs $1.99/dozen
  • organic kale $0.99/bunch
  • mushrooms $0.52

Total spent $17.46

groceries day twoSprouts

I knew what was coming in the produce box later in the week, and I had a detailed meal plan for the week, so I was fairly specific in my purchases at Sprouts. I wanted to buy more avocados and more canteloupe, but we didn’t really need them.

  • cottage cheese $2.00/16 oz.
  • yogurt $2.50/32 oz.
  • cheddar cheese $2.99/lb
  • organic cereal FREE after coupon
  • potatoes $1.99/5lb
  • broccoli crowns $0.88/lb
  • melons $0.88/ea
  • cilantro $0.33/ea
  • seedless grapes that weren’t really seedless (boo) $0.58/lb
  • extra large avocados $1.50/ea
  • organic carrots $3.99/5lb bag
  • onions $0.50/lb

Total spent $23.38

ralphs day 3Ralphs, again

We ran out of eggs. Again. So, I went back to Ralphs, hoping for markdowns. But, no.

  • egggs $1.99/dozen
  • canned tomatoes $0.79
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • limes 3/$1

Total spent $7.89

Abundant Harvest Organics

The AHO produce box this week held the following:

  • peaches
  • nectarines
  • eggplants
  • apricots
  • sweet frying peppers
  • tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • melon
  • zucchini
  • cucumbers
  • corn
  • marjoram

Total spent $38

Walmartwalmart pantry challenge

Out of milk and bananas, I headed to Walmart with a few dollars left to go.

  • pepperoni (for pizza night!) $2.98
  • butter $3.18
  • bananas $0.59/lb
  • milk $2.80

Walmart’s where it’s at, apparently, for milk and bananas.

Total spent: $12.96

That brings the week’s total to $99.69. In under budget! Yay!

Last week I spent $200.33, so the month’s total to date is $300.02, almost on schedule. I have another $100 week next week. I’m not sure how that will go since we’re running out of proteins.

Since hubs and I are both trying to watch our diets, proteins are taking priority over carbs, but they’re more expensive. Gah! It should be interesting, to say the least….

Weekly total $99.69

Month to date total $300.02




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  1. Jessica — from the looks of your pictures, we buy similar food! And actually we shop at the same stores — Sprouts, Ralphs, and Costco for me, up here in Los Angeles. In case this tidbit helps you stretch your dollar further…. so much of what I see in your food pictures from Ralphs and Walmart is cheaper at Costco. (But did I read you’re avoiding Costco during the Pantry Challenge?? Can’t recall.) Anyway…. Butter is cheaper at Costco (4 lbs for less than $8) and Organic Carrots are also cheaper at Costco than Sprouts (10 lbs for under $5). Eggs and bananas and cheese are also cheaper at Costco. And one other tip — if you’re going to WalMart, you might consider “price-matching”. Do you get any of those flyers in the mail for Mexican markets? They often have bananas and avodacos SUPER CHEAP — like bananas at 33 cents per lb and 9 avocados for 99 cents. So just price-match those at WalMart to get great quality produce for not very much money.

    I LOVE your blogs, especially this one, and Saturdays are my favorite day to read. I guess I’m a grocery geek too! 🙂 Thanks for all you do.

    • Jessica says:

      Yep, I’m avoiding Costco during the challenge for a few reasons: 1. because the temptation is too great to veer from my list. I always buy things we will use and are good deals, but this month, I’m working on “need” more than want. (Relatively speaking.)

      As for butter, Costco’s regular butter uses hormones, something I’m avoiding, so I usually buy RBST-free brands at Walmart or Ralphs or get Trader Joe’s brand. We do prefer buying Tillamook at Costco. But, their bananas always stay green and never really ripen. Haven’t figured that one out.

      I avoid Walmart for the same reasons as Costco, but thanks for the reminder about price matching. I used to do that, but just haven’t spent the time for that.

      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement!

      • My Kirkland Signature butter (which I think is the regular/cheapest one they have) says on the package that is produced without artificial growth hormones (rBST)–is there something else I should be avoiding?

        • Jessica says:

          Really? The last time I checked, it did not say that, so I’ve been avoiding it. I’ll look to see what they have next time I go. Thanks for the tip!

          • Jessica — The Kirkland brand butter does NOT contain hormones (thankfully!), but thanks for the reminder — I really need to double-check their cheeses for hormones, fake color, etc….

          • The last time I checked all those things, the cheddars didn’t have a label. The mozzarella was fine, though. The milk was fine, but not the butter and most cheeses. I’ll check next month when I load up.

        • Kristen says:

          My milk from Costco says that it is hormone-free, but I can’t find that label on my Kirkland butter or any of my cheeses. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place!!

          • Jessica says:

            Maybe it’s different by region? Last time I checked here the butter and cheese didn’t have a hormone-free label, except for the shredded mozzarella.

      • I was going to remind you of that, too, since they have the 3 lb tubs of cottage cheese of the exact same kind as your photo. I don’t know the price for it out there, but here I just bought one today for something like $4.39. You paid $2 for 1 lb…

        • Jessica says:

          Yeah, I figure between the savings on gas since Costco is not close and the chance of overbuying, I’ve made up for my $2,39. 🙂

  2. Harriet says:

    I had to do a major haul of fresh fruit, vegetables and milk since we just got back from vacation and we left our fridge nearly bare. Really! Thought I would list some of the SC prices I paid for some of the same things you bought. Some higher-some lower.

    Milk – $3.49 (Aldi)
    sour cream – $1.29
    large eggs – $1.49
    Bananas – $.44lb
    Vidalia Onions – $.75 lb
    broccoli crowns – $1.89 (2 lbs)
    red seedless (really) grapes – $1.38 lb
    cottage cheese – $2.29
    pepperoni – $1.99
    cantaloupe $1.69 (these are usually 2 for $5!)

    Just for comparison from opposite ends of America 🙂

    • That is interesting to compare prices. Thanks!

      • It is interesting to see the various prices across the country. Here in Cincinnati a gallon of milk, which is typically $3, was on sale for just $2.50 today. On the other hand bananas were $0.99/lb. We are at $257.23 for the month.

  3. Heather M says:

    Like Harriet, we pay a lot more for produce and milk in the WDC area, Envious of your produce/Sprouts prices. Very envious. I almost always buy milk at Costco (under $3) or Trader Joe’s. Otherwise it’s over $4/gallon. Those melon and grape prices had me drooling. Melons are rarely less than $3/each, and on a really really really good sale, you might, if you’re really lucky, get grapes around $1/lb. And broccoli crowns? Best price I’ve seen is $1.69/lb. Oh well. such is life.

    I’m very pleased with how on track we are staying, trying to keep it under $400 for the month. I think it’s gonna happen, too. Especially since we leave in 3 weeks, and that last week I won’t want to buy much of anything. We will be having dinner guests before we leave, and I won’t skimp on that. But I still expect it won’t be a problem.

    Shopped at Costco(bulk of $$ was printer ink, for the new printer–a separate budget item; if you bought two packages, $20/off!). Spent $48.35 on food, including avocados, blackberries and strawberries, cucumbers, pineapple, sugar, milk, and a few other things that I can’t remember right now.

    Then stopped at Trader Joe’s for $23.89 worth of food. Enchilada sauce, green onions, lettuce, mushrooms, zucchini(.79/each and they were huge!), bell peppers(also very well priced), turbinado sugar, tomatoes, bananas (I love their .19/each price,,, best out here. I also find the Costco bananas an issue. I never get them to ripen properly), and baguettes.

    Total spending was: 72.24. Feeling really good right now. But I have 3 weeks to go before we head out of town, and am considering all 3 of those part of my $400 month… We’ll see how it goes.

  4. Just finished putting together a Mexican casserole that used up four flour tortillas, not enough for a meal on their own. I also used hamburger and quinoa taco mix as the protein for the casserole. Made some spanish rice to have on the side. Made some gluten free pumpkin muffins from puree I had in the freezer since Halloween and a little more of that almond flour. I stayed away from the grocery stores today, and shopped at the drug store for milk and cream. They have milk for 4 dollars for 4 litres which is a good price and cream was 1.99 for 1litre. We are getting low on cheese which we tend to use in a lot of recipes, my husband says we can do without it, but I am not sure. To date I have spent around 60.00 since July 1st so I am feeling really good about the challenge. I am on holidays for the last two weeks of the month so being at home to do more scratch cooking will help a lot with using up the ton of baking stuff I have lingering in the pantry.

  5. I’m am the queen of picking things up on an “ok” sale “just in case” and ending up with ridiculous odds and ends. I’m trying to trim down that behavior this month, but I’m only 50% there

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