Grocery Geek: Pantry Challenge Fail?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

grocerygeek-gceLate last week, the kids and I went on a restock mission. They had been such good sports during the pantry challenge and my rationing of eggs and milk, that I didn’t want to make them wait longer. I even found some screaming deals on meat that I will need in recipe testing, so I stocked up.

We were set for the coming week, with a balance of some leftover to get us through the end of the month.

And then….

FishChick5 and FishBoy13 got sick on Friday. It seemed that it was just them who were ill. Until Tuesday when four more of us got sick. It’s the head cold of the century.

And of course, we were out of things that I would consider “comfort foods”, particularly orange juice. I went shopping even if it meant we would eat up our pantry savings. Part of me felt like a great big failure. Part of me realized that it was just part of a providential plan: I had savings to use up.

Here’s how the shopping’s shook down in the last ten days:


Grocery Geek: Pantry Challenge Fail?

The littles and I went to Sprouts to catch double-ad day. Wednesdays, the ad from the previous week and the current week overlap so you can get all the deals. All the deals.

  • milk $3.29
  • cilantro $0.50
  • green onions $0.50
  • carrots $3.99/5#bag; 2 for $3 (baby)
  • tomatoes $2.50
  • xl avocado $1.88
  • onion $0.69/lb
  • lettuce $0.98 ea
  • brown rice – $0.69/lb
  • oatsΒ – $0.69/lb
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • eggs $3.00/dozen
  • broccoli $0.33/lb
  • mushrooms $1.69
  • organic apples $1.48/lb

Total spent: $54


Grocery Geek: Pantry Challenge Fail?

At Costco, we got mostly the basics that we were out of:

  • mozzarella cheese $12.89/5 pounds
  • spaghetti $9.39/9 pounds
  • butter $7.49/4 pounds
  • milk $6.35/2 gallons
  • cream $7.29/half-gallon
  • half and half $4.29/half-gallon
  • honey $11.69/3 bears
  • sourdough bread $3.39/2# loaf
  • tortillas $3.49/2 dozen
  • tuna $14.49/8 cans
  • craisins $7.79/big bag
  • tortilla chips $4.59/ginormous bag
  • olive oil $14.99/2 liters
  • maple syrup $12.99/liter

Obviously, many of these are bulk items that will last us several weeks, like the oil, pasta, honey, maple syrup. Others, like the bread and milk were gone in a blink of an eye.

Total spent: $155

Sprouts 2

Sprouts had a short term sale where they had boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale for $1.69. That’s pretty much the lowest it goes here. I bought many packages for recipe development and testing that I know has to get done in the next couple months.

Total spent: $40


I headed to Ralphs for some odds and ends and a bunch of throat drops and vitamin C (not included in groceries). At this point only two kids were sick and they appeared to be on the mend,

  • Orange juice $2.99
  • coffee $5.99 after coupon
  • cheese $2.50
  • avocados $2

Total spent: $14

Trader Joe’s

On date night we headed to TJ’s for the basics and some things for a recipe I’m retesting.

  • milk $3.29
  • white whole wheat flour $2.99
  • bread $1.99/loaf
  • salsa verde $1.99
  • cheddar $2.99/12 ounce pkg
  • eggs $1.69/dozen
  • almonds $5.99
  • sunflower seed butter $4.99
  • black beans $0.89
  • Clif bars (for hubs) $0.99 each
  • baking powder $2.29
  • vinegar $1.99

Total spent: $60

Produce Box

Grocery Geek: Pantry Challenge Fail?

We get a regular delivery from Abundant Harvest Organics. I think this is our third winter or is it our fourth? Regardless, we love getting fresh from the farm produce.

This week’s box held mostly things that we love and use: carrots, oranges, green onions, mizuna, watermelon radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, spaghetti squash, lemons, and savory.

I’m not sure what to do with the savory, but everything else is covered.

Total spent: $39

Sprouts 3

Grocery Geek: Pantry Challenge Fail?

Β I went back to Sprouts again for more Vitamin C, orange juice, and ingredients for comfort foods. This was my low moment health-wise. I had no idea how much was left in the kitty. Quite frankly, I didn’t care, either.

  • French bread – $1.79
  • milk – $3.29
  • orange juice $5.79
  • cheese $2.63
  • ground beef $4.99/pound (yes, really)
  • chicken tenders $2.99/pound
  • ginger root $2.99/pound
  • organic apples $1.69/pound

Total spent: $28

Spent in this shopping period: $390

Month to date: $591

I had originally planned to spend only $600 this month. I don’t think that is going to happen, particularly with hubs’ birthday next week. But, this isn’t as horrible as I feared. Once I started spending blindly, I was sure that I had gone over. But, we won’t be able to brag on a full $200 savings for the pantry challenge.

If I got well, it’s possible we could eek out another 6 days of challenge behavior, but I just don’t think I can do it. I’m sure we’ll be under our regular budget though, so that’s a good thing, right?

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. I think you did great, anyway. Grocery shopping should be trading dollars for nutrition. When you are sick, your body needs extra nutrition to get well and that is what you accomplished.

  2. It’s so hard to function regularly when not feeling well…this definitely falls under the “give yourself grace” category.

  3. Jessica S says:

    I think you did great! I only have 3 children but when they have all been sick at the same time.. life as we know it goes out the window.. Especially if mom is not feeling well either. I think your point was proven.. living frugally, living with purpose an dusing your resources wisely sets you up for success in other areas.

    I always PC when my husband is traveling for work. It is a great time to use up all the random stuff in the freezer and fridge.. The kids do not mind and enjoy the extra baked goods etc I create. I was doing this along with you the first 2 weeks of January.. I was only shopping for the coupon deals and freebies at my local stores. When the furnace died in the midst of the NE Ohio Freeze.. I was freaking out.. but the problem was minimal so the repair was not that painful.. and I had the cash on hand to cover it.. BONUS! ( The electric bill from a weekend of heaters running in 11 degree weather.. that was much more painful in my opinion!)
    Hope everyone is feeling better!

    • Yay for having savings to pay for the furnace. THAT is exactly the kind of outcome we want. I suppose mine isn’t technically all that different since it was an emergency of a different kind, eh?

  4. You got it right – think how you’d have felt if you were NOT saving money on the challenge and needed to buy extra ‘sick’ foods? This is why we save, so we can spend when it works best for US.

    Sorry you all got the sickies though

    I’ve got to tell you though, my business head boggles at all that you’re spending on recipe testing while trying to stick with the old budget – that would be very hard for me, though I’m sure you mostly eat what you’re making it seems like it would NOT be your choices otherwise. Personally I’d be moving at least a little business income into the grocery column to support that but kudos to you for making it work.

    And that $4.99/lb for gb is when I ran screaming to organic LOL – I remember the exact moment!

    • Well, last year I didn’t share my recipe ingredient purchases, but I felt that that wasn’t completely accurate in terms of overall grocery spending. It is stuff I “have to” buy, but we do eat most of it. Some I give away, and some is an experiment gone bad and I just chuck it.

      I am thinking of upping our regular budget for groceries anyway. These kids are eating me out of house and home!

  5. I am so sorry you and your family were so sick! And im glad its behind you!

    I love your abundance harvest box this time wow……it always surprises me the difference in your grocery stores and products and our stores.

    Organic apples cheapest is $2.69? After you mentioned the dirty dozen im obsessed ?

    I have no money left either with 7 days left and no milk ~ but i will have saved $4-500! Im happy and i changed some bad habits so even if i go over by $50 im ok with that thank you Jessica! I will have spent $550 for the month ~ thats amazing for me – i am a bigtime foodie!

    Try some peppermint oil or just some peppermint hard candy for your head cold? πŸ™‚

  6. You did great for being sick. Remember, your goal is to feed the family, not the budget.

    I’m trying to empty our freezers etc, but it’s slow going. We had a bumper harvest this year, and it’s more of our own food than we’re used to eating in the winter.

    Hope you all feel well soon!

  7. Even if you bought comfort food or for at high risk prices than you wanted, I still really good nutritious food on your report. And like others have said, you had the extra money because of the challenge. Win, not fail!

  8. Savory is an excellent herb to use in all bean dishes. You can use it in green beans as well as white beans. Pluck the leaves from the stems and dry it between paper towel lined cookie sheets. It’s also delicious in white bean soup with ham. In Germany it’s called Bohnenkraut and translated means “bean herb”. Very savory flavor.

  9. Don’t be too hard on yourself! If you hadn’t done the pantry challenge, you would still have lots of random foods that haven’t been eaten up and you probably would have gone over your normal monthly amount due to all the “sick needs” trips. I have thought about starting a new envelope dedicated to “sick needs” because when my kids get sick, I seem to throw the budget out the door and get them whatever they need! You have done a great job this month!

  10. Yes, it’s good enough. Get well, ALL of you LOL

  11. You inspire even when you are sick!

    I used to get upset or feel disappointed when the ‘extra’ money I was saving suddenly had to go for an unexpected emergency – oh say hypothetically like a really, really large car repair.

    I am working at now being grateful that God’s timing is always perfect and the ‘extra’ saved was available for such things. Your attitude and example are an encouragement to so many.

  12. Don’t even BEGIN to think you were a fail! You amaze me with the meals you feed your family with quality food for so little money. I wish I lived with you so I could enjoy all of your yummy home baking. That is the one thing I miss about not having time with my job schedule to do much home baking. I have been experimenting with my new breadmaker. My problem is I have to be careful not gaining 10 lbs. enjoying the carbs, lol. I plan to do a lot more baking and growing my own food next year when I retire. Hopefully we won’t have another drought year like this for awhile.

  13. your challenge was a success! are you kidding me?


  14. Stephanie M. says:

    Jessica: I am a new comer to your blog. I think you’re a wonderful asset to all of those who are trying to live a more frugal life and live off of what we have rather than to keep adding to what we have. During this most recent pantry challenge, I’ve enjoyed the wonderful posts from everyone and it has truly helped me to get motivated to do whatever I can to live a more simplistic life using up what we have before I add more to the inventory. However, I do remember what it was like when my children were much younger. When they were sick and would not eat, when they finally felt better and requested something special, I would do whatever I could to supply them with whatever they wanted. We all want our children healthy and happy and when they’re sick and finally start getting an appetite, we all do whatever we can to provide them with what they want. I know when I’m sick with a virus or flu or cold, when I ask for something in specific, my husband gives me what I ask for. By doing this pantry challenge, you saved money so that you could give everyone what they asked for when they finally felt like eating. This pantry challenge was not a “failure.” It was exactly what it was supposed to be; motivation for all of us to use up what we have to save money. You did that and now you have the money to spend on whatever you want to bring all of you comfort. Yaa for you. You did your job and that’s all you can do. But thinking that you failed is completely wrong. You did not. You not only had enough cash to oblige all of your sickies but you helped other people, meaning me and anyone else that’s new to this blog learn how to manage all of the food that we have. Thank you so much for everything you do and I sincerely hope that everyone in your family feels better soon.

  15. It is SO hard when you’re dealing with ‘sick’. What normally sounds good, nobody wants to eat. What you never stock, happens to be what the ‘sick-ee’ thinks they can stomach. Yep. Gotta do what you gotta do.

  16. When the fam is sick, all rules go out the window, and that is OK! You did a great job taking care of yourself and the kiddos, and any extra you need to throw at comfort/convenience foods is well worth it. Saving our sanity counts for something!

    I bought ground beef at Sprouts last week (the organic, grass-fed kind) on sale for $4.99. I bought 60 pounds, and they gave me a 15% discount for buying in bulk. I was really pleased with that price for that quality of beef. Glad to have my freezer stocked again!

  17. When you are sick, all bets are off!
    I think you did a great job, and even with this unexpected sickness, you still came out under your normal budget – well done!
    I hope everyone is feeling better now.

  18. Sorry to hear that your family has been sick. Hopefully everyone is on the mend now. The think that realistically if we use up most of our staples in January with the challenge that when we shop to restock those things we are going to have a larger grocery bill. How I like to look at the challenge is a way to use up the old and bring in the fresh and new and by having the challenge you free up the space and the cash to do that. As for the savoury, I agree dry it and use it as the spice in stuffing for chicken or turkey instead of sage. In Newfoundland where I am from they use savoury in the place of sage and personally I prefer it.


  19. Heather M says:

    ugh the family being sick. No fun. But, glad all are on the mend. You so didn’t fail. If I’m reading correctly, you bought all good food. And none will go to waste. So, no fail at all.

    I had a good week. $10 on a few things at Target (OJ, sour cream, etc), then $42 on Friday at Trader Joe’s. I mainly bought fresh veggies and fruit, since we were getting low AND I also had 15 high schoolers(my daughter’s madrigals group practicing for singing valentines at school in february–they do it as a fundraiser and practice every sunday for 6 weeks) over yesterday afternoon and needed to provide snacks since they were here from 5-7. Also bought chips, butter, buttermilk for baking, eggs, syrup, tortillas, and rolls for sunday dinner. Stuck to my list like a pro. If I stop at that, I’m about $100 under my $500 for this pantry challenge month. But, I have to stock up in a pretty big way at Costco. But will be going on Jan. 30. Thinking it really should be for february’s totals. Or I’ll be way over. We are getting so low or are out of certain things, I’ll surely spend $200 on necessary food. So, yeah, it’ll be for february’s totals. πŸ™‚

  20. Check out the price of maple syrup, ours is much cheaper at Trader Joe’s than Costco.

    Hope everyone is on the mend. All the rules are out the window when littles are sick.

Share Your Thoughts