2020 Grocery Savings Challenges – Save Money this Year with Good Cheap Eats

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Let this be the year you get a handle on your food budget. Take the grocery savings challenges and save money all while eating incredible meals and learning useful kitchen skills.

grocery bag and flowers on front seat of car

There are lots of ways to save money on groceries these days. While you may hear financial gurus utter dismissive advice like, “eat beans and rice,” or “set a budget,” there’s actually more to it than that.

There’s work, yes, but there’s also more freedom and versatility involved in getting food on the table and saving money.

Why, yes, I will have another slice of cake. Thank you.

Yes, indeed, you can have your cake and save some money, too. I know this from experience. Bryan and I paid off over $18k in 18 months, and while we did eat a lot of beans and rice, we ate a lot of other yummy things, too.

Cake included. 

Years ago, when we were deep in debt and working our way out, we found ourselves in interesting circumstances. Unlike other people spending above their income, we hadn’t been extravagant to get ourselves into debt.

We didn’t have big car payments. We didn’t take fancy vacations. We didn’t make s’mores with Godiva chocolates.

We lived frugal lives, but we still had debt.

To some, it would look like we had cut all we could cut. In fact, the man who prepared our taxes for us couldn’t figure out how we were able to live. How could we feed our children?

We were stuck.

Or were we?

What we learned during that season is that there is always somewhere to cut back, somewhere to save money. Especially when you’re motivated to get your act together.

spices for chili seasoning

Since we were a foodie family, I focused on the kitchen as my place to cut back and get spending under control.

Food was one area where this was possible. I had no real say what our mortgage would be, at least not after refinancing. Gas prices were not under my jurisdiction.

But what I put in my grocery cart? Well, I had some say in that.

While beans and rice became a go-to meal, I discovered that there were lots of other ways I could cut back in the kitchen.

And still eat well, really well.

You can save money on groceries and still eat really well, too.

You see, I’m a firm believer in the idea that you can live a good life, a rich and full and comfortable kind of life, even if you’re on a tight budget.

With one blue collar income, we cared for five kids (with #6 on the way!) and still managed to throw a thousand dollars at our debt every month. We cut back in lots of ways; we kept the thermostat hot in the summer and cold in the winter, drove used cars, and made household repairs ourselves. What clothes we purchased were necessities – bought on clearance at Target.

plate of roast vegetables, chicken and quinoa with beer

What sustained us on a tight budget was great food.

I focused on an area that we really enjoyed and maximized our savings as well as our enjoyment. It became a game for me.

How could I feed my children, stay on budget, pay off debt, and still enjoy the good things in life?

If clothes are your passion, then finding ways to enjoy the latest designs on a dime may be the thing that fuels your frugality. If travel gives you life, then travel-hacking may be the place to focus your money-saving efforts.

But, if food is your jam, then learning to save on groceries, cutting back on food costs, but increasing your enjoyment of great meals, may be the thing to help you get your financial house in order.

It did for us.

And the beauty of it is, is that there are lots of ways you can accomplish this. You do not have to relegate yourself to eating rice and beans every night. You don’t have to clip coupons. You don’t have to eat foods you don’t like.

There are lots of ways to save on food spending. And this year, we’re going to walk them out. Together.

The 2020 Grocery Savings Challenges

In 2020 I’ll be hosting a new grocery savings challenge each month, each challenge designed to help you hone your shopping and cooking skills, eat great meals, and, of course, save money on food.

Each challenge is designed to help you enjoy real food, real easy, on a budget.

These savings challenges, hosted here on Good Cheap Eats, are free to participate in. Just show up, take the challenge, and tell us how it goes for you. It’s as simple as that.

Each month will feature:

  • A grocery-savings challenge – one practice or system developed to help you save money on groceries during the month, but also throughout the months to come
  • Recipes and tips to support you during the challenge
  • A “before” post where you can share your goal for the month
  • An “after” post where you can share your progress and accomplishments
  • A themed giveaway to help you continue your grocery savings efforts – everyone who participates in a month’s challenge will be entered to win.

I’m really excited about the new year and this opportunity for us as a community to work together to cut food spending, save money, and enjoy great meals.

I hope you’ll join me!

Get your Grocery Savings Challenges Tracker.

I’ve put together a printable tracker to facilitate your challenges this year. Not only does it list the themed challenges for each month, but it also provides ideas to help you walk out each challenge and be successful.

Regular email subscribers, you’ll find your tracker in today’s email. Check your inbox if you haven’t already. (It might be in spam.)

If you’re not on the list, now’s a great time to join us! Drop your email address in the box below and I’ll send you the tracker right away.

How to use your grocery savings challenges tracker

Once you download your tracker, go ahead and print it out. You’ll notice that there are 12 boxes, one for each month of the year. Each month has been assigned a “challenge” that we’ll be exploring in more detail on the blog.

There’s no one “right” way to fulfill each challenge.

Your life is yours and some things work better for you than they do for me. And vice versa. The goal of each challenge is to help you save money and to become more skilled in the kitchen and in your grocery shopping and meal planning.

sourdough boule on cutting board

We’re all starting out at different places, so don’t feel like you have to do the challenge the way I do.

For instance, in the Pantry Challenge (coming soon!) I usually eat down the pantry to bare bones. It serves as a great way for me to avoid waste, clean out the excess from the holidays, and give myself a fresh start in the new year.

Your version of a Pantry Challenge may look different. Maybe you’ll start the practice of a weekly inventory, shopping your pantry first before heading out to buy more. This practice is a major money-saver, so even if you don’t use up everything in the cupboards, you’ll have gained a valuable skill to serve you all year long.

On the second page of the tracker you’ll find suggestions for walking out each challenge. These range from beginner to kitchen ninja level. Don’t worry what others are doing, just make sure that you do what works for you in this season.

Don’t have your tracker? Head here to get it.

January’s challenge: A Pantry Challenge begins soon!

You’re not going to want to miss this year’s pantry challenge. With recipes for pantry staples and kitchen substitutes as well as strategies for using up what you’ve got — plus daily updates here on the site of what we’re eating at our house! — we’re going to make the most of what we have, reduce waste, and save money.

I’ll be sharing more about this month’s Pantry Challenge in a few days, but in the meantime…

Ready to reduce your food spending in 2020? Let’s do this! Drop a comment below and tell me what you’ll do with the money you’ll save this year during the grocery savings challenges.

What’s your money goal for the new year?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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Comments

  1. Kristin says

    With 12 kids living under this roof and a picky husband, I feel challenged daily to provide frugal, healthy, and satisfying meals for this crowd. I’m ready to clear out our freezer and pantry in January to save a lot of money on our groceries. Each year, we get at vegetable CSA from May-November. So, I’m sued to that mindset of taking what I have and turning it into good food for my family. Without those fresh veggies right now, I’m going to apply the same CSA mindset to what I have in the freezer and pantry – grabbing what I have and deciding on how to best use it. I tabulated our USDA thrifty level for my family, and I choked. I know we eat for well under that amount each month. But, I wan tto go even further, and I want to track it for proof that I’m saving money for my family. With only one income for my family, I’m not bringing any money in. But, I can be a good steward of my husband’s income by focusing on the kitchen as a place for savings. Thanks for being my inspiring partner through this!

  2. Christy says

    I am looking forward to the year of challenges. I have one child still at home, a 14 year old son who is a bottomless pit! I have two more that come in and out from college and two more that are married and turn up regularly for meals. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge!! I hope you will also share your weight loss journey. That’s on my to do list for 2020. Happy New Year!

    • Yes, during the PC, I’ll be posting what I eat every day, so by the nature of that challenge, you’ll see what I’m doing to maintain/lose weight. It’s pretty simple: 1/2 carbs and 1/2 protein at breakfast, 1/2 veg, 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbs at lunch, 3/4 veg and 1/4 protein at dinner. This plate-it formula has really worked for me.

  3. Deja says

    I went back to work full time in august, after 22 years as a stay at home, homeschooling mom. As a result, I’m exhausted haha. Our grocery budget has skyrocketed simply because I’m not organized with meal planning. I need to get back on the wagon, beginning with the pantry challenge

  4. Joyce says

    My goal is to save money for house repairs a new roof. Plus eating healthy.

  5. Betsy says

    What a great idea for a series! I’m going to focus on eating down our pantry and freezers in January. I’ve been shopping the sales all of last year, and we are way over stocked. Looking forward to following along with your pantry challenge!

  6. Stephanie says

    Trying to reduce my need to work, so my attention can be more focused on raising and educating our five kids. To live on one income, we need to pay down a fair bit of debt. Hopefully, these challenges will free up more dollars each week to do that

  7. $25,000 plus a new to us “dog” truck. We have 3 large dogs and the truck(1998) we transport them in is going down hill.

  8. *squeal* A whole YEAR of foodie budget challenges?! Yes please and sign me UP! I’m so ready for January’s Pantry Challenge. So stinkin’ ready. My freezer and pantry shelves are packed to the gills and it is time-time-time for us to eat our way out of this mess. LOL! We are going to be eating good, and WalMart may just go out of business next month. 😉
    Your foodie friend,
    Kristy aka MamaK

  9. Linda B says

    My goal is to get our pantry, freezer, and inventory under control and eat what we have instead of buying more. I have all the tools to do this successfully, but lack the practical knowledge to get it done. We eat out far too much out of laziness and because we like it. My goal is to eat out for enjoyment for planned meals and not just because it is easier. Bring on 2020 and the
    Food Budget Challenge!

    • Meal prep will come in handy. I’ll talk about it as we go, but we’ll dive deeply into this later in the spring.

  10. Eileen says

    I really want to do this for the new year. My issue is I have no printer or access to one. Are the challenges still able to be followed all online? I know your time planning package isn’t usable for me because of this. Thanks

    • Yes, you can follow along digitally. You don’t have to print the tracker. Just sign up and download it.

  11. Christy Zimms says

    This is such perfect timing! I plan to go back to college in August. So we are paying off the rest of our debt (which is small but necessary) and getting emergency savings set.
    I was just browsing your cookbooks yesterday. Can’t wait for this! I didn’t realize it was digital as well.

    • Yay! What an exciting year you have ahead of you. Yes, the tracker is a digital PDF, so you could just reference it on your computer if you don’t want to print it.

  12. Janet says

    Really looking forward to the year of food challenges. We have medical debt we need to pay off and our new car is now 14 years old and needs to be replaced. So the savings will be used to pay off the debt so we can start saving for a different car. I’m hoping you have some budget strategies for those of us dealing with food allergies and other food restrictions.

    • We are in the same boat in terms of restrictions, so I’m sure it will come up! Glad you’re joining us, Janet!

  13. Sarah says

    I am looking forward to eliminating food waste. I am better than I was, but have to improve more. I buy a big container of salad greens, then use it once. This is going to be my year of decluttering my home and simplifying our meals!

    • I’ve found that there are some seasons when buying the big container doesn’t work. Winter it usually lasts longer, but summer it gets nasty more quickly. You may want to try different lettuces, including heads. Might be a better option if you’re salad eaters.

  14. Maureen says

    I’m looking forward to this. I was planning to clean out the pantry and freezers in January, so I’m glad to have company. And I think the monthly focuses will help me stay on track a bit throughout the year. Thanks!

  15. Beth says

    Thank you for this! I’ve enjoyed your cook books and blog for years. This challenge will help me take monthly steps in bettering our food budget. Looking forward to the challenge…we love good home cooked food. Food is my creative outlet, and I am blessed with 5 fairly adventurous eaters at home. The savings go toward family fun. Thanks and Happy New Year!

  16. Lauren says

    I’m really looking forward to the pantry challenge this year! We are maxed in the pantry and freezers AND this year I had a light bulb moment after watching Kate’s (Venison for Dinner) InstaStories about having a goal for the money saved!! We are going to put the saved money into our summer vacation fund! Why I never thought of it this way before I dont know but its a game changer for me! I’ve been following you for years now and always attempt a pantry challenge but this year I’m looking at it differently and really laid out some rules for myself and having the goal has really changed my perspective!

    • Yes! Having a WHY-AM-I-DOING-THIS reminder can be really helpful! Glad you’re joining in!

  17. Jenny says

    We’re working to build up our savings this year after paying off our van early. I know groceries are the most realistic place for me to save- I’m joining the challenge for accountability and new ideas!

  18. MacDonald, Paula says

    Any money saved will go towards much needed new tires for our vehicle and building the emergency fund back up! Thanks for doing this!

  19. Lina says

    Hi,

    My goal is to clean out the freezer and fridge to give it a good clean and defrost after Christmas. We have had a house full off ppl over the holidays and my parents are visiting Australia at the end of Feb for a month, would love for it all to be cleaned up and for us to use up all these items that we normally does not eat. Besides this will help us towards our savings goal to buy a house. We usually spend $1k or so for the two of us with eating out and purchasing from local suppliers. My aim is to save $700 this month if possible, while still eating healthy and nutritional meals 🙂
    Trick will be to adapt to dietary needs, am excited tho!!

  20. Karen says

    I’m in! I don’t have a specific financial goal in mind; I’m more interested in reducing food waste and being intentional about leftovers.

    • Super wise! We’ll dig deeper into the waste/leftovers in our February challenge as well, learning to be more efficient in the kitchen.

  21. Pat says

    Hurray for the pantry challenge !! I have missed it. I’ve done several with you over the years with great success and some have lasted for the whole year.
    This past year has been very expensive–bathroom remodels, new refrigerator and a new to me car. I was able to pay cash for the bathrooms and the fridge. Paying cash for the car would have put our savings below what I would like, so the goal is to pay it off in 2 years or less.
    The challenges will help me continue this process and clean out the pantry and freezer of excess.

    • So glad you’re joining us again, Pat. I love hearing how you’re creative at home. Is someone still working for catering? I seem to remember that. Am I remembering wrong?

      • Pat says

        You are remembering correctly–my husband does catering off and on. He was catering for the Knights of Columbus until the floods last spring–they had been in that building for almost 40 years and the water was higher than the ceiling and they lost everything because of the sewage contamination. So sad-but there was no loss of life so we are thankful.
        We are still eating at home alot. We don’t mind leftovers and different meals made out of them.

    • Sandi says

      I share your goal! Car repairs this past year have been outrageous so I am also now car shopping. I really wanted to just pay for it from the savings I’ve been working so hard to build but getting anything decent would use too much of it so I think I might end up with a payment after all. I will also be paying it off as fast as possible and cutting groceries is the easiest way to do it.

  22. Courtney says

    I was just contemplating doing this. January is a really busy month here, but I think if I plan ahead, I can still make it work. I don’t know that I’ll save much since our grocery budget isn’t that big, but maybe I can stretch the challenge into February too. My freezer and pantry feel really full right now!

    • It does take some work. I’m always so glad when February rolls around. LOL. But, it’s a good tired. 😉

  23. Diane Tobin says

    I have been dipping my toes in the PC waters for years. And this is my month to pkunge into the challenge. I am already going through my cupboards and so excited to save on my groceries and pay down that debt…with thie support of this community, I have been able to get a hold of my budget, I have created a small emergency fund and I have become more present as a wife and mother. Jessica, through you and your common sense steps and down to earth nature…being intentional is less scary. Thank you!

    I am so excited and forever hopeful!

    Xxoo

    Diane

    • I am soooo excited for you, Diane! I know that you’ve done some hard work to get to this place. So proud of your progress. There’s no stopping you now, friend!

  24. lisa s says

    My goals are to figure out what’s filling up my freezer and use it up, to pay off our credit card, and to loose 30lbs and get back in shape (human shape that is vs. the chocolate chip muffin I currently am shaped like). Can’t wait to get started. Already have some of the suggestions on the menu plan. 🙂

  25. Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

    Happy New Year Jessica! Thank you for hosting the Pantry Challenge again. Like Pat (Hello Pat!) I’ve joined you before and continued on past the month of January. I find myself ONCE again, with a brimming pantry, refrigerator and freezer! Even my husband commented “We.Don’t.Need.Any.More.Food”. We were just out and about and he stopped to pick up some “adult beverages” at the grocery store. When I came in with him, he looked me straight in the eye and reiterated that we were not in need of food! I assured him that we were undergoing a pantry challenge and he too was all for it! It will be good for me to be accountable here and my husband is right-we don’t need any more food! My goal is to see just how much I can empty the “larder”. Our daughter got married this past year which took a chunk out of our of our savings, so the challenge can help with replenishing that. Thanks for the many new tools. They look great! Let the fun begin 🙂

    • So funny! Glad that Mr Outer Banks is all in. That makes such a difference when family members are on board!

      • Pat says

        Hi Lynn,
        It’s nice to hear from you again. We were all so chatty in the old Pantry Challenge Chatter Groups.

        • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

          Pat, We did have some good chats in the old groups and I learned a lot from everyone. That was when I went from a “lurker” to a participant in the challenge 🙂 Good to see you back and I’m hoping maybe we’ll hear from some of those former folks again too.

      • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

        Let’s just hope he (Mr. OBX) continues to feel the same once the snacks start dwindling (!), although I do have plans in case that happens (corn tortillas that I can make into chips and canned tomatoes for salsa).

  26. Jenn says

    I’m fortunate to have a large pantry, and yesterday I took everything out and cleaned, consolidated and threw away the old (way expired). I’ve designated a basket for “shopping the pantry” each week when I meal plan. I have a specific, tight budget I’m aiming for this month and if I focus, use what I have and plan – I think I can do it. I’ll be checking in here regularly to be inspired by everyone. : )

  27. Princess says

    This will be my first PC, looking forward to saving money for emergency fund, over due trip to visit sister I haven’t seen in 10 years and paying down medical debt. Excited to learn from you and others in 2020 Grocery Savings Challenge

  28. karen b says

    I will be doing the challenge again. I don’t completely eat everything down because we can & freeze for the whole year, but have several garden potatoes still so I think we will be eating lots of potatoes. 🙂

    • That’s a good problem to have, according to my children. Glad you’re joining us, Karen.

  29. Christine says

    I love the pantry challenge. We don’t have a huge stock of protein, but I like to use as much as I already have.
    The last two nights have been meatless (homemade pizza and pancakes) and that saves so much. We average a little under moderate spending for a family of four. There are months I have spent close to low. I would love to get to thrifty each month. We are a two income family, but I really want to work on our savings-emergency and all the things!

  30. Terry says

    I’m enjoying reading all the comments. I’m already laser focused on this project. Meals all week have been from the pantry except for a rack of baby back ribs that I got discounted. I made burritos today out of pantry staples and tucked 7 into the freezer for quick meals. I made stock out of frozen turkey wings, necks and some bones. Stripped off all the meat to add to the dogs dinner. I’ll make soup tomorrow with some groundcturkey from the freezer, homemade noodles and sad looking veg from the fridge.

  31. Sandi says

    I love the Jan pantry challenges. I’ve missed them. As I’m traveling out of town all this week, coming home for 2 days and then leaving again all next week for work, I won’t be able to participate too much. On the other hand, I did pack a “picnic basket” of food to take with me on my trip. Using up food from the house while also pocketing the per diem allotment seems a win-win. It doesn’t help clear out the freezer, though, which had space for a while but seems to have magically filled itself again.

  32. Kathy from ohio says

    The goal today was to get the 3 freezers and pantry organized but didn’t make, it’s on Wednesdays schedule now. Went to the store to get navy beans to make bean soup with the leftover ham they had blueberries and raspberries 3 for $5 couldn’t let it go by. Also baged salad was $1 bought 2 of those. Also milk was 1.99. Also 2 bags of navy beans at 1.39 each. Blackberries were 1 each bought 2. Total bill 13.77.
    Monday1/6

    B he had whole wheat bagel I had poached eggs and rye toast
    L he had a Rubin with leftover sauerkraut the last of the corned beef, I had a salad
    D scalloped potatoes and ham, corn, green beans and rolls

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