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Time for a challenge punks! March grocery challenge.

I can’t tell you what it is about March, but I always feel like we run out of money before the month is even close to being over.  We have a large bulk order of stuff to purchase early in the month (gallon of coconut oil, organic butter, 25 pounds of organic popcorn, etc.,), so to ensure we can make that happen, I am launching a grocery challenge for the month of March.

Like previous challenges, I am setting the parameters for me, and inviting you to play along…under your own rules and guidelines.

For our family, I am planning to spend no more than $100 over the course of the month.  We have plenty of food in the house…it just will require some creativity by me, leaps of faith by the other eating members of the family, and some willingness to gently say “I’m sorry, that’s not in the budget this month”.

Grocery challenges always end up having multiple benefits for us.  For one, it saves us a lot of money, or allows us to redirect the grocery funds in other directions.  It also clears up my shelves, fridge, and big freezer of the random items that I have no idea why I initially purchased them.  And most importantly, it makes space for the potential garden bounty that will hopefully be coming our way in the next few months.

I think our biggest challenge will of course be fresh produce, and those random ingredients and “wants” that I would normally just go and get during my weekly shopping trips.  And a grouchy husband who was not thrilled when I just told him my idea.  Troy goes through an incredible amount of lunch meat each week, so convincing him to look for alternatives will require me to put on my thinking hat.  Pre-planning is so important, and while I’m fine with looking at ingredients and seeing food, Troy seems to only consider something that is ready now without mixing or chopping to be “food”.  Neither concept is good or bad; it’s just a hurdle to overcome.  My personal challenge will be whether or not to buy raw milk weekly to make homemade Greek yogurt.  It’s my favorite breakfast that I don’t tire of, but perhaps I should be looking at alternatives?

I always prefer to do such grocery challenges in winter or early spring, because it forces me to stretch my creativity further than during summer and fall when the garden is practically vomiting fresh produce on the daily.  It’s not hard to do a grocery challenge when you’re picking tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, and cucumbers daily, and by the bucket.

So, if you’d like to join me, commiserate when you’re finally forced to use that dusty can of lima beans, and save a boat load of cash, add your name to the comments.  And if you’re willing to share, list what you think the biggest challenges will be for your family!

And please remember, the monetary amount you are pledging to spend is of your own choosing.  In no way, shape, or form should you aim to the same amount as us.  You normally spend $800 a month on groceries?  Well, maybe your goal is spend $500 for March.  You need to define what works best for your family.

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41 comments on “Time for a challenge punks! March grocery challenge.”

  1. I did a Grocery Challenge of sorts in February by trying to spend only $50/wk (for 3-4 of us, my daughter being with us only every other week) instead of the $100/wk that I had decided to spend in 2015 (down from $120/wk in 2014). It worked very well (thanks to various rebates and credits my official total up til today is $97.34 but I’m going shopping today for the last time this month so it’ll go up by about $50) and I used up quite a few things but I’m still almost fully stocked so I’ll be doing the same in March. I could cut the $50 further… but I don’t want to since my weekly grocery shopping trip is pretty much the only time I spend out of the house these days! I love the hunt for a good bargain so it’s been fun trying to see all that I can get for only $50. This only includes food for me, though. I track the cat litter, personal care and cleaning supplies under different line items and I barely spend anything on those.
    Good luck with your Challenge and especially for finding alternatives for your husband’s lunch meat. That’s a tough challenge unless you’re willing to pack his lunches for him. I pack my husband’s (leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, usually) and that helps a lot, otherwise, he’d be eating the “Chipotle Rice Bowl” at Nature’s Table every day and that costs us upward from $8 each time.

    • When he works, he takes dinner from the night before for lunch (as do I), but he often works two 24 hour shifts in a row. And when he is home, he just wants a super fast lunch or snack. He learned to make sandwiches when he was two, and that seems to be his favorite meal…but he uses like four pieces of lunchmeat per sandwich, which is a lot to me!

      Nice work on your February challenge!

  2. Sarah,
    Maybe you’ve already heard of this, but you should check out Bountiful Basket Co-op.
    for about $19 ($15 for produce, $4 for shipping) you can get a basket full of fresh fruits and vegetables. They also have a 100% certified organic basket for $25. I think it would help with your March food challenge. Here’s the website You should check it out if you haven’t already! My family buys it and we love it, especially in the winter and spring before the garden starts producing.

    • I’ve heard a little bit about it, but I can get so much fresh local produce, that I try not to do mail order stuff if I can avoid it. My friend/coworker does it and loves it though!

  3. Great idea! I always have the problem that I budget for four shopping days monthly, but March has 5 Sundays (shopping day) in it! I am going to grocery shop three times, and use up my pantry and freezer for the rest with the exception of milk.

  4. Hmmm…… I don’t keep tons of extra in my pantry and just got it stocked back up so I don’t really want to “use it up”. BUT I am pretty sure that I have some things in my freezer that have been forgotten. I think my version of this challenge will be to go through my freezer and use all the “forgotten” items.
    Does that count? Our grocery budget is $400 a month and I am quite happy with it the way it is. “That isn’t in the budget right now” is uttered almost every time the question “Do we have ice cream???” is asked. (so, almost daily!)I tend to buy treats like that at the end of the month if I have been under budget.
    With TWO birthdays in March (one involving a party) I suspect that I may go over budget this month. But birthdays are once a year and I am very okay with that. 🙂

    • Heck yeah that counts; you get to define your own rules! I think you should call it “edible forgettables”.

      Our budget is about the same as yours, and I think overall it works really well for us. Some months I wish it were more, and other months I think “whoa, this is so much money”!

      I hear you on birthdays. Those only come once a year and need to be celebrated!

  5. I try to keep my budget around $200 a month, which of course never happens. I usually spend $400-$500 with a family of 7. So my challenge to myself is to actually only spend the $200 including nongroceries! My freezer and pantry is pretty full but I’m by no means creative. So this will definitely be a challenge for me. lol So, I accept!

  6. We are on our LAST WEEK of our month-long February Grocery No-Spend Challenge, but our rules were pretty rigid (maybe overly rigid?) We were only allowed to use what we already had, we weren’t allowed to stock up beforehand and we weren’t allowed to spend anything on groceries or even grocery-related items such as spices, etc. My hubby is much like yours – considering grab-n-eat the only grocery items worthy of his attention, so it’s been a challenge indeed – especially for his lunches. But we’re about to be through the month and we have survived! It’s certainly been a worthwhile challenge and has reduced the pantry crowding and freezer crowding too, although if I do this challenge again I’ll certainly take into consideration the time of year & try to make it at a time where I can at least have a few fresh veggies from the garden.

    Good luck on your challenge!

    ~Taylor-Made Homestead~

    • I’ve been reading about your challenge; you’re rocking it! I agree with the lunches being hard. We take leftovers from the night before, but some times Troy works multiple 24 hour shifts in a row, so we need more meals. Sadly, Troy doesn’t recognize soup as a meal. And soup is mostly what I like to freeze in pint canning jars.

  7. I am really feeling your pain on a couple of fronts.

    We purchased a small farm at the end of July last year. The whole property was in disrepair…the house being completely un-livable. DH “promised” it would only take about 7 weeks to get the house to the point that we could live in the basement while renos continued. Still.not.done. We have been staying with his brother this whole time.

    I am sick to my eyeballs of living out of boxes that I have to search for in the basement garage and trekking back and forth. Set up a camp type kitchen in the basement. The only water I have there is from the well pump (no actual sink or hot water) Been using a hot plate, electric skillet and a toaster to “cook” there. Otherwise it has been sandwiches, meals out or cooking at the BIL’s (who is a perpetual bachelor and has NOTHING in the way of cooking implements!)

    It is now basically March and I have given up hope of actually living there anytime soon. Keep in mind that EVERYTHING for the house reno (except the flooring…but that is an entirely different crime story saga–really, police are involved–) is there: kitchen cabinets in the outside garage, butcher block countertops/sink/double oven/range/fridge-in the basement, all doors purchased, whole house water filter/water softener–it’s there! Can you tell I’m a little peeved.

    All that being said, I am doing, if I do say so myself, a bang up job of keeping actual grocery purchases down to about $50 or less a week all while continuing to build our pantry inventory (not counting food and litter for 5 cats). I am choosing to ignore the meals out right now only because the cost of those is cheaper than the litigation costs would be from killing my husband because of his slow feet on this project! If he tells me “we are soooo close” one more time I’m going to blow a gasket.

    • You sound so frustrated; I am sorry. It sounds like an exhausting set up you’re living in, and the desire to know your house is so close…yet apparently so far away from being exactly what you want. You should be so proud of how you’re holding it together through all this! I hope it works out perfectly in the end.

    • We live in an area of the country where the hot water freezes at least once a winter; to combat this I set up my crock pot in the bathroom on the nights I think we may have a freeze, so that we will have warm water for washing our hands until the lines break loose. This could be an idea for your camp kitchen. I HEART my crockpot! 😉

  8. I love this challenge. Our budget is $700/month for our family of four. That includes non-grocery and eating out. My goal is to spend $350 and no eating out with the exception of my husband’s birthday.

  9. I’m in! My main goal is to use up as much of my freezer/pantry as possible so I don’t have to move it! We are moving March 15, so that’s my target date. Looks like we will be eating a LOT of frozen blueberries, spaghetti, and tomato based dishes.

    • I think that we are having the same things with the addition of a lot of chicken broth. We are trying to move at the end of March. Good luck!!! Happy creative cooking!!

      • I have been making a batch of chicken broth every weekend in the crockpot, and pressure canning it that night. I get 4 quarts per batch and it’s liquid gold. I’m have enough stuff in the freezer for probably 4-5 more batches, and truth be told I’ll be happy when I’m done making it. It takes up so much room in the freezer!

        Good luck with your move.

    • Good luck with the move. Will be nice to have less food to have to box up.

  10. Great idea! My March challenge is to use as much as possible out of my pantry and freezer without going to the store. I’d like to keep the grocery budget down to $25/week (for one), not counting non-grocery products. Should be interesting!

  11. I’ll have to put some thought into this. I wouldn’t mind saving some extra money next month. And I certainly need to clear out the shelves. I always admire your food plan and how you are able to budget it out. My go to breakfast is steel cut oats with blueberries. I think they are .65 cents a pound at Winco. We all love them and the chickens do too.

    • I buy my organic oats by the 50 pound bag from Azure Standard. I use them for baking and stuff, but found after a year of them for breakfast, I don’t feel full long enough after eating them.

  12. We had some extra medical expenses in February which has put us over budget. I am hoping to make some of it up in March. We are cutting our grocery budget to $220 dollars (we are a family of four) I think the biggest challenge will be having to shop a few stores to stretch the money, and making sure I stay on top the cooking/prep work or we’ll be starving!

  13. We have cleaned out our freezer & cupboards in the last 3 months due to life circumstances. We have eaten some odd combinations, but I am happy to report no one died of hunger and thus far there are no signs of scurvy.

    The biggest challenge was meal prep, not just planning meals. If I had the meat taken care of (thawed to be cooked after work or in the crock pot in the morning), the rest was easy. We eat a few no meat meals, but we don’t eat them very often.

    • I get exhausted with all the prep that cooking all those home cooked meals take. Currently, I am so busy with getting stuff ready for the move that we are also out of breakfast stuff because I used to whip up a breakfast treat every week. What kind of stuff do you do for the other meals??

      • We are not big breakfast eaters, so toast and coffee do it for us. However, when our kids were at home I made breakfast biscuts…drop biscuts with shredded cheese and bacon or sausage in them. I would fill large “Butterware” bowls, which lasted us about a week and the kids would nuke them. They still ask me to make them for holiday breakfasts.
        I have also made crock pot oatmeal. I would have loved that when the kids were home….make it, fridge it, nuke it and go. For variety, brown sugar & raisins or cinnimon & applesauce could be added.

  14. Very tempted to join in, to some degree anyway! I don’t think we would have enough to last too long, but will definetly try and get the freezer emptied!

  15. This sounds fun and manageable, particularly because my husband will be out of town for the first two weeks. I had planned on doing a whole 30ish kinda deal for march, so most of what we buy this month will just be fresh produce. We do have some pantry items that I need to use up, but those will be used up this week (or cooked and frozen for when the hubby gets back).

    We are ALWAYS struggling with our grocery budget, so I am going to work extra hard to keep the weekly bill below $100. I also need to order a big ol’ bucket of coconut oil. Two years ago we got a 5 gallon bucket and it was the perfect amount for the year (between cooking and cosmetic applications). Thanks for the challenge!

  16. I have been doing this for months trying to get ready to move . In February, I used my $10 Giant gift card that I get for participating in their online community to get lunch meat and most of the $12 gift card that I got back from Kohl’s for Christmas presents to buy eggs and a few other things so there was no money spent out of pocket for February. My parents came to visit so they contributed some stuff for dinner while they were here including some ground beef and mac and cheese that we are going to use for some meals this month to get us through. I plan on trying to be as lean as possible with the shopping this month too so that we have less to move in a month. The rest of the items are going to be donated in March that we don’t use!!!

  17. I’m glad we’re not the only one going through this right now! My husband got fed up that our grocery money was gone as soon as it came in. Every two weeks we give ourselves $100. The worst part is that we had no idea where it was going! I mean a little here, a little there? BOOM. GONE.

    He suggested eating through all the food in our house and get down to a bare-bones freezer. Something he’s been complaining about for a few months now. Until most of our freezer meals (ground beef, chicken, pork roasts, and your fabulous garlic bread) are gone we’ll strictly be buying milk, bread, cheese (maybe?), eggs, and yogurt.

    It should be fun! How creative do you think you’re going to need to be in the next few weeks?

    • I keep meaning to freeze the garlic bread, but I’ll admit we eat it too quickly when we make it!

      I think I’m going to get semi-creative. Tomorrow night, I’m taking a full inventory of all the food in the house. I think that will help a ton. There are already a few things on the grocery list, but thankfully one of them is dried parsley, so it will cost about $.30 in the bulk section. ;-D

      How is your freezer looking?

      • The garlic bread is great when I find italian bread on sale. We’ll buy three or four loaves slice them in thirds and freeze them with a piece of parchment paper between the two halves – otherwise they get a little sticky…

        But right now it’s looking great! I could fit more stuff in there but still not enough to fit like a frozen pizza. We still have a butt load to go through. I’m hoping this week thins out the herd a little bit more.

  18. We are doing something similar. I actually am going slightly nuts, and giving us 100$ for the month, and only for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, and eggs. I have a full chest freezer, and I plan to empty it to make room for our annual half pig coming in soon. Of course, I did set aside and extra $50 in case I have to have my throat surgery before the end of the month, because I will then require copious amounts of ice cream.

  19. I am excited about this challenge. Our freezer and pantry are pretty well stocked so I should be able to meal plan around that for a while. Our budget will be $50 a week for grocery items. We may have some odd combos going on, but that’s okay. We are not a fancy bunch. I may even adopt Sarah’s Friday Popcorn night with cut up veggies, fruit and cheese.

    I think our biggest challenge will be not buying any convenience foods for the kids (16yrs to 23yrs) to grab before they run out the door. It’s a similar situation to what you mentioned with Troy and what some other folks mentioned with their husbands. If it’s not already made, and something they can grab on their way out the door, then it’s “where are the protein bars…?”.

    I am going to go back to making our own yogurt and ice cream (my husband’s favorite treat), so that should help keep costs down. I think the biggest expense will be fresh fruit, veggies, milk and eggs.

  20. I love your idea and I am happy to join to your challenge even if we cleaned up our pantry and freezer during the month of February. I’ll set a budget of 350,00 Euro for March for 4 of us as I usually am not good at tracking my expenses for groceries but I am sure we are over € 400,00. This is a good occasion for me to be forced to track correctly my groceries shopping. Thanks!

  21. I’m in!! It’s only my husband and myself (along with our dog) and so we should be able to stick to the $100. I am pretty good at stocking up but then I’ll get lazy or something will happen and I default to just grabbing something at the store or impulse buying things that we really don’t need-herb crusted sheep’s milk cheese anyone? … We are moving apartments in June so it will be best to clean out the freezer and whittle down the stock ups. I’m excited-I know I have at least 12 cans of black beans that I should do something with 🙂 Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Black bean burgers!!! Mash the beans, mix with some onion, cumin, garlic, and panko and pan fry them. So good…I’m sure we’ll be eating quite a few this month. 🙂

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  23. My boyfriend & I will be challenging ourselves to spend less than $20 each week on groceries! We went to the store today and spent $21.94, but that was because he decided he would rather have yogurt in his lunches this week instead of for breakfast so we had to pick up an extra breakfast item. The $21.94 included a pound of ground turkey and three pounds of frozen chicken tenderloins. We’ll use what is in our freezer and pantry as the main part of most of our meals. I’m excited to see what kinds of food combinations we make this month!

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