50 Dollar Grocery Challenge Final Update (Plus 30 Day Meal Plan)

Now that we are into July I wanted to give you the final update for my 50 dollar a week grocery budget challenge.

As a refresher, here are the first two posts (these will each open in a new tab so you don’t lose your place).
$50 Grocery Challenge
$50 Grocery Challenge Update #1

Here are the final totals:
Week 1 grocery total: $64.24
Week 2 grocery total: $48.61
Week 3 grocery total: $48.55
Week 4 grocery total: $44.78

Total for the month of June: $206.18
$6.08 over

As you can see it isn’t perfect and I was a little over. I probably could have done better and gotten it under $200 but overall I think we did pretty well.

At the end of this post is the 30 day meal plan that we followed. When I started this I didn’t have a month of meals planned but instead planned by the week. I also tried to incorporate leftovers whenever possible to save both time and money.

50 dollar grocery budget

This is one of my weekly Aldi trips, including a large bag of southern style chicken fillets, a large bag of Parmesan crusted chicken and one pork tenderloin. Each week I shopped at Aldi first and then bought the rest of what I needed Wegmans.


Eating Balanced Meals on a Budget

Some days weren’t balanced but I did try to serve a vegetable into most meals. I will admit though, we could have done better with fruits and vegetables, although we did eat produce at other times during the day, we didn’t eat as much as we normally do.

What I didn’t show in the meal plan below were drinks. Normally drinks were water, skim milk or iced tea (I am the only one who drinks it and prefer it unsweetened). We also had 100% juice available most days (usually grape, my son’s favorite) and on occasion, lemonade.

Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks

Around here breakfasts and lunches are always simple. We usually have cereal or oatmeal for breakfast and some sort of sandwich and fruit for lunch (usually peanut butter and jelly). Then we look forward to a bigger meal at dinner.

Snacks are usually fruit, cheese sticks, pretzels, and for sweets, ice cream or cookies. I would like to say that I did a lot of baking but I only baked a few times. The Aldi’s cookies are pretty cheap and really good, although my son would prefer I buy real Oreos instead of generic.

I know I should bake more because prepackaged snacks really aren’t healthy. I still believe that everything in moderation is okay for most people but doing more baking, with ingredients that I can control is my ultimate goal.

All in all I do feel that the plan was a success, since it allowed me to be creative with meal planning and also start cleaning out my freezer and pantry. And keep in mind that our groceries included all items, not just food. I had to include paper and cleaning products (although I was stocked up on some of those items before the challenge) as well as dog food.

After making it on an average of $50 a week for the entire month of June I feel confident that $75 a week will be more than enough to include everything we need. I will also be able to increase fresh produce.

It also helps that in a few weeks our garden will be ready and we will have plenty of fresh produce. I will use that opportunity to stock up on other items since I won’t need to buy much produce over the summer.

This plan also got me to think outside the box when it came to meal planning. It forced me to use up what we had instead of just going to the store and buying whatever sounded good.

30 Day Meal Plan for June

Here is our menu for the month of June, and yes there is a takeout pizza toward the end of the month. I had a meal planned for that day, but when an appointment took three hours longer than expected and we were all starving I caved. On June 1st and June 3rd it was just my husband and I so I kept things simple.

  1. Aldi brand frozen pizza
  2. Pork chops, lemon rice, coleslaw
  3. Bologna and cheese sandwiches, chips, leftover coleslaw
  4. Scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, hash browns
  5. Baked chicken and rice, green beans
  6. Chicken a la King over biscuits, broccoli
  7. Leftover Chicken a la King over rice, leftover broccoli
  8. Pasta salad with ham, cheese and veggies, ice cream
  9. Baked chicken drumsticks, leftover pasta salad, canned pineapple
  10. Spaghetti with meat sauce, baguette bread
  11. Leftover spaghetti
  12. Sausage w/peppers & onions on rolls, macaroni salad
  13. Lemon rice, skillet beans and franks
  14. Pork fried rice (with leftover lemon rice). leftover skillet beans and franks, Pasta Roni (this meal looks very carb heavy but there was very little rice in the fried rice. It was mostly pork and veggies and it was yummy!)
  15. Pasta Roni topped with grilled chicken strips, garlicky green beans
  16. Haluski (recipe coming), deviled eggs
  17. Hot dogs, leftover haluski
  18. Leftover hot dogs, home fries, strawberries
  19. Scrambled eggs, hash browns, breakfast sausage
  20. Pizza (takeout)
  21. Breaded chicken sandwiches with cheese, mayo, lettuce and pickles, potato salad
  22. Leftover sandwiches, leftover potato salad, applesauce
  23. Naan Pizza (naan bread, olive oil, garlic, shredded cheese), salad
  24. Pork tenderloin, baked potatoes, red wine vinegar coleslaw.
  25. Pulled pork sandwiches (made with leftover pork tenderloin), leftover coleslaw
  26. Parmesan crusted chicken, side of spaghetti with meat sauce (sauce frozen from previous meal, there wasn’t enough for main dish so I served as a side).
  27. Philly steak sandwiches, pickled eggs and beets, tortilla chips and salsa
  28. Oven barbecued chicken (thighs and drumsticks), baked potatoes, leftover pickled eggs and beets
  29. Pancakes and breakfast sausage, applesauce
  30. Parmesan crusted chicken, Pasta Roni, Outback Copycat Green Beans

I know  this challenge isn’t perfect. On one hand, I had to include non-food items, which was hard to fit in at times, but on the other hand, I wasn’t starting with an empty freezer or pantry.

All in all this has been a great learning experience which forced me to be more creative with meals. It also allowed me to clean out my big freezer and opened my eyes to how easy it is to waste food. Most of the food in the freezer was okay to eat but some I did have to toss. I am going to make it  a point to start dating food that I freeze and get better about rotating food by date.

Shopping at Aldi

I know that not everyone has access to an Aldi but if you do I highly suggest you give them a chance. Every week I find new products that I just love (and are often better than the name brand versions) and I can’t get over just how much I save just by taking my shopping list and going there first.

Even if you don’t have an Aldi you can still save money. Just keep watching the deals, buy in bulk whenever you can and don’t be afraid to try generic. And coupons are fine but don’t use any coupons unless you would buy the product anyway. And also try to always combine coupons with sales for maximum savings.



50 Dollar Week Grocery Budget Challenge Update

Since my family has been on the $50 grocery challenge for a little two weeks I thought I would give you an update. So far it has gone very well. If you missed the original post you can read it here: $50 grocery challenge.

When I started this challenge I mentioned that we would also be eating out of our pantry as well as our freezer, so I did have some food on hand. I am also including other items (cleaning products, toiletries, etc) in the challenge, although luckily I was pretty well stocked up on those. So besides needing a few things like dishwasher tablets and dog treats, most of the items that I purchased so far  was food for my family.

As  I was looking for pictures to include in this post it occurred to me that I should have taken a few pictures of our groceries to give you more of a visual of what I was buying each week. I will make sure to do that the rest of the month and include those pictures in the final post.

From June 1st to June 15th I ended up going over my budget by $12.85. However, I also stocked up on a few things so I am hoping to be under budget for the rest of the month.

Week 1 grocery total: $64.24
Week 2 grocery total: $48.61

Buying in Bulk

There were a few times that I needed some ingredients that I knew would be in the meal rotation more than once so it made more sense to buy in bulk. And when buying in bulk you spend more up front and it usually (but not always) comes out much cheaper to buy in bulk than to buy the smaller size.

Those times that it doesn’t come out cheaper are when I could buy generic of the same item or the individual item was on sale. Even better is when that item is on sale and I pair with coupons. However, as it worked out, I have only used one coupon so far.

chicken a la king

Chicken a la King

I am not going to lie. There have been a few ups and downs. However, it wasn’t the meals themselves that have been difficult. It’s the fact that we also made the commitment not to eat out in the month of June and I do miss that, or the times when I am not in the mood to cook and am tempted to order a pizza. But most of the time this has been very doable and I have actually enjoyed trying new recipes and even doing some planned leftovers.

For example, the first week we had Chicken a la King, which I doubled for planned leftovers the next day. The first day I served it over biscuits with a side of broccoli and the following day I served it over rice along with the leftover broccoli. And since all I had to do was cook some rice and reheat the leftovers, dinner was on the table in 20 minutes!

I haven’t really planned very well as far as fresh produce because the plan was to eat how to save money on groceries without couponswhat is on hand, which includes some canned fruit as well as frozen vegetables. I really do miss eating fresh produce and have been craving a large salad, so I plan to include more fresh produce for the rest of the month.

We  have a garden and I am so eager for the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other veggies to be ready. Unfortunately, living in the north east means we have about another month or so before anything is ready.

I also didn’t use my crock pot yet this month. I normally use my crock pot a lot but as it turned out, none of my meals required it.

Three Ways I Stayed Close to Budget

1. Menu planning (and planning those menus around similar ingredients).

2. Stocking up on sale items and buying a few things in things bulk. Even though it did mess up my weekly budget for the first part of the month, stocking up on sale items and buying in bulk over time means always being stocked up and only having to replenish as needed. And since I went a little over my budget the first half of the month I am hoping I will be a little under the last half because I am stocked up on a lot of items already.

3. Comparison shopping by looking at online ads and planning my shopping according to the best sales. I always go to Aldi first and get what I can there, then go to the other stores for sale items as well as items that Aldi doesn’t carry. So far this month I have only shopped at Aldi and Wegmans.

At the end of the challenge I will update you again and also post my 30 day meal plan (plan completed,  click here for my final update)

Some of my meals were kind of boring (like the night it was just my husband and I and we decided to have bologna and cheese sandwiches) but most meals were fairly balanced and very filling. We also had a few meatless meals but had other sources of protein instead. such as eggs.

While it’s true this hasn’t been a perfect month, it amazes me that by planning carefully I can slash my grocery budget significantly. Since we used to spend close to $600 a month on groceries (not counting eating out), menu planning and shopping around the sales has made a huge difference.



Fifty Dollar Grocery Budget Challenge

Since today is June 1st I thought it would be the perfect time to challenge myself to spend just $50 a week on groceries this month. My normal budget is $75 (which is about half of what I used to spend) and I am confident that I can slash it even more.

50 Dollar Grocery Budget Challenge

Each week I will post my results as well as some menu plans that I came up with and where I shopped. I will also share my grocery lists with you for the week.

Today I started by doing some inventory of what I already have. Last month, in spite of 50 dollar grocery budgetmy $75 a week budget I was able to buy a few things in bulk like chicken, cheese sticks, toilet paper and paper towels so I wont be needing those items anytime soon. I am also pretty well stocked up rice, pantry staples such as flour, sugar, oil, vinegar and pasta.

We are okay on frozen vegetables,canned fruit,  pasta sauce, oatmeal, toiletries, dog food and laundry detergent for at least the next week. We are low on eggs, milk, fresh produce and canned vegetables.

What the Grocery Challenge Includes

This 30 day food challenge will also include all meals that are prepared at home. My husband will take his lunch to work. We wont be splurging on any kind of restaurants or takeout, and that includes our favorite summer treat, going out for ice cream. Household items such as paper products, soap and cleaning products are also included in the challenge.

I am really excited to do this challenge and I  feel that it is very possible using these six steps to save money on groceries that I talked about in an earlier post. It is a long read but I promise you, it has some great tips for saving money even if you don’t use coupons. Here are also some good books that I recommend for both slashing your grocery bill and coming up with creative meals on a budget.

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest FamilyCut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest FamilyBudget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in HalfBudget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half


What I Hope to Accomplish in 30 Days

I feel that this 30 day challenge will give me the opportunity to get creative with different meals and snack options. We already eat meatless about once a week and also have breakfast for dinner on occasion. I also want to prove to myself that we can have delicious and hearty meals even on a tight grocery budget.

Pantry and Freezer Shopping

Are you familiar with the term shopping from your pantry? Basically you go as long as you can with minimum shopping to use up items that have been sitting in your freezer and pantry but are still good.

I think a lot of us get into food ruts where nothing sounds good so we go to the store or out to eat just because all those pantry and freezer items seems boring. I have a few of these types of items in my freezer and pantry and am looking forward to finding creative ways to use them.

June update: Click here for my mid month update: $50 Grocery Challenge




Saving Money on Groceries Without Coupons

Not long ago my husband and I would come out of the grocery store frustrated. I would wonder how we managed to spend over $100 for what seemed like very little. There wasn’t a lot of junk food or convenience food in our cart, and often there would be little meat. So how the heck did we manage to spend so much? And why were we back in the grocery store just a few days later picking up odds and ends?

Rising Prices or Poor Planning?

My husband would always have the same answer-prices keep going up. And coupons didn’t help either since I tend to buy mostly generic and when I did use coupons it seemed I only bought certain items because I had a coupon.

how to save money on groceries without couponsI am not knocking coupons. I do use them when I have them and I know you can save an incredible amount of money when pairing coupons with sales. I even talk a little about my extreme coupon experience on here: how to stretch your food budget.

I do use coupons on occasion but if you are like me and just looking for ways to really slash your grocery bill with or without coupons then here is what works for us! And if you can make this work for you then pairing coupons with sale items will increase your savings even more!

How to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons in Six Steps

Before we get started I want to make it clear that this may seem like a lot of work but trust me, once you get used to it, you will be shopping much more efficiently. And even if you go to more than one grocery store like I do you will still spend less time shopping!

We are a family of three plus one dog. Not a huge family but one is a teenager (and wesave money on groceries all know how teenagers like to eat). My son is also homeschooled so he is home for all three meals. I also come from a large family so it isn’t uncommon to have family members drop in for dinner a couple times a week. In other words, I cook a lot and often for a lot of people.

How much do we spend? Until recently we were spending about $150 a week. And this does not even factor in the fact that we were eating out or ordering takeout once or twice a week. My challenge was to cut our grocery bill in half and save dinners out for an occasional treat (and yes, eating out is one time that I definitely use coupons).

At first the idea of trying to cut back on groceries while still eating well seemed daunting, but I can honestly say, I have perfected the art of slashing the grocery budget in half. Below are six steps for saving money on groceries without coupons that is working quite well for us. And believe it or not, it’s also kind of fun to watch those savings add up!

Step #1: Take Inventory

grocery listAll Out Of Pad (Other Colors Available)

Before you plan your grocery trip you will want to take inventory and see what you have plenty of, what you are almost out of and what you can hold off on until it’s on sale again.

You are going to want to plan your menus around either what’s on sale or what you already have, but if you do need something that isn’t on sale then try to get the best price possible, either generic, or in bulk (more on buying in bulk below).

It also helps to have a list on the fridge so family members jot down what you are low on. Getting family involved in this process as well as menu planning will make it much easier to get  everyone on board.

Step #2: Check the Sales

Next, you want to check out the sales in the store flyer or online. This will give you some ideas for meals and also let you pick up other necessities that you are running low on. You wont be making your list just yet, just jot down the good deals for step 3. Also make sure you check the sales for a few different stores that you like to frequent.

wegmans food pricesWegmans and Aldi are always my go-to stores but there are a few others nearby that have good buys as well. I don’t shop at other stores often but once in a while I see a deal that I just can’t pass up. I also shop at Sam’s Club for bulk items, but Wegmans also has a wide variety of items in bulk as well. So if I can’t get to Sam’s, I can usually find what I am looking for at Wegmans.

Step # 3: Plan a Week’s Worth of Dinner Menus

I can’t even stress how huge this one is and how much it has helped us stay within our grocery budget. And the nice thing about menu planning is you can be flexible. For example, if you have a big, time consuming meal planned on a day that something suddenly came up you can easily swap it out for another day when you had something quick planned.

If you tend to do your grocery shopping less often, like every two weeks then you can even plan two weeks worth of menus. Some seasoned menu planners even plan an entire month’s worth by doing once a month shopping trips and just picking perishables like fruit and dairy when needed.

Have you heard of once a month cooking? This is where you spend one day cooking a variety of meals that you divide up and put in the freezer. Buy planning ahead, shopping the sales and spending just one day a month cooking this way you will save both time and money. You can read more about once a month cooking here: Once a Month Meal Planning.

Dry Erase Magnetic Weekly Chalkboard Menu Meal PlannerDry Erase Magnetic Weekly Chalkboard Menu Meal PlannerMagnetic Dry Erase Refrigerator Whiteboard Menu PlannerMagnetic Dry Erase Refrigerator Whiteboard Menu Planner


You can plan three meals a day but I keep it simple. Around here we usually have cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, lunch is usually sandwiches and fruit. Peanut butter and jelly, egg salad and grilled cheese are all economical choices. Other times it might be leftovers. Either way, in our family we don’t stress much over breakfast and lunch but plan more variety for dinners. Snacks are usually cheese sticks, pretzels, raw fruits and veggies that are in season and baked goods.

Step #4: Make a List

grocery shopping listI know, you have heard this over and over, make a list. But I make my list a bit different than others do. Many grocery stores have their sales flyers online and give you the ability to create your list on their website to either print off or access from your smart phone.

Wegmans offers this and I can make my entire list, along with prices before I even get to the store. Even items such as meat and produce, which have to be weighed are usually pretty accurate since Wegmans will estimate the weight of these items for you. It’s not exact but it’s pretty close so I never have to worry about trying to keep a total on a calculator or in my head while I am shopping.

Here is how I do it; I make my list for Wegmans, making sure I stay right around my goal of $75 for the week. As I make my list I look for the best prices, sales etc. and add items to my list. If my list goes way over I know that I need to adjust my menu plan. If it’s just a little over that’s okay because in step 5 I am going to save even more money.

If your store doesn’t offer this feature it’s okay. It is more convenient but before I knew about this feature I still had a fairly good idea what Wegmans food prices, toiletries, etc. were because I shop there frequently.

One option that also works (although it takes a little time at the beginning) is keeping track of prices in a price book. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A spiral notebook or a three ring binder will do. The website Organized Home gives tips on creating a price book including a  free template.

Step #5: Plan to Shop at More Than One Store

This is where it gets fun. Do you have an Aldis or any other type of discount grocery store nearby? Take your grocery list that you made in step 4 and go to the discount chain first. As you shop you can compare prices and pick up anything that is cheaper from your list.

At Aldi, I do really well with staples such as baking products, snacks, produce etc. (although I will admit I usually get my produce at Wegmans, they have really good produce).  I usually buy my meat in bulk at Wegmans as well but sometimes it is even cheaper at Aldi depending on their sales that week.

If you don’t have an Aldi or any other type of discount store that’s okay too. Justgrocery shopping price comparison the fact that you are planning menus around sales is going to slash your grocery budget significantly. And if you have at least two grocery stores in your area you can take advantage by shopping only the sales at each one.

Usually I can get everything cheaper at Aldi but sometimes Wegman’s is still the better buy depending on what the item is, whether it’s on sale or perhaps in bulk. That’s why it helps to have your list with prices.

Chances are, you have a pretty good idea what the prices are for items that you frequently buy anyway. For example, I am not a fan of generic mayonnaise and I know that at Wegmans, Hellmann’s mayo is $3.99 when not on sale. When I see it on sale at my local Top’s (a store I shop at on occasion) for $2.50 I stock up because I generally don’t see it that low at Wegmans, even when it is on sale.

Whenever I make my Wegmans list I have an idea what I will most likely get at Aldi instead. I will probably get anything I want in bulk at Wegman’s but will get a lot of staple items as well as some meat and maybe some of my produce there if it looks good.

I estimate that I will save around 15% going to Aldis first. Sometimes I save more and sometimes I save less but over a year’s time those grocery savings really add up! And think of it this way, if you can save even $40 a month on groceries just by going to more than one store, you can use that money somewhere else, like paying off debt, or putting in savings. And all because you took the time to plan!

Now let’s take it a step further. I may be saving around  15% by going to Aldi but look at all the other steps! Overall I have personally slashed our grocery budget by over 50%. That’s over $300 a month! And I am saving even more than that because better meal planning means eating out less!

Step #6 Slowly Start Buying in Bulk

The reason I say slowly is because if you are struggling with a tight budget it is hard to go out and buy everything at once in bulk. If you can that’s great, but if not, slowly start replacing the items that you run out of in bulk if when you can.

For example, in the past when we were short on money I would grab a few rolls of toilet paper for .99 each. Buying in bulk costs more up front but it comes out to just .59 a roll! Who doesn’t like saving 40%? I find it easy to keep to my $75 a week budget by just picking up one or two things a week in bulk as I start to run low.

Buying Perishables in Bulk

Buying perishables like meat and cheese in bulk can save you as well. I buy club packs of meat and cheese, bring them home and divide into family portions and freeze. I have an extra freezer but if you don’t at least consider buying items that you use a lot of in bulk.

For example, if you eat a lot of boneless skinless chicken breasts you could divide them up in freezer bags. What I do is wrap meal size portions in saran wrap then place them all in one big freezer bag. That way I can take out just enough chicken for one meal at a time.

A Food Saver (shown on the left) which will vacuum seal your food, is also something to consider down the road because it really does make the food last longer and it takes up less room for storage. It is an investment though, and you also have the cost of the bags to consider, but many say that it will pay for itself rather quickly.

Another idea is to buy in bulk and split the cost with family and friends. I do this a lot when I go to Sam’s club and buy fresh fruit. We never seem to eat it fast enough so I split the cost with a family member.

I don’t buy everything in bulk. Just those items that we use a lot of. It’s also necessary to compare prices because sometimes you still save more money by shopping around the sales, whether in bulk or not. Trust me, after a while you will have a well stocked freezer and pantry. And not only will you be shopping less, you will get in the habit of only replenishing when on sale!

Is Meal Planning Worth the Effort?

This may seem like a lot of work and it might not be possible to do it exactly this way depending on where you live and what stores you have. But if you can plan your list around different stores then you can really save a lot of money on groceries.
Weekly Meal PlannerWeekly Meal Planner

And what if these stores aren’t near each other? You can plan those trips when you are in that area.

For example, Aldi and Wegmans are close to each other so I do those the same day. Sam’s club is in a different town so I usually plan a once a month trip there.

When I shop at Sam’s Club I usually spend more than $75 so I usually adjust my grocery budget and spend less the week before and the week after.



Menu Planning Saves Time

If this still seems like a lot of work then consider this, I am finding that by being more efficient in my planning and sticking to my list I get in and out of the store really fast. And of course it is worth mentioning again that sticking to your list is a must!