Posts filed under ‘challenge’
I have absolutely loved being home with my son these last three months, but I do miss the sense of community I felt going to work each day. Since I’m not going out much these days I decided to reach out to the digital community and joined the Yakezie Challenge!
Since January 4th I’ve spent $192.63 on food and food related items. Unfortunately my total food bill is much higher than I anticipated. As part of the eat from the pantry challenge I honestly expected to spend less than $100 this month.
In the three weeks since the challenge began I’ve faced a lot of success and a little bit of failure. On the positive side I’ve managed to maintain menus and food plans that focus exclusively on items available in my pantry. For example, this week we ate stuffing casserole, (from the recipe right off the back of the Stove Top box), because cream of chicken soup, sour cream, frozen veggies and chicken were all available.
Last Saturday night I prepared buffalo chicken, using leftover sauce in the fridge and cooked it alongside a bag of frozen french fries that had been sitting idle in the freezer. This meal wasn’t the most nutritious, but it did enable us to stick to the rules.
That night I also prepared tacos using a combination of defrosted chicken and leftover taco seasoning mix. We ate Mexican pizzas, (taco meat laid out on tortillas and baked in the oven with Mexican cheese) on Monday and Tuesday.
Using on-hand ingredients my husband and I also made the strangest combination of potato hash. We threw whatever half-used items we found in the fridge into the pan and stirred. We ended up with a combination of leftover hash browns, guacamole, onions, bacon and sour cream, which amazingly enough tasted absolutely delicious.
While I feel like we’ve stuck to the rules in terms of nightly dinners I believe we’ve strayed for lunches, snacks and desserts. This week I purchased Edy’s chocolate ice cream and Entenmann’s chocolate cake. Honestly, I should not have bought either. We have the ingredients on hand to make chocolate cake, brownies and chocolate chip cookies.
I also purchased juice this month to take advantage of Naked Juice’s $10 rebate offer. While we had other beverage alternatives available at home I couldn’t convince myself to pass on the deal. My local grocery store was offering all Naked Juice varieties for only $2 a bottle and I had four $1 off coupons. Bottles typically cost between 3 and 4 dollars, so this was a really good bargain. (I LOVE Naked Juice.) Nevertheless it was not in my initial eat from the pantry challenge plan.
I also splurged on walnuts when I should have turned to the pistachios and pecans sitting idle in the cupboard.
Despite the higher food total I am proud of our progress to date. After all the larger bill is due in part to the purchase of organic and natural foods, which I’ve written about multiple times in the last few weeks.
The other good news is that I do not plan to head back to the grocery store for the next seven days, which means my overall total of $192.63 should get us through until at least February 1st.
Now I just need to focus on the meal plan for this week. I hope to eat down whatever half-opened jars remain in the fridge along with a few more boxes and cans that are left on the pantry shelf.
At breakfast a few weeks ago, my good friend M.W., encouraged me to continue challenging myself. In May I joined the 29 Day Giving Challenge. In July my husband challenged me to avoid paying full retail prices for 30 days. I’m considering attempting a no-spend month, but I’m not sure I’m ready for such an intense challenge just yet.
I would prefer the challenge to be a financial one, but I’m not opposed to venturing into a challenge for better health or well-being. I know a lot of pf bloggers are committing to the 100 push-up challenge. Unfortunately, my health issues prevent me from participating in that challenge, but maybe I can challenge myself to a modified version.
I also like the idea of Poorer Than You’s Know Where the Money Goes Challenge. To participate I’d have to write down everything I spend money on for the month of August. I’ve tried this before, but I’ve never been able to stick with it over the long term.
I’d like to start the challenge next week. If you have any inspirational ideas please leave a comment.
Two weeks ago my husband challenged me to avoid paying full retail prices for thirty days. For the last fourteen days I’ve been trying my hardest to adhere to the rules. I will admit that some purchases have been easier than others.
Overall I’ve had a lot of success while grocery shopping. I now search the sales circular and create a solid list before I leave home. I also take the time to look for similar sale items before placing any item in my cart. I even pointed out a sale to another grocery store shopper. A man beside me picked up two boxes of pasta and placed them in his cart. I said, “sir, did you know that this one is 30 cents cheaper.” He immediately replaced the boxes in his cart with the sale items and thanked me. It’s amazing how easy it is to pick up one item without comparing the prices of the others beside it. This challenge has taught me to scan the shelf for an extra second before placing any item in my cart.
Not everything has been easy. I mentioned last week that I couldn’t find milk on sale. This week I had the same problem with bread. Although a few stores had bread on sale, the sale items had already been cleared from the shelves by the time I hit the store. I know that most items tend to go on sale in four to six week cycles, but sometimes we run out of an item like bread in the middle of the cycle. When that happens I’m bound to pay full price for it. Luckily this week I found a coupon for it.
Grocery shopping has gotten easier since I took on this challenge, but eating out is harder than ever. In the two weeks since I started this challenge I’ve only eaten out three times. That has been a difficult feat in and of itself. On one occasion I was able to use a coupon. On the other two occasions I wasn’t able to coordinate the friends and locations with discounts. On my first outing without a coupon, my good friend M.W. actually paid for my $6 breakfast. I paid the tip, but she sincerely wanted me to win this challenge, and paid for my meal to prevent me from failing. Unfortunately, I went out this afternoon for lunch without a coupon. I did order one of the cheaper specials, but I couldn’t avoid paying the listed price.
I could have asked my friends to meet at a place where I had a coupon or declined the invitation altogether, but my friends mean more to me than this challenge, so I bit the bullet and paid full price. Despite this one failure I plan on continuing this challenge for two more weeks. So far it has taught me a lot about my shopping and saving habits. This week I saved over 40% at the grocery store. Next week I hope to do even better.
I met my friend M for lunch today at a local chain restaurant near my office. In an effort to continue my quest to avoid paying full retail prices for 30 days I brought along a $5 coupon from my Entertainment book. I arrived late, as usual, and poor M looked like she had been waiting for quite awhile. I didn’t want her to wait any longer so we rushed inside. There was a long line to order but it moved quickly and we got to the cashier in no time. M & I ordered and the cashier said the total would be $18 and change. After I handed the cashier the coupon he said the total would be $16 and change. I thought maybe I misheard him the first time so I asked for an itemized receipt. Of course this request required help from the manager who had to leave his register to help my cashier. Luckily that transaction took less than 30 seconds.
I glanced at the receipt and found the mistake. The cashier deducted $2 from my total rather than $5. So I asked another employee if I could receive the $3 difference. He handed the receipt back to the manager who huffed and rolled his eyes. I looked back and saw that the line for the register was nearly out the door. I felt a little guilty about keeping the hungry masses from their meals. M looked a bit mortified by the whole thing, but it seemed silly to let $3 sit in the register when it could just as easily be resting back in my wallet. Luckily the manager was able to provide the $3 refund within a minute. Honestly if it had taken any longer I might have walked out without it. I hate it when coupon users hold up the line.
Last Sunday my husband presented me with an interesting challenge. He asked if I could avoid paying the full retail price of anything and everything I purchased, (with the exception of gasoline), for at least thirty days. I accepted the challenge and drove off to the grocery store determined to succeed.
Within a minute of walking into the store I walked over to the banana stand, searched around for a bunch I liked, and placed them into the cart. I got half way down the isle when I realized bananas weren’t on sale. I retraced my steps, pulled the bananas out of my cart, and placed them back on the shelf. It seems that a lot of my shopping behaviors are habitual. I simply like bananas, so I pick them up and place them in my cart every time I go to the grocery store, without ever thinking about their price. I found myself repeating this behavior with other items in the produce section. I picked up a bag of shredded carrots and a tub of mushrooms. I placed them in the cart, walked away, and returned a few seconds later when I realized that the items were not on sale.
After placing the produce back on the shelf I searched around for substitutes.In place of bananas I purchased deeply discounted cherries. Pound for pound bananas may have still been the better deal, but since cherries are available for such a short period of time I jumped at the chance to purchase them at $1.29 a pound. My luck in substituting vegetables was not as easy. I was unable to find worthy substitutes for carrots and mushrooms. Very few vegetables were on sale this week and the ones that were on sale didn’t look particularly tasty. I ultimately decided not to purchase any at all. For the time being I’ll eat from the stash of frozen vegetables I have in my freezer.
The produce section wasn’t the only part of the grocery store that forced me to rethink my purchases. Mid-way through my shopping trip I was confronted by brand loyalty in the laundry isle. After we wash our clothes my husband and I hang them to dry. A few days later I throw them in the dryer with a Bounce softener sheet. As luck would have it Bounce wasn’t on sale and I didn’t have a coupon for it. I looked back through my coupons and found one for the Snuggle brand. I looked at the price of the item and then at the coupon and realized I could save $1 simply by switching brands. Despite the savings I seemed reluctant to make the switch. (I love the smell of Bounce softener sheets.) In the end I purchased the Snuggle sheets, but I was surprised by my compulsion towards a familiar brand.
Although I was willing to substitute many of the items in my cart I was unwilling to substitute milk. This is a problem because milk is nearly impossible to find on sale. Unwilling to substitute or forgo the purchase altogether I ultimately purchased milk at full price. I consoled myself on this purchase with two justifications. First, I used a Giant coupon for $5 off a $40 purchase, so technically I was using a coupon to purchase the milk. Second, at the register I received a coupon for a free gallon of milk. (This is part of Giant’s buy six gallons of milk, get one gallon free program.) So today’s milk enabled me to save money on next week’s milk purchase. (I’ll admit I’m definitely stretching the rules for this one.)
This shopping trip opened my eyes to a number of factors I’ve never considered before.
- I was surprised by how quickly I placed items into the cart without thinking about them. (On any other day I would have purchased those bananas.)
- I was surprised by my own preference for particular brands. (I couldn’t believe my reluctance to substitute Bounce for Snuggle.)
- I realized that some staple items, like milk, almost never go on sale. (This is something I’ve honestly never thought about before.)
- I realized that I am unwilling to substitute some items for others. (I could have substituted milk for soy milk, which was on sale, but in the end I decided I was willing to pay more for the real thing.)
All told, thirteen of the fifteen items I purchased were on sale. I used coupons on seven of the sale items plus one coupon on an item that wasn’t on sale. The only item I purchased at full price was milk. Honestly I was surprised by just how difficult it was to meet the challenge guidelines. After years of grocery shopping, many of my behaviors, are simply a matter of habit.
Last night, on the way home from dinner with my family, my husband issued me a challenge. He asked if I could avoid paying the full retail price for everything I purchase over the next thirty days. I’m always up for a good challenge and this one has really peeked my interest.
There are three ways I can meet the challenge requirements. First, I can purchase items that are on sale. Second, I can purchase items that are full price, but use a coupon to receive the item at a discounted price. Third, (and the best option of all), I can purchase a sale item using a coupon.
The challenge applies to every single item I purchase with the exception of gasoline. That means food, cleaning supplies, clothes, items for the home, etc. cannot be purchased if they are not on sale and/or I do not have a coupon. Also, shopping at discount stores, like Marshalls, will not fulfill the requirements of the challenge unless the item I purchase is on sale there.
Workarounds are permitted for this challenge. For example, a few days a week I typically purchase lunch in the cafeteria. Clearly, I can’t receive discounts on those lunches, so rather than purchasing lunch at work, I’ll need to search the sales circulars and begin packing a lunch for myself. Throughout the challenge I will also keep track of alternatives to spending. For example, modifying something I already own in an effort to avoid purchasing something new.
I plan on starting the challenge tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it. It will certainly force me to monitor my spending habits more carefully.