October Grocery Challenge

Hey, where did all my hard-earned money go?


I signed up for mint.com back in February as a way to track my income and expenses, but haven’t been making good use of it.




Mint is a free website for managing your personal money. Once you make an account, it automatically calculates how much you spend on every category, ranging from food, health, rent, shopping, clothing, auto, etc. It allows the user to set budgets for anything, and when you get close to going over your limit, it will send you an e-mail alert, or a text if you prefer. I also have "goals” set, including paying off my 2nd credit card.


Using Mint, I determined that I have been spending, on average, $271.72 a month on food.


Month Groceries Eating Out Total Spent
September $267.70 $46.16 $313.86
August $145.97 $84.63 $230.60
July $125.01 $99.47 $224.48
June $173.88 $144.07 $317.95


This summer my costs have been higher than I think they should be. I have been eating out way more than I did a year ago, granted my life is 100% different than it was. I don’t have my own apartment or kitchen anymore, and finding space to store and make food is difficult. it’s actually very rare that I am home during any mealtime. I usually wake up, head to work at 7:30am, leave around 2:00pm for my second job, and return home or go to the gym after 7:30pm. That makes for some long days!


In the month of October, I am challenging myself to only spend $150 on groceries and no more than $50 on eating out.  


I am going to be blogging all month about how I’m spending my dollars to update you all on the progress of the challenge! I plan to find inexpensive healthy meals to share with my readers, as well as get ideas from you!


Here are the rules:

  • Anything I already have in my pantry (a tiny little shelf) is fair game. Right now, that includes a box of cereal, a couple of bananas, 3 CLIF bars, pretzels, and a can of beans. In the fridge, all I have is mozzarella cheese sticks, a green pepper, and vanilla soymilk.
  • I am ONLY counting food items. If I purchase laundry detergent that does not count towards food.
  • Eating out has it’s own category for budgeting, but the whole point of this challenge is to spend less money, so I am going to keep the eating out category as low as possible.
  • Coffee from Starbucks and dates based around meals (like a nice dinner out, which is rare anyways) have their own category which I will discuss in a later post.


Does anyone want to join in on the grocery budget challenge?


❤ MegaNerd


28 Responses

  1. I’m in! I literally JUST finished writing in my morning post about focusing on my finances, especially when it comes to food, it’s like you read my mind!

  2. Looks like a good plan. I really like this challenge because I know I spend way too much money on groceries. I want to sign up for mint.com soon and track everything.

  3. I just created an account on mint.com after reading your post. I am going to start with October and figure out where my money goes. I know it’s going to be way too much on eating out, groceries, and coffee (from my husband’s daily stop for coffee on his way to work!). Good luck on your grocery challenge this month. It must be hard having such little space to store food!

  4. Megan! I love this idea. Right after Tim and I got married, we combined our monies and have been using mint.com like mad fiends.

    Sadly, though, we saw on mint.com how our eating out (and waistlines) had grown! So, I joined a gym and we’ve been tightly managing our budget. Cutting down the cost of eating out and unnecessary food items that get waster or just thrown away is the easiest way to cut down monthly costs.

    Good job! I congratulate you!

    Lisa 🙂

  5. Mint is a great tool and I think it will definitely help you track how much you’re spending.

    Good luck with the challenge.

    Are you goint to do something with teh money you save? I recommend sticking it in an IRA or something for retirement.

  6. i’m not gonne lie-i’ve got a mint.com account too and haven’t used it in ages! time to get familiar with it again….

    i did want to offer one tip that i’ve found useful when saving money while eating out:
    -order your food a la carte. i remember one time my friends and i went to brunch and they all ordered a breakfast meal (omelet, hashbrown, etc) and i ordered three separate things: eggs, toast and fruit. even though i was trying to eat healthy, my order ended up being $5 less than everyone else’s! i also do this at sit-down restaurants..i’ll order a small salad with a side of soup or another small appetizer instead of one of the huge meals the restaurant offers.

    not sure if that was helpful, but good luck with the spending challenge! also, bulk meals (ie. casserole dishes, huge pot of chili) offer a lot of bang for your buck and are easy to package up for lunches/dinners on the go!

  7. That is a great idea! I spend a lot on groceries.. but I don’t feel bad about it because buying good ingredients and making good food is a priority to me.

  8. Good luck on your challenge, I think you’ve set the bar very high. Its hard enough to eat on $6-7 a day, then you add in your logistical problems.

    In my experience, you really need time and economies of scale to make home cooking work well (you have neither,:( ). Feeding 2 on 2x your budget is alot easier than feeding 1 on your budget. Feeding 4 on 4x is a breeze.

    Don’t let my negativity discourage you, because the food and financial skills you learn will pay a lifetime of dividends. My SO and I, have eaten so much at home we find it hard to eat at a restaurant now. I now think, why would you drive somewhere to stand in line and pay 3x the cost of something you could make better at home.

    Time and convenience make alot of our decisions for us. So the better/faster your cooking (and planning) skills to more you will rely on them. If you can break down the veggies for mirepoix in 3 minutes versus 30 minutes you are way more likely to cook. So practice your skills and acknowledge their value.

    happy cooking

  9. I partially signed up for mint.com two days ago. I need to finish the registration tonight. I can’t wait to get started.

    I definitely want to join the grocery budget challenge. Unfortunately my teenage boys are eating more and more everday which makes it even more challenging at the grocery store.

  10. Great challange!!! so good everything is cheaper in Florida, New York gets me and ! Me and mt fiancee still try to buy in bulk, to cook meals at home, but even so we spent a lot on groceries!

  11. As another recent college grad I definitely need to step up my game in terms of budgeting and watching where my money goes too. I definitely need to look into mint… good luck with your grocery challenge I can’t wait to read more about it!

  12. Love grocery budget challenges! Can’t wait to follow along!

  13. Yes. My gosh yes. I will think about using that site, it looks pretty sweet and I think I remember hearing about it on The Today Show! 🙂

  14. good luck! what a great challenge. i’ve been spending a lot on food, but on eating out. I need to buy more groceries and take advantage of our new kitchen.

    I signed up for mint.com 2 years ago, but haven’t logged on in months. whoops

  15. I am def. joining you! Since I’m now an adult (own apartment…) I have so many more bills and really need to be better about financing. My biggest obstacles are healthy foods and road races..

  16. WOw, if this makes you feel any better, I spend what you spend all month on groceries in a single trip. LoL, kinda makes me feel a little ashamed, but that should give you some good inspiration! 🙂

  17. I love using Mint! It makes it so much easier to see where my money is going and to separate visually rent, bills, groceries, transfers to savings. My general budget is $125/month for groceries (I get awesome cheap veggies from a CSA) and $100/month for eating out, which includes Starbucks and any little snacks I might buy in the course of the day. I don’t always stick to the budget but at least it’s there.

  18. […] Grocery Shopping Trip I Posted on October 1, 2010 by MegaNerd At the start of the October Grocery Challenge, I headed to Publix (grocery store) to stock up on food for the week. (I actually cheated and […]

  19. I am trying to eat out of my cupboards and freezer this month. My food bill is way too high. Also learning how easy and cheaper it is for me to cook my own beans and grains. A luxury working at home. Good luck. I am sure you will do Awesome!

  20. sadly i already know i will spend more on eating out because i have a few dinners planned. plus i have a trip to hawaii soon!

    it’s hard to track on my end b/c ryan and i both buy groceries. :p

  21. Love Mint! I’ve been using their mobile app since September to get a grip on my finances. This weekend I’m going to go through my September budget and fine-tune it for October.

    My boyfriend and I used to have tons of fun budgeting our food when we lived in San Francisco. We’re such the geeks… we’d go to the grocery store once a week and bring along an old TI calculator from high school and count everything as we shopped. 🙂

    We don’t have to be quite as strict anymore for household things. But I definitely need to tighten up my personal spending habits.

  22. I’m kind of scared to try mint just because it makes me nervous to see where my money is going…way to live in reality, right?!

    I’d been thinking about trying to start a budget for food expenses, so maybe I’ll join in as well!

  23. I would love to get started on Mint, but is it really safe to submit credit card and banking account logins thru a website?

    Other than that I am ready to get control of my money.

  24. […] I found myself with some spare time this weekend, and decided to try a new recipe. I had to make a quick grocery trip to buy a few items, which I was sure to work into the Grocery budget challenge. […]

  25. […] store on the way home from work to pick up necessary chili items. I didn’t include these into my grocery budget challenge because I am feeding a family of four. Since I did include myself in dinner, I am adding one-third […]

  26. […] think the biggest challenge so far of the October Grocery Budget Challenge has been planning ahead. I HATE meal planning, but I think the pay offs (saving money) will be […]

  27. […] been meaning to blog about the October grocery budget challenge but I keep forgetting. It’s going pretty well, but I’m finding that I’m eating a TON of […]

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