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    • elsiepac
    • By elsiepac 28th Jul 18, 10:09 PM
    • 1,698Posts
    • 12,514Thanks
    December 2018 Grocery Challenge
    • #1
    • 28th Jul 18, 10:09 PM
    December 2018 Grocery Challenge 28th Jul 18 at 10:09 PM
    Hi everyone,

    Welcome to the last Grocery Challenge of 2018 !!!!

    If your new month starts early feel free to join this thread, or if you're still working on your November budget, then keep on posting in the November Challenge.

    As always this challenge is to reduce your own grocery budget to levels that you will be pleased with, not forgetting that we always recommend that you stay inside your own comfort levels and take things gently one step at a time. Remember that this is not a's designed to take you and your grocery spending to a level you are happy with.

    If you are new to the challenge I have quoted the advice from Galtizz below which will help you get started.

    Please post into this thread for help and advice and support at any time. Good luck to everyone taking part!

    I have said this before, but for all the newbies to the challenge;

    For the first month I took a guess at the budget but I really had no idea how much I was spending.

    I found the best thing is to have a guess the first month but SAVE ALL OF YOUR RECEIPTS (and yes, that does include the ones from the local shop when you run out of milk), then at the end of the month add them all up and have a look if you were on budget, if not, it doesn't matter because your budget was a guess. For the next month you can use the total of your receipts and take a bit off to get a realistic budget, just shave off as much as you think you can, it could be 1 a week or 20 a week.

    If you are currently spending 200 a month don't suddenly drop it to 100 - you'll never do it but if you cut 20 a month off for a few months you'll get there eventually without feeling you're missing out on anything.

    You might think you've done everything you can in the first month but someone always comes up with a new idea and, if you try it you often find you save a bit more (unless you are SarahSaver who is an expert at this and could only save more if she turned her back garden into a paddy field and lived on rice ) In the first month I thought, I'm planning meals, I couldn't possibly save any more, but then I started double cooking and freezing, and making soup instead of buying it in tins.

    I've been doing this since Feb but only saved ALL of my receipts last month, it has given me a much better idea of where it is all going. Budget for next month is 80 for 2 of us, I'll start on 30/4. I could probably save more, by eating different foods but I can afford to live on 80, I have saved a lot of money since Feb. and I don't waste food or money any more. So I'm happy with my budget.
    By request, here is Spiggles wonderful helpful post

    We all have different budgets that suit our households. The most important thing to remember is that you set yours according to your needs and finances. It can take time to get to where you want to be too so don't knock yourself out if you go over in the first few months. We are here to support each other and it is not a competition.

    I thought it might help to outline where we've come from and the top tips I've learned.

    When we started in March 2010 we had spent in excess of 600 in the previous month. This had to stop, (there's only me and him and our two beautiful black cats) something which thankfully my OH completely agreed with so I have been lucky that he has been on board from the start. He gave me his debit card voluntarily and I still keep hold of it until he needs to get something for the home. At the same time we set up a system of pocket money (pm) at 15 each per week which doesn't count towards the GC and which we can each spend as we wish with no comebacks or complaints. OH predominantly uses his pm on his beer and I ferret mine away mostly.

    The next step was to set up my own spreadsheet which is absolutely simple onto which I put all spends so that I have a continuous running total for the month and for the year. We initially set our budget at 280 per month and brought it down to 240 where it resides for most of the year it is occasionally increased to allow for extras e.g. Christmas to 260.

    The important 'tools' we found greatly helped and continue to do so now are:

    Stocktake cupboards, fridge, freezer - make lists and ensure that the older products get used up first. You'll be amazed at what you find squirrelled away and it will help with your shopping list as you'll realise that you don't actually need so much.

    Before you go shopping check staples - running out of milk, bread, butter, etc often leads to going into a shop for one thing and coming out 20 lighter. Always check these and if they'll run out tomorrow buy them the same time as getting other things.

    Always make a shopping list and stick to it - the supermarkets (sm) try every which way to get us to spend so having a list and strong resolve is the only way to beat them.

    Keep every receipt - and then note it down on your spreadsheet/spend diary so that you always know where you are.

    When tempted, ask yourself do you NEED it or just WANT it - now this advice goes with two things. Firstly, the things you see in store when shopping that APPEAR to be bargains - if you hadn't planned spending the money then its not a bargain. Secondly, the sm send us loads of vouchers for X off a spend of XX - if you had no NEED to spend XX then have you SAVED anything???

    Use my supermarket to compare prices (limited to four of the biggies) - The site may be used to actually do an online shop at whichever of the big four offers the best value or, if you have the time and sm availability, to make up lists for visiting each of the stores so that you can purchase all you need at different stores thus getting the best possible value. (I'd add, do a 'shop' virtually on this site and take the list you create on it with you, whichever one you shop at, it will help keep target prices in your head and allow you to spot bargains. Mr M is not included but you can do a virtual list on their website so you know what you're going to be spending.)

    Always have a list - this is just as important when shopping online as shopping on foot.

    Use Approved Foods online (with a list!) - if you don't mind out of date things (ood) or you can search for only in date items. The only drawback is storing the goods as far as I can tell. Oh, and watch the delivery as it's done on a scaled charge for weight so keep an eye on it. You can of course do an AF order with friends, family, colleagues or like minded neighbours. Other GCers use Big Br*nds 4 Less too.

    Invest in a bread maker - we have saved so much by making our own bread. The prices in the shops are extortionate for bread these days. There's loads of advice on this thread and others in the forum on this.

    Use the recipe lists - always posted at the front of a new thread. There are fantastic, tasty, healthy and economical recipes to use on them and there are a number of other threads on the forum such as Weezl's that will help you to eat well on a budget.

    Shop locally - the local greengrocer (or preferably market but I don't have one ) is usually cheaper as an option for fruit and veg (f&v) than the sm. Often the prices may look the same but when you look at the quantity for the same price the greengrocer will be cheaper. The same goes for the local butcher. Often you will have far more variety of meat available, advice on how to cook a particular meat can be offered and there is (for me at least) no comparison in terms of quality. We buy our huge FR eggs there and I'm yet to find an equivalent FR egg in a sm at the same or lower price. Obviously if you have your own chicks/know someone who has chicks you can get them even cheaper again.

    Grow your own - it's quite simple to grow some f&v at home even if it's only in pots on the patio. There are also supportive threads on the forum for this.

    Cook your own - making meals at home from ingredients is far more economical, often tastes better than shop bought and is probably far better health wise.

    Meal Plan - this is something that others can advise on as we don't do it. I have a tremendous capacity for eating the same food over many days but presented in slightly different form. For example, we could buy 7 worth of brisket from the butchers and eat it as pot roast for a couple of days, sliced for sarnies, sliced with a salad, chucked into a casserole or shredded up and fried as crispy beef.

    Don't waste food - either only make what you need or use any leftovers for other meals/creations or freeze it for another day.

    Withdraw the cash you want to spend - and keep it in a separate purse. This can be particularly effective as you have the money in front of you reducing rather than spending with plastic which is so easy to lose track of. Very useful when you first start out.

    Don't go to the shops to browse - this can only lead to pain and hardship!!!

    Keep posting and reading the thread - there really is no better supportive, wise and inspirational place to be! I think I saw that somebody mentioned forgetting to read/post. I get around this by using the Advanced button to post, below the window where your text is displayed you will see Additional Options. In the Thread Subscription box use the dropdown to select either instant email notification (this is what I use) or daily email notification before you submit your latest post. Then you will get an email into your inbox from which you can click to the thread to see what others are saying.

    Always remember the sm is not your friend - it wants to profit from you and take as much of your money as it can coerce out of you!

    So, there you go as a starting point. Others on here will offer tremendous advice on meal planning. And don't forget, the only silly question is the one you didn't ask!

    See you all later,
    For guidelines on posting in this thread please read the second post in this thread.

    For the Grocery challenge Recipe Index please see posts #4 to #10 this thread (the list is growing!!!!!)

    For everyone's totals, see post #3 on this thread

    I hope everyone has a great month!


    This Forum tip was included in's weekly email!
    Last edited by elsiepac; 24-12-2018 at 9:21 AM.
    I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style, Greenfingered, Energy & Going Out Deals boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and I can move and merge threads there. Please remember, board guides don't read every post. If you spot an illegal or inappropriate post then please report it to (it's not part of my role to deal with this) Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.
    SPC No 074
    GC: Apr 19 59.94/200
    Vegan 27-8-13
Page 2
    • PipneyJane
    • By PipneyJane 23rd Nov 18, 12:24 AM
    • 1,122 Posts
    • 8,500 Thanks
    Greetings from Singapore, where we are waiting for our next flight.

    Please put me down for ??? 158. I cant remember the exact total off the top of my head, so it may change slightly. (I am currently coffee-deprived and waiting for the Americano I just downed to kick in.)

    - Pip. (It is the ability to do trips like this, which is the reason I am frugal.)
    Originally posted by PipneyJane
    It turns out that my budget for December should be 157.80, so leave me at 158, please Elsie. Ill make up the 20p from somewhere.

    - Pip (Not badly remembered.)
    "Be the type of woman that when you get out of bed in the morning, the devil says 'Oh crap. She's up.' "

    C.R.A.P R.O.L.L.Z. #47 Official Brain Harvesting Body Counter
    • thriftwizard
    • By thriftwizard 23rd Nov 18, 7:59 AM
    • 3,013 Posts
    • 37,450 Thanks
    - Pip (Not badly remembered.)
    Actually - quite awesome!

    GC June 19 - 414.75/400

    Money's just a substitute for time & talent...
    • medsdemon
    • By medsdemon 23rd Nov 18, 9:00 AM
    • 745 Posts
    • 6,098 Thanks
    Im still working on the November budget till 28th, but can you put me down for 240 for December from 28th Nov to 26th Dec. Payday is actually the 19th, but thats way too short a month and would mean a 6 week month in January so were going to try and pretend the money isnt in till after Christmas and then were unlikely to go mad. Since were off alcohol atm, have no visitors coming apart from DD and her Partner for a night, and hardly any presents to buy, apart from the DD and her partner, then we shouldnt really be going mad.
    Itll all depend on what we end up doing activity wise. Since its just us am hoping well get the weather to be out on proper hikes over Xmas and New Year. Not really into either celebrations really . Well put up a tree, watch some Christmas movies, might go Ice skating, and have a nice meal. I like the run up better .
    Our Xmas present is a campervan, and was hoping wed have it by Xmas so we could go away in it, but not looking likely well have it that quick.

    Good luck everyone with keeping to your budgets, and finding bargains and thanks elsiepac for running the thread. It really seems to help me keep focus
    Grocery challenge October: 228.28/250.00 NSD 4 ( not completed)
    Grocery challenge November : 291.65/300.00 NSD 10
    Grocery challenge December : 0/240.00 NSD
    • MadamMim2013
    • By MadamMim2013 23rd Nov 18, 4:53 PM
    • 802 Posts
    • 10,147 Thanks
    Hi all, thanks elsiepac for the thread.. Please put me down for 300 for Dec . Not starting yet, just thought I'd ask before I forget!
    "There's a little witch in all of us"
    2018 GC 93 2019 GC 3 2 JUNE GC 192.92/300
    : DEBT FREE 06/2018
    • Rachiedabbler70
    • By Rachiedabbler70 24th Nov 18, 9:58 AM
    • 257 Posts
    • 2,387 Thanks
    Hi All
    Please could I join for December. I'm going to set myself quite a tough challenge to live on 250 from now until 31 December. This is for 3 adults and Christmas dinner for 6 people and another Christmas meal for 4 people. It includes all food, toiletries and rabbit food and bedding.

    I've overspent the last couple of months and need to pull back. I'm going to shop late this evening and will see if any reduced items and do my shop for 10 or 11 days.

    Meal plan is
    Cereal, eggs, porridge, toast for breakfasts

    HM soups, sandwiches, crisps, apples for lunches

    Main meals
    1. Burgers, chips or wedges, veg
    2. Chicken curry, rice and naan
    3. Chicken chow mein
    4. Pizzas
    5. Jacket spuds, beans and cheese
    6. Turkey chilli, rice and nachos
    7. Chicken fajitas
    8. Salt and pepper chicken wings with egg fried rice
    9. Chicken, veg and pasta bake
    10. Moussaka
    11. Roast chicken lasagne

    All above home made and will buy whole chickens and butcher myself to save money.
    I have pasta, rice, flours etc in store cupboard so starting strong but know this will dwindle.

    Good luck everyone
    Blitz that mortgage
    Jun 2016 152,000
    May 2019 116,229.75 (23.53% paid)
    MFW 2019 #81 3,655.27/8,000 (46%)
    Contingency pot savings 11,088.16 April 2019
    May GC 86.46/100
    • Highland Fling
    • By Highland Fling 24th Nov 18, 11:04 AM
    • 109 Posts
    • 1,331 Thanks
    Highland Fling
    Good morning everyone
    can you please put Highland Fling GC in for 130 please.
    A little less than last month but I have bought a lot of meat for freezer. I also will be eating out and visiting relatives for meals during the festive season.
    I hope everyone has a productive weekend.
    • elsiepac
    • By elsiepac 24th Nov 18, 5:04 PM
    • 1,698 Posts
    • 12,514 Thanks
    Hmmm... Just a meal suggestion but, back in the 1980s, my flat mate lived off pumpkin soup, over which shed scatter toasted pinenuts. She worked long days, so something like that with a slice or two of black bread/pumpernickel bread, would make a quick meal when she got home.

    Also dont discount just having houmous and wholemeal toast for a quick meal, when you get back really late. That will give you protein, fibre and some vitamins/minerals.
    Originally posted by PipneyJane
    Great ideas, and thank you! I always forget about the simple stuff! I'm very obsessed with having what I deem "enough" veg - which is usually 2-4 portions per meal, but there is no reason one meal a day shouldn't have less, especially if it's only one or two days a week! I need to be less OCD

    Re buying decent veg, do you have a National Trust property near you? Check it out because it may have a farm shop selling veg grown on the premises. We buy most of our veg from the farm shop at Osterley Park. What is available changes with the seasons, so no purple sprouting broccoli in September, but the freshness and flavour cannot be beaten AND were buying directly from the farmer.
    Originally posted by PipneyJane
    Great idea, I'll have a look for NT properties... not sure if I do or not! There is a farm shop up the road from me, but whilst they used to be excellent, they've now got terrible reviews and seem to not be the standard they once were. I should probably go and have a look though instead of relying on other opinions I guess...

    PS: Mondays are my really bad day, timewise. Im lucky if I have 3/4 hour turnaround time between getting home and leaving for choir rehearsal. Im trying to always use the slow cooker on a Monday, prepping it on Sunday night. Bean-based stews work well.
    Originally posted by PipneyJane
    Mondays are my worst at the moment too as I'm on an archery course for a few weeks and it's half an hour away and 7-9pm! There is no way that I have time to eat first so Mondays currently it's at least half nine before I'm home and then however long it takes me to heat something up and actually eat! It's only a few weeks though and I'm loving the archery, it's a fun different activity!!

    Budgets updated to here

    My pay has gone into my account today instead of Monday, so I've bought some stuff already - off to calculate budgets with a definitive pay amount and will report back!
    I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style, Greenfingered, Energy & Going Out Deals boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and I can move and merge threads there. Please remember, board guides don't read every post. If you spot an illegal or inappropriate post then please report it to (it's not part of my role to deal with this) Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.
    SPC No 074
    GC: Apr 19 59.94/200
    Vegan 27-8-13
    • Rachiedabbler70
    • By Rachiedabbler70 25th Nov 18, 10:07 AM
    • 257 Posts
    • 2,387 Thanks
    Elsiepac thanks for adding me

    I spent 60.08 last night and have approximately 10/11 days of food. Might make own bread when I run out by mid week to accumulate some no spend days. Cooked up a chicken for sandwiches for the next 3 days and froze the rest to take out later in the week. I bought Christmas meat as well so only veg for Christmas dinner and I will make a cake as no one keen on Christmas pudding

    Good luck all xx
    Blitz that mortgage
    Jun 2016 152,000
    May 2019 116,229.75 (23.53% paid)
    MFW 2019 #81 3,655.27/8,000 (46%)
    Contingency pot savings 11,088.16 April 2019
    May GC 86.46/100
    • Nellbell21
    • By Nellbell21 25th Nov 18, 12:35 PM
    • 18 Posts
    • 246 Thanks
    I’m going for 700 including the bulk fund. If I can shave a little of a month it hopefully won’t seem as insurmountable! X
    • luckofthe_irish
    • By luckofthe_irish 26th Nov 18, 8:04 AM
    • 191 Posts
    • 655 Thanks
    130 again for me please I am lucky to spend Christmas at home in Ireland so I just need to cover the run up to it and pick up some GF goodies to enjoy on the day!

    First spends of the month done this weekend - 28.36 in Aldi & 4.22 in Lidl. Leaving me with a total of: 32.58/130.

    Hoping this will last me for the week plus I have loads of the freezer to each up as I think I will be exchanging on my house THIS WEEK! Ekkkkkk, hope I can pick up some bargains in the sales for kitchen appliances and I haven't missed them all!
    Trying to make my way on my MSE adventure.. Debt free since June 2018

    December GC 32.58/130
    November GC 101.14/135 :: another month under budget! :: another m
    Emergency Fund 104.77/1000
    • Chloris
    • By Chloris 26th Nov 18, 9:18 AM
    • 651 Posts
    • 9,422 Thanks
    Thanks guys, all up to date! Have actually Stickied the Thread now as well, as apparently forgot the other day!!

    My personal mission this month is to post on here more, I really miss it! My issue is a lack of time as I have next to no time on weeknights as I'm prioritising my exercise classes and working overtime just to try and keep my head up. I'm in a pretty bad position financially again I think. I need to have a good sit down and look at what I'm doing and where as I haven't put the time in for a while and it's really showing. Even though grocery wise I'm meal prepping every Sunday for the weekdays, I've got really lazy with it and then I eat extra or I buy something else as I don't fancy what I have made.

    As for budgeting, I need to get it back under control. What I'd really like is to find a farmers market or something and buy unpackaged produce in season each week and eat according to that, but there really is very little around me, except one in a town 20 minutes away on Thursday mornings, when I'm at work!!

    I've had a little think and I think I will try and focus on a different way of meal prepping for the week. I haven't fully decided how I will do it, but I'm thinking I really miss "bowls" - just nice basic component meals. I could prep all the base stuff on the Sunday (cook grains, roast veg, prepare a protein and make a sauce or two) and then mix and match for lunches/dinners through the week. I feel this will help me kickstart my weight loss again too as I'll feel a bit more excited about what I'm eating!!

    Any ideas for vegan friendly, slimming world friendly sauces or dressings please?

    Budgets updated to here
    Originally posted by elsiepac
    I like this website/blog
    I found it in the summer and I have enjoyed everything I've made. The mayo is very easy and delicious. I tend to make a lot of bowl meals and batch cook chillis/curries/stew to make life easier. I also batch cook brown rice and freeze in individual portions for emergencies, then it only need boiling water poured over to defrost and heat. Hth

    Can I be put down for 700 please.
    I'm taking into account hosting a number of Christmas parties. I will move some of my celebration budget across to my grocery, I don't want to dissect the receipts! Hoping for the best as I tend to be a nervous hostess and buy too much. Good luck everyone. xx
    • CRANKY40
    • By CRANKY40 26th Nov 18, 1:47 PM
    • 3,287 Posts
    • 36,174 Thanks
    Thanks for the new thread Elsiepac. I checked the dates for my grocery budget and to my horror realised that if I keep to Mondays I will be food shopping on Christmas Eve. My first thought was "not in this lifetime" so I've moved my dates and budget around.

    In December I will be shopping on Thursday or Friday starting with the 30th November. Hopefully this week will be a cheap week as I've only just shopped. I'll probably get extra cat food/litter to put away in case we have snow. This makes a 5 week month so my total will be 250 please.

    I'll be making mince pies for all and sundry but I have most of the stuff in that I need for those. My very small Christmas cake is made as are those for my friends. Hopefully I can stick to budget - the HT likes to stick to normal food and I'm following slimming world and shouldn't be shopping for extra Christmas sweets/junk anyway.
    • BappyBrunette
    • By BappyBrunette 26th Nov 18, 3:37 PM
    • 13 Posts
    • 95 Thanks

    Newbie alert - can I be put down for 40 per week please me, 8 year old, and 3 year old + 2 dogs
    • tiredwithtwins
    • By tiredwithtwins 26th Nov 18, 6:40 PM
    • 463 Posts
    • 1,532 Thanks
    thank you for starting the thread!
    please can you put me down for 150 this month!? I still have a freezer half full of food, so intend to be frugal for the first few weeks - I should be able to stretch to just weekly veg up to xmas, then have an indulgent spend for xmas week!
    my dec is 29th nov to xmas week ... being a nurse im working over most of xmas, however I get paid on the 19th dec, then don't get paid again until 24th jan .. that will be a very lean month!!

    good luck everyone!

    sue xx
    dec gc epic fail!/150 ..jan 140/160 ..feb gc 90/150
    mar 100/120 apr 85/120
    wading through the treacle of life!
    • becky170
    • By becky170 27th Nov 18, 8:16 AM
    • 518 Posts
    • 4,308 Thanks
    Can I join for the December Challenge? I really need to get our grocery shopping under control as I'm now on maternity leave on SMP. Can I be put down for 450? That's for 2 adults, a toddler and a baby and is include all food, formula, nappies, toiletries and cleaning products. Thank you!
    MFW 2019 #7 926/1615
    Grocery challenge June 440/450
    • FTBNow
    • By FTBNow 27th Nov 18, 12:29 PM
    • 141 Posts
    • 117 Thanks
    Can I join in for the December challenge too? We spent 345 last month on shopping (and that was just out the joint account, not including our own) which is absolutely extortionate. Can I be put down for 200 which is for two adults and two dogs? Thank you! The 200 includes all food, toiletries, dog food and cleaning products.
    • allie23
    • By allie23 28th Nov 18, 9:20 AM
    • 1,336 Posts
    • 14,594 Thanks
    Hi, Can I please join? Aiming for 150 for the month.

    Month runs from now until 31st December and will include our Christmas dinner at home for me and OH.
    February 2019 Grocery Challenge
    Frugal Living Challenge 2019
    Save 12k in 2019 - Challenger No 69 - 13,310/40,000
    • mummygems
    • By mummygems 28th Nov 18, 10:09 AM
    • 340 Posts
    • 3,963 Thanks
    Id like to get back into this please as I need to sort out paying off our debts big time so money I save from this will be thrown at other debt. Spent the last few days sorting and managing and then writing lists upon lists lol.

    Can I join December Grocery 26/11- 26/12 500 please.
    (We get paid earlier in December but if I stop the grocery a week earlier for pay day then its a 5 week month and I don't want that lol). Christmas is spent visiting various family from Christmas eve to boxing day so for the bits i'm taking and alcohol I've budgeted 100 (not part of the grocery money).
    2 adults and 3 children DD (12), DD (10) & DS (7) and 2 mental beagles
    • Mrs Cheshire
    • By Mrs Cheshire 28th Nov 18, 11:21 AM
    • 861 Posts
    • 9,053 Thanks
    Mrs Cheshire
    Could you put me down for 400please, have already purchased the turkey and some snacks/chocolate so should be able to keep the spend to the same as usual.
    I'm doing a freezer inventory over the next few days and hope to use up quite a bit so I have room for any snacks etc
    SPC #148 2014-25 2015-5.50 My stars from Sue-UU

    Grocery Challenge 2019
    Jan 396.91/400, Feb /400
    • candygirl
    • By candygirl 29th Nov 18, 1:49 PM
    • 27,393 Posts
    • 116,547 Thanks
    Can I be put down for 150 for Dec please?
    "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf"

    (Kabat-Zinn 2004)
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