The EPIC CONCLUSION of the Great Grocery Challenge!

emptycardGive me that big cart!  Those small ones will not help today!

With my grocery list in hand, coupons clipped (electronically!) and sales scouted, I made out after work to drop more money on groceries than I ever had before.  Even though this was a grocery trip, however, much of my game plan involved non-food items.  Batteries, razor blades, toilet paper, contact solution and dog food were all big items .

The first thing I went for was dog food.  With two coupons for a total of $6 off if I bought two, I decided to buy the two biggest bags.  One large ($25) bag of dog food lasts about 2 months.  I figured that for $44 (minus another $4.40 after the 10% coupon), 4 months of dog food would be an awesome start to this challenge.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one that was thinking this way.  There was just one large bag left, forcing me to settle for a large bag and a medium bag.

dogfoodTwo bags of dog food and about $43 later, I was already a third of a way through my budget!

The next non-perishable I wanted to seek out was a 50% off deal on toilet paper.  You can’t really beat 50% off, so I picked up the limit of four Cottonelle 6-double rolls.  Normally, $5 I snagged four of them for $10 total, $9 after the 10% coupon is applied.

tpMy cart was already filling up fast!  I rounded out the non-edible portion of my trip with a bottle of contact solution ($8.29 before a $2.00 off coupon), a razor refill package ($14.49 before a $1.00 off sale) and some double-A batteries.  At this point, not only was my cart filling up, but my budget was already getting squeezed and I had yet to purchase a single bit of food!  This was when I made my fatal mistake of the night… Halloween candy.

candyThe candy was “on sale,” which means practically nothing of course.  However, I also had a $5 off coupon if I spent $15 on candy.  I never buy candy.  This was a prototypical example of buying something because it’s “too good of a deal” even though I really didn’t need it.  Nevertheless, I picked up 7 bags of candy.  I told myself it would be nice to give some to my students and, of course, “what a deal!”  In the end, I’m not even sure that I got that much of a deal because I had to buy an extra bag to insure I got the $5 off.  And even then, the receipt is a little unclear.  Now I have 7 bags of candy.  Yay.

The rest of the grocery shopping went smooth with one exception: my last big pick-up was completely sold out.

cheeriosThis was a huge bummer.  The sale itself is 34% off, before I apply my 10% off coupon.  This is also a fairly recurrent sale and I had totally run out of cereal a few days prior.  I was counting on this sale and I came up empty.  Frustrating.  I grabbed a family size box (at least I had a $0.50 coupon for one box) and moved on.

Yes, I bought 10 frozen Mac 'n Cheeses... I'm 12 years old.

Yes, I bought 10 frozen Mac ‘n Cheeses… I’m 12 years old.

It seemed that karma paid me back rather quickly.  One coupon I had was for $5 off any 10 Stouffer’s frozen meals.  I didn’t really plan to use this coupon – having to buy 10 frozen dinners was a daunting requirement.  However, when I strolled over to the frozen aisle, not only were the Stouffer’s meals on sale, there was exactly 10 Mac ‘n Cheese entrees left.  Well, I couldn’t ignore that sign.  The entrees were normally $3.28, on sale for $2.50 each!  Throw in my $5 off coupon and another 10% off and what would have normally cost $32.28 ended up costing me $18 – almost a 50% savings.  There’s some stockpiling for ya!

At this point, I was tiring out.  Not only was I certainly about to spend the most I’d ever spent on groceries, I was in the store for much longer than I am used to.  I picked up the several 1-offs that were on my list: Milk, lunch meat, ground beef, fruit, snacks, etc.  Then, off to the checkout lane, a monumental task awaiting.  I knew I had overshot my budget, the question was “by how much.”

beforeandafterAfter the 10% coupon and some bottle returns, my final cost came to $147.43.  About $22 above my budget.  Wow.  Seeing that $170 up there was a bit of a jolt, but I knew it was worth it.  In fact, the photo on the left has already taken out nearly $37 in sale savings, so I actually did very, very well.

I think this went well… It’s actually tough to say because so much of what I spent was on things that weren’t really groceries, as it turned out.  However, I’m certain I saved a ton of money.  Of the $67.55 Meijer tells me I saved, I’m sure at least $45 of that is legitimate savings that I might have missed out on, though spread out over many trips.  $45 is certainly nothing to scoff at!  And, had it not been for my candy adventures, I think it would have really been a true depiction of my savings.  The 10% coupon alone saved me $17 that I certainly wouldn’t have received no matter what sales I scouted out (thanks Meijer!).

The next question is, do I try something similar next month?  I’m starting to think about it.  What say you, dear readers?  Do you have a structured plan of attack on groceries?  Have you tried the extreme couponing and stockpiling methods out there?  Or do you generally wing it while keeping an eye out for deals, like me?

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