frugal grocery shopping, affordable grocery shopping, grocery purchasing

I woke up this morning and knew I needed to go out and do some shopping if I was going to eat anything today. I had $31 in my pocket and some coupons I had gathered, and I was on my way.

My first purchase was Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean bathroom cleaner and refill. While this may at first appear to be a strange purchase when I have only $31 for the month, I did it because it was a money maker. The Scrubbing Bubbles Extend A Cleaner bathroom cleaner was on sale for $6.99 and there was a $5.00 off 1 coupon for Scrubbing Bubbles Power Sprayer Starter from 4/11 SmartSource Sunday newspaper insert which I had. I also used a Free Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-a-clean refill, when you buy starter coupon (go to the bottom of the page and the deal will scroll by) which made the refill free. With tax, I ended up paying $2.96 out of the $31.00, but I received a $3.00 Catalina (the coupons that come out with your receipt) and two $1.00 Catalinas (I should have only gotten one, but I think what happened was that the cashier needed to check the price of the refill to make it free and instead of looking, she scanned it again triggering a second $1.00 Catalina). So after spending $2.96, I had $5.00 in coupons to spend:

This is part of a month-long challenge to eat well while spending an average of only $1 a day on food. You can find the beginning and the rules of this challenge here

scrubbing bubbles extend a clean
scrubbing bubbles receipt
I then headed back to the store to see if they had Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis and if the Blinkie coupon dispenser was still there. Luckily it was and I grabbed 19 of the Philadelphia Cream Cheese since they didn’t have twenty:

cream cheese minis
The Blinkie coupon actually makes the Philadelphia Cream Cheese minis a $0.06 money maker for each one you buy since it is for $0.55 cents off and with the current promotion, each one is $0.49 if you buy in groups of five. Since I needed another item to make 20 items for the promotion to work, I got some Knudsen Light Sour Cream (it was $0.99 and there was a Blinkie Coupon for $0.60 off 1 making it $0.39):

Knudsen light sour cream
Since I hadn’t eaten anything and I knew that I needed something for breakfast, I decided to go for two boxes of Quaker regular instant oatmeal. It wasn’t on sale for a great price — $1.99 per box — but I did have $1.00 off 1 box coupons for the two boxes making them $0.99 each and it’s anyone’s guess when the price would go down more. Since I had no food, I had to suck it up:

Quaker Regular instant oatmeal
Since this project is to eat healthy on $1.00 a day, I decided I needed to get some produce as well. I have $1.00 off Safeway Brand apples and another coupon for $1.00 off Safeway produce when you bought $5.00. The apples were $3.99 and I decided to get 2 lbs of carrots as well to make that work:

Fuji apples
Using the coupons I had and the Catalina coupons I had received for the Scrubbing Bubbles, I got all of the above and the cashier paid me back $0.09 so that I had now spent $2.85 of the $31.00:

Safeway day 1 purchase
Safeway day 1 receipt
Safeway day 1 100 percent savings
Since I was also taking a run to the local food bank today, I decided to donate the Scrubbing Bubbles (they also give out toiletries and household cleaning materials) and 15 of the 19 Philadelphia Cream Cheese minis:

food bank donation
I only kept 4 — 2 regular and 2 onion and chive. I did this because I also took a bunch more coupons from the Blinkie machine that I will use in the coming days so I know I will have plenty of cream cheese even with the donation.

Next stop was CVS where I bought Skippy Peanut Butter, 2 cans of Pork and Beans, 8 boxes of wheat thins, 2 bags of Ghirardelli chocolate and 1 bag of long grain rice. I had planed to buy Fig Newtons as well, but they were sold out so I got a raincheck for them. I had $1.00 off 1 box coupons for the Wheat This and Fig Newtons and free bags of Ghirardelli chocolates that I had received from an online contest. Since the Fig Newtons were sold out, I substituted 4 more Wheat Thins (I could have done several other things to make it work — I had a $4 off coupon with the purchase of $20 or more), but didn’t feel like driving all the way back home to get the coupons to do it). The total for all the items after coupons came to $1.16 raising the total I spent to $4.01 of the $31.00:

cvs day 1 purchase
cvs day 1 receipt
Since the rules are that I can only use 2 computers to generate coupons off the Internet, 4 of the Wheat Thin boxes will be donated to the food bank. my sister also said (much to my dismay) that since the Ghirardelli chocolates where won in a contest before this challenge started, they get taken away as well (and she was more than happy to take them). That left me with the following for my $1.16:

cvs day 1 keep
I made one final stop because i know that I would not survive this challenge without some type of bread. Nob Hill had Mission 100% wheat flour tortillas on sale for $0.99 with a store coupon and I also had two $0.75 off 1 coupons for Mission Tortillas from the Internet (they have since expired) bringing the price down to $0.24 each ($0.48 total) for tortillas:

mission tortillas
nob hill day 1 receipt

So at the end of the day, I spent $4.49 of the $31.00 I have this month on day 1 to get the following food (before today’s meals):

2 boxes of Quaker Instant oatmeal
4 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis
1 package of Knudsen Light sour cream
10 apples
2 lbs of carrots
4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
1 jar of Skippy All Natural peanut butter
2 cans of pork and beans
1 bag of long grain brown rice
2 packages of Mission 100% whole wheat tortillas (10 counts each)

Donated Food to Food Bank that was purchased with my $1 a day

15 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis
4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
1 Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean bathroom cleaner
1 Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean bathroom cleaner refill

Master List ::: Day 1: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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  1. I could spend 30 bucks a month on groceries if I ate the kind of shit you do. My goal is to find a way to eat cheap an healthy – not cheap and shitty, or expensive and (overly) delicious.

  2. Great work! I also, when I’m organized enough, try to take advantage of the deals that are out there. It’s amazing how a little bit of work can really pay off. For those of you complaining because it’s not healthy enough.. of course in a perfect world everyone would eat from farmers markets and organic grocery stores.. however the sad reality is that people who suffer with poverty often eat the cheapest possible stuff which is nutritionally far inferior to what was purchased here. I’d rather see someone eat wheat thins with natural peanut butter and an apple for lunch than something from a fast food value meal.
    And regarding “Mike”.. just wow. You were infinitely nicer and more respectful in dealing with what was essentially just an baseless attack that didn’t even make sense. Keep up the good work.

  3. @Paul

    I’m sorry that this challenge did not meet your expectations. What I would suggest is that you go out and do it better than I did which is certainly possible and the food banks are always in need of good quality food. I”m still learning about both couponing and cooking.

    What I can say is that if you already have a stockpile of food (look at my meals at the end) you are able to be much more choosy about the food you get. There is nothing that says you need to buy what I did, but you can still use the concepts to save a lot of money.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. I don’t think I can do it on $1 a day, but you’ve certainly taught me that I can save on my food costs. And a note for healthy-organic-whole foods types like me: your local food coop probably puts out a newsletter with coupons and also probably offers members-only sales and discounts; health food companies like Hain offer manufacturers’ coupons that can be used at your local supermarket (or anywhere else their products are sold); and if you hit the farmers’ market at the end of the day you can sometimes catch some marked-down organic produce.
    If you’re into healthy foods, use your regular coupons for things like cleaning supplies and other non-edibles, and utilize the savings for organic produce. You gotta be creative!

  5. Absolutely enjoyed reading this. You mentioned a “learning curve”, I was wondering how long this takes. A friend and myself started “couponing” about a month ago and we are cutting our shopping trips in a third so far but we are looking forward to trips like you describe.

  6. I just wanted to say thank you for your awesome and “extreme” example. YOu have shown me that with a bit of creativity one really can make a difference with coupons. Good Work!

  7. My eyes glazed over before I got half way through this post. I intended to read each of them for good ideas. Instead what I got was “mumble jumbo” (no offense intended that is simply what it looks like to me). It is about as interesting as watching the celery wilt in the produce aisle. I admit I don’t use coupons because it always seems the rules restrict their use too much and it usually seems they want me to buy something I would never buy or use. Maybe I failed coupon 101 or maybe I’m genetically unable to understand it all but you succeeded in losing me shortly after you bought the scrubbing bubbles. Maybe if it wasn’t necessary to jump up and down on your left foot while rubbing your tummy and patting your head while reciting the bible backwards and making funny faces to make this all work it could hold my interest. I expect the retailers to make the rules so that they scrtew me and I expect the manufacturers to fail to send me the rebate checks for some “made up” reason. I expect the $1 off coupon to be for something I never bought before wouldn’t eat if I bought it and cannot understand who would eat it even if it was free. I guess the bottom line is I didn’t like coupons before reading this and your first article convionced me I was right.

  8. I’m a little late to respond to this because I just wandered into it, but I have to say that this is a GREAT idea and I think your food is very nutritious. It is ideas like this that make us analyze our spending habits and ultimately make significant changes. I had a friend who was laid off and he lived on cornmeal mush for one month until he became employed again. It didn’t kill him and he lost 20 lbs. from the ordeal. I salute the creativity and persistence required to do this. You’ve inspired me, thanks so much.

  9. All well and good unless you have a job to keep you busy rather than spending your days searching for coupons and making multiple trips to multple markets.
    I understand that the idea behind the blog (other than a payday for the author)is to make us stop and think about ways to cut our food costs. I applaud that.
    However, this wasn’t a realistic challenge at all. Yes, I remember when I was a struggling college student and bought a 5 lb bag of rice and a 2 lb bag of dried beans for my month’s meals. I spent significantly less than $31 but any realistic challenge of this type should also require enjoyable meals.
    Any idiot can buy a can of oatmeal and call it 30 days of breakfasts. Actually choking it down 30 days straight is another thing altogether, especially as there was no sweetener or dairy included.
    One other thing….man can not live by carbs alone, if I ate from the choices for 31 days I’d need to take $1000 worth of insulin to keep my blood glucose in a healthy range. Normally, I use $80 worth so I’m not sure where the savings would come in.
    In summary, good blog to make us stop and think more frugally but totally unrealistic unless your in a position to only have $30 a month to eat on, in that case, it’s better than dying of starvation.

  10. that is so cool … i hope that with all the SUNDAY coupons i have been clippin i can find good deals too..

  11. to respond to “bleem” who said this would only make sense if you’re out of work or on welfare. I’m not sure I agree; some folks just make a decision to live a lower stress, less materialistic lifestyle. My daughter does this type of stuff as a challenge, for fun, like a game, and then spends the money on trips, etc. and she makes big $$$ too. Plus, nobody is saying this is what you should do, this just proves what’s possible. You can take the parts you like, and try some of these suggestions if you want. My in-laws are all on welfare, and they get hundreds of dollars a month and spend it on pizza and taco bell and are always broke. If they used some of these strategies they wouldn’t have to go hungry.

  12. This is SUPER, Jeffrey! How did you know the initial Scrubbing Bubbles purchase would get you the Catalina coupons? And, to be clear, they can be applied to any purchase? They have these machines at my store, but I don’t know how to predict when coupons will come out & have never gotten a generic one, just ones for a specific product. Can you reveal your secret??
    Sorry about that Mike/Matt guy – if only you’d had some Ghirardelli chocolate to help you cope 🙂

  13. It was funny how you caught mike up trying to play coupon police, lol… I love your site, I’m new at couponing and still learning please don’t let people like mike stop you from sharing, I don’t understand why he was here if he was going to judge you

  14. This is interesting! Thanks for sharing. Way up there was a post from someone saying they got a three figure and hour salary. I was curious why if they were making that kind of money they even bother to use coupons and sales anyhow? That’s they whole purpose of this blog and using coupons is to save money and cut our budgets. If I had a salary like that, I wouldn’t be so concerned and could actually afford the more expensive, healthier items such a organic fresh fruit and veggies and all the other healthier items.

  15. Wow, I can’t believe the haters on this couponing site. Why would you be angry somebody is trying to save money on their food? I have four children and my husband makes a 6 figure salary but I still try to save on my food budget because then I have more to spend on other things like health insurance. Thank you for this site, I have enjoyed learning all I can to make my shopping easier. BTW, people, if you are going to rant, PLEASE do so with correct spelling, it justs reinforces how ignorant you REALLY are! :p

  16. Good job Jeff..all you nay’sayers-stop over analyzing. This man is just trying to help people who are struggling along. I work, hubby works, family is struggling still. Have you gone grocery shopping lately all you complainers? Trying it, then tell Jeff this is rediculous. It’s not-especially if you take 10% of what you save and pass it on to the next person who is struggling. Just listen for once instead of trying to grand-stand a good thing…ugh!

  17. that’s great and all… but shouldn’t you count how much money you waste in gas by driving around everywhere looking for these deals? Also, what about the time you are putting into this.

  18. Alright people…I understand the last comment was a few months ago, but I have to put my two cents in. My husband and I are both in the US Army. You want to talk about long hours? We do them. 80+ hours a week. We also have two kids, two car notes, etc etc. And I still manage to coupon easily. In fact, this past Friday at Safeway here in Hawaii, I can show you a picture of my receipt. We saved $119.00 by being a store member and using store and manufacturer coupons. Not having enough time is a GREAT excuse… but who are you telling? If we can do what we do AND do this to save our family money… you have no excuse.

  19. Lets not paint everyone with the same broad brush please. First off not everyone lives near a store. If someone is working 40 hours a week, and has to drive an hour to a store, or has special needs family members, and other situations one may not have time to clip coupons. And some communities don’t even have newspaper delivery any more. Or the time to track down coupons they can actually use. Like if a child has gluten issues, type 1 diabetes etc. Not everyone wants to eat processed foods, frozen foods, junk food. Finding coupons for organic, fresh food items is almost non existent. So congratulations to everyone who has access to great coupons you can use and a grocery store close enough to shop at.

  20. I am new to your website and realize I am very late in seeing this post but I still feel the need to comment. Truly an amazing first day ! Even though you are taking it to an extreme, this is very inspirational to all of us who are finding it harder and harder in this economy to feed their family healthy meals. AND you still donated all that to charity. Well Done! I look forward to reading more.

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