The $21 Challenge: Our Shopping Adventure

So $21 isn’t a whole lot. Particularly when you consider the challenges that are facing us.

For starters, I am a gluten-free girl. And if you’ve never taken a look a the price of things like gluten-free bread and pasta, you’ll be in for a shock. I normally spend more than $21 per week on things like gluten free bread, English muffins, pasta and muffin mixes.  So from that perspective alone, this is going to be a challenge.

We do, however, have several things working on our side. Because of my 50/50 custody schedule with my ex, this particular week we only have my girls with us on Monday and Wednesday nights, meaning that there are only two days’ worth of school lunches we’ll have to provide. It always seems like school lunches cost a lot more than eating at home for some reason. Of course, I do get caught in the trap of picking up convenience items for their lunches like granola bars, which aren’t cheap. None of that this week, however.

Also, we have the ability to do our shopping in several different locations. Now, I know what you’re thinking — if we’re running around getting only the best deals from a number of places, are we really saving money? I’m going to answer a big ole ‘yes’ on this one, since this is something that we do normally anyhow. So we’ll be spending the same on driving to these places, but saving big time on the food we won’t be buying, and getting the best deals on the little food that we do buy.

Another big advantage is that I’m a pretty decent cook. Not to toot my own horn too much here, but I’ve got kitchen skillz. This definitely helps in terms of keeping food costs low if I’m able to make things myself from scratch.

I looked through our pantry, fridge and freezer, scoured the weekly fliers and came up with a meal plan. Then, on Saturday morning, with my careful list in hand and Todd and I headed out to pickup our $21 worth of food.

We went to 3 different places and this is what we scored:

  • 1 dozen eggs ($1.99 on sale)
  • White vinegar ($1.49)
  • Vegetable Thin crackers ($1.44)
  • 2l milk ($3.69)
  • 2 heads of broccoli (scored an amazing deal – 0.99 each! – $1.98)
  • 2 big bunches of bananas (also another great deal at 0.27/lb – $1.15)
  • Bag of oranges ($3.97)
  • 1 English cucumber ($1.47)
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce (0.97)
  • Fresh garlic (0.89)
  • 3 avocados (from the discount shelf – 0.99)

Grand total – $20.03. Well…$20.05 after it gets rounded. Leaving us with 95 cents left.


This is what $20.05 worth of food looks like, if you’re able to score some really good deals.

Then, I made the very conscious decision to cheat. Full disclosure, right? I made up my mind to pick up a bag of chocolate chips. Not exactly a necessity, but I figured that if we got desperate later in the week, I could at least whip up a batch of cookies for a treat. I went into the store, picked up the chocolate chips and saw that they were on sale! $1.94. I figured that going only one measly dollar over budget was no big deal.

And then…the grocery store gods smiled upon me. I rang the chocolate chips through the self-scanner and realized that they came up as $2.99. I flagged down the cashier and pointed this out to her. She confirmed this was the case and guess what that means? I got the chocolate chips for free. Y’see, according to the scanning code of practice here in Canada, any item under $10 that scans at the incorrect price will be given to you for free.

freeSo…though my intent was to cheat on the challenge…just a little bit…I still have that .95 cents in my wallet. Sweet!

All in all, I would say that the biggest challenge when shopping was steering clear of those great deals on things that didn’t need for this upcoming week.  Temptations were everywhere, but I managed to stay strong.

Later on in the week I’ll be sharing our meal plan and maybe even a recipe or two.

Until next time,




4 thoughts on “The $21 Challenge: Our Shopping Adventure

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