Monday’s With Mavis…

About 3 years ago I started tracking our monthly grocery purchases… In 2008 we were spending about $814 a month on groceries, in 2009 $632 a month and last year I had whittled the grocery budget down to $417.  I thought I was making real progress…   But a funny thing happened… around the first part of last year I started clipping coupons… like a crazy person… and you know how it goes… when you first start using coupons you’re like Holy Cow… .35 cents for toothpaste is so AWESOME!!!!   I should buy 10 tubes… then of course a few months go by and you quickly realize toothpaste (along with a host of other toiletries) should never be thrown into the shopping cart unless you can score them for FREE…  And that’s how this whole $100 a month challenge got started.  I needed a real challenge.  I figured $100 a month OOP for all my family’s groceries, toiletries, take out and sit down restaurant food was going to be a little more on the difficult side… kinda like my own personal double dare… I figured it would be especially straining considering we have two teenagers in the house who never stop eating, their friends, frequent dinner guests and of course the occasional steak dinner or family outing to a restaurant.  Yep… $100 a month seemed like one tall order.

Or so I thought…

Here’s what I bought this week on my $23.07 a week grocery allowance:

(This week I only spent $18.34)

(Keep in mind it was a rather slow week as there were NO double coupons this week to work with…)

Papa Murphy’s Pizza .82 cents OOP… I bought 2 of those $10 for only $5 Papa Murphy’s Gift cards from  last month from Plum District…

$1.79 Rite Aid (10% Wellness Bonus)

Costco Food Court $1.63

Albertsons $2.98

I used 3 catalinas

Butter was on sale for $2.50 last week at Fred Meyer…

I used $1 off coupons from the blinki machine and used a recyclable bag and paid $5.95 for 4 lbs of butter.

2lbs of dehydrated apples … FREE!

I used my FREE gift cards I earned on Swagbucks.

(I’ll talk more about Swagbucks later)


FREE with a Target gift card I received for my birthday…

And my favorite deal of the week…

Walmart .71 cents

I love overage!

(Note: I did 6 separate transactions… Remember you can only use 4 gain coupons per transaction)

Like I said… this was a rather slow week for me.  There were no double coupons or trips to Rite Aid so I pretty much only picked up necessity items…

The key to sticking to a limited budget is simple… stock up on free or nearly free things when you can… and during slow weeks… just buy the basics…

It’s that easy!


  • Danielle

    looking at the number of dryer sheets you purchased, you had to have boughten 24 newspapers one week, or you buy coupons on ebay, do you factor that cost into your budget each month?

  • Brenda

    I have only been couponing since second week of February and have done pretty good, but I have ABSOLUTELY no idea how you get veggies and meat while paying so little. Please clue me in.

    • mavis

      If you look at the pictures with the gain dryer sheets you’ll notice the fruit. I figured out the my overage (inc. tax) after using the 4 of the $3 gain coupon in the 40 count dryer sheets would be $3.84. I simply tried to select produce that would get me as close to $3.84 as possible so I only had to pay pennies for the produce.

  • linda

    Can’t wait to see how you get free coupons. That is amazing that you can feed your family on $100.00 a month!! Great job!

    • lacey

      Even I cant wait for that post on how to get coupons without getting newspaper. I generally buy mine from dollar tree but last week i somehow missed it and missed the coupons also. 🙁

  • Ami

    Mavis- you are so darling. I love your glasses and your t-shirt and can i just say you do NOT look old enough to have teenagers (assuming they are your biological children) 🙂 I can’t wait to read your monday posts. I have been using coupons for a while now but obviously have much more to learn. i grew up in a seattle suburb so i already had a soft spot for you in my heart. 🙂 Happy shopping! until next monday……oh and what was that plum district you mentioned that you purchased papa murphy’s gift card from???? can we access that if we live in boise?

  • Shannon

    Wow! I am so impressed! I just started couponing in January, and I feel like I am making a lot more out of our budget, but I still have a lot of work to do. Can’t wait to see how you do it on $100 a month. I only pay $3 for 6 papers a week, but I would love to know how you get them for free! One question I do have is that we drink organic milk and try to buy organic produce. So, I just don’t know that we could do it on $23/week since we spend $15/week on milk ( I have two toddlers in the house). But, if anyone has organic tips I would love to hear them!

    • Hi Shannon! I know what you mean about organic! My family has been changing their lifestyle to go in this direction as well. One tip, if you have a Trader Joe’s, there stuff is much cheaper than any other organic I’ve found, and so delicious! Second, try to find a CSA in your area. I just found one for this summer, and it’s the first time I’ve ever done it. You are buying a share in a local farm. The one here is 26 weeks long and you get a big box of produce every week. All organic, as I chose an organic farm. There is still no way you’re going to feed the family on only $100 a month this way, but it’s way cheaper than buying in-store and the BEST part about it is that it’s so fresh, it lasts much, much longer in your fridge than the produce from the store!

      • Shannon

        Thanks, Holly. I am in Boise, and we don’t have a Trader Joe’s. Bummer, because I love that store. We are getting a Whole Foods at some point, so I’ll have to see about couponing there. Thanks for the tip on CSA. I looked it up and there are actually a lot in our area! I’m excited to try it out. We also have a local milk delivery service that delivers basically organic milk. I don’t think it would save any money though….

  • Hey Ami! Nice to see you here. 🙂

    The Plum District deal was for Seattle only sadly.

    Better talk to BJ about that one! 😉

  • Becky FabFruGal

    Welcome Mavis!!! I’m so excited to see your posts!! And I thought I was doing good!!! I can’t wait to see how you get 24 papers free!!!

  • Kelli Welborn

    I think it is a good idea and walk around your neighborhood and introduce myself and ask them to save their coupons for me if they dont use them. Then go around and collect them on Sunday.

  • Nrs4kids

    Mavis–I’m anxious to hear how you get newspapers for free. I just started super-couponing last month and am soaking up all the tips I can get! I buy 2-3 newspapers from Dollar Tree ($1 each instead of the usual $2) each Saturday morning. I also “dumpster dive” (not really–it’s only the paper recycling bin) for coupon fliers each Wednesday morning. I can’t believe how many people in my condo complex throw away perfectly good coupons!

  • Wendy Begley

    Your awesome and an inspiration

  • Shelley

    Mavis, I already feel like we’re kindred spirits! But I think to be really impressed, I’m gonna need at least a loose weekly menu plan, especially if you’re using things from your stockpile…I can’t see 2 teens being happy for a week on some fruit and a couple of tubs of yogurt…at least mine wouldn’t. Help me understand, Mavis!

    • mavis

      Awesome… If I only fed my kids tubs of yogurt and fruit I think there’ be talk of mutiny… I typically don’t plan my menus out….. but I’ll start taking pictures tonight of what I feed my family and post it next week… How’s that 🙂

  • Sophie

    Very impressive!! Just a question, you dont have to answer if you dont want to share 🙂 – are you a SAHM or do you work outside your house? I always like to know that for my own curiosity since I work and like to see how others do it!!!

  • Rana

    Since I see a lot of questions on here I thought I’d add one as well. While my hubby is proud of my couponing and saving on groceries, we still spend too much on entertainment/dining out because he LOVES to take the kids to the movies and out to eat. I already get my tickets for $5 thru Bragain Movie Tickets and use coupons whenever I can for dining out, but it is still so expensive. I would love some tips on bringing down the entertainment budget and getting my hubby and I on the same page (my cheap page, ha! ha!).

    • Rana

      Of course I mean “Bargain Movie Tickets” not “Bragain”. Oops.

    • Yay! I lLOVE Bargain Movie Tickets! So you’re half way there! We love date night too, and are pretty faithful about it. Between and Groupon deals and other daily deal sites, you can save a LOT on dining!

      You can find links to all of those under our “Web Deals” section in the nav bar.

      • Rana

        I use too. Unfortunately we are down to 5 choices (I’m in Tri-Cities) with one of those being in a casino, one you can only use Sun-Thur, and another is VERY expensive and too fancy for us. So basically we have 2 whole choices. We used to have more and I don’t know why they are now gone. I wish we had more choices. I’ll just have to stick to my couponing I guess! Thanks for all the work you Fab gals do!

      • Peggy

        We love but were sadden that we are now down to ONE restaurant in a 25 miles radius and its a microbrewery, a place we don’t go. We do pick up on some of the pizza deal for Indy even if does mean almost an hour drive as we have to go down there periodically for Dr. appts.

  • Patti

    Mavis love this! What an inspiration.

  • Ken

    Mavis, Have you found or developed a website for refrigerator pictures? I know you have a passion /curiosity for the innards of our refrigerators. I do too! I think everyone who is asking questions should, maybe, well provide a snapshot of what’s in their fridge in exchange for your Rockstar advice!

  • Julie

    Someone mentioned that Mavis has her own blog, too, and I expected there to be a link somewhere, but I can’t find it. Does she have her own blog and it’s just not linked, or did I imagine that?

  • jennifer

    I’m excited to see that Mavis has joined the FabGals! I’ve been couponing for two years now and get discouraged how the deals have declined so much. But Mavis has inspired me that it still can be done. I just need to step up my game! 🙂

  • myssssss

    Newspapers are $2.00 here and you cannot take them out of the big blue recycle bins, most people use their coupons with the huge unemployment here and no rite aid here or wags (walgreens) doubles coupons at all…the gain pkgs look pretty teeny to me? also do you ever give food for the poor, or volunteer for the poor, your Karma would soar, with so many uenmployed in this county that is where I volunteer a lot..the people have tiny kids and milk is a big factor I go to a Wags I love and I go thru the line many times to snag two gallons of milk at 1.99 each limit 2 they know where I am going with that milk and as for meat and pork and produce I get them at a place that gives me a huge cash discount (my own) so I can get the stuff to the place to cook it and serve that very day, what are you doing to combat hunger up there and helping people who are starving????????????????????????????

  • I’m so excited to see you writing this weekly column! Now I have another great reason for coming here!:-)

  • Amanda

    Which insert was the $3 gain coupon in??? Maybe it was regional???

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