DAY 1 (Friday)
Farmers' market (apples): $5
Shop Rite: $12.44
Total spent: $46.88
Total remaining: $107.12
On Day 1 of the Live the Wage challenge, we bought nothing but groceries, but we bought a lot of those. In the afternoon I stopped by the farmers' market and picked up a big bag of apples for $5; there weren't any sales on fresh fruit in this week's supermarket fliers, so that looked like the best deal I could get. Then, in the evening, we went out and hit two supermarkets. First we stopped by Shop-Rite to pick up a few sale items: block cheese, flour, and whipped cream. The sale on whipped cream was so good that we actually got two cans, so that's an extra $2.79 that we didn't strictly need to spend—our first real "indulgence" on our minimum-wage budget. However, I opted not to drop $1.49 on a bottle of sale-priced coffee creamer, so that sort of balances out. Total spent at Shop-Rite: $12.44 (including our 5-cent discount for the reusable shopping bag).
Next we went to the Aldi to stock up on some staples we always get there, including oats, milk, butter, canola oil, peanuts, potatoes, graham crackers, and shredded mozzarella. In addition to these basics, I decided to pick up a container of facial cleaner. I've been using ordinary store-brand cold cream, but they just changed the formula to include parabens, an ingredient I try to avoid due to the health risks. (What happened, apparently, was that Pond's Cold Cream changed its formula for the first time in decades, and the store brands changed theirs to match.) When I searched the racks at Rite Aid for an alternative, I couldn't find anything that was non-drying, paraben-free, and not tested on animals. So when I checked the ingredient list on Aldi's Lacura Hydrating Facial Cleanser and saw no parabens or other ingredients of concern, I thought it was worth $2.66 to check it out. (That's for an 8-ounce bottle, so it's actually cheaper than the cold cream, so it'll be a good deal if it works.)
The other non-essential item we added to our shopping crate was a couple of bags of hot dog buns for a party we're throwing next weekend, since they're cheaper at Aldi (89 cents) than anywhere else. I could have put off buying these until after the challenge week was over, but since I would normally buy them at Aldi if I had the chance, I decided not to skew my results. As it turns out, however, we actually ended up paying more for the buns than we would have if we'd bought them for at the Stop&Shop, because our checker had billed us for three bags when we'd only bought two. Normally we keep an eye on the tally as the items run through the checkout, but this checker was tossing everything into the cart so fast (once again, not giving us a chance to use our reusable crate instead) that Brian had his hands full transferring everything to the crate, and I was stuck at the other end of the line where I couldn't see the register. So that's an extra 89 cents out of our limited budget gone completely to waste. Total spent at Aldi: $29.44.
So as you can see, we've gone through nearly a third of our $154 budget in one day. On the other hand, we've now done the bulk of our grocery shopping for the week, and groceries are the biggest expense we have during a typical week. So I maintain that, even if we spent a lot at the beginning of the week, we'll still come out ahead at the end.