This time I’ve really done it.
I made the decision maybe three weeks ago that I was going to have to make some serious changes to our grocery budget. I was going to have to reevaluate what we were eating, make some cuts, be even more frugal — without sacrificing quality. I was really nervous. It was a great plan, but…was it feasible?
I’ve done two shopping trips now on the new system. It’s working. Better than I even thought it would. I’m now left scratching my head, wondering what all those “coupon queens” are spending their money on, that they require coupons to lower their budgets. I get that it’s fun to work the system and save money but really? It’s too much work, especially if you’re going for real food. I also think that people who say it’s “too expensive” to eat real food are eating about 25 – 50% fresh food, and the rest processed. It probably seems more expensive because there are no generics or coupons for fresh items (usually). But really? It can be totally affordable.
Here’s the reality (for us):
- I have $500 per month for our grocery budget, to feed 4 (hungry) people in Ohio (and I’m pregnant). That’s $250 per 2 weeks.
- I need this money to cover all my fall preservation, in addition to feeding us now, since I didn’t save anything up over the winter (bad…)
- I also need this money to cover our future bulk meat purchases (I’ll consider what we have in the freezer now “free” since I’m setting aside money to replace it)
- $40 immediately goes from this $250 into the “meat” fund
- $60 immediately goes from the $250 into the “fall preservation” fund
- We’re buying 1/2 a pig around June. It will cost about $180. I’ll have saved $200 – $240 by that time in the “meat” fund.
- We’ll be kicking off the preservation season with strawberries, at the end of May. I’ll have $300 saved in the “fall preservation” fund by that time, though I won’t need that much. I’m growing my own strawberry garden, which might produce 40 – 60 lbs.; so I’ll only need to add an additional 50 lbs. or so. At around $2/lb., I might need $100. So the money will keep growing.
- Once the preservation season is said and done, we’ll try to get the budget down to around $100 every two weeks ($200/month) because we’ll be pulling from the stocked freezer/pantry.
- Starting around October, $150 every 2 weeks will be going into the “meat” fund
- We’ll be buying a whole cow again in January, 2012. By that time, I’ll have saved about $1400. Not quite enough. But we’ll see how we want to handle that purchase (might go for a bulk ground beef purchase instead of getting all the steaks; or we might reduce the budget further once we’re eating the preserved food)
That is the current plan. So I have now only $150 to work with every 2 weeks for our “regular” groceries. For the most part, this also covers pet needs and toiletries. I also have this in my pantry:
- 1 lb. each black, red, white navy, pinto, garbanzo, and “mixed” beans (these are cheap and easy to replace)
- 1 lb. sucanat
- 3 jars tomato puree
- 6 – 8 jars apple pie filling (last year’s canning)
- 6 – 8 jars salsa (last year’s canning)
- 1 lb. coconut flour
- 1/2 54 oz. jar coconut oil
- 1/4 liter olive oil (needs replaced next shopping day)
- 5 lbs. of unbleached white flour (used occasionally as a thickener, or to stretch the almond flour if I need to)
- 4 lbs. of sprouted wheat (not ground — I sprouted them myself)
- 2 lbs. of soaked oats (I soaked/dried them myself)
- 50 vanilla beans + rum (to make lots of extract!)
Not a ton. Nothing in major bulk. And nothing costs so much that it isn’t easily replaceable each week as needed. The tomato puree will be the hardest to replace, as it costs around $30 for a case. I buy a case every 2 months, when Tropical Traditions offers free shipping. Look for that around the beginning of May!
On yesterday (Friday)’s trip, I spent just $110, split among 4 stores. I have $10 more in my wallet, plus $30 I left in the bank for farm food (they just set it up so we can pay in advance via Paypal!). This is less than what I had thought I’d need to spend, since a lot of my meat stash (other than the beef) is running out. But I assume since it worked out this week, it’ll work out next week, too.
I’m planning to try to keep $20 or thereabouts “extra” this time, so that I can stock up next time on meat again. When we do the farm run ourselves, we get 25% off our order. So I’ll be buying whole chickens, ground pork, etc. at that time!
So what did I buy with my $110?
- 2 lbs. celery (org.) — $2.50
- 2.5 lbs. romaine lettuce (org.) — $5
- 1.25 lbs. maple syrup — $6
- 1 lb. raw honey — $4
- 1 lb. frozen spinach (org.) — $2
- 2 12-oz. bags frozen strawberries (org.) — $4
- 1 lb. almond meal — $4
- 2 bags corn chips (org.) — $5
- 2 lbs. yellow onions — $1.50
- 18 bananas — $3.50
- 2 lbs. carrots (org.) — $2
- 1 lb. frozen pineapple — $1.50
- 1/2 gal. orange juice — $2
- 1 loaf sprouted bread — $3
- 1.5 lbs. frozen mango — $2.50
- 0.75 lb. asiago cheese (raw) — $4.50
- 1 4-oz. can green chiles — $0.75
- 1 2-oz. bottle ground cumin — $2
- 1 32-oz. bottle grape juice (org.) — $3
- 10 lbs. potatoes (org.) — $8
- 1 lb. cheddar (raw) — $6
- 3.5 lbs. wheat berries (org.) — $3
- 1 lb. GF pasta — $4 (sale price!)
- 2 lbs. Amish butter — $6
- 1 12-oz. bag chocolate chips (mini) — $2.50
- 3 lbs. frozen peas — $3
- 3 lbs. frozen broccoli — $2.50
- 5 lbs. white sugar — $2.75 (for kombucha)
- 2 large canteloupes — $3
- 1 bottle chili powder — $0.50
- 1 44-oz. bottle ketchup — $2 (not org, but no HFCS)
- 1 16-oz. container sour cream — $2
- 2 bottles Dawn liquid dish soap — $2
- 16 lbs. cat litter — $5
- 100-pack clothespins — $2
I also spent $3 on “splurges” — a couple snacks and candy. Tee hee. (My son was throwing a massive fit because he was hungry, so I consider the Larabar I bought him well worth it.) The candy I wouldn’t have bought but I was stressed (that was my last store) and it was a great price. Okay, it was peanut butter cups, 8 for $1. But I’ll keep them in the freezer and eat them just a bit at a time, not finish them all this weekend!
Note that “org.” = “organic.” Anything on the dirty dozen list was purchased organically. Anything that isn’t, wasn’t. Broccoli and peas are not (they’re actually really low on the pesticide list, just like onions). I could spend twice as much on them to buy organic, but why? And we go through so much that it would really add up. In the summer when the farmer’s markets are out and I can get a great price on fresh, organic stuff — that may change.
As you can see, in very few places did I actually compromise. We could only consider a couple spices and the non-organic produce “compromises” but they’re really not bad at all. The chocolate chips are just a “fun” extra that could be skipped. But, we like to add a tiny bit to ice cream or almond flour muffins and etc. for a special “treat.” I buy minis so we get lots of chocolate in each bite for a very tiny amount of total chocolate.
A note on the sour cream — no, it’s not organic. But the only ingredient is “cultured cream” and frankly, that’s actually safer than a lot of my organic options around here. It’s real sour cream, not fake stuff made with skim milk and thickeners (yup, even the “full fat” organic stuff is usually made that way).
Also, this could easily be made grain-free by skipping the wheat berries and swapping the pasta for spaghetti squash. That would actually save you money. You could easily swap out potatoes for white navy beans, broccoli, celery, peas, or any of the other veggies I use for about the same price to make it GAPS-friendly. I’ve focused heavily on peas, broccoli, carrots, celery, and potatoes because they are the cheapest veggies I can buy right now. (You’ll see in my meal plan how this plays out, but it’s easily adaptable since we don’t have grains in too many places.)
- 3 gallons raw milk ($15)
- 3 lbs. chicken feet ($6)
I actually have several dozen eggs from my last trip, or I’d probably buy those instead of chicken feet. They’re $3/dozen. They’re so fresh when we get them — usually laid that day, or the day before — that they last a long time, so I can stock up when I do trips myself. We rely heavily on eggs in ice cream, smoothies, and baking.
3 gallons of milk every 2 weeks is my standard milk order. Soon, if I can, I’ll be buying extra milk, or just extra cream, if available. I’ll be stockpiling butter for the winter (that deep yellow, yummy, nutrient-dense spring butter!). I may dip into the “fall preservation” fund for that, since it *is* for preservation, not right now.
It’s important to note that I’m using an envelope system for this. I pull out $220 in cash (leaving the $30 for the farm since I know I’ll pay that online). I put my meat and preservation cash directly into envelopes and put them away. I only go into the store with $120 in cash. If I don’t have it, I can’t spend more.
Now, if you want to see how I’m using all this stuff…head over to my meal plan and check it out!
How do you save money on groceries? How much do you spend?