In an effort to make personal finance public, we’ve shared everything we’ve earned, spent, and paid in debt for nearly two years. Along with that comes some criticism, some questions, and (thankfully) lots of encouragement.
One of the most frequent questions I get is about our grocery budget. We have a $300 grocery budget each month for our family of five (there are six of us but only five of us eat solids). Sometimes we go slightly over, but the average is just under $300 (2014 average was $266, 2015 average thus far is $289).
Readers ask me how we keep our budget so low, especially in one of the most expensive states. They wonder what we buy and what we eat. For months I have been planning to give you a peek inside our grocery shopping, but I kept forgetting to take pictures consistently. Finally I did it in July (for the most part).
First, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at where our grocery budget goes.
Once a Month Shopping
We do the bulk of our grocery shopping once a month. Usually my husband and I go together without the kids when we’re in town for a date night. I know grocery shopping doesn’t even rank on the romance scale, but it works well for us because:
- I don’t have to go by myself with four kids (enough said, right?).
- My husband and I love doing anything together, even grocery shopping.
- We save gas because we’re already in town (which is an hour away).
At other times during the month, I might make a small trip or two (with the kids in tow) to pick up milk and produce and check out the deals at my favorite discount food store.
What we buy might look a little off balance. Keep in mind we stock up when things are on sale, so we don’t have to buy everything every month. We also have a nice garden to eat from, so in the summer we buy less produce.
A typical grocery list looks something like the list below:
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These items go on our shopping list only occasionally as needed. Some of them I only buy when there is an awesome deal (cereal, granola bars, ground beef). When I find a great deal, I stock up, otherwise we go without. Surely there are others that could be added to this list, but I won’t bore you with a comprehensive list.
- granola bars
- baking powder
- baking soda
- ground beef
- canned pineapple
- cream cheese
Food Storage Staples
We have some food storage items in large quantities for our long term storage. We use these each month, but at the rate we use them (with the quantity we have stored) they last for years. For example, the last time we bought oats was about two and a half years ago. We bought a couple of 50 lb bags which we are still using.
- wheat (to grind into whole wheat flour)
- powdered milk
- pinto beans
- instant potatoes
Things We Don’t Buy
Canned fruits and veggies— We bottle our own pears, peaches, applesauce, green beans, and more. We also freeze lots of veggies from our garden and buy some frozen veggies.
Jam— I make all of our jam with berries that we pick ourselves. My in-laws have raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries growing in the garden, and we have miles of wild blackberries along the roads and creeks. I store the berries in gallon bags in the freezer until I have about a laundry basket full of them, then I make lots of quarts of jam.
Bread— I usually make all of our own bread. I went without buying any bread for about two years, until I got pregnant with our littlest one. During most of my pregnancy we bought bread to save my sanity and keep everyone fed. Now I’m back to making bread, mostly.
Eggs— My in-laws have about a dozen hens. When they are laying regularly, we don’t need to buy eggs. When the weather gets colder, they don’t lay as often, so we buy eggs. Now, the older hens have been laying for over three years, so they aren’t as consistent as they normally are and the ones that were chicks this spring aren’t laying yet.
Yogurt— We buy a small 6 oz container every now and then to be the start for our homemade yogurt, but other than that, we don’t buy yogurt.
Coffee or Alcohol— We don’t drink coffee and we don’t drink alcohol. Our budget and our bodies thank us.
What We Bought in July
At the beginning of the month, we made a trip to Winco, Sam’s Club, and Grocery Outlet. Here’s what we got:
Now for some explanation! We usually grind our own wheat flour, but I like to have white flour for some things, so I got a 25lb bag. I usually don’t buy cake mixes, but they were on sale so I got five. They are nice to have on hand and we were out. I also bought marshmallows and fudge stripe cookies. We take them camping to make cheater s’mores.
Winco has a bulk foods section I love. Here I have chocolate chips, grated parmesan cheese, chicken bullion, spaghetti, raisins, and sea salt. You can probably tell what everything else is from the photo.
Sam’s Club $41
We grow our own strawberries, but I found some that were a good deal at Sam’s.
Grocery Outlet $80
This one needs some explaining too, as it’s definitely not a normal trip. I found the Nature Valley Trail Mix granola bars (30ct) for $3.99 which is $.13 each, a great price for them! I bought 3 packages at first and tried them to make sure the nuts weren’t rancid (the food at Grocery Outlet is often close to the “best by” date). They were great, so I had my husband stop by and get more on the way home from work.
We don’t usually buy Pop-tarts, but they were super cheap ($.47 per box). I bought one box and we tried them and liked them. I figure they can be a quick treat for the kids every now and then.
I had been seeing a lot of fun recipes on Pinterest with crescent rolls dough, so when I saw some that were ultra cheap so I got them. Just for the record, homemade crescent rolls are way, way better, so I won’t even be tempted when I see another deal on these.
We had a couple of other small trips during the month, but I forgot to take pictures of them. They included some more milk and some cauliflower (that was on sale for $1.50 for a huge head).
There you have it– a peek into a month of groceries for our family with all its randomness. It’s funny how exposed I feel. For someone who shares all of her family’s finances online you’d think I wouldn’t be so self-conscious about people seeing what food I buy. Please don’t judge me too harshly because I bought a case of PBJ Pop-tarts! 🙂 We’ve only eaten one box, I promise.
How About You?
- What does a month of groceries look like for your family?
- Do you shop weekly, monthly, or whenever you’re hungry?
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