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January Grocery Shopping Plans, a New Grocery Budget, and Garden Plans for the New Year

Lettuce The Prudent Homemaker

This post contains a referral link and an affiliate link. You can read my disclosure policy here.


I've decided to increase our budget $25 a month to $300. This amount includes non-food items like toilet paper, shampoo, etc.  We are a family of 9.

Several readers have asked me what I will do about rising food prices. I know that not everyone has an increase in income in order to cover food prices--in fact, I don't think most do.  I do not. Raising the budget $25 a month will not even come close to making up the difference in the increase in food prices that we have seen. In addition, as my children continue to grow, so do their appetites. While I would be really happy to raise the budget to $500 (ad buy the same things I used to buy with that amount), it just isn't feasible. I have made changes in the past to our menus to help us make the most of what we have, and I will continue to do so.

The extra $25 needs to come from somewhere. I am continuing to make cuts in my utility usage, which will help me come up with that $25 for a while (until rising utility rates eat up the difference). 

I expect that I will serve even more soups with homemade bread, and beans and rice (and less meat). I will serve more salads with lettuce from our garden during the seasons when lettuce grows, along with homemade dressings.

My garden plans for this year:

I've been saving money in my Paypal account from taking surveys to buy seeds. I still have many seeds left from last year, and I harvested many seeds of my own last year to plant this year (some, like lettuce and Swiss chard, are growing right now in my garden). I will be growing almost all open-pollinated seeds, so that I can collect seeds from my garden to plant again in years to come.  I am working to eliminate my need to buy seeds, but this year, I still need to buy them.  I expect to spend between $25 to $100 this year on vegetable seeds (including shipping).

This year, I want to do an even better job of making the most out of my garden. I plant to do more succession planting to have continous harvests thoughout the year.  I will focus on more looseleaf lettuces, which can be harvested 2 to 3 times each.  I will plant more parsley, as I use a lot of it and I want to have enough to not need to purchase it (I was successful in growing enough basil and oregano for our needs last year, both in the front yard. My parsley grew poorly last year, so I will plant it in some new places this year so that I will have enough).

I will grow more beans and peas this year. This will take some good planning, as I moved two grape vines last year, and they take up my main growing space for beans and peas. I need to practice better crop rotation, so I will be growing more beans and peas on trellises that I have formerly used for tomatoes.

I will not be adding any fruit trees or bushes this year to my garden. I will buy tomato plants at the local nursery in late February. Our last frost date in February 15th, and the nursery will have plants then. I will spend between $5 and $35 on tomato plants this year ($5 if I buy the small ones on sale and up to $35 if I decide to buy the larger plants this year; I may try a combination of both, but I haven't decided yet. Also, plant prices may come in higher this year, as they did last year, so that will also play a roll). I will buy seeds this month.

The garden is currently producing lettuce, parsley, sage, Swiss chard, green onions, radishes, beets, and a few other herbs. I harvested lemons last week and those will keep in my fridge for a while. I will also freeeze the zest and juice from my lemons.

Mid-January is when  I typically plant many of my cool-season vegetables (especially lots of lettuce). You can see my garden calendar here. I usually cloche these to keep them growing faster for a much earlier harvest (you can read more about that here).

I still have many fresh onions and potatoes, some apples and carrots in the fridge, a butternut squash in the pantry, and canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegtables (I did not buy any oranges last month, as they were more expensive than I had hoped and not good looking). The freezers are full. 

This month I am focusing the bulk of my shopping on pantry essentials, for which I am either out completely (like canned tomatoes) or am very low (oats, ketchup, rice, oil). 

I'm hoping for a seasonal sale on broccoli below .99 a pound that will allow me to buy a bunch, which I can blanch and freeze. I don't now what price will be the lowest this year, so how much I buy will depend on what price I see. This is my family's favorite vegetable. (I have 5 broccoli plants that germinated in the garden that are growing right now, but they are not yet producing florets). If .99 is the lowest price, I will buy some, but not as much.

I also will be looking to restock my medicine cabinet with over the counter remedies, vitamins, and first aid products. These typically go on sale in January and have coupons as well.


I will buy multiples of several of the following items:


Sam's Club:

ketchup (I buy the refill Bakers and Chefs container and use it to fill several squeeze bottles that we have; $3.64 for 114 ounces).

white vinegar ($3.88 for 2 gallons)


brown sugar (we use this mostly on oatmeal and occasionally in baking; $2.63 for 4 pounds)

canned tomatoes (I buy these in a #10 can. I split the can into a couple of recipes for the week; $3.28 for 102 ounces)

tomato sauce (#10 can size; $2.98 for 105 ounce can)

rice (I will buy 75 pounds, which is $18. We go through at least that much in a year.)

popcorn (I buy this in a 50 pound bag for $23.98.)

feta cheese

iodized salt (I gave some away in November to a friend in need so I am low) $1.12 for 4 pounds



broccoli (unless I find it lower somewhere else)

oats (In the past, we have gone through 75 pounds a year. We seem to be eating much more than that now. This is the very least expensive breakfast we can have, as a 25 pound bag is $14.74.  I will buy 50 or 75 pounds this month ($44.22 for 75 pounds). A friend informed me that this is on sale for $13 and something, so that will save me a little on this--enough to buy at least a gallon of milk.

milk (this may be on sale for less elsewhere, so I will watch)

washing soda (to make laundry soap)



vegetable oil (I buy the Great Value brand in the gallon container; this is a zero trans-fat oil for those who are looking for one; $5.68 for a 1-gallon jug)

Oxi-clean stain remover refill

dish soap (Great Value brand is $4.64 for 60 ounces)

Knorr tomato bullion (Several readers have asked what this looks like so that they can find it. You can see it here). I love to cook rice with this and use it in bean and rice burritos, and also as a simple meal of black beans and rice (not having to use torillas makes for a less expensive meal. I add lime juice and onions to the the black beans when I make this and all of the children love it for lunch; I will be making it more often this year as it is a very inexpensive meal, and goes well with a simple lettuce salad from the garden).

Knorr chicken bullion





There are coupons for .75 off up and up brand (Target's brand) vitamins and allergy medicine on Target's site (limit one per transaction, expiring 1/31), plus a 5% off Cartwheel that you can stack for up and up adult vitamins and allergy relief (expiring 1/3). There is also a $1.50 off $7 coupon for pain relief  or first aid(exp 1/31) and a 5% off Cartwheel deal (exp 1/3). There are more details on this blogger's post here.


individual vitamins

over-the counter remedies

antibiotic ointment Update: I just did a price comparison online and it looks like Walmart's brand is cheaper if ordered online; the lowest price is $1.99 an ounce in a 2 pack for $3.98 (free shipping on orders over $50). I don't have $50 to spend right now, but if you are doing a big stock up order of first aid supplies and/or other things, this would save money.

Salon Graphix Unscented hairspray. Target has buy one get one 50% off on styling products this week that should include this.

Oil of Olay face lotion for sensitive skin. I use the kind that's around $8.94 a bottle. I have a coupon for $3 off 2 bottles, and I am hoping for a sale and a Target coupon, or a rebate offer to stack with this. (Walmart also carries this). 


I'll use a Swagbucks gift card to purchase a couple of 280 packs of Band-Aids . This amount won't come out of my budget, since they will come from Swagbucks. We went through about a package and a half of these last year.


Besides these items, I will look for other good sales during the month, but these items are my primary focus.



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Tagged in: Grocery Shopping


  • Higgy January 01, 2015

    Happy New Year, Brandy! Smith's is having their Case Lot Sale right now and Mandarin Oranges are 50 cents a can, 5 lbs of Tillamook shredded cheese is $12.69. What is a good price for Tomatoe Boullion for you? My local Hispanic store has it on sale often for $5.98 for the jumbo size.
    I have been pouring over my new Territorial Seed catalog and noticed a few new "hot weather" ones.
    I hope you and the family have a healthy and prosperous New Year.

  • I saw the case-lot sale. I have been sick in bed and haven't looked over the case-lot ad enough. I missed the cheese on a quick glance but did see the mandarin oranges, and I do want to get some if I can budget that in. I may get the Tillamook cheese; that is lower than Sam's Club by .90, though I was thinking to get mozzarella this month.

    I am ordering from Territorial Seed soon; I based my list on what did well last year and am only trying one new lettuce :) They discontinued the snow peas I got from them last year that I liked so much, but I still have some; I will plant them all and hopefully I can collect enough seeds this time to keep growing them.

  • Melissa Coon January 01, 2015

    Hi Brandy! I wanted to make a comment on larger tomato plants. I would recommend not buying larger plants or ones with blossoms or fruit already on them. If they already have fruit on them they will not produce as many tomatoes. The purpose of the plant is to reproduce. The plant will put out all of its energy into making sure it produces fruit and will not grow roots well if stressed(which they are if they are in little pots at the stores). The best tomato plants are the small ones that are only 6-8 weeks old from seed. If you are worried about the tomatoes being too cold you can make a wall of waters from 2 liter (or similar) bottles taped together (about 5-6 of them) in a circle shape with the hole in the center for the plant to fit into. Fill the water bottles with water and it will help the plant grow fast and be protected from winter weather. The walls of water would need to be removed when around 90 degrees or it will cook the stem. I hope that helps keep your tomato purchases cheaper. Thanks for your blog!

  • Melissa,

    Thank you so much for your comment! I really am on the fence about what size to buy. I bought a combination of big ones and small ones last year and had fewer tomatoes than ever before, but many plants also just sat there. I did, however, get earlier tomatoes than ever before (a few in April!) from the bigger plants. Your comment encourages me to try again with small ones--which is good, because I think I may only be able to afford those ones, anyway!

  • Libby January 01, 2015

    Brandy, I live in Southern California and have fantastic luck with tomato plants from seeds (which is much cheaper for us) I don't start all plants from seeds but our tomatoes grow so well. I'm fact one year my kids threw cherry tomatoes into the dirt where I grow flowers are they grew and took over the whole section! I'm not bragging, but I am wondering why you don't do the same from seeds. Maybe our climates are much different.

  • Libby, I grew up in Southern California. I don't know where you are, but it's generally a zone 7-8 there, and we're a 9. We're hotter in summer and colder in winter.

    If I could get tomatoes to actually grow taller than 2 inches from seed, and then not mold, I might have some success. That's the best I've done with them--and then they die. So, I stick to plants--generally they are $2.50 for a 6 pack, which often actually has 8 plants in them.

  • nora January 01, 2015

    Starting them inside might work for you.

  • Jenn January 03, 2015

    You could also buy larger plants (ones with flowers but not baby tomatoes) and pinch off any flowers when you plant them out. Break off the bottom leaves and plant them deep so that new roots can grow up the stem. Then water them in--always water from the bottom to prevent leaf fungi. At the end of the season, let some of the tomatoes fall to the ground and rot into the soil. You will likely get many volunteers the following year.

  • Melissa Coon January 07, 2015


    I am a master gardener her in Utah. I love love love tomatoes. I plant between 30-40 plants every year. I grow mine from seed. IF you do grow them from seed then you need to have a fan blow on them once they are all popped up for the 6-8 weeks (for about 1 hour a day)that you have them indoors along with light so they don't get to long and gangily. The fan helps prevent rot. It doesn't always work, but I haven't ever had a failure. Since you live in such a warm climate( I am from AZ and had that same as you) just make sure and have a shade over them in the hot months of summer. You can almost have tomatoes year round. Also the plants need to be planted with quite a bit of the stem buried too so it can develop more roots. I hope your tomatoes are successful. IF you do buy them from the store, just make sure there are not too many roots all wound up. Break them up if you need to. Just pick all the tomatoes and flowers off of the ones you buy at the store.

  • Mari in MD January 01, 2015

    Melissa, that hasn't been my experience. The larger plants that I bought last year did much better than the smaller plants, mainly because it also gets very hot in central Maryland in July and August and the plants no longer set flowers. I put the larger plants in pots and got several dozen tomatoes from each of them while the smaller plants in the square foot garden produced just a few tomatoes.

    FYI, the larger plants were about 3-4 feet tall and grown in a hothouse by students in the horticulture program at a local high school. They cost me $3 each, less than the smaller individual plants at the local nurseries.

  • That's what I bought--they were that big and that price. And now I'm confused again! :)

  • Higgy January 01, 2015

    Oops, just saw the WalMart price. Guess I'll change my price book!

  • Yes, Walmart has it for a lot less!

  • Christine January 01, 2015

    Dear Brandy, I have been reading your blog for years and love what you do. I live in Melbourne, Australia and think of you often. As the mother of three hungry teenagers your recipes and ideas for saving come in handy. Your children are blessed that they haven't been continually exposed to this consumer world we seem to live in these days. I am often filled with despair when i hear what comes out of my teen's mouths. The expectation for a car (once driving age), a double bed, mobile phones, holidays, etc, etc. My husband and I are completely ok with saying no, I worry though about how as a society our teenage children have become so entitled. Keep up the fantastic work that you do and know that you have touched someone else's life all the way in sunny Ferntree Gully. Cheers and happy new year, kind regards Christine xxxxx

  • As homeschoolers, they do miss a lot, but they also go to church, church youth activities, and Scouts, so they do see and hear quite a bit. Many families from church have annual passes to Disneyland, and they go multiple times a year, in addition to other vacations during the year. Many children have cell phones, too. Winter wants to have a real conversation with the people in front of her, and doesn't want a cell phone. She especially values those who do not have a cell phone, and recently noted that a girl her age, who before was all about her phone and having a matching phone cover for every outfit, is now happier and participates more in Sunday School now that she doesn't have a phone (her parents took it away). This was a girl who rarely smiled or participated--and now she is smiling and contributing in class.
    Our children know they need to earn their own money to young women's camp and Scout camp; Winter has saved enough from doing odd jobs and babysitting for different people this year that she has saved enough for next year's camp already.

    There are always going to be people who have more money than we do--whether we are children or adults. I think it's important that we learn, as children, that not everyone can afford what everyone else has, and to be content with what we have. Otherwise, we may end up helplessly in debt, trying to live beyond our means. Understanding what things cost and how long it takes to earn enough money for those items is always a good lesson for children to learn.

  • Jane January 01, 2015

    I use tomato bullion also. Did you know that it can really boost the flavor of beef also? I use little beef in my soups but it somehow makes it taste beefier. My husband made some chicken soup the other day and added some and it made it taste much richer. Normally I don't like chicken soup because it taste so bland. Anyway, I get my tomato bullion in the Mexican food section of the store. It's a larger bottle and it costs much less.

  • Yes, that is the department they have it in. It is a 4.4 pound container--the very large one.

  • nancy haywood January 01, 2015

    happy new year to you and your family. hope everyone is well.

  • Rhonda A. January 01, 2015

    Brandy, I have always been curious if it would be possible for you to grow some food in containers inside your home. Because we live in a northern climate, we have shorter days of sunshine in the winter making it harder for us to do this. But if I had a nice, sunny south facing window, it would definitely be possibe. Since your in a more southern climate, could you grow small pots of herbs or lettuce indoors during times when they won't grow outdoors? It would be cooler in your home during the hot summer, which may help the lettuce to grow. I'd be interested in your thoughts on this idea.

  • Our south-facing windows are not in places where I can set up seedlings in front of them without them being knocked down. Herbs do fine in the heat. We just plan for lettuce in the cooler seasons, which is fall though late April--and sometimes a bit into May, though they are usually bolting then. The hottest types can go into the 90's, which we hit in April. Fortunately, Armenian cucumbers produce well in the heat, so I have those in summer.

    I have tried lettuce indoors, but it always dies on me. My indoor growing is limited to succulents and orchids.

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