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My Grocery Budget for 2018 and January's Shopping Plans

Lemonade 2 The Prudent Homemaker

This post contains affiliate links.

This year, our grocery budget is $200 a month (down from an average of $300 a month last year).

Our income in 2017 was half what it was in 2016. We also increased our expenses significantly in 2017, as we added life insurance, we had some hospital bills, and we started paying for online college classes for our eldest.

With a variable income, we never know what our income will be each month or for the year. Because we have increased our expenses, we need to cut from other areas of the budget. We don't have a large discretionary income, so cutting the grocery budget and the clothing/garden/miscellaneous budget are the two places we can cut.

Here's how I intend to make $200 a month work for our family of 10 this year:

I intend to grow even more in the garden and do a better job with our fruit harvest. I wasn't always fast enough on everything last year and the birds got to most of my grapes and a large number of figs. I intend to use paper bags on my grapes earlier in the season to keep the birds away. I also will be spraying the grapes a couple of times early in the spring (i.e. January and February) with neem oil, before they leaf out, to keep the powdery mildew away that has posed a problem (and destroyed part of the fruit) the last two years.

I am planning to grow even more Swiss chard, green onions, lettuce, and beets. My children went from not liking canned pickled beets much to suddenly welcoming them at the table. I'll plant lettuce seeds (which I've collected from my own open-pollinated lettuces) every two weeks for a continuous supply of lettuce from March through late April/early May (at which point it get too hot here, as it is well over 100ºF).

I will plant my warm-season seeds shortly after our last frost date (which is February 15th). Sometimes I get these in later than I hope and it is too hot by the time they are large enough to flower for them to put forth any flowers. If our warm weather keeps up and no frost is predicted, I may plant earlier and cover the ground with glass jars to warm the soil (I already took a chance with some cucumber seeds last week this way, so I'll see if they come up).

Last year, I rearranged the garden beds and added some concrete mesh we already had (I unrolled 5-foot tall cages to make them flat)  and my eldest son and I put them in the garden so that I can grow more vertically in the same space. This will be an advantage this year. I already have snow peas coming up under most of these trellises. I'll plant Armenian cucumber seeds under the others come February 15th.

I also changed up a bed along one whole side of the garden, which gave me more space to grow lettuce, tomatoes, basil, and squash last year. I will use the same space for lettuce, poppies, squash, and herbs this year (the tomatoes will be grown in another space).

My garden budget is separate from my grocery budget. It includes things like replacement valves, drip lines, sprinkler heads, grass seed, manure, organic fertilizers: bone meal, Epsom salts, soil sulfur (to lower the ph, as our soil and water here have a ph of 8.2), and blood meal, vegetable seeds, flower seeds, fruit trees, vines, bushes, other plants, etc. 

I already have flower seeds and vegetable seeds to plant this year, both from collecting seeds in my own garden and seeds I've purchased in the past. I don't need to buy any this year (though I may add a few new varieties of both to try). This is a blessing as I am decreasing the garden budget this year. I have also planned for a lowered budget, as I have been buying open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, and collecting them to plant in my own garden.

We'll continue to eat from the freezers and pantry, and I'll stock up on items as they get low.

We'll continue to practice the principles from when I had an even lower budget of $100 a month. You can read those tips in my Eat for $0.40 a Day series.

 

Here's how I'll spend my $200 this month:

 

Winco:

Canned tomatoes. I am completely out of canned tomatoes. I used to buy 28-ounce cans of these, until Sam's Club started carrying 102-ounce cans of these for an even better deal. Sam's Club no longer carries them in this size (and Costco doesn't either), so I will be comparing prices of the store brand of canned tomatoes (I'll start with buying some at Winco). I use these in lots of recipes (especially soups), and I cannot grow enough tomatoes to can them (I have tried!) Update: After a year of not having these, it looks like my Sam's Club might be bringing them back, but as a store brand instead. A reader's suggestion to look at another Sam's Club in town had me looking online. They didn't have these in the store when I was there last month, but it says online that they have them now, so I will check!

Canned pineapple. These go on sale for $0.99 a can from November to January at Winco. I will stock up on these to use in fruit salads and on homemade pizza (and in the occasional carrot cake).

Canned olives. These also go on sale at Winco from November to December for $0.99 a can. We use these in pasta salad and on pizza. I will stock up on these for the year.

Potatoes. Winco carries russets around $0.25 a pound all year. We eat even more in the winter. and can easily go through 50 pounds a week in winter. You can see how we like to eat potatoes here.

Broccoli. Broccoli is in season in January and February. My whole family loves broccoli. I will look for a price of $0.99 a pound or less (I'm hoping for $0.77 a pound) and I will blanch and freeze broccoli to use for months. I will also watch the store ads to see if I find a lower price elsewhere. However, Winco sells just the crowns, which means I don't end up with a lot of stems for the same price (or less) as I find elsewhere.

Onions

Spreadable margarine

Eggs

Milk

Vegetable Oil

 

Target:

Vitamins.  There are always sales on vitamins in January, and Target usually has additional Cartwheel offers on top of sales prices to get them even lower. I will look for both multivitamins and individual supplements of the store brand that we use.

 

Walmart:

Dish soap

 

Sam's Club:

Mayonnaise

Toilet Paper

Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Mozzarella Cheese

Flour tortillas

Canned tomatoes in the 102-ounce (#10) can

 

 

In the garden this month, I'm harvesting Swiss chard and Meyer lemons. We're also eating fresh tomatoes from the garden that we picked green and have ripening in baskets as well as butternut squash and pumpkin from the garden.

 

Some of the meals we'll have this month:

 

Crepes 500

Oatmeal with brown sugar and almonds

Crepes

Eggs and toast with canned fruit salads (including home-canned fruit and frozen blackberries and pomegranates from our garden)

Homemade yogurt with jam and granola

Cheese grits with eggs

Fried diced potatoes with onion

 

Minestrone Soup The Prudent Homemaker

Black beans and tomato rice

Minestrone Soup with French Bread

Rosemary White Bean Soup

Swiss Chard Soup with Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

Vegetable Noodle Soup

Pasta e Fagioli

 

Butternut Squash Soup ingredients

Pizza

Spaghetti with green beans on the side

Enchiladas with Swiss chard

Butternut Squash Soup, Herb Roasted Chicken, Swiss Chard, and Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Baked Potato Bar

Pumpkin pasta

Turkey Devan

 

For more frugal winter menu ideas, check out my winter menu here.

 

Note: If you're new to my site, you should know that my grocery budget includes food, toiletries, and cleaning supplies for my family.

Last modified on
Tagged in: Grocery Shopping

Comments

  • Becky January 03, 2018

    Thank you. It has been a challenge, but it's really starting to show now, so he's encouraged. This has been going on since July, but he lost most of it in the past month or two. Slow and steady!

  • Karen January 02, 2018

    I'm going to Safeway after work today to pick up a few things that are on sale, and then for the rest of the month I'm limiting myself to buying just dairy, eggs, and produce. Oh, and my husband's lunches (he has to have his frozen entree meals). We have plenty of meat, grains, and beans in the freezer and pantry (and I need to defrost our big freezer before our half pig arrives next month). My nine-year-old asked if she can start doing some meal prep for me before I get home from work in the afternoons, so that we get done with dinner faster and can have more time to read together in the evenings. I'm hoping that if we work together I'll be better prepared with meal plans and evenings won't feel so frazzled! She'll chop veggies for me and get out ingredients. Then we'll cook together once I get home.

  • Jess January 02, 2018

    How sweet of your daughter!

  • Ellie's friend from Canada January 02, 2018

    This will be a great bonding experience, all the while helping you out. Some of my fondest memories of my mother are from the times when I was helping her in the kitchen...

  • TJ January 02, 2018

    Broth. My secret food budget stretching weapon. I love to make broth in the crock pot. I store it in an half galllon jar in frig for a week. Any kind chicken, beef, veggie, herb and now Parmesan are all excellent with rice and veggies. I save the rinds of Parmesan cheese and add it to stews and soups but I just read of adding the rinds to water for broth. My New Years break has included the book, "Bread is Gold" by Massimo bottura. I checked it out from the local library.:)

  • Cindy in the South January 02, 2018

    I am attempting to not spend any on groceries this month. We will see how it goes...lol

  • MJ Allen January 02, 2018

    Dear Brandy,

    I never miss a post. I have been following your blog for years. You encourage me so much in every area of life. I am by myself now and some days its real easy to want to pull into the drive through although I have a written budget that I should follow religiously. I am truly going to try to do better this year and take some of the advice I have been reading about for years from you and your readers and put it into action. Thank you so much for lifting the hearts and lives of so many and helping us to find a better place and perspective from which to view this world. Blessings to you and your precious family.

  • Marisa January 02, 2018

    Hello Brandy,
    Thank you for sharing all your wonderful tips. I am hoping to make January much more frugal than December and I love all your bean recipes.

    I also want to thank you for the tip of buying 108 ounces of tomatoes then seasoning it for a lovely Marinara sauce. In my area I could not find those cans at Costco(Sam's club is not close enough to make sense). I did find them at a restaurant supply store for a similar price, last time I checked them were $3.65 for a #10 can. I wonder if there a one near you?

    Also...you gave me encouragement to try begin to grow my own food. I have a couple of herb plants that I have not killed yet...I will get trying until I get it.

  • Lori @ MyVintageWhimsy January 02, 2018

    January Food Goals:

    Clean out pantry and reorganize. It used to be so neat and easy to find what I wanted but the last few months I've just let it go. It *HAS* to be organized this week. I will take inventory of everything and make notes of what I need to buy.

    Clean out laundry room so I can put my new chest freezer in there. It was a gift for Christmas and I already have 2 extra turkeys that were given to my sister and her boyfriend, waiting for me in my mom's freezer!!

    I will check the stores to see if any other turkeys or hams are on clearance. If so, I will buy them to cook throughout the year.

    I really, really have to get on a budget for groceries. I used to be super frugal with my grocery budget, and years ago lived in an area with a grocery outlet. I rarely spent more than $20/week back then on food and house products. I can spend $20 at Walmart in one day now. I hate it. I have become so wasteful with food too. After my boyfriend moved in last summer, it seems that my budgeting skills went down the tubes. I am cringing at the thought of all the leftover Christmas food I have to throw out because I didn't freeze it. I am hoping to get back to where I used to be now that I have a sizable chest freezer to store things in.

  • Lilli January 02, 2018

    My 4 months of SNAP were well used and there is very little of anything that I don't have stockpiled in this house. I imagine that I may spend a small amount on a few fresh vegetables and fruits but there is little needed or desired here. My daughter and I both need to lose some weight so I am going to serve better options and eat healthier. No fancy diet planned, just long term changes. I have a financial issue to deal with that is pretty rough. Thankfully, I can manage the issue and will have it resolved by March. Meanwhile, I will not make a food budget and happily food is just not one of our problems. I need to meal plan, experiment and be patient. I am so grateful for all the great posts that have helped me so much. I discovered a bag of barley and right away knew to check Brandy's recipes for ideas.

  • Stacy January 02, 2018

    Hi Brandy,

    I have recently started watching a lotnof YouTubers who post about groceries and menu planning. Have you thought about starting a channel?

  • Sara January 02, 2018

    I would highly recommend row covers (aka garden fabric). Our last frost date is March 15 but temps are usually adequate for starting many things though not hot weather crops (tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes etc) in Jan. The row covers let light and rain through but protect the plants from cooler, even freezing weather. I reuse it year after year. 5+ years for the current batch. It comes in different weights. Mine provides 6-8 degrees buffer. If we happen to have a hard freeze (unusual) I just double up. I haven't lost a plant yet to the cold while using it.

  • Douai January 02, 2018

    My budget for January is $200. I will be picking up toilet paper, fresh vegetables, dish soap and dog food on Friday. My daughters will be fixing a meal this coming week so I will be buying for that as well. I hope to have $50 leftover for the remainder of the month when all is said and done.

    I am always happy to read how others will be saving money. It is encouraging to me!

  • Juls Owings January 02, 2018

    Jess I have 2 daughters with 3-4 kids that do not EVER buy paper towels. They use a cooling rack(like for a cake) to drain bacon or other greasy foods and just scrape the "fat" into a empty can like a veggie can. The one will use her bacon and sausage grease to fry potatoes,cabbage, greens etc in. They keep a stack of rags (bar towels are good) on the counter.
    Daddy uses 3 rags of different colors...white for grease so he can bleach it afterwards, mixed colors for dishes and dark color for wiping up spills on the floor. You will just have to stop buying the paper towels and load up on "rags" or you will out of habit use the paper towels instead of the rag

  • Becky @ Becky's Place January 02, 2018

    Love the photo of the crepes with the matching flower sitting off aside and behind the plate - gorgeous.
    Beets are one of the few things that we seem to plant every single year, even this past summer when I pretty much planted nothing else. Normally I also will can pickled beets. But I have been a bit busier with work than normal and ended up just parboiling and freezing some. We're actually having some tonight with our supper. Love them tossed with a good gob of butter and a bit of sea salt - yum.
    I'll have to remember your link for your carrot cake recipe. That's my dad's favorite cake and I have been intending to make one for the past couple of years. His birthday is in March and I will aim to make it then. He's not fond of cream cheese. But I know I can come up with another icing that'll work. We use a cinnamon flavored white frosting at work that I think would go very well with it actually. Yum.
    No shopping plans for me really. Our freezers are both still plenty full and the cupboard is still pretty well stocked. I haven't cooked/baked a whole lot for the past month or so. Sadly that means that we ate out more than we should have. But I am getting back into the swing of things and making our meals again now that I am feeling better.
    Thanks for all that you do on your site, Brandy. You are a wonderful inspiration and I always feel so good while and after I have looked at your postings.

  • Debby in Kansas January 02, 2018

    We're on a horrible tight budget this year. We got two unexpected bills in Dec. that really threw us for a loop in our planning. Plus, this was just a hard year on us financially. I expect our grocery spending to be less than $100 this month. I usually take such advantage of the post Christmas sales for food & other stuff, but there was no way that was going to happen this year. I imagine that all I'll buy is fresh stuff like seasonal produce, dairy, & any oops products I run out of. I'm hoping that wont' be the case because I did inventory lol!

  • Cindy Brick January 02, 2018

    Brandy, do you have a Sprouts in your neck of the woods?

    This national chain often has broccoli and other veggies at really low prices -- and broccoli was 78 cents a pound a few weeks ago. One of the best parts: on Wednesdays, they honor both last week's sale items, plus the current week's sale prices.

    Also, there's got to be a dented/remainders store in a large city near you. (Ours is called Friday/Saturday in the Denver, CO area -- see http://cindybrick.blogspot.com/2013/10/groceries-on-30-week.html ) Our store sells #10 cans of both mandarin oranges and tomatoes for $3-4! That would stretch your budget even more.

    I admire your courage and versatility at holding to a budget this low, and am looking forward to seeing you accomplish it!

  • Cindy, the regular price for the #10 can of tomatoes at Sam's Club is $2.98. They haven't carried them at my store in over a year, but according to their website, I should be able to get them again (they changed brands to a store brand). I don't know if they carry #10 cans of mandarin oranges but I should look for when I make my Museum Pasta Salad.

  • Cindy Brick January 04, 2018

    WOW -- based on prices I've checked (mostly at Wal-Mart, admittedly), the #10 can price for tomatoes here is at least triple that...if not more.

    I rely on Friday/Saturday, but there are only two of us. Which means I open one only when we're having guests...or the freezer's empty enough to handle the exra. They have a dollar sale on #10 cans every once in a while...the last one netted artichoke hearts and black olives, as well!

  • Wendy January 02, 2018

    Thank you Brandy. It is always inspiring to read your posts. Happy New Year! Warm regards, Wendy (NZ)

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