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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:



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.


Spreadable margarine



Vegetable Oil



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.



Dish soap


Sam's Club:


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


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


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.

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Tagged in: Grocery Shopping


  • Laurie January 02, 2018

    Yes I too need to do a much better job of keeping a budget for food. We are a family of 3 so I aim for $400/mos. I find for personal supplies I go to my local dollar tree for toothbrushes,deoderant,bar soap (2-3pk),cotton balls,Q-tips,cloth like band-aids,hydrogen peroxide,alcohol,dryer sheets(cut in half),etc which saves me a ton of $. I buy my Dove body wash 3 pack at Sams for $15 and will last us 3months,shampoo/conditioner with the pump for much less waste and always add water to thin it our for more uses. For tampons and pads for DD we use generic Wal-mart brand tampons and always pads. I will usually buy 2 boxes of everything which lasts for months for her. All household items come from Sams:Dishwasher pods, garbage bags,TP and P Towels,laundry detergent pods, vinegar for all household cleaning. I only have to buy this stuff maybe twice a year. I have an Aldi's less than a mile and kroger a couple hundred feet. I am shopping at Kroger more as their clearance markdowns are amazing saving me more money than Aldi's for name brand stuff. In the last few months we have almost cut out all eating out which was a big deal for us. I am also picking up 2 extra shift a month at my job to bring in extra $400. I plan on staying debt free and am starting to save for a used car for DD who will be 14 in Feb. Planning on putting away $300/mos in car fund. The only thing I owe as far as debt is my home which will be paid off in 9 years when I am 55. Super pumped about this. Then I can help youngest DD pay for college so she can have very little debt and start her adult life off with a small home. Overall I am super positive about 2018 and a year hopefully of getting ahead. Also continue to build me emergency fund.

  • Lorna January 02, 2018

    Hello Brandy and everyone from Australia :) . Brandy you accomplish so much with your budget and I am in awe of what you can do and how you make your money stretch through careful planning.

    Our grocery budget for 2018 is $310 for every 6 weeks bearing in mind our groceries in general here can and are twice to 3 times the price and vegetables and fruits probably higher than that in price in than in the United States as we live in a small country town. Our general strategy is to buy most groceries when we see them on 50% off specials and look out for meat bargains in particular to fill the freezer. I will continue to get our grocery gift cards from our roadside assist club each 6 weeks which gives us a further 5% off our grocery bill.

    Most importantly we aim to be under in all our budget categories this year as we are saving for a 50% deposit to have our new home built.

    Onto Januaries budget which is lean at $227 due to us buying a few treats for Christmas which was a ham, 2 boneless pork shoulder roasts on special, 6 months worth of toilet paper at around 40% off usual prices and a few other things. We plan to eat down the meats we already have in the freezer and have worked out it is far cheaper to buy the boneless roasts as we are not paying for bone and can roast , slice and have multiple meals for the two of us with salads as it is so hot here as we are in summer.

    Budget permitting we plan to further stock up on another months worth of -
    - white sugar.
    - rolled oats.
    - plain flour.

    Other items we will purchase are -
    - Tinned mangoes.
    - Tinned apples.
    - Tinned two fruits.
    - tinned mushrooms.
    - tinned corn.
    - tinned cat food.
    - peanut butter (we are completely out must admit an oversight by me for not checking).
    - mayonnaise.
    - olive and vegetable oil.
    - macadamia and cashews.
    - Sour & thickened cream, cheese.
    - powdered milk.
    - eggs.

    Other maybe purchases -
    - Tinned chicken.
    - Tinned spam.

  • Rhonda A. January 03, 2018

    I am always interested in reading about how one makes a very tight budget stretch to feed their family. This post is no exception, Brandy. Thank you for sharing your budget, and plans on how you will use it.

    This month I am challenging myself to a smaller budget. I normally get $300 every 2 weeks to use for groceries and any other needs (that's $600 for the month). This month, I am going to try cutting it to about half my normal. Now my challenge is not weather we can eat on this budget. In fact I am positive we have enough in our pantry and freezers that we could easily live off of just that. My challenge will be to get my family on board with this little. They tend to get panicky if something they normally have runs out and insist it is now a high priority need to buy it ASAP. This will definitely be a challenge! To add to this challenge, I am still going to try and add to my pantry stock, should there we good sales this month. I have gift cards and I have lots of loyalty reward points that I can use to buy things should I need them. So, we shall see how this goes...

  • Becky January 03, 2018

    I have to say that kids like yours and mine like what they like, and they like very little else:). So, when my niece and nephew come over, they get what they want. I understand. Good luck, and maybe you can have enough "preferred" food on hand to carry you through, or buy a bare minimum more frequently. Some of my own kids are very food specific, as well, but that works sometimes, especially if I think of another favorite to substitute!

  • Rhonda A. January 03, 2018

    It's actually my mother that is the problem. We have a freezer full of meat, but if we are running low on chicken breasts or ground beef, she insists we must get more ASAP! We have a huge bag of powdered milk in the pantry, and we use it all the time for cooking/baking, but if we are down to the last sleeve of milk, we must get more milk ASAP! The reason I don't want to run to the store every time we run low on something is because I always buy more than just what I need. It's a too many cooks in the kitchen situation, really.

  • Becky January 11, 2018

    Bummer. That makes it hard. Is she open to putting the grocery money for the week/month/whatever in an envelope in the cupboard and each person pull out what they need and when it's gone, it's gone until the next time? That's what we used to do with we lived in a multi-family situation. It does take 2 people on the same team, though, and you'd have to look pretty far to find someone more frugal than my mother, who was one of the group at that time:)

  • Margie from Toronto January 03, 2018

    I have allotted $60 for groceries for January. I don't need anything except actual food this month and the pantry, freezer and fridge are pretty full so I should be able to make it work. I'm concentrating on dairy, fruit & veg. The best way to meet this goal is to stay out of the shops! I picked up a few odds and ends this morning and I'm hoping to not make another trip until next Tuesday or Wednesday.
    I'll check the flyers on Friday to see if there is anything worth a trip out but it will have to be a really good deal to make me spend!

  • Marybeth January 03, 2018

    I have allotted $100 for January. Our regular budget is $450. We have some big bills(college tuition and home owners insurance) and I don't want to touch more of our savings for groceries. I will only be looking for clearance prices. I usually stock up on hams, candy, and beauty supplies after Christmas. Milk and fresh fruits will need to be purchased. We have a 6 months supply so I'm not worried. Lots of soups are on the menu this month. I will be making another turkey towards the middle of the month and that will stretch into a bunch of meals. We received several gift cards to restaurants for Christmas so if anyone feels deprived I could always use one of those.

    Brandy, thank you for this blog. It is a wonderful thing you do. I am making your minestrone soup for dinner with potato pancakes on this cold evening. Happy New Year!

  • Jenny January 04, 2018

    Thank Brandi for this wonderful, warm, international community that you have created.
    January goal
    For January's food bill I hope to spend $40.00. I have 22 frozen meals in the freezer from December and tomatos and Kale in the garden. Additionally I picked up butter, long life milk and wraps from the clearance store, after Christmas.
    I have already spent about $24.00 on the dog's chicken neck and so only $20.00 for me.

  • Juls Owings January 04, 2018

    Brandy I use my broccoli stems by peeling them like I would a carrot and using them in salads, stir fries or soups.

  • kim January 07, 2018

    After going over budget buying bulk neem oil for my 25 fruit trees, 30+ grape plants, and 36 gooseberry and currant bushes, I'm going to have to stick to $50 food budget for fresh fruit/veggies this month.
    I'm still want to pay $400/mo on mortgage. I only bring home $750/mo and have life insurance and $45 cell phone. So the food budget is where I have the ability to cut.
    I can't go without neem oil this summer as Japanese beetles attacked my plums and grapes. I'm trying to be more preventative this year and spray weekly.

  • Stephanie January 09, 2018

    I am new to your site. Love your budget for 2018.

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