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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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  • I will buy 48 burrito size tortillas for bean burritos. I don't freeze them; we eat 10 at a meal so they go very quickly!

  • Melissa V January 01, 2018

    Brandy - do you have to deal with any food allergies/intolerances with anyone in your family?

  • No, we don't, Melissa.

  • Bettina January 03, 2018

    Speaking as someone with food allergies (I'm Celiac, so no gluten, also allergic to dairy & soy) I can honestly say that Brandy's recipes are easy to adapt. If I'm making something with pasta - LOVE her Pasta Fagioli soup - I cook the GF pasta separately and add it to the bowl, then add the soup on top. GF pasta gets disgusting in soup if you cook it in the soup water! I have my workarounds - and her recipes are so straightforward it's easy to sub in my safe ingredients. Sometimes I have to adjust cooktimes, but that's trial & error. I've made some interesting mistakes over the years!

  • Jess January 01, 2018

    This month, I will need to buy paper towels. We will buy milk, bread, and apples as we need them. Other than that, we should be fairly well stocked up on things. I'm sure I will have to buy a few things later in the month.

    Our local grocery store has paper towels on sale, but it isn't the best deal I can find. Later in the month, they have a better coupon - but we may need them before then. They also have sausage, bacon, boxed macaroni, hot dogs, vegetable oil, granola bars, parmesan cheese, saltines, and toilet paper on sale this month at prices I will stock up on.

    Speaking of paper towels, I'm thinking of trying to switch to more cloth towels in our kitchen. Has anyone been able to do that with much success?

    I will make chicken broth with scraps later this month. We will probably eat several pasta meals, as I have quite a bit of pasta and spaghetti sauce in the pantry.

    We are having a party for my husband's birthday. I am trying to spend no more than $300 on this party. It will be a fairly big party with lots of family. We will have pork loin, which I already bought from a previous months' grocery budget. I will try to use some of this month's grocery budget for some of the food. So far, I've only spend $19.01 on invitations.

  • We use cloth for wiping the table and counters and for cleaning. We use paper towels for draining fried potatoes. We've done it this way for years. I have a bucket on top of my washing machine for the dirty cloths to go into, and another for dirty cloth napkins and bibs.

  • Allyson January 02, 2018

    I use brown paper (cut from brown paper grocery bags) to drain fried things or meat. It works great and cuts down on paper towels.

  • Marybeth January 02, 2018

    I do this too. We can go 6 months on a roll of paper towels. I have a bag of brown paper bags cut up and ready next to our ziplocks. We also use old towels cut up as paper towels. They go in the regular wash. If its something really gross I use old newspaper to start and then can get away with one paper towel. It will take a little while for your family to catch on but they will. Just hide the paper towels at the beginning.

  • Joanne January 02, 2018

    Paper towels are so wasteful financially and environmentally - once you get into the habit of using cloths you’ll never look back! I cut up old tshirts etc and use them. Like Brandy I throw them in the washing machine and wash on the hottest wash I do each week (usually whites - towels, bed linen etc). I received a free roll of paper towel earlier in the year and saved it for Christmas cooking, I used so little I think it’ll see me through til 2020!!

  • Gardenpat January 01, 2018

    We bought bar cloths at Sam's club and use those in place of paper towels! We have completely eliminated paper towels and Kleenex (I made two ply flannel kleenex) and they are eco friendly as well as softer and cheaper to use and reuse!

  • dabel January 13, 2018

    As an older woman, I developed a female issue some years ago with toilet paper. Dr recommended I switch to using cloth, so I turned to pinterest for ideas. I came up with flannel wipes. I took white flannel cut in 7.5x5.5 rectangles I sewed three (three ply) together on my serger sewing machine around the edges, then sewed a straight stitch from corner to corner making an x in the middle. I have used these for years now and wash them with bath towels on warm. I have solved my female issue, but in return have reduced the amount toilet paper I need to purchase. This isn't for everyone, however it may be a way to reduce some costs. I don't use them for #2. Then I got the idea to make some pretty ones for blowing my nose instead of using paper Kleenex

  • Kelly January 01, 2018

    I switched to "un-paper towels" a few years ago and love them. I made mine out of a few different materials. First I did a cotton backing with an absorbent baby diaper cloth fabric that they've changed and is terrible now (also only came in white so stained easily). Most recently I've been using flannel (darker colours to hide stains better) as the wiping part and cotton scraps as the backing and am liking it as well. you could really use any scrap fabric. I have some heavy duty ones that I made using bath towels that I got from the thrift store and cut up. For me, I don't bother with the snaps and putting them on a towel roll but, have when I have gifted several sets to people. They have said that it helps them with the transition.
    I wash mine in hot water with all my other kitchen towels and dry like normal. Pinterest has tonnes of different types and ways to make them. I made mine the size of a full size paper towel but, can make any size that works for you.
    I have a special laundry basket in my kitchen for them that I throw the in. If they're wet, I hang them around the edge to dry but, otherwise just throw them in. Living in an apartment and laundry being expensive ($5/load to wash/dry), I only do a load every other week with those when it is a full load and never had any issues. If i've cleaned up something really messy, like pasta sauce, I rinse out and hang on the side of the basket to dry.
    I use them for everything from wiping down counters to cleaning the bathroom. I use cotton tea towels (flour sack) for drying hands and covering when proofing bread (I wet them and wring them out before covering the bread).
    I do keep a roll of regular paper towel around for the really messy situations (vomit etc.).

  • Mari in Maryland January 01, 2018

    I use paper towels to drain bacon, but use rags for everything else. Old t-shirts, worn out flannel sheets, and various pieces from clothing items that have worn out have all gone to make rags. I just cut up peppers to make chili tomorrow and had to drain them because I don't like to store them wet so I just laid them out on a rag to drain and then I dried them off with that same rag; it works out fine. I go through a roll of paper towels in about a year at this point. I definitely recommend switching to rags.

  • Kate January 01, 2018

    I've been paper free in the kitchen for a couple of years now and TP free in the bathroom for piddles for about a year. Cut up old t-shirts word great for the bathroom and I knit dishcloths (quit smoking a few years ago and still have to do something with my hands while watching TV or visiting). I find no difference and those big rolls of paper towel sure take up a lot of room in the pantry, and in the compost bin.

  • Mable January 01, 2018

    We switched from paper towels to rags years ago and have never looked back. I have two stacks in a drawer in the kitchen. One is for rags that will be washed, the other is for gross things use. Like when the dog throws up, I just clean it up and then throw away those rags.

    We do use paper towels for draining grease but there what I do is put one layer of paper towels over a section of newspaper. That keeps it sanitary but uses fewer towels because the newspaper absorbs what the one layer of paper towels could not. I also save brown bags I sometimes get in the grocery store and use those instead of newspaper. I still get a local paper on Wednesday and Sunday, to keep up on small local happenings that a news channel would not carry, and for the coupons. If I have a lot, I shred it and use it for packaging if mailing something or put it in the compost heap.

  • Susan January 01, 2018

    I bought a bag of shop towels at Costco and use them for everything in the kitchen. I only use paper towels for draining fried tortillas for tacos and tostados.

  • Sandra January 02, 2018

    I hardly use paper towels at all. I use towels, dish cloths, and sponges for all of my cleaning. We use cloth napkins for all meals and snacks. Cloth napkins seem like an investment at first, but we've been using the same napkins for years. I add to my stock occasionally when I find a great buy at a discount store, but more often have bought them at garage sales and thrifts stores.

  • SJ in Vancouver BC January 02, 2018

    I bought all my cloth napkins at the thrift store. Most looked like they had never been used.

    I, too, am mostly paper free in the kitchen. I only use paper towels to drain grease but may switch to brown bags/newspaper after reading this post.

  • Becky January 02, 2018

    We use old clothing that we cut into rags for just about everything around here that needs wiping up or cleaned. We also use old dish towels cut in 1/2 once they develop holes, or get really yucky. I have a basket for the clean ones, and we just run the used ones through the laundry like any other towel or washcloth. I use paper towels for things like grease, draining fried foods like Brandy does, and wiping up any mess that I absolutely cannot bring myself to mentally want to touch or have my rags touch--pretty rare. So, the multipack of paper towels that I was given when we moved into this house over a year ago still has one or two rolls remaining. We use very few of them.

  • Shelagh January 02, 2018

    I haven't used paper towels or paper napkins for years. I have one roll of paper towels in case someone taking care of my dogs and cats can't do without them but other than that it's cloth all the way. Old dishcloths (hand knitted or crocheted by me) get passed along to cleaning rags and old dish towels are used for cleaning windows, etc. and also used to drain foods or wiping up messes. They all get washed and reused. If it's a yucky spill then an old rag will be used to clean up and then get thrown away or into the compost (cotton is compostable).

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