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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

  • Katy in Africa January 02, 2018

    Hi Jess!
    We've been paper towel-less for over 2 years. So what do we use?
    - A mop rag for cleaning up spills on the floor.
    - Other rags (often cut up old clothes) or a sponge for cleaning counters and tables.
    - Cloth towels for drying.
    - I buy a pack of paper napkins probably twice a year for guests.
    - For really bad messes, like spilled cooking oil I'll use my napkin stash, an old newspaper, a rag that I just toss afterwards, or even toilet paper.
    - I used to use paper towels for cleaning up after cutting raw meats, but now I cut them in a pot or in the sink with scissors, which makes for easy clean up.

  • Becky @ Becky's Place January 02, 2018

    I do not buy paper towels... ever. If we have them it is because my parents have bought them - they are seniors and live with us. Over the past year or two I have added to my cloth napkin basket and I keep that at the table all the time. I have never missed paper towels. On the rare occasion that we have bacon, that is the only time that I have to get a little creative at finding something to drain it on. But coffee filters, paper plates and napkins left over from eating out, all work very well in place of paper towels.

  • Amie F January 01, 2018

    Hi Brandy,
    Love your blog, it helps to keep me motivated. I'm in Australia so I enjoy seeing what you do in your part of the world.
    I'm wondering if you take into consideration the country of origin when you buy your groceries eg where your tinned tomatoes come from? Here in Australia it can change the price point if it's imported vs Australian made. I try to take Australian made into consideration when I'm budgeting, where possible.
    Just interested what you or others think about this? Enjoy your week & thanks for your honesty & help keeping us all 'on track'.
    Best wishes,
    Amie

  • Amie, the ones I used to buy were grown in the next state over. I will have to see where the store brands are from, but they are almost always U.S.A. grown.

  • Amie F January 01, 2018

    Thanks Brandy, I was just curious as we have imported & local here. Imported is often cheaper ☹️.

  • Katie January 01, 2018

    I'm curious about your garden budget. Would you mind sharing how much you allow yourself monthly?
    We racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills in 2017. So in order to pay those off, we are cutting everywhere we can. I look forward to trying out some of your recipes!

  • Katie, I have a miscellaneous budget category that covers clothing & shoes, the garden, gifts, books, household items, etc.--basically, anything that isn't a utility or food. Sometimes we need more of one thing or another. I spend more on the garden in the first couple of months in the year, but later I won't buy anything in that category and will instead purchase shoes or something else my family needs. It really depends on what we need. I will need some dirt in the garden and I will buy tomato plants to put out in 6 weeks. I am considering a few seeds but I really have enough so those are more a want than a need.

    I fund this category very last from our income, so sometimes I don't put anything at all towards the miscellaneous category if it is tight. Food gets funded first, so if I'm not grocery shopping for the month, I'm also not buying anything else, most likely. I'll just pay bills and work to keep those as low as possible. Also, if we have medical bills to pay, those come before anything in this category and get funded first.

  • Katie January 02, 2018

    That makes perfect sense!

  • Gardenpat January 01, 2018

    We have been so blessed with the produce market that we discovered in October! Their slightly bruised beefsteak tomatoes we bought 25 pound boxes for $3!!! We canned like crazy! We got broccoli tops there in 3 pound bags for $1! We blanched and froze about 15 pounds! Apples, bananas and oranges - 40 pound boxes for $5! I never know what they will have until I get there but it has been a way that we have been able to expand our produce pantry exponentially!!
    With the pineapple, have you considered canning your own? When pineapples are 99 cents each, I buy several and can get about 3 pints from each pineapple. I do not add sugar or juice, only hot water (which gets infused with the pineapple flavor). It's a very short processing time and for me, it's well worth my time.
    This month we are trying a "no-spend" challenge where with the exception of fresh produce and milk, we are going to spend no money on food and live on our food storage! I'm excited to try this! Already today I canned 18 pints of sweet and sour sauce and made 40 banana coconut delight cookies without buying anything!
    Good luck, Brandy! We raised 11 children and like you, learned to stretch our food dollars!!

  • Andrea Q January 01, 2018

    Pineapples are usually $3 each where I live in New England. Occasionally, Aldi has them for $1.49. I've never seen one at a regular grocery store for less than the Aldi price and I've been buying my own groceries for over 20 years!

  • Amy in Phx January 01, 2018

    I too can pineapple when it is on sake for $.88 or. $99. I just use the light syrup recipe out of the ball book of canning. One pineapple usually yields 3 pints and it tastes so much better than store bought canned.

  • Pineapple goes on sale for $2.99 each here, and they are TINY. You would be lucky to get a pint and a half from one! Definitely not those big ones that you ladies are getting three pints from. At $3 each, not counting the cost of sugar and all of the canning time, I would come out behind on these by canning them at home.

  • Marcia Parmeley January 02, 2018

    Brandy, you might want to keep an eye on the loss leaders at Sprouts. I run in there almost every week for whatever is on sale. This store is where I've managed to get butternut squash at $.77 a pound (as opposed to $1.19-1.29 elsewhere) and week before last they had pineapples for $1 each. I bought 4 and they are sitting in chunks in Ziploc bags in the fridge--I'll be canning them today. There is a Sprouts at 1XXXX West Sahara. Again, it's not all that close to your area, but you could exit the 215 at Town Center and not be too far away. This week, if I remember correctly, butternut is $.88 a pound at Sprouts.

  • Marcia, our van gets 8 miles to the gallon, so driving 30-40 minutes one way for a deal would cost me more in gas. A Sprouts was recently built closer to me at 14 minutes from here. I did the math when they had clementines on sale and it wasn't worth the gas. I have so many options within a mile and a half, so I stick to those places. Sam's is 5 miles, and I go there once a month or less.

    I grow butternut squash in my garden and it is a good keeper, so I have several right now keeping cool in the garage. I try not to buy butternut squash.

    I'm glad it works out well for you, though!

  • Cindy Brick January 02, 2018

    (I just left a comment re Sprouts. Brandy, watch the sale ads carefully -- the right week (weeks, if you go on Wednesday) will REALLY save you.)

    Btw (gently said), it's 'Turkey Divan,' not 'Devan.'

    thanks for writing this blog!

  • Lisa January 02, 2018

    Good luck on your No Spend Challenge! I just did a No Spend November and was pretty please with how it went. I wrote about it on my blog and gave a few tips to prepare.
    I hope you can share your results!

    Happy New Year!

  • AKBeachMamma January 01, 2018

    I find your growing season fascinating!! We are in Southeast Alaska, very limited growing season, if it's not too wet and the slugs take over like last summer. I wish we had the shopping resources like you do, I buy what we need when it's on sale and meat when it's 50% off - and then figure out what we're eating from there. Barging food here adds up, and our $5.99 gallon of milk reflects that. If you know of anyplace that ships free or very affordably - for food - I am all ears!! Really enjoy your lovely pictures, you have a lot of talent!

  • Holly January 01, 2018

    That’s too bad about the tomatoes! I have one #10can left. I just checked my Walmart and Sam’s no longer carries them!

  • Gail C. January 01, 2018

    Check on the Sam's club website for the large cans of tomatoes at the various Sam's Clubs in Las Vegas. Sometimes
    they ship to one site but not another nearby. Happy new year to you and yours.

  • I am on their site now. They are showing them! But they have not had them at my store in over a year and I used up all of mine. I will look and see about a different store or if I can get them ordered to my store, because $2.98 for a #10 can is impossible to beat!

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