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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

  • Marybeth January 03, 2018

    Have you spoken with the store manager? Maybe he/she can order them for you. I belong to BJs and have asked for products and they have ordered them for me. Several items they didn't carry but now do because of requests.

  • Eve January 01, 2018

    Confused about the 102 oz. or #10 cans. Last time I checked, these were still available there. Or did you mean they no longer carry the 28 oz. cans? We buy #10 cans of tomatoes and other veggies; we store whatever we don't use for one meal in a half gallon mason jar and plan meals to incorporate the leftovers through the week. One 102 oz. can of tomato sauce usually makes our family of three two large pots of tomato-based stew or spaghetti sauce. We plan stew or spaghetti sauce leftovers for lunches.

    So sorry to hear your food budget must be lowered, but you are true inspiration to the art of frugality.

    Good wishes for you and your family in 2018.

  • They haven't had #10 cans (i.e. the 102 ounce cans) of diced tomatoes at my store in over a year. They switched brands of tomato sauce; they used to have 2 and now just have one. But another reader in a comment above suggested I check their site and see if another Sam's in town has them, so I will check!

  • Tanya January 01, 2018

    Do you have any other wholesale stores near you? We have 2 different “Cash and Carry” stores near us that cater to small restaurants and other businesses but are open to the public. They have no membership and all the canned goods are in #10 cans (about 1 gallon). If your warehouse stores no longer carry the tomatoes you need this may be a great option! It’s also a good option for shredded cheese and some other things. You just need to know your price points! Which I know you do. They even have sales which makes a good time to stock up.

  • Bobbie January 01, 2018

    I love reading your groceries plans. I get so many new ideas. You make so many things from scratch (and purchasing this for ease could possibly be the reason), but why not make your mayonnaise? I find this super quick and easy to throw together with my immersion blender - of course, I'm not making it for 10! Happy New Year!

  • It's $11.48 for a gallon of Best Foods mayo at Sam's, and we go through that quickly. That would be pretty costly in oil and eggs. My husband only likes Best Foods, and he's the mayo lover, so this is something I buy for him. I've tried a ton of other brands and he ate through those jars (we didn't waste them) but he didn't like them at all, so I get this. He's rarely specific about something but this just tastes so much better to him!

  • Ellie January 02, 2018

    The Aldi Burman's Mayo is made by Best Foods. I don't think they carry it in a gallon size though.

  • Cindi January 02, 2018

    We prefer the Best Food mayo also -- but Costco's Kirkland Brand is made by Best Foods and tastes exactly the same. If you don't have a Costco membership, maybe you have a friend or family member who could pick up that item for you.

    I always love seeing your plans for the month -- especially the reminders of some things you plan to cook, as that inspires me to seek out some more frugal options.

  • Kate January 03, 2018

    How does that brand compare to Hellmann's mayo?

  • Cindy S. January 03, 2018

    Kate, Best Foods and Hellmann's are actually the same. They call it Best Foods on the West coast and Hellmann's on the East coast. I don't know why, but they are made by the same company. I like the Burman's mayonnaise from Aldi as far as taste goes, but it seems to go bad faster than the Hellmann's.

  • Becky January 03, 2018

    If I understand correctly, it's Hellman's on the East coast and Best Foods on the West coast. Otherwise, they are the same as far as I've been told. I've never tasted them side by side:)

    Brandy, I'm glad you are able to get your husband the kind he likes. Even if it costed a little more, it is worth the few pennies difference to do something nice for him. From all you say, it sounds like he is a very good sport in so many areas. A real "keeper." I'm glad you do nice things for him.

  • Margaret @ApproachingFood January 01, 2018

    I always love seeing your plans for the month!

    I'm trying to eat more from the pantry this month, just to rotate things. I've already planned to make vegetable stir-fry (using carrots & peppers I blanched and froze during the fall sales, and possibly some homegrown sprouts as well) over sushi rice (I don't like rice but can eat sushi rice); Dutch apple pie using apples from my freezer; pesto focaccia using pesto gifted to me; cheddar potato soup; pesto & pasta w/ frozen veggies on the side; pumpkin gnocchi; pizza (meat and homemade sauce from the freezer); and yoghurt, to name a few things. Once I've managed to rotate some things, I'll do a big stock-up of sale items, probably next week when I can carpool with family. The only things I really need though, to take me though for at least two weeks, are cheese, milk, and fruit, and I could probably even get by without that by using some of my canned and frozen fruit, and changing up other meals.

    Speaking of tortillas, I have some tortillas in the freezer that I should pull out and make veggie and black bean quesadillas with. I always make my tortillas, and they usually last for several meals. If you have the time, that might be something to try, Brandy! They're super-easy to make, and obviously much cheaper. I use this recipe, and just use oil for the fat (although I've also used butter and coconut oil with great success): http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2013/03/homemade-flour-tortillas/ Word of advice, let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes, and better longer, so that the gluten relaxes and it's easier to roll out.

    Oh, and if you can only find broccoli with crowns, you can always make a slaw with the crowns (http://approachingfood.com/broccoli-slaw/) I use a pre-made dressing, but you could easily make up a mayo-based or vinaigrette-type dressing.

    Happy eating! (And growing!)

  • Christina January 01, 2018

    You are amazing to feed a large family on such a small budget!

  • Sandra January 01, 2018

    Hi Brandy! I'm wanting to do a much better job in my garden this coming gardening season but I better check my soil first! Since I am fairly new to gardening, what ph level is ideal for a standard garden? Is there a kit I can buy at my local nursery?

    Thank you

  • Our local nursery sells kits, so I iamgine yours will too. What your ph is is really dependant upon your area. Some places are really acidic and do great growing things like berries, camellias, rhodedenrens, gardenias, etc. Other places, like here, are very alkaline. Gardeners with acidic soil can add lime to their soil if it is too acidic. Alkaline gardeners can all soil sulphur, which is what I do, to lower the ph. A nutral ph will grow most things, but sometimes you want it more acidic. I can't grow acidic loving plants here; even our water is highly alkaline, so even potted plants end up dying on me.

  • Stacy January 02, 2018

    Check to see if your local university tests soil. One local university has agricukture programs and their extension offices test for either free or nominal fee.

  • Steph. January 01, 2018

    This is very impressive. You are a true master gardener. For some reason I feel compelled to tell you to be very careful using the neem oil. I used some very cautiously this past summer and ended up in the ER with a severe allergic reaction...we are not sure it was the neem oil, but I wanted to tell you just in case!

    I am having a horrific problem with gophers in our backyard right now! I have no idea what to do as I do not want to poison them due to having a dog and 2 large trees in the area with organic fruit that we eat! However, they are destroying our yard. :(

    Wishing you and your family a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  • Steph, I have used neem oil for over a decade without any problems. I always wear long sleeves, pants, and boots, and I shower after I spray.

    Since you are allergic to it, I would suggest trying diatamaceous earth mixed with water in your sprayer instead for your trees when they are dormant. It's another organic option and it isn't an oil (it's a powder).

  • Annie-Blake January 01, 2018

    January's shopping budget is about spending minimal after Christmas. We have a budget of $100 for the month and may come in lower.

    After January I will stick to our budget of $120 per week for my family of four, with an aim to come in at $100 and have that $20 buffer. Our budget includes food, toiletries, laundry and cleaning products. We live in Australia, with high grocery prices and cost of living.

  • K January 01, 2018

    Food budget plans for this month are pretty small; I purchased several new boxes of canning jars that ate up a lot of our available food budget, so we're only at around $75 left for the month. That said, we have quite a lot of food in the house. I'll need to pick up milk, string cheese (as school starts up again soon), and eggs (the 60 count box is only $6.36 at Walmart, which is double the price I used to pay in my old city but is the best price here), but other than that I don't have much on my list.

    I'm probably going to pick up some egg noodles (I have forgotten to do so for the last 3 grocery trips, so hopefully I remember this time!) and some more onions, but otherwise that's really all I need to get.

    I wish you well in 2018!

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