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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

  • Luba @ Healthy with Luba January 01, 2018

    Brandy,

    Just when I think you cannot become more ambitious and frugal, you do. Your husband is one very blessed man!

    I cooked, de-boned, and froze a turkey last week.
    In addition, we have started buying dry beans and cooking them, which is a huge savings over canned beans. The beans cooked at home taste so much better too!
    Another idea I have is purchasing whole birds, whether they be turkeys or chickens vs. purchasing chicken breasts or other parts of the bird.
    We have a potluck at church every Sunday. My salad is always gone, but not the main course I bring. Because the food sits out so long, it has to be thrown out. I told my husband I am going to start bringing less food no matter what because I am not OK with throwing out that much food and therefore money every week.

  • Marivene January 04, 2018

    Luba, take your potluck food in a crockpot & keep it plugged in, then you won’t have to throw it out.

  • kim January 01, 2018

    I feel bad that you pay so much for potatoes. We picked onions off the road on our way back from Boise at Christmas. We found white, yellow and red. I have small bags of dehydrated onions in the freezer. I just pull one out whenever I do soups or things that need onions.

  • Only Idahoans pay less, I think! My readers who are east of the Mississippi pay no less than $0.40 a pound if they're lucky!

    Only Winco has them for $0.25 a pound year-round here. I can sometimes find them still for $0.10 a pound at Thanksgiving like I used to, but now there is a limit of one or two bags at that price. I have seen russets for $0.50 a pound or more in season here at the regular grocery stores. Those are the 10-pound bags. The large baking potatoes, red potatoes, and Yukon golds are much higher per pound.

  • Renee Green January 02, 2018

    About a month ago our Aldi's had russet potatoes for $1.29 for 10 lb. I bought a bunch! And last week they had Yukon Gold for 99 cents for 5 lb. I was excited both times!!! And I always think of you! :)

  • Eve January 02, 2018

    In our grocery sale ad today, a 5# bag of russett or yukon potatoes is $3.49/lb. Alaska prices are out of this world. When I see prices elsewhere, I am even more shocked by ours. Makes me even more committed to making the most of our gardening efforts during our short growing season.

  • Becky January 02, 2018

    Your comment reminds me of when I was a girl. Potato trucks would go around the corner by our house and often lose a few off the top and they would roll onto the side of the road. My mom would send us girls out to pick them up, and we had free potatoes that way. After I got married, my husband ended up following a cauliflower truck a few times, with the same result--free cauliflower that fell off when the truck rounded the corner! But, that's been many, many years ago, and we have to buy those things now:).

    I got some potatoes for 10c/lb around Thanksgiving, and they are often 20c/lb around here (Oregon). Sometimes, they go higher, though. We eat a lot of them, though, because we love them and they are inexpensive food.

  • Cindy in the South January 02, 2018

    Potatoes are 60 cents a lb this year, where I live, in the deep South. I was lucky to find some for 40 cents a lb around Christmas.

  • kaye steeper January 02, 2018

    do you grate and freeze the woody part of broccilli heads? great in soups and stocks ......i really am that mean and nobody has noticed ...lol

  • Tracy January 02, 2018

    Thank you again for sharing, Brandy. If you are ever able (time can be hard to find, I know), I’d love you to post more about the meals you chose to make in a particular week and why. For example, “on Tuesday I gathered a huge basket of Swiss chard so I made soup.”. I think knowing more of your thought-to-action process would be so helpful!

  • Ellie's friend from Canada January 02, 2018

    Hi Brandy,

    I'd just like to wish you and your family a Happy New Year. I always find your ideas inspiring.

  • Stacey J January 02, 2018

    I joined Weight Watchers this summer and have lost about 25 pounds. It changed the way I eat and shop. I can no longer eat many carbs. Carbs are my favorite and most affordable. Any suggestions? I use Joseph's pita and lavash and Healthy Life English muffins and buns. I would love to have recipes to make my own. I use Zucchini As noodles but so not the same.

  • Stacy January 02, 2018

    Stacey,
    I have found that I like zucchini noodles better in new dishes. So I use them in new-to-me recipes that I don’t have the mental connection to regular noodles yet. It makes them taste better

  • Andrea Q January 05, 2018

    Soups and stews. Whole chickens are one of the cheapest meat options and you can use the carcass to make a very nourishing bone broth, which then becomes the basis of hearty soups. There are a ton of low carb recipe ideas on pinterest! One of my favorite soup recipes is minestrone made with one cup of cooked kidney beans and without the pasta. The beans have carbs, but if you divide the cup of beans into four servings, you can get a fair amount of protein and fiber to without going overboard on carbs. Add shredded cheese or grated parmesan for a bit of extra protein.

    There are many vegetables that are cheaper per pound than pasta and because they are much more nutrient dense, you can often eat less and feel full. Rutabagas, frozen broccoli, fresh and canned tomatoes and cabbage are usually cheap, as are frozen green beans. Butternut and other winter squashes are cheap, too but may be too high in carbs to eat often.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher January 02, 2018

    This all looks so good! I've always admired your combo of storebought and home-grown ingredients to save money. Good luck this month!

    Our January goal is to continue with our goal of eating healthier. I know it's a month of resolutions for many people, but this is just something we've been doing since a November health scare. I think we might get a Costco membership again because I'd really like to eat only organic chicken moving forward.

  • cathy January 05, 2018

    Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? When I priced the organic chicken at Costco, I realized it wasn't any cheaper than TJ's (and, on occasion, a great sale at Whole Foods).

  • Kim in Florida January 02, 2018

    I was thrilled to read that sometimes your family can go through 50lbs of potatoes in a week. We are only a family of 3, but there was a time last winter when we went through 25lbs in a week. I was a little alarmed, so I didnt serve anything potato for a few weeks after that!!!

  • DEbby in Kansas January 02, 2018

    Some years ago, my next door neighbor planted a bunch of potatoes. Her daughters would occasionally bring some over to us. After about a month, they brought us a big bag of them. I was shocked at how many. The youngest one says, "Please take them. I just can't eat any more potatoes! I'm starting to dream about them!" We had such a laugh over that, but sure enjoyed that gift!!

  • Becky January 02, 2018

    Your meals look great! I always love the beautiful pictures of food you take. We had quite a few extra people around during the holiday season over the past few weeks, so went through quite a bit of food. So, I bought quite a few extra groceries, mostly on sale, during December.

    When I get around to January, and things settle down, I traditionally want to spend less so I can save money, better organize myself, eat healthier, etc. This year is no exception.

    I'm in good condition for meat at this point, so don't anticipate buying more this month unless I find a wonderful deal on chicken. There is beef, pork (including ham), fish we caught last summer, and a little chicken in the freezers, along with the veggies, fruit, and some bread I got on mark-down.

    I checked my pantry and seem to be in great shape for most items, except peanut butter. I can't find any at all. Which means that a certain child has once again emptied the jars by the spoonful, since I recently had quite a few out there. So, I'll go get some more and store it in the locked shop. When I find another really great sale, I'll buy several, and bring them into the house one at a time at a reasonable pace. Because we have had a houseful of special needs kids for so long, this is a situation that has occurred more than once over the years, and in fact, sent one of our sons to the doctor when he had moved to his group home because they didn't regulate it well enough. He ate so much, it truly made him ill. So, I want there to be peanut butter, but a reasonable amount, not 1-2 cups a day being consumed by any one person. I just need to pay more attention, and I got pretty busy over the last few weeks and didn't. My bad:)

    Right now, my husband is eating a lot of produce, so that's what I will buy each week, along with dairy. He has lost over 40 lbs over the past few months, so I want to keep encouraging him with the foods he needs to keep up the good work. Maybe his efforts will rub off on me!!

    I'm also running low on olives, so will get more at Grocery Outlet, where they consistently run around 79c/can. It's an off brand, but they are fine.

    I have put some money in weekly envelopes for groceries for the month. I will be happy to spend it if I need something, but even happier if I end the month with some left in there. I'm hoping to discipline myself to pass up some really good deals this month, and end up with some $ left over at the end. If so, I will probably do a Costco run with the extra, in February. I am pretty well stocked up on food, even soda, and am finding it easier to stay that way once I caught on to carrying some of these more desirable items out to the locked shop for storage. Then, when it's my turn to take some sodas to a family gathering, they are still there to take!! I was able to grab 20-24 packs of 7-up and Coke for $3.99/box last Friday. I had stopped buying chips before the holidays, and once these few chips that are lingering from the holidays are gone, I won't buy more, except tortilla chips for nacho dinners. They are also a preferred food:), but are expensive and keep the kids full of not-good food. My aunt sometimes brings them some on Sundays, so they won't suffer:)

    Looking back on what I wrote, I see it's a bit more about what I'm NOT buying this month, rather than what I AM buying. It will be good to really hit the home-canned and frozen produce hard, and use some of the pantry items that have lingered for a while, and some of the bulk items like dry beans, lentils, split peas and rice, that I always have on hand. It's good to rotate those things, to keep them fresh. I hope to make a weekly menu, and specifically target some items I want to use up, rather than just grab what's in front on the shelf:)

  • Krissy in Sacramento January 02, 2018

    Congratulations to your husband, Becky, on his weight loss!! My husband is also a larger man and losing weight is a challenge for him due to chronic pain issues. He is working on losing a little at a time.

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