During 2011 and 2012, I needed to keep our grocery budget down to $100 a month for our family of eight (which became nine in 2012). Some months I had nothing at all to spend, some months I only had $10 to spend, and other months I could spend $200, but when averaged throughout the year, both years I spent an average of $100 a month on food.

Because I don’t shop every week, I look at my grocery budget on a monthly basis. After all of our monthly bills are paid, if there is money left over, then I can use it for groceries, toiletries, and other items. If there is none left over, then I don’t go shopping, and I live from my pantry and garden (often for several months).

In order to make sure we have plenty to eat, I’ve constantly reworked our meals. When I switched website host providers in January 2011, I completely redid my entire website. As part of that, I redid all of my menus, because I had realized that they had become too expensive for me.

I don’t follow my seasonal menus exactly. I use them to plan meals from what we have. I’ll look at those menus and see what is ripe in the garden, and what I already have in the pantry and freezer, and I plan from there. (Note that I do not plan from the ads).

This week, for example, the apricots will be ripe on my tree. I don’t know exactly what day they will be ripe, so I cannot plan a specific meal where we will have them. I do know that they will be eaten this week, however, and part of next week, as they ripen.

I know that days don’t always go as planned. I didn’t get bread made this morning in time for the sandwiches that I was planning, so I switched lunch to be a quick stir-fry. I already had the ingredients on hand, including some green onions and Swiss chard in the garden. Needing a quick meal doesn’t have to change my budget by requiring us to eat out; I just change my plans and make something using what I have.

At some point, I anticipate that our budget will increase, as our income increases. One day, I will have 5 teenagers all at once, and they will eat a lot more than they do now as children! There are also things that I would like to buy that I don’t now, and things that I rarely buy now that I would buy more often, should our budget increase.

Most importantly, however, I’ve learned that I can feed our family nutritious meals within our means.

I’ve spoken about this topic in public, and many readers expressed the desire to hear what I said. I’ve decided to break it up into several blog posts, so that I can talk about each thing that we do to lower our budget in more detail, and make it possible for you to ask questions to help you lower your own budgets, whatever they may be wherever you live in the world.

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  1. Thank you . You inspire me and my daughter . I am so encouraged by your blog and website. The last few years have not been easy but I just keepsaying look how Brandy is doing it with a wonderful attitude. This weekI was gifted a water bath canner and my daughter bought me some canning jars for my birthday. I was able to make some pumpkin butter from a pumpkin that was still good from October. My little community garden hasstarted producing a few things and I am so excited. I never would have tried gardening without the encouragement on this blog. I find it relaxing and it gives me joy to work in the garden. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and time.BlessingsPatti from San diego

  2. I am excited to see you write about this series. I have been an avid follower for quite some time and look forward to your weekly frugal accomplishments. Our family has had to do some serious belt tightening in the past six months and although we aren’t the “perfect” frugal family, we have made some changes and are learning to live within our means. I wish I could get rid of our second car and our cell phone, but we both work in two opposite directions so right now that is not an option, however we are working as quickly as we can to pay off our vehicles and I have the smallest cell phone plan possible so we are trying to be frugal in those areas as well. Our food budget is the worst area right now and I struggle with it because I don’t have a stocked pantry and I am trying to feed a family of six on a $50.00 a week budget plus stock my pantry and right now it does not seem to be working too well because I have a lot of complaints of not enough snack foods and meat (I have cut out buying processed foods and snack foods almost completely and I am trying to cut our consumption of meat as well.) We will get there eventually, it just takes time. It doesn’t help that two of my family members are teenage boys! Lol.

  3. My husband says that when he was a teenager, he used to cook 10 pounds of potatoes after school for a snack for him and his other friends on the football team. If you can get potatoes 10 pounds for $1, that would be a simple snack for your boys (baked potatoes).My family can eat 50 pounds of potatoes a week if we want to, but that is around $5, so it is a lot of food for not a lot of money.

  4. If you can tolerate the fight that might ensue[just remind the family it is Marquis of Queensbury rules only:)] it sounds like time for a round the table family conference. State your case for belt tightening clearly and firmly, back it up with firm evidence of monies in and out, then ask for their co-operation in not demanding expensive snacks and over consumption of meat. Offer them a reward for this some thing very small, like a picnic in the garden or something you don’t like. Personally I could never stand playing board games but the family loved them. Ask for their suggestions again backed up with them costing out whatever they suggest. Even 5year olds can more or less take these ideas on board. Then it might be a good idea to as a family each find something to be grateful for. You don’t have to be a religious family to do this. Just ‘thank goodness we have whatever gives pleasure’ I love either going to be or waking up to the sound of rain on the roof. Good luck with this one and I hope you survive the ‘nuclear fall-out’ from the meeting.Anona

  5. yeah..i can’t wait….on another note…how do you keep your fruit trees from getting infested..i have a small peach that was here when we moved , (and I plated 3 apple trees this year) but I get very few peaches..something gets them and seems to eat them inside out…do you use chemicals or nets??? no rush…maybe you already have a post??

  6. Quick meals that is not processed food is my road block. I have a 4 yr, 3 yr, 1 month old. My husband works long hours with our business and is not home much. I don’t have much time to cook.

  7. My garden is ugly, but last year after expenses it saved us slightly over $1,000 in food costs. I kept minute track of the harvest (weighing things like greens)and my husband went to the grocery store and priced out the per pound costs, so I would know exactly how much we saved by gardening. Some nights I didn’t feel like putting in an hour after work, or 3 hours on Saturday, but it was worth it in the end. Every little bit helps! This year we doubled the size of the garden (bye, bye backyard) and I used leftover seeds from last year, so am expecting even better results this year. Brandy, your blog has really encouraged me in the food savings department, including tips from readers.

  8. Hello Brandy and thank you for your inspirational posts. I am wondering how you come up with .40 per day: is this per person per day? Sorry I am not good at math!

  9. .40 per person per day.You can divide the $100 a month by 8 people of 9 people, by 30 days (average) or 31. We had 8 in 2011 and 9 in 2012; this includes what I feed the baby, so you may figure it either way. It also includes filling my pantry, and there is quite a bit left in there. You can also figure it by the cost of the meals for each day and add it up. Some days are less and some days are more, but they can be averaged by the month.Either way the average is .40 per person per day.I only had $100 a month (total for the year divided by 12 months) to spend for the last couple of years, so that’s all I could spend. I had to figure out how to feed us within that amount as well as stock our pantry, because there were plenty of months where I bought nothing.

  10. We are in our 60’s and we do not have cell phones. We have not bought one thing for either of us in four years other than what was truly , truly needed. We bought a tiny house and we recently had to sell it we are sharing now with family and splitting cost. We keep finding ways to eat well and live well. Life can give you lemons it is up to you what you do with the lemons. I use to tell my children when they were growing up you have what you need/ you just don’t have what you think you need. If more folks only used what they needed to use in life they would have a lot more cash as well. I have watched young people come into our home stay four days and use a 1/3 of a bottle of shampoo and half of a bottle of Tide and throw away 1/3 of a gallon of milk right before my eyes! I have explained how we live and while these young folks were welcome guest once they were not invited back. I simply can not afford them! I use three rolls of paper towels all year. I can not afford for someone to come into my home and use one roll in two weeks time.Life is expensive now a days but waste is not wanted here.

  11. Thank you for your marvelous ideas….I so appreciate your knowledge, and also the beautiful way you present your food. When I read that you clean your empty fridge until it shines, I loved your precious attitude, thank you for teaching me to be more humble.We use/rotate food storage, buy food on sale and in bulk only, use garden foods…..oh how I’d love to have a year round garden!! But because we live in Idaho, I must can/freeze a lot of our garden produce. A list of some of my recipes suggested to use whole grains/dry beans/lentils/food storage/garden also for just pennies per serving. (I am a widow and earn my income by teaching this/my site membership/cookbooks, so sorry I can’t share actual recipes, but here’s a list of some of what we make in our home):Mexi Lentils n’ brown rice, which I use 8 different ways including tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tortilla soup….those recipes are FREE for the asking on my site at one dollar a day meals dot comOther ideas, not in any particular order:~Creamy wheat cereal (made from whole wheat)~Cracked wheat cereal + use leftover cracked wheat in ground beef to stretch it and add fiber in several recipes (1 cup cooked cracked wheat to 1 lb ground beef…..I won’t buy meat unless under $2 a pound, but prefer way less than that price, plus we grind deer meat when a friend gives us her leftover deer pieces from them canning deer. If a beef roast goes on sale for under $3 a lb. we have it occasionally and use the leftovers 5 ways to stretch it)~Taco meat from cracked wheat/ground beef, but we love mexi lentil n’ rice tacos!!!~Cracked wheat pancakes~Cracked wheat bread~Whole Wheat sandwich bread….this is our go to sandwich bread that is made light by using a bit of wheat gluten flour to ‘lift’, plus using golden (white) wheat flour instead of red wheat flour~All Whole Wheat pancake mix, just add water~Multi grain french bread~Fast Wheat Dinner Rolls in a zip loc bag~Italian Lentil Wheat Stew~Refrigerator crescent rolls/dough (similar to pillsbury canned rolls and dough but so much less expensive, no additives)~Pizza (part whole wheat flour) ~Spaghetti sauce with lentils and mushroom stems/pieces~Black bean soup with cornmeal dumplings (whole ground cornmeal only for nutritional value from dried corn or popcorn….IF you don’t have a grinder to do this, I suggest Bob’s Red Mill medium grind cornmeal AND keep it in the fridge to preserve nutrients found in the oils that would go rancid if not kept cold)

  12. continued recipe ideas from Janet:~Good morning corn muffins~Cornmeal pancakes~Polenta with sausage bean sauce~Brown rice n’ raisins cereal with cinnamon sugar ~Chicken soup with veggies and homemade noodles (part whole wheat noodles/very good)~Big Sky Wheat patties ~’Sausage’ wheat patties~Golden wheat patties~Jennifer’s wheat patties with sauce~Red lentils n’ tomato soup with greens (such as kale or spinach)~’Chicken Fried’ Dinner Patties (probably close to your oat patties recipe, something I’ve made for over 20 years)~Mushroom Patties with ‘beef’ gravy~Fry pan granola~Oatmeal pancakes (almost all oatmeal, just a bit of flour and they are light in texture)~Oatmeal cereal with raisins or fruit~Oatmeal Rolls/bread~Whole wheat berries cereal (this is just whole wheat kernels cooked in a crockpot and served for breakfast topped with maple syrup)~Chicken barley stew~Meatless meatballs in sauce~Creamy macaroni n’ cheese (uses less cheese, still very good), we have side of broccoli or sauteed cabbage/onion with this~Cornmeal crepe enchiladas~Whole wheat crepes with jam~Buttered lima beans…..sometimes with ham steaks that my local grocery store will cut when I buy a shank ham on sale~White bean pizza~Onion bean bake~Boston baked beans ~Green chili burritos with mexican rice~Zucchini pancakes (mostly grated zucchini and eggs with a bit of mixed flours)~Tuna wheat salad~Sprouted wheat and carrot salad~ham, chicken or bacon Fried rice (we do use white rice for this and usually when having beans n’ rice)~Homemade vegetable soup with biscuits (part whole grain biscuits)~Lots of recipes using Idaho potatoes (glean fields and get them free), such as hash browns, baked, potato salad, western ranch potatoes, potato casserole with diced ham, garlic mashed potatoes, potato soup, clam chowder……I usually team up potato soups with whole wheat bread or rolls~Desserts are only here n’ there, not every night, and are mostly kept to some kind of fruit/veggie/part whole grains, such as pumpkin bars, lemon zucchini bars, carrot cookies, strawberry-rhubarb pie, apple dutch pie, apple crisp, banana crumb cake, brown rice pudding, brown rice horchata, applesauce cake, blueberry muffins, crushed pineapple pie, lemon italian ice, peach cobbler…..then a few ‘decadent’ desserts such as chocolate chip cookies, brownies, buttermilk donut holes, etc.I use powdered dry milk from LDS cannery for all baking, thus able to rotate my supply slowly…..and IF the dry milk has gone ‘bad’, use it as a fertilizer on garden…..never throw away.

  13. I wanted to share the recipe for Western Ranch Potatoes, a one dish filling meal that is good and not expensive. This is a nice meal to have on a Sunday: cook the beef/onion ahead of time, and make ranch ahead of time. Then have family help with scrubbing/baking potatoes, Mom grate the cheese, Dad cook the broccoli cuts, older child heat the beef/onion, kids set the table. Everyone do dishes afterwards for fast cleanup. For each baked potato on a plate: cut it in half, mash the potato with a fork, keep in baked skin. Top with: 2 T. cooked ground beef/onions, cooked cut broccoli, 2 T. grated cheddar, then drizzle over all with homemade ranch dressing. Our family loves this filling meal, we have made it without the cooked ground beef/onions, but consensus is we like it better with the little bit of meat. We eat all of it, even the baked potato skin (scrubbed before baking!!) Smaller children eat 1/2 potato. Teens/Adults eat 1 to 3 potatoes, depending upon size of potatoes and appetite. Potato: $.05 Ground beef/onion, 2 T.: $.14frozen cut broccoli: $.09grated cheddar, 2 T: $.06 lower fat homemade ranch dressing: $.12 Total per serving of half potato: $.24Total per serving of one potato: $.48 Purchases, ON SALES ONLY:~Potatoes, 10 lb. bag: $.99~Ground Beef, 1 lb: $1.99~Onions: 25 lb. bag in fall $3.99 (I use part of these fresh, then before the go ‘bad’, I chop, put in doubled up sandwich baggies, freeze for use when onions are too expensive to buy (I put the baggies of chopped onions into doubled plastic grocery bags and tie the top))~16 oz. frozen broccoli cuts: $.75 (this makes about 8 servings for our family when cooking/using them for Western Potatoes)~Cheddar cheese cost is: $2.00 a lb. (one pound makes 4 cups grated, so using 1 cup (there is 16 T. in one cup) grated would be $.50)~Ranch dressing: I make a batch of minute mayo (using a stick blender) first, this is about 1 and 1/3 cups when done, then add about 2/3 cup plain yogurt, then the seasonings and a bit of vinegar. Makes around 2 cups, which I then dilute with a few T. of water so it’s on thinner side for drizzling. The estimated cost for this is: $.90

  14. Brandy and friends on her blog: Our family loves these muffins. We make them to go with several soup meals and one-dish bean meals. We save any leftover muffins to have as a snack with homemade freezer raspberry jam. I am not much with sweet muffins with a meal, but the small amount of sugar in this recipe really balances the flavors…I imagine you could use more sugar if so inclined?? These would make a great breakfast muffin with your fruit salad, Brandy.Favorite Oatmeal Muffins1/4 c. dry milk powder1 c. dry quick oatmeal1 c. water1 T. vinegar1 large egg2 T. sugar1/3 c. oil1 and 1/4 c. unbleached flour**1/2 tsp. baking soda1/2 tsp. sea salt1 tsp. baking powderPreheat oven to 400°. Grease a 12-muffin tin. In large bowl: mix dry milk and oatmeal. Add water, vinegar; let sit a few minutes. Then add egg, sugar, oil; stir. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and bakingpowder. Stir all with a fork JUST to moisten. DO NOT over-mix. Spoon batter evenly in greased muffin tins. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Done when tops bounce back to touch. Makes one dozen.**I like to use 1 c. unbleached flour + 1/4 c. whole wheat flour for more grains/nutrition.

  15. Brandy, this may not be in the right place……A friend made potato salad with olive oil that was soooo delish. Now another way to use potatoes!! I only use red potatoes when grown in garden, other than that, I buy them as you do on sale 10 to 20 cents a pound. This could be made with russets I’d think. Picnic Potato Salad5 medium-sized red potatoes2 hard boiled eggs, chopped1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil1 clove garlic, minced1 T. red wine vinegar1/4 tsp. dried dill weed1/2 to 1 tsp. yellow mustard1/4 tsp. italian seasoningssea salt and pepper to tasteScrub potatoes, do not peel; cut intocubes. Add just enough water to coverpotatoes in pot. Bring all to boiling,turn heat down to medium low, coverwith lid; cook until tender (when forkeasily goes through potato pieces).Meanwhile in a glass bowl that will belarge enough to add potatoes: put inolive oil, minced garlic, dill weed, andmustard, italian seasonings. When thepotatoes are tender: drain; immediatelywhile still hot, add to olive oil mixture; stir.Add chopped hard cooked eggs; stir. Addsalt and pepper to taste, stir again. Coverwith saran wrap while still hot. Let sit oncabinet to cool. Taste, stir a couple of times while cooling; re-cover each time. Adjust and add more herbs/salt/pepper if needed according to personal taste. When cooled, serve it now or put in fridgefor later.

  16. Wow! You are a huge inspiration to me! I can do so much better on being frugal and repurposing items. And thank you for your beautiful photographs. Just love them!

  17. I love all your tips and have found so many new things to try! I was wondering if you have any of the recipes for the two salads you show. They look fantastic! Thanks for all the great ideas.

  18. There aren’t any salads in this post so I’m not sure which two salads you mean, but if you click on over to my website, you can go to recipes, then on the dropdown menu click salads, and they are all listed there.

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