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.