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I grocery shop with a monthly budget.

I start with the things that are low in our pantry. Those are my priorities. Once I have worked on filling those, I will make other purchases based on what is on sale.

A couple of notes about last month’s shopping:

A reader alerted me to the fact that Winco has their own brand of Parmesan cheese, and it is lower priced per ounce than what I had been paying at Sam’s Club. I bought 3 containers, which is equal in size to one container at Sam’s Club (and a savings of $3). This is half the amount of cheese I had planned to buy, but now I will be able to add that in to Winco trips more often.

I didn’t buy any pork roast. It was on sale, but at $2.49 a pound, I wasn’t ready to commit. I realize I will have to either do without or up the price per pound I will pay for meat. If I up my price per pound for meat, we will have to up our grocery budget, or have even more meatless meals. (One of my readers just pointed out that it is on sale again this week–again, it’s $2.49 a pound. I’m trying to decide if I will up my price per pound and buy two of these this month, as this is our favorite cut of meat).

That said, I actually did make the exception and paid $2.48 a pound for turkey breast (in the sandwich meat section) at Sam’s Club, which we sliced for sandwiches and took on vacation. Normally I would not buy this, but we had eaten all of our hams and decided that this expense, along with a 5 pound block of cheddar cheese from Sam’s Club (which we also sliced for sandwiches), would come from our trip expenses. We also also bought 2 loaves of bread, a bag of pretzel sticks, and treated the children to ice cream cones while on vacation (also vacation expenses).

While on vacation, I used a gift card to a store that I had from a few years back (we don’t have that store here). I was able to get a bottle of face lotion, 3 dozen eggs, and some candy with that. If I can keep the candy hidden long enough, it will go in my husband’s Christmas stocking. (He knows I have it, so that may not work!)

I never did see a good sale on sour cream, so we went without.

We did not go through our oil or our margarine last month (some months we go through more than others, depending on what we have) so while I will continue to buy oil, as our supplies are still low (I want to build it back up to a year’s supply of oil), I will put off buying margarine unless we really need some.

I bought pears last month to can at .25 a pound. I bought 72 pounds of pears for $18. These are still green in the fridge. I’ll bring them out to ripen and can this week.

This month, the supplies that I see low are the following:


Tomato Bullion



Parmesan cheese

Brown sugar

Non-Food Items:

Baby Wipes


Fresh Food:





Mozzarella Cheese


Halloween candy (not really fresh food or a non-food item, but it won’t be sitting around in the pantry!)

I’ll be watching blogs for deals on Halloween candy. We don’t have a large number of children come through our neighborhood, so three small bags of candy is usually enough for us at home. We will also have a church trunk or treat, so I’ll need additional candy for that. There are certain to be sales and coupons for these. However, I may end up buying the least expensive bulk candy choices from Winco, which are all $1.58 a pound, and include things like smarties and butterscotch. I’ll make my choice based on what ends up being the lowest cost.

For October, I’ll buy 30 pounds of potatoes. Potatoes will be a better price in November, and I’ll stock up then. We’ve had lots of rice and pasta in the summer, but when fall comes, we are very happy to have potatoes again. For those who are new readers, check out my potato page on my website for information on how we store and eat potatoes.

I will look for another deal on apples, since they are in season. We ate the 40 pounds I bought in September. I will buy another 40 pounds, unless I can find them for under .99 a pound, in which case, I may buy more.

For the bleach, I’ll be looking for some coupons and sales at Target for their brand (Up and Up). I use this to wash rags, clean the kitchen sink and inside the toilets. I still have a $5 gift card left to use at Target that will cover this.

I’ll buy two gallons of oil. We didn’t go through two gallons last month, but that’s okay; by buying a couple of gallons a month I can build up our supply.

I’ll buy two containers of tomato bullion, as we are totally out. We love this on rice; it’s simply one teaspoon of bullion to one cup of water. Last month we had black beans with this rice and salsa (plus some cucumbers from the garden on the side) for lunch three times, and the children loved it, so I am looking to put this simple meal into rotation more often. (To season the beans, I mixed them with a little onion powder, salt, and a little lime juice). This option is much less expensive than buying tortillas and having bean burritos, since tortillas are .10 each, and with 9 at each meal, it can quickly become too expensive. For those who cannot find this bullion, it’s the Knorr tomato bullion, and I buy the 4.4 pound container at Walmart. It’s in the Hispanic foods aisle (the chicken bullion is there too, for the reader who was looking for it, but I just found out that our store has an even larger container of Knorr chicken bullion in the bulk section for .02 less per ounce).

I buy brown sugar in 4 pound bags from Sam’s Club. I’ll buy 5 bags for a total of 20 pounds. This is the C&H brand, and I haven’t had any trouble with it ever going hard (Store brands go hard within a month; I don’t know if those are beet sugar as opposed to cane sugar, or if it’s because they have thinner plastic packaging, but there is a difference there. As a bonus, the ones at Sam’s Club are still less expensive than the store brands during holiday sales.) Once the sugar is open, I put it in a container with a lid and a soaked brown sugar bear, which helps keep it soft.

The baby wipes I will get from Costco. I really like their brand; they are large, soft, sturdy, and aren’t perfumed. I don’t have a card there, but my mom does, so when I need some, she picks them up for me. A box will last me 6 months.

Winco has carrots for .39 a pound in a 10 pound bag. I’ll buy one bag of carrots, plus the apples there.

I’ll buy 4 gallons of milk, one of which I will make into yogurt using some starter that I have in my freezer. I may buy 3 more gallons towards the end of the month.

I’ll buy 8 pounds of salt (two boxes at $1.10 a box) from Sam’s Club.

I’ll buy 5 pounds of mozzarella cheese from the Sam’s Club, to use on pizza and other meals.

Albertson’s has eggs on sale for .99 when you buy 4 dozen (this week). I’ll have my husband pick up 12 dozen for me. They also have potatoes on sale for .20 a pound ($1.99 for a 10 pound bag of russets).

I’d like to buy as little as possible this month, so that I can have extra to spend in November. October is an important month for eating from the freezer and pantry. My freezers are much more full than normal this time of year, so we’ll be eating from then to make room for turkeys in November and hams in December, and frozen peas and broccoli that should go on sale during those months. I really don’t see a need to buy any items besides these this month (unless I find a really great deal), which will give me much more going into next month.

Are you planning to buy less in October to save up for holiday sales? For my Canadian readers, are you buying more in October during holiday sales?

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  1. The original “Laurel’s Kitchen” cookbook is a treasure trove of simple vegetarian meals, vegetarian nutritional information, simple living philosophy, and the cooking times and yield for every bean and grain on the planet. There is also a recipe for what they call “better butter” that some of you might find useful.

  2. Our fall harvest has been successful even more so than in past years now that my oldest girl has taken over the planting, tending, growing aspect. I’ve never been the dig in the dirt type and found it less than enjoyable. Now my husband worked with family in the garden as soon as he could toddle but not his idea of a good time either as he got older. As others , I need lots of butter and will continue to stop at store daily to buy one for 2.99 sale (regular price>$4/# right now. If youngest is along she gets one too. Cheese situation is good because store has been running Kraft cheese two 8oz / $7 and when you buy 4 Kraft items you get $5 off at register with coupon so I just pick up the extra coupons from the handouts by the door. I have done this 9 times so far and added bonus is the register prints off a $2 coupon for use on next purchase. So final price is 2# cheese = $7. These keep a good long time and I buy a variety…extra Sharp cheddar, Colby , cojack, mozzarella, pepper Jack, vegetable. I will get two more 4# bags each of light brown and powdered sugar from Sam’s. I don’t have trouble with the Brown sugar hardening. I liked the organic unbleached flour my son found at Costco so next time they go down to Madison they will bring me back 4 10# bags. For white sugar I prefer cane over beet. I also need walnuts and pecans from Sam’s . I also buy the 7# can of Crisco. I have sufficient Karo syrup and molasses, vanilla and almond extracts, though I will buy more when the coupons start showing up. We have hickory nuts and black walnuts from the property. I have enough salt as diamond brand was running e coupons and I bought 5 canisters. Baking soda is fine. I buy baking powder at the health food store as I have as long as I can remember bought Rumfords brand that does not contain aluminum. The oil I like comes in glass bottles and has been on sale the last two weeks. I have bought olive peanut and canola. I tend to skimp on oil or replace it in recipes so even with making salad dressings I know I don’t use near as much as I could. We will get potatoes soon, possibly tomorrow. We get them from farm stand NW of us, they are cheap and good .We will get 300#. I need to watch for sale on sweet potatoes closer to Thanksgiving and purchase about 50#. We grew sufficient squash, rutabaga, carrots and cabbages and onions for storage. (We always restock at the St. Patrick’s sale in March) I’ll pick up a 5# bag of cranberries in two weeks when we go to family cider making. I freeze those. The only other things I can think of are meats. We need turkey for Thanksgiving but the shoe will run a special usually of more points earned = less per pound. That is when I stock up on gift cards for presents as they count in balance. The men on their hunting weekends will get goose and ducks. No one deer hunts but we always get venison sausage from an uncle and we will use that for holidays. I buy two hams, that is enough for the year. Bacon I have been buying with coupons and sales. We could go without eating it for breakfast but it is important in several recipes I make often. I bought 10 chickens from an aunt and that will last us one per month (roasted , then meals with leftovers then soup) .I bought pasta all summer long at various sales. Jellos and pudding mixes (store brand limited flavors) were on sale 34¢ each over the summer so I bought over 40 boxes of each, various flavors. These are useful for salads and desserts for pot lucks and sending back to school with the middle two, along with pasta etc. I gave some to the older two also. This is all I can think of. I always buy two gallons of milk each week and farm eggs as needed. I don’t work with a budget limit but I know that I spend about the same in Oct-Dec as I do Jan-Sept total, from reviewing receipts over the years.

  3. The LAURELS KITCHEN is a classic. If you can find a MORE WITH LESS you will find many meatless recipes in there. Also RECIPES FOR A SMALL PLANET, I have used that as basis for my granola for 30 years , though I make it a bit different each time depending on what I feel like. VEGETARIAN TIMES magazine puts out cookbooks . I bought a nice illustrated one for $1 at the library used book sale. Watch out for books that just replace meat though with cheese…won’t be cheaper or healthier.

  4. My Costco has the twin packs of pork tenderloin on sale with $4 each package. Pick up 2 packages at $10 each. Now I need to arrange the freezers to make room. Base price is $3.49 so I got 8 lbs for $20. Not so bad!

  5. Hi Brandy, I have been a secret admirer for at least a year now. I’ve wanted to comment many time, but this time I feel compelled to respond. I live in southern Ontario, and this past summer was perfect growing conditions for our crops. Lots of rain and sunshine with only a few days of high humidity. As a result, farms in our area have had bumper crops this year.Last weekend we traveled to a town about 45 min. from where I live, to attend an Applefest celebration. While we were there, we stopped at two roadside farm stands and purchased a bushel of “C” grade apples for $15, plus a half bushel of apples for $8, and 5 pie pumpkins (the smaller, sweeter variety) for $1 each. I have passed numerous farm stands over the past week and all seem to be overflowing with carving pumpkins for Halloween this year.As for the sales, I purchased 4 frozen turkey’s last week @ $0.88/lb. This week Walmart has turkey’s for $0.79/lb. Oh well, still a great price considering most meat is a minimum of $1.99/lb on sale.Today I bought a 10lb bag of potatoes for $1.88. Although this is a good price, potatoes often go on sale around this price on a regular bases, so I don’t usually stock up to heavily on potatoes. Carrots, onions and beets have also been on sale lately for around $2 to $3 for a 10lb bag.My best deal that I stumbled across was a couple weeks ago when I found an in-store sale on bananas, $0.75 for a 3lb bag! Normally bananas are $0.59/lb. I grabbed a couple bags and made banana bread and muffins for the freezer with the ones that didn’t get eaten fast enough. This was the second time I found this unadvertised sale at this store, so I’m going to have to shop there more often!Rhonda A.

  6. It looks like 1 kilo is 2 lbs 3oz, if I did it right, brown sugar is .70lb and white sugar is .43lb, so lb for lb, so 1lb white sugar plus .75oz(1.5Tbsp)molasses. If you can get your molasses for under .25 cents an ounce you can make it cheaper, other wise not, I think it is nice to know if I run out:D

  7. I did a pantry challenge years ago when I was pregnant with our 4th. My dh promptly lost his job. I will never do that again and I shudder a bit when I see this suggested as a cost saver.

  8. I have used homemade, unsweetened, yogurt in burritos and liked it almost as much as sour cream, but I understand that your tastes may be different. 🙂

  9. My deep freezer accidentally was unplugged and we lost everything so I am really looking forward to buying some turkeys soon. I usually buy 4-5 and we eat them quarterly…a turkey dinner, turkey chili, turkey soup, turkey casserole, BBQ turkey and rice, turkey broth, etc. We try to get as much use out of those turkeys as we can. Our main meat is usually $2 or less per pound – pork loins and hams, ground turkey rolls, chicken leg/thighs, and then I pay a little more for turkey bacon, bacon, and pepperoni. We rarely eat beef because of the cost. I have started adding mashed beans to my ground turkey to stretch it and we love it. I cook a large batch of beans in my slow cooker and flash freeze them on a cookie sheet before transferring to a large freezer bag. This makes it easy to measure out just what I need. My town no longer has a Save A Lot, but when I am in a town with one, I bring a cooler and stock up. I find that they consistently have lower produce and meat prices. I shop with a larger budget, but I still enjoy your posts and recipes. 🙂

  10. Arden, I’m sorry to hear that. I have lived from the pantry for over a year without buying anything at all when our income stopped completely for 8 months (and wasn’t much after that). We used savings to cover other bills for 4 of those months, but we didn’t buy food for over a year, because we had enough in the pantry. I would be concerned if I only had a month’s worth of food in the pantry. Our freezers won’t be empty, by any means, but I don’t want to deplete the meat that is in there, just in case turkeys and hams turn out to be too high, or all require a huge minimum purchase this year (the stores were starting to do that last year), or we’ll be eating a lot less variety in the next year. (We won’t go hungry–we just will have less meat in our menus). I’d like to buy at least 9 turkeys, so I need to have a good amount of room for those, as well as money to do so. That’s why I’m planning on spending a lot less money this month on groceries and saving it in reserve for spending next month (giving me more to put towards those sales). We also have been working on building back up our emergency fund. As the owner of the company, my husband isn’t worried about losing his job, but both our sales and the sales of our agents can drop off at ANY time; some months can be lean at any time. Because of this, I have a full pantry that will see us through, if we don’t have income for the month after next. Having that pantry stocked at the lowest amount possible for each item means I can make the money go further, and if we don’t have enough money for food (which has happened plenty of times), I don’t have to worry about not having anything to eat–we just eat from the pantry.If you can work on building up both a reserve of food and savings, it will take you through those hard times of unemployment longer. Food is increasing in price at a rate higher than the bank will pay you in interest, so buying some to put aside now will make your other money go further in the future if you lose a job again. I would encourage you to have at least 3 months worth of food on hand to help see you through that possibility again.

  11. I wonder if you tried making a spicy Greek yogurt based dip to use with your burritos that it might appeal to your taste buds more. I’m sure there are plenty of recipes for something like this on the internet that use simple spices and/or hot peppers.

  12. Arden, I, also, would be extremely uneasy if we didn’t have a well stocked pantry. I can usually buy groceries if I want to, but I still like to stock up on each thing when the price is right. Why not get more for our money? And it gives me a feeling of security to know that if for any reason I couldn’t shop, we would have all we needed without spending. There have been circumstances in my life when being prepared was a real blessing.Why not spend some time thinking about what foods you really like that can be made with shelf stable food and start building your pantry around those things when they are on sale? Don’t stock up on someone else’ s idea of what a pantry should hold. Stock up on what you will really eat, and keep it rotated.For instance, if your family really likes spaghetti, pastas and sauces and Parmesan cheese in a shaker will keep a long time. The first two occasionally go on sale at very low prices. For this purpose, ground meat out of the freezer, bought at sale prices, is just as good as fresh. That’s only one example. Just think about the meals you actually like, and plan for them.Maybe that other time was a bad experience because it caught you by surprise and you weren’t prepared, and had to eat things you didn’t like. It can be different with the luxury of time to plan ahead.

  13. I have also used the granola recipe from “Recipes from a Small Planet” for years. Now that we are over 70 and just the two of us, we’ve retreated from granola as our teeth have transitioned from real to man-made!! My husband just mixes a little store-bought granola in with other cereal for the taste without so much crunch!

  14. I agree that everyone should stock up on food. I also like to stock up on medicine, beauty products, and household goods. No one knows what the future will bring and I want to be prepared! It is such a comfort to have a fully stocked pantry.

  15. I am in north Texas, and we can’t store them in our garage. Our garage is regularly 100 degrees. It isn’t climate controlled. It might be cool enough December through March. We also don’t have cellars or basements here. I store my potatoes (usually russets or Yukon golds) in the refrigerator. They seem to last much longer that way! I can get at least a couple months out of a bag. Not as long as most of you, but there are only 2 of us and I typically only buy 5-10 lbs at a time.

  16. I agree! We use our pantry & freezer storage as a form of “savings.” If we have a tight month, I know we can cut (or cut out completely) our grocery budget. When I was couponing I also built up a good supply of hygiene/HBA items as well. Definitely helps when the budget is tight!

  17. Pamela, that’s why I keep them in the garage in the winter! We buy most of them in November to eat through the end of January! In the house it is much too hot and the garage is VERY hot the rest of the year! No basement here either. I think using the fridge is your best option. It’s too hot here inside for us to keep them inside, too.

  18. I was in Aldi last night and they had 5 lbs of red potatoes for 89 cents per bag! I only bought 1, since there are only 2 of us, but it is a weekly special so thought I would let people know.

  19. You amaze me! I am so glad I found your blog. I am Canadian a stay at home mom of 5. We live on my husbands salary and have for many years. Although he too is in sales, and is very skilled and experienced at it, there are often a few (or more) months a year where money gets tight. Real tight. It seems its either feast or famine around here. Its such a huge help to have a stocked pantry and freezer for those months! Your blog has blessed me over the passed few days since finding it. So many great tips and ideas to think about! Subscribing now 🙂

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