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.

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


Vegetable oil (Note: the oil I buy has 0 grams of trans-fats)

Powdered milk




Non-Food Items:

Toilet paper

Oxi-Clean Stain Remover Refill Bottles

Fresh Food:



Margarine (Note: the margarine I buy has 0 grams of trans-fats and 6 grams of fat per serving)


Sour Cream

I’ll be making a trip to Sam’s Club to purchase toilet paper. We price toilet paper by the length, not by the roll, as some rolls are twice as long as others. The cheapest toilet paper we have found is POM from Sam’s Club. Sam’s Club started sent out sales fliers, where they are reducing the price of items for 3 weeks. Those items have a limit on how many you can purchase at that price. This toilet paper is on sale for $4 off a box, with a limit of 3 boxes (through the 21st). $12 off my budget makes this item definitely worth stocking, even though I’m not real low on this item.

I will be buying 2 containers of Parmesan cheese while they are on sale ($1.75 off, limit 2). I will buy a 64 ounce container of mayonnaise, 25 pounds of rice, and 4 pounds of salt at Sam’s Club.

While the lowest way to purchase powdered milk is in bulk, my priority right now is making sure that we have more in the pantry, so I will be purchasing a smaller amount locally. I prefer instant powdered milk (as opposed to non-instant; you can read more about why and how I use powdered milk here). I will be buying the Kroger brand (from Smith’s) in the biggest box they carry (4.4 pounds), and price will determine how many boxes I buy, but I hope to buy 2 or 3 boxes this month. California produces 1/5 of the nation’s milk, and with the drought, I expect prices on milk will continue to rise (they rose 7.5% since last year). This will help us to fight inflation. Right now we are still using powdered milk I purchased in 2009, at a much lower price.

I will buy 2 gallons of Great Value vegetable oil and 2 refill bottles of stain remover (I have two 50 cent coupons for the stain remover) at Walmart. (update: Our Target now carries these and they are on sale this week for $4.74. I will be switching this item to my Target list, since Target seems to have sales on these types of items more often than Walmart. I ended up buying these at Target).

I’ll make a trip to Winco to buy margarine. I buy the 3 pound tubs of Gold and Soft for $2.48 a tub. Once in a while I can find a coupon to make these about 50 cents lower, and sometimes they go on sale (note: they are currently on sale for $2.26) . I will purchase 4 tubs.

I will buy a few gallons of fresh milk at either Sam’s Club or Winco. I’ll make yogurt with one of these using some starter I saved in the freezer last time.

I will watch for a deal on eggs before buying any. We still have a few in the fridge that I will use sparingly in baking until the next sale.

With the money that is left, I will look for sales on pork roast and apples, both of which are usually on sale in September (note: Winco has Gala apples for .98 a pound. I purchased a bushel box, which was 38 pounds. These will be good in the fridge for months, if they aren’t eaten before then). I also realize there is a possibility of seeing a case-lot sale in September. I will wait to purchase the powdered milk until later in the month, when Smith’s is likely to have these items on sale, so that I just make one trip there.

I’ll watch for a sale on sour cream. Lately, Alberston’s has had the best sales on this. I wait until it is on sale for $1 a pound. My husband’s office is in the same parking lot, so if this goes on sale, I’ll have him walk over and get some for me.

I will watch Totally Target to see if there are any toiletry deals on items that I use that are worth stocking. The tampon deal at Target this week looks good; Target and Winco are in the same parking lot, so I will make one trip for both stores. I will take reusable bags to both stores; Target gives 5 cents off for each bag and Winco gives 6 cents off for each bag. I may make a second trip to Target later in the month if I see any great deals. Both of these stores are just a few blocks away, so it’s not a huge expense in gas.

My new budget is $275 a month. Since I decided to stock up on butter last month at .50 a pound, I am $20.61 over budget into this month, so I will plan to spend $250 this month. The butter was frozen and will be used for baking throughout the next year.

Meals for the month of September will be based on what we have in the pantry, freezer, and garden. I have lots of chicken in the freezer (as well as some turkey, ham, pork, and corned beef–though I will be saving the corned beef until November, most likely, when potatoes are in season), and plenty of beans (black, white, and pinto) and lentils and mung beans in the pantry. I have frozen peas, spinach, and peppers, and a variety of frozen fruits, including peaches, blackberries, mulberries, figs, apricots and plums. In the pantry I have canned peaches, pears, grapes, tomatoes, tomato sauce, green beans, corn, pineapple, mandarin oranges, applesauce, pumpkin, pickles, mushrooms, salsa, beets and grape juice. I also have raisins, dried cranberries, dried figs and dried onions. I have carrots in the fridge, as well as some lettuce (I traded my mom 2 cucumbers and 2 pounds of butter for some lettuce today). Most of the frozen and canned food is from my own garden.

The garden is yielding apples, pears, green onions, herbs of all kinds (including an abundance of basil), Swiss chard, red noodle beans, and cucumbers.

My fall menu can be seen here. I don’t follow this exactly; I base my meal plans on what we have and what is ready in the garden.

I don’t have lettuce in the garden yet, but I will be planting some later in the month when the temperatures cool down (soil temperatures are still 10-15º too hot). That should mean lettuce in late October and November (I hope!). I’m planting Swiss chard seeds, radish seeds, parsnips, and beet seeds later this month as well. Our first frost can be as early as mid-November, but it is usually not until the second week of December.

The reason I can shop this way is that I maintain a well-stocked pantry (which you can see here) and freezers.

Notes: I already went to Walmart, Winco, and Target. I’ve bought 2 gallons of oil, 2 refill bottles of Oxi-Clean stain remover, 2 boxes of tampons, 4 gallons of milk, 2 large (26.2 ounces each) containers of Nutella (at Winco for $4.98 each in the front aisle when you walk in the store; I used 2 $1 coupons on these; they will be used on crepes in the months to come. This was a huge treat; I saw the coupons when I went to print the tampon coupons, so I decided to print them, and if I found a great sale I would use them; if not, I would toss them.) 4 containers (12 pounds) of spreadable margarine, and 38 pounds of apples. I’ve spent $93.18, leaving me $181.82.  Sam’s Club will be around $80; that leaves me $100 towards some pork roast (if I see a good sale; if it’s too high, I will pass) sour cream, powdered milk, eggs, and anything else I see worth stocking this month. I also have a $5 gift card to Target to use on my next trip that I got this time.

Non-prepared food is not taxed where I live; prepared food and non-food items are taxed at 8.1%

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  1. Becky, that’s why I price by total length of the package and the price per length, and not per sheet or roll. I don’t have a box handy but the box says the total length for the package. They don’t list that length online but I will look and update the comments here once I do so you can compare. I would love to know your cost by length and where you are getting it. I am always open to a less expensive option for toilet paper; it’s why we switched to POM. I don’t like single ply, though. Is yours single-ply or double-ply?

  2. I don’t freeze cheese as it keeps for a very long time in the fridge in its individual original unopened wrap and then you are not ruining it. If you have problems keeping your dairy products fresh make sure they are in coldest area of fridge and use a thermometer for correct setting. Store cottage cheese, yogurt upside down. They are good long past the expiry date if stored properly. Once you open a cheeses use it in a reasonable time. If you experience spoilage you are not using in a reasonable time and you need to plan use for the entire chunk of cheese…don’t forget about the balance leftover after the recipe. An open mozzarella has a much shorter storage time than a block of aged Swiss or Parmesan. We are able to buy most of our cheese at small family cheese factories and we love it. But I do often buy the sale store brands and even those store well up to a year in the back of the fridge in their original unopened wrapper. ( sorry, just my annual cheese rant)

  3. I stopped buying stain remover a few years ago when I discovered the following mix: 1/4 cup dawn dish soap, 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide. Mix the 2 together in a shallow bowl and apply to stains with a brush. Sometimes I’ll add baking soda but most times I don’t. I just leave the bowl on the laundry room counter and everyone knows to spot the stains before tossing in the hamper. Works great and removes blood stains. I love this stuff!

  4. This was all very interesting, but I think we ladies who think like this are a dying breed. I wish more people would read blogs like this and learn from them. None of my acquaintances here keeps the kind of pantry I do. As Brandy mentioned, it was standard practice for previous generations. None of my family is LDS, but my grandparents and parents gardened, canned, froze, and bargained shopped so that there was always plenty of food, no matter what might happen. They actually loved gardening. My husband and I not only do not like it, with his health limitations, we are doing well just to maintain our property without too much hired help. I use planning, coupons, and sale shopping to achieve the same thing my mother did. I rented our first apartment a month before we married and worked on furnishing and stocking it before we moved in. The day we came home from the wedding, the fridge and its little freezer and a large cupboard were already fully stocked. People were amazed. I’m amazed that so many people don’t think beyond what they’re going to eat this week. Living this way has seen us through periods of illness and job loss, as well as unplanned emergency expenses. It is a real backup plan to know that if necessary, I can cut grocery buying to near zero for as long as necessary.As someone mentioned, people think this level of storage means you’re a doomsdayer. They don’t stop to think that one national emergency could slow down the supply lines for a while. I am so lucky to have the little room I use for a pantry in this house. It is the kind of house that often has an outdoor storage room accessed from a door in the carport. The family that built this house changed the plans to have a blank wall outside in the carport, and that room opens instead by a doorway into the utility room off the kitchen. It is about the size that the tiny nursery bedroom often is in a tract house, but it is a generous size for a pantry. I have sturdy shelves filling two walls. Third wall is where cleaning equipment and stacks of drinks are.I volunteer at the local food pantry. It is hard work, but I’m glad to do it. Some of the people have such sad stories. It is hard not to wonder if they had had parents who set them the example of preparing during good times, they might not be in line at a food pantry when hard times came. You ladies with children are setting an example that may well affect the quality of their lives.A couple of things that help me are keeping a running, divided grocery list posted in the kitchen. It has a general section, things that I can buy anywhere I happen to be going to shop, and sections for Walmart, Sam’s, and Dollar General.Most stores have a rock bottom price house brand, and a better quality house brand. I find that most of the time, that better house brand is plenty good enough quality to use.

  5. It’s one-ply, sorry. I guess I’m not really sure what I pay for it since I use coupons or buy only when it’s on sale. It’s just one of those things that I don’t think I can do a whole lot better on, price and effective-wise. Regarding it being one-ply… It’s fairly sturdy, rough even, some may say. I’ve tried other one-ply and always go right back to Scott as the quality is just far better. The last package I bought was a 20 roll package and it was pennies under $15. I see on Walmart’s site that it is now on rollback for $13, which is 65cents per roll. Does 105ft sound about right for a roll? (On the package it says “Total 2096sq ft” which I divided by the 20 rolls in the package.)Maydijo – I’ve considered that, too, ha ha!

  6. Brandi or others who have multiple kids,I have 4 children, 6 and under, and by far the most stressful part of my life is shopping with my kids. I shop with sales and coupons and price matching, and its difficult to keep the toddlers in the cart, and the older ones from wandering away, or touching things, or any other thing they might think of. Town is far enough away that I feel like I need to make multiple stops while I am there to use my gas most wisely…My husband leaves before the kids wake (4-5 a.m.) and usually returns past their bedtime (9ish). He is home most Saturdays but he hates when I leave him on the only day we can be together and finish work on our house. I’m open to any tips, no matter how small!

  7. It is very hard if you have to take them all with you. I often go shopping after the children are in bed, but the stores are not far from me. Is there someone in a similar situation near you who could trade sitting kids one day a month with you so that you could go shopping alone?Having a stockpile that will make it possible for you to make only one of two trips a month into town could reduce a lot of your stress (and I know how hard that is; that is why I shop alone most of the time after my third child started dropping eggs out of the cart while I paid!) You may want to do some bulk purchasing from somewhere like Azure Standard, where you pick up somewhere local once a month. Look at expiration dates on milk and buy a couple of weeks out, and freeze extra so that you can make a once a month trip to the store.Grow a garden to provide you with fresh produce and keep you from having to go out as often.Make your own bread so that you never have to go to the store for bread.

  8. Unknown, in some communities there are churches who sponsor a “mothers’ day out” at least once a month. Church women volunteer to look after children so that their mothers can shop, get their hair cut, sit and stare into space uninterrupted, or whatever they most need to do to stay sane. Ask around and see if there is a group in the city you go to that you would feel comfortable using.

  9. Unknown, how about making it a family event? Get your husband to go with you to help with the children, say on Sunday after church? That is what we do. We attend the early service at church. Then we go to the grocery store on the way home from church. My children are a bit older than yours but we have been doing things this way for years now.Also, look to into the “mother’s day out” programs like Paula said. Our church does something else too to help families. Example this next Saturday at our church we are doing an oil change, pamper the mother day. We know lots of families are struggling these days. The economy in our area is sad. More than 75% of the children in our area qualify for FREE or reduced price lunch at school. Our church wants to help these families in some small way. We (Celebration Church) always has a program going on to help out the families in our area. We gave away school supplies to more than 1000 kids in our area who would not have had supplies otherwise.

  10. Brandy, thank you so much for this blog. I am so thankful , that I found it. I have already learned a lot of frugal saving ways from you and your readers. My frugal attempts this week:1-Hubby and I are the only two, in our home now. A gallon of milk would spoil before we could use it.. but buying 1/2 gallon size ,was so much more expensive. Through this blog, I learned that I could freeze mild. Fanatastic. when I get home from shopping, I put 1/2 of the milk in the freezer.2- I made buttermilk from the last of my purchased buttermilk..[thank you to the readers of your blog for this recipe]3-Harvested the last 2 watermelons. we have been getting a lot of them, from our garden.4-Picked grapes and cooked out the juice.. made 5 cups..Will make jelly today.5-Pre ordered 2 five gallon buckets of pears. A friend of hubby’s is going to pick them up from a friend of his. He will charge me $5, I will make pear preserves with them.6- Found sweet potatoes for 35 cents a pound. I bought 10 pounds at a local grocery store. Picked these up ,while going to pick up prescriptions at pharmacy, thus saving on gas.7= Working on Christmas gifts. Making pj’s/gowns for 5 grandkids.[fabric from stash]Best wishes for a frugal week to each of you.To Unknown– I am so sorry for your problem, getting groceries.. Wished you were close to me, I would be glad to watch your children, while you shopped. We would play games and have fun. I will be praying that God will send a nice friend [that you can trust] your way.. That will help you.. Either a young mom with children to share baby sitting duties, or an older friend, that would just enjoy the children and want to help you.. hugs.

  11. I don’t have that many kiddo’s, but what helped me when I had 2 littles one’s is, going in the morning, when everyone including myself has more patience. Give the oldest child helper things to do like putting non breakables into the cart. Also maybe bribery, all of the stores in my area will give kids a cookie for free at the bakery if you ask, I tell my kids they can have a cookie if they are well behaved in the store.

  12. Brandy, have you thought more about planting hazelnut trees? There is to be a shortage of Nutella due to bad crops of Turkish nuts (I guess that is the source of nuts they use). But no shortage of hazelnuts in U.S.

  13. Cecile, it depends on the product. I have really sensitive skin and am allergic to a lot of products out there, and we do most everything unscented (perfumes make my husband ill). So, I pretty much stick with the same products for these things, though I have made a change here and there over the years. Thankfully, most of the products that I use usually have coupons and sales, and they’re not the most expensive to being with, so that helps!

  14. Oh that is too bad. Our peach trees arrived and are planted. I hope they are ready for the cold…it was 40 F this morning and the furnace came on because it went below 65 F in the house overnight. The weatherman warned of frost tonight but I am pretty sure that is farther north in the viewing area than we are, like maybe the UP.

  15. Unknown…do you have neighbors? Borrow a young neighbor child, like a 10-11 year old girl, and take her along. Then do the two cart routine with dividing the children in the carts, her with the ones that need the most attention and you and the 6 year old to do the shopping. Add a treat for the girl ( box of ice cream bars? flavored chapsticks?) into your shopping or give her a few $$. You don’t have to pay babysitting rates as she is just helping you and that age is too young to sit alone with children (IMO) anyways. An extra benefit is that when you do need a sitter and she is older you will have trained her up and she is familiar with your children.

  16. Brandy, Here is a question you may have been asked before. While you were growing up, did you learn about canning, prepping, being frugal and sewing? You have an interesting life and really wish you would write a blog post about your childhood, your college years and your time in France. I was not raised a Mormon and never had the opportunity to personally know any Mormons. I just find the life style of Mormons fascinating and most of the blogs and Vlogs that I view are Mormon women. You just seem so strong and confident. I hope your children grow up to be as confident as you seem to be.Sincerely,Debra from SE NC

  17. Debra, I wasn’t raised Mormon; I converted when I was 19.My parents are frugal people, but my mom hated sewing, and my parents don’t believe in having a full pantry. My mom doesn’t can and doesn’t know how to. She also didn’t teach me much about cooking; I knew how to cook just a few things. My parents didn’t want me to go to France–but I did anyway. I am also the first (and only) in my family to graduate from college. It would be a lot to write in one post! But there is a bit for you 🙂

  18. Thanks, Brandy! It was not until after I was married that I learned how to cook. My parents did not want me in the kitchen because they said I was too messy! I married very young and tried to go to college after I wed. You kind of remind me of my oldest child. When my oldest sets her head to do something, she does it! I admire that – even though I worry about her and wish she had not moved over 800 miles from us. Maybe, in the future you can do a separate post for your time spent in France and a separate post on your transition into the Mormon faith.Please don’t change one thing about the way you have your Website setup or your blogging, even if you have your own TV program or become a media superstar (which you are to me). Stardom changes everything. If you get to that point, you won’t have to be frugal anymore, but you can still educate others.Sincerely,Debra from SE NC

  19. Even as a “family” of one, I really appreciate you sharing your frugal ideas. I,too, have a years supply and it has really blessed me in the lean years :). I’m going to try that mixing oil with butter because I don’t care for the ingredients I read on margerine labels. But I only have to buy for one. Also enjoy the beautiful photos you always post!

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