My post, What I’ll Spend for Food, has been one of my most popular posts. Several readers have asked for an updated version that includes current prices, as prices have risen since I have written that post.
At the time I wrote that (3 years ago this month) sales for both us and our agents were far and few between, and my grocery budget was $100 a month for our family of 9. A year later, were were able to increase our budget to $200 a month, and two years later (last January), as sales had begun to increase in our city, for both us and our agents, I increased our budget to $300 a month. (Note: For those who don’t know, my husband is the broker and owner of a real estate company, and we have around 40 agents at our company).
This didn’t mean I greatly increased our price points on most items, however. I still aim to find the lowest possible prices and buy items at that price.
With growing children whose appetites are increasing, I an serving larger portions than I did in 2013. I currently have a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, as well as 5 younger children. My son has the typical appetite for a growing boy his age, and my husband tells me I haven’t seen anything yet when it comes to how his appetite will increase even more over the next few years!
And so, I expect that the need to increase our budget will continue to grow, as our children continue to grow.
For now, I am keeping my budget at $300 a month for our family of 9. This includes both food, toiletries, and cleaning items. I have been asked if it includes “paper items”, which I believe means disposable items used with food. I don’t buy a lot of items in that category, but I do buy Ziploc freezer bags, toilet paper, and paper towels. We don’t use paper towels for cleaning or for drying our hands; we use paper towels for draining oil or grease from foods that need it. (Some people have suggested using newspaper or paper bags for this, but we don’t get the newspaper, and I take reusable cloth bags with me when I shop).
Keeping my purchases within my price points means I won’t buy items if they go above that price. We will choose something else (see my post “Comparing Apples to Oranges“). It also means waiting to purchase items when they get this low.
I have had some readers tell me my prices are low, and some tell me they are high. My readers are from around the globe, and prices vary a lot depending on where you live. Our “local” produce in the grocery store (and yes, the ads mark it that way) is from the next state over, because I live in one of the driest deserts in the world, and food is not being produced here. What might be the lowest price for me may be vastly different for someone on the other side of the country. When making a price book for yourself, study the ads for 12 weeks (the typical grocery cycle) and sometime in that 12 week time period, you will see the lowest prices on most items come around.
There are exceptions, of course. Some items go on sale 1-2 times a year at their lowest price. This is always the case with in-season produce, and also the case with a few holiday special items. I wait to purchase these items all year at their lowest price.
Where a range of prices is listed, that is the typical lowest price sales range in my area.
Note: For my readers outside the U.S., 1 pound equals 0.453592 kg.1 pound is 16 ounces.
I keep my produce price to $1 a pound or less, with an exception noted below. Several items that used to be on my produce purchase list are now no longer on my list, since I grow them instead.
Russet Potatoes: $0.10 to $0.25 a pound, always purchased in a 10 pound bag. I still occasionally find them for $0.10 a pound, but there is a usually a limit of one bag at this price now. I generally find them on sale in season (fall-winter) on sale for $0.20 a pound.
Apples: $0.79 to $0.99 a pound. Again, I find the best prices in fall and winter. I also grow apples in my garden; my best producing tree is a Dorsett Golden, that is ripe in June.
Oranges: With the razing of so many orange groves in California in 2015 due to drought, as well as several store closings in our area that used to have cheap oranges, this price has changed. The lowest I found this year was $0.68 a pound, with typical sales prices going to $0.99 a pound this winter. I currently have two small orange trees planted in pots, but they are young and not yet producing.
Limes: I buy a bag of 12 from the .99 store, or else I use powdered lime juice (which tastes as good as fresh) from San Francisco Herb Company.
Broccoli: This is in season in winter, and I pay $.99 a pound for crowns at Winco, and blanche and freeze it when it is on sale. I also grow a bit in my garden. If I can find it for less, I’ll buy even more at once.
Petite Peas: $1.00 a pound, frozen, bought on sale at Alberston’s a few times a year.
Asparagus: $0.99 a pound in season in spring, but I also grow some in my garden.
Corn: Canned corn comes in a 15 ounce can (16 ounces equals one pound). I’ll pay $0.33 to $0.45 on sale a couple of times a year. For fresh ears, I’ll pay $0.20 to $0.25 each. I do not grow corn, as our extreme heat means it rarely tassels and the plants burn in the harsh sunshine.
Green Beans: Canned green beans comes in a 15 ounce can (16 ounces equals one pound). I’ll pay $0.33 to $0.45 on sale a couple of times a year. The only beans that grow here in our heat are the yard-long beans, and they usually need some afternoon shade to keep them from cooking and burning on the vines. I grow them, but not enough for our family. Most of the year it is too hot for even this type to flower.
Bananas: $0.59 to $.79 is the typical price here.
Carrots: $0.40 a pound in a 10-pound bag at Winco
Onions: $0.38 to $0.48 a pound
Clementines: $1.00 a pound in season in winter
Strawberries: $1.25 a pound in season. I grow both red strawberries and white, miniature alpine strawberries (shown in the picture above with blackberries from my garden) but not enough for my family. When they are in season in the spring (typically March/April here) I buy a lot on sale to make jam, to freeze, to make popsicles, to make shortcakes, and to eat fresh.
Milk: $2.59 to $3.15 a gallon for whole milk are the lowest sales prices in my area. I also use milk to make yogurt.
Sour Cream: $1.00 to $1.25 a pound on sale.
Butter: $2.00 to $2.40 a pound. This is a seasonal deal at this price. I freeze butter to use thoughout the year in baking and occasional sauteeing.
Spreadable Margarine: $2.54 to $2.79 for a three-pound tub of Gold N Soft Light. I use this on toast, baked potatoes, etc.
Eggs: Egg prices in the U.S. doubled last year. I now occasionally can find them on sale for $1.25 a dozen, but it’s a rare price. I buy a lot at that price. (typically 15 dozen at a time). The American Egg Board says that eggs are good for 4-6 weeks past their sell-by date, so keep that in mind when stocking up on eggs.
Mozarella Cheese: $2.17 to $2.5 a pound, bought shredded in a 5 pound bag at Sam’s Club. (In summer I sometimes will also buy a 5 pound block).
Cheddar Cheese: $2.39 to $2.79 a pound, bought in a 5 pound block at Sam’s Club
Parmesan cheese: $1.32 a pound, sold ina 24 ounce container at Winco (shelf-stable Winco brand)
Feta cheese: $4.66 a pound sold in a 24 ounce pound container at Costco ($6.99) or Sam’s Club (Sam’s price is $8.48, or $5.65 a pound)
Cream Cheese: $1.00 for a half pound block, on sale usually November-December. It lasts all year in the fridge in the cheese drawer, so I buy a bunch when it goes on sale. I don’t freeze it, as it changes texture, and we generally use it on bagels.
My rule is still nothing over $2 a pound, with one exception (noted below). That hasn’t changed. Since beef prices doubled, however, it cut beef off our menu. I’ve read rumors of it coming down in 2016, but we’ll have to see if that actually happens.
When I see meat on sale at these prices, I stock up and put it in my freezer. We have two fridge/freezers, plus a stand-alone large freezer.
Chicken, whole: $0.79 to $0.99 a pound. I look for chickens that are 4 to 5 pounds.
Chicken, thighs/legs, bone-in: $0.69 to $.0.89 a pound. This usually comes in a 10 pound bag at this price.
Chicken, boneless skinless breasts: $1.99 a pound. I don’t buy this cut real often.
Turkey: $0.79 to $0.99 a pound. I buy the largest birds I can find. Turkey prices have increased greatly, as have required sales amounts to purchase turkeys at holidays.
Hams: $0.99 to $1.69 a pound, on sale at the holidays
Pork Roasts, boneless: $1.89 to $1.99 is a typical sales price that we see a few times a year.
Pepperoni: This is exception to the $2 a pound or under rule. I buy pepperoni a few times a year for putting on our homemade pizzas, and it is $2.96 a pound at Sam’s Club, sold in a 3 pound bag. It doesn’t take much to cover a pizza, so I don’t use much in a meal.
Pasta: 3 times a year I can buy pasta on sale for $0.49 a pound, so I stock up then. The exception is farfalle, which we like in some dishes. I buy that on sale for $0.75 to $0.79 a pound.
Pinto beans: $0.53 a pound, bought in a 25 pound bag at Winco
Black beans: I stocked up on these last year at $0.68 a pound, but that source no longer carries them in bulk, so when I buy more I’ll need to pay $0.99 a pound at Winco.
White beans: I stocked up on these last year at $0.68 a pound, but that source no longer carries them in bulk, so when I buy more I’ll need to pay $0.81 a pound at Winco.
Kidney Beans: $1.04 a pound
Brown Lentils: $0.97 a pound
Long-Grain White Rice: $0.34 a pound, bought in a 25 pound bag at Sam’s Club.
Basmati Rice: $0.80 a pound, bought in a 25 pound bag at Sam’s Club
Oats (Old-fashioned, also called Rolled Oats): $0.65 a pound, sold for $16.15 for a 25 pound bag at Winco
Wheat: $0.28 a pound for white wheat, and $0.24 a pound for red wheat, bought in a 25 pound bag at the LDS Cannery
All-Purpose Flour: $0.31 a pound, bought in a 25 pound bag at Sam’s Club
Yeast: $2.39 a pound, sold in a 2 pound pack at Sam’s Club
Baking Soda: $0.423 a pound, sold in a 13.5 pound container at Sam’s Club ($5.72)
Baking Powder: $0.096 an ounce, sold in a 60 ounce container at Sam’s Club ($5.78)
Cornstarch: $0.093 an ounce, sold in a 35 ounce container for $3.28 at Sam’s Club
White Vinegar: $1.99 a gallon, sold in a 2 gallon package at Sam’s Club
Balsamic Vinegar: $10.99 a liter at Costco. (This is the biggest price increase I have; I paid about 40% less at Sam’s Club, but our store no longer carries this item.)
Salt, Iodized: $0.32 a pound, sold in a 4 pound box at Sam’s Club
Salt, Kosher: $0.74 a pound, sold in a 4 pound box at Winco
Salt, Canning/Pickling: $0.32 a pound, sold in a 4 pound box at Winco
Sugar, Granulated: $0.398 a pound, sold in a 10 pound bag at Sam’s Club
Sugar, Brown: $0.698 a pound, sold in a 4 pound bag at Sam’s Club (I don’t make my own, as molasses is fairly pricey and we go through a fair amount of brown sugar).
Sugar, Powdered: $0.68 a pound, sold in a 4 pound bag at Sam’s Club. I don’t make my own, as my blender has never turned sugar into powder with any success. I only occasionally use powdered sugar.
Vanilla Extract: $8.98 a pound. I’m considering making this but not I’m not sure if the price will be much lower. However, this has gone up a lot.
Chocolate Chips: $1.99 a pound, bought in a 4.5 pound bag at Sam’s Club
Almonds: $5.99 a pound, bought in a 48 ounce bag at Sam’s Club
Popcorn: $0.48 a pound, bought in a 50 pound bag at Sam’s Club. We pop this on the stove with a little vegetable oil.
Vegetable Oil: $4.98 for a gallon at Winco
Olive Oil, extra-virgin: $5.99 a liter, bought in a 3-liter container at Sam’s Club
Knorr Chicken Bullion: $4.44 for a 2.2 pound container at Sam’s Club
Knorr Tomato Bullion: $4.8 for a 2.2 pound container at Walmart
Canned Tomato Sauce: $2.89 for a #10 can (6 pounds 10 ounces; 106 ounces) at Costco
Canned Tomatoes: $3.28 for a #10 can (102 ounces) at Sam’s Club
Cranberries, Dried: $2.66 a pound, bought in a 48 ounce bag at Sam’s Club
Raisins: $2.12 a pound, bought in a 2 30-ounce bags at Sam’s Club
Poppy Seeds, mustard seeds, cream of tartar: Under $2.50 a pound at San Francisco Herb Company. I also buy other herbs there, such as cinnamon.
Items I don’t buy because I grow them in the garden:
I have a .24 acre lot in the desert, with over 40 fruit trees, most of which are semi-dwarf trees. My garden is watered with drip irrigation. We have 6 months of above 90º temperatures, running April through October, and summer days in my part of the city are typically 110º to 113º. We have sunshine almost every day of the year.
I aim to always have something ripe in the garden. You can see my garden calendar here. I live in a U.S. zone 9a.
I grow almost all open-pollinated seeds. By so doing, I am able to collect my own seeds to replant each year, saving me the need to purchase seeds for everything every year. There are a few seeds and plants that I still need to purchase each year, but that number is becoming fewer each year as I see success with collecting my own seeds.
Lemons: We have 6 lemons trees, with 2 large enough to produce. I dry and freeze zests, plus freeze juice to use throughout the year. We make our own lemonade with these.
Peaches: We have three peach trees-two in back and one in front of the house (with the two in back large enough to produce). The two producing ones are Desert Gold, a semi-freestone that ripens in May, and Early Elberta, a freestone peach that ripens in July, and typically givens me enough peaches to can a dozen jars, plus all of the peaches I eat fresh.
Apricots: I have three apricot trees, with one large enough for good-sized crop. The producing one is a Royal Blenheim, and it is ripe in June. The other two trees are Katy apricots, and one of them (in the front yard) gives us a few apricots at the end of April/beginning of May.
Figs: I have a Mission Fig tree. Mission figs are unusual in that they double crop. I get a crop in June and again in August.
Blackberries: I harvest these in May. The heat and sunshine make them small (they need to be grown here with afternoon shade so as not to burn on the vine).
Grapes: I grow Thompson’s Seedless, Red Flame Seedless, some seeded large green grapes that were all marked Red Flame (but aren’t!) and I have a Concord vine, though it rarely produces more than a handful of grapes. My grapes ripen from late June to early August.
Pears: I have a small espaliered 20th Century Asian pear, as well as 2 Bartlett pear trees that have never grown very large.
Pomegranates: I have 2 potted pomegranate trees.
Green Onions: These reseed themselves in the garden each year, and are a cut and come again vegetable. I grow and harvest these year-round. To read more about green onions, read my post “How to Grow Green Onions and Collect Your Own Seeds.” I bought green onion plants 9 years ago, and I haven’t had to buy any since, as they reseed themselves.
Snow Peas: I plant these in fall for an April harvest.
Swiss Chard (silverbeet): I grow Fordhook Giant chard. This is an open-pollinated type that self-seeds. I also collect seeds from this. It grows year-round in my garden.
Beets: I grow these in the garden fall-spring. I grow open-pollinated types and allow some to go to seed each year. We eat the greens as well as the beets.
Turnips: These grow fall-early spring.
Lettuce: I harvest lettuce in the early spring. Last year I collected quite a few lettuce seeds from one variety.
Radishes: I grow these fall-early spring.
Artichokes: I harvest these in April. Artichokes are a pernnial plant, that may or may not return each year. I planted some new plants last fall.
Cucumbers: The only cucumbers that don’t go bitter and still produce female flowers in our heat are Armenian cucumbers. These can grow to arm’s length without becoming bitter. I use these to can pickles.
Tomatoes: I buy plants at the nursery to set out in February. Our last frost date is February 15th, and come April/May, we’ll see temperatures of 100º, which stops my tomatoes from flowering until the last week of October. Consequently, I am unable to grow enough to can, so I buy canned sauce and canned tomatoes, but fresh ones come from the garden.
Herbs: I grow enough of the following herbs that I don’t need to purchase them: Basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, garlic chives, onion chives, chamomile, peppermint, spearmint and thyme. I make my own herbal tea from some of these.
Flowers: I grow my own flowers in the garden from bulbs, seeds, perennial plants, and the occasional annuals. One flower I like to buy is orchids. You can see why I think orchids are a frugal flower choice in my post here. I like to have enough flowers to make arrangments all year long. Here are my tips for growing more flowers for less.
There are, of course, other items that I will buy on occasion, but these are the typical items I buy on a regular basis.
I’m sure you’re wondering why some items aren’t on this list, such as cold cereal, bread or salad dressing. I don’t buy these items. For my list of more items I don’t buy, see here. For bread and cracker recipes, click here, and for salad dressing recipes, click here.
I’ve also had questions about what stores I have available in my area. We’re blessed to have several stores not far from here, which leads to better competition and lower sales prices. Within a mile and a half, I have access to Walmart, Target, Winco, Costco, and Walgreens. Within five miles I have two Smith’s (a Kroger affiliate), Vons, two CVS, another Target, another Walmart, and two Albertson’s stores, as well as Sam’s Club. I rarely visit the drug stores (CVS and Walgreen’s), and I don’t have a Costco card (but my parents do, so if I need something from there, I’ll go with them). This leaves me with a lot of choices and options for sales. In adition, the LDS cannery is not far from here (where I purchase bulk wheat berries). I order spices online from San Francisco Herb Company.
Our grocery ads (for Smith’s, Vons, and Albertson’s) come in the mail on Tuesdays, and our sales here run Wednesdays through Tuesdays. (Drug store ads come in the mail on Thursdays for sales running Sunday through Saturday). I don’t subscribe to the newspaper, but a free local section comes with a smaller number of Smart Source coupons on Thursday (compared to what subscribers get). I print coupons online from Coupons.com, Red Plum, and Target, as well as the Target Cartwheel offers.
I’m sure I’ve left a few items out, so if you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the post with any missing items.
Lastly, I’d like to encourage you to make your own price book with the lowest sales prices for items in your area, wherever you are in the world. This will help you to know when to stock up on items, making your money go further on the things you already buy!
I remember your first post and it really helped me when I first became a stay at home mom 3 years ago. I had never looked at prices before and had no idea what things [i]should[/i], or [i]could[/i] cost. Thank you for updating this post, I thought I was overpaying for some things this year (potatoes) but I guess the price points for some items have gone up.
What a great post, thank you for taking the time to type it all up!
Thank you for all the work you put into this post. It’s a great deal of information. I have one question. How do you store, organize your price list/book. Do you keep it on your computer? Do you have a book that you actually carry with you? Is it mostly in your head? Thanks for any advise you could offer.
This post is fascinating to me. It is so interesting to see the difference in prices in other areas of the country. Last summer I visited my daughter and her family in Washington D.C. and I was shocked at the prices in the stores there, especially for meat and poultry. Since her husband was in grad school they ate very little meat and found other protein sources. I thought of you, Brandy, last October when I bought a 25 lb. bag of onions for $3.98. I wished I lived closer to you so I could purchase a bag for you too! And I was thrilled to purchase a 10 lb. box of talapia fillets last week. We are trying to add more fish to our diet.
I remember when my children were small 25 or so years ago that I figured that milk was $2 a gallon. Many times it was much less which was great. But as I shopped for other items, whether it was shoes for the children or an item for our home I often thought about how many gallons of milk I could buy for the same price and then would determine if the item was worth the cost. Especially if I was comparing two similar items at varying prices. Sometimes it was worth paying a bit more for better quality, but many times I would rather have the lower price item so I could be sure to have money for milk. And I still play the same game in my head today.
Thanks for the work you do on this blog Brandy! It is a great source of encouragement!
Hi Brandy from Australia and thanks for the updates :).
– I would like to say that you are doing a wonderful job working within that low budget to feed your 7 children, you are a marvel.
– This post gives me general ideas to work with and I just substitute in our Australian prices which as you said everything price wise varies dramatically according to where you live.
– As your wise husband said, yes as your children grow older and particularly your son you will see a dramatic increase in his appetite. I reared 2 sons both of whom were 6’1 & 6’2″ tall at the age of 13 & 14, feet sized 13 & 14 I had to order shoes from the U.K & U.S.A to fit as they didn’t make them large enough in Australia. They came from farming stock people on their fathers side, where it was not unusual for the men to anywhere from 6′ – 6’5″ tall. Not exaggerating, they could almost empty a pantry without opening it in one go, from the vacuuming from their mouths. It was not unusual for me to cook 6 dozen cookies and have them disappear in one afternoon, along with what they ate for regular meals & lots of fruits for snacks. It took me a long time to get out of cooking portions enough to feed an army with after they left home :).
Thanks so much for this list! I wonder if you’ve ever considered Costco, or if you’ve ruled that out because of the yearly membership fee? I have a set of items that I can buy the cheapest at Costco. I don’t usually deviate from that list.
Also, one gardening question. We’re in Tucson, and this winter we’ve had several nights below freezing. We planted an apricot tree last spring that has yet to even flower. Do you cover up all your trees when it goes below freezing? If so, do you also cover the ones that don’t currently have fruit?
I save the paper bags from sugar and flour and use those for draining fried foods
You work so hard to help us…thank you.
Have you ever tried Zaycon Fresh? I buy my boneless skinless chicken breasts from them. They are currently $1.69 a pound. You can check out all their offerings at this link zayconfresh.com/refer/zf53609.
Hi Brandy, I was wondering if you have sample menu plans on a post somewhere I can refer too? I’ve tried meal planning but find I lack enough recipes to keep food varried enough. Thank you! And thank you for this updated post. Its very interesting to see how others make due.
Beef prices are falling as far as what producers are being paid. We have seen cull cow prices and bull calf prices fall significantly. Whether processors and stores will change their prices to reflect that is the question.
You might see an increase in dairy prices as winter storm Goliath wreaked havoc on the dairy industry in Texas and New Mexico. It definitely had an impact, but they are reluctant to put a number on the price increase for milk until they see just how many cows are taken out of production. So far the numbers I heard were that it would only take 0.5% loss to see an increase in milk prices and they are estimating that 6% of dairy cows in the region were lost.
This is fantastic, and it looks like a lot of work to compile, so thank you! Food/groceries are our biggest budget challenge (and there are only two of us!), but you provide so much inspiration for gardening and smart shopping… Doing my best to follow your example!
Thank you so much for this post! It is so helpful! You are so organized and frugal too! You are my hero- I have learned so much from your blog and it is helping me improve in so many areas in my life and home. Thanks for all you do to put yourself out there in sharing your great ideas!
Are the LDS canneries open to the public or just church members?
I wanted to thank you for this post. Many times I have looked for similar posts on the internet and felt beaten down by prices in my area only to realize that the post was written many years ago. My New Year’s Resolution was to become more organized with my time so I hope that this is the year I can get the price book together. Thanks for all that you do.
I am just wondering what you do for storage. When you by 10lb of tomato sauce, how do you store it once the can is open? That has been my biggest hang up with buying some of the bulk purchases. I would love to see your list and then your storage strategy next to it!! Thanks so much for even considering.
Just finished your post on grocery prices. I live in upstate NY, and our prices are quite different than what you’ve posted, most are much higher. I raise a big garden each year and can, freeze and dry everything I can. I just finished canning cranberries, both jelled and whole as they were on sale, and I canned lots of dried bean which I purchased from my local co-op.
I used your chili recipe and made a big batch to freeze. My pressure canner holds 7 quarts, so I used the extras and made the chili. It is the best recipe for chili I’ve ever used. Thank you.
If you’re not going to use the whole can, you can freeze the rest. At this point we use the entire can for one meal if we make spaghetti as there are 9 of us, and we like a lot of sauce. If I just need some to make enchiladas, I’ll bag and freeze the rest, or I’ll also use some to make a quadruple batch of my steak sauce recipe, which then just goes in the fridge in jars.
You could open the can, make spaghetti sauce with it (recipe on my site using the whole can) and then just freeze the rest of the sauce in bags, and pull it out when you need it for a quick meal.
Yes, I was going to mention that in the post. I read that 30,000 dairy cows died from that storm a couple of weeks ago, and some surviving cows weren’t able to be milked for a few days. It will be interestging to see how that affects prices; I think the changes will last for quite a while, too.
I have 4 1/2 months of menus on my site: 4 seasonal menus and a 2-week pantry only menu. Look under Cook–Menus and you will see them all.
I don’t like to write a menu for the week. I use my seasonal menus to plan meals from what I have on hand in the pantry, freezer, and garden. I can’t plan peaches all summer, for example–but I can plan those meals when they are ripe in the garden.
Hi Linda! I’m so glad you like my chili recipe!
Prices really vary depending on where you live and what options you have. Where I have lots of stores nearby, my cousin has 2 stores by her–one 30 minutes in one direction, and one 40 minutes in the other direction. It definitely makes a difference!
Oranges ares on sale this week at Sprouts til Wed. for $.48 #. I don’t know how far its from you. I plan my trips & also hubby picks up stuff on his commute from work. Thanks for the post. I’m always updating my price book. I will stock up on more butter since dairy is going up. I saw it for $2.60 @ Costco. Thanks for all you do Brandy. Luv your pics, Blogs & tips. I
You only need to cover citrus. If you have something tropical that can’t take any freezing, like a banana, that would have to come in. Citrus can take short times below freezing but may suffer some damage. I couldn’t cover ours recently as the winds were too strong to keep them covered that week.
Apricots and other trees that go dormant don’t need to be covered. They will be fine.
Costco is closer to me, but I have a Sam’s Club membership. Every couple of years I go back with my price comparisons to see if it is worth changing over, but for what I buy, Sam’s is the winner on almost everything. The only reason I’m having to buy a few things now at Costco is because Sam’s stopped carrying them (except for feta, which is actually lower at Costco). Costco doesn’t carry some things I buy, such as the bulk ketchup, and bulk popcorn in a 50 pound bag, so it’s worth it to me to keep the Sam’s membership, and only go to Costco once or twice a year with my dad (or have my mom pick something up for me from the 4 items I buy there.) Also, Costco has a higher membership fee. I always tell people to go look at what you buy there, and then compare prices on those items, and decide which store is going to work better for you (if you have the option of either one, but not everyone does).
I could definitely do better on using a price book and stocking up that way. I have a general idea of stock up seasons for certain items (like butter in Nov/Dec for instance), but my family could certainly benefit from me being more specific here! You’re always so inspiring to me. My oldest boy just turned 12, so I’m there with you in thinking about ways to afford to feed teenaged boys. (One of his brothers is only one year behind him and there are 2 more boys and a girl, too.)
I buy #10 can of whole tomatoes @ Costco. I freeze what I don’t use into small bags I buy @ Ikea. I use it for making salsa, pasta sauce Etc. I luv it! So much more affordable that the small cans I get at the market
Sprouts is about 45 minutes from here, so any savings would be eaten up in gas getting there and back. I stick to the stores within 5 miles from me that are listed on the post.
I’ve been asked before if I am ever out that way, and it would be a very, very rare occasion for me to be anywhere in that area. My husband’s office is less than 5 miles away, so he is not out there, either.
My next son turns 11 this month, so I expect he won’t be far behind in eating a lot, either!
You could make a spreadhseet file to create your price book if you like. If you don’t have Excel, you can download Open Office for free, and there is a spreadsheet option on there. I did that the first time I made a price book, filling in lowest prices (and where) as I watched sales flyers in my area. I made sure to note where I saw the lowest prices, so that I could look for those sales on a regular basis.
Lately who has the best deal on some items has changed. For instance, I used to always find the lowest prices on sour cream at Smith’s, but lately it has been Albertson’s who has had it on sale. So, I do have to keep an eye out for that.
I know what these prices are in my head now for most items, though I did have to do some research on a couple items that had increased (lentils was one that had changed, and I didn’t know the new price). Now I’ve got it here and I can just refer back to this post if need be. 😀
When I did print it out, it was all on two sheets of computer paper, so it really didn’t take up much room. I just folded it and stuck it in my purse, and updated it in pencil when I saw a lower price somewhere. That really helped me to compare. If you want to make a list on your phone you could do that as well. (I don’t carry a cell phone, but most everyone else does, and I know I’ve seen mention somewhere of a price book ap that you can use).
Too funny! I’m gald to know I’m not the only one who measures everything compared to how many gallons of milk it would buy!
Tilapia was on my list, over a decade ago, when it was under $2 a pound, but then it went up and never came back down.
I know someone who has a pond on her property, and they have fish that way. When they want to have fish for dinner, they go catch it. She has enough that she lets other people fish there sometimes too! I think that would be a wonderful way to lower the cost of fish!
We have discussed raising tilapia more than once, but we haven’t found a great solution to that yet.
They are open to the public, but check out the hours for your local cannery ahead of time. They are staffed by volunteers and only open a few days a week for a few hours each of those days.
You can also order canned items in the #10 cans online from LDS catalog, but I find that the price goes up a lot once you include the cost of the can.
Not all locations carry all items on the order form (ours doesn’t) so call and ask if they have want you want.
Thanks Brandy! I used to keep my prices in my head, but it seems prices have been fluctuating a great deal as of late and it’s become more difficult to recall the last, best price paid. I think I would like something I could carry with me. I do have a smart phone, but I think I may give a small notebook a try, using pencil so I can easily update. It seems when I write something down manually, I remember it! 🙂
Brandy, I love your posts and I thought about you the other evening when I was in Walmart in Fl. I found a liter of Balsamic vinegar for $3.94. Check it out next time you’re there. don’t know if it was a fluke or not but I grabbed a bottle.
Thank you so much! I will definitely look. Costco’s price is twice what I used to pay at Sam’s Club before Sam’s stopped carrying it. I use it quite a bit. I would love to lower this expense!
This is an awesome post. I’m going to study it some more.
As your neighbor to the west (CA), I was assuming everything would be more expensive. I can see that I can get close to your prices on many things. And better on some. I can almost always get potatoes for 0.99 for ten pounds at the 99 cent store.
I get similar meat and bean prices. We don’t have winco, so my bulk items come from Costco and smart and final. I’ve been baking a LOT of your rosemary olive oil bread this winter.
Where in upstate? My in laws live there, near Albany. When I’ve shopped there, at target and Walmart, I’ve noticed that prices on many items are a lot cheaper than here.
Brandy, don’t forget, you can freeze eggs. They need to have some salt or sugar blended in to stabilize the yolks.(You can freeze egg whites, without adding anything to them.) I freeze eggs in 1-egg, 3-egg, 4-egg and 6-egg portions, in containers, muffin tins (to pop out and keep in a plastic ziploc), and freezer bags. Thawed eggs will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. So, if I thaw a 6-egg bag, I know I can use it all over the course of 2-3 days, measuring out about 3 tablespoons of thawed egg to equal 1 large in a recipe. Last Easter week, I bought 22 dozen eggs at 99cents per dozen. I froze a little over half of those eggs. The frozen ones kept me in eggs for about 5 months.
My husband’s family has a large stock pond on their land in Bastrop TX. It is well stocked with all manner of fish. There is nothing more than the grand children like than going there to fish for their dinner. We always do a fish fry when we are there. We do this out on the enclosed porch to keep the fish smell out of the house but keep bugs away from the food. Always a funny story is passed around about our son. It is a great time.
I walked through Sam’s this last week just to take a look at what the prices were doing. I DID notice that beef is a lot lower than it has been!!!! It’s still nowhere near as low as it used to be, but there may be hope for the future! I even bought ground beef last week at Kroger for $1.99 a pound!!!!
Last week, after a doctor’s appointment I went to with my husband, we finally decided to find a farmer’s market that we’ve heard about but have never been to. Well, I could kick myself!!!! The prices were amazing and the food was beautiful!!!!!! I will NEVER buy spices anywhere else ever again! I bought a vegetable bag half full with bay leaves for $.57 and a large container of peppercorns for $2.00! I can’t wait for the next doctor’s appointment so we can go back! Always learning and adjusting just like you, Brandy! Thank you!
I was so excited to see this post, again. It is so helpful to see such an extensive list that is current. Thank up so much for investing the time and energy to do this and share this with us in the midst of your busy life. You are a wealth of information and bring such beauty and dignity to our job as homemakers. Thank you!
Boys are great for eating everything. We have 5. The two older boys are gone ( one in college, one in the navy). The oldest one was here for Christmas. I feel my food budget increased by a third,lol. Last weekend my husband and I compared prices at Costco and Sams. Sams prices were lower,in addition Sams is closer. I may tell my parents to drop the Costco membership. I am going to make a list and write down items to evaluate the cost savings.
Brandy–Thank you for this list. It is interesting to see prices in other parts of the country. (I’m in Fairbanks, Alaska.) Our milk prices have gone up from $3.39 to $3.59/gallon. We have Sam’s, WalMart, Fred Meyers (Kroger), and Safeway. We have learned to buy when things are at their lowest but also available. Something as basic as celery may sell out over holidays. We have 3 garden spots and raise what we can in summer. We still are eating potatoes we grew–purple and Yukon Gold as well as carrots. All cabbage crops grow well so we had kohlrabi, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Romanescu. We also enjoyed turnips, radishes, beets, green and yellow beans, Sugar Ann peas. This year we will try celery and freeze it for winter soups and chilis. We had tomatoes in pots that did well.
The prices in Fairbanks are higher–even more than Anchorage. We are at the end of the major roads. Eggs are about $3.18/18. We buy eggs on the Senior discount day for the month. There is no Costco here but friends did take us to Costco when we were in Anchorage. My recent frugal buys have been hams for $1.24/lb. on Christmas clearance and light grape juice for $2 off the new price. My adult son is lactose-intolerant so he drinks grape juice for one meal a day and I also do that. We are stocked up on that!
Any extra vegetables are brought to church where people without gardens appreciate it.
Thanks Brandy for all you do. I so enjoy your website and also have started following Make Do Homemaker and the Bluebirds are Nesting from your site. Alaska Gran
At my stores I am noticing produce is up, up, up in price.
A few I noticed this week
Broccoli for $1.99/#
Peppers for $2.29 each
Butternut squash $1.99 per pound
So we are buying and eating the less expensive ones and when I see a good sale stock up.
Anyone else seeing the increase in produce (we are in Wa state)
Thank you for your updated price book. I know prices vary greatly from coast to coast, but the best prices I have found on pantry staples (rice, flour, sugar, dried beans, and even butter & eggs) is at Restaurant Depot. They have stores all around the country, and you are allowed to make personal purchases there as long as you have a free business membership. I have memberships for my scout troop and for my blogging business (it doesn’t have to be a food business to get a membership), and I go a few times a year. I’m not sure how close you are to the Las Vegas area store, but it may be another hidden resource for you, as it has been for me.
Some readers have mentioned this store to me in the past. They are an hour away from me. I checked out their ad online, and I didn’t find lower prices on items I was buying, but I did find some similar prices to what I have been paying. However, it may work for another reader. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Carol! That’s a great idea!
I only scramble mine and throw them in the freezer when our “girls” are laying like crazy in the summer – especially the duck eggs since those girls stop laying November thru February usually. I didn’t notice any problems with the yolks but then I’m not trying to make a souffle with them either. Does the sugar/salt make the baked goods they are used in “fluffier” like when using fresh?
I cannot recall where I saw it, but on one of the blogs, someone used a check register.
I think it is all the more remarkable how you can make your budget stretch after seeing your local prices. I had 4 boys and I too can attest to the enormous amount of food teenage boys can consume. Remember to fill them up with the cheap stuff like pasta and potatoes.
I wanted to make a comment regarding Costco’s membership charge. We pay $100 a year, and I think it might be called the EXECUTIVE membership, but Costco pays you back a percentage of what you have spent during the year and when we got this membership we were “guaranteed” we would at least break even. And we have every year. There are only two of us so we spend less than a large family, but we also buy all our gas at Costco as it is much cheaper than any other gas station. This year our membership cost $100 and our cash back gift was $107. So our membership has been free for the last five years or so.
I knew you would understand thinking of prices in terms of gallons of milk! You are a kindred spirit!
I meant to say that I bought a 10 lb box of tilapia fillets for $27.90. That’s the lowest price I’ve seen here in South Jordan Utah for some time. I used to buy tilapia when it was $2 a pound or less, but those days seem to be gone. After reading your post I think I need to update my price list. Thanks for your encouragement!
Sam’s has a more expensive membership option like this now too. We found that we didn’t spend enough there to make it worth it. We also don’t buy a lot of gas (since we are usually 1 1/2 to 5 miles from home, even for my husband’s work, and we combine trips to stores within that); with one car for the whole family we put less than 10,000 miles a year on our vehicle. I’m glad you mentioned this; it works well for many families. My parents have found it beneficial to them as well (at Costco).
It really depends on what you buy and how much you spend there.
Brandy, thank you for all the work you put into this list, and all the work you do each week to share your knowledge and inspire us! I’m surprised to have found that your prices are quite similar to our prices here in Southern California (Orange County). I have kept a price book for years now (after reading about it in The Tightwad Gazette) and find it so valuable! I have a pocket-sized spiral notebook that I keep in my purse. Very low-tech. ; ) I do have a question for you. I believe I’ve read in previous recipe posts that you use bulk-purchased taco seasoning. I go through a fair bit (I’m feeding 3 kids and 3 adults) and have made my own for many years. I wondered about the cost difference but wasn’t able to find it at Costco or Walmart. I just found it at Smart & Final for $4.19 for a 9 oz. bag. I’m guessing that by the time I purchase all the separate ingredients to make my own, I’m probably spending close to that amount. Do you still buy yours (if so, where?) or do you make it now? I wondered as I didn’t see it on your list.
Adding a pinch of salt of sugar keeps the yolks uniform in texture, and from becoming gelatinous, or developing a grainy texture. It’s most noticeable in frozen yolks, only. But I’ve had a few frozen, beaten whole eggs (not thoroughly beaten) with a texture change in the yolk bits. I have never noticed any difference in baking, using frozen vs fresh eggs. I use frozen in scratch cakes and muffins, and they have just as much rise. Are you finding a difference in using frozen eggs vs fresh in baking?
As to the beef prices, I think we will see the typical pattern of an initial drop, then a small bump up followed by a slight drop as the price stabilizes. This pattern historically applies to all direct crop-to-table food items (as opposed to more processed products).
Thanks so much for replying. I am shocked that you can go through 10lb of sauce! You must use a lot of bread to soak up the sauce! 🙂 My family is 6 (4 kids 9,8,4,2). We go through 1 1/2 jars of sauce so 48oz. I always keep the other half in the fridge to use for pizza later in the week. I was struggling with what to do with a left over 100oz!
I looked up the recipe and it looks good! I need to go to Sam’s this week, so I will be trying it out!
It’s 6 pounds 10 ounces. We cook 2 pounds of noodles with it. Our family likes a lot of sauce on our noodles.
I used to make it work for 2 pounds of noodles plus 2 pizzas later in the week, but everyone was wanting more sauce!
Brandy, thank you for updating all the prices! My next task is to review my price list and compare to see what I am finding in Phoenix. I agree with your comment on the value of having a price list, I have found my memory is very faulty about prices and have finally stopped buying things “at a great price” only to come home and learn that I paid far too much (if I had just had my price list in my purse).
I’m not sure if anyone else has said this, but I would consider trying making your own vanilla extract. I make my own, and while the start up is slow and can be expensive depending on what type of liquor you use, (I buy the cheapest vodka I can find, which usually works out to about $12 for 1.75L in my area), I find it to be worth it, as you can reuse the vanilla beans near endlessly and just top the bottle off with vodka as you go. Give it a good six weeks to brew before you use it the first time though.
Here’s the best price I’ve found on vanilla beans, per bean, as of today, unless you want to buy a large quantity in bulk by lbs.
Hope this helps!
What a great list ! I shall definitely have an attempt at making a comprehensive one for the UK now. Many thanks for all your work.
I wish this was in a spreadsheet so I could download it! – sorry if that’s already been asked, I didn’t read all of the comments.
Last time I bought powdered sugar at Sam’s Club, it was in a 7# bag–sadly it was over a year ago and I don’t remember the price, although it was far under the supermarket price.
I have also seen indications that meat prices are coming down, ever so slightly. We’ve had chuck roast on sale for $3.68 a lb–first time under $4 in a long time. Chicken breasts, which my husband vastly prefers over dark meat, have been on sale at $1.79/#. And I did get a ham in November for .99 a lb. And last week my regular supermarket had large eggs, 3 dozen for $5. A bit of hope, anyhow.
This is such a great post! What a lot of work it must have all been. Thank you for it!
I wanted to mention something about making your own vanilla. We go through a lot of vanilla here and the price at Sam’s Club kept rising. I purchased 1/2 lb of vanilla beans two years ago from Olive Nation. (The prices have risen but it is still cheaper.) I have kept them very carefully and they are still plump and lovely. Anyway, I have made SO much vanilla with this and it has been much cheaper for me. I purchase the most inexpensive vodka at Sam’s Club for doing this. And, keep in mind, after the first batch is done you can reuse your beans. Put the used beans in new vodka and add two extra beans (for the giant Vodka bottle). This will make a new batch of vanilla just fine. Then, when that batch is done, take out those old beans (which have now made two batches) and make vanilla sugar with them. The vanilla sugar is amazing in coffee, tea, baked goods, and lemonade. The two beans which were added to the second batch can be added with others to make a third batch. So, nothing is wasted and the vanilla is much more pungent than the store kind. I actually use less of my homemade per recipe. I am so glad that I tried this. Anyway, I thought I would mention it.
I have 3 teen aged sons (and a daughter). I USED to think that women who bragged/ lamented how much their boys ate were exaggerating. I was wrong. It’s like having infants again, but more expensive. They eat every 3-4 hours except when they sleep (and sometimes I could swear that food disappears in the night). Thank goodness for our garden, our milk cow (they drink 1-2 gallons of milk a day), chickens and pigs. T.H.A.N.K. G.O.O.D.N.E.S.S! I really don’t know how we would be feeding them without our farm.
About a year ago I started buying balsamic vinegar at our local health food store. They have a bulk section and added balsamic vinegar “by the pound”. I bring my own glass bottle, have it weighed before filling it, and then weighed after filling. $7.98 per pound in CT and it is good quality balsamic. Maybe there is a health/natural food store close to you offering something similar?
I am in Dallas. The 1/13/15 best ad deals are:
Albertsons: chicken fryers 79¢ lb, pork shoulder 99¢ lb, russet potatoes 98¢ 10lbs, bone in porks 88¢ lb
Aldi: avocadoes 29¢ ea, bananas 29¢ lb, mangoes 59¢ ea, Roma tomatoes 69¢ lb
Kroger: grapefruit $2.99 8 lbs, milk $1.99 gallon, kiwi $1.99 lb, mandarins $5.99 5 lbs, navel oranges $2.99 4 lbs, spiral ham 99¢ lb
Market Street: whole chicken 67¢ lb, grapefruit 57¢ lb, navel oranges 57¢ lb, pasta 67¢
Tom Thumb: apple juice $1.67 64 oz, chicken 99¢ lb, pork loin 99¢ lb
If you do decide to make your own vanilla extract, Beanilla.com is a good source for the beans. Good luck!
If you want fish, I’ve been hearing relatively good things about (frugally!) setting up aquaponics. From the reading I’ve done, the upfront investment is relatively significant, but every estimate I’ve seen has the setup paying for itself within 6 months to a year.
I’ve not tried it myself (our neighbors have a pond that they let us stock with fish, and also we’re far enough north that we’d need to shut down the setup for 6 months every year, which wouldn’t be great for the investment returns) but for those far enough south to get some decent weather year-round and be able to keep a set-up running year-round, it might be a decent way to keep a family stocked in fish and fresh vegetables for a relatively little, once the set-up is running.
I HAVE been saving money for such a set-up in 3-4 years, when my daughter is old enough to start learning about chemistry and engineering and plumbing and electricity and plant growth… because school lessons always seem to sink in better when there’s an on-hand application, and so the money can come partially from our schooling fund. 🙂
Zayco is great quality. You do have to buy in lots of 40 pounds each.
You might try dehydrating Celery, it works great for soups and keeps forever in a glass jar.
Hello! Thank you for this list!! Do you think you would ever post a translated kg post?? I’m Canadian and find myself lost
I posted a pounds to kilograms amount towards the beginning of the post. Items are sold by the pound here, so you’ll need to do the math on each item if you want to be specific.
More important would be for you to make your own list, with the lowest prices in [i]your[/i] area. That would be the most beneficial to you, as your sales prices are likely not the same.
You might want to re-check prices at the Costco near you. That location has gallons of whole milk for $2.595 per gallon (a two pack is $5.19). They also have Extra-Large eggs, $2.15 for 1 1/2 dozen. They’ve had that prices on eggs for a while now. I think their almonds are cheaper per pound. Bananas are .463 cents per pound. Butter is $2.2475 per pound right now, but I’ve seen it go lower.
I could go on and on, these are just a few things that are the same cost or lower than your listed prices. And if you combine with the coupons they have, you can get things even more cheaply. Just a thought.
Thanks for the head’s up on the prices. I’m usually paying $2.59 a gallon for milk on sale but prices were all over the place last year. Sam’s Club and Costco have the exact same price on almonds currently (I just looked when I was there with my dad, because he wanted some). The egg price is really good to know, as sales have been far and few between this last year. I am good on butter for a long time (I bought a ton for $0.50 a pound on clearance and froze it , and I still have it).
I SO appreciate the time you put into this post. Recently, my husband’s last three paychecks have bounced. They have eventually made good on them but we have been careful to conserve cash while he looks for a different job. I have learned so much from your postings and am grateful for the well stocked pantry and freezer. You never know when that emergency might strike. Thank you again and God bless you!
I can’t believe how cheap food is where you live ! I’m so jealous !! I live in NWA and we have 2 stores basically to choose from .. Walmart and a locally owned store called Harps. Harps has exceptional looking fruit and veggies but with the the prices are high. Aldi’s is here but not worth buying from. Produce is half the cost of Walmart BUT also half the size…………………………..
Today at Walmart Oranges (Arkansas here) cost .50 EACH….. Red bell Peppers are 1.68 EACH… Gas 1.29 a gallon… Makes no sense…
What an excellent post, Brandy! I know a lot of work went into this. My family has just started a 6 month extreme budget in order to pay off the last of our debt. We also have seven children and homeschool so I’ve been studying your site more and more closely. One thing I thought I’d add is that I use coffee filters for draining bacon or other greasy things. I haven’t actually figured out the cost (I know that a bag of 300 lasts for close to 6 months and costs less than $2) but I always have them on hand and it only takes a couple. If I fried more things I might buy paper towels again but oil to fry in is expensive 🙂
I don’t deep fry anything 🙂 We wil use a tiny bit of it to fry potatoes on a regular basis, and then those get drained. Less than 1/4″ for a whole pan. Somtimes meat needs to be drained if it is greasy, too.