Tuesday, February 3, 2015

January's Grocery Budget in Review, February's Loose Plan

Our monthly grocery budget is $180.00.  I do my best to buy a few stock-up items each month, all the while making sure I have enough for milk, produce, sale items I buy in smaller quantities, etc.

I made tamales from scratch for the first time ever.  It is a lot of work, but they taste
really good, and they cost a lot less than buying them from a 'tamale lady'. 
This month went well, I think.  I was able to purchase quite a lot of stock-up food, but I didn't go over the budget.  With the rest of the grocery budget, we  purchased lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, cheeses, some snack foods (pretzels and crackers - we have reduced the amounts on those and stopped buying chips), flour tortillas (bought before the super sale listed below), smaller (not stock-up amounts) of beef and chicken, and other items as needed.

I have been baking our bread because I have a lot of wheat (and a mill) on hand, and the store bread just hasn't tasted good to us lately.  We have 7 hens (three young, three 'mature', one granny) and we get enough eggs from them now.  Also, because we stock different items each month, we have good supplies on hand.  For example, I bought several turkeys in November when the price was best, so even though I didn't purchase any turkeys this month, we ate turkey for many meals, and still have plenty on hand.

These are the stock-up items I purchased in January:

$  8.95 - 25 lb. long grain white rice (Costco)
$29.00 - 25 lb. instant refried beans (LDS Home Storage Center)
$  9.98 - 2 lb. roasted low-salt almonds (Walgreens - sale and coupon)
$14.95 - 5 lb. 93% lean ground beef (King Soopers - grand opening sale)
$11.94 - 6 lb. organic coconut palm sugar (King Soopers - markdown aisle)
- 12 cents - 12 packages of Mission whole-wheat soft tortillas (on sale for .99, $1 off coupon attached to each package, so I was paid 12 cents to take them)

$74.70 - Total spent on Stock-Up items.

Home-made Lo Mein uses a couple of pantry items - spaghetti noodles and some sauces.
It's also a great way to clear out the vegetable drawer.
February's Plan

I looked in the pantry, and it is in pretty good shape.  We decided to stop purchasing ready-to-eat cereals, but we are still using up some we had on hand.  This change means I will be making more granola, so if oats go on sale anywhere, I will get some to bring up the level in my oats bucket.

We have a few hens, so eggs for supper is a low-cost, healthy choice for us.
These omelets are full of vegetables, along with some ham I saved in the freezer from Christmas.
We will continue to watch for good beef prices - if we find some, I will get more beef.  We just ran out of nori (seaweed) sheets, so we will be purchasing those at Costco in February.  The Costco package lasts 3-4 months for us.  I am also going to check the price of bulk yeast, but I still have enough on hand for a while.

The bread I make uses some all purpose flour.  If I find a sale on unbleached flour, I will stock more of that, but we will not run out before the Easter baking sales, so I can stock up then as well.  If butter were go to on sale, I'd stock more in the freezer, but we are not out.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Daughter asked for 'cheese eggs in a nest'.
We used pretzels and chow mein noodles for the nest material and cut the eggs from
a slice of muenster cheese.  She loved it!  (She also ate the cheese scraps.)
We have some raisins, but stock is running a bit low, so I will stock up on raisins if I find a good sale.  Same for nuts - I will watch for sales on peanuts, walnuts and almonds.

Do you keep a pantry?  Do you buy any items in bulk?  What sorts of great deals are you finding these days?


  1. Great job at staying on budget!

    I don't buy in bulk per se, I just sometimes buy large quantities of items that we use if the sales/coupons stacks are worth it. For instance, I bought 8 boxes of Grape Nuts for my husband in late December and then some more in January. He uses about 1 box per week. Yes, I could make my own and I have "threatened" to do so. But it's one of the rare items that he insists on having so I indulge him :) I did get a 10-lb bag of white rice from Aldi last September when they were having a special deal and it was $4.99.

    I have a question for those of you who keep poultry: do you factor in the price of feed (and other poultry-related items) in your people food budget? Or do you just have a "poultry" budget category!

    I don't keep poultry but I have a small vegetable garden and I always struggle with myself when feeling smug about getting lettuce "for free" ((no offense meant to anyone, I'm just saying that I personally feel quite happy with myself when I harvest my own veggies!) when in fact I spent quite a bit of money on the soil to grow it (our soil is almost 100% sand here in Central Florida), the bin to make a self-recycling bin, etc. The seeds are usually pretty cheap though. Right now I'm throwing everything into my "gardening" budget category since I'm still building my garden. If and when I get to the point where I'm only buying seeds and the occasional bag of garden soil, I might think about incorporating those in my "food" budget, though, to get a more accurate picture of what the food we consume actually costs us. Any thoughts or input? Maybe I'm overthinking this.

    Your loaves of bread look delicious. Since we're trying to be healthier, I have stopped most of my baking (breads, cakes, cookies). Sigh. Since I couldn't resist them, it was safer this way. However, I have also greatly reduced the amount of packaged snacks that I used to buy (crackers, cookies and others). My kids don't like oatmeal so I'm still buying commercial cereal but only when I can get good deals (which, this past month was every week. I bought so much cereal!) and I do buy commercial bread. It's more expensive than making my own and has a lot more preservatives but it's much easier on my waist line, hahaha.

    1. I am with your kids regarding oatmeal. I don't like it at all. My daughter loves it, so I make it for her fairly often, and Husband will have it now and then. I do like granola, and I make my own. It's pretty easy to do, and mostly a matter of finding a recipe you like.

      I don't buy seeds or other garden items with the grocery money, but I have often bought my seeds in the fall, on clearance, and gotten them for very little cost. I have rabbits and chickens, who help me with fertilizer/compost, and it would get tricky to figure out what the actual 'cost' is. I mean...do I count the cost of the rabbit feed, since I use their droppings in the garden as fertilizer, and then grow food with it?

      The other thing is, both my rabbits and my chickens pay for themselves. Before Daughter was born, I worked in the local library district as a children's specialist - a 'story lady', if you will. I still sub in the district, and I am also contracted each year to do some children's programs for summer reading, spring break, etc. I am paid to do the programs, and even after taxes and costs for feed, grit, etc., my farm animals are paying their own way. So...it could be argued that my eggs are free, but it's the kind of free where I have to load my car with chickens and take them to various libraries for a program. I enjoy doing it, and the children love the animals, so it's a good use of time and resources. I know that's not everyone's situation - it just happens to be ours. I am also not factoring in startup costs like henhouses and bunny barns, because we already had those buildings on our property. :)

    2. You continue to raise the bar in stewardship, Lovely Lady. I sure miss you! ♥

      ~ HisEllieMae

    3. Third try - I miss you too, Dearie!! One day, we have to find ourselves close enough for a visit!

  2. Okay, here goes a confession-

    Our grocery budget is $250 a month for two. Here's why, when we had five kids at home I had to cook every stinking thing from scratch and often a separate meal for me because of my food allergies that I no longer have. If I had not done so we would not have been able to keep all of those constantly eating children in food. So now I am taking it easy and we keep things around that we could have never afforded to feed to all 7 of us. I keep chips and store bought cookies for hubby's lunches, cereal because hubby eats that most mornings, good chocolate, good wine, good ice cream bars, Hagaan Daz for me and Magnum for hubby, Redd's apple ale, better brands of coffee, you get the picture.......I have tried to feel guilty for not spending less but cannot do it. (feel guilty) $250 is still a really low grocery budget for two these days, I think. I also like to buy produce that we want sometimes instead of only at the lowest price like I used to. We use alcohol medicinally, too as we do not use any over the counter pain killers because I just know too much about them. Confession over. :)

    I spent $227 in January. I did stock up on ground turkey, boneless ham, chicken wings, Rotel tomatoes, cheese, cereal, 10# of rice at Aldi, our entire year's supply of Coke products, cake mixes, Sugar in the Raw, and lots of stuff that does not come to mind. I really thought I would take January off since it is usually fake diet foods that are on sale but those sales seemed to be less and there were many good deals.

    I am coming to the conclusion that I really need to reduce the amount of food that I keep on hand. It has been hard to transition from a household where food flew off the shelves to one where it barely gets used. I am trying really hard to take stock and think before taking advantage of deals now. We could eat for months from what we have here. I will always keep a good stock on hand but less. I have way too many frozen veggies in the freezer and we transitioned over to eating most of our veggies fresh about 6 months ago. Some are just no good anymore and that is my fault. I am working hard at using those up and will have to decide if I will keep any at all after that.

    In February I need to restock rotini and elbow mac pasta. I am about out of coffee creamer and sales have been few and no coupons to be had. I think I will buy it Sam's. I will need almonds soon for the granola I make for me. I will check Aldi for those. I am going to need yeast in maybe 6-8 more weeks. I have tons of flour and sugar on hand. I have everything I need for baking of any kind. We have plenty of juice and eggs to last a few more weeks. I am soon going to have to buy some onions. I try to go from sale to sale at Aldi on those but they have not had a sale for maybe two months. I am thankful that I have Aldi. It does save us a lot of money on produce and I know that those of you without Aldi are paying much more for many things.

    1. I do wish we had Aldi here, but the nearest one is many hours away so I think it's not coming any time soon. I think it is a real struggle for lots of people to pare down when you get used to cooking for a lot of people. I know that when I was in college, my mom would often have soup or chili for me (I lived in town while I was in school, and they lived in the country, so we saw one another often), because she was just used to cooking for all of us. I know that now, she cooks differently, but I think it took time to adjust. :)

    2. I also want to say, Lana, that your budget is yours to decide. My hope with this blog is that people who are having to adjust down, or who are struggling to make ends meet, will find inspiration here and see some ways to make little changes that will add up over time. You and the things you share here are a part of that! :)

    3. You are VERY inspiring in all that you do! I told my husband that you would have good ideas for what to do with the hams that are on sale and I was right! Sometimes I do feel guilty though about buying all the things I do just because I never used to and I know I could make our budget much lower if I actually went back to what we used to do. It is all about finding a balance I guess. I do make every effort to buy those extras only when they are on sale.

    4. You're very kind. I think we all struggle sometimes with 'could' and 'should'. I think you're right - balance is the key. :)

  3. I just saw Food Lion's ad that starts tomorrow. Shank portion hams are 79 cents a pound. Anyone have a great plan for breaking these down into usable parts for a household of two? I don't want to bake it and deal with tons of leftover ham.

    1. I don't like to cook it all and then make leftovers either. What I usually do is cut off the larger 'chunks' and wrap them separately, freeze. When the time comes to use one, you can glaze and bake, you can slice for ham steaks, cube for soup or fried rice, etc. Then, all the little bits end up in the food processor. I remember you said y'all don't care for a ham bone soup, so you could just remove as much meat as you can get to, and then 'grind' it in the food processor. This is very good in omelets, in rolled bread with cheese and broccoli (like stromboli or calzone pockets), even sprinkled onto pizza. I've also put it in chili as one of several meats when I didn't have enough of any one meat. Hope that helps! :)

    2. Went for the ham this AM and they were already out. But, they had marked the Smithfield spiral hams to 99 cents a pound. I think the whole ones would have been more useful so I only bought one.

    3. I bought a ham the other day myself....but just one. Ham sales will pick up again at Easter, so if you find you're using it in new and different ways, you can get more then!

  4. Followed your link from The Prudent Homemaker. The lo-mein looks good. Something I've never attempted. I may need to try that.

    1. It's very good and really versatile. You can sub in, or sub out, different meats, vegetables, etc. Thanks for your kind words!

  5. I'm curious about the dried refried beans. Do you use them for things other than just refried beans? I guess I'm curious about why your bought that rather than just dried beans, and I know you have a reason. :)

  6. The dried refried beans are instant, so they are very convenient for us. They don't have a tinny taste like I sometimes taste in canned refried beans, and to be completely honest, whenever I've made refried beans from scratch, we've never felt like they were quite right. You would think that cooked mashed beans would be easy, but I guess I never get the seasoning quite right, or something. We also like that we can make just a little if we only need a little, and they keep forever. So those are my reasons, and if you were to say that I could get dry beans for less cost, I would agree.

    Mostly we use them as refried beans, in things like bean burritos, nachos, as a side with enchiladas, etc. Husband makes a really good bean dip with them sometimes (tastes like the Frito brand one!) and they are good for thickening chili.

    My reason for buying them now was because I'd heard that the Home Storage Center wasn't going to have the 25 lb. bags anymore. We were not out of them, but I wanted to get them for this price, because the ones in the pouches and #10 cans are more costly. This means we have refried beans for a long, long time. :)

    1. I wrote a long response, and Gmail made me log back in and ate what I had written. Short version: thanks, I would like to try some myself.


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