Grocery Budget: Week One

During March, I’m sharing a glimpse into our food budget and menu planning. Each week, I’ll share the groceries we purchased and our meal plan. Our grocery budget is currently $200 a month for our family of 4. {Our baby is still exclusively breastfed but I eat more while nursing!} We no longer try to eat as cheaply as possible, viewing our grocery budget as an area where we can save big. Instead, we view food as an investment in ourselves.

I don’t claim that we eat perfectly healthy. We still have a way to go but we’re making strides towards healthier eating. We’re incorporating organic milk, local cheese, buying organic produce that’s on the dirty dozen list, trying to avoid GMOs as much as possible and are planning to get a few chickens so we’ll have fresh eggs. We are trying to frugally eat healthy, which is possible with a simple diet, almost no food waste and cooking from scratch.

Obviously, we’re not starting the month with no food. Here’s a glimpse into our pantry and refrigerator before our grocery shopping trip:



Produce {in the bottom drawers you can’t see}3 pounds organic apples and 1 pound organic carrots.

We also have a freezer full of meat! At the beginning of this year, we were blessed with half a cow from John David’s family’s farm {we only paid the processing fee.} In both January and February, we’ve had excess money left at the end of the month that we’ve set aside in a grocery money envelope so we can use it to purchase items in bulk later.

Grocery trip for the week:

  • Honey Roasted Peanuts $1.99
  • Pineapple $2.50
  • Oats $2.99
  • Flour $2.07
  • Sugar (2) $4.96
  • Banana Chips $.32
  • Strawberries (organic) $3.99
  • Kiwi (organic) $.79
  • Bananas (organic) $1.28
  • Pasta Sauce (organic) (2) $5.98
  • Potatoes (organic) $5.43
  • Chips (2) $5.00 (-$1 coupon) $4
  • Tortilla Chips (organic) $2.19
  • Mac ‘n Cheese $1.00
  • Cereal (2) $5.68 (-$1 coupon) $4.48
  • Milk (organic) $6.49

Total: $50.46

We also purchased 5 pounds of local cheese which was $33.54 {this should last beyond this month!} And chocolate ice cream for $5.04.

Grand Total: $89.04

We’ve started this month off by spending more than we typically do but we shouldn’t have to purchase cheese anymore this month. If we only purchase milk and fresh produce at the beginning of next week, we’ll be right on track for the month.

Meal Plan

Homemade Granola {Based on this Homemade Granola}

Cheese & Homemade Wheat Crackers 

Hummus & Chips

March 1: Mac ‘n Cheese, Fruit*
March 2: Nacho Chicken Bake {a new creation, I’ll be posting the recipe!}
March 3: Chicken Soup
March 4: Dinner out for my birthday!
March 5: Buffalo and BBQ Chicken Pizzas
March 6: Venison Roast with Carrots, Potatoes and Onions
March 7: Dinner at Church
March 8: Leftovers*
March 9: Baked Pork Chops, White Beans and Bread
March 10: Mexican Casserole
March 11: Veggie Soup {splitting the beef from the Mexican Casserole and using home canned tomato juice!}

*John David works late on Thursdays, so we typically have a light supper.

I know there’s a lot of room for improvement {like adding in more fresh vegetables!} but we’re taking baby steps, trying to avoid most processed foods and purchasing local and organic foods as much as we can. And I’m looking forward to really getting our garden going so we’ll be growing our own fresh vegetables and fruits!

Again, we’re not trying to eat as cheaply as possible. I’m not trying to awe you with a shoe string budget or with our super healthy eating habits. I’m just sharing our grocery budget so you can get an accurate picture of how we eat and where we spend our grocery  money.

I’d love questions and comments but please keep them polite! {Food related posts tend to bring out spirited comments since views on what’s healthy or not vary widely.}

Linked to: Menu Plan Monday

27 Replies to “Grocery Budget: Week One”

  1. So do you look at what's on sale and plan your menu around that? Or do you plan your menu and then buy what you need

    1. I try to plan my menu based on what I already have and then purchase things that I need to fill in the gaps. I never come up with a menu plan without looking in our freezer, pantry and fridge first. Then when I'm grocery shopping, I pick up the items we need for the menu that week and will stock up on sale items or items we frequently use.

  2. I am really looking forward to these posts. When our income increased a while ago, we made a conscious decision to increase our grocery spending. I have to say, it's really, REALLY nice to enjoy a variety of fruit and vegetables instead of just whatever was on sale that week. I realize it's a luxury and we could go back, but it's just so nice.
    I also enjoy seeing the Kroger oats in your picture. My mom always has those. 🙂

  3. $200 budget is fot the month or for the week?? Living in NY we try to stick to $100 a week, its hard but do-able for our family of 3.

    1. It's for the month {I'm going to edit the post to include that…sorry!} I know everything is more expensive up north…we're blessed with a low cost of living here in the south!

    2. When I moved from NYC up the Hudson River to Rhinebeck, I traded off the high cost of apartments & living in the city for the low costs up north – I had a commute of 1.5 hrs each way on the train but I lived much healthier. I cut my food budget down so low my friends in NYC thought I was lying, until they came up to visit. I ate all spring (from Mother's Day) – Thanksgiving Weekend from the farmers market in the village. I bought way to much (NYC mentality) but learned to cut back to just what I needed for the week. $75-$100 is normal for a 3-4 person household for healthy eating – you're doing OK – just remember to buy ONLY WHAT YOU NEED for the week – don't shop ahead unless you have extra money in your wallet.

  4. Love this post! I am always curious to see how other's do their grocery shopping. I am impressed with how little you have in your pantry. I have a lot of canned goods and this just reinforced that I need to use what I already have first. Thanks again! Also, I am working towards growing a garden as well. Can you give updates on where you are? This is my first time planting a garden and I have followed your steps with the compost (we used 3 pallets to build ours and leave open) and then we also just constructed our raised flower bed this weekend. I still need to line and fill it. Have you planted anything yet? Am I behind? I live in TN so I think we would have fairly similar planting routines. Thanks!

    1. Just wanted to say I am in Louisiana, just planted and half of our seedlings have come up – maybe closer to Easter in your area.

      1. And we are in SE Wisconsin and have 6-8 inches of snow on the ground. We won't be planting outside until probably late May early June. It's interesting to hear about when others start planting outside. We will be starting our indoor seedlings soon. I probably should have already done so on some, but it always works out somehow.

    2. When we lived in TN and I had a garden in 09, I didn't start my seedlings until March. I plan to get my seedlings started sometime this week {hopefully…the boys are keeping me busy!}

  5. Wow, we live in a low cost of living area as well, same family size (toddler, nursing infant and 2 adults) but we struggle to keep ours under $300. Most months it is close to $350, even though I try really hard to cook simple, frugal meals. I am getting better every month though. We buy practically no processed food too. However, I see that we generally eat more hearty breakfasts than your family does (we are sausage and eggs folks) and since you don't pay for meat I can see where the difference is. I also bulk buy every month. We used to get Raw milk, but the cost just became too much at almost $9 a gallon plus the gas to pick it up each week. We used to get organic too, but hated the burnt taste of it. Regular whole milk actually tastes better to me, and I would rather be able to drink a glass of milk every day than have to ration it so severely so that's what we get. I also try to get organic when possible, but some things just are not worth it to me- like canned organic items. The organic industry is really capitalizing on the fact that it is better for you so they jack up prices not just 50% or 100% but 400% is not uncommon and I just can't do it. I figure if I cook and eat good, wholesome meals from scratch, grow my own produce in the summer and can it than that's enough. Just thought I would share since i used to have a lot of guilt over not buying organic.

    1. My husband does eat out a few times a week for work so that makes a bit of a difference too probably. Lately I've been trying to avoid food waste as much as possible and eating from what we have. Those two things make a big difference I think. It seemed like towards the end of every month we'd have a half full pantry yet there was 'nothing to eat.' That wasn't true, it just wasn't foods we loved or things that were easy to prepare. We've changed our mindset a little bit and it's helped. I am slacking in the breakfast area…I just don't like preparing breakfast but after some reading we've decided we need to cut the cereal habit which means I need to start making oatmeal, scrambled eggs, smoothies, etc. for breakfasts. And your point on organics is so true! I'm trying to stick to the dirty dozen {which means expensive potatoes!} and only buy organic produce if it's around the same cost of conventional. I bought organic bananas on this particular week since there wasn't a major price difference, I went to the grocery store yesterday and bought conventional bananas.

  6. I love seeing how other grocery shop. I feel like we have a small grocery budget of $350-400 a month for 5 of us of course that is 2 adults, and children ages 11,8 and 3. Plus we homeschool and so I have to do 3 meals a day just like you. Just wondering does that include things like laundry det, cleaning supplies, tolietries, ect. ? My above budget does and so I don't think it is terrible b/c I also feed 3 animals and get all my other "supplies" with that.

    1. My grocery budget only includes groceries. I think your $350-400 for a family of 5, animals and household supplies is low!

  7. This looks great Rachel! I am lately a culprit of the "we don't have anything to eat" syndrome – actually I think it's really called laziness. ohh…so anyway the fish for dinner tonight is as close to a block of ice as it could be. I think I need to get back on a schedule/menu plan to help us make better use of our food. I think ya'll have a great balance. Just wanted to share a freeing piece of info. Recently learned the "order" of buying organic: 1.fats and oils (organic/high quality) 2. dairy 3. meat 4. produce
    This has revolutionized our shopping and given me freedom from feeling guilty for not buying all organic. I got this info from a post at the Food Renegade blog – lots of useful info there.

    1. I've gotten back into my habit of detailed meal planning which is a tremendous help! {I hate to meal plan while pregnant though so it had been months and months since I was really planning meals!} Thanks for sharing the order, I read recently that organic dairy was very important so that's why we've switched to organic milk and working towards all organic/local diary products {they're so expensive!!!} Thanks for sharing about the Food Renegade blog, I hadn't heard of it before!!

  8. I am really excited you are posting this!! I feel like food/meals are a huge staple in our home and a way for me to keep everyone healthy while trying to save money. My husband is not a big man but I am afraid all the grocery's you bought would be gobbled up in less then a week! I have been adding lots of beans and potatoes as fillers to our meals. I hope you share recipes – I LOVE your pizzia pockets!

    1. We always get comments when our parents visit about how little food we have (I guess they think we're starving!) The truth is we have plenty and there's very little waste. Another thing, my husband typically eats lunch out {for work} so he has a pretty big meal 2 or 3 days a week. And, we've found as far as snacks go, fruit, nuts or yogurt fill us more and leave us satisfied longer than processed foods so we need to eat less!

  9. Hi Rachel:
    As usual, you inspire me!

    As an Italian American, my grandmother has so many delicious meals that are VERY frugal. We call it peasant food. Pasta Fagioli, Bruschetta, Pasta Piselli, Pizza, Spaghetti al Olio.

    This is one of my favorites:

    Pasta Fagioli:
    Olive oil
    2 Cannellini beans (not drained)
    4 cans of water
    8 oz tomato sauce
    Salt pepper

    4 table spoons of Oil in pan sauté garlic in oil
    Add beans, water, sauce, salt pepper and basil
    Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer for 1 hour until it thickens.

    On the side make ditalini pasta (or any really) you can use macaroni
    A lot of my friends use broken up spaghetti

    When ready to serve and eat add pasta to bean mixture.
    If storing leftovers, store separately as the pasta will absorb all the juices from beans

    I hope you try it!

  10. I have started menu planning very similarly! I used to base my menus on what was on sale, but I still struggled to keep our budget low and somewhat healthy! I have found that I rarely use coupons anymore as well because they rarely help me more than just buying what I need. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series!

  11. Thank you for sharing this. I myself have been trying to do things similar to this with my family. My husband, daughter and I don't eat that much but we eat our meals with my parents and my dad can be a bottomless pit sometimes. But I have actually found that going to a local butcher can be cheaper than the grocery store when you get one of their packages. Plus I have been learning how to take larger cuts of meat and cut them up properly for smaller cuts, like I don't buy pre-cut pork chops anymore I just buy a center loin roast and cut it myself. Its much cheaper per pound. We grow our own veggies like peas, tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli. I have done well with them all plus lettuces and onions. My biggest problem is that I live in the woods and the deer, racoons, squirrels, and a neighborhood woodchuck eat the plants if I am not careful. I left on vacation last year for a weekend trip and got back to my netting and fencing pulled down and all my plants eaten. Started over and had a great pepper and onion harvest in the fall.

    I also created a game with my daughter where I have created and laminated images of the food we typically buy so that when I am trying to plan she can help me pick the veggie or main meal for that day. She is 3 1/2 and loves to help in the kitchen (which is good and bad but that is another story all together.)

    I did want to ask you, Rachel, a question on your birthday. I noticed that you went out on the 4th for it and was curious if that was your birthday? My reasoning is because my birthday is the 4th of March and I have never met anyone else with the same day. A few days before or after but not the same.

    Thank you for writing your blog. I follow intently because you have taught me a lot about a simpler way of life that I yearn for. I am the bread winner in the house and everyone else is either currently unemployed or only working part time. I'd love to stay home with my daughter and teach her all the amazing things the world has to offer.

    1. How frustrating about the animals getting your garden!! I love your idea for letting your daughter help and I'm beginning to understand the 'help' frustrations, Paxton wants to help wash dishes which is so much more work! And yes, my birthday is March 4th too!! How exciting!! 🙂

  12. Wifey made those wheat crackers last night. We like them and will use the recipe again. Kiddo didn't seem to be a fan but except for fruit and ketsup that is always a gamble. Thanks for the recipe!

  13. This past Monday I got a call from my doctor telling me that my annual physical bloodwork showed some inching up – so I was to cut back on white carbs and cholesterol for three months. It will mean that I have to carefully plot out my meals, snacks and cull through my pantry and freezer to use up everything in as healthy as possible menu – I plan to use up all my "semi-unhealthy" items by mid-April – then will go back to only buying and using what I buy – one week at a time… since retiring I've found that cooking is more fun – I eat lunch on weekdays at the seniors center and they are healthy meals – although I will be taking more salads to eat with them and cutting back on potatoes and carb. I wish I could find a blog where someone is doing this and we could all join in and support each other. Ah well – healthy eating means this Gramma will be around for a long, long time!

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