Wednesday, March 13, 2013

30-Day Grocery Budget & Menu Plan






A month and a half ago, My wonderful friend, Jo, asked me to share my monthly budget and menu on this site. Well, I am more than happy to oblige. To give everyone an idea of what a month's worth of grocery shopping and meals looks like in my home, I kept track of everything:

How much money I spent on groceries

What I purchased (food and common household items)

The meals/snacks we ate

I typically stay between $300-$330 each month for groceries (primarily whole foods) and common household items (diapers, wipes, cleaners, toilet paper, etc.) Sometimes I spend a little less than that, but I never go over $330.

To give you a more accurate portrayal of why my budget is what it is, I'll tell you a bit more about my family: Members include myself, my (handsome-wonderful-terrific-manly) husband, a 6-year old daughter, a 4-year old daughter, and a 1-year old daughter.

You may have more or less people in your family or older or younger children, people with voracious appetites (my 6-year old), or those who eat like birds (my 4-year old). Grocery budgets can be very subjective.



And... Oh, look! The gang's all here!


Feel free to coo, and "oooh," and "ahhh" over my adorable babies all you want. ( Look at those CHEEKS!!!)



Anyway... moving on to the helpful stuff...

First, I'm going to show you what I bought (and for how much) and then move on to what we ate for the last month. Here goes:

(The receipt on the right had two non-grocery items: tie-dye for family night... super fun... and sidewalk chalk for the girls. I subtracted those two items from the total on the receipt. Also, Kroger had a great sale on milk.)

WEEK 1 GROCERIES:
Milk
Reduced-Price Ground Turkey
Roma Tomatoes
Salsa
Applesauce
Tomato Sauce
Tampons
Reduced-Price Valentine Confetti Sprinkles
Reduced-Price Valentine's Day Candy
Apples
Tortillas
Bananas
Iceberg Lettuce
Whole Carrots
Dried Navy Beans
Brown Sugar
Block Cheddar
Light Yogurt
Deli Meat
Reduced-Price Chicken


(We were running low on toilet paper... time to stock up again! I love Amazon Prime. Bought a huge bag of all-purpose flour as well.)

WEEK 2 GROCERIES: 
Multigrain Crackers
25 lb. All-Purpose Flour
Value-Size Box Diapers
Pretzel Sticks
Tortillas 
Canned Diced Tomatoes
Cream of Chicken Soup
Peanut Butter
Strawberries
Light String Cheese
Ham
Broccoli
Spinach
Romain Lettuce
Tomatoes
Iceberg Lettuce
Onions
Eggs
Clementines
Bananas
Toilet Paper

(This wretched darned frustrating silly photo would NOT flip. I tried to make it flip 10 times. No luck. Time to do your head-stands.)

WEEK 3: GROCERIES
Milk
Floor Cleaner
Dried Cranberries
Cereal
Salmon
Reduced-Price Round Roast
Eggs
Large Bag Frozen Mixed Fruit
Whole Carrots
Cilantro
Red Bell Pepper
Green Bell Pepper
Bananas
Apples
Pepperoni
Mozzarella


(Yay! I love mixed peppers, and the clementines went down in price again. Had to get more wipes for the baby.)

WEEK 4 GROCERIES:
Milk
Lemon Juice
Greek Yogurt (To MAKE Yogurt)
Fat-Free Cottage Cheese
Honey
Scouring Pads
Cashews
Light String Cheese
Russet Potatoes
Red Potatoes
Powdered Sugar
Romaine Lettuce
Iceberg Lettuce
Reduced-Price Stew Meat
Tomatoes
Bananas
Mixed Bell Peppers
String Beans
Clementines
Value-Box Wet Wipes

STOCK-UP ITEMS: 700-ct. wet wipes, 48-double rolls toilet paper (Total: $32.47)

GRAND TOTAL: $297.93



On to the menu. I know many people who plan out their menus months in advance. Kudos to those individuals for being so amazingly organized!

Honestly, I plan about a week's worth of food at a time, and I'll tell you why: I buy things that are on sale... or reduced-price meat and produce... and I never know what kind of goodies or surprise discount will await me at the the store. I buy my groceries, THEN I come up with a plan to use what I have.

Most of what I feed my family is homemade: the bread, the rolls, the pizza, the pancakes, etc. When you make your own food using healthy ingredients, it allows you to spend less money and feel good about what you're putting on the table. Eating cheap doesn't have to mean eating ramen noodles. On my wishlist: A garden.




30-DAY MENU

BREAKFAST ~LUNCH ~ DINNER

Day1: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Leftover Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Navajo Tacos

Day 2: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Whole Wheat Deli Meat Sandwiches, Veggie Omelets

Day 3: Yogurt, Homemade Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese, Chicken Noodle Soup

Day 4: Blueberry Oatmeal, Grilled Whole Wheat Ham & Cheese, Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry

Day 5: Yogurt, Whole Wheat Tuna Sandwiches, Lentil & Black Bean Soup

Day 6: Blueberry Oatmeal, Leftover Lentil & Black Bean Soup, Whole Wheat Pizza

Day 7: Cereal, Scrambled Eggs, Baked Pork Chops

Day 8: Yogurt, Whole Wheat PB & J, Ham & White Bean Soup

Day 9: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Leftover Ham & White Bean Soup, Healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole

Day 10: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Leftover Healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole, Broccoli Beef Stir Fry

Day 11: Yogurt, Refried Bean Burritos, Beef & Barley Stew

Day 12: Yogurt, Whole Wheat Tuna Sandwiches, Pot Roast

Day 13: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Whole Wheat Deli Meat Sandwiches, Whole Wheat Noodles w/Beef Gravy

Day 14: Yogurt, Whole Wheat PB & J, Whole Wheat Pizza

Day 15: Yogurt, Quesadillas, Whole Wheat Sandwiches

Day 16: Oatmeal, Homemade Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese, Beef & Barley Stew

Day 17: Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, Whole Wheat Soft Tacos

Day 18: Yogurt, Whole Wheat Deli-Meat Sandwiches, Pan-Seared Salmon

Day 19: Cereal, Refried Bean Burritos, Turkey Burgers on Homemade Whole Wheat Buns

Day 20: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Quesadillas, Chicken Noodle Soup

Day 21: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup, Whole Wheat Spaghetti

Day 22: Yogurt, Lunch at Church, Hawaiian Haystacks

Day 23: Whole Wheat Applesauce Waffles, Whole Wheat Tuna Sandwiches, Moroccan Chicken

Day 24: Cereal, Refried Bean Burritos, Whole Wheat Pizza

Day 25: Yogurt, Veggie Omelets, Shrimp & Veggie Fried Rice

Day 26: Whole Wheat Applesauce Waffles, Leftover Shrimp & Veggie Fried Rice, Lasagna

Day 27: Hootenanny Pancakes, Whole Wheat Deli Meat Wraps, Chicken Enchiladas

Day 28: Cereal, Whole Wheat PB & J, Tostadas

Day 29: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Whole Wheat Egg Salad Sandwiches, Pot Roast

Day 30: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Homemade Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese, Beef Stew from Leftover Pot Roast

SIDES/SNACKS
Carrot Sticks w/ PB or Sliced Bell Peppers w/Fat Free Italian Dressing, Green Salads, Apples, Pears, Canned Peaches in Juice, Clementines, Bananas, Frozen Blueberries, Frozen Strawberries, Frozen Mixed Fruit, Dried Cranberries, Homemade Granola Bars, Multi-grain Crackers, Pretzel Sticks, Cheese Sticks, Whole Wheat Toast, Cornbread, Homemade Rolls, Homemade Popcorn, Baked Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Rice, Steamed Veggies, Healthy Oven-Baked Steak Fries

BEVERAGES
Water, Milk, Spinach-Fruit Smoothies

DESSERTS
Apple Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ice cream, Chocolate Cake, Girl Scout Cookies (tis the season)


And there you have it: A peek into the budgeting/menu at Pennies & Pancakes headquarters (aka our home.)

Feel free to comment with your budgeting/menu plans. I love hearing how others do it!



84 comments:

  1. Are you including the interest that is charged from using your credit card as well?

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    1. Nope. We don't have any additional interest from our credit card. We pay off the entire balance of our credit card every month, so that no interest accrues.

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    2. Wow, some anonymous comments are so sweet, not!
      I also use a credit card that we pay off monthly and earn rewards too.

      Your post is really nice. I've been on a not big budget for a long time and like seeing how others do it.

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    3. I use my credit card whoever possible, get $150 to $200 a year back in rewards, and have yet to pay a cent in interest. Used correctly, credit cards are not monster. Don't charge more than you have in the bank and there is no concern.

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  2. Thank you so much for posting this......our old van just died on us causing us to have to purchase a new 1 so we now have a car payment ....when I re-did our budget I only budgeted $300 for groceries hoping & praying I could make it work for our family of 5....so when I saw your facebook post I was excited to see someone else making it work......timing couldn't have been more perfect :) Thank you soooooo much

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    1. You are more than welcome, and I'm happy to be of help. I'm so sorry about your van! Good luck with everything!

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  3. Woohoo! Thanks, I totally didn't expect you to do this, but I am so grateful you did!
    love yah!

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  4. Nice job! Those homemade granola bars sound like something that needs to be posted - YUM! (Unless I missed the post on that?)

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    1. Thanks, Amy. I actually do have the granola bar recipe posted. (Check out the recipe index.) I should probably go through my menu and post links to all the recipes that are currently on my blog... :)

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    2. Thank you, Andrea! I spend nearly twice this on a monthly basis for a family of 5 and am in a quandary about where our money is going! About 3 weeks ago I got really serious about meal planning and budgeting and am ready to see the relief in our grocery bill, but it seems like with 2 littles in diapers and cold/flu season, we can't get a break (diapers, wipes, Kleenes, cold medicine all the time!). I LOVE these kind of practical posts. And though I've bookmarked your recipe index, I'd love hyperlinks to any other recipes that you could offer. (PS--I made your granola bars last week and was wondering how long you boil the mixture? Mine turned out way too soft and crumbly. Was hoping for something more crunchy.)

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    3. Morgan,

      I'm glad you found me! :)
      I know I need to hyperlink the recipes. I meant to do it before I posted it... but somehow it didn't happen. I've been meaning to get to it ever since. Thanks for the added incentive to get it done!

      As far as the granola bars go, I bring the sugar/butter mixture to a rolling boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, before removing it from the heat. The bars shouldn't be too crumbly... maybe a tiny bit (they ARE no-bake after all). I hope this helps! I had a friend come over just the other day to see how I did it. She had the same experience as you when she tried it the first time. After we made them together, they turned out beautifully... she added raisins to hers.

      Hope this helps!

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    4. Perfect! I figured I simply needed to boil it longer (I removed from heat once butter melted). Just from my own experience in the kitchen, I know that sugars get harder the longer they're boiled, so I figured that's what I needed to do. I LOVE the flavor of them and am excited to try them again. THANKS! (And made your Granny's Country White Bread last week and DEVOURED it...onto whole wheat bread this week!)

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    5. Morgan... hyperlinks to recipes on my site are up. :)

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  5. My family's meal plan used to look just exactly like this! Way to go, taking advantage of sales over "sticking to the plan!" The only thing we had to tweak was to up hubby's protein. He was doing physical labor and starving on oatmeal and yogurt breakfasts. So we solved it by making him a couple of eggs in the morning in addition to oatmeal or fruit/yogurt breakfasts. This worked when I was pregnant too! Again, great job!

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    1. Thanks! It's always nice to hear positive feedback. :)

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  6. I was wondering about the bread you use for sandwiches. First, I haven't tried your recipe for bread, but I have tried other homemade breads and they don't work well for sandwiches, for me. One, I'm not very good at slicing them evenly or very thin, and second, the bread is really crumbly by the second day. Do you use homemade bread for your sandwiches? And have you run into the same problems? (or am I just being too picky) :) Thanks. Love how you laid it all out! I desperately need to get myself back on track.

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    1. Hi Heather! It's so fun to see you on here. :) I haven't bought bread from the store in ages. We use the homemade bread for sandwiches. You are right that it will dry out more quickly, as there are no added preservatives in it. That's just how it goes with homemade bread. I find that I start to notice it drying out by day 4... but we are usually able to get through a loaf before it gets overly dry/crumbly. If you are really worried about it, sub in some all-purpose flour for the whole wheat flour... for some reason it dries out less quickly. Also, many bread recipes I've seen have you baking it for up to 40 minutes, which is WAY too long in my mind, and seems to help the bread dry out even faster. The slicing thinly part just comes with practice. (Believe me, the sizes of my slices were all over the map for a while.) Just go slow. I hope this is semi-helpful. If you want to try making bread again, you should try my "Grandma's Country White Bread" using my "How to Make Homemade Bread tutorial." It'll walk you through the steps, and try using all-purpose flour for your first go at it. Hope this helps!

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  7. I don't know that I could eat whole wheat pancakes eleven times in one month!

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    1. I can completely understand. However, your comment did make me giggle inside a bit... you see I grew up on a farm and we had pancakes probably 20 times a month. (Cereal as a"treat" on Saturdays and the occasional waffles to mix it up.) For me, this is diversity! : )

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    2. My family probably eats oatmeal (mixing the flavors up a little) 20 times in a month. Pancakes are a treat for us! I'll have to try your recipe. One thing I love about pancakes is that they freeze well, making them a super convenient breakfast.

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    3. I have All Bran for breakfast 6 days a week! I enjoy it :) Not everyone needs a different meal everyday. As long as its healthy there is no problem with eating a small rotation of meals.

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  8. Love your blog! My husband is a police officer on a tiny salary and I am a stay at home mom. There are only 3 of us so far, but I also keep my grocery bill under $300 per month. I've started to coupon and learn what days they put the meat on markdown, and it has helped so much. My mother-in-law recommended your page and I am loving it. I just made my first batch of your granola bars! I've also started making my own cleaners and laundry detergent. It's amazing how much you can save by just doing these little things.

    http://triciainglett-frugalmommy.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks Tricia! Your blog is super cute. I'll have to try your laundry soap recipe sometime... I have yet to find one that works well for my family. :)

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    2. I couldn't help but notice the comment about laundry detergent and cleaners. I LOVE my home made laundry soap. I tweaked the duggars recipe. I tweaked it A LOT! It was no where near powerful enough for my messy family. Think spaghetti sauce stains, spilled beverages, mud, feminine stains, paint etc on my laundry.

      1.5 bars fels naptha - I slice it with a paring knife and put it in the water to melt. I eyeball the 1/2

      3 cups of arm and hammer washing soda

      1.5 cups of borax

      Enough water to make the mix 5 gallons.

      Melt the fels naptha in about 5 cups of water on the stove top. Start with near boiling water to make life easier. It takes 10-15 minutes to melt. Dump that into a 5 gallon bucket. I use the sprayer on my sink to fill the bucket about 1/2 way. Add in the borax and the washing soda. STIR WELL

      Fill the bucket almost to the top. Did I mention messy family? This way it does not slop over. Let it sit and it becomes a gel. 1/2 cup per large load of laundry. Put it in the water and swirl it, if you have a top loader, and then add clothes. LOVE IT!

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    3. Thank you for the laundry soap recipe. Will try this when I get some borax, sounds great.

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  9. We save a ton on groceries by buying most or all each week at Aldi. We still stock on on some things at Walmart and Kroger, and some specialty items come from Publix now and then....but at Aldi, I pay almost half on produce and 50 cents or more less on other items than Walmart or Kroger in general. Your lists each week look a LOT like mine! Just another way to save besides making all my own bread and baked goods, which have only gotten better since finding your recipes! , and making all meals and snacks at home, from scratch as much as possible.

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    1. As always, thanks for your awesome input, Mikki! :)

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    2. Our Aldi has terrible produce. I do not like to sacrifice quality for price.

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  10. Although not intended, this post became a novella, and I apologize in advance for it...

    I came across your blog by way on Pinterest because after months, maybe even years, of wanting to start menu planning, I finally got off my duff and started. Mostly because I detest having to think of what to make for dinner every night, then deciding it was too late to make anything "good", then opting for the "easy" dinner. I now have April planned, but know that there will be tweaking to it on Sundays after I review the sales and coupons for the week. Which leads me to my next point...(and this is where I unintentionally get long-winded.)

    Finances got EXTREMELY tight a few years ago about 6 months after I bought my first house, (isn't that how it happens?). I lost my job and became pregnant with kiddo #3 (already had a 13 and 6 year old), literally all in the same day. Then hubbie was laid-off, baby comes 2 weeks later, hubbie is back to work for 2 months only to become gravely ill and losing another 3 months of work recovering. He finally went back to work to be laid- off again 2 months later. He worked a total of 4 months that year and I worked 0...with 2 plus a brand new. Kids, that is.

    Our youngest is now 2, so if you do the math, our kids are presently 16, 8, and 2. Hubby is working steady now with no possibility of lay-offs, but the frugal survival mode has not left me, thought the intensity has waned. We are still recovering from that difficult period in our lives and will be for some time. But your blog is giving me renewed hope that we can make it and thrive in the ways that matter with the financial challenges we are still facing, and I couldn't have found it at a better time. I learned this week that baby number 4 is in the works and will be joining us late in the year. Oy vay!

    I don't spend near as much money as many families do with kids the ages of ours on groceries and the like. I pride myself on making more foods at home than most I know and eating out nearly zero, but I know I can do better. I think menu planning will actually be the breaking point for our family. Meaning, if I can successfully pull this off and maintain the process, I believe menu planning can help motivate me to turn the corner in other areas of our lives that need adjustment, all for the purpose of obtaining the same goal, cutting costs while thriving in the ways that matter most. Perusing your blog is going to keep me somewhat busy over the next few days learning about how you (and your readers) have/are making changes and finding ways to apply those findings in my everyday life and maybe even spur some inspiration of my own. (God willing.)

    Which leads me to why I started posting here to begin with...

    I read your response from the other day to Tricia Inglett about homemade laundry soap. I've been making (most of) my own cleaners and laundry soap for years with great success. My sister recently (finally!) began to use the tips and recipes I use for herself and she is super happy to be saving the money and her teenage daughters actually like the homemade laundry soap better than the pricey detergent they were using. I'm more than willing to share my recipes with anyone who wants them, though I'm not a blogger. Admittedly, I have not looked at Tricia's yet, (literally because I just found YOUR blog and haven't gotten that far, but I'll get there very shortly), so I don't yet know how they compare and contrast.

    This posting is basically very indicative of my overall life. If you give a mouse a cookie...though I suppose in this case it should read "If you give a pig a pancake..."

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    1. Jodie,

      Thank you for taking time to write such an insightful (personal) comment. So many people can relate to your financial situation, or be inspired by your determination, I'm sure.

      I'm glad that you found this site and that it is proving helpful for you, because that is honestly the whole reason I created it in the first place.

      I'd love to see your homemade laundry soap recipe. Could you possibly email it to me at penniesandpancakes@gmail.com?

      Thank you again for taking time to post your comment. I wish you and your family (#4 included) all the best in the world. Good luck! God bless.

      Andrea

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    2. Done. Let me know how it goes if you try it. If it works for you, feel free to share. Enjoy!

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    3. I know this is an old post and Jodie's comment is over a year old, but I am just reading it. I found this blog post via a Pinterest link. I just wanted to send some encouragement to Jodie.
      We bought our home and farm almost 6 years ago. We are self-employed and it felt like work stopped the day that we signed the papers and moved. Our lifestyle changed dramatically in that time. In addition from being in the city to living in the country, I also no longer had the gas money to be able to go and do, on top of having to learn to cook from scratch just so that my family could afford to eat. There were many days, weeks and months that were hard and scary, but God always provided for us and our family. We ate lots of rice, beans, and homemade biscuits, but we always ate.
      Over the last few years, things have picked up. The economy is in a different place, and God has honored our diligence. I have truly felt like He has trusted us with more lately b/c we are better able to make good decisions with His provision. We remember what it is like to go without and we are diligent in helping those around us.
      As there has been more provision we have made a plan and been able to completely pay off all of our debt (still working on the mortgage).
      Over the last few months we have begun working to make our house a home. It is an old farmhouse and has lots of projects that have been neglected over the last 6 years. In these few months I have noticed that I have also gotten lazy and frivolous in the kitchen... Our kitchen has been torn up in construction projects and it is just easier to have hubby bring something home or stick a pizza in the oven.
      I woke up convicted this morning. I did the math and was sick when I realized how much we spent on eating out/take out last month. I did a quick Pinterest search looking for ideas to motivate me to get back on track in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy providing for my family. Thank you for the motivation and encouragement to be able to get back to cooking well so that we have the opportunity to serve others and honor God with our excess.

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  11. I also love reading other people's menus and grocery budgets. I think it is AMAZING that you spend that little without using coupons! I spend $200/mo for our family of 4 (that includes household items, toiletries and diapers) but I use lots of coupons. I'm going to keep this post handy to refer to when I have people ask me how to keep their grocery budget low without using coupons.

    I would love to know how you make Hawaiian Haystacks if you care to share.

    I don't want to hi-jack this post but you said you'd like to see what others budget and eat so here are links to my Menu Plans (http://www.parents.com/blogs/thrifty-frugal-mom/category/menus/) and my post on 4 Things We do to Keep Our Grocery Budget at $200/mo. (http://www.parents.com/blogs/thrifty-frugal-mom/2012/05/03/must-read/4-things-i-do-to-keep-our-grocery-budget-at-200mo-for-a-family-of-four/).

    Ps. I had to crack up at your head-stands comment by the way. :) And kudos to your polite response to the lovely anonymous commenters.

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    1. Hi Lydia,

      I do occasionally use coupons... just generally-speaking the coupons are for things that I don't buy. : )

      And you are completely fine to share your posts here. I'm all about sharing helpful info. I'm glad you got a kick out of my post. :)

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  12. I once had a grocery budget that looked like this...and then the boys became teenagers (I've got 2 of them and 2 girls as well). It's true...they eat a ton and our food budget has all but doubled. I make most of our stuff homemade (I do buy bread for school lunch sandwiches), menu plan and husband takes leftovers, but I can't seem to make it come down. That being said, I don't feel guilty because I know I'm doing all that I'm capable of doing now and my family is eating healthy. And it makes me smile when my kids say they get envious looks at the homemade cookies and treats in their lunches.

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    1. That is so great! Thank you for sharing your own personal experience with budgeting. No two families are the same, and trying to fit into the mold of someone else's lifestyle is probably not going to work for most people. I offered my own personal budget and menu plan for others to get some potential ideas to use in the own homes. I appreciate your way of thinking... do your best and feel good about it!

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  13. Thank you, it is nice to get more ideas for a fam of 5 with a simular budget as ours. And other ideas to help keep costs down, it has been a struggle to keep my weeks to under $75 but I am sure trying especially with baby #4 on the way.

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  14. I found your blog today and it rocks. Love your sense of humor! Your super practical posts are easy to read. Thanks for taking the time to do this--it's such a help and blessing to those of us growing in the art of feeding the fam well without busting the budget! There's so much of this stuff I can't wait to try! Best regards!

    Tori

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  15. Love your site, we are a family of two older people, but we have 7 animals so I budget everything I can. I must confess, I still use wipes and A LOT of them, however I make them myself. The recipe is super easy and very inexpensive and you can tailor it to your family. I use an upright container with a snap lid that will keep liquid in. I cut a roll of papertowels in 1/2. in the bottom of the container I put 1 cup of water (maybe a cup and 1/2) 1/2 cup of vinegar and then a spoonful of either kids shampoo or teatree oil (depends on what you use it for). Lower the papertowls and snap shut. Turn over and let sit on it's lid for 15 min. Turn back over and open and pull out the inner tube on papertowls...tada! Also, budget101 website has a laundry sauce that works wonderfully and you can use an immersion blender in a mason jar. Hope it helps

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  16. Why am I finding this website at the tail end of my graduate school :( The meticulous planning, cost break downs, comparisons, recipes and your anecdotes are real pleasure to read and so informative.

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  17. Do you really only eat yogurt for breakfast? Do you mix anything in it?

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    1. Hi Rebekah. I definitely enjoy other things for breakfast besides yogurt. When I eat the yogurt, I mix in a little honey, fruit, and sometimes granola or ground flax or wheat germ. Hope that answers your question! :)

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  18. I am a divorced mom of a very active 7-year-old who eats a ton. I have been living frugally, somewhat by necessity, somewhat by choice since my divorce four years ago. I have a budget that I keep track of down to the dollar, both monthly and yearly. Each year, I aim to reduce my grocery bill by a certain amount. This year, I am on track to spend about $150/month for us, including a membership to a local organic CSA. Like you, I make a lot from scratch (I work full-time and part-time, though, so, sometimes, something has to give), prioritize healthy (by my definition) eating, and we also eat little meat (I might use one 1-lb package a month, typically, but, I also buy the "woo" meat - i.e. organic, natural, etc.). Our breakfast staple is oatmeal. My daughter loves homemade oatmeal, the kind you cook on the stove. I use whole milk (she needs the calories), some cinnamon and brown sugar, and she asks for it nearly every morning in the winter. She also loves pasta, so we eat a lot of that. My biggest "luxury" is probably fruit. Ever since she was a baby, I've called her my "fruit bat", because she will literally sit down and go through a pound of blueberries (or raspberries...or kiwi...etc.) in a sitting. One thing I *do* do is some local foraging, especially for berries. I don't know if you already do this, but, if you don't, you might want to try hunting out some local spots (there are even online resources, depending on where you live). Berries freeze very well, and, as you know, free is much, much, much better than the $10/lb you would pay in a store for lower-quality ones.

    I am very much enjoying your blog, and will try some of your recipes this coming week. Thanks!

    -Kathleen

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  19. Thanks for this, Newly married and so we're trying to be as frugal as possible. This is super helpful. Also here is a link to that photo you needed to be right side up :) http://s95.photobucket.com/user/seralunaria/media/IMG_2100-1.jpg.html

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  20. I am bookmarking your blog. I work part time, and never have been a great cook. But we are trying to get on a better family budget with meal planning and cutting things out like cable (we normally watch netflix anyway) and our gym memberships (we bought clearance bikes for the family!) Working part time at a retail store, running my own crochet business and balancing meal time for the family has been a struggle. I realized we spend over $600 on food a month and there are only 3 of us!! We end up eating out a lot for our lunches at work and order pizza a few times a month. I much rather make a meal that will have leftovers for lunches the next day. I am going to dust off the ole' crock pot and use your tips to help find balance for us. We want to save so we can get married (we have been together since my daughter was 5 months old and now she is 4) and have more children. We would have more babies now, but since last time didn't work out too well for me, I decided I needed to be married before I have more. Sorry, kinda got off topic. hahaha. Thanks again for your tips!! <3

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    1. Amanda, you are more than welcome. I'm glad I could be a resource for you. I know how tough it can be to balance all those things, and how any little help is appreciated. Good luck to you and your little family!

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  22. I love your post! May I ask what city you live in so I can compare cost of living to where we live. I don't think we would get away with spending $330 per month in the DC area.

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    1. We lived in southern Illinois when I wrote that. Now we live in Provo, UT, and my budget is much the same. I'm glad you enjoyed it! You're right, DC is probably quite a bit pricier.

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  23. I have a question, on your shopping list there arent many items to buy, but when I look at the meals for that week or the reciepies there is alot of items that aren;t on the shopping list, is this because you have it in stock already?

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    1. Hi Joeann,
      The answer to your question is, yes. There are ingredients that I used to make my meals that I already had at home... spices, whole wheat, tuna fish, strawberry jam, etc. I'm just showing what I bought for one month. Just like I bought a big bag of all-purpose flour and a boat-load of TP and diaper wipes, valentine sprinkles, and a huge economy size thing of salsa in the month I documented for this post that were used well beyond the month shown, there were other months when I bought other items that lasted longer than the month I bought them... I'm not sure how clear I;m being. Hopefully this answers your question. If not, let me know and I'll try to clarify. :)

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  24. Just a simple tip, noticed u bought floor cleaner.. since my babies were little I've used vinegar to mop my floors..since they liked dropping their food on the floor for added flavor I guess lol!!! so no harmful chemicals to ingest and the smell dissipates as it dries.. also we make our own detergent just like the lady in the comments earlier but I can get by with 1 cup of everything..my mother also uses it and she allergic to EVERYTHING!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE all these tips and recipes, u have just made my life eaiser!!!!!!

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    1. Stephanie, I'm so glad you like the tips and recipes! I hope they're helpful. :) I like using vinegar on a lot of surfaces, but for whatever reason, my laminate flooring doesn't like it. I've tried a few homemade laundry detergents, and have yet to find one that works well for our family. I recently found a new one that I want to try out, so... fingers crossed!

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  25. Thank you so much for this post! I am trying to get a rein on my monthly shopping bill so I am going to really try to stick to this menu!

    I have a question though. It doesn't look like some of the menu items match up to the weekly grocery list. For instance, you don't purchase the pot roast until the week 3 grocery run but it is on Day 12 of the menu. Also, you don't have broccoli listed on week 1 grocery run, but it is on Day 4 of the menu. Maybe I am just missing something.


    Thanks for your help!

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    1. I hope it's helpful!

      Also, you aren't missing anything. The broccoli was bought the week before I started this list, and the pot roast was one I had in the freezer from an earlier purchase. There are other things on the menu as well that came from food purchase made before I started this list. I hope that answers your questions~

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  26. So on day 29 your dinner is just Pot Roast. That's it? nothing to go with it? no veg, no bread on the side? Just a piece of meat. Really?

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    1. That would be lackluster dinner, wouldn't it... Nope, when I make post roast, I cook the meat with potatoes, carrots, and onions, then make a gravy from the juices. I also generally serve it with a green salad and homemade rolls. In my "menu" above, I didn't take time to list every single side item/dessert/beverage we had for every single meal of the day. Instead, following the 30 day menu, I listed out the sides and desserts we had (because many were duplicated) over the 30 day period. It made for a lot shorter post than it would have been. I hope that answers your question.

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  27. Thank you for posting this! My husband and I envisioned cutting our grocery bill again due to unforseen medical expenses for our son. Things have been tight for a long time and our budget had already been $80 a week for the three; plus 3 cats, a dog and 4 chickens (hey free eggs can't go wrong there) of us giving us an average of $346.67 a month ($80 x 52 weeks in a year / 12 months in a year = average monthly budget) (not really including pet food in there though), sometimes we are over sometimes we are under that, but we want to aim for lower and we were questioning if we could cut it back some more to start replacing the money from our emergency fund. side note: I did that equation with yours and it averages out to $69 not too far off from your numbers for each week. This post, this blog, gives us faith that it can work. Finding it couldn't have come at a better time either. And I really, truly thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking the time to share this with all of us.

    I do have a question for you, I was wondering if you have a budget for hygiene (we call them personal items) items (shave gel, soaps, laundry detergent)? I know my husband and I have started clipping coupons for our personal items, which has definitely helped; for example I got $60 worth of personal items for $28 which will hold us over for a little while. I was just wondering so I could compare our numbers for those items off of someone (before we started to clip coupons it was about $25-$45 a week). Anywho, I've rambled long enough. I hope you and yours have a fantastic day!


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    1. Noelle, your personal items budget sounds about right... depends on how long they last you, but the $60 worth for $28 is great. I used to get most/all of our personal items free when I was into "extreme couponing." I found that I didn't appreciate how much time I had to spend doing that. I wish you and your family all the best! Budgeting can be so hard sometimes, but it always feels good to live within your means. Keep up the awesome work!

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    2. Thank you so much for your speedy response! I am happy that my numbers match up and seem right to you. You are a guru in this penny pinching without sacrificing nutrition and heartiness, because of that alone I value your opinion. Oh extreme couponing, that made my head spin for a little while. Since I work full time and hold a part time job, school and mother duties it leaves little time to spend couponing so I am trying to teach my husband to aid in doing it. I spend about 45 minutes to 2 hours a week after my son goes to bed printing and cutting coupons for the items my family use in combination to couponing101 site that matches up the coupons you collect with the weekly circulars. It would be awesome if I could get all of our items for free, but as long as I am saving money (I aim for 40-50%) on the items we use I am super happy with that. :)

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  28. Wondering how much premade you buy? Like pretzels, crackers etc. And what items you always home make? Do you use only the recipes on your website?

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  29. Not sure if my last comment went through- what premade snacks do you buy? Do you mostly use the recipes from your site?

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    1. Hi Jennifer,
      So, I make all my rolls, bread, cookies, granola bars... and half the time I make tortillas and yogurt. I buy pretzels, cheese sticks, and whole grain crackers for my kids, but I try to primarily go homemade. We don't do fruit snacks... just real fruit (fresh, frozen, home-dried fruit, or unsweetened applesauce). Occasionally I'll buy chips for school lunches, but my kids do fine with carrots/celery and peanut butter or the aforementioned crackers/pretzels. I use other recipes in addition to what's on this site. I only post once a week or so... Sorry, this reply is sort of all over the place. I hope it answers your questions!

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    2. Also...where do you find is the cheapest for baking supplies? I buy flour and sugar at aldis because it seems to be just as cheap as the bulk prices. However I can't get things like whole wheat flour or bulk yeast there. I have heard same club and Costco are best for these things but thought I would see what you think! Also for things like coconut oil?

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    3. I'm not near an Aldi's to compare, but typically, Sam's Club has been the cheapest for baking products where I live, and coconut oil from Walmart. :)

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  30. Thank you so much, you have been very helpful!!

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  31. Would you happen to know the cheapest place for gluten free products?

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    1. In all honesty, I'm probably not the person to ask... simply because my family is a FAR cry from gluten-free. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say large chains like Walmart/Costco/Sam's will be cheaper, although their options are likely quite limited. For a bigger selection I'd look into Whole Foods or Trader Joes. I wish I could tell you for sure! Specialty stores tend to be more expensive overall. Hope this helps a little!

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    2. Okay I was thinking along the same lines! I am foreign to it too so it will be an adventure to stay in budget! Where do you find popcorn kernels the cheapest?

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  32. I love this menu! Will be attempting this starting next week. :)

    Also, as a side note: Some photos may be larger than others (in terms of bytes/kilobytes/megabytes/etc) Often on these types of sites, if the photo is over a certain size, for whatever reason, the site publishes the photos upside down. I don't know why, and it is very frustrating! Perhaps shrinking the photo a bit will allow it to post right side up. :)

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  33. I cannot wait to start trying to put together these menu items!! I tweaked it a little because I'm just one student, but the food ideas look delicious.

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  34. Just moved into my flat << Fresh out of the house. And this is Prefect! Its exactly what i was looking for. Something that's as tasty, as well as budget friendly!

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  35. This Is Just Perfect! Thank You So Much For Doing This! :)

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  36. I must be missing something...a lot of the foods included in the meals you have planned for the first seven days of eating aren't on your week one grocery list. Can you clarify? for example, eggs. You said you had veggie omelets but there's no eggs on your grocery list.

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    1. Hi there,
      I'd be happy to clarify further. :) There are ingredients that I used to make my meals that I already had at home... spices, whole wheat, tuna fish, strawberry jam, etc. I'm just showing what I bought for one month. For example, in the month I documented above, I bought a big bag of all-purpose flour and a boat-load of TP and diaper wipes, valentine sprinkles, and a huge economy size thing of salsa in the month I documented for this post that were used WELL beyond the month shown. There were months prior to the one i documented when I bought things that lasted longer than the month I bought them... But each month I stayed around $300-$330. I'm not sure how clear I'm being. :) Hopefully this answers your question. If not, let me know and I'll try to clarify more.

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  37. I was wondering what you would have along side your pork chops (day 7) so I looked on your grocery list to find out what you purchased with it - except pork chops wasn't on any of the 4 grocery lists. Am I missing something?

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    1. It's been a long time since I posted this, but generally we have mashed potatoes and a green salad with pork chops. :) What you see listed on the receipts is what I bought that month for around $300. The receipts don't have EVERYTHING I used in my meals for 30 days. I used some ingredients that I already had on hand. The pork chops came from my freezer from a previous shopping trip. The point is that I spent between $300-$330/month on food. It doesn't mean that I used every ingredient I bought in that 30-day time frame. Some ingredients were that I bought for the month listed above didn't get used till the next month or later. Regardless of when ingredients were used, I stayed within my purchasing budget each month. I hope this makes sense. You're not the first one to ask this question. :)

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  38. Hi Andrea,
    For the past two weeks I have been thinking about lowering my grocery bills and planning my meals in advance. I wanted to see how other people are doing it and I am glad I stumbled into your post on PInterest. Thank you for sharing. I am eager to explore more of your site and will be coming back.

    Maria
    www.musicteachingandparenting.com

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  39. Your "Family of 5" which includes 3 children under 6 hardly compares to my "Family of 5," 3 boys ages 8-17. I was hoping to see some really hearty food here!

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  40. I bet you won't publish my previous comment, right?

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    1. Why not? So long as comments don't use profanity, and aren't vulgar/offensive to other readers, I'm generally open to people's opinions, positive or not. I've got a pretty thick skin. :) I'm sorry this post doesn't work for your situation. I tried to be up-front in the beginning of the post of what me family was, and obviously my budget was based off of that. However, I hope you can still use some of the meal ideas... there are a lot of cheap/filling meals listed. I've added to my recipe index since posting this, and several more of the recipes listed in the post above can be found in the index. If you think you might be interested. I'd recommend the chili, cornbread, chicken pot pie, frozen bean and cheese burritos, magic meatballs, and slow cooker spicy chicken to name a few. Good luck! I'm sure when my kids are the same age as yours my budget will look quite a bit different.

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  41. I am overjoyed to have found your blog! This year has been tough for our family. I am 28 with 4 children under the age of 9. I was in an accident that flipped my Chevy Suburban in May, I was back at work for less than a week and had a stroke like incident. (TIA) We had to replace the SUV because I worked odd hours and commute, a car payment would not have been an issue on 2 incomes. Fate has a way of slowing us down on June 12th I was in a motorcycle accident I dislocated my shoulder, broke my arm,shoulder blade, and 7 ribs. I deflated both lungs and had gas burns from the top of my head to my chest. I have not been released to go back to work yet. I have been more diligent about watching sales and clipping coupons but it still doesn't seem to be getting us as far as I would have liked. You have given me hope. Thank you again for posting this blog. I look forward to trying your recipes later today. Thank you and God Bless. -Amanda T

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  42. Do you grow any of your own veggies or fruits? We were able to do our family of 5 at about $400 mo until about a year ago and I saw it creeping up - our kids are 8/7/3 and all eat like horses. We started planting fruits & veggies and have been able to get closer to $400 again (yay!) - praying that our littlest will be done with diapers soon and we will get better at gardening and hopefully we can keep it at $400 even as our kids get bigger - here's hoping!

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