The Monthly Grocery Budget

For the longest time, our grocery budget was $350 per month. In fact, last time we did the 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days series, our budget was $300 per month.

A lot has changed since then. The kids have gotten bigger, as have their appetites. We no longer homeschool. I’ve adjusted my views on certain things and placed a higher priority on in-season, fresh and local produce.

Those three factors combined to necessitate a higher budget. So we upped the monthly budget $100 per month and it’s worked perfectly.

It wasn’t an easy decision though. I always took a lot of pride in the fact that we ate so well for $350 a month. And we truly were eating well. That’s why it was hard for me to rationalize an increase until I really stepped back and took a good look at things.

  1. Growing children equal growing bellies. The kids started to request, and eat, second helpings at either breakfast or dinner. This was a huge trigger to me, as was their constant request for snacks. They are healthy and active kids. Their little bodies just needed more fuel. (And my husband, who didn’t always admit it, needed a bit more fuel himself.) So that meant 5 family members with what seemed like monster-sized appetites. Something had to give.
  2. Our oldest two children attend public school now. When we were homeschooling, snacks and lunches were easy. We could eat leftovers, soup, scrambled eggs or any number of cheap and easy meals. And snacks were usually fruit and some kind of freshly baked goodie. Those options aren’t possible now, especially for our kindergartner.  They take morning snacks to school each day and the snacks are all tossed into a large bin where they are then passed out at snack time. A banana or a homemade granola bar just can’t stand up to that kind of abuse.
  3. We all love fresh produce. Previously, I limited the amount of fresh options and supplemented with canned and frozen. While we still rely on frozen veggies frequently, we’ve done away with the canned in favor of fresh. It costs more, but it’s worth it.

So, could I have met our needs in the above three areas while still sticking with the lower budget? Probably. But not without something having to give in one area or another. And it’s still feasible that we’ll be able to scale that back a bit in the future once we’re done with diapers and nighttime underjams.

Tomorrow I’m making out our grocery lists for the big shopping trips, so I’ll share about those and what we get each month with the $450. What do you spend the biggest chunk of your grocery budget on?

Now, I have to tell you what happened tonight. As I was getting ready to start warming dinner, there was a knock on our door. Our next door neighbor brought us a $20 bill and a pizza delivery menu. It was her thanks for my husband’s taking her garbage can out to the curb each week. For my husband, it’s just a job that makes sense we walks right by her can when he pulls ours out each week. But for her, it’s obviously a treat. So she unexpectedly treated us in return. And if you had heard the kids chants of “pizza, pizza, pizza,” you’d understand what a huge treat it really was.

So, we had some wonderful pizza for dinner. And as an added bonus, dinner for tomorrow night is already done!

I’d love to hear more about your grocery budgets. There’s a great conversation going on in the comments from yesterday’s post also.

Don’t forget to see what Jen and Toni over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam and The Happy Housewife were up to in their kitchens’ today.

14 thoughts on “The Monthly Grocery Budget

  1. Meat is out biggest expense when it comes to buying groceries. I also live in the netherlands now and stock piling just doesnt happen here. I can not buy in bulk and save money that way. I’ve had to re think our grocery budget and learn how to make more with less. The size of the fridges and freezers are smaller here wich means more fregquent trips to the store. It’s a challenge sometimes to stretch things but so far Im doing it.

  2. We do our meat shopping twice a year at Costco. I load up on chicken (whole/things/wings/drums/breasts), ground beef, and a whole pork loin or two that I break down. All of that gets divided up and put in the big freezer downstairs. Regular food shopping I do once a month (with milk/bread/fresh veg once a week) using coupons and sales I end up about spending 200-300 dollars for 3 adults and a toddler.

  3. First, I just want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog! I look forward to it every morning with my cup of coffee, you are very inspiring to me 🙂
    Ok, back to your post. We are a family five with 2 teenagers and a 8yr old. Like you, we also just increased our monthly budget. I have set it to $450 ($225 twice a month), and so far we are doing ok. Are biggest expenses are the obvious, MEAT and PRODUCE. I stick to Costco mainly for the meat, but will pick up sales at the grocery store also

  4. Meat, milk, produce probably the biggest expenses. We’re at $300 a month for a family of 4…I know that our costs will go up eventually because I have two boys and I know they will at some point kick in and eat me out of house and home LOL.

    We do a pretty good job of balancing the homemade stuff for lunches, with some easier things for those snacks, like prepackage granola bars, etc…I generally watch for super low sale/coupon opportunities for those, though, and then stock up like crazy! That’s actually really come in handy for classroom activities, or when the 4yo has his day to provide snack for his pre-k class. I have things already stocked up at prices I want to pay, and don’t have to run out on the fly to get something.

    Great topic!

  5. I’ve been following Beauty & Bedlem & Happyhouswife for about 6 mo.and jumped to your site for the 3/3/31 connection. I LOVE IT!

    I went thru our Feb groc. reciepts to find I spent $550 on food(using coupons & wkly flyers)and $90 (using coupons & wkly flyers)on “other” which includes TP, bx.tissue(busy noses), shampoo, lanud. det., bar soap, cleaning prod., plastic sand. bags (I don’t hm.sch.), garb bags, paper napkins, paper towel, dishwasher det., sanitary napkins. I thought $90 for “other” was really a lot!!

    We have a family of 6, one teen boy, two teen girls, and a 10 year old. The 3/3/31 is motivating me to try to keep food to $105/wk and non-food to $20/wk. Thanks for the motivation, the hard work you all put in at 3/3/31 and for making feel like I can do this and I’m not much different from others when I shop at Aldis, Goodwill, or places like that.

    Also, is anyone out there from Western New York (WNY)becase we don’t get the good Harris Teeters deals from the south or even triple couponing. If your from WNY I’d love to make a connection. I haven’t found a forum like this in my WNY area.

    PS this is my first post ever on any blog. I’ve been reding them for about 6 mo. but never posted anything.

  6. I really enjoyed this post – I have been reading your blog for over a year. It took me that long to get to my 500/month grocery budget. We have to pack lunches and snacks for 3 out of 5 family member (have 2 in daycare still) so convenience foods definitely eat up our budget)

    Mary – I am in WNY and do most of my shopping at Wegmans and BJs right now.

  7. I love your blog! I’ve gotten so many great recipes from you – many thanks!!!
    I’m really intrigued by your grocery budget conversation – can’t wait to read more. I have to admit that our budget is MUCH bigger – not sure if that is b/c we live in California (expensive produce, etc.) or because I do not plan as well. (Probably a little of both.) My two stumbling blocks are meats and produce. My husband takes our leftovers to work every day for lunch, so I try to make a big enough meal to accomodate that, as well as feed the two of us and our two young kids. Also, I like to have a fresh fruit and a fresh veggie at both lunch and dinner and that really kills the budget. Frustrating! Looking forward to reading more tips!

  8. Becky – Do you know of any blogs on couponing, groc.budgeting etc. in the Buffalo area? Like for Tops, Wegman, etc?? Did you get your BJ’s catalog? Good coupons!

  9. Ok, is everyone here from the US? Are groceries that much cheaper in the States or is my family just pigs?
    We budget $600 per month. This includes food, toiletries, diapers and wipes, paper products, cleaning products.
    Out of curiosity, how much is milk, a loaf of Wonderbread, eggs and a pound of butter where you are?
    3 bags of milk (4 litres) is 4.17
    1 pound of butter averages 4.00
    1 loaf of Wonderbread is 2.50
    Omega 3 eggs are 3.80

  10. Multi-tasking Mommy,

    In Arkansas, a gallon of milk is about $2.38 to $2.88. Sams and Aldis have the cheapest milk in my town. WM is about 50 cents per gallon higher and our two other regional chains are over $3!
    I get butter at Aldis for about $2 a pound, sometimes a little less. I noticed WM had it for $2.19 per pound.
    I buy Wonder Whole Wheat bread at the Hostess outlet store for $1.35 per loaf. Bread at WM is over $2 per loaf.
    I buy regular eggs and at Aldis they are $1.39 per dozen. WM wants $1.79 per dozen. I buy just about everything I can at Aldis. Of course, they don’t sell everything and there are some things there we just don’t like. Aldis milk goes bad for me before the date if I try to keep it unopened for a week. Sams milk has never gone bad for me even after the date.
    Our only two other main grocery stores are local or regional chains and their sales are ok. I only shop there for an outstanding sale and occassionally find marked down meat.

    Do you have Aldis where you are?

  11. Jill,
    I do shop at Aldis and always thought their prices were the same everywhere…but I may be wrong. I live in Buffalo, New York. I have noticed that sometimes I go in there and they have hand printed price sign on certain items (must be immediate mark down). Yesterday they had white whole grain bread for $.79 each! Not my favorite bread but good to have in the freezer. Other Aldis prices that are consistent:

    Skim milk, gallon $1.69 (mine last fine)
    200 ct tissue $1.19
    1 ply 100 ct bath tissue (like Scotts) 4pk $2.29
    Parmesan Ch (plastic shaker bottle) $2.49
    White Flour 5# $1.39
    Cereal usually $1.29-2.19 bx typically
    Cinn Graham Crackers $1.39
    Rye Braed $1.49
    Split Top Wheat $.99 usually$1.19
    Peanut Butter $1.39
    Nacho Chips $.99

    Produce / Dairy vary:
    3# MacIn. Apples $1.99- 2.29
    Romaine Hearts 3 ea consistently $1.99
    Strawberries 1#(right now)$1.99
    Red Grape 2# $3.49-1.57
    Dozen Lg Eggs $.89-.69

    Are your prices similar? What state are you in?

    The things I like about Aldis are the layout is simple & quick to get thru the store, they typically keep items where they are, no coupons to worry about “did I remember those coupons?”(the price is the price), very basic & simple. Occasionally they will have non-food items at a great price. I bought a sink faucet there for $29, a bath rug 2×3 for $3.99, 2pk of ladies PJ bottom/yoga pants for $6.99. The clientele runs the gamete from ladies with Coach Purses and large diamonds to a homeless looking person. It makes me chuckle….a deal is a deal!

  12. Mary – hotcouponworld dot com has a list of ‘deals’ for wegmans and tops. Thats the only place I’ve ever found for local buffalo stores.

  13. We have been spending about $260/month for food at the grocery stores. My kids get hot lunch once a week at school and that’s not included. My husband often gets lunch at work for free.

    My 2 kids eat more than I do and my husband works out a lot.

    I buy what is on sale…not what we really want to eat. So this week that means we get asparagus for $1.00/pound and pears are $1.00/pound. I always buy apples, carrots and bananas, and cabbage because they are cheap and we like them. We always have frozen vegies from Sam’s in the freezer.

    I just went to Sam’s and bought milk for $2.35/gallon and eggs were 2/18 count for $3.84. I was able to buy butter at a local store for $1.67/lb this week. I bought 6 for our freezer.

    I don’t know how much bread is because I make ours at home.

    I use the pantry principle to save money (when things are on sale, I stock up!) I think that combined with a big monthly Sam’s trip will help me keep my grocery bill low. Time will tell though!

    I love reading your blog! You have amazing recipes on here.

  14. I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to join the fun. I came here from Jen’s blog, which has inspired me to get my grocery bill back down after it has been stealthily creeping up the past year. And here I was thinking 600/month for a family of 6 was tight! I am so inspired by all these comments. I am not a couponer, but I have noted several ways to get my bill back down. I already make a lot from scratch and try to stock up on good sales, but clearly I need to step it up. I am loving this 3 Moms series– keep it up, I appreciate all your hard work!

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