This month I went into ultra-frugal mode. After blowing my eating out budget again, and again, and again, I decided I’ve had enough. It’s time to buckle down, plan a little better, and actually stay within my budget for once. When planning my budget, I found myself faced with a few problems. The first is that our take-home income went down. We’re paying for insurance now, and that’s taken a chunk out of the paycheck.
The second problem is that I’m trying to eat a lot healthier. Specifically, I’m trying to stay away from hormones in milk, eggs, and meat, partially hydrogenated anything, and pesticides. Avoiding these things gets expensive.
Finally, the cost of gas is above $4 a gallon here, so driving all over to find deals isn’t worth it anymore.
My new plan had to take all of these things into account. Here’s what I did.
Menu Plan for a Month
I hashed out a menu plan for breakfasts and dinners for a month. Lunch is always sandwiches, tortilla wraps, or leftovers, so I didn’t have to plan lunch.
I cut out a lot of expensive foods. My menu this month is largely based on dried beans. Snacks consist of fruits and veggies, nuts, and homemade granola bars. I didn’t buy any cold cereal, which up until now has been a staple in our house.
That left me with some extra money to treat my family to wild fish once a week, pesticide free produce, and hormone free milk and eggs.
The Shopping Day
Since my son is out of preschool, I had to take him along. I’m proud of him. He hates shopping, but he hung in there with me all morning. I let him take one of his beloved toy cars with him to keep him busy. It worked.
- We stopped at Walmart first to buy toilet paper and supplies for making laundry detergent. Since I’ve made a pact to stop using paper towels and paper napkins, I didn’t have to buy any of those.
- Then we headed to Winco to do the bulk of my shopping. And bulk is the right word. My cart was filled with purchases from the bulk bins: flours, beans, grains, oatmeal, and a couple of spices I needed. I picked up a few canned foods and some cheese, as well.
- We then headed across the street to Fred Meyer, which has a pretty nice health food section. We picked up our milk (on sale), some eggs (marked down…that was a GREAT find!), and some Garden of Eatin’ Tortilla Chips (on sale). We also picked up some laundry supplies that aren’t available at Walmart.
- We stopped home to unload the groceries and have a quick snack. Then we headed south to the Farmer’s Market in Ashland. Even though it was raining, the market was busy. We bought some fresh strawberries, a big jar of local honey, fresh tomatoes (and they taste SO much better than store bought tomatoes), and some lettuce.
- Our final stop was the Ashland Food Co-op, which is expensive, but sells all the natural ingredient items I was after. I picked up the rest of the produce I needed, and also some natural soap and hair care products. I’m trying to avoid chemicals in soaps and shampoos, too. I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford that for long, because it’s expensive. Maybe I’ll try to find recipes for making my own shampoo.
By doing all of my shopping in one day, I made one trip into Medford. I’ll have to go back to Ashland for more produce and milk throughout the month, but it’s closer than heading into Medford. Other than once a week trips into Ashland, I plan on staying close to home.
My grocery budget for the month was $445. On Tuesday I spent $313.27, leaving me with $131.73 for the rest of the month. I think I can make that work.
How I Cut Costs
Like I said, most of our meals are based around dried beans this month. It can be a hassle to prepare dried beans, but I’ll just make extra every time I make them and freeze the rest for use later in the month.
Instead of buying boxed cereal, I made a huge batch of homemade granola. That should last the month, since I’m planning on making breakfast most mornings. My husband is the only one who’s dependent on cereal for breakfast. I’m not getting up at 3 a.m. to make breakfast for him, as much as I love him. :)
Whole grain bread without high fructose corn syrup is expensive. So are tortillas without partially hydrogenated oil. So instead of spending the money on ready made products, I bought wheat bread flour at 47 cents a pound and whole wheat pastry flour at 49 cents a pound and made my own. The bread tastes great, and so do the tortillas (though they aren’t as pretty as the store-bought version).
A little planning can go a long way in saving money. Making a list, making things from scratch, and only making one trip to the grocery store will help save money and fuel. And if it keeps me from eating out, it will save my waistline, as well!
How often do you grocery shop? Does it work for you? Do you shop with a list? Menu plan?
I just recently posted how I grocery shop once a month. I don’t really plan out a menu. I just focus on storage and the progression of what I eat and make. Great Post!!
My grocery bill is about the smallest bill that my husband and I pay. Luckily its just two of us, and we both bring our lunches to work. I buy groceries once a week, and its usually around $40 total.
NO, I AM NOT STARVING.
(as many people, especially coworkers, have asked.)
I only buy meats and produce. I’ve learned to stay away from any food that is on an ‘inside aisle’ except when I absolutely can’t–i.e.: rice/pasta noodles. I don’t buy any canned soups or ‘meals in a box.’ I can’t drink milk, which cuts out a big expense.
bean cooking- the best way to cook beans, in my humble opinion, is to soak them overnight, then cook them in the microwave! Some people think it’s a little strange to cook anything longer than a couple of minutes heating up coffee in the microwave, but it uses less energy and takes a lot less time.
Wow this has motivated me to break out my bread machine again! My last attempt was more like a brick than bread but hey practice makes perfect. I would also love to see the homemade granola recipe! Thanks!
I’ve spent around $313.00 so far, and I’m trying to keep it under $445.00. I’ll hit the farmer’s market or the produce stand once a week for fresh veggies.
Just wondering what it cost you for a months worth of food? And as others mentioned how often do you buy fresh veggies?
Re: The cook once and eat-for-a-month freezing system….There is also a Lite and Easy version of it. Highly recommend the system, whether it’s for a week, 2 weeks, or a month…and you can substitute your own menus and get the same effect. At least there is ALWAYS something ready to thaw/eat in the freezer – stops those eating out splurges. A lot of mine go into lunch sized portions that I take to work with me.
Our local Franz bread store has grain breads for 99 cents still. And the Wheeler Dealer often times has cereal 5 for $5. 3 weeks ago Freddies had a coupon for $1/box brandname cereals – mid to large size – so I stocked up on them. Always have oatmeal on hand for when I run out of the cheap stuff also :)
I bought one 6 pack of mixed lettuce starters – $1.29- have to say they are producing more lettuce than we can eat – in a container, in all this Oregon coast rain, I was surprised at how well they are growing! For a family, I would have bought 2 6packs. I mix mine with my dandylion leaves, nasturium leaves, chives, walking onions, and curly parsley and am delighted with the salads. Also works well for my chef salads.
Nice thing about your once a month grocery shopping – not only will save you time – but hopefully gas money and your time (a VERY valuable commodity)
And for the little guy shopping with you – I give my grandkids their own ‘shopping list’- a piece of paper with a couple things on it that they are responsible for picking out. Or the coupons that they are responsible for filling…The paper keeps their hands occupied, and they seem to stay interested in the shopping adventure.
Good luck with the new system.
Would you be willing to share your bread and tortilla recipes?
I don’t have much time to comment, I read your blog but never comment. I had to comment on this one. I have been making home-made bread lately to save money and be healthier…I agree with everything you say, it is like you are in my head. It is amazing! Keep up the great blog…I love it!
Perhaps you could post your menu plan and shopping list. It would be helpful to see what kind of meals you planned.
I’ve personally gone to the other extreme. We’ve been without a car for two weeks and will be for the foreseeable future so shopping is limited to what I can pick up with a bicycle. When you limited to space you really think about what you need.
I also once a week make a large meal and freeze it.
I’m going to see if I can get a recipe list up this afternoon, including the recipes for bread, granola, and tortillas. Almost all of the recipes are off the internet, so it should be pretty easy. The bread was fabulous, as was the granola. My tortilla technique needs a little work, but they tasted good.
I will be looking into other options for some of the stuff I buy. I think it’s time for me to finally break down and make a pricebook. :)