April 30, 2010

End of the month report--April

We budget $350 each month.  This includes all groceries, paper products, cleaning supplies, toiletries, medicines/herbals, and hygiene items (razors, deodorant, etc).  My father is moving to Knoxville.  While he’s doing some renovations,  he’s staying with us.  We fed 4 people, enjoyed an Easter feast, and made it through a 5 week month at our budget.  Earlier this week I was over budget.  If it had not been for moneymakers at Walgreens this week, there is no way we would have eaten as well as we did and came in at budget. 

Because May, June, and July are months when I preserve a lot of food, I’m increasing next month’s budget to $450.  I don’t know if we’ll need that much of a cushion or not.  Last May’s budget shows about $350, but I want to have a cushion if I need it.  The budgets for June and July were not as detailed last year due to my grandmother falling ill—I was doing good to record anything during that very difficult time.  In looking back 2 years ago, I wasn’t preserving nearly as much as I am now.  Long story short, I’m not really sure how much to budget.  It will be a work in progress, and I’ll see how it goes. 

Writing that I’m setting a $450 budget might turn some folks away from this blog.  Some bloggers pride themselves on $20-$40 a week on groceries.  Some couponing purists will be disappointed.  All I’ve got to say to that possibility is—do what works for you.  It is so easy to get caught in the trap of comparing yourself to others.  I know, I’m really, really good at it.  It doesn’t serve us well though, it doesn’t honor our individuality.  You must make choices that work for your situation, for your family, at this current time. 

In the next few months we’ll be buying more locally grown meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables.  Even though we have a nice sized vegetable garden, there are plenty of local products that I don’t want to miss.  Taste a fresh, juicy strawberry right off of the plant that you picked with your own hands, and you’ll know what I mean. 

In April we spent $349.43—We were $0.57 under budget.

With that money we bought $758.60 worth of items.  If I’m doing my math correctly, we had a savings of 53.94%.

What did we buy with that money? Some of the items listed in the sections below were donated to our church food pantry/outreach programs.  Some of the others were used for church functions—krispie cereal, marshmallows, cinnamon rolls, key lime pie, some of the sodas, cake mixes, etc.

Free items—  dove shampoo, 2 in 1 shampoo for men, 3 cans dog food, Kashi crackers, Kashi cereal, 9 betty crocker potatoes, taco seasoning, schick shave gel, 4 biscuits, 11 vitamin D, 4 cans mandarin oranges, Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta, coffee, 3 three packs of schick razors, 3 stayfree

What did we stock up on?

  • Friends and I order coconut oil in bulk at www.mountainroseherbs.com We split a 5 gallon container so that we all get a price cut.  Even with the shipping, the price is better than I’ve found elsewhere.  (Unless of course you managed to grab the uber-elusive free coconut oil deal advertised recently on some national blogs.  I did not.)  I bought a half gallon. 
  • I went in with a friend on a case of organic butter at our local food co-op. She’s also a member of the co-op, and we’ll split cases from time to time when we see fantastic deals. 

Other purchases--  Doesn’t look like a whole lot for $350, does it?  Easter’s ham and sausages purchase put a dent in the budget this month.  The trip to Kroger at the first of the month was the first time I remember going over $100 while grocery shopping in probably over a year. 

  • Local products--Bok Choi, 2 heads of lettuce, eggs from a friend who has chickens, Cruze Farm milk, 2 pints jelly
  • At Kroger— sodas, 3 cream cheese, cheese, 7 lunchmeat, 3 lbs organic ground beef, frozen peas, frozen spinach, Pam, 8 sausages for Easter, pretzels, broccoli, asparagus, ham, 2 breakfast sausages, whole wheat loaves bread, 2 cabbages, celery, bananas, parsley, bell pepper, 2 natural cereal, organic milk, 2 cake mix, 2 French fried onions, 2 butter, 1 (8 pack) ramen noodles, coffee creamer, 3 tuna fish cans, pork tenderloin,  2 lbs brown rice, sugar free jello, crushed pineapple, organic carrots 2 lbs, 1 lb black beans, 1 lb black eyed peas, marked down salad, romaine, key lime pie, cinnamon rolls, 2 rice cereal, 2 organic chickens, 1 bratwurst, cranberries, wild rice, squash, sour cream, parmesan cheese, 2 tubs Mayfields ice cream
  • At Walgreens—4 choco. eggs, 1  white choc bunny, 1 tums, 2 scrubbing bubbles, 2 cream of chicken, 2 cream of mushroom, eggs, 2 lbs dried apricots, sodas, 2 TGIF potato chips
  • Three Rivers Market — 7 lbs organic valley butter, tahini, 2 macaroons, honest tea
  • Target—3 dozen eggs, 1 box Kashi bars
  • Food City—4 bacon, 2 loaves ww bread, apples, 5 lbs grapes, 6 canned veggies, 2 mini marshmallows, organic chicken, 2 Doritos
  • Ashe’s--a fifth of rum for the bananas foster

So, what could you glean from this post to help with your budget and shopping? 

  • Keep records of your budget and purchases from year to year.  I know when we picked blueberries last year, when we bought strawberries and peaches, when we purchased coconut oil and lamb. If you choose not to make note of the smaller purchases, consider keeping track of the bulk buys, stock-up deals, and local crops.  Do you know how much dog food you use in a year?  I have a pretty good idea what we use.  Keeping a record to which you can refer offers loads of helpful information.
  • Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face (or as I just typed it incorrectly, cut off your face to spite your nose!)  Don’t become so obsessed with the deals that you don’t serve your family quality foods, that you don’t take delight in enjoying seasonal foods, that you don’t grow your own garden and can your own foods.  I realize how elitist it might sound to say this.  When you read those words, though, realize that this is coming from a person who has had some challenges in her life.  Yes, stay within your budget.  If you have a very strict budget, get help through food stamps or other assistance programs.  But, also seek out as many opportunities to educate yourself as you can.  Learn how to grow your own food or forage for your own food—many communities offer community gardens, free seeds, free cooking classes and gardening workshops.   Not sure where to start?  Call your local agricultural extension agency and ask them.  Check with your town government or local representative’s office.  Go to your local library and ask the librarians if they know of any services.  Look in the “announcement” section of your local newspaper (go to the library to read a free copy if you do not have the money to purchase a copy).  Many garden clubs, community action groups, and community kitchens will post information there.

I’m not sure if I read this in one of Astyk’s books or in Katz book, but I remember reading  about a man who was once homeless who was now a community educator and activist.  The story was focused on how he would teach people to use food grown in their gardens or food foraged from parks and lawns to feed their families.  The example he gave was on how to use Ramen noodles with a few “free” ingredients to make a wholesome dish.  (Thanks to my friend Honor’s hubs for helping me come up with the word forage.  I could not think of that word for the life of me!)  There is more free, healthy, wholesome food out there than you realize.  For example dandelion greens and lambs quarters for instance are both edible and are both considered to be weeds by most Americans.  A park down the street from me has both mulberry and crabapple trees that park employees complain about as a nuisance to clean up (both of these fruits can be made into jams, jellies, or preserves).  For those of you who have watched Food Inc, remember that family who opted for McDonald’s instead of buying a few pears for the same price?  The other side of that story is that with more information, more resources (not talking about money here), they might have more options.  It doesn’t have to be either or. 

Again, everything is a process.  You must do what works for your family. 


  1. Thanks for all the time you invest in sharing all of these great tips. I love that you strive to feed your family nourishing foods, support local places, but yet do it so affordably. I am trying to feed our family healthy as well, but I am striving to be more organized and efficient with meal planning so I can save money. If you ever had time I would love to see what your weekly or monthly meals for your family consist of to give me a better idea of how you keep your grocery budget so low. We are a family of five (but three of us are under the age of 6..) and it seems impossible to keep ours less than 500...But I am learning!!

  2. Sorry, after posting the last comment I saw that you do put your meal plans up on Mondays :) That is very helpful! But, I do have a couple other questions...where have you found is the most affordable place to buy grass fed beef and organic chicken. And how much does it cost to join the Three Rivers Market and start getting the deals there that you post about?

  3. Great questions, Beth. Thanks for leaving comments!

    Anyone can shop at Three Rivers Market with or without a membership to the co-op. When you purchase a membership share, though, you have access to a few more perks. My favorite of these perks is a 10% discount on cases of foods. With a large family, you could easily use a case for you all. Most of the time, we split cases with friends of ours who also are members of the co-op.

    I think that the shares are $25 each for a year. You can call the local store at 865-525-2069 for more information on that. To give you an example of the money savings, when I first signed up as a member/shareholder I was given a coupon book with over $30 worth of free item coupons inside! When I last asked about this, they were still offering these coupons, but you might want to double check with the staff.

    As for grassfed beef, I prefer to buy meat with Mr. Dave Waters. He sets up at the Knoxville Market Square Farmers Market on Saturdays (he'll be there today). When the market is not open in the off season, he meets people at a few locations around town every couple of weeks. I hardly ever manage to meet up with him during the winter, but I have a friend who will pick up my order for me when needed. I sometimes purchase organic beef at Kroger. Sometimes I get really great deals and have a hard time passing them up.

    I prefer for our family to have grassfed beef for a lot of reasons, namely because it is healthier for us and healthier for the cow. You can search "grassfed beef" or Joel Salatin and find out a lot more info. Dave and other grassfed farmers are usually very open to talking to you about the benefits as well. We do not eat as much meat so that we can purchase higher quality meat when we do eat it.

    Chicken--I tend to buy most of our chicken at Kroger. We almost exclusively purchase organic chicken, though I'm not naive. I realize that the organic label on chicken doesn't necessarily mean that the chicken is treated more humanely. However, I do have a little more of a secure feeling that the chicken is not fed anitbiotics or feed that is unhealthy.

    I've purchased chicken from many of our local farmers, too, but the chicken is much more expensive. The flavor isn't the same as grocery store chicken, and unfortunately, that is what our family has become accustomed to.

    I'm off to make breakfast for a church function. I'll try to add a few more tips and ideas for you later in the weekend.
    Have a great day!

  4. Beth, I'm glad you've found Gabe and her meal planning and budget guidance for those of us dedicated to eating well. She's certainly the "go to" for the knowledge. I'm trying my best to stay on a budget right for my family. If you'd like to simply feel better about how you're doing, you might check me out. ;-)