Nearly six months after our cross-country move, last month was the first time we have come close to our monthly food budget since moving to Georgia.
It was the confidence boost I needed to keep following the tried-and-true methods that have always kept our grocery budget low in the past.
I experimented with shopping in bulk and weekly shopping last month and was pleased with the results. I did that again this month, but also employed a tactic that I learned from our first fiscal fast to help us meet our monthly food budget: delay shopping.
When the first of the month came, we had enough food to last at least a few days. We likely could have gone longer than that if we really tried.
Knowing that we can really get by with less when we put our mind to it, we decided to postpone our bulk monthly shopping trip for a whole week so we could save a few dollars on our monthly food budget!
Monthly Food Budget for May 2016
ALDI – $7.23
eggs x2, .69
avocado x2, .49
fresh mozzarella, 2.69
Since major shopping was on hold, this was a quick trip for just a few things to get us through the week.
Cilantro for homemade salsa and tacos, eggs for cooking and baking, avocado for breakfast (topped with salted and alongside a fried egg).
Fresh mozzarella is for homemade pizza and the sugar is for kombucha. We just started brewing our own this summer and the scoby requires sugar in order to ferment. Since it doesn’t matter whether it’s white sugar or a healthier variety, I’m going with the most affordable option.
The only catch with having white sugar in the house is that it goes against our goal to eliminate it in 2016. Yes, it makes it harder to not make cookies or other sweet treats when the urge hits, but at the same time, we’ve been slowly making less sugar-y desserts over time anyway. Plus keeping a batch of homemade ice pops in the freezer helps when the family wants a sweet treat.
ALDI – $9.17
all-purpose flour, 1.49
whole milk, 2.19
mangoes x2, .49
heavy whipping cream x2, 1.69
We almost made it the whole week without stopping at the store, but we were completely out of a few basic essentials.
Flour for the pantry; Mr. Crumbs likes homemade pizza with all-purpose flour and we were completely out. Milk for coffee, bananas and mangoes for snacking. We were low on oatmeal, so I picked up some heavy whipping cream to make chocolate chip scones for breakfast.
(Pardon the dish-washing detergent. I bought it at ALDI, but it now comes out of a different line item.)
Sprouts – $55.24
green beans, 1.74
green bell peppers, .50
avocado x3, 1
green kale, 1.49
red radishes, 1*
corn x4, 2
peanut butter x4, 2.49
rolled oats, 4.86
This was the first time I’ve ever shopped at Sprouts and was encouraged to go after I compared prices at Costco to ALDI. Overall, I had a good experience and found good deals. There is a caveat to my trip here, which I address in the “lessons learned” section at the bottom of this post.
The prices for produce were good, so I bought strawberries for a shredded kale and strawberry salad, green beans for a side dish and the bell pepper and mushrooms for chicken creole. The corn is also for side dishes.
I’ve been using an app called Price Cruncher at the suggestion of a reader and I really like it. I checked the ad for Sprouts before I left the house and saw that per ounce, Sprouts had the best price available for peanut butter, couscous, pecans, cashews and oats. I stocked up on enough peanut butter that I’d normally get at Costco, and enough of the other dry items to last 2 months.
ALDI – $66.37
linguine x2, 1.29
pepperoni x3, 2.19
farfalle x2, .99
chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, .99
diced tomatoes x8, .55
bacon x2, 2.99
antibiotic-free whole chicken x3, 7.11/7.21/8.04
canned salmon x4, 2.29
sweet potatoes, 2.29
corn masa, 1.99
The goal is to stock up for the month, hence the large quantities of several items. We have pasta one night a week, pizza every Friday and since the eye doctor told me to eat more fish, I’m having salmon for lunch twice a week.
Canned tomatoes are a staple, the paprika is for the spice cabinet and we used the bacon one night for spaghetti carbonara and one Saturday morning for breakfast.
I bought the chipotle peppers for a couple of specific meals, the Parmesan for meals and for the carbonara, and sweet potatoes for my favorite breakfast. Corn masa is for homemade corn tortillas, but we also use it sometimes as a breading on baked or pan-fried items.
Costco – $148.07
jasmine rice, 15.99
bread flour 50lbs, 11.89
sun dried tomatoes, 9.59
olive oil, 11.59
crushed tomatoes, 3.19
chocolate chips, 8.99
fresh mozzarella, 7.49
sharp cheddar, 4.99
pretzel rods, 5.29
kalamata olives, 6.99
Every time I ask Mr. Crumbs what he’d like to see on the menu for the month, he says steak and couscous. I can’t do much about the steak yet, but I can do couscous. That’s the reason for the sun dried tomatoes, olives and feta.
The rice and bread flour are for the pantry, and this is the first time I’ve actually purposely bought something in bulk like this to replenish the pantry since we moved to Georgia.
Olive oil for cooking, crushed tomatoes for tomato basil soup and pizza sauce, chocolate chips for scones and homemade granola bars.
Anchovies for homemade Caesar dressing, apples for snacking and vanilla for baking. Fresh mozzarella for pizza, cheddar for meals, spinach for smoothies and spinach pesto. Pretzel rods also for homemade granola bars and butter is a staple item.
You’ll notice that by this point in time, we’ve spent the majority of our monthly food budget. But we’ve also shopped for the majority of what we’d need for the rest of the month. At this point going forward, the goal is just “maintenance!”
ALDI – $16.80
ground black peppers, 2.49
cilantro x2, .49
garlic powder, .99
mangoes x3, .29
black peppercorns, 1.69
If you can believe it, this trip was more than a whole week after our big monthly shopping trip, and we didn’t even need much!
I thought the coffee we had would get us through the month, otherwise I would have bought it at Costco since it’s cheaper there, but oh well. I picked up a few spices to replenish the spice cabinet and a handful of produce items to supplement the week.
The mangoes were still labeled and ringing up as the sale price from the week prior, and if I had known that beforehand, I would have definitely picked up more!
Walmart – $5.32
This was a super quick trip for one item – a gallon of pickles. When I was looking for a gallon-sized glass jar to make kombucha, my sister-in-law told me just to buy a jar of pickles! This jar is our second, and you can expect a kombucha tutorial coming soon!
ALDI – $2.64
frozen corn, .95
colby jack, 1.69
I forgot these two items from my earlier trip this week to ALDI, but the cheese is for grilled cheese and meals and the frozen corn is for southwestern corn, which makes for a great side for taco night.
ALDI – $15.96
sweet corn, 1.49
cantaloupe x2, 1.19
sweet potatoes, 2.29
strawberries x2, 1.49
At this point it’s been 2 full weeks since we did our monthly bulk shopping and the majority of the produce we bought then is now gone. There’s nothing “special” about the produce I picked up this week, other than it was on sale and easy to use in various recipes!
Antique Store- $5
This was one of the places in my area that claimed to have backyard chicken eggs. I bought 18 eggs and taste tested them, but to be honest, I think someone is simply buying brown eggs and reselling them. I won’t be buying eggs from this shop again.
ALDI – $4.77
Once again, I’m buying coffee because I didn’t do it at Costco! Milk for our coffee as well, plus in various baking and cooking dishes.
Monthly Food Budget for May 2016: $336.54
I am very, very pleased with this month! I worked hard at the beginning of the month, with lots of planning and preparing. The rest of the family worked hard too, understanding how the budget works and not getting grumpy when there wasn’t room in the budget for special requests.
I really think that the monthly food budget is a team effort all around, and we did great as a team in May.
I’m also really liking the monthly bulk shopping. It works well for our schedule as a family, it saves us money and it forces us all to stop and really consider the meals we’ll eat for the month as a whole.
Of course, no month is complete without a few lessons learned! Feel free to leave any comments or observations you have below!
Lessons Learned for May’s Monthly Food Budget
#1. I love the Price Cruncher app.
I owe a huge thanks to the reader who suggested this to me, because it has been SO helpful in determining what store has the best deal on the things I buy most. I’ve used this now for at least 2 months before doing any major shopping and it helps me figure out what stores to visit, what to buy at each store and it tracks the prices down to the ounce for me. And I like that I can include a note for sale prices so that when I’m planning in the future, I’m not relying on a price that was temporary.
#2. ALWAYS check the receipt before I leave.
I have rarely been overcharged while shopping since I quit using coupons, so imagine my surprise when I was overcharged TWICE in my single shopping trip to Sprouts. First, I bought just one bunch of radishes and the cashier charged me for two. Second, the cashier used the code for “cinnamon imperials” instead of couscous, which cost more per pound. All totaled up, I was overcharged by $2.02. It’s just a couple of bucks and it’s not the end of the world, but I work hard to stretch every dollar I can – so these two dollars do make a difference in my budget. Plus, Sprouts is not convenient. I definitely went out of my way to shop there and it’s not convenient to go back for just a couple of dollars.
#3. I’m not a fan of Sprouts produce.
Almost 50% of the produce I bought at Sprouts started to go bad within just a few days. The strawberries started to mold, the avocados were rotten inside and the green beans got soggy and moldy too. I was impressed with the prices, but I’m not impressed with the quality. It’s hard to not write off Sprouts altogether when you combine this with being overcharged, but if I do go back, I’ll avoid the produce for sure.