My grocery budget is $330 each month for a family of four – two adults and two kids.
This real food budget includes food, toiletries, household items as well as health & beauty products.
This post is our budget accountability sessions, where we share what we spent and how we spent it.
Today marks the end of September 2014. You can read previous Counting Crumbs reports HERE.
We were out of town for one week of this grocery budget cycle, so our spending might seem a bit “off.” We attempted to eat out the fridge as much as possible before we left… and we did a pretty good job.
When we got back from vacation, we were already at the halfway point of the cycle, and I didn’t want my brain to think we could freely spend with just two weeks to shop for. So, I approached the second half with the “bare minimum” mentality… which in reality, means avoiding Costco like the plague.
Call me a nerd, but looking back on our purchases is something I enjoy. At a glance, I can see what I bought that I really didn’t need to… because it’s sitting unopened in my kitchen. Ever wonder how low your spending would be if you didn’t buy all those, “Ooh, that looks good” or “Hmm, I think we should more of this” type of items?
I sure do, and just in case you’re wondering, I’ll share my findings with you guys this month. Let’s begin!
Tropical Traditions – $217.78
organic whole cane sugar x2, 5.59
gallon virgin coconut oil, 75
extra virgin olive oil 3L, 50.40
organic pumpkin puree x4, 2.39
organic popcorn x2, 9.99
whole grain spelt 10lb, 18.56
whole grain hard red spring wheat 10lb, 11.75
whole grain rolled oats 10lb, 21.35
This purchase comes with a slight explanation. Bear with me.
As a blogger, I earn commission when you guys make purchases through some of the links I share. Honestly, it’s what helps to keep this site running (thank you!). In the case of Tropical Traditions through me, I earn gift certificates.
Ordinarily, when I use gift certificates to buy things, I don’t include the gift certificate money in my grocery spending. A perfect example is my purchase from Amazon below. That’s because you guys can use Swagbucks to earn gift certificates too. It’s an equal playing field that just needs few minutes of time every now and then for a pretty fun payoff.
However, earning gift certificates to Tropical Traditions is a bit of an uneven playing field… unless you’re a blogger too. Plus, I use those gift certificates to Tropical Traditions in a very practical manner – to buy food… food that we eat that would ordinarily come out of our $330 grocery budget.
So, while the $217 I spend at Tropical Traditions didn’t come out of my pocket, it’s only fair that I include that total in my grocery budget. After all, how I can expect you guys to stay within your own grocery budget if I don’t stay within mine?
With that said, I made this bulk purchase from Tropical Traditions BEFORE I considered how it would effect my grocery budget. Going forward, there will definitely be more thinking and number crunching before spending, just to ensure I still meet my budget at the end of the month while buying bulk at the same time. No more waiting for one huge order. Lesson learned for me.
We haven’t bought sugar in months, and although we’re not using it often, it’s nice to have some granulated sugar on hand for baking and making refrigerator pickles with the cucumbers we get in our CSA boxes. We use coconut oil for cooking and baking and some homemade beauty items (one gallon lasts about 6 months for us) and whole grains for breads (LOL – if I can get back in the swing of things). Pumpkin puree because it was a far better deal than the stores (this was before I figured out how to successfully make my own).
Popcorn is my favorite snack, but we haven’t bought this in months too. Finally, we stocked up on olive oil since believe it or not, this makes for a better deal than Costco!
All in all, this purchase will last us at least two months. The oats will be the first to disappear, and if I keep making this pumpkin spiced latte, the pumpkin will be next. The grains will last roughly three months. Olive oil three, maybe four, and as I mentioned, the coconut oil will last about six. Not too bad for the upfront investment.
Amazon – $5.68
Um… I bought a Diva Cup. TMI? Hopefully not. And definitely no picture.
Based on recommendations from you guys and my sister-in-law, I took a leap of faith and bought a Diva Cup. I gave it the officially test last month, and while I think it might take some getting used to, I can see why ya’ll recommend it. I used $20 of gift certificates, earned through Swagbucks, to pay for it.
Grocery Outlet – $6.67
organic flax seed, 2.99
baking powder, .99
Obviously, that’s not a picture of what I bought at Grocery Outlet. These first few trips were in the whirlwind leading up to going out of town, so taking a photo was the least of my concerns. Having clean underwear took precedent, so I’m distributing the pictures from other trips. (That one is from the “Farmer’s Market” trip further down.)
We were completely out of oats and baking powder, both of which are pantry staples in our house. Actually, one lesson I had learned from our 30 day no spending challenge was to not replenish anything unless it was 100% completely gone. That alone teaches me to be creative and make do with what I have, plus it prevents unnecessary purchases on things that really can wait.
Prime example: We’ve been out of cinnamon for a month, so I’ve been substituting pumpkin pie spice. It makes things taste a bit different, but it’s not too shabby of a swap!
I bought the flax seed thinking we could use it to help stretch our eggs, but it currently sits in the fridge unopened. Add $2.99 to the total of unnecessary items.
Grocery Outlet – $19.94
organic chicken thighs, 3.51
Parmesan cheese, 1.88
peanut butter, 4.99
Food Should Taste Good crackers x2, .99
gouda cheese, 6.69
unenriched ziti noodles 16oz, .89
This purchase was right before we left for San Diego, and included some snack items for the car like crackers and cheese. The peanut butter, noodles and chicken were for when we got back, so that there was at least something in the kitchen to eat. Been there, done that, not good. These three items meant we could have fruit/veg dippers, baked chicken and pasta something. Worked for me.
Grocery Outlet – $10.36
unenriched rotini noodles 16oz, .89
bananas 3lb, 1.99
organic carrots 2lb, 1.99
organic coffee, 4.99
Since it’s right across the street from Savemart, we usually swing into Grocery Outlet first to see how many things we can cross off our list for a better price. This trip was for just a few things, earlier in the week before the CSA box was ready. Cilantro for salsa and the buffalo chicken wraps, noodles because I had forgotten I already had some (oops!), bananas for snacking and smoothies, carrots for snacking and as a dinner veggie, coffee for Mr. Crumbs and I.
Savemart – $14.35
liquid aminos, 4.99
pretzel rods, 1.99
salsa verde, 2.69
wing sauce, 2.79
quart whole milk, 1.89
This is the second time I’ve bought liquid aminos, which is a non-GMO alternative for soy sauce and used in lots of dressings we make and in stir fry’s. Pretzel rods for snacks, salsa verde for enchiladas and tortilla soup, wing sauce because Mr. Crumbs requested buffalo chicken wraps the night we got home from our vacation.
Good thing I bought that chicken!
We bought just a quart of milk since they were out of the organic variety we usually buy. We already had homemade yogurt in the fridge (a perk of making it a gallon at a time), so this was primarily for coffee.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the salsa verde wasn’t needed after all. I later found tomatillo’s at a local farmers market and make our own (recipe coming soon!). So this sits in the pantry, unopened.
Actually, the liquid aminos does too. I bought it thinking we would use it, but plans changed.
Total of unnecessary items is now at $10.67.
Whole Foods – $30.96
beef chuck roast 3-4lb, 20.48
whole cage-free chicken, 10.48
When we got back from vacation we had just 3 chicken thighs in the freezer and we cooked them all up for the buffalo chicken tacos. Seeing as I was wanting to avoid Costco at all costs, I swung into Whole Foods after a dentist appointment. The chuck roast was just $5.50/lb and grass-fed. The chicken wasn’t organic, but it was non-GMO.
I split the chuck roast into two and froze half (with a marinade so that it can absorb as it thaws), but looking back I could have easily split it into 3 portions. I’ll do that for sure next time, and I’ll read up more on better ways to use a roast (I just cut off thin slices and sauteed them with onions).
Farmers Market – $15
stalk Brussels sprouts, 2
bag of tomatillo’s, 1
bag of bananas x2, 1
kiwi x6, 1
jalapenos x2, 1
oranges 8lb, 4
pears x4, 4
On the way home from the dentist, after Whole Foods, I made a stop at a farmers market that I really like, but it a bit out of the way. My goal was some fruit to snack on, to hold us over until the CSA box was available. We ended up making homemade salsa verde with the tomatillo’s and found out Mr. Crumbs is allergic to kiwi. Oy vey. That’s a story for another day.
CSA – $21.85
red butter lettuce
2 medium yellow onions
1.5lb rainbow carrots
1 delicata winter squash
8 red delicious apples
The kale went into enchiladas, turned cucumbers into pickles and put the onions in the garage for when we need them. We ate the apples for oatmeal apple crumble and again, tested the tomatoes on a new pasta dish.
I set the lettuce out to wash and put away, but forgot to do that and ended up having to throw it away. We haven’t eaten the broccoli yet or the squash, and although I’ve been shredding carrots into smoothies, we still have more. I hope to use those along with the parsnips in this root saute dish, or maybe make a batch of zucchini bread with the stash of zucchini shreds in the freezer).
Costco – $13.98
fresh mozzarella cheese, 6.99
Kerrygold butter, 6.99
Gah. I finally broke down and went to Costco. We had zero cheese in the house for pizza night, and after two weeks of not making it, we were going through withdrawals. Fortunately we walked away relatively unscathed with only adding butter to the cart… a “just in case” purchase. However, seeing as it’s unopened in the freezer, it brings our unnecessary total to $17.66.
Grocery Outlet – $9.04
Sourdough bread, 2.99
unenriched rotini noodles 16oz, .89
Monterey jack cheese, 3.17
corn tortillas, 1.99
Confession: I haven’t made bread since August. At the same time, this is the first time I actually bought bread too. I’m struggling to find a balance in the days for homeschool, making bread and picking up the CSA box. It sounds silly, but I can’t figure out how to bake bread on Thursday AND pick up the CSA box at the same time. The kids and I have a biking/running date on Mon/Wed/Fri, which makes it hard to bake bread those days too.
An easy solution though would be to bake bread on Tuesday, when we don’t have any plans to leave the house (duh), but that didn’t dawn on me until just right this moment when I typed that.
I guess Tuesday is now bread baking day. Thanks for letting me work that out. 🙂
We used the bread for grilled cheese sandwiches, hence the jack cheese. More noodles for the same tomato dish I hope to share soon and corn tortillas because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to make our own for enchiladas.
I should have though, because these tortillas tasted terrible.
CSA – $21.85 + 5.58
1 green butter lettuce
1 bunch red beets
1 acorn squash
1 bunch dill
1 bunch green onions
3-4 mixed tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
1 basket strawberries
I picked up this box yesterday so there’s still plenty left. We made a big salad to use the lettuce, green onions, daikon radish from earlier in the month and some carrots and celery and broccoli. The fresh dill became homemade ranch dressing. The rutabaga will get roasted with other carrots and parsnips. I’ll put the beets in smoothies, blanch the greens (and freeze for later) and put the squash in the garage. Acorn squash + brown sugar + butter = YUM!
Total End of September – $393.04
Clearly, I’m over budget by a good bit this month. I won’t justify it, because all that does is smooth my ego and make it seem okay when it’s not. However, I will say that with the Tropical Traditions issue cleared up, that will certainly help the next bulk purchase.
A total of $17.66 was spent on items that I thought I need RIGHT THAT MOMENT, but are still sitting in my pantry untouched. I need to be better about making a thorough shopping list and sticking to it!
For the month of October, my plan is to buy two whole chickens as usual and supplement the CSA box with fresh fruit. There are a few more weeks left of the box, and each week I’m aiming to put something away so that when the box ends, we have veggies to pull from the freezer.
We’re very set on the majority of staples, but I know some of our spices need to be replenished, as well as the coffee, maple syrup and pasta. It’ll likely be an “odds and ends” month. In order to keep my spending in check this next cycle though, I’m going to try to do the “shop once a week and that’s it” rule that a few of you employed in your own no-spending challenges, along with a fixed amount (which is TBD). It’s a good compromise that I hope will reduce unnecessary spending, and force me to be better about making a list and checking it twice!
Here’s how 2014 has shaped up so far in our grocery budget:
January Halfway & End of Month – $339.86February Halfway & End of Month – $341.14
March Halfway & End of Month – $317.44
April – $396.86
May – $392.05
June – $337.87
July – $300.90
August – $213.94
End of Summer – $132.15
September – $393.04
Monthly Average – $316.53
So we’re on track for the year, but we wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for that no-spend month. Maybe we need to do something like that one week of each month? What do you guys think? As an outsider looking in, do you see any trends in my shopping that can be improved?
These grocery budget accountability posts are as much for me as they are for you. When I know I have to share my shopping trips, I’m a lot less inclined to splurge or buy junk – thank you for holding me accountable every month!