My grocery budget for a family of 4 is $330 each month. 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 November 2014. You can read previous Counting Crumbs reports HERE.
Ok… so for the last two months, I’ve been over budget. We did some testing on our frugal meal plan subscription (after I had already gone shopping) that caused me to go over by $50 in October.
Prior to that, a huge bulk purchase in September (that was paid for by gift certificates, in my defense) made me go over by $60.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, we’re still eating good food on a very low budget, but still. Over is over and my bean-counting brain doesn’t like it.
My goal for this month was to be under. I didn’t set a specific number goal beyond that, since my natural response would be to stay $110 under our normal budget of $330 (accounting for the overages in September and October). Since I’m not quite sure it’s realistic to plan for $220 for a family of four when there’s no garden, no basement of stockpile or cabinets of preserved items… AND it’s a month with one of the biggest holidays of the year… I decided just to commit to staying under. If the food we bought this months seems incomplete, that’s because lots of our meals used food we already had in the house OR were the result of recipe testing.
Like these awesome dinner rolls? I tested and tweaked out another variation of rolls THREE times before deciding that I didn’t like them. Then I made the winning recipe THREE times before deciding to share it with you guys. Which meant a FOURTH batch for pretty pictures.
Ya’ll, that’s SEVEN batches of dinner rolls in just a few weeks.
So on many nights, we had a sandwich of some sort, a hearty dinner salad and/or soup to accompany our rolls. The menu was basically “whatever goes well with bread.” First world problems, right?
Anyways – here’s how our grocery spending panned out for November!
CSA Box – $21.85
1 butternut squash
3lbs garnet yams
1 bunch dill
1 bunch carrots
1 basket fresh cranberries
2 medium yellow onions
2 russet potatoes
1 savoy cabbage
I roasted the squash and tested a WAY YUM recipe that will be coming in January. Yams were served on Thanksgiving, half the dill was used for pickles and the other half I dehydrated, fresh cranberries also used on Thanksgiving.
We shredded the carrots for salad, and used the savoy cabbage as the base. Onions for meals and had baked potatoes with dinner one night.
This was our last box of the season and while I’m going to miss it, I think I’m ready for a break. We’ve got SO much produce in our home – in the fridge, freezer, garage – that it’s taken us almost a whole month (since this box was three weeks ago) to eat what we have.
It was smart of me (without sounding boastful here) to put up at least one item from the box each week, because I now have shredded zucchini, various greens and veggies in the freezer to help off-set what we would normally buy. Plus with testing out our frugal meal plan subscription, it makes keeping the amount of food in our house manageable.
By the way, if you’re wondering if a CSA box is right for you, check out this post that I wrote earlier in the season. Along with some of the reader comments, it should help you decide one way or the other!
Walmart – $10.28
green leaf lettuce, 1.58
I had a salad on the menu this night, and had originally planned to use the lettuce in the fridge, but when I went to double check my lettuce the night before I was about two days too late. It had gone brown and wilty and there was no hope in saving it. We happened to be near Walmart this day, so I swung in for lettuce and bananas.
The kefir and eggnog were total impulse buys. I accidentally killed my kefir grains (but more are on the the way!) and our digestive tracts have been suffering a bit, so I thought this would hold us over until the new grains arrived.
As for the eggnog… well, I like eggnog. And it’s the holidays. I could have made my own, but frankly, I didn’t feel like it. Call me human!
I did make a smart choice though in this lazy moment. I find regular eggnog to be a bit too thick for me, so in years past when I bought it regularly, I used to buy the “lite” version because it was thinner. This time, I chose the only full-fat variety that didn’t have high fructose corn syrup and have been thinning it out with whole milk in each serving. It’s made this one quart last an entire month, which is a record considering I could easily drink an entire quart in a single sitting!
We use the bigger oranges for smoothies (an easy way to add nutrients AND liquid) and the smaller ones are for the kids to snack on. Hooray for them being able to peel them on their own!
Pomegranates are in season and CHEAP, so we picked up a few and used this easy method for getting the seeds out.
My son has been on an olive kick lately, enjoying them as a snack. I obliged his request and picked up another container of cocoa for a few gifts of homemade instant hot cocoa for friends and family since it was so affordable! Eggs are a staple.
Savemart – $44.18
organic milk x2, 6.38
blue cheese, 2.50
granny smith apples, 3.55
chicken apple sausage, 4.99
carne asada x3, 4.58*
pork cubes for chili verde, 3.83*
The first four items on my list were intentional. The fifth was a splurge and the last three I consider bonuses!
Milk for coffee creamer and to make yogurt. Blue cheese for a new salad recipe I’m working on and apples and bananas for the salad and snacking respectively. Although Mr. Crumbs isn’t a big fan of sausage, the kids and I love it. I picked up a package to have on hand during the craziness that happens during the holiday season.
Speaking of craziness, I’ve found that for our family, we have to meal plan a bit differently during the holiday season. Rather than a day-by-day plan, I make a big list of meals that we can make using what we have in the kitchen. Then, I make dinner based on the time available and what we’re in the mood for. I keep the list updated, crossing off meals eaten and adding new ideas as they come to me and as items come into the kitchen.
This is why when I perused the marked down meat section as I always do, I was a bit excited to find a few packages of carne asada marked down. They were each 3/4 – 1 lb, which is perfect for a one night dinner. I brought them home, sliced each one thinly against the grain and froze for future meals (bonus points for already being portioned!).
The pork cubes weighed 1.2 lbs, which I honestly thought would get us one dinner and a leftover (following this recipe). Our dinner plans changed that night and it ended up making six VERY big lunches instead. I was very surprised at how well shredded pork stretches, so I plan to incorporate this into our meal rotation more often.
Savemart – $10.16
soy sauce, 1.99
rice vinegar, 1.89
oyster sauce, 1.99
sesame oil, 4.29
We hosted a family over for dinner one night, making a slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe. All was good until I realized at the last minute that I had NONE of the ingredients needed, lol. I normally have these items in the pantry (which is why I chose that meal in the first place), but I must have missed this dinner in my shopping list.
Lo and behold, later in the week (while using these pantry inventory downloads), I found the liquid aminos that I could have sworn I had purchased not too long ago, lol. Oh well. All of these will get used again because that dish was pretty good and we enjoy Asian dishes.
Ace Hardware – $8.13
This was a single purchase for applewood chips, which we used to smoke the Thanksgiving turkey on the grill.
Grocery Outlet – $33.28
sweetened condensed milk, 1.29
evaporated milk, .89
whole corn, .79
pineapple chunks, .99
apple cranberry juice, 1.99
fresh mozzarella x2, 2.99
corn muffin mix, .59
This trip was specifically for Thanksgiving. Charcoal for the grill, olives for the boy (see my comment above), sweetened condensed milk for the pumpkin pie and evaporated milk because I couldn’t remember if I needed it or not (turns out I didn’t).
Whole corn and muffin mix for corn casserole, pineapple for the best dinner rolls ever and butter because I REFUSE to run out of butter on Thanksgiving.
Cashews for snacking, juice for this cranberry recipe and mozzarella for pizza.
Target – $9.56
creamed corn, .59
half & half x2, 2.09
Continuing shopping for Thanksgiving… except the cheese. That’s for snacking and for recipes at home. Half and half for chocolate pie and creamed corn for corn casserole.
Costco – $67.23
organic salsa, 7.79
tortilla chips, 3.49
blue cheese, 7.46
organic whole chickens 2pk, 27.02
We invited family over for dinner one Saturday after swim lessons, but it wasn’t until AFTER Mr. Crumbs hung up the phone that we realized we didn’t have enough chicken to cover everyone. Costco is on the way home, so we made a quick trip.
Mr. Crumbs had a craving for chips and salsa, so he put them in the cart. Blue cheese and craisins for the same salad I’ve been working on and chicken for dinner. Apples for the salad and for snacking.
Although this is more than I wanted to spend, I consider it a success. There was a scary moment when I had to practically pry a container of peanut butter filled pretzels from Mr. Crumbs. I guess that’s what happens when the husband goes shopping with you!
Savemart – $18.78
eggs 18ct, 2.99
organic milk, 6.38
seven layer dip bean tray, 4.99
marked down bananas x3, 1.49
I had everything needed for Thanksgiving the Friday before, but a failed batch of pancakes and two requests for scrambled eggs for lunch made me fear that I’d run out of eggs for the big day… so we made a quick trip for eggs, but while we were there, I stocked up on marked down bananas and picked up another gallon of milk.
Oh, and I totally caved in to a craving for bean dip. I blame Mr. Crumbs. Darn the big bag of tortilla chips in the pantry!
Walmart – $10.36
We LITERALLY ran out of coffee that morning, so we made a run to Walmart for coffee and a few other items I was needing for the house.
Total End of November – $248.56
Woo-hoo! Goal met! It’s always so rewarding to see your hard work at budgeting pay off. It makes all those seemingly random meals of simply eating what you already have so worth it! This offsets my overage for last month and some of the month prior. Now if I can keep the momentum going for December, we’ll be in great shape heading into 2015.