No Grocery Budget Comparing Allowed :)

azure_standard

I am so glad so many of you are sharing about your grocery budgets and talking about what works for you in the area of food spending.  I’m loving how we are all able to interact with each other in the comments and encourage each other as we look at sources for real, whole foods to feed our families.

One tiny concern I have and would like to address, is that sometimes I feel like we can look at what others spend on groceries for the month and either feel like a failure because “there’s no way I could keep my grocery budget that low” or feel like someone else is overspending because “wow, what in the world  is she buying with all that money each month?”

Neither kind of comparison is okay. 

We’re all in different circumstances.  We all live in different places.  We all have different food sources.  We all have different dietary needs.  We all have different income levels.  We all have different sized gardening spaces (or a lack thereof).  We all have different sized kitchens and different storage situations.  We all have a lot of laundry to do – oh wait…that has nothing to do with grocery budgets.  Well, we don’t get to compare height of laundry piles either.

I was hesitant to post about our family’s grocery budget for several reasons, but mainly because I really didn’t want anyone to see what we spent on mostly organic, whole foods and feel like they weren’t doing a good enough job of keeping their costs down if they spend more than we spend each month.

And on the flip side, I occasionally receive comments or emails from people who can’t believe we actually spend $500/month on food because $500/month seems frivolous and outrageous and all of the food we eat just seems too high priced.

My intent is not to have anyone compare how much they spend each month with what our family spends or with what any family spends.  And please don’t be critical of me or of anyone if we happen to spend more than you spend on groceries. 

What I did intend is for us all to be challenged about what we spend and about what we’re eating and about where we get our food.  I want us all to use this blog as a forum for sharing with each other and helping each other.  I have no idea what the great food sources are in any place but my little neck of the woods, which is why it’s so fun to see you all sharing with each other and offering food source suggestions when you “meet” someone who lives close to you.  THANK YOU for doing that for each other.

But please let’s nobody look at anybody’s food budget number and feel icky.  (That may be one of the most poorly worded sentences I’ve ever wrote.)  (Okay, no…that one was.)

And also, my laundry pile is shrinking as we speak, but tomorrow it will be back up again and I’ll be right back where I started.  What does your laundry pile look like?  Oh wait…I said we WEREN’T going to compare laundry height.  Never mind.

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Comments

  1. says

    I was thinking the same thing reading through the post’s comments. We used to buy at the grocery store for x/mo absolute junk…we then began being careful about what we ate…buying bulk from an organic co-op warehouse…and we ended up paying the same amount…we also began buying meat bulk (1/4 cow…freezer packs from a local farm…etc) odd how that can be…yes it takes more time and planning, but it works.

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  2. Cindy Miller says

    Your $500 a month does not at all seem frivolous for an organic and whole foods diet. We are attempting to go that way with our food and I have been a bit discouraged that our costs would go way up, I have been doing some research and trying to make wise and careful choices. We have three children, live in Florida (I have found that food prices are much higher here than in my native Missouri) and have not had much success with gardening, though I am willing to give it a try again. So tell me, how and where do you find ways to save while shopping organic and whole foods? We are taking the slow road getting there, but would like to fully switch by the spring. Thanks!!

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    marie Reply:

    prices are high in missouri I don’t know why either
    but we pay more here then just over the state line in kansas go figure

    gardening is hard here too because we can go from frost to heat wave
    to drought to flooding all in one spring – fall garden season.

    the joys of living in the midwest. :)

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  3. Marianne says

    ha ha!! I thought my laundry pile was DONE for the day when suddenly I discovered a pile in front of hubbies closet :-)

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  4. blair says

    Laura, i want to live next door to you.. you spend almost exactly what i spend.. and im sure you get better food for it :-).. i badly want a garden, but i dont know how, and i dont like to sweat.. hmm.. maybe one day.

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  5. says

    I’m glad you did post your totals I spend about the same and thought maybe I was too high. We are mixed house i’m vegetarian, kids are picky and hubby thinks a side of a cow needs to be with every meal :) see can you imagine what dinner time is like for me I’m a short order cook :)

    my goal is to shrink it some hopefully with the review of the book real food on a real budget (there is a giveaway of that too :) but if I don’t shrink it to what I’d like it’s ok too because lets face it food is expensive and we have to have it. :)

    my laundry pile is gone for today but like you said will magically reappear by friday i’m sure.

    Love your blog and Love your post!

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  6. says

    I am just so shocked at how all of you do it! Granted I am still in the beginning stages of family and healthier eating/living but I cannot fathem shopping in this way.
    We only have one year round farmers market and its way over priced. Not only do I want natural/organic things for my family but we are on a fixed income so price is also a problem.
    I need you ladies to supply me with tips and tricks to get all the greatness above for myself.

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    Joann Reply:

    “I need you ladies to….(help me)”…exactly! This is what needs to
    happen in our local communities! Keep praying for a local mentor,
    Morgan.

    I spend quite a bit of time helping other women make the steps toward
    healthier eating, cooking, and finding good sources of food and supplies.
    It is a huge source of blessing for me to be able to share what I
    know with others in my area. And, I know it really helps them.

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  7. says

    Sorry, Laura ~ Hope my previous comment didn’t sound offensive. I was attempting to make the point that cost of living (food) USUALLY reflects the average income level of an area. Thus, everyone might be spending a similar *percentage* of their budgets on food… or not. It doesn’t really matter, does it? =)

    ::a better point::
    I am still amazed when we get to the end of a year or month and stop to reflect on how God CAN and DOES provide our needs, one way or another. For His glory, not for mine.

    btw, Laura, I finally made our first order with Azure Standard! I’m so excited to see and taste some wonderful produce next week!

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    Laura Reply:

    No, no…not at all!!! I thought you made a great point, which is the reason I included that in this post. It wasn’t your comment that triggered this post, I really just felt like it would be important for me to address this issue because I know it’s easy to read blogs and play the comparison game.

    YAY for your first Azure order!!!

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  8. Holly in Virginia says

    I think the biggest thing people need to take into consideration is their geographical location. If I think about living in the rural midwest versus an urban coast area, it makes a lot of things make more sense. Rural areas have lower cost of living to correspond with their lower earning potential. In urban areas everything cost a lot more but your earning potential is much higher. Then consider your socio-economic status. If you’re a blue collar single income family in high COL (cost of living) area, you might struggle to feed your family conventional foods for the same as what others in the middle of nowhere are able to feed their family organic, pastured everything.

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    Tabitha (A Penny Saved) Reply:

    That is exactly what I was thinking when the Facebook survey was posted. There is so much more to a family’s grocery budget than just a total and the number of people in the family.

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  9. Tracy Tysinger says

    Budget? That is a good question. We also buy very little at the store. My hubby raises grass fed beef so we always have a cow in the freezer. My hubby also hunts and we usually have a couple deer as well. We have our own chickens so our eggs come from there. We have raised chicken for meat in the past but have not done that lately but would love too. Therefore I do have to buy my chickens from the store would love to find a local farmer in my area that has organic chicken to sell. i usually can make a few meals off a chicken. We raise a large garden every year. I freeze and can a lot. We have corn green beans , peas, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers,okra,pumpkins. Therefore we freeze this and can and I make pickles, relish, salsa, spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, veggie soup, tons of jellies, we have grapes, peaches,apples here on the farm as well.We also purchase Sweet Potatoes from a man that works with my hubby every year. I try to make my own bread but I do not have a grain grinder at this time but hope to soon. I do cook from scratch and eat as much organic as I can find. I would love to purchase raw milk but that is illegal in NC and I know there are some that do but I have not been able to find any at this time. I would also love to find something like Azure in my area as well. So, anyone from NC that has any ideas please share.
    Thanks Laura i love this site we eat a lot like your family. We are a homeschool family as well with. I have 4 boys and 1 girl in addition to my hubby and myself.
    God truly is GOOD and has always provided for us.

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    Ginny Reply:

    Tracy, if you go to http://www.realmilk.com you can find sources for raw milk in your area. On that website, I was even able to find a goat farm within minutes from my house (within the city limits!) From what I understand, it is not illegal to consume raw milk, and there are ways to get around the semantics of “illegal” raw milk. Hope that helps!

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  10. Nicole S. says

    Ugh…laundry. You don’t even want to see the height of my pile. There are time I think I lose our 3 year old in it :)

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    Laura Reply:

    :) I actually did lose my toddler in the laundry once … she fell asleep in a basket of clean towels. I was just about to pick up the phone to make a missing child report when I found her!

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  11. says

    I haven’t read all the comments on your last post or any on this post…yet. But I do want to say that only spending approximately $500 a month with 4 growing boys is a miracle! Plus with it being organic, I think that is amazing. I am soooo glad I stumbled on your site. You have some great recipes that I cannot wait to try.

    Thanks for all the info you post!

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  12. Jennifer says

    I have to agree with Anna. I barely make it on $400/month for 3 young (all 7 and under, but HUNGRY) boys, 1 with many dietary restrictions. I am amazed at what you do!! I’ve been easing us into healthier options little by little. Your posts are an inspiration and HUGE help!!

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  13. says

    On one side of this coin, comparing is not always bad. Comparing is how we choose the best price at the best store for the best price on toilet paper. We compare an average to find out if we are ‘on track’ for budget or developmental issues.

    However, comparing food budget is very tricky. As a military family, who has moved around the country adding to our total of 5 healthy eaters as we go, it becomes apples to oranges. The region, the type, the store availabilities, the deals, the growth spurts, and the dietary needs for us have changed regularly. Sometimes we are able to keep a smaller budget and stretch our food bill farther, and sometimes we have to fill it in from other places to accomodate needs as they change. Food budget is very subjective and the priorities are different for each family. Let’s be gracious and kind to each other, building up and strengthening each other. It’s hard enough to manage a home without feeling attacked while we do it.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    “Let’s be gracious and kind to each other, building up and strengthening each other. It’s hard enough to manage a home without feeling attacked while we do it.”

    Yup. What SHE said!

    When I started homemaking/homeschooling after being a career woman, I was OVERWHELMED. I made the terrible mistake of comparing myself to everyone else… particularly the gleaming women of the wide, wonderful world of the Internet!

    Comparison is great when it’s toilet paper and milk. When we compare ourselves to OTHERS, however, too often we compare what we know (or believe) to be our weaknesses with what we PERCEIVE to be the other person’s strengths. This is a recipe for disaster!

    Again, I think your blog is fantastic and find this series to be quite helpful. Keep up the good work! :)

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  14. Katharine says

    Phew! Now I know I am a normal homemaker! I’ve always felt like a failure because of the height of my laundry pile. I can breathe a sigh of relief now! ;)

    About the groceries…I’m in the reverse situation of the first commenter. I’m from Florida and now live in Missouri. I have found the grocery prices to be much higher here. It seems like ever since we moved here I’ve been struggling to put fresh fruits and veggies on table (let alone organic fruits and vegetables) with our grocery budget. I suppose I was spoiled down there with all of Winn-Dixie’s BOGO’s and 10 for 10′s. Last year, we tried a “garden” (it was only two tomato plants, a cucumber plant and a green bell pepper plant) for the first time and we were semi-successful. This year, we’re going to try to find a better spot in our limited space for a bigger garden and give canning a shot. Hopefully with a little hard work and a bountiful harvest we, as a family, will be able to alleviate some of the pressure I feel when doing the grocery shopping.

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    Amy C. Reply:

    Katharine, I just moved FROM Missouri! What area did you move to? Maybe I could offer some suggestions?

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    Katharine Reply:

    We live in Columbia. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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    april Reply:

    my husband is from florida and complains about the prices here in Missouri too…I know where he’s from(outside of Tampa) you can find a produce stand on practically every corner, plus there are abundances of meat markets, etc that keeps the prices lower. He loves seafood(so do the kids) but the prices and quality here make it an occasional treat.

    Gardening is difficuly here too(we live in the Ozarks)..the soil is either too rocky or clay like. it doesnt help Im the Grim Reaper for plants :)

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    Katharine Reply:

    Ha! We lived in several places in Florida (I’m a native Floridian, my husband was born and raised here in Missouri). The last place we lived in was Holiday, Florida and there was a produce stand on the corner of U.S. 19 and Alt. 19 that I frequented. I second your opinion on the seafood. I haven’t touched it since we moved, it is just too expensive!

    Our problem with the garden is that we live in a duplex with limited space. We have a nice backyard that is fenced, but it does not drain well at all. I’m worried that the soil there will stay too moist for some of the food plants we want to grow. Our garden last year was on the side of the house and that seemed to work, but the space is too small.

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    Cathy Reply:

    I live in Missouri too (somewhere between central & southwest!) and
    gardening was not very successful for a lot of people I know. Ours
    didn’t do as well as the previous year. Here’s to hoping for a good
    gardening year this year!

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  15. Amy C. says

    Great post! Our budget is smaller because we don’t eat near as healthy as your family does, but your family’s eating habits are my personal goal. One day, I would LOVE to grind flour, have a big garden, own some chickens for eggs, etc. Each person’s family is different – no one should compare their situations.

    Oh dear. Our laundry is shameful! It’s far too high. :(

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  16. Irma says

    I saw above that raw milk is illeagal in NC, does anyone know about if you can get it in SC or TENN?

    [Reply]

    Amanda -_-* Reply:

    Raw milk is illegal in all but 3 or 4 states. However, some farmers sell it anyway. Look up the nearest contact to you on the Weston Price website, and they may know of someone near you who sells it. You could also buy it from one of the states where it’s legal, but shipping can be pretty expensive :/

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  17. Darcy says

    Another thing to remember is that it takes time to get to where some are in their food budgets. It has taken me three years to get to where I am now and I still have further to go. Most people can’t make many of these changes overnight and all at one time. Start with what you can and know you are doing the best you can for your family!

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  18. Theresa Miller says

    Thank you so much for this posting. I get so discouraged when I see people posting pictures, I just bought $692.91 in groceries today and only paid $4.32. On average, I am getting a savings of 50% with coupons. I finally decided with the new year I am going to be happy if I can make 50% saved, and not compare myself to others.

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  19. says

    Thanks for posting that. This is an important moderation to the discussion. Where I live in the Greater Washington area, food prices are huge compared to midwest. Also, there are no local sources of wheat berries – everything has to be shipped half way across the country…

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  20. Nadine says

    For hesitant or wanna be gardeners, I cannot recommend enough SQUARE FOOT GARDENING, by Mel Bartholomew. I believe this book came out in the 80′s and has had a resurgence. Google it also, it will give you an idea.
    basically for we who live in the burbs, are not gardeners and have limited space and time, this type of gardening is for you.
    I started with one 4 foot by 4 foot plot ( I now have two ), No weeding No tilling. I grew tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, beans, zucchini and herbs. ANYONE who has a bit of an interest in gardening and fresh produce, I highly suggest you look into it.
    So many of my neighbors have started square foot gardening after seeing my little but fertile garden.

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    Katharine Reply:

    Thanks for the info! I bought “The Backyard Homestead” and it is wonderful as well.

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  21. says

    I think there’s so many factors that come into play when we look at each others numbers>
    -Cost of groceries (cost of living). My grocery prices are going to be much cheaper (in west Michigan), than someone who lives in New York city. What something costs me might cost someone else double-for the same item.
    -Area in terms of farming/agriculture. I live in the suburb of a big city, but across the street from me is a giant orchard. We have at least 5 farmers markets within driving distance in the summer, not including the small ones people put in front of their houses. We have lots of beef farmers nearby, as well as several farms that sell eggs. Because of this, I can get things cheaper than someone who may live in the city not have these things nearby.
    -my local grocery store has a reduced produce rack. This thing is a gold mine for reduced organic produce! My best find was 15lbs of organic apples (in great condition), for $6! Lots of stores have these racks, but some don’t.

    It’s not really fair for me to compare my grocery budget with someone who lives in a high cost of living area, or who doesn’t have a lot of local resources available. That’s why I think we all have to be careful about comparing what others spend to feed their families.

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  22. says

    I live in Eastern NC (where it is currently quite chilly). We certainly have various sources for fresh and local food, but is anyone familiar with a co-op that serves this area?

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    jacki Reply:

    Hi, Megan! I’m in Eastern NC too. I know some farms around the area do CSA

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  23. Diane says

    Well said, Laura. Sometimes it does help to see how others are doing their budget. But so we can get ideas, and be challenged.
    Thanks for your post. It is great to get suggestions, and an idea of how others are managing.

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  24. Carla says

    I do live in PA where I think our food is cheaper. To the people who say there ground is to rocky or has to much clay or doesn’t drain well, Do raised beds, solves all 3 of those issues. Where I am at it is very rocky we have to work hard to have the garden. I don’t compare my budget with anyone else but do love to hear how everyone else works there’s out. I have been working on going all organic but at this point in our lives that is not all possible. I garden organicely and raise most of our veggies. I have started on fruit and can’t wait to get chickens. Love these post’s and can’t wait to see more.

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  25. says

    Thank you for posting how much you spend. It was good for me to read. I have been working through how much we have budgeted and it was good for me to see how much you (and others) are spending. I also like how you broke down how much you spend on each thing, because I was able to compare the price in your area compared to what I spend in the ATL area. It also inspired me to maybe look at different sources for things. I did compare but in a healthy way. :O) This has been an adventure changing over our food lifestyle. We had a little set back with me being very sick for a couple months due to pregnancy but now that I have gotten through that phase and we are starting a new year, I am excited about figuring this all out for our family. Thank you for all your help and some yummy recipes(a friend was VERY excited at how yummy your tortillas were that I made for her)!

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  26. Erin says

    Does anyone know of an Azure equivalent in the Atlanta, GA area. I did the CSA thing for a year but we got very little for such a high dollar membership.

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  27. Crystal says

    A tip for those drowning in laundry (I’m there too right now!):
    Reduce the amount of clothes you and your family members own. Period. Pick a number that works for you for how many outfits you need, based on the frequency of your laundry days and choose your favorites. Donate the rest to charity or have yourself a garage sale and make a couple bucks. We have done this in the past and I LOVED the freedom it gave me! We are in the process of doing it again – kids change clothing sizes so fast, it’s hard to stay on top of it.

    How it worked for us last year: I chose 12-15 outfits for each child and packed up the rest. The outfits included Sunday clothes, play clothes, and going out clothes. They had so many cute things I couldn’t narrow it down any farther (thanks Grandma!!!)

    My laundry goal this year is to have 10 hangers per child, the end. When all you have is 10 outfits you become responsible for seeing that when they’ve been worn and dirtied you MUST put them in the hamper to be cleaned or you’ll be wearing dirty clothes! This is a great lesson for little ones who think the closet or bedroom floor is a hamper. ;o)

    The best part is, if every person has absolutely everything in the dirty laundry… there’s still not much to do! :O) It stays manageable! And if you stay on top of it by doing one load every (or every other) day, it’s so much easier to complete it all and actually have it put away at the end of the day. :O) Now, if you have 8 kids (or some other comparable number) you may have to do more than one load per day! ;O) I only have 4 now.

    By the way, this works wonderfully well for grown ups too. How many pairs of jeans are in your dresser drawer? Can you even fit into all of them? Sweaters? Tee shirts? What’s your favorite clothing item? Shoes anyone? :O) Pick your faves and donate or recylce (upcycle) the rest. This also makes room for new acquisitions! ;o) Happy de-junking everyone!!!

    P.S. I LOVE THIS TOPIC THREAD! We receive help with our grocery budget right now while Hubby finishes Graduate School. I’m so grateful that we are able to shop for organic and healthy foods right now so that when we are on our own, I’ll have already learned the benefits of certain items and the sticker-shock won’t be so bad.

    I made the switch to real butter a couple of years ago and every single time I picked up the box of golden goodness and looked at the less than $1/lb yellow plastic sitting next to it, it was a challenge! Now I don’t even notice that I pay over $4/lb. In fact, I buy it by the case and receive a 10% bulk discount! It costs over $100/case and lasts about 4-6 weeks. I love good butter!!! I can’t wait to get a house and land and have my own dairy cow!!! Mmm, mmm, good! :O)

    [Reply]

    Kaylen Reply:

    Where on earth do you store all of that butter? I’d love to do the same but only have one refrigerator.

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    Crystal Reply:

    I only have one fridge too. And it’s tiny. :) The top shelf doesn’t hold much, so I open up the case and put all of the individually packaged pounds of butter up there. I keep meaning to try bottling my butter as found here: http://www.preparednesspro.com/blog/catching-up-with-the-truth-about-expiration-dates-and-butter/, but I just go through it too quickly to worry about it. You can also put it in the freezer for longer storage. I hope that gives you a few ideas. :)

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