Our Real Food Grocery Budget 2011


I’m trying very hard to write a post about how much our Grocery Budget is for 2011 for our family of six. Many of you are curious about how much money it takes to eat the way we do (especially with four growing boys) and I’d really love to be able to share.

My problem with giving you a “We spend $X on our groceries each month” statement is that I don’t feel like any number I come up with will be accurate. I’d say we probably spend an average of about $500/month for our family’s food needs. But some months I spend $400 on meat alone…other months I don’t buy any meat at all…sometimes my Azure Standard co-op order is really huge…other months I barely buy anything.

I rarely shop at a grocery store, so I hardly ever have a store receipt to guide me on our food budget keeping. We get milk and cream from one farmer, eggs from our friend, chicken and beef from a farm, venison from hunters, lamb from a teenager raising lambs, raw honey from a local bee keeper, maple syrup once a year at the farmer’s market, bulk wheat once a year from a big bulk order a friend organizes. We get sweet corn in a huge batch once during the summer and put it up in the freezer.

And so, our grocery spending each month depends on what we need and when we need it. (We are blessed to have extra freezers and storage space to support our bulk purchases.)  If I were to buy what I need each month, then look at the budget and say, “Ooh goody…we have an extra $105 in our grocery budget that I haven’t spent yet…now I have money to splurge on extras like pizza and juice!” then I wouldn’t have enough the following month when we’re out of ground beef. 

I don’t spend money just because I happen to have surplus in our monthly budget.  I spend the money I need to spend at the time I need to spend it and that’s it. Sometimes I go over budget, sometimes I’m way under…it all averages out.

Does that make any sense at all?

In addition, we tend to feed a lot of company each month. We LOVE having people over for meals and do this regularly. The money for this sometimes comes out of our “Giving” budget instead of out of our regular “Food” budget, but it’s all food so it’s hard to keep track of separately.

So…this is why I’m having a hard time sharing what our grocery budget looks like. I apologize for being complicated. I actually feel like the way we do things is simple, because we just spend the money for the food we need when we need it. It’s fun and it’s delicious and I love knowing where our food is coming from. But it doesn’t look very pretty on paper…or rather on screen.

As best as I could I broke down our food budget for each month with a rough guess of how much I spend on average for our groceries:

  • Raw Whole Milk and Cream:  3 gallons of milk at $4.00/gallon + 1 pint of cream at $3.00/pint each week =$15/week; $60/month
  • Free Range Eggs:  4 dozen a week at $2.50/dozen= $10.00/week; $40.00/month
  • Chicken, Beef, Lamb and Venison:  $150/month
  • Azure Standard order:  $150/month
  • Grocery Store/Walmart/Farmer’s Market (summertime):  $75/month
  • Bulk Wheat  $210/year = $17.50/month
  • Amazon Groceries:  Free with Swagbucks (more about this tomorrow)
  • Garden Produce:  Lots of hard work and sweat  

We grow and preserve all of our tomato products, green beans and many other vegetables from our garden each year. We almost always have a chance to pick (for free) all the strawberries and raspberries and peaches and apples and pears and cherries we can get our hands on. We work very hard in the fall to can and freeze enough of these items to last us the entire year. This food is “free” but labor intensive. That’s okay, we get a big kick out of having dirty fingernails.

So, now that I’ve given you all of this information…I’d love for you to tell a little bit about what your food budget looks like if you care to share. Do you spend a certain amount on groceries each month, or do you just buy what you need as you need it? Do you feel like you should cut your grocery bill…or do you feel like you are buying high quality food at a good price?

Be sure to hop on over and read this too: No Grocery Budget Comparing Allowed

Tomorrow, I plan to address several questions I’ve received about eating Real Food on a very limited income. How can you eat a healthy diet when you barely have enough money for groceries?

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  1. says

    I love to see what everyone else does. I have a hard time keeping track of what we spend because it varies so much.

    Like Laura, we buy from Azure Standard once per month (I have a Southern Oregon drop if anyone is interested-FREE shipping and I don’t charge to coordinate it).

    We buy our eggs from friends and our milk from a family farm. I do still go to the grocery, but I would like to stay out of there. Around here, it seems like you have to go to several stores to get what you want, and it gets old. I really don’t have time for that.

    I like the Grocery Outlet for some things, like organic cheese. Food 4 Less also has some wholesome choices as well, when I can get there. We also have a food co-op 45 minutes away that has wholesome meat and chicken. I just can’t get there more than every 3-4 months.

    We do grow some of our own food and I dry/can/freeze it.

    We spend anywhere between $500.00-$700.00 per mo. on food only. I know I can be more frugal than that. I just have to put in the work.


  2. Mary says

    My grocery budget isn’t very exciting. I actually spend more on my cats each month than I do on my own food!

    I’m single. I eat gluten-free because of anemia issues. I stop at Aldi’s about once a week and usually pick up $15 in vegetables. They have good quality produce at reasonable prices all year long. I love their packs of tomatoes-on-the-vine – they are always ripe and have a good flavor. I also get eggs there, usually way under $1/doz.

    I get gluten-free flours, fresh butter, sucanat or raw sugar, spices and tons of other stuff at a nearby “Amish” style bulk food store – sometimes I go and spend $40 – sometimes I spend $5. I get yogurt and cheese using coupons, usually at Walmart because it’s nearby – even though I truly dislike the whole Walmart philosophy – but I’m in a college town and the grocery stores here (Copps, Pick-n-Save, Hyvee, Cub and Sentry) are very overpriced, even using coupons.

    My biggest trick for saving on groceries? Buy the free stuff at Walgreens and use coupons. You actually make money that way, and I use that “overage” from couponing to buy staples like tomato sauce and other stuff that Walgreens carries. Any of the free stuff that I can’t use either goes to friends and family, gets donated to the pantry at church, or gets sold at flea markets to fund my grocery and household purchases throughout the year. I haven’t paid for contact lens solution, shampoo, lotion, soap, toothpaste or many other items in years thanks to CVS and Walgreens.

    And I mooch off my cousin’s Costco membership to get good deals on gluten free crackers and other odd-ball items like Chobani greek yogurt (beyond yum!) 12-packs or their peach mango salsa (you must try it!).

    I keep track of every penny I spend (I’m on a “back from the brink of bankruptcy” plan – failed business and job loss last year) so I put everything into paying off debt and spend little on “fun” stuff right now – but I truly eat well and do not ever feel deprived! I recently cut out what junk food was left in my diet and gave up diet pop when I realized just how much I spent on it last year.

    You are so right – everyone’s situation is different. I have the time to “extreme coupon” (though I’m really not that extreme!) on my way to and from work each day – I just make a quick Walgreens or CVS stop and grab a couple of things each day – and it really makes a difference for me at this point in my life.


    heather shelton Reply:

    just wondering what the name of the amish type bulk store is. I have been looking to buy some things in bulk? Also, I love ALDI=)


    Mary Reply:


    The one I go to is an independent country store near Ft Atkinson, WI. There are lots of little independent shops just like the one I go to, see the link above or just goodle “amish bulk food store” and your city & state. I bet you find one nearby that you never knew was there!


    Mary Reply:

    Ha, sorry- “google”, not goodle. :)

    Sana Reply:

    Where do you get these Wallgreens coupons from?


  3. sabrina says

    In regards to the question about what to do if you live in a state where raw milk is not legally sold for “human” consumption. Look into local farms or farmer markets that sell raw milk for “pet” consumption. Just saying, that works here in south Ga. Same stuff, but they have to put a label on to abide by Ga laws.


    Trudi Reply:

    We live in a state (Colorado) where it is illegal is “sell” raw milk for human consumption. To legally get around that, many famers offer “raw milk shares” where you can buy a “share” of the herd. That way you are technically (and legally) getting your own milk. We have to drive nearly 80 miles each week to get our milk but it is SO WORTH IT!!!!! Even at $8/gallon . . . our overall health has improved and that’s the only thing that’s changed in our diet. Even my husband can now drink a tall glass of raw milk now . . . and he is (was) lactose intolerant. Not to mention all the health benefits!


    Coupon Cook Reply:

    I have a local source for raw milk. Both of my kids have bovine “allergies”. Funny. I can feed them the raw milk and no tummy issues at all, processed junk from the store causes IBS flare ups….


  4. Brighid says

    Raw milk here is $5/gallon. I think cream is $8/qt.

    I wish I knew free sources of produce like Laura has! I did make a commitment to pick more this summer and freeze it. And we greatly expanded our garden.

    I’ll be trying to make bread more often also.

    Like others, we’ve made a commitment to get out of debt and so we’re going to try to knock our food budget down because realistically, that’s the only place with any give left.


  5. Carla says

    I have a budget of 150.00 every two weeks for a family of 4, but this doesn’t include the steer we buy or the pig. I also garden and preserve what I can. We also get eggs next door. ( plans are in the works to get our own chickens this spring) We also get raw organic milk and honey at a family farm about 30 minutes from us. I live near some bulk food store’s and a scratch and dent store. Some times I can get good deals at these places. Love to hear what others do.


  6. Tamara says

    While we’ve fought debt over the last 7 years our budget has ranged from $150 a month to it’s max ever which is $600 a month. We also live in a more expensive location than we used to. When it was lower, I had a garden but now our schedule and location doesn’t permit it so I spend more at the grocery store. I don’t have it broken down like you do, but I love the idea. It’s hard to me to know how much of each to buy + make sure they’re good deals to stay on budget etc. We aren’t even doing organic anymore but I’d like to get back to that as well.


    Mommabear Reply:

    Hi Tamara- Your situation is exactly like mine. We ate much healthier before we closed our business. 4 years later I have gained 30 pounds and feel terrible. Processed food is cheap but bad for you. We are learning to eat “clean”. Surprisingly, my two teens are the push behind this. We too miss organic food and products. We are slowly making our way back. BUT, food is extremely expensive where we live. No farms around. I do have room for a very small garden in my yard and have been experimenting. It is a challenge but I know we can make the switch to healthier eating. I read a great suggestion that if you have to shop only in the grocery store, stick to the outside walls- fresher and less processed items are there. Also, if your granny wouldn’t recognize it, don’t eat it! Still very blessed!


  7. says

    $4.00 a gallon for raw milk? Be still my heart! The cheapest we can get it here is $10 a gallon… and that’s from a family friend!!! (Maybe I need nicer friends???)

    I appreciate this series and your site. It’s been very helpful.


    Elizabeth Reply:

    I never knew how blessed I am to get raw milk for $2.50 a gallon in Pennsylvania Amish country. I am getting into canning and freezing this summer, hoping to buy produce from nearby farms and then preserve it for the winter. Exciting stuff!


    Randi Millward @ Books by Randi Reply:

    Elizabeth, where in PA? I live in Marienville (16239)>


    Tracy N. Reply:

    I live in Camp Hill and I spend way more
    than $2.50 per gallon.
    Where are you and what farm do you use?

  8. Bobbie Rider says

    Laura, I love your site! Thanks so much for all you do to encourage everyone.
    I have one question. You said you do not go to the grocery store hardly at all. What about fresh produce like lettuce, spinach, celery, kale? I had one friend who said greens will keep even in the winter in a garden, but these things don’t last that long? How do you do something like this?


    jennifer Reply:

    i don’t know about Laura, but we try to eat as seasonally as possible- which for us (in northern alaska) means no greens in the winter time. I sprout all the time, and we eat sauerkraut (made this past summer) which tastes fresh, and all the frozen greens from the garden this past summer. I thought I would miss it- but truly our taste buds have adapted so well that we went out to eat today and a side salad was supposed to come with my meal- it sounded so unappetizing (in the cold snow) that I turned it down:-)
    ps- fresh sprouts satisfy the craving every time for us:-) you can also grwo mushrooms in the winter indoors


  9. Crystal says

    Question about serving company:
    What are the stand-bys you serve company? Most other kids do not like my sucanat-sweetened foods.


    Mary Reply:

    Sucanat isn’t all that sweet. Works good in baking, like muffins, if you add a little dried fruit along with the sucanat for some added sweetness. Can you find raw sugar in your area? I buy it at a bulk “Amish” store for $1.18 a pound. A little goes a long way – and the granules are huge so I try to mix the sugar with whatever liquid I’m baking with so it dissolves before mixing. Otherwise I end up with crunchy food!


    Daryl Reply:

    It’s not the cheapest option, but if you just use it for company it’s not oo bad, is coconut sugar.


  10. says

    I love your website and getting some great ideas. I am not able to garden because of where we live but do miss all of the fresh produce. I would love to pick fruit this spring and summer and can or something but not sure where I would store it all. We only have a large side by side fridge but my hubby keeps talking about putting in small freezer.

    It is hard for me to know how much I spend on groceries because I get the bulk paper products, meat, etc at Costco and do have people over or are cooking something for my mom’s group or someone in need.

    I would love to get my heavy cream, sour cream, and eggs free range and organic (besides whole foods) but still have to investigate where.

    I have switched over to deli meats with no nitrates/nitrites and soda beverages without HFCS. My son and husband drink 100% but I try to have my son drink as much water as possible. My husband thinks it is funny that our son loves carrots and hummus. What is wrong with that.

    I probably spend more on food than some people of a family of 3 but I love to cook. I also try to cook with whole ingredients, spices,etc as much as possible. i can’t get my husband to switch to whole wheat pasta…I have a challenge spending so much on organic or free range meat (we mostly eat ground turkey, chicken, and fish (tilapia, cod, or haddock) as this would skyrocket our food budget.

    I’m thankful for your website and helpful ideas. Yes, we’re all in different places and comparing isn’t good.


  11. says

    We’ve also been working towards a more natural, organic way of eating. I have always kept my grocery budget low ($1300/year for the 2008 and 2009) but this year it jumped up to $2200. We have another eater and we have changed the meat we buy in a big way. I stress about it a bit, but know it is for the best! I’ve become a farmer’s market fan in a big, big way besides doing my own gardening on our tiny shady city lot! And we have way more food canned and a 1/4 beef in the freezer that we didn’t have at the end of the other two years. So, as my husband said (while laughing) “You are only $83/month over what you budgeted!” We are both on board with the change and I just keep working on making/storing/saving/gleaning wherever I can to make up the difference as our babies are growing and eating more. We are currently a family of 4.

    I am grateful for all your suggestions, ideas and recipes!



  12. says

    I think you’re wise not to post your specific budget. Food prices vary by region, too. I’m sure potatoes are cheaper in Idaho than in places where theyr’e hard to grow. Lobster is cheap on the coast but expensive the central states, etc. Plus, feeling like you have to follow one set of rules makes things so grim. I mean, don’t we all have things that are pricier that we’re willing to splurge on – that’s what makes living on a budget enjoyable, afterall. I think it’s far more helpful to each other if we share our STRATEGIES – that’s what sparks motivation and inspiration. I just stumbled on your blog and I love it so far! Thank you!


    Amy Reply:

    I feel the need to stick up for you. I think you made your article very clear that you didn’t want anyone
    to compare themselves to you or each other. I also think you made it clear that prices and things do range
    as do incomes so again you said let’s not compare. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to put yourself
    out there. I just wanted you to know that.


    Amy Reply:

    Ah, now I see Jill said she thinks your wise. I thought she said you were not wise.
    Sooo sorry Jill, I jumped the gun!!!! Please forgive me!


  13. trisha says

    If you figure up 3 meals a day for 6 people, that’s less than $1 per meal/person. Not too shabby. Factor in snacks, even better. Add in the fact that you feed others (be curious as to how many extra plates you serve a month), this could be totally AWESOME! Don’t even mention how much better food this is than processed junk. Can’t even touch the price of this if you ate out somewhere! You’re spending between $16-17 a day for SIX people. I don’t care where you’re from, I think that’s pretty good. It’s difficult for two people to eat one meal out for that.

    I’m kinda like you, I buy in bulk so it does vary. We buy when we need it. And we raise our own beef, so have no idea how much we would be spending if we bought beef. It’s hard to stick to a certain “monthly” amount due to this. I’ve been trying to do a little better about the monthly grocery trip (that really doesn’t include my “bulk” buying) and will be targeting that more this year. Actually eating from the pantry this month and just buying produce and milk (mainly). Even getting back into making bread so I don’t have to buy it ;)

    Started the whole foods journey really a year ago and did a lot of splurges stocking up on the “good” stuff in 2010. I don’t mind spending money on that, it’s a good investment. I just need to get a better handle on a few “unnecessary” food items.


  14. Angel says

    I am new to this “Real Food” diet concept. I am sick and tired of going to the grocery store. Every week it is like a chore to try to come up with more interesting meal ideas. I am in a rut. Also, like someone else posted, you have to go to two or three stores to get all your shopping done. I have an 800 dollar a month budget and that is to feed 4 grown people and 4 little people (8,6,4 and 1). I t is hard and I do get the concept that more nutritious food sustains one longer therefore less is needed. I am just having trouble making the transition. I took myself to the Walmart determined to buy only real foods, half way through I began to panic, not knowing what I was going to do with what I had in my basket and immediately started collecting the items I am more familiar with like pasta and meatsauce! Now I have meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy and some items like sea salt and butter bt I don’t know how to turn these things into good meals! Also, raw milk here in my area, I am in Texas (North of Houston), is 10.00 a gallon! I can’t force myself to buy a gallon of organic milk for 6.92 much less 10.00 a gallon! My husband and are in the process of buying a home with land so that we can garden, have cows, pigs and chickens, and I can learn to can and preserve our food. That is about 2 months away, what do I do in the meantime? Once I “get” a concept, I want to jump in headlong into it, I am not a patient person. Especially, when you hear how terrible the food is you have been eating! Once I read how bad sweetners are I went to my pantry and threw away a brand new box of Equal and many other things that I had read about. I had a trash bag full when I was done! So, any advice on what to do with this food? Azure is now delivering to Texas so I can began to partake of that option. Any books or websites to learn from would be great! Thank you!!!


    Renee Reply:

    Angel, I commented on this post myself below, but to your specifics,
    I’ll jump in with a few. First, I’m not a patient person either, so I get it.
    Recommend that you look at what you can do with the most impact. I can’t
    tell from your post, but I’d say the first thing I would do is stop
    eating products with high-fructose corn syrup if you haven’t already.
    Then start looking locally. check out localharvest.org for sources. read
    lots of blogs. Mine (non-commercial) is more about Central Maryland, but
    the themes are there: http://www.faces-of-local-living.blogspot.com.

    Books. I’d recommend Nourishing Traditions Cookbook, Simply in Season
    as starters. You can get them from the library. Nina Planck’s Real Food
    as a discussion of what really is good food. Your Big Green Purse is
    another great book about transitioning choices, like you are making. Use lo
    local harvest to find CSAs near you for the growing season; contact farms
    and ask whether you can buy direct/visit; prioritize your shopping, maybe
    milk is just a stretch too far right now. Good luck!


    Kaylen Reply:

    The best way to learn to cook, is to cook! You can follow along with any cookbook, just substituting the real food in place of whatever processed food the book suggests. For example, if a recipe says 1 cup sugar, use 1 cup raw sugar or whatever you have. Also start reading food blogs to see quick recipes every day – you can learn a lot just seeing what other people are doing.

    Some that I love are:
    Chickens in the Road
    smitten kitchen
    Nourished Kitchen

    The Nourished Kitchen is a real food blog, CITR is a from-scratch blog and smitten kitchen is more of a gourmet blog. I take inspiration from all of them.


  15. says

    I guess it is the turning of the year that makes us all reflect on what we’ve spent where and how – I’ve been doing the same in my own blog in various ways. Our grocery store shopping has continued to go down as our local consumption has gone up. We are taking from the food I stored during the growing season and we are super lucky this year to have found a Winter CSA that’s not too too far away. I’ve written recently about the CSA experience and our food storage haul, as well as the beef purchasing process. I am most interested in how people like yourself (or like myself) make their choices between local, organic, the store, the market and the considerations they undergo. Delighted to find your site.


  16. says

    You are definately blessed to get milk and cream for such a price and so many free fruits and vegetables. That’s amazing!! My problem is, I’m a horrible gardner. I keep trying each year, and I keep failing. I just ordered my seeds for this year, and I’m going to try again. We also have really bad soil in our yard and we don’t have the money to invest in a raised bed system. Anyway, hopefully this year will be better!


  17. Laura Beth says

    Raw milk here runs $8+/gallon! I did find a local dairy that sells non-certified organic milk, low temp pasteurized, non-homogenized for a price comparable to grocery store organic, so th


  18. says

    How blessed you are to have real food prices so low where you live! Raw milk in CA is $8 a gallon and raw cream is $11 a pint. I shop mainly through Azure Standard so I can save as much as possible, but our raw milk products are really high out here, as is produce. we just have to make other sacrifices so we can afford to eat healthy. Appreciate your transparency to share how you budget. It’s all very relative and personal and dependent on where you live. When I teach meal planning classes, I spend a good amount of time on budgeting and providing suggestions on how to save money – one of the biggest is joining a co-op and also buying bulk. Things you certainly already have put into practice. Thanks again for your wonderful site. I find it truly inspiring and helpful! Blessings, kel


  19. Ashley says

    Hello, I am a newlywed, working full-time to put my husband through college. My mom never really cooked a whole lot and we were raised as “fast-food” kids. I am struggling, I save money when using some coupons, but usually its just the processed junk that is discounted. I have started buying in bulk from some of the members only stores, but I always feel like I didn’t plan well enough or I am missing key ingredients. I make my own yogurt, and granola, I freeze alot, but I can’t get the whole menu planning thing down, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to only have to shop once a month or even every two months. Any tips? What websites were you referring to? Any help will be appreciated!


  20. Shellie says

    Would you consider sharing a Master Pantry List of the basic and typical items you normally buy and keep on hand to help those of us starting out to have a better idea of what ‘normal’ items are in this healthier way of cooking? (Pantry, fridge, and freezer?) It would be a very helpful guide to those of us who feel to inept at doing this. Every time I go to the store I struggle with whats the good choice or not and feel like I’m floundering terribly. With no guide to follow I feel very unsure what are proper choices to change to. I’ve upped our produce purchases but honestly thats about it because I feel lost.If could do share such a thing it would be greatly appreciated!!!


  21. says

    I am trying hard to fit into our $600 a month budget…and that is trying to eat organic as much as possible and gluten-free (and that includes diapers for 3 kiddos too!) I just found a source of free range eggs (yeah!!!) and a group from church order from a co-op.

    I saved 46% this week (according to my receipt) at the grocery store.

    I have fit couponing into organic eating and a audio program I purchased to teach me couponing was Grocery University…you can read and purchase it at http://bit.ly/GroceryU2011


  22. Lena says

    I live in Maine where I purchase raw milk from a local farmer at $3.00 a gallon. I skim the cream off of the top the next morning so that is in with the price. I grow a huge garden every year and try to can as much as I can out of that. I raise my own chickens and turkey and broiler chickens so eggs are free to me, Besides feeding the birds that is. And the broiler chickens cost me about $150 a year. I raise 30-50 broilers a year. i buy bulk through a local wearhouse that sales to public. Don’t quite know what that equals out to cost a month.
    I have learned a lot from Laura about buying bulk.
    Thanks Laura!


  23. Jennifer says

    Thanks for sharing. I too am trying to “break down” our budget to really figure out how much I spend and where/when.
    I wish raw milk was so cheap here. I was paying 5.50/gallon but have moved and now can’t find it cheaper than 7.50/gallon. Eggs I can get for $3 a dz if I look hard but the best tasting ones cost $5/dz. We’re in VA.
    We had been a part of a CSA that really helped us keep our veggie and fruit cost down and we normally got enough food to freeze or can to help get us through the year. Unfortunately we moved too far from it! But we’re working on the veggies with our own garden.


  24. Breezy says

    Wow! Not sure where you are, but I was baffled how you could spend so little, until the part where you lined out your prices! I can’t even imagine being able to get those things so cheaply! For the milk, cream and eggs at least, we’d have to spend twice what you pay. Lucky duck!


    Rebecca K Reply:

    yep! likewise! where we live, the cheapest raw milk is $10 a gallon, which is WAY outside our price range so we are settling for storebought whole.


  25. says

    I guess what I don’t understand is when you said in your post that you don’t just buy pizza and juice when you have extra money because then you won’t have enough money for ground beef next month- but then said, what I percieved to mean that you don’t have a set budget, so what i’d be curious to know is how you know if you HAVE extra if you don’t have a set budget??? I don’t mean that critically. i’m trying to figure this stuff out as we are in a place where we spend WAY more than we can afford to on food, i’ve not yet learned to manage the grocery budget well and with 9 of us, i NEED to. I like your idea of finding the best source for a particular class of food and always getting it there. I’ll be eagerly watching this!


    Laura Reply:

    Let me try to clarify (or confuse you more??). :)

    We do have a set budget of $550/month. But, I spend a different amount each month, which AVERAGES to $550/month. Some months I over spend that $550, depending on what we need that month. And then other months, we don’t need to purchase much because we’ve got all of our staples stocked away – so we spend less than $550.

    So, say one month we don’t have many big needs except for milk, eggs and produce and I only spend $200 for groceries. The remaining $350 will go toward another month’s grocery needs.

    I said what I said about the juice and pizza because some people look at their budget and see that they still have money leftover, so they’ll just spend it. I can’t do that or I won’t have what I need for the months I need to go over our $550 amount.

    Did that help explain better? :)


    Rebecca K Reply:

    ah.. YES!! that makes perfect sense! thank you!


  26. Mrs Deaton says

    Just a quick question~ do you really only use 3gallons of milk per month? How often are you able to make yogurt/sour cream ect? and how much do you have for drinking? LOL my hubby just said “I could use 3 gallons of milk in a week!”.


    Mrs Deaton Reply:

    Ha ha I just re-read it and you use 12gal a month!! Makes much more sense :)


  27. Karen says

    Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your grocery budget. This is a very touchy subject in our house because of how much is spent on food. I was encouraged by some friends to do coupons as they would show me all of the money they saved and I would feel even worse that I could not save as much as they would because most of the coupons were for prepackaged junk I wouldn’t even feed to my animals, let alone my kids. I also cannot give an accurate number for what we spend, do to one month buying bulk at Sam’s Club or from the Natural Bulk Foods online order. All I know is that we are wanting to eat food that actually has nutrition in it to keep our bodies from getting sick and I am willing to pay more for that than to have to pay a doctors bill. We only go once a year to have their vitamin D levels checked–so eating healthy is worth it! Also, LOVE that idea of using the “giving fund” to entertain at home!!!:)I would stress out in thinking about having to buy extra in order to either take a meal over to someone in need or have families over knowing I had already spent my limit for the month. Love this website!!!


  28. QueenJellyBean_CA says

    Hello – Mint.com just averaged my grocery purchases for this month – $822. I am a single person. I do not eat out even 1 meal (ok, sushi twice). Thanks for sharing your budgets everyone. I think I can do better than $800/month. Hopefully this is one of those “high” months, stocking up on staples. The month isn’t even over yet! I must eat gluten free, and have been stocking up on baking staples like agave and raw organic almonds. I used to eat on a budget when I was out of work for 3 years, but over the past 2 1/2 I’ve had a good FT job, and lost track of the grocery spending (telling myself it’s impossible to eat gluten free cheaply). I do have a tiny freezer, so that may be just one obstacle to eating well cheaply. I’m going to try to keep it to $700 next month. Thanks for the inspiration.


  29. Angie says

    I currently am restocking a kitchen, freezer and pantry, so my budget is a bit wonky right now. Normaly it is about (on average) $450 a month. That is for 4 people. No boxed anything. I buy meats in bulk and freeze them. I have really cut back on my families meat intake too. I bulk up on beans and veggies (my husband didnt realize it until he helped me divide up meat once) Right now I am guessing that I am more in the $600 range. But we are restocking a freezer and a pantry after a big move. My husband moved 8 months ahead of the boys and I, so we got to start from scratch in the kitchen.


  30. says

    I know this post is very old, but I have a suggestion: how about keeping track of your groceries for all of 2012, then averaging the totals out at the end of the year? I’d be interested in knowing how this works out. Like you, we buy a lot of food one month, not so much on others.


  31. Brenda says

    Food here is so very exspensive but I am living on a island where everything is imported but what we grow. Food is our biggest exspense and I some time think it may not be worth the freedom that we have here. But doing yourself makes the difference and this site can help no matter where you live at.


  32. Sana says

    I’m surprised you guys have such small food budgets. I would say I spend around $1000 per month on food for a family of 4.
    I buy organic grass-fed raw jersey milk for $8 per gallon plus delivery and eggs for $4 per dozen. I can get milk from a local farm for $2 per gallon but it’s not as high quality.
    I can get eggs for $2/dozen but I don’t know that it is worth the gas to drive to a farm just for eggs.
    I think if my family cut back on meat we would spend less.
    I shop mostly at grocery stores for what we use. Do you folks with small food budgets mostly eat organic?
    Any suggestions?
    (P.S. Farmers’ markets only go on 3 months per year here and they still charge a lot for their produce.)


    Colby Reply:

    We typically spend $1000-$1200 a month for a family of 7 in Columbus, OH. Food is our single biggest expense, (a third of our disposable income) even more than the mortgage.

    We buy minimally pasteurized milk for $6.50 a gallon.
    We get a winter CSA for $585. Our garden this summer was not very productive at all.
    We buy things like olive oil, butter, eggs, 50 lb.beans, lentils, rice and oats from Whole Foods. They used to offer a 20% case discount; now it’s only 10%. We get meat there too, (though in the past we were able to order a side of a cow direct from the farmer. We were getting gallons of apple juice to ferment into hard cider, but it’s currently unavailable.
    We get fruit and other odds and ends from the local natural market. We also get a 50 lb. bag of rye flour and make our own sourdough bread.
    And we mail order big blocks of cheese from an Amish organic cooperative.

    I hate having to ration fruits, and feel like we are choosing quality over quantity. One doctor said “at what price health?” But I feel like the amount we’re spending is breaking us.


    Mom of 4 Reply:

    I feel your pain. I thought we were spending in the $900 range (still a lot) but no we are spending $1300 to $1500 a month. UGH!!! We are dairy free and gluten free. We rarely eat out. I pack the kiddos lunches. We make our own rice milk for the 2 year old and 1 year old. We drink water. UGH!!! I literally buy 2 packaged foods. One is veggie straws and then we buy nut thins. We don’t buy junk food ever. We are over spending on our budget by $500 a month. I can’t help but think it is our groceries that are killing us. UGH. I do feel a bit inspired to try some of the sites Laura posted. I think we could do quite a bit better on our staples. I would be thrilled at this point to save us $200 to $300 a month on food. Wish me luck.


  33. Angie says

    I buy Organic on what we eat the peals on when it is in season and cheap. I also freeze it when I can get it cheap. I can too, so that helps. When it isnt in season I dont buy it. I dont buy raw milk. I really dont see the draw (and I cant get past the texture/taste thing) but milk isnt really my thing and my kids arent huge on it either. Eggs I get on WIC and we dont use all of what we get. When I need more there is a local lady that sells them for $2.50 a dozen so I try and go to her.

    Things like bananas, avacados, oranges and what not. The things that cannot peal they are finding that it really doesnt make any sense to go organic on. I have felt that way for years. I generally have a garden in the summer that helps cut my cost. I buy frozen organic veggies then things arent in season (Grocery Outlet and Costco have some really good buys)and generally nobody knows the diffence. We had a friend living with us for about 6 months and until I said something she was clueless. I dont even defrost them if I toss them in the pan to saute them.

    This year has brought some major changes to my kitchen. No more proccessed foods. Nore more frozen boxes (except Lasagnas for when the large family comes over, but hey I cant beat $6.99) I keep high(er) protien pasta or WW pasta in the house now. Mostly homemade beans and tomatoe sauce (a few jars and cans just in case) It takes practice and patience.


  34. Jill says

    Thank you VERY much for the posts and for trying to explain the details. This is VERY appreciated and exactly what I’m going through and need right now. Many thanks to you Laura and those that post!


  35. Jocelyn says

    Fortunately my husband works on a dairy farm. We get a gallon of milk everyday for free. Also we get a half cow free once a year. We have to pay to have it processed but at 55cents a pound for whatever cut its so worth it.


  36. Paula Kennedy says

    I have a question semi-related to this. I got my first Azure Standard order, and with it 25 lbs. of hard, red whole wheat flour. Tried making my favorite whole wheat bread recipe, and it turned out terrible. Seems there is no gluten at all in this flour. Was runny and couldn’t form a loaf; also, crumbly and hard. Is there a better Azure flour to use? I like the store whole wheat, although it is not organic or anything, but want a similar Azure one. Thoughts?


    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Laura uses hard white wheat flour. That might help. :)


  37. Kathy Hagadone says

    I would love to find out where I can get free peaches, apples, cherries, and berries. I have put up signs and posts asking to glean, with no responses. I am more than happy to do the work of harvesting, and don’t even mind a distance of travel to get to them. We live in Olympia Washington, if you have any helpful ideas. Also, how do I find out where to purchase raw milk and cream…I’m about ready to buy my own cow!!!


    Angie Reply:

    I post on Craigslist and Freecylce (check out freecycle.org) Also just drive around and ask people. If you know anybody that used to can, but has gotten a bit up there in years offer to pick the fruit and then give them a some. I ran into a lady at the grocery store once and got a ton of “wasp bitten” white peaches. Perfect for jam. Just start asking.


  38. Gloria says

    Thanks so much for sharing. This gives me a great idea of where I need to be sourcing and prices to think about as I try to be responsible with our money and health. So appreciate your blog chock-full of honest parenting/living and the Lord. I’ve been reading for about 5 years now and you are always a keeper in my Reader : )


  39. Emma says

    I feed a family of Husband, myself & 5 growing eating machines, ages 14, 11, 8, 8, & 1. The twins are girls, the rest are boys.( they eat like there is no tomorrow, & all 5 are gluten free)
    We grow a huge garden every summer & freeze, dehydrate & can, everything from toms, corn, kale, green beans, broc, onions, spuds, lettuce, herbs, squash, peppers, you name it we grow it. In the summer I get blueberries, peaches, apricots, cherries, & pears shipped in, for cheaper price than the grocery store. I have a cool room in my basement where I store my root veges from the garden & the 2000 or so quarts I can over the summer & autumn.
    I barter homemade bread for organic raw milk that I turn into butter, yoghurt & soft cheeses.
    We are vegetarian, I buy all my grains, nuts seeds, legumes & dried fruit through Country Life Natural Foods based out of MI, their trucks come through once a month.
    I buy my non food items from Sams club.
    I buy my fresh produce in the winter through a buying club, where we get OG cheaper than conventional produce.
    I get soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, essentiel oils, herbs, spices, from another buying club through Frontier ( @ wholesale cost ).
    Asian market for palm sugar, nori sheets, “celtic salt” ($2 per pound!).
    I don’t shop at the grocery very much, usually for a few odds n ends I either forgot or can’t get elsewhere…
    I try to buy mosty things OG, but sometimes I can’t. We live near 45 min from St. Paul, MN.
    I spend on average $1000-$1,200 per month. $300-$500 a month from CLNF. $100 per month through Frontier. $300-400 a month fresh produce in winter. $50 a month sams club. $100- grocery store per month. Different months have different needs, so like I will buy & stock up more on bulk through CLNF in the summer as almost all our fresh produce is from the garden.
    At times I wrestle with spending less, then I remember I am building strong healthy bones & brains, and that is pricelss


  40. says

    This is an area I’ve been working hard at cutting back in! It’s been enlightening to see what other people do to keep their budgets down but their food natural.
    We’re a family of four (2 adults, 1 toddler and an infant) but even with such a small number I find groceries are really expensive.
    We buy a freezer ‘meat pack’ for $60 every two weeks or so. It includes ribs, chicken (breasts and leg/thigh quarters) ground beef and pork chops. With some vegetarian meals thrown in there it will last us the two weeks.
    I also inquire at my butcher’s for bones, which I can buy for $1 a bag and I use them to make broth. I supplement this meat with the occasional gift of a rabbit from a hunter friend, and I stretch it with beans, rice and breadcrumbs.
    I make our bread using a bread machine to save labour. I also make tortillas and biscuits to save on yeast. I buy my flour for this on sale as much as possible, but this is an area I could really use some work in.
    As much as possible I buy my honey at the local health food store, which is expensive, but I have heard that local honey helps with seasonal allergies, which my whole family suffers from.
    I rarely buy produce that isn’t on sale. I buy potatoes in a 50lb bag for $8.99 and the rest from the 50% rack at the grocery store. I usually cook and freeze them immediately. When produce is in season (like zucchini) I buy as much as my little freezer can handle and store it.
    I do my best to stay away from processed foods, but sometimes life is what it is. When I do buy them I focus on canned meats and fish, and canned vegetables that I can’t otherwise find cheap or frozen, like mushrooms. If there is any ‘wiggle room’ in my budget, this is where I spend the extra.


  41. says

    Ooops! Pressed ‘enter’ too soon. :-)
    I meant to add that in terms of dairy, we buy whole milk at a local gas station that offers the cheapest prices in town but is still about $5.80 for 4L. I use this milk for cereal and drinking, but for cooking I make ‘cooking milk’ by watering down a can of evaporated milk.
    We have two cats, and we buy them a urinary tract health no-name cat food and their litter in 50lb bulk boxes.
    I mooch off a friend’s Costco membership and pick up some things there when I can.
    When I’m in the city I also try and visit a bulk-foods dry goods store for pasta, legumes, etc.
    Since my city trips are very infrequent (a couple of times a year, max.) I get most of my dry goods on sale. When I find organic brown rice I buy as much as I can afford.
    I also visit the Dollar Store here in town because they sometimes stock foods I can use, like oats.

    We have two children in diapers, and we use cloth diapers which we’ve collected over the past 3 years. I have ‘real’ cloth diapers (purchased second hand or gifts for the most part) and I’ve supplemented our collection with kitchen towels and recieving blankets as extra flats. We use cloth wipes made from cut up baby clothes that got stained.

    The rest of our toiletries we don’t do as well on. We buy on sale when we can, but we still spend quite a lot.


    MARY Reply:

    Baking soda = wonderful facial scrub/cleanser, good tooth cleaner, good for shampoo (takes getting used to no suds). For general cleaning: it’s good for scrubbing sinks, tubs, pots & pans, etc. You can also sprinkle it on your carpet a few minutes before you vacuum to freshen.

    Vinegar = absolutely fantastic fabric softener! I have been doing this since my babies were babies almost 40 years ago. I used to wash and rinse the cloth diapers twice. It dawned on me one day that cotton was very soft when harvested so why would it get crunchy/stiff when it’s made into clothing? Aha! SOAP RESIDUE ! So I could either rinse the load twice or use vinegar in the rinse water (I just put it in the fabric softener dispenser) to cut the soap residue. Sooo much cheaper than fabric softener ! My clothes are very soft, do not fade and have a very fresh & lasting scent (they do NOT smell like vinegar)…I line-dry whenever possible. Also my dryer is not coated with film from the fabric softener. And it’s so cheap. I use it to clean glass, freshen carpets & upholstery, etc. (vinegar+H2O in spray bottle)….I have house pets.

    Mix Vinegar+BS+water = burnt on crust remover on your cook/bakeware.

    If you just google you will find hundreds of NATURAL , inexpensive ways to clean your home, your laundry, your hair and body. There’s a book by a Dr. D.C.Jarvis that is very helpful in keeping you healthy with apple cider vinegar and honey. We used to drink this (1tsp. of each in a glass of water) daily as kids….and we were never sick. Just google Dr.Jarvis and you’ll find all sorts of info.

    Also, look into coconut oil. Amazing product.

    There is so much out there that it’s totally unnecessary to overspend for pre-made products. There used to be TOP JOB and MR. CLEAN. One was yellow, the other green. They were both the EXACT SAME PRODUCT but women bought 1 of each because one was for floors and the other for general cleaning. Crazy.

    That’s all for now…before this becomes a book !


  42. says

    Family of three and animals we spend which now seems rather a lot… About 700 . Guess I could use these tips! We eat vegan but I grocery shop so likely pay high prices. I’m not much of a price warrior. Thanks! As for raw milk we looked into it here in Ohio they offer shares. It’s a bit too pricey for me just for milk. A share is some 25-50 monthly not including milk plus it’s like 40 minutes away. Still I enjoy soy milk very much.


  43. says

    I have exactly the same food methodology and have been following it for years. As for your grocery budget, thank you for sharing. We are also a family of six, and just in the beginning stages of establishing a sustainable and organic farm in NE New Mexico. However, for the first year or two we still have to buy wheat. I’m guessing that you, like me, bake EVERYTHING, so how much wheat do you order to cover a whole year? This past summer I ordered 50lb bags of organic wheat from Amazon (Great River Milling Co.) but it surely wouldn’t work out to anything like as inexpensive as yours. I’m guessing that if I have a clear idea of how much I’d need for a whole year, I could find far better bulk deals.

    Thank you for your time and for the great, simple, and effective recipes!


    Laura Reply:

    I usually go through around 400-500 pounds each year.


  44. says

    Wow!! My grocery budget is something I constantly struggle with. We are a family of 6, and eat a very healthy but mostly “normal” diet. The kids aren’t horribly picky, but my husband has MS – which makes for some interesting dietary challenges (almost NO fat, absolutely no preservatives or weird chemicals, that sort of thing). He is also incredibly picky. LOL

    Possibly the biggest challenge is that I work full-time out of the home AND am going to school full-time (online), so I don’t have the time I would like to devote to cooking ahead of time. Still, I aim for a budget around $800/mo – and consistently go over by $2-300. It’s disheartening and we really can’t afford it, but I’m having a hard time finding where all the extra is going!

    What are the biggest “cost savers” you implement as far as buying and preparing in bulk that would be doable for someone with minimal time to spend?

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience, wisdom and humor here – this has been one of my favorite sites and inspiration for several months now. :)


    Laura Reply:

    Not sure this will help you, but here’s a post I wrote on this subject: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/keeping-expenses-low-while-eating-a-healthy-diet


    MARY Reply:

    As far as having time to cook….I knew an extremely busy lady who used to cook a whole week’s worth of meals in one day. I think she did it on Saturday and involved the whole family. They had fun. The kitchen was a disaster. They froze the meals for the entire week. It was their own family ‘adventure’. If you don’t want to undertake such a massive cooking event, you might want to do the old “Cook Once. Eat Twice.” method….simply make a double batch. Eat one now. Freeze the other.

    Look into Coconut Oil (google for more info)…it’s very good health-wise and beauty-wise.
    Baking soda, vinegar and honey (careful….so many in grocery stores are mostly high-fructose corn syrup )…from a farmers market, etc. are all very useful for personal, home, laundry, etc. use…and are relatively inexpensive.


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