January 25, 2011 – The Budget

These are the basics to my grocery budget of $600 a month.  I have not yet mastered the art of couponing.  I saw a program a few weeks ago called Extreme Couponing, featuring 4 different people who, through the use of coupons, would buy hundreds of dollars worth of groceries and then pay pennies on the dollar.  Some instances they paid pesos on the dollar!  Crazy savings, indeed.

I don’t know if I want to aspire to this kind of a budget because, frankly, a lot of the foods I saw being purchased were crap.  Lots of snacks, frozen foods and cold cereal.  In other words – sugar and carbs.  I don’t even want these items for free.

So!  I am using coupons when I can, but the majority of my budget has been relying on the weekly specials at the store.  An example.  Last week Stater Brothers had chicken breasts on sale for 99 cents a pound.  Chicken legs were on sale for the same price.  I stocked up on this chicken while still staying in my weekly budget.  The next week all roasts were on sale for 50% off at Ralphs.  These meat sales are my biggest savings because we are a meat eating family.  If there isn’t meat on the table every night, my family is not happy.  I also purchase pork when it is on sale.  That was not the case this past week.  With the meat purchased, my next step is to create a menu around the beef and chicken.  I’ll save my menu planning for another post.

One good money saver is to plan my menu where one item is used in two or three separate dishes so nothing goes to waste.  If I have an recipe that calls for a half of a bell pepper, I also add another recipe to the menu that calls for the other half.  Whole chicken will be on sale next week and I’ll be sure to purchase at least two of them because I can have roast chicken one night and save the carcass for stock to make Chicken Tortilla soup or Rice Salad later in the week.  The chicken I purchased on sale still had skin and ribs attached but that works great for soup stock also, and I can easily remove skin and bones if I need boneless chicken breasts.  I also use potatoes as a “filler” when making a skillet dish like chicken curry or guiso.

For savings while shopping I always look at the cost per ounce to compare prices.  I also use store brand items, especially if it’s going into a recipe.  The only exception to this rule is tomato sauce.  My Spanish Rice just doesn’t taste right without Hunts tomato sauce.  Also, sometimes the store brand is still cheaper than the name brand with coupon.

I avoid almost all snacks and cold cereals.  The only snack foods that I will buy is pretzels or popcorn.  Snacks at home consist of yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and fresh fruit/vegetables.  I don’t buy canned fruit.   I do buy applesauce if on sale.  Popcorn or pretzels with apple slices are dessert, unless I bake cookies, which are usually oatmeal.

Breakfast is oatmeal, cream of wheat, scrambled eggs (with or without vegetables), and occasionally pancakes from scratch.  We have bacon when it’s on sale.

Lunch is usually leftovers from  the night before.  I don’t like to buy sandwich meat so sandwiches are whatever roast meat we have leftover (or meatloaf), egg salad, tuna fish, peanut butter with jelly, or faux grilled cheese (cheese sandwich toasted in toaster oven) along with fruit.

Side dishes for dinners are rice or potatoes (mashed, scalloped, baked) along with a vegetable.  All vegetables are fresh except for green beans.  I can’t get my family to eat fresh green beans.  The vegetables are whatever is on sale.  this week it’s all about the cauliflower that I bought at 4 heads for $5.  I do sometimes treat the family to mac n cheese or rice a roni on occasion if it is on sale.

Beverages.  I do splurge on soda for Fish and I.  The Littles drink milk for each meal and in between meals they can have water with a splash of juice.  A bottle of juice lasts about a week and a half and we use about 2 gallons of milk every week.  Clarabelle only drink water, with an occasional soy milk when she’s in the mood for it.

So this is the bones of my budget.  Will write more specifics as I share my menu plans.


9 thoughts on “January 25, 2011 – The Budget

  1. I think this is my biggest money saver! Snack foods are so much more expensive in comparison to other items, and they don’t last very long in the house because there are so few servings per box.

  2. I’m very impressed!
    I really think that whole couponing thing sounds scammy… and I agree, most stuff you see people buy with those coupons is unhealthy crap. Ever see a coupon for vegetables? Yeah, me neither. FAIL!

  3. You put my budgeting and couponing to shame. It should rather be lack of couponing because a) the stuff is still to expensive with the coupon or b) we don’t actually eat it.

    I’m guilty of bad snack foods too – fruit snacks and chip packs. Bad me.

    Maybe I need to up my game.

    And I can’t get my family to eat fresh green beans (or the previously frozen ones) either. The excuse is they squeak. BUT I will be canning my own this summer (as long as the plants actually produce some beans) and then it has less sodium and blah blah.

  4. I was just telling Troy last night that I’d read in an article that the average moderate grocery budget for an American family of four is $770 per month! So getting a month’s worth of food for five people for $600 is quite an accomplishment.

    I have absolutely no idea how much we spend per month on groceries! Okay, that’s not quite true…based on the fact that we usually make a big run to the grocery store every 2-3 weeks, with one or two runs for a few items in between, and we usually spend about $150-200 per big trip, I’d say our monthly grocery bills are usually $500-700. That seems like a pretty big range, but in the months we don’t spend as much we probably eat out a lot more. :-\

    I used to use coupons like crazy, and whatever we saved with the coupons I’d put in a savings account and at the end of the year that was the money we’d use for Christmas travel and presents! It was a good system. And then somewhere along the line, we stopped buying all those things we used to get with coupons, like box mixes and brand-name foods and cleaning supplies. Now we just buy a lot of store-brand stuff, which is often way cheaper than even the brand names with coupons, and I rarely buy box mixes of anything. If I really wanted to cut down on my budget, I would start shopping at Costco and buy fifty-pound bags of flour and sugar. 🙂

  5. I did find a coupon for boneless, skinless chicken breasts recently, but the store brand chicken was on sale so I didn’t use it. I do find a lot of coupons for dairy products, which I use.

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