We've always tried to be very thrifty with our grocery budget by making the most of coupons, sales, and discounts. This month, after assessing our overall budget and meeting last month with our financial planner, we decided that we would do everything we could to stick to our $150/month grocery budget. Here's how things went down...
The first two weeks of the month, we spent the bulk of our monthly budget, approximately $100. Primarily, this went to restocking the pantry, purchasing staples such as onions, potatoes, milk, and eggs (from our friends at Faith Mountain Farms). We also restocked the freezer with discounted meat, especially sausages, which were reduced for quick sale since they were getting ready to go out of date. We found some fantastic blueberry chicken sausages, as well as portabello mushroom chicken sausages, in the natural/organic section that were two and three dollars off the regular price and some were already on sale. We also found some of our favorite wine on sale at HT, which was an even better buy since they were doing 15% off a half case. So, that splurge was also calculated into the monthly grocery budget.
The next few weeks, we purchased only the essentials... milk, eggs (we go through about a dozen a week, especially since we like to have omelets for breakfast on Saturday), cheese, and sometimes fruit. We are blessed to have fresh herbs here at home, as well as friends who bring us lots of produce (zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, etc.), and we know how to make use of local apple trees that others don't pick. I made two huge batches of applesauce from apples here at home and those I picked at school to stock the freezer and fill out our breakfasts and lunches. These weeks, we only spent about $15-$20 on groceries, if that.
The last week of the month is always the stretching point, but I think we did pretty well. I made a crock pot of beans (pintos and shelly beans, both given to us), seasoned with dried onion, garlic, cumin, diced jalapeno, and some chopped carrot just because we had it and I thought it would be a nice addition. We had beans on orzo for a few days, froze some for chili later this fall, and will make some into refried beans. Wednesday night we had dinner with some friends, so we just had to bring dessert... blackberry and apple cobbler to the rescue! The blackberries were from the freezer (free--we picked them earlier this summer), and the apples were canned by Benny's aunt and had been hanging out in the pantry waiting for just such a use. Friday night, we had steamed shrimp (a customer gave Benny a pound of fresh shrimp from his trip to the beach that he had frozen for us), homemade blueberry muffins (I substituted applesauce for the oil to use what we had in the fridge), and a sliced homegrown tomato. I also found a few cucumbers hanging out in our garden (the deer must have decided they weren't worth it), so we sliced those up with some vinegar for a little extra side. Dinner last night was with friends, so we just had to bring an appetizer (breadsticks from scratch--thank you bread machine--with tomato sauce from the freezer), and we took the stuff for homemade icecream (it pays to buy dairy in bulk). Tonight, we had pancakes, sausage, and applesauce. I prefer blueberries in my pancakes, so I added those, and I made some quick-and-dirty blueberry syrup by heating some blueberry jam in the microwave. We've got quinoa "hash" for lunch tomorrow with turkey kielbasa and brussel sprouts (thank you frozen veggies at 50 cents a pouch with coupons).
So, all in all, even with our splurges, more expensive local eggs and organic milk, we were able to stick to our $150 grocery budget without too much pain at all. Of course, the Grocery Game helped, along with triple coupons one week, and knowing how to shop a sale at the meat counter. We're always grateful for the kindness of friends who share out of their garden abundance, and we try to return that favor as much as possible (homemade applesauce or fresh herbs, anyone?).
The ultimate goal of this penny pinching is to beef up our savings account, as well as to tackle a few more home improvement projects before winter (hello gas logs!). So, what about you? What's your strategy for making your dreams happen? How are you saving a penny in order to earn one somewhere else? I'd love to hear from you!