How I Feed My Family of 7 for $400 per Month

Guest post from Jamerrill of Holy Spirit Led Homeschooling and FreeHomeschoolDeals

When I tell people that I feed my family of 7 for $400 per month, I usually get the crazed-eye look. I know they wonder if we live on hot dogs — no, we don’t!

Here are a few tips from my experience that may help finetune your grocery budget and feed your growing family.

Once-a-Month Grocery Shopping:

I’ve been shopping once-a-month for my family for nearly three years. My grocery costs where literally cut in half by taking this step. 

If I’m not in the store then I’m not spending money. I also have a better plan laid out since I must maximize my time and resources on this one trip.

Note: You can see an example of what I buy for my once-a-month shopping trip here. You can also read some answers to Frequently Asked Questions I get about shopping once-a-month here.

Shopping at One Store:

When I shop, I often go to two or three stores, but then again, it’s just one day per month. However, depending on my schedule, I can usually feed my family for the same $400 just by sticking to one store. It may not be bulk amounts, but it’s doable.

Buying in Bulk:

I buy rice and oatmeal in 25-pound bags for a cost of $16.59 per 25-pound bag of brown rice and $15 per 25-pound bag of quick oats. I divide these large bags into gallon storage bags and stretch them to last three months.

Home Cooking:

When I left the outside workforce to stay home full-time, I quickly learned that cooking from scratch was a wonderful money-saving method. Be sure to check out Crystal’s articles on freezer cooking and cooking from scratch.

Meal Planning:

It helps me to lay out a monthly meal plan before I go once-a-month grocery shopping. Make yourself a monthly calendar and save it to reuse the following month.

I usually cook a large meal and serve it various ways over several meals. There are many other ways to meal planSome moms even do once-a-month cooking!

Shopping Cabinets and Pantry:

Access everything you have in your pantry before giving in to the urge to run to the store. If you shop your pantry, you should be able to come up with a few extra meals.

Gardening & Canning:

This is the first year that we’ve made a large garden; I plan to teach myself how to can as well. I can’t wait to see the additional savings this gives our family.

I’m sure many of you garden and can fruits, vegetables, and jellies. I’d love to hear your tips and cost savings in the comments.

Coupons:

I’m still learning this one. I wonder how much more I could save by couponing, furthermore how many extras I could stock up on?

As I’m able, I page through the coupon information here on MoneySavingMom.com, slowly learning this skill. At this point, even without couponing my pantry and freezers are full!

What are your best ways to save on your monthly grocery bill?

 Jamerrill Stewart‘s passion is to help families afford the homeschool life. She offers free stuff, goodies, and bargains daily for this purpose at FreeHomeschoolDeals.com. Join Jamerrill and her family as they live the life of faith at HolySpiritLedHomeschooling.net

Share This:

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

Read Newer Post
«
Read Older Post
»

Comments

  1. says

    What a great list! I do most of these things (though my garden isn’t exactly thriving at the moment.)

    Another thing that has helped keep our budget low is to *not* follow the recipe exactly. Only rarely do I follow the recipe exactly. I usually add in healthy fillers to make meat stretch, substitue a less expensive ingredient or skip adding in an expensive one altogether. You can rarely notice much of a difference and it keeps cooking a fun adventure!

  2. says

    I know this is doable.. I feed my family of 4 on around $200-250 a month and we are gluten, corn and dairy free. We do a lot of grain free meals and organic, too.

    I don’t do a lot of coupons.. mostly shopping at specific stores for specific items, grocery outlets, clearance sections at healthy food stores and some Trader Joes (sometimes they can be expensive, but some items like eggs are consistently the cheapest in town I can get).

    jenetta

    • says

      I am $100 for 2 and recently had to cut back to $50 a month. It is possible if you have to! I use coupons, and Aldi’s mainly. Also don’t be afraid to ask your local farmers markets for the produce they may be getting rid of. A little blemish is fine by me when its free!

      • J says

        There is no Aldi’s where I live. Today I went to the local Farmer’s Market for the first time and about fainted. 12 ears of corn $5.50, I bought 6 for 96c at a local store, zuccini was $1.50 lb, I paid 49c lb earlier, and tomatoes were $3.00 lb, I bought local tomatoes at the store for $1.99 lb. So I am not sure what to do.

        • holi says

          This is exactly how our market is too. I will only go once to get my box of blueberries to freeze. Otherwise, the grocery store is cheaper fnor our budget.

        • says

          My husband and I went to a local farmer’s market, too, awhile back and were shocked at the prices! I’m sure it does taste better than store-bought, but it’s just not worth it/possible right now for us.

          • Ericka Lewis says

            I agree–I can’t understand how they can charge so much for the things when I can grow them in my garden for much less. I mean $1 for a zucchini when you can grow a bunch of whole plants for that much which get at least 10 of zucchini off of each of them. Just grow your own if you have that option.

          • Sarah says

            This was our experience as well, and we live in Southern California, where you think with our abundance of produce it would be cheaper. The other problem we had was that in 3 different farmer’s markets we had people cheat us by putting molding/bug infested fruit on the bottom of the box and fresh fruit on the top. I was so turned off by it that I just go to the grocery store now.

        • says

          I have the same problem at the Farmer’s Market vs the regular store. I know the expense comes from the fact that the farmer’s markets have more expenses than the factory farm (even the local factory farm.) I also think it depends on where you live. Here in SoCal, so many of my grocery stores have local produce so that makes it cheaper. I am sure that buying tomatoes in California are more expensive in Iowa than Iowa tomatoes would be.

          • J says

            Jacqui,

            I live in Arizona, in the Verde Valley region, the produce I buy at the stores is usually marked Arizona grown and it is very good. Obviously we get a lot of sun! lol I bought a whole Arizona cantaloupe for 97c also. So I feel based on the budget I have I just can’t at this time afford the local Farmers Markets and will stick to the best choices I can find on sale at the local grocery stores.

        • Amber S says

          Some farmers markets are very expensive; others are very reasonable- it depends on your area I think. Consider a produce co-op. We have Bountiful Baskets (bountiful baskets.org) here and are totally hooked on it- a great variety of quality produce at a very good price.

          • says

            I agree about the varying prices at farmer’s markets. Here in MN the farmer’s markets are usually about half the grocery store for local produce. Corn is slightly more (roughly 5-10cents more per ear) but tastes far better and is much fresher. We also have a CSA. It comes out to $5.77/week for a share for us – I can’t buy that much produce at the store or farmer’s market for that! We pay in one large chunk ($300/yr) but we budget for it all year round so when the time comes, we’re taken care of! I blanch and freeze the extras and we eat those in the winter. Since it’s basically veggies (a few strawberries and raspberries), we only have to buy fruit and a few veggies (if we run out or something doesn’t grow well here).

            We have a family of 4 and I have to say that these things help us stay within our average of $40/wk for groceries, toiletries and paper products. When we had 2 in diapers it was $75/wk (we bought diapers by the case at Sam’s).

            I know other places have crazy-high farmer’s markets. Take a look at local farmers, pick-your-owns or CSAs in your area and see what you can do! You might be surprised!

            Lea

        • Jamie says

          Do you have any space to plant a garden? Tomatoes are pretty easy to grow. It would be a good place to start. My first garden consisted of 6 tomato plants. I now plant tomatoes, beans, beets, carrots, zucchini, watermelon, potatoes, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. This is the first year I’ll be getting peaches from my own peach tree. I freeze or can my extras. Start small – some things can even be grown in containers. There’s a lot of info on the web about it. Good luck.

    • says

      Great post!

      I’m at about the same. I try to spend about $75 a week at the grocery store (I do shop most weeks) and I spend $50ish every other week for Bountiful Baskets.

      It is tough though, sometimes. It was a lot easier 3-4 years ago when I had two toddlers and no teens… Two of my five are teen boys now.

      I love Anna’s suggestion, and I follow it too. I never make a recipe as written. Well, almost never. I sub what I have available, for one thing. And mostly I double the fillers/sauces and use the original amount of meat. I’ll serve things with potatoes or rice.

      I want to know where you find 25# bags of oatmeal though. I also get 25# bags of popcorn, and we air-pop it for snacks. One bag will last us about a year. 25# bags of dried beans are great too.

      • Jen says

        Ooh! Where do you get 25# bags of popcorn and beans? How about flour and other grains? I don’t buy anything in bulk yet – don’t know where to start or where the best deals are.

        • Courtney says

          We get our bulk popcorn at Sam’s Club. A 50# bag costs $21.98. Sam’s also has 25# bags of white flour and bread flour for around $7.00.

          • Courtney says

            My above comment was meant to be a reply to Jen’s question about buying in bulk, but apparently the “Reply” function isn’t working properly!

        • lee scott says

          I get my 25# bag of popcorn at Sams, I buy my flour at costco. I am not sure about the beans…. ( I only have a membership to Costco, but my parents have one to Sams)

      • says

        I also want to know where to get the 25 lbs of oats for $15! I bought a 25 lb bag at the co-op here in town and it was double that!

    • Jen says

      Curious what the “average” grocery budget is for families… we are a family of 6 (the kids are 7, 5, 3, 16 mos)… we do $400 a month and that includes toiletries (but not protein bars or sodas)… i’m sure we could go less but most months, this is pretty tight. I know I’ll have to increase it as the kids grow-they already eat a lot! I guess it just depends on the family and their overall budget.

      • Jenn says

        I would love to see a sample day’s menu for you if you would be willing to post that (please :-) ) I won’t be greedy and ask for a week’s worth plus recipes but boy, that sure would be great! We have 8 children and I have a hard time staying within my $950/mo. We do have 2 in diapers and that includes those plus wipes and toiletries, etc. but I would love ideas for low cost menus that are GF and healthy!

      • lee scott says

        We are a family of 5 with no garden. We spend about $600 a month. I don’t spend a lot in personal care items, but I do include pet food and litter. My kids eat a ton of fruit and veggies. We also limit most things with high fructose syrup and a lot of sugary items because of my 1 son.

      • Lindsey Swinborne says

        I have the same size family with kids 7,5,3,and 1 too. My husband eats a LOT! He has a high metabolism and a very physically-draining job. Unfortunately the kids have Daddy’s metabolism so I can barely squeak by on $700 a month, and that includes using coupons, buying from a produce co-op, eating meatless most of the time, having everyone eat oatmeal 3x a week, buying in bulk and making things from scratch to save money. We try to avoid canned and processed foods but sometimes we just have to eat some because it’s cheaper.

      • Lindsey Swinborne says

        I have the same size family with kids 7,5,3,and 1 too. My husband eats a LOT! He has a high metabolism and a very physically-draining job. Unfortunately the kids have Daddy’s metabolism so I can barely squeak by on $700 a month, and that includes using coupons, buying from a produce co-op, eating meatless most of the time, having everyone eat oatmeal 3x a week, buying in bulk and making things from scratch to save money. We try to avoid canned and processed foods but sometimes we just have to eat some because it’s cheaper.

        • Lindsey Swinborne says

          Oops, the reply button isn’t working, this was in response to a former poster.

          • Lindsey Swinborne says

            I looked at the price break-down and many things the author purchases are 50% of what I typically pay for them. So, I guess if I lived in an area with cheaper groceries, I could do $400 for a family of 6 too. No wonder I was having trouble picturing how all of these people commenting could eat off of $50 per person per month and not be starving!

            • Andrea says

              Lindsey–thanks for pointing out the price break-down. I also pay a lot more for many of the items on the list, especially meat and eggs.

      • says

        We’re a family of five living in the chicago area, and we spend $600 / month on groceries. I’ve got three boys, and two of them are huge eaters. We also feed their friends when they’re here…which is a lot!

        We eat a lot of local, organic produce thanks to our CSA. About a year ago, my husband and I watched Food, Inc. and it changed the way we look at food. At that time, I was spending $400 / month. We purposely started spending more and eating better!

        I love to read stories about how other people save at the grocery store! I can learn from everyone…even if it’s just one tip here and there!

  3. Lynn says

    Southernsavers.com makes couponing so much easier! She lists the store, every item on sale that week, the coupons that go with that item, and where to get the coupon.

  4. Heather says

    I’m a big fan of gardening. The food is healthy – no junk food! It’s often fresher and better-tasting than what you can buy. It’s free exercise. It’s mentally and psychologically rewarding. However, I wouldn’t count on saving much money, especially the first year. There are usually some start-up costs. But it’s worth it in the end.

    • Lindsey says

      After the first year of start up costs, my backyard garden produced $1500 worth of vegetables—AFTER I subtracted seed and estimated water costs. I don’t use fertilizer since I make a lot of compost, and at work we have a seed exchange every spring, so my costs are pretty minimal. But gardening is well worth the effort—and this is in Alaska, where a lot of things don’t grow.

    • Rebecca says

      I enjoy gardening too. There is something very satisfying about growing your own fresh foods. This year I opted not to plant a garden for several reasons, the main one is that I want to compare my water bills with last years water bills. My watering bills were especially high last year and I’m trying to see if it is cost effective to garden anymore. I do have potted herbs on my back patio though:)

  5. says

    Great post!!! I need to research buying brown rice in bulk…where do you buy it for that price? I am also searching for whole wheat flour for a good price in bulk!! We are currently at $350 a month for 5…I would like to get it lower though…I also meal plan for a month in advance cause we only get paid once a month!!

  6. Aubrey says

    I love the idea of only shopping once a month, especially since we have a new baby due any day now. But I don’t understand how you provide fresh fruit and produce during the off season? We are vegetarian, and I always need more fruit and a few veggies each week, even with preserved and frozen to supplement. Do you just skip those foods? I don’t know of any way to keep the more delicate fruits/veggies that are in season now for more than maybe a week or two. Info on how to keep these foods for longer would be wonderful. We try to eat organic and preservative free.

    • Rachael says

      I have a friend who does once a month shopping, and I have asked her about how she does it! Her family eats fruits on a rotating basis: berries and banana in week one, oranges and apples in weeks 2-3 and canned and frozen in week 4. Not for me, as I like a variety, but it works for her!

    • says

      I go to the Farmer’s Market and other stores every 1-2 weeks for fruits, veggies and milk…I wish I had a dairy cow and an abundant garden so I wouldnt have to!!

      • says

        Many fruits and veggies will last several weeks. Oranges is one that has a long refrigerator life. Cabbage, potatoes, carrots and celery will last several weeks too. We do fresher fruits and veggies, like bananas and tomatoes, during our 1st week. Also, we do live near orchards. Soon my favorite orchard will start having Tuesday specials of $10 per bushel. We will then start eating lots of apples ;) We also grow and freeze black berries.

  7. Tracy says

    If you want to can fruits and don’t have fruit trees or bushes at home, check out pick your own farms. They can save you a ton of money on the fruit and it gives your family a chance to have an outing they can talk about for years. My son and I went this morning to pick red raspberries to make Jam as it is his favorite. When I make it from scratch it costs me about a 1/3 of the price at the grocery store.

  8. Sporksoma says

    If you’re going to the store weekly and picking up perishable items such as milk, bananas, etc., then you are not shopping just once a month.

    I would love to know how the author of this article is shopping once per month and still getting perishable items, and the items last that long. I shop weekly because my family needs perishables; if I were to shop monthly, the bananas would be gone in 2 days and then I’d have some very unhappy kids complaining about not having bananas the other 28 days of the month.

    • Melissa P says

      I clicked on the link to the author’s FAQ and it said that they eat different produce/snacks at different times of the month. For example, the first week they eat bananas, but at the end of the month they eat canned fruit. Also, she freezes milk and bread.

    • Maxcy says

      if you click on her FAQ about her once a month shopping she answers that question. They eat the perishables first and others that stay good for awhile later. She also freezes her milk and bread.

  9. says

    When people say they only shop once every couple weeks or once a month, I’m always curious how they do that. We always need a couple trips a week in order to get more fruits, veggies, and milk. How do you make fresh fruit (bananas, apples, grapes, etc.) and vegetables (spinach/lettuce for salads) last for more than a week?

    • says

      Apples, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, potatoes can last months if kept cool.

      Buy milk that doesn’t expire for 2 weeks.

      Eggs are good for 4-6 weeks past their expiration date, according to the American Egg Board.

      Romaine can last 2 weeks in the fridge.

      Buy more when you shop, and you can go much longer. We’re not shopping at all this month, and we’ll be just fine.

      • says

        One can also freeze milk. We do that all the time and it tastes great. We usually have one milk that we are drinking and one that is defrosting in the fridge. This helps cut down trips to the grocery for staples.

    • Amber S says

      I only shop in town (a 45-minute drive) every 3-4 weeks. I freeze milk for drinking and use milk from our goats for cooking. A lot of my fresh produce does come from a co-op that brings it right to our tiny town every-other week and from the garden. I have to pick up my baskets, but there’s no other shopping because it’s pre-ordered. (bountifulbaskets.org) I also can and freeze produce.

      • J says

        Amber,

        I also live in a tiny town and we do not have that specific coop. The only one we have is too expensive and provides more food than the two of us could possibly use in 3 months. We are retired and there is only the two of us. If we were still raising a family it would be perfect and I only wish I had tried it then.

    • Meredith says

      Same here, I’d love to go to the grocery once a month but I have a hubby and daughter that require a yellow fresh banana mostly every day. I have got it down to once a week for the bananas but I can’t go any longer than that!

      • Amie says

        Shopping once a month is an interesting idea, but I usually shop a few times a week. I do one planned shopping trip and stop at multiple stores and then do a banana, milk, and additional deals pick up later in the week when I am already out. I use coupons, stockpile, have a very small garden, don’t eat organic (other than my garden), cook several meals from scratch and have no food allergies that interfer with cooking. I was spending about $50 per week for a family of 4 people with pets and children in diapers & Pull-Ups. I am home with them during the summer and upped our budget to $60-$65 – which is doable since we’re not paying daycare. I know that I could shave off quite a lot if I wanted just the basics, but my family is so happy that I have kept them stocked with Popsicles and ice cream this summer thanks to coupons and sales. Every few months, I get a guest pass to Sam’s Club and stock up on bread flour, yeast, etc. My plan to reduce my grocery bill is to expand my garden, get back to monthly menu planning, and possibly purchase additional items in bulk on my next trip to Sam’s Club.

    • says

      Looking at her list, there is no mention of fresh fruits/veggies, mostly just canned & jarred items. We make-do with a lot of frozen produce, which keeps well and retains all the nutrients of fresh. However, I think the general idea is that when the bananas (or whatever) run out, that’s it – no more until next month. I only shop weekly, but follow the same rules – if the kids eat all of something within a few days, they just have to wait and eat other things until the next weekly trip.

  10. Kimberly says

    A sample menu would be great
    although trying to eat more fresh
    foods the once a month shopping would
    never work for me sounds beneficial
    though as I spend 2X’s that for our family of
    4 .
    Thanks.

  11. Jenn says

    I have been a long time follower of Jammerill and I can tell you based on reading her site that she buys like 7 or 8 gallons of milk and freezes them, and tons of produce, they just eat the fruits and veggies that spoil fastest, first. Then when that is gone they eat frozen or canned. Also she just had posted not that long ago that she buys bananas like 15 pounds at a time. She has 5 children and is pregnant again so really this makes perfect sense. It would seem like a lot of planning and organizing would be needed, not to mention a very long day with 5 children but doable.

  12. Jenn says

    Oh and I know they eat a lot of repeating meals, at least based on the meal plans she has on her site.

  13. says

    That is a great list! :)

    I have a family of seven as well and we have no pets. I average closer to $650/month just for food and then add in about another $50/month on average for laundry products, toiletries, paper products. I do all the tips mentioned in the post other than gardening & canning. However, I do shop the farmer’s market or buy only in season fruit and veggies at the stores. I shop in bulk at Sam’s Club(but only certain items that I know I can’t get cheaper elsewhere in bulk), and I shop Aldi’s along with a few other local stores that are within a 7 mile radius from my home. I am able to save between 50-75% on my shopping trips that are anywhere between 2-4 times a month(really depends on the sales!) I try to limit the big shopping trips to twice a month to coincide with hubby’s paycheck and if I do any other shopping during the month it is for loss leader sale items and perishable items, like milk(which averages 4 gallons/week) and produce. Also out of the seven bodies in my home, I have 3 teen boys(16, 13, 11) and a hubby that eats about the same as the teen boys. We don’t have any allergies or special diets just picky eaters.

    I also want to caution people and say these are tips to help not absolutes that will guarantee that you will be able to do the same thing that the writer has done. You have to remember that you need to do what is best for your family and your budget and your location. I know that cost of living is higher in some places compared to others and that will mean that food prices will also vary from a little difference to a lot compared to the writer. So my ending thought…don’t stress yourself out if you can match $400/month or lower for groceries for your family, just evaluate tips and then tweak things, if necessary.

  14. Brittainny says

    We are a family of 6 w/ kids ages 6-1/2, 5, 3-1/2, 1 yr. My husband insists that every dinner includes meat. I also do a once a month main grocery trip with 2 aldi milk runs. Our monthly budget including toiletries and stockpiling never goes over $350. Normally, we are in the $250-$300 range. Because of stockpiling some months we don’t have to buy anything except for milk ,eggs,cheese and produce.We eat healthy on a budget. Only lean ground turkey, boneless/skinless chicken, and london broil. minimal white flour ( may use 1/2 white-1/2 whole wheat) and very small amounts of sugar. I do not buy juice any more and have weaned our kids off of flavored milk and fruit snacks. That alone has saved us a ton of moolah!! *victory dance* I make almost everything from scratch. We have a small garden that supplies most of the produce we need. I enjoy canning. It is so worth it! I make all my own cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. I cloth diaper and have for almost 7 years now. I also breastfeed, but because I enjoy it. saving money because of it is just a bonus. :) We also home school. Instead of using a pound of meat for a recipe, I use half a pound. This cuts your meat budget in half! We try to eat correct portions also. I use a saucer plate to keep proper portions. I also drink a huge glass of water before dinner. It keeps from over eating and helps in losing these last few baby pounds!! And the main money saver… COUPONS!
    I save no less than 50-55% on every shopping trip. I get the meat when it’s B1G1. I use a coupon clipping service out of TN that has the best prices and only $1 for 2 day shipping!

  15. says

    We have a family of 7 as well and I probably average about $400 a month as well, sometimes less. One recommendation I have is shop at a grocery salvage store. We have a local bent-and-dent store that saves me SO much money. I about get sticker shock at some of our regular grocery store prices after doing most of my shopping there. I also posted on this somewhat recently:
    http://quiverfullofblessings.com/2012/05/14/why-i-shop-at-the-bent-and-dent-store/
    I’m sure I could do even better shopping just once a month!

  16. Jessica says

    Even though I live in Ohio, our farmer’s markets are crazy expensive, which makes no sense to me. Dozen corn is $5.50-6, pint of blueberries was $5, tomatoes $3 per #, and so forth. I’d go bankrupt if I tried to shop all my produce there!

    I feed my family of 4 people & 2 cats (and I’m pregnant with a lot of food aversions and have 2 picky eaters as well), for $75 per week. This includes the purchase of a 1/4 grass-fed organic beef cow once per year (that is all the beef I buy), plus it also includes diapers (I do a mix of disposable and cloth), wipes, cleaning supplies, hygiene and healthcare items.

    We eat very simple meals. We also repeat a lot. Our top 10 dinners are:
    tacos
    pancakes & eggs or sausage
    homemade pizza
    spaghetti and meatballs (homemade sauce, homemade meatballs)
    steak and noodles with a veggie
    grilled cheese with a veggie
    chili
    crockpot chicken
    stir fry
    fried rice

    • Wendy says

      I’ve found farmers markets are much more expensive than grocery stores. It can help if you can find someone that grows/farms that DOES NOT set up at a farmers market. Our neighbor has 25 chickens he raises and he sells eggs for $2 per dozen. Free range/organic eggs here usually run $5 per dozen. He doesn’t advertise, just word of mouth and I buy from him. Another example is corn. At the farmers market, they want $6 per dozen but we found a lady who grew a patch that will sell for $3 per dozen. Check the classifieds in the paper and ask around first before you choose the farmers market.

  17. says

    We also shop monthly. We do a large trip to Aldi once a month and then fill in with things they don’t carry from Food Lion. Our grocery bill was cut in half too. Not shopping = not spending. We are trying to stay away from processed foods and make things from scratch. We also belong to a CSA and get fresh veggies and fruit weekly. What we cannot use we freeze or can. Just canned 5 jars of pickles today. We utilize what we have and do the pantry shopping thing. I have been trying to do freezer cooking when time permits and it’s been a life saver several times. Budget shopping can be done. Great post. Thanks!

  18. Andrea says

    If you’re used to fresh produce and drink a lot of milk, shopping once each month means changing the way you eat.

  19. Jamie says

    What do you do about catching things on sale?? About once a month a certain store puts cheese on sale and I’ll buy 10 blocks, but if we run out, then there isn’t anymore cheese until it’s on sale again. Do you watch the sales or just stick with the plan?? I mean $400/month sounds pretty good to me, so maybe watching the sales isn’t so important if you stick with the plan??

  20. says

    I loved this post it was organized very well. I shop once a week and am”trying” to stay at $75 for a family of 5, one of which is in diapers. Its tough but clipping coupons and my newest thing meal planning has helped ALOT! I never realized planning meals could save tons of money. I always just stocked up on whatever was on sale and pulled things from my freezer as weeks went on but later found out that wasnt working. I have been planning meals for about 2 months now and it has saved so much time and money. I never forget a key ingredient or have that blank stare of what to make for dinner. Plus making double or triple batches helps you always have a back up plan just in case your day doesnt go as planned. I think we are eating better and I see a $10 – $20 a week saving just by planning my meals.

  21. says

    My family of 9 eats for $100 a month, plus $100 in tolietries. (Really 8 people eating because youngest is a baby). It’s taken a long time to learn to eat for this little and stock my pantry at the same time, but I am constantly learning and making changes to keep things low. I don’t have an Aldi’s, or a store that doubles coupons. I knew I had to get it lower, so I kept trying new things, changing my menus, finding new sources for food, and working hard to lower things. Instead of saying, oh I can’t do as well as Crystal because I don’t have double coupons, I decided to look for other ways to save.

    Here is my summer menu (4 weeks worth of meals and snacks):
    http://theprudenthomemaker.com/index.php/menus/summer-menu

    • Jen says

      Hi! I was wondering if you mean $100/week. I checked out your list and cannot figure out how you could make all of those meals on $100/month. Thank you!!

  22. says

    I also try to feed my family of 4 for about $250. Some months is as low as $100 when we eat out of the freezer or as high as $350 when we are stocking up on organic meat. But I have only gotten as far as weekly meal planning and having alternative meals in my head in case of .
    I have been experimenting with canning and gardening which is a lot of work, but satisfying. I recently canned tomatoes and wrote about it on my blog. I ended up saving about $14 by canning a batch of tomatoes… which honestly isn’t much but it is nice to know that when we use those jars my family won’t be consuming any BPA or can residue.
    While trying to eat healthy I have been cooking from scratch which does save Some money, but I don’t think a whole lot since the ingredients I buy has been of higher quality. But buying on sale and with the few coupons that you actually CAN use on healthy items and staples does help. Being able to store items and cook ahead of time. I shop at the farmer’s market to save on organic vegies and fruit. For a weekly organic box it costs $24 for my family, but I only end up spending about $12/week by buying items we will eat direct from the local farm.
    The more I learn about buying and cooking healthy, the less coupons I use. I make most of my household items and cleaners to eliminate chemicals. and in the long run this is a lot less money!

  23. lori says

    I have a family of 7 and could not feed them on $400 without making everyone miserable. I do one big menu plan and one big shopping trip per month and that one alone usually costs $400. But then there are the occasional trips for dairy, produce etc that I do once a week. So anyhow I’m just saying if you had to do it you could, but don’t be discouraged if you’re not doing this well. It really depends on your families dietary needs, preferences and appetites. All are different :)

  24. Krysten says

    When my BIL is here (10 months out of the year), my budget is $300/month. That feeds 2 grown men (ages 28 and 18), 1 nursing mommy, and our forever-hungry 2-year-old son. This number includes only food, not inedible consumables. I’m hoping to keep the budget steady as our baby girl transitions to real food.

  25. Amber S says

    It is very possible to eat inexpensively and still eat very healthy. I never feed my family ramen, or hardly any other processed foods either. We eat hearty, simple home-cooked meals three times a day. My grocery budget is $150/month for a family of 6 (yes, you read that right). Milk in my area is $1.57 a gallon. I get my produce from Bountiful Bakets, my garden, and sometimes for free- we are in an agricultural community and people often share their excess. I buy all my grains, etc. in bulk twice a year from the Honeyville retail store in Chandler, AZ. I bought 50 lb bags of hard white wheat for $13.75 on sale last time. Popcorn and beans are cheapest at Sam’s Club. I make everything we eat from scratch, and can and freeze. I strongly agree with substituting ingredients in recipes and cutting meat portions. Also, if something is expensive, we don’t eat it. Period. There’s plenty of good food choices out there. We also raise our own meat- chicken, pigs, rabbit, beef, and hunt deer and elk. I akmost never pay full price for anything at the store, with the exception of store-brand sugar. I only shop every 3-4 weeks at the store (see coment above). I appreciate people’s suggestions and tips here. Obviously, prices are different due to geographical location and circumstances. Let’s continue to encourage and not judge each other as we each seek God’s will and provision for feeding our families.

    • Amber S says

      Looks like the offensive comment that spurred the last part of mine was removed- thanks!

    • says

      I already left a comment above on how much we spend. But i wanted to add that I dream of Milk at $1.50… I am in California and we are lucky to find milk under $3. (even if the container says the milk comes from CA!) I find this very frustrating. i live between a couple farms so I am able to get some food (like avocado) very cheep–it really throws me off when I can’t get a slice of avocado at a local restaurant for less than $1 when it’s in season. Done with my rant.

      I don’t know what you did with your two year old. But I found that when my kids started eating baby food, I just stuck whatever we were eating in a food processor with some milk and pureed. I only ever bought a couple baby food jars to keep just in case in the diaper bag, then kept the jars to refill with my own baby food for on the go. I froze portions of vegis and fruit so I didn’t have to puree for every meal. But I didn’t think it took too much energy or effort. I didn’t notice any change in my budget until i had to start buying kids meals when we went out. =)

    • Lindsey says

      Boy!! I’ll say that prices differ by region: we pay $3.99 for a gallon of milk; the cheapest it is when on a big loss-leader sale is $3.39.

    • Ann says

      Wow, I am impressed. I wish we could have saving s like you do there. we live in Florida. Milk is $4.00 a gallon. Everything else is expensive I started couponing but we also started to gain weight so I want to come back to fresh organic, cooking from scratch, gardening. Any tips how to do this in Fl?

  26. Christy Carden says

    Space? We have one refrigerator/freezer and no where to put a second refrigerator/freezer or freezer. We live in a townhome, no garage. I know from some of Crystal’s posts that you can fit an awful lot of meals in just a regular freezer, but gallons of milk take up a lot of space — We are only a family of 4, but I do have a toddler who drinks a lot of whole milk. We probably go through 10 gallons of milk a month; that would take up almost our whole freezer!

      • Christy says

        Pantry space is not an issue. We have a good size pantry, big kitchen with lots of cabinets, but no where for another fridge or freezer. No basements where I live and like I said, we have no garage. Pantry is bog, but not walk in size for a fridge.

        • Midon says

          @ Chisty, we don’t have “room” for a freezer either. But every house we’ve lived in (we move a lot) we have managed to put it somewhere. It is currently on the back porch. It is an extremely small back porch, but it works. At our last house it was in a storage shed. The one before that it was on the front porch. The house before that it was actually in our nursery! I know that seems crazy, but it was the only spot. We just put a lock on it so kiddos (we have 4) couldn’t open it. I would not go without a freezer! The week I don’t have to do any shopping because I stalked up on veggies at our reasonable Farmer’s Market and I always stalk up on meat when It’s a good sale. The key is having a menu. Otherwise I am lost. I forget to set things out to thaw or put them in the crockpot.

      • Christy says

        Will have to check it out when I’m not on my phone. Link won’t work on phone.

  27. says

    Whoa! We feed our family of five on a little less than $400 (our cash grocery budget is $400 but I usually have a little left over) and I thought that was pretty good!

    We hope it will go down a bit this year because we joined a community garden! We get two garden plots where we grow tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, squash, and other things – we also have access to the community fruit trees so we get apples, oranges, peaches and it literally is free – we just have to spend about an hour a week tending to it! We eat lots of fresh fruits & veggies, we cook them, and we also have made some into purees & frozen (great for baby food!) We’ve also made lots of applesauce for our big kids (and us!)

    today we harvested a HUGE pumpkin – it took two crock pots to cook it all – we made one into pumpkin butter and one into just plain pumpkin puree – we used to buy this for about $2 a can – now we have TONS frozen – we use it to make pumpkin pancakes, bread, muffins, and more.

    we are trying to make more salads during the summer (with our ‘free’ lettuce) and smaller portions of meat – we also make soups during the winter – so inexpensive and our family loves soups!

    we also cut our meat dishes using beans (and we use dry beans that we cook in the crock pot – SO cheap!)

    one other thing – we dont buy soda (even with a coupon) – we generally only buy milk for the kids and coffee for us – no soda, no juice – just a waste of money on empty calories ;-)

    I thought we were doing good but apparently we have a ways to go! I want to get our budget closer to $300 for the 5 of us – hoping our garden will help that!

  28. Sakura says

    These are great comments. As for canning, the first year is always the most expensive. Try and get your jars for free or near free, this will save a ton. I also try to get my produce for free. I’m in my 3rd year of canning and I’ve finally figured out how much my family will use in a year and two year time frame. Now all I really buy are lids. I buy my Greenbeans from a local farmer. I grew my own this year, but he only charges me $25 for 2 bushels worth. This year I’ve canned apricot vanilla jam, apricots, garlic, cherry pie filling and pesto (I used nuts I had in the freezer) all from free produce or items from my garden. Try getting things from freecycle or craigs list, barter for what you don’t want to pay cash for.

    Canning is really worth it, you’ll find recipes you love that you’ll make year after year. We tried a new one this year, pickled English peas. They were delicious on our salads last night!

    • KimH says

      I raised 5 kids and I used to spend about $450 a month feeding them when they were all teens. It was tight, but I managed.

      I didnt throw away anything. If I used half an onion, I chopped the other half up, put it in a freezer bag & put it in the frezer. If I made stuffed peppers, I chopped the tops off & froze them too. I grow all sorts of herbs and freeze them in baggies, no blanching or anything else needed. We certainly werent eating rib-eve steaks, but we werent eating a lot of boxed or bagged industrialized food either. I had a garden too, and still do.
      I freeze leftover broths, sauces, & container meals too.

      One thing I rarely see anyone on the coupon blogs talk about is dehydrating. If you have a bunch of anything, and you dont know if you can consume it before it goes bad, start dehydrating it. I have an inexpensive dehydrator my step daughter gave me for Christmas and I keep it going a lot. After the initial cost of around $50, there is no cost other than the containers you store your goods in, which in my case is canning jars. I dehydrate as much as I can in case we have power outages, I dont want to lose my produce and hard work.

      One other thing I wanted to mention is Tattler reusable canning lids. They can be used over & over. The initial cost is a bit higher than regular canning lids, but you’ll use them for years & years.

  29. Emily says

    This may be a little late for most to read, but as far as farmer’s markets go, a lot of the extra expense can be attributed to how much the booths cost to rent at the market itself (some can be as much as $1000/month in some cities!!). But a lot of farmers have other stands or programs where you can buy directly from the farm itself, so feel free to chat up the farmers at the market to see. It might require driving out to the farm to pick up a bunch of produce, which would require some time and gas, but you usually get the best prices at that point. We have relationships with two local farmers (one for mostly veggies/eggs, the other for fruit), and for about $30 every 2 weeks, we get a bucketful of amazing produce!

  30. Lana says

    If you live in the upstate of South Carolina check out this produce co-op.
    http://www.thenoisyrabbit.com
    My daughter is a member and splits her weekly full bushel of produce with a friend. You receive a full bushel every week for $60 a month plus $21 membership fee every 6 months. The co-op was started by a group of homeschool moms and has pickup locations all over the upstate. They also have a Facebook page.

  31. Christine says

    I was feeling kinda bummed when I read the title because I spend about $400 a month (with avid couponing) for my family of 4. Then I realized that I am including the pets and household costs in that total. Even with coupons I spend about $50-$60 a month on cat litter and the Iams brand pet food we buy. (I find Iams is a good compromise between cost and quality. I sincerely believe that the quality of pet food directly effects the health of your pet.) Laundry Soap. toiletries, dish soap are easily another $20-$40 a month. She is also a stay at home mom so has more time to devote to meal prep than I do. I don’t feel so bad now. ;-)

    I still see some great ideas . Thanks for the post.

  32. K says

    Unbelievable! Not literally. LOL!!! It’s just that I cannot imagine coming close to $400.00 to feed my family of six. I do coupon and try my best to shop sales – especially in conjunction w/ the sale. I also shop at 2 different stores. Maybe my downfall is just buying items w/out really planning out a menu…??? The cost of living in my area may be a contributor to what I consider an inflated grocery tab.

    I looked at a sample of your monthly meal plan and noticed that quite a few of your dishes include meat. How do you manage to spend as little as you do w/out breaking the bank on meat, which of course if very costly?

    Do you get your bulk items at Sam’s or another warehouse membership store? I don’t have a membership with any of these places. I have in the past, but it seems that I didn’t go there enough to make it worth the cost of maintaining the membership.

    This is just for food, though, right? Not toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc

  33. Melissa P says

    Oops, I was trying to reply to the comment that asked about foods like bananas. Not sure why my comment ended up at the end. :)

  34. Homesteadmom says

    You can order bulk grains, ie: rice, wheat, beans, flour, barley, popcorn, etc… from Azure standard http://www.azurestandard.com if there is a delivery area near you. They are from OR & deliver once a month. I order all my grains in bulk from them, it saves me a ton of money. I grind my own wheat too, which saves money. I really need to sit down & figure out what my average grocery budget is each month. But it does vary as I buy multiples of most everything ahead of the game & the only thing I usually buy for the present is fresh produce & dairy. I also order some of my meat in bulk thru http://www.zayconfoods.com we live rural& raise our own beef & chickens & eggs, we also have dairy goats too, so milk will become a purchase of the past next year.

  35. says

    The farmer’s market prices ppl are commenting on seem pretty average to me. In most places some things might be a little more expensive than the grocery store…def more than Aldi, but the quality is far superior. You’re buying seasonally, reducing your carbon footprint, supporting your local economy and getting to have fun doing it.
    The best advice I can give you about shopping your local market is to get to know your farmers and buy when the product is at its peak. Zucchini, potatoes, green onions, onions, peppers, squash, tomatoes and peaches are all cheaper at my famer’s market than the store.
    I am always willing to spend more on fresh local than foods that have been in transit for a few days and then sitting a few more. It’s all what you can do though!

  36. Julie says

    I would love to only shop once a month, but we go through a lot of fresh fruit and veggies. I would HATE to give that up for any part of a month. Bananas are a cheap staple for us. And even if we did the “rotating” produce plan that someone mentioned, that would require MUCH more fridge space than we have. Come to think of it, the whole plan would require much more pantry and fridge space than we have. (The thought of storing 15 gallons of milk amuses me considering that we rarely have room for 2 at once. We have one fridge and no extra freezer.)

    Still, this gives me some ideas on how to break up/balance my shopping trips.

    • says

      Julie,

      We do not have a side by side fridge. Though most side by side fridges say they have a larger capacity than our fridge and freezer combo, I can certainly put more in my fridge than my parents.

      When we bought our current refrigerator, we wanted a LOT of space for milk. I chose a fridge that I can put 16 gallons in. I can fit 6 gallons alone on the fridge door. I used to buy 16 gallons every 2 weeks, and that was when it was just my husband and me! I LOVE milk!

  37. Ann says

    Some of my friends order Cheese from Lynn Dairy in Wisconsin, during the colder winter months. (It is too hot to ship it during the summer months) A while back when the milk price was “down”, my friends were able to buy FRESH cheese for $1.86/lb. shipped!! It comes in a 40 lb. block, so it can be divided with friends, or cut up & shredded then frozen. You will love the flavor of FRESH!!!

    • Lisa says

      Do you have any info on where to order cheese from Lynn Dairy in Wisconsin. I couldn’t find it being sold in 40 pounds blocks. Thanks for any help.

      • Jennifer K says

        I have been couponing since last year, and we have saved thousands. My favorite websites to go to are krazycouponlady.com and livingrichwithcoupons.com. They are my life savers! I am more control with my money then I was before. I have set a budget at $250 a month for groceries with my family of 4. So far we either go under or just hit the mark. When something goes on sale very cheap or free with coupons I stock up. And any Catalina’s I receive from a deal I did, I’ll use them on meat, produce or dairy items I don’t have a manufacture coupon for. Now if I can get my other finances like this, that would be wonderful. But this is helping so far, before I was spending $180-200 every other week, mostly impulse buying. I have learned a lot and I keep learning each day. =)

  38. Stacey says

    These kinds of posts are always interesting to me. To some they are inspiring, to others they are discouraging.

    I read these kinds of posts because I know I am not beyond learning something new and hope to do so, but I always feel badly when moms who are doing the best they can in with the circumstance they are in (location, family make-up, metabolisms, food allergies, what-not) get discouraged because they can’t get their grocery bill as low as others.

    Some states regulate the price of milk and therefore some readers will never get milk for less than $xx.00 per gallon. Some moms live where feeding one’s family is just plain more expensive, no matter what they do — cook from scratch, garden (and the weather can really take a toll on those efforts), can, etc.

    I’d like to encourage those who are discouraged by reading $ amounts that some are able to spend and not being able to do the same, to instead just read to glean the tips that might be useful for lowering one’s own $ amount.

  39. says

    Thank you for this inspiration. I have been trying to get my monthly food shopping on paper and this simple chart was definitely what I needed. So I worked on my own version today. Mine is a little longer and costlier per person. But we have to work around a dairy allergy, and I like organic for some things. I have access to two coops, Azure and UNFI. And so far I have us at $525 a month for a family of 4 with food allergies, no pets or babies. That includes over $100 in protein shakes and bars needed for my husband’s and my diets right now.

    It does take time to tweak and fine tune these goals so I appreciate that realistic advice!

  40. jessica says

    I don’t know, but i buy at least TWICE that much produce for my family of 6 each WEEK! (and my kids are little still) You did mention a garden…but you said it is “new”. Have you grown a few vegetables in the past or nothing more than what is listed? I see that this plan could fill empty bellies…but it just seems really lean on the vegetable and fruit side!

  41. donna says

    What do you eat for lunch?…I have two teenagers and telling them to eat only peanut butter and jelly or ramen noodles wouldnt cut it in our house…

  42. Wendy says

    Crystal, what’s wrong with the reply section? All the comments just get stuck on the end and not under the comment we’re replying to?

    • says

      It’s a glitch with the new template we installed last week. We’ve been working hard on fixing it, but unfortunately, it’s not fixed yet — hopefully by the end of today!

  43. Pam says

    We were a family of 7 and which included. My daughter was 11, 3 sons 18-24, my husband and I, and my mother. I also babysit and feed an average of an extra 6 kids per day lunches and some breakfasts. A year ago I was determined to lower and watch our grocary cost. I averaged $75.00 per week including our softener salt, paper products, and toiletries.. It took some planning and stocking up when the sales were on, but it was extremely successful and doable.

  44. Kelsey says

    This post would have been more helpful with a sample menu plan of what you make. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, etc. So much of these posts vary on food intolerances, amounts of food your kids eat, etc. Could you post a sample of your week meal plan?

    • says

      If you click on the links in the post, there are links to articles, sample shopping trips, menu plans, and more.

  45. says

    I notice you buy canned “cream of” soup. 30 Day Gourmet.com has recipes for making your own much healthier, cheaper versions. It’s really just simple white sauce.