So now that I have a month of meal plans and shopping trips up, I thought it would be good to see how I did. The numbers are in, and I’m not happy with them. They’re not horrible for a family of 5 + animals, but they could be a lot better. I know a lot of people do not include their household items like toiletries, diapers and pet food in their grocery bill. I do, simply because I’m buying most of it at the same stores and it’s easier to just keep everything together. I did break it down just to see where I was spending it.
A couple of years ago, I’d spend about $300 a month on groceries, plus twice a year I stocked up on meat for $500-$600. So my real monthly budget was $400. That was before baby #5. For a while, we had two kids in diapers, then 1 of them was in pull-ups. They’re both in daycare, so cloth isn’t an option for us right now. Finally, we’re back to having only one kid in diapers! Some days I wondered if it would ever happen!
We also have chickens to feed. Organic, home grown eggs aren’t cheap. But this was actually a pretty good month for feed. We usually spend $100. Since my husband is home during the day right now, he can let them out to forage. They tend to eat a bit less in summer as well. We have cats too, but stocked up a while ago and haven’t had to purchase food for them lately.
If you take out pets, diapers and household, I spent close to $500. Ouch! It’s not a shock considering the rising prices of just about everything. Every month, I feel like I’m in an episode of Survivor, set in the grocery store. I have to use more and more tricks to save money, and yet we seem to end up getting less. I often have to choose between items I didn’t use to think were luxuries.
But look at the shrinking packages of everything. It’s crazy. Tuna cans are down to 5 ounces. A bag of sugar is now 4 lbs instead of 5 and often costs more. The prices of meat are just plain crazy, even though most of it’s factory farmed and loaded with hormones, antibiotics and other stuff that I just don’t want to know about.
We also try to buy “real” food. You can see from my posted shopping lists and receipts that we don’t buy much junk. Occasionally it slips in as a treat. But it’s rare. I bulk buy good deals and we rarely eat out. I use coupons when I can, but I find most coupons are only for junk I cut from our budget long ago. I cook just about every day, mostly from scratch. I don’t buy a lot of “prefab” foods. We are also trying to grow as much as we can, though we’re battling with nature every step of the way.
Would I like to spend less on my food budget? Definitely.
Is that possible? Probably.
Do we qualify for any help? Nope. We’ve checked.
But I do feel blessed that we make too much to qualify. I’m thankful we’ve kept our expenses low as well as our debt (just our house and my student loan). We are almost able to make it on one income, which has always been our goal. Daycare costs more than our mortgage right now.
We love our little guys and feel blessed to have them. I would love to stay home with them, but my husband has been laid off twice in the past eight months. His career field, and this area, just aren’t doing all that well right now. We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible for the kids through all of this. My husband watches them one day a week to save money, and job searches and fixes things the rest of the time. He may have to watch them more if he can’t find work soon, but we’re not there yet.
I think the challenge for July is to see if I can keep it to $100 a week and still eat well. I know people that do it, but most of them aren’t working full time. Most people I know who work outside of the home and have a family my size spend twice as much as we do.
I don’t know. I do not have all of the answers. I just try to be creative and flexible and make the most of what we have. And to keep learning, growing, improving. Most of the time that works.
So for July, I am going to start carrying cash for the groceries, like I used to do. It’s hard to overspend what you don’t have. And I’ll try to keep it at $100 a week. This might be somewhat crazy, with four July birthdays in our family. But it is the growing season, so hopefully it will balance out. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!