Grocery Budget Tips: Introduction

Let’s talk about grocery budgets.

MANY factors play into what a family spends on groceries.  Your location is a big factor, because some areas are very expensive to live in and buy food in.  The amount of people you are feeding, and their ages, the types of foods you buy, your style of cooking, current season (store sale cycles, in season produce, etc.), if you opt for all organic or follow special diets, and how much time you have available for meal prep_… All play into your grocery budget.

I live in Michigan, and am feeding a family of 9 – 2 adults and 7 farm kids.  This includes 5 boys and a teen girl – but to be fair, most are under the age of 10, so they only eat about half an elephant each at a time (they are extremely active, so they do eat quite a bit… They are always running, biking, climbing, building, or helping around the farm).  There is also a baby, who isn’t eating very many solids for the moment – he just gets unseasoned bits of this and that from my plate at the moment.   I am fully aware that as the kids get older, they will eat more and more.  That’s one reason we purchased a farm – so we could continue to feed the kids a healthy diet without having to sacrifice in other areas.  We outgrew our backyards ability to feed us in the city, and decided it was time to take the plunge that we had talked about for over 10 years.   While I do enjoy cooking, I don’t have unlimited time to be able to do it.  We homeschool and run the farm and that takes up a huge chunk of time so I have learned how to make the best use of our time without caving to convenience.

Some disclosures: We have no food restrictions, but healthy is always my goal with some splurging on homemade goodies.  I don’t do fully organic when we have to purchase from the store, but my garden is.   Right now, 90% of our fresh, canned and frozen produce is organic from our garden.  I am not a fan of convenience foods, even though they are cheap, so we rarely buy them (plus, to feed a family my size it becomes cheaper just to cook a meal vs. feed them from canned goods because you end up having to buy so many to fill all these tummies).   I don’t coupon.  I used to, but after doing it for a while I realized it took up a lot of time but even more important we would have to buy name brand, or items that we don’t typically buy to get the savings.  I rarely, if ever, found coupons for the basic, raw ingredients that we typically purchase.  No, we don’t live on cheap ramen.  We eat real, healthy, filling food.

Our budget tends to shock people, but I am hoping to write up a little about what we do/did to keep it low (I really didn’t think it was considered “low,” but after seeing what some people do spend – double and triple what we do for smaller families, I suppose it is low).  We usually got by between $400-$500 per month on the high end – and that shrinks quite a bit through the late summer, fall and winter.  Right now that is a modest amount for our family of 9 and includes stocking up on items as well as buying in bulk because at the moment, our farm is feeding us quite a bit!   This is food only and does not take into account animal feed, toiletries, or anything outside of that.  There have been months that we have only had $200 or so to get by on for food, and we made it happen.

We currently live on a farm, and have our own eggs, milk, vegetables, duck, rabbit, turkey and chicken.  We make maple syrup in the spring, forage all year for wild edibles, grow a large garden, hunt in the fall and have fruit trees.  We put a couple pigs in the freezer this past January and plan to do pigs again.  While all of this does make a very large dent in our grocery budget now, it hasn’t always been like this. The things that we have done to keep the grocery  budget affordable will not focus on farming because I know not everyone can, or wants, to live this lifestyle. Maybe those things will be in a future blog post about the many ways you can grow your own food.

Please feel free to share your own ideas as they relate to the tip posted.  I would love to learn from you and would hope that my tips might help you as well.

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