**Don’t miss a post in this new series, where I’m featuring bloggers who eat real, whole, healthy foods and ask them how they manage their grocery budgets. Have you subscribed yet by RSS or email to receive free updates of every new post and deal?**
This week’s featured blogger is Lorrie, from Natural on a Budget. She is one of the other few sites that shares coupons and grocery deals for natural and organic products, in addition to other frugal tips for saving on healthier living.
1. How much do you spend on groceries, and is this a firm amount or does it change from month to month?
We budget $250-$300 a month for groceries. This only includes food. I know most people include toiletries, diapers, etc into their grocery budget, but for our family it helps me to keep everything separate. I guess it is just my personality to want to see everything in separate categories.
We try to make this a firm amount, but if their is a deal we can’t pass up we will try to make room for it. I try to go shopping with cash only so that I am less tempted to overspend. Another way I try to stay in budget is by making out a weekly or monthly menu and shop with a specific list. Sticking to the list has been one of the best ways I have found to stay on budget.
2. Briefly describe your family, their food needs and preferences.
We are a family of 5, 2 adults, a 5 year old, almost 3 year old and a 7 month old. So far we do not have any allergies to address in our food choices. About a year ago we decided to start moving our family to a more vegetarian diet. We still eat meat, but not nearly as much. My husband has even tried a vegan diet several times with great success. We have found that we really do not like meat as much or use as much when we cook.
3. Tell us about where you live and where most of your food comes from.
We live in Kansas so there are quite a few choices for farm fresh foods in the summer. This year a vast majority of our produce has come from my in-laws garden. They decided to plant 100 tomato plants this summer so we have definitely not been lacking for tomato products.
At this point in our life I buy most of our groceries from local grocery stores and health food stores. I try to pair up sales with healthy coupons. I do order some items from Amazon and other natural food websites.
When possible we strive to buy locally raised meat for when we do eat it. There are many farms in our area to choose from.
Lately milk has been coming from the grocery store, which is by far not what we want to use. In the past we have been able to get fresh, raw milk from nearby farms. The 45 minute drive has kept us from going as often as we like.
4. As best as you are able, could you give us an average break down of your monthly grocery expenses?
Beef $25 a month
I typically buy our meat once a month from a local cattle ranch. Do to our mostly vegetarian diet we have often been able to stretch this to last 2 months.
Chicken $? Not sure. I stock up when it’s on sale and it lasts for several months
I try to buy Smart Chicken brand at Dillons when it is on sale. I can also get it at farmers market or Satchel Creek Steaks.
Fish $10-15 a month
I live in a land locked state so I have to buy this frozen at the grocery store. I usually find wild fish fillets on sale for $1 each at Target. This can easily be stretched by making fish sticks or fish patties.
Grains and Flour
I buy these in bulk from an Amish bulk foods store in Yoder. I buy 25 pounds of locally grown whole wheat flour for $10 and freeze it in smaller freezer bags. I wish I had a grain mill, but not yet.
I buy beans from a local health food store in bulk.
I try to buy these in season at the cheapest price possible and freeze or can the extras. I also get produce at farmers market, grocery stores and Aldis (Not always organic, but it fits in the budget)
Milk $30 a month
From a local dairy or conventional if I have to. I used to buy raw milk, but have not been as diligent. I plan to start up again, but it is a long drive. I am trying to find someone to share the driving with me.
Misc. What ever is left.
5. What money-saving techniques are the most valuable to you in keeping your costs down?
I am sure that you have heard it before, but make as much as you can from scratch. It is so much better for you, not to mention the health benefits.
Again, menu planning and sticking to the list has been a huge help.
Don’t overlook coupons. I know that a lot of coupons that come in the Sunday paper are for highly processed foods, but there are many other places to find coupons for good quality products. Coupon codes and sales online have been a valuable resource for us.
Keep an eye out for a sale and stock up when you can get an item at the best price. Such as in the summer when produce is at its peak. Buy as much as you can fit into your budget and find a way to preserve it.
We are planning to look into a co-op in the near future to further save money.
6. If you could give others one tip for keeping their grocery budget reasonable (while eating real, whole foods), what would it be?
Don’t buy junk! So many people tell me they can not afford to buy organics or good quality food. I tell them to think about what they put in their carts every week. Do you really need that case of Pepsi, chips, cookies, or frozen dinner? Yes, they are tasty and convenient, but at what cost to your health?
You can free up so much money in your budget when you stop buying foods that do nothing for us nutritionally. I feel it is ok to have the occasional splurge, but not on a regular basis. Also, when you do make those splurges try to find a natural option, or better yet make your own.
Try to take one day a month and make some items to put in your freezer for those nights when you are too busy or tired to cook. You will be less likely to go for take out.