Monthly shopping and tips for saving on food costs

I used to regularly post what I bought on my monthly shopping trips, but at some point stopped because I didn’t want readers to be discouraged by the prices I was paying.  As I’ve shared before, I don’t shop with a list – I buy whatever is a great price when I go into a store, and build my menu plan based on what I’ve already bought.  Often it means that we will enjoy something one month and then not have it again for a long time!

Also, I’ve worked hard to find the cheapest sources that I can for whatever I need.  I didn’t just stumble onto these prices!  Since a number of readers found it helpful when I shared what I bought and the prices I paid, I’m sharing below most of what I bought during my monthly shopping trip, but keep in mind that these are sale prices – the regular prices at the local stores aregenerally higher than what I paid!   This is pretty typical for me in terms of how I shop – large quantities of a small amount of things. 

  • 60 dozen extra large non-pastured eggs – 1.25 dozen
  • 50 lb butter – 1.99 lb
  • 40 lb yams – 16.50
  • 50 lb onions – 18.50
  • 5 boxes clementines – 3.99 ea
  • 1 case red grapefruit – 9.95
  • 3 – 5 lb bags baby carrots – 2.99 ea
  • 12 – 15.25 oz cans pineapple in juice – .79 ea
  • 3 heads cauliflower – 1.39 ea
  • 8 heads fennel – .50 ea
  • 36 -4/4 oz containers organic apple/cranberry sauce – .50 per 16 oz
  • 8 -12 oz bags frozen blueberries – .99 ea
  • 4 -250 ml bottles extra virgin olive oil 1.99 ea ( got these because the small size will be best for dd16 to take to meals in the lunchroom; I get larger bottles for the family at a better price – 1 liter for 3.99)
  • 12- 45 oz packages whole wheat tortillas – .99 ea – (these are massive, way bigger than the standard size I usually get – each one is about the size of a pizza crust!)
  • 6 boxes whole grain breakfast cereal – 1.49 ea (for the kids when I’m away with dd16)
  • 8 – 24 oz. cottage cheese, 4% milkfat – 1.39 ea
  • 12 – 32 oz. plain yogurt – 1.29 ea
  • 6 – 8 oz cream cheese – .89 ea
  • 14 – pint organic heavy whipping cream – 1.49 ea
  • 12 packages corn tortillas – $5 for all
  • gallon jar of olives – 16.19
  • 1 small bottle raw kombucha – 2.99
  • 13 gallons raw milk
  • 15 dozen pastured eggs (chickens aren’t producing much so that’s why I had to buy so many regular eggs)
  • free – three cases of mini snack packs of baby carrots

Not in this trip but also purchased for this month:

  • 12 lb ground beef – 3.99 lb
  • 12 lb turkey hot dogs – 1.59 lb
  • 2 – 2 lb shredded cheese – 8.49 ea
  • 4 – 6 oz sliced cheese – 1.49 ea

I got other stuff for dd16 that is included in my monthly total but I didn’t list here: chocolate (for mishloach manos to give her friends), and lots of herbal teas. 

I’ve shared tons of tips on saving money on food in detail in past posts, but here are a few that came into play with this shopping trip: 

1) This looks kind of skimpy for month’s eating, doesn’t it?  Last month I bought a good amount of canned vegetables and fruit, frozen vegetables, and some other staples so I still have that on hand.  At the end of last month I bought 60 lb of chicken wings (1.29 lb), so that will last me through this entire month.  Stock up when the price is right!

2) I go shopping for vegetables between 2 – 4 times a month.  In addition to what I bought yesterday, I have a good amount of cabbage, turnips, and potatoes left, as well as tomatoes and lots of homemade pickles in the fridge.  I went kind of crazy two weeks ago making about 30 lb of cukes into lacto fermented pickles when I was able to buy them for .39 lb.  I also made a gallon + of lacto fermented salsa (with sale tomatoes – .49 lb), and two gallons of kimchi (with red and green cabbage).   The last couple of vegetable shopping trips I spent $80 and $60 respectively; the first trip filled my cart to the top and the second had it overflowing.  It depends on how much reduced produce I’m able to buy – reduced produce is a great budget stretcher.  I look for items that are discounted because a new shipment came in and they need to make room – not because they are rotting. 

3) I don’t buy only reduced produce, but I try to limit my produce purchases to items that are under $1 a pound; however, that’s not a hard and fast rule.  Root vegetables tend to be the best bet in the winter.  The checkout clerks always comment on how much produce I manage to buy for such a small amount of money!

4) Pay attention to the sizes of the packaging.  Food costs have drastically gone up in the last couple of years, and to keep consumers from being aware of how high the prices actually are, the packaging sizing has been changed for many items (eg sugar is now in 4 lb bags instead of 5 lb, dried beans are in 12 oz bags instead of 16 oz) but the price is staying only slightly below the price for the larger size.  For the cans of pineapple that I bought above, they are only a bit more than 15 oz – the standard size is 20 oz (for which I paid exactly the same price – .79 can – last month).  I realized when I bought them that the cans were smaller and weren’t a super price, but it was still acceptable to me – the key is to be aware of what you’re paying for and what you’re actually getting.

5) I stocked up on butter because it was on sale at my target price – 1.99 lb.  It’s been a while since I could find that price, and when what I had ran out two weeks ago, I did without.  I used coconut oil instead.  Then I didn’t realize we were almost out of coconut oil until it was too late to order it in time for this shopping trip (I thought I had another 5 gallon bucket), so we’ll have to do without coconut oil for this month.  (I could have driven somewhere else to get it for a comparable price, but it would have added at least 40 – 50 minutes of driving to my schedule and it wasn’t worth it to me.)  I rendered a batch of beef tallow last week, so between that and the butter, and olive oil for salads, we’ll be fine.  Sometimes staying within a budget means making choices and not having everything you want right when you want it

6) You’ve probably noticed by now that I buy very little processed food.  The cold cereal I purchased above was for a treat, not as a regular breakfast food.  I can make a much more filling breakfast for less money, so cutting processed food is a good way to eliminate a lot of costs.  When I get treat food, we enjoy it as the treat that it is. 

7) My shopping took place over three stores and two farms.  Know what a good price is for the items you want so that you can buy lots when you find it.  Learn what stores have what you want at the prices you want

8) I travel once a month or so to do a large shopping because I’ve determined that the savings are justified.  Gas costs and time has to be factored in.  If someone is buying much smaller quantities, their savings in traveling to different stores may be outweighed by the secondary costs.

9) If something free is offered to you but you don’t have the room for it, think creatively about how you can use it.  I accepted three cases of carrot snacks in the mini bags after determing that I couuld can or pickle them in the coming week since I don’t have adequate fridge space.  Blanching and freezing or dehydrating would have  been other options. 

Food costs can take a substantial chunk out of a family’s food budget, but there are lots of ways to have ample amounts of food and stay within the predetermined amount!


10 thoughts on “Monthly shopping and tips for saving on food costs

    1. B”H
      I love wings, they’re nice and cheap! I sprinkle them with paprika and/or cumin, chopped onions and/or fresh garlic and bake uncovered or cook on the stovetop covered.

      1. I do something similar – sprinkle them with paprika, garlic powder, and bake. I have fancier recipes (eg sesame chicken wings) but my kids are happy with this and it’s quick and easy.

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, please share how did you find such cheap fennel? I love that veggie but here in MA I can’t find it cheaper than 2:49 a head…

    1. I haven’t bought fennel in years since it’s usually so expensive! This was heavily discounted, so I bought a lot of it. Now I have to decide what to do with it, since it’s not a vegetable I’m used to using. 😛

      1. You can parboil them then bake in the oven with some cheese sprinkled on top, or just boil them with a bit of water, a tbsp or two of extra virigin olive oil and salt. They’re also delicious raw in salad, with lots of fresh lemon juice, as well as with baked fish.

  2. thanks for sharing this today! I’ve recently gone from cooking for three to cooking for ten and the finances have been getting out of hand! thanks for this encouragement!

  3. can you find kosher cottage cheese, cream cheese, etc. in your bulk stores or do you have to go to a chain grocery or kosher shop? i’m just wondering about some of the stuff that you find on sale that NEVER seems to be on sale where we live…. on a happy note, though, our local costco just got kosher kefir that is YUMMY- and a reasonable price… yay! thanks – julie (again)

    1. Ambre – jumping from 3 to ten people is a huge difference, not just in money but in the time it takes to prepare meals!

      Mara – it’s so true – people like to think that if you’re frugal enough you can have everything. And sometimes you can have everything, just not always when you want it!

      Julie – I usually can find cream cheese and cottage cheese with no problem at regular stores (I don’t keep CY) – they are national brands widely sold (eg Breakstone cottage cheese).

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