This new monthly series is by reader request, and it lays out all our grocery expenses each month (including how much we spent in each broader category, such as dairy or produce). We are a family of five (with one on the way) living in Central Utah, and our kids’ ages range from 7 down to 3.
For your information, we also include all household essentials (including diapers) in our “grocery” budget, as well as any personal hygiene items, such as makeup or face wash. Basically if it’s something that we would purchase regularly from one of the two grocery stores we shop at (Walmart and Sam’s Club), it’s almost surely included in our grocery budget unless it’s a gift for someone.
If you’d like to check out past monthly spending reports, click HERE.
Note: There may be affiliate links to books, products, or services mentioned.
Total Spending + Category Breakdown
I have to admit, even after just two months of categorizing our grocery expenses, the experience has been pretty eye opening. The things I always thought we’d spent a ton on (like produce or other fresh foods) are sometimes not as expensive as I thought they were, and although I knew we spent a lot on things like after-school snacks for the kids and breakfast cereal, I had no idea exactly how much.
Before I just went on whether or not we were over our general grocery budget of $600-$650 per month, but now I think I might be shifting my focus further to try and put more of the dollars towards fresh fruits and vegetables and less towards convenience options (even if those convenience options include individually packaged cups of fruit and applesauce pouches).
In February, we went over our budget of $650, which wasn’t totally unexpected considering that we’d kept our grocery costs much lower than usual in January and had used up a lot of our stockpile (especially our freezer stockpile) as a result. Ideally I like to keep our grocery budget right around $600, but I purposely let it be higher in February so that I could stock up on some of the things we were running low on. Our total cost for groceries and all household essentials in February was $668.36.
Here’s how the categories shook out for February:
- Produce: $61.14
- A little bit less than we spent last month, probably because we didn’t eat any salads. The majority went towards fruit (bananas, apples, clementines, pears), as well as avocados, onions, potatoes, and frozen broccoli. Oh, and a case of canned pears that I got on clearance 🙂
- Meat: $103.59
- Our meat total was MUCH higher than January because we’d effectively cleaned out almost all the meat in our freezers last month, which meant we needed to stock up again. This month we had a little bit of a lot of things, including chicken (breasts and thighs), ground beef, ground sausage, turkey sausage, and frozen meatballs.
- Dairy/Eggs: $88.53
- Our chickens started laying again this month, which definitely helped this category a bit! Since we didn’t have to buy any eggs, the main items here were milk and cheese, with some smaller quantities of things like cream cheese and heavy whipping cream in there, too.
- Bread/Bakery: $27.99
- We had some regular bread left from last month to cover Raven’s lunches and the toast I was having most mornings, so we only had to buy a couple double-packs of that in February. The rest was all spent at Trader Joe’s, which we visited for the first time ever this month and where we wanted to take advantage of all the gluten-free options they had for Matt and Mathias.
- Pantry: $248.52
- The pantry category is always the largest, but it was especially large this month because I needed to do some stocking up from the last few months of going through several things in our food storage, including several canned items, chicken broth, and two big bags of chocolate chips to replenish my stash :). Two other big categories for this included cold cereal and oatmeal ($57.78) and after school snacks for the kids ($53.62). As I detailed in my post last year all about how to combat the rising grocery prices due to inflation, one step I could definitely take if it became necessary would be to go away from all convenience foods entirely (including cereal and the pre-packaged snacks) and only choose whole, unprocessed options, such as oatmeal or fresh fruit. We’re not quite at the point where I’m wanting (or absolutely needing) to do that yet, especially because pregnancy really wipes me out, but it is an option on the table for the future if prices keep rising much more than they have. I also bought a six-pack of our favorite gluten-free waffle mix off of Amazon.
- Frozen Convenience Foods: $25.38
- As I said, being pregnant on top of running a side business and chasing after three kids tends to get exhausting, so I allow myself a few frozen convenience food options for those nights when I just am not up for making dinner and don’t want to resort to going out to eat. This month that included more chicken nuggets for the kids, as well as a new kind of cauliflower crust pizza we were trying out.
- Drinks/Treats: $36.57
- In addition to buying some Diet Dr. Pepper, we splurged on some of Trader Joe’s chocolate peanut butter cups, as well as getting some cartons of ice cream for family night treats.
- Household Essentials: $36.95
- We only spent money on two household essentials this month: a large thing of toilet paper from Sam’s Club and some cough medicine.
- Miscellaneous: $39.69
- This month’s miscellaneous category included Valentine’s Day stuff for the kids’ classes, some mascara for me, and face wash for Matt.
Total Spending for February: $668.36
What We Ate
The kids continue to eat cold cereal for breakfast 95% of the time, but now that I’m further along in my pregnancy, I’ve been craving more substantial meals in the morning. I’ll still sometimes go for cereal when I’m in a hurry, but more often than not, I’ve been having three scrambled eggs (from our chickens), two slices of toast, and a mug of hot cocoa. Matt skips breakfast half the time and will usually eat cold cereal when he doesn’t, but we did visit Trader Joe’s for the first time ever this month, and he was thrilled to find some gluten-free bagels from there that were actually quite good, which he enjoyed a few mornings. Next time we’re around one, we’ll definitely stock up on those. Bananas often make an appearance at breakfast for all of us.
Our breakfasts and lunches don’t vary much from month to month, so I continued to make the usual oatmeal, pasta dishes, melted cheese waffles or toast, and yogurt + granola options for the boys, always with a side of fresh fruit. Raven continues to bring a packed lunch most days from home (here’s what we put in that), and Matt always takes leftovers from dinner the night before to work. I go between having leftovers or sharing whatever I’m making for the boys.
In addition to occasional easy convenience options such as the frozen pizza and chicken nuggets mentioned above, we had lots of tasty (but quick) dinner options this month: our favorite 10-minute prep chicken and rice made with gluten-free condensed mushroom soup; potato, ham, and corn casserole; Mexican chip casserole; creamed eggs; Korean BBQ beef over rice; sweet and sour meatballs; honey lime chicken enchiladas; Swedish meatballs over mashed potatoes; Mexican haystacks; and hamburger stroganoff. I’m working on a post right now that details all our favorite ways to use precooked frozen meatballs, which are a big staple around here (not to mention super frugal if you factor in the usual cost of meat and how long we can make a bag stretch).
Snacks + Treats
I haven’t had a ton of energy to bake a lot, but I have made a few things (mostly for family night on Mondays nights): gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, homemade brownies (recipe from this must-own gluten-free cookbook), and chocolate chip cookies. The kids had their usual snack options after school: fresh fruit, string cheese, nut bars, applesauce or yogurt pouches, individual fruit cups, hard boiled eggs, etc.
Now that I’m coming up on the third trimester–plus am about to enter into the busiest season of flower farming–I’m just…tired. The fatigue has definitely translated into more grocery purchases than are strictly needed, just because I don’t want to deal with finding an alternative at home. And that’s okay. Some months we just don’t have the funds to go over, but we were really blessed this month with lots of extra income coming in from tax refunds and such, so I don’t feel bad about being over budget. Next month is a tighter month, however, so I will need to be more careful about things.
As mentioned above, it’s been extremely helpful to see the breakdown of our grocery budget into different categories because it’s helping me to see easy places where we could cut back (like tons of varied snack options for the kids) and places where we could afford to spend more (like fresh produce). If I cut back $30-40 from the snack and breakfast cereal pool, that $30-40 would go a LOT further in buying fresh fruits and vegetables (aka, I’d be getting way more actual food out of it). Easy win, and I’m all about easy wins right now.
How’s your grocery budget been looking lately? Also, send me links to all your favorite quick meal options (bonus points for you if I can make it in an Instant Pot!)