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’d planned to go a little over the usual budget this month because I knew we wanted to stock up on some things, but I ended up going over that higher budget as well. Clearly I’m sensing a pattern these last few months–apparently I’m pretty bad at actually staying under or right on target with our grocery budget 🙂 I actually think I would have been right about on track except for I was dealing with potty training on top of 3+ weeks of intense sickness throughout our household on top of being 7 months pregnant. Something had to give, and if I didn’t want it to be my sanity, it had to be the food budget…so we ended up spending more than planned on both groceries AND eating out. Onwards and upwards, though! No point wasting time feeling guilty.
Our planned budget was $650, and we ended up spending $680.98.
Here’s how the categories broke down within that:
- Produce: $174.61
- This is a massive change from the last couple of months, and it only happened because I’ve been doing these posts. You see, I thought I spent a ton on produce before, but it was eye-opening to see the actual breakdown in January and February, which showed that I was definitely favoring more convenient options (such as applesauce pouches, fruit cups, snack chips, etc.) rather than fresh fruits and vegetables. Note: I don’t include shelf-stable fruit options like applesauce pouches in this produce category–only fresh or frozen fruits or vegetables. Since I didn’t want that to be the default in our house, I decided to do a big shift this month and gave myself a giant permission slip to just go crazy on the produce. The kids were thrilled, we all ate way better, and we actually have had hardly any go to waste. Definitely something for me to think about going forward, even though it does represent such a large chunk of the grocery bill this month.
- This month’s produce options included a lot of the yummy spring options coming into season (berries, more berries, and things like asparagus), as well as pears, oranges, apples, grapes, bananas, nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, avocados, and onions. We also scored a deal where we got two flats (16 lbs) of strawberries for just $16, which we turned into several large jars of homemade jam.
- Meat: $35.64
- Tracking categories like this has been so much more fascinating/illuminating than I ever would have thought. It looks like about every other month we have a larger meat month (of around $100 budget) when we stock up on things like chicken breasts (that we use our trusty Food Saver to freeze) and several pounds of ground beef, and the rest of the time I make do with whatever happens to be on clearance in the meat department and a few pounds of ground sausage, in addition to using whatever we have in the freezer from the month before. This month’s haul was four pounds of ground sausage, two discounted pounds of ground beef, and a big 6 lb. bag of frozen meatballs from Sam’s Club.
- Dairy/Eggs: $81.82
- I’ve been surprised by how stable our dairy budget is from month to month. When we had to buy eggs, this was closer to $100, but now that our chickens have started laying again in earnest, it’s been staying steady around $80-90 a month. This includes several gallons of milk, lots and lots of cheese, and some Greek yogurt and cream cheese.
- Bread/Bakery: $34.65
- This is also a fairly stable category, to the point where I could about estimate that every month, we need to buy two or three loaves of gluten free bread (unless I feel up to making my own), and four or five double-packs of our regular bread. Occasionally we’ll need to stock up on corn tortillas too, but we’ve had a pretty huge supply in our freezers of those for the past several months that we’ve been working on.
- Pantry: $177.41
- Our pantry category was lower this month due to two things: 1) buying way more produce rather than packaged snack food options, as mentioned above, and 2) restricting the amount of cold cereal I bought so that we’d eat through what we already had and so that I’d be forced to offer other choices at least a couple mornings per week for breakfast. We ended up spending $24.12 on cold cereal (a low total for us) and $25.36 on convenience snack options (applesauce pouches and a thing of individual mandarin orange cups), which is also a low total for us. I stocked up on random things we were running low on, like tamari sauce (which is the gluten-free version of soy sauce) and various vinegars, as well as more usual items like tortilla chips, jam (though we won’t need to buy any of that for a long time because we made our own this month), chocolate chips, spices, canned tomatoes, beef broth, and hot cocoa.
- Frozen Convenience Foods: $0
- This is actually a more typical month as far as this category goes, but I’d been letting myself off the hook more the past couple months due to the pregnancy and was buying things like chicken nuggets for the kids and cauliflower crust frozen pizzas. This month we did eat out more than normal (which I probably could have avoided had I picked up a few things in this category), but that’s okay. It about all evens out in the end.
- Drinks/Treats: $53.05
- I’ve been on a massive orange juice kick for the past month or so (I’ve been craving vitamin C a lot this pregnancy), so about $15 of this just went to that. The rest all went to Diet Dr. Pepper 🙂
- Household Essentials: $123.80
- This month’s household essentials included toilet paper and the last box of Pull-Ups we’ll be needing to purchase for a good couple of years. I also picked up a big bottle of zinc vitamins since taking one of those daily (especially when sickness is going around) seems to help Matt and I to avoid most illnesses. Lastly, I stocked up on children’s and cough medicines (Delsym) on clearance, which ended up being a Very Good Idea since all of our kids got sick for multiple weeks this month.
- Miscellaneous: $0
- No unusual expenses this month.
What We Ate
As mentioned above, we branched out a bit in March from just doing cold cereal 99% of the time. Most mornings, my youngest and I ate scrambled eggs and toast or oatmeal, and I also made enough for other family members a couple mornings a week to make sure the cold cereal we did have lasted the whole month. Thanks to the novelty of having homemade strawberry jam, I also enjoyed a simple breakfast several mornings of just toast with jam and a tall glass of orange juice.
Our lunches stayed pretty much the same as always, as we ate lots of oatmeal (both the regular kind and also using this version that’s baked with apples), homemade macaroni and cheese with peas, cheesy toast/waffles, avocado toast, and yogurt and granola with hard-boiled eggs on the side. All lunches usually included copious amounts of fresh fruit on the side.
My motivation was all over the place with dinner in March, but I did manage to cook more nights than not at least. Some of the things on our menu: assemble-your-own tacos, chicken soup gravy over mashed potatoes, hamburger stroganoff over rice, sweet and sour meatballs over rice, garlic alfredo sauce over pasta, pot roast and mashed potatoes, avocado & cheese tortillas, creamy beef + macaroni tomato soup, creamed eggs over toast, and Swedish meatballs over mashed potatoes.
I hardly did any baking this month (if any at all), though I did make myself cookie dough a couple times. The majority of our snacks/treats involved fresh fruit (occasionally with yogurt on the side), which suited us all perfectly well. Seriously, seeing my kids’ excitement over all the fresh fruit this month just made me never want to make treats for them again since they clearly get way more enthused over things like sixteen pounds of fresh strawberries than they do over things like cookies or packaged snacks 🙂
April should be another big grocery spending month since I’m planning on taking advantage of the case lot sales that are offered twice a year here in Utah. At those, I plan to get cases of crushed tomatoes (which is what I use in the homemade spaghetti sauce I make), tomato sauce, canned pears, canned peaches, and several large bags of sugar. I’ll probably also get some more cases of canned green beans and corn, as well.
I also plan to continue in the “big permission slip” mindset for fresh produce, though I might go a *little* less crazy. My kids far prefer fresh options to the quick stuff, and even though it does often require more hands-on help on my part, I think it’s definitely worthwhile. I will need to stock up on more cold cereal than I bought this month and we’re also almost entirely out of pasta and running low on gluten-free flour, so I’ll have to do a pretty big stock-up on those as well. Between all that and Easter (plus my oldest also celebrating a birthday), it will almost surely be a $700-grocery-budget kind of month.
How was your grocery spending in March?