$200+WIC= monthly grocery budget for 3 - Mothering Forums

 
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#1 of 22 Old 05-17-2009, 07:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Can you all help me try to come up with a budget for my family of 3?


We recently got SNAP benefits (a.k.a. Food Stamps), and we received a lot more than I expected... We were so excited that we went to the local Akins Natural Foods and blew half of our money. The next day, I went to Sam's Club and blew another quarter! Yeah, I know- that card burned a hole in our pockets. But now I want to turn over a new leaf and reconfigure a budget for us. Our initial deposit was more than it will be from now on, because our income has increased a little. I don't know how to predict how much it will be from now on, so I'm just going to err on the side of caution and say we'll be getting $200/month.


This may help give you all an idea of what kind of eaters we are and what exactly we're working with to go on:
-$200/month in SNAP benefits
-I receive WIC, so there's eggs, milk & cheese.
-We aren't big meat-eaters, but we like fish.
-I bake our bread.
-My DS loves fresh fruit and DH and I love our fresh veggies (we sneak his into his eggs , so fresh produce would be nice.

I have tried Angel Food, and for the money, the food is really terrible! It's poor quality meat soaked in preservatives and nitrates with a package of partially hydrogenated cookies. : We got it a few months ago and I still have some terrible cuts of chicken and steaks along with some pre-cooked meatballs in the freezer begging me to cook my family a ridiculously unhealthy meal... I am not doing Angel Food again.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions you may have for me!
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#2 of 22 Old 05-17-2009, 07:58 PM
 
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We spend $325/month, no WIC, on 4 of us, but one is a toddler, and one is a baby, so about the same amount of food as you.

--I buy produce at a local farmers' market in season (really good, really fresh, and somehow, it causes my budget to seem to expand)
--Other produce comes from an awesome Asian market near us. Today, strawberries were $0.79/quart. Vidalia onions were $2.99/5 pounds. Lettuce is often 2/$1, and never more than $1/head (for leaf lettuce). Prices like that.
--We eat in season (i.e. on sale) produce, plus I'll buy onions at any price. But, really, onions and bananas are about it, not on sale. Honestly, this works for us, cause the very idea of a tomato in February grosses me out. It's nothing like a "real" summer tomato, so I just pass. I have no problem eating frozen veggies in the winter. I prefer them over produce that's not that great. And, I don't mind giving my kids canned or frozen fruit, either.

--I shop in 2 week blocks, because that's how we get paid. I budget $150/2 weeks. The first week, I do a big pantry type shop, plus dairy and produce. The second week, I buy only produce and dairy. I have tried to only shop once for 2 weeks, but I'm really a weekly girl. I can't stay out of the store for 2 weeks, then we end up over-spending my budget. YMMV if you have more control than me. But, for me, it's a mental thing. If we run out of fresh stuff on Tuesday, and I know I"m shopping on Friday, it's no big deal to eat frozen veg or canned fruit for 3 days. But, if I ran out on day #8 of a 2 week cycle, I'd talk myself out of eating frozen/canned for 6 days. I just know me, so this works for me.

--I only shop weekly. If we run out (other than milk, that dh gets on the way home), we make due.
--Lots of beans. We're not veg, but beans can make meat stretch really far. Think 1/2 pound sausage in 8 servings of red beans and rice.
--Breakfast for supper once a week.
--Planning out my meals. I usually have some idea going to the store, then buy what is on sale/produce looks good, then come home and look up recipes and flesh out the menu plan. This way, I know what's for dinner any given night, and I usually stick to it. No take-out or convenience foods needed.
--That said, I keep a couple of "emergency" meals on hand. A box of noodles and a thing of spaghetti sauce in the freezer. A Trader Joe's prepared meal. A frozen casserole. If the day gets away from me, there is always something easy to eat.
--We garden, my mom gardens, and my BIL gifted us with a deer last year. These aren't huge, but they do help.
--Most meals have a carb served with them. Rice, potatoes, pasta, polenta, grits, biscuits, whatever. But, that carb stretches the other stuff. I love rice, so I probably make it the most.

This is our menu this week. Florida corn is here, so it's 4/$1. Plus local greens are in season:
Fri: roasted veggie tacos (poblanos, onions, sweet potatoes, corn)
Sat: cookout--I contributed black bean/corn salad and brownies
Sun: gumbo z'herbes over rice, salad
Mon: stir fry with tofu and broccoli over rice
Tues: roasted veggie and black bean enchiladas (too many veg Fri night), salad
Wed: black eyed pea soup, salad
Thurs: Garlic pork and kale sausage (homemade), cooked into pasta with roasted eggplant (frozen from last summer) and tomatoes (canned), salad
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#3 of 22 Old 05-17-2009, 08:14 PM
 
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Hmmm. What about reading Leta's thread about her style of shopping?
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#4 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 01:15 AM
 
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Sam's Club takes food stamps now? I always hear that they don't accept it. Does it vary state to state?
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#5 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 01:47 AM
 
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Has your state started implementing the new changes to WIC? I know that in WA by Oct 1st that we will be getting fresh veggies, and less milk, eggs, cheese. Also there will be less juice, but there will be veggies, bread, brown rice, ww tortillas and a bunch of other new things that will be available. We also get farmer's market vouchers in the summer.

It is totally doable, but for me I'd really have to stretch my budget by watching sales and combining with coupons to stretch my dollars even further. I mean our normal budget is $400 and we also get WIC, but I am including all of our household and family type stuff in that budget. I also include stock ups in that total. Some months are a bit more, some are less.

I am a big freezer person, if it can freeze I will freeze it. I have a huge milk stash right now because my store had 1/2 gallons for .99 each and so I bought 6 of them. I am another week shopper, although lately I've been more a twice a week person. I buy everything on sale, I use coupons for the things that I can find them for(things we use pasta sauce, ww pasta, juices etc).

Me Wife to T (14 years)Mama to Princess(4) and Monster Boy(my 1 year old ):
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#6 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 03:42 AM
 
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We spend about $300-400 a month (non-food items included) for our family of 3 people. We do not receive WIC or food stamps. I don't use coupons. Dh takes lunch and snacks with him 4 days a week. We do not eat out often.

#1 for us is meal planning.
We shop every 2 weeks. I write down 14 dinners. I look at what I have in my cupboards and freezer when I'm planning. (I save my menus so I can reuse them).

I make a grocery list and I stick to my list. We do not go to the store between times if possible.

We control our portions so food will last. That took awhile to learn.

Lunches are generally leftovers or sandwiches.

We save money by buying store brands.

Soup is a good dollar saver. A big pot of soup can be made from inexpensive ingredients. It can provide several meals and be frozen.

My family likes pancake night. It is a cheap meal. Extra pancakes can also be frozen.

I use leftover spaghetti sauce for pizza sauce. A cheese pizza is pretty inexpensive to make.

Cut up meat and put it in something instead of serving an individual piece.
Use it in stir fry, soups, casseroles, or stews.

My dd hates bread crusts so I remove them before giving it to her and use them for bread pudding, bread crumbs or croutons.

If you love fresh vegetables you might consider growing some or making friends with a gardener.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#7 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 03:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone for the replies.


Scullery- I read Leta's thread. She has good ideas, but not so practical for an apartment dwelling family of 3. We have a small refrigerator/freezer, so not much room for freezing in bulk. We don't have much space to store a ton of dry non-perishables, though if I could find cheap whole wheat flour in bulk I'd buy it and stuff it somewhere. One problem I can think of is that we have had a mouse this spring, and I don't exactly have 50 gallon mouse-proof bins to store stuff in, you know? I think when it comes to buying in bulk, I mostly have a problem with the initial cost. I mean, I know that if it was all planned out to the T and I stuck to the budget it would be worth it, but it just seems risky to me to leave yourself with so little margarine of error (sorry, couldn't resist). Buying mostly in bulk takes so much of your monthly budget, and then you are left with scant cash for replenishing food supplies until next payday. Maybe I am just hesitant to buy in bulk for 2 adults and a toddler.

Stormysar- Sam's does accept food stamps here (in Oklahoma)- it may have been a recent development, and it may vary from state to state- I don't know because we just received our 1st EBT deposit within the last few weeks.

Norasmomma- No room for freezing in bulk (see above). I have heard about the new WIC package- that will be really great. Unfortunately for Oklahomans, we are one of the few states that do not receive farmer's market vouchers.

onlyzombiecat- My DH is just starting to take his lunch instead of buying it, but he has a hard time finding quick, vegetarian, filling meals/snacks to take with him. If he liked every meal I cooked, he'd take leftovers, but he's really picky (or I'm a terrible cook...? ). I was doing pretty well at meal planning but I started slacking- it's time consuming! I just need to buckle back down. About the gardening, I live in an apartment and frankly, I don't know where to find a gardener!


I will add that the $200+WIC budget does not include non-food items. I'm going to estimate our monthly non-food budget is about $40.
We do the same for lunches- sandwiches/quesadillas or leftovers.
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#8 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 07:24 PM
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Why is meal planning so time consuming? I sit down with the blank calendar and put in my meals going off the flyers/sales. Takes me 15 minutes or so. Right now we've got curried lentils with tomatos and spinach over naan/rice, bean and brocoli burritos, pasta with tomato sauce, red beans and rice, yellow curry chickpeas, chicken fajitas, and pizza in our lineup. I make extra so dh can take a serving for lunch the next day.
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#9 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 08:32 PM
 
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With WIC, you can make:

- scrambled eggs for breakfast

- hard boiled eggs to use as snacks

- grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch or dinner (add soup and it's a cheap healthy meal)

- popsicles from all the juice they give you

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#10 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 09:30 PM
 
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Some things my dh takes for lunch and snacks-
black beans, leftover rice, salsa, cheese in a tortilla... you could add more veggies and leave out the cheese.
tortilla with refried beans and cheese
hummus or salsa and tortilla chips or veggies
hummus as a sandwich spread
applesauce
dried fruit and nuts
pbj
yogurt
banana
pudding
granola bar/cereal bar
pasta salad
mozzarella cheese sticks
apples
muffins
meatball sandwich
homemade cookies

I made a long list once and just had him pick everything he liked. My dh doesn't have access to anything to heat up his food so it has to be okay cold.

Look up apartment gardening and container gardening if you think you'd like to try. For 3 people you might not need to grow much to help out.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#11 of 22 Old 05-18-2009, 11:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by StormySar View Post
Sam's Club takes food stamps now? I always hear that they don't accept it. Does it vary state to state?
Both Sam's and Costco in PR accept EBT

Equuskia in with Nodtveidt DD1 : DD2 :
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#12 of 22 Old 05-19-2009, 02:10 AM
 
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If you have a small balcony, I would look into growing at least a small herb garden. Herbs are so expensive at the store, easy to grow and go a long way to make simple food delicious.

I can't remember what was on WIC here. We qualified after having a son born prematurely, but I don't remember the details. I think it included some basics like cereal, juice, milk and eggs?

To make it work on $200 a month for everything else, you may need to be creative and keep things really simple. $200 a month means about $6.60 per day, or $2.20 per person per day. Think about most of your meals being based on inexpensive grains and beans with anything else almost like a garnish: oatmeal topped with a few raisins for breakfast, beans on rice topped with a little cilantro and tomato for lunch, soup made with pasta and beans for dinner.

Do you live in an area where there are farmer's markets or CSAs? If so, you could look into a work-share. I know that in our area, you can volunteer 4-5 hours a week at a local farm in exchange for a big box of produce, eggs and homemade bread along with other farm goodies each week. If you could volunteer/work at a farm or farmer's market to get fresh fruit and vegetables, it would go a long way.
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#13 of 22 Old 05-19-2009, 10:08 AM
 
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#14 of 22 Old 05-19-2009, 04:08 PM
 
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Use WIC to full advantage! We get double cheese and we all can't have milk. That's a TON of cheese so I've found I rely on Cheese for a main protein sroce at times. Good cheap (but calorie filled foods):

Pizza- if you make your own whole wheat dough and add veggies on top more the better. I've found that 2 XL pizza (which uses 1lb of mozz) costs about a $1 with WIC paying for the cheese.

home made mac N cheese- when pasta goes on super sale

quesadias (sp?)- if you make your own tortillas they are pennies to make and sooooo good

Cheese sandwich- I like mine with lots of veggies cucumber, onion, carrot savings, juiliened peppers.

Rice and beans- always a cheap staple which thankfully my kids love topped with cheese (I sneak in sauteed onions and peppers, salsa + corn

Erin Mama to thing 1 and 2 WAH with CELIAC?! Living and Learning
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#15 of 22 Old 05-19-2009, 04:17 PM
 
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Thanks everyone for the replies.


Scullery- I read Leta's thread. She has good ideas, but not so practical for an apartment dwelling family of 3. We have a small refrigerator/freezer, so not much room for freezing in bulk. We don't have much space to store a ton of dry non-perishables, though if I could find cheap whole wheat flour in bulk I'd buy it and stuff it somewhere. One problem I can think of is that we have had a mouse this spring, and I don't exactly have 50 gallon mouse-proof bins to store stuff in, you know? I think when it comes to buying in bulk, I mostly have a problem with the initial cost. I mean, I know that if it was all planned out to the T and I stuck to the budget it would be worth it, but it just seems risky to me to leave yourself with so little margarine of error (sorry, couldn't resist). Buying mostly in bulk takes so much of your monthly budget, and then you are left with scant cash for replenishing food supplies until next payday. Maybe I am just hesitant to buy in bulk for 2 adults and a toddler.

Stormysar- Sam's does accept food stamps here (in Oklahoma)- it may have been a recent development, and it may vary from state to state- I don't know because we just received our 1st EBT deposit within the last few weeks.

Norasmomma- No room for freezing in bulk (see above). I have heard about the new WIC package- that will be really great. Unfortunately for Oklahomans, we are one of the few states that do not receive farmer's market vouchers.

onlyzombiecat- My DH is just starting to take his lunch instead of buying it, but he has a hard time finding quick, vegetarian, filling meals/snacks to take with him. If he liked every meal I cooked, he'd take leftovers, but he's really picky (or I'm a terrible cook...? ). I was doing pretty well at meal planning but I started slacking- it's time consuming! I just need to buckle back down. About the gardening, I live in an apartment and frankly, I don't know where to find a gardener!


I will add that the $200+WIC budget does not include non-food items. I'm going to estimate our monthly non-food budget is about $40.
We do the same for lunches- sandwiches/quesadillas or leftovers.

I just wanted to say these things CAN be done in an apt!! We have our deak FILLED with potted veggies, garlic, tomato, peppers, even a few flowers. The deck looks exotic now We at one point had a freezer inside our walk in closet. Think out side the box!!!! Flour can be stored under beds. Sam's doesn't have WW flour in bulk but check your local ethinic stores. They usually have 20lbs bags of ww flour (much easier to store/use then 50lb ones) for 11.99 here.

Erin Mama to thing 1 and 2 WAH with CELIAC?! Living and Learning
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#16 of 22 Old 05-19-2009, 04:43 PM
 
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For me I wasn't saying buying in BULK-like 50lbs of flour, I'm saying buying a bit extra when things are on a super sale. For example last month was Easter, butter was on sale for 1.38 a lb, I bought 5, so so my total was 6.90(my total savings was over $12). I have butter in my freezer now until it goes on sale again. also I only have a small freezer, one that is an 8 cubic ft one and my top of the fridge one. not some hurking behemoth. I do however keep that sucker full. I also have a family of 3 Dh, myself(currently pg) and an almost 3 year old.

I have just taught myself how to shop smarter. Right now I'm even thinking about getting FS, we qualify for about $150 and I could make that money go a long ways, we'd qualify for even more after the baby.

Sorry about the farmer's market vouchers-those things are nice to get. Here in WA we will be getting veggies, but no longer organic milk. I guess we'll just have to deal with regular milk.

Me Wife to T (14 years)Mama to Princess(4) and Monster Boy(my 1 year old ):
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#17 of 22 Old 05-19-2009, 07:04 PM
 
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We get more than that on FS, and we get WIC as well - but our FS is probably about to run out (due to income changes). Pre-fs I was budgeting $260/mo w/o WIC.

It really depends where you shop and what you eat. We are vegetarians (well, DH isn't, but he loves my cooking and we don't buy meat except for his lunch sammiches!) and we eat a lot of whole foods. Not organics, can't afford them. Fresh produce, fruit - i DO buy "bulk"...but i don't mean 50 pounds of something...i mean i use those bulk bins for beans, grains, seasonings, etc and just buy what i need for a couple weeks or so at a time. A meal at a time if we're really broke.
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#18 of 22 Old 05-19-2009, 07:41 PM
 
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Buying mostly in bulk takes so much of your monthly budget, and then you are left with scant cash for replenishing food supplies until next payday. Maybe I am just hesitant to buy in bulk for 2 adults and a toddler.

I was doing pretty well at meal planning but I started slacking- it's time consuming!

I feel the same way you do on bulk shopping. I think it works out for a small segment of the population, but for most of us it isn't practical or economical.

If your family was a business, having that much merchandise on hand in a small space would be a red flag. It's better business to have a high turn on inventory, ESPECIALLY when dealing with perishables! Clearly it would make sense for a Warehouse to have a stockpile (e.g. the elite with space for 50lbs of flour and freezers for 1/2 cows), but for the rest of us it just doesn't make sense.

With a few exceptions, buying in bulk just because it's on sale doesn't make sense either. It's going to go on sale again eventually, you know? Meanwhile there's 25 pounds of butter in your freezer & you're out of of milk and eggs.

Also, sometimes the cost of buying in bulk is either the same or more than if you were to buy the item individually, either in cost per unit or in rate of consumption/ return.




As for meal planning, I totally get it. I used to make it complicated, but now I just write down what I have and then I write down some main dishes that I could make with them.

I don't commit to side dishes or anything fancy. If I'm uninspired I check here, of course or allrecipes and search by "lentils" or "marrow bones" etc

That doesn't mean I'm going to make all those meals, it means those are my ideas so throughout the week I can decide if I feel like making bread and pizza crust or if we're having scrambled eggs sans toast

Regardless, I know what my options are. If I don't have all the ingredients for something, I can choose to go supplement at the grocery. OR I can choose meals that I have all the ingredients for & see how my budget is the next week... closer to paycheck day



It's also helpful to me (small, small kitchen/fridge) to pair down the "staples" I have e.g. I'll buy one type of bean & one type of grain, & when they're out I buy something different. I know this won't work for some people, but it helps me keep it simple and keep the variety going. I always do have lentils around, though, since they cook so quickly.


I don't know if any of this was helpful.. everyone finds their own thing. I looove comming on here for good/better ideas!

Wife to my of 10 years, SAHM to my 2 beautiful homebirthed girls Sydney (4/29/2006) Kennedy (3/21/2010) & 1 super Newfoundland
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#19 of 22 Old 05-20-2009, 10:54 AM
 
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With a few exceptions, buying in bulk just because it's on sale doesn't make sense either. It's going to go on sale again eventually, you know? Meanwhile there's 25 pounds of butter in your freezer & you're out of of milk and eggs.
I get what you're saying, for me I buy the amount to get us from sale to sale, I also live 10 miles from town, so for me running out of something is such a complete PITA. I get the whole turn over idea, but if you look at true dating charts for how long things are after date(which much of the stuff lasts a long time). I'm not saying everyone go out and buy 20 cans of tomato sauce, but if it's on a smoking sale and you'll go through it in the oh 3 months or so til it goes on sale buy it when it's at the lowest price. I also live in a huge house with 2 pantries, so that may be why my mentality is like this....Actually my mentality is like this because of being on MDC. I have had to live off our stockpile a few times this past year and I learned a lot of what I need from this site, but it was nice to have that extra padding when funds are super tight.

Me Wife to T (14 years)Mama to Princess(4) and Monster Boy(my 1 year old ):
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#20 of 22 Old 05-20-2009, 01:34 PM
 
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i also live in a huge house with 2 pantries.


OMG!!! Rad!!!!!!!! You're a warehouse!!!


Yeah, I'm the small business I live in a 800sq ft house with a small fridge/freezer... but thankfully I live in the city where it's easy to find something on sale from somebody (& I'm a grocery outlet queen! ). I definitely buy sale stuff, just in the amount I'll use in 2 weeks - month.

Wife to my of 10 years, SAHM to my 2 beautiful homebirthed girls Sydney (4/29/2006) Kennedy (3/21/2010) & 1 super Newfoundland
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#21 of 22 Old 05-20-2009, 01:35 PM
 
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This is doable. I have been in a very similar situation, actually. We were $300 something in food stamps, plus WIC, I was pregnant/nursing, plus DH, DSS, and DD, up until DD was a year old.

This is actually how we started doing once a month shopping. Keep in mind, only dairy/eggs and fresh produce go bad within a month. Everything else keeps.

You have WIC, so there's your dairy and eggs. You can adjust the packages (more cheese, less milk- less milk, more cheese) so I would figure out how much of what you want and talk to your WIC counselor about that ASAP.

I would suggest that what you get from WIC is it. Back in our lean days, that's how we did. We got 4 juice a month, we drank 4 juice a month, that's it. We got 32 oz. cereal a month, that's how much cereal we ate, period. Buy peanut butter with WIC instead of beans, if you can. PB is more expensive- a bag of dry beans usually costs $1 for a pound, the cheapest PB I've seen is $1.50 for 18 oz.

If you get a lot of milk (and even though we get maximum cheese, we get a lot of milk), I would strongly encourage you to learn how to make yogurt and ricotta. These are easy, Hillbilly Housewife has great instructions for both (under homemade yogurt, custard style yogurt, and curds and whey). Yogurt can then be drained (through cheesecloth, a towel, or coffee filter) to make sour cream and/or cream cheese.

I would set a fresh fruit and veg budget and stick to it. For example, say your budget is $20. Now you have WIC covering your dairy/eggs, and $20 for other perishables, so you know that when you do a big shop, you can spend $120 and that's it. The fact that you bake your own bread will help out a lot. $120 will buy a month's worth of flour, yeast, sugar, other baking supplies, dry beans, rice, frozen/canned veggies and fruit, and condiments. Make sure to squeeze in as many spices as possible, too, by way of jazzing up a simple diet.

Again, consult Hillbilly Housewife, a great resource.

Good luck!

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#22 of 22 Old 05-25-2009, 04:54 PM
 
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For fish, I used to get innexpensive frozen tilapia fillets in 4 piece packages when they were BOGO, and that was a great help.

I buy some things in "bulk" without needing tons of storage, like yeast. The large jar (4oz) is so much less then buying them seperately. Flour I buy in 10-20 lb bags, and it keeps in a tub in the laundry, but under the bed would be good to.

For fruits, frozen really can work plenty of the time- a smoothie is a great sub for fresh fruits, and so much cheaper. Bananas, oranges and apples are innexpensive fruits, and if you can find kiwis for 3-4 for a buck those are a nice treat. Everything else goes on sale occassionally, so only buy it then.

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