Q: Do you always cook from scratch?
Yes, I do. I like knowing what is going into my food and avoid mystery ingredients and things I cannot pronounce as much as possible. I also believe that cooking from scratch makes our groceries more affordable.
The only time we use a prepared, convenience food is on Sunday mornings when Bill makes grits and Pillsbury Scrambles while I get dressed. I personally think they are gross but he and the children love them, and it gives my 30 minutes to shower and dress without children pulling at me.
Q: Does your $400 grocery budget include your cleaners and toiletries? Diapers?
Our monthly grocery budget includes cleaning supplies (which I make myself), paper products, and personal products. We purchase our diapers from Amazon Moms using Subscribe and Save and Amazon Coupons, paying for them with the gift cards we earn through Swagbucks.
Q: Does that budget include dining out, picking up pizza?
We keep $100 a month separate to cover take out, date nights, and emergencies. Bill gets $20 a month for incidentals during football season (like concessions for away games since he does not get the time for dinner on those nights). We also qualify for WIC (Women Infants & Children) due to our income level. Our WIC purchases equal about $100 a month.
Q: Where do you shop?
Primarily, my shopping is done at Winn Dixie. I stick with buy one, get one free deals in the meat, produce, and dairy departments. If I have coupons to match the cereal BOGOs, I will get the cereal there. I make use of manager’s specials at Winn Dixie, the Baby Club, Fuel Perks, and the $5 off $55 coupons which print out at the end of my transactions.
Winn Dixie also participates in Catalina deals where you get an amount off your next purchase when you buy a certain quantity of a selected product. I watch for those at CouponNetwork and wait to see if they will match a BOGO sale. If I have coupons on top of that, I can save a bundle.
For instance, right now CouponNetwork is offering up to $10 off a future purchase when you buy a selection of Kraft products. Last week, Winn Dixie had the Kraft cheese on sale buy one, get one free, the Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs were buy one get one free, and the American Singles were 2 for $5. Coupon were available at the beginning of August for the Singles. Ordinarily, to purchase two packages of hot dogs, six packages of shredded cheese, and two packages of singles would cost $38, but the entire purchase cost me $9 after all coupons and discounts.
Our local Winn Dixie stores also allow WIC qualifiers to purchase the BOGO deals using their WIC checks and Winn Dixie store loyalty card. That means if Juicy Juice in buy one, get one free, then I can use a WIC check and get two bottles of juice instead of one.
The transaction does not cost the government anything extra, it is completely legal, and the transactions are never questioned at my local Winn Dixie stores.
The other places I shop
Aside from Winn Dixie and Amazon, I do a lot of comparison shopping at Walmart. I love to match the local fruit stand prices on produce. We have one fruit “outlet” that always publishes super-low deals and since they are in a printed advertisement, Walmart will match the price without a complaint.
Why do I purchase from Walmart instead of those produce stands? Honestly, the vegetables and especially the fruits I purchase at local produce vendors do not last as long as that which I purchase at Walmart. I really don’t want to think about WHY. Also, I can match prices from several stores at that one place. That saves me time and gasoline.
If I need something urgently that is not on sale, I shop using the price per item and typically end up with the Great Value brand. (But, always check the price per unit because this is not always true.)
Q: Are your savings primarily from using coupons?
No. We only use coupons on cleaning supply ingredients, personal products, canned tomatoes, cereal, dairy, and salad. I think most of our savings comes from knowing what a stock-up price is and purchasing items when they hit that rock-bottom price in quantities that will last us through to the next sales cycle (about 8 weeks).
Q: Where do you find your coupons?
We recently stopped our subscription to the newspaper and I stick with printable coupons. Every coupon company from which I have ever printed a coupon is listed on my printable coupons page. This page is accessible through the button in the sidebar of the blog and in the tabbed section of my Facebook page. You can also look at a manufacturer’s website and frequently find the coupons you need.
Q: How do you save on meat?
I keep up with the rock-bottom price and then stock up when I see a great deal. I build my menu based on what I already have in my freezer. When needing something right away, I purchase meat from Winn Dixie at BOGO prices or I pick up the items marked for quick sale.
Q: How do you save on produce?
As I mentioned above, I either purchase produce during buy one, get one free sales at Winn Dixie or match the printed ads from local produce stands at Walmart. We always eat what is seasonal and on sale.
All of tips and tricks I use for buying groceries are in my ebook, Advanced Penny Pinching.
Q: What do you use for food storage?
I believe in recycling as much as I can. We buy so many items in bulk that they come in containers I can easily reuse.
However, if you plan to reuse a powdered creamer container for storing baking soda, please be sure to mark the container on all side INCLUDING the top to avoid a nasty situation. Know what I mean?
I also use the plastic storage container set that you can find at Walmart. The set has various sizes (which I really only want the larger canisters in the set) and in my local Walmart, the entire set is less than $6. I have about 3 sets.
Q: How can you consider this list to be “frugal”? When compared to my pantry list… we can’t afford many of the items on this list.
I think that question is very fair. Perhaps I should have named it “My Frugal, Healthy Pantry List.”
First, having younger children can be more expensive in ways since I tend to make sure they do not feel deprived despite our economic status. I purchase a lot of items based on what I need to make their snacks from scratch. If you do not need to buy these baking supplies, you could save significantly more than we do because baking products can be very expensive.
Next, we have one child with Autism and three people in our family with ADHD so there are some sensitivities to tastes and textures that I work around.
Also, the region makes a difference as different areas pay different prices for food.
Some of the particular items questioned
I received some comments about specific items on our list and while I do not feel I need to justify what is on my list because it is MY list, I do think it would help some to refine their own pantry lists based on why or how I purchase these products.
Cereals – I only purchase cereal when I can get it for $1 a box or less. Cereal is our primary breakfast. WIC also provides most of our cereal, and they frequently are available through Winn Dixie on a buy one, get one free sale. Unless there is an incredible deal, we stick with Cheerios or Rice Krispies (because I can also make treats with those).
Animal crackers – I cannot make from-scratch treats every day and during especially busy times, I might miss baking for several days. Animal crackers and graham crackers are the cheapest (while still being wholesome) treats on the cookie aisle. Graham crackers are also great for making from-scratch desserts and other goodies. Typically, we purchase the animal crackers from Sam’s Club in bulk and the graham crackers are either the store brand or purchased during a buy one, get one free sale with coupons.
Chips – We have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day and I am just locked into the mentality that sandwiches require chips. Of course, I either purchase pretzels or tortilla chips since they can serve a dual purpose for either baking or by being used in a dinner menu.
Various sweeteners – Diabetes runs in both sides of our family and with ADD/ADHD in the house, I try to pick sugars and syrups that are as close to nature as possible and will not cause blood sugar to spike as easily as plain, white sugar. So, we use Agave Nectar instead of table syrup for the children and Bill uses organic maple syrup (which I can also use in baking) that is purchased from Amazon.com. We also purchase Splenda using coupons or in bulk at Sam’s Club.
Basil Pesto – I use basil pesto in a lot of recipes. A little can go a long way and I have found that it is cheaper for me (because I have a black thumb) to buy it prepared in the pasta aisle instead of trying to make it from scratch. Fresh basil and pine nuts cost a small fortune.
Paper plates – I did the math once and it is almost the exact same expense for us to run the dishwasher twice a day as it is to purchase paper plates and use them for breakfast and lunch. I buy the el-cheap-o plates in bulk at Sam’s Club.
Two final notes
- Please remember that I do not purchase everything on this list each month. I purchase items in bulk at the lowest price I can find and store them. If I were to need everything on my list at one time, my grocery budget would probably approach $600 for that month.
- The contents of my pantry versus what is in your pantry is all about perspective and the lifestyle to which what we adapt. To me, eating whole wheat, unrefined, basic foods – even though they might be slightly more expensive than processed foods or convenience foods when purchased with coupons – is an investment in our health.
Did you have any questions about My Frugal Pantry List that I failed to answer?