Hi Kelly, thanks for asking. First, for clarification, its a family of 6, INCLUDING the dogs--4 humans and 2 canines (although, dont tell them).
It has taken me many years to get my grocery spending down. I have maintained the $120 to $200 weekly budget for a little over two years. My goal is to always get it down as low as possible while still eating well. I live in Sacramento, so it might just be that groceries are less expensive here. I donít know...it would be fun to compare costs. I don't buy in bulk and this does not include paper towels, TP, laundry detergent etc. Just food. I put everything but the farmers market on my Amex card so I am able to keep track and itemize all of our spending. That has been a great tool, it really helps to see where our money goes.
I grow a very small garden in the spring/summer/fall but not in the winter and because of its limited size is not a real asset in terms of saving $$.
Here's how I shop:
On Friday's, I hit Whole Foods and buy a weeks worth of meat. I buy whatever is on sale. I spend $20 to $30/weekly on meat.
I also buy my dairy at Whole Foods. I buy Clover products. I buy 1 gallon of milk, butter, whatever organic yogurt is on sale--there's always at least one brand at $.69. I spend $20-$25 on dairy.
I also raid the bins for nuts, seeds, rice and beans. I only buy what is on sale. $20That night I sit and plan our meals for the week using the items that I bought at Whole Foods. This makes all the difference.
Saturday, I wake up and hit the Farmers Market. I take $40 cash with me. I walk around once taking note of price and quality. I also take time to talk to the farmers. I find that many of our local farmers use organic practices (or beyond) but aren't certified. (note in the summer I take $60). I walk out of there fully loaded.
After the farmers market I hit Trader Joes and pick up bread (organic 8 grain $2.29) and eggs (free range $2.99). I buy one or two boxes of crackers and 1 box of cereal. I buy 2 cartons of OJ ($1.99/each). I buy some of my cheese here too. I also buy any peanut butter, preserves, olive oil, vinegar, tea, etc (as needed, usually once a month or once ever couple of months). Sometimes I buy my meat here too--if there is a good deal on something. I spend $30 -$50 tops. (if I buy wine my budget goes up)
After that, I swing by the regular grocery store and pick up a block of Tillamook Cheddar ($7.99) for my kids, and whole chickens for my dogs. I wait until whole chickens go on sale for $.59 to $.69/lb (usually about 2x a month) I buy four and they usually total about $3 a bird. These are Foster Farms and not organic--sorry pups!
Items I donít count for in this budget are: Fish. I am luck to have a father that goes fishing in Alaska and out the SF bay many, many times a year. I get the bounty of the fish.
Dry Dog food. I feed my dogs, chicken, rice, veggies and dry kibble. (the chicken, rice and veggies are accounted for in the above budget). But the dry kibble is not. In my budgeting it falls under "pet expenses". The dogs also get and dog friendly leftovers.
Coffee. Although this probably should fall into my budget, it falls in my "entertainment" category as that is how I view it....pure joy. I have it shipped to us right from the roasters and limit myself to 8oz per day. I sip it in the morning usually before 5 am, while I read the paper in my quiet home. It is my most favorite part of the day! (thats sad considering everyone else is asleep! HA!)
I spend $3 in gas to get to all my stores!
We donít waste anything. I make most everything from scratch. We snack on foods that we would normally eat for meals just in smaller quantities. We don't typically eat out at restaurants. My husband takes leftover dinners for his lunches.
If I spend more than my budget allows in one week, I make up for it the following week. My monthly budget is between $480 and $800 (which is 120 to 200/week)
I write about meal planning on my blog, www.dailydiner.blogspot.com
Hope this helps. Amanda