How to Feed Your Family for $100 a Month: My Year-End Grocery Budget

costco shopping trip

Costco Shopping Trip $27.35

I zipped into Costco to pick up a bunch of wine and cheese for my parents annual Christmas gift basket and picked up a few supplies for my family as well.

Albertsons Shopping Trip

Albertsons Shopping Trip $20.89

I sent The Girl to the store and she stuck to my grocery list! Wahooo!  :)

Well the time has come to add up all my receipts and get my grand total spent on groceries for 2013. Drum roll please…

Total Spent This Week $40.24
Total Spent This Year $2192.32 {Yep, I’m over for the year}
Total Spent This Year on Garden Seeds/Supplies $919.96 {I bought a Meyer Lemon Tree, Rhubarb crowns, 6 Fruit Trees , 16 yards of soil}, Walla Walla Onions and 90 pounds of seed potatoesPlus, supplies to make my own potting soil. I also picked up a boatload of heirloom tomato plants at the Seattle Tilth sale.

I know, I know. It’s not $100 a month. And yes, I get that my website’s name rides on the fact that I’m feeding my family for $100 a month. And I still strive to do that. But since my shift towards growing a larger garden and attempting to eliminate a lot of the processed foods I was feeding my family, I’ve gone over my budget a time or two. And I don’t feel bad about it one bit. Because I’m still trying. I’m still shopping sales and bartering with neighbors and sifting through my haul from Mr. Produce Guy.

So while I didn’t quite feed my family for $100 a month, I feel better spending a little bit more and feeding them an overall healthier diet. And doing that for a little over $175 a month? Pretty awesome in my book.

Here’s a little sampling of some of the ways I saved {and splurged} through the year:

winco shopping trip

Winco is one of my favorite places to just walk in and shop. I know that even without coupons or a detailed list, I can still save because they have rock bottom prices. And once a year or so they’ll send out coupons like a $10/$50 purchase coupon that makes their prices crazy good!

albertsons double coupon shopping trip mavis

While double coupon shopping trips are a things of the past, I can still find some awesome deals at Albertsons most weeks. It just takes a little planning and a little patience.

Zaycon ground beef eventZaycon Foods:

Bulk meats are where it’s at! Sure you can to process a junk ton of meat all at once and have a lot of freezer space, but the money you save makes it totally worth it. Plus, I’ve been super duper impressed with the quality of meat from Zaycon. And now they’re having event all over the country so you can get in on the bulk meat buying too! You can see if there’s a Zaycon event near you HERE.

food waste in AmericaFREE Produce:

I might grow A LOT of produce in my backyard, but I don’t have a grape vine or banana tree or much of anything edible in the winter. Enter Mr. Produce Guy. Every week I pick up what he would otherwise throw away. I feed a lot of it to my chickens, but I salvage a lot for my family’s meals each week too! Check out all my Reclaimed Food posts.

bartering foodBartering:

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That’s why bartering is so awesome. I have what you need, you have what I need. We swap and WALLAH! We spend no money out of pocket and both get what we want/need!  I barter my produce a lot for meat and other random and fantastic things. Check out all my Bartering posts.

costco shopping tripCostco:

Costco is a dangerous place. If you are focused and don’t get easily distracted by shiny things, you can be in and out and save a bundle. But a few times this year the lure of the samples held me in their trap and I overspent. My advice is to only shop Costco with a plan, no shopping cart and not when you are emotionally distressed or starving. No good can come from that!

I earned  Vitacost credit  by referring family and friends, etc. {you get a $10 credit, they get a $10 credit. It’s kind of an awesome system!}. So when I earned enough credit to make a solid purchase, I cashed in my credit and bought some staples for me and some fun items for my kids. Check out how I was able to score 7 Bags of Cereal + Cookies + a FREE Magazine all for only $5.12 shipped!

oroweat bakery outletOroweat Bakery Outlet:

A great way to save on bread {other than baking your own} is to stop by your local bakery outlet every once in a while and stock up on bread that has been pulled from the grocery store shelves. I buy a bunch and freeze it and no one can taste the difference.

So now the big question is: What’s next for Mavis? Should I try for $100 a month for a 4th year? Should I switch it up and set a different goal? Should I have the same goal but different rules? Weigh in you guys with your thoughts on what my budget should look like next year.


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  1. Gail says

    My plan is to avoid going to the grocery store in January. We cleaned out our chest freezer and realized we have a LOT of food so we’re going to work on eating from the freezer and pantry shelves. We may have to buy a few things, but we’re going to hold it down and see how well we can eat without shopping.

    • Wynne says

      This is a great idea … my grocery budget’s so much better after no-shop weeks, and our freezer could use a good emptying.

  2. Sandy says

    I think you do a fantastic job! With rising prices you may have to raise your monthly amount. I find it very difficult to get even close but I try. We don’t have any options for getting throw out produce any where in our area. Thanks for the incentive and keep up the good work and posts!

  3. Andrea says

    It doesn’t matter to me what your goal is next year, just keep blogging please. I enjoy reading your posts and witty sense of humor. I enjoy the deals posts and recipes the most (especially the jam ones).

  4. Ruth Ward says

    You failed to mention that with those tubes of bulk ground beef, you will need a meat grinder. Those tubes are course ground beef. Yes, they are much cheaper then the ground beef that you can get at the grocery store, but they need to be process through a meat grinder at least one more time. But I would recommend that you process it twice more. Which requires a meat grinder, which not all your readers would have.

    • Tanya says

      I’ve bought their ground beef several times and never had to grind it again. It cooks up to a fine texture just fine.

      • says

        I agree. I recently bought 80# of Zaycon ground beef and found it absolutely wonderful! Lean and dark red with a sweet fresh beef smell and wonderfully flavorful after cooking! The texture was as expected. My meatloaf came out tender and moist, the taco meat disappppeared as if my family hadn’t had red meat in years instead of just days! Hahaha

        I also bought a box of two boneless applewood smoked hams! Oh! My! Gosh! I hope they have another ham event before Easter!

    • Kara says

      I have not found this to be true. I have bought Zaycon ground beef three times now, and it has never needed to be re-ground. It was exactly the same texture as the meat I’ve bought in the grocery store, but tastes much better.

    • PattyB says

      Hummmm. I bought some of that ground meat and so far, I’ve been satisfied with it. Didn’t think it needed to be ground once more.

    • Gwenn says

      I love the ground beef. I’ve not had to re-grind it, I found the texture to be the same as what I buy at our local meat market at half the cost. Maybe you got a bad batch or something.

  5. yas says

    I think it has been interesting to see what the real cost of food is. Maybe go back through your month-to-month food expenses and find the average and make that your new goal to stay under each month this coming year? You’re still spending far less per month than the average family of four, which is amazing.

  6. Kari says

    I think you do an amazing job! You should be proud of how well you did! I, too, eliminated most processed foods this year, grow more in my garden, and tried to buy more local and organic. I feel good about what I did for my family. Unfortunately, however, it costs more to feed your family good food. I would rather pay it towards good food than pay it to a doctor.

    Whatever you do, please keep sharing with us. You set a beautiful example for all to follow. If more people strived to be good stewards of the gifts they are given, grew their own food, and shared freely with others, this world would be a much better place! God Bless you, Mavis!

  7. ChrisM says

    I would change the goals maybe. Maybe aim to not go over 150.00 or 175.00 per month next year. Groceries are expensive! Every time I go something has gone up in price. EVERY time! Deals are getting more scarce as well. Coupon deals around here were scarce this past year. I thought it was unbelievable that you managed 2 years of 100.00 per month! I’m lucky to get in under 500.00 for groceries only for a family of 2 adults, 2 teen girls. (Your teen boy alone probably eats for 2 teen girls!) I still enjoy all of your posts! I know I can do better on my grocery budget. I have a set of goals to achieve for 2014. Hopefully get my budget lower.

  8. Angie D says

    I think you should keep blogging about the $100 a month goal as long as you desire to do so and it makes you happy. If you change the name I would never find it : ) I made the Carrot Cake Jam! Have a look at the Artisan Bread recipes (zoe and I can’t remember the guy’s name) which could help save even more, and also there is a recipe out there for fresh English Muffins on a Youtube channel by Katzkradul that your jams will go with so nicely. She also makes a Monkey Butter. Really enjoy your blog. Keep gardening, shopping, cooking and blogging!

  9. Patty P says

    I’m going to try the $100 month approach for groceries…I know I go a little crazy now and always have TONS of food in the house, but we could do with much less. We have a huge garden and I don’t buy much (with the exception of dairy) in the summer. Maybe you should aim for $150??? I’m pretty impressed with how you keep your overall bill so low anyways!

  10. Ginger says

    I think it would be fair to try and keep the amount about the same as you spent this year. I think you did a good job. Prices keep going up so you have to readjust to a doable number so as not to make yourself crazy trying to do the impossible!

  11. Rochelle says

    I say change the dollar amount to one that both inspires and challenges you. Eventually, as inflation grows, $100 per month will be simply impossible; but you will always have bragging rights that for TWO YEARS you did feed your family for $100 per month. Keep the name the same, and keep on blogging! Please. :0)

  12. Janice Holt says

    Love the blog and feeding good food is harder than feeding processed. Love the gardening post and the trip to St Judes Keep up the good work I love the blog I have found buying a cow and pig from the farm is cheaper than the store 2.50 a lb for a pig and $4 for a beef. Little pricey up front but the quality is awesome, and the taste nothing else comes close to the taste

  13. Nicole says

    Really enjoy reading your posts. You give me ideas for our small garden. I have two girls, oldest is 16 today and our youngest is 10 and a half today! We are a family of four. I think you’re doing a fantastic job with the grocery prices going up. We have a WinCo close by in Idaho but we live in Eastern Wa. I say stick with the $100 a month and maybe adjust a bit during the year. Keep up the awesome work and the great ideas.

  14. says

    I don’t care WHAT you decide to do–I’ll keep reading and enjoying your blog, tweets and videos. I say this to you just about every time i comment–but you have inspired me SO MUCH since I found you. You have given me the courage to try a pallet garden, and I’m going to give kale my best effort, because I LOVE the stuff, but it’s too expensive to buy most of the time. I have joined a produce coop, and now we get even more good veggies and fruits for a lower price. While I can’t find reclaimed produce right now–I have other places to look when spring comes. Plus, I have friends who know that if they buy something that they end up not liking–they can give it to me, and I put it to good use. And my biggest change for 2014 will be that I have declared it the YEAR OF THE BARTER. I get so much free stuff through the year, that I should be able to trade a lot for food as I go. Wow–lot of comment. Just remember, we are all rooting for you–YOU ROCK, MAVIS!

  15. Cheryl says

    I dont care what you do as long as you continue to garden and blog about it as I have a tiny tiny little space and totally miss the gardening. Although I did put up about 250 jars of stuff the last 4 months. Christmas was a great time for all the recipients and I am still somewhat obsessed with it…..just wish I had gardening space.

  16. Darlene says

    Can’t wait to see what you do next! It seems that you love a challenge, so I’m excited to see where that takes you. Hmmm, maybe try only eating local? Shortening the distance from food to table? I’ll be watching for your next adventure :)

  17. Terri Davison says

    Please keep the $100 per month goal…just because it sounds so much better than $150 per month LOL. I think you should drop the pounds of produce grown goal because that makes you focus on heavier produce like potatoes. Maybe focus more on how much you can avoid buying produce from outside sources. I am working toward only buying things that I can’t grow, like portobello mushrooms and celery. Of course, I’ve never actually tried to grow celery.

    I’m thinking of sitting down with my husband and working out a $200 per month plan. I think that is very do-able for us…we still have two children at home. I suspect that if I did some research, we’re surely spending well over $500 per month now.

    Whatever you decide….please keep on doing it. I love your site.

  18. Stacey says

    Feeding your family for $175 per month is amazing! Yours is the blog I read every single day. It is so full of useful information, and you are so encouraging! Keep up the good work.

  19. Jeananne Lybbert says

    Congratulations on doing such an amazing job! Even if you didn’t meet your goal, you did a CRAZY GOOD job! You are an inspiration to me! Please keep up the good work-set a goal that works for you and keep blogging about it. I would be lost without your blog-I read it first every day!!!

  20. Ingrid says

    Before I discovered your blog, we spent around $1500 for groceries each month (family of 4 with 2 teenage boys). Your blog inspired me to really take charge and see if we could reduce that amount and still be able to eat good quality, healthy food. I started a little garden, and watch the sales. These days our food bill runs around $800. Yahoo!!! Not $100 but it’s a start. :) I’d say, keep going, Mavis! And keep making us inspired!

  21. PattyB says

    Love your blog! One of the first ones I’ve read and followed. You had me with the chickens. Also your garden. You were responsible for me getting 40 lbs of meat for goodness sakes. Couponing isn’t for me since most are for processed foods. I’ve been making most of my meals from scratch and even started making my own condiments. I don’t have a grocery store near me willing to give away spent produce either. My garden isn’t as impressive as yours but slowly it grows every year. I can, freeze, and dehydrate. I make my own yogurt and ricotta as well as bread. But I still can’t get by with even $175 a month with just me and my hubby. You are a rock star in my opinion. Keep the name. Your followers will know better. 😉

  22. Sandy says

    Mavis don’t beat up on yourself. As your children get older it becomes an exercise in feeding 4 adults not 2 adults and 2 children with considerably smaller appetites. The more processed food you leave out of your diet the better you all will be for it.
    With rising prices I think you have done remarkably well. Your freezer is well stocked as are your shelves. I’ll bet if you really tried you could make do for quite some time. Kudos to you girl!!!!

  23. says

    You inspire me in so many ways. I love reading your blog as it gets me thinking about how i too can cut my grocery bill. I think it is beyond coupons but also what we can produce in our own yard. Anyone can do it even in an apartment. Just need to be creative! Keep up the great work!

  24. Heidi P says

    I love your website and the title doesn’t bother me a bit. It was fun to watch you stay under the $100 dollars a month. Amazing actually but I also appreciate the fact that you realized to stay under your budget you needed to feed your family questionable quality foods. I too moved away from cheap precessed foods to healthier choices. Lots of homemade & my family loves it. Prorated over the past 12 months you spent $182.69 per month on quality food. If you add in your garden expenses, you still only spent $259.36. Not to shabby if you ask me :)

  25. Amanda says

    I say as long as your total still has a 1 in front of it, you’re good. I find it amazing that you can spend just that much in a year. You inspire me to keep trying to build my garden each year and keep on teaching my kids what real food looks and tastes like. Good job!

  26. Peggy says

    I don’t care what you call your blog – it’s amusing and inspiring and informative. How you can spend only 175 per month amazes me. I spend more than that in 2 weeks for just two of us – but we don’t grow our own food, can’t use the crock pot consistently, and eat a lot of fresh fish. And while I should be more coupon conscious I am not because a lot of the coupons are for things that we just don’t eat. Love the Lucy stories and the chicken stories. Your blog is the first thing I look for when I get hoe at the end of the day. Keep up the good work!! How will you top the Gnomes project next year????? Inquiring minds want to know!!

    But I am gong to try and grow heirloom tomatoes next year. But am not aiming for success.

    Happy New Year and healthy year to all of your readers!

  27. Carol says

    You’re the blogger, so you get to choose. :) There is no harm in not being perfect or reaching a goal. You’re just like the rest of us! Just stay in touch with what is realistic for you. My experience is that, as you get to know your bigger garden, what it can produce and what your family actually uses, you’ll probably streamline a bit and save more money next year. You may have left over seed, soil amendments, etc. Gardening is a continual learning experience. As to feeding your family of 4 on an average $175 a month–that’s really pretty darn impressive! As I buy organic and unprocessed for the 2 of us, my monthly food bill is fairly high, but to my mind, food is medicine. Good, clean food is an investment in our health and the health of our planet.

  28. Lisa G. says

    Love so many of these comments, and wholeheartedly agree. I think the blog name is set in stone at this point… even my husband knows how to find you, lol (he made the cinnamon rolls for me Sunday morning!). I adore your blog! It is so eclectic and inclusive. I love, love, love the Kindle book links, the garden tips (made potato towers because of you this year), the recipes, the pictures, the great deals and leads, and… all the other things you surprise us with! So, whatever you decide to do, I intend on continuing to read your blog daily, Mavis. I do agree that $100 is getting to be almost impossible, especially to eat cleanly and well, but you are doing a great job. Keep it up!

  29. Stephanie says

    I agree with everyone else…whatever you do, just keep blogging! I have tried several of your recipes and you inspired me two years ago to make my own jam and can it. I also love your witty sense of humor and your casual style. I started following you because of another couponing blog, I have since stopped following that blog (A. coupons just arent the same and B. I dont buy as much processed stuff) but I am SUPER thankful that blog led me to you! Keep it up Mavis!

  30. Nancy says

    Mavis, Even tho you went over for the year, you still did awesome in my book! Alot of what you have will take you into next year so I don’t think you went over that much anyways. I wish I could do it, but it’s only me now (became widowed 2 years ago and kids are grown up) and I don’t cook much anymore. I get alot of inspiration from you and think you did just great!

  31. Candy C says

    Don’t change what isn’t broken. I enjoy reading your blog and have even purchased a couple items from your handy Amazon links that you have suggested. I dehydrate foods items now in addition to growing, and canning and storing. Although I can’t possibly do $100 a month (more like $200 a month) I think twice and also check out the marked down produce. This enables me to purchase vegetables that take too long or too much space to grow such as cauliflower for a fraction of price. It is amazing to see people pick up and set back down a cauliflower because it is sporting a small dark spot. That:s what knives are for, but then our Mr. Produce man marks it down below a dollar and it makes a fine soup or I use it for roasting or even just cut it up, blanch and freeze. They sell for $2.50 out here if spotless. Anyway, keep up the good work and don’t you have to deal with snow and ice at all?

  32. Bea says

    Mavis – you are to be admired! You set an example for me. I have set food budget goals, enjoy container gardening as health permits, use coupons more wisely, make wonderful crockpot & other recipes, and strive to share any bounty with others. Your blog makes my day. Wit, humor, information, and deals are what I look forward to. Thank you for being so generous with others and entertaining us with stories of life’s ups and downs. Please keep the name. As others have stated before me – we know what you have accomplished and it was amazing you were able to keep at $100. Inflation may alter goals we set and that is OK.
    I love the gardening updates and strife to eat healthier. It doesn’t matter what poundage you grow, but it is so interesting to see what varieties and fruits/vegetables you have. Thank you for your daily blog.

  33. Alice says

    Hi Mavis The Blog really is better at 175 a month. I started following you when I lived in Oregon. BUT we moved 3 years ago to Hawaii. I look forward to your daily adventures. Whats next after the knomes for St Judes? How about another fund raiser for them this year. They are the nearest too my heart because of the kids/families they help. So just come up with another crazy idea and let us help you reach the goal. Okay. Did I say we moved to the highest food cost place in the world, well maybe not but 5.29 for a gallon of milk pretty much tells the sad scary story of my life. Just keep on bloging girlfriend. We all love your crazy fun adventures in food! The Mavis and Lucy show in dirt. Love ya :)

  34. suzi says

    The dollar amount you spent this past year is very impressive. i started reading your blog last March and was very inspired to start gardening again. I built planter boxes but my yield was not good. So I am going to try again this year. I think the heavy rains this Spring and Summer did not help and I also learned a lot . You have great yield and I am sure you have a lot more space than I do. Any way you could include how many packets of seeds you plant for a particular item. For example how many packets of Sugar Snap Peas you planted to yield the incredible crop you harvested.
    With the start of the New Year, I am now inspired to keep my groceries under $100 a month. It is me and my 14 year old boy. He runs Cross Country year round so my grocery bill is high. Also he is not a veggie fan and meat is so expensive.
    I now make my own laundry detergent because of your blog and I love it. The dish detergent did not do well. I have a lot of lime in my water so that may have contributed to the problem. It did make a good pot scrub detergent since i did not want to waste it. i no longer buy Brillo pads.
    Thank you so much for the fabulous recipes, none have failed me, keep them coming.
    I love your blog, I look forward to it every day.

  35. Victoria says

    Who cares that you went over your budget Mavis? It is WONDERFUL that you could feed a family of 4 for less than $2,200 a year! I don’t know anyone else who is or can do it. Great job! I like the title and I like that you strive to make your goal. You are an inspiration to me and likely all the people who read your blog. Thanks for all you do.
    Happy New Year!!!

  36. says

    Keep on blogging, you have inspired me to try hard this year to cut our food budget as we are sending our daughter to England this summer with her Girl Scout troop and the money has to come from some where. Our first goal is to cut 200 a month so going from 600 to 400 a month.

  37. Lissa says

    You rock! Yours is the only blog that I read every day –even on vacation! Keep up the great work. $100 a month can apply to anything– the amount you save by gardening perhaps?! The amount you give away to charity (donated veggies, your St Jude giveaway). I think you can be creative and still keep the name. You are the only person who has ever inspired me to buy a gnome! Happy New Year!

  38. butterflyweed says

    Mavis, you are still an inspiration. I suspect that your family went along for a year (2012) and this last year put their collective foot down and said “we need food”! And as you and many readers have said, good food costs more. Coupons are usually for junk, not real, whole food. We are going to organic chicken and grass fed organic beef. It easily costs double but it tastes amazing and is so much better for you. I wish Zacon would do organic.

  39. sarah says

    Mavis: Thanks for the GREAT blog! My goal for this year is to try to reduce my families consumption of foods that may contain GMO’s. I’m trying to buy organic as much as possible and have decided to cut out all farm raised fish (fish is the only meat we eat in our house). We have a huge garden where we grow lots of great stuff, and this year I plan to grow more things to process and store for the off season (beans for drying, corn for freezing, and more herbs to dry).

    In 2014 I’d love for you to help your readers figure out how to purchase organic and non-GMO foods on a tight budget.

  40. Cathy says

    Whatever your goal is is fine by me. :) One idea might be to only count storebought foods in the $100 a month and leave your gardening supplies separate.

  41. Sheri says

    You’ve inspired me to cut my grocery bill by 20% this year! I adjusted the budget and proudly announced it to my husband. It isn’t going to be $100 a month … or even $175, but it’s still a savings. We garden and preserve a lot, and just finished installation on our first greenhouse (we’re in the Pacific NW too). I’ll be reading daily for tips since we have NO idea what we’re doing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  42. says

    Mavis, I don’t care either way. You are one of my favorite bloggers and your website is a fave for great money saving tips and treasures. My 13 year old and I live in a condo. In my heart I am an avid gardener, chicken owner and barter queen. In actually, these dreams will come true and into practice through faith and diligence.
    No matter your goal, title, project or picture, we will look forward to those inspiring email links and pins!
    Save on!!!!!

  43. Tami says

    Keep the name for sure!
    I’m realizing I am not going to be able to reach the $100 a month goal. EVER.
    The important thing here is to keep on truckin’.
    What matters is constantly honing your craft, depending less and less on processed foods for convenience, never paying top dollar for foods coming from half a world away (and tasting like they did), and kickin it old school with gleaning and bartering (ahem, you rock) and I’d say that you, and your little pilgrim outfit get my vote for “most likely to survive a wagon train”. Which in my neck of the woods is a big compliment.

  44. Carolyn says

    Hi Mavis-great site!!! Don’t beat yourself up on the $100–with our economy, and the increase in food prices the past 2 years, you $100 doesn’t’ t go as far as it did, so you can’t get the same amount. Certainly not your fault!! Keep doing what you do and I’ll keep reading anyhow!

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