Q&A- My Grocery Budget, Part 2

I think this is the last of the questions from How My Grocery Budget Works (find the first set of Q&A here)… Hopefully I’ve answered all of your questions!

Raw-milk-jug Janelle wondered… I do have
one question though…what do you say about the warnings about drinking
raw milk while pregnant? Aren’t there a lot of risks to that? I’ve been
staying away from it since I’m pregnant…just to be safe.

there are warnings about drinking raw milk while pregnant, but with all
of the research I’ve done into drinking raw milk in general, they don’t
concern me. In fact, I’ve added more raw milk to my diet since being
pregnant, because I believe it to be such a great source of nutrients,
especially protein and calcium, among many others.

Here is
a post that I wrote a while back on raw milk and it’s safety, with a
few links at the end. And for a much more detailed look at raw milk’s merits and safety, check out this post from The Nourishing Gourmet. Another great place to go is www.realmilk.com.

Julie asked- I have
purchased sucanat in the past and baked with it, but we go through too
much sugar right now in our baking and tea drinking. But, there aren’t coupons out for this stuff and it seems we would need to replace it fairly often. Any suggestions?

A couple of suggestions:

  • Buy it in bulk. I know that Azure Standard carries these healthier
    sugars, Sucanat in 50 lb bulk, and Rapadura in 33 lb bulk. I’ve done
    the price breakdown before, and it definitely makes them much cheaper.
  • Try doing baking that includes more fruits, such as bananas or
    apple sauce. This helps to cut down on the need for as much sugar and
    can be a healthier choice.
  • Try cutting down sugar in recipes by small increments, and see how
    low you can get it, without compromising taste. Adding things like
    cinnamon, vanilla or some dried fruit (raisins are always good) can
    help to make something taste sweet, while using less sweetener.
  • Substitute honey sometimes, if you can get unpasteurized honey for
    a good deal. It is much sweeter than sugar, and so you can usually cut
    down the amount required by half. Here is an old post of mine on how to use honey in your baking.

Nola asked: I would
love to hear about what raw honey is, vs. not raw, sometime…I’ve been
trying to find the answer and can’t figure it out.

Honey jars Basically, it’s the difference between honey that has been pasteurized, and raised above 120 F. Even in the regular store, packaging should label whether the honey is unpasteurized or not. Raw honey contains many nutrients, as well as enzymes which are killed at high temperatures, so it’s always best to choose unpasteurized. My understanding is that the labeling laws are not really clear, so some honeys labeled “unpasteurized” could be somewhat heated, and many of them are also strained and/or filtered, which can remove some of their natural nutrients, though usually not too many. Best buys for honey are usually from smaller companies and a slightly thicker and less clear liquid (the really clear, thin honeys have been processed).

Image by Indigo Goat

Nola also asked: My
question is that in the last part you say you have $50 left and list
some things including toilet paper, ziplocs etc. do you also buy all
your other household supplies out of that? Like I am talking for me
that would be things like the natural cleaning supplies, vinegar and
baking soda for cleaning, kleenex, the odd thing like that?

I suppose I forgot to mention some of those things. Toilet paper comes out of the $50, as do ziplocs. All of our cleaning supplies and even beauty supplies come out of our grocery budget as well. Most of what we use is very simple, especially for cleaning. I buy a lot of baking soda and white vinegar for those purposes. When I do buy beauty products, they often come from Azure, in the co-op part of my budget (toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, diaper cream). Other cleaning supplies, like liquid laundry soap, Bio-Kleen Bac-Out, my all-purpose concentrated cleaner and dish washing soaps, are also part of my co-op orders. And I don’t buy Kleenex- I’m the mean Mom who says to just go get some toilet paper cause it’s cheaper. 🙂

How much on average do you pay for beef, whole chickens, etc., and do you eat them for every meal? How much do you eat?  (From milehimama)

First of all, we don’t eat meat for every meal. We rarely eat it with breakfast, and with lunch usually only in the context of dinner leftovers, and occasionally some sandwich meat (once or twice a month?). In our dinners, we eat meat about 4-5 times a week. Even then, it isn’t usually a meat-based meal (a roast with veggies, chicken breasts with rice, etc.). Instead, it’s usually meat added into a meal, or cheaper cuts combined in more complex dishes- so lots of casseroles, soups and stews, meatloaf (with veggies to bulk it up), salads or Mexican dishes where I stretch 1-2 chicken breasts or 1/2-1 lb of beef to stretch and feed us all (maybe even leftovers). So while meats are a very regular part of our diet, I wouldn’t say that they compose a really large percentage of our diet.

To make up for this, I use a lot of eggs, cheese, beans, legumes, whole grains, and some nuts and seeds to round out the protein that we eat. I also try to use as much soup broth (made from actual bones) as I can, because this helps our bodies to utilize the protein that we do eat much more effectively.

With this last purchase of grass-fed beef, I bought 100 lbs at $2.09 per lb. This is a pretty good deal, and part of the reason I got it for so cheap is because I opted for the front of the cow, rather than side or hind, which has more utilitarian cuts (ground, stew, chuck roast, etc.). This doesn’t bother me, as it’s more affordable and suits my style of cooking anyways.

For whole chickens, these days I am paying about $7-12, depending on the size. These are free-range, but not certified organic. You can see in this post how I try to absolutely maximize them and turn one into several meals (which still works with our family size).

Did I get to all of the questions? Anything else you’d like to know about how I do my grocery budgeting? Ask away!

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  1. Thanks so much, Stephanie, for posting this helpful & encouraging info. I especially appreciate that you include your personal and home care items into your grocery budget. So many people don’t, and I just can’t relate, as my already tight budget includes all of those non-food items. You have inspired me to be even more diligent in this area of our finances!

    One more question… How did you go about determining what would be a reasonable amount to set for your grocery budget? I recently upped mine, but still feel like I’m strapped to the max.

  2. I don’t own a copy of the Tightwad Gazette (I borrowed from a friend) but you can substantially reduce the amount of sugar you use when when baking fruit pies, crumbles, etc by adding baking soda. I forget the ratio. Maybe someone could post the amount? This will also cut down on sugar/sweetener use.

  3. This is great information ~ thank you:) Since your last post about grass fed beef I have been phoning around to find some but to no avail. I am still trying though.

  4. Great questions and responses! I strongly believe our culture needs re-educating about what is really healthy and you’re doing a great job spreading the word. I especially appreciate your comment about cutting back on sugar a little at a time. If your readers will do this, they will notice after a while that commercially, mass produced products are EXTREMELY sweet to the point of being sickening (my kids laugh because I call all these prepackaged items – fake food). I know that studies claim that sugar is not addicting, but really… what else can you call it when all of our food today contains so much sugar and we think it has to be so sweet to be palatable?

  5. Great questions and responses! I strongly believe our culture needs re-educating about what is really healthy and you’re doing a great job spreading the word. I especially appreciate your comment about cutting back on sugar a little at a time. If your readers will do this, they will notice after a while that commercially, mass produced products are EXTREMELY sweet to the point of being sickening (my kids laugh because I call all these prepackaged items – fake food). I know that studies claim that sugar is not addicting, but really… what else can you call it when all of our food today contains so much sugar and we think it has to be so sweet to be palatable?

  6. O.K. I am going to try raw milk this weekend. I live in farming country, so it is not such a big deal as it is for you guys. The guy says it’s labeled as “pet food”, and it’s $6.00 a gallon. I have to read more about this. This is my summer to get the food part of my life organized. LOL. I appreciate your frugality, even if it seems like something out of the 1950’s for me! Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being frugal just by eating healthier??

  7. We raise our own pastured chickens, and sell some too. We just had our first batch of chickens butchered. I have recently read about the benefits of using chicken feet in your broth. I thought about asking my husband to save them, but didn’t. Do you use chicken feet and if you do, where do you buy them? It sounds so gross, and I was also wondering how you would clean them before cooking, because they do walk on them!

    We will be butchering 65 more chickens this year so I wanted to figure this out.

    Also the liver, hearts and necks…I had him save these from the last batch. I made a stock from the necks that day, but I’m not sure what to do with hearts and livers.


  8. Thanks for all of this information. It is really helpful! I was wondering if you might be interested in sharing some of the more common recipes you use for dinner. I’d like to incorporate more rice, beans, and legumes, but don’t have many recipes like this. Thanks so much!

  9. Well since you mentioned soup broth again, I’ve made it a few times like you do and it tastes funny to us…we can sort of taste the apple cider vinegar. Is that normal? It also seems more jelly-like, I suppose that is the gelatin out of the bones?

    We use toilet paper a lot too for runny noses, but my husband doesn’t want me to stop buying kleenex. He has bad allergies though so he has to blow his nose several times a day in the spring.

    I still can’t believe you buy all your stuff like cleaning stuff, toilet paper etc from your grocery budget. There is no way I could make it fit into mine and we have a seperate budget for it. I would LOVE to reduce it but we are paying the least we can for the least amount of things. We don’t have many extra things we get, just the total, natural basics (at the cheapest, co-op prices I can get, using sales from the co-op and stocking up) but it still adds up a lot.

    I guess part of my frustration is that you do have some better sources than I do to buy things. Maybe I will move, LOL. Grass-fed beef for that cheap is incredible. I can’t even get drug-free stuff for that cheap (more like $2.50 to $3).

  10. Oh yes I would also love to know how you came about at setting an amount for your budget. We have a budget of course but I am always trying to lower it more (without sucess really)

  11. I love your blog & all the healthy things you share. Since you’ve such a large following, i wonder if you have blogged about grocery store honey before? You touched on it a little, but many people aren’t aware that grocery store honey not only is processed, but these days there isn’t much “honey” to it either.

    Bee keepers are feeding their bees high fructose corn syrup. While perhaps technically it is “honey” because it comes from the bees, but they are not eating a diet normal for them, so therefore the honey no longer contains what is normal for honey.

  12. Regarding sugar…one of the things that is maddening to me, is that in things like sodas, they have to add phosphoric acid so that it won’t make us sick because of all the sugar in it. Seems kind of silly to me.

    I also have a question, do you ration milk out? The amount of milk that you buy seems small and I was wondering how you make that work? Raw milk is so expensive where I live and I would definitely have to ration it but I’m not sure how to divide it up. And also, do you use raw milk for baking and cooking?

  13. Hi! I have a question for you… You mentioned in a post before the body soap you like for your family. We try to use all natural soaps and such too. What brand of Shampoo do you like for you and the kids?
    Also, we too add our toilet paper and such to our grocery budget, and we too just use toilet paper for runny noses…
    How did you come to know that your family has a sensitivity to wheat? I am starting to think several of my children do…but they seem to do fine on kamut and spelt. Still trying to figure that out here.
    I wanted to share a GREAT DVD that I think you would love. We just love it here…we have watched it MANY times. It is all about homesteading…and there are MANY things you can do even if you don’t live in the country. The lady that made the movie with her family and is in it is really nice! http://www.bulkherbstore.com/Homesteading-for-Beginners
    Again it has a lot of great things even if you live in town…

    Thanks for another great post!
    Have a great night,
    Jessica O.

  14. I have found in my baking that I can usually cut the sugar in half without compromising taste. That is a starting point for me and sometimes I can go even lower in the amount of sugar.
    I make my own homemade soap, which is wonderful and so good for the skin and not hard to do- that saves us money!
    Recently I also started making my own laundry detergent and it literally costs about a penny per load! That has been a huge savings for my family!
    I do, however, buy tissue! I grew up with a mom who made us use toilet paper for our noses and to this day, I must have a supply of kleenex in the house…. isn’t it funny what sticks with us? 🙂 Thanks for your wonderful blog!

  15. Thanks for the info! I don’t buy kleenex either (except for a couple of few packs a year for my purse when we travel) – thought I was the only one.

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