Welcome to Southern Savers, where finding deals and steals is simple and rewarding!

See I told you, this would help!

Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.

organic living journey determing your budget

Last week, I shared about how my heart was inspired by the documentary, “Fresh,” and my husband and I decided to start shopping differently.   A week later, reality has set in, and I am suddenly aware that this is a much bigger undertaking than I realized!  For starters, I had no idea just how expensive maple syrup was (or how many different kinds there were!), and that was just one of my purchases that baffled me this week.  I am taking a step back.  I tried to completely overhaul how I was shopping and got overwhelmed.  Too many big changes attempted at once leads me to just want to quit.  It’s back to the basics for me.

Step one on my journey, figure out how much I actually have to spend.  Seems simple, right?  We have had a budget guiding us since we got married, but lately, we have found ourselves dipping into savings each month to pay all of the bills.  It was time to re-evaluate.  The results were shocking.  Due to the rising prices of gas and my husband’s occupation (he works in commercial construction and travels all over the great city of Atlanta each day), our budget has taken a major hit.  Add to that a new addition to our family (aka diapers and medical bills and more food to buy, oh my!), and well, our ends were not meeting.  Now, the normal first step when you discover that your expenses are exceeding your income is to see what can go.  Where can you cut costs?  In all honesty, we have cut the costs to the bare bones.  No cable TV, no cell phones and we rarely eat out.  For us, the next baby step was to generate more income.

Now, fortunately for me, I have a great boss and was able to add some extra hours from home to boost our income.  I would challenge you to think creatively for how you can add extra income if you are in the same boat that we were in.  Maybe you babysit once a week or when you are baking, make extra and sell it.  I’ve got friends that started making bows and dresses for friends, or a family that sends their boys to camp each summer by selling fresh homemade pies around big family holidays.  Sounds far fetched, but those little things add up.  Or maybe the next baby step for you is to just cut some of your expenses.  Eliminating one trip eating out a week could save you $30-$50 and greatly boost what you have to spend on groceries.

So here is what we are working with in my house.  We are a family of five.  My husband works in construction (so yeah, he’s hungry after a full day of manual labor), my girls are bottomless pits and my precious one year old boy will out-eat all of us.  Get the picture…I’ve got hungry people, not picky eaters who nibble, but ravenous beasts who devour.  :)  With the boost to our income, we have about $320/month to spend on groceries.  That works out to about $80/week for the five of us.  Now, you should know a few things about what I’m starting off with in my pantry.  I am completely stocked up on wheat, and I make all of my own bread products (except for pie crusts, they intimidate me.)  So, I won’t be buying hot dog buns, loaves of bread, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls or anything like that.  I also have already purchased a quarter of a cow.  These two things alone will lower my weekly bill.  (I’ll share more later on how I budget for those big purchases.)

I must be honest though, after my first week of shopping, I am not sure if I can get everything I need for that price.  This is the truest of experiments for me, and I am thrilled that you can come along with me.

Baby step one….what are you working with each week?  After looking at your budget, what do you realistically have to spend on groceries?

    • We budget $40 a week for 2 for groceries and I end up going over some week, but other weeks I can even it out when I spend less. Instead of a weekly food budget I focus on our monthly food budget and try to stay within my $160 per month. We just sold our house and are living rent free right now. We have made a lot of cuts to maximize our savings and have found it rather easy to do without cable. While I would like to make the switch to organics I really don’t think it is feasible in our budget. For the moment I attempt to buy organic produce that is on the dirty dozen list. I’m also trying to make baby steps to organic.

      • sarah

        My Tips would be the following :

        1. go to the farmers market and buy in season. 
        2. check localharvest.org for your local farmers,etc
        3. Buy frozen produce its often alot cheaper than the fresh and you can get coupons alot of times for it. 
        4. sign up for all the deals from organics. 
        5. Pick and choose what you can afford. (for me its produce,eggs,and anything i can get with coupons) (meat and dairy are to expensive for me). 
        6. Don’t beat yourself up about not being able to afford everything organic. Some organic is better than none. 
        7. Eat a whole foods diet with less baked goods including bread. 
        8. Stock up on cheap sources of protien like beans but avoid canned beans unless they are in a bpa free lined can or tetra pack or dried.
        9. Make everything homemade and plan ahead with freezer meals. 
        10. avoid organic drinks and juices (expensive)

        • amysanders

          great ideas!

      • amysanders

        lane, that’s exactly the way i have felt.  like it just isn’t doable, but i’m trying to see if maybe it is!  (and i do a similar thing, focus more on the month’s total amount instead of the week!)  :)

    • su Soutter

      I have started this journey too. . organic milk, organic fruits (the ones where we eat the skin), and organic chicken are where I have started and have noticed that I need to pay closer attention to our grocery budget. . with these additions, it is easy to go over.  We are a family of 7. I budget $400 a month. Some weeks are over $100 but some weeks are under. . so if I just take $400 out when hubby gets paid (he gets paid once a month), I know what I have to spend. But yes, wondering if I need to up to $500 a month.

    • su Soutter

      I have started this journey too. . organic milk, organic fruits (the ones where we eat the skin), and organic chicken are where I have started and have noticed that I need to pay closer attention to our grocery budget. . with these additions, it is easy to go over.  We are a family of 7. I budget $400 a month. Some weeks are over $100 but some weeks are under. . so if I just take $400 out when hubby gets paid (he gets paid once a month), I know what I have to spend. But yes, wondering if I need to up to $500 a month.

    • Wendyl911

      I am a single mother and I agree organic would be nice, but it is too expensive :/ I have two sons and I just can not do it. No matter what I budget for, some emergency always comes up. I coupon ll the time and do really well with it. I am just happy to have a great stockpile of most things and because of this website I can get more deals and more freebies. Thanks Jenny.

      • amysanders

        and that’s what is most important.  doing the best you can with what you’ve got!

    • Melissa

      I feel your pain! :) We can only afford $50 per week right now- luckily there are only 3 of us. My difficulty is that I have Celiac Disease & have to be very careful about products I buy. Gluten Free anything is WAY more expensive.I also have to avoid BPA so can’t use a lot of canned foods. I try to take advantage on sales for items like brown rice, pasta sauces & all household items to help save where I can. I have found too that my local Kroger periodically has UDI GF breads on their managers rack so it brings the cost from 5.99/6.99 to 2.99. Needless to say, I don’t eat a lot of bread. :/ GF baking from scratch is also more expensive. I planted a large garden this year to help provide more fresh produce for now & for preserving to save $$ & I have started a Mary Kay business that is beginning to really grow which will help expand our budget. I am attempting to use that extra $ for debt reduction to help the core issue rather than spending more on food

      • amysanders

        sounds like you’ve got a good plan going for your overall finances.  and yeah, gluten free is expensive!  i had a season of being gluten free, and i was blown away by how much it cost!

    • We just signed up with a company that is called Service Foods! They offer home delivery and everything is organic!  They mainly do meat and veggies. If anybody would be interested I can send you the guys name and number that we signed up with!

      • Hjjundt

        be careful with them…you just committed to purchasing a very expensive Freezer that you have to pay off completely.  We had them here too. But, after reading the contract backed out… If you want to pay $$$$ for a freezer it’s ok–it is a commercial freezer, but read the contract closely.  It’s not just about the food. 

      • Acbhendrix

        please send the guys name to my email Sarah! acbhendrix@gmail.com

    • Donna

      We are only 3 but with a husband and teenage son who play and work hard, they eat alot.  I am ashamed to say that I spend 400 a month on food usually and we really can’t be doing that and I am not even buying much that is organic.  I would like it to be half that but I’d be happy with 300 and work my way down.  Let’s all try this together – I’m game, girls!

      • amysanders

        no shame!  just keep taking baby steps!!

    • Justforthe Coupons

      When my son starting showing all the symptoms of a milk allergy (one being causing asthma), our bill shot up 400 hundred dollars a month… we went dairy free.  Now after having some time & knowledge under my belt, I have started couponing again – you have been a great help – mainly toiletries because we want healthy foods.  Try to keep your costs down by picking fresh fruit when it’s in season (this makes our summer months much more expensive) and freeze it!  We do a lot of smoothies with our organic fruits (and the veggies I sneak)and almond milk & honey & maybe agave.  Also, Walmart has improved a great deal on the variety of organic they stock – so if it’s on my ‘only organic’ list, and no coupon, I go to Walmart.  We also really like that Costco has several organic products now – we are blessed with a free membership and it has been really wonderful.  The most important thing to remember as you are changing things (as I found out) the less chemicals you put in to your body… the less your body craves things it normally wouldn’t… so that container of organic food will satiate your hunger without eating half the families servings.  We tried the butcher a cow thing – but the meat tasted to game-y for my husband.  I just try to remember to make the better choice for our family when money is an issue – and make the best choice when we can.  I hate that in our country it seams like everything comes to that.

      • amysanders

        there is definitely a different taste to the grassfed beef.  we have had two different cows at this point, and i think there has even been a difference in the way those two cows tasted.  and yeah, i just scoped out costco this week…i was pretty surprised at how much organic stuff they had.

    • Courtney Crane

      If you don’t already…menu plan your whole month out. I don’t do it now, but when we needed the extra money I did and that allowed me to stick to the budget. I’ve been a craigslisting machine lately…it’s allowed me to fully fund our vacation fund for next summer already! Anything you have sitting around unused can generate income.
      Your husband is a contractor? My husband and I are very handy. We had an old privacy fence in our yard. We took it down and we make tables from the weathered timber…$30-$50 a pop and we’ve got $8 worth of material in them and maybe an hour hour and a half of labor…play to your strengths!

      • stribisblessed

        How do you sell on Craigslist so that you have safe in person transactions?

        • Either meet people when you have a friend or family member home with you or meet in a public space like a parking lot during daylight hours.

      • amysanders

        love your creativity!!!

    • LA Henson

      We are gluten free and eat organic on $150 a week…we are a family of 5 but my husband eats like two grown people…When we got married I was on med for a kidney birth defect, my husband almost died from an adverse vaccine reaction and we were a total hot mess with other physical issues…fast forward 10 years later and I had three healthy pregnancies, 100% natural deliveries, breast fed and have been migraine free and no more issues with my pesky kidney.  Diet and overall habits have really changed our lives.  Most people think to steward their money, time, education, etc. but it seems very few want to steward their health…where would you live if you did not have your body (here on Earth that is) and how would you help others??  I encourage you to keep at it!!  The trick is to make everything from scratch and kind of retrain yourself to what constitutes a snack or breakfast food, etc.  Love your post!!

      • amysanders

        amen!

    • Organic rocks!! :)

      We eat all organic and feel it has been a very positive decision for our family, so I’m excited for you as you start this journey!  You mentioned maple syrup — the cheapest all-natural, completely-real option we’ve found is Costco’s version.  If you don’t have a membership hitch a ride with a friend — you have to be careful not to get carried away, but they do have the best prices are certain organic items.

      • Guest

        for maple syrup, check out your online options as well.  I am a stickler for real maple syrup, so I watch the online vitamin stores and when they have a sale combined with free shipping, I pounce and buy a 64oz bottle which pretty much lasts our family of 4 for a year.  I usually spend about $30 for this and it is one of the good things in life on which I am willing to splurge.  A bottle of maple syrup also makes an excellent bday/xmas present to suggest to friends and relatives.

    • Ilovetheplanet

      I say, make your own pie crusts! We make our own at home. Super easy.  A lot of butter, flour, and cold water is basically all you need! I think they are easier than baking bread.

      • stribisblessed

        How do you make wheat hot dog buns?

        • amysanders

          i use my basic bread dough recipe (that i got from bread beckers cookbook) and then take 1.5-2 ounces for each bun.  roll the dough out into a rectangle a little smaller than a hot dog bun (because you will have to let it rise again) and then roll it up lengthwise, like you would roll up cinnamon rolls, and tuck the ends under.  let it double in size and then bake it in the oven at 350º for about 12 minutes or so.  sorry if the directions aren’t clear!!  feel free to ask more questions if i have left you in the dark!

      • amysanders

        do you have a great recipe?  

    • Stacey P.

      We absolutely buy organic for the most important things: milk, eggs, meat (we don’t eat much), certain fruits and veggies (Google “Dirty Dozen”) and coffee and baby food. I buy other stuff organic when possible. I get organic milk, eggs, chicken from Costco. Costco also has organic apple slices for a great price (yes, pre-sliced in small servings!). They have a great price on a bag of organic Quinoa which is a great protein source. I wish Costco had organic nuts but they don’t (yet). If you have kids, you HAVE to give them only organic milk at the very least.

      • amysanders

        we have made the switch to organic milk.  major baby step for us after drinking aldi’s $1.99 milk all summer!

    • Acbhendrix

      i buy the essentials in organic, i buy grass-fed from a farm i trust, eggs from a farm i trust and i buy my veggies from the farmers market. i wish that i could buy milk in organic but my husband is already having a hard time swallowing paying more for organic milk, especially the way he drinks it. when i do buy my veggies and fruits from the grocery stores, i go to whole foods for the dirty dozen and buy bananas and others of the like at kroger or publix (because obviously that doesn’t have to be organic) i am in the process of signing up with a co-op here in marietta so that we can buy our veggies/fruits in one set price for a number of weeks. that is also another thing you can do, go directly to a farm you trust and give them a set amount and they will deliver weekly to you. i do coupon for things like granola bars and other snacky type stuff but baby food is always organic.  

    • Darlene Cary

      Who is writing the article?

      • Henckelhouse

        Her name is Amy. Click on the link connected to the words “how my heart was inspired” and it takes you to the first article where Jenny wrote an introduction. I was confused at first as well.

        •  Yes, it’s confusing because it says Jenny’s name in the green title bar at the top.

      • amysanders

        It’s me! :)

    • Aspenjay

      Anyone from the Nashville area have some farmers they buy from where they can get organic?

    • mrn1

      I have bought organic milk before.  It tasted OK and my husband and kids did drink it, but how in the world does it have an expiration date that is about 3 months out?  That doesn’t seem right to me.  What process has it gone through that would allow such an extended expiration?  It surely can’t be any healthier than good ole regular milk.  

      • Goofball7714

        Its ultra pasterized.

      • Sasha

        If the date is that far it’s ultra pasturized, but you can get regular pasturized at some stores. Where I live I can only buy it regularly pasturized at Harris Teeter and Trader Joes.

    • Christy

      I would say just do not get discouraged. Sometimes major change takes time and lots of little steps. Or at least I know it has for us. I started with a few bulk items at a time like sugar and flour when I could not find good coupon deals. I have bought one gamma lid at a time to go with my free food safe buckets when it was on sale with free shipping and fit into our monthly budget. Currently I am looking to add a variety of dried beans and raw honey to my supplies.  I have saved up the cash to make these purchases in the next month or so when I find a deal that fits into my budget. Over all I have found it is a gradual process. Planting a large garden, gleaning fruit and other vegetables from friends and neighbors, adding chickens to our live stock, and so on has been more financially do able when taken one project at a time. I must say I am a bit envious that you have a good supply of wheat to grind your own flour. That is on my list but so far I just have not been able to work the grain mill and bulk wheat purchase into our budget. But we are working on it. Any tips (and suppliers) you can share about that process would be greatly welcome.  Just do not give up on the journey just yet. It is that a journey and those often take some time to complete.

    • Christy

      I would say just do not get discouraged. Sometimes major change takes time and lots of little steps. Or at least I know it has for us. I started with a few bulk items at a time like sugar and flour when I could not find good coupon deals. I have bought one gamma lid at a time to go with my free food safe buckets when it was on sale with free shipping and fit into our monthly budget. Currently I am looking to add a variety of dried beans and raw honey to my supplies.  I have saved up the cash to make these purchases in the next month or so when I find a deal that fits into my budget. Over all I have found it is a gradual process. Planting a large garden, gleaning fruit and other vegetables from friends and neighbors, adding chickens to our live stock, and so on has been more financially do able when taken one project at a time. I must say I am a bit envious that you have a good supply of wheat to grind your own flour. That is on my list but so far I just have not been able to work the grain mill and bulk wheat purchase into our budget. But we are working on it. Any tips (and suppliers) you can share about that process would be greatly welcome.  Just do not give up on the journey just yet. It is that a journey and those often take some time to complete.

      • Janice

         Wheat montana delivers all over the US. You can call them and find out where the nearest drop area is for you. They also sell dried beans and honey, as well as buckets to store everything in. I like them, because (as you can read on the website) they have some very logical reasons for not being organic, but all their grans are tested to make sure there is no residue on their product.

    • ltv

      We have been cooking from scratch for years.   What I would like to do is move from purchased flour to fresh ground.  Where do you get wheat in Atlanta, GA and what kind of grinder are you using?

      • Barbara

        I started out making my own breads and baked goods with freshly ground flour about 12 yrs. ago. In GA, a good place to start looking is the Bread Beckers. You can google their site and find where you can purchase wheat and they usually have lots of great recipes. I purchased my 1st mill from them and got a free cookbook of theirs for free. I have used that thing so much it is in tatters! HTH!

        • amysanders

          bread beckers is wonderful!!  they have taught me so much (and their cookbook is awesome!)  it is cheaper, though, to get a mill from amazon or another on-line dealer where you don’t have to pay the tax.  i have a wondermill and absolutely love it.  i’ve even dropped it twice (why is it when you are trying so hard to be careful with something that you drop it more!?!) and it still works perfectly.  if you are planning on buying wheat over the long haul, i would look at joining a walton feed co-op.  there are tons of them in atlanta and it is significantly cheaper than breadbeckers.

    • Whitney626

      Hi! I too work hard to feed my family with as much organic food as possible. I would love to hear more about where you bought your share of a beef cow.  Is it organic?  I am in the Atlanta area but have not started looking for organic meat outside the grocery store.  

      Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

      • katkoupon

         Have you checked out eatwild.com? They have a directory to find local farmers. I just checked and found a long page for GA. I think all the ones listed are pasture-raised/grass-fed animals. That’s where I found my meat farmer in SC. My farmer wasn’t very close, but after checking them out on facebook, I learned they traveled to a weekly market one town over from me! After a few small purchases, I also bought a meat share and save quite a bit of money that way. HTH!

      • katkoupon

        Dang, forgot to take out the webname in my last comment to avoid moderation by editor…anywho…

        Check out the eatwild website for a state by state directory to local farmers (I believe all are pasture-raised/grass-fed animals). That’s how I found mine in SC, and we love it!

      • amysanders

        whitney, we did a whole lot of networking to find our cow.  put it out there on your fb page (if you have one) and start looking around.  our cow was grassfed up until the last few weeks where they fed him grain to make it taste better.  he wasn’t given antibiotics or any growth hormones.  we actually worked with a butcher directly and wound up getting a great deal.

    • Meredith

      Haven’t gotten it yet, but has anyone seen/ read  http://www.cookforgood.com ? Also I just reserved the book at the library, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. I am hoping this provides some insight to us….. we have no health insurance (self employed!) so I feel our best “insurance” right now (at least for obesity, cancers, cardiac diseases….) IS trying to be as “all-natural” as possible and stay away from pesticides, chemicals we cannot pronounce in our foods, etc., etc….. Thank you for starting this convo! ;) M

      • Ucmba97

        ask your library for the forks over knives cookbook.  It has some great recipies in it.

    • nikkers15

      I have a family of  four, and we have cut out most processed food and try to buy as much organic as possible.  I buy some stuff at Trader Joe’s.  We live on the south side of Atlanta.  The closest Trader Joe’s to us is in Buckhead.  So, I usually only make it there once every one to two months.  We do have a Fresh Market near us, but sometimes they can be very pricey.  We have a couple of great farmer’s markets and we buy our meat at a local farm.  I really like the site http://www.100daysofrealfood.com.  It is about a family of four that has completed eliminated processed foods from their lives.  They even did a challenge of buying for 100 days on a strict budget.  Good luck to you!  It can be very overwhelming at first, but it will be worth it for your family in the end.

      • Janice

         100days also has lots of low sugar ideas for things people eat every day, and they actually TASTE GOOD!

    • nikkers15

      I have a family of  four, and we have cut out most processed food and try to buy as much organic as possible.  I buy some stuff at Trader Joe’s.  We live on the south side of Atlanta.  The closest Trader Joe’s to us is in Buckhead.  So, I usually only make it there once every one to two months.  We do have a Fresh Market near us, but sometimes they can be very pricey.  We have a couple of great farmer’s markets and we buy our meat at a local farm.  I really like the site http://www.100daysofrealfood.com.  It is about a family of four that has completed eliminated processed foods from their lives.  They even did a challenge of buying for 100 days on a strict budget.  Good luck to you!  It can be very overwhelming at first, but it will be worth it for your family in the end.

    • katkoupon

      Thanks for this post! This is the part that really made me think…

      “We have had a budget guiding us since we got married, but lately, we
      have found ourselves dipping into savings each month to pay all of the
      bills.  It was time to re-evaluate.”

      Thank you for reminding me to do the same…stop and re-evaluate! I can really relate. While we are already eating a lot of organic and local foods, it has become much more expensive (about 2.5 times what we were spending a year and a half ago). Eating healthy is a top priority for us, and I don’t want to compromise too much on that. We have cut out a lot of extra expenses and had an increase in income, but this past month I still found us dipping into savings to pay the credit card bill. We use 1 major credit card for any extras and pay it off the following month. I do this because of the cashback rewards, I’m getting “paid” to charge it. I’ve debated on whether to do this for quite some time and truly feel we are spending more by “charging now and paying later”. After last month of having to pull from savings to pay off that credit card bill, combined with this post, I’ve decided we need to go back to a cash system. I have tried it before, and it was a pain for me, having to drive to the bank to get cash, and then change, and then forgetting the cash at home when we went out, it just didn’t work for us. So I’m gonna use the “Debit” system. When I run out of money in the checking account, we can’t spend it. I bet we’ll save a lot more than what we would have gotten in cash back rewards.

      Your timing was so perfect for me. My credit card cycle just ended, we are well-stocked on groceries, gas, and personal care items. I have $28 in the bank, and I have planned my 3 drugstore and grocery trips to get everything I truly need for the week, for less than $28. Thank you.

      • amysanders

        glad my experience has encouraged you in yours!!!  i have wrestled through the same question of cash vs. credit and still haven’t come to a conclusive answer.  let me know how it works for you!!

    • Laurake11

      Jenny, I have had to take small steps when buying organic. I buy what’s on sale. And if the difference is less than$1/lb. I figure I can afford that. Organic does cost more, but in the long run it is worth it. Have you tried Agave syrup, instead of Maple? Its all natural, and a whole lot cheaper. Earthbound has some great coupons and when used at Harris Teeter, you can get it pretty affordable. I hope you will continue to post on this subject. Thanks for all you do!

      • amysanders

        laura, thanks for the tips!  i’m actually guest blogging on this topic for jenny and will be posting weekly about my family’s journey.  :)

    • Pjpwillis

      Does your grocery budget include diapers, cleaning & household supplies, etc. I am enjoying this series already! We are in very similar circumstances and I am thrilled to learn from you.

      • amysanders

        great question.  i’m pulling those out for now, just so i can see what i am spending on food.  so, i’m giving myself $20/week for all of that other “stuff.” and i’m eager to learn from you too!!!