Grocery Shopping and Planning for a Large Rural Family

As we have been making a huge transition this year in regards to living on a farm, I have had to make huge adjustments in how I grocery shop. 
I wrote a concise book on how to save a ton of money on groceries using simple tips and tricks that will dramatically reduce your grocery bill, however, that is dependant on you living in an area where stores and coupons are available!  It can be done!  We were a family of 9 and I was spending anywhere from $300 to $400 a month on all of our groceries and household supplies and most of the spending was focused on building a massive pantry stockpile. 
However, move an hour or two away from normal stores and your life changes dramatically!  Jim’s Food Market just isn’t the same as a chain grocery store like Publix.  While I have been able to do a few small deals at some of the smaller grocery markets– using their sales combined with coupons; my rate of massive stockpiling and grocery savings has changed dramatically!  The majority of my grocery savings and stockpiling now comes in new forms. 
My milk, cream, buttermilk and butter come from our cow.  I have not figured up the actual expenses of keeping a family cow, but we do know that the benefits of having fresh raw milk outweigh the alternatives.  I know it is difficult to get raw milk when you live in an area that is not rural.  I struggled with wanting to switch completely to raw dairy products years before I was able to.  Some things you just have to deal with until a better resource is found.  We know of many places where you can get fresh cow or goat milk and that would require a commitment and a drive for those closer to city life. 
Our meat completely comes off the farm or other friend’s farms.  We have completely switched over to grass fed or pastured raised meats and with that comes either the expense of buying quality meat or the work involved in raising your own meat.  That was also a gradual switch that took lots of patience on my part.  We started out with raising our own chickens and grew from there.  Our boys raised 237 lbs of pork and we paid about 62 cents a pound for it.  That is a whole lot cheaper than anything in the grocery store and the meat is far superior in quality, health and flavor.  However, we also just paid over $4 a pound for grass fed beef.  While this wasn’t “cheap” by any means, the health and quality of the food is beyond comparison to any grain fed beef.  Plus, we had the added benefit of supporting our local farmer friends.  Next years beef is wandering in the pasture so we will eventually save even more money by raising our own beef. 
While I do not buy all organic fruits and vegetables, I have found that living in a rural area provides an easier outlet for buying in bulk.   Large families need to buy in 50 lb bags, bushels and gallons.  Thinking large and planning long range goals for pantry storage will affect how you spend your money.  Several times late summer and throughout the fall, I bought apples by the bushel or brought home a bushel of potatoes.  This year I hope to take advantage of those seasonal bushel finds like peaches in the summer and apples in the fall, so that I can put up dried fruits, jams, sauces and freezer fruit.  Amazingly, we use a lot of food and will continue to use even more as the children grow. 
While I would love to grow most of our fruits and vegetables, that area has been a difficult thing to accomplish.  One thing is for sure, large families do benefit greatly from being able to produce at least a portion of their food themselves.  To have to buy every single food item…be it meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables, grains etc… it becomes a huge expense as the family grows.  It isn’t cheap to feed a family with 10 or more members and as they grow into young adults and their appetites grow drastically.  Add the fact that young men need to be exerting lots of energy in productive work, and their appetite demands a lot of food! 
For a homemaker of many children to manage and provide the food necessary for her growing family, evaluating quantities, prices, storage availability and rate of usage is a necessary part of the job.  The hard part is adjusting your budget to be flexible enough to be able to buy 1/2 a cow one month or scheduling your life to raise a 25 or 50 meat birds.  Buying organic oats in bulk or organic corn meal is much cheaper than the smaller quantities at store prices, however, finding that chunk of money to output on several 25 lb or 50 lb bags of food at one time might be difficult at first.  I like to use the end of the year as my evaluation time. 


50 lbs of oats separated out in gallon size bags for easier storage

Other evaluation checks I have on my list:

  • Evaluated grains and quantity needed- cornmeal, prairie gold, oatmeal, rice.  What is the total cost on 25 and 50 lb bags of each.  When should I purchase these items? 
  • Find source for purchasing a gallon or more of honey at a time.
  • Plan month to buy/raise meat chickens, pig, sheep, calf, turkey. 
  • Evaluate egg production and make necessary adjustments to enable us to have a plenteous supply of eggs. 
  • Evaluate the garden areas and plan for a more intensive garden because last years plantings were not near enough to sustain us through multiple meals. 
  • Buy seasonal and plan on canning and freezing. 

As for grocery shopping with coupons?  I look for deals on paper products like paper plates, toilet paper, paper towels as well as things like ziplock type baggies, trash bags, laundry soap, razors, toothbrushes, diapers and wipes.  Sometimes, making a trip to Costco is the best option we have for things like laundry soap, dish soap, trash bags and a few other things.   I haven’t been able to beat their prices on the large number 10 cans.   I like to have extra food on hand in storage for emergency. Razors and toothbrushes are always cheap or free with coupons and/or rebates at pharmacy type stores like Walgreens, CVS or Rite-Aid.  Diapers, I usually buy twice a year in bulk at around .10 cents or less a diaper from a grocery store sale or Target using coupons and sales.  It pays to learn which stores to buy what from.  The trick in living rural is to gage your pantry and household stockpile so that you are not running out of necessary items and having to buy them always out of need at the local expensive Jim’s Market


  • Cottle says:

    We are a family of 5 that live 46 miles from the closest Wal-mart. This post was extremely interesting to me. I have yet to master this art of self-sustaining. We started a garden this year but realize it will need to be MUCH bigger. Anyway, lots of good info here thanks!

  • Carmen says:

    Yeah, it worked! I’m so happy that I can now comment! (Thanks for the help!)
    Anyway…I don’t have much time right now but I wanted to say that I have been reading back on the blog for homemaking, grocery, organization posts, etc. and they have been so helpful! Thanks!

  • Tracy says:

    While our family 4 isn’t large by any means (we are always praying and hoping for a large family though), all of this information is so useful. I have found that by having our pantry well stocked with the staples and even having our freezer stocked with good meat, that makes menu planning so much simpler. Menu planning used to not be one of my strong points. While we live out in the country, it isn’t quite as rural as you. Frequent trips to town though cost dearly in gas, time and convenience food costs(because you are not home to eat at the right time.) Now I just menu plan based on what we have available. We try to only do a big Sam’s(no Costco here) trip once a month or every other month if we can. Like today I stockpiled to last until at least the end of January if not mid to late February. When I run to get our dairy products every other week, I stop at the Amish market since it is right there.
    I really enjoy and learn so much from your homemaking posts. Thank you!!
    In Christ,

  • BethTN says:

    I have been amazed at how far we have come –as home makers — in being such a unprepared people. I too learned that my garden space this year was not near adequate enough to feed our family—and then add in the facts of pregnancy and post-partum—Mom can’t garden all the time, so it makes it necessary to teach our children these responsibilities as well.
    I have great respect for our fore-mothers who knew these skills, but not only knew them, they knew the importance as well.

  • Valerie says:

    Did you really write a book about saving money on groceries? If you did I would love to get a copy.

  • BethTN says:

    Yes…Valerie…. I have a booklet on grocery shopping –It is aimed at large scale, large family grocery shopping and how to save a lot of money using a bulk coupons, store sales, rebates, etc. It is still on the computer, however and because my computer crashed…I have yet to get it in print copies (which was our original plan)
    I will announce when it will be ready. (finishing that up is one of our goals for 2008)