My goal is to stay at $200 a month for groceries for the two of us. We have grown kids and friends that visit, so there are snacks, desserts, and extra portions included in that goal. To me, it sounds like a lot of money. I have read that other families have kept their food budget that low, but I have yet to reach it...and eat what we like to eat. Our grocery bill usually runs $225 a month. I do stock up when something is on sale, but on the flip side, I'm using from my pantry on a regular basis, too. A friend, who is really struggling financially, recently told me that she spent almost $350 for groceries for just her last month. I don't know who gasped louder.. me, when she told me that, or her, when I told her what I usually spend for two people.
I tried the OAMC (once a month cooking) and it just wasn't for me. I don't have a Sam's or Cosco a block away. We live in a rural area, with a little grocery store about 15 miles from here. Running to the store for just a couple things...how do I say this... just ain't gonna happen. I can't remember what I needed but didn't have when I started searching 'make your own _____'. Wow. Wasn't I surprised! There are decent substitutions for practically everything you would use in every day cooking. You really can save money AND eat well!
I buy almost no convience foods at all now. I do buy some things that I could make, but don't want to, like tomato soup (my homemade was so-so at best) and cream of mushroom soup (I don't use enough to warrant trying to keep mushrooms in my frig or yard, either). But I make a pretty good cream of chicken and cream of celery soup. Soooo simple, too! Oh, I do buy various cereals and some breads. I don't want to try to make crackers, but I have made flour tortilla chips. The bulk of my cooking is from scratch...really scratch.
The point here is that there are tons of recipes for making about any convience food that you would buy. You don't have to do it all at once, either. I started out with cream of chicken soup mix. The batch of mix equals 9 cans of soup (and only cost $1.25), so I didn't have to make it again for a while. When I make noodles, I make enough for several meals and pop them into the freezer. Ditto with soups. Most of the time I plan for leftovers that I can put in the freezer. Then I have easy meals for when I don't feel like cooking. Make sure you label everything that goes in the freezer. Things, especially soups, have a way of looking alike after a while. I have a cool, low tech labeling system - masking tape and a permanent marker.
I really watch pricing in the grocery store. When they first started coming out with bulk foods and bigger packages, it was cheaper per ounce to buy. Now - ain't necessarily so. A 2 lb. bag of brown sugar is the most commonly sold size. Two 1 lb. boxes are cheaper than the 2 lb. bag now. But, it's cheaper yet in the 4 lb. bag, and I use enough of it to warrant buying that size. (Edited on 1-4-2011 - I don't even buy brown sugar now, I just make it when I need it, really cheap!) White sugar is cheaper per pound to buy 4 lb bags where I live.
I also have a garden every year and in a perfect world, I'd can/freeze enough goodies to last an entire year. I keep trying, but Nature has a way of keeping you humble.
If you haven't tried looking at everything you can make from scratch, get your mouse clicking and head over to http://busycooks.about.com/ for a starter course. Just type 'make your own' into their search bar and you'll be on your way to pages of money saving ideas.