10 Ways to Drastically Lower Your Grocery Budget

$553.40. That’s what the USDA estimates that my family of 4 (2 adults, 16 month old, and 3 1/2 year old) would spend a month on food following the Thrifty Plan.

What if I told you my actual grocery budget a month is almost 1/4 of that number? Not only that, I am able to keep it low without using coupons and I feed my family real food! The only boxed foods in my pantry is plain pasta and the only cans contain tomato products, coconut milk, or pumpkin.

10 super easy ways to drastically lower your grocery budget! I've saved thousands of dollars doing these over the years. GREAT ideas!

Most of us like to save money and sometimes we think we can’t cut out anything else. One of the easiest categories to save money on after you’ve already pared down your budget is food!

You can trim down your grocery budget while still feeding your family quality food!!!

I’ve been asked so many times, how I do it. So today I’m going to share my top tips!

10 ways to lower your grocery budget:

1. Plan

This one is big. If you go to the store without having a plan of what you are going to eat the next week or two, you’ll find yourself adding a lot of extras to your cart “just in case” and making lots of trips to pick up something you forgot. Before you go shopping, sit down and write up a menu for the week. Make a list of everything you will need to buy. Don’t forget to factor in all three meals plus snacks.

2. Look at the ads

Let the ads determine the produce and meat you are going to use on your menu. Broccoli for $.79 – plan to make Broccoli Pasta one day and another serve it steamed or roasted as a side dish. Buy the fruit that’s cheap to use for snacks and breakfast. If pasta is on a super sale, grab a box for dinner (mac and cheese, anyone) one night and and an extra couple to stock up in the pantry.

3. Shop More Than One Store

I know some people say it takes too long to hit up multiple stores but I’ve found that I can do an every other week shopping trip and hit up 3-4 stores and still be done in an hour. I get the majority of my list at Aldi and Wal-Mart because I know they will have the lowest base prices. Then I fill in with what’s on sale at other stores.

4. Buy in Bulk

This only works if you know you actually like the food and will use it up before they go bad. If you do, this is a great way to save! Buy the 5 pound bag of dried beans, stock up on 25 pound bags of flour and rice, and buy 5 pound blocks of cheese.

5. Know Rock Bottom Prices

If you know the cheapest price you’ve seen for butter in the last year is $1.99 a pound, when you see it go below that price, stock up what you have room in the freezer and budget for. The same goes for when ground beef, boneless skinless chicken breasts, or pasta go on sale for rock bottom prices. Buy enough to last you the month or two until they’ll go on sale again. (Living Well Spending Less has a post on Rock Bottom Prices you might want to check out!)

6. Have a Go To Pantry Meal

One of the keys to keeping your food budget low is avoiding convenience food and eating out. Days are going to come up where you are busier than you thought, someone is sick, or maybe you forgot to thaw out the meat. Have a go to meal or two you can throw together in under 30 minutes that you always have the ingredients for.  Maybe have a couple of jars of spaghetti sauce in the pantry for one of these nights or make cheese quesadillas. I like to always have refried beans in the freezer to make bean tostadas for those hectic days.

7. Use Meat as a Condiment not the Star

There’s no way around it. Meat is expensive. Limit your meals where meat is the star of the dish (grilled steak, baked chicken breasts, even curries where meat is the only filler) to once every week or two. Other times, make stir-fries, fajitas, salads, soups where you can cut back on the meat and replace it with more veggies or beans.

8. Have Some Meatless Meals

You can take the meat thing one step further. Include a couple of vegetarian options in your menu each week. Our breakfasts and lunches are typically vegetarian (if we aren’t having leftovers) and then we also have at least one or two meatless suppers a week. It really does make a difference and no ones going to complain about Alfredo Sauce or cheese and veggie pizza.

9. Don’t Pay for Convenience Food

Your kids won’t starve if they don’t have cold cereal, poptarts, or oatmeal packets for breakfast. Don’t buy personal packages of cookies, presliced cheese, apple slices, or individual packages of pretzels. You don’t need to pay someone to prepackage food for you! Put together your own oatmeal packages, slice a pound of cheese at the beginning of the week, separate a big bag of pretzels into mini baggies, and take 30 seconds to slice an apple for an afternoon snack.

10. Cook from Scratch

Not only does this save you money but you also know exactly what’s going into your food. Instead of purchasing granola bars and cheese crackers, try making your own. Whip up a batch of energy bites or homemade cookies. Make your own taco seasoning instead of buying a packet (plus you’ll have enough for several other meals) and bake corn tortillas into tostada shells. Make a large batch of bread and store the extra loaves in the freezer for later. The ideas here are endless. You’ll love the money saved and improved taste.

These are all ways that I’ve used over the past 8 years of married life to lower our grocery budget drastically. We have saved thousands of dollars simply by spending a little time planning, shopping effectively, and spending a little time in the kitchen.

If you are trying to lower your grocery budget, simply select one or two of the tips and start there. Give it a few weeks or months and add an a couple more ideas. Before long, you won’t know how you used to spend so much!

What’s your favorite way to keep your grocery budget low? Is it something your family struggles with? I’m curious, how does your spending compare to what the USDA says?

10 super easy ways to drastically lower your grocery budget! I've saved thousands of dollars doing these over the years. GREAT ideas!

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157 thoughts on “10 Ways to Drastically Lower Your Grocery Budget

    1. Wendy

      I was floored when I saw what the USDA estimates the cost of food for my family of 6 (MF couple, individuals M 9,17 &23 and individual F 13). According to the chart, my Thrifty plan of $1042.50 is over 5 times what I spend per month. I budget $200 a month for all grocery store purchases, which include hygiene and cleaning products.

      I practice most of what you listed with the exception of planning meals; I just haven’t gotten there yet. Also, I only shop every two weeks, though I’m not sure it makes a difference. I also have a pasta maker but I haven’t used it yet. Once I do, it will save even more money.

      Two rules that I would add:

      11. Plant a garden – Grow your own fruits and vegetables. Whether at your home or through a co-op, it ensures you’re getting the best and freshest produce available.

      12. Learn to can food – Now that you’ve got fresh fruits and vegetables, canning provides you with an abundance of food for a long period of time.

      Thanks for the post and the links to the recipes!

      Reply
      1. Deanna Michaels Post author

        Wow! Way to go. It’s kind-of exciting to see how much lower our numbers are than the thrifty plan. :-) Love your two other tips too. I hope to someday have a garden. So far my attempts are pretty futile. 😉 One day I’ll get it figured out. Growing your food, and actually having it flourish enough to be able to can are great ways to save even more money. Thanks for sharing.

        Reply
      2. Rachel

        I was shocked too (family of six: 2 adults, 7 yo, 5yo, 3yo, baby), not only by cost but content. It said we should consume 12 pounds of meat in a week!

        I do most of these tips, and would add to the one about reducing meat consumption to use the whole meat. Meat is cheaper if you buy a whole chicken, and you can really stretch it if you make bone broth, render fat, use the cracklings, and use the organ meats.

        I heartily agree with the other points and learning to preserve produce. In the fall, I buy about ten pumpkins on sale and make my own puree. It really helps keep costs down throughout the winter.

        Reply
      3. mamalv

        Wendy I would love to know what meals you are able to serve for $200.mth…. grocery list if possible. You are an inspiration !

        Reply
  1. Amy

    Great tips! I must admit, I’m one of those people that doesn’t like to go to more than one store. But, I can see your point. So glad I stopped by today via the Weekend ReTreat!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thanks, Amy! I know a lot of people that don’t like hitting up more than one store. If I have the kids with me, I seldom do more than two though. :-) But I have found that if I get the bulk of the shopping done at one place the other stores really don’t add any more time on. (I guess that’s a good thing about living in a smallish town – it doesn’t take long to drive anywhere.)

      Reply
        1. Andrea

          My family loves Aldi. We have to work on meal planning in our house to cut even more from our budget, however, I find that you can’t beat Aldi’s prices on much of what we buy. I am working on a spreadsheet that will help us track and monitor our spending over the next month and I am sure it’s going to be an eye-opener as to where the majority of our money goes. Thanks for your helpful tips!

          Reply
          1. Deanna Michaels Post author

            Aldi is the best! Agreed. Unless there is a great sale or we find things marked down Aldi has really low prices. The spreadsheet is a great idea. That would be really helpful as you plan. Thanks for your comment.

      1. Jessica

        For those not familiar with Walmart Savings Catcher it has saved me a good deal of money. When you get a Walmart receipt, simply go to Walmart.com/savingscatcher or download their app, type in the information on your receipt, and they will search local ads (not just for groceries) and if a lower price is found they will give you the difference on a Walmart eGift card that you can use online or print out and use in-store at Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club. I started doing this in November and so far I’ve gotten about $15 back. With an almost-4-year-old and a 4 month old, the less stores we have to go to the better!

        Reply
        1. Deanna Michaels Post author

          That’s awesome! Easy ways to save money are great. We have one of the other coupon apps where you just take a picture of the receipt but I need to do this as well. Thanks for sharing.

          Reply
  2. Miki English

    Great tips! I’ve been looking for ways to cut down my grocery bill lately. I think the best (and hardest) tip for me is #1 – planning. Menu planning at my house happens about lunch time everyday, and usually means a trip to the store! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      I bet you’ll be able to save a lot of money if you plan for a week or two at a time! I used to plan one week, but went to two because I like only having to sit down and do it twice a month and to only have to go on a big shopping trip twice a month. It saves a lot of time. I just have a quick run for produce and stuff on the off weeks but that’s it.

      Reply
      1. Tonia

        This reply made a light bulb go off in my head. I shop once a week (we eat too much fresh stuff to shop less often). So, I meal plan once a week matching our menu to what is on sale. I like the idea of only meal planning twice a month, even if I still shop once a week. I always buy meat, etc. on sale and freeze it. So, as long as I am using meat and stuff bought on sale sometime, I do not have to match my menu to what is on sale that week…. food for thought. Thanks. Somehow the idea that I had to shop every time I meal plan or meal plan every time I shop got stuck in my head.

        Reply
        1. Deanna Michaels Post author

          I LOVE meal planning just twice a month! I think it ends up saving me a lot of time and I love the off weeks where I don’t have to think about it and just have to do a quick store run for produce and any spectacular sales! Agreed – if you have a stocked freezer and pantry you don’t have to worry about that week’s sales when planning. Produce and some meat are about the only things I buy from the ads, so I tend not to think about it too much. Thanks for commenting, Tonia! Have a great week!

          Reply
  3. Brooke

    Such great tips! I started following several of these a few years ago, and have been so pleased with the savings!! You’re my kind of gal! Happy savings!

    Reply
  4. Nicole

    Great tips, I’ve seen several of these work well first hand! I’m so glad you’ve found methods that work well for your family. Thanks for linking up to this week’s Weekend Wind-down party!

    Nicole =)

    Reply
  5. Life Breath Present

    Our biggest grocery items are our meats, as we like them as “safe and free” as we can get them. Unfortunately though, Hun also quite strongly believes that meat is the best when it comes to nutrients, etc., so we’re unable to have any meat-free meals. The good thing is that buying in bulk is the *best* way to save some money on this expensive item. Since we’re also going somewhat grain free, we have lessened our costs there too! :)

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      I love meat too! You are so right, definitely the most affordable way to buy grass fed beef to buy a side of cow. We are hoping to do that again soon. I miss it. I wish we had a good local place for chicken and pork.

      Reply
      1. Life Breath Present

        Thankfully we have a pretty local farm family we can get our beef and chicken and eggs from. I want a good place to get our pork for the bacon and occasional ribs or chops. For the time being, we sometimes buy those things at Whole Foods. I sure hope we can get our first side of beef in the next couple of months! It’s been a storage issue, which hopefully will be resolving soon! 😀

        Reply
  6. Naomi@WhatJoyIsMine

    Deanna….Great minds think alike. I am living proof that what you have shared here works in keeping the grocery budget down. It is always a fun challenge to see how less I can spend (and save) at the grocery store. I love when I text my husband and say, “Grocery for the week is $55.00!” And that’s feeding a family of four with two teenagers in the house! So glad you shared your post at Monday’s Musings. Have a fabulous week.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thanks, Naomi! Isn’t it the best when you find great deals. I love finding stuff marked down that I need too. That’s awesome you do it with two teenagers. I’m not there yet so now I won’t dread it quite so much. :-) Thanks for hosting!

      Reply
  7. Leah

    I’m stopping by from Mom2Mom. These are some really good ideas and things I struggle with. I know our food budget could be helped by implementing some of them.

    Reply
  8. Erin

    Great tips! i haven’t thought of the pantry meal before. I’ll have to do that. I’ve been doing freezer cooking for several months now and that’s been a great resource for me budget-wise and time-saving-wise — as long as I buy meat on sale, etc.
    Erin
    http://www.itallmattersmom.com

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Yes, it’s so nice to cook up everything at once and not having to worry about it! Agreed, finding good deals is what makes it work. The pantry meal is nice because if you forget to thaw something or start dinner in the crockpot your aren’t sunk. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  9. Jessica

    Great tips!! Stopping by from LiveRandomlySimple Totally Terrific Tuesday Link Up Party! Thanks for linking up last week! Party is NOW live, hope you can make it back and link up some more awesome content!!
    Jess

    Reply
  10. Sarah J

    List, check! Menu, meh… I like to just pull something out and go with it. Lucky for me I just cook for my boyfriend and myself. My bf checks the flyers for deals but I’m the one who does the shopping. Did the multi store thing for a few years and I just can’t anymore. I will say with my list and setting a budget, I do alright. thanks for the great tips!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Having a list is key and if you have a budget, you can’t really over spend! Cooking for just 1 or 2 is nice, you don’t need a plan as much – easier to wing it and put stuff together when you aren’t worried about making kiddos happy. :-) Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  11. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

    This is great advice. I tracked our grocery spending in 2010, and we spent about $100/month less than the USDA Thrifty Plan. I do all of the things on your list to some extent. I don’t make as many things from scratch because I work full-time outside the home, but I do make some things like spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, muffins, and veggie burgers, and I do my own chopping or grating of many veggies and cheese that some people would buy pre-cut. We do not eat any meat at home except occasional fish, and we save a lot of money that way.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      That’s awesome! I work 8-3 4 days a week outside the home, and I agree – even working part time makes it hard. Really have to plan ahead and use weekends well. :-) Fresh chopped veggies and grated cheese taste better too! The cellulose coated cheese just doesn’t taste the same. :-) No meat is a great way to save money. We ate a lot more meat on our Whole30 than we normally do but now that that is over our menu is much less meat heavy. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
        1. Deanna Michaels Post author

          Nope, I did not know that!!! Looks like I have some research to do. Thankfully, I don’t buy pre-grated cheeses but from a quick google search it looks like other cheeses might have it as well. Have you come across a list of which brands use it? Agreed, who knows but freshly grated tastes (and melts) way better anyway.

          Reply
  12. Nikki @ MBAsahm

    This is sooo, soooo helpful. Other than our mortgage, our food budget is by far our highest bill and it can be really, really hard to cut back on when you’re used to certain things. Not to mention that sometimes you just run out of time…so I really like your suggestion at always having a quick meal on hand. Too often, a night like that comes up and we end up ordering delivery – which ruins our budget AND isnt healthy! thanks for all of your suggestions :)

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Nikk! So glad that it was helpful. True, when you are used to eating a certain way and certain ingredients it can be hard to adapt – especially for the rest of the family. Maybe making small changes over time and they won’t notice it quite so much. The pantry meal is a great way to start though – definitely cheaper that ordering!

      Reply
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  14. Janell

    Hello! Found you from Frugal Friday Link Up Party. Thanks for sharing these tips. I am going to implement the cooking from scratch tip more in my home.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thanks for your comment and reading! Yay!!! Glad that you are going to cook from scratch more. It really is pretty fun and not too bad as long as you plan. Making extra will help cut down on the time too. :-)

      Reply
  15. chanelle

    I needed to read this post. My grocery budget has been creeping up and it needs to go the other direction! Do you buy organics? I really try to limit our exposure to pesticides and I feel like that makes it really hard to keep the budget down. Also, there are 6 of us and we like eating!
    I am going to focus on meat as a side dish like you mentioned, I think that one tip alone would really help us. Thanks for the great ideas.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Organics definitely make things a little more expensive! I’ve bought the dirty dozen organic at times (the ones I could even get/reasonably afford) but am not currently. I’d love to buy organic or local low spray but we don’t have a lot of options for that. Aldi starting to carry some organic produce has made it a little more affordable again! Maybe just budget a little cushion for buying organic produce, and like you say if you cut back on meat you’d be saving money that way!

      Reply
  16. Vita (@VitaLivesFree)

    Great tips! I use most of these tips already. My favourite way to save money is buying my produce from the farmers’ market, buying fresh meat and fish in bulk when it’s on sale, and visiting 3-4 different stores every time to get all I need.

    Reply
  17. Erin

    I feel better after reading this as I am always trying to find ways to spend less and your ideas match mine so I know that I am doing what I can. We have a family of eight so our mortgage and grocery expenses are pretty close to the same. Lately we are always out of food. Our teenage sons have really stepped up their intensity in sports and work out like crazy, even before and after practice. I was doing well but as prices have climbed along with our kids’ appetites, I think an increase is necessary. Yikes! Don’t know where it’s going to come from, but the kiddos have to eat!

    My husband says they always had sandwich fixes on hand when he was a teen (family of 9 kids, six of them strapping boys!), but lunch meat is crazy expensive here and I make two loaves of artisan bread daily and we still run out. If any moms have ideas for healthy, filling and inexpensive foods for very active teens I would be thrilled to hear them.

    Reply
    1. Erin

      PS Thanks for the USDA link. We spend $400 less per month than the thrifty budget for our family. Wow-I had no idea.

      Reply
    2. Deanna Michaels Post author

      I think that it’s when we stop trying to watch what we spend we get in trouble and our budget starts inching up, so that fact that you are always trying to find ways to save is awesome! Physically active teens would make a huge difference in the amount of food eaten! You are right, sandwich meat (and I guess meat in general) is expensive. Could you do a basic (and affordable) pasta dish for lunch that would have carbs to help fill them up? I make large batches of refried beans and keep them in the freezer – they could make bean and cheese burritos ror a fairly inexpensive snack or lunch (could add rice too). Or having a big pot of soup or beans and rice they can fill up on. Hardboiled eggs and home popped popcorn make pretty easy and affordable snacks too. Hope you can find some good ideas that will help fill them up but not increase your budget too much!

      Yay! Glad you enjoyed the USDA link too. I found it so interesting!

      Reply
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  25. Melanie

    I love the advantage of shopping multiple stores for the best deals, but just don’t seem to have the time with our crazy schedules. Places like Walmart will price match if you have the ad with you (and most of the time they’ll do it without an ad). It’s saved a lot of time!

    Reply
  26. Sheri

    How often do organic meats and produce go on sale? Walmart and Aldi typically do not carry these items that we eat in our family 80% of the time.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      I don’t ever see organic on “sale” at Wal-Mart. My one money saving tip for there is to always check the dates on produce packages – if it is the day or two before the sell by date and they aren’t already marked down – ask them to do it! Great way to get organic for way cheaper. I also always check the better meats for their sell by dates. Our Aldi has started carrying some organic produce, hopefully yours will soon too. Also, a couple times a year we’ll get organic grass fed beef for under $5 a pound!

      Reply
    2. Amy

      Do you have a Fresh Market near where you live? They offer boneless skinless Chechen breasts organic antibiotic free for $2.99/ pound on Tuesdays. This has saved us a lot of money. We also belong to Costco and get grassed beef for $4.49/ pound which is better than other store prices.

      Reply
      1. Deanna Michaels Post author

        I just looked up Fresh Market – the closest one is an hour and 20 minutes away but there’s one where my sister lives, so the next time I visit her I’ll have to check it out! No Costco close by either, but they are building one and hour and 20 minutes away as well. Those are great prices on meats!

        Reply
      2. Sue

        Do you know if the chicken is organic or is it just free of antibiotics? $2.99 for organic chicken would be an amazing price!

        Reply
  27. Lacy

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I have the hardest time making $250 last all month long for our family of 4 with another on the way–it doesn’t help that I’m the worst meal planner! I have tried the different stores before but found it easier to just price match at Walmart and be done! We buy some things in bulk at SAMs too, but I’m glad you shared these tips!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      lol! Yep, meal planning takes time – honestly, I don’t really enjoy figuring out meals to cook but know I have to do it! At least I just torture myself once every couple weeks instead of everyday. :-) I like price matching produce at Wal-Mart when Aldi is sub-par. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  28. siti

    Thanks Deana for the tips…i will try to follow.
    Our budget is always burst due to unplan meals or having meals outside..hope this tips will help
    And i have to get more skills on cooking as well…

    Reply
  29. Amanda Day

    These are some great ideas! We follow most and we do save a ton. I have a family of meat eaters and meat is probably our biggest expense. I find that if I shop at our local stores early in the morning they have a lot of their meats from the day before that didn’t sell marked half off. I just freeze it as soon as I get home and have never had any issues!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thanks, Amanda! Meat definitely is expensive. I LOVE finding marked down meat as well – great way to stretch the budget. I need to figure out what days our grocery stores tend to mark it down and get there more often!

      Reply
      1. Jen

        Our Kroger marks down meat every evening. Shopping early in the morning or late in the evening are the tricks to getting the meat cheap while there is still a wide selection! Today there was hamburger meat, chicken and ribs on mark down. Just ask your meat department. They are usually happy to let you know.

        Reply
  30. Jen

    Our family of 3, soon to be 4, has a budget of $50 a week on groceries. That includes paper products/diapers/wipes… etc along with food items. I follow many of the tips on your site, though I do not plan my meals because I never know which nights my husband will be home for dinner and which he will not until later in the day. On weeks we need relatively few groceries (like this week we only needed bread, orange juice and bananas) I use the rest of the budget to stock up on sale items that we may not need right this moment, but will use in the future. This week, laundry detergent, apples. eggs, chapstick and apple juice were on sale and since I can put those things up and save them for when we need them (well except the eggs, but we will have breakfast for dinner one night when my husband will not be home) I went ahead and got them. Still have room in the budget if the other grocery store has a great Friday sale. Each week they put 10 items on super mark down for one day only, always includes some kind of meat. I do use coupons, but only for items I normally use.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Way to go!!! That’s awesome you can keep it so low including all the miscellaneous items. We cloth diaper so have haven’t had to mess with buying many diapers. It would make it hard to plan food on certain days when you don’t know when your husband is going to be home. I plan days for meals, but they always seem to end up shifting around for some reason. It’s great to be able to stock up on those low grocery weeks. I love when butter goes on sale – I buy lots. :-) (Oh, on the eggs, mine will last a long time! I’ve had them for a month before and they were still good). What a great grocery store. One of ours on occasion as one day sales, but not often and normally it’s all stuff I don’t buy.

      Reply
  31. Chase

    I’ve found that taking cash with me instead of using my debit card makes a huge difference. I typically go to 3-4 stores depending on sales and what I’m after. Whatever money I have leftover from my grocery budget each week goes in to a jar to go towards our next vacation. This year I saved enough to not have to take any money out of the bank for our walking around cash and we used it to pay for a dinner or two as well.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Using cash has made a big difference for us too! What a great idea. Knowing the extra is going towards vacationing would be great incentive to keep the spending even lower. That’s awesome you had so much saved up this year.

      Reply
  32. Randy

    Thank you so much for this article. It verifies everything I’ve been saying for years. In fact, just a few days ago I posted how a family of 4 could eat for as little as $280 a month. Very glad to hear it can be done for even less! I myself make a chicken soup that could feed a family of four their evening meal for a week, and it only costs me about $17. And of course, things like beans, rice, pasta, and lentils go a long way to reducing costs. It just takes time and a little effort, but it seems we’ve gotten used to the idea that effort is a bad thing.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Agreed. It might take some more time than eating out or prepackaged food, but it tastes better, is healthier, and cost less! I’m thinking that outweighs the time spent in the kitchen. :-) I too love making large pots of soup as well – easy and the leftovers are amazing. Thanks for sharing your tips!

      Reply
  33. janice

    I just saw this post via a facebook share. I was interested in seeing if there were any new tips (that I hadn’t read yet). Very little was new, but I did go check out the USDA thrifty plan; we are a family of 4 and spend $400 less than they estimated. We budget $80/2 weeks for grocery items. We have some packaged stuff. But I do A LOT of freezer meals. Not a bunch at one time; that doesn’t work for us. But when I make hot dishes, soups, burritos, etc. I make an extra recipe (or 2). We, also, meal plan for a month at a time. That way I can keep my eyes open for certain items on sale.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      I think those of us that keep our grocery budgets low follow a lot of the same tips! :-) Hooray on keeping your budget so low! Agreed, I don’t do freezer cooking sessions either but it is nice to be able to double what we are already making. Normally we just eat it several time during the week but I should probably do better about sticking it in the freezer for a later date. We went from menu planning one week at a time to two and I I like it so much better. I might have to give a month at a time a try. Thanks for commenting and sharing your tips.

      Reply
  34. donna giblin

    Great article. A bit of common sense and great planning can cut down your bill tremendously. I used to be one who would never shop multiple stores but since food costs have risen so much in the past year I have certainly started to when I see a good sale. But with that….an hour for 3-4 stores???? I have to wait at least half hour just at the deli counter!!!!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Agree 100%! Planning can do wonders. Ha ha, well I suppose I should count my blessings when I don’t like living in my smallish town of 25,000. . . No traffic and everything being with in a mile or two of each other (and Aldi and Wal-Mart directly across the street) has its upsides and being able to hit numerous stores in a hour is one of them! I always do Aldi first and get the bulk of everything there and then Wal-Mart next for a handful of things and the other two stores I might hit up I just grab a couple of things. I don’t really spend a lot of time wondering or browsing. :-)

      Reply
  35. Lora

    My husband and I give ourselves a specific amount of money for the month to buy food. We then divide it into 4 for the weeks in the month and that’s how much money we can spend on food for that week.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Knowing exactly how much you have to spend really makes sticking to it easier! We take our money out for the month and it’s working pretty well so far. The last week we always are emptying our the fridge and pantry, but I suppose that’s not always bad. :-)

      Reply
  36. Ashley

    with Walmart’s Savings Catcher app, you don’t have to go any other places than ALDI and Walmart. Get the app on your phone, then just scan your receipts. They compare all the stores within a certain radius and let you know within two or three days if they found any lower prices. If they did, they refund the difference through an egift card. I’ve saved $11+ since I started using the app, but I only shop there occasionally, doing the bulk of my shopping at ALDI. A friend of mine has gotten $80+ in the short time she’s been using the app.

    I used to be able to shop for groceries for that little, but now that I have a teen son and a preteen son, and portions are bigger, and they’re hungry all the time, the bill has gone up. Still, it’s less than the estimate you gave for your family at the beginning of your post.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Oh wow! What an awesome app. Love that it checks all the ads and basically does price matching for you. I hear you, I know as my kids get older they’ll be eating more. My sister has warned me about my son when he’s a teenager because her husband still eats a ton. :-) When two sons that are older than my kids the estimate for your family would be even higher than what it was for my family because it takes into account gender and ages of those in your family!

      Reply
  37. Sara

    Thanks for these tips! I already follow them myself but I definitely spend more on groceries that you do! Do you really feed your family of four for less than $150 a month? Do you just spend $75 dollars every two weeks and that covers all that you need? Does this include all your toiletries? Just want to make sure I am understanding you correctly! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Correct – we take out $150 the beginning of the month and put it in an envelope. And for your other question, no, we have another envelope for miscellaneous and household items the other stuff comes out of so the 150 is strictly grocery stuff! Sometimes, if we want to buy something in bulk (a couple of years ago we split a side of cow with several people) we’ll save up for it with other money but that doesn’t happen often. I like to set aside 10-30 a month from the $150 to help with purchases like that. It doesn’t always happen though. :-) I live in Oklahoma, so our grocery costs are lower than other parts of the country. I do wish we had a couple other grocery stores in our town though. My kids are also young. I’m sure when they hit middle school and teen years they’ll be eating more.

      Reply
      1. Sara

        My hat goes off to you! Way to go living within this budget. I can definitely trim a few things and your ideas have given me food for thought. Thanks!

        Reply
  38. Lanna

    The thrifty number is about spot on for us. $899/6 (2 adults, 11yo, 8.5yo, 6.5yo kids that eat about like adults, plus a moderate eater of a 4.5yo). I live up north, our growing season is… Short and intense, so most anything from the store has traveled a bit. I buy raw milk (health concerns), aim to buy local critters like cow and pig when available (also render the tallow and lard to use), and can/preserve a ton of food during the summer and stock up at sales (like last week’s bake sale, lowest price on butter all year long).

    We do aim for food as medicine a bit though, which definitely doesn’t work for everyone. Oh, our monthly expense also includes all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for the six of us. We homeschool and hubby works from home, so there’s no school lunches or breakfasts, it’s all on me.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Ha ha, your cold comes early and stays long! I was born in Duluth. I’m not jealous. :-) That’s awesome that you preserve and do so much from scratch. A friend gave us raw milk for our first time last week. My daughter loved it. I agree, if you have the budget for you, buying quality is worth it. Viewing it as medicine is a great thing. I need to do better with meat and dairy. I try to as budget allows. But I figure cooking from scratch and avoiding process foods from the store are a good thing. Food is a big part of life! My husband doesn’t work from home, but takes lunches with him everyday (when he remembers anyway). My oldest is 3 1/2 and we are looking forward to homeschooling! Thanks for stopping by and sharing how food works in your family. Loved reading it.

      Reply
  39. stefanie

    Thanks for the post and inspiration. My boyfriend and I just set a budget of $300 a month…looks like I need to rework that! I meal plan but not around the sales….and he works days I work nigjts. So to avoid him eating out (wont cook if left on his own) i do crockpot and freezer meals. Just completed the Whole30 and he wants to try it….I found out I have an autoimmune disease and hypothyroidism so that means organic eggs….and working towards gluten free then probably paleo…but for now and convenience we are sticking with pastas and stuff to help stretch our dollars a little more! Thanks again for your post and all the other comments and tips are great!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thanks, Stefanie! I’ll tell you, on our WHole30 the grocery budget doubled! I normally eat real/non processed foods, but having to by so much more produce and meat to compensate for no grains, legumes, etc made the cost go drastically up. We spent $300. If you are transitioning to more organic and paleo, your budget might not drop too much, but maybe using the tips and the comments you can keep it from increasing! Thanks so much for commenting!

      Reply
  40. Alex

    I use all of the above when planning my weekly shop and save a lot of money.

    Go through cupboards to see what is left
    I put together a weekly food shop list
    Eat according to the season, so much cheaper
    Plan my meals, Friday evening is left over night here.
    I am also a fan of batch cooking, it saves time and money to cook more than one meal at the time and freeze them for another time.
    I stick to my shopping list and only give in when there is a product on sale which we use, then I stock up.
    I cook from scratch, much healthier, cheaper and tastier.
    Since I only shop once a week, I rely on frozen vegetables later in the week.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Love leftover nights. :-) Yay for fewer dishes and less time spent in the kitchen. Yes, sticking to the shopping list makes a huge difference. Adding things “just in case” really can add up.

      Reply
  41. Amanda

    I have a large family of 7. I’ve been doing meal planning for quite a while on a family budget of $500 a month. When I don’t plan I definitely spend more. Switching the kid’s from processed foods to more home made items has had its challenges and more times then not my older children do not like snacks that I make. I love making more stuff because I know what’s in it and that’s so important. I think I need to shop on a smaller scale and do two weeks instead of the full month because I think for the family size it’s too much to do at once. I often do the fillers too on the in between weeks. I think these are great tips and hopefully trying to shop on the smaller scale will save me money and time!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      It’s crazy what a difference planning can make! Yep, switching to homemade stuff when kids are a little older can be more difficult. :-) I’m the oldest of 8 and I know my mom used to hear or fair share of complaints. Wow! Once a month shopping would be a huge project. If shopping ever two weeks doesn’t work, you can always go back. I really like it because it’s not overwhelming like once a month and I don’t have to plan and shop every week. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  42. Amy

    Wow! Good to know already doing all these tips really does make a difference. According to the thrifty-plan chart for our family, we should be spending $803.80/month. Our budget is half of that per month for groceries AND household needs including diapers for three little ones.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Way to go!!! I’m a firm believer that these tips really can help reduce anyone’s budget, no matter eating style. Someone eating paleo will have a higher budget but these tips will keep it lower that it otherwise would be! Those diapers can be expensive, you are doing great!

      Reply
  43. Hannah

    All great tips, use most of them myself already. I had to chuckle about your going to 3-4 store in an hour! You must shop alone! It takes me an hour and a half to do two stores with my three little ones (5,3, and 1) in tow! I know I could save more if I branched out to a few more stores, but I just don’t have the energy!!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Lol, when I have the kids with me, we just go to two stores and we are done in under an hour. When it’s just my daughter with me, I’ll sometimes do a few more. Having to buckle and unbuckle car seats really make it not as enjoyable (or fast) to hit up more than 1 store! My favorite way to do it is to leave the 18 month old home with dad and have some time with my 3 1/2 year old. You can always hit up more than one store when they are older, sometimes sanity is worth more than a few dollars savings. :-)

      Reply
  44. Ashley

    Thanks for the awesome tips! I will definitely have to try these out! It is still only just me and my husband but better to start planning now than stress about it later!

    Reply
  45. Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life

    I go back and forth getting discouraged and hopeful when I read things like this (and the other comments). I know I spend too much on groceries, and I can think of a few ways to cut back, but I can’t imagine only spending that much on food. It’s not that I think it’s bad, but I just can’t see that happening for us. We have three kids (4, 2, and 10mo) and my husband works from home. I love to cook and make almost everything from scratch. I’ve tried to cut back on meat by using half the ground beef and mixing in mushrooms or beans, and by roasting a whole chicken and just using that meat in soups, pastas, salads, etc. We go through a lot of milk (drinking, making yogurt and cheese), a ton of eggs (breakfasts, fresh pasta, baking), and fresh produce (mainly bananas, apples, and another seasonal fruit). Do you just not buy much of these things? Do you focus more on frozen produce and a breakfast alternative?

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Don’t feel discouraged!!! All of our budgets are different, our grocery stores and locations are different etc. I think we all do the best we can with what we have. We don’t all have to have the same budget. I’d say, just try to shave off a certain amount next month and see how it goes. Incorporating all these tips have really helped us a lot. Cooking from scratch like you already do is a great way to keep costs down (and eat healthier). We do have several meals a week vegetarian and almost all of those with meat, I cut back on the amount. I know that won’t work for every family, though! We buy tons of fresh produce (very little frozen – the only frozen ones I have in my freezer are corn, peas, and green beans) and go through lots of eggs (I have a place I can get them from for $1.50 a dozen though). Milk is the one thing I don’t buy a lot of. We don’t drink it as a beverage so I just use it for making yogurt and for things like pancakes. Breakfasts are things like granola and yogurt, oatmeal, eggs in some form, pancakes, and smoothies. Milk is getting more expensive, so I know that buying multiple gallons of that a week would quickly add up! Don’t feel like you have to shoot for a $150 budget a month or $200 even. Incorporate the tips and just see what you can do! You want what works for your family!!! Have a great week and thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  46. Elisha

    I normally do meal plan and price match, especially on produce but a month ago I had to go gluten, sugar, dairy , and nut free. I grocery bill has skyrocketed. And I do find that towards the end of the month I struggle to find things to eat and I hate cooking two meals every night. I am on such a strict budget because things are tight . I will try to see if some of these will work because this is killing me 😉 thanks for the ideas !

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Agreed! When we did our Whole30 a couple months ago, our budget increased a ton as well. Not being able to to things like rice and beans, let alone the wheat was killer. Hopefully keeping on with your meal planning and shopping in season produce and buying some stuff in bulk will help keep your grocery budget from going any higher. Good luck!!!

      Reply
  47. Alisa Roberts

    Great tips!!! Sometimes it’s easy to fall prey to convenience. Buying instead of shredding cheese saves time, but definitely not money. I do try to stick to organic produce and eggs. If the organic pears are on sale, then I buy a lot of pears and that is the “fruit of the week.” This really helps keep our food bill down.

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Very true. Convenience sucks so many people in. And in reality, grating cheese doesn’t add that much more time! Yes! Stocking up on a good sale is a great way to go. Right now our fruit is apples. I bought 80 pounds or organic juice grade apples and the majority have been make into applesauce but we still have a entire drawer full of the in the refrigerator for eating. It will be a little sad when they are gone. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  48. Juli

    It made me giggle to see a blog post on how to lower your grocery expenses featuring a photo that includes an expensive Louis Vuitton purse. :)

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Lol! Yeah, I’ve had a couple of people tell me that now. Can you tell how un-fashion forward I am – I had no clue. :-) I was looking for pictures to use and found the one with the groceries and wanted a second one – hey a cart with a purse works. Little did I know. . . Maybe she bought her purse used with money she saved on her groceries. Thanks for commenting and making me smile this morning!

      Reply
  49. Erica Marquez

    Im really inspired by your tips, thank you for sharing! I live in Texas and we have a great store called HEB and I can shop there on a budget all the time with ‘combo locos’ as they like to call it- it is a meal deal for instance you buy a particular cut of meat and they give you items for free, not just 1 or 2 items but sometimes as many as 10. Also wanted to mention I love the idea of meal planning here’s why: I have to prepare dinner opposite of what the kids ate for lunch, example if they ate chicken for lunch then I’ll make beef or vegetarian for dinner…in the past I’ve learned from that mistake of cooking a dinner completely the same as lunch! I now consult the schools daily menu as a guide, haha :)

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      My parents live in The Woodlands are and whenever we go visit we HAVE to make a trip or two to HEB. I love it (plus they have some awesome samples). I hadn’t thought about having to take the lunches for kids into school into account when making supper plans! Great point.

      Reply
  50. Mandy Tirado

    WOW! It says that I should be spending $139 a week and $599.30 a month for my family of 4. That’s insane! I’m spending roughly $50 a week. I find it harder to get it down further than that because I have several commitments outside of the home and it’s worth it to me to purchase a couple of convenience foods to have on hand. I know, not ideal, but for us it works. :)

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Way to go! $50 a week is awesome! My philosophy is we do the best we can with the knowledge and resources we have. Time is a resource. :-) So if your budget allows for a few convenience foods, go for it. :-)

      Reply
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  53. Amber

    Thank you for sharing these tips! I want my family to move toward more vegetarian meals in 2015. I am in love with cooking with beans right now as an alternative protein source.

    Reply
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  55. linda

    I’m shocked at how little so many of you spend a month to feed your family…. Especially those of you with teens to feed! It’s just three of us (hubby,16yr old son & myself) plus two dogs & three cats. I’m rarely able to get through a whole week for less than $200 spent on food. Normally I spend around $250!!!! I do buy a lot of organic which does cost more but i also buy a lot of store brand & sale items. I never buy preportioned foods. I make many meals where meat isn’t the star. I cook homemade meals. I preplan meals & make my list accordingly most weeks. I read your tips to see if they could help me reduce the ridiculous amount ($1000) I’m spending a month to feed my family. It seems that I’m already doing many of them though. The town I live in only has one grocery store plus a Walmart. Our grocery store (HEB) has lower prices & far better store brand products, organics, meats & produce so I rarely go to Walmart. I’m going to read over your list of tips again & see which ones I’m not currently doing & then start doing them…. I’m willing to try just about anything at this point. :-)

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Lol! I’ve heard stories about teen boys. . . I’m sure the day is coming when my little guy that eats like a bird will be making me broke. :-) It does sound like you are doing a lot what I do. Bummer you don’t have an Alid – they are starting to carry more organic stuff and the conventional stuff tends to be cheaper as well. My parents live in TX and whenever we go visit I go to HEB several times – they are awesome (and I love all the samples of their yummy foods).

      Reply
    2. Andrea

      Don’t forget that Walmart price matches! The one closest to me would price match items without even seeing proof of the other stores costs. This helped me out a lot when a store regularly sold items for cheaper than Walmart. They also would price match store brands for their store brands. They have recently stopped doing this, but I believe it was just an issue with this particular Walmart. If you decide to do this, I would recommend going to the youngest cashier you see. They are the easiest to deal with.

      One of the things that saves me money is buy limiting what I keep in the pantry. My husband eats anything that is ready to eat. It is really inconvenient to not have snacks in the house, but I think it saves a ton! The only snacks I have are fruits and vegetables.

      I also try to limit the amount of ingredients that go in the meal but do not stretch the meal out further, such as cheese. If a meal is great without cheese, then don’t waste the cheese by adding it to it anyways. When I serve a pasta dish I also like to serve it with toast. Super cheap, and it fills us up. I have heard that serving salads will help, but my husband is anti “rabbit food”.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
      1. Deanna Michaels Post author

        Thanks for sharing your tips! I agree 100% on snacks. We really don’t do them in our house either. Bahaha, your rabbit food comment made me laugh, I’ve heard my father-in-law call it that as well. I also cut back on things like cheese and meat as well. Shaun notices the meat, but nobody as ever said anything about the cheese.

        Reply
        1. Andrea

          I was a waitress for close to 7 years. A lot of the times when I would offer a man a salad, that was the response I got (“I ain’t no rabitt”). I live in Texas, so that might be te reason lol.
          My husband notices me cutting back on both meat and cheese all the time, but he doesn’t have much to say about it. He doesnt really have the choice. I buy all the groceries and cook lol. I have recently switched to blocked cheese and that makes me use it less too.

          Reply
          1. Deanna Michaels Post author

            lol! That’s awesome! I waitressed in a Mexican restaurant so I didn’t have to offer salads, ha ha.

            Yep, that sounds like my family! I do the cooking, menu planning, and shopping so Shaun does a pretty good job about not saying anything. I just know in his mind, more meat and cheese is always better. :-) I love using blocked cheese – I think it tastes better too!

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  57. Saving Sanely

    I agree 100%! These are the same principles I follow to keep my grocery bill under $75 a week. It is hard work, but totally worth it. Groceries are always the first place I look when I need to pare down my expenses. Thanks for the great read!

    Reply
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  59. Andrea

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I especially love that you shared the link for the USDA estimates. I just checked it out and I’m saving 25% of what they estimate. I am still trying to cut down the cost of grocery shopping as much as possible…
    I used to go to different grocery stores to shop, then I had my son… He is 5 months old now and I don’t want to bother loading him in and out of the car. When you go grocery shopping at multiple stores in an hour, do you take your children?
    Also, I see that you reply to everyone’s comments and I read the brief information about you. I love hearing that you have your two kids and still manage to save money, cook every night, and keep up with this. Thank you. :)

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      You are so welcome! Grocery spending is nice – it’s one of those things you can slowly reduce. Way to go on spending less and you’ll do great as you continue to find ways to save.

      I hear you, it’s definitely not as quick when the kids come along. If I have both kids with me, I’ll just go to one or two stores. If it’s just me or I have only my 4 year old I’ll hit up more if I need to. Another thing I like to do is if I have just one thing I need from another store is see if my husband can pick it up on his way home from work or if he’s doing a Lowe’s trip.

      Aww. Thanks for your sweet comment! I’ll be honest, I don’t cook every night – leftovers rock. :-) You probably saw the post on ways I spend less time in the kitchen and leftovers are a huge part of that. Quick and easy back up recipes also help a lot.

      Reply
  60. Melissa

    I love you tips and follow then and as a result have lowered our grocry budget from 800 a month to 400 in the last two months for a family of three but I have no idea how you can only spend 150 per month. Do you have a post of examples of what you actually buy in a given month? I would love to get my budget down lower.

    Reply
  61. Frances

    I live on Long Island NY and it is way expensive here I do coupon but…. there are 4 adults in the house and I am a diabetic. I dont drive so it’s hard to get to more then 1 store. I really need a way to lower my bill..Local farmers markets cost more then buying in the store and buying part of a cow or anything like that is not around here. Anyone else from Long Island with some tips???

    Reply
  62. Bekah

    I have no idea how you can spend 1/4 or $550 for 4 people. I spend $400 for just my husband and I, AND we’re vegetarian. I usually shop on Sundays, try to keep it at $100 or under, and that honestly covers it all (breakfast foods, 5 planned dinners, and a few lunch options). Mind you, I do try to buy organic when I can, but not always. I used to spend $450-500 before I really started planning. But $400 is about where I’m at., and we don’t even eat meat.

    Reply
  63. kiki

    This is an awesome article, thank you for sharing! I have a family of four 2 adults and one 5 yr old and a 5 month old, I am terrible at meal planning and I definitly almost always go to the store unprepared and buy items that I sometimes dont use. I feel so sick with guilt about the whole dilemma and this article was a real eye opener for me. I’m excited and nervous to start, but I’m going to and hope for the best. For clarification, do you go shopping twice a month and plan your meals around those two shopping days, or do you start planning your meals and then go shopping and your second shopping trip would be to just get items you still need? Sorry if that sounds so stupid, but just would like to get a clear idea so I can do it right, thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thanks, Kiki! You got this. :-) Baby still will get you there and not burn you out! I plan my meals for 2 weeks at a time – I find planning a month worth at a time too stressful for me and things always seem to come up. Two weeks is doable because if stuff comes up and there are meals we didn’t use or enough for leftovers another meal it’s fine – they can just carry over when I’m planning the next two weeks. You might have to mess with it a while and figure out what works best for your family – meal planning will definitely help, it’s just going to be what form of it you like and can stick to!

      Reply

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