$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.
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:
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?
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