Last week, I saw this post on Facebook from One Beautiful Home:
It stirred up a lot of controversy! At one point in time, I would have also thought that $440 a month for a family of 4 was completely asinine. Our family was easily spending over $800 a month on food! But, since we’ve started our debt free journey, we slowly evolved to be pretty on point with $440.
Before I continue, I want to emphasize the point of this post is not to make anyone feel inadequate because their grocery budget is “too high.” Grocery budgeting is not a competition. Rather, I’d like to get you thinking about ways you can reduce your current grocery budget – whatever it may be – and have more money left over for other things.
Our monthly grocery budget – which includes food, paper towels, toilet paper and laundry detergent for 2 adults, 1 school-aged child and 1 toddler– includes:
- $110 for warehouse club
- $90 for the first week of the month
- $75 per week for all remaining weeks (For a 4-week month, this is $240; For a 5-week month, it is $320)
Here’s How We Make It Work!
- Make a Monthly Food Budget in CASH– This is KEY. If you have a monthly food budget in CASH – and bonus points if you divide it into a weekly food budget- you will only be able to spend what you have. No more panic in the checkout line and wondering, “How in the world did I spend $500?!”
- Buy Only What You Need to Last ONE Week/Month – Because you are now on a monthly food budget, it is not helpful to buy a huge box of granola bars that will last until next Christmas. That money could be used for things needed right now. Yes, it’s sounds tempting and may make mathematical sense long term…but it is going to cause you to go over budget short term. We buy enough meat and coffee to last a month. All other items, buy only enough to last a week.
- Make a List – For the love, do not ever go to the store without a plan. It will not work. You will overspend. First, look at your pantry and see what you have. Then, make your meal plan for the week. The most cost effective dinners do not have a lot of weird ingredients you don’t normally have on hand. Also, simple meals are more likely to get prepared at the end of a long day.
- Turn Off Autopilot – Only buy what you need to fill in the gaps for your weekly meals. For example, if you are out of ketchup, but your weekly meal plan does not call for ketchup you are not going to buy it. There is no reason to buy something you don’t need.
- Buy (some things) In Bulk: Here’s the thing about shopping at warehouse clubs: When your cart is full of your $110 of bulk groceries, get your things and GO! It’s time to shut down this shopping trip, lest you walk away with enough toilet paper for a class of potty-training toddlers and a big screen TV. At Costco, we purchase meat for the month. Oh – and coffee! We can’t forget coffee! We typically purchase:
- Pork Loin
- Ground Beef
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
- Bacon (if we have enough money left over after the above items are spoken for)
Once we get home, the meat is divided into enough freezer bags for 15+ meals. The remaining meals we need for the month come from leftovers, breakfast nights, pizza nights, or quesadillas and homemade fries.
- Buy Food Everyone Will Eat – If you have littles, it is easy to get suckered into buying “kid food”. We always have applesauce on hand – not the pouches because they think very highly of themselves. But, that’s about the only food we have all members of our family will not eat. We don’t do apple juice or juice boxes. We don’t buy lunchables, chicken nuggets, easy mac or Goldfish. I can’t afford to spend money on food that is not for the entire crew. Sounds crazy, but the kiddos always have something to eat.
- You Might Have to Cheat on Your Fav Store – Publix is my all-time favorite grocery store: it’s clean, the staff are friendly and helpful and it doesn’t smell like stale food. But, BOGO deals aside, it can be expensive. About 2-3 years ago, and Aldi opened across the street from Publix. I started shopping there because I knew I could get what I needed within budget. Now, I’m hooked. I can save so much money with no coupons! It’s amazing. No Aldi? No problem. You can still save on your weekly groceries. Try out a different store, or check out www.southernsavers.com. This is a great site where you can see what is on sale at your favorite grocery store, if it’s a good price and what coupons are out there for that item.
- Take It Slow – If you are currently spending $800 a month on groceries, it isn’t realistic to think you can cut that in half next month. Instead, try shaving $50 off next month’s grocery bill and adjust from there. You want to set yourself up for success, not frustration and failure. In a few months, you’ll get there!
There you have it! This routine works well for our family and I hope you can find some helpful tips that will work for your too! Is there a money saving tip you would like to share? Post in the comments below!