Meal Planning, The Budget

The $150 Grocery Budget

The hubs held his first rodeo team meeting of the semester last week. Being the coach’s wife that I am, I had the privilege of tending to our fussy baby outside of the auditorium where the meeting was held. While outside, I saw a flyer encouraging students to buy a meal plan. One of the benefits of a meal plan was that the average person spends around $150 a week in groceries and a meal plan could help reduce that. Whoa, hold up. That is a ton of money for a college student! My little family has a pretty strict budget (thanks student loans) and a component of our household budget is our grocery budget. My goal is to spend $150 on groceries and household needs every two weeks or every time I get my paycheck. Yes, that’s correct. I try not to spend more than $150 every two weeks to feed 3 adults and a baby. My husband’s sister just moved in with us to attend school and I have made it my new “challenge” to keep us fed without raising that dollar amount. Not only do I buy all of our food, I also purchase our cleaning supplies, toiletries, and the baby’s needs on $150 on a biweekly basis. Are you intrigued yet? Here are my tips on how you can lower your grocery bill.

1. You can’t be too picky.
If you truly have a goal to stretch your grocery dollars you can’t be a brand snob. There is nothing wrong with generic brands; in fact they make up the majority of my cart. If it comes down to name brand toilet paper or an extra box of cereal you can bet we have generic toilet paper on our rolls. You need to be flexible. I also don’t buy organic; it just doesn’t fit into the budget right now. However, I tend to purchase whole foods that are as close to the source as possible. The majority of my shopping is done around the perimeter of the store and I don’t buy as much from the middle isles where the processed foods are located.

2. Plan your meals around what is on sale and commit to cooking what you buy.
I could write so many posts on this subject. I can’t preach on this enough. When you meal plan around the sales you stretch your dollars so much further! Is chicken on sale? Great! Find ways incorporate cheap and on sale ingredients into your meals. I love meat sales for this reason.

3. Stop going to the store so often
I have made it a habit to go grocery shopping once every two weeks. There are so many benefits to this. When you go to the store often you are more prone to impulse buys and that means spending more money. Also, when you know you won’t be going to the store for two more weeks you teach yourself to use what you have on hand. This means less waste and less throwing your money into the garbage can. I love biweekly shopping trips because they are a huge time saver as well!

4. Know your limit
Once you really start paying attention to prices you’ll start to develop a sense of whether or not something is a good deal. For example, I’m not willing to spend more than $1 on a box of pasta or $1.99 per pound on chicken breast. So, when I see those items on sale at a cheaper price I know it’s time to buy them. The more you do this the more you’ll learn when it’s time to stock up!

With those three tips in mind, here is how I personally plan my grocery trips and stay on track with the budget.

5.  Get the sales ads
I get sales ads in my mailbox every Tuesday. That means I have three evenings to make a list, check it twice and plan before paycheck Friday and my grocery day. I have two stores where I like to shop: Albertsons and Walmart. I also get a smaller local grocery chain’s ad and Walmart will match their prices.

6.  Make your list
Go through the sales ads and read the fine print and sales specifics. I’ve learned you find the best deals on the front and back of your ad. See what’s on sale and think about what you can make with those items with what you have on hand or other items you can purchase at a discount. Don’t ever go to the store without your list and a plan!

I’m going to share with you some highlights from my last shopping trip. I spent $154.78. I realize I went over my budget a little and I’m ok with that; you need a target to shoot for or else you’ll fill your cart with crap and still wonder what’s for supper. I also visited coupons.com to see if there were any coupons I could print. Free money! This may seem like information overload but I really want to show you how possible this is. Here we go:

  • 4 boxes of cereal
  • 12 rolls of toilet paper
  • Large canister of coffee
  • 18 ct. carton of eggs
  • 2 gallons of milk
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • 4 bags of frozen vegetables
  • 5 lbs. 80% ground beef
  • 4 packages of cheese
  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • 1 bag of sweet potatoes
  • 1 bag of red potatoes
  • 2 bags of spinach
  • 2 cartons of strawberries
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 bunch of bananas
  • 2 cucumbers
  • Saltines
  • 3 boxes of granola bars
  • Cat litter
  • Cat food
  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 2 bottles of coffee creamer
  • 2 dairy free yogurts
  • Almond milk
  • 3 cans of tuna
  • 2 boxes of pasta
  • 24 ears of frozen corn
  • Storage bags
  • Trash bags
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Box of 800 baby wipes
  • 2 cantaloupe
  • 1 canister of protein powder
  • 1 case of sparkling water

I also used the Ibotta app and submitted my lists for $5.25 in rebates. Please let me know if you’d like to sign up for Ibotta!

Here’s how I plan you use my groceries I just bought; keep in mind this isn’t my first rodeo and I have other items in my pantry to cook with. Please please please reach out to me for recipes or details on any of these meals. I’d love to share!

 

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Spinach and cheese omelettes Spinach Pasta Salad Pasta w/ meat sauce & salad
Breakfast cups (Family Favorite) Leftovers Meat Loaf, Mash Pot, Frozen Veggies
Banana Pancakes Leftovers Cheeseburger quesadillas
French Toast Leftovers Taco pasta casserole
Cereal Leftovers Depends what’s left

 

Snacks
Fresh Fruit
Cheese & Crackers
Cottage Cheese and Cantaloupe
Smoothies with added protein powder/td>

 

Once again, feeding your family on a budget is very doable. It takes a little effort, planning and commitment but it is totally worth it. Take baby steps with this and don’t expect miracles on your first attempt. I would pick a reasonable number and try to improve on that number each trip until you’ve found a good fit for you and your family. Give yourself some grace; learning to budget is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn after a couple trips to the store.As said before, please reach out to me. If you’re struggling with saving money at the store and you think I can help text me, message me, send smoke signals or do whatever it takes. I’d love to help you one on one and share what I’ve learned so far. This method has been such a blessing to my family and is helping us achieve our financial goals.Please drop your tips and questions in the comments!

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