I recently posted a photo of a recent grocery haul on social media. The caption stated that it cost $45 and that it would feed my family for a week. That post sparked the curiosity of many a reader and received a lot of comments from people who want help shrinking their grocery budget. Good news friends, I’m here to help share my secrets!
First, let me explain why we have a grocery budget and such a modest one at that. My husband and I both work full time jobs receive good steady income; however, like many people after college we weren’t wise with our money. With student loan debt being the biggest cloud looming over our head, we decided to buckle down and basically live off of one income, while most of the other income goes toward debt. Could we eat steak and lobster every night? I’m sure we could, but we’d much rather attack our mountain of debt with a bulldozer than with a plastic spoon. We had to make sacrifices, and one of the easiest places I found to do so was in our grocery budget. My method of saving isn’t perfect every time, but I have spent a few years trying to get it just right.
Every Family is Different
There are some key things to keep in mind when deciding to get a handle on your grocery bill. Please keep in mind that every family is different. Mine is made up of two adults and a toddler. If you are feeding three teenage boys you may not be able to accomplish what I do. The main takeaway here is that you save money and watch your grocery spending decrease compared to in the past. We also don’t have any diet restrictions, we don’t eat organic, and we aren’t scared to eat/use generic products. You will have to choose what is important for your family and adjust your budget accordingly.
Time is Money
The more you plan the more you can save. I went to FOUR different grocery stores in order to get all of the groceries in the picture for $45. Do I do this every week? OF COURSE NOT! Time is money, but this week I was willing to sacrifice an extra hour to go to those extra stores because the sales were worth it. I also only go shopping once a week. I get what I need during those times and get creative when I run out of an ingredient. Going to the store multiple times a week takes extra time (that you probably don’t have) and increases your chances of spending extra money.
It’s a Mindset
If you want something bad enough you will work hard to achieve it, right? Well, I want to be debt free so bad that I’ll drive to four stores to get 99 cent peanut butter and on sale fruit! You have to stay focused on the end result and be willing to make those short term sacrifices to reap the long term reward.
Meal Planning is Key
It doesn’t make much sense to buy all of this food just to throw it in the trash a week later. Meal planning is key. I buy what is on sale and combine those items with what I already have to make the meals. Get a game plan for what you buy and PLAN to use it.
Now that we have those things out of the way, here is how I plan and my personal hacks to help you stay on track!
Study at your Sales Ads
When I say study, I mean study! Become a scholar in grocery trends. Know when it’s a good time to stock up on an item and become an expert on sales and promotions. The longer you look at the ads, the sharper your skills will become. I get my ads in the mail on Tuesdays. I look at the ads and circle what the best deals are (the best are normally on the front page). I have been doing this for so long that I have price points in my head. For example, I won’t buy chicken breast unless it is less than $1.99 per pound. So, when I saw that my local grocery store had them for $1.69 per pound I circled it and made sure it was on my list. I know you may be thinking, “Wow Lacey, that’s a lot of work for thirty cents savings”, and you’re right! However, I also know that when you apply that concept to multiple items on your list your savings add up and that thirty cents is now $5 or $10 and you can stock up on more items. I also have similar price points for fruit and other grocery staples. Once you find the good deals, write your list and think about how your will use those ingredients. Then fill in the rest of your list with the items that may not be on sale, but you need them weekly or need to replace them (think milk, diapers, toilet paper, etc.).
Use a Pickup Service
If searching through ads and going to multiple stores is not your thing, I highly suggest a grocery pickup service! These services are popping up at grocery stores all over the place. My favorite is Walmart Grocery. I can use their app and build my list through the week. I know exactly how much I am spending and can adjust my cart to stay within budget. I schedule a pickup time and my groceries are brought to my car. This is a lifesaver for parents with children. Here is a link for $10 off your first pickup order!
Enjoy $10 off your first order from Walmart Grocery.
Generic is ok, actually it’s a must for us to keep on track
Remember when I talked about multiplying thirty cents of savings across your whole shopping cart (or buggy for my southern friends)? You can do the same thing if you switch to generic items. For example, I paid 50 cents for a can of generic beef broth. Did you know the name brand is almost double the price? Can you see your grocery bill shrinking by swapping just a few items to generic?
If I’m going to give you real advice, I’m also going to show you real numbers. Y’all, this it possible and here is real proof. Here are the items I purchased and the price:
2 gallons of milk $4.78
Generic granola bars $2.00
Generic crackers $1.98
2 cans generic beef broth $1.00
2 packets of generic taco seasoning $.88
Salt and pepper $1.48
4 rolls of generic toilet paper $.68
Generic trash bags (7 count) $.98
Generic baby wipes $.98
Generic diapers $4.42
Total receipt before tax $19.18
Generic apple juice FREE from rewards program
4 cans of generic vegetables $1.96
Skippy Peanut Butter $.99
18 ct. carton of eggs $1.99
Total before taxes: $5.40
Sprouts Farmers Market: (they were having a great sale on produce)
4 peaches $.73
4 pears $.68
5 roma tomatoes $1.29
.84 pounds of fresh green beans $.74
Half pint of blueberries $.98
Whole Cantaloupe $.98
Yellow Squash .72
Total before taxes $6.12
2.4 lbs. chicken breast $4.07
3 lbs. ground beef $7.89
Total before taxes: $11.96
Grand total: $42.66
Yay! With a can-do attitude and some planning, you can see that you can get a cart full of groceries without breaking the bank! I plan on using these items with what I currently have to create five meals this week. Here is a simple meal plan that I plan on using with a stocked refrigerator and pantry:
Eggs and toast, fresh fruit, cereal and milk, oatmeal, omelets, smoothies
Leftovers from dinner
Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh green beans
Poppyseed chicken casserole
Chicken with squash and a cucumber, tomato and onion salad
Crockpot Southwestern style chicken
Granola bars, fresh fruit, boiled eggs
Grocery budgeting is a skill. In fact, it’s such a skill that there are thousands of blogs that teach it. Any skill takes time an practice to develop. Don’t get discouraged if you blow your budget. It’s important to celebrate those small victories as your learn how to tackle the giant grocery budget chore. I have faith in you. Keep the positive attitude and remember why you need to grocery budget in the first place!
I love success stories! Please share your grocery success stories with me. If this blog post helped you please share it with your friends!
Are you interested in fine tuning your budget even further? Email me and let’s discuss ways we can work together to get you on track!