Do you know how much you spend on groceries each month?
I’ve been keeping track for years. Back in 2009 when it was just 3 of us, and one of us was only 4 years old, our grocery budget was only $150 per month. I’m still not quite sure how we managed that. I do know that we’d crash our parents’ houses at dinnertime often – but they were always happy to oblige.
Our grocery budget is still extremely low compared to the rest of the country.
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- There are now four in our family – with bigger appetites and our grocery bill has definitely gone up. Our two kids are 6 and 12.
- We eat gluten free.
- We eat very healthy food – and buy a ton of produce, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains etc.
- We buy a lot of natural items and whole, organic foods (not all organic – but when we can).
- I don’t coupon – unless something crazy good pops up.
- I do most of my shopping at 3 places – but could get by at 1 if I had to.
- My budgeted amount includes toiletries, makeup, paper products, household cleaners etc. Not just food.
- We live on the east coast where the cost of living is probably somewhere in the middle to about 10% less than average across the country.
The Thrifty Family Plan on this that fits closest to our situation, is $642.50 per month.
Right now our grocery budget is between $500 and $600 per month.
I share that with you so that you know – It is possible to eat a very healthy diet even with food allergies, on a very affordable budget. We are well below the National Average Thrifty Plan even with our dietary restrictions and the extra non-food items we purchase. This number does not include our eating-out cost – which is only an additional $100-$125 per month.) I’m always a little puzzled when people say it’s more expensive to eat healthy. I save money by not buying a ton of junk food.
So – how do we do it? I sat down to really look at my strategies for keeping our food budget reasonable, and this is what I want to share with you.
Take a look at your cart when you’re doing shopping. Can you take out an item or two? It can save you an easy $10 per week (minimum) shaving a quick $40+ from your monthly budget.
*MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN, MEAL PLAN*
Take 10 minutes and plan your meals. Check your pantry to see what you already have. I know I’m guilty of having multiple items because I can’t remember if I need something and keep re-purchasing it! Eggs are the number one culprit.
Think up some quick, cheap meals that you can make at home.
***USE UP WHAT YOU HAVE***
Throwing food away is throwing money away. When you meal plan you should be able to only buy what you need and therefore have less waste.
***COOK FROM SCRATCH***
No time? Just start small. On a Sunday afternoon, try to cook a big batch of soup, muffins or an egg casserole to eat for the week.
Plan meals that you cook at home in 30 minutes. Keep it simple – just buy whole ingredients without a lot of extras.
A lot of box-mixes are just flour, sugar, and baking soda/powder in an over priced smaller package. You might be shocked by how easy it is to make cupcakes and cookies without one.
***REPACKAGE BULK ITEMS***
For school lunches (I pack well over 300 a year) I buy large bags of pretzels and almonds and separate them in individual packages or containers. If I buy yogurt, I buy the large organic container (from Aldi, but Sam’s has them too). This saves a TON of money. The next time you’re at the store – check prices and weights of individual packages verses the bulk sizes. If we’re counting calories – we use our food scale to measure an appropriate serving.
These are my absolute FAVORITE SCHOOL LUNCH containers. Extremely inexpensive, leak proof containers that will save you a lot of money on plastic sandwich bags. Ziplock discontinued these for the longest time – and I was so upset that I actually wrote to them! Thankfully, they finally brought them back and I was probably a little too excited when I ran to stock up! You can get them at Target or on Amazon.*BUY YOUR MEAT AND PRODUCE FROM WAREHOUSE STORES*
For us, the cost of the membership was worth it – but if you can tag-a-long with a friend who has one, you can save even more. Produce and meat are great quality and much cheaper than smaller grocery stores. I often find bulk almond flour, nuts, meat, yogurt, and healthy organic snacks there for excellent prices. I also buy toothpaste, shampoo, hand soap, ibuprofen and vitamins there. The cost for those are included in our grocery budget as well.
Now – I do need to repackage and freeze meat when I get home (which I honestly don’t feel like doing after a big grocery shop), but it’s so nice to always have something around in the freezer when I need to make something for dinner…Now, it’s remembering to thaw it that’s the problem.
*DECIDE THE BEST PLACE(S) TO SHOP*
I mostly shop at Aldi and Sam’s. We like to drink purified water so we will make a stop at Walmart occasionally to refill our gallons (only 37 cents each!) and for other odds and ends (like Purdue gluten free chicken tenders – They’re the best.)
Aldi has organic produce, meats, yogurts and tons of well-priced gluten free items. I find the big-box stores extremely expensive and I almost never do my grocery shopping there.
This is honestly exactly how I handle our grocery budget. We’ve been doing it this way for so long, it’s second nature. Now hopefully you too are equipped with a few new ideas to cut your bill down and save a few dollars each month.