A large portion of my frugal lifestyle is dedicated to what I eat. Since I’m trying to save aggressively and cut back on expenses, the grocery bill can definitely become an obstacle.
Luckily I’ve learned how to successfully maintain a $300 monthly grocery budget for my family of three and stick to it each month. I’m aware that this is somewhat low, but I’ve seen lower and I’ve seen higher with some people spending $700+ each month on groceries alone. A $300 monthly grocery budget currently works very well for my family of 3. By no means are we skimping on portions, cutting out meals or on the edge of starvation.
We’re eating good, eating healthy, and spending less.
I personally love food and no matter how much debt I’m in I could never compromise my love for good quality food. I didn’t try to break down exactly how much money goes toward specific categories of our grocery budget like breakfast foods, snacks, and produce for example, but in this post I’m my best hacks that I employ each month to ensure we stay within our grocery budget so that you can apply what works for you and cut your own grocery spending. Enjoy!
Check Out Newspaper Ads
The first thing I do when I’m preparing for a shopping trip is to check the circulars and local ads that come in the mail each year. Yes, those pesky weekly ads from local grocery stores are sent to your house for a reason – so you can actually utilize them! It only takes a few minutes to browse through the weekly ads to see fruits, meats and other items that are on sale that might interest you.
It only takes a few minutes to browse through the weekly ads to see fruits, meats and other items that are on sale that might interest you. I don’t just look for sales for random products. I highlight sales on items I’m actually interested in buying.
For example, my family eats a lot of seafood so if I notice a particular store has a sale during the week of my shopping trip, I’ll make note of it and pick up the item we need there. Grocery store circulars are also great for produce sales especially if you shop organic.
If you don’t feel like saving all that paper and looking through the sales manually each week, you can use a mobile app to gather weekly sales for you just like your newspaper circular would.
Flipp is a great app that lists updated circulars digitally so you can scan through sales from your phone. This free app gathers local flyers and even help you plan out your grocery list. Favado is an app created by Savings.com that helps to prepare a shopping list based on store promotions and what’s currently on sale.
If you’re looking to actually earn a little money from shopping and scoring weekly deals at your local grocery store, I’d highly recommend checking out Ibotta. Ibotta is an app that pays you through cash back rebates you can earn before you start shopping. You can look for deals on the app, then go to the store and pick up the item you need.
After your shopping trip, you can upload a photo of your receipt and you’ll be rewarded with cash back in less than 24 hours. You can earn a $10 welcome bonus when you first start using Ibotta within the first 7 days.
Plan Meals, Make a Grocery List
Meal planning is essential if you want to cut your grocery bill down. Not to mention, making a detailed grocery list of exactly what you plan to buy can prevent you from spending too much time in the store as well. I used to hate when I didn’t make shopping lists because I would always find myself wandering around the store for well over an hour picking up extra crap that I knew I didn’t need. Making a list keeps you organized and on track with your budget.
I absolutely love meal planning but it takes a certain level of creativity to be able to switch things up so you’re not eating the same thing over and over. I check out food blogs for inspiration and I’m always up to try something new. This allows my family and me to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of variety.
If meal planning and prep isn’t your forte, I’d highly recommend simplifying this aspect of your life by signing up for the $5 Meal Plan. For just $5/month you’ll get healthy and affordable recipes and shopping lists delivered to your inbox weekly. The $5 Meal Plan also has gluten-free and picky-eater-friendly recipes, plus you can try it out for free for 2 weeks. You’ll love it!
Cook Your Meals
I know this sounds obvious, but you actually have to cook your food if you want to save money on groceries. Buying ingredients and cooking your food is not only healthier than buying frozen processed food at the store, but it’s cheaper too.
I love to cook and discover new recipes but you don’t have to be Betty Crocker to do it either. Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore if you don’t make it one. There are plenty of easy and quick recipes you can look up online and you can even alternate cooking nights with someone else in your household.
You can even rotate cooking responsibilities in your household or meal prep and cook ahead. This is something I’m trying to get into the habit of doing more. My husband usually has 1-2 off days during the week and he takes over cooking responsibilities and some nights I just cook a ton of food for two nights so we will have leftovers.
During the summer, my husband grills a lot and he cooks double portions so we can have leftovers the next day. I also have a hard time cooking on Fridays because it’s usually a busy day or a relax day. In order to avoid buying takeout, I stock up on a few frozen pizzas to throw in the oven and everyone is usually happy.
It’s not the healthiest solution, but a cheat day every now and then doesn’t hurt and it gives me a night off from cooking.
Limit Your Trips to the Store
When I make a shopping list I try to plan out meals and snacks to last us two weeks. This is one of the main reasons why I am able to keep my grocery bill so low. I really don’t like the crowded hustle and bustle of the grocery store anyway so shopping only twice a month is perfect for me. Limiting my trips to the store also limits the opportunities I have to overspend which helps me stay within the budget.
I really don’t like the crowded hustle and bustle of the grocery store anyway so shopping only twice a month is perfect for me. Limiting my trips to the store also limits the opportunities I have to overspend which helps me stay within the budget.
If you’re going to limit trips to the grocery store as well and shop less than once a week, you need to be mindful of the shelf life for certain types of foods.
For example, if your goal is to only go grocery shopping once every two weeks, you don’t want to buy a ton of produce and food that will go bad before the two weeks is up. You’ll wind up with a ton of food waste if you do that.
We usually throw all our meat into the freezer or seperate it beforehand if we know we’re not going to prepare it in the next 48 hours. We also freeze milk and bread sometimes. For produce, I happen to know how long certain foods will last off hand, but if you’re looking for a detailed guideline, this resource is great to tell you how long your fruits and vegetables will last so you can eat the more perishable ones first.
Buy Produce In Season
We love fruit in my house but let’s face it, there’s a season for everything. I love strawberries, cherries, and blueberries but in the winter they get super expensive, plus they don’t even taste good so there’s no need for me to spend extra money to buy over-ripe or under-ripe fruit.
Buying produce in-season is an easy way to save yourself a nice chunk of money each shopping trip. If I bought $7 bags of cherries in the winter, I probably wouldn’t be able to maintain my $300 monthly grocery budget.
Stockpiling is another crucial factor that helps me stay within my budget. I stock up on non-perishable goods, seasonings, condiments, flour, sugar, box cake mixes, pasta, dry beans, rice and anything else I know we will eat. Having a large stockpile allows me to be somewhat flexible with my meal planning and it also prevents me from having to run back to the store every week.
Since I have certain goods stocked up, I have the luxury of waiting until the next sale to stock up on that item again. You can also stock up on meat and other produce as well since you can freeze meat for several months. In the fall, I buy
In the fall, I buy fresh pumpkin and puree it then stick it in the freezer for yummy pumpkin snacks and meals throughout the year. To stockpile and freeze your food, you’ll just need more storage space like a large pantry and a deep freezer. Here is a great resource from FoodSafety.org that tells you how long you can store and freeze certain types of foods.
Buy In Bulk
If you know you eat a lot of something, buy it in bulk! I love my Sam’s Club membership (even though I don’t use it every single month) because I can stock up on some of our favorite foods for less.
Buying in bulk can save you lots of money even if you’re buying something other than food. My son loves fruit snacks and since we buy the organic kinds, it can get a little pricey.
However, we keep costs manageable by buying them in bulk because we get more for our dollar so everyone’s happy.
I used to coupon and I’d like to get back into it. But since I haven’t done it much lately I can’t count couponing as a current factor that helps me cut my grocery bill down to $300/month.
However, couponing is an effective way to save money on items at the grocery store if you do it correctly. Currently, I’m on the lookout for coupons for natural, quality products as opposed to processed and frozen food.
Don’t Make Your Budget An Option
Another reason why I was able to stick to spending around $300/month on groceries for so long is because that used to be all the money we had set aside for food.
Back when my income was lower and I wasn’t as financially stable, going over the budget wasn’t really an option. Now, we maintain our grocery budget because we like to save money and because we can. It doesn’t negatively affect us in any was since we’re still eating well and eating healthy.
If you set a grocery budget/limit, and commit to it like you have no extra room in your monthly budget to overspend, you will be able to successfully cut your grocery bill down to a reasonable amount for you and your family.
This is how we eat delicious, nutritional and well-balanced meals while sticking to our monthly budget. Would you try any of these methods? Are you comfortable with your current grocery budget and if not, what are you currently doing to cut your grocery bill?
My Favorite Resources
Ebates – This is my favorite and easiest way to earn cash back for regular online shopping. Ebates partners with most online retailers to help you apply coupons to your purchases AND cash back. They pay me a nice check every quarter with my earnings.
CapitalOne 360 – My favorite high-yield online savings account. Earn $25 when you open an account.
Survey Junkie – Earn money taking surveys online
Opinion Outpost – Another legit survey company I like. My husband uses this site to earn extra money we can spend on dining out
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