Do you budget your grocery spending each month? Is your grocery budget one of the most difficult categories to maintain? I’d be lying if I said we didn’t run into some issues with sticking to our grocery budget for my family of three.
Food is an essential expense that no one wants to skimp on. And no one should ever have to in an ideal world. I’m a big foodie and I love to eat, but I’m the type of person who doesn’t want to overspend on hardly anything. Each month we try to stick to a $150 grocery budget every two weeks. That’s only $300 a month, and it is possible, even with such a small budget!
Sometimes we go over, especially during holidays, birthdays, and other events. But for the most part, we stick to the $150 grocery budget and shop twice a month or every two weeks.
A Snippet of Our Grocery Spending
Here’s what a grocery list could look like from week to week:
Corn tortillas: $1.44
Thin Chicken Breasts: $6.47
Whole Chicken Wings: $4.88
Fruit Snacks x2: $4.00
Granola Bars x2: $5.96
7-100 Calorie packs of walnuts and almonds: $3.24
Veg. Oil x2: $4.56
Can of cinnamon rolls: $2.18
Alfredo Sauce: $1.77
DiGiorno Pizza x2: $10.00
Hotdog buns: $2.00
Beer Bratwurst: $3.50
Organic strawberries: $1.50
This is a typical shopping list for us and a general overview of the foods we buy. I know this doesn’t equal up to my $150 grocery budget yet, but that’s because I lost a receipt and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see every little item we purchase 🙂 Thanks to stockpiling, I have plenty of condiments, spices and sides like rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. at home. These items are ready to cook with meals with the other items I buy from week to week. I also have enough popcorn kernels for my air popper to last me a lifetime.
If you’re frustrated with managing your grocery spending and ready to call it quits, please don’t throw in the towel yet. Here are some helpful tips to help maintain your household’s ideal food budget.
The first thing you need to do is get organized and carefully plan your shopping trip. I always sit down and spend 10-20 minutes creating a list of what I want my meals to be, then I create my shopping list based on the ingredients I’ll need for those meals.
It’s so important to shop with a certain meal in mind rather than to just wander around the store and pick up things as you go. If you’ve been longing to eat healthier on a budget but just don’t know what to prepare or hate brainstorming shopping lists, I’d highly recommend trying 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!
Take Your Time
I know most people dread going grocery shopping (self-included) but since we aim to only go twice a month, I try to take my time so I don’t miss anything or overspend. Creating a shopping list of some sort is a must for me or else I will be completely lost and just start picking up random stuff.
I can start writing my list on my break at work, but I have to be home and able to look through the refrigerator and all the cabinets to make sure I’m writing down things we are low on and actually need.
I usually spend anywhere from 1 hour to 2.5 hours grocery shopping every other Friday or Saturday and sometimes I even visit up to three different stores to ensure I’m getting the best deal. Setting aside enough time to do your shopping and not rushing through it will make all the difference in maintaining your budget.
Buy Ingredients, Not Meals
Another way to stick to a bi-weekly $150 grocery budget is to buy ingredients, not meals. In other words, buy wholesome and inexpensive ingredients that you can then turn into multiple meals, instead of buying premade food that may not be as good for you.
I know, I know, when you’re busy, you don’t have time to make a ton of meals from scratch. But, there are plenty of resources to help you make your meals healthier and quicker. My favorite is MyFreezEasy. It’s a membership that teaches you how to create freezer meals, so you spend less time in the kitchen. These are meals that you prep all at once, stick in your freezer, and pull out to cook when you’re short on time. You’ll also get access to hundreds of meals and meal plans.
If you’re not a fan of freezer meals, or don’t really like meal prepping, that’s okay. Sites like Pinterest and 30 Minute Meals can show you easy recipes that are super quick to whip together. Delicious and wholesome does not have to equal hours in the kitchen.
Snacks are the weakest link within our budget. Whenever we run over, I know it’s because we grabbed too many snacks. It’s funny how we all eat different things as well. My son loves fruit snacks and granola bars, apples, and cookies, Ray can’t live without chips, trail mix and Cheez-its, and I on the other hand, can’t stand chips and I try to take a healthier approach with pretzels, nuts berries, homemade popcorn and kale chips.
While snacks do help me get through long and dreary days at work, I know that at the end of the day we need to spend money on actual food because that’s what will keep us full. Every time I make a list and enter a grocery store I’m determined to locate food that can create healthy meals as opposed to snacks. We try to spend no more than $40/month on snacks for all of us and it’s very doable.
I bake a lot so we never buy cookies, cakes or pastries at the store as I prefer to make them myself; they taste wayyyyyy better that way. To keep our snack cravings under wraps, we alternate between our two favorite snacks each shopping trip instead of purchasing everything under the sun all at once.
For example, if my kiddo chooses to get fruit snacks and pineapple/apples the first half of the month he may want to get granola bars and yogurt or something the second time around.
Stop Being So Loyal, Hunt For Sales
If you have one store that you absolutely love for certain items, my advice is to not be so tied to one particular store and open your horizons a bit. I have my favorite stores too but I shop at quite a few different stores depending on what their specials are during the week.
I find that when you’re loyal to just one particular brand or store, you don’t see nearly as much savings as you could by diversifying your shopping. Just taking a few minutes each week to check out the grocery store ads that come in the mail helps me scope out the best deals so I can save on our favorite foods.
There are certain brands of rice and potatoes that I only get at Walmart since they have the best price by far and for snacks we always try Aldi first. Jewel can be a bit too expensive for my taste, but every now and then they have some great sales that I just have to take advantage of. When their meat, fish and organic produce goes on sale, I don’t take any chances and I’ll usually go there for what I need.
I recently discovered some great items at Target (extra cheap frozen pizzas!) as well so I’ll have to add that into the rotation. Since it’s summer, I’m also looking forward to checking out some of the produce from the local farmer’s market.
Use Savings Apps
To really stick to a $150 grocery budget, you can use savings apps as well. Fetch Rewards is a handy app that helps you stretch your dollar by helping you earn points and rewards on your regular shopping selections. It cuts out the hassle of coupon clipping and removes the stress of shopping around for the best deal in town. Not only do you save money but you also save time which is always a great thing. You can learn more about this awesome app here. It’s definitely worth looking into.
Another great app you can use is Ibotta. I love being able to get cashback on the items I was going to purchase anyway! With Ibotta, all you have to do is add the items you’ll be purchasing to your Ibotta “cart”, go purchase the items, and then upload your receipt to get the rewards. Once you reach $20, you can cash out. It’s really that simple.
My Favorite Resources
Ebates – This is my favorite and easiest way to earn cashback for regular online shopping. Ebates partners with most online retailers to help you apply coupons to your purchases AND cashback. 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
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