I have been asked on many occasions how much we budget for groceries and every time I respond, I get a surprised reaction. Now, keep in mind groceries have been on a very tight budget around here as we’ve had years when I took non-paid maternity leave and other years that I worked part-time—and we are a one-income home. Since one of our goals is to pay off students loans, I try to keep everything–including groceries on a budget. No, my children do not starve. No, they do not eat junk all day. It’s actually quite the opposite. Anyone that has seen us eat (especially my girls) can attest that they actually EAT healthy and they eat a lot! But before I tell you our budget, check out these numbers that I found on the USDA website:
In 2014, the average thrifty food plan was $146 a week; a low-cost food plan was $191 a week; a moderate-cost plan was $239 and a liberal plan was $289 a week. The thrifty plan turns out to be about $600 a month and that’s the cheapest plan!
So here it is, with $400 a month, I was able to feed 2 adults and 2 children real food like vegis, fruits, and meats. That included toiletries and barely any junk food. If we went out to eat, that was still part of our grocery budget but keep in mind, we don’t go out often because food at home tastes better and is much healthier!
Since our munchkin started eating solids, I have increased our grocery budget to $550 for two main reason. First, baby food is expensive–yes, I simply don’t have the time to always make her food at home so I buy it—it’s the one thing I choose not to take much time doing because she will be on regular food in 1 month. I make so many things from scratch that it’s simply not worth it for the 4 months she eats solids. My end result is for Baby Maddi to eat the healthy foods we eat and we’re well on our way there. Secondly, I thought it was time to increase the budget after 7 years. I needed a little more flexibility for going out (like our Starbucks dates, etc).
Each month, I challenge myself to try to make it on $450. It’s actually easy to do during summer (including our outings and dates) with prices so low in the grocery stores! I see summer as almost everything being on sale ALL the TIME and I absolutely love it! When winter comes, we’ll hit $500 more often and need to be a little more careful as prices during winter are back to regular.
Now here’s the thing, you may even be wondering why would I budget our groceries? I actually budget our whole income because I strongly believe it’s a wise way to keep track of where our money goes. Regardless of your income, I think everyone should try budgeting so they get a better idea of their spending habits. You’d be surprised to see where your money goes. This reminds me of back in college when we were asked to write down everything we did for 7 days in 30 minute increments to get a better idea of our time management. In the same way, budgeting helps to paint a better picture of where your money goes so it may be worth giving it a try. Maybe start with budgeting for groceries only.
Those that are already questioning the grocery budget—-know that I buy organic only when we can. Because I know my food prices well, I only buy organic when the food price is JUST a little more expensive (or cheaper) than the non-organic food.
If you are trying to cut down your grocery budget, it’s actually quite simple with these tips.
- Stay away from frozen foods
I always thought frozen food is so cheap but in reality, it’s expensive! If we were to compare per ounce, these foods are expensive! Have you looked at the Frozen dinner bags lately? or the hot pockets? or even those microwavable quick lunches? Those lunches cost around $2 each which isn’t bad compared to eating out but when I compared it to homemade food, it’s not worth it. You may even want to limit your deli intake because those meats can really bring up your groceries ($6-$13 a pound).
2. Buy in season
During summer, fruits and vegis tend to be on sale. They cost much cheaper than usual because the grocery stores can afford to decrease the prices. Since so many more farmers can grow the same fruits and vegis, they are able to buy so much more for the same price as during the colder months. It is very important to learn what’s in season. Even though I grew up learning about this, I still had to do my own research to learn more about it. This isn’t much of an issue during summer as much as it is during winter. For example, berries during winter can be really expensive so stick to things like oranges, clementines, apples, etc. Stay away from watermelons during winter because those tend to be more expensive and buy things like apricots, peaches, nectarines, berries, etc.
3. Choose to shop at more than 1 grocery store
You should start by checking out the grocery catalogs that come in the mail weekly. Sit down and compare prices. Feel free to compare it with my list below to get a better idea of which store has prices similar to it. You may be thinking that it’s difficult to shop at more than 1 store, but actually, if you plan accordingly, it’s quite easy. You can try this: shop at 1 store one week and shop at the next store the following week.My choices for grocery shopping are Aldi and Garden Fresh. During summer, I typically go to both stores weekly and during winter, I sometimes just alternate between the 2 weekly or just go to Aldi.
I usually go to Garden Fresh first during summer. I know the Aldi prices so well that I am able to see what’s a better deal at Garden Fresh and buy it from there. Whatever isn’t a better deal at Garden Fresh, I will pick up from Aldi. I love Aldi’s new organic line and their prices are unbeatable! Garden fresh has great produce prices all summer long though and great sales throughout the year!
4. Buy in bulk
Typically, buying in bulk saves you money so keep an eye on that. I buy the family size bags of vegis or trays of meat when possible. Buying in bulk does NOT mean getting a membership at Costco or Sam’s Club and aimlessly shopping there. I’ve gone to Costco to compare prices (thanks to my wonderful cousin!) and let me first say that it’s so easy to get distracted in there and want to buy everything. It’s fun trying new things but why not try a new recipe at home and stay away from prepackaged foods that look appealing 😉
Ok….here it is….I compared prices and there were 3 things that were cheaper there! You read that right—3 things! Now, I don’t mean 3 things in the WHOLE store. I compared fruits, vegis, meat, and the basic dairy products. Frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, and egg were cheaper there. Everything else was a little more expensive while other things were a lot more expensive. It’s an EXPENSIVE place to shop at so do it carefully. You may think it’s cheaper than something like Jewel but keep in mind, Jewel’s prices are high. They have good sales and at times, I’ll even stop by Jewel if they have a killer deal that I can’t pass up but usually, I stick to my regular 2 stores.
5. Make your grocery list based on a meal plan
Making a meal plan is so important. You’ll be able to enjoy other free time from not having to constantly think about what to make next. In addition, it helps focus your shopping to things that you need and not fill up your cart with a bunch of “extras”. At times, I buy things that are not on my grocery list but that’s usually because I forgot to add it. I meal plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner weekly– usually on the weekend once the girls are in bed. If it sounds like a daunting task, just start by meal planning your dinners–this is the way I started and on hectic weeks, dinners are still the only things I meal plan for.
Check out this Aldi grocery list (prices included) to help save you time and money: Grocery List