Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Groceries on a Budget

Why budget for groceries?

This may seem obvious but groceries are one of those expenses that you can spend either a massive amount of money on or through conscious effort you can really get your budget down. Its like you blink and add a few extra drinks or cookies and suddenly your bill increases by $100.

There are two ways to deal with groceries.

  1. Meal planning
  2. Buying the amount of meat, fruits, and veggies that you'll need

Meal Planning

I believe that the best way to simplify both your daily life and your budget is to meal and menu plan. At first this may seem like a silly way to go through it but bear with me. 

People so often are beyond overwhelmed by the thought of meal planning. So my simple solution is to keep a notebook in the kitchen and write down what you ate for the week 1 time. That way you can see how much you are spending. Write down this menu and go shopping for it!

While you are shopping write down how much each item costs. I know this is a painful thought BUT trust me knowing how much each item costs will save you money. Write it down per lb or unit of weight. That way you can compare prices. You can even see how prices fluctuate though the year.

The step of knowing how much each item costs will help you plan better next week. For the next week work on honing down your grocery budget. Decide what foods are must haves and what ones are indulgences. For example, we all love bacon. If I am trying to save us money that week I will buy less bacon than I normally would and use it as a flavoring rather than a real meal. If I am not focused on honing down our grocery budget that time I'll buy enough bacon for breakfast every day.

Stick to your list

Once you have worked out your meal plan and written a grocery list you need to stick to it. There are 2 reasons. 
  1. If you do not stick to your list you have no real concept of how much you need versus want
  2. You have no control over your grocery budget unless you stick with your plan.

Buy once every 2 weeks

Do a big grocery haul once every 2 weeks. Other than that don't go to the store. There are always impulse buys that will happen along with grocery shopping. These seem like small expenses but the problem is if you are making an extra 10 dollars worth of purchase at each trip then you will at the end of the month have spent more than you needed.

Plan ahead

When going grocery shopping make sure that everyone is well fed and that you have packed snacks in your purse. There is nothing more tempting for straying off your list than a child or worse adult who is hungry. This is especially true if you, like us, commute to make your grocery purchases.

Find the best stores in your area

Because my family has special dietary needs due to celiac disease we are willing to travel farther than most to purchase groceries that will accommodate our specific requirements at a reasonable price.

The biggest reason we commute for grocery shopping is cost. In our area the cost of organic beef is 3 times as expensive as it is 1.5 hours away. So instead of buying meat that is insanely expensive we make a big trip to Costco once every two weeks. Once a month we go to Whole Foods and Costco in the same trip. 

For some people the best prices may be using coupons at their local grocery store, farmers markets, Aldi or a combination of multiple sources. This will take research and time. But the great part about it is once you have gathered this information you're going to be able to use it indefinitely.

Buying meat in bulk

A major way to save money on meat is to buy it from a farmer in bulk. Things to keep in mind:
  • You will not get your choice of cuts
  • Recipe planning can be difficult with "interesting" items ie tongue, heart, liver, etc.
  • You need to be sure you are not moving in the near future!
  • Buying hung weight versus processed weight can lead to paying more per pound than you expect
  • When buying from a farmer KNOW your farmer. There are disreputable people who will buy stock at auction and sell them to you a couple weeks later. They then tell their customers that the animal was raised on their farm. 

Cut out processed/premade foods

Processed and premade foods drive up your budget and down your nutrition. Sometimes our time is worth more than money. If that is the case realize that you are paying more for the premade cookies than you would making it yourself. Additionally, I would recommend reading labels to see what ingredients compose the premade foods. 

If, like us, you have dietary restrictions be careful of items that are processed. We have had many issues with products that are made on the same line as a gluten containing product causing our whole family to become ill.

Recently we had 2 anaphylactic reactions to processed salmon burgers caused because the producer failed to put on their label that it is on a line with shellfish. When we called customer service they literally told us nobody with a shellfish allergy should EVER eat their product. Where is the warning label... of course! There is no warning label! 

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

CSAs are another great way to support your local farmers and hopefully save some money. 

In order to utilize a program like this you should:
  • Make sure you are not moving!
  • Ask the CSA if they also sell to farmers markets, local vendors, restaurants etc.
  • If they do sell to others where do your products fall in priority are you simply given what they cannot sell to others?
  • How flexible are you in menu planning? Can you make a meal out of just about any ingredient? Or do you need to follow a recipe?
These are factors to think about prior to committing to a CSA

Grow your own

Growing your own produce and meat is a wonderful way to be more in touch with your food and get great quality, locally grown items for very little money. The issue here is it does take a lot of time, skill and patience!


With any goal you need a person to help you be accountable. For me that is my husband. He is a wonderful support and holds me accountable for sticking to our list. But if I really had a problem I would also ask a friend to help me and challenge me to spend less. Look over the grocery list see where you can make cuts on items that you don't need. If there is any spoiled food that is left at the end of a week then you need to take note and either not buy that item again or buy less of it. There are some foods for me that I buy because I think we should eat them. And week after week they would just sit and go stale. 


I know for me when I would do a really great job at getting the grocery budget super low my husband would tell me good job and we'd move on with the rest of our day. 

Recently he started actually getting me little presents when I really save us a lot of money. 

What surprised me is how much more appreciated I feel when he buys me a $10 flexi clip or scarf or something I want but don't need. It makes me so proud of myself. In most careers you are rewarded for a job well done financially, as well as, being promoted. That is something that is missing today for most stay at home wives. 

The first time he told me he was going to buy me a present for staying under budget I was so thrilled it made me really proud of what I had accomplished and also really made me take an additional look at how I was spending and encouraged me to spend even less next time

I have a ton more ways to specifically cut down your grocery budget. But those will have to be for another post!

What ways have you found to save on your grocery budget?

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