Lets chat about your grocery budget, today! I have been asked recently, by some readers if I would go into detail about 1) how much we spend per month on groceries 2) how we stay on track with our grocery budget and 3) if I have any suggestions on how to reduce this costly monthly expense.
So I am excited to dive right in – into all of these items, along with some other valuable information that I think will help keep you all on track with your grocery budgets – while making the absolute most out of every single penny you have.
First here are a few important factors I am considering when I share this information.
- You do not have massive amounts of money to toss around without a second thought
- You are probably trying to get out of debt (Grab your 2017 Financial Planner, here!)
- You are trying to live within your means – through the use of a budget
- Even if you have no debt – you value your money too much to waste it unnecessarily.
How much should my grocery budget be?
Again assuming you are trying to be on a budget – while keeping it realistic. For our family of 4 we budget $110.00 a week! Yup, that’s it. Before you throw up your hands in frustration, I do buy organic meat and many fruits! This budget also includes all hygiene, household, diapers, and pet items! It can be tough sometimes, but it is completely doable! *See below my tips on how to make it work!
Here is a realistic chart that should help you know what you should be spending on groceries, for your family size.
Wait! What exactly do you include in your grocery budget?
Pretty much everything! Anything that you can buy at the grocery store is included in my overall budget. So besides food I also include:
- Pet needs (food, kitty litter)
- Shampoo, conditioner, body wash
- Toothpaste, Toothbrushes
- Ziploc Baggies, Trash Bags, Paper Towels, Toilet Paper
It includes pretty much everything. If it is used to help run the household, it comes out of that $110.00 each week. This is why I use coupons for non grocery related items. Laundry detegerent can run me 13 – 17 bucks. That is a decent chunk of change when I only have 110 that week to spend. Now, if I need to buy laundry soap, kitty litter AND diapers I am down nearly $30, before I have even tossed a chicken leg into my cart. That is why I coupon – I can get those items (Name Brand) for next to nothing when done right! I shared a juicy post all about it here: Couponing – You’re doing it wrong
How do you stay on track with your grocery budget?
This is my biggest struggle! Seriously. The truth is that I know if I were to go over budget the funds are in the account and our family would “survive.” That can make it harder to stay on track. I even found myself not paying too much attention to the budget, and would just swipe my debt card for food with not much thought. I would however, feel guilty later on when we did not have as much to throw towards our debt snowball. Truthfully, it was a matter of effort on my part. Yes, it takes a little bit more work now, but in the end when our students loans are paid off 20 years early, it will be well worth it!
How I broke this nasty habit:
- CASH! I do not use cash envelopes. Actually, I am pretty “anti” the cash envelope systems, HOWEVER, right before I head to the grocery store with my meal plan in hand, I run through the drive through ATM. I take out $100.00 ($10 less than my weekly budget because I know we will need to run back out for a few small items, like milk and bread, before the week is over). I leave my debit card in my glove box, and just shop with the $100.00 that I have. This eliminates the possibility of over spending by swiping. Yes, I could run back out to my car and grab my card but I am too lazy for that!
- I use my Budgeting Envelopes to make sure I am not overspending during the week.
- My husband and I have weekly maintenance meetings. We sit down every Thursday and take a quick glance at our numbers – review our goals and see where we stand. Knowing that the other is going to see our purchases, helps keep both of us on track with our spending.
How to extend your grocery budget
There are a ton of things you can and should be doing to extend your grocery budget. Basically if you plan ahead, prepare, and think before you spend your money you can absolutely stay on track with your grocery budget. Seriously, you can!
- Shop at discount stores like Aldi! I doubt I could feed my family for that tiny budget if I were to shop exclusively at Trader Joes, Wegmans, Whole Foods, etc. It might be more convenient, you might have a wider selection of spices but you will pay at least 2 – 3 times the price! I
wont lie it took me a little while to get use to shopping at Aldi’s but now I absolutely love love love it. The amount of high quality (organic) food that I am able to purchase is staggering.
You should also be using coupons to create extra money for food! I shared a post about how you should be couponing, see it here: Couponing – You’re doing it wrong! Long story short- by couponing you can be spending next to nothing on name brand household products! This allows you to spend over 95% of your weekly budget on just food. All of a sudden, your options and ease of meal planning becomes wide open!
- MEAL PLAN! If you are going to the store for groceries without a meal plan, you are wasting your time and a whole lot of extra money. You should be looking at the weekly flyer, Ibotta and deal sites to find the best items to purchase for the week, and also know how you are going to use them! Stop buying food, that you end up tossing in the trash because it does not get eaten – or not having a plan and needing to go back to the store multiple times throughout the week. You are guaranteed to spend way more money than you ever intended!
- EAT YOUR FOOD- If your plans for the week change, and friends invite you over to dinner on Wednesday – don’t let that meal you planned go to waste!
- FREEZE the food so it does not spoil
- Cook the meal as planned and then freeze it, so you have a quick last minute meal when you need it … so you will be less tempted to buy fast food or go to a restaurant on a particularly rough day.
- Plan for leftovers – stop wasting food! When you throw out leftover meatloaf, you are literally throwing away your money.
How Do You Grocery Shop?
Lets end with a quick run down of how I actually shop and spend our grocery budget. I am a weekly shopper. I am not a huge believer in the monthly grocery shopping if you have a tighter budget … and here is why:
- You do not allow yourself wiggle room. What if you went shopping on the 3rd of the month and bought all of your “needs” for the month, and spent the majority if not all of your grocery budget, and something where to happen? Maybe you have a flood and all of your paper products get ruined, or you need to unexpectedly host a family for the long weekend, but were not able to plan for that, since you already bought your food. You are going to run out and overspend!
- I also think you will tend to have stock up mentality, and buy more than what you need, even if it is not a stock up price.
So, weekly shopping is what works best for our family and for out budget.
I would absolutely love to hear your tips on saving at the grocery store! Leave me a message in the comments, below.