Five tips that helped our family lower our grocery budget.
How many people are you buying groceries for each week?
Canned Spaghetti Sauce.
About our family.
My husband and I are passionate about having zero debt. I am not just talking about credit card debt. We are constantly driving to pay off ALL debt...including our house mortgage. We long for the day to say we no longer have a mortgage. Having this priority in our life means choosing (and wanting) to spend less in other areas of our life. This is a choice we have made, and I know not all families value or can afford to put extra cash toward paying off debt.
Before I share five tips that have helped us reduce our grocery budget, you should know a few things about our family. This will give you a bit of an idea of how we work and why the below tips work for us.
- We are not fine diners and do not have palettes drooling for gourmet seafood and prime rib.
- We don't buy all organic. Probably only 10% of what we buy is organic.
- We garden. This means we can and freeze lots and lots of produce. This is a LOT of work, but it cuts down our grocery budget and allows us to eat produce that is likely organic or close to it.
- We do not eat meat for every meal.
- We do not buy alcohol. Once I was talking with a co-worker who informed me that my weekly grocery budget is less than they spend on alcohol every week. Since then, I have learned that alcohol is a very expensive grocery item.
Tip #1. I meal plan every week.
Usually Sunday evening or Monday morning, I meal plan for the entire week. More specifically, I plan everything we will be eating for our evening meals. I have a small journal on my desk that includes all my meals from previous weeks and all grocery store receipts. Each week, I date a new page and list meals for Monday through Saturday.
When I am out of ideas, I go back and look at other meals I have previously made. When I know I am close to going over budget for the month, I can check food prices since I keep my receipts.
Once I decide what is on the menu, I make a list of the grocery items I need. I stick to my grocery list when I am shopping. Since I know what we are having, I do not need to buy unnecessary 'just in case' food and produce.
Tip #2. I only grocery shop once a week.
I have a few exceptions to this rule, but 90% of the time, I only set foot into a grocery store once a week. I go each Monday after I have finished planning our meals. I have found that the less I go to the grocery store, the less food I buy.
How does my produce stay fresh for a week? We buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. If I am not going to use it immediately, I refrigerate, and I have not run into much trouble of spoilage. Just in case, though, I always make the meals early in the week that require the fresh produce. The tail end of the week usually includes crock pot meals and casseroles.
Where do I shop? I shop at Aldi. I have found many pros and cons to shopping at Aldi, but for my family, it works best. I have found that the items we buy are usually cheaper at Aldi than other food stores.
Since our Aldi does not carry many toiletries, I shop on walmart.com about once every three months to stock up on toiletries. I have an electronic document on our laptop that lists all the toiletries we need to keep in stock. When I place an order, I am not likely to forget anything since I check everything against my list.
How much do you spend a week on groceries?
Tip #3. We use leftovers for lunches.
The days are gone of buying pricey lunch meat and other lunch friendly items for my husband to take to work. As I meal plan each week, I plan meals that I know will produce leftovers. Once dinner is served, I often tell my husband to go take out what he wants for his lunch. This ensures he will have plenty to take to work.
Plus, my husband tells me he enjoys taking hot leftovers instead of cold cut sandwiches for lunch.
Tip #4. I keep a running list of everything in my freezer.
When is the last time you went through your freezer or deep freeze and made a list of everything that is in there? Have you ever forgotten about the food in your freezer?
There are many recommendations on how long we should keep food in our freezer. In general, if I have something over a year old, I usually don't try eating it. We have a small deep freeze in our basement, and I have MANY TIMES forgotten about all the food we have down there.
By keeping a list of everything in my freezer, I am much more likely to use the food in there than see it go to waste after a year has gone by.
What would be hardest for your family to stop buying?
Tip #5. We stopped buying some of our favorite high priced grocery items.
- Ice cream.
- Granola bars.
- Paper towels.
We do not buy any of the above listed items except on rare occasion.
I know. We never thought we could live without cereal either. We decided to try eating oatmeal every morning instead. We eat oatmeal out of the canister almost every morning for breakfast, and believe it or not, we have grown to enjoy it.
Why did we want to eliminate cereal from our budget? We felt cereal was a slightly pricey item that often had very little health benefit. I am not a dietician, but when I read the side of the oatmeal canister, I find many health benefits in oatmeal...and no sugar.
There are MANY healthy and probably low priced options for cereal though. So, if you like it, keep on buying it. :)
A similar thought process was used when we decided to eliminate the other items listed. We weighed the pros and the cons. At this point, we have found we do not miss these items in our household.
These tips will not work for every family.
I COMPLETELY understand these tips will not work for every family. You may have someone who needs a special diet. Shopping only at one store may not be an option for you. Or, if both spouses are working full time, cooking dinner every evening is too much to work into an already busy schedule.
What are some of the options that work best for your family?
What are some tips you use to keep your grocery budget low?
I would love to see your comments!