Why are we following a strict grocery budget?
Originally we had no grocery budget. I was able to buy whatever I wanted at any given time. Then we had our first child and I was limiting our grocery expenses to about $100 per week as best I could. I always went over that budget but it wasn't a huge deal. We always wasted food. Our second child was born and since I am not working a lot (2 days per week) we needed to be even more frugal about how we spend our money. I told Tim (my husband) that I want to try following a $50 per week grocery budget. He thought there was absolutely no way that I could actually follow this and challenged me to make that happen. So I did.
Example $50 Grocery Trip
How do I do it?
This is where it gets fun. I love a good challenge.
I look at what we have in the pantry and the refrigerator/freezer. I put together a meal plan for a month at a time based upon these items. Then I look at the sales for the week at our grocery store. I don't go to ten different places looking for the best deal on things. I just don't have time for that. I utilize the "online shopping" that is available for the grocery store we frequent. Even though we pay a fee of $2.95 each week I am okay with that and try to factor that cost into the budget. If I go over a few dollars (no more than $5) I'm okay with that.
By utilizing the online shopping tool, I am able to search the sales and compare to prices of other brands to ensure I'm getting the best deal. I then add whatever I would like to purchase into my shopping cart. I can see where I am at as far as cost this way. If I am going over my budget I can then look at the list and see what I can remove. I have learned that buying the meats in bulk is the BEST bang for our buck. This past weekend I got a 3 lb pork shoulder for $4.47 which will give us a ton of food (I am making pulled pork in the crock pot as we speak). I also got 3 lb of sweet sausage for $5.31 which I separated into 1 lb increments and froze. There was also a huge sale on chicken but it did not fit into the budget for this week.
Another way we save money is by not purchasing fresh vegetables. I love fresh veggies so a great alternative is to buy them frozen. This way they can't really go bad and thus, less waste. I know that buying canned foods is not healthiest option but this week the grocery store had a sale on a major brand and I got 15 oz cans of veggies for 50 cents each. That's incredible. So I stocked up.
I do utilize some coupons. But I tend to find better prices on other brands than what I would get with the coupons. Occasionally I combine a coupon with a store sale, and utilize apps that give me money back for buying specific items.
The apps I use are Ibotta and Mobisave. Both offer coupons for "any brand" items as well as produce! YAY!!!!!! I saved on Eggland's Best eggs this week because they were on sale, then I had a coupon for egglands best on one of the apps, then another app for buying a dozen eggs. Score!
What can you get on such a strict budget?
Since I buy the meat in bulk, I buy a few pounds, at a time and freeze them. So then I try to incorporate a salad and a vegetable, sometimes sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes or homemade baked french fries. I always make sure the meal is well balanced. I need to make sure my family is staying healthy and that starts with a good diet.
I always buy bananas. And bread. This week the bread was buy one get one free so I made sure to take advantage of that. For breakfasts I usually make eggs and toast, or greek yogurt, peanut butter toast, french toast, homemade pancakes etc. For lunches I tend to make sandwiches or eat leftovers, sometimes salads or a can of light soup. Luckily Sam has been pretty good about eating whatever I make with some encouragement and Evan is still breastfeeding so that helps as well. I drink a lot of water from the fridge filter. I never buy juice. Or junk food. Because they aren't good for you. And they tend to be expensive.
Last night I made whole wheat spaghetti (on sale for $1), with sauce ($1.50 on sale) and the sausage that I bought in bulk. Added all together and priced for portions, it ended up costing us $.94 cents per serving. I also had a caesar salad on the side and made garlic bread out of the loaf of bread we had. Easy.
So for example.. on my latest shopping trip this past Saturday:
Eggland's Best eggs were on sale for $2.99 (normally $3.49). Ibotta gave me $.20 cents back. Then Mobisave gave me $.50 cents back. So $3.49 eggs were purchased for $2.29.
I noticed I was out of soy sauce so I figured I'd grab some. The regular price was $1.99. It was on sale for $1.79. Mobisave gave me $1.00 back. So I paid $.79 cents.
I love Special K Protein. It was on sale for $2.50 instead of $2.99. Then I saved $.20 cents with Ibotta with the end cost being $2.30.
I have a craving now and then for Pop Tarts. Don't judge me. It's probably better than other cravings! It was on sale this week for $1.67. Mobisave gave me $1.00 back with the end cost being $.67 cents.
This isn't too hard!
No paper coupons were used this week at all. Though I'm sure if I gave it a bit more effort I would have found some to help me even more.
Freezer crock pot meals
By putting together freezer crock pot meals, you save money and time!!!!!!!!!
Since buying meat in bulk is so much less expensive, divide it amongst a few gallon freezer bags, put your spices in, add some fresh or frozen vegetables and voila!!!!!!! You can find a ton of easy crock pot freezer recipes on pinterest. I put together about 20 when I was pregnant and we are still reaping the rewards. Bonus, it's virtually zero prep time. Just put it in the crock pot and 8 hours later dinner is served!
Avoid wasting food
We always tend to waste rolls. I would buy them for when we made burgers and then wouldn't use them again. Now I either make garlic bread out of them, or freeze them for later. This seems to work out well and we always have buns for spur of the moment. This worked out well for our pulled pork this week because I can make sandwiches out of it.
I try to look through the fridge every day or two to take an inventory of what we still need to eat so it does not go bad.