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31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: Use Cash to Save Money on Groceries

I tried really hard to talk louder in this video since so many of you said you were having trouble hearing me in the last few videos. The problem is, I think in talking louder, I ended up rambling more. But I guess you get to hear me exactly as I am here — rabbit trails and all! :)

Also, forgive my husband’s finger over the side of the video frame for half of the video. He was probably so distracted by all my rabbit trails that he forgot to pay attention to holding the camera to take the video. ;)

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Comments

  1. Stephanie says

    Don’t forget the tax. =) I always do and it throws me off at the end when the price doesn’t come to what I have been adding up.

    • Jill says

      Yep! Here in MI we don’t have a sales tax on non-prepared food (I know, I love it!), but that makes calculating the tax on the non-grocery part of your grocery trips that much harder!

  2. Gina says

    What do you think about putting all of your month’s spending on a gift card? We only have two grocery stores here, and we do basically all of our shopping at one of them, which has their own gift cards. I was thinking it might be easier just to keep the card and not carry cash. Would this work? What’s the downside, besides losing the card?

    • says

      I think the physical act of cash leaving one’s hand to pay for products is very insightful and encourages you to be more aware of how much you are spending — something which doesn’t happen as well when you swipe a card. And it’s also simpler because you don’t have to mess with remembering your balance or refilling your card. Plus, you can only bring as much to the store with you at a time as you intend to use — which can help it last longer, I think.

      That said, a pre-paid card is always better than a credit card, in my opinion, because you’ve already paid for it so there’s no temptation to spend more than you can truly afford. Nor do you have to worry about getting a bill next month. :)

      • Gina says

        That is true about using cash. I was just trying to think of a way to not travel to our bank (in another city) to get cash every month. (We were a military family and use USAA, which only has locations in certain places.) I’ve used ATM’s before, but there is a limit to how much you can withdraw. I’ve also gotten cash over with my debit for the next shopping trip, but there’s a limit there as well. I just need to figure out how to have all of my money for the month at one time so it doesn’t get confusing. lol :)

        • Jenny says

          We have USAA also, but there are NO branches by us (Minnesota)! I don’t currently use a cash system, but I don’t think it would be difficult at all to manage it with USAA. There is a daily limit of how much you can take out at an ATM, but its not like you would need ALL of the grocery money on the 1st. For example, If your monthly grocery budget is $400 but you can only get $300 out at an ATM on any given day, then you could get $300 on the 1st and $100 sometime in the next week. Plus, you can use any ATM with USAA and they will refund any fees at the end of the month.

          • Gina says

            That’s true. I was just thinking it would be easier to have all of the $ on a gift card at the beginning of the month. We’ll make it work one way or another. ;)

  3. Wendy says

    This is so encouraging to me as I am doing everything you’ve mentioned so far. I feel I must be doing something right. You are exactly right about the calculator and carrying cash. If I have cash and I see I’m getting close to the amount I have to spend, some items immediately become a “not needed” item and go back on the shelf. I do tend to spend more when I don’t carry my calculator.

  4. Char says

    Ok, I am sure you have mentioned this before, but do you put household items in with your grocery budget or is it just food?

    • Rae says

      She said last time that it is in the grocery budget but that when you are first starting out, you might just do food first.

  5. Amanda says

    We just started back using cash this week at the store and it is helping a lot. I also added a calculator in with my stuff so I could calculate the stuff in our cart before we head to check out. Definitely saving us from splurging. I can hear you much better in this video :) thanks!

  6. Candice says

    Love the tips, Crystal! You have encouraged and helped me see a way for light at the end of the tunnel! Shopped with coupons/store sales for the 2nd week this week, and meal planning is in effect this week! Starting with cash this week at the store. I am taking baby-steps because a full blown make over in one swift step will discourage me I just know it. Hope to have a successful story to share with you all!

    I agree whole heartedly with the cash=spending less. I swipe my debit card for $1.27 sometimes, and you do not realize how easy that is when you compare it to the physical handing of a 10 dollar bill to someone. Your tips are amazing!

  7. Rae says

    I felt so bad with all of the slack you were getting last week. I feel like a lot of people use their location as an excuse. Yes they might not be able to have the same budget as you if they are in a higher cost of living area but I know from reading your blog that the $20/person/week is WAY more than you spend it was a starting point. And you are so right every place has it ups and downs. I have lived on the east coast (doubled up to $1, great produce prices but certain other things were more costly), TX (double up to $.50 but triple up to $.35, have great prices on certain produce/meat especially at the Mexican supermarkets), and west coast (did not double at all and some prices were way higher even ads for CVS were different for some items but great prices on produce/meats). And I have also shopped in DC suburbs for my grandparents (no doubling, higher prices but still some deals to be had and they still had CVS and Walgreens, etc). Even if you live in the boonies, Amazon does some deals that are only decent in my eyes but if you have few options (or the stores were too far), those deals would be a great option for you. The only time I think your suggested $20/person/week might not work is if you had certain (or multiple) food allergies or if you lived in an expensive city (in the actual city like NYC) or if you really wanted everything to be organic but pretty much everybody else… it is doable. I do less than half that including pet, diapers, household, etc in it.

    • Christy says

      Yes-Amazon for certain foods. We are a diabetic/celiac household so are somewhat limited at regular grocery stores. Amazon has free shipping for many things over $25 and when buying gluten free noodles and flour and things the per unit price is usually way less than the health food store.

  8. says

    “…Some of the produce prices I would never see here. It was mind-boggling to me that they were so inexpensive.”

    I totally agree that you could feed your family on a low grocery budget no matter where you live — you are that good! :D

    But I am curious as to what produce was so inexpensive that you would never (never?!) see a price that low in Kansas. :) I am trying to recall Aldi’s produce prices from when we lived in Ohio, and they were very similar to what I can get at Costco or a *good* store sale. :) Also, I see your mark-down produce prices from the health food store and am wondering what the West Coast has for cheaper!! :)

    I do find dairy products cheaper here than in Ohio… but never bananas. Black-spotted, bruised marked-down bananas are priced at $0.25/lb here! Costco has the cheapest bananas I’ve seen at $0.44/lb but they’re often too green, hard in the middle, and never get properly ripe… so we pay $0.59-$0.69/lb. for bananas that taste GOOD. :) Yes… we are that picky! ;)

    • Kate says

      Tammy, we are out here in SoCal… how about this list?
      -Oranges 5-7 lbs/$1
      -Apples 33-50 cents/lb
      -Kiwi 25 cents/ea
      -Bananas 33-50 cents/lb
      -Mangos 50-75 cents/ea
      -Avocados almost always less than $1/ea, in peak season as low as 20 cents/ea
      Just a couple examples from our weekly ads. We are very thankful for the cheap produce out here.

      • says

        Okay, you got me! Oranges for $0.20/lb or less? That *is* amazing! Here in WA, even the orchards and farmer’s markets don’t have apples for 33 cents/lb! (That I know of?!) But… maybe I’ve been living under a rock? :)

        • Amber says

          I live in Western Washington and the cheapest I ever see apples is $1.49lb. You’d think with all the orchards we’d get a better deal! And don’t get me started on the $3.39/gallon gas prices!

          • says

            I have seen apples at $0.99/lb at grocery stores, and that’s the approximate price of Costco’s cheapest apples, usually. Ordering through a co-op from a farmer in central WA could get me a box of apples (~25#) for about $16. :)

            I am *not* complaining though! The apples we get for $0.99/lb are huge and delicious! Aldi had cheap apples in Ohio but they were not as good. :) There is also a certified organic farmer in the Moses Lake, WA area that sells beautiful organic produce for around (and sometimes under) $0.99/lb. SO delicious!! :)

          • says

            I live in the lower Puget Sound area, and I just got apples on sale two weeks ago at Fred Meyer for 68 cents/lb! Fred Meyer has some AWESOME deals on produce!

  9. Anna says

    OK, I worked on my “grocery budget” attitude, I made a simple menu plan, I decided to spend $25/person/week as a monthly grocery budget range (for February). Saturday I went shopping but thought I “blew” my plans because I spent more than the $25/person/week BUT I like to stockpile on the items (usually food items like meat, chicken) for the whole month. I do a once a month shopping and then weekly shopping for dairy, fruits and veggies each week. I was relieved to see I was on the right track based on what was presented in the video–it is OK to spend more one week than the next week on groceries as long as one stays in budget. I am working on using the envelop system. I will now switch to cash totally at least for grocery budget.
    I am lucky, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Aldi and Walmart Grocery store are all within a few blocks of each other. So with my new attitude, menu plan, and list of items, I went shopping. It took me 3 hours but it hit all 5 stores and bought for the month. I got a huge amount of food for very little money. I was amazed. My only thought is will you be discussing time management and grocery budgeting. I spent more time than I usually do on weekly grocery shopping but because I bought for the month, I won’t be spending as much time at the store. Also, it is difficult to shop with 4 kids but we managed.
    Again, after rambling, will there be discussion on investment of time and grocery shopping in reducing the budget? I want to keep shopping simple but I think sometimes you do have to hit 2 or more stores to get the best deal if that option is available. But that can be time consuming and I would like to simplify using my time to grocery shop different stores. Hope this makes sense. :)

    Love the videos!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anna says

      PS–Just trying some of the grocery budget ideas in the video. The first of the month is a good time for me as I get paid once a month however as a single parent time and keeping life simple is a priority!

    • Wendy says

      Anna,

      If you in shopping at Walmart anyway, they will price match any item from you local store as long as you have the ad with you to show the cashier. That usually saves me time from running to 2 or 3 different stores.

      • Anna says

        that is a good idea. I still like to shop at some stores for what they have like Aldi’s for produce. Walmart does not have the best produce but that is just around here and my opinion

    • says

      It only took you 3 hours to hit 5 stores with 4 kids in tow?!?! WOW I am impressed!!! It takes me 3 hours to hit 2 stores with 2 kids in tow!! I mean I have no idea how old your kids are (mine are 3.5 and 15 months), but I would LOVE if it only took me 3 hours to hit 5 stores!! I usually go to Fred Meyer and Winco one day (and it takes about 2.5-3 hours, depending on how my kids are behaving), then Walmart another day (usually twice a month, that takes about an hour), and I don’t even bother with Rite Aid and Walgreens, because I don’t have time, although sometimes if we run out of something, I’ll go to TOP foods and get what I need + whatever is on sale (they have awesome sales) and if I take my kids, it usually takes about 20 minutes, 30 including drive time…. as long as my kids are cooperating!

      I’m hoping Crystal will address this subject because I would love to hear ideas on it! I wish I could condense my grocery shopping time…. heck, I’d take 5 stores in 3 hours! lol

  10. Sandy says

    I tried your suggestion of sticking to $20 per person/week. I was one who mentioned last week I could see $30, but doubted $20. Well, I did it! I decided to try to only purchase what I needed for the week. Fortunately there wasn’t a good sale on meat that I would stock up on which I admit made it easier for my experimentation. Anyway, I walked out of the store spending $28.32 for 2 people. I did buy a few items that will last far longer than 1 week (5-lbs of flour, 4-lbs of sugar and a 24-count box of waffles). I always do cash and I have to say, I have always found I spend less when I utilize the envelope/cash system. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I so look forward to Mondays and your videos!

  11. Lyn says

    Interesting to hear that some people in CA think groceries are expensive. I lived there for quite a few years and found the produce prices to be outstanding. Living in New England, prices are definitely more expensive. Average “good” prices – apples/.99 lb., bananas/.59 to .79 lb., oranges .99 lb., green lettuce 1.99 head, celery 1.49. I stick with basics such as these or other sale produce items. Berries in winter are 3.99/lb. – so either I buy frozen or stock up in the warmer months and freeze. Where I’m not able to save as much with produce it helps a bit using coupons where I can, buying loss leaders, and cooking from scratch.

    • says

      From what I’ve been able to gather, I think New England prices (and coupon policies) seem to be the worst, though the produce prices you listed aren’t much different than what we normally see here except when things are in season and loss-leaders (or markdowns). I really want to go to New England sometime and actually try my hand at shopping at the stores there!

          • Beth says

            Hello Crystal! I started coming to your site a couple of years ago and I have learned soooo many different ways to trim my grocery budget. So thank you thank you! I live in the suburbs of Boston and I have to say I rarely pay 1.99 for lettuce. If sales aren’t to be had I would recommend either Market Basket or Price Chopper for inexpensive produce daily. Unless your neck of New England is rural, I see these 2 stores all over the place. Typically lettuce is between .99-1.25 a head and bananas are almost always .39/lb. The $20 pp budget is truly manageable. I am able to do it with my family of 5. Without sounding like a brag, I never spend $100/ week. You can do it too! Good luck everyone!

      • Melissa says

        I live in New Hampshire, the produce is often pretty expensive. The trick for me is to play the drug store games for items like cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other household items and leave the grocery shopping for the grocery stores, unless their is say a really great deal on cereal. Combining coupons, with the drug store game and planning out your shopping trips is really worth it, I have been able to save between 60-65% on my grocery bill by doing this. I know people can save more but I am happy with my savings. Although I will say I have sort of fallen off the wagon in the last year, but I am actively trying to get back into the swing of things. It is difficult up here but motivation is the key and it can be done.

        • Cathy says

          We live in NH, too, and I have found that the best grocery store prices (aside from at Super Walmart, which will price-match) is Demoulas’ Market Basket. I tend to plan our menu around what’s on sale in their weekly flyers. We also belong to a food co-op (UNFI) and I’m able to get great deals on bulk items such as organic coffee, flour and sugar. Our 18-year-old son works part-time as a cashier at Hannaford (we’ve dubbed it “Can’t Afford” ;-) and he says he is shocked at the general price differences between items at that store and at MB. I do find that the produce at MB and Walmart tends to not be as diverse as at Hannaford, but I feel the lower prices on what they do offer more than makes up for that.

      • Lyn says

        The prices I listed are actually “sale” prices. Regular prices for things are higher (lettuce can be almost $3 a head, celery can be almost the same, apples are generally $1.49 lb. not on sale but I don’t buy anything at regular price unless I really need it or can get it on a sale price. We don’t have stores that have discounted produce or products very much and I can’t usually find meat that is marked down (something which I was able to do more in CA). I’m always in awe at the prices and mark-downs you are able to get at your stores.

        Actually, the price that I listed for berries in winter was incorrect. That actually would be $3.99 for a pint of berries (not a pound) in winter.

        It is what it is though and as mentioned I try to compensate with other cost-saving strategies. We just save where we can. :)

        • says

          Yes, I figured that. Because if you regularly have $0.99/lb. apples, I think I might consider moving there. :) We only see them that low a few times a year!

          I am extremely grateful to live where the deals are plentiful and I have to pick and choose which ones I’m going to take advantage of, but I’m blessed by your attitude to make the most of your situation — even if you would probably love to find markdowns at your local grocery stores. I’d ship some of mine your way if I could. :)

          • Lyn says

            Well, that’s nice of you to say that (thank you). I enjoy seeing people get bargains and try to be happy for them.

            Every state has its ups and downs, and blessings and disadvantages. We could all sit here and look at the glass half-empty (which I’ve done), lol, but it doesn’t really help to think that way. The older I get the more I’m learning to just let go and to do what I can as I can.

            Thanks for the videos, Crystal, and hope you are all well. God bless…

          • Lyn says

            Oops, I think I lost my reply but wanted to say thank you for the thoughtfulness. I try to be glad for those who get such great bargains – no use in being jealous or anything.

            There are pros and cons for every state, really. It doesn’t help to keep looking at the glass half-empty (which I have done) and as I get older I realize this more and more. We all have to be happy for the blessings we do have. :)

            I hope you and your family are well, Crystal. God bless, and thank you for the videos as well – they are helpful.

    • says

      I live in New England and know we are more expensive but I always thought Cali was the worst. Boy am I ever wrong! Our prices are much higher!

      Keeping my budget for 5 of us to 100-125/week is a challenge, esp.with 2 teenagers and a hungry hubby, but if I don’t keep it in check I easily double that amount every week!

    • Lynn says

      What part of CA where you in? Southern CA and the Bay area have great produce prices, but the Central Valley and Sierra foothills do not. If you had a Ralph’s or Vons or Trader Joes they have good deals, but they are only in the bigger cities. CA is a huge state and the prices really vary. So yes, some areas of CA are expensive.

  12. Shirley says

    I too think it is all about where you shop and watching sales, which I believe Crystal will be talking about next week. I did do $20/person last week and I think that with the sales I found I may be able to get buy with less this week. I really want to start doing cash envelopes, just not sure how to get started.

    • says

      Shirley, I just wanted to let you know that the best way to start the cash envelope system is to do just that, start. Jump in. If you are like me one can over think it and that in itself will keep one from starting. Dave Ramsey’s site is awesome for help and tips etc. Also long b4 I heard of Dave Ramsey there was Larry Burkett sp? Set aside an envelope for each budget category, place cash inside. When time for grocery shopping , grap envelope for GS only, leave all other envelopes behind, so one will not be tempted to borrow from other envelopes. We keep envelopes in safe. Everyone’s system will be a little bit different because Praise God He made us all a little bit different. Hopes this helps you. dshouppe@gmail.com
      Sincerely,
      Deanna
      Crystal, Thank you so very much for your awesome blog, I found you about 2 wks ago. You are such a blessing to me. I am going to try cooking for the freezer. It is just my husband and self now, and having thorn in my side that really affects my energy level, am waiting till I rebound well. I can’t wait to do this though I absolutely see the benefits in this and wish I had known about this while I was raising my children. But what wonderful info to share with younger couples in our community. Thank you again. May God Bless You and your ministry here.

  13. Tasha says

    First, i have to apologize.. I am a huge fan and have disected your site and like a sponge I have taken in and never have I left a comment let alone even read them…
    Therefore, I didn’t know you were getting excuses and such from last weeks vid. I live in southern California and I do believe the cost of living is expensive as I have lived in the south, and visited long enough to grocery shop in the midwest, and East Coast. But, I was SUPER excited about the $20 a person rule. I mean I don’t think I will make it at first but that will be my goal if not less. So I set aside an extra $20 just in case. But so far so good. I am impressed with how much money I still have. I actually started this at the beginning of the month and I’m doing fabulous!!!
    Thanks… I am extremely excited about next week’s vid. You are truly an inspiration, motivator, and encourager and your site has changed my family’s life in such a great way. Thanks.
    Loving your scarf and ear rings, super cute!

  14. Jamie says

    I grew up in Missouri and the prices overall are cheaper with some good coupon policies. We were stationed in Tacoma, WA for 3 years and Albertson’s was AMAZING and they had Rite Aid and Walgreens. We are now in DC with the most expensive prices I’ve ever seen. We are definitely having to tweak our plan as stores are not convenient to get to, yes they double coupons, but the prices are still crazy. Not to mention GAS!!! URRR Produce prices here are by far the MOST EXPENSIVE I’ve ever seen!! We are still able to stick to $200/month for our family of 5, it just has definitely taken a few changes here and there!

    Love your series!

    • says

      Way to go on sticking with $200 per month for a family of five in DC. I’m thoroughly impressed and I’d love to hear specifics on what you’ve tweaked in order to pull that off!

      • Jamie says

        We stick to everything you’ve said so far on your series. We definitely stick to a budget and a grocery plan has saved us more money than anything!! There are pros and cons to everything, like you’ve said. Meat goes on pretty good sales here–even better then Albertson’s in Washington, so I stock up when it is low! Although our Aldi prices are higher then in the mid-west (mom still lives in MO) we shop our produce by what is on sale! It’s hard to go store hopping here as nothing is convenient and my three little ones are still little with a forth on the way, but some weeks, we just have to make time to hit a few of them if the sales are right. We have a garden in the summer and hit the farmers markets which save us a TON of money in the summer. We make a lot of food from scratch which also helps! Nothing special, just stick with it and tweak it when we have to! We do things that make my life simple too, like Friday night homemade pizza, Saturday night breakfast and tuna once a week! It helps me stay in my budget! Sorry for the lengthy post! Love your site!

        • Melissa says

          I live in DC (not sure if the original poster lives in the city or the suburbs- that changes the available grocery stores) and I think we benefit from competition here. With Harris Teeter, Safeway, and Giant all fighting for business I regularly beat the prices in my parent’s midwestern town. The produce can be expensive, but if you are willing to shop at two grocery stores each week you can really get some amazing deals. Plus, the grocery stores in the city tend to be close together so it doesn’t add much time to the overall trip.

          • Meaghan says

            Melissa, I am in No VA as a suburb of DC…I’d love to get your local insight as to the approach you use to get the most from this area’s competition and keeping your grocery budget in the green!

  15. Michelle says

    I looked back at what I had spent in January at the grocery store and was really surprised. I managed to stock up on ground beef and canned vegetables, had a 16th birthday party for my son, and averaged $19.45 per person per week. I feed two adults, two teenagers (and friends!) and a nine year old. I just have to say it-YEAH ME!

  16. Rebecca says

    My weekly “shopping” budget is $80/week for a family of four ($20/person)–that includes food, cleaning supplies, household products, diapers (which we’re almost done with :) ), etc–basically anything I would buy at Publix, CVS, Walgreens, Target, and Winn Dixie (and a rare trip to Walmart). I think $20/person/week is a reasonable budget for MOST people in MOST areas. My area doesn’t double coupons and I can still with that budget just fine (although sometimes it’s does take saying NO to a good deal and getting only the BEST deals).

    Also, about 6 months ago I started using cash (my husband thought it was unnecessary, but agreed to let me try it). It has helped so much with me sticking to a budget and “saving” my money for the BEST deals–good deals are great (especially if it’s on something that we need right then), but SUPER deals are even better and if you wait sometimes a better deal comes along.

    I feel like I have a decent handle on my grocery budget, but am always looking for ways to improve. Thanks for the video series. :) (By the way, the volume has always been fine for me.)

  17. says

    Really, you got flak for suggesting $20/week per person? That’s not such an outrageous amount. I don’t clip coupons or shop multiple stores nor do I use cash but I easily keep our family of 5 in food for around $100/week (sometimes more, sometimes less). I’m sure if I added in coupons & cash, it would be much lower. I do menu plan and cook almost everything from scratch (I love to cook). I buy sale food and plan my menus around it. I stay out of the stores and improvise if I’m missing an ingredient (a trip for one item often leads to several….). I don’t buy soda, expensive juice, pre-packaged snacks or expensive lunch meat. I shop at Aldis, too. Fortunately, our family situation doesn’t require that I be strict with the grocery budget but if I had to be, a cash system would be my next step.

  18. Lynn says

    Not everyone has access to an Aldi, unfortunately. There are many of us who don’t by soda, juice, pre-packaged snacks, etc. We stock up when prices are rock-bottom for our area, cook from scratch, etc., but our base prices are much higher. I have family in NW Washington and agree with the previous posters who mentioned apple prices. Ironically, I can get apples much cheaper here than they can get there where they are produced!

    • says

      I’m so thankful for Aldi! However, if you live where there is not one or you live in an area with high prices, I just encourage you to do the best you can do with what you have, don’t compare yourself to others and be thankful for the opportunities you *do* have to get the occasional rock-bottom price — even if the best deals are what you can find online from Amazon!

      It sounds like you are doing a great job, keep it up! A grateful, creative, can-do attitude goes so far! :)

      • says

        I agree! :) Also… look around and see what YOU can get or grow affordably where you live and try to use *more* of that and *less* of what is expensive! :)

  19. Charity says

    To only use cash is the best advice I believe you could give. Like you said, if you don’t have enough money then items have to be put back…keeps you within the set dollar amount for sure! We have always used cash since we married 6yrs ago and there were lots and lots of times that I turned bright red at the checkout counter because I had to ask the cashier to take something out of my bag because I didn’t have enough money. I have to say those times were very good for me and it taught me to always take my calculator and to add everything up, even if I think I look like a dork standing there in the ilse clicking away to my budgeted total. :)

  20. Sakura says

    I just switched to cash for our grocery and our entertainment budget this year. Last year I worked on getting our $800 to $1000 a month grocery bill down around $350/month. I love the cash system for groceries because now my kids can’t nickel and dime me to death at the deli counter in the grocery store. They love to get a corndog while we shop, so I just include it into the budget. What I love most about budgeting and saving is my 17 yo DD is learning at an early age to save and shop wisely. I include my kids on every part of my grocery budget, planning, shopping and cooking. I’ve enjoyed these videos and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of them.

  21. Emily says

    I think your tangents were super helpful. I say keep them in! =) these video blogs are so wonderful. Thank you!

  22. Denise C. says

    Crystal, I am loving this series, as I am trying to get my grocery bill under control for a family of 4 (5 including our dog! :) ) I like the idea of calculating prices when items are being put in the shopping cart, such a simple & effective idea! I also like the idea of using cash (I used to use cash only when I first lived on my own 14 years ago), then I got a debit card & have been dependent on that. (better than a credit card). Have you ever gone over your allotted cash amount when you’ve gone grocery shopping?

    • says

      Cash forces you to stick to the budget, because if you go over, you will have to have the cashier take something off your order so you’ll have enough to pay. I have had that happen a couple of times, but it’s pretty rare since it’s a little humbling so I do my best to avoid it. :)

  23. Denise C. says

    Two other questions, when you go grocery shopping:

    1. do you bring your menu plan with?

    2. when you’re at the store, & you’re having a craving for something (really anything) do you buy it or skip it?

    • says

      I don’t bring it with me because I tend to have a pretty photographic memory about things like that, so I can remember it and just swap it around in my head when need be. (Now, if I could just remember my keys and my children’s names, I’d be doing good!)

      I rarely deviate from my list unless it’s a mark-down or unadvertised sale — unless I’m pregnant! :) Then, I do sometimes splurge on items that I “can’t live without” so long as I can afford them in the grocery budget.

      • Denise C. says

        Thanks! Self discipline is something I really need to focus on. I just began making a grocery list- don’t fall over- but when I’d go shopping, I’d just “wing it”. Not a good thing. :(

        Thanks for answering my question about using cash too. I think I am going to give that a try as well. I tend to make small trips to the store (if we’re out of milk, bread etc. that is ok), but I always seem to add non important items.

        You ROCK! ;)

  24. says

    Last year when we were trying to lower our grocery budget, weekly cash amounts worked best for me. In fact between your blog and Gayle’s grocerycartchallenge blog, I was able to see exactly HOW to shop weekly for what we needed to complete our menu.

    By shopping this way, I was able to get our budget down to $60 per week for our family of four.

    Today, I’ve decided to support our local farmers/ranchers by buying our protein locally instead of at the grocery store.

    My grocery budget is up to $400 per month. I rarely serve pastas/breads as fillers anymore either, but I don’t think that impacted our budget near as much as buying local meat/eggs did.

    My goal right now isn’t to lower my grocery budget, but I want to buy better/different things for my family with the same amount of money. For example, if I serve soup/casseroles more often, then maybe I could start buying some local or organic produce.

    So THANK YOU Crystal for this awesome video series. I know I can meet my goals because I’ve done it in the past by following your advice. Even in no-coupon land!

  25. Megan says

    Non-prepared food is tax-free here in Indiana – and the best store for deals and coupon matchups IMO is Meijer. I use dozens of coupons per shopping trip (including several free and BOGO) and I’ve never once had a problem! Great video, I can’t wait until our baby is able to eat table food so that I can make meals for 4!
    Ever since I’ve discovered the joy of couponing, I’ve been able to curb our grocery budget at around $200 or less for a month. As of right now, we’re stocked full so I think all we’ll need to buy next month is meat! Thanks for the awesome site, Crystal!

    • Megan says

      Also, if I can answer my own post – I didn’t realize how many people do not use cash regularly. We do not use banks (save for one direct-deposit savings that we are required to have) and I quit using banks 5 years ago at the age of 21 when my bank account was going negative due to pennies-off balancing and .50 charges to use debit here and there. We never have anything automatically debited from a bank account and it’s so much more freeing. You know where you money is at all times and there is a bill-pay center here in town where we pay all of our utilities in cash.
      Try cash! You may want to radically go out on a limb and go bank-free, too! ;)

  26. says

    I live in Connecticut and moved here from Indiana. As I made that move with 3 children, the youngest of whom was only 2 wks at the time, I was terrified that I’d never be able to keep my grocery budget as low as I had in the past. Regular prices here are outrageous, it’s true, but sale prices can be very good. And certain things- like dairy products- go on far better sales here than in Indiana. It truly is a matter of attitude and flexibility, in my opinion. If we meet at Relevant, Crystal, we can plan a time for you to come do some New England shopping. ;)

  27. Kim says

    We live in SoCal and just moved, a month ago, from a 4 bedroom house in an “ok” neighborhood to a 2 bedroom condo in a nice neighborhood (approximately 50 miles apart) What I wasn’t expecting was how very high the price of groceries are nearby our new place. I totally had sticker shock my first few shopping trips, but then I decided to re-think my options and be creative. Once a week my children attend a class in a neighboring community and since I homeschool this is the only time during the week that they are not with me. I decided to use that as my grocery shopping time and visted 4 stores and spent less than half of what I had paid at the store a couple of blocks from home.

    The point of my post is to say sometimes thinking outside the box can help you save a big bunch on your grocery budget :)

    Love Ya’all
    Kim in Cali

  28. Jaclynn says

    The $20/per person rule made me feel better, because even with couponing, there are still things we buy that we just have to pay regular price for…and with 9 people it adds up…I was pretty happy when our grocery bill yesterday for the week came to $124 (including a big bag of oatmeal), plus about $9 we spent at Target for some food items.

  29. says

    I’ve used this system for a while (the monthly cash in an envelope) and it really helps you stick to a budget. The weekly was limiting I found but monthly works great for stocking up on deals. I got an awesome deal on organic granola so I wound up with 8 bags of it, which I wouldn’t normally buy in one shopping trip but now I’m covered on cereal for the next 2 months!

    This was my first time seeing you on video, you seem sweet and do a great job. Your black & white photo doesn’t do you justice. ;) Keep up the great work, I love your site!

    BTW-I’m with you on the professional hair salon splurge. It is the one area that I don’t skimp on. I have a fabulous stylist from a NYC salon and I have stretched a great cut and highlights for 5 months before (usually I go every 3 months), I wouldn’t dream of trying to do it myself.

  30. says

    Crystal, you were one of the people who really inspired me to cut our grocery budget for our family of four down from $400 or more to just $200 a month! WHAT a huge savings! I firmly believe that using cash instead of plastic is the way to go. I do break my grocery budget down by week, but I also feel free to steal from other week’s envelopes. It just makes it easier for me to keep on track and not overspend at the beginning of the month.
    Thanks for these fun videos! You are such an encouragement to so many people!

  31. Kristy says

    When I heard $20 per person per week I thought that was too much! Lol! That was $400 a month and I usually only do between $300-$350.

  32. Laura J says

    Just wanted to say that I’m loving this video series. And I love your outfits! I’m a pretty minimalist dresser, but not quite as minimal as your summer video. I’m starting to think that maybe I could!

  33. says

    A GREAT video for sure, I finally took the plunge and am trying the “cash only” system this month! my question is, is the monthly budget suppose to include EVERYTHING you would buy at the grocery store, or just food?? Do you include cleaning supplies, pet food, etc?

  34. Stephanie G says

    Since starting a new job, I have been too busy to keep up with our spending through online banking. (I know, I should have made it a priority!). Starting with cash will hopefully keep us in budget but will also be less time consuming since now all I have to do is count the cash to see how much is left verses typing it into excel and calculating!

  35. jessica says

    This video was great, and you didn’t ramble! you were interresting! :)
    I had upped my grocery budget this last year from 600/mo to 800/mo. because i was just tired of counting pennies. When I started reading on your site a few days ago I got inspired again to rethink our budget (family of 6, 4 young children) . I realized if i could cut back to 550/mo we could be saving 1000/mo… making a downpayment for homeownership possible in the next five years! We live in France and yes the cost of living is high, realstate is even HIGHER (think 300,000 min. for a small 3 bedroom home, with no yard).
    I withdrew the cash and decided to make it work for this month. What gave me the most motivation was your challenge to “think positive” and be creative. Well I had alread splurged the first week of the month, so I needed to really pull in the reigns if i was to stay on budget till the end of the month (pay is monthly here). ANYWAYS i did go over 118 instead of 80 BUT that is still about 100 less than i WAS spending and my original total before discounts was 170 and I even got a bottle of shampoo for 25cents (after searching on-line for coupons…because they don’t distribute them here). And that ONE little bonus alone has me super-motivated to keep trying, keep calculating (i took my calculator with me too…to make sense of all the different sales (there were 3 different prices for pampers and one sale was TWICE the price of the other if you didn’t pay attention!) SO anyway, a huge THANK YOU for giving me a little inspiration that i think is going to go a long way in a country where i had abbandoned hope of EVER being able to “compete” with American-styled bargains. And I really think planning your menu from what’s in the cupboards is the best way to go, if you want to save money. I know i started with a sort of “cushion” in the cupboards, so i’m not sure of the durability, but i already scoped out next weeks sale flyer and am ready for what i think are some good deals.
    My initial reaction was “$20! it can’t be done! not for me, not here.” But i decided to believe you and set that aside and TRY and prove myself wrong…we’ll see what it brings!

  36. says

    I guess I missed the “debate” last week about the idea of $20 per person per week, but I thought I’d chime in on that topic.

    We live in Canada (where groceries are much more expensive than in the US, in general). We are a family of 5, and we eat almost entirely organic, natural, un-processed foods. We eat a ton of fresh produce. All of our meat is grass-fed or free range, same with our eggs, and much of our dairy as well. Two of our children eat gluten free and dairy free, so they require specialty items. I do buy some of my bulk supplies from the US, but I still pay the exchange rate so even those items are not as cheap as they would be for US residents (except for right now :)).

    With all of that, we still manage to eat for $450 a month (so just slightly over the $20 mark that Crystal was talking about), and that includes nearly ALL of our toiletries and beauty products, cleaning and household supplies, and even the occasional supplement (all of which are non-toxic, green/organic products as well).

    All that to say, it can be done! We stick to a careful cash budget, save up for large purchases (like a 1/4 of a cow, or extra fruit to preserve in the summer), and we’re really careful with things like food waste and avoiding impulse buys. I menu plan, cook from scratch as much as I can, shop in bulk, use coupons/sales whenever possible, and get very creative.

    I hope that maybe this can be an encouragement to those who are wanting to decrease their budget but thinking it just can’t be done because of where they live, the type of foods they eat, etc. You can definitely do it. :)