How I Have a Low Grocery Budget Without Relying on Coupons

Guest post by Johnlyn

Many people assume I use coupons to keep our grocery budget low. They tell me that they can’t have a low grocery budget because they just don’t have the time or energy to clip coupons.

At the beginning of 2010, my grocery budget was $260.00 per month for our family of four. My husband is a marathon runner with a high metabolism and my kids were 13 and 11 at the time and they both continue to eat more than I do.

Small Town Living

When you live in a small town, you do not receive the same coupon inserts in the newspaper as you do when you receive a large city newspaper.

Here are the coupons I received in last weekend’s newspaper insert: Zicam, Lysteda, Pillsbury Sweet Rolls, Betty Crocker Warm Delights, Red Baron Pizza, Chuck E Cheese, Weight Watchers Yogurt, Foot Pain Wraps and Wrist Supports and Direct T.V. I won’t use any of those!

Five Tips to Keep Your Food Budget Low Without Coupons

  1. Change your attitude. Be thankful that you can afford to buy ground beef even though you really want the shrimp!
  2. Take cash to the store. This changed my mindset completely. Even though I always paid off my credit card bill every month, I became much more aware of how much money that I was spending when I changed to a cash envelope system.
  3. Determine the lowest amount of money you need to spend in order to feed your family. For a few weeks, make low cost meals and buy only what you need at the grocery store for those meals. Don’t buy items just because they are on sale and avoid buying junk food.
  4. Find substitutes. For example, I’ve bought cabbage instead of bok choy because it was much cheaper and worked for the meal I was making
  5. Menu plan using your pantry. Make a simple menu plan after looking in your pantry, fridge and freezer.

Voting With My Dollars

I’ve decided to increase our food budget to $400.00 per month. The $140.00 increase is for several reasons:

  • After watching the movie Food, Inc. I decided to support our local farmers and ranchers when possible. I’ve found that the quality and peace of mind more than offset the increase to our budget.
  • There is a store here in our town where the prices are wrong quite frequently. After several customer service issues, I’ve decided to support the small grocery store with excellent customer service.
  • When my budget was $260.00 per month we focused on breads and pastas to “fill us up”. Three members of our family had horrible hypoglycemic issues while eating this way. We now we focus on veggies, meat, healthy fats and fruit.

Johnlyn has been a full time homemaker for the past nine years. She is the owner of Hummingbird Homemaking: Working the Home to Save Time and Money.

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  1. says

    I also enjoyed this post and would love to see more like this. I try to coupon but have to admit I sometimes get lazy and sick of the cutting and sorting. I also hating stocking up on too much junk.

    My goal this year is to try and seek out cheaper, healthier alternatives like shopping at ethnic grocery stores or farmers markets.

  2. says

    I commend you for switching to ethical meats. I’m afraid to watch Food Inc., but after seeing a feedlot myself, already have made the switch. Thanks for these great tips. Your low budget is still quite impressive!

  3. BS says

    I enjoyed this post! I do use coupons but being in a rural area with less coupons inserts and no close big box stores sometimes the coupons don’t do a whole lot. I also have noticed a lot of people get all these great mark downs…my area sure doesn’t do that! I also have been really big on trying to buy only sale items, however, you can’t eat very balanced doing that-at least it hasn’t worked for us.
    I am thankful for this post as it has been something I have been adapting to-it’s ok to spend a little more for better.
    How do you that buy local farms find them? We have farms in the area but to my knowledge none of them sell stuff to the public, just for their family or to a big corporation.

    • says

      A lady over at told me that the more you talk about buying local, the more you’ll find.

      That’s how it’s been for me!

      I find out that there is a place that sells raw milk 15 miles away. I happened to be chatting with one of my very good friends and she told me that it’s her brother’s farm! In our newspaper there is a section called “good food to eat”. Often times you’ll see items there as well.

      If you keep your eyes and mouth :-) open you’ll find more and more options!

  4. KatieBee says

    Oh how I LOVE your post – my family is the same ages/# and we go through a lot of food! Although we live in a very large city, and I do use coupons for things, I also have moved to some of what you are doing.

    In January I decided to use the envelope method as well – each week I take out $100 for groceries. $35 of that includes a large box of assorted local, organic fruits delivered to my door each week (we tried purchasing the same amount of veggies and found this to be equal in price and I don’t have to go anywhere).

    Some weeks we get shrimp and salmon (Ok, only one week…), but we also learned to use beans, brown rice and salad to be our fill ups in the menu. I used to spend $600+ a month on food and have consistently stayed at the $100 (or less)per week for the past 6 weeks. It takes planning, but it’s working. No one’s complained about what’s for dinner

    Thanks for a little extra inspiration – it helps to know others are rowing the same boat!

  5. says

    Yay, for you increasing your budget for the reasons you wrote.

    I just went to a couponing seminar and it was very helpful, but all of it was not realistic for our family. I will implement many of the tips, but I have found meal planning to be very effective in cutting cost, yet keeping fresh produce, lentils, and meats as the staple of our meals.

    I realize some people can not afford this and at times we can’t either, so we make changes. One thing, I am finally looking into is growing a few of our own veggies. This is more challenging living in a city, but I know it can be done.

  6. Rachel says

    My monthly grocery budget is $400 for a family of five. My husband is gluten intolerant and I must rely on price matching or coupons. We currently do live in a larger town, so I can do these things. I would love to have more grocery money each week, but our current income does not allow for that right now. We have lived in small towns- before I couponed and new my husband needed gluten free foods and our budget then, like now, was around $100/wk. The internet and wonderful sites like this, help so much to keep me posted with great ideas and great coupons and samples!

  7. stacy hancock says

    great post! i rarely use coupons because a lot of what we buy is fresh, i make most from scratch. even with buying mostly organic and getting our meat straight from the farmers, i can run our weekly budget around 75$. that is a family of 4 plus 3 extra kidlets M-F for breakfast and lunch. i credit this budget success to menu planning around what i already have- in addition to gardening and canning/freezing.

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