How I Lowered My Grocery Bill By 60%

How-I-Lowered-My-Grocery-Bill-by-60

In our early years of marriage funds were very limited. My husband was in graduate school and we lived on his small stipend. During this time, my menu planning consisted of deciding which one casserole to cook for the week — of course, each dish was nutritious and microwaveable!

This “casserole of the week” cooking would continue through the birth of four or five children in some form or another. But, as my husband’s salary increased, I became lazy and allowed our grocery budget to increase — except disproportionately. We were living debt-free in our own house and driving debt-free cars. I could loosen up, or so I thought.

I became curious as to where our money was being spent, so I began writing down my expenses. I was astonished to find that I was spending $800 on food! Granted, we had eight children at home, but I thought $800 was ridiculous! So, I set out to reduce it.

To begin with, I made a list of the homemade meals we enjoyed. I then drew out a calender and filled in meals for the whole month. I placed it and others like it into a plastic sleeve and displayed it on my refrigerator. So, at a glance, I would know what was for dinner. Now that I have entered the computer age, they are printed.

Next, came a monthly shopping list. Checking my pantry first, I made a shopping list according to the recipes on my monthly menu. This was a bit overwhelming at first, but the results were well worth the effort. By simply planning meals for a month and shopping accordingly, I was able to lower our food  bill to $400. That was a 50% savings! And that was even before I was using coupons.

I further tweaked my menus by figuring out the cost per serving of each individual recipe. Yes, this took some more time and effort, but it was also worth it. I found that by expanding my recipe collection to include additional, more economical meals (red beans and rice was added) I further cut expenses to $300.

We are now blessed with a productive garden and my menu planning now revolves around eating out of our three freezers.

Now, for a family with 7 children (3 years to 18 years) still at home (the oldest three have moved out but others, including four grandchildren, keep coming), I am spending less than $300 per month. The keys are planning, using what we have on hand (garden fresh and freezers) and shopping with coupons in conjunction with sales.

To read more about raising 10 children, chickens, and cows on a budget, be sure to visit Dina-Marie’s blog, Dimes 2 Vines.

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Comments

  1. Stacey bone says

    No way this could ever work for us. We spend 600 on a family of 4 and that includes one barely eating baby. But we buy almost exclusively organic, grass fed, local, and do not hardly eat any grain due to allergies, but go you!

    • Kathleen says

      That’s about 75 bucks a week. I could not do that…living in MA & feeding 3 kids & 3 cats. Just not doable in my house.

      • Jean says

        Sure you can :) There are 4 of us (2 kids,me and hubby) plus 3 cats. We live in MA and spend $60.00 – $75.00 per week.

        • Kathleen says

          I would LOVE to hear how you do that. Which stores do you shop at? Do you buy only food or household stuff too like toilet paper cleaning stuff etc..? I need some tips! Thanks :)

      • Heavens123 says

        I see lots of comments here saying it can’t be done if you want to shop organically, but sure it can! We live in NYC, so top notch prices, and we have cut our food bill approximately over 60% in the past year. 99.9% of everything that comes into our house is organic. The key is using smart shopping techiques. By stocking up when things are on sale and there’s a coupon we can get great deals. We try to avoid processed foods, but do buy some things pre-made. Here’s an example: Organic Valley pasture fed butter, $1.75 per pound. Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent, $1.50 per box. Pacific Natural Organic soups and broths, 65 cents per carton, Organic Eggs, $1.25 per dozen. Those are NYC prices after coupons, sales, discount cards, credit card rebates and gift card purchases. The cost of the soup probably rivals homemade and saves a little time, but we also try to stick to homemade too. I have a one year supply of soup, detergent, butter, and trash bags, among other things. I also buy organic fruit the one time of year each item goes on sale and can it. Jams, sauces, spreads, salsas. All organic and inexpensive.

        It absolutely can be done with all organic, you just have to learn how.

        • Heavens123 says

          And don’t forget to email all the companies that make products you like. We email every month and most of them send great coupons, which often include coupons for FREE products.

          • Kimberly says

            Heaven, Can you give us some tips on exactly how you accomplish this? We eat 99% organic but I am at $800/month for 5 people (2 teens in there). I try to stack store Q’s with manufacturerQ’s for organic products but this definately does not work for produce in the Virginia Beach area. Please give us some more insight! Thanks!

          • Heavens123 says

            Kimberly-

            Stacking discounts is the key. I’ll use Whole Foods in all my examples below:

            Produce: It’s possible to find discounts on produce, but they are harder to find than other goods. If you buy anything that comes in a container (i.e., berries, salad mixes), email the producer for coupons. For other items, strike when they go on sale, if you are unable to garden, as we are. For example, 5 lbs of organic carrots at WF is $3.99. Once in a long while they go on sale for $2.75, at which point I buy 25 lbs. I then dehydrate the majority and store them. Some I do shredded, some in slices. When you need carrots for a stew or carrotcake, out they come. Some I dehydrate and grind, which then is used as a thickener for sauces, meaning I don’t have to buy cornstarch. Some I blanch and freeze. On top of that sale, I bought a WF gift card at 3% off. That gift card was purchased on my credit card, which gives a 3% reward, so even more savings there. Same with fruit: once every year there is a huge glut of an item…buy a ton and dehydrate it, freeze it, can it into sauces and preserves. If you do this, the only produce you need to buy are the things you want to eat fresh and the things that do not preserve well.

            Non-produce example: Imagine organic mushroom gravy is $3.29 a carton. On sale for $2.00 a carton. I bought 12, which is a case and got a 10% case discount, so now we’re down to $1.80 per carton. I had a $1 coupon for each, so now we’re down to .80 per carton. I used a gift card I purchased for 3% off, so now we’re down to .77 per carton. I purchased the gift card with a no annual fee rewards card, so now we’re down to .75 per carton. So from $3.29 down to.75 per carton and I have a year’s supply.

            Second example: Martinelli’s organic cider, $3.69 per bottle. One time per year, before Thanksgiving, it goes down to $2.00 per bottle. Same deductions as above reduced it to .75 per bottle and I have a 1-2 year supply.

            Same method got me Arrowhead Mills corn meal for .50 a pound. I get everything from cat litter to natural shampoos, pet foods, everything via this route.

            Email manufacturers every month for coupons. Join coupon exchange websites. You can even find coupons on sale sites, but check the Consumer Information Center first to make sure they are legitimate coupons. When you first start doing this, you will be out of pocket a little more, but as your pantry fills and you need to buy fewer and fewer things each week, your bill will go down dramatically. We buy all organic. We are a small household, but this can be multiplied for bigger households just the same.

      • says

        I live in Ma too and our budget about $100 a week for groceries, etc. We have three kids (one is a 3 month old baby) and due to the baby having a milk allergy and me breastfeeding I am dairy free.

        I don’t always stick to my budget and the major reason is that with the new baby my sanity is worth blowing our $100 budget. I choose to co-sleep with her so she is basically attached to me all day and adding that to also raising a 2 year old and a 4 year old and by the end of the day (which is when I used to do my coupon cutting, meal planning and grocery lists) I feel like my brain is fried.

        Hopefully when the baby gets a little older my brain will start working properly again and I’ll be able to stick to my $100 budget but or maybe I’ll raise it because I’m leaning towards only buying all natural food and grass fed beef/meat which here in Ma can be pretty expensive. $75 for my family is not do-able either but that is a personal choice I have made due to the quality of food I want and the lack of time I want to spend getting deals.

    • Emily says

      My thoughts exactly. Couponing to save money is great, but in order to eat a natural, organic diet, it would be impossible to cut our grocery budget by that much. I actually stopped couponing for the most part because I’ve cut out all of the processed/boxed food that coupons typically are made for.

      • says

        Unfortunately, this is just not true. There are plenty of coupons available for natural and organic products! And even if you don’t coupon for food, why not use coupons for household items and health & beauty purchases?

        Simply sticking to the sales and only buying what’s needed also makes a huge difference in one’s budget!

        • Emily says

          I know there are coupons for natural and organic items, but my point was that they are not nearly as plentiful as the non-organic/non-natural ones. And you have to agree that even with the coupons, those items, both edible and not, are still usually more expensive than buying non-organic items. Just making a point that not everyone is able to go that low with a grocery bill depending on your eating habits.

          • Heavens123 says

            You are not looking in the right places then. See my above post. We eat 99.9% organic and have a fully stocked pantry of organic stuff that was often bought at 75% off. We live in NYC and shop mostly at Whole Foods, a high end store.

      • Andrea says

        If you garden, raise some of your own meat and hunt wild game, you can easily eat for that.

        Regarding coupons, this week I’m using coupons for Newman’s Own organic sauce, Muir Glen canned tomato paste, toilet paper and Seeds of Change organic rice. Plus, I got a $4/$50 coupon for the grocery store that can be used on any food.

        • Emily says

          Most people can’t or won’t hunt for wild game. And a lot of people, like myself, work full time and have a family and don’t have time to garden. Like I said above, I know there are coupons out there for organic items, but they are still more expensive, on average, than non-organic items. You can absolutely save money and eat a healthy diet cheaper than most people think, but perhaps just not as low at the author of this post was suggesting.

          • kj says

            I just want to encourage you to try gardening. Honestly, I don’t spend that much time with it. My husband tills it in the spring. We plant the seeds, spread down straw to keep the weeds out and we are done until it is time to harvest it. I may go out and get a stray weed or two. Canning takes time, but I only can my green beans. Everything else stores or freezes. I promise, it isn’t that time consuming (and I have a large garden!). :-)

          • Rachael says

            We live in an apartment, and can’t garden (realistically, I’m sure we could rent a plot or something, but we don’t have time). But we do shop at the Farmer’s Market, which is mostly organic and much cheaper. It’s a great alternative.

          • Wendy says

            I know exactly what you’re saying and you’re right. Organic is more expensive and the few coupons that come out are not on brands sold in my area. Also, my family has huge appetites so like someone said below, I can’t compare with others. My son comes home from school and eats what I’d consider a meal. Then he eats another one 2 hours later. If he has soccer, he will eat another meal after he gets home. Also, wild meat has a different taste—I don’t like it and bullets cost money—-let’s not forget that. I know, my family hunts, and you don’t necessarily get something everytime you go out. Also unless you are eating steaks, you don’t really get out much cheaper by raising your own cows. We have cows in our pasture and you have to buy hay (which is not cheap) or bale your own (don’t forget the cost of equipment, tractor, gas, maintaince). They don’t always get to just graze all summer. We’ve had droughts the past few summers and the pasture turns brown. You have to feed hay and sometimes have to travel many miles to find someone who will even sell. We have a large graden, and I can and freeze. While it seems to save me, in groceries, it does make my electric bill higher so by the time I figure that in, it would probably be just as cheap to buy those things on sale. Still I enjoy doing it. I just wanted you to know, you are not wrong in your thinking. And it’s really hard to compare your budget to others with different tastes & appetites. We’re all just don’t the best we can with what we’ve got. Don’t feel bad. You’re doing that works for you.

        • Wendy says

          We do raise a lot in our garden and I can and freeze lots of veggies, but by the time I figure in the cost of lids, freezer bags and the fact that my electric bill goes up when I’m doing these things, I’m probably breaking even. But it’s something I enjoy. Some people think of hunting as free meat, but by the time you figure in the cost of the clothing, hunting license, bullets/arrows (which are not cheap), scent blockers, hand warmers, doe calls, deer stands, it adds up. Plus you don’t always get something when you go out. Even fishing is not a cheap hobby. I’ve seen the cost of the poles & lures my son & husband buy and the lures wear out or are lost too and have to be replaced. If you are a large scale operation farm, you probably can save money by raising your own meat, but if you’re a small family farm (like us) you are most likely breaking even and doing it for enjoyment. As I’ve said below, we have a few cows. You have to feed hay in the winter and it’s getting to where we have to do it in the summer too because of droughts. The pasture turns brown. We do bale our own hay, but we have to buy equipment and pay for gas. If we run low on hay, in the spring, you sometimes have to travel a good way to find someone willing to sell hay—-remember the drought affects us all. All these are hidden costs that most people don’t take into consideration when saying they save money on meat. I did have a friend who bought a calf and feed it and butchered it. She kept a record down to the penny of everything it cost her (even the gas she spent going to buy feed.) She figured out her steaks were a couple of dollars cheaper than she would have paid in the store, but her hamburger was very expensive. It is not something she’ll do again.

          I’m not trying to be negative. I’m just trying to point out that wild game is not “free meat” and raising a calf to slaughter is not always “cheap meat.”

          • Andrea says

            It depends on where you live, your lifestyle, how frugal you are and your standards (i.e. organic vs. conventional). It’s definitely not economically advantageous in some areas and you do have to be aware of the hidden costs, but if you’re creative, there are ways to reduce the costs and make it more economical.

            Just one example…my father was a self-employed woodcutter. He was in the forest nearly everyday. In the fall, he’d often bring home grouse for dinner. If the weather was too bad to work, he’d hunt deer, rather than sit idle for a day. He wore the same clothes to work as he did to hunt and never had a tree stand. My parents butchered the meat themselves. 100+ pounds of meat for the cost of a hunting license (currently $25 in my state) and a few freezer bags/canning jars was always a pretty good deal for my family.

        • Wendy says

          I was trying to reply to Andrea with my comment below not Emily. It looks like I replied to Emily twice.

  2. Sarah A says

    What an inspiring post! And some good ideas. Just an admin note… the link to Dina-Marie’s blog at the end is actually a link to a couponing article on MSM. Just so you know. :-)

  3. Emily says

    So if she raises her own cows does she not buy beef? I was reading a blog once where someone had a really low grocery budget but then said that her buying part of a cow was not included.

    • says

      I just read her “about me” and she refers to the cow as a “milk cow”, so maybe it’s to provide dairy, not beef.

      Still $300 for a family of 10 is awesome, even if you were to add, say $50 to $100 a month for meat.

  4. Tammy Wood says

    Another way I have found to save money is by price matching at Walmart. I save at least $50-$100 a month doing this

    • Anne-Marie says

      Awesome tip, thank you for this. Definitely might be worth the trip across town to Wally World for me : )

  5. says

    Wow! I have tried menu planning in the past and have failed. I will be trying it again this month as part of a commitment I’ve made on my blog to cut down our food spending for the month of March.

    • says

      Hooray for commitments! Hope you have success!

      I have cut ours but 5% (in two months) by sticking to a list, implementing coupons (not hard-core by any means), and checking the aisle end-caps/sale items. I just scored a $2.99 3lb bag of rice for 76 cents at Target!! That’s pretty much 25 cents/lb! I menu plan by the week but I imagine implementing by the month would be even more radical!

      Shoot for the moon!

  6. Anna says

    I read more and more about people living off their gardens as well as shopping at stores for food. I think it would be interesting to do a posting about growing one’s own food for the family. My family use to live off our garden when I was younger and growing up. I hope to have a few things growing this spring but the weather has been so dry! No snow means no moisture unless it rains, rains, rains!

    Any one else live off their garden as well?

    • says

      Anna, there is a great book about this very topic. In Animal,Vegetable, Miracle, Barabara Kingsolver and her family experiment living off their land totally. You should read it!

    • Andrea says

      My husband and I both grew up eating fresh garden produce. My family also raised our own pigs and turkeys and ate wild game (and wild berries and mushrooms). My uncle still lives this way and he’s always happy to share his wisdom with me.

      • Anna says

        My family grew up on wild game as our meat supplement. My parents did not buy much fresh meat at the grocery store. My dad hunted.

  7. K-Mo says

    I noticed that I tend to spend a lot less if I shop less often (go figure!). So I menu plan for two weeks at a time and try grocery shopping only twice a month. I would really like to get down to once a month grocery shopping because I know that I would be able to further cut the grocery bill, but I’m not sure how to buy produce and fruit one month at a time and keep it good through the whole month……anyone out there do their grocery shopping once a month, and if so how do you keep your produce fresh?

    • Amy Zuck says

      I do! Though we only have a family of 5 and 1 is a baby : ) I try to buy stuff that lasts for awhile and frozen. We just went the other day and got baby carrots, celery (if they get soft you can cut them up and keep them in water in the fridge and they’ll be crisp again!) romaine? lettuce and bananas that are a little on the green side. Anything else is frozen or canned, but I’d love to try growing some lettuce indoors next fall!!

    • Raquella says

      I have the same problem. I menu plan for the entire month. I then do one big shop at the beginning of the month to get the everything I need. But I still go to the grocery store every week for produce. Plus, with 2 kids always in tow, I always end up buying more than just the produce I go in for. I just don’t know how to preserve veggies and fruits for an entire month. Any ideas?

    • Heather says

      I don’t think it’s worth it. It’s important to eat a lot of produce. Frozen will help some, though.
      How about on the weeks where you only need produce, only carry a handbasket instead of getting a cart. That will keep you from buying too much other stuff! I do this sometimes when I just need to get those infamous “one or two things.” In fact, I will get no basket at all sometimes! That really limits how much I can carry.

      • Riann says

        I love this trick at Costco! What I can carry is usually less than $30! Lettuce, broccoli, eggs, cottage cheese, and coffee and I’m running for the checkout!

      • says

        Awesome idea! I agree, produce is a budget and life saver! Live saver = you will be healthier if you eat more!
        Carrying a small basket is a great idea that works for me OR I create a list that I HAVE to stick to, no matter the deal, because I know I have purchased so much already.

    • says

      How about picking up your produce at the Farmer’s Market nearest you? That way you are not tempted to pick up other things.

    • Jessica says

      I go traditional grocery shopping twice a month and then produce shopping on the other weeks. I only take enough money for the produce I intend to buy and usually shop at Sams. This helps me not get extras. You might be able to implement something along those lines.

    • Bethany M says

      Steve and Annette Economides discuss this in their book America’s cheapest family gets you right on the money : your guide to living better, spending less, and cashing in on your dreams. I don’t do it myself, but I thought it was an interesting proposition.

    • Kristie says

      I find, also, that shopping more frequently saves me money. Our local Kroger marks things down periodically, if they are close to expiration. So it pays to stop by about twice a week and grab what’s marked down–and if you can match it with coupons, you can save a bundle.

    • Brooke says

      We also shop just once a month, buying mostly protein items and bulk grains. Each week, I supplement with a co-op for fruits and vegetables. http://www.bountifulbaskets.org costs only $16.50 per week for a laundry basket full of fruits and vegetables!

  8. Rebecca says

    I would really like to try meal playing for the month. N frugal meals. I have a total of 6 people in my family. Please send ideas or website to me. raerae90@Gmail.com thanks so much

  9. Marie says

    Crystal- I love the variety on your blog. While I can read Dina- Maria’s testimonial and be encouraged or inspired I know that raising cows is not in my future! However, I love the diversity and how it may impac someone else to think outside the box.
    As you know you have amazing readers! I love reading the comments just as much as it is full of a wealth of tips and information.
    Everyone’s life circumstances and family looks different. I love being able to feed my family of 5 for $200 a month and the last 3 months less then that.
    Couponing, list making, stock-piling all make it possible.

  10. Anne-Marie says

    I menu plan, coupon, stockpile, re-serve and recycle leftovers, and still spend probably $320 a month to feed my family of four. I think I need to do better and this article has helped me pinpoint two of my issues: I’m less discriminating on my recipes than I should be, and I spend too much on fresh produce. Thanks for this article! : )

    • anon says

      I can’t seem to keep ours much under $250/week. There are 8 of us, including three teenagers. Anyone have any suggestions? I really need to cut the food bill.

      • says

        We have 8 children still at home; we live in coastal SC; we spend $250-300 a week on groceries. I do not coupon because I only have Wal Mart and BiLo. I buy produce at BiLo and everything else at WMart.
        I do need to do better at meal planning, but groceries are just outrageous around here!!

      • Sarah says

        Try mini “muffins” from cake mixes some of the various cake mixes like a white cake mix you can dump in pumpkin and other items to make them like “mini muffins” and large pots of soup.

        Popcorn on top of the stove.

        Have the teens make some foods . Even cooking (I would use this term loosely but they can put things together) I have many ideas .
        Bean buritos are easy for them tostados with various toppings you can feed them very cheap if you go to my web site you will find great success with feeding large group of hungry teens for way less and often less work for Mom as well. http://glossymoney.com/packed-lunches-shopping-strategies-feeding-hungry-teens/

        I am happy to help anyone stretch a dollar to feed a bunch of hungry teens. I have been doing it for years!

    • Sara says

      I disagree…fresh produce is worth the extra expense, even if you have to cross something else off your list to get it. My kids are allowed as much fresh fruits and veggies as they want to eat. I may spend a little more on produce, but for my childrens health, it’s completely worth it. We COULD spend less on groceries, but it’s all about balance. We have a good balance of health and frugality for our family.

      • Anne-Marie says

        Oh, I completely agree :) I didn’t mean to imply that I would buy less fresh produce. I meant to say that I would SPEND LESS on fresh produce. Thanks to Crystal, her contributors, and all of you, I know exactly how to do that!

        • Sara says

          That’s the best of both worlds! Definitely harder in the winter when everything is so expensive, but we are fruit-a-vores in the summer :)

        • Sara says

          I apologize if my comment sounded snarky. It really wasn’t meant to be! $320 for 4 is really great! I know some people who will spend that in a week for 4 people!
          I’m noticing a lot of comparing and criticism on all these comments, and I think it’s important to remember only we know our family’s specific needs and we shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone else if we know we’re doing what’s truly best for our family. Being mom is hard work, and we should encourage each other more often :)

          • Anne-Marie says

            No offense taken at all! I just know that I have better options than paying my neighborhood Kroger’s price for produce, which is what I usually do. For example, I go to Cub Foods each week to get their deals (done while my daughter’s at her dance studio, right next to Cub–I have time to get in my daily sidewalk jog AND go to Cub!) Now I KNOW from experience that Cub’s produce will beat Kroger’s every single time. I just need to change some of my habits, that’s all!

      • Rachael says

        I agree, too. I was cutting back on produce and everyone was getting sick all the time. Now we eat more beans and less meat so we can eat tons of fresh produce–and everyone has been much healthier.

      • says

        I often spend more than I planned on at the store when I have my kids in tow because like you, I allow them to buy whatever produce they want. Just the other day my two year old loaded my cart up with pears, a baby watermelon, apples, oranges and strawberries. Keep in mind I just went in for cereal and strawberries but the higher bill was worth it because I never want to deny my kids request to buy healthy food. Fruit snacks on the other hand- no.

    • Andrea says

      It may be that the cost-of-living in your area is higher than where the author lives. You can trim your fresh produce budget a bit by primarily buying the weekly specials.

  11. says

    I want someone to come into my home and teach me how to plan and get groceries. These posts do inspire me to try harder.
    I also need someone to come into my home and convince my husband we should eat less meat :)

    • Danielle B says

      Pray for him. No one else will ever convince him to change. Only a heart change can do it, and there’s only One that’s in the business of heart changes. I speak from experience.
      My husband was the definition of a carnivore, with high blood pressure and cholesterol at the age of 32. I nagged and nagged and nagged him until finally we were both sick of hearing it. I gave that up and just started praying for him through the book “Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie O’Martin. A few months later we’re now eating a mostly whole, raw greens, veggies and fruits diet with a sprinkling of meat here or there. We’ve cut our meat and dairy consumption by 50% and 75%, respectively. Only God could have worked that change in him. He’ll do it in your husband too, over time, with lots of selfless prayers. ;-)

    • says

      He’s probably praying that you can be convinced that he gets to eat more meat!!!

      We eat less food now that we eat more meat, but it sure took me a LOOOONG time for me to get over the fact that we didn’t need to eat less meat.

      We needed more meat and less sugar/grains. It went against every frugal bone in my body, but we certainly feel a lot better now.

      • says

        lol! I bet you are right! Interesting observation. We have definately cute back on “carbs” and it has helped yeast problems I have, so I can see from the Nourishing Traditions/Traditional Eating point of view how more meat could be better. I think my husband and I could meet in the middle if we ate more protein, i.e. fish, shrimp, crab (we live in South Louisiana so healthy wild seafood is a great blessing). Thanks for helping me see his side :) I guess I should just pray for God’s will and God’s prices!!

        • says

          OHHHHH Yummy! I love seafood.

          Research coconut oil to help with yeast issues (candida) -> definitely has helped me a ton in that area.

  12. amanda says

    I am slacked-jawed in amazement, you are a REAL woman. Woah baby. I do most of those things (minus the garden, I live in the dessert) and I don’t think I come CLOSE to that. You’ve inspired me to try a little harder — I like the idea about writing down EVERYTHING I buy. Also thinking about doing cash, but that’s SO hard for me.

    • says

      Cash is hard – but it’s like a tough love sort of thing! It has SAVED our budget. When we were first married I spent at least $600 per month on two people – AH! Now we are down to $95 per week and if I would stick to my list we could easily and abundantly eat for $85. This is eating mostly whole foods (cooking and baking done from scratch at home) and organic fats, dairy and meats.

      Challenge yourself! It has taken me 18 months to finally get the hang of grocery budgeting, but it is so worth it to be persistent! I did have a baby in that period of time so I bet in 6-9 months you could be a cash grocery buying pro!

  13. Leighann says

    In January I tried menu planning for the entire month and it was a spectacular…FAILURE! In fact, it made me feel awful, every time I looked at that menu and went “Well, we were supposed to have meatloaf for dinner, but…” Monthly menu planning did not work out well for my family.

    In February, I tried bi-weekly menu planning. Worked much better than the monthly plan, but not as well as the weekly plans. I’m starting back on the weekly plans for March, and I’m trying to figure out exactly what a good grocery budget should be for my family. Extremely glad that my middle child is now potty trained! Out of diapers! That’s around $20/week we’re going to be able to save on that alone.

    Our big goal for the month is to have fewer meat dishes. We know we need to eat less meat, but our society conditions us to think “meat at every meal” so we’ve got to work around that. Between less meat and my weekly menu planning, we should start seeing that $180/week grocery bill drop back down to below $150 (that baby formula is getting expensive; six more weeks and we’re done with that, too!).

    • says

      Leighann, I recently posted a free ebook with meat free meals (there are some with fish since it’s intended for Lent). A few of the most economical meals are the enchiladas, black and white bean soup, and veggie mac. My husband likes to have meat in his meals too, but doesn’t seem to mind these… I also use these recipes when I have some meat leftover from another meal. For example, if I have part of a chicken breast left, I’ll shred it and add it to the green enchilada pie which makes it just slightly heartier, but no more expensive. If I have a little bit of ground meat, turkey or chicken, I’ll add it to the black and white bean soup.

      http://teachinggoodeaters.blogspot.com/2012/02/free-ebook-beyond-pizza-and-fish-sticks.html

    • Lisa says

      I had the same problem. Found it easier to plan weekly but kept buying too many “extras” with weekly shopping trips. So, I started keeping my weekly plans and then put together monthly shopping lists and menus from those. I also try to do freezer cooking so grouping “like” meals (chicken, certain vegetables, etc.) has allowed me to buy in bulk which also results in more savings. Just an idea on how to take “baby steps” to get where you want to be. Good luck!

    • Patti says

      When I was a newlywed, I planned meals for six week intervals because we did not have a “big” grocery store in town… had to drive to another county to go to one. I did not assign a meal to each day – just came up with a list of 30 meals and posted it on the refrigerator. As we ate one, I would cross it off. We always had some leftovers so that is how I went about 6 weeks at a time. I still went to the small grocery store for fresh items, but having meals on the shelf kept me from overbuying. Maybe if you tried this way, you would not feel so much like a failure if you didn’t eat a certain thing on a certain day. I think that approach IS hard because I eat things when I am in the mood for them (such as chili on a cold day and entree salads on a hot one).

    • says

      I too was a failure at monthly menu planning. It added sooooo much stress to me. Not sure why I kept trying it – probably because everyone else seemed to be so successful!

      When we ate less meat we at waaaaay more wheat/grains which caused a ton of health problems for my family. The only way I would try for less meat is to add more produce and healthy fats not by eating more grains. Good luck to you!

      • Leighann says

        Thanks! It seems like when we have meatless meals, they’re made up for with lots of grains, too, and lots of dairy (like cheesy bean enchiladas!) which aren’t great for health benefits.

        Produce around here is so expensive that I started my own garden. It will take a few months before it starts paying off, but that will help us out some. Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetable that we eat will help some, but I’m afraid that we’d just be cutting out the expense of meat for the expense of produce!

        • says

          Guilty of lots of dairy here too!

          I spend so much on my garden ~ I can’t figure out how people actually save money organically gardening. I love it though so I just call it a hobby and budget accordingly.

      • Kathleen says

        This is exactly what I have been doing…eating less meat & eating more grains like pasta. My husband has been getting really bored with dinner and has started to really complain about the lack of meat in our menus. I think I may just try this…adding more veggies and less pasta dinners. Thanks for the tip!

    • says

      My registered dietitian told me that for a family with no major health problems, visually dividing your plate into quarters and filling each quarter with one of the following: protein, starch, fruit, and vegetable is an easy way to eat right. This worked wonders for us in cutting back our meat intake. Also remenber that a standard serving of meat is 3-4oz – so a 20oz pack of 3 boneless-skinless chicken breasts is 5-6 servings, not 3. We usually eat meat 4-5 days a week, but smaller servings.

      When our twins were on formula, we bought formula (and diapers) at Sam’s Club. Same cost as the grocery but twice the amount (we used Similac, I believe, not the store brand). By watching our meat portions, buying formula at Sam’s Club (1 can per week) and not buying things we didn’t need, we were able to do $75/wk for groceries/paper products/diapers. Now that we’re out of diapers and have grown enough to eat almost like adults, it’s $40-$50/wk.

      When we started menu planning, I planned 5 dinners a week – that’s it. No assigned days, etc. I also had another list of meals that I had on hand in case we didn’t like/want/were-not-able-to-make anything on the list that night. As I figured out what worked for us, I’ve been able to plan 21 meals a week plus 7 snacks and it’s really helped us keep expenses stable in spite of rising costs and the kids eating more.

      Baby Steps (and sorry for writing a book!),
      Lea
      :)

  14. Jennifer McMaster says

    This sounds wonderful but completely unattainable to me. We spend $950/mo. for our family of 9 (almost 10-ages 13 down to 2) and even that doesn’t seem to be enough most months. No stores in our area double coupons and I do the bulk of my shopping at Grocery Outlet (great prices) and Costco. I also buy $2000 worth of bulk good/year from our co-op and usually get grass fed beef 1-2 times a year at $1500 total. We do eat beans and rice, and other meatless meals, I bake my own sourdough bread from rye berries I grind, we don’t buy steaks or expensive seafoods,etc. either and produce, I’ve been told is cheaper in our area than most of the U.S. (central CA) . Is this budget including paper products, pet food, toileties, etc? I’m feeling like I need to do much better as I hate spending so much on groceries but I honestly don’t see where I can improve. Do people who have such low grocery budgets eat less nutritious foods? I’ve done the coupon thing when we lived in So. CA and saved a ton but it was almost always on foods that were not good for us. Am I just incompetent?

    • Danielle B says

      You’re not incompetent!

      Look to others around you with similiar eating goals/habits, and brainstorm how to lower your budget if you feel it’s out of control. Maybe it’s not for your area of living. Maybe it is. You won’t really know until you start pulling comparisions of people that live in the same area, with the same eating habits. Start an interest group on Craigslist if you don’t have any friends that eat the way you do.

      According to the costs you listed, your monthly budget is around $1240 after breaking down your yearly costs into monthly costs. If you do end up deciding you need to bring your budget down, start with reasonable % amounts. 5% decrease would save you $62/month. Once your sucessful with that, set your goal for another 5% decrease or so. Keep it reasonable, so you don’t get discouraged.

      And if all else fails, maybe it’s just time to head for Texas and get the heck out of California for a while. ;-)

    • says

      In our case when we had a budget of $60 per week for our family of 4 we ate a lot of unhealthy foods. Although I made a lot of homemade items (beans, breads, cereal,etc.) I also had a warped sense of frugality.

      I would buy Doritos instead of strawberries because Doritos were $1.50 (lowest price according to my pricebook) and strawberries were $2.00 (I knew the strawberries would go down to $1.50). I was so focused on prices I didn’t think about nutrients.

      We were all unhealthy. ADD, hypoglycemia and a lot of inflammation. You wouldn’t have known it by looking at us because we are all thin, but the “cheap” diet was not good for us.

      I think you should try to break down your spending by category and see if it fits in with your goals. We eat a lot of beef now from our local dairy. Expensive, but excellent quality without added corn/soy. So a big portion of my weekly budget goes towards meat and I’m happy with that.

      For example, when shopping at Grocery Outlet you could put like items together and ask them to do a subtotal. You might find that you are spending 50% of your budget on vegetables which might be a good thing for your family. You might find you are spending 25% of your food budget on junk food. Adjust accordingly.

      You might be surprised. $950 might be just the right amount for your family in your location. Hope that helps!

      • says

        Hey! Wow! I just started doing that this week!! Here is how I broke-down out budget of $95:
        $35 Produce (includes dried fruits)
        $20 Dairy
        $20 Proteins
        $10 Grains
        $5 Misc. (bargain money)

        Our 14 month old nursing daughter won’t drink animal milk and isn’t crazy about animal protein, but loves yogurt and cheese so our Dairy is a bit more than I would like. My husband asked for more fruits so I think I will reduce grains to $5 and make Produce $40.

      • says

        I love that point about buying $1.50 Doritos but passing on the $2.00 strawberries!! I had this awaking when I realized that I was passing on the organic berries because they were $1.00 more but then buying some $1.00 “deal” on a packaged food. I realized that if I passed on the processed food altogether (even though it was a “deal”), I could afford the organic…

        • says

          Yes! Yes! Yes!

          Such an awakening! It’s so freeing to have true food fill our fridge, freezer and pantry. This pregnancy (my second) I now crave healthy foods (not Domino’s pizza like the first) and the craziest part is for my first pregnancy we ate all organic but that included organic junk and processed food. This pregnancy we eat fats, dairy and proteins organic but produce regular and very few processed foods comparatively; now I crave healthy foods!!!

    • says

      Your certainly not incompetent! I really think $1250/month for a family 9 (especially when eating lots of grass fed meet and produce) is excellent! That comes out to about $140/person, which I think is what many people who are trying to be frugal would spend. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for myself that I did compromise the health of my diet in order to save money on groceries. Basically, the absolute cheapest foods are pure (empty) carbs – homemade bread, cookies, cereal and crackers bought with coupons, etc. I can make one loaf of delicious sourdough bread for less than 50 cents! (I had to stop making it because I had a hard time eating it in moderation especially hot out of the oven.) Rice is super cheap. If we eat mostly those foods, we can keep our budget super low, but we’re not all that healthy. Therefore, I adjusted my goal from spending as little as possible on groceries to spending a reasonable amount while eating as healthfully as possible. Are you able to afford what you’re currently spending on groceries? If you are, then that’s great. You’re doing what works for your family, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

      • Jennifer McMaster says

        Thank you for the encouragement and tips, ladies! After reading the Dina-Marie’s blog some more and the comments, I am realizing that the cost of that beef (which most of us don’t have the means to raise ourselves) and the cost of a garden (start up costs at least anyway) should definitely be included in the monthly grocery budget. There’s more to the story that would make things a little more doable for alot of us.

  15. says

    I am amazed at how low your grocery bill is! I know you have a garden, but still . . . I was just looking over how much we spent this past month on food for four and a half people, and it was well over $300. Do you have a link to your typical menu plan? And like some of the commenters asked above, do you have your own dairy/beef from your cows, or does the $300 account for that too?

  16. Kathleen says

    I can only get my food budget down to 560 a month. I have 3 kids ages 4,7and 15. I coupon, meal plan and try to shop at more than one store. I live in MA so I don’t know if food prices are higher here. I have a garden every spring/summer so that helps a little. I don’t have a farm and I don’t own any farm animals. I don’t have a huge freezer so I can not buy a half a cow and still have room in my freezer. I would LOVE to see a story on how to keep your food budget under control without having to have a farm or buy a half an animal to keep your budget under a 100 bucks.
    That would be great! Thanks…

    • jos says

      i also have a family of four and at the begining of the month i go and spend $200 than just get little odds and ends that i need so maybe no more than $300 a month… also i leave the chips cookies and expensive junk food out the cart maybe one pack a month

      • Kathleen says

        I guess the only “junk” food I buy is maybe saltines and I do buy ice cream for my kids once a week. I try not to buy cookies because I enjoy baking so if we want those I make them. Maybe I need to look closer at what it is I am buying? Now that I think about it. I am not sure. I do cook a lot from scratch. I do spend more on milk. I buy organic milk and we go through about 3 gallons a week. It’s about 3.50 a half gallon at my store so that does add up.

        • Andrea says

          Can you get organic milk in gallons? That could save you $3/week, as the gallons are usually cheaper.

          Buy two or three boxes of saltines at a time when they are on sale. That’ll save you another $1 or so.

          And so on and so forth with the other items on your list :)

        • Andrea says

          Also, compare prices at various stores!

          Our closest store is Market Basket, so I normally go there. In our area, they have better prices on organic milk, organic baby carrots (we eat four pounds each week!) and a few other things. However, Hannaford has better prices on organic bagged items like rice and dry beans. I occasionally go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods for specific items and even sometimes Walmart or Target has a good deal on organic. (Also, Amazon’s subscribe & save program has saved me a bunch on maple syrup and coconut oil.)

          Unless there’s a really good coupon deal or sale, I avoid Stop n Shop and Shaw’s, because their prices are crazy.

          • Kathleen says

            I love Market Basket that is actually where I shop for most of my stuff. That’s where I have been buying the organic milk. I wish they sold it in gallons there. I also avoid Shaw’s unless they are having a great sale on some items that I need. Didn’t think of going to Hannaford I should check them out. Thanks Andrea. :)

          • Andrea says

            At our Market Basket, the organic gallons of milk are mixed in with the regular milk, while the half-gallons are in a separate section.

    • Kathleen says

      I forgot to mention that I shop once a week. I have thought about trying a by weekly shopping trip but I haven’t found the courage to try it out. I like to keep fresh produce in the house. My kids love fruit! I just don’t want to make any extra trips to the store if at all possible because I am one of those people that will end up buying extra unnecessary things.

      • Beth says

        I think you’re right- look at the individual items that you purchase. Which ones are the “budget busters.” Can you cut those out or find simpler, cheaper substitutes? I sit down with my receipts each week and see what the biggest dollar items were. I use those as a place to cut back. Frozen potatoes, napkins, paper towels, etc. were all the first to go when we started that process. I manage to cut back on fruit by “rationing” the pieces of fruit- eg. I buy 1-2 pieces per person per day. This elimitates waste. We have replaced bagged snacks with popcorn that we make with an air popper. I only buy yogurt when I can get it at a pretty good discount, or if I can’t then I skip ice cream for the week. If organic milk is a priority, are there other items that are not? Could you buy just the dirty dozen in organic and not the other stuff? You may already be doing these things, but these were the steps that we have taken to scale back.

        • Kathleen says

          Thanks for your advice..I will definitly look at my recipets and try to find those budget busters. Good tip on rationing the fruit!

          • Stephanie says

            Depending where in MA you are this could be useful or not. Stop and Shop while generally expensive has its outdated produce and other products on a rack towards the back of the store. I scored .25/lb organic bananas (used in banana bread) organic zucchini .75/lb (grated and put in freezer for later) and organic apples .40/lb (sliced up for school snacks). It is hit or miss but the savings can be fabulous. Market Basket generally has good prices and a good selection of Bobs Red Mill stuff and they have the best prices on organic milk that I am aware of locally (my nearest Aldi is in RI). Whole Foods if you pay attention to sales and coupons can be competitive too.
            Are you buying drinks? We have one half gallon of organic milk and orange juice per week and when it is gone, it is gone. Our pediatrician said that the 18 month old shouldn’t have juice at all and the 3 and 10 year old don’t need it either and to only have a few ounces cut with water if they want juice with breakfast. All the kids have one glass of milk per day and can have as much water as they wish. The two little ones are healthy with no weight issues and my stepchild’s weight is dropping (he is with us half the time and his other house stopped giving him juice every time he was thirsty and switched to water instead).
            MA is expensive and we all do the best we can :)

      • says

        On my blog I have 7 steps that you can go through to help you feed your family.

        The last step is to review the items that you bought and ask yourself this question:

        Are the items that I purchased in alignment with the goals that I set in step 1?

        If that seems overwhelming then you can add up “non-nutrient” items and see what percent of your budget was spent on junk food. Or if fruits are really important to you then you can do the same with that.

        I used to spend $60 a week to feed my family of 4 and now spend much more than that because I think our health is worth it. You might find after reviewing your purchases that you are comfortable with how much money you spend on groceries.

        Hope that helps!

  17. Cherry says

    I spend about $320 a month to feed 5 – three kids ages 8 to 13, a dog and two cats. That’s also not just grocercies but soap, toilet paper, light bulbs and pretty much all the basic household necessities. We’ve never butchered a steer, but we do eat plenty of meat, or have a garden either. Though I have hopes of starting one soon.

    • KC says

      That’s impressive. I would so like to hear how you do that. Probably depends on what state you live in to begin with. I have started to dislike couponing.

    • Kathleen says

      I would love to know how you do that too! I need advice on how I can improve on my budget.

      • Cherry says

        Just the usual methods that you find lots of places. I bulk buy when I can, stock up when things are on sale, shop the loss leaders at our one grocery store, everything else pretty much comes from walmart. We only have two stores, everything else is 50 plus miles away.
        We eat cheaper cuts of meat – mainly chicken and pork. Instead of meatless, we go “less meat” like in casseroles, soups and pasta dishes. Probably only serving an actual hunk of meat meal, once a week or so. I stretch ground beef with TVP. I sometimes menu plan, but I mainly just work out of a well-stocked pantry and have about 15- 20 go to dishes I can make in about 30 minutes hands on time that my family loves – chicken fried rice loaded with vegetables, chicken and dumplings, crockpot ham and scalloped potatos, spaghetti carbonara, tuna mac and cheese and peas, buffalo chicken wraps.
        I love to cook up a lot of stuff on the weekends for the following week (I work full-time), especially muffins, cereal bars and such for breakfast. I primarily buy generic or whole foods and bake my own everything with the exception of sandwich bread. I also have a price book, but I haven’t been the best about keeping it current and always using it. Snack foods are homemade baked goods, peanut butter and graham crackers, PBJ, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, tortilla chips and homemade salsa or bean dip or microwave popcorn that’s just 2 tablespoons of kernals in a paper lunch sack – so much cheaper than the prefab alternative and I can pronounce what’s in it.
        Also, my husband and I really enjoy cooking so we like to experiment with differnt things. I like to try to make my own sauces and seasoning combinations more cheaply.
        Just keep reading websites like this. There are lots of them, follow them on facebook if you facebook and soon you’ll have a bag full of tricks to slash your grocery bill and ones that work best for your family. I guess I really got my start with the book “The Complete Tightwad Gazette.” It is written by a frugal black belt ninja of the highest order.
        Hillbillyhousewife.com is another good resource. I remember an article on her site that was a family emergency shopping and menu plan for I think around $40 a week, but it was little dated, probably not possible now, but full of ideas to work with.

        • Julie says

          Hi! I love some of your ideas but was wondering what TVP is? Also, with the homemade microwave popcorn do you put any oil or anything else in the bag? Do you just fold the bag closed and does it take about the same time to cook as the store bought stuff? Thanks!!

          • Cherry says

            No, just the popcorn and fold the bag over. It pops for about the same amount of time, just listen like you do with the store bought stuff. It tastes like air popped popcorn. I ususally spray some canola oil on it or I can’t believe it’s not butter so a little salt or whatever will stick to it.

      • jenn says

        Hi Kathleen!
        I’ve noticed all your comments about your food budget. I live in MA too so just wanted to tell you not to compare your situation to what others on here are able to do. We live in a VERY expensive area. I started following MSM in 08 and when I was really hardcore with the coupons, I managed to get my bill down to $100. a week for a family of 5. But after awhile, I noticed we were eating a lot more processed junk and I had gained 8 – 10lbs. Now, I am no longer couponing for my food and while I menu plan around sales and shop at three different stores, my food bill is up to $200. a week for a family of now 6. And that doesn’t include things like papers/diapers/cleaners/health products, etc… which I buy separately. I buy 4 gallons of milk/wk, at roughly $3.50 per gallon (and thats NOT organic) so thats $14./wk just for milk.
        So, I no longer compare my situation here in MA to what other people around the country are able to do – it only frustrates me. The same goes when comparing real estate costs etc… MA is just an expensive place to live (and cold, too!) Maybe its time for me to move!

        • Kathleen says

          Hi Jenn!
          Thank you SO much for telling me about your similar situation. I feel better knowing that someone out there knows what I am talking about. I am frustrated and maybe a little envious of these awesome ladies that can pull off an amazing food budget. I probably should stop comparing because I do try really hard. My budget used to be about 200 bucks a week so I think I am doing pretty good getting it down to about 140 a week.. & MA is expensive and it IS freezing here. :)

          • Sonja says

            I’m from KS, but my family lives in MA. Every time we visit, I go through culture shock if I go to the grocery store with my mom or sis-in-law. Do NOT compare your prices to ours! Some things are almost double the price of things here!

        • Emily says

          If it makes you feel any better, I pay $3.98/gallon for milk (not organic) here in Mississippi. But the weather is nice and the people are lovely here :)

      • Jessica says

        For me, eating less at each mean has freed up money in my food budget or a ton of produce weekly. How have I done this?
        - I try and make everything from scratch. It takes a minimal amount of time and I don’t have a lot of the “yucky” stuff in it.
        - Because I dont have all those “yucky” additives that provide taste for me I use a lot of spices in my dishes. I have found that the more flavorful a dish is, the less I eat. When its bland I shovel it into my mouth.
        - As soon as a dish is made, its packaged up in single servings that are easier to take for lunch. This has saved me from eating out a ton.
        - I pack my lunch bag the night before when I have more time to get a true portion of something. In the mornings I am rushed and always get more then I should.

        In an effort to eat more produce I have expanded my tastes to include stuff I wouldn’t have looked at before. For example I dislike the texture of bananas but don’t mind the flavor. So I add them to smoothies each day. Same goes with a lot of fruit and spinach. Into the blender it goes. One important note some people don’t think about it that smoothies don’t have to be in the morning or at snack time. I will have a lighter dinner and have one sometimes.

        The other way I have freed up money is by getting into a less traditional model of freezer cooking. I dislike whole dishes defrosted and reheated. Instead I make hamburger patties up (with a filler of oats) and freeze them flat so I can grab and go. Taco meat is one thing I absolutely don’t mind thawed so I usually have some of it in the freezer and can pull it out quickly for meals. I made a big batch of pizza sauce up a few weeks ago and froze in individual portions. There is always a bag o shredded chicken that can quickly be tossed into a dish in the freezer. Also, when I get rock bottom prices on broccoli I blanch it and freeze it myself. These little tricks have saved me a lot of money because I already have the bases for a meal available when menu planning.

  18. says

    Just curious of what the electrical bill is to run three freezers?
    I don’t mean to be negative. I love new articles about saving money, couponing and slashing grocery budgets. I just get nervous when people start talking about how they save money by using a freezer. I defrosted mine and stopped using it three years ago when I realized it was adding $25/month to my electric budget. Suddenly some of those deals and bargains didn’t seem so good when I had to add in the extra electricity.

    • Leighann says

      If my freezer added $25/month to my electric bill, but by having my freezer and doing freezer cooking/buying in bulk/etc. saves me $50/week on groceries PLUS $50/week eating out, I think that extra $25 cost is made up for with the $400/month savings on groceries.

      That’s how I look at it, anyway. We really did used to spend more than $100/week eating out, getting take out, etc. and by not buying meat and frozen items in bulk we were easily spending $50+week on meat.

  19. says

    I am impressed. $300 with 7 kids! I have heard a rule of thumb that says $25 per person per week. I am at almost twice that ($60-70 a week for two adults and a toddler) and you are at a fraction of that! Plus, you are saving $500 per month, and that is $6000 per year.
    Plus, it does not sound like you have a boring menu, or have cut out your families favorites.

  20. Emily says

    I think a lot of it (saving money on groceries) depends on where you live. I know in the Midwest we can get much better prices on things like milk and cheese, but seafood? Forget about it! In large cities, groceries are more expensive I’d imagine. And depending on your climate, stores may have to ship fresh items in, making them pricier (and some people can garden year-round while others are lucky to have a 3-month growing window). So while I think we should all strive to lower our grocery budget and eat healthy, well-balanced, well-planned meals, don’t get discouraged if you can’t go as low as some others seem to be able to do.

    • Heather says

      Agree. Your region does matter.
      I often see advice to buy at farmer’s markets more often. I suspect that those people are from the deep South/California. Even here in temperate Virginia, farmer’s markets are open only from April to October. And those months on the ends have slim pickings/lots of stuff shipped in.

      • Andrea says

        I’m in New England and there are quite a few year-round markets now. In the winter, there’s less fresh produce available, but farmers still have meat, honey, root vegetables, apples and winter squash to sell.

  21. Beth says

    I too have found it very helpful to sit down and calculate the cost per serving or cost per meal. It really helps me to have objective feedback about what is reasonable. It helps me to then cut out particular ingredients if a recipe is costly, or to plan a super cheap meal to balance out another more expensive one.

  22. Teresa says

    Washing berries and grapes in an apple cider vinegar bath when you get it home helps extend the life of them. I do this because it is also a food way to reduce the pesticides you intake. But the side benefit for me has been having raspberries last 2 weeks in the fridge! I also buy large amounts of spinach , add a paper towel to the package and rotate the way you put it in the fridge so the same pieces of lettuce don’t get exposed to moisture whih causes wilting. I have made spinach last 2-3 weeks this way.

      • says

        Amber – I soak them. Sorry I wasn’t totally clear. I do a 4 Part Water, 1 Part Vinegar. I say it this way because depending on the week I have different amounts of produce to soak. I soak them for 10-15 minutes. It kills off the bacteria on the outside that causes the fruit to rot faster. . It also helps remove some of the pesticicde residue. I also think it is a huge time saver because them my fruit is ready to eat, my 6 & 3 year old can grab it out of the fridge and eat it. I also do not find that it tastes different, and I have blind taste tested a few people to see if they could taste the vinegar. Noone could, not even a very picky friend of mine.

  23. says

    We feed a family of 5 on $100/ week and that also includes cleaning products, personal products, and other household items. I don’t garden or butcher a cow, but I do reap a few benefits from my Dad’s garden (maybe once a week we eat a veggie from his garden) and from their beef (also once a week). But other than that, I make a simple meal plan for the week by first looking at what’s in my pantry and freezer. It’s not as hard as you think. Trust me. When I first started meal planning I thought I had to do all this crazy stuff and perfect everything. YOU DON’T. Just pick out your favorite recipes. Write down the ingredients you don’t have on hand. Go to the store. and STICK TO THE LIST. I probably buy a mixture of name brand and store brand items. I do not buy pre-made meals or meats (except for the occasional frozen pizza) and, at the moment, I DON’T stock up on sale items simply because I can’t afford to spend the money right now. :)

  24. says

    One thing that has actually helped me stick to a list because I’m notorious for “browsing”…I make out a detailed list based on my weekly meal plan and send my husband to the store on Saturdays. He won’t buy anything that’s not on the list, so we’ve saved about $20 per week. Same thing when I need to purchase produce midweek…the grocery store is on the way home from work and he’ll stop JUST for bananas, or strawberries, or grapes and not get tempted with anything else.

    As for organic, you can also buy organic on a budget if you plan out well enough. I roasted two organic chickens from Costco this week, and it made up the base for three different meals. As a single meal it would have been expensive (the organic chickens are 2x more than conventional), but because I used the meat for several days, the price per meal was still reasonable. For 3 of us, I try to spend around $300/mo, and this includes mostly organic produce and some organic meats.

  25. Catherine says

    I think it’s impossible to compare groceries budgets with others the way we want to. Even IF we live in the same area, feed the same number of people, etc., there’s going to be differences in what our families want/need. There’s only 4 people in my family, but one is a 6’6” male. He can easily a whole box of spaghetti & jar of spaghetti sauce at one meal. Other people tell me that me that much would feed their whole family and still have leftovers. We all have different circumstances, so let’s not get hung up on comparing ourselves to others!

    • Wendy says

      You’re exactly right. Different families have different appetites, especially those of us who are feeding teen boys. (During soccer season, mine will eat one supper, go to practice, and come home and eat again so there goes the left overs.) I also have to consider what they are willing to take for lunch (the school doesn’t offer lunch) and that adds up.

  26. Courtney says

    I’d like to know how much she spends per month on gardening and raising meat/eggs, because that can add up and it is going toward food consumption, it’d be fair to factor that in.

    • Andrea says

      That’s a good point. If you pay for water, that’s a cost that should be included, as well.

    • Kristie says

      We raise chickens, but I have to confess that we just break even. The price of chicken feed per month pretty much = the price of eggs for a month. The only exception is in the winter, when our chickens won’t lay during very cold snaps. :( But–on the gardening–with the price of a single pepper being about $1 in my store, I can’t imagine that her water bill even comes close to the money she can save gardening. It’s very, very worth the cost!!!

  27. Wendy says

    I just wanted to add that for those who are thinking you get out much cheaper by raising your own cows, let me just say, there are cows in my pasture now and hay is not cheap. You may think they can graze all summer, but when you are in a drought, you have to feed hay and sometimes you have to go far to find it. If you bale your own, you must figure in the cost of gas and tractor up keep. You can usually come out cheaper or about the same by catching sales in the store. That is unless you are buying steaks.

  28. Beth says

    Wow. That is amazing. Very inspiring, and it sounds like much less work than so many menu-planning systems that have you matching weekly meals against the local supermarket sales. For me, that was so overwhelming that I only tried for a couple of weeks before giving up.

  29. Amanda says

    She mentioned that she added a recipe for red beans and rice… anyone have a good red beans and rice recipe? I haven’t loved any I’ve made, but love it when I buy it at restaurants! I am a vegetarian, by the way, so meatless ideas are even better! Thanks.

  30. Janet says

    Seems like the benefits in post like this are NOT found by comparing ourselves or feeling inadequate because we can’t do it too. Just use it as food for thought. Go through your own budget, see where you can cut back or make things more frugal by menu planning, shopping sales etc. Pray and ask God to guide you, do your part by not overspending and you will be doing the most healthful, frugal plan for your family.

    • Anne-Marie says

      Agreed. I know I’m saving money compared to what I used to spend. And I know where to cut further. That’s exactly the value of this community and it’s the reason I love this post, this website, and all of your suggestions.

    • Kristie says

      I agree! These posts are so helpful and full of suggestions, and the “we-can’t-do-it-because-of-our-situation” routine doesn’t encourage anyone.

  31. Jessica says

    Just last weekend I sat down to menu plan and write out a grocery list. I felt beyond blessed that I had enough “staples” that I could spend my entire two week budget on produce. I think its about giving and taking. When push comes to shove if produce is truly important I think there is a way to come up with it. Some people grow it. Some shop locally. Some hit the warehouse clubs.

  32. says

    To anyone in Louisiana, our grocery budget for me (pregnant and nursing), husband and 14 month old is currently $95 per week, all year long. This is not cleaning/laundry/toiletries. We have $15 per week for that category. We have no pets (which really helps us save) although we might get two or three ducks for eggs and easy company, but that’s just in my head for now! I try to buy no or few convenience foods although Coca-Cola is a staple for my husband. We do well and I am quite sure we could do $80 per week, although I think $15 per week for toiletries is our rock bottom UNLESS I start couponing for toiletries. Some of the toiletries/laundry/cleaning supplies I read about that you moms get for free is amazing!!!

    Making our own laundry detergent is a SUPER savings, as we were spending $15 per month on just laundry detergent. I will have a post on HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE LAUNDRY DETERGENT (with pictures for clarification) tomorrow!

  33. says

    For our family, we spend $150 per month on groceries. There are 2 adults, 1 toddler and 1 on the way. This month – my goal is to only spend $100 on our regular groceries and use the other $50 for stock up items.

    I have a stockpile of our toiletries so we hardly have to spend much money on these items. I know I wouldn’t be able to keep our budget where it is if I didn’t coupon.

    I just love to learn more and more ways to spend less and less. Making things from scratch, shopping at Aldi and meal planning have helped us too. This month I have made 18 freezer meals for dinners according to our menu plan – i have 8 more to go. This has only taken me a couple days – less than 30 minutes per day. I love it!

  34. says

    As my husband said to me when I was trying to be super frugal with our grocery budget- food is not something that should be scrimped on.

    What I feed my family directly affects their health so I want to try and give them the best I can. Also, taking lots of time to track down deals is not something I am willing to do anymore because I want to spend time with my husband and three kids and my sanity is worth something to me. Plus, my husband likes meals with meat in them and I will not try to force him to eat beans and rice for dinner. He is the one who is working full time to support our family so I will feed him the food he wants.

    Luckily for us we are in a position to spend what we need/want on groceries. Five years ago we were not in that position and I had to make a lot of judgement calls on buying cheap food versus healthy food. If I have to money to give my family better food you bet I’m going to do it without feeling bad that I am spending more.

    It all comes down to what works for your family and it is not a competition of who spends less.

    • says

      Love what you wrote: “He is the one who is working full time to support our family so I will feed him the food he wants.”

      I was a person who was trying to change what my husband wanted to eat. When we had no money he was very willing to eat whatever I made.

      He’s worked really (really) hard to get our family to the point that we can spend more money on food. I was the one who had a pride issue I had to get over. I think I was competing with all of the frugalites out there and if I wasn’t frugal, I wasn’t sure who or what I was anymore.

      Boy has God convicted me of that now!

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Charity says

      I completely agree with you. We don’t eat cheap foods anymore and we spend much more on our groceries than we used to. It used to bother me very badly because I felt like I was a bad wife and mother for not having an extremely low grocery budget. My husband was quick to reverse my thinking though, pointing out that we are investing into the health of our 4 small children, and ourselves by feeding them true food (not genetically modified, flavored, edible junk). We buy mostly organic, and I make nearly everything from scratch. We also do not buy chemical filled cleaners, soap or personal products/toiletries. Sure, I’m not able to brag about how low of a grocery budget we have, but we have the peace of mind knowing we are actually feeding our children and their little developing, growing bodies…..food, real food, and that, as my husband says, is nothing to be ashamed of. :)

  35. Nikki says

    I read things like this and I get so frustrated. I love how people say “oh I only spend X amount a week at the grocery store” but yet they are able to have a garden, or raise their own meat, or hunt, etc. What do you do when you live in an apartment where you can’t have a garden…or a cow. I mean really. Not exactly an option for the majority of people. Oh and I LOVE the idea of “stocking up”. That’s a dream to me. What if you’re more week to week instead of month to month living? You can’t AFFORD to stock up! Just as it “takes money to make money” – it also takes money to save money!