Trying to stretch your grocery budget by shopping at ALDI more often? Download this free Ultimate ALDI Grocery List Printable as a guide!
“You drink a GALLON of lemon water every day?!?!”
Yes, I do! And it’s completely changed my skin, my energy, and my overall health. (Well, that combined with a bunch of other dietary and lifestyle changes. You can read more about those lifestyle changes here.)
As I’ve alluded to this online and offline over the past 21 weeks I’ve been doing this, many people have asked a number of questions on how I manage to do this, what advice I’d have to help them drink more water, and if I spend all day long in the bathroom as a result! 🙂
For those wondering how on earth this is feasible, here are my tips:
1. Use a Gallon Jug
I’ve found that it’s so much easier to track how much I’m drinking if I fill up a gallon jug every single morning and just drink from that all day long.
Because of the health benefits, I drink lemon water. So I fill up a gallon jug with approximately 10 Tablespoons lemon juice to 1 gallon water. I use bottled lemon juice most of the time, just to save time — and because I’d be going through a TON of lemons otherwise!
I buy a new plastic gallon jug every other week. I know some people recommend using glass instead of plastic, but because I take my jug with me much of the day, it’s more practical to use plastic. If I were home all of the time, glass would totally work.
2. Find a Tumbler You Love
One of the keys I’ve found for drinking more water is to drink from a tumbler that I love. I recommend getting a tumbler with a lid and a straw. It makes it easier for taking it with you everywhere, makes it more fun to drink, and prevents spills!
I use the Contigo tumblers. They are a little pricey to invest in but I use one all day every day, so it’s been very worth it to me. Plus they come in fun colors!
3. Sip Water All Day Long
Start sipping on water as soon as you get up. Your body is typically pretty dehydrated in the morning and drinking a tall glass of water within 30 minutes of waking will do wonders for your energy and will likely help you feel better, too!
I keep my tumbler next to me pretty much all day long and just sip on water as I’m working, as I’m cleaning, as I’m out running errands. I take my tumbler with me pretty much everywhere — even if I’m just running in somewhere for 30 minutes. And I take my gallon jug of water with me anytime I’m going to be gone for longer than an hour.
It makes me so happy to see the gallon jug of water going down all day long and I always do a little happy dance when I get down to the “bottom of the barrel”!
Note: I try to drink more water in the mornings. I find that I’m thirstier in the mornings — especially because that’s when I work out. Plus, I’ve found that it’s easier to drink more in the mornings. So I aim to only have 2-3 more tumblers of water to drink after 3 p.m.
In addition, this will help you sleep better at night — especially at first before your body has adjusted — because you’re not having to wake up every three hours to use the restroom.
4. Give Your Body Time to Adjust
It will be hard at first and you will feel like you go to the bathroom all. the. time. But don’t give up. Keep with it — even when you feel like you’re crazy for drinking so much water.
Your body will adjust over the course of a few weeks and you will no longer be heading to the bathroom twice every hour! 🙂 I promise!
In addition, if you’re anything like me, within a few weeks, your skin will start to look healthier and less dry, you will discover you have more energy, you have fewer aches and pains, you rarely ever have headaches, your digestive system is really regulated, and you are hungrier and thirstier — all while you may even lose a little weight!
And, if you’re anything like me, you realize that you probably have been dehydrated all of your life and you now love and crave the taste of water and don’t want to go anywhere without having a good supply of it with you!!
How Drinking Water Saves You Money
If you typically spend money on soda or coffee every day, switching to mostly drinking water instead can save you a significant amount of money!
For instance, let’s say you spend $1.50 per day on a coffee or a soda. If you switch to water or lemon water, you’ll save at least $450 per year. And that’s even adding in the cost of buy a bottle of lemon juice every other week (about $50 total — depending upon where you buy it from) + investing in nice tumblers ($20).
In addition, if you switch from soda or coffee to mostly drinking water, you’ll likely have fewer headaches and cramps, you’ll probably have more energy, you’ll likely lose at least a little weight. Without spending a dime!
Note: I’m not giving medical advice here, just sharing what has worked for me. Please do what is best for you and your body and get the advice of medical professionals if you’re not sure whether drinking more water is right for you or not. I’m just answering the question I’ve been asked over and over again the last 21 weeks I’ve been doing this!!
So far in this series, we’ve talked about: how there is no one right way to set up a grocery budget, how much you should spend on groceries, and how to track how much you’re spending.
Today, I want to tackle one of the most important parts of sticking with a grocery budget… namely, how to actually stick with it!
You can have all the best intentions in the world, you can set up an amazing grocery budget, and you can create a really good accountability system, but if you don’t actually follow through with it, you’ll never be successful at grocery budgeting.
Before we talk about some practical tips on how to actually stick with your grocery budget, I want to first address three things I don’t want you to do. Because if you do any of these three things, it could keep you from being successful in following through with your budget.
1. Don’t Make Excuses
I often hear people say things like, “I can’t have a grocery budget because we live in a high cost of living area.” Or, “We can’t stick to a grocery budget because we have variable income.”
Here’s the deal: You can sit there and make excuses or you can get up and do the best you can do with the situation you’re in and the income you have. It’s your choice.
If you need encouragement for setting up a grocery budget — even if you have a weird or difficult current life situation — be sure to read the comments on this post where folks all over the country tell about where they live, how many people are in their family, and what their grocery budget is. I think it will really inspire you.
You can do this, too! Nothing’s stopping you from success except your own excuses!
2. Don’t Stress Over Making Mistakes
Remember, if you’re brand-new to budgeting, you will make mistakes. You will probably find that there are times when it’s more difficult than you think it should be.
You will probably go over-budget some in the beginning. This is normal. This is how you learn and grow and get better.
When you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t call yourself a failure. Don’t throw up your hands and decide that this grocery budgeting thing isn’t for you.
Remind yourself that this is part of the learning curve, think about what you can learn from you mistake, and consider what you need to change or do differently so you don’t make the same mistake again. And then give yourself grace and get back in the game!
3. Don’t Worry if You Have to Tweak It
You will likely need to tweak the budget as you go — especially if you are new to budgeting and just picked a number that you think will work. As real-life happens and you are actually trying to stick with this number that you had initially thought would work, there’s a good chance you’ll find you need to change it.
That’s totally okay and acceptable. In fact, I always tell people that it usually takes 3-6 months when you’re brand-new to budgeting to really figure out what a good number is. Tweaking is part of the process!
In addition to the initial tweaking, you’ll also want to tweak your budget as your needs and your family changes. As time goes on, if the number you have chosen just isn’t working and is making your life miserable, it’s 100% okay to tweak that number again.
Like I said earlier in this series, a good grocery budget is one that works for you and your own family. So be sure to regularly re-visit the number you’ve chosen to see if you need to change it.
We’ve significantly increased our budget the past two years because that is what was best for our family. I don’t feel guilt about that. Instead, I’m grateful that we can do what is best for our own family and that we’ve found a grocery budget amount that works best for us right now.
2 Simple Tips on How to Actually Stick With Your Budget
Plan Your Menu With Your Budget In Mind — Think about how much items cost and keep this in mind when you are planning your menu. If you have no idea, start keeping a price book to help you learn the general prices of items so you can better gauge how much the recipes you’ve chosen on your menu plan are going to cost.
Use a Calculator At the Store — One simple way to save money on your grocery bill is to always bring a calculator with you when you shop. Since I use cash when I shop, it’s important to keep a tally of how much I’ve spent so far so that I don’t get up to the register and not have enough money to pay for my groceries. Keeping a running total also encourages me to carefully evaluate all purchases as I put them into my cart — and it helps ward off the temptation to make impulse purchases on things I don’t really need to buy.
For more inspiration:
- Brigette’s $39 Grocery Shopping Trip + Weekly Menu Plan for 6
- 2 Proven Systems to Track How Much You’re Spending on Groceries
- 6 Ways We’re Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low — Without Using Coupons
What help you to stick with your grocery budget? Do you have any great tips or tricks? I’d love to hear!
Are you looking for creative ways to save money and stretch your budget? Sign up with Paribus to get money back on your online purchases!
Have you ever bought something only to have it go on sale the next week? Paribus automatically helps get you a refund on the price difference at 27 different popular online retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Old Navy, Macy’s, REI, and Target.
Paribus is free to sign up for. Once you’re signed up, you simply connect your inbox to Paribus and it does all the work for you in the background! When a better deal comes along on an item you already purchased, Paribus automatically recognizes it and gets you your money back in the form of the price difference. The refund appears in your inbox. It’s that simple!
Paribus does charge a small percentage of your refund to help pay for the service they provide, but you can get it waived when you refer friends to the service.
Once you’ve decided on a grocery budget amount that works for your family, you need to set up some sort of accountability for sticking with that budget. This is key for the success of your grocery budget.
You can’t just mentally kind of, sort of have an idea of a grocery budget for it to work.
Really think through what would work best for you, your spouse, and your family when it comes to tracking your grocery budget. There are two different systems I would recommend…
(Download a free Envelope System Template here.)
1. Cash Envelope System
A cash envelope system is just that — you take out your allotted Grocery Budget amount in cash every month (or weekly or bi-weekly, depending upon when you get paid) and just take that cash to the store.
The benefits of using cash are that you can’t go over budget. When the money’s gone, the money’s gone! It forces you to stick with your budget and to really analyze each purchase as you’re putting it into the cart.
The drawbacks are that you have to mess with going to the bank or ATM to get cash — which can be a hassle for some people. In addition, some people find that they spend more or spend the cash on non-grocery purchases because they have it in their wallet and it’s “burning a hole in their pocket”.
Need some more encouragement to try a Cash Envelope System? Read these posts:
- 6 Reasons People Argue Against a Cash Envelope System
- The Envelope System Experiment
- Dave Ramsey’s Envelope System
2. Virtual Envelope System
These apps allow you to set up your “cash envelopes” or budget categories and then deduct your purchases throughout the month. This way, you can always have a running total of how much you’ve spent and how much you have left in each budget category you’ve set up.
The benefits of using this system are that you can keep better tabs on what you’re spending your money on and when you’re spending it and how you’re doing on your budget overall at a glance. It’s also nice because you don’t have to mess with sharing cash envelopes if you’re like our family and both spouses pitch in with grocery shopping and other shopping at different times throughout the month.
The drawbacks are that you are swiping a card — which means that you can more easily go over budget than you can when you use cash. Plus, it’s more sophisticated than cash (i.e. you have to mess with inputting the data after each shopping trip and tracking how much you have left in each budget category.
Need some more encouragement to try a Virtual Cash Envelope System? Check out these posts:
- Why We Love YouNeedaBudget
- How YNAB Helped Us Pay Off $50,000 In Debt
- 4 Personal Finance Products & Why They Might Work For You
A Note About Overspending
With both of these systems, you still can overspend. Because YOU are ultimately the one who is in charge of what you spend and what you don’t spend. A budget doesn’t work unless you do! 😉
Overspending could be the result of a self-discipline issue. Or, it could be even deeper than that: you could be overspending because you are trying to fill a void in your life of some sort.
When you are tempted to spend money that you either don’t have, isn’t budgeted, or is an impulse buy, start training yourself to stop and ask: Why?
Why am I wanting to spend this money? What need am I trying to fulfill? Why do I want this thing or experience? What do I think it’s going to do for me?
The more you can step back and ask, “Why?”, the more you’ll be able to get to the root of the issues and deal with those versus just trying to slap a bandage on surface problems — which will never resolve the issues longterm.
Do you use a system to track your grocery purchases? Tell us in the comments!
One of the questions I get asked all the time is, “How much should I spend on groceries?”
I wish that there was a simple one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But like I said yesterday, what works for one family won’t work for another family.
We all have so many different variables that play into what a good grocery budget amount is for us. I really encourage you not to just pick some grocery budget number out of thin air because it “sounds good” or you “think it’s doable” or you “know someone who has a budget that low”.
That’s a surefire way to set yourself up for grocery budget failure or at least a whole lot of stress trying to stick with a grocery budget that wasn’t designed with your family’s needs in mind.
What To Consider When Determining Your Grocery Budget:
- Your own situation: Do you have young kids or a crazy work schedule which means you need to buy more convenience foods/products?
- Your family’s dietary needs: Are you gluten-free, dairy-free, or eating according to a nutritional plan that might cost more money?
- Your family’s priorities: Do you like to host lots of people into your home or bake/cook for others?
- Your family’s preferences: Do you like certain foods that are more expensive or like to have more meat and less beans and rice?
- What you’ll include in your grocery budget: Will you include hygiene products/pet products/diapers, etc. in the grocery budget?
There are no right or wrong answers to the above questions. Well, okay, I take that back. There ARE right answers and wrong answers! The right answers are what is best for you and your own family. The wrong answers are trying to do what you think works well for another family.
How to Determine a Reasonable Grocery Budget
After taking all of these things into consideration, also look at your recent grocery receipts to get an idea of how much you have typically spent on groceries over the past few months. I encourage you to come up with a weekly amount that you think is very doable to start with.
If you have the wiggle room in your budget, choose a number that feels somewhat high. Why? Because I want you to set yourself up for success from the get-go.
And remember this: Success in the beginning is just setting up a budget and following it. As you get better at it and more comfortable with it, then you can work on lowering it. But for now, just focus on picking a number that you feel is a reasonable number that will not make you feel stressed or frustrated to try to stick with.
If you need a ballpark idea to go off of, I’d say anywhere between $25 to $40 per person is usually a good figure to start with. (But don’t stress if that feels too low for you right now! It’s better to start somewhere and choose a higher number and stick with it, than to just give up because you can’t get it as low as you’d like to get it.)
Our Grocery Budget Evolution
For the first 8 years of our marriage, our grocery budget was in the $10-$15 per person range. That’s really low, I know, but we were barely eeking by some of those years and I knew that our grocery budget was one area where I could really save a lot of money since I had the time, the know-how, and I found it a fun “hobby” to see how far I could stretch every grocery budget dollar.
I was a hardcore couponer and drugstore game shopper + I planned super simple menus that were based almost entirely around what I could get on a really great deal at the store. This worked well for us and saved us thousands of dollars over those eight years.
However, as our kids came along and got older and our season of life changed, we’ve slowly raised the budget to allow more breathing room. I still LOVE finding a great grocery bargain and am always on the lookout for them when I’m shopping, but I’ve given myself grace to not feel like I need to have the grocery budget super, super low or spend a few additional hours of my week going to multiple stores in order to cut my grocery bill by $50 to $75.
A reasonable amount for our family at this season of life is allotting about $25 per person per week. This allows us to eat higher quality foods, purchase a few convenience foods, have more meat, and keep our menus simple and nutritious.
I could still keep our grocery budget really, really low and I could still enjoy doing it. However, it would take me an additional 2-3 hours per week to realistically make that happen. Right now, because we have the wiggle room in the budget, I’ve chosen to spend those hours on the business where I can make significantly more per hour than I could ever save by using coupons.
For me, that’s what wise financial management is. It’s about weight the return on your investment of time versus your priorities and deciding what are the best use of your limited resources in that season of life.
Your turn: What is your grocery budget, where do you live, and how many people are you feeding? Has it changed over the years? I’d love to hear!