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Q&A: Help! How do we stop spending more than $1,000 per month on groceries?

Carrie contacted me through the Money Saving Mom® Facebook Page with the following question:

HELP!! I’m failing my family at staying within our grocery budget. I know all the things I’m “supposed” to be doing, and I’m just not approaching it in a logical, orderly enough way to accomplish these things.

Will you help me by reviewing the “basics” – reminding me of what I should be doing, and perhaps showing me some things I’m missing?

I know I should clip coupons more. I forget.
I know I should buy sales more. I forget.
I know I should stay away from brand names. I’m picky.
I know I shouldn’t buy “extras.” I’m lazy.
I’ve tried carrying a calculator with me through the store. I get overwhelmed.

I *do* make a menu.
I *do* make a list from the menu.
I *do* look at what we already have in the house so as not to duplicate.
I *do* shop Costco to save on bulk items.
I have downloaded the Safeway app to receive extra savings.

But I invariably go over budget on groceries every month. We are a family of 5 (one child being an infant) and we budget $700/month ($350/paycheck) for groceries, yet I usually end up spending closer to $1,000.

This is ridiculous! I’m better than this! I shouldn’t be having this problem. What are some practical steps I can be doing to help get on top of this and be proactive from the front end so I’m not squeezing to make ends meet every two weeks?? -Carrie

First off, Carrie, please don’t beat yourself up, okay? Do you know how many people have never even considered having a grocery budget or menu-planning? You’re already doing a lot, so cut yourself some slack and be encouraged that you are doing some things. And doing something is always better than doing nothing.

After reading your email a few times and contemplating it, here are my thoughts on some action steps you could take to start finding success in lowering your grocery budget:

1. Stop Telling Yourself You Can’t

As I encouraged people to do in 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life, you’ve got to remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. If you tell yourself that you can’t, than you will believe that you can’t. When you believe that you can’t, then you invariably won’t.

It’s totally okay to deliberately decide, “I am not going to focus on lowering my grocery bill because I need to focus my energies on X.” Or to purposefully commit to keeping your grocery bill as is (or even raising it) because you want to support local farms or buy fair trade products or you are choosing to eat all organic as a family.

None of these things involve “can’t”, they involve choice. There’s a big difference there.

2. Aim to Lower Your Grocery Bill By 1-3% Every Month

Instead of trying to overhaul your grocery bill overnight, set a goal to lower your grocery bill by 1-3% every month. While this might not seem like this will make much of an impact, over time, your savings will really start to add up. And, by doing it gradually, it will seem a lot less overwhelming and doable.

3. Analyze What You’re Spending that $1,000 Per Month On

Gather up your receipts from the past few shopping trips, if you have them, and take a good look at where that $1,000 is going. What are the areas where you’re spending the most? Right off the bat, you might realize you’re spending an exorbitant amount on meat or diapers or produce.

Whichever area is the biggest spending culprit is the area I recommend that you focus your energies on lowering.

4. Pick One Money-Saving Technique to Focus on Per Month

Rather than trying to work on a bunch of different areas of your grocery budget, just focus on one specific and realistic money-saving technique per month. Use the analysis you did in step #3 to decide which area to focus on first.

For instance, maybe you are spending a lot on produce. For the next month, plan your meals around the few different fruits and vegetables that are in season and on sale that month. Focus on this money-saving technique only for a month.

Don’t worry about that long list of other ideas you come up with when you’re reading frugal blogs. You can add those things to an ongoing list of money-saving ideas you want to implement, but only worry about adding one new thing each month.

The next month, if you’re feeling comfortable with that focus area, add in something else, like shopping with cash or planning meals that use less expensive ingredients.

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Bloggers or People You See on “Extreme Couponing”

Finally, it’s easy to become discouraged when you see savings of like 80 to 100% on blogs or the Extreme Couponing show. You can feel like you just don’t measure up because you’re over there working really hard and only seeing 30% savings.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else but yourself — unless you want to end up feeling discouraged. You can only do what you can do. Plus, I promise that those folks who are highlighting their amazing 99% savings shopping trips are not seeing those kinds of savings every single shopping trip.

What advice do the rest of you have for Carrie? I’ve love to hear!

For step-by-step help in lowering your grocery budget, be sure to check out my 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series.

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

312 Comments

  • Megan says:

    Do Dave Ramsey–take out an envelope of $350 cash. Remove debit/credit card from purse/wallet. Only spend cash on groceries. Take cash to costco. Boom, problem solved.

    • Megan says:

      We are a family of 4–no more diapers except at night for 2 year old with 3 senior cats. We plan $400 a month for food/paper/cat stuff/cleaning/etc. Yes, sometimes I go over, especially if we do a costco run. I do sale shop, I do coupon (but not extreme—don’t have time). I send lunches daily with my kids to preschool. We eat out only three meals a week on weekends which cost us $60 per weekend–also cash. I buy chicken on sale at ingles for $1.98 a pound and beef at costco for $2.99 a pound. I rarely buy any other meats. I buy bread at Dollar Tree for $1.00. I cook simple meals at dinner—meat, veggie, bread. A little boring but frugal and easy.

      • Pamela says:

        Just out of curiosity, what are “senior cats”? Old cats? Do they eat more/less? Obviously, I’m not a cat person! But I’d like to learn!

        • Megan says:

          My senior cats are old…..I buy them a more expensive IAMs catfood formulated for Seniors….hoping to cut down on hairballs/barf. My cat food per month is roughly $30/month for the 16lb bag.

      • If It's FREE! says:

        I live in Texoma, and do my primary grocery shopping at Walmart…I DO clip as many coupons as possible, and snag up Freebies at Dollar Tree when I get the oppurtunity! I However, do not use coupons on things I wont be eating or that are super processed. My boyfriend and I use about $315 or less on groceries every month and a half-two months, and I make a very good amount of our lunches/dinners from scratch!
        I also make homemade biscuits and cookies.
        Also consider eating less “breakfast” foods, bacon, sausage, frozen waffles/strudels, pop tarts & grab a bowl of cereal a couple days a week!
        If you eat more rice and beans, veggies and fruits, then meats and breads, and premade dinners you WILL save a ton! Instead of buying a $14 Frozen lasagna, you can make spaghetti for less than $5!(Noodles $1, sauce $1.50-3.00, Ground Beef, onions & peppers).. make your own boxed brownies &/or cupcakes(non iced) & replace packaged snack cakes in kids lunches with those.
        Buy a Brita pitcher & refillable bottles, instead of packaged bottle water!
        Other people have suggested to only use milk on cooking or cereal, no longer give it to your kids for constant drinking…give them a glass at meal time, but stick to waters/juices.
        If your family is big on eating fruits, dont buy the presliced/packaged, purchase the whole fruits and slice things yourself. Because often a “watermelon” whole can be as low as $3 on sale, but one lb sliced up can be almost $4+ a container(not even a slice of watermelon really)….

      • ArdenLynn says:

        $100 per person/per month is way over my budget. I have a family of 10, one in diapers at night, two cats and three dogs. Plus I have 3 teens and one young adult all with large appetites. My budget is $800 for everything.

      • Liz S says:

        Megan, I’m just curious, is that $60 week/$240ish a month included in your $400/month, or on top of it?

        • Megan says:

          The eating out money is in addition to the grocery budget. We don’t eat out at any other times (unless beyond our control for some weird reason). We get $40-$50 of fun money each every 2 weeks (depends on gas/water/power bill fluctuation) that usually ends up covering the ‘out of our control’ situation mentioned above or clothing purchases. There is no other “entertainment/clothing/etc” slot in our budget. Eating out is our splurge.

          • Liz S says:

            Eating out is our splurge too, and I am also trying to lower our grocery bill, which is why I was curious. Thanks! 😛

      • Karen says:

        how do you eat out three meals on weekends for only $60? Even the fast food costs close to $30 each meal.

        • Megan B says:

          I’m not the same Megan that has been posting, but did want to respond to this question from Karen. We do eat out once or twice a week as well; and we don’t usually spend more than $20 in a meal – 2 adults & 2 children. Rarely do we eat fast food. We use coupons and specials, and tend to eat lunch out more than dinner on the weekends as it’s cheaper. An example is our local pizza parlor; we have a high school discount card that allows us to buy one adult buffet & two drinks, get another adult buffet for free. Kids 3 & under eat free. This allows my daughter to eat free; and then I only get the salad portion of the buffet and my son gets my pizza plate. We can eat like this for $13. Another local parlor sells a cheese pizza cooked for $11.50 after coupon discount. If we do go to McD’s, we eat for around $15 (drink water only). Lots of restaurants do nights where the kids can eat free as well. I’m sure if you have teenagers if would be much harder to eat out for not much money though…

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Megan. Would you believe, we actually did Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover last year, and I know I should be using cash ~ just have to get back on that horse. 😉 Thanks for the reminder!

  • Katrina says:

    Using cash really helps us. I have a family of 3 sometimes 4~ my oldest son is in college and comes home on weekends~ and I rarely spend over $300.00 per month and lately I have been keeping it below $250.00. The secret for me is using cash. I find that if I spend cash that I don’t buy things that we don’t need and I think more about how far I can make things last. I hardly ever buy things that aren’t on sale or things I don’t have a coupon for. When the money runs out, we eat whatever is in the pantry/freezer.

    • Jenn says:

      I 2nd using Cash. I am always so worried I might not have enough cash on me to make my purchases, so its very easy to put back the impulse/wants back to there is enough for the needs.

    • Bloggin mama says:

      Same here. I use cash for everything, give myself a weekly allowance and it has cut down my costs and “splurges” at the store.

      Especially during CVS & Rite Aid’s freebie dealios the past few months, I give myself $20 to shop at those stores to stock up – not each but $20 a week total… that covers taxes and I roll my rewards! That has helped with a family of 4, use to be 5 (my cousin lived with us) and one in diapers. We don’t eat out much but when we do, we use coupons and/or gift cards that were given or purchased at a cheaper amount. I recommend craigslist.org… if you shop at walmart or target or any grocery store – look for gift cards… some people (online like ebay or craigslist) sell them for below what the total worth is. This helped during the holidays as well – it’s like free cash.

      But coupons, coupons, coupons have save me hundreds of dollars in 2012! I’ve gotten grocery shopping to about $60 or under a week… we have such a stock pile that the only thing I normally have to buy fresh is fruits, bread, eggs, milk and lunch meat…. I freeze milk when it’s under $3 a gallon – freeze cheese, freeze meats, freeze hot dogs, sometimes I freeze bread…..utilize the freezer when deals hit!!!

  • Amanda L says:

    Do you have a lower price chain nearby? We actually had 3 similar chains move in. Aldi saves us a ton on staples and produce compared to other local stores. We also buy our meat in bulk from a local farmer. If you have a large freezer it is a great investment!

    • Sabrina says:

      I second the Aldi comment if you have one near by. So many people stereotype that store but you should read post from The Frugal Girl about Aldi. A mind changer. Also we canceled our Costco membership because we found ourselves buying things we didn’t need and I can now find all the things we used to buy there cheaper with sales and coupons. We also cipher down on convenience snacks like portioned out chips and crackers. I buy big boxes of crackers and then put them in baggies myself for lunches. Good luck! Oh and one last thing, I keep a spreadsheet of my spending. One I hit my weekly allowance I force myself to use what we have and don’t go shopping until the next week. You may surprise yourself on what you can come up with!

    • Jennifer says:

      Aldi’s has been a huge savor for my family! We were spending about $200-$250 a week on groceries and those same groceries at Aldi’s only costs between $75-$125. Also, I discovered something about myself…when I go into a store with no list I tend to buy whatever sounds good which ends up being way more than what we need. I have to go in with a list (made around our meal plan) so that my “blinders” are effectively up and ready. The other thing I notices is that things beyond food (shampoo, soaps, facial cleaners, household cleaners, etc.) were taking up way too much of my budget each week. So what I started doing at the beginning of the summer was to devote $20 each week on purchasing something in that area that was on sale for an awesome price and stock up on it. So I might buy $20 worth of dish washing detergent in one trip if I find an awesome sale and hopefully coupons to go with it. I am saving a ton on these items later because when we run out I just go to the basement and take from our supply versus having to run to the store and risk paying for it not on sale. Knowing that I am only using $20 of my budget to stock makes me really consider what we need versus what is on sale at the time. I started doing this at the beginning of the summer and now we have a huge stock pile of household/personal care items that didn’t cost us an arm and a leg so know I am using that $20 to stock up on canned goods and diapers for our baby coming in March! Hope this helps!

    • Carrie says:

      Amanda L
      We have a “Big Lots” that I just tried for the first time! Yay!

  • As someone who does coupon a lot (although not extremely), I had to remind myself that in order not to compromise eating how we like to eat I need to make sure my grocery budget works for our family.

    Even though I see bloggers and commenters who can spend $30-$40 a week on groceries (and I am so impressed by them), I live in South Florida and like to buy certain name brands and don’t like to eat too much processed food.

    I set my cash grocery budget at $80 a week for just the two of us and even though I very often spend much less than that by diligently couponing and shopping sales that budget is there for me when I need it. I allows me to buy good quality meat, shop at the local Farmers’ Market and many week’s still have some money left over to add to our reserve grocery budget or to use for a house project.

    Using cash keeps me in budget and makes me really think about how I spent each dollar.

    I save in a big way where I can and stock up on items I know we will use when they are at rock bottom prices. I may not save 80% every week but when I look at what I can buy for my family while still being true to my own idea of what we should eat, I know that my priorities are more important then saving just to save.

    • Ashley P says:

      Kaylee, it’s nice to see a fellow South Floridian. I hate it here sometimes because stores won’t double coupons and meat seems more expensive than what my relatives in NC pay for.

      But we’re learning to make do. Which Farmer’s Market do you go to, if you don’t mind my asking? I’m having a hard time finding one with good deals.

    • I spend around $80/week on my husband and me, too (though some weeks it is closer down to $50). I coupon and shop sales and menu plan, but based on what we like to eat that’s an amount that works for us. Thankfully, we’re in the financial position right now to not have to worry TOO much about the grocery budget, but I know that with the tactics I’m practicing I could continue to make it work if our family were to grow or if we needed to save money in some areas!

    • Kimberly S says:

      Reserve grocery budget…huh, I never thought of being intentional about having a reserve for times like when I need to buy something in bulk or when money is extra tight. Good idea!

  • K Harrington says:

    OK so we have a family of seven and we spend about $600 a month on groceries( I always buy name brand). I have found when I have time I can save in just one small way. I make a list of the items I use a lot of or wont change brands of like Prego, Coffee Mate, and so on, I keep that list next to the computer. When I catch a few minutes I check ebay for coupons on those items(especially around the time they are on sale). I buy the coupons/items in large quantity so I save money and have back up all the time. Some people dont like this idea but w/e I love it and save serious dough that way. I have bought free product qpns there numerous times and have been very satisfied. I pay those who have the time to cut and collect the coupons a small fee(whatever it costs on ebay) and SAVE SAVE SAVE w/o the stress of cutting or finding them myself. Hope this helps!

    • Stephanie says:

      That is a great idea!!!

    • Michelle says:

      I do this too! I’ve found that one BIG stock up trip every couple months helps to make sure that, although I spend a lot at that trip, I don’t spend as much at the next several trips! It’s so much easier to plan for one trip than a bunch of little trips, and I don’t even pay for the paper any more! Coupons were always hit or miss, but this way, I can buy exactly what I need. Also, when I’m going in between stock up trips, I usually just need a few things, so I don’t grab one of the big baskets. I’ll either do the hand held one or nothing, so I can only buy what I can carry. It sounds silly, but if that’s all you have the ability to carry, you have no choice but to stop purchasing!

      • Jennifer says:

        Never fails when I try the all you can carry method is when I find an awesome clearance sale on something, so there I go through the crowds of people juggling 20 things that I just couldn’t pass up. =)

    • Janelle says:

      We are also a family of 7 ($600-700/mo. on groceries/household items). I had no idea you could get coupons on ebay. Thanks for sharing!

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks K Harrington ~ I didn’t even know you could do that, so I’ll look into it!

  • Luba says:

    When you shop, try to buy only staples and produce. For the rest of your money (even if it is $5), stock up on something that is on sale. Prices keep rising, but I find if I stock up on things such as meat, mayo, or cooking oil; it really helps the grocery budget. Even if you do not use a ton of coupons, buying what is on sale will save you lots of money. 🙂

    • Carla says:

      Perhaps shopping only what is on sale each week ( generally speaking) and using cash only. I am new to trying this this month, because we have spent way too much , too. I hope you find some good ideas, and don”t get discouraged if it does not come down all at once!

      • I have lived and shopped all over the Treasure Coast and the Palm Beach area so I have a few favorites : ) My absolute favorite is the Ft. Pierce Farmers’ Market it is down by the river and HUGE. All sorts of stuff not just produce and we try to go as often as we can. Palm Beach Gardens and the City of Palm Beach both have big Green Markets and I know currently shop at my small town’s Saturday market which is decent but lacks the selection of the bigger ones. Here’s a fun list of all the Farmer’s Markets in Florida: http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Florida.htm

  • When I first started trying to lower our grocery budget, I would take my most recent receipt and immediately evaluate the most expensive item. Sometimes it was meat, sometimes it was a bulk purchase item, but whatever it was, I considered alternatives: did we really need it, could we substitute generic, was it something I was always seeing coupons for (and I would start saving just those coupons), etc. Sometimes I could make a simple change, sometimes I realized it was ‘worth it’ to us and would simply delay other ‘big items’ for a future shopping trip. I hope that helps and I agree completely with everything Crystal said!

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Tammy! You know, I actually *just* started doing that this month (after I sent my original message) and I can’t believe what perspective it gave me!

  • Rachel says:

    Thank You, This is a great article 🙂
    Another useful tip for Carrie is to carry a “Hand Counter” or “Tally Counter” with you when you shop, and for every dollar just click that amount, I always round up if it’s say $2.50 up to $3. I find this gives me a good idea of what I am spending without using a calculator, I usually muck up the calculator and press a wrong button and lose my tally, eek!

    • Kristi says:

      This is one of the BEST ideas I’ve ever heard … I always try to take a calculator and figure as I go (because I always, always lose track in my head). But pushing a cart, punching and holding a calculator and often times wrangling a toddler come into play and I end up throwing stuff in the cart so we can get out of the store. This is so helpful 🙂

      • lyss says:

        I’ve never heard of a tally counter, but I always keep a written tally on my shopping list as I go. It’s not to the penny, but I’m always within a dollar or two of the total. I tried the calculator thing, but every one I’ve tried goes blank every couple minutes and I’d lose the total, so it didn’t work when shopping. Pen and paper tally marks works for me!

    • Rose says:

      What is a hand counter and where can I find one?!!! When I go shopping I’m corralling 4 youngsters, I’m terrible at mental math and will invariably mess up a calculator (and if I don’t my 3 yr old will!!!) Ha!

    • Kimberly S says:

      This is brilliant!

    • Laura says:

      Thank you so much for the great idea! I just bought one on amazon for $1.86 with free shipping 🙂

      • Patty says:

        My 10 yr old is 1) math reluctant and 2) not that crazy about grocery shopping with me. So I took guidance from unschooling philosophy and found a gentle learning opportunity in our everyday lives. I give her a pad and pen and have her keep a running tally of our total so we know what to expect at checkout and can try to hit our target of $50/wk.

        It’s been a great lesson for her in setting priorities and she takes a lot of pride in helping us stay on budget. We’ve had lots of “what do we put back” discussions, gone back to aisles to find a cheaper alternative, etc.

        • Carrie says:

          That’s a great idea, thank you. I homeschool my 2nd grader and I think he’d like to do that and find a lot of pride in it. Plus, he loves math, so I think he’d get a kick out of it.

    • Carrie says:

      I LOVE this idea, Rachel! Thank you!!! 😀

  • Melissa says:

    We spend more than I would like on groceries, but we have made a commitment to eat organic.

    Some other strategies you might want to try could be having a 2 or 4 week pantry challenge, buying meat straight from the farmer, and subscribing to a CSA. I have found that CSAs can be a great money saver, especially if you freeze the surplus during the summer for use in the winter.

    I also have freezer cooking sessions where I make meals and breakfast foods for the freezer. Then we avoid take out and boxed, processed foods.

  • Ashley P says:

    If you do as Crystal said and check your receipts, you may find you’re overspending on quite a few things and you just never noticed. But you may also find yourself throwing a lot of money away without realizing it, too.

    You said you shop Costco to save on buying in bulk. But how much of that bulk goes to waste? Do your potatoes wit on the counter and spoil because you bought a 15lb bag but only planned on eating one potato dish that month? Do you find yourself with other extra veggies after you’ve made all your meals that include that veggie (I used to have this problem with celery)? Do you throw away steaks because they’re freezer burnt?

    Having a menu is a great start (we plan the whole month in advance) but, especially if you’re buying bulk items, you may be throwing away a lot of money that you could be using.

    If so, you’re not alone because when I first started trying to cut the grocery budget, I made that same mistake. I was shocked to see how much I bought and paid for that I never actually used! I thought buying in bulk would save me money, but it was really costing me more!

    That’s when hubby and I got the bright idea to cluster our meals around bulk buys. As I said, one of our banes was celery. The only thing we ever used it for was homemade pork fried rice. And we never had that often enough to use up the whole batch. So then we started looking at other recipes that could use up the celery as well as other things we already had, and scheduling them close together. We hit on the idea of potato soup made with Velveeta and celery (one of MIL’s classic recipes) because it would make a big pot, and the soup could be frozen. We also started incorporating celery into stews and pot roasts, even if the recipe didn’t call for it. Half the time, it’s not that bad.

    If you use up EVERYTHING you buy, you may find yourself going to the store a lot less to replace wasted food.

    Oh, and about those freezer burnt steaks… Vacuum sealing. And you don’t have to buy a vacuum sealer to do it. Hubby and I worked out a neat trick of putting them in a Ziploc bag, sealing the bag almost all the way, slipping the end of a drinking straw into the bag (being careful not to touch any meat or juice, just far enough to get the air) and sucking the air out. As soon as the air was 99% out, slip the straw out, and quick as you can, finish the seal on the baggie. We buy whole turkey breasts at Sam’s and slice our own deli meat and freeze it like this. It’ll keep for weeks with no freezer burn!

    And relax. It’s a process. Find the groove that works for you, and stick in it. You’ll progress as you get more practice.

    • Kimberly says:

      For unused celery – you can easily throw it into a freezer bag and use later for soups, roasts etc. that call for it. I keep a large freezer bag in the freezer and I add a celery top here a wilted celery stalk there and when I need something that calls for it I throw it it.

      • Melissa says:

        I just recently tried a tip that I found on pinterest about the celery and lettuce. Take out of the plastic and wrap in aluminum foil. It helps keep them longer in your fridge. I can’t say that it works for everyone but it did work for us.

    • Carrie says:

      So much great stuff here, Ashely P. I just started looking at my receipts and what a revelation! I was shocked and it definitely helped me make some choices. I’ve thought of clustering my meal plan before, but just needd to get back to that, so thanks for the reminder. I’ve also just begun to compost and it has really opened my eyes to how much waste we product, so I’m aiming to use every little bit and part of each thing … for instance, I’ve started saving those last couple slices of bread from a loaf and instead of throwing them out, I’m drying them and saving them and making homemade bread crumbs!

  • Jennifer says:

    I was getting discouraged too. I stockpiled the best I could before my last baby, that has mostly gone now. It’s harder for me to get to the store and coupons and baby in tow and concentrate on what’s on sale and what coupons do I have and take care of baby all at the same time let. Someone told me that any coupon used is smarter than no coupons at all! That helps me in the guilt dept. I don’t watch the coupon show either b/c seems everytime there was an incident of the store bending rules for the show so that’s not reality. We have good months and bad months. I agree just take one step at a time even little steps add up.

    • Anna says:

      I am in the same boat! Before I had my baby I was ALL OVER the deals, not the best couponer out there but I was clipping newspaper inserts, printing online coupons, matching with sales, doing the grocery store coupons, getting $1 $2 or $5 instant savings on every receipt by buying the required items (which I of course had a coupon for). Now I am lucky to have 2 or 3 coupons for things I need! My 5 month old bursts into tears whenever the grocery cart stops moving, so I scan the shelves while in motion, which sometimes means circling back around! I already get pitied looks at the checkout because he throws an avoidable fit at that point and the cashier and I just work quickly to get me out of there. Extreme couponing is going to have to wait!

      • amy k says:

        Have you considered wearing your baby in the store? 2 of my 4 hated the car seat (including my now 5 month old) so i usually use my Moby wrap wherever we go, including the grocery store. Baby wearing has saved my sanity many times, especially since #4 is a clingy baby. 🙂

      • Karina says:

        I usually bring a snack, like graham crackers or gold fish for my son to snack on while I grocery shop. He gets bored sitting in the seat with nothing to do and his toys/ sales flyer only last so long. If he’s interested in it while I’m there I point out different shapes and colors and interesting things (see the baby on the box?). I go once a week so my trips usually aren’t that long. If it is going to be a long trip then I have my DH go with me, or keep the baby at home with him.

      • Bloggin mama says:

        I always brought a toy or depending on where I was shopping… i would grab something off the shelf for my baby to play with while I shopped… this was a life saver… but the time we got to the register he was disinterested in it and I would put it back…. hth! Food works too!!

  • Joy says:

    Before I shop, I check my pantry and freezer to see what I already have that could potentially cheapen the cost of a family meal. I use what I have and even research recipes that will utilize my unused ingredients. It keeps you creative, cuts costs, and hopefully your family will enjoy trying different recipes. Hint: Almost anything makes filling for a burrito or omelet! Also, just like bread is cheaper made at home, tortillas are easy and economical when homemade. My kids even prefer PB &J on a homemade tortilla!

    • ann says:

      If you have a store like Aldi near you, I suggest you try it. I’ve found most all of their items to be of high quality and comperable to name brands. Their products are sold at a fraction of the cost of other retailers – no coupons, big box stores, or sales to worry about!

      • angela says:

        Another good thing about Aldi, is it is a small store. It’s not huge so it’s easy in, easy out. It saves you time shopping which is good if you have a little one with you. Plus, it saves money!

      • Karen says:

        i’m going to check out the Aldi near me since it’s mentioned so many times here.

        • Whitney says:

          Karen – If you have an Aldi near you and have never used it, you are missing a huge opportunity! I have slowly moved most of my shopping there over the past few years. Now I spend around $40 a week at Aldi, and only $20 at Kroger.

          For years I thought it was food about to spoil from other grocery stores, or lesser quality items. Not true at all! Before going, be sure to read a few articles about Aldi first. I steered a friend there, and she called me afterward and said, “I bought a bunch of stuff today. Is it all about to spoil?” She also someone shopped there several times before she realized you were supposed to deposit a quarter to use a cart. Just remember that they only take cash or debit, you need to bag your own items, and most Aldi brands are the highest quality name brands – just under the Aldi name.

          I love that I can do all my shopping in 15 minutes or less. My family has a weekly ritual on Sunday. We drive there after church, my husband stays in the car with the 3 kids, and I do all our Aldi shopping while they wait. I can’t imagine saying that about a chain grocery store. Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about Aldi! I only wish I’d started shopping there years ago.

        • Kristine says:

          I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi (except for things that I can’t get there). It’s great for staple items. Be sure to bring your own shopping bags.

    • Carrie says:

      Joy, thank you for the great ideas. Since my original post I’ve started making our bread and am excited about how much that will save us. I’ve also started a running inventory of what I have on hand in the kitchen as well as the pantry in the garage so that when I plan our menu I can take advantage of what we have on hand! It is working great!

  • Amy says:

    I have struggled with the same problem! We are a fam of 5 spending close to $1k some months. Thanks for these great steps! We do shop organic and local, so I’ve had to work through step 1 over the last few months. I was so discouraged, but I’ve accepted that I can’t feed my family according to my principles for $100 per week. I’ve also started planning menus by the month with the intention of seasonal eating. This time I’m saving them so come Jan. 2014, I won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Also, while I make one big trip a month, I still need to shop every week for milk, eggs, etc., so I’ve started using cash for those trips to keep me from buying extras. Thru all that I hope to save money! Reading this post encourages me so much! Thanks!

    • Sarah says:

      I need to start looking into seasonal eating. I just wish that the organic stores (like Whole Foods) had someone blogging about their cycle. We also try and do $900 a month with food, but we often go over too 🙁

    • lynn says:

      Saving the menus are a fantastic idea! I also eat mostly organic and seasonal, so this will save me a ton of time, well starting next year 🙂 And you can always switch something if you don’t feel like eating it, but the menu would be a great backbone.

      • lara says:

        Check out flylady.com She has endorsed a friend who has published a weekly menu cookbook, set up seasonally. they are all made from ‘scratch’, and a decent place to start when you are just getting used to seasonal eating

  • Amanda T says:

    It all depends on the ages of the kids in your family,where you live,and what your priorities are. In our family we have a max grocery budget of 500/month for a family of 5. This includes Husband,Myself,and three girls ages 5,4,2. I do expect in the future however for our expenses to go up but we do not shop the expensive grocery stores. I shop at Aldi,the discount bread store,the produce stand,and round out my shopping at Target with a few minor things I cannot find at Aldi. In all try eating a lot of whole foods it will help bring your budget down considerably.

  • Julie C says:

    Perhaps you have tried this already, but I would encourage you to commit this issue to prayer; the scripture teaches us that we should be good stewards of our time and money. Knowing this command, we should all commit our menu and grocery list to the Lord in prayer and ask for Him to reveal His will for our family in this area.

    There is no cookie cutter cut-and-dry answer on how much we should eat spend per person/per meal each day. Some of us have health issues that cause us to eat certain foods; I could not survive on white bread/white pasta/white potatoes and processed foods. The Lord has shown me ways to save money in many areas so we can eat healthy God designed whole foods for a low amount of money. May He guide you to find your answer to this issue, too! Best wishes.

    • Karen says:

      I agree so much. I found God always provides an answer for every problem when I take it to Him. I don’t always like the answer, but I know it’s best if I have the courage to do as He leads.

    • Carrie says:

      Julie C, I can’t tell you how much your post touched me. Thank you for reminding me to commit my finances to the Lord in prayer – and leave them there. 🙂

  • One suggestion I would add is pay attention to what you are throwing away. A family of 5 that spends $1000 in groceries per month is wasting a lot of food. (Ask me how I know that!) So instead of just tossing food, pay attention to it. What is getting lost in the back of the refrigerator regularly? Which fruits always go bad before you can eat it all? Then try to cut back on buying those things. I know one blogger takes a photo of the food her family wasted that week and posts it on her blog (I’m so sorry I can’t remember who that is!). Talk about accountability! This is an area that has helped my budget tremendously.

    • Brandi says:

      Take one week a month (or half a week) and make meals from what you have on hand. Yes, it will require you to get creative every now and then, but it will save you a week’s groceries (or 6-8 meals if a half a week). There are lots of things, but this one is pretty easy. You may have crackers and peanut butter for lunch one day, a can of soup another (maybe 2, if your family is too large for a single can), but it will clean out the pantry and save you grocery money!

      • Amy says:

        I have done this in the past and it really helps out the budget. I like to go to allrecipes.com and enter in the ingredients I want to use up. I have gotten some really good recipes that I never would have come up with on my own.

      • Amy says:

        We do this. I feel bad making my husband eat it, but really, he doesn’t mind. We have really weird combinations but it’s kind of fun. There’s four kids, so we might each get three green beans, two slices of carrots, lunch meat wrapped around a cheese stick, half a slice of bread and butter, a quarter slice of meatloaf, and a quarter of a waffle. The kids really think it’s fun.

        • Pam says:

          We have one night every week called “Survivor Night” (called such because it used to be the same night every week that Survivor was on) where we each fend for ourselves from the pantry/fridge. Gives Mom a break and uses up leftovers.

    • Janelle says:

      How many are in your family? If you have a large family you will spend more. There are 11 of us, so our budget is higher.

    • WilliamB says:

      That blogger is The Frugal Girl, who is now sharing hosting Food Waste Friday with Simply Being Mum.

    • Rachael says:

      To build on this idea, look at what will potentially go bad, and use it up immediately. For example, a few weeks ago, I found about eight apples that were beginning to get mushy. So, I made crockpot applesauce that I’ve used for desserts, breakfasts, and baking. If you have meat that is about to expire, quick cook it and freeze it. Bananas can obvioulsy be made into banana bread, but if you are short on time, peel them and pop them in the freezer for a smoothie.

      • Carrie says:

        Rachael, Since my original post I’ve started to try everywhere I can to cut down on waste, so I have been doing this, too – I’ve frozen bananas that were too ripe so I could make banana bread when I have time, I’ve made applesauce (and subsequently decided to never go back to the store-bought kind!), and even made my own breadcrumbs from bread heels and older bread. 🙂

    • Anna says:

      Along with this, taking one specific day a week (mine is Wednesday, the same day the grocery adds come in the mail, and my menu day) to clean out the fridge.

    • Carrie says:

      Jamie,
      Since my original post I’ve started composting our kitchen scraps and I have been AMAZED at how much waste we have. It has encouraged me in other areas to re-use, reduce and recycle all I can. I’ve started cleaning out plastic and glass containers and finding other uses for them, as well as keeping older bread for homemade bread crumbs.
      SO, in one month we’ve actually been able to go down to a small trash can size on the curb and save $18 on our trash bill! It is pretty exciting to start living this way.

  • Meagan says:

    Look to drugstores to save money on some grocery items. CVS and Walgreens have had great prices on milk the past few weeks- far cheaper than Aldi and Wal-Mart.

  • Aleah says:

    I think the biggest thing for me is knowing where the money is going. If you can figure out what you are spending the money on, you will almost automatically know how to fix some issues right away!

  • NaDell says:

    I keep my list in my hand and keep tally marks for each dollar I spend. I also only use cash, so that helps a lot. My budget is about $100 a week and if a package of Oreos (my kryptonite) is $3, I know that’s 3 percent of my whole amount, and it not worth the splurge to me. A candy bar at checkout with a coupon is though. I have to have small rewards instead of big splurges and although a package of Oreos may not sound like a splurge to some, it is to my budget.
    Good luck!

  • Mon says:

    Carrie, I think you’re doing a great job and agree with the advice above. Things to do in addition which is what I’ve used is to seperate your grocery budget from you’re variable expenses. For example if you buy soap, diapers, shampoo, toothpaste from the grocery store, I categorize that as a variable expenditure (meaning it is something varies month to month and there are necessities vs. needs ) as that is not food I’m consuming. When I did that I noticed that my grocery bill was able to fit into the amount I wanted, and then all I had to do was figure ur how to minimize the variable expenditures as that became a seperate line item in my budget. If you have any questions, feel free to email or go through this blog and I can respond with more details.
    Good luck and you’re doing a great job.

    • Rhonda Hall says:

      Look at your meat bill which can be the most expensive part of the budget..Are you buying 5 or 6 packs of meat? if so, check out the family packs or even larger packs of meat and split them…See if there is a meat market near you that sells family packs….For $60 my daughter gets enough meat from a local meat market to last 3 weeks, she just splits and freezes..also, have a meatless night ..

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Mon. Really good point. I already budget separately for diapers and formula, but not some of those other things like deodorant and tooth paste. I’ll have to take a look at that…

  • Kelly in KC says:

    It’s hard core but cash only! It takes some getting used to and you have to be committed but you will learn really fast to put back somethings and whatever meat is on sale you will learn new recipes to feed your family – ex: chicken has been the “cheap” meat for 2 years now – there are weeks we eat chicken everyday! Not my first choice but we stay in budget, which for us we do NOT have a choice – nothing like the school of hard knocks to teach you quickly! Good luck and you WILL figure it out.

  • Maria says:

    The one thing I do is only fix a fifth of a pound of meat per person for dinner.

    If I fixed more they’d be sure to eat it or the leftovers would sometimes get wasted. They are allowed to fill up on as many veggies as they want, that is salad and/or fruit. We also do potatoes and even though those are a bargain, I don’t usually fix more than one potato, whether mashed, oven-roasted or baked, per person because I’d rather they fill up on produce.

    Those are my *guidelines* with two boys and two girls ages 9-18.

    • Melissa says:

      I also have started planning my meals better when I make a big dinner. For example I did a roast beef with gravy and the fixins… making only one potato for each person also (no leftovers). And the beef, gravy, and left over veggies (peas and corn) that were left over were used to make a delicious beef vegetable soup for the next day. Everything was used up with no leftovers. If I have leftovers any more I find myself freezing and using for smaller meals or if I have an unexpected guest that arrives for dinner I can extend the meal without breaking the budget.

  • carrie says:

    One word: ALDI. Even if she shopped there only once a month it would save her a considerable amount.

    • Bethany says:

      not everyone has an Aldi nearby…

      • Kay says:

        agree, there’s no Aldi near me, so it’s always frustrating to read that as the magical solve-all!

        • Anna says:

          LOL! Yes. There is an Aldi an hour away from me. I doubt I’d save much by shopping there!

          • Amie says:

            I live in a rural area with an ALDI an hour away. The trip is worth the savings! I do try to support the local grocery store (6 miles away) by shopping sales and buying some produce.

          • Kristine says:

            Maybe not if you had to make a special trip just to go to Aldi, but if you went while you were in the area anyway, I think it would save you money.

        • Kristine says:

          Obviously it’s not for everyone, but for those who have an Aldi nearby, shopping there can save a lot of money. What I like about Aldi is cheap staple items and sometimes produce, but I’m sure you could also save some money at regular stores by sticking to staple items, seasonal produce, and sales and avoiding a lot of processed foods.

  • Carrie says:

    I love how you put it Crystal! Work on one thing per month. After a month or two, you will probably see yourself mastering those fairly quickly and tackling two the next month.

    Also, cash is king. Read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. It changed my life on budgeting. I get $100/week to spend on groceries for a family of 6. When the cash is gone, that’s it! Aldi is also a favorite store of ours when I don’t feel like couponing.

    If you are overspending in this area of yoru life, you are probably overspending in other areas. I seriously recommend Dave’s book and overhaul your life. Don’t ever get discouraged, you are wanting to make a change in your life and for the financial life of your family – good for you! You can do this!

    • Carrie says:

      Carrie, would you believe we did Dave’s program last year and we were SO on top of things – I think that is why you hear my frustration in my original post because I had really fallen off that horse. Happy to say I am back on it now and better than ever. 🙂

  • Deidre says:

    One suggestion I have is to find a frugal (extremely frugal) recipe and make it each week. We mix it up based on what we find on sale, but some ideas are simple tacos, homemade pizza, and ham and bean soup. Make extras for lunch, or even dinner a day or two later. This helps us save lots of money.

    • That’s a great idea. Our very frugal lunch is lentils and rice. I can feed all 8 of us for $2. We add some veggies from our garden and it rounds out the meal. We have this at least once a week.

    • Ashley P says:

      We do something similar. We have super-cheap recipes and make enough to last for 2 or 3 days. Since hubby and I work nights (no kids, YET! Baby #1 due this July!) we aren’t cooking every day to put in our lunch boxes.

      Our super-cheap meals are:

      Pork Fried rice (our recipe is like a meal by itself more than a side dish!)
      Taco salad
      Spaghetti
      Mac & Cheese
      Cheesy potato soup
      Chicke and rice casserole (chicken breat, rice, cream of chicken soup. SUPER easy!)
      Shepherd’s Pie
      and my all time favorite… RIGATONI! NO ONE makes rigatoni like my hubby does. MMM! I could eat it for days!

      All the recipes use the 2 cheapest meats out there: ground beef and chicken breast (The only exception is the pork friend rice. And the cheesy potato soup and Mac & Cheese, which are meatless.) They also usually have rice or pasta to keep us fuller longer so we eat less.

      We’ve been known on occasion though to just microwave-bake a potato with some broccoli and cheese and eat that as a meal. You get creative when you’re working all the time and broke. 🙂

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Deidre. I’ve started trying to do things like beans and potatoes for meals since they are sooo inexpensive and filling!

  • Vanessa says:

    I could have written this post…please know that you are not alone! We are a family of 5 (mom, dad, 4 1/2 year old twins & a 15 month old). We budget $500 for local groceries, $100 for online groceries (diapers and subscribe & save items), and $200 for Costco & it’s a struggle!

    Before kids I was a binder girl & saved 50-80% on nearly every grocery trip. That was when we lived near stores that would double & I had the luxury of shopping multiple stores each week. We moved to TX when I was pregnant with my twins. I had no time & the deals available here were far less than what they had been in CA, so I just gave up. I would still be mindful of sales & instore coupons, but that was about all I could do.

    Now, something has got to give so I am trying to incorporate a very simple system of couponing and making time to grocery shop either kidless or with just the toddler. I’m working on getting better at meal planning & trying to do more batch/freezer cooking to hopefully both help the budget & save my sanity!

    I hope you can find something that works for you! Blessings…

  • Bernadette says:

    I highly recommend this book. http://www.amazon.com/Family-Feasts-75-Week-Penny-wise/dp/0848732960 And second (third?) what’s been said above to cook from scratch, plan meals around sales, and shop at Aldi! We, too, are a family of 5 (with baby #4 on the way), and budget $350/month for groceries. Another tip: bake your own snacks (muffins, granola bars, quick breads) which are cheaper and healthier. Or: double a recipe, eat half for dinner and then freeze the other half for another meal.

  • Easiest solution … figure out your weekly budget for groceries, get it in cash, and stick it in your wallet. That’s all you have. You can spend less – maybe the reward for that is a cheap date night or save up for a special luxury – but you cannot spend more. Take that $ out of the bank Sunday morning, then you’ll remember to pick up a Sunday paper on the way home and grab the coupons. Go home and sort those coupons, using whatever system works for you. On the same day go through the couponing sites and make your list, pulling the necessary coupons. Figure out your weekly menu, just in case you need something else. Grocery shop. You’ll get into a groove where this takes an hour or so (except for the actual shopping) total. Of course, come up with a system that works for you. 🙂

    Also, make your menu and your list based on the sales circulars from the stores you shop. At my house the sales and the list come first, then the menu.

  • Amy H. says:

    The biggest money saver for me is to shop only once per week (less trips means less impulse buys) and sticking to the list. If you (general you, not you specifically) can find the discipline to just do that you’ll find a huge savings in your overall budget.

    • Ana L. says:

      Since you have Safeway, I would really concentrate on using that to its fullest advantage. I do about half my shopping there and pretty much have stopped any other couponing (my other store is Trader Joe’s). I have found that it’s really really fast and easy to save there. Even being lazy and not printing out or clipping a single coupon, and spending less than half an hour a week, I always save 30-50%. Here’s what I do, in case anyone out there isn’t sure how to use this savings program:

      Every week I sign onto the Just4U website and click on the Coupon Center link. This section is a mixture of manufacturers coupons and store coupons. The manufacturer’s coupons are often the same deals you could find by going to various printable coupon sites–this is the main reason I don’t bother with printable coupons anymore. The store coupons are the same one in the weekly ad flier– this is the main reason I don’t bother with the paper flier anymore.

      I make sure my ‘items per page’ setting is set to All, and then quickly go category by category. Any products I might possibly be interested in buying, I click to Add that coupon. It’s always worthwhile to add something, even if you’re not sure you’ll buy that brand or that item before the coupon expires. It only takes a second, and sometimes coupons will disappear even if they haven’t expired, unless you’ve added them. Since some coupons last for months (others only a week) you might as well grab the coupon while it’s there. I don’t click on anything I know I won’t buy though, of course, it keeps the clutter down in my savings list.

      Once I’m done with Coupon Center I click on the Personalized Deals link. This is where the real money making happens. The list is usually short enough that I just scan the whole list as one page. The beautiful thing about Personalized Deals is that they are often better than or longer lasting than the sale price -plus- they stack with coupons. For a while last year I had one decent $3.50 brand of pasta sauce at $1.88 for a couple months, and frequently got coupons to knock that price down even further. Again, I add anything that I might be interested in. These days I see a lot of $3 off $10 produce purchase or 10% off any paper product purchase. You can be really diligent and make the most of these sorts of deals, or lazy like me and just have them occasionally kick in for an extra bonus.

      If you have been shopping at Safeway for a while, then it’s worthwhile to also click on the Your Club Specials link. Here you can quickly add any current specials on things that you buy to your Savings List. I often don’t even bother to read the sales flier online anymore, and just rely on Your Club Specials to catch the sales that I would care about.

      When I’ve done these steps (which never take me more than 10 minutes), I print my Savings List. I scan the list first to see if any of my Personalized Deals will stack with a coupon in the list too, and if the price is good enough, and something I’ll use, I add it to my list. Next I look at what items are either on sale, or have a coupon, or preferably both. If the price is good on something I’ll use, I add it to the list. I do know my sale cycles and have some stock up prices I look for with staples, so I don’t, for example, add shredded cheese to the list if it’s on sale for $3 a pound because I know that it will go as low as $2.50 a pound in the next few weeks and I can stock up then.

      Once I know what I’m definitely buying, I do my meal planning from what I’m going to buy and what’s in my cupboards/freezer already, and then I will add a very few additional items to my list if needed for a particular meal. But I almost never buy anything if it isn’t on sale or a personalized deal. I’ve found that by stocking up when things are cheap, I almost never run out of things before they’re on sale again. This part of my shopping list planning usually doesn’t take more than fifteen minutes, but our meals are pretty simple.

      Lastly, -always take your savings list printout when you go shopping!!- A few times I’ve had a personalized deal not show up during checkout, but by having my printout there, the clerk was able to enter it for me manually.

      I hope this long ramble helps someone. I really think Safeway got a lot of things right when they designed this program, and it has totally changed and simplified my shopping.

      • Carrie says:

        Ana L – Thank you SO much for this detailed response. I had started to use all those great tools at Safeway and really fallen off the horse from my original post. Happy to say I am back to utilizing all those great tools and reaping the rewards. 😉

  • WilliamB says:

    I agree strongly with Crystal’s suggestion to focus on one thing at a time to avoid being overwhelmed. You don’t say how old your children are, but unless they’re large and athletes, I’d hazard a guess that either you’re buying a lot of prepared food or have a noticable amount of food waste. That might be a good place to start.

    If it’s food waste, The Frugal Girl (www.thefrugalgirl.com) has awesome suggestions for how to reduce that. If it’s prepared food, then my idea is to start by learning how to make a couple of those prepared foods. It doesn’t have to be you, btw, maybe another family member will take up that task. After you have that learned, start on another couple of foods. If the issue is that you order in a lot of food, get a frozen alternative instead. For example, frozen pizza from the store is $5-8 or so, whereas a delivered one is $10-15.

    Good luck with your endeavors.

    • Momof5 says:

      Ha! I laughed out loud at your comment, William, because my kids are large (three are over 6 feet, the other two are still growing, boys and girls both) AND they’re athletes. So we do spend a LOT on food. We’re in a blessed place at the moment where we can spend $1K per month, at least some months – it means we put other things off, but this time will not last forever.
      Some very simple things that have made a difference for us:
      Label the shelf in the fridge where the leftovers go. Mine has a smiley face: “Eat me first!” My kids had become shy about eating leftovers because once or twice they’d eaten the leftover chicken or rice that I’d planned to use in the next night’s dinner (and I reacted perhaps not how I would have liked to), but now they know that if it’s on that shelf, it’s fair game.
      Stop reading recipes. Trying new recipes is one of my favorite forms of entertainment, but I realized how much that experimentation was adding to our food costs . . . especially when they turned out to be unpopular around the table. I still try new things, but now, if I see a recipe I like, I set it aside until every single ingredient has gone on sale. On the other hand, I have a pretty sizable repertoire of recipes the kids all like, so because we have a lot of fairly frugal options, I don’t get bored quite so easily 🙂
      Get a freezer. Honestly, this is the single most important item for us. Freeze things that go on sale, make and freeze beef, chicken, turkey, ham, and veggie stock, etc. But also designate an occasional freezer-only week (or month) so things don’t get lost in the depths. Sometimes I send a kid to the freezer to pick something out and promise I’ll plan the meal around that – which works out well unless I’ve forgotten there are French fries or cookie dough in there 🙂
      And the Money-Saving Mom idea that works best for me: make a list of low prices for items that are important to the family (peanut butter, Cheerios) and where we prefer name brands, but that I don’t buy all that often. I have a list of about 12 items (maple syrup is another one) in the back of my to-do list, and when I’m in Costco or I see our brand of pb on sale, I check. When prices went up last year, I gave the kids a choice: buy the brands they don’t like, or skip the peanut butter. They opted to skip it, and now they check whenever we’re at the store to see if it has dropped back down to our target price.
      In all of these, it helps to have the family on board. My husband is not fond of budgeting or coupons or even grocery shopping, but he’s learned to say, “Mmmm, what a frugal dinner!” so the kids have picked up on that. “Frugal” is a high compliment in our house.
      Good luck!

    • Carrie says:

      Thank you, WilliamB

  • Maureen R. says:

    You could just need a simple modification to your habits. It sounds like that you have list making and menu planning right. Congrats!! That’s a very hard step to overcome. But you also said that you need to shop the sales. Do you have your grocery weekly ad in front of you when you do your menu plan? If you don’t/can’t get it before shopping, how about looking up “Matchups” for the store that you like to shop at? For instance, we have a Giant, so I found a blog that does weekly “Giant Matchups.” So next week, plan out your shopping list in front of the computer. 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    I love Crystal’s advice about picking out one thing to work on a month. (or whatever time frame seems reasonable.) When making changes, it works for me to pick out something that makes the most sense, or is the most fun for me first. You love your brand name products, so maybe that’s not the place to start. Pick something more attractive to change first. Doing the easier or more attractive or most sensible or whatever changes first seem to help me make a change as it wards off discouragement.

  • Meredith says:

    Believe it or not, you may want to raise your budget for awhile. We kept going over and over and I was frustrated. Our budget for three was 60 a week which is my target. I kept spending 80 and couldn’t get it down for the many reasons you suggested. So, we raised it to 70. When I gave myself some wiggle room, i started to sense more of what I was buying. Guess what, we are back down to 60 now. Giving yourself some room may be what you need.

    • Carrie says:

      I keep waffling about that, Melissa. We were at $400/check and I thought that was exorbitant, so we tried to scale back to $350 and that’s where I get caught. I bust the $350 and sometimes even the $400. I keep going back and forth, and just need to stick to one. I’ve actually done 3 pay periods now where I’ve been able to stick with the lower amount because of some other areas I’m changing, so I think I’ll be able to do it if I keep up the work.

  • Lori says:

    A few thoughts:

    1.) When my kids were little, I shopped at Sam’s Club for convenience. I spent waaayyy more than I am spending now that my kids are older. Looking back, a lot of it was diapers and wipes (I probably could have gotten them cheaper with coupons, but I didn’t really have the time and/or knowledge I do now); convenience foods that I now make from scratch instead; and stockpile items that I now get for a very low price by using coupons. Evaluate your Cosco trip vs. a regular grocery store trip and see if you’re really coming ahead by using the warehouse club.

    2.) Also look at what you’re spending on toiletries if they are going in with your grocery budget. That $6 bottle of shampoo or $4 bottle of body wash could probably be free or close to it by just playing the drugstore game a half hour a week. If you would set one area to cut costs, such as diapers or toiletries, you could get that mastered and then focus on reducing costs in other areas.

    3.) Try to find a website that focuses on the local grocery store in your area. In Ohio, where I live, I follow a coupon blog called Kroger Krazy. It is excellent and pretty much outlines what are the good deals each week, allowing me to build a stockpile for very little. She lists a deal, I print out the coupon, cut it, and put it in an envelope that I also use as a list. By shopping day I have all my coupons cut and ready to go in the envelope, and then I just add my fruits, vegetables and meats to the list. Easiest system I have found yet … much better than that time-consuming binder I was using for a while.

    Don’t forget to give yourself grace … you’ve got your hands full, and it might be a while until you get it mastered. But like Crystal said, any little bit of progress is still progress.

  • Kristi says:

    I agree with the commenter who suggested looking for a blog that features the best deals in the stores for your area. I check one every week where the blogger does not just list the sales but tells where to find the best deals. As others have said, even if you just get buy one get one items, you’re saving 50% even without coupons.

    Also, one thing that really helps me is to look at my list and come up with a ballpark figure of how much it will cost me to get everything. If it’s more than I want to spend, then I re-think my menu plan, and try to come up with a less expensive meal or two.

    • anonymous says:

      It’s easy to say not to compare yourself to others… but we all do it at times. Another factor to give yourself a break on is if you know you live in an area with higher grocery prices. Last year I moved across the county and I will never be able to get by on the budget I used to. When I tell others back home how much I spend per month now on food, they all jump to scolding me. Truth is, we don’t eat any differently now then we did then. (If anything, we’ve given up a lot!) It’s just a cost of living adjustment.

      Another firm belief: frustration and guilt are not going to change how you do anything. Relax and remind yourself of all the things you are doing so well. You’ll get to where you want to be eventually.

    • Carrie says:

      Good idea, Kristi!

  • Diana says:

    I agree with not beating yourself up and working to slowly change things–that way you’ll make new habits that stick.

    One thing I do when I’m trying to stay below a certain amount is to estimate how much I think each item on my list will cost BEFORE I go to the store. I write the price next to each item on the list and add it up at the end and write down that total. If it’s too high, I take some things off or rearrange the menu to use sale items or more frugal items. If it’s just right, then I go to the store. I compare the price of each item to my estimated amount (and I usually remember how much stuff is after a few weeks!), and that way I can keep a mental idea of whether I’m staying on track or not. It’s also a great way to keep impulse buys down.

    Best wishes as you keep plugging away! You can do it!

  • Sheila says:

    I think Safeway is very high. When I go in there (it is the closest store to me so I occasionally go in to buy an item or two), I am always just amazed that people can afford to shop there. They are frequently double what I pay at Walmart (plus the people at Walmart are nicer and more helpful). Do you have other options? I used to have Aldi, and I miss that. Also, my local Costco is a lot higher than Sam’s. I went with my shopping list twice and it was 15% higher overall. I mainly buy pantry staples, dog food, etc. I do not tend to buy many processed foods at Sam’s. Crystal’s advice about taking it a step at a time is very good.

    • Carrie says:

      Sheila, I’ve just discovered Big Lots in our area as well as begun to go to the WalMart in the next town over! Great suggestions. 🙂

  • Rachael says:

    I don’t coupon at all. Requires me to buy too many name brands.

    And, make sure your $1000/month is just food. Several friends were shocked at how little I spend, till they realized they had included cleaning products, diapers and such in their counting. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

    As for name brands, I’m pretty picky, too. But I’m learning what its worth being picky over. I’m finding certain items are quite good and better in the off brand (Great Value peanut butter has much less sugar than jiffy and is way more peanuty!), and some things need the name brand (though I’m finding this less and less.)

    • Tara says:

      As part of my jump start the new year, i made an fridge, freezer and pantry inventory. I found that it helps so that i am not buying the same item over and over again because i can’t find it. I was surprised to see just what i had hiding in the backs of the fridge and freezer.
      Not only was I able to make a list, i found that i had 7 cans of tuna hiding behind my oils and vinegar. Tuna salad, tuna casserole anyone? Now that i have my inventory, and a much cleaner fridge and freezer because i also used the time to throw out expired products, i know what i have to menu plan around, what to buy and what i have a stockpile of. I have 5 boxes of tea and 6 jars of peanut butter that i bought when they were on super sale. That should last me almost until fall for those staples.

      • Carrie says:

        Tara, I have just started an inventory of my pantry and freezers and can really see that it is going to come in handy! Thank you! 🙂

  • Great response, Crystal. I just finished reading Wildly, Affordable Organic by Linda Watson and it is probably the best book I’ve ever read on getting your grocery budget under control. It has a step by step plan that you slowly incorporate into your life. I already do a lot of what she recommends but if I can see where her plan can really help someone ease into cooking from scratch. BTW, her plan only takes an extra 20 minutes a day to help prep for the next day.

  • Kim says:

    We are a family of 9 with a grocery budget/shopping style similar to yours. One thing that really helps control waste and reduce spending is to shop early in the day, then come home and process everything. Chop and freeze produce, slice cheeses and meats, etc. This saves in losses and also saves time in cooking. Anything thing is to buy spices, nuts, grains, etc in bulk. Spices from the bulk aisle generally cost less than $1 for the same as a $5-6 jar. Bulk generally takes more up front, but saves trips to the store and costs less in the end. Also stay away from processed food. I usually make my own spagetti sauce, but one day was in a hurry and decided to buy the jar stuff. When I got the store, I was appalled by the price (especially having to buy 3 jars to feed all of us)! As I looked, I found there were canned sauces for much less. When I looked at the ingredients I realized that it was just tomato sauce and herbs/spices. I ended up buying cans of tomato sauce and tossing in some Italian herbs–and saving about $10, yet still saving time over the from scratch version. Think simple!

  • Chrystelle says:

    Thank YOU for asking this question…and thanks to Crystal for answering it so well. I have been struggling with this exact issue and beating myself up over overspending in this area as well. I work full time outside the home and am failing at trying to be supermom, superwife, superfriend, superworker, etc….it’s been a losing battle as something has to give. To compound matters, I don’t know how to really cook and it takes me a painstakingly long time to follow a recipe. Thanks to everyone for their comments. I appreciate the insight. Prayer – is definitely the biggest take-away!

    • Chrystelle, you don’t have to be supermom, superwife, superfrinds, superworker. You need to give yourself some grace. It’s hard being a working full time outside of the house mom. I haven’t been one in 18 years but I still remember.

      Just keep it simple. Find a simple cookbook with a few real ingredients, I recommend Wildly Affordable Organic by Linda Watson. Also find some crock pot recipes that you can put on before you go to work so they’ll be ready when you get home. If you could get 10 easy dinners that your family liked you could rotate those M-F every two weeks.

    • Momof5 says:

      Chrystelle, try easier recipes! I’m not kidding. There is nothing more frustrating than a really complicated recipe. Last night I made one of my older kids’ favorites: peas and rice. When I had three under 4 and was working part time, the most complicated thing I could manage was a pot of rice with some frozen or canned peas stirred in at the end. On a really good day, I’d add a pat of butter or even some grated parmesan cheese. I felt endlessly guilty for not cooking fancy whole foods, and now, 15 years later when I’ve mastered a lot of much more involved cooking, what do they ask for when they come home from college? Peas and rice. No recipe required. I fear this answer sounds bossy – it’s been that kind of day – but really I have so much empathy for you, you sound just like I once felt. Now, believe it or not, that time in the kitchen is like prayer for me, an opportunity to raise my fears and worries and feel peace descend at the same time that I’m feeding the ones I love best. Start small, extend the same grace to yourself that you do to your family, and it will slowly get easier 🙂

    • Krysten says:

      I agree! Find some easy recipes! Spaghetti is always a favorite at our house, and is so easy to switch up! Bake it for 30 minutes after you’ve cooked it and sprinkle some mozzerella on top and, Bang! You’ve just made baked spaghetti! Make a mixture of ricotta, cottage cheese, an egg, and a little parsley or oregano (and milk to thin it out if it’s too thick), stir it into your spaghetti along with some regular spaghetti sauce, bake it for a little while, top with mozzerella, and, Viola! You’ve just made spazagna!
      Try tacos or taco salad (brown the meat, add taco seasoning, chop some veggies, and let everyone assemble their own!), simple soups, and my son’s favorite – homemade mac n cheese – boil and drain the pasta, add whatever kinds of cheese you like (I use cheddar mozzerella, and a few Kraft singles), along with enough milk to make it the right texture, and some cut-up hot dogs or ham, and you have a simple pot of cheesy comfort food!

    • Carrie says:

      Chrystelle, blessings and encouragement to you, too, mama. 😉

  • denise says:

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments but my question in response to this readers question is:

    How much of what you purchase each week/month goes to waste? Are you buying too much of anything that goes bad fairly quickly and then just throwing it away?

    And I saw Aldi thrown out a lot – it is a great store you should try shopping there! I love my local Aldi and have come to love their brands of food as much as any name brand!

  • Sandy says:

    I budget $200.00 each month for groceries, and attempt to limit my spending to $40.00 a week (4 weeks at $40 a week = $160.00). This leaves me with $40.00 a month for unexpected items needed/wanted and sales. If I can stick to the $40 a week I put the left over $40 into savings. I have been trying to loose some weight so, I have made some changes to what I purchase and I would have to say the biggest change I’ve made is to start in the produce department and concentrate on spending the majority of my money on fruits and vegetables. If I don’t find what I want at a good price in fresh produce, I hit the frozen food section. I cut back on the amount of money I was spending on meat for I definitely was buying far more than I actually needed. I don’t buy any convenience foods for I like to cook and am always trying new recipes.

    I do have a friend who is married with 3 children and she has an interesting system. Fridays through Tuesdays she prepares a meal, one each day that is a favorite of one of her family members. Before she serves her family she reserves enough from what she has prepared for a meal for one person. Then, Wednesdays is left over day and each member of her family eats their favorite meal for a second time that week. She tells me her family doesn’t miss the amount she reserves, everybody is happy on Wednesdays, and it gives her a mid-week break from cooking not to mention cleaning out her refridgerator for grocery shopping on Thursdays.

  • Sarah says:

    Two ideas:
    One is to find ways to get excited about saving money on groceries. Sounds weird, but for me I love it when my husband comes home and I say “Guess what?! I saved 40% off my grocery bill today!” or “I found this awesome farmer’s market type of store and their produce is super cheap and delicious!” I kind of make it a game to see if I can save a larger percentage the next time I shop. Does it always work? No. But it gets me in the right mindset of it not being drudgery, if that makes sense. Because if you’re more excited about it, you’re more likely to do it.

    The second thing I have is to look at how much you’re spending at Costco. I went to Costco recently to price check and realized that they are more expensive or the same prices as regular grocery stores for most of their items. They do have some things (like yeast, coffee, flour) that are a much better deal than the regular grocery stores, but for the rest of it it’s about the same or more. This is just my experience but things I consider staples like milk, juice, canned veggies and tuna, diapers/wipes, etc. were way more per ounce/serving/diaper than where I usually shop (which is a Kroger affiliate). I’m not saying they’re bad by any means, but I think they may market to make people think they’re saving money by buying in bulk, but they’re really not overall. I highly suggest just looking to see what the price per ounce is for a lot of things there and compare them to your local grocery store, then see if you actually need to buy in bulk that often at Costco. A lot of the time you can just stock up on something at the grocery store when it goes on sale, and it’ll be cheaper than Costco. Just my opinion though.

    • Kristi says:

      The Costco price comparison depends on where you live. Where we are, nobody-not Aldi or Walmart-can beat our Costco’s dairy prices. Last week a gallon of milk was over $1.00 more at Walmart. I am careful what I buy at Costco, but I figured that I pay for our membership in about 4 months just on milk savings alone.

    • Melody says:

      I completely agree – Costco also seems to be less expensive for things like nuts and gourmet foods – pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, fancy cheeses like brie, and perhaps good quality meat. I’ve found I can get just as much good out of bulk shopping by going to Sam’s Club on their yearly free shopping day that Crystal usually posts.

      Past that, we save a lot on meat by buying part of a cow straight from the farmer (getting as many bones as you can handle to throw in the crockpot for good beef stock). I’ve also found that I can reliably get smart chicken quarters for about 1.49 a pound at my local standard store – even less than a whole chicken, and way less than chicken breasts. Plus, you have bones to make more stock with.

      Also, even if you’ve planned meals, feel free to substitute ingredients if you happen to see something on sale. For example, if you’ve planned chicken and broccoli, but green beans are on sale, substitute the green beans for the broccoli. Easy, and doesn’t require time with the circulars before you get to the store.

      Past that, freezing is your friend. If celery’s on sale, grab several, chop them up, and stick them in bags in the freezer. They freeze loose, so you can take out what you need and throw it straight in a hot pan. Works well with onions and bell peppers too – think fajitas.

    • Carrie says:

      Sarah,
      You are right! Since my original post I’ve made a lot of changes and they are very exciting! And success and excitement in one area just spills over into motivation for other areas!!

      Yes, I’ve compared receipts from Costco and I am spending about 1/3 on things I buy there! Yay!

  • Krysten says:

    I read through most of the comments, and didn’t see this mentioned, so forgive me if it was already mentioned and I’m repeating something someone else said!

    I would recommend only grocery shopping every-other week, or twice a month. At first, I didn’t believe that it would help me, but when I was consistently going over budget by about $50/month (we have a $300/month budget for a family of 5 – 3 adults, a preschooler, and a baby), I decided to try it and it worked! We live in a small town with a Kroger, and have a big town with a Walmart and Aldi about 20 minutes away. I only make my big grocery run to Walmart/Aldi twice a month, and just get mostly sale items and markdown bread at Kroger. I try to spend about $100 at each of my 2 big grocery trips each month, which leaves me $100 for stocking up on sale items and markdowns at Kroger.
    Best of luck to you with your grocery spending reductions!

  • If It's FREE! says:

    I live in Texoma, and do my primary grocery shopping at Walmart…I DO clip as many coupons as possible, and snag up Freebies at Dollar Tree when I get the oppurtunity! I However, do not use coupons on things I wont be eating or that are super processed. My boyfriend and I use about $315 or less on groceries every month and a half-two months, and I make a very good amount of our lunches/dinners from scratch!
    I also make homemade biscuits and cookies.
    Also consider eating less “breakfast” foods, bacon, sausage, frozen waffles/strudels, pop tarts & grab a bowl of cereal a couple days a week!
    If you eat more rice and beans, veggies and fruits, then meats and breads, and premade dinners you WILL save a ton! Instead of buying a $14 Frozen lasagna, you can make spaghetti for less than $5!(Noodles $1, sauce $1.50-3.00, Ground Beef, onions & peppers).. make your own boxed brownies &/or cupcakes(non iced) & replace packaged snack cakes in kids lunches with those.
    Buy a Brita pitcher & refillable bottles, instead of packaged bottle water!
    Other people have suggested to only use milk on cooking or cereal, no longer give it to your kids for constant drinking…give them a glass at meal time, but stick to waters/juices.
    If your family is big on eating fruits, dont buy the presliced/packaged, purchase the whole fruits and slice things yourself. Because often a “watermelon” whole can be as low as $3 on sale, but one lb sliced up can be almost $4+ a container(not even a slice of watermelon really)

  • I know when we were having a hard time staying in our budget, I would plan all our menu’s around the things that were on sale. Even if that meant I would miss out on something later in the month that might be on sale I knew this week chicken was on sale for instance. I also went to the store with only cash so that I knew if I ran out of money I had to stop shopping. It does take time to get into the habit of coupons and doing sales so the easiest I can suggest is the keep an accurate list of what your spending. Being more aware you will want to spend less.

  • Kate SDDS says:

    We also have a family of five (one is a baby – 1 year old) – we spend quite a bit less – one easy peasy thing we do – is we make a BIG batch of black beans in the slow cooker each month – SO inexpensive and so healthy! We also have a big orange tree that is now in season so we cut down on a lot of our produce purchases when we can use that. We also purchase Natures own bread for only $1 at the 99 cents store (ask them when they get the shipment!) -I buy a bunch and freeze what we cant use in the next couple days – still a really good quality bread and i cannot beat the price =) we dont eat a lot of fancy food but it is pretty healthy – we do use coupons sometimes but not very often =)

  • Pat says:

    We also shop at Costco and shop by buying in bulk and cases. One thing I realized is that we were going through the food faster. My son would see a case of something he wanted and would eat 2-3 cans for a snack or dinner and then when I wanted to use the item I would find empty boxes. Not only is this bad for my budget but also his health. So now I date items for when he can use them. If there are no more Jan. marked popcorn then he has to wait until Feb or buy them from his money.

    I also have a index card on my frig with a listing of 5-7 meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner that we all enjoy. When dinner time rolls around and we get that blank look I go to the list. I am also getting more relaxed about meal planning. I am not physically able to shop and cook in the same day. I know this about myself and take this into account so take-out or slow cooker meals on shopping day. When I had babies sometimes I would slip out in the middle of the night to shop knowing my husband was watching the homefront. So blessedly quiet and empty stores so I could relax and enjoy the time. Seasons change and we too must bend to our families needs.

    I get a kick out of people staying loyal to name brands. I used to work in a cannery. The same beans went in the name brand and generic. Once the extension service did a taste test at a mall. Guess what —the people actually preferred the generic over the name brand! So give it a try you just might like it!

    • Llama Momma says:

      Crystal’s suggestion of “baby steps” is a good one. Don’t try to do this all at once. I also like the suggestion of shopping at Aldi. Coupons can be time consuming and overwhelming…sticking to an affordable grocery store like Aldi for the basics is a great idea!

      When I started reducing our grocery bill — we’re a family of 5 in the chicago area and our budget is $600/ month — I looked at the meals themselves. I checked frugal websites (like this one) for budget-friendly recipes and started trying a few every week. Once a week is always spaghetti, and once is homemade pizza. Two fairly simple, affordable meals. One day is soup day in the winter when I make a big pot of homemade soup. The boys love bringing this for lunch in their thermoses to school. Sunday nights, my husband makes homemade pancakes for dinner. There’s four meals that are simple and cheap and everyone likes them. I add three “different” things and call it a meal plan most weeks. Sometimes I make lasagna instead of spaghetti.

      If we have leftovers, we have leftover night, but as my boys get older, we rarely have much leftover. We also invite friends and neighbors to stay for supper a few times a week. I used to make a big deal of this and buy a lot of special food…but right now, we can’t always do that. and you know what? Our friends are happy to come over for pancakes or homemade soup.

      Throw a few low-cost meals in your menu plan every week — it’s amazing what a difference it makes! Good luck and keep us posted on your baby steps. You can totally do this!!!

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks for your wisdom, Pat. 🙂

  • Rebekah says:

    Everyone provided some great suggestions, so here are the last few I use to stay on budget:
    I do a weekly cooking day. This is where I break down veggies by washing, chopping, storing. I make dinners for the week or at least prep what I can and put it in the freezer to take out the day before I need it. This process helps to keep waste down and deter us from scrounging or dining out at spur of the moment. The two or three hours I spend doing all of this makes the weekly cooking so much easier!
    Also, it helps to think outside the box and search for recipes by cost. I often have a breakfast night because eggs are so inexpensive and we often don’t have time for them in the morning. I mix my cooked ground beef with black beans. It stretches the meat and my family doesn’t even notice in recipes like lasagna, tacos, sloppy joes, chili, meaty spaghetti sauce, etc. I simply mix a rinsed can in with my browned meat and season it as if it were all meat.
    Finally, I organized my pantry and look for sales. For example, I have probably 12 boxes of pasta put away right now. This will take us a couple months to get through, but our grocery store had the name brand boxes on sale for $0.56. That’s cheaper than wal-mart. Canned corn and beans were $0.33, so again I stocked up so that I don’t have to purchase those for a long time and they are as nutritious as the fresh veggies, but cheaper than the fresh versions at times.
    Oh, and someone mentioned Costco or buying in bulk. I found myself over spending, so my sister and I go in together on paper products and meat and divide it, so we get the bulk price but not have a ridiculous amount of stuff.
    Good luck!!

  • Mel says:

    I agree with what the others said about trying Aldi’s. Try making a game out of discovering store brands, think of 5 things that you would be willing to try put the names of the items on a piece of paper, and draw a paper from a hat before going to the store.Next month do it again.
    Make sure kids and adults have eaten something before going to the store to cut down on ‘I’m hungry’ impulse purchases. Buy the small sanwich bags and preportion snack food instead of buying individual bags or having a large package vanish in a day. Find or tweak current recipes for main dishes and sides to make them cheaper, you don’t need to use the full amount listed for meat and cheese. DO not change amounts when baking a dessert.

  • Alex says:

    If you match up sales and coupons, you can buy name brand items for at least as much as or less than their off brand counterparts. When I started couponing, I actually spent MORE initially because I had to build a small stockpile. We lived in an apartment so I couldn’t stock up to much. Those beginning 6 months or so I had to continue purchasing what we needed for the month at full price and spend extra on stocking up the good sale items. Looking back-I stocked up on some “deals” that really weren’t that great becuase I was just getting started. What helps me most is to consider the percentage total that I want to save. If my goal is to save 50% off my grocery bill than most of my items must be at least 30% saved and several over 50% saved. BTW-I’m having a hard time saving 50% due to the rise in fuel, groceries, and it seems sales and coupons aren’t as good either. I now save closer to 40%. I plan to grow a garden this year to help offset the cost. I also have a 4 month old and I am making his babyfood.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I think this, like pretty much everything else, is a Time VS. Money issue. You say you “forget” to clip coupons and do sales, but to my way of thinking (as a WAFM), you don’t think you have time and you don’t have a routine. I only shop on Sundays, and I make it as easy on myself as possible. I subscribe to a service called The GroceryGame.com that I can pay about $2/week for. It compiles all the deals at my local grocery store (I don’t have time to go to 4 stores in a week) AND all the coupons that apply to those sales. We take the Sunday newspaper (about $1/week) to get the coupons, and I have an aunt who gives me hers, so I usually have at LEAST 2 of each relevant coupon– you certainly CAN buy more on ebay, etc., but are you REALLY going to use 8 tubes of toothpaste before it goes on sale again??? Anyway, I use one of those accordian folders and file my coupon circulars by week. So when on Sunday morning I log into Grocery Game, I sort what’s on sale at the grocery store by “percentage off” to make sure I’m getting the best deals for my stockpile and then it will tell me, for instance, that there is a $.75 coupon on Colgate from the 12/9 SmartSource insert that will give me the tube of toothpaste for free. I buy ANYTHING free (if I really won’t use it, it goes to the food pantry) and will usually buy anything 60-75%+ off that I will use for my stockpile (or if I know it is something the food bank will need) even if it isn’t on the menu for the week. Probably takes me all of about 10 minutes to check the list and clip my coupons, and I would say that I probably save (after paying for the service and the coupons) about $10-12/week. Not a ton, but that’s $50 a month (my bill at the store tends to be about $60 a week, but that doesn’t count Costco trips, etc.) AND it builds my stockpile. The other way I really do save is declare 1 week a month to be “pantry/freezer week” when I will only buy milk and a loaf of bread, etc. but meals have to come from the stockpile and freezer. But you have to have a good stockpile to do that– give yourself a month or two to build that up.

    So, my point is, if you are super busy, you have to make it easy on yourself, and sometimes that means paying a little to save a lot. Since you already menu plan, GroceryGame (disclosure– I’m just a happy client, no financial interest) sounds like it would be a good thing to try if you are willing to get coupons. You can do a 4 week trial for free, but it takes 12 weeks to build up your coupon stash, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t maximizing it at first– but that first 4 weeks for free would get you in the routine and familiar with how it works. I totally agree with Crystal’s advice– a positive attitude and baby steps are key!!! Good luck to you!

  • Emily says:

    My tip is STAY AWAY FROM COSTCO! Yes, I said it. Costco CAN be great, but it can also be very, very damaging on your budget. Take a month and do not shop at Costco. Go to local grocery stores, Aldi (if you have one), farmers markets, etc. And try cutting some meat from your diet. Eat more beans or even cheaper cuts of meat made into stews and casseroles. Make sure you use up everything you can before you go shopping again. Don’t throw away the stems of your broccoli – use them to make soup. Don’t toss your chicken carcass – use it to make broth.

    It’s actually very easy to cut down your grocery budget and still eat healthy, good food IF you make an effort and stop making excuses. No one can do it for you, you have to make the decision to do it yourself. Start your changes small and pretty soon it will be the norm and you can tackle another change.

  • Diana says:

    Do you have Aldi’s? They save me SO much money. I spend half there what I would spend at any other chain. I don’t do any coupons – just go to Aldi’s. I budget $75/wk and we are a family of 4. I do go over sometimes but not by much and only if we are having a lot of company that week.

  • melissa says:

    Don’t beat yourself up about it! In my area no grocery stores double coupons anymore so the deals I see aren’t great. I do shop a lot at target & then use the target coupon with the manufacturers coupon. Though it’s not a supertarget I still get good deals. I also don’t have time to go to 5 different stores so I price match when I can. I tend to find awesome deals on toiletries or personal hygiene so I focus on those & then can afford to pay more for groceries when I get shampoo, toothpaste, tpaper for nearly free.

  • I’ll echo some of the others here.
    Limit your shopping to once or twice a week. I do most of my shopping in one trip (2 different stores) and then make one small trip in for milk, fruit and anything else we NEED. I do not, under any circumstances, buy anything that is not needed in that second trip.
    Learn to say no. Impulse buys add up quickly. I’m not saying don’t treat yourself, but look at your receipt. Are you splurging more than you’re buying needs?
    Stretch your dollar. Most recipes nowadays are very meat heavy. Consider halving the quantity of meat and substituting in more veggies, rice, beans or pasta.
    Portion control at the table. In my house I plate all the food and take it to the table. You (and your family) are less likely to overeat if the food isn’t sitting right there in front of you saying ‘eat me’. I would never deny someone a second helping, but we’re less likely to go in for it if it’s not staring us in the face.
    If your store has a reward card where you can load coupons–do it. It’s easier than toting paper and it will still help you save some money.
    Lastly, do a ‘cheap week’ or a ‘cheap night’ once a month or week. Eat PB&J, grilled cheese, meatless chili, eggs, potato soup, pancakes, chicken noodle soup–anything you can make a big batch of for under $5. We do a PB&J and a grilled cheese lunch weekly. It cost us virtually nothing!

  • Vanessa says:

    In all the years I have been reading moneysavingmom.com and all the times I have heard Crystal talk about using cash, last week I JUST started buying groceries with cash! Last year I kept seeing my grocery bill creep up little by little until we were spending $125 a week and sometimes more on groceries.

    Well, last week we spent a little over $80! (did not include other household items which came to $10). Granted that doesn’t seem like a lot of savings and I used a gift card we got for Christmas to buy meat that was on sale, but I can tell you that handing over cash instead of swiping a debit card definitely makes you think twice before buying those things that you don’t really need. And having that little bit of success definitely made me want to try even harder this week!

    It is also MUCH easier to keep track of spending – no more trying to keep track of receipts or trying to keep track of spending on paper.

    Does that $1000 a month include diapers, paper products, cleaning supplies, etc.? For me keeping cash for groceries and cash for diapers, paper products, and cleaning items separate has helped me to see what I am REALLY spending on food vs. other things. When I did this I realized that the amount I was spending on “groceries” wasn’t actually all food items.

    I also love Crystal’s advice about cutting back in small amounts, especially since she has an infant. As Crystal has stressed over and over, there are times when we just need to give ourselves a little grace and I definitely think having a new baby is one of those times.

  • Jenn says:

    This may already have been mentioned, but I just wanted to say beware of Costco! It can be a real budget killer. We have a membership and I love to shop there, but I often come away spending almost what I had budgeted for the whole month! And the stuff doesn’t last us the whole month, of course. Some things (quinoa, salsa) are a great deal there, while others (like cereal and diapers), not so much. Try to limit trips there (and put together a list of the things that are actually good deals there) and I am willing to guess your spending will decrease pretty dramatically. Just my thoughts, as I have been mulling over our currently-elevated spending habits;).

  • Dianna says:

    When I go shopping, a calculator is just too much trouble and invariably someone ends up clearing the total, so i just round up or down and keep a tally on my grocery list. It’s the easiest way for me. The rounding often times makes up for the tax.
    On weeks that I have been really stretched tight, I would figure how much my list would cost before I left the house.
    If I run out of something, don’t need it right away and don’t have room in the budget, I leave it on the list for the next week(s).

  • Jennifer says:

    Keep in mind what you are feeding your family. High quality food costs more period. Now that my kids are 5, 5, and 3 they love veggies and dip. Veggies per week is over $30. I hate seeing the price each week but how can you say no when you see three little kids filling their bellies with good veggies. I don’t know how these families bigger than ours feed everyone for so little. I question if those numbers are really complete.

    Don’t beat yourself up – a lot of bloggers (or other people you know) don’t know the real cost of their food. If you eat free junky food sooner or later that will catch up to you and cost you big with your health! Also we stopped eating out and our grocery bill went up. Have you made other changes that could account for the non-bundging bills. I have to always look at the big picture in these things otherwise I would get discouraged.

    If you have a big freezer try buying meat by the whole or half animal. That saves our family a ton of money. I would also try making one high price item from home or switching to a cheaper method. We save a ton just by making homemade english muffins. I use Alton Browns recipefrom the food network. I make it with lard because shortning scares me! They are AWESOME and super easy. We would eat 6 or 7 store muffins in one breakfast. I make them for a fraction of the cost.

    • Anna says:

      Thanks for the reminder on Alton’s English Muffin recipe. I have it bookmarked to try, and still haven’t made them. You’re right, too, about produce. When we’re really eating healthfully, I spend every bit 30 in veggies. But as long as we eat it up, I don’t feel bad about it. I try to keep veggies growing in the garden, and my kids love to eat produce. That’s a good thing! And the produce is still cheaper than snack crackers, or some other empty carb.
      My husband and I went on Atkins last summer, and our grocery bill certainly took a hit, but we both lost 20 lbs of excess weight, and I felt good about what we were consuming. There is definitely a health factor that some big couponers/savers ignore when they can cut their budget to $35/week for a family of 4!

  • Heather says:

    The best thing I ever did for our budget was a price book. I know with out guessing what a stock up price is on an item and I know what stores usually sale the items cheaper. Crystal has a great price book template you can use.

    Just make sure you start out slow do a few staples and then grow the list from there. I started with list for each store I shop then I combined them to one list.

    I agree with Crystal pick one thing to focus on. Once you feel you have a good grip on it move on to something else. Do what you can handle and go from there. REMEMBER You DO NOT have to do everything especially while having an infant. (With my 4 month old and other kids I am in a season of life where we are just spending a little more because I don’t have the time or mental capacity to handle it all).

  • Sarah says:

    I find this website useful http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/usdafoodcost-home.htm

    For example, for October a family of 4 will spend $546.80 for the thrifty plan up to over $1,000 for the liberal plan. Each additional family member will be 20% more. So you might be right in the average. Still will be tips to bring you down to a lower level, but do not beat yourself up either as you are in the moderate spending category. Food is expensive and food that is good for you, preservative free, and organic and healthy is expensive.

  • Betsie says:

    Question for everyone recommending Aldi – is it noticeably cheaper than shopping at Walmart? I buy mostly generic, and I work full-time so it’s not really cost-effective (to my wallet or time) for me to shop at multiple stores, but if Aldi would serve the same purpose and be cheaper than Walmart I’d happily make the switch!

    • Diana says:

      YES! Noticeably cheaper! I only buy store-brand at Wal-Mart if I have to go there. And I still save over 50% by just going to Aldi’s. For example, Aldi’s margarine sticks are 79 cents. At Wal-mart, the SAME BRAND (Imperial) is 99 cents. That’s how everything is- – Wal-Mart store brand is always higher than Aldi’s. In the end, if I go buy at WalMart, I spend over $100 rather than $75 at Aldi’s. Try it – you will be VERY glad you did! Also, Aldi’s has a double guarantee on all their products. If you buy it and don’t like it, they will replace your item AND your money! It’s a win-win!

      • Betsie says:

        Thanks so much for your input; I’ll give Aldi a try when I shop this weekend! 🙂

        • Kristine says:

          Remember that you have to bag your own groceries, so bring some shopping bags. Also, you’ll need a quarter for a cart (which you get back when you return it).

      • megan says:

        I find Aldi is cheaper in most staples, but meat seems to be an exception. I can find better deals at other stores, especially when they are on sale.

        • Kristine says:

          I agree. I love Aldi for other things, but I usually don’t buy meat there. I look for sales at our local grocery store for that.

    • Sheri says:

      Yes, Aldi is cheaper than Walmart especially for staples like butter, bread, and produce. I don’t find Walmart’s meat very cheap, but have found some good meat deals at Aldi.

  • Ruz says:

    One thing I have found (we do not have a big freezer – yet) is that you can make a big dish/meal and then have it for 2-3 meals, but you need to be willing to either eat the same thing over and over. Otherwise, you need to plan your meals to better use the ingredients that you have.

    A variant on this: When you do cook make a little bit too much for your family, collect the leftovers and 1 meal per week becomes leftovers only. (Sort of an instant 1/7th cut to your grocery budget – minus cost of increasing size of meal…)

  • Cindy says:

    I agree with Crystal when she says not to compare yourself to others. My advice towards couponing is “you have to do what’s right for you”. This doesn’t always go over well at first with my friends, but only you know what your family really needs. Research the costs of those needs and focus in that direction. If you are tempted to buy extras, stay away from Costco and Sams. Also, you don’t have to give up brand names, maybe just some brand loyalty. Try new items when they are on sale, your family might like them. I love a certain laundy detergent, but will buy other brands too and use those to wash my dog towels and beds. Save when and where you can.

  • Melissa says:

    Hi! We are a family of 5 (budget is $500 and we also have 2 cats and 3 dogs) and the best way I have found to stay under budget is to make a meal plan and make my list from that. I have found myself NOT able to use coupons. For some reason I get it in my head that I am saving on something’s so I can spend a little more on others and it ends up going through the roof! Also I have my kids (12,11,8) help cook and my daughter (11) can make certain meals all on her own. She likes to cook and it helps out a lot! We don’t have left overs the next night, I try to wait a night or send it for someone’s lunch. Also I like to make meals work for 2 different meals…. chili for one meal and then hot dogs with chili or chili Frito pie for another. Also, I cannot use cash. It doesn’t work for me at all. So we use Mint.com and have our budget that way so I can keep track of it as its happening. I would suggest, above all, look at what has and hasn’t worked for you and your family. Then go from there. If the problem is eating out, plan it. If its throwing left overs out, freeze them and use them the next week. Take it one week at a time! Good luck!

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Melissa. I’ve found that coupons are similar for me – I often end up spending more because I’m trying to use this “good deal” but it isn’t something I’d normally buy… Thanks for your words of wisdom and ideas. Good luck to you , too. 🙂

  • Natasha says:

    Do cash- that is what we do. It helps not only with groceries, but gas and bills as well.

    Another great idea is to buy a whole cow and split with another family 🙂 We went in with my FIL and my BIL and bought the whole cow…for $3.08/lb, we couldn’t beat that and we have hamburger meat like not other, including ribs, loin and whatever else kind of meat.

    We recently also bought a whole hog and split the same way! Boy, we have a lot of sausage and bacon and whatever else meat as well! We bought the hog for $167 and got at least 100 lbs of meat out of it, with 65lbs of it being sausage!

    Start a garden this spring. We are going to this year, now that we have a home and the space to do it with.

  • jessica says:

    1) Get to know the other stores where you live. Safeway may not be the best place to do all or any of your shopping.
    a. Is there a farmer market? A local produce market? Deli? Etc?? check them out, some of them have far lower prices on produce than chain grocery stores. Some farmers markets participants will offer a lower price at a certain hour so the product doesn’t waste. Some deli’s have lower prices on certain sandwich meats or offer coupons in a local paper.
    b. Do you have a walmart near you so you can price match and do more shopping in one place hence saving time?
    c. Do you have a harris teeter that allows you to stack their electronic coupons with manufacturer Q’s? they also offer occasional super doubles which is a great time to stock up on those name brands you are so picky about. They also have good sales on produce .
    d. Giant that reduces the price of meat at a certain time- ask the meat dept guy. A Kroger that marks down bread and dairy? Ask the dairy dept guy – yeah any of them will do. Usually someone not in management is more forthcoming.
    e. Do you use swagbucks Q’s so you can earn virtual dollars to use at places like amazon?
    f. Don’t underestimate fancy grocery stores- it doesn’t always mean they are the most expensive on everything. places like Wegman’s consistently have low prices on certain meats, Harris teeter also, whole foods lets you stack coupons (although in my opinion they are the store I am least likely to shop at because sales and products are less relevant to me and my budget and hence wastes my time) and Trader Joes if you like quality and convenience products this is one of the best places to snag a deal without coupons. I wouldn’t buy meat there because it is more expensive- good quality but a budget destroyer.
    2) Buy what’s on sale to make your menu. The stuff that is in your cupboards can continue in your stockpile if need be or can be used in your menu.
    3) Only clean with baking soda and vinegar – u will save so much time and money not having to clip Q’s for cleaning items and that time can be used for some preparation in planning to chop your bill down. Plus it’s non toxic. Baking soda can be used in place of shampoo even and apple cider vinegar for conditioner, white vinegar / water mix to cleanse the hair and scalp from product residue.
    4) You will have to face that being lazy isn’t your friend. It’s great that you are in a place to admit it and acknowledge it. But for things to change you are going to have to also. Start small take 15 minutes a week to plan what you are going to do Q wise and where to shop. Once you realize that even investing up to an 1 hr a wk may seem daunting but then realizing it saved you $30, $100 etc that’s more than you make in an hr at work so it’s time well spent.
    5) Take some time to track what you are spending $ on. Determine what is the biggest drain on your wallet and see if you can Q or find sales or both to reduce it. Is it stuff you can order on Amazon and use swagbucks to help reduce cost? Is it junk that you don’t really need, that will likely end up in the trash or isn’t healthy at all? Can any of it be eliminated or replaced by something less expensive? Does your diaper brand offer discounts like pampers points? Have you signed up for an Amazon Mom account?
    6) Set realistic goals. Implementing one technique a month may work best for you. But if you are determined to get this under control this year and can commit more time to get it done maybe 2 or 3 small things can be done.

  • Ashlee says:

    My goal is $800 a month for groceries. It seems like a lot, but it is hard to get it down to just that! Our budget was $400 a month just 6 months ago. But moving from the midwest to NYC makes everything in our budget double. Plus our youngest now eats table food exclusively. When I find myself spending too much the best thing I do is review my receipts. We have many options for groceries here and the best way to save money is to figure out which stores sell which items for less. Some stores I go to once a month and stock up on a months worth of the items I know are the best deals. We mainly shop whole foods (which is actually the cheapest for basics- fruit, veggies, milk, cheese, etc).

  • Tammy says:

    We found ourselves in a pinch financially after Christmas. Due to a previous illness, my husband ran out of vacation days and didn’t receive a paycheck for the holiday week. So for the past two weeks we had $0 to spend on groceries. We pinched every penny we could to pay our bills and put gas in our cars. With God’s grace, I still have $0.65 in my checking account and payday is only hours away. (God is good!)

    I say all that to say – This has been the most useful lesson I’ve ever received in how/when we consume foods & has helped me become better aware of how I’m throwing my money away on certain items. I’ve had to be VERY creative over these two weeks – turning staple items into various meals for our family of three. By tonight, my fridge & cabinets will be almost completely bare. But WOW – this has been a blessing in disguise. I am so much better in-tune with what we truly need to eat well on a smaller budget. I’m honestly ashamed by how much I’ve wasted on convenience foods and such. My prayer is that I take this with me this weekend as I go grocery-shopping & become a better steward of the blessings God has provided. I’ve been reminded that having a warm home-cooked meal with my boys is so much nicer than something microwaved out of the box. 🙂

  • Allison says:

    Is there an item (or items) you could cut out entirely? I used to buy orange juice every other week, but I’ve stopped buying it except for once or twice a year when we’re sick.

    Of course this is dependent on what’s on your list, how essential it is and how much you like it. While coffee and tea aren’t essentials, I like them way too much to take them off my list.

  • Jessica says:

    Well, this recommendation is a bit different but it worked for me when I first started trying to cut the budget. You say above that you have some forgetful, lazy and picky tendencies and this works with all 3 (I’m the same way!!) If you live in an area that offers grocery delivery or pick up, give it a try. For some reason, if I am sitting in front of a computer at home, the food in the store has no power over me. I’m reasonable and there is no impulse shopping, no kids to please, no great ideas for something I should make. I’m rarely rushed because I can leave and come back to it. Some stores run their own on line sales or they honor their flyer, so I buy from the sales and meal plan on that. The budget is $100, I order $100 dollars worth of food. Since the websites usually have a running tally of how much I’m spending, it works well. Also, they save your lists so your essentials can be prepopulated. So yeah, I might spend 7 dollars on delivery, but I was at home with my family, not out in the cold with crying kids AND I stuck to my budget. I call that success. I really have not had much issues with getting bad produce either. Anyway, I was able to cut about $200 a month out of my budget just by not going to the store and it taught me discipline on what we really need and what I was getting suckered into.

  • christie says:

    My budget busters were snacks! Chips, crackers, cookies etc. If I bought all that my kids wanted it would be at least $50 a week. Now, we have pop corn or homemade pudding or something I baked myself. Plus fruit.

    This process is overwhelming. You are not alone there. I suggest picking one meal to work on. For example, take a week or two and find two cheap breakfasts that everyone will eat. Oatmeal, etc. Then move on to cheap lunches. When you have several cheap lunch ideas that your kids will eat, move on to dinner or snacks. Home made breakfast burritos in the freezer has saved me lots of money !

    Figure out how much you are spending on food. Grocery stores sell so many items now. the dog food, dish detergent, deodorant, sippy cups, magazines etc are not food. It might be best to shop once for food and once for other items. I think this is simpler for some folks. There is less to keep track of. There are a lot of good home made cleaners. Maybe only coupon for your favorite hair care products, deodorants etc.

    Ditch Costco. You can do just as well with sales etc. There are lots of impulse items there. Some items like diaper wipes are great in bulk. Do you really need a huge amount of Saran Wrap ? It sounds like a deal but everything in Costco seems to cost at least $15. It might be better to buy one roll of Saran Wrap at the store and put $10 toward stocking up on soup or tuna.
    Good Luck!

  • Jessica says:

    A real good place to start saving and give yourself a “yay me!” at the same time is if you have a breadstore in your area. I have one and am in love with it. I can get good quality organic bread for 89 cents a loaf! And it is fresh – not day old. Mine is an Aunt Millies so they have many other healthier options as well as the ooey gooey breads. Buns and bagels and raisin bread etc as well. With a family of 5 and I send sack lunches we go through bread like crazy! I buy an entire months worth for around $18.00 (with a pkg of cookies thrown in too 🙂 ). Good luck dear – you can do this! I also make a game out of figuring out how much my meals cost. For example Bob Evans has flapjacks for 4.99 for only 4. I can make 100 pancakes or more for that! Another suggestion is perhaps you need to simplify your menu…

  • Ashley says:

    If you guys eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, you might see if you have a Bountiful Baskets Co-op in your area (www.bountifulbaskets.org). We buy a couple of baskets plus add-ons every 2 weeks (that is how often it is offered in our area), and then we plan our meals off of that. We freeze or can left over produce. It has saved us TONS of money, and we have 4 produce loving kids, too. With buying our produce this way and planning meals around it, we have lowered our food budget to about $450 a month. (This does not include formula as our youngest is on a special diet. This is only our main food.) We also eat gluten free. We do not eat a lot of meat or convenience food, or eat out very often. But like Crystal said, don’t beat yourself up, and do try to change gradually. It can be very overwhelming at first, so give yourself the room to start small.

  • Jennifer says:

    Get YNAB (www.youneedabudget.com) ! You can set your grocery budget to whatever amount you need and then each transaction you enter can be categorized. We are one month into this software and it is helping tremendously. (And you get a FREE 34-day trial —no credit card number required.) We use to be that family of five who was spending $1,000 on groceries because I didn’t know where my money was going or how much I was spending EXACTLY on groceries. With YNAB I have a realtime budget (using my smartphone) and it helps me stay on track. Plus, my husband is on the same page budget-wise because YNAB will sync to his phone too! I love it! It has been the best $60 I have spent. (And it is a one time fee…no monthly dues or anything.) I cannot recommend it enough! Super user-friendly. 🙂 {And no, I am not getting paid to say any of this. It is just a quality product that has helped my family and I hope it will help someone else’s too!}

  • Kim McCulley says:

    I’m actually struggling in this area, too. There are only 3 of us, including a teenage son. Then our adult son moved back in while he’s saving for a house. Our daughter, husband, and baby often spend weekends with us, and another son, his wife and their 3 children often spend Sundays with us…we have anywhere from 3 to 12 sitting at the table at mealtime, and I keep the house stocked with the grands’ favorite snacks: cheese sticks, applesauce pouches, clementines, bananas, mini boxes of raisins, pretzels, goldfish, etc. I’m spending WAY TOO MUCH!

    For those of you looking for the handheld tally keeper….why not just make tally marks on your grocery list? I round up to the nearest dollar and make hash marks at the top of my list. Easy peasy!

  • Deb says:

    Thankfully, God’s grace is extended to all and we all have differing budgets, values and circumstances. I have lived where there is Aldi and in L.A. where actually I found groceries to be cheaper because of the competition. I would not totally rule out Costco…. milk, cheese, yeast, etc. are significantly cheaper there and here in NW MT, we can buy discount tickets for the ski resort there and gas is $.10 a gallon cheaper, so we easily make up for the membership fee without buying anything ridiculous. (I know lift tickets are ridiculous to some, but we don’t go on vacations and don’t have any payments other than our house)….

    Do the best with the time and resources you have available as well as what is important/necessary for your family. We are all at different stages in life with different ages of kids/allergies/needs, etc. Sometimes time is truly more valuable than money, other times, we can put in the effort to reduce the budget significantly. If you are willing to try non-name brands (logically there aren’t 50 peanut butter factories, so you know they are just switching the label and putting the same stuff in the jars as evidenced by the recall a while back that included Peter Pan and the Walmart brand), use coupons, go to more than one store, and make simpler recipes, I am sure that you can reduce your budget without it being overwhelming. I have friends that are foodies and make gorgeous meals with unique ingredients, but my family cannot afford to be Food Network stars, more like moms making chicken and rice casserole. 😉 Be encouraged, you have found something you would like to change and now have some GREAT ideas and resources to accomplish your goal, YOU CAN DO IT!

  • Melody says:

    I am also trying to find ways of spending less on groceries and essentials. I am a stay at home mom of three ages 3, 7, and 10 so trying to stay on a budget is hard work at times. I used to be really big on couponing and then just stopped once school started for me and I didn’t have much time but I am now trying to start up again. I also tried the cash system the last two weeks and think this is definately the way to go. It helped me to count everything and make sure I didn’t buy anything over. Also I am writing everything down that I am spending and where it is going to so I can see where it is I am spending the most at. Living on one income is definately work but it can be done if you just work at it. You are making a great start by asking for help and wanting to change it. I appreciate this post because it has given me some nice ideas as well.

    • Jan Marsman says:

      I do my main shopping once a month, this saves me by not getting things that just catch my eye, or look good. I use coupons from the paper and the internet, and usually manage to save at least 50%. I read the stores ads, and plan my lists, matching my coupons and then hit 3 or 4 stores buying what is on sale. I also use our local fruit stand which has great deals all year. By doing this our budget each month is $200 for the 2 of us and I have managed to build up a good supply to fall back on that will last us over a month if needed.

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks, Melody. 🙂

  • Anne-Marie says:

    I waver between $1000 and $1200 for a family of 10. Four of the members are teenagers, and all of the boys seem incessantly hungry these days. I’m a little more liberal in my purchases, especially after a couple of years of really having to scrimp. I live in a small town, so my shopping options are limited. I’ve done my share of couponing, but currently, I don’t focus much on coupons. I feel like we eat comfortably on our current grocery spending, which includes paper products, hygiene products and cleaning supplies.

    I buy oatmeal, rice and beans in bulk. These products are great budget stretchers during lean times. I use some quick, cheap and easy meals for busy nights. Slapping together a burrito or quesadilla is simple, and these can be really filling. Tostadas with beans, lettuce and salsa are really good as well, providing an alternative.

    Hot dogs are on the menu at least once a week. Three packages usually work perfectly for our crowd. Most weeks include a soup night, usually a bean-based or chicken soup that will last for two nights.

    Oatmeal cuts my milk usage. When I used to buy cereal as the main breakfast food, I went through more than a gallon of milk each day. Now, I stick to about 4 gallons per week. Some weeks, I’ll pick up individual yogurts to add some dairy to the diet.

    Snacks are primarily limited to fruit. I buy a lot of bananas, adding apples, oranges and other affordable fruits to the list when I can. I have to be careful because the kids will wipe out treats like tangerines in a day.

    Hope some of these tips are helpful.

  • I don’t do anything complex, no coupons. When groceries are BOGO on products I like I stock up. I will buy an embarrassing amount of the foods that we like as long as they aren’t perishable. Many foods you can freeze, (meat and bread). When chicken is low I buy 8 packs. When sausage is on sale I’ll buy 30 boxes. My husband loves Crackle and Oat-bran cereal which is really pricey so when it’s on sale I’ll clear the shelf. This cuts our grocery bill by 50% and doesn’t involve anything complicated.

  • Whitney says:

    Stop shopping at Costco. We are also a family of 5 (with one infant) and I can’t think of anything at Costco that I’d need in bulk. Nothing. I’ve been there with friends and walked out with nothing every time. Everything is name brand (except their Kirkland brand, of course), so while the price per unit is better than the grocery store, they still aren’t “good” prices. Unless you eat an insane amount of produce, their bulk produce will spoil before you can ever go through it.

    If you are picky about brand names, don’t like to clip coupons, and forget to shop sales, go to Aldi if you have one. Their products are pretty much all name brands, just in different packaging. No sales, no coupons. A friend with a similar grocery problem as yours cut her bill in half by switching to Aldi for most things, and didn’t miss anything. If you don’t like a product, they will give you your money back, plus replace it, so you aren’t out anything to try stuff.

    I’m sure the other 147 comments have already asked this – but I must say that I can’t not even fathom spending that $250 a week on groceries. We would need to be eating steak and lobster every night to reach that level of spending. I do clip coupons, shop at Aldi, and follow sales, but not religiously. Our grocery bill is $60 a week.

    • Momof5 says:

      Just want to speak up for Costco. Where we live, dairy is much cheaper – MUCH cheaper – at Costco than anyplace else. I can spend the same amount and get 4 or 5 times as much sour cream, cottage cheese, etc., and regular old milk is cheaper by nearly a dollar per gallon at Costco than anywhere except an occasional sale at our Kroger-affiliate on their store brand . . . but everybody I know has stopped buying that brand because it spoils so quickly, sometimes before its date. Also, because Costco sells to the restaurant trade, food is often much fresher, which matters if you’re going to store it for awhile. If a 6-pack of peppers or lettuce goes bad in my fridge, I know I’ve made bad cooking choices because they last for ages.

      Is it way too easy to find yourself walking out with stuff you don’t need? Yes. I’ve stopped even trying the samples, because I find that a taste of something yummy makes my willpower disappear. (Still let the kids eat them, though 🙂 ) And like many other commenters, I estimate the total cost before I go, and if something has jumped in price or doesn’t match what I expect, I skip it. But I’ve found that bulk rice, beans, flour, yeast, 10-lb cans of whole and diced tomatoes, sugar (as long as you don’t get the organic, which was cheap for awhile but has now doubled in price), spices, coffee, some cheeses, etc., are the best price in town. Not always – the per-pound price for pasta can be as low as .70 and as high as 1.35, and cereal is terribly overpriced – but often enough that it’s worth it, especially if you’re willing to walk out without something if its price has gone too high. Our local grocery had its after-Christmas sale last week, where onions and potatoes are usually the lowest price all year, and yellow onions were still more expensive per pound than Costco’s everyday price. So I can totally understand how Costco can offer a willpower challenge (those pretzel rolls! That tiramisu cake!), but for certain basic items, at least, we find it to the best possible choice.

      Oh, and we save the cost of membership in gas within about the first month after renewing every year 🙂

      • Jennifer says:

        I heartily agree! We love Costco! I just make it a point to only shop there once a month rather than my every two weeks grocery run. 🙂

      • Llama Momma says:

        Yes! We are also huge fans of Costco! Cheapest gas we can get by a long-shot. I do stick to a very specific list — things like laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, coffee, butter. The Kirkland Signature label is great. Their milk is a great price, but it’s in weird square containers that my boys can’t pour, so we stick with Aldi. I don’t buy the ready-made processed food…but their meats are good quality at a good price. I usually go once a month…with a list! 🙂

      • Carrie says:

        Thanks for speaking up for Costco, lol. I am surprised at how many people would pass on the amazing deals we find there. We buy many basics and staples and we have done the price comparison with all the stores in the area through a small group at church (we all did Dave Ramsey’s program last year) and Costco saves 1/3-1/2 across the board. I don’t have a problem buying “extras” there and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else for some of the things (like you said, Dairy) that we get there!

  • Anna says:

    Two ideas: One, never go to the store hungry. Go after breakfast, after lunch, or after dinner. When I shop hungry, everything looks good and it’s also harder to think clearly with a blood-sugar low. And number two, I find it hard to shop well when I have all three of my littles with me. Going to the store with little kids who are tired or hungry is even harder!

  • Karen says:

    When I got serious about cutting my grocery bill, I would get discouraged when I went over budget. One thing I realized I was doing was buying items that were not on my list. Sometimes it was an ingredient I realized I needed for an upcoming meal, other times, I might think, “Oh I can use this and add it to cart.” I finally told myself I was only allowed to buy what was on the list. If I realized I had forgotten something, I knew I could either do without or substitute something else. If I ran out of something like eggs, my neighbor and I had no problem “loaning” to each other. Anyway, it taught me to be more thorough, that way if I was over budget, I knew before I went to the store and could make the cuts while I had the time to replan.

  • Christina says:

    I write down on the white board every payday what I have budgeted for gas and food. Payday morning I write down Gas-$…. Food-$…. Then when I come home from grocery shopping I subtract the money I spent. I do the same thing for gas. Everyone knows that the amount on the board is what we have. Every couple days I go online and check to see if hubbie or I forgot anything. This has been working very well for about 3 months now.

  • Carrie says:

    We were having the same problem for our family of 5, soon to be 6! I found that shopping in bulk at the warehouse stores was too expensive. Everything I went in, I overspent. Now, I only buy diapers and wipes there. Nothing else.
    I also learned to take out CASH each week and put it in an envelope. I am not allowed to spend more than what is in the envelope- That is my best advice that I can give anyone!
    Since warehouse stores were too expensive for our budget, so was Super Walmart and regular grocery stores, I had to find more affordable groceries. Luckily, we have an Aldi and a Price Rite in our area. Now, I only shop at these two stores and I spent 50% less on groceries each week. I also buy many toiletries here or st the local dollar store.
    I try not to buy anything pre-made. I make as much from scratch as I can. It saves us a ton of money!

  • Melissa says:

    Carrie says “I know I should clip coupons more. I forget. I know I should buy sales more. I forget.” But she also says that she is making a list. Maybe she could incorporate looking over the sales paper when making up her list. When I make my list I add a star next to any item I have a coupon for and then clip the coupon to my list with a paperclip so I don’t forget to take them with me to the store. Also, if planning to buy an item on sale I write that item on my list along with the sales price next to it on the list so that I don’t forget and it also makes it easier at the store to identify if I’ve grabbed the product in the correct size that’s on sale because usually the sale price is displayed on the shelf by the item. I can then glance at my list and check that it matches the price displayed on the shelf.

    Also maybe it would help Carrie to change the time of day that she makes her list/meal plan for the week. It seems we all have times of day where our minds are more focused (and when our other family members are less likely to need our attention). I find it works best for me to make my grocery list when my mind is alert and my family is occupied with something else.

  • Alysia says:

    I normally shop at walmart but safeway is so much closer I took a look at their weekly deals and focused on what we were spending the most on pop is one of the big ones so I started watching for deals fortunately safeway occasionally has 24 packs for $5 I stock up (another change) and compare to walmart I’d spend $7.56 per 24 pack just this one change has allowed us to have more to spend on other things. I don’t really coupon I am too cheap to buy printer ink (I know I’d save so much if I did though lol) and I don’t buy papers so just watching the deals and paying attention to prices saved us $80 my first month

    • Anna says:

      I know how you feel about printing coupons! For me, I’ve just tried to reduce what I buy that would even use a coupon. I try to shop the outside of the store, produce, dairy, meat, and almost avoid the other isles.

      • Alysia says:

        That’s a great idea we also quit going shopping every week that helped us save more and helped us eat what we already have at home and I think we have even all lost weight with less junk food always around.

        • Anna says:

          We did, too! I have friends who are avid couponers that complain about gaining weight, and I think it may well be related to eating all the processed foods that are so affordable with coupons.

  • Ilyssa says:

    I would suggest going through Crystal’s blog (and other blogs as well) and looking for some new recipes. Is it possible that your menu plan has meals that just have too many ingredients or something. Can you come up with a few meals that cost $10-12 (minus baby food for the little one!). If you’ve got a meal plan of salad, steak, potatoes, fresh veggies and wine for dinner every night, you’ll have a harder time finding sales/coupons.

  • Laura says:

    We are a family of 4 and we are on a very fixed income since my husband is disabled. We budget $60/week for groceries and an additional $20/week for non-food household items. We do NOT eat out. So, $60/week has to cover 21 meals for 4 people. It really helps me to categorize my meals by expense. I have some meals that are super cheap and some that are more pricey to make. My family is very aware of our need to stay within budget so they are flexible.

    When I can get a great deal on items to make one our “splurge” meals, my family is always very appreciative. These little treats make the effort worth while. I do coupon some and I only shop for sale items, minus milk of course. Sometimes I think it easy to forget how expensive some meals can be and if you put several expensive meals together in one week, you can easily go over. We do eat well rounded meals with lots of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and proteins.

    In order to make 21 meals a week for $60, my meals have to average around $2 a meal for 4.

  • CaronC says:

    The less trips you make to the store, the less money spent. You don’t need to wait till you have a big coupon stash. Start now with buy one get one free items and stock up at sales to get a pantry started. Then plan your meals with what you have, not what you feel like eating, thus eliminating the need to stop and shop. Can you wait for your brand names to go on sale? Can you shop every other week or even once a week instead of multiple trips so that you can spend 30 minutes or so pre-planning your trip? I find that stocking up on shampoo, detergents, toothpaste, school supplies helps me to avoid extra trips to the store. I live 25 miles RT from the nearest large store so whenever I drive by a store I would get the urge to stop. No more! It feels good to know I have what I need at home and you’ll be amazed at the time you will free up.

  • Great tips! If you have an Aldi- it really is a great place to shop. This week they are introducing a line of products that are all natural or organic. Here is some of the prices for items at my store:

    Organic Free Range Chicken broth 32oz $1.69
    Organic Pasta Sauce 24oz $1.99
    Organic Diced Tomatoes 28oz $1.49
    Organic Raw Cheddar 8oz $3.49
    Organic Olive Oil 17oz $3.99
    Organic Frozen Blueberries or Strawberries 12oz $3.49/ $2.39
    Green & Blacks Organic Chocolate Bars $2.49

    Also, I plan splurge meals at home. My hubby and i will pick up a frozen entree like Thai Vegetable Curry and some garlic naan at Trader Joes. We can have an at home gourmet dinner for around $5/ per person with little or no dishes/ work on my part. I know our regular store has those Chinese dinners that go on sale and i’m sure there are more options.

  • Evie says:

    Great ideas! Personally, I’m working to internalize the following two mantras:
    1) You save the most money when you don’t spend it.
    2) The most expensive food is the food that gets thrown away.

    I’ve also found the following steps to be helpful:
    – Buy lots of meat when it’s on sale and use it to create several freezer meals for the month. Saves time and money.
    – Don’t be afraid to go meatless for a few meals a month.

  • Liz says:

    This may have been said before, but it’s worth going to a butcher in your area if you have one. My husband and I did this and the meat is cheaper, fresher and they will even cut it to your liking. For about $200 we got about 6-8 weeks’ worth of meat.

    I didn’t think it would be worth it but it ended up cutting out the middleman and we got meat for about 30% less than in the grocery.

    Hope that helps! 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    Groceries are a really difficult area for me too! I have a family of six (one is an infant), and I REALLY love to cook interesting meals that often require expensive ingredients. The problem is; on a beginning teacher’s salary, our food budget doesn’t allow for a massive grocery budget. I tried the coupon thing; and while it occasionally worked out, most of the time the coupons were only for items I don’t purchase. What has really helped me out is making my menu plans around what is on sale for the week. Our stores put out the new ads on Wednesdays, so I browse the ads online, and then plan my meals for the week around the sale items in addition to the items on hand. This way I can splurge a little on things like farro, shallots, hazelnuts, pancetta and fancy cheeses that cost a little more – but still stay within our $700/mth budget.
    Best of luck!

  • Catherine says:

    Just a couple of things I suggest…
    ~First, plan your menu around what is on sale for the week. That way the savings is automatic.
    ~Stockpile. When something you use regularly goes on sale…buy more than one. Remember that sales have six week return times generally…so buy six of something…one for each week until it goes on sale again. You may not use one a week…but it won’t hurt to keep it in the pantry until you do need it. Of course, this only works with nonperishables. But if you save enough on those, you can buy more fresh stuff each week!
    ~Also, rather than focusing on the biggest spending culprit (I hate to disagree with the author of this blog…but…), I would focus on the OTHER things. Often, the biggest spending items are pretty fixed. Baby products are the worst for finding wiggle room…especially if your baby is at all fussy/sensitive. So…instead…lower your bill on other things (coupons are great for health and beauty items, for example), then you can afford to buy the brand name something else (like diapers or formula).
    ~Coupons don’t have to be a chore. Weekly deals are listed on line usually a week in advance. Figure out which ones you want to go for and collect the coupons for those deals. You can buy them cheap on ebay or work out trades on online sites. But if you can’t find time to do it yourself, there are services (someone mentioned the Grocery Game) that do it for you! Easy!
    Good luck!

  • Jackie says:

    Thank you! I needed this today as well.

  • amy carter says:

    I love this list of suggestions. Thank you! I feel the same way as Carrie. I know I’m doing a lot right but I feel like we spend too much on groceries (around $800/month). I make a lot from scratch even. This month I challenged myself to spend $650 on groceries. I am not stocking up and I am cooking from my freezer and pantry as much as possible. Fresh produce and raw milk are still big expenses though. I’m excited to see how we do at the end of the month. My husband is even on board. When he went to Costco for a few items he used all his willpower and made it out of there with no extra purchases, like candy or chocolate covered nuts(they are so tempting!)

  • jerilyn says:

    We are a family of 5 as well. I have $250 a month to spend (includes diapers, not pet food). The only grains we eat are the kids’ lunch. Eggs for breakfast. Leftovers for lunch. Meat and veggies for dinner. I shop at aldi’s. I make an exact list of what we need and do not get anything else. We don’t run out to the store if we forget something. We do not eat out. We rarely go to sam’s (use MIL’s 2nd card) and if we do we have a list. We don’t eat any free-range, organic type stuff. We eat a ton of eggs. I only by a bag of pretzels for my kids, plus cheerios for the little one. We have snacks that fill up better than just crackers (peanut butter, hardboiled eggs, etc.) I know exactly what I will spend in the store (within a few bucks) but I don’t use cash for personal reasons (afraid of getting it lost or stolen). I am the only shopper, cook, and planner 🙂
    But I do this cause I no other choice. Puts more urgency to it. Is this extra money robbing another budget or your savings? using cash might help you or doing an auto savings deposit might help.

    • Heather says:

      We are a family of five and spend around $350 a month for everything- food, dog food, toiletries, etc… I do use some coupons, but not many. The stores in my area are very limited, Aldis is 45 minutes away, so we rarely shop there, especially since I would have to take 2 little ones with me during the day!! My biggest advice is to save on the things that cost the most- usually meat, dairy, and produce. We cannot afford organic food. If you do prefer organic, maybe look over your purchases and decide which items are the most important to you to buy organic, and which ones you can just buy the regular items. Maybe try a meatless meal once a week, or cut your meat in half and stretching it out with beans. You can substitute 1 cup of dried beans for a pound of meat in many recipes. Also, meal planning before looking over the sales ads may really be costing you. You may want to cook steak for dinner, but if it is $10 a pound and chicken breasts are on sale for $2.50 a pound, maybe you could go with chicken for the week instead. Just an idea. Instead of throwing away leftovers, freeze them. Chili, spaghetti sauce, taco meat, etc…freeze very well. One thing I do is pay attention to how many meals we serve that include cheese. Cheese is more expensive than meats most of the time. So be careful how much you are using. Snacks are a real budget buster as well. I serve my kids bananas, jello(made from the box), applesauce, boiled eggs, pretzels(I buy the kind for $1), homemade popcorn…not many store bought cookies, chips, etc… Limit your expensive ingredients, and I think taking cash may really help you as well. Good luck!!

      • Megan says:

        I always check out the “reduced for quick sale meat” when I go shopping. I usually hit up Kroger and/or Hyvee shortly after 8 when all of the meat has been reduced. I have found organic chicken for $1/lb and grass fed beef for $2/lb. Most of the time I put the meat in the freezer and it always tastes great!

  • Andrea says:

    Hi! It has taken me about a year to get our family budget under control. We pay very close attention to price, just because it’s at a bulk food store doesn’t mean it’s cheaper to buy it there and just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. My husband does help a lot but I’ve started keeping a spread sheet I can look at that I got from money saving mom. One website I really like for recipes is skinnytaste.com. She has some really tasty recipes that don’t require a lot of expensive ingredients, mostly just seasoning. We also rarely buy from the inner isles, meaning the prepackaged stuff. I make shredded chicken for my husband’s lunches and package things myself. Good luck and don’t give up.

  • Shelley says:

    I am doing a budget for this year, for the first time with baby number three on the way. Where I find I get stuck is lunch on the weekends! I try to have hotdogs or… I can’t even think of anything else! We end up blowing money on fast food because I either don’t have anything for lunches or I can’t think of anything! Does anyone have lunch ideas that aren’t sandwiches as I send my husband and daughter to work/school with a sandwich.

    • Heather says:

      Some quick lunches we do are bean/cheese quesadillas, hot dogs, spaghetti(can make meatless or with just a small amount of meat), soup and crackers, leftovers, chicken fried rice(again just a small amount of meat, maybe 1 large chicken breast since this includes 2-3 eggs for protein), mac and cheese and beanie weenies, salmon patties, baked beans and cornbread, baked potato bar(I cook my baked potatoes in the crockpot). Hope this helps.

      • Wendy Briscoe says:

        Heather, thank you for the lunch ideas. My son is 7 and will soon be home for the Summer, and I was trying to think of ideas for us two for lunch. I appreciate this note. 🙂

        How do you cook your potatoes in the crock pot?

    • Flo says:

      Homemade soups (1 to 2 hours), baked pastas (45 minutes), stirfry with Indian or Asian floavors rather than soy sauce (20 minutes). I cook my rice ahead and freeze it in a gallon bag using a cutting board edge to make ‘break points’ so I can crack off one or two sections to use without dealing with the rest of the gallon. Leftover smorgasboard array. French toast, pancakes with fruit or corn fritters (pancakes with corn niblets cooked in them). Any crock pot meal. I am sure there are lots more once you go outside of the box. “— won’t eat that!” If he doesn’t, fine. He’ll be ready for supper after a slice of bread and butter instead of what the rest are enjoying. Have fun!

    • Becky says:

      We do grilled cheese and a can of tomato soup on weekends a lot, or homemade pizza. You can make your own freezer pizzas to keep on hand. Also leftovers are always around! I also put just about anything into a quesadilla (ham and cheese, beans and cheese, eggs sausage and cheese, chicken and cheese, taco meat and cheese, and any leftover meat and cheese, or just cheese). If you didn’t have a big breakfast make breakfast for lunch, like eggs, pancakes, ext.

    • Julie says:

      We struggled with lunches too! We have been doing spagettios or soup for the kids, they can heat them up at school. Hubby and I try and use leftovers from dinner. I purposely make extra. We will also do cereal for the kids lunches. They love Life or Frosted flakes. I have been know to eat Life cereal in vanilla yogurt, it’s like granola!

    • Lisa says:

      We have this problem too. Some things that have worked for me are having a stock of frozen pizzas (Walmart has a sams choice brand that is very inexpensive and tastes good), we make tacos, hamburger sliders and also left overs from the previous week. Also on some Saturdays we make a late breakfast that is bigger than usual and we will skip lunch those days. We are a family of five with three sons so someone is AWLAYS starving in our house!!! Good luck!

    • Amanda says:

      I usually try to make large enough meals throughout the week to have left overs for the weekends. If I don’t then we do chicken patties or a buffet of some healthy options like fruit, veggies, PB toast, applesauce, etc! Weekends are hard to plan for with a busy schedule and we used to eat out a lot too, that’s why I started trying to have the left overs from the week! Good Luck!

  • Jennifer says:

    We are a family of 6 that spends just $400 a month on groceries, toiletries, paper products, and all that, total! I agree that using CASH is one of the biggest ways to help control spending, but it can take some getting used to. I also agree that Aldi can be a big help. I do coupon, but some weeks are just too crazy and Aldi saves me. I’m curious, if we are already so frugal, how can we cut? We already eat beans, pasta, and only chicken and hamburger. It’s not like I buy expensive cuts of meat. So what do we cut if we want to reduce our spending when it’s already so little, to me anyway? I really don’t want to eat more pasta and rice, we try to watch our carbs, lol Any suggestions?

    • Rita says:

      I have to agree with some of the other comments, pay cash! This solved my problem of constantly going over our budget, there is something about parting with cash that makes me stop and think do we really need that. Also I’m not sure what your family eats but we go meatless at least two times a week (I’m a vegetarian and the rest of my clan eats meat and dairy) that helps save to and get creative with freezer meals, salads as main dishes, soups, etc.

    • Heather says:

      Just an idea- you could try cutting out some of the paper products and switching to cloth napkins instead of paper towels, and using old rags for cleaning instead of using paper towels. Maybe try making a few homemade cleaners with baking soda and vinegar to cut your costs there as well. Soup is something you can make with lots of veggies and beans, that is cheap to make and would help cover you for a couple lunches. Also try cutting your meat intake, these days even hamburger meat is not cheap. Either eat a meatless meal once a week or cut the meat in half in some recipes, like spaghetti or chili. If you buy any sodas or juices, those could be cut down some to save some extra money. Hope this helps.

    • Flo says:

      Veggies and spices. Look at ethnic dishes, especially Asian, Indian, Mediterranean. Whole grains. You do not have to follow recipes exactly except in baking formulas. You don’t have to use every exotic spice or ingredient mentioned–try and find what YOU like. We removed animal products from our diet to treat my husband’s fatty liver diagnosis seven years ago. (He was pronounced cured of NASH six months later and I have much less to no arthritis pain when I keep the dairy to a minimal level or none.) It has given us a lot more freedom with our budget.

    • Becky says:

      I have a family of 4 and we spend $300 dollars a month on food and household items. I carb cycle, so I eat high carb every other day and low carb on the opposite days. So we do a lot of chicken and ground turkey. I buy the ground turkey at Aldi and it just went up to 1.89 a pound. I never buy ground beef, I find that my husband can’t even tell in casseroles, soups and even sloppy joes. I try to buy the chicken on sale, but boneless skinless breast is always 1.99 at Walmart. I try to buy cheaper cuts like 95 cents a pound for leg quarters. Then you can cook it off and shred it for casseroles and soups. I also have Amish and Mennonite bulk food stores locally that have extremely good prices, like 1.99 a pound for Black Forest deli ham, and really cheap spices and baking items. I also make a lot of household cleaners and try not to use paper products as much as possible, we do buy them but not often. We do have one child in diapers that are included in this fund. Hope that helps!

    • Risha says:

      Um, Jennifer, I think you are doing a great job spending $400 a month to feed a family of 6! That’s the size of our family, and my target budget is $500, but it’s usually closer to $700, so I can totally identify with this post and Carrie’s frustrations! I already buy most of our food from Aldi, buy store brands, and only buy meat (also chicken and hamburger usually) at rock bottom prices. I cook from scratch and we eat whole foods, but not usually organic. We are just a family of big eaters! And my kids are only ages 2-8! Also like you, we try not to eat carb-heavy meals for health reasons, so we don’t do a ton of pasta dishes or casserole meals based on pasta or rice.

      Crystal, thank you for sharing your tips. I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at my food purchases to find out which areas need most attention.

    • Sarah says:

      Do you have Zaycon Fresh in your area? I am just trying them. It is meats you buy in bulk once a month. I have friends who love it. The middle man is gone so they have great prices.

    • Shannon says:

      I would look into buying your meat in bulk. Oh and stock up during holiday sales. That’s what we do. You can go to meat places and get enough meat to do you a year, like 1/2 cow.

  • Roberta Dunaway says:

    If you don’t have the time to clip paper coupons or just don’t take the time or have access to them look into digital coupons that you can load to your store discount card. I load all coupons that I might buy before they expire that way if I see a good sale the coupon is already there. Just last week my 16 yr old ran into the store to pick up tampons and saved a $1 because I had pre-loaded the coupon to the store card.

    If you plan 5-7 meals around the sales for the week you will save money as well.

    Roberta

  • Danielle S says:

    I would recommend doubling meals and freezing them. So, take a family favorite ( mine stuffed peppers, lasagna, etc). When I see that the items to make those meals go on sale then I will buy extra and make an extra meal or two and then freeze it. Not only do you save money, but you also have a ready made meal when you don’t feel up to cooking, which saves money again.

    I have also started making things from scratch. It may seem hard or time consuming at first, but it really isn’t. Every Saturday morning we have pancakes or waffles. I double the batch and then freeze the rest for breakfast the rest of the week. Its cheaper than buying a package or ready made pancakes and waffles.

    • KED says:

      I think Danielle touched on a key component of trimming down your budget, that is cooking from scratch. Don’t buy convenience or prepackaged foods. Dice and chop your own peppers, onions, etc. Don’t buy 1 lb. packages of ground beef when it is cheaper to buy a 5 or 10 lb. package and divide it yourself. The same goes with buying a whole chicken vs. one already cut up for you. Buying a big container of oatmeal or grits vs. those individual packages. Simple things and a little preparation can make a big difference. My family of 4 spends on average $ 80.00 per week including paper products and cleaning supplies. We usually eat out once a week, also usually for $ 25.00 or less, but sometimes not at all.

      We pack our lunches everyday to take to school or work. We also make a big batch of waffles or pancakes on the weekend that can carry through the week. My youngest daughter and I usually get together and bake some sort of treat (cookies, muffins or cupcakes) for her lunch box on Sunday afternoons along with a soup, chili or stew to cover us for a meal or two and maybe some lunches too.

      We also do a summer garden on my mom’s farm. It usually feeds my family of 4, plus my mom, and my two brother’s family too. It is awesome to see the kids counting the days until they get to pick and eat something from the garden. This year we are going to also do a few things on our back patio.

  • Rhonda says:

    Dave Ramsey Budget/Cash makes a huge difference. You do need to take the time to look at the ads. If canned fruit is on sale at a great price (you’ll learn over time), and your family eats canned fruit, buy 30 cans so that you’re not grabbing it at its regular/highest price. Some products you don’t want to go cheap on but many store brands are made on the same line as the national products, simply packaged differently. If you are shopping to your menu each week, your likely not taking advantage of grocery deals. Menu plan around the sales. Only buy your meats when they are at their best prices. I buy a lot when hamburger or boneless chicken breasts or whole pork loins are $1.99/lb so I don’t get stuck paying the regular price. Oh and Costco may not be cheaper, you need to know your prices to be sure. Will it take a few hours to compare, yes, but if it saves you $50 to $100/month is it worth it? That’s piano lessons for me.

  • Katie says:

    Use Cash!! It’ll make you think twice before putting something in your cart. We are a family of 4 (1 an infant but he can’t eat!!!) and budget $300 a month (that’s all food and toiletries including diapers, etc). However, that does not include meat. My husband is muslim so we don’t buy meat at the grocery store. I shop at Aldi’s and Walmart for my groceries. For produce I shop at a Hispanic grocery store. Their produce is so much better and EXTREMELY cheaper! I can load up an entire grocery cart of produce and have never spent more than $30. For the meat, we buy in bulk and freeze it. We spend about $200 a trip which lasts us 3 -4 months. We have a costco membership (for other reasons) but I don’t shop there, I think you can find better deals elsewhere. And don’t be picky about name brands. The name brands are the ones who are selling the store brands. same products. Try different ones out, you never know what you’ll like. I love a lot of store brands more than name brands.

  • Rhonda says:

    Oh and what are y’all drinking? Tell everyone to suck it up, you’re switching to tap water (except a baby) for one month. No grown up beverages either and see what you’ll save. If you’re not ready to do it for real. Just add up all the drinks you purchased on a month’s worth of receipts. It might be huge.

  • maggie says:

    make your own muffins, waffles, pancakes. It’s easy. I can’t believe some of the processed, pre-packaged stuff that is out there. make your own corn bread from scratch instead of the box mix. I have not purchased box corn bread mix in at least 5 years. Make your own waffles and freeze them. Then you can put them in the toaster just like Eggos. Cheaper and no preservatives when you make your own. And what’s up with potatoes in a box?! You can buy a whole lot more real potatoes than instant potatoes in a box. Also, chop and wash your own lettuce. I know the bags are very popular, but compared to a head of lettuce, you’re paying for someone else to cut and wash that lettuce.

  • Amy says:

    It takes a lot of time to learn new skills for anybody! Carrie shouldn’t feel badly that she isn’t doing cheap grocery shopping as well as others who have been working at it for a long time. My suggestion would be since Carrie already menu plans, she should menu plan with the food ad of the store she shops at. That way the sale prices are built into her menu. We buy a lot of fresh meats and produces which you can’t usually coupon for, so menu planning around the sale items that week makes a huge difference in our grocery budget.

    I also “shop” and menu plan around what is already in the freezer and pantry. Making sure I am using up stuff I have already purchased and requiring fewer purchases that grocery store trip.

  • BUSY MOM IN AL says:

    Hi! I loved reading through all of the comments and made several notes for myself. Just ordered coupons from Ebay for my favorite dark chocolate bar as well! Thanks!!

    We buy ground turkey when it is on sale ($1/lb or so in a roll in the freezer section of the hometown grocery store) and I can make many meals by using two different seasoning mixes. One is a Breakfast Sausage Mix (with a tablespoon of maple syrup added!) and the other is an Italian Sausage Seasoning Mix. Do a google search and try some of your own mixes!

    We love the breakfast sausage mix for crustless sausage quiche and breakfast burritos. The Italian Sausage Mix tastes really good in spaghetti, pizza and soup!

    Hope this helps!

    • Kim G. says:

      Wow, $1 per pound for ground turkey? We can’t touch it for that where I live. Today it was $2.99 per pound on sale. This is a good reminder for me not to compare with others because $500 per month where I live just might not buy the same amount of food as it would elsewhere.

  • BUSY MOM IN AL says:

    Thought of one more thing. We buy the 6lb cans of corn, crushed tomatoes, black olives, pineapples, mushrooms etc. for a whole lot cheaper than the small cans. Our local grocery store carries these on a bulk aisle. Maybe you can try that.

    We separate them into ziploc bags and freeze them flat on a cookie sheet. I love having black olives and mushrooms to make my spaghetti and pizza! The pineapples make great smoothies. I put the 6lb can of crushed tomatoes, add some italian spices and tomato paste to thicken, and make huge crockpot of tomato sauce for my freezer. Divide it and freeze in portions that you need.

  • Allison says:

    please forgive me if someone has already said the following but I am a homeschooling mom with little extra time…

    -Costco can be deceiving. There are few items there that are cheaper than a great coupon deal. That being said, there a few items I but there anyhow because I don’t have time to track down a gazillion coupons for single rolls of TP! LOL 🙂

    -Have you tried Amazon? They have an amazing selection of food and household items (especially if you have particular diet restrictions/ food allergies) that is often way cheaper than any store.

    -I have fallen in love with our local store’s manager’s clearance rack and we actually rely more on that now than shopping with coupons. It’s super easy to run to the back of the store first and check it then do your shopping. No coupons or calculators required!

    -It sounds like you are doing a great job completing the grocery shopping with 3 kids! Especially since you have an infant! I’m impressed.

  • Paula says:

    I love reading your articles. They are so encouraging! We are truly blessed to have you supporting us!

  • Eleanor says:

    In terms of being picky about brand names, choose a few products that you’re allowed to buy the fanciest brand for, and try and choose cheaper brands for everything else. Also, you don’t always have to buy the very cheapest brand, mid-range brands are still saving you money over the expensive ones.

  • Lisa says:

    This post really spoke to me. I too have a grocery cost of 1,000 per month. That includes all consumables. I have tried most of the ideas already listed, and they really help! Getting spending to go bellow $1,000 for our family of four, the kids are teens, is very tough.
    A few things I can add to help are to sign up for the savings cards at every place you frequent. I often get free foods from Kwik Trip. They send a text with a free offer and I go and grab it.
    I just recently tried Ruby’s Pantry. I paid $20 for a “share” of food. I was overwhelmed with the amount and quality of food I received. If you have one near where you live check it out.
    I recently gave up on trying to stock pile or coupon. In my experience I was buying things we really did not need right away, or already had enough of. My new way of looking at the weekly task of keeping up with the foods and consumable is to first take a look at what we already have and only buy what we need to supplement.
    Our family has thrown away a lot of food over the years and it really bothers me. Sticking to using what we have, and only buying what we need has been huge! We always have plenty, no one is going without, and it makes a difference.
    I created a list of 14 of our favorite low cost meals and rotate through that. I also made a list of all the other consumables we use (dish soap, laundry detergent, body soap etc.) Every week I take stock and get only what we need.
    Hope that helps!
    Make sure to celebrate your success;)

  • Brittany says:

    Crystal, do you ever get any follow-up messages from the people featured in these earlier posts? I always wonder about how they’re doing today and whether the posts or comments were helpful to them.
    (P.S. Love your blog, and LOVED SGtSM!)

  • Stacy says:

    Hi! I feel you, girl! Even though I did all the things (menu plan, make a list, etc), I would still go way over budget. I slowly changed a few things:
    1. I menu plan for the month, now. I write out 27 dinner ideas (we have at least 4 leftover nights – one per week). I usually have about 5-6 to carry over to the next month, making it easier to come up with meals. Some meals are nicer than others (steak vs. grilled ham & cheese). I also come up with 7-12 breakfasts and lunches (especially during the summer). By doing this, I know exactly how much chicken, bread, etc, I will need.
    2. I no longer price match at Walmart. Our local one changed their policy (and it is no longer in line with what is stated online so I sort of went on a personal boycott). I now shop at the grocery store. At first I was worried I was going to spend more (and on some items I do spend more) but overall, I am spending MUCH less – like, 2/3rd’s less… I learned that I was “justifying” my “other” items because I was price matching. Now instead of dropping $150-$175 per week at Walmart (for a family of 5) plus another $500-$600 per month at Costco, I spend about $50 at the grocery store (mostly for fresh produce) and about $400 at Costco. I am planning to venture into Aldi, too, to save even more on that grocery store portion.

    I hope those help! Good luck and just keep chipping away at it!

  • Raquel Evans says:

    One of the biggest things I’ve realized that I shouldn’t buy food we don’t want to eat. It sounds obvious, but it creeps in surreptitiously.

    “Oh, we should eat more vegetables that we have been recently, I guess I should buy several pounds worth of lettuce so we can add a salad to every meal we eat this week.” (When I should really pick up a a couple of pounds each of sweet potatoes and broccoli so we can have variety and vegetables we enjoy eating, and if I don’t live up to my grand plans, the sweet potatoes will keep until next week.)

    “Oh, this (fill in random convenience food we never eat) is on clearance for super cheap, and it would make a great easy meal for a busy day.” (Realistically, I am a creature of habit when it comes to easy meals for busy days, and that’s not a time when I’ll look in the pantry for weird foods we don’t normally have.)

    “Oh, this treat food I enjoy sometimes is on clearance, I’ll stock up and buy ten!” (After eating seven of them, not only do I no longer enjoy this treat, but I’m not sure I ever want to see it again.)

    I DO still stock up on sale prices of foods we eat all the time (ground beef, pork roasts/chops, etc). And I DO still even buy a few fun and different foods for variety when they’re cheap, but I restrict myself to only having a couple of those in my pantry at any one time so I don’t lose track of them and forget to eat them.

    Oh, and yes, I DO still serve vegetables and healthy foods, just according to our own tastes instead of other people’s rules. 🙂

  • Kim G. says:

    I think Crystal’s suggestion to focus on one habit per month is a great idea. I used to coupon extensively but just do not have the time nor am I organized enough to do that at this point in my life. We have a family of five (three adults and two teenagers), and our grocery budget is $500 per month. My biggest tip is to only buy meat when it is a loss leader. Last year we ate almost nothing but chicken and the occasional pork chops or pork roast because beef has been so expensive. Beef has finally started to come down in price where I live, and we have been able to add in some of that recently. I have target prices for meat and staples, and I just flat don’t buy it unless I can get it at or below that price. Sometimes it stinks when we can’t have beef or cheese or something we enjoy, but we still eat very well overall. Cooking from scratch is probably the second biggest way we save money. Sure, it can get old sometimes, but it saves so much money and it’s so much better for you than take-out or prepackaged foods.

  • Tracey says:

    When you get close to your budget limit for the month, STOP and only get what you absolutely need. For us, it’s fresh produce and milk. Other than that, we eat what’s in the cupboards. Sometimes that means breakfast for dinner – pancakes or eggs, whatever. I’m definitely not saying it’s easy, I fail, too, at times. But do your best and know that any effort you put in is better than nothing.

  • J WIlson says:

    Bring the money you want to spend in cash and leave everything except your driver’s license behind. This will force you to budget and tally up everything when you get there and put stuff back that you really don’t need or just added to the cart out of impulse. My husband and I have been doing this for 3 years and it works!!!

  • I would try thinking of each item’s cost in monthly terms. So, for example, if I think, “Ehh. Five bucks on protein bars isn’t so bad,” I might put it back on the shelf if I thought, “Hmmm, if I did this every week it would be twenty bucks at the end of the month.”

  • Amy says:

    About 15 yeaes ago we were either overspending or paying down bills and not having enough for groceries. We finally set up a separate checking account and budgeted grocery money (essentially the envelope system). And when it was gone, it was gone. Right now I spend $650/month for food only and we are a family of 7 (3 are boys ages 16, 17, 18). It’s not always easy and some months I’m down to $20 with a week to go, but it’s taught me to plan. And it taught me very quickly. We rarely spend more.

  • sheri says:

    Check out dealstomeals.com. No coupons involved she shows you all the deals for the week, has menu ideas, recipes, grocery list

  • Christina says:

    I only use coupons sparingly. Mostly because I shop at Aldi but I work at Kroger. So I do get a discount on Kroger products. In certain cases with my discount Kroger will sometimes be cheaper than Aldi, but also because coupons are mostly for process Ed pre packaged foods, we buy alot of fruit veggies and make things ourselves. Unless it’s for laundry soap or body wash or something similar we don’t use alit of coupons. Another tip, most places have digital coupons you can clip if you are a regular at that store, clip those coupons before you go last week I saved about $10 just on digital coupons .50 here, .40 there can really add up.

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