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Q&A: Can we survive on a $400 monthly grocery budget?

400-Monthly-Grocery-Budget

My husband and I have set a goal to try to save $1000 per month in 2014. We have decided to allot ourselves $400 per month for groceries for our family of 3 (we have one 12 year old son) as one way to free up money to put toward our savings goal.

Here is my question…can we do it? I have been couponing for around two years now, so I know the ropes, but $400 isn’t that much!

I hope you have some insight on how to stretch that budget even further! Do you have any words of wisdom for this goal we have made for the year? -Nicole

I think this is a great question, Nicole. And I really admire your commitment to living on less so that you can put money in savings! Way to go on making short-term sacrifices for long-term benefits!

Here’s my advice on how to stick with $400 per month grocery budget:

1. Stay Committed

Your attitude in approaching this goal will go a long way toward your success.

If you wake up every day with a can-do, committed, creative attitude, you are probably going to be able to stick with your $400 per month budget — and you may find that it’s not terribly difficult to do so!

If, on the other hand, you go into each day feeling discouraged and miserable, feeling frustrated by your “limited” budget, you’re probably going to struggle and possibly even burn out.

Decide that it’s possible. Choose to have a great attitude about it. And then start viewing your $400 monthly budget as a challenge… to see how well you can eat on how little.

You can do it; I know you can! I’m cheering for your success!

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

2. Use Cash

I highly recommend that you take out your $400 monthly grocery budget in cash at the beginning of each month. Then, just bring about $100 worth of cash with you to the store when you shop. Leave your cards and checkbook at home.

This might sound militant, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure that you actually follow your budget. Because when the money’s gone, the money’s gone.

I’ve found that it’s helpful to bring a calculator with me to the store (or use one on my phone) and to type in the prices of items as I add them to my cart. That way, I know exactly how much my total is and don’t end up overspending.

In addition, when I only bring cash to the store, it forces me to really evaluate each purchase as I add it to my cart. I often ask myself questions like, “Do I need this? Is there a less expensive alternative? Is this a good use of our budget?”

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

3. Get Creative

There are so many, many ways to lower your grocery budget and still eat well. I’ve written extensively about these in my 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series, but here are a few of my favorite ways to save money on groceries:

  • Plan A Menu — This is Money-Saving 101 advice, I know. But it’s imperative to actually have a plan for what you’re going to eat if you want to eat on a budget! Once you get the hang of planning and following a menu, start looking at your store’s sale fliers and plan your menu based upon what’s on sale at the store and what you already have on hand.
  • Eat From the Pantry — Challenge yourself to see how long you can go without going to the store! It’s amazing how this will usually inspire you to come up with meals with what you already have on hand, even if you feel like “there’s nothing here to eat!” Check the nooks and crannies of your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. Type in the ingredients you have and don’t have on the Ingredient Search Feature on AllRecipes.com and it will generate a list of recipe ideas for you based upon what you already have on hand.
  • Buy in Bulk — Look into bulk prices on staple items you regularly use. Check out bulk rates for these items on Amazon.com, Vitacost, at places like Sam’s Club/Costco, or through a bulk buying co-op such as Azure Standard. If you want to get the bulk rate but don’t think you’ll use all of the item, consider splitting up the purchase with a friend or two so you all benefit from the bulk pricing without having a massive amount of an item.
  • Eliminate the Expensive — Look through your grocery receipts and see what your most expensive purchases are. Are there ways to eliminate purchasing this item altogether, ways to get it for less, or cheaper alternatives?
  • Cook From Scratch — As much as is possible, cook and bake things from scratch. Save yourself time and effort by doing a little freezer cooking each week and tripling batches of things you’re already making. When you have meals or parts of meals at-the-ready in the freezer, it’s amazing how much this will speed up your meal preparation time — and will just make you feel so much more organized!

4. Keep Tweaking

Challenge yourself to implement one new money-saving idea or tactic every 4-6 weeks. This encourages you to always be looking for new ways to save, but it makes it much more manageable than trying to overhaul your grocery budget overnight!

If a money-saving trick or tactic just doesn’t work well for your family, guiltlessly move onto the next idea. Not every idea will work for every family. Find out what works best for you and your family!

What advice and suggestions do the rest of you have for Nicole?

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188 Comments

  • I think it’s totally possible. We have the three of us (Muffin is 3, almost 4), and my goal is always $100/week including paper products and ingredients to make cleaning products. I have heavy stockpiling weeks and weeks where we simply purchase milk, eggs, and fresh produce and eat off the freezer and pantry. I would also try to list the recipes that you think are the least expensive to make, or groupings of recipes that require the same ingredient (especially if it’s an expensive ingredient you only use a bit of per recipe).

  • Cherise says:

    Lentils are super nutritious and the variations are seemingly limitless. I love that they have iron and protein. They are very budget friendly, can be purchased in bulk if you try them and like them, and can be stored pretty easily. You can also save money by saving time on prep using a crock pot and can save money on electricity since a crock pot uses energy efficiently. Also factor in the possibilities for leftovers. Cheering you on in your undertaking!

    • Bo Sheridan says:

      Could you please give me your favorite lentils recipe? I have a bag in my pantry that I keep staring at and have no clue the best way to cook them.

      • WilliamB says:

        I like adding them to pasta sauce, to bulk up the sauce and add protein to the meal.

        Another advantage to lentils is they’re cheap to cook: they don’t need soaking and they take only about 20 min of simmering.

        Good luck with your efforts.

      • Sarah T. says:

        One of my favorite uses is to sprout them! They’re one of the easiest things to sprout, in my opinion, take less time than other seeds, and make really cheap, nutritious salad additions. Sprouts are great in roll-ups too (tortilla shell with meat, cheese, ranch dressing, etc.). I also like to cook with lentils in anything that calls for beans, but I was not on top of things to cook beans in time for supper.

      • Kerri says:

        I have a great & easy recipe using red lentils a friend from India taught me. My kids love it over rice.

        – heat four Tbsp of oil in a large pot. Add a chopped onion and let it cook.
        – add 1 tsp of curry powder, 1 tsp of cumin and a 1/2 tsp of coriander. (You can vary this to taste) Let the spices cook until brown. You can add 1 Tbsp of butter and some water if it gets too dry.
        – once the spices have turned brown, add in: 1 & 1/2 cups of red lentils rinsed once, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, 1-2 tsp of chopped garlic, 1/2 tsp of chopped ginger, 1/2 tsp of salt, 2-3 cups of water. Let everything simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils soften. Stir it occasionally as it cooks and add more water if needed to make it to the consistency you like.
        – you can also add grated carrot and apple to up the nutritional content. I normally add two grated carrots and one grated apple.
        – I serve it over basmati rice.

  • mama joe says:

    Great tips — inspiring! I’m no expert, but I’ve found that menu planning is insanely important… helps prevent random purchases at the market and saves gas $$ by cutting down on those annoying, extra trips I always end up making when I’m not prepared.

  • Britnee says:

    Is possible with planning. Just don’t give up and stay positive. As mentioned above, menu planning is very important.

  • Jessica says:

    My husband and I lived off a $150-$200/month grocery budget for almost three years. Our son (who just turned one) has been eating table food for a few months now, and I’ve had to increase our budget. I haven’t kept close tabs on it, but I am sure it’s not over $300. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    Sure. Our weekly budget is $100 for 5 people- 2 adults and kids ages 7, 3 and 1, plus we have a cat. Our budget includes people food, hygiene, cleaning, toiletries, cat food, cat litter, diapers and wipes. We live in Ohio. We don’t have food allergies or follow any particular diet. We do have some picky eaters, heavy milk drinkers and cheese eaters though (not me!).

    I meal plan and make simple meals. Our dinners this week have been grilled cheese; homemade meatballs with brown rice and broccoli; omelets; sausage and hashbrowns. We don’t drink pop or juice. Lunches are sandwiches, cheese and crackers, leftovers, yogurt and fruit. Breakfasts are homemade baked goods, fruit, yogurt, milk. I drink coffee but my husband doesn’t. I don’t drink any milk.

    Our annual eating out budget is only $300, so the vast majority of our food is eaten at home and cooked by scratch.

    I coupon but not to an extreme. I don’t run all over the city (my city has around a million people) looking for deals, either. I mainly shop at 1 store, will occasionally visit Target or Kroger if there is a super good deal. Once in a while I have my husband stop at Aldi for something- it’s not near our house but it’s near his job.

  • All of Crystal’s points are great and implementing them has helped us tremendously. We also save a lot of money by choosing to make meals that require less meat. Ex. My chicken & rice recipe only calls for 2 chicken breasts but the entire dish serves at least 6. And beans and rice are also a great option to still ensure you get a complete protein. I love meat, but we just can’t afford to sit down and have a big steak these days. Maybe once we reach some of our other financial goals!! 🙂

    • Janice says:

      I agree to this comment! We have cut meat back, if you add some finely grated potato to your taco meat it stretches quite a bit, also we’ve added lentils to our enchilada filling, they just soak up the flavor. My meat loaf is probably only 1/2 meat with all the extras you can throw in there (oatmeal, potato, carrots, celery…). Like Crystal said, stay positive. If I make it a game to see if I can make it it is so much more enjoyable! I like to win!!

    • Amber says:

      You can look into buying meat in bulk. We recently purchased a 1/4 of a cow and it was soooo much cheaper than buying it all at the grocery store or meat market. You have to come up with a larger amount of money up front, but the meat will last a long time too.

  • Melissa says:

    I highly recommend menu planning and getting to know your grocery stores’ patterns. I know both of our local stores mark down meat and dairy on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Most of the time the products have a close expiration date. I either freeze the meat or use it for a freezer meal. And with 3 small children, dairy doesn’t stay around too long. 🙂 We live in the Midwest, have 5 in the family (and up until last month, 2 in diapers) and spend around $400 for grocery, paper, and cleaning products.

  • RuthS says:

    We have a $400/month grocery budget for a family of 4. 🙂 I’ve found it to be a really easy budget to stick to. I spend $75 for most weekly trips and the other for the occasional great deals or mid-week trips because I forgot to get milk.

  • You can do this! Our budget is $150-$180 per month for 4 people. I am sure if we had a teenage boy it would be a bit higher. 🙂 i plan our meals out, stock up on items that are free or close to it and shop at Aldi, a discount bread store and sometimes the Dollar Tree. I have been finding the Dollar Tree has been having lots of frozen fruit so I use that to make smoothies for breakfast with just water. So yummy.

    – soups are also a great way to stretch meals. We add a slice of butter bread or a handful of tortilla chips. (Homemade bread is the best – theprudenthomemakerblog.blogspot.com has great recipes plus she feeds her family on so little – it is inspiring!)

    Good luck! I know you can do it. 🙂

  • Kristie says:

    You can do it! We spend about $600.00 (give or take) a month for our family of 8 because we are saving up for a van. My tricks are: Baked oatmeal or eggs for breakfast 6 days a week; soup at least 3 – 5 times a week for supper; leftovers as often as possible for lunch. Beans are wonderful. Soak a $2.50 bag of pinto beans and cook and crush them up the next day, and you can eat them with tortillas–and I promise, you will have tons of leftovers! 🙂 Your goal is great, and it’s a fun learning process. I would suggest having grace for yourself too, and if things get too bare in the cupboard be willing to adjust the savings goal every so often to keep life interesting.

  • WilliamB says:

    Some suggestions, in no particular order:

    – Have some emergency meals in the freezer, so when you can’t make dinner you aren’t forced to eat out. Homemade is the cheapest but store-bought is still less expensive than take out. It could be a frozen lasagna, a frozen pizza, spaghetti sauce for the pasta, and so on.

    – Some things are amazingly cheaper to make at home and not so difficult: bread (there are no-knead versions that are great), pizza sauce, tomato pasta sauce, dried beans rather than canned. Although I find box brownie mix, bought with sale + coupon, is less expensive than homemade.

    – Soup! Even better, beans are great in soup. My favorite soup cookbook is Jacqueline Heriteau’s A Feast of Soups. I see Amazon has used copies for $4.00 including shipping.

    – Use some of your $400 for bulk purchases when the thing is cheap. For example, in my area flour can be as much as 40% cheaper between Thanksgiving and Christmas (from sale + coupon).

    – Harris Teeter has triple coupon weeks. If there’s one near you, it’s often worth the extra trip during those weeks.

    – Use meat as a flavoring rather than the bulk of your meal.

    – Oatmeal for breakfast rather than cereal. Even if you add sugar or chocolate chips, it’s still cheaper than cereal.

    – Use powdered milk when baking.

    – Use homemade household cleaners. I make my own window cleaner, produce wash, and laundry detergent. Each is at least 75% cheaper than bought; the laundry detergent is a whopping 95% cheaper.

    – Try growing a few things. Herbs, spinach and lettuce are relatively easy (even I can manage to grow lettuce) and much cheaper than buying.

    • Andrea says:

      Check the unit price of everything and compare! It’s been my experience that powdered milk is more expensive per ounce than fresh milk.

    • Anna says:

      It has also been my experience that powdered milk is somewhat more expensive. I have found it useful, though, when milk hasn’t regularly been on hand. It seems to save money on last minutes trips to purchase milk for recipes.

    • Ton says:

      WilliamB,
      I’m curious to know what you use for produce wash. Do you mind sharing?
      Thanks!

  • K says:

    I trimmed my budget a little at a time until it’s now $20 per person per week ($80 per person per month). I seldom purchase anything at full price. I shop the ads. I never ask “What sounds good” before shopping at the store. It’s always “What’s on sale?” or “What sounds good that we already have on hand?”

    I use a lot of MSM tips ie. eat meatless meals, mix lentils with ground meat to stretch the meat , & apply coupons to sale items. I pulse the ground meat in the food processor into smaller pieces before adding the lentils, then substitute the equivalent of 3/4 lb meat mixture for 1 lb meat in lots of recipes. I use less meat & add in more veggies, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc in soups this way. Rice can also be added to taco meat. Shredded potatoes can be added to lots of soups. Veggies can be added into pasta sauces to make them heartier. You can search AllRecipes.com for recipes by ingredients you already have on hand.

  • This is great! Our budget is $400/month for a family of 4. It’s definitely doable. I’ve found using cash only, like Crystal mentioned, to be hands down the best way I’ve found to stick to my budget (and even save a bit each month!). There is so much to be said for handing the cash over to the clerk and feeling your wallet get a bit lighter. Oh, and I also like what another commenter said about being willing to give yourself grace. Absolutely true!

  • Amanda says:

    In addition to the ideas here (and there are some really good ones), seek out local people and blogs for ideas. I could tell you where to get cheap produce around Phoenix (Market on the Move, Superstition Ranch Market), for example, but that won’t help if you live in Delaware.

  • Justin says:

    Oh yeah! It’s possible. Heather and I have three kids for most of the week and then an additional four on the weekends. We don’t eat beans and rice and rice and beans all the time in fact hardly ever. What works for us is planning ahead a week out at least. We buy what we need and when things are on sale such as whole chickens for .99 lb we buy 3 or 4 at a time. We hardly buy our fruits and veggies at the Americanized grocery stores we go to the Mexican stores such as El Super and get nearly 2-3 times more for a cheaper price and the quality is just as good if not better. We are also implementing a Card system which shows how much it costs to cook a meal so if were tight on money we can pick meals that have a specific price.

  • Ann says:

    It seems simple, but more than shopping the ads is knowing what is your “buy” price. Often the ads aren’t the best deals. It also means knowing your area’s stores. I’ve pretty much stopped shopping at our Kroger except for loss leaders, because I know I can get a much better price (and sometimes better quality) at Aldi.

  • Katie says:

    I think that is totally possible! Our budget is about $80 a week for a family of 8. Some weeks it could be $10 more but we reeeaaaaallllly really try to keep at 80/ week. I make our own bread and we don’t eat out. We also make our food from scratch due to an allergy. We also have a large garden and can / freeze a lot. Is it easy? No, but this is where we are in our lives and we are really trying to save money. We recently tried freezer cooking and are hooked! It is so nice that when you have a really busy day, supper is already made! I agree though that attitude is everything, if you go into it thinking you will fail then you probably will. Do your best! You can totally do it!

  • Yes it’s very possible! We are a family of 3 and eat almost all organics and natural foods on $300 a month. We do many things including buying in bulk and meal planning. On my site recently I showed a simple menu with how we try and eat for less than $10 a day. You can do it!

  • Denise says:

    My husband and I are buying larger cuts of meat and then slicing them ourselves to save money! It is more money out of pocket but the meat lasts for a month so we just budget accordingly! Oh and we buy it at a Hispanic grocery. We are also buying our ground beef there too because it is better quality and cheaper!

    Also, I know Crystal mentioned taking out the $400 at the beginning of the month but if you are like me you don’t have it except when you get paid. So I take out my grocery money each Friday. (my husband and I are blessed to get paid on alternating Fridays so each week has a paycheck even if mine is a lot smaller than his!)

  • Tiff says:

    If there is an Aldi nearby take advantage of it! We’re a family of four trying to cut our grocery budget down to $100 a week and that really helps us. Try to stick to the sales; but stuff when it’s cheap and freeze it for future use. And avoid stores like Wal-Mart, they are designed to get you to buy things other than groceries. Good luck!

  • Completely possible! I work pretty hard to feed a family of 6 on about half of that….it is really a challenge at times, considering how much teen boys eat though!
    I would say – Start by making a menu for the week, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Plan them ahead of time. Stick to homemade snacks and cheaper ones. No pre-packaged snacks.

    Popcorn, homemade granola bars, energy balls, etc.
    Package your own pretzels, tortilla chips etc. if you need them to send with lunches.
    Homemade soups can be your friend! They are great for a dinner for the hearty ones and make extra for lunches.

  • Niki C says:

    I spend between $800 and $900 a month for our family of 12. I shop sales, I do a pantry plan rather than a meal plan, and I stick to my list compulsively. We don’t eat any prepared food, I make everything from scratch, but we have plenty of snacks and desserts. It’s very doable, but it takes forethought and planning.

    • Lori says:

      What do you mean by a pantry plan? This sounds like something I could stick to. My family is trying to cut back on expenses and I’ve been looking at lots of these sites/blogs to get ideas.

      • Tiff says:

        Niki can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think a pantry plan is planning your meals around what you already have in your pantry (or freezer) so you don’t have to go out and buy extra stuff. A lot of us tend to keep things and then claim we have “nothing to eat” instead of trying to make things from ingredients we already have on hand.

      • Tiffany says:

        ‘Pantry planning’ is planning meals based on what you already have on hand in your pantry versus making a meal plan based on whatever you want. So if you have a can of corn and some greenbeans and chicken, you make a meal consisting of those. Make sense? In a nutshell, you shop from your pantry first and use up those ingredients before buying more!

  • Jenn in Indiana says:

    You can totally do this. My family is myself, husband and 2 children ages 12 and 9. Our budget is $100.00 per week. This includes all food, cleaning products and hygeine products. Stop buying most cleaning products, I keep a vinegar/ water solution for most all cleaning. I will say that yes, you will have to meal plan, that will be what will save you. Don’t let anything go to waste, learn to re-purpose food. And the other biggest thing is to check out the webiste “The Prudent Homemaker”. Trust me she will be your lifesaver. Study her blog and keep it as your “frugal bible”. I’m not kidding, she truly has helped so many with her frugal ways.

  • Jenn says:

    We have a family of 5 (ages 8, 6, and 3) and I homeschool, so I make all 3 meals 7 days a week. Our grocery budget is about $400/month. I make as much as I can from scratch, buy dairy from a local dairy farm and buy grass-fed beef in bulk (go in with a group of people to buy a side), buy from Aldi as much as I can, and get the rest at Walmart. I am also part of a produce co-op (www.bountifulbaskets.org) which saves me at LEAST 50% on produce! We eat 100% real food (no processed foods-if I can’t read the words on the label, we don’t eat it)…it IS POSSIBLE for your family to eat on $400/month! Check into Bountiful Baskets…they have sites all over the US.

  • Abby says:

    My family of 3 sticks to a $100/WK budget. This includes all food, personal hygiene items, diapers, etc. We buy our beef & pork in bulk & process our own deer. In addition I use coupons, price matching & various apps to save. Walmart price matches, so I watch the adds for about 10 different stores & only shop at Walmart. Through Ibotta (an app), I’ve saved an extra $70 in just a few months. Here is a link to install Ibotta http://Ibotta.com/r/D7F8Ww

  • Lauren K says:

    I meal plan and only bring cash with me to the grocery store (of which I also recommend Aldi if there is one by you!) but I also wanted to say that $400/month is completely doable! We have a family of 5 – 3 girls ages 3 to 9 – (so that might equal one 12 yr old boy? 🙂 and I am able to buy mostly organic produce, meat and dairy, and we usually eat about 19 out of 21 meals/week at home (eating out for lunch 2X and dinner 1X) … all on $350/month! I also recently increased our budget from $300/month because we were fortunate to have our income increase recently. I increased it to make it possible for me to buy more organic meat as that can be rather expensive. My routine is to go to the ATM once/week to take out money for our groceries for the week. I then keep a small purse in our glove compartment that I keep the cash in, and when I get to the grocery store, I leave my regular purse in the car and only bring that little purse in with me when I shop. It forces me to stick to my budget and I’ve avoided splurging and going over budget because of this many times. It takes a little discipline and practice but if I can do it, you can too! 🙂

  • JanelleS says:

    My husband and I, along with our 5 kids (ages 11 down to under 1) live for $40-$50 a week. I would suggest purchasing in bulk such as flour, oats and beans. Eat at home. Avoid heavily processed foods since they don’t fill you up and you end up eating more in the long run. Make your own breads from scratch. Drink water instead of juice.

    Almost every morning, we have homemade vanilla-cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast. It’s fast and ready in 10 minutes flat! Lunch in the winter is usually a soup that I made that morning along with some fresh homemade wheat bread. Some of our favorites are black bean, lentil, chicken noodle, or beef barley. I use my bread machine or stand mixer to make all of my bread. It saves me time kneading! And dinner is a meat, two vegetables, sometimes a fruit and then either bread or brown rice. Because our meals are high in nutrition, we aren’t hungry between meals so I don’t have to worry about snacks.

    You can do it! Plan ahead, gather a collection of simple recipes and enjoy saving your money!

    JanelleS
    http://www.parsnipsandparsimony.com

  • There are three of us – two adults and an 8 year old…my budget for food, household items and toiletries is $160 a month. We just had to go gluten free for one family member recently, but we still have a little $$ left over each month. I did a shopping/menu series for January – here is a link if you want to check out one of the posts.

    http://tenthingsfarm.blogspot.com/2014/01/grocery-shopping-and-menu-for-jan-27.html

  • MK says:

    I really think a family of 3 should be able to make it on $400, IF you have an Aldi nearby. I realize the 12 year old might be starting to eat more (if not, it’s coming soon and WATCH out!). I’ve been spending a bit more now, but I also have 2 additional kids, and my 14 year old is eating double what he did a year ago. I buy everything at Aldi – laundry soap, TP, ….all but some of my HBC now since they replaced some private label with name brands at a higher cost.

  • Alicia says:

    We are a family of 6 and I have a limited budget of $75 a week for groceries, etc… I ONLY buy things that are on sale and I have a coupon for. I go to the store ONLY on Friday mornings (this is when our store does mark downs). AND I purchase our beef in bulk at the beginning of the year with our taxes. I end up only spending $3.39 per pound for all types of meat. Then I only have chicken and pork to purchase from the meat department. Which I purchase on reduce and if I’m not using it right away I put it in the freezer.

  • Suraya says:

    It’s definitely possible. We’re on $100AUD a week for a family of 3. We’re in Australia where couponing isn’t as available as it is in the US. If there is a farmers market, it’s usually the best place to get the cheapest and freshest fruit and vegetables. Sometimes the cheapest way to get organic goods too.

  • I think it is possible but a lot depends on where you live. I spend about $450/month for 2 adults, 1 toddler, and a cat. That includes food, diapers, paper goods, etc. I shop, live, and cook very frugally but the cost of living here is pretty high.

  • Chris Hutchins says:

    I used Bountiful Baskets co op. $15 a week (usely) and you get 50/50 fruit and veggies. Visit bountifulbaskets.org to see if a site is near you. There are no coupons that can beat this deal.

  • Darlene. Young says:

    We allot 400$ a month and we are a family of 9. It works for us. We are couponing and sales. We do just about all of what’s on there- except we shop another place for meats that is cheaper than the rest of our food, and buy in bulk too. Diapers wipes toilet paper pasta, rice, etcetera.

  • Joan Young-Santiago says:

    I live in NYC, its costly here. I agree with all of the suggestions except bulk buying. Know your pricing. Use your meat cleavers & sharp knives to do your meat cuts from sale priced meats. I.E. cut beef stew cubes from on sale London broil steaks,(save $1+ per lb) buy whole chickens on sale & cut into pieces.(save $1+ per lb) I use (less than 1 roll a month) paper towels only for soaking fry oil from meat,potatoes. I use handiwipes/sham-wows for wiping/spills etc. I make my own cleaning/laundry products. Use flavored chicken/beef stock or pan dripping watered down with plain white rice for flavored rice. Have a plan for left overs.Ex.: Leftover broiled steak becomes pepper steak the next night or into freezer for another day. Keep a list on refrig what is in freezer. Pack frozen stuff into meal portions. Use less red meat, its only going to get more expensive. Chicken prices are slated to fall lower in the next 6 months.

  • Lyn Salamone says:

    I have a family of 5 consisting of two vegetarians and one gluten-free eater. My weekly budget is 75 dollars and I think we eat really well…..at least from a nutritional standpoint. I would say a good percentage of my dollars goes to 4 sack lunches for school every day but at least I know they are eating. I always shop first at Aldi for the bulk and veggies and then use the special sales on meat from the local groceries. I admit, I hate wasting food so I rarely buy anything I haven’t planned for. Because of the gluten-free requirement, I tend to cook from scratch. Every once in a while, a grocery store will have a stock up sale I can’t pass up like on peanut butter or frozen veggies so I might spend an extra 10 dollars those weeks but it usually evens out the next week.

  • Rebecca R. says:

    We have a family of 11, with nine children (includes two sets of twins) ranging in age from a VERY HUNGRY, over 6’2″ still growing 15 1/2 yr. old boy, down to almost 4 year olds. ..6 girls and 3 boys. We do have an Aldi, where I get most of my food, then a few things at Walmart, drugstores, or Price Rite. Our weekly budget is $100 and includes paper products and diapers. There are no major food allergies and no pets in our household. Definitely a challenge to stick to budget at times, but it can be done. I do not buy brand names much ever. I buy 1000 sheet rolls of toilet paper in 12 packs when they go on sale, only buy dish soap and such on sale with coupons, etc. We are going through a tougher time at the moment, so I have actually not even been out shopping more than a few times over the last couple of months probably. It has been challenging, but at the same time, it is amazing some of the meals that you can come up with when you need to! 🙂 We eat mostly casseroles and soups, etc. where a little bit of meat can go a long way. I make a big bunch of sausage gravy, and only use one pound of sausage. For something like homemade sloppy joes, I need to use 3 pounds of ground meat…usually ground turkey in 1 pound frozen rolls from Aldi…1.69 is better than 1.99 to well over $2 per pound for ground beef. I try to have a vegetable with every dinner meal, and some fruit on hand as I am able. You just do the best with what you can, and the Lord can bless the effort!

  • Sarah says:

    I spend about $150-$200 a month( that includes buying bulk and stocking up) for myself and my boyfriend. I make my own muffins and banana bread which my boyfriend absolutely loves. I suggest a dutch oven everything can be made in the same pot. And there are always leftovers
    We both bring leftovers for lunch. Also ziti and most italian food is relatively inexpensive especially when there is a sale for example mozzarella cheese was on sale for $1.88 a package so i bought 3 and froze 2 of them. I roasted my own red peppers. And bought chicken at $1.99 a pound so i now can use those 3 items for a number of things. Sandwiches salads or as a topping. Also i figured out that by bringing lunch every day to work i save enough money every month for my car payment. Very doable especially on a tight busget

  • Angie says:

    If you have an Aldi’s near you, you can honesty save a ton there! Their brands of foods are delicious and most of them, my family actually like better than name brands. All of their cheeses are wonderful and much better than Kraft; chips, fruit snacks, cookies, soups, pizzas, meat/chicken, oh and their produce is always pretty and much cheaper than Kroger! have 3 teenage boys, 2 of which are very picky and they love Aldi’s food! They get upset if I say I’m not going one week. Lol! Hope u have one to try! You’ll love it!

  • Echo says:

    It is possible. I have myself and 4 children. All four children have food sensitivities and thus cannot eat gluten, rice, corn, or any of the other cheap fillers that exist. Living in Alaska, which is one of the most expensive places to live, we live on a $380 food budget. It is totally doable and it doesn’t have to taste bad either!

  • Laura Wickett says:

    Start planning now for the summer bounty. Plant a small garden or containers and fertilize well. Freeze as much as you can in the summer, or start canning. I fill two freezers in the summer and a big shelf of canned goods (all for very cheap!) Find a CSA to buy organic produce, a farm that will give you a weekly share. I have a summer CSA for fresh produce all summer (May to November, 5.5 months). Then I have a winter CSA that provides root vegetables, squashes, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, oatmeal, flours, apples, and much more all winter long (4 months). They are great deals. I also buy organic meat by the 1/4 cow or half pig and whole chicken. You get much better meat at a fair price. My annual meat and produce bill averages to about $55 a week. I spend another $50-70 a week on dairy, fresh fruit in the winter, and staples. And I am feeding a family of 7, (6 adults appetites, 4 are teens!). I spend about $500-$550 a month altogether. I STAY AWAY from grocery store shopping as much as I can. I buy fresh and local. We eat very well; I never feel we skimp. I know that in the grocery store, $500 would never go as far. (And we eat primarily gluten free).

  • Sarah C says:

    I feed our family of 3 for $250 per month (does not include toiletries). I am on a special diet for my migraines which includes not eating nuts, aged cheese, msg, nitrites or onions (so we don’t eat a lot of packaged or processed food).

    We eat a lot of eggs (super cheap) and always eat simple pbj for lunch. I buy string cheese and crackers in bulk from Costco for easy snacking. I don’t coupon–I usually just watch store sales for good prices on produce and meat. We have a Winco nearby which saves a lot of money.

    I agree with what someone said above about knowing what your “buy” price is. I know what a good deal is for any given food item. I always want to pay $2.50/lb or less for ground beef, $2/lb for chicken. I also feel the fewer store trips I make, the less I spend. It’s worth stocking up on stuff like almond milk, cheese, crackers, and yogurt so I don’t get stuck and have to spend a lot on it in the moment.

  • Check out The Prudent Homemaker Blog. Brandy also has a web site. She feeds her family of nine on $100 a month! (seven children, ages 12 – 1) Brandy has some great recipes and does a weekly post on “Frugal Accomplishments.” Between Crystal and Brandy – I have learned so much.

  • Yes you can do it!

    My family of 9 has had a $100 a month budget for several years. That’s 40 cents per person per day (3 meals and a snack). I know that seems difficult, but earlier this week I made a pot of soup for .25 that had 12 servings, which equals .03 per serving. That makes for a VERY inexpensive dinner.

    I wrote a series of posts on how we do this that you can read here:

    http://theprudenthomemakerblog.blogspot.com/search/label/40%20Cents%20a%20Day

    I also have 4 1/2 months worth of menus on my website so that you can get an idea of what we’re eating.

    You can definitely do this! You will most likely need to change what you’re eating; you can’t expect to spend less and eat the same foods. You have to eat differently.

  • Dawn says:

    I just wanted to say that I have just this past week decided to drastically cut our grocery budget in order to do some massive saving this year and these comments have blessed me so much!!
    Thank you all for your great ideas!!

  • Anitajoye says:

    We are 6 eaters on $400 mo. It can be done.

  • Allergicmom says:

    I used to be a coupon fanatic. My husband, I, and our four boys lived on $350 a month. So it definitely is possible. However, because I was getting free hamburger helper meals, canned salted veggies, and way too many starches (potatoes, bread, etc) it was terrible for us. I think there is an in between. But if you find yourself choosing less healthy because it’s cheaper, remember the costs of health care… believe me, we found out the hard way.

  • Gayle spears says:

    So many great ideas! Also, how about checking to see what’s available in your area other than in the grocery store?
    Maybe your husband and son would like to try fishing, crabbing, hunting,etc. or let it be known that you would love some venison if a friend who hunts has extra. This can be frozen in small packages and enjoyed all year. See what is available in nearby woods…maybe salad greens . Dandelion greens are delicious and nutritious. I remember going mushroom hunting with my dad and sisters in the woods in Ohio. We’d look them up in our Book of knowledge encyclopedia to be sure they were all safe to eat and were they ever delicious after my mother breaded and fried them. Also, plant fruit trees in your yard. We’ve gotten many thousands of pounds of delicious organic pears off our special tree planted about 25 years ago. …for pear sauce,baking, etc.
    Also, maybe like us you might have opportunity to pick up pecans from the ground or pick blueberries or strawberries, etc and be able to keep half for yourself free of charge. Also I am able to order organic staples from Breadbecker’s co op much cheaper than ordinary staples by buying in bulk. A 6 gallon bucket of brown rice, quinoa or popcorn goes a long way. Some of these ideas might help supplement what you buy at the grocery and help you eat bountifully and healthfully and still stay on your budget.

  • NaDell says:

    I have a grocery, toiletry, plus some other things budget of $400 a month with four kids (2-11 years old) and two adults. It’s definitely doable.
    The thing I ask myself more than anything is what percentage of my $100 the item is.
    I pay in cash and keep tally marks on my grocery list for each dollar spent. If I round up, I have a little bit leftover each week and don’t have to dread putting something back.
    Coupons and price matching at Walmart help a lot! From my hour I spend each week on making my list, I save $30 a week or more, depending on sales.
    Good luck!

  • Kala says:

    OH! You can so do this, girlfriend. I really suggest putting the money you want to save per month as soon as you get it. Recently, we had a HUGE monthly savings goal and by doing this I started to feel like our grocery budget of 300.00 per month was all we had. I sort of tricked myself, but it made a huge difference! Also, really assess your cart before you check out. Are you getting expensive sodas? Prepackaged meals? Are you opposed to generic brands? By assessing your cart before you go to check out, I find out you can really can see what you can live without! I bet you will exceed your goal by following all of this amazing advice on this page and we want to hear your progress!!

  • Ashley says:

    I don’t have any additional advice, but want you to know you CAN do it. We have 4 in our family: myself, my husband, a 1 year old and a 3 year old (both of whom are great eaters). Our budget is $275 a month. Some months it’s tight but we make it work. I try to break it down per week and know exactly what I’m spending before going to the store. A lot of things we buy on a regular basis – bread, milk, cereal, bananas, etc. – and it’s easy to just jot those prices into a spreadsheet and then pick out what you’re buying so you know what to expect when you’re at the store. Then, if you go over, you know exactly why.

  • Cristyn says:

    This is completely doable! My family of three (I have a 2.5 year old) spends about 60-80 a week on groceries with a couple weeks higher than others when we run out of certain staples. Our family goal is $400 a month as well and it has forced us to be better planners with our meals and not eat/order out or “run out” to grab something special to make. We use what is on hand (pantry cooking) to plan meals, I bake healthy muffins and freeze them on the weekends for my daughter’s breakfast and we make everything from scratch with recipes from online blogs that reflect healthy cooking for families. We do not eat processed foods mainly because it is bad for you but another benefit is it is less expensive! I and my husband both work full time so you can do it.

  • Our budget is also $400/month and it’s just my husband and I. We can do it if we’re careful to pack lunches every day and if we come home most evenings right after work. If we stay out late or run errands after work, though, we almost always get hungry and “have” to eat out… which totally ruins the budget. So the biggest thing that has helped us stay on track with our grocery budget is to save our errands for one trip on Saturday, and go home right after work (as much as possible) during the week.

    • NLeighton says:

      What if you make snack bags with high protein trail mix to keep in the car. That way if you are running errands a little late you can have a handful to stave off the hunger until you are able to get home. I also find it useful to put something in the crock pot on those days, that way I know I have to eat at home because it’s already made and waiting even if that sub/burger/chicken is tempting as I drive around.

  • Cory says:

    I cut back on meat this works especially well for meals like homemade sloppy Joes. I use 1/2 lb. Of ground meat and fortify it with minced veggies. This is also a great way to empty out the vegetables in the crisper. I use a food processor for the task of mincing onions,peppers, celery,mushrooms and carrots! This also works well for spaghetti sauce. I also use the spices I already have to make meat rubs and bbq sauces. I also no longer buy pancake/waffle mix as I have everything in my pantry. If you find a decent price on roaster chickens get acouple to roast and you will get many meals or cooked chicken to freeze. As well as, stock for soups and stews! I made TWO roaster chickens and from them 5 qts of stock, dinner for the night for family of 4 PLUS two extra servings, chicken noodle soup 6 servings. Buffalo chicken dip for super bowl..

  • Marie @ 4HWD says:

    Right now I’m trying to keep my budget and it also includes grocery. I usually go to grocery once or twice a week. I cook my own foods so that I can save a bit.

  • Looks like you’ve gotten some fantastic advice here. I was going to share that I coupon, stock up on meat when its on sale to freeze (i aim for $2.50/lb or less but we don’t belong to a wholesale club) and I have been trying to eat more out of the freezer/pantry. I buy organic milk and am trying to avoid packaged food with preservatives (which is more expensive than the preservatives packaged food, go figure). I also menu plan based on what is on sale. I do a lot of slow cooker meals because they usually are delicious with easy to find, inexpensive ingredients. Good luck sticking to your budget

    • Dorsey says:

      Do you share your crock pot recipes? Mine usually don’t have much flavor or are always soupy

      • Janice says:

        Easy and great roast crock pot recipe my family begs for is one roast (or I do a pork roast because its sometimes cheaper) 1/2 stick of better, one dry ranch dressing pack, one Au’Ju packet (I use half because it can be alot of sodium), about 4-5 pepperoncini peppers.

        Directions
        1. Place chuck roast in crock Pot
        2. Sprinkle Ranch Dressing mix on top followed by Au Jus Gravy Mix.
        3. Place peppers on top of roast. Add NO water!!!! Cook on low for 8 hrs, then enjoy!!!!

        • Rachel says:

          Try saving money by making your own seasoning mixes. I searched online and make my own taco seasoning, ranch dressing mix, dry onion soup mix, Italian dressing mix, chili seasoning, and cream soup. You most likely already have most of the spices you need and will be able to cut down on sodium, MSG and preservatives.

  • Sandie says:

    We set this goal as well, and I was able to save 500 in January. Hoping to hit the 1000 this month! You can do it!

  • Anna says:

    Check out BudgetBytes.com. She has great tips on how to pair bulky inexpensive ingredients with a small amount of your more expensive ingredients. She does a price breakdown of all her recipes, so you can see how much it will cost. This was really helpful for me in thinking through which recipes can be in our rotation regularly, and which need to be special treats because they are more expensive. Her recipes are also really healthy and well-balanced, much more so than other “budget” meals I have seen that don’t seem very nutritious.

    I also found it helpful to try to limit our purchases of prepared foods like cereal, granola bars, etc. Even when you get a good deal on those, you are getting less nutritional bang for your buck than purchasing whole food ingredients.

  • Kathrine says:

    Try looking around for fruit and vegetable basket coops – we use thegoodfoodbox.com and for 20$ a month, we get biweekly orders of fruits and vegetables that are seasonal and local and we can then spend a token amount on what is missing for our menus. This makes a huge difference in my monthly budget!

  • Jacqui says:

    You can do this. I feed 3 adults and one teenager on 365.00 and sometimes less per month. I have a 385.00 budget and I put 20.00 away immediately. If I have any left over at the end of the month, I put that away also. In 2013 I saved enough for Disney and Christmas gifts for 8 people. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!!

  • lisa krol says:

    You can absolutely do it! We decided years ago that we needed to live within our means. Now, that means living on as single teacher’s salary in NC. Lowest paid teachers in the country. We have 4 boys with constantly hungry bellies! We DO NOT coupon and live on $300 a month for groceries. I do cheat a little since most of our veggies and fruits are home grown (canned or frozen). We shop once a month at Walmart by price matching. I DO NOT buy prepackaged food even if it is free. It is cheaper ALWAYS to make it yourself if you buy ingredients in bulk. We do have lots of allergies and I just find it easier to know exactly what is in everything I make. Best of luck. You can do it!!!

  • Christiana says:

    My family of 5, 11yr old, 11yr old and 9yr old boys. All play sports too and can put away a lot of food. We spend about $500 a month on groceries. Some months are higher when we have extra sporting events or parties but we usually tend to stay withing budget. That includes a lot of produce, meat and dairy too. Just be creative with meals and remember to change your taste according to what fresh products are on sale

  • If you shop at one or two grocery stores regularly, you can use some of your money upfront to buy discounted gift cards online. That could start you out with savings of 2-10%.

  • Shauna says:

    We buy our beef once a year from a farmer, we have 3 adults, a teen and a 2 yr old(4 guys and Mom).We live in a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, and find our grocery prices a bit higher. We go thru 4 litres of milk daily and pay 5.99 per 4 litre jug. The biggest portion of our budget goes to milk. I buy everything that I can when it is on sale and use from our pantry when possible. We cannot do $400, but I am always looking for more ways to cut the budget, without cutting nutrition. Thanks for some of the ideas mentioned!

    • Rachel says:

      Try stretching your milk. When your jug gets half empty, add enough powdered milk and water to refill. Shake and chill before drinking. The only difference you should be able to tell is in your wallet!

  • Holly says:

    I have 5 kids and am a stay at home mom our only income is my husbands 40 sometimes 45 thousand a year . I already shop bulk make my own bread and most everything from scratch . Is it possible for us to save? I would really like to .

    • Ambrosia says:

      Hi Holly!
      When you say you want to save, how much are you spending each month now, and how much is your goal? I only have two people in my household now, but growing up my mom was a stay at home mom with 4 homeschooled kids and she managed to keep her grocery bill under $200 a month.
      What kinds of things are you purchasing when you go to the grocery store? Store brand or name brand? Do you eat any veggies you could make your kids grow as a summer project in containers? Have you compared the prices per ounce on canned veggies vs fresh vs frozen? Have you looked for a local butcher who has meat “scraps” he could turn into burger and sell you cheap?
      I’d love to see if I can help!

  • sheryl says:

    Here are a few fun ideas that we use still–but especially when we had no income: Ask around to see if there are hunters who don’t want their meat (many don’t–they just like to hunt, but will give away meat). Also, when it’s apple/pear/fruit tree season, drive around or walk around your neighborhood to see if anyone has trees they don’t want to pick from. Many people don’t want all their fruit or are happy for you to pick it all and share with them. I’ve done this many many times and then canned applesauce for all winter long and made dried apples.

  • sheryl says:

    Sorry, one more thing–we did oatmeal for breakfast (Monday-Friday)–it’s healthy and much cheaper than boxed cereals.

  • Ashley says:

    YOU CAN DO IT! I have 1 word = Aldi’s. I do not coupon, I do not grow veggies or any other food. We don’t eat organic or have any specialty diets (we don’t eat a lot of junk though either). My husband LOVES meat and hates beans and we still make this work. My family consists of myself, my hubby and a 2 y/r son. I budget $100 cash for groceries each week. Every Sunday, I write up a menu for the week. I take a look at what I have in the fridge/freezer and see if I can put together a meal from things that I already have (that’s 1 less meal to have to buy!). I shop only at Aldi’s. My family does just fine with all of their brands and does not miss any of the frills or cool new brand name products out there (except Heinz ketchup- we must have Heinz). I will go to Walmart if Aldi’s doesn’t have something I need. Sometimes if I have a little money left over, I’ll hold onto it for the next week and treat the family to Steaks! We don’t go out to eat much, but sometimes we’ll set money aside to order a pizza or get take-out.

    Here’s an example of what my weekly dinner menu looked like this week:
    Sunday – Superbowl party food (Buff chicken dip, chicken wings, veggies and dip, brownies)
    Monday – Taco Salad
    Tuesday – Honey garlic pork chops, mac n cheese and broccolli
    Wednesday – Fast Food – Cheeseburgers/Fries
    Thursday – BLTs and pasta salad
    Friday – Chicken Stir-Fry
    Saturday – Steaks, green beans and haluski

    In addition to the ingredients needed for the meals above, I always buy milk, eggs, bread, fruit, veggies and things like yogurt, bagels or deli meats for breakfast/lunch. We do a lot of leftovers for lunch also.

    The only time I come close or actually do go over budget is when I have to buy things like toilet paper or paper towels. My husband cuts hair on the side, so we use that money to buy diapers. I know not everybody has that little bit of extra income, BUT we DO keep a separate envelope for MISC stuff to help out when we go over budget. We’ll add extra money here and there to build it up, so that we do have it when we need it.

    What pushed us into this is Dave Ramsey’s snow-ball debt and budgeting system. We realized we were in so much debt and it felt like it was going nowhere. We also found we were spending close to $800-$900/month in fast food/groceries. That is ridiculous for a small family of 3! We FINALLY started with the grocery budget, then budgeted everything thing else. ANY extra money started to go towards debt. 5 months later and we’ve paid off so many bills. We actually get excited to go over our bills now. Money was always the biggest argument and stress in our marriage and now, it’s totally different. I see light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like we can afford anything if we plan for it, and realistically, we CAN. You can do it too. I’m only 28 and I wish I would’ve realized this system a LONG long time ago. I sound like a commercial I know.. but just put your mind to it. You got this!

    • Laura Flores says:

      OH I LOVE DAVE RAMSEY!!!!! My husband and I are taking his Financial Peace University class. We have learned so much! We have baby step 1 done and are working on our debt snowball.

    • Elizabeth says:

      What a very helpful, and encouraging comment. Sounds like your “can do” attitude is helping you make such great progress. Way to go:)

    • Tracy says:

      Ashley, be glad you figured it out by age 28. That is about when my husband and I figured it out too. The only problem was that there wasn’t a Dave Ramsey around at that time. He must have been going through his financial woes around the same time as us :). We pulled ourselves out of debt on one income back in the 90’s and are looking forward to a great retirement in less than 5 years…we will be in our mid 50’s. Being frugal now will pay later.

  • Angela says:

    After you brown your ground beef, throw in a handful of oatmeal and cook it in the meat. You can’t tell it’s in there, you get extra fiber AND it stretches a lb of meat a little further. You can even see it in there!

  • Maureen says:

    I have a family of five which includes three teenagers and we spend around this every month. Two things I would like to add. First, start a garden. Even if you don’t grow from scratch, sometimes you can regrow things, like herbs, lettuce, garlic and onions. Second, add some cheap meals into your planning. We do one day of inexpensive meals, one vegetarian day, and one left over day. Inexpensive meals can be breakfast for dinner, soup and sandwiches, potato bar, rice and beans, etc.

  • I definitely think you can do it. I have a family of seven and we just bumped our budget up to $500. Stay away from processed foods, buy in bulk, learn how to bake bread, eat simple meals, snack less. You can do it!

  • Lisa says:

    You can do this!

    I use a free app on my phone called “Out of Milk.” Set up can all be done with your computer which syncs to your phone. I have created multiple pantry lists for storage areas in my home (baking, freezer, pantry, etc), shopping lists for each store I shop, plus a general “Need” list for bulk items I am waiting for a great sale on. Under each item, you may enter a qty, price, taxable, a category, if you have a coupon to use or any additional notes. After the price and quantity for your items has been entered, a shopping total for each store is always visible. Items can be moved from store to store if one has a better price. When items are marked off the shopping list you can transfer them to your pantry. When items are low at home you can “copy” them to a shopping list or if they are completely gone you can “move” them out of the pantry. When I am at a store, I know exactly what I have at home (ex: 6 can of black beans, 4 lbs of chicken or 20% remaining of baking cocoa). I have set up my categories to be the isles/locations in the order I shop each store (ex: dairy, meat, frozen). All the local grocery deals are accessible through this app and can be added to any of your grocery lists. Finally, there is a to-do list included-I use this to document my rotating weekly menus. Took a little set-up, but whether I am home or away, my food management is always with me and I am always in control of my food budget.

  • You can totally do this!!! We send $20-$40 per week for our family of 4 (2 adults and 2 active 8-year-olds) or $80-$160 per month. Everyone has such great suggestions and I’d like to add two things: watch your serving sizes and quit buying what you throw away each week. Most of us eat way more than we should – for example a package of 3 chicken breasts is 5-6 servings (3-4oz each), not 3 as we usually think. Additionally most of us buy something that we consistently throw away so an estimated 1/3 of food bought in the US gets thrown out rather than eaten. Doing just those two things can make a HUGE dent in your grocery budget!

    Keep working at it and you’ll get it!
    Lea

  • Laura says:

    I’ve started using a spreadsheet to estimate my grocery total before I go to the store, so that I’m removing things from the list rather than from the cart if I’m in danger of going over. Then when I make my list, I jot down the estimate for each item, and as I shop I keep a running total of how much things differ from my estimate. That difference either means I have to remove something from my cart, or I can splurge on something not on my list. (Although especially at the beginning of the month, it’s a good idea to skip the splurge in case you forgot something and have to go back later!)

    If you shop at Costco/Sam’s Club/BJ’s or if you buy grocery items online at all, be sure you hold back some money from your week-to-week shopping to cover those expenses. I split off a portion of my grocery budget to save up for a quarterly Costco trip, an occasional tea order from my favorite online shop, bulk grains at our local store twice a year, etc.

    Sometimes I also pull out our fixed grocery expenses on the budget spreadsheet — things like milk, yogurt, and apples get used at about the same rate every week in our house, so I can pull those out from the total and have a better idea what’s left for more variable grocery expenses.

    My last tip is to budget for tax! It may not seem like much each time you shop, but on your $400 a month, that’s something like $20. There’s nothing like the feeling of being *right* on budget, and then finding that tax took you over!

  • Kristie Speakman says:

    At the beginning of the week, before I go shopping, I look in the fridge, freezer , and dry storage. I then make a written list of things that need to be used: produce that is going, meat getting freezer burned, things that are close to out of date, and things that we just have to much of. To save time I do this when I am seeing what we are out of to make a grocery list. I make my menus around what needs to be used. Then I buy what we are out of, what we need to complete the meals and what is on sale. This cuts down on food waste and lowers my grocery bills. I do subscribe to the “stockpile” point of view. So I buy more of what is on sale than we need for the week as long as I can use it before it goes bad, and then work the sale items into our menus later.

    • Kristie Speakman says:

      Oh, I forgot the other biggie. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal so use meat more as a condiment than a main dish. The rest of the world cooks this way but we as Americans feel we need a big chunk of meat on our plate. In stead of grilled chicken with broccoli & rice serve chicken broccoli stir fry over rice and you can use half the amount of chicken. Not only is it cheaper it is healthier to build your meals around veggies & whole grains with a smaller portion of meat.

  • Meghan says:

    This is very doable. We have a family of 5, and 2 cats – we have a monthly budget of $600 for food, household, pet stuff, everything – and that includes a 19 month old in diapers, and a preschooler who wears night-time pull-ups. We could probably shave another $100 off if we had to, but we have a few “splurge” areas.

  • Julie says:

    I too am on a tight grocery budget. The amount I have for purchasing food fluctuates, some pay days I have an obviously-not-enough amount and some pay days I have a more generous amount. It is absolutely essential that I coupon/sale price/stock up. However, my advice is to keep just as high a priority as ounce per dollar, the NUTRITION per dollar. Money saved cannot be a higher priority than meeting my family’s nutritional needs. Sometimes that means eating what is more bland, but better for us, so we can afford the nutrient-dense foods. That’s ok. It is a matter of self-discipline.

  • Kristin says:

    You CAN do this!

    I just finished tracking our last four weeks if food spending and we spent right at about $400 for our family of five – which includes myself and my husband, and our three children ages 8, 5, and 3. I don’t use coupons. And I could probably spend less if I didn’t buy things like Nutella and large amounts of milk, but we like those things and we can afford them for now, so I’m okay with that.

    This is what consistently saves us money with groceries:

    1. Always use cash
    2. Bring paper, pencil, and calculator with you to keep track of total and see if you need to put something back.
    3. Menu plan. I usually rotate between a couple of breakfast, snack, and lunch options, but try to plan at least five dinners. We eat a lot of oatmeal and pb&j’s.
    4. Price match! This is how I consistently get good prices without running myself ragged all over town. Walmart will match any price and Target usually will too.
    5. I get A LOT of my meal ideas from Brandi at The Prudent Homemaker. She has a family of 10 and her meals are consistently yummy and frugal. Every recipe of hers that I have made has been a hit!

    • Amy says:

      Do they price match on fresh vegetables & meat?

      • Lara says:

        Yes on the Walmart price matching. I price match fresh vegetables and fruit to the prices of a store that’s local to me in Colorado Springs called “Sprouts” at Walmart. Any meat deals have to be dollar amount (not buy one, get one free). But if 93% lean ground beef is 2.99/lb at Safeway, you can match that price at Walmart. If another store’s family pack size of their generic version of chicken breasts are $1.88/lb, you can get this on Walmart’s family pack of chicken breasts (not Tyson). If Jimmy Dean sausage or Hormel lunch meat is on sale elsewhere, that price is only good on Jimmy Dean/Hormel (not another brand).

  • It’s definitely doable, although it obviously will take a bit of work to do. Our family of 4 had a $200/mo. grocery budget for the last couple of year. That included diapers/cosmetics/cleaning supplies/personal care etc. too. I do a lot of couponing and also plan a lot of my meals around what I can get for really cheap or free. I don’t know if you’ll find this helpful or not, but I did a post a while back on 4 Things I Do to Keep Our Grocery Budget at $200/mo. for a family of 4. Here’s the link: http://www.parents.com/blogs/thrifty-frugal-mom/2012/05/03/must-read/4-things-i-do-to-keep-our-grocery-budget-at-200mo-for-a-family-of-four/

    Blessings to you as you try to figure out how to cut back!

  • Robyn says:

    I love all of the inspiration on this page! Yes…it’s doable and I can say from experience that it’s WORTH IT!

    When my husband started his own consulting firm after being unemployed for over a year, money was tight to say the least. We were supplementing our income with our savings (thank GOODNESS we had been diligent savers when our income was high), and I was trying to keep our expenses as low as possible. We spent $75 / week on groceries during that time, and it was not easy. Now, we spend $125 / week, which gives us more breathing room.

    We are finally reaping the financial rewards for all of his hard work, and we’ve been able to ADD to our savings instead of deplete it.

    At Christmastime, my husband was in a fender bender — he was fine, but our car was totaled. With the payout from our insurance company + money we had saved, we were able to buy a used Honda Pilot that WE LOVE! It’s been perfect for our horrible winter in the midwest, and we’re looking forward to buying a secondhand pop-up camper this summer.

    A lot of short-term sacrifices were made in order to have that cash on hand, and what could have been a major crisis was an inconvenience and a blessing!

    We had a few dinners of grilled cheese sandwiches when it would have been more fun to go out…but we are getting to where we want to be financially, and that is so much better than a trip to the pizza parlor! 🙂

    My best word of advice is try out some of Crystal’s freezer cooking and have some meals on hand for those days when you feel like throwing in the towel (or are out of grocery money)!

  • Laura Smith says:

    Yes, you can do it! It will take some work, but it can be done. There’s a lot of different strategies that can help. They might not all work well for everybody, but you can pick what works for you.
    This might not work well for everyone, but for me, grocery shopping about once a month (or less) works really well. I did a whole post on the method here: http://confessionsofarecoveringchocoholic.com/2013/08/03/the-non-planners-guide-to-menu-planning/
    For some reason this method just really helps me because I’m only shopping about once a month and it removes a lot of the temptation of grabbing little things here and there.
    Also, I try to keep 2-4 meals a week super cheap (something like rice and beans or egg and bread breakfast for dinner), so that way I don’t have to watch as carefully on the other meals. Also, breakfast isn’t a big deal to us so I keep that really cheap. This really works for us and helps be able to eat more of what we’d like at most meals.

  • shannon says:

    We are a family of 5, live in a higher cost of living area and we have $400 to spend. You have to get creative. Keep it simple – I believe this is key. Nothing will kill a budget more than having to purchase those random items for a recipe. I have also found, that by doing a weekly menu and only shopping once, I lower my bills because I am very intentional about what I buy. Try making bulk snacks (chex mix, etc). I also keep my food out of reach of my kids. It is amazing how much gets eaten mindlessly. Processed foods really add up. Saving 1000 a month is huge. YOU CAN DO IT, but remember, it will require some sacrifices. If everyone is on board, it is much easier. Also, find a creative way to track your money saved. Put a jar in a very prominent place in your home. Say for every $50 you save you put in a marble. Watch those marbles add up. Be sure to have an incentive at the end to reward the family! Make it a game.

  • Tami says:

    You can do it! We are a family of 6, kids 8-17. We spend $450/mo. I price match and use that as a basis for our menu for the week. Most weeks there is only a handful of things I buy not on sale. Buy 2 or 3 of each sale item needed and your pantry is well stocked for what you may need. I don’t buy much of anything prepared/frozen, lots of fruits and vegetables, from the reduced produce cart. Most of them can be frozen or cooked/sauteed/blanched and then frozen. That way they do not spoil before we can eat them. Meats always bought on sale and use what’s in the freezer. Also, have a couple consistent stores makes you spend less, too. Going to several stores in a month makes spending go out the window!

  • zellers says:

    We live on a budget of $150 a month for a family of 4 2 adults a 15 and 11 year old. we stock up on items when they go on sale for 3 months at a time. my 11 year old just did a science report on it with all of our receipts and what we purchased. so you can do it!!!

  • Jessica Lundstrom says:

    Our life saver as far as grocery budget has been Bountiful Baskets. Go to Bountifulbaskets.org and see if there is participation in your area. You pay $15 for a laundry basket full of fresh beautiful produce,where at the grocery stirs you would gave spent triple that. No JOKE. Especially considering you get great variety like different types of squash and root vegetables and fruits that would normally be over $2 per lb.
    also our rule in produce if we don’t get pur bountiful basket in a given week is we only buy produce that is $1 per pound or less unless it’s a special deal on something that is normally REALLy pricy like berries or pomegranates.

    • Amanda says:

      This sounds so great! Unfortunately the closest one to me is 3.5 hrs away. 🙁 To start one they want you to mentor with a current drop-off…a great idea, but a bit far. :/

    • CCM says:

      Thanks so much for mentioning Bountiful Baskets. I’d never heard of them! While the closest one is 1.5 hours away, my husband actually drives there every Saturday as part of his work route! He’ll be able to swing by and grab us a basket. Thanks so much for the tip!!

  • NLeighton says:

    For produce and vegetables talk to the people in the produce section about best pricing on cases of your most used items. Or check the yellowpages for a produce supplier. We buy directly from the supplier and get great deals. It’s taken me almost 2 months to use up the case of sweet potatoes I last picked up for $10

  • Ambrosia says:

    Wow… Maybe our area is cheaper, but my husband and my pregnant self live on $200 a month. That includes eating out and entertaining. Granted, it is rare that I buy meat… I keep chickens and had 5 goats given to me (the goats are already in the freezer). Still, I find it difficult to believe that meat could cost $200 dollars a month.
    I hardly ever use coupons because I purchase store brand everything. Our area only has sales I can use once in a great while, they tend to put the name brand items on sale and store brand is still cheaper. (I don’t consider it a sale when it has a sale sticker but stays the same low price for 9 months…) Milk never ever goes on sale, but I have seen bread drop down by 10 cents once in a blue moon…
    What am I doing differently? What are some of the prices for foods in your areas?

    • You’re doing great Ambrosia!

      I know for me my $160/month includes food, paper products (though we use cloth napkins and rags rather than paper napkins and towels), toiletries and cleaning supplies. Eating out and entertaining are separate categories – I don’t think I could do $200 a month if we included both of those! How do you budget for eating out and entertaining at that price?

      Thanks, Lea

  • Cat says:

    I have 3 kids ages 7,9, and 10. I pack their lunches everyday along with a snack for class and then we have snacks for sports teams on a regular basis as well. Most days I’m only eating dinner and I’m still spending over $1000 per month. I use coupons, store sales, etc and just not seeing a significant decrease. Granted, my children eat adult sized portions. I just don’t understand what I would make for them besides something like Mac and cheese.

    • How about soup with a tossed salad and a starch (bread, rice, crackers), homemade pizza (go light on the cheese) with a salad, have a baked potato bar, or homemade stir fry with lots of veggies? We do a lot of veggies in place of meat and cheese – though it means we do a lot of cooking rather than buying pre-made meals. Mac and cheese is a treat at our house since cheese often costs more per pound than meat and boxed mac and cheese is expensive!

      You might want to check out The Prudent Homemaker’s web site (theprudenthomemaker.com) for some more out-of-the-box ideas. And I post our menus and shopping trips on my web site too (click on my name) – I have two 8-year-olds and my husband and myself.

      Remember that it’s a progress in getting that budget down and any progress you make it still in the right direction!

      Lea

  • carolyn says:

    This can be fun coming up with a whole new menu using leftovers from previous meals for example the white chicken chilling I served for dinner Monday became chicken and bean enchilades on Thursday by simply adding my favorite Mexican seasonings chopped onions wrapped in tortillia shells covered in turkey gravy and topped with taco blend cheese and whatever tarnishes we enjoy. Sometimes the leftovers dish id better then the main dish it started out to be. The family and I have fun making up leftovers dishes as well as naming them

  • Esther says:

    Each week, do at least one meal of eggs (quiche, breakfast casserole, fried egg sandwich, Western sandwiches, etc.) and one meal of beans and rice (so many different recipes!) This will help out your food budget a lot!

  • Amanda says:

    My husband (who spends 3 hrs a day at the gym) and I currently eat on about $50 a week. We shop at Aldi mostly. In the summer we hit up the farmer’s markets. I want to learn to make my own bread…or buy a used bread maker. 🙂

  • rhiannon says:

    You can do this! I feed my family of four on $400 a month. We use almost only organic items as well. Almost everything is from scratch, so coupons are not part of the equation for our family because coupons are mostly only for prepackaged foods. First like many have said you need to meal plan and stick to it. I would suggest at least one meatless meal a week. I f you plan your meals so that they are big and create leftovers, then that stretches thinga a lot farther as well. Start with what is in your pantry, fridge and freezer already and plan from there. Make sure that you use things to their full potential to get the biggest bang for your buck, For example if you buy a whole chicken, you can roast it and use just the white meat the first night, pick all of thye dark meat to use later ( soup or pot pie or casserole meat) and then throw the whole carcass in a crockpot overnight covered in water and you now have chicken stock ready in the morning to use in either that weeks meal plan or freeze for later. When you make your mealplan make sure to use veggies that expire first earlier in the week first. I f you buy organic, save all of thoose scraps in freezer bag and when it is full ( it usually takes about week or two) you now have enough to make veggie stock. Portion control alos helps with meal planning. When we make meatloaf ( and many other things) I use muffin pans. it makes it perfect portion sizes which makes food last longer. Make sure to use all leftovers. I am always learning new ways to make things stretch. Dried beans and lentils go a really long way as well. Take advantage of meat sales and seasonal produce. I would also recommend joining a CSA if that is an option. Good luck and I hope I offered at least one thing that helps.

  • Ashleigh says:

    We have 7 of us and have a budget of $480 for the month. Try 5dollardinners.com
    It’s super helpful to use her recipes for nice dinners that keep us on budget.

  • Sarah in Alaska says:

    The short answer is yes. But I think you need to look at what you’ve been doing to figure out what you need to change. Crystal’s advice was right on the mark.

  • Jennifer says:

    This is something you should be able to accomplish pretty easily I think. We have a 10-year-old son and spend under 400 a month most months. The key is really shopping the sales. I make a monthly menu plan so that I always have a plan but then I adjust it according to what’s on sale. By hitting sales hard, I’ve gotten our pantry in pretty good shape so I just buy what’s at rock bottom each week. So, for example today, at Shaw’s, I bought chicken breasts on sale for 1.99 a pound, and a couple pineapple for $1.99 each. I’ll use those ingredients to make dishes with things I already have in the cupboard like rice and couscous, already purchased on sale. You can do it!

    Also, have a plan to eat a least one inexpensive meal a week like pasta or a baked potato bar or breakfast.
    The key is to experiment. I recently found a really great salsa I’ve fallen in love with so I’ve been eating cheese and salsa burritos for lunch at work (super cheap).

  • Jessica says:

    I struggle with our budget of $300 a month on food alone and we live on less than $17,000 a year. My husband and I have a daughter 7 and son 10 and they eat alot of food. We do not eat boxed food with preservatives and we do not eat out except a few times a year as a treat! oh and I do buy a couple of boxes of cereal a month for a treat and the rest is from scratch meals. We have landline phone with long distance for my husbands work and internet is our luxury. we do not have iphones(we have a cell phone that my husband and I share a pay as you go phone for emergencies only-which we either pay 60-100 a year depending on what kind of family needs occur) no cable or satelite. we do have a mortgage with only about$16,000 left to pay. So, we aren’t able to cut any more areas of money we stay home as much as possible and go to library maybe every 3-6 weeks and I do once a month grocery shopping so that there is less gas used. the closest town with a store is 13 minutes away well, 6 min counting dollar general and when it first opened it was a problem for me because I would try to hop in the car and say it was okay but the cost of gas and the prices are a tad bit more on some things than walmart.
    So, I think you can cut your costs in many areas than you may not have thought about just keep at it. As time goes by the desire for certain things goes away.

  • Kristen says:

    Yes you can! Our family of 4 has a budget of $350 a month and we live in a state that has high food prices! I coupon and shop at Walmart where they will match all ad prices. Through those two things I save up to 35% weekly on my grocery bill. Try not to buy ‘convenience’ foods (ie pre-cut veggies, lots of chips, soda, candy, frozen meals). Even though these seem like a good deal or ‘quick fix’ for a meal they cost loads in the end.

  • Shilo says:

    I have a family of 7. homeschool mom of 5. I started doing meal plans for the month.(my husband is paid monthly) I took about two months and bought extra meat and staples as they were on sale before doing the monthly plan. Then at the beginning of the month- I know can plan so many meals with chicken-burger-pork- bacon- whatever was on sale– I always have dry beans/barley on hand for chili- soups-and beans to stretch meat- or have a meatless meal to fill in between. I have found it to be less stressful to have all the ingredients I need to make meals on hand- not have to worry about figuring out what to fix on a daily basis, or have answer multiple ?’s on what’s to eat– they know to look on the fridge. Any ingredients needed for recipes- like frozen vegies, sour cream etc. are bought monthly. staples are bought once a week-such as milk and bread. Since we only have one chain grocery store and one small grocery store in town- there are weeks no meats are on sale- or we would only have chicken for an entire week. Now I can have variety for the month, and still save money buying ahead. Hope this all made some sense. You will find what works best for your family. It may take a few months to get into a comfortable routine.

  • Amanda says:

    I have 6 kids and are bill is right around 100$ a week. Cooking from scratch is a good way. It can sound scary but waffles are easy and only take about five minute to make from scratch. The best advice I have is manager specials at the grocery store ie meat can be half price use a coupon with it and it’s next to nothing. My store puts bread, produce and dairy on sale at 8 pm all who’s expiration have about a week on them. I try to go to the store around that time. One hint on keeping thing lively take cheaper items and jazz them up like grill cheese – add a slice of bacon lettuce and tomato ( got the idea from a new restaurant) or use ham and Swiss cheese! Still cheaper than a “meat meal” but still as filling.

  • Laurie says:

    I purchased a rechargeable visa from my local Fry’s store. I load my grocery budget for the month on it. I earn 3x points which helps me save on gas. It also keeps me from going over my budget. I hate having to to leave a cart full of groceries or pay more. There is a $3 fee if I load with cash but worth the savings. And I never step into my grocery store without a list and coupons.

    • sammie says:

      Cash is my go to right now because I have to stop and think and it is more painful to hand over a $20 rather than swipe my card but I may have to consider the visa, especially if it earns me points towards gas. Thanks for the idea!

      • Jennifer says:

        Any suggestions for me? I am a single mom who is a drive-thru attendant with 7 children. I am on food stamps. But in addition to my fs allottment, I spend an xtra $3-$400 per month totally anywhere from $8-$1000. We eat ALot of spaghetti, fake hamburger helper, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese. All generic. My kids are 4 boys and then 3 girls. Ages 6-14. I want to eat for less have my kids get filled up and start being healthier. Healtht and cheap don’t ever seem to coincide. We don’t hardly ever drink pop, I don’t buy a lot of junk food, I homemake a great deal. Any cost cutting ideas? Anything I haven’t thought of? Lately, my parents have been having to supplement the childrens’ meals, and it makes me feel awful. I would be happy to hear whatever advice I can get. I can’t keep spending this much. My food budget is more than my rent!

        • Tonya says:

          Hi Jennifer,

          I understand what your going through. I have 3 children myself and I found it difficult to eat healthy for cheap. My budget monthly is $360. A few things that work for me are:
          I use tuna often. (it’s not just for sandwiches) You can google lots of recipes that call for canned tuna like tacos and Tuna Pasta.
          Find a farmers market near you. they have them all over the place. you can buy produce at great prices.
          Look for dollar stores that accept your fs. The dollar trees by me accept fs and you can buy a lot of things like frozen fruit for smoothies, frozen vegetables fro dinner, bread, condiments, all for a dollar.
          also stretch your meat portions with vegetables and beans. I make stir fries with beef or chicken and vegetables. You don’t have to use a lot of meat to get a very satisfying meal.

        • Amy says:

          Hi Jennifer, I find that hot dogs aren’t really an economical meal. How many do each child eat to feel full, same with Mac and cheese. I double batch meals and have them for leftovers or freeze them for a later date. Think hearty meals, rice casserole type meals. If my kids are still hungry it’s probably because they are thirsty so they get water. A filling snack is raw carrots. Another snack or breakfast could be piece of bread with peanut butter and 1/2 banana. Bananas are so inexpensive. Good luck!

        • Aly says:

          I lost my job about 5 years ago and have become very creative in saving money at the grocery store. My local grocery store marks down meat after 2:30 PM on the day it expires to usually half price. I have been in later in the evening and have asked the Manager if he can do better. I regularly get a cheaper price. (1e: ground Elk is $9.99 lb. and I use it to make terrific chili. I recently got it for $1.00 lb.) Aldis chain has a meat special every Wednesday as well as a couple of vegetable deals. Use coupons and try to get basics over prepared foods. Also if your store gives rain checks save them and use with coupons. (I save as much as 90%) Farmers markets are great but can be more expensive. Be aware of the store vs farmer’s market prices. Find out when their day is ending and ask if the sellers can do better if you take the rest of an item like tomatoes or peppers. Don’t be afraid to ask, the worse they can do is say no. Frozen vegetables can be a great cost savings. Also use bones from meat or poultry to make stock and soup. I can get 8-10 meals out of a whole chicken. Pasta, potatoes and rice also help extend a meal. Have you tried making your own pizza? Sauce for spagetti and pizza can easily be made in a crockpot and be ready when you get home.
          Soups can also be filling and healthy. As you can see I can keep going.

        • Sandra says:

          Beans are truly healthy, filling, and cheap. Add onion on top. Cornbread and salad. Aldi’s and discount warehouses, i.e. salvaged from insurance auctioned foods. Be careful of meats. Always buy just a little extra can goods or pasta. Rice goes a long way to stretch food when so many mouths to feed. Ditto for soups. I hope this helps. We were never on food stamps except WIC program for a short time. It can to tough. Best wishes.

        • Lisa says:

          My mom was a single mom with five kids. She was a waitress. We ate spaghetti, hot dogs and beans, grilled cheese and tomato soup, waffles or pancakes, tuna with macaroni and cheese every week. Once a month she would bring home a pepperoni pizza for us. Milk, orange juice or water to drink.

    • Crystal says:

      I like this idea I don’t want to carry too much cash people are crazy these days

  • sammie says:

    Cooking from the pantry is key for us plus it gives me the chance to be creative in the kitchen. I am starting to cook from scratch and learning to make homemade bread. Meat is expensive so I use a lot of beans for protein and they are usually 3/$2. One expense we can’t cut is fresh produce but we cut in all other areas.

    • Jill says:

      Check your local library for “Artisan Bread in Five minutes a Day”. I tried homemade bread somany times, but just couldn’t keep it up because the recipes were time consuming (I work outside the house full time). The Five Minutes a Day recipes make it really easy- we’ve been using almost all homemade bread for about a year now!

  • Anna says:

    Congratulations on your decision to save. You can definitely do it on that budget. We feed between 10 to 11 people on $500 a month. We go to the store about twice a month; so a list is definitely a must. Also, always eat prior to shopping, it is much easier not to be tempted to make impulse purchases that are not necessary if you are not hungry. Cash is great. I try to put up a reserve of $100 for bread and milk toward the middle of the month, but purchase most of the other supplies at the first part of the month. We also cook virtually everything from scratch and avoid most boxed cereals. We grow a garden and can as much as we are able as well. We occasionally have a baked potato night and skip the meat. Blessings in your adventure.

  • Patti says:

    Yes, it can be done with planning. Have a hungry husband and football playing son. I do meal stacking and freezer to crock pot meals. I picked out 30 meals I thought my family would like and made a master list of groceries I would need and kept a tally of an item if it was needed in multiple recipes. Then I had a list of staples (things usually found in pantry ie flour, brown sugar…) I separated list into dry & canned goods and fresh veggies, fruits, dairy and meat. My 16 year old son took one list and I took other. We had shopping done in no time. Took a few hours when I got home to do the cutting chopping and compiling meals into gallon sized bags. Labeled them first. Then I cook breakfast, eat leftovers for lunch or have a sandwich. It can be done, I do it every month. Good luck with it.

  • Tracy says:

    Good luck! There is already loads of great advice here and I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comment so this may have already come up, but The Prudent Homemaker is full of sensible advice, ideas, inspiration and recipes/menu plans for living on a tight budget. She feeds her family for under a dollar a meal. There was also an article posted here at MoneySavingMom about a year ago about living off $365 (I think) a week. Not only was Crystal’s response great but the comments were very helpful too. You can do it! Think of it as a great adventure and you’ll actually find it fun and rewarding.

  • I’ve read through the first group of comments but I haven’t made my way through the entire list. Perhaps this has already been posted, but I thought I would throw it out there.

    I hear all the time that vegetarian cooking is the “way to go” for cheaper meals and that’s true! But, I think many are stumped after that suggestion because as true as it might be, if YOU’RE not a vegetarian, where in the world do you start? Beans and rice might be cheap, but nobody wants to eat it if it doesn’t taste good. 🙂

    We’ll I’ve been a vegetarian since a child, so that’s how I cook for my family. And I know how to make a vegetarian meal taste good. I’m sharing the recipe section to my blog, which has vegetarian recipes that are quick and easy (many containing only a few ingredients): http://theharrissisters.blogspot.com/search/label/recipes and many of them are crockpot recipes, which makes them even quicker and easier.

    When I do find a sale on chicken, hamburger meat, or bacon (the main meats that my husband knows how to cook), I stock up and freeze it. Usually one purchase of each of these three per year will last an entire year.

    One other tip that I have is to use what you have before it goes bad. I used to have issues with buying fresh fruits and veggies and then tossing half of them before we could eat them. Now, I assess what we have toward the end of the week and make sure to either eat, cook, or freeze them. I used to never think of freezing things that I had already bought fresh. But frozen fruit can be used in smoothies or baked goods. Frozen veggies can be used in soups. (And truth be told, when I find a good sale on cheese, I pop that in the freezer nowadays too! )

  • ESLJoy says:

    You can do it!!! Our family of 4 (plus company a couple times a week) eats on $250 a month, and that includes paper & cleaning supplies. I rarely cook a vegetarian supper, but I do cook a lot of meals that stretch the meat (stir fry, fried rice, soups, etc). Fresh fruits & veggies are also something we do not skimp on, but we do grow what we can. I hunt for bargains, cook from scratch, and we almost never eat out.

  • angel says:

    We just started using emeals.com. It gives you a weekly menu plan based on store deals. It is based on the number of people in family, which store you shop at, and dietary needs such as gluten free or low fat. It costs $58 a year for menus and shopping list, but it is Dave Ramsey approved, and it might be worth seeing if it could help with your budget.

  • Sara says:

    I have a family of 6 and my grocery budget is 400.00 a month. We make all home cooked meals and no processed box stuff. I make sure everything is eaten. This is usually no problem. I also coupon and play the drug store game. In the summer we grow a garden which really helps in the winter. I can whatever I can get my hands on. I make all of our jelly, fruits, veggies, bq sause, salsa, pizza sauce, and a huge list of other items. Some months I go over. But I always take Nov, Dec. off from grocery shopping (except for the necessities milk, eggs, and cheese.) It is hard but we do it. I do try and stay within a 1.00 a pound for meat. When things go on sale it is not uncommon for me to buy large amounts.

  • Bible Babe says:

    We have a $400 budget for myself, my husband and my grown son. I do almost everything you recommend, except I don’t make menus. Instead I just plan the next night’s meal while cleaning up from the current night’s meal. That gives me time to thaw out anything and get ready to cook the next day. I coupon and price match, and barter is a big thing with us also. I get free food many times from folks who have bought stuff then decide they don’t like it, so they pass it to me, and I make darn sure it’s not wasted. I do a produce co-op with a friend, and we get tons of fresh produce for very little money. Try Bountiful Baskets. Google them and fll in love!

  • PossumPeg says:

    One thing i have to keep in mind is that this isn’t just about my grocery bill. Its about my overall budget. I’ve had points in my life when eating out 7-10 times a week was normal and affordable. Situations have changed. So, I find that although the savings on my grocery bill are significant, the overall savings on my family budget is staggering!

    I think the biggest improvement to my grocery bill can be attributed to two things. 1. Shopping once a month. It eliminates impulse buys and forces meal planning. 2. Every meal is prepared in my kitchen, start to finish. I have found innumerable websites with recipes for “make your own” convenience mixes like pancake and sauces. When I make something, it’s rarely for one meal. Also, the meals are far healthier for my family.

    The most crucial part of the plan for me was getting the whole family on board. All you need is one person jamming their cheeks like a chipmunk and its easy to fail. We have decided to celebrate our savings by having a movie night once a month with a $1 rental, air popcorn and a bag of sweets. Costs us about $2.50 for a family of 5 with 2 growing boys.

    Good luck, and God bless.

    • Joan says:

      You have to read this book, ‘Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family: Includes So Many Innovative Strategies You Won’t Have to Cut Coupons’ by Steve and Annette Economides. I got tons of money saving ideas from this book!

  • Kathy Ennis says:

    I have a grocery budget of $250.00 a month making the weekly allotment $50 – $60 for my husband and I. If it weren’t for coupons and shopping the sales, we couldn’t make it. Some months it’s difficult, but some months I have a little left over for next month. Just takes a lot of time working the grocery ads and coupons…..but it’s worth it.

  • Teresa Thompson says:

    I wish someone would tell me how to control the grocery budget for 2 households when one is in another state. We are supporting our 2 sons while they are in college so they don’t have student loans. And they live in a state that charges tax on food. Not to mention food prices are much higher then in Texas. The one thing I have done is I buy as much food for them close to home and take it when I go see them. It saves money and I use coupons as much as I can. It drives me crazy knowing they have to pay nearly $5 for milk + tax. ugh. 🙂 Thanks for your tips. Definitely planning to use some of them. Good luck sticking with your plan.

  • Liz H. says:

    We are currently on a $400 a month budget for 4 people. This includes one in diapers, and all cleaning supplies. I tried for a long time to plan before I went to the store, and I always spent more than I meant to that way. Now I split the budget between sections in the store. For instance if I was goung to spend 100 that week I would spend 25 on meat, 25 on dairy, 25 on produce, 10 on middle of the store fillers like rice or pasta, and 15 on paper products, or diapers.
    When I get home I plan around what I have. I always eat or freeze leftovers, so that money is not wasted. I also plan two meatless meals a week on average.
    I hope that helps.

  • I raised 4 children on a strict military income, no overtime, and I was a stay at home mom. I got a check once a month, no direct deposit then! Hubby at sea , I got $500 a month to cover car insurance , phone, clothing, food … Well everything had to bee within that budget! Rent and utilities, car payment were already paid.

    My adult daughter asked me one day,” Mom, how did you ever do it with 4 kids? I spend so much on food, with only 2 children.” We got a check once a month, so I had to learn to stretch it. Here’s what I did.

    On my calendar I wrote a menu for all meals and snacks. Then I counted up how many hamburger meat, cans of veggies, roasts, etc that I needed for the entire month. Made my shopping list, cut coupons , watched for sales and determined if my coupon was worth using or was another brand or store brand a better buy. I planned my menus around main meals and used left overs for another meal. Example: chicken dinner, then chicken soup next day. Sloppy joes then sloppy dogs next day … And so on. Desserts and snacks : I bought things that had to be cooked or baked like cakes and jello, puddings etc. One day of the week I would bake breads, cupcakes etc and freeze, then took out what we were having for the day. This saved kids over snacking and expenses. I bought fresh fruits but also canned for use alone or in desserts. Breakfast cereal was way expensive for me to feed 4 children every morning and the milk. So, I stretched things by cooking breakfast some days , kids LOVED that! Pancakes or waffles, eggs, toast … With milk or juice. I cooked from scratch. No prepared foods. Used cloth diapers too!

    Tip from a friend: she always froze left over vegetables, even if a teaspoon, she put them in freezer container and when she made soups or stews she’d pull out what she needed.

    Here’s a typical menu idea:
    Sunday dinner: roast chicken, potatoes, peas, corn, Dessert: fruit and jello
    Monday: homemade chicken noodle or chicken and veggie soup, rolls Dessert : cupcake
    Tues: pork chops , rice and veggies. Dessert: homemade pudding
    Weds: chili and cornbread Dessert: fruit cocktail
    Thurs: chili dogs dessert: Homemade fruit ice pops , made from fruit juice
    Friday: spaghetti , garlic bread and salad. Dessert: fresh, frozen or canned fruit
    Sat: homemade pizza , salad. Deseret: icecream

    It’s just my husband and I now but I still cook and shop this way. But now I make my own laundry soap too and my own goat milk soap.

  • Heidi says:

    think of meat as a flavor enhancer instead of the main attraction in every meal. (sauces, stir-fry, etc). Don’t forget eggs. They are cheap and a perfect protein. Google ‘crustless quiche’ , it’s an easy recipe where you throw everything in a blender, pour into a pie plate and bake. You can adapt what you add to it. We’ve fed a family of 7 on never more than $120 per week. You can do it. Start planning a garden or at least some container plants for this coming season. Oh, and look for salvage grocery/dent can stores in you area. It can be worth driving an hour if they have good selection and you can buy in bulk.

  • Great tips. I’m actually currently doing a series in February about groceries and seeing if I can keep under $400 ($360 to be exact). My plan included all of your tips except eliminate the expensive and buy in bulk. Good tips though…I will have to look deeper into buying in bulk, or at least finding out what items are worth buying in bulk. We’re a family of 3 (2 yr old son). I’m showing everything I buy throughout the month and how much I’m spending throughout. Almost done and we’ll see if I can stay within $360-400. Feel free to check it out. Love all your tips!

  • Lisa says:

    We started last summer meal planning for an entire month and only going to the grocery 1 time per month. I then take that weekend to batch cook and make freezer meals for the month. The rest I freeze or refrigerate so it stays good for the rest of the month. We do pick up milk mid-month (from gas station so don’t have to go into store) since it i the one thing I have not figured out how to freeze/store all month. It took a little to get in the swing of it, but not taking all those extra trips to the store really keeps you from buying extras and forces you to use what you buy! We are a family of 4 and we spend under $500 a month on all groceries, this includes diapers, household supplies, and other necessity shopping. A huge change from our $200-$250 a week we were spending when going weekly.

  • Cathy says:

    It’s such a struggle to maintain a frugal budget when grocery prices keep going up! I have a family of 4, with my children being 19 & 22. (They’ve opted to live at home while one goes to school, and the other is going to school, and then in to the military in a few months.). Our grocery budget is $250/month, and that includes 12 gallons of milk a week! I also do menus for the entire month and usually include one night’s “chicken” into the next night’s quesadillas. Couponing is the only way I can make it all work! I actually buy the majority of my milk at Rite Aid here in Oregon. With my reward %’s, it’s the cheapest place in town! They also frequently have milk at half price when there is 1-2 days left on the printed date… We go thru milk so fast, I never have to worry about the dates expiring. This helps! We have a “scratch & dent” store in town that routinely has 18 ct eggs for .99, so I’ll buy 5 or 6. ~Never pay full price for anything!~ it’s the rule I live by! Good luck! You can do it!

  • Rose says:

    The best thing to do is find a cheap store. Many use Aldi, I personally go to Woodmans here in Wisconsin. I used to go to my neighborhood Piggly Wiggly and spent around $140 a week. I switched to Woodmans and save about $40 every week, doing nothing else differently. Another thing is that I don’t buy paper except toilet, and very rarely buy cleaning supplies, making my own instead. I use Arm and Hammer laundry detergent. It’s very cheap and it does the job fine. I don’t use extras like dryer sheets or fabric softeners and don’t miss them. I do buy diapers for my grandchild who lives with me half the time, but I buy in bulk as much as possible, and no name wipes, which work just fine. I rarely buy toiletries and makeup. I have a pretty big stash of some things leftover from when my spending was out of control, but when I run out I don’t replace them. I just use shower gel, shampoo and deoderant, and some lotion, and I don’t miss the other junk. My point is twofold: do whatever you are comfortable with, always test to see if you can do without a little more. Also, don’t worry so much about the coupons, and try not buying the stuff in the first place! Works for me!

  • sherry says:

    Try stepping out of your normal grocery store. For prepared foods (boxes, bags, canned) the Anglo markets are the best deals – Stater Brothers, Vons, Ralphs, Walmart. But for meats and produce, I hit the local ethnic markets. Or I use their ads to price match at walmart. Grapes for 88 cents a pound versus the 2.49 at the anglo market makes it a no brainer.

  • Hannah says:

    My husband and I typically have a grocery budget of around $90 per month, so it’s definitely possible! Part of the key is to buy ingredients, not products. We mostly “shop the outside” of the store, meaning the produce, meat, and dairy sections are where our groceries come from. A big bag of potatoes and another big bag of brown rice will last a long time and is very budget-friendly. We buy one whole chicken per week (price is *much* lower per pound) and roast it on the first night, then shred it and use the remainder of the meat until the next grocery day. For veggies we live off of cabbage, broccoli, and onions as they tend to be the least expensive around here, and then when sweet potatoes go on sale we pounce. Anyway, creativity is key, meat can stretch a lot farther than you might think, and also, a little bit of cheese goes a long way! Good luck on your budgeting journey!

  • Stephanie says:

    Yes, this is doable! We are a family of 3 as well with a 10 year old son and that is exactly what my grocery budget is. We also have a dog and 2 cats. The single biggest thing I do to save money is shop at 4 or more stores to get what is on sale. I end up with amazing prices on produce, bacon, meat, canned goods etc. just by waiting and watching for sales. If you have an Aldi nearby or Save-A-Lot that also is a HUGE help. Plan your meals for the week too based on the sales. Also never waste anything, freeze any leftovers and bits and pieces of veggies and meats for soup. Look for mark-downs. I get greek yogurt cups marked down to 39 cents each at Dillons (Kroger) and bags of produce there marked down to 99 cents. Also consider a garden! I grow tons of produce and freeze it to use through the winter – squash, okra, swiss chard, etc. Good luck!

  • Stephanie says:

    Oh yeah, and buy veggies and fruits in season! It is amazing how they go on sale when they are plentiful!

  • Jacqueline says:

    Market prices definitely make it break thiz. My family of 7 makes it on this budget comfortably. We shop outer circle, not aisles. We prep, meal plan and use everything before the next trip. We take leftovers and create new meals from then, eliminating waste. We buy coffee, juice and milk, no soda. We bake ahead, avoid snack stuff and plan on raw fruits and veggies.

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