As the primary grocery shopper, cook, and grocery budget manager in our home, I’m always looking for ways to cut back on our food spending. I’ve seen articles titled, “Feed a Family of Five for $25/week” or “$125 Monthly Grocery Budget for Two”. After reading these titles, I would think, what am I doing wrong?
Our grocery budget was often $400 per month for two people. I’d already: shopped at Aldi, planned meals, bought generic items, skipped expensive and convenient foods, and ate leftovers. What was I missing? How could I spend less on groceries without sacrificing nutrition?
I decided to read some of these types of articles, and I even checked out a book from the library, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family. Using what I had read, I made a few tweaks and changes to what I’d already been doing. In the last four months, I was able to bring our grocery bill down to about $300 per month. Not exactly $25/week, but we’re doing much better than before. AND we didn’t have to give up the nutritious meals we like.
These 4 suggestions made the biggest difference for me and are what saved us the most money:
Go to the store as infrequently as possible. Sometimes I’d go twice a week, and I cut this back to once a week. (At one point I tried going just every-other week, but once a week seems to work best for me right now.) I’ve been learning to go without certain ingredients if I run out, and I have been creative in making substitutions to work with what I have.
Shop around for the best deals. I made a spreadsheet listing three different stores and the common foods I buy. I listed the prices of these foods at each of the stores, and I only buy those foods at the store with the best price. I don’t want to go to all three stores each week, so I picked the two stores where I would save the most.
Eliminate waste. Shop the fridge and pantry before going to the grocery store. I always checked my fridge and pantry before going to the store to make sure I didn’t duplicate ingredients. But now I’ve started planning my meals for the week by trying to make meals out of the ingredients I already have on hand. This has helped to cut back on waste significantly. For example, if I see that we have some vegetables that might go bad this week, I will plan a meal (maybe soup) that will use them up before spoiling.
Eat more meatless meals. Meat is delicious and filling, but it’s probably the most expensive item on my grocery list. I’ve decided to eat more meatless meals and to make some meals where meat isn’t the main event. Here are some examples:
- Instead of topping my lunchtime salads with chicken or ground turkey all the time, I’ve started using beans and cheese for protein.
- Soups, salads and stir-fries are filling and don’t require meat. If I do choose to add meat, a little goes a long way.
- Some of my favorite meatless recipes include: Mexican Zucchini Burrito Boats, Spinach, Tomato and Feta Crustless Quiche, Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic, and Vegetarian Chili.
Making these changes has already let us enjoy an extra $100 in savings each month.
I’ve read other tips such as “plant your own garden” and “split a cow with another family” that just won’t work for our lifestyle right now. However, these are great ideas to think about for the future.
There are a few other tips I’ve read that I’d like to try:
- Find coupons and check store flyers.
- Stick to the grocery list, and add nothing.
- Buy more at Farmer’s Markets.
- Grow my own herbs.
- (Continue to) experiment with cash back apps.
What have you done to cut back on grocery spending?
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