Real Girl with Real Life Slashes Grocery Budget

Our grocery budget has gotten out of control.  My husband says we’re just that big of a family.  I think it’s lack of discipline on my part.  I’ve been trying some of these tips the last couple months and it’s helping!  Maybe not slashing the budget in half, but it’s getting there!  We spend about $1000 a month on food/household items/paper towels/diapers.  I’d like to get to $700 ASAP.  Here’s what I’m doing.  I have NO time to clip coupons, organize binders, or drive to 13 different stores to check out a sale.  These are real things I think will work regardless of where you shop.  Good luck!  Our fiscal month just started in our family, so I’ll remember to update on Oct. 1st and see if I lowered the budget!

1.  Buy Less, More often

This is one I’m working on right now.  Do I have time to go to the store every 3-4 days?  Yes.  Do I WANT to go that often?  NO!!  Espcially with all the kids in tow.  However, we are throwing away way too much fresh stuff when buying in bulk or in large quantities.  Buy less, more often and see if that slashes the budget.  So far, it works for us.

2.  Say no to boxes

Goldfish, Wheat Thins, Oreos–they’re unhealthy, expensive and get devoured way too fast in our house.  I’m *trying* to eliminate these products (or cut down) in order to be healthier and save money.  Pastas, rice, breads are my exceptions.

3.  Go meatless

I’ve started cutting way back on having a meat at each meal.  No more hamburger meat in the spaghetti in these parts.  I often include several veggeis, a fruit, and grain for dinner and that’s it.  My husband felt a little ‘incomplete’ at first, but we’ve gotten used to it and it’s made a difference in my budget.

4.  Stop meal planning

Say what?!  Isn’t this a cardinal rule of all budget mommy bloggers?  It sure is, but it never worked for me.  Unless you are extremely organized and can grocery shop with your kids and still concentrate, I’m not sure this is the best approach.  I tried it and sometimes the kids didn’t like the meal, some days we weren’t that hungry.  Other times I forgot a single ingredient that was important.  Or it made too much or too little and leftovers aren’t for our family.  It just never worked.  It may be perfect your family.  But if it’s causing you to overspend and taking too much time, drop it.  How do I do it?

  • Buy fruits, veggies, and meats on sale that will last us 5-7 days. Frozen and canned veggies are a great back up on night when you don’t have time to chop/boil/season.
  • Use rice, potatoes, and pasta often since it’s cheap.
  • Start planning snacks, not meals, which is often a big money drainer for us.

5.  Pay with Cash

Having your set amount in an envelope is a total wake up call.  I can easily buy my toiletries, diapers, and household items at the first of the month, and then break up my budget for food for the next 4 weeks.  If I need to cut back on luxury items or really commit to using what I already have, my cash envelope helps me to stay dedicated.

6.  Eat less

American are obese.  We eat WAY to much.  Our family is no different.  I’m putting less on our plates to start with and making sure there isn’t too much waste.  We’re not starving, y’all.  If we really followed serving sizes and stopped throwing away like 1/3 of what I cook, I could save some crazy cash.  I’m working on it.  It’s hard because the boys are hungry when I don’t cook enough and they are picky eaters when I make a feast.  It’s a hard tactic.

7.  Buy what you’ll actually eat

Perhaps Dr. Oz convinced you to add flaxseed meal to everything.  Maybe you’ve committed to all organic whole foods.  Or you have cracked the whip on pre made chicken nuggets and Pinterest has called you to make hummus flavored organic ones.  I hear ya.  I’m there.  Always trying to be better.  However, often times I get on these ‘kicks’ and totally blow my food budget and then I have a $23 organic pack of flaxseed meal in my pantry that made everyone gag.  Try new foods.  Buy organic if you can.  But, do it slowly and make sure you’ll consume what you buy.

8.  Don’t Use Coupons

Sometimes the months I blew the budget the most were when I’d use all these crazy coupons I found.  The ones that you had to buy like 17 boxes of cereal to get 1 free.  Or buy 3 cans of something and save 15 cents.  Only to throw away 2 of the cans because they expired before you used those refried beans.  Are some coupons good values?  Yes!  Absolutely.  However, refer to tip #7 before you go stock pile Lucky Charms.

9.  Challenge your Housewife Skillz

Yes, I just spelled skillz with a ‘z’.  We women have some mad homemaking ‘skilz’ yo.  See how long you can last on what you have in your refrigerator and pantry from now until whenever.  Maybe you won’t have fruit for a day or 2, but that didn’t kill your ancestors and it won’t kill you.  I think we can all agree we have so much in our pantries that goes unused and then expires just because we’re used to having everything so ‘stocked’ all the time.

10.  Try Wal Mart

I loathe Wal Mart.  I despise the fact I’m even bringing it up–but I’ve tried and it IS cheaper.  If you’re trying to pay off debt or save serious cash, you can go far at Wal Mart.  I really don’t care for their meat or produce, but frozen and canned goods can save you quite a bit.  Back in our tight Dave Ramsey Days, we frequented Wal-Mart more often.  I stick to our local grocer now, but I might be taking the Wal-Mart challenge again soon.



  1. I have to agree… Meal Planners have never worked for me. It also doesn’t help that I have neither the storage or freezer space to make that magic happen. This post make me thing your reading my mind! I gave up coupons a while ago because it was mostly junk food or products with questionable content… No one ever became rich off of coupons. Better “stocked” or a better “hoarder” but hey each to their own.

    I despise that I now have a Sam Club card and I use it. Glad to see I am not alone. For meats I go to Winn Dixie or Publix for their BOGO deals. I cook it all up at one time, otherwise they go bad before I can use it. Most of our meals are meat free.

    Ohh Ohh and one more thing… I have learned to embrace casseroles! The Casserole Queens (out of Austin, TX) have 2 cookbooks on Amazon which have been perfect for me. Highly recommended.

  2. Jill Timms says:

    I am a homeschool mom with a family of four. We don’t buy junk food often, and rarely splurge on anything extra. I try very hard to keep my grocery budget within guidelines set by my husband, and seem to do very well with it. I absolutely despise Walmart, but since one opened 10-15 minutes from my house, I find myself grocery shopping there almost weekly. I also do not like there meat, and choose to buy my meat from Sam’s club, along with other items that I can get cheaper. I am amazed over the fact that Walmart is cheaper, and that is a deal breaker for me to shop there. Do you live near a Aldi’s grocery store? They also have amazing prices, but I can’t fulfill my whole grocery list in their stores. Their produce is so much cheaper, and its really good. Thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading it.

  3. We do a lot of the same things 🙂 Here is a post I have about it if you’re interested… I’m a meal planner though.

    Also, you’d be surprised how many things are actually not cheaper at wal-mart 🙂

  4. We’re a family of 5 – me and 4 boys – and we spend about $600 a month on groceries. I don’t really buy much that’s premade. Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, beans, oatmeal, peanut butter, rice, very very little meat and dairy products…avoiding hfcs, dyes, etc. Even when we eat meat, it’s not the main part of the meal. I can’t figure out how to get the amount any lower – well, actually. I can. But I refuse to give up buying things like flax seed and coconut oil, almond milk, local honey, and certain organic produce. My boys eat a huge amount of food every day, so I just try to make double of a lot of filling foods (like I said, a ton of beans, oatmeal, peanut butter….bananas….)

    And yes. Walmart. I hate myself for it most shopping trips, but I can’t stay within budget (without starving my kids) if I avoid that store.

  5. Jennifer Bailey says:

    I like your ideas! And I totally agree on the meal planning thing. I LOATHE it! I have done it for like a weekend here and there when we have company so that it is one less thing I have to think about, but other than that…I want NO part of it! I have been thinking about the whole thing of buying less more often. I think I’d save more….. but the whole meatless thing…NO WAY, not for this family! THAT is the ONE THING that is a staple here. While I can appreciate the one stop shopping idea, we have a meat market that is just across the street from the grocery store. I save a whole $1.50 a pound on ground beef when I shop there! I have to buy 10 lbs at one time, but hey….$15 is $15!! As for coupons….I rarely find ones on items that are constant staples in this house, but when I do, I use them. While it isn’t a ton of money, it is money that is saved…which is good no matter how much! Even little bits of saved money adds up over time. I know one mom who challenged herself to save money. And every amount she saved on each trip she took that out and put it in a savings account….it took her a year, but she saved up enough money to take her family on a great vacation for a week! Best of luck with getting that budget down….I think you’ll do well….having a plan and being motivated is a great start!

  6. Our family grocery budget is on the high side as well, I am always trying to cut it down. I found the trouble with meal planning is if you just meal plan from what you want to eat you inevitably find that almost everything you need to buy to fulfill your meal plan isn’t on sale. However I like to meal plan based on the flyer, I go through and base everything with what is one sale, as well as what is already in the house that needs to be used up, then devise my recipes around that, that has really helped. I never go shopping without a list either. Also becoming a much cleaner eating family helped. What really jacks up a grocery bill is all the packaged stuff, junk and fake diet foods are WAY more pricy the real whole foods. The only thing I would personally not do is go meatless. Getting enough protein (and the good fat that goes with it) every day is extremely important. Rather than cut it out you could go with tougher (therefore cheaper) cuts of meat that you marinate more or slow cook more, or reduce the meat portion sizes, at the size of chicken breasts now they are actually two servings but many people eat one whole one and count it as one serving. I hear ya on Walmart, but dang they do get you eh? We get our major staples at Costco, fill in needs (like a single can of this or that) from Walmart, then usually a midweek fruit stock up at the discount grocer nearby. I think as a family of 5 we hover around the $700-$800/mth range. I know there are still places we can cut even more though, I overbuy on certain things and kick myself later.

  7. I am working on our food budget. We are a family of 8 living on $1250 grocery envelope. I do shop Aldi. I cannot pass saving 70c per gallon x’s 60 gallons. On ground “beef” my hub hunts enough deer every year to keep us stocked. He has a lifetime license, but most states have done away with selling em. I have to purchase chicken drumsticks in bulk then break them down to the portions needed. Sometimes we have to get canned fruits (in water) and veg during lean months. I know not everyone has the space for large freezers, but I will cram everything from shredded cheese to blueberries in there! I use coupons if they are stuck to edible foods (not often). A few months ago I got a killer deal on fruit cups from Dole and bisquick mix. I don’t have time to comb papers for extreme couponing. My sister randomly helps on the couponing side. She has no children though. She bought 30 bags of green giant veg for 1c. She charged me $2. I was happy not to have to spend time clipping.
    We homeschool which means no one else (P.S) is feeding my children. I will bake a few lasagnes, some chili, and various casseroles all on Sunday. On Saturdays I bag lil lunches like crackers, cheeses, turkeys, and apple pieces. I can buy all these items, but reading boxes should scare ppl into packing it themselves! I think you have to do what works for your family. I bulk buy what will keep, freeze tons, and bulk cook one day a week.

    I know this is just suppose to be about food but my other savers are buying BLACK dish rags and micro-clothes for all cleaning/drying. I don’t use paper towels because the cost is too high per month. I make my own laundry detergent. I prefer rosemary and mint which is not available anyway. I try to save us as much as possible to lighten hub’s burden. He never complains though. On his side of things he will NOT give up drinking orange soda.We splurged on home soda machine. I went with a family member to Sams n picked up a case of syrup. I refill the CO2 cans myself at $1.50 (i’ll omit how to keep y’all safe). I haven’t purchased soda in seven months. The case seems to last forever since pop makes my stomach hurt. Lastly, we NEVER eat out. I have a car refrigerator (garage sale) with food items to keep the children alive. Yes, they believe death is imminent unless snacks are packed. I was grateful for the fridge when a computer part when out of our vehicle. The wait was six and a half hours. I was ready for their baggies midway through the repair.

    I’m so sorry for this long post! Love for all the mommies <3

  8. Our grocery budget went up because it is so expensive to eat out here in Korea. But we spend about $250 every 2 weeks for a family of 5 – plus $20 a week on fresh, local produce and a few extras like special trash bags and local foods.

    For produce, shop local farmers markets and try to stay in season. One quick trip every 1-2 weeks will stock you up on fresh healthy produce for about $10-15. And if you don’t eat it right away – chop up veggies and freeze them. Save cucumbers by making them into a vinegar salad. You can freeze just about anything – tomatoes, celery, onion, broccoli. Then use them in a crock-pot soup – we make Minestrone a lot with frozen saved veggies. Also freeze grapes and bananas and other fruit before they go bad – you can make smoothies and popsicles with them!

    We don’t buy processed food anymore – cookies, chips, crackers, soda – can’t afford them. I make my own bread sometimes with the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day recipe. We buy tortilla wraps and rolls that are going on sale (look for a bread outlet store near you!) and freeze them for months at a time. Two big money savers – rice and beans. You can make a lot of things with dried beans. And if you like rice – invest in a rice cooker. It costs less than buying instant rice and it makes amazing rice. Re-use leftovers by making fried rice! We even do ham & cheese fried rice (with Kimchi to make it ‘Korean’).

  9. We have Aldi’s where we live and its cheaper and the food tastes better than Walmart. I love it.

  10. I totally agree on the coupon thing. Most of the coupons are for things I don’t buy regularly anyway. I also understand about the freezer space and meal planning. For me though if I don’t plan we don’t eat decent meals. I am not a last minute dinner maker and my teens are responsible for one night a week each so I have to plan with them or who knows what we’ll be eating for dinner. I’m also working on cutting out convenience foods for healthier options. I’ve learned to take things one step at a time and work each one into our lifestyle before adding something new. We all have to find what works for us. Food budgeting will commence shortly. I have an older teen who is going to start doing “real life math” which will include budgeting. We will be using our household income and expenses as the data. We are also focusing on home EC skills this year so finding better food choices will be something we do as part of school. Thanks for all of the ideas!

  11. I have started planning 31 meals (31 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners). First, I look through the cabinets and plan meals around the things I have and want to use up. Then I make a list of all the non-perishable items I need for the month and then go shopping. Then I plan each week what meals from the list I am going to use and then buy the perishable items. I find this way helps me to stay on track with my food budget and not spending too much time at the store shopping for things I don’t need.

  12. Whew! Thank you so much from freeing me from my non- meal planning and non-couponing guilt complex! I have tried and failed for years in my attempts at it! Guess I’m not the only one!

  13. Our grocery bill used to be out of this world crazy!!! We are a family of 5… Along with 2 dogs one of which is a english bulldog and his special food (eyeroll)!

    I agree with no coupons! I thought I was the only one that seems to think I spend to much time and then to much money because I look at what I am buying. Even though I have a coupon there are other products that are cheaper!!!

    We do meal planning and for me that has saved me a ton. I make a list, even put snacks on it… Because if I don’t I just buy whatever and have no meal actual options!! The children have really been excited to make things buy hand… Which most of is a ton of flour products and eggs. I can handle that!!! Now they want to make things I can eat…. Now that might get more expensive! I have to eat strictly Paleo.

  14. I like your tips. I have done coupons and still do for toiletry type items. We aren’t picky about what type of shampoo or toothpaste so I like to get those for cheap or free when possible.

    Back when I was a super coupon girl I did a lot of the price checking and I briefly worked in Walmart as a merchandiser and learned a lot about how they suck people in with cheap stuff that they call loss leaders, but then they really aren’t cheaper on a lot of other stuff. So I started doing some serious comparing and I found that my time was worth more to go other places. Our closest Walmart has 40 registers and I have never seen more than 12 open at a time. I feel like my life gets sucked out of me just trying to check out. But I do have a few items I get there, but I try to go only once every 3 months or so.

    I now hit 3 places weekly because I know what our family of 4 will eat in that time. Aldi, Super Target and Costco. Then once a month I drive over to Trader Joes (you can’t beat their prices on prepackaged foods that don’t have MSG or high fructose corn syrup, but they are tiny and their stock rotates often).

    Aldi is worth the savings on all their basics. I have never seen a place beat them on milk, eggs, sour cream, cream cheese, flour, salt, sugar, canned goods, pasta and produce. I tend to buy more of my meat at Costco and use my food saver. I order knock off rolls to make those bags rather than buying food saver brand.

    Then I pick up things like Pull Ups, trash bags, paper towels, air fresheners and try to stack Target coupons with regular to knock some of the price down. Coupons on my cell phone are my favorite 🙂

  15. $1000 does seems like a lot for a family of 6! We have four kids as well (four 5 and under) and we spend about $500 – $600 per month. We don’t coupon because I generally don’t buy processed foods and those tend to be what the coupons are for. We spend a small fortune on fruits and veggies, but those are a lot cheaper if you buy in season or frozen. Right now, corn is in season — we buy it in bulk from the local farm for $15 and cook it, peel it and freeze it — gives us enough corn for the whole winter. We also spend a lot on milk, but I see that as unavoidable. I also cloth diaper so we don’t have a monthly expense from that. I second some of the other comments about learning to love casseroles — they go a long way and even a small portion of meat can feed a family that way! I also love slower-cooker recipes and we make a hearty soup or chili at least once a week (e.g., split pea, corn chowder, pasta fiologi). Soup plus bread makes a great meal at least twice a week. Again, it’s also a way to add in meat and spread it to the whole family. I also tend to make my own cleaning supplies and laundry detergent — we go through a TON of laundry and it’s cheaper to just make your own. I refuse to shop at Walmart for ethical reasons.

    It’s hard to gives specific strategies without knowing what you spend your money on; however, IMHO, the best way to cut expenses is to get rid of anything processed or convenience-packed (e.g., juice boxes, yogurt, fruit cups). Keep those items for treats on special occasions. Cream of Wheat and plain old oatmeal are wonderful for breakfast and go a long way. Eggs are always a great bargain for breakfast.

  16. We have to meal plan or we end up ordering out because there will always be one night someone won’t feel like cooking. But we don’t plan the out elaborately like other people.
    We shop at Aldi a lot. Better prices all the time.
    We cloth diaper. That saves $40 a month at the very least.
    We use coupons. We get free or nearly free pasta, cereal, oatmeal, toothpaste, razors and much more. I look at coupons as cash. I’m not talking about buying 17 to get one free or saving 15 cents. 😉
    We use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels.
    We always buy our meats on sale and freeze. I do put meat in our pasta sauce, just not a lot. 😉 I also make pasta sauce out of tomato paste and herbs. SUPER cheap and no skimp on flavor!
    There are 7 of us. Two of my children are adults. Our budget is $200 a week but we don’t usually ever spend that much. We save anything we don’t spend, we eat cheap cuts of meat and don’t have elaborate meals. We make bread in a bread machine. We buy produce in season. I once went 9 days without buying groceries even though we were out of almost everything, and ate only what was in our house.
    When I first married my husband we averaged $30 a week on groceries – and I packed his lunches for work.

  17. We LOVE Aldi’s we go there first then whatever I can’t get we go to Walmart!! We have a family of 5, plus one little girl I babysit 5 days a week. Our grocery budget is $600 a month. I go bi-weekly and I do meal plan. The 2 biggest things I did to cut our budget from $800 to $600 is I started price matching. I WILL NOT go to a bunch of different stores, but Walmart will price match everything. If I am going to be by the store with the sale I will buy it there, but if not I go to Walmart. I put it on my list and put the price and where it’s on sale next to it. I do take my ads in incase they ask but they usually don’t. This saves me an easy $50 every 2 weeks. Also, I buy a 3 or 5lb thing of ground beef and divide it up into 4 or 6 bags and freeze it. It makes the meals a little less meaty, but you can’t really tell. It saves a little bit of money, and every little bit helps.

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