Groceries get really expensive.
When I say I usually budget $350 per month or less on our family of 4 for groceries and household items, I’m often met with shock. How is that possible? Well, today I’m gonna show you.
This post contains affiliate links.
First of all, I’m in Missouri. We have a pretty low cost of living compared to many other places. If you live somewhere that is more expensive, you can absolutely still use these tips, you’ll just have a slightly bigger grocery budget. The USDA publishes monthly food cost charts that may help you plan your food budget. Other tips I’ve heard are to budget $100 per month per person, or to aim for 10-15% of your monthly take-home pay. If you’re just starting out, it is perfectly normal if you have to tweak your budget each month until you figure out what works for your family.
I also have very young children. The age of your family members will also affect your budget. Teenagers eat more than toddlers (usually). My children do eat pretty much anything I offer; I don’t make special “kid friendly” meals. My husband, on the other hand, is picky. Your budget may be a little bit different depending on dietary needs as well.
So how do you do it?
Meal planning will be your best friend. It can be super overwhelming at first, but once you dive in you’ll realize it’s not that bad after all. You can start with a week or two at a time, and then feel free to plan out as far into the future as you wish. Many people will recommend meal planning according to sales, and I used to try to do that, but since Wal-Mart no longer price matches and I cannot go to six different stores with two little ones I no longer bother. You can still take advantage of sales, however! I like to leave a bit of room in my budget for any good sales I find, especially on things like meat that are more expensive and freeze well. You will save money in the long run and be able to leave that cushion in your budget the following month if needed!
Meal planning takes a little bit of time in the beginning, but it saves you from that “what am I going to fix for dinner?” madness later. It also saves you from having to answer “what’s for dinner?” over and over, because everyone can simply refer to your list.
Once you have your list of meals for the week (or month), make a grocery list. Include all three meals, and some snacks. I usually plan out supper for two weeks, and then lunch is leftovers or easy things like sandwiches. If you cook big meals for supper and have a lot of leftovers, you can use those on weekends instead of cooking. I make a list of different options for breakfast that require differing amounts of time and effort, rather than planning those for specific days, and a list of available snacks.
When you go to the store to grocery shop, stick to the list. If you have trouble doing this, I highly recommend Walmart’s Grocery Pickup if you have the option available. I drive 45 minutes once every week or two because it’s so nice to not have to get the kids out of the car. My favorite part is that you can see your total as you add to your list, so it makes it really easy to stay on budget. If I go over, I can go back and remove things that aren’t necessary that week (like Oreos. Sad face.). You can also add to your cart on the app throughout the week and then check out when you’re ready.
If you use my link, you will get $10 off your first order over $50 from Walmart Grocery.
If you shop at Wal-Mart, don’t forget to use Savings Catcher on the Wal-Mart app. You can scan your physical receipt, of course, but you can also enter your TC# from the email you get when you pick up your order from Walmart Grocery. It will match some items to local sale ads and give you money back.
The other rebate app I love is Ibotta. The only downside is that you have to scan physical receipts, so I can’t use it along with grocery pickup. But, you can use it for multiple stores! Along with Wal-Mart, I often scan receipts from Target, Joann, and Schnucks. You can even use it for shopping online. I’ve only used Amazon through the app but there are several other websites as well.
If you sign up using my referral code, you can get a $10 bonus after you redeem your first rebate.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive.
In fact, I find that it’s actually the opposite. I spend much less on my groceries when I buy more fruits and veggies and less prepackaged food. I’ve been trying to make as many things as I can from scratch, and avoid convenience foods. My husband likes meat with every meal if possible, so to stretch my budget as much as possible I like to include something cheap like veggies or rice. For example, I can make a large pot of chicken fried rice (using regular white or brown rice, not minute rice) with just two chicken breasts that will last us for several meals. Beans are also a good, cheap source of protein. Buy dry beans instead of canned to get more for your money.
And what about household items?
Here’s where I really watch sales. The best way to save money on household items and toiletries is to combine sales and coupons. I’m nowhere near “extreme couponing” status, but there are a lot of Facebook groups for that if you have the time.
Check your Sunday paper for coupons. Here, you can buy a newspaper for $1 at Walmart. We only get SmartSource, but some papers also have other coupon inserts as well. Clip the coupons for any brands you use or might consider using, and then when you find a sale you can stock up. Some things we only buy a certain brand, such as our paper items, but you can save a lot of money if you’re willing to buy whatever brand is on sale. Which brings me to my last tip:
While using apps and coupons and sales, be sure to compare prices. The store brand may still be cheaper (and in many cases is the same product in different packaging). Buying whatever brand is cheapest will save you a lot of money. When you are comparing prices, be sure to check package sizing as well.
Set your budget.
Stick to the list.
Avoid convenience and prepackaged foods.
Watch for sales.
Use rebate apps.