Help With My Grocery Budget

It seems like our grocery bill (family of 2) is growing out of control. We shop off a list and get only what is needed, generic mostly, and also split our time between the surplus store, farm market, discount stores and our regular grocery. We've also gotten into a great habit of eating our leftovers and not wasting. However, it all adds up at the check out line!

Do any of you have a suggestion for looking at this problem differently? Right now we look at the receipts and spend the time justifying why each item was needed. We need a way to take down the total costs, but need a flexible budget in case legitimate "needs" do pop up. Does anyone have a budget that works like this?

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Kelly from NH

June 21, 20070 found this helpful

I love going to the grocery store, just wish someone else would want to pay for it!! Isn't it getting outrageous??

I, like you, go to surplus stores, Dollar General, Save-A-Lot, and the local flea market and farmer's market.

Used to be able to rough figure how much you would spend before you left the house, but not anymore.

Do you use coupon's at all? Our grocery store here, once in a while, will triple the mfg. coupons. We also have sometimes, a special in the meat dep't. where you get a big brown bag, and all of the meat that you put in it will be like 10-20% off at the register.

I generally buy a lot for like 2 weeks in a row, then I'm pretty well set for about the next month, with the exception of milk, bread, etc.

There are 4 of us here (soon to be 5) and just my husband works, but his work (factory) is very unsteady. I work private-duty caregiver just 2 days a week, 4 hrs. each day. Then my son and his girlfriend live with us and they are expecting in October.

Good Luck!

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

I have a family of 5, and have learned a lot of strategies over the years. Probably the one that is most helpful in regard to groceries is making a lot of casseroles, and ground beef recipes. I also try to have eggs or omelets one night on the weekend. Not only is that easy to make and nutritious, but it's much less costly than meat. The added advantage of casseroles is that you can freeze the leftovers and have an easy supper ready some night in the future.

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

Kelly, are you near a Trader Joe's in New Hampshire? I know that there are some in the Boston area. They have some very good deals, especially on produce. I also like to buy meats, cheese and canned goods at Costco and plan ahead. This is only a good deal if you get stuff you would buy anyways and avoid the frozen convenience foods and snacky stuff. I usually get home and prep meals: cut meat up for meals and freeze them, freeze cheese in usable packets (I get shredded as it is even cheaper than the big block), etc.

I also try to cut up and freeze any veggies that I get but don't have time to use them up before they go bad. I usually make up stir fry veggie packets and ones ready for soup. I also freeze leftovers if I don't think I can get the family to use them while they are still good.

There are a lot of great tips on this site as food and the grocery budget are a favorite discussion topic. Keep it up and good luck.

Jess

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

maybe several of you could go into together and buy from sams in bulk?

sometimes its cheaper there sometimes not

worth thinking about

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

It sounds like you may already be doing a lot of things to keep your bill down. You didn't mention if you cook from scratch a lot, so that may be something to try. You can even make bisquik and creamofwhatever soup from scratch.

Are there other areas in your budget that you could cut back on instead? My husband and I spend about $250 per month on groceries for the two of us here in TN and we don't feel guilty about over spending or feel deprived. I used to focus on buying what was on sale and then I realized we weren't eating a lot of fresh veggies and fruit so I started buying that, sale or no sale, and our food bill went up a little, but it's healthy, so I don't feel bad about it, but when the food bill went up I did look for other areas to cut back on.

So, I guess my belief is that if cutting back on food expenses means cutting back on nutrition, it's not a good idea. Good nutrition is worth the money. Like, some people on here talk about eating mac and cheese for dinner every night to save money, and that just sounds like a bad idea from a health standpoint.

As long as you are eating healthy, non-processed foods and not tossing out lots of leftovers, you're probably doing just fine in the grocery department, in my opinion.

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

ive always had the same problem. my cabinets are full, my freezers are overflowing, yet i was still spending oodles at the check out. then i learned to make a menu. i have a months worth of menus on my icebox, recipes starting with what i already had on hand. then i look to see what else i need to finish those recipes and make a list. as long as i stick to my list, i should only spend $50 for this week, as opposed to the $150 i usually spend.

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

You didn't say if you buy convenient-type meals instead of making meals from scratch, but that is one area that really adds up fast. Do you eat out at lunch time or take your lunch? Do you make large quantities? If it is easier to make a large amount, make sure you are freezing part of it so that you don't get tired of the leftovers before they are gone! That also gives you a meal that is already made and paid for to enjoy later! Hope some of these ideas help.

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

You don't say how much you spend every month, so it's hard to guess, but a couple of ideas you might try are, 1) have a baking day. Bake your bread, treats, etc and freeze what you will be eating next week. 2) when you make out menus, do you see what's already on hand first, and plan to use it up first? 3) When a good coupon comes out, save it until the item goes on sale. 4) Do you own your own place? Can you plant some fruit trees, garden, etc? I know it sounds like work, but there's nothing quite like looking at those shelves of preserved food and knowing you don't have to go buy that stuff. Dried fruit is really easy to do. We dry tomatoes, too. I wish you the best of luck!

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June 22, 20070 found this helpful

my husband and i are both disabled, i just recently lost the use of my right hand and arm up to the elbow, dh is diabetic, back problems, and has had one kidney removed for cancer. i have 4 crock pots, and have to use them often. do you have a scratch or dent grocery, save a lot,or other outlet near you? with the price of gas now, i'm not sure going for the sale items makes as much sense as it used too either. we eat alot of dried beans, peas, fresh veggies. a staple in my home seems to be tomatoes, which i can get the large cans for 4/$1.00, paste 10/$1.00. we eat also a lot of one pot meals. cook a double batch at once and save on electricity, plus have an extra meal when you don't feel like cooking! guess i am lucky, dh would eat a rock if it is cooked and what we consider clean foods, which is our preference.

i am thinking about cooking in bulk on the days i fell up to it and then avoiding the stress when we both feel so tired.

you didn't say if paper products and cleaning products are included in you food bill, if so, check out the dollar stores or the everything's a dollar stores. i use the spray foam bathroom cleaner to clean alot of things, including my oven, also a product called alsome which is great, both for only a dollar each. also recenty bought some microfiber cloths that you wash and resuse, sure cut down on paper towels.

good luck with all the wonderful info you have been given to your request.

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June 23, 20070 found this helpful

This is a difficult question to answer, since it varies greatly depending on where you live and what you eat. Groceries always seem to be the one place we try to save on. And it gets so frustrating, because sometimes no matter how much you save, it never seems to be enough.

We have no stores that double or triple coupons, so I rarely use them. I find it cheaper to buy generic/store brands too. But I still clip and save coupons, since you never know when you'll come across a great deal. Do you use a price book? If not start making one right now (instructions are all over the net). It's amazing how you think you're getting a good deal when you're really not. It's so easy to say that it's only a few cents, but it really does add up fast. Are you able to stock pile? Find places in your home to store food. I have wooden crates under my bed that hold spaghetti sauce, jelly, Mayo, and other things I got great buys on. Don't say that there's no extra money to do this--you can start small. Just make sure you buy things that you'll eat. I also buy marked down meats and immediately rewrap and freeze. If you have a place for a freezer, this alone can save you a bundle. Do you have a place for a garden, a flower bed that can hold a couple of vegetable plants (a trellis works great for cucumbers), buckets for container gardening, a flower pot for herbs, etc? Even if this is just to eat fresh, it can save on the grocery bill. There is an initial investment, but you'll use most of the stuff from year-to-year. If you are able to freeze and can, you can save even more. Time is no excuse. I am disabled, have worked 10 hour days while tending to my kids (we have no family to help) kept a garden, and canned and froze veggies and fruits. It can be exhausting, but you must set priorities. Never say it's not much, every little bit helps--after Thanksgiving, I often buy pumpkins at the store for .50 to can, so we can have homemade pies, breads, cookies, and desserts. Make everything you can from scratch; never buy processed items. This includes salad dressings, spice mixes, breadcrumbs, laundry soap, cookies, anything you can think of. We routinely try new and cheap recipes, especially ones that can be made with leftovers, like homemade chicken and dumplings--never buy chicken just for a recipe like this! Eat a chicken and save the carcass. Later, cook the chicken carcass, pick off the meat, use the stock, make homemade dumplings and throw veggies in, even leftover ones. It's turned into a family favorite here. Buy marked down things like bananas that are a lot cheaper to make banana breads (freezes beautifully to eat later), banana cakes, banana smoothies, banana cream pie, banana puddings, etc. Buy things in bulk, but make sure you have a place to store the food so it won't go bad, get bugs etc. Do not spend hard-earned money on extras that are nonessentials: pop, candy bars, cookies, minute rice (cook your own), cold cereal (eat oatmeal, kasha, farine, etc.), bottled juices (concentrates are cheaper), oil changes for autos (change your own), expensive cleaners (make your own), microwave popcorn, chips, etc. I have a rule: I will NEVER pay full price for "junk" when I do buy it-- buy candy after holidays (50% off) to use in future baking (M&Ms, candy sprinkles, Hershey kisses, marshmallows, etc). If you have an Aldis relatively close, shop there. Ours is an hours drive away, so I only go once every couple of months or so and stock up. I usually combine this trip with other errands (Big Lots, Sam's Club, health food store, etc.). Have you tried the Angel Food Ministries in your area? They really help us, but where my parents live, they can buy stuff cheaper at the stores watching sales.

With the constantly rising prices of groceries, it's especially hard to see savings, but don't get discouraged. Implementing strategies one-at-a-time will soon become second nature, and soon you'll see your grocery spending staying the same and even dropping. Or like me, you'll say, wow I remember fifteen years ago that I used to spend XXX dollars per week on groceries when we don't spend anywhere near that now! Good luck.

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June 23, 20070 found this helpful

Check this out, great place: http://www.angelfoodministries.com/

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June 23, 20070 found this helpful

There is a trick to powdered milk - proportion and it has to be COLD! (Add ice cubes). Prices of milk and dairy will be going up due to the rise in the price of corn (cascading effect). Also, despite its cheapness, powdered milk is not as nutritious. But it helps. We put in dwarf fruit trees, incl. a 5 in 1 fruit cocktail dwarf--on our deck! in an urban area! - you can also get hybrid blueb. and cherry "vines" for convenience. Definitely include shopping at Asian./ Korean/ Filippino markets for HUGE savings.

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June 23, 20070 found this helpful

I shop primarily at ALDI. I buy meats at my local supermarket by going to the store 3 days into their new sale, at 7AM. The meats have been marked down by 50% by that time. Now, I'm a lousy cooker of meat, so I don't waste money with the good cuts, so everything gets smothered in some sauce or disguised by chopping it to smitherines. We never eat "meat alone" as an entree. It's always prepared as a part of a larger dish (casseroles, stews, etc.).

I use up lunch meats (ham primarily) by using frozen bread dough to make stromboli. Some shredded cheddar and sliced ham makes a great meal, and my picky kids love it.

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July 2, 20070 found this helpful

How about more vegetarian meals including rice and beans, etc.? How about staying totally away from packaged items and head straight for the whole foods (ie apples instead of apple bars that are packaged)? You could leave out the packaged sweets and make home-made cookies instead. How about ditching any soda's and tea/coffee and relying on water alone?

I have heard that shopping with cash also helps...

Just some ideas and I hope something might help.

Nancy

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July 2, 20070 found this helpful

Okay everyone, here's what I did. Thanks first to those who empathize - it's good to know I'm not alone! I kept track of my receipts for the month of June, and this morning went through them, breaking them down into food and non-food items, writing their individual price next to each item, and the total overall. I discovered that nearly $50 of my budget this month was spent on food for people coming for visits. The rest was because of some big ticket items that had to be purchased, and we did so in bulk to save (razor blades anyone???). We've decided to start a new system consisting of a post it note on our fridge totaling our monthly budget, and each time we make a grocery purchase we subtract from the total in order to keep constant reminder of our budget. We did this with the "date" money we give ourselves each month and it worked - fingers crossed it will for this too!

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July 29, 20070 found this helpful

Coupons are great items for helping with grocery savings if they're on products that you use, unless you live in an area that doubles or triples coupons, where you can get groceries for just pennies or completely free. If you don't live in an area where your stores double or triple coupons, not to worry, most of us don't either. Don't think you have to use a coupon just because you have it. If it's not a product that you use, or unless you can get the product for free or near free by doubling or tripling the coupon, toss it out. It's not a savings, if you've bought a product just because you had a coupon for it. Best of luck!

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August 12, 20070 found this helpful

I have friends who use the Angelfood ministries and swear by it for savings and quality food.

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