Until recently, I didn’t realize that we had a low grocery budget compared to most households. I’d mention our monthly budget to people and they’d say “We spend that each week”. And then, I posted the number here a few weeks ago and wasn’t expecting the main question in the comments to be “How do you spend $250 a month on groceries?”. Honestly, I don’t know…we just do it. But, I’m going to try to walk you through our grocery budget.
But first, a few disclaimers:
- B and I are not “foodies”. We love and appreciate good, fancy meals, but we can do without them, too. My philosophy on feeding the family is to put nutritious, good food on the table and not beat myself up about presentation, how frequently we eat it, etc. If we cared a lot about different cuisines and unique side dishes, we’d exceed our budget.
- I’m not hung up on organic food. We can find organic produce for a decent price at our local natural foods store and so I buy it. But, if I wanted only organic meats, we’d need a larger grocery budget.
So, here’s how we feed our family (well, two eaters and a pint sized 7 month old) on $250 a month.
1) Meal planning. On Wednesdays (grocery ad day), I plan out the meals for a week. I don’t get hung up on planning meals around sale items, but I take them into account. I cook 3 – 4 times a week, and we eat leftovers the rest of the week. We eat leftovers or Turkey Sandwiches for lunch, and we both eat oatmeal (cooked on the stove for me, generic instant for B, iron fortified for Thomas) for breakfast. Breakfast works out to about $5 a month.
2) I shop the perimeter of the grocery store. I make the occasional foray into the canned goods aisle and pasta aisle, but otherwise I try to avoid packaged foods.
3) I don’t buy chicken breasts (our main meat) unless they’re $1.99 a pound or less. I buy chicken breasts in bulk when they’re on sale and keep them individually bagged in the freezer.
4) I improvise. Let’s say a recipe calls for mayonnaise, which we usually don’t have in our house, and therefore wouldn’t use except for in this recipe. I just switch it out for something that we already have or would use – like plain yogurt or sour cream.
5) I choose recipes that have relatively simple and few ingredients.
6) We empty the refrigerator every week. Seriously. When we have no food in the house, we literally have no food in the house. We don’t stock the pantry, we don’t stock the refrigerator. We buy enough for the meals planned, eat those meals for a week, and then do the whole thing over again.
7) Thomas is on the home brew and now that he’s eating solids I keep costs low by making my own baby food. I buy organic produce and puree it myself. Saves money, takes about an hour a week, and I feel better knowing that I know exactly what went into the food Thomas is eating, anyway.
And, in an effort not to have the longest blog post ever, we’ll continue with the meal plan and actual grocery shopping tomorrow. Anyone else have any tricks for keeping their grocery spending in check?