Our Grocery Budget

Recently I have had many emails and comments regarding our grocery budget. Here are the fast facts about our grocery budget.

  • Usually I budget about $600 per month for a family of eight.
  • My kids’ ages are 14, 12, 8, 6, 4, and 2.
  • The 14, 12, 8 and 4 year old eat as much as an adult on a regular basis.
  • I live in a high cost of living area (Washington D.C.).
  • I shop exclusively at the military commissary with occasional trips to CVS.
  • Our grocery budget covers everything, including diapers, cleaners, toiletries and bird seed :).
  • I use coupons, but only save about $15 a week when using them.

There are many people who spend significantly less than I do to feed as many people or more. I do not have all the answers on how to cut your grocery budget, but I will share the things I did to go from a $1200 a month grocery budget to a $600 a month budget.

  1. Menu Plan -Knowing what we are eating during the week helps me to shop more efficiently at the store. We also waste very little food. I am ashamed to admit that a few years back I would throw out a garbage bag full of rotten food every few weeks because I over bought or we just didn’t eat it.
  2. Shop with a list – My list is my master. It is my goal not to buy anything that is not on my list. I am able to check the commissary sale prices before I go to the store, so if I see a great deal I can add it to my list before I go. There are no impulse purchases.
  3. Shop Alone- I love my children but I do not take them to the grocery store. When we are out in public I am always working with them to have appropriate behavior, and this is difficult to do when I am shopping for 21 meals for 8 people. There are many other opportunities to work on behavior while out, so I shop alone.
  4. Shop Weekly- I have little fridge storage space so shopping weekly works best for me. I do not make little trips to the store here and there to pick up things. We just do without until the next shopping day. Little trips add up to big money.
  5. Stay away from convenience foods- I purchase very few prepackaged food items. I shop the produce, dairy and paper aisles. I usually buy one bag of chips and one box of crackers per week and no other snack foods. My kids snack on fruits and veggies, cheese and popcorn.
  6. Eat Seasonally- I try to plan my meals around the produce that is in season and less expensive. The exception to this is apples. My kids love apples and I purchase them year round. A few months back I wrote a post about how to save money on produce.
  7. I bake my own bread, bagels, pitas, pretzels, pizza crust, pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc.
  8. We rarely have meat as our main dish. I usually serve two to three meatless meals a week and the other meals usually have a minimal amounts of meat in them. If we have chicken pot pie I use one and a half chicken breasts in a 9×13 pan and fill the pie with lots of veggies and potatoes.
  9. We don’t eat dessert, soda, juice, candy, or cereal (with rare exceptions).
  10. We eat a lot of beans. They are healthy, filling and super cheap.
  11. We eat leftovers and throw away very little food.
  12. Buy in bulk. Make sure you check the price per pound, but usually you can save quite a bit of money purchasing in bulk. I am part of a food co-op and order every few months. I save a lot of money on honey, grain, and oats by purchasing these items in large quantities.
  13. I purchase organic when I can, but I try to put my organic dollars to good use. Here is a list of produce that usually contain the highest amount of pesticides.
  14. I shop with cash. This has made the biggest change in my grocery spending by far. I am so afraid of not having enough money at the register that I keep track of everything into my cart. Cash as helped me to curb impulsive spending and allowed me to walk past the cereal aisle without picking up a box or two.

Those are some of the things I do to keep our grocery bill under budget. I am sure there are many ways I could cut back even more, but this works for us. What do you do to keep your grocery bill down?

For more frugal tips visit Biblical Womanhood.

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  1. Those were great tips! We are about $360 for a family of four a month. And like you, that includes all toiletries and household cleaners, etc..I shop at a grocery store in our area that has been a godsend. I have to bag my own groceries, but it is really the only way for me to go. I do hit our local trader joes and costco. I’m sure I could save less if I went to about 20 different stores (slight exaggeration), but I just don’t have time and with gas prices, would I really save that much after all.

    I don’t cook a lot of “gourmet” meals. We eat mainly chicken, salmon and ground turkey. Rarely do we do desserts, and I”m not in to all the pre-packaged stuff. Once I have my own house again I hope to do more baking of breads, etc…

    I think there are always ways that people can cut back on things, it’s just a matter of if they’re willing.

    I certainly enjoy your site and all your tips. Keep them coming.

  2. I’ve been trying REALLY hard to use up food instead of throwing it out. A few weeks ago I made fajitas, but used minced carrots, onions, and celery in place of the onions/peppers. I also try to cook it once, and eat it several times – roast turns into BBQ, soup, tacos, casseroles… See where I’m going with this? Not only quicker, but it saves money by eliminating waste!

  3. Great list, Toni! We had some adjusting to do when we moved to tiny-town. (had a plethora of stores in the “city”) It took me a while, but my biggest saver here is to shop at the actual grocery store instead of Wal Mart. I did Wal Mart for convenience and cheaper prices, BUT when I started scouring Dillons (Kroger) I got all sorts of awesome deals on produce and dairy. And the quality is much better.

    We also purchase our beef in bulk, getting all of the different cuts for under $2.50 per pound. It tastes much better and is healthier. Store beef scares me.

  4. Thanks for the great tips! There are only three of us and I live right by a CVS and Walgreens. We had been on a 120 a month budget, but with the rise in food costs it’s been difficult to stay on it.

    One thing that has helped is using more internet coupons. The paper here is priced outrageously, so it’s great getting good coupons for free.

    I follow most of your tips already, but am really going to work on just using cash like you suggested. It’s such a temptation just to whip out the debit card if I go a little over. Maybe if I just start leaving it at home I will do better. 🙂 Sounds scary but I’m sure it would be a good discipline!

  5. Ditto and amen! Thanks for the link to the organic produce list…I’ve been wondering about what to pay more for. I’m finally on the bandwagon of doing 2-3 vegatarian meals per week to cut costs. I never thought my husband would go for it, but he’s actually been satisfied and even full on some of my dishes packed with beans and veggies!

  6. thanks for the tips! I really enjoy reading your post.

  7. Nice post! I find that I can always stick to my grocery budget if I use the envelope system, that is, have the cash in an envelope and only use that for groceries. I did just that for July, and was able to use exactly the $400 budgeted. Already for August I have just about reached that level–I have been using debit card. It is just too hard to keep up with it unless I see the cash. Back to the envelopes from now on!

  8. i would love to know how to make my own pitas, pretzels, etc. Do you mind sharing your recipes?

  9. I’m so impressed! Great post!

  10. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and love hearing about your frugalness. I would love to do a lot of the things you talk about but I don’t think I’m really ready. Honestly I don’t know if I have the will power. Did it take you long to be able to be strict enough with yourself? Like giving up the soda, and did you ever buy juice? I can’t imagine not having juice in my house but I can see how that would be a good thing. And just all the little things that add up………I think you’re doing a great job!

  11. I don’t eat lunch out. I’m still working on my husband, but even if I get him to take a lunch two or three days a week, he’s getting better nutrition and we’re saving $15 right there. Also, we make lentil tacos instead of chicken or beef. Thanks for the tips!

  12. Wow…good tips. September I decided to not keep track and do as usual and then tally it at the end of the month…1200$ yikes ( we are in a pricey city in canada)…october I decided to keep notes on everything we ate everyday, this helped to plan a few days in advance…total….750$…this month…still working on it, but I want to bring itdown to 600$ for 5 people (including an infant and a dog)…wish me luck

  13. Our budget was $425 a month for four of us in 2009…until we had a third son and six months later our sons were diagnosed with numerous food intolerances. Now we have a family of five (our sons are 11, 8 and 5), the boys all eat like grown men and my budget is shrinking back down from the wretched high of $1200+ when the food intolerances were the most extensive. A grain free diet for three years made a world of difference but all those nuts and zero potatoes, rice, corn or pasta? Yikes…so expensive. Now they can safely eat those things again if we stay gluten, dairy, corn and soy free. Additives too, a no go. That’s fine, though, because I make most things myself anyway. Now we are hovering at $800 a month for five and I can’t get below that without upsetting the applecart of adequate nutrition. Keeping a diet that is free of many things balanced and nutritious is tough and demands a few pricey items. $800 is an achievement and yes…many times we end up at Wednesday lacking many of the favorite foods but there is always enough on Friday to cobble together oatmeal and honey for breakfast, a weird but nutritious lunch and usually soup for dinner. There is complaining but no one will be sad when Mommy and Daddy take them to the amusement park next week with the money we saved for the trip….specifically by shearing $400+ off our monthly grocery budget, I love shopping less too…I have gotten back so much time.

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