I have been diligently challenging myself to spend less at the grocery store this year. I’m trying to find that balance of staying within a set budget while still eating well. My husband and kids won’t tolerate a bare kitchen and bad, boring food–they would seriously revolt. But we have some serious financial goals to hit and the grocery budget is an easy target when it comes to cutting the budget.
I felt like March was somewhat of a success. Our grocery budget since January has been $450, which is down from an average of $600 last year, but I wanted to see if I could get it to $400 for March. I carefully planned our menu each week around the sales flyers and loss leaders. And while I didn’t hit my goal of $400, I did reduce our spending to $425 for my family of 4. And not one person complained about the dinners or their breakfasts and lunches. We were all well fed and quite happy.
I’ve included pictures below of most of my grocery shopping trips for the month. They’ll give you an idea of how we spent the $425. There’s about $67 worth of groceries that I forgot to photograph.
A couple of notes to keep in mind:
- I keep a moderately stocked freezer with marked down meat, loss leaders, batch pre-cooked meat, cooked beans, homemade baked goods and sauces.
- I made a large batch of homemade sugar-free applesauce in March that I stored in the freezer. It is frequently a side dish at dinner.
- We ate out about 3-4 times in the month of March. Dining out is a separate line item in our budget. Fortunately, we received some gift cards for Christmas. We also had meals at the homes of some friends and family a couple of times this month.
- Soda or any form of drinks (outside of coffee and tea bags) are rarely on my grocery list. This month, I bought one package of juice boxes for the girls’ lunches and that was a treat for them and a thank-you from me for behaving so well in the grocery store. Why yes, I bribe my girls occasionally.
- My budget includes any personal care items, such as soap, shampoo, etc and paper products, such as toilet paper.
- I shop mainly at two stores: Giant of PA and Weis Markets. I also go to Aldi to check out their produce. While I would like to just shop once a week, I like to stop by both stores for their loss leader sales.
- And finally…Junk Food. I occasionally buy junk food. However, I try to avoid it as much as possible. I don’t want to blow our grocery money on food that has no nutritional value, but my family enjoys it too. Every week I buy at least one bag of pretzels and/or a bag of tortilla chips and you’ll see below in the pictures that I bought ice cream and Oreos and Cheeze-It’s–all on separate occasions. The Oreos and Cheez-Its were loss leaders, so I bought them as a treat. Honestly the Oreos are still in my freezer. I will probably save them for our summer vacation.
What We Ate in March:
- green smoothies – My husband makes these for the two of us in the mornings several times a week. Blend bunch kale/spinach, 2 apples, 2 celery stalks, half a cucumber, half a lemon, small piece ginger. So refreshing.
- hot oatmeal – I buy the 42 oz canister of old fashioned oats which is usually less than $3.
- buttermilk waffles
- eggs & toast, fruit
- peanut butter & banana toast , fruit
- cold cereal – I’ll buy cold cereal as a treat when it is a loss leader. It doesn’t last long, because every one in my house loves it.
- peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, fruit
- egg salad sandwiches, fruit
- ham/turkey & cheese sandwiches, fruit
I keep side dishes simple. I serve steamed broccoli at least twice a week, because it is the one green vegetable that my youngest won’t gag over. We also eat my homemade sugar-free applesauce, frozen peas, salads and I can get many side dishes out of a 5 lb bag of yukon gold potatoes: Hasselback Potatoes, baked fries, and mashed.
- Ham & Bean Soup, Pepper Jack Corn Muffins
- Roast Chicken, potatoes, steamed broccoli, homemade applesauce
- Chicken & Waffles, fruit or homemade applesauce
- Easy Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, fruit or homemade applesauce
- Homemade Stromboli, salad, fruit or home made applesauce
- Chicken & Black Bean Enchiladas – I make enchiladas 2-3 times a month
- Pork Tenderloin, potatoes, steamed broccoli, homemade applesauce
- tacos from leftover pork tenderloin – I make tacos quite a bit with leftover pork or chicken.
- Tortellini & Spinach soup, Pepper Jack Corn Muffins
- White Chicken Chili, homemade applesauce
- Homemade Tomato Soup, grilled cheese sandwiches – the recipe is from Mom Advice and it makes a ton of soup–lots of leftovers. I even froze some.
- Baked Ziti, salad
- Spaghetti with Homemade Roasted Vegetable Sauce, salad, fruit
Desserts & Snacks Included:
- Homemade Chocolate Pudding
- ice cream
- tortilla chips & salsa
I’ll continue challenging myself in April and we’ll see if I can hit my ultimate goal of $400.
Join the monthly Grocery Budget Challenge. The goal is to be creative with our meal planning and grocery shopping so that we do not over-spend. We don’t want to make our families miserable with bland meals, boring snacks, and not enough food in the house, but we must stay on budget. Lately when I see my bill at the check out, I’m shocked at how few groceries are actually going home with me. This will be a challenge where we’ll need discipline, support, and planning.
And if you’re interested–the pictures of most of my grocery purchases in March: