How to Cut Your Grocery Budget in Half
When it comes to budgeting, some things are really easy to get a hold of while others, not so much. I truly believe that the food budget is the one thing that most households struggle with. There are so many ways to control your grocery budget, but which one works for you and your family? I successfully cut my food budget in half within a year (this kind of thing doesn’t happen over night!) and I want to show you how to to save money on groceries too!
So let me be really real with you. When Mr. Hubster and I got married, I was spending about $900 a month in groceries. On top of that, we were eating out pretty regularly for about another $500 a month. It is close to a miracle that we paid off 30k in debt during those early years. I cooked quite a bit of gourmet meals which I spent hours in the kitchen putting together. We ate really well that is for sure.
I finally had to get tough with the grocery budget when we got serious about saving. But first, I did what any other person would do, I did an unofficial poll (okay maybe not everyone would do this); I asked my coworkers how much they spent on their grocery budget a month and how many mouths they were feeding. I was shocked by how different a lot of the budgets were compared to my own. That next month, I cut our budget to $500 for us 3. Currently, it is at $400. You want to know how though, right? It was a mix of resources and tricks that are easy enough, it just takes practice to get it down.
Meal planning is king
I am not going to sugar coat this, you will not be able to get your budget under control if you are doing no meal planning at all. Some people feel really restricted by meal planning. Here is what I have to say about that “SAVING MONEY”. No, but really, meal planning isn’t meant to tie you down, it is meant to give you more freedom day to day. Knowing that you have the ingredients on hand is a huge help in the kitchen. The more you go to the store, the more you are likely to spend. Easy as that.
When I started meal planning, I did it week to week. I got to the point where I loathed planning. So, I started to plan a month at a time. I plan leftover nights, sandwich night, breakfast-for-dinner nights, and even eating out. This has been a big turning point for me really. I can now buy the pantry items that I will need for the whole month at the beginning of the month and then buy the fresh produce, meats, and sale items that we need each week.
Now, some of you are cringing at the thought of meal planning for a month in advance, but it is really not that bad. I spend less time overall planning for one month than I did planning each week. Another good perk is that since I know what I will be needing in the coming weeks, I can buy what is on sale that I actually need for my meals. I am not a crazy coupon lady. I don’t make time for it (I know this may be shocking to some of you!) so buying stuff on sale is a huge perk for me.
When I make a meal that my family loves, I put it on the dish list. This is my list of about 40-50 meals that I know are 1) simple 2) not expensive 3) family pleasers or all of the above. I will make about half of my meals each month from this list. The other half are meals from Pinterest, breakfast meals, or from my cookbooks.
The dish list makes meal planning so quick and easy. Not every family member is going to love each meal that you cook, but if you can cook about half of your meals that they all do, then you are the mom of the year ? .
The envelope system
Truth be told, I was not convinced that I could make the envelope system work for me when it came to groceries. I used them for a lot of other purchases, this one just always got me. After I took that “survey” and had a wake up call, I jumped in on the envelope system. Today, I still use the envelope system for groceries. It is the only way that I can stay on track with the budget.
How I make this work for myself may be different for you. I withdraw $250 on the first day of the month because I go to the bulk store and Target on that day. That will last the first 2 weeks. Then, I withdraw $150 for the rest of the month around the third week of the month.
Coupons, sales, and rebates
As a busy WAHM, I don’t love the idea of carving out a huge chunk of time to sift through coupons. Also, I buy a lot of produce, meats, and organic/naturals. Finding coupons for those things is almost impossible. Some stores may offer coupons, but usually, you need to look at the sales. It is good to become familiar with the sale areas of your stores or even the days of sales. You may very easily find meats for half off when on sale. Be sure to stock up on sale items that you use frequently, especially if they are canned or your are able to freeze them. Farms will offer sales at times too. Check out your local farm for a more natural option.
Ibotta is a good app for rebates. Again, I don’t buy a lot of the things on there, but they do offer rebates on produce which is awesome! After getting at least $20 on your Ibotta account, you can transfer your money into your PayPal account.
Shop less frequently
Every time you go into a store do you buy something? This is typically the problem, shopping too frequently. You may not realize it, but when you go to the store, especially without a list, you will buy something you don’t need.
A couple years back, I started going grocery shopping once weekly, going to Costco (bulk grocery) and Target once monthly, only. There are rare occasions where I need to buy something I forgot, but otherwise, I go infrequently. This really saves me a lot of money. Amazon can also be a really good option for those bulk items or more pricey items. You can also sign up for automatic shipping on those frequently used items and save even more! Check out a few good deals that I find on Amazon below.
Waste not Want not
Food waste is a HUGE issue in the United States. Matter of fact, ReFED states that approximately 27 MILLION tons of food is wasted each year in U.S. homes alone. So how can we be a part of the solution? Perhaps we need to cook less at a time which will also save money, right? Leftovers are a frequent option in my home. What about repurposing food for another meal?
These options are all money savers, but why don’t more people do it? I know many people have a “thing” about leftovers. Cooking less at each time is an option instead!
There are so many ways to save money on groceries. What it takes is being intentional about your shopping with a list, making things that your family likes using a dish list, using the envelope system, clipping coupons or shopping sales, visiting your grocery store less, and reducing the amount of waste. Are you ready to save massive amounts on your groceries?
*Just a side note* I get it, this is not going to be for everyone. Meal planning takes work! If you want someone to do the meal planning for you, email me. I want to offer my services to a select few busy people each month. I also offer this as part of my budget coaching because so many people spend too much on food. So, are you in? If you desire less personalized assistance, be sure to check out Grocery University which is an audio course to help you get the most of your grocery budget.
How do you save money on groceries? How about your favorite (cheap) meal?