How We Manage our Grocery Budget (No Coupons Involved!)

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For many families, the grocery store is an easy way to kill a budget in a matter of minutes. When we decided to get serious about our budget last month I was determined we could live of $75.00/week for groceries. I’m currently on maternity leave so other than tending to baby girl I have no commitments that should interfere with me preparing all our meals. I’ve always enjoyed cooking (although cooking under the stress of a crying baby who wakes mid meal is no fun) so for us it was more a matter of proper meal planning. Before last week, we were bad for deciding an hour before supper what to eat which more often than I’d like, ended up in ‘convenience cooking’ (ie ordering out, cooking an overpriced, pre-made, dinner from the grocery store etc).

Here are my tips for sticking to a grocery budget:

  1. Meal Plan. This is huge. If you meal plan appropriately (down to every last spice that you may need) it will prevent you from running to the store for that ”one item” you forgot and subsequently end up spending $20.00 in crap you didn’t need or intend to buy.
  2. Stick to your list. Don’t let your eyes wander away from it. This requires strength.
  3. Shop the sales. If chicken is on sale this week, look for a few creative ways to cook it.
  4. Shop weekly. We use to shop biweekly when we got paid but realistically planning two weeks worth of meals didn’t work for us (I personally found planning 14+meals difficult) and we would end up at the stores on our ”off week” anyway if there was a great sale, regardless if we had the money for the item in question. The other benefit is that produce is wasted less.
  5. Cook with what you already have. If you have a fresh sauce/meat/produce item that might need to get eaten soon try and plan a meal around that item.
  6. Don’t be a brand snob. I don’t know where I first heard the term brand snob but it makes sense. I mean honestly how many ways can you can tomatoes or make a bottle of ibuprofen, it’s all the same. There are a few exceptions to this rule and everyone will have their own list (I love my Heinz ketchup, Kraft peanut butter and hate cheap razor blades!). The other plus to trying store brand is that store stands behind their product offering money back guaranteed if you’re not satisfied with the product, no questions asked. Doesn’t hurt to try!
  7. Shop around. Unless the cost of gas outweighs the deal(s) it usually pays to go to more than one store for the sales.
  8. Check non-grocery stores for deals. A few ‘discount’ stores (Walmart, Target, Giant Tiger etc) that have grocery sections will often have good food sales.
  9. Use your Farmer’s Market. If applicable, not all cities/towns have one. If you do, chances are the produce selection will be better than your grocer and better prices. Bonus, you’re supporting local farmers.
  10. Grow your own food. I grew a few veggies this year and plan on expanding next summer when I have more time to dedicate to it.
  11. Buy Frozen. I bought a bag of frozen corn for less than $2.00, it can act as a side to more than 10 meals for hubby and I, super yummy and taste better (and cheaper) than canned. Canned is good too.
  12. Don’t buy (too much) bulk or items just because they’re on sale. I use to grocery shop sale items whether or not I needed them right now. Laundry soap might go on sale for a good price and I would buy it even though I had a months worth in my basement. I was tantalized by the sale price. I don’t do this anymore because I see it as tying up my money in items I don’t need right now. Sales always reoccur.
  13. Cook your own food. If something is pre-packaged (ie frozen lasagna/pizza) that means someone else made it. If someone else can make it, so can you. For a whole lot less and a whole lot healthier. Google will become your friend. Use YouTube if you have to. Following recipes is easy.
  14. Cook large batches in slow cooker. If you don’t have a slow cooker or have one and don’t use it. START. You can cook a huge amount of food, for cheap and the best part is no real cooking! I will share some of my favorite slow cooker/budget friendly recipes later as this is my favorite kitchen item (my Kitchenaid mixer is a close second though). Bonus is that most meals can be prepped and frozen ahead of time (you can even prep seasonal stuff for use later in the year) so all you have to do it pop it in when you wake and come home to cooked dinner! It’s a great tool.
  15. Finally, Don’t shop hungry. Goes without saying. You will inevitably buy crap you don’t really want or need.

What are things that help you stick to your budget?

Comments

  1. I love all these tips and try to use them myself, except for one. I can’t seem to wrap my mind around going to several different places for sales. I just go to Kroger for the week and then we’re done!

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      We have 3 grocery stores that always have different sales and are within 5 mins of each other so for us it works and saves us money!

  2. I make sure to stick to my grocery list, go to the cheap stores first, then go to the expensive ones only for things that are great deals. I MUST have Heinz ketchup and Charmin toilet paper, but everything else I am completely okay with getting no-name. You just need to pick and choose what you value most.

  3. We use coupons to shop because if we can save $1, we will. We do eat very healthy and try to cook from scratch when we can. The savings from coupons allows us to buy better quality foods, fruits and veg in order to whip up delicious meals in the kitchen. We saved around 6k last year using coupons and this year it’s not that much since we started tracking our grocery shops in our weekly Grocery Game Challenge along with many other players who post their budget and shop in order to motivate them to stick to the budget. We also talk about healthy homemade recipes and how we can cut our budget further. I can say that we are on track with a few bumps along the way but so far we have saved so much just by planning and posting our shops! Cheers Mr. CBB

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      We have almost no coupon options out here! Don’t get me wrong if we get one in the mail (which is almost never by the way)I do use it and I do have online accts for mail ones but it just hardly ever seems to work for us/on products we use (other than diapers). 6K is HUGE though, maybe I’ll start being a little more coupon diligent!

  4. I agree with your brand snob comment, there are so many items that taste exactly the same whether you buy branded or not. Some great tips here!

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      I know! and some ”no name” items are actually made by larger brand name companies just re-branded to appeal to a different market.

  5. We struggle to keep our grocery bill low. Our city is quite expensive and quite large but our choices for different grocery stores is minimal compared to some other provinces. Yesterday we drove by the only Giant Tiger in our city and it sold more clothes and household items then it did food. We found that the prices on their food and milk were the same as Safeway.

    The only place I have found true savings is at Dollarama. Instead of buying brand name Dove body wash I buy their stuff for a buck a bottle and love it. That same size bottle at Walmart is $7.

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      Yeah, every city is different. We’re in Halifax and super lucky with the selection considering we’re not huge (compared to, say, TO or Vancouver). Every little bit of savings helps though!

  6. I do many of the same things, although my family’s secret it to cook meals for less than $1 a serving. The meal plan helps us to better use the leftovers, which is usually used for brown bag lunches. We are a family of 3.5 so that’s a monthly budget of $310.

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      Sorry your comment ended up in my spam folder. I also try and cook for super cheap. I would say I try and keep it well under $2.50-3.00/serving for sure. Food is fairly expensive out here (atlantic canada) not outrageous like northern Canada but we still pay a decent chunk of change for it. I love that your family size is 3.5!

  7. I also want to cut down our grocery budget. We used to be at $300-350 a month, now that we buy predominantly organic, we’re at about $400 a month. Meal planning is the absolute BEST way to save money. We actually signed up with a meal planning service, called The Fresh 20, and they send us meal plans every week that use only 20 ingredients that are in-season. I don’t work for them (promise!) but I just love it. Plus they usually have deals on sites for a year subscription for like $30. I think I paid $10 for 6 months. totally worth it imho.

  8. You’re right on the money about farmer’s markets. Not only do they sell healthier fruits and veggies, but I can typically get more produce for the money than I do from local grocers. Plus, if you see something you haven’t tried before, they are usually more than happy to let you sample it before buying!

    • mrsplungedindebt says:

      exactly, not to mention it’s usually a fun time. I love going to the market with friends to check everything out!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Plunged In Debt- How We Manage Our Grocery Budget (No Coupons Involved) [...]

  2. [...] most families struggle with. I’ve already done posts about how hubby and I manage to eat on a $300.00/month budget through meal planning and partaking in Big Cooks but today I will share some other ways to [...]

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