Grocery Shopping on A Budget: Feeding Your Family For Less
12 Easy Ways to Save Money On Groceries
Food is expensive and sometimes it seems IMPOSSIBLE to go grocery shopping on a budget and still put healthy meals on the table. But…it can be done!!!
My family of three eats a healthy (vegan) diet – three meals a day, seven days a week – for less than $500 per month. Consistently.
And you can use these five steps to feed your family healthy meals no matter what your budget is! So glad to share these nuggets of meal prep and grocery shopping wisdom with you!
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What does the average family spend on grocery shopping?
Believe it or not, the USDA actually puts out food plans every year that allow you to see where you fall with your grocery bill.
You can adjust it based on your household and kids ages…but the basic breakdown goes like this…
For a family of four with two small children (ages five and under), the average American family is spending:
- $562.40 per month on the thrifty side and
- $1099.60 per month on the liberal side
How do you stack up?
Use these Five Steps for grocery shopping on a budget, paired with the Bonus Tips at the end, and you can easily feed your family healthy meals while staying on the thrifty side of the spectrum!
Step #1 - Plan Meals Around the Sales In Your Grocery Store's Weekly Flyer
Weekly sales are one of the KEYS to grocery shopping on a budget!
If you have multiple stores nearby, check out the sales on a weekly basis and shop the store that has the best sales that week. Then sit down with your meal planner, your bullet journal, your family calendar – whatever organizational tool you use – and cross-reference your schedule with the flyer.
What do I mean by that?
I mean, if there is a pot roast on sale, add it to the menu, but put it on a day that you have time to prep and cook – otherwise you won’t use it and the meal will go to waste. Schedule out as many dinners as you can based on the proteins and produce that are on sale. These are your most expensive food items!
Unsure about whether you can use ALL of the BOG2 potatoes?
Create multiple meals this week using potatoes. Here is a sample meal plan using this one ingredient but having a completely different experience each night!
- Dinner #1: Easy Rustic Gnocchi
- Dinner #2: Shepherd’s Pie
- Dinner #3: Potato Leek Soup with Crusty Bread
- Dinner #4: Your favorite protein paired with good old fashioned mashed potatoes
- Dinner #5: Loaded Potato Skins
- Dinner #6: Breakfast for dinner – eggs, hash browns and toast
- Dinner #7: Burgers and Homemade Potato Chips
Have an awesome menu based around one ingredient? Share it with us in the comments!
Step #2 - Fill In Your Meals and Snacks With Local and Seasonal Items
Once you have used up all the sale items for that week, fill in with protein and produce that is local. Local means less shipping. Less shipping means a lower cost to you.
Also, you are supporting your local growers which is ALWAYS a bonus!
Another bonus, local means picked at its peak! When produce has to be shipped, it is picked early and ripened using gases during transport. Shorter commute = later picking time and that equals more nutrition for you and your family at no extra cost!
After the local sources have been covered, default to seasonal. Again, seasonal items are more readily available and will be significantly less than the other produce in the market.
Step #3 - Make Your Grocery Shopping List Based On Your Meal Plan
Now that you have your plan, it’s time to make your grocery shopping list…
Go day-by-day and look at the ingredients you will need for each dinner. Check your cabinets, pantry and fridge and ONLY write down the ingredients you do not have on hand. For the breakfast, lunch and snack arena, make yourself a master list that has your “staples” all ready to go.
Follow this link for a FREE shopping list template…the very one that I use…and adjust it based on what your family eats. Staying organized is very important when grocery shopping on a budget!
Step #4 - At the Grocery Store, Price Shop Based on UNIT Prices
We all price shop…but do we all do it effectively?
There are retail prices: the yellow price
And there are unit prices: the orange price.
See the photo to the right for an illustration….
When comparing products, make sure to maximize the UNIT price. Unit prices are generally lower with larger containers and with generic brands. You would be shocked at how much you save when grocery shopping based on the unit price!
If you are brand-loyal, take a look at the labels!
Most store brands will have significantly lower prices and the EXACT same ingredients! Are you seeing the savings stacking up?
Step #5 – Use It, Share It or Donate It
Many people won’t buy in “bulk” because they are afraid of waste. When it comes to proteins and produce, as well as non-perishable items, buying in bulk can be your best strategy…
but you have to do some work when you get home.
When you made your meal plan, was one of your proteins BOGO? Or was there a “Family Pack” of chicken thighs that you only want to use 1/3 of for your planned meal?
Don’t leave your free stuff behind and don’t go for the smaller package of thighs!
Prep one meal, three times…let’s use the “Family Pack” of thighs as an example
This pack has 18 chicken thighs. You only need six for your meal. Separate the other 12 into batches of six as well. Make three batches of your marinade. Put six thighs plus marinade in a gallon-size freezer bag (twice) and put them in your freezer. Use the other six thighs and marinade for dinner tonight.
Now you have a ready-to-bake protein for two other family meals PLUS your dinner this evening…all from your single purchase (that probably cost around half the price of the single-meal package of thighs!)
I know, brilliant! Who doesn’t love working smarter, not harder?
We also addressed USE IT in Step One…creating an entire plan around one single ingredient. But sometimes, that’s just not practical…or exciting. So, if you can’t use your BOGO yourself…
SHARE IT – Grab the free one and give it to a friend or
DONATE IT to a food pantry.
Here are some more great tips for saving money at the grocery store!
1. Use a Farm-Share or Service Like Misfits Market
If you’re like my family and produce is your main staple, you can purchase your produce through a farm-share, co-op or service like the Misfits Market.
2. Grow Your Own
You can’t get much more local, seasonal or inexpensive than right in your own backyard (or balcony, or windowsill)! Having your own garden can also be used as a way for your family to connect!
3. Use an App Like Ibotta
Want to save even more, you gotta Ibotta! I LOVE THIS APP! After you’ve chosen your store and made your list, check out what deals are in the app that week and add any items to your list that you are already planning on purchasing.
4. Look Low In the Grocery Store
Usually the better unit prices (AKA deals) are on the lower shelves!
5. Get Your Kids Involved
This is a great time to get your kids involved in meal prep! Check out this blog post on getting your kids in the kitchen with you.
6. Only Grocery Shop On A Full Stomach
When you go to the grocery store hungry, that’s when the list goes out the window and your lack of will power results in impulse buys! In my house, Oreos always come home if Mommy went to the grocery store on an empty stomach!
Go after a meal if you can, or at least take a snack and eat it right before you enter those magic doors. Either way, save money and stick to your list by staying full!
7. Sign Up For Loyalty Cards
They cost you nothing (except occasional emails) and can help you save BIG at checkout. Some loyalty cards can even be linked to Ibotta and remove one more step from your money saving tactics!
I have a card for EVERY grocery store I shop at…because I never know week-to-week which one I will be visiting. These cards save me anywhere from $15-$75 per week on my final bill (depending on the sales).
This one’s a no-brainer!
There you have it Mamas!
Five steps, bonus tips, plus a FREE customizable shopping list to help keep you organized and save money on groceries! I can’t wait to hear all about the money you’re saving while feeding your family delicious, healthy meals.
Share your stories in the comments…and if you have other tips for grocery shopping on a budget, share those too!