I’ve gone back and forth so many times about doing a post on my grocery shopping budget. I love reading what other people are doing to stay on a budget, how much they spend on groceries, where they shop and how they save money. But I don’t know if other people or people who read this blog care about that type of thing. I also hate to come across with a “braggy” tone or what I’m doing is the right way or the only way.
But, I’ve decided to put all my fears to rest and just go for it. My only goal is to help some other people out there who might struggle to keep to a frugal grocery budget. It’s something that I’ve learned a ton about in the past few years and I’ve come up with a simple system that works for me. Sometime I also feel like I’m the only one out there who struggles with these things or finds it difficult sometimes to stick to a budget, so hopefully this post will help any someone out there to know you aren’t alone!
Here is my system. Take from it what you want and discard the rest. This is what works for our family.
1. Set a budget and track every penny. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but we use the Goodbudget app for all of our expenses. We have different categories or “envelopes” and every penny we spend comes out of an envelope. Our phones sync with each other, so I can just enter in the amount right at the store and it will show up in Reid’s app as well. It’s amazing and seriously life changing! Our budget for food for our family of 5 is $400 a month. (Our grocery envelope is set to $500 but that includes a lot of other household items besides food) I tell you this amount just to show you that it can be done without coupons as long as you are organized (and have a little self control!) And some of you may spend WAY less than that and for that I applaud you and just want to say you are amazing and if you have a blog, tell me what it is now so that I can learn from you!
2. Come up with a monthly menu plan. I used to weekly menu plan, but in December I decided to try coming up with monthly menu plans instead. I am an impulse shopper at the grocery store and tend to just start throwing things into my cart. I figured if I could cut down the amount of times I go to the store each month, then I would cut down on my impulse buys. If you aren’t at the store, you aren’t spending money. Simple.
At the beginning of the month, I come up with about 20 meal ideas and I write them all down. I keep these sheets so that I can go back and look at what we ate the previous months. It helps keep some variety and also it jogs my memory as to what was really good that we might want to have again the next month.
3. Get Organized. After I write out my meals, I create a document on the computer where I start listing out all of the ingredients that I need to buy. I just start with the first one and look at the recipe. (I keep a recipe binder as well as lots of my recipes on Pinterest). I look in our pantry and fridge to see what we already have for the recipe and then list out the ingredients that we don’t. I make categories (Frozen, Dairy, Canned, Produce…etc). I just do this for each recipe until I have a giant list. Don’t forget about stuff you need for lunches, breakfast and side dishes. We usually eat the same thing for lunch every day…it’s pretty boring. But you could come up with lunch and breakfast menus too if you are awesome like that.
Since I’m buying groceries for the entire month, I only purchase the produce that I need for the first week or so. But I do go ahead and purchase all of the boxed and canned goods for every meal. Then, I head to the store in the middle of the month to stock up on the milk and produce that we need for the rest of the month.
I often find these adorable little sticky note flags in the dollar spot at Target. I write all my meals on them and stick them in my calendar. I love this because I can move them around. I’m always changing my mind and switching dinners, so I can just stick the note on a different day if I want to switch it out. It also looks super cute.
4. Shop at Aldi. I have said it 10 million times, but I love Aldi. It is the #1 reason why I am able to keep to our budget. It is also why I no longer use coupons. It is so amazing and inexpensive. I don’t have one near me and it’s usually not convenient, but it is my lifesaver. Also, since I’m only doing one big grocery trip a month I can buy 95% of what I need at Aldi and I don’t have to run into other stores that are usually much more expensive. I also mentioned this in my Dollar Tree post, but I buy my whole wheat Nature’s Own bread at Dollar Tree each month. I will get 4-5 loaves and freeze them.
5. Cut down on packaged food. This is definitely an area I need to work on. But, another reason why I can keep our grocery bill low is that I don’t buy a lot of cereals, granola bars and other packaged snacks. I will get maybe 1-2 boxes of cereal a month (which don’t last long at all), but my family usually eats oatmeal or smoothies for breakfast. This is just so much cheaper. I also try to make my own granola bars and snacks. I have become lazy at this lately, but it helps to save a lot of money!
6. Cut down on meat. My girls don’t care for chicken and aren’t always big fans of red meat either. So, I have started making a lot of vegetarian dishes. I have noticed how much money this has saved us. We eat a lot of beans and rice, lentils and more beans for dinner. It’s simple, healthy and super cheap. I try to buy dry beans and make them in the crock pot. Then, I will use what we need for that day and freeze the rest.
7. Splurge a little. Sometimes sticking to a strict budget gets really depressing. Especially if you feel like you are the only one eating beans and rice for dinner. So, my tip is to treat yo’self every once in awhile. (This is a small shout out to my BFF Amy because we always talk about how we treat ourselves to Starbucks when our hubbies are out of town.) I always pick up a fun treat at the grocery store. It is my little reward. This might be a silly thing to point out in my grocery tips, but it keeps me sane to know I have a fresh package of double stuf oreos waiting for me after I’ve worked so hard at my monthly grocery shopping budget. And yes, I hide them from my children.
April Meal Plan
Are you just DYING to know what my menu plan for April is???? Well, here it is! I will try to find links to the recipes or at least ones that are similar!
1. Lentil Tacos
2. Chicken Pad Thai
3. Beans and Rice
4. Rainbow Salad
5. Cottage Cheese Pancakes
6. Honey Lime Enchiladas
7. Spicy Lentil Casserole
8. Grilled Chicken Kabobs
9. Steak Fajitas
10. Homemade Pizza
11. Spinach Lasagna Rollups
12. Mexican Casserole
13. Homemade Nachos
14. Beef and Broccoli
15. Cheese Baked Tortellini
17. Chicken Salad Wraps
18. Shrimp Tacos
19. Black Bean Burgers
Please tell me if you want to see more posts like this. Would it be helpful if I posted my menu plans each month? I could even do a post on everything I bought at Aldi and how much I spent? Also, tell me any menu planning or grocery shopping budget tips you have!!