I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve had someone tell me that they struggle with their grocery budget. Whether you feel that your grocery budget is too high and you want to cut back, or you struggle sticking to a budget at all, the reality is that most of us could make improvements to our grocery budgets.
So, where do you start?
Well, first and foremost, you need a grocery budget. So, sit down (with your spouse, if you’re married) and look through last month’s expenses. Figure out how much you spent on food in the previous month and then consider what might be a good amount for this next month. (If you're feeling completely lost in regards to the whole 'budgeting' thing, then be sure to watch this video!)
Once you have a budget in place, then you’re ready for the next most important step: meal planning.
Meal planning is different for every family. Bottom line is this: you need a meal plan that works for your family. Your family's budget, diet preferences, and the time you have available to prepare meals will all factor into what a workable meal plan looks like for you.
Keep this in mind when you are planning meals for your family: Google and Pinterest will be your best friends! There are lots of people out there who have spent years perfecting the art of meal planning and many of them share their recipes/grocery lists/other tips online. Take some time to search the web and check out how other people are meal planning.
When you sit down to plan the meals your family is going to eat for the next month (or maybe just the next week or two...if you’re like me and can’t wrap your head around a whole month at once), there are some things you will want to consider to help cut the costs of feeding your family. Here are some of our best meal planning tips:
Use items that you already have in your cupboards and your pantry.
Food waste is a REAL problem and we do NOT need to contribute to it! So, why buy more food when you already have shelves full of food items? Look through your cupboards and pantry. Then, plan meals that will use up items you already have.
Take note, this is where Google comes in handy. There are times I just start googling the food items that I have and see what recipes pop up! Google usually has a suggestion (however bizarre the items in my pantry might be) and we usually get to try a new recipe!
Stock up when prices are low.
Grab your local newspaper and find those grocery flyers. (Or get online and browse the store’s flyer on their website.) Check out what items are on sale and plan your meals around those items. If I paid full price for all of my grocery items, it would cost a fortune to feed my family! So, I wait for items to go on sale (or buy items in bulk) to reduce costs for my family. Meat is an especially expensive item, so be sure to watch for good meat sales and stock up when prices are low.
When you're scouting out low prices, don't forget to use coupons and cash back apps to your advantage as well. If you're looking for more coupons (aside from those that come in your newspaper inserts or grocery flyers), check out the Coupons website and app. Here you will find both printable and digital coupons for food, household, and hygiene items.
My favorite cash back apps are highlighted in another blog post. If you haven't read this post, be sure to check it out and start earning cash back on your groceries. Thanks to Ibotta (hands down, my favorite cash back app), I've been getting pears for less than $1 per pound lately!
Plan a few ‘cheap meals.’
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…not every meal needs to be an elaborate ‘Martha Stewart’-magazine cover-picture perfect meal. Give yourself – and your budget – a break! Include a few ‘cheap meals’ in your meal plan. Some of our favorite cheap meals include egg bake, tuna melts, grilled cheese sandwiches, potato soup, and French toast. We also add some fruit and vegetables for a couple of quick, cheap sides! Want a copy of a few of our favorite cheap meal recipes? Send me an email and I'll reply with the recipes for four of our favorite cheap meals!
Make it yourself.
You can find DIY videos all over the internet - videos that show how to do crafts, home improvements, and tons of other simple projects. These DIY videos have taken off in recent years and people love the opportunity to do something themselves (it's fun and it often saves you money as well). But, have you ever thought about DIY opportunities in your kitchen? There are so many ways to save simply by taking a little extra time to do things yourself! Here are a few examples…
I can buy a 15-ounce can of black beans at the store for about $0.88. From that can, I will get (at the very most) 2 cups of black beans. However, at the store, I can also buy a 2-pound bag of dried black beans for just $2.78 and an onion for about $1. Using these two items and a few things from my spice cabinet, I can make my own black beans. That $3.78 I spent will result in about 16 cups of beans. I (mostly) follow this easy crock pot recipe from Lindsey Johnson with Cafe Johnsonia when making my own black beans. It’s super easy and cheap, so check it out!
I can buy a packet of taco seasoning for about $1.00 at the store. That's not bad, but why would I spend one dollar for every pound of meat I need to season when I can make up my own mix for just pennies? Whether it's taco seasoning, ranch dressing mix, or chili seasoning, it's cheaper to mix up your own! Click here for an awesome list of DIY seasoning recipes courtesy of Mavis Butterfield.
There are so many ways to save money when you're feeding your family. The most important step (of course, after first getting a budget in place) is to meal plan. When you make a plan for the meals that your family is going to eat, you're likely to spend less. Why? Because you won't be panicking and looking for convenience only to settle on an expensive store-bought freezer meal or eating out.
So, here's what I want you to remember: You don't have to implement every tip in this post. (Good for you if you do though!) Rather, I simply want to encourage you to sit down and make a meal plan. Choose your meals, make a grocery list, and stick to your plan.