Do you need help creating a realistic grocery budget? Do you find yourself spending hundreds of dollars on food, but can’t find anything to eat? It sounds like you need to revamp your grocery buying habits!
Before we dive into how to revamp, let me explain my process. Basically, my grocery buying/meal prep process is this:
- Check and see what perishable items you need to use up and plan meals around those. Be flexible, though! As you start adding items to your cart, you may have to adjust your meal planning to stay under budget.
- Add must have grocery items (toilet paper, milk, etc.) to your cart.
- Add snack foods for the kids.
- Use the remaining budget amount to buy meal prep ingredients.
Click here to watch my video on How I Spend $90/wk on Groceries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRK1Hw1JOhQ&t=420s
Any time I make any changes to my household’s lifestyle, I enact a “clean slate method”. That is very important to me. Fresh starts are exciting, motivating and encouraging. You are exhilarated and ready to make a change! To apply a clean slate method to your grocery buying/meal planning habits, I would first suggest eating up everything in your fridge, freezer and pantry. And I mean like the kids are eating peanut butter and crackers for a snack, until everything is gone.
Once you’ve pretty well cleaned up your opened food items, you can start using a more refined method for grocery shopping. I recommend everyone purchase their groceries weekly. For some, this sounds cringe-inducing. I totally understand. The thought of dragging your kids through a crowded grocery store every week is the stuff of nightmares. However, the problem with shopping once or even twice a month is that households tend to eat what’s visible, so most of the time your groceries don’t make it to the end of the month. By planning and shopping one week at a time, you can really hyperfocus on your budget and meal planning making everything so much more efficient.
Just as a side note, I do online grocery pickup. There are three reasons why:
- The running cart total is a good visual for your budget. You can add or remove items based on where you’re at dollar-wise in your cart. No grabbing items mindlessly wondering if you’re over or under on that week’s budget. It’s right there in black & white.
- There’s no impulse buying. How often have you perused the grocery store aisles and saw something that “looked good”? Or how often do your kids grab a box of cereal or candy that wasn’t on the list? Buying your groceries online eliminates that temptation.
- I loathe being around a bunch of people. S-T-R-E-S-S-F-U-L.
So, your pantry/ fridge is very minimalist at this point. You know exactly what you have available, you’re confident nothing is going to rot or go stale. It’s such a freeing mindset. You’re not bogged down with a bunch of products; you can clearly think and analyze everything!
From here, you’re going to see what you are out of that’s a must have. Examples would be toilet paper, dish detergent, milk, bread, etc. Once you’ve added your must haves to your grocery order, you can focus on snacks for the kids. We are not a household that eats only berries and organic avocados. My kids eat oranges and bananas, sure. But they also eat Cheez-Its and Doritos. So, for the sake of this article, I’m going to pretend yours do, as well.
Once you’ve added your kids’ snack foods, you can look at your list and see how much money you have to work with. The remaining amount is what you’ll use to purchase the “meal prep” ingredients with. So, let’s say you needed a bunch of must haves that week, and as a result you don’t have gobs of money left over for meal prep ingredients. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get creative with your dishes for the week. I would suggest a box of pasta, some ground beef, an upped ramen dish, maybe a soup— remember, just because you don’t have a lot of money to spend doesn’t mean you can’t create delicious, flavorful meals!
Come with me on another side trip… when meal prep shopping, I don’t include proteins because we buy our meat (beef & pork) annually and here’s why:
- Obviously, the cost savings. By purchasing your meat from a local farmer, you skip the middleman so to speak (which in this case is the grocery store), saving yourself unnecessary markups.
- It’s one less thing to have to keep in mind when buying groceries.
- The meat is much better quality.
It’s worth noting, I do buy my poultry from the grocery store monthly. I also buy fish about once a quarter.
My tips for stretching your food budget while diversifying your meals:
- Foods should be multipurpose. For instance, if you know you want a taco night then you need to plan another meal also using tortilla shells. Maybe you eat soft tacos one night and then breakfast tacos another. Or maybe you eat beef tacos one night and chicken tacos another. Taking it a step further, maybe you plan to make a dish using sour cream and chicken broth. Like this Sour Cream and Onion Chicken: https://www.saltandlavender.com/sour-cream-and-onion-chicken/#recipe.
Now you’ve got an open container of sour cream and chicken broth in your fridge. An open sour cream container will last you a few weeks, but the chicken broth should be used within a few days. So, you look up other recipe ideas using chicken broth and sour cream like this Pork Chops With Creamy Lemon Pan Sauce: https://www.hellofresh.com/recipes/pork-chops-with-creamy-lemon-pan-sauce-612f9bbe72a0d8104a60b24a.
- It’s obvious, but PLAN AHEAD!!!
- Planning ahead saves so much time AND money. You’re not buying a bunch of unnecessary ingredients, wandering around the grocery store aimlessly, etc.
- Use what’s on hand first. You don’t need a bunch of stock built up. USE IT.
My tips for purchasing and using snack foods while budgeting:
- Switch up the snacks you purchase.
- My kids will love cereal one week and then hate it the next. So, I only purchase cereal maybe once a month. Or if you get chocolate chips cookies this week, get Oreos next week.
- We stick by our rule that EVERYTHING gets eaten before we restock. “There’s nothing in the pantry to eat?” “Then you better eat that one lonely Cosmic Brownie if you want me to refill.”
- Store your snacks properly. Any snack that comes in a bag, not in individually sealed containers gets “re-contained” (I made that word up) at home into a snap lock container. This saves so much money, goodbye stale chips.
- Organize everything so it’s visible and appealing to kids. People think I organize my pantry the way I do for MY personal aesthetic preference. But it’s multi-function! Kids respond best to simple visuals. They can become overstimulated so quickly with boxes of food in front of them that they get frustrated. I always lay everything out nicely so it’s obvious what’s available.
There have been a lot of detours in this article, so hopefully you’ve gained what you need from it! Just remember,
- Plan ahead
- Plan one week at a time
- Know how much you need to spend, leaving you with how much more you can spend.
- Get creative with your ingredients
Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for meal plan inspo! I’m always posting our recipes on there! https://www.youtube.com/c/OrganizedChaos4/featured
Happy planning! -Audrey
3 thoughts on “How To Revamp Your Grocery Budget”
Can you talk more about your food storage and organization? How do you store your protein (meat, pultry, fish)?
I just posted a YouTube video today where I discuss my freezer organization. Spoiler!! It’s not much. My protein is kept in our deep freeze. Deep freezes just don’t lend themselves well to organization. I keep totes in there and if you’ve got a manageable amount of meat, that works pretty good. But, for instance, when we get our 1/2 cow that’s too much meat to have any rhyme or reason with storage.
Great article! I just found you and I’m excited to read some more of your articles.
I do have a couple of tips regarding the actual grocery shopping event.
1) When my kids were young, I decided to shop either super late at night, or super early in the morning (depending on what my actual schedule was like at the time.) I found that shopping at 11:00 PM or 5 AM while my children and husband were sleeping actually made the experience really good. It gave me some needed “me” time, the store was not ever crowded, there was no line at the register, the clerks are not in a hurry or stressed.
2) I use the shopping app to keep track of how much I am spending as well. However, I use it while in the store! I then can add things that are a really good deal that I may not have known about if I didn’t go into the store, and can easily put things back if I need to re-adjust my list to stay under budget. When I’m done shopping I empty the physical cart onto the conveyer belt, and empty my virtual cart and close the app.