Last fall, I was combing through my monthly expenses once again, searching for ways to cut back on spending. After consulting my trusty spreadsheet, I discovered we were spending $500-600 per month on groceries.
This isn’t an outrageous amount. Yet, considering I grow some of my own food, preserve it and buy ¾ of a grass-fed steer every year in addition to grocery spending, it seemed rather ridiculous.
Over the past 8 months I’ve managed to reduce my grocery spending from $500-600/month down to $300/month.* An extra $200 each month can definitely make an impact on the monthly cash flow!
How I cut my grocery expenses
Shop the weekly ads.
Confession: I get a little thrill each Tuesday and Wednesday when new grocery ads are released.
One evening each week, calculator close at hand, I study the ads and make my grocery list. I stock up solely on sale items and loss leaders.
The prices on items I purchase most frequently are ingrained in my head. When prices are at their lowest, I stock up, otherwise I wait.
Don’t know what constitutes a low price? A pricebook is a handy, dandy tool I have utilized in the past to ensure I’m buying at the lowest prices.**
Limit myself to 2 stores/week.
I value my time as well as my money, so I pick the two stores with the best prices for the week. Otherwise, I have the temptation to go to five different stores to score all the great deals.
Once a month, I run to Costco and Aldi to purchase items that are typically lower than the grocery stores (eg. Aldi has a gallon of milk for under $2 and Costco has the best prices on items such as rice, dog food, and tp.).
No way, no how could $300 worth of groceries a month feed four adults without cooking meals.
Cooking doesn’t take a ton of time, as we stick with simple meals that take less than an hour to prepare. A typical meal is simply a main dish and a fruit and/or veggie.
Leftovers from evening meals are used for hubby’s and daughter’s lunches. (We do buy my son’s school lunches, which consist of a peanut butter and jelly, a bag of chips and a sports drink – I choose my battles.)
Meal plan around sale items and what’s in the pantry, freezer and fridge.
I make a weekly meal plan, but not until I take stock of what we have on hand. Since I buy in large quantities, typically rice, pasta, canned food, and condiments can be found in the pantry. Shredded cheese, bread and meat are stocked in the freezer.
Eliminate food waste
Eating up leftovers and reducing food waste has helped slash our monthly food costs.
According the the National Resources Defense Council, food waste costs the average family of four an astounding $1350 to $2275 each year!
Use savings wisely
I try to make savings count by depositing it into the savings account or throwing it at the mortgage. The key is to prevent any savings from disappearing unaccounted for.
No coupons for me
I’ve tried coupons and even made an attempt at extreme couponing (for all of about 2 weeks!). But the time I spent clipping, printing, and searching for coupons wasn’t worth it to me. Plus, I purchased things I didn’t really need or want. Don’t get me wrong, utilizing coupons can and do work if you are inclined to put forth the time and effort, it’s just not for me.
A work in progress
My grocery budget is a work in progress – I still buy things I don’t need and stock up a little too much when I find a good sale. And when motivation wanes, I find inspiration through other frugal folks, such as Mavis Butterfield over at One Hundred Dollars a Month.
How much do you spend on groceries? Where do you save the most money on food?
*Ultimately I am buying groceries to feed four adults. Our household includes hubby and I, in addition to our two adult-sized teenagers. Teenagers are a fickle bunch, especially when it comes to food. Some weeks they are starved and will eat practically everything in sight and other times they are picky and complain “there’s nothing to eat”.
**If you don’t know the typical prices on the items you purchase frequently, consider making a price book. A price book is simply a way to record the lowest prices on your most purchased items. Example: One week the spaghetti sauce you typically purchase is on sale for .99, so you write that price in your price book. But the next week, it’s on sale for only .69, so replace the .99 in your price book with the new, lower price. Stock up at the .69 to get you by until the next sale (typically sales run on 3 month or 6 month cycles).
Stay tuned! At the end of each month I will post my grocery expenses (to keep me accountable!), complete with pictures!
July 2016 Grocery Spending Update (and garden harvest!)
August 2016 Grocery Spending Update (and garden harvest!)
Here are some tools that I use myself that you may find helpful:
Want to painlessly save more each month (without even lifting a finger!)? Try out Digit. I really thought I was saving all I possibly could. Digit proved me wrong. See my review and updates on how much I’ve saved here.
Personal Capital tracks your expenses for you for free! Have all your accounts in one place and utilize their free expense tracking tool! I use their free net worth and expense tracking tools. Sign up for a FREE Personal Capital account.
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