Healthy Grocery Budget Planning

Cutting the Grocery Budget

When anybody is looking to cut back on expenses, the grocery budget is usually a pretty easy place to look.  This is one of the biggest spending categories for most Americans. In my opinion, it is also the easiest area to cut expenses.  You can’t exactly call up the utility company and demand a lower rate every month.  I mean, I guess you could, but you probably wouldn’t get very far.  But food?  Most people can whittle down grocery budgets with a few simple hacks. In this post I’m going to share a few of the things I do to keep our grocery budget as low as possible.

We eat a very healthy, mostly keto/whole foods diet and right now we’re spending about $600 a month on groceries.  Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, but $600 is my goal and I hit it most of the time.  According to the USDA food plans, a family with 4 kids the ages of ours on a ‘thrifty meal plan’ is at about $800 a month, so I feel pretty good about how we’re doing.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that it’s impossible to eat healthily on a budget and I’m here to say that is a myth.  Our budget goes up when we start eating less healthily.  Fewer whole foods, more convenience products—those are the real budget killers.

Background Info

Our grocery budget covers food, obviously, but it also includes diapers, wipes, cleaners, toilet paper, etc.  It does not include eating out.  We have a separate budget for that, but we don’t do it very often.  We order pizza once a month OR go out to a sit-down restaurant for dinner once, and we have at-home date night twice a month (which just ends up being a more expensive meal than our ordinary fare—eaten after the children have been fed and put to bed.)

All right!  Let’s get into this!

1. Shop once per pay period

Unless you have an unusual pay schedule with gaps that make this impractical, shopping once saves time, cuts down on waste, and makes it a lot harder to do impulse buys because you’re only shopping ONCE.  There’s a learning curve with this one, but don’t give up.  If you forget something, make do without until the next scheduled grocery run.  You probably won’t forget it again, if it’s essential, once you’ve had to exist without it.  Or maybe you’ll realize you didn’t need it as much as you thought you did!

2. Shop the sale paper

Go online and check out the weekly sales ads to your favorite grocery stores.  Make a list of the things that are great prices and compare them.  If you always shop at the same place, consider branching out and seeing if another grocery might have better prices on certain items.  Running around to a lot of different stores isn’t always practical—you can have your saving eaten up in gas pretty quickly, not to mention your sanity if you’re shopping with young children—but going to just a couple stores can be an option.

3. Make Your Menu Plan

Base your menu plan around the sales ad.  Remember the notes you took from the ad?  You’re going to use those now.  Pork is on sale?  Start jotting down pork recipes.  Get on pinterest, flip through a cookbook, however you like to find recipes.  Even if the same types of meat go on sale regularly (chicken and pork here), learning how to prepare them in a variety of ways will make them so much more palatable and interesting.  Bonus: you generally become a better cook in the process.

4. Write a Detailed Grocery List

Examine your fridge, freezer, and cupboards for things you already have and things you may need.  Check your list against your menu plan to make sure you have any staples you’re planning on using.  This simple step can save you SO much time and money!  Consider taking a picture of your pantry and refrigerator so that if you find yourself standing in aisle three wondering whether you have broccoli already or not, you can refer to it and jog your memory.

5. Stick to the Grocery List

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something I have to remind myself of every time I shop. If you realize halfway through the store that you forgot to write down something you always need (usually butter or milk, if you’re me) go ahead and get it, but add it to the list and cross it off right there.  Don’t just start adding things to the list randomly though. If you see something you really want to try, write it down for next time.  Unless there is a staple product on sale that will save you multiple dollars, just don’t go down that road.

6. Try using grocery pickup

This last one isn’t something that applies to everybody, but it can be extremely helpful if you’re in a season of life where you have small children to take with you everywhere, or you’re really limited on time.  If it isn’t an option for you, don’t worry.  It isn’t the thing that is going to make or break your success at cutting your grocery budget.

It’s simply this: consider ordering your groceries online and using curbside pickup.  If you have a local grocery with the service, I consider it well worth it.  Sticking to my budget is so much easier when I order groceries online at my leisure (after the kids are in bed) rather than when I’m trying to wrangle 4 young children through the stores and fending off about 100 questions a minute. 

I frequently use Kroger Clicklist and Walmart Pickup, and will do a quick run through Aldi for the few things that are SO much cheaper I can’t help it.  Walmart Pickup is free, Kroger Clicklist charges 4.99 (but sometimes they have coupons to eliminate that fee).  I’ve found that I save a lot more than the 4.99 fee when I do use those services.  Bonus: I can price check between stores just by clicking between windows and add coupons to my Kroger card as I shop.

Start small!

If all of these ideas at once sound overwhelming, start small.  Start with changing one thing about how you shop for groceries, and then add on something else when you become accustomed to the first change.  This post is getting long so I’m going to wrap it up.  There is so much more that is coming to mind as I write, but that will have to be for a different time 😉

I’ll be back in a few days with a follow up post, showing you my menu plan and grocery haul for the first November pay period!

In the meantime, hit me up with any questions you have.  And if you have tips for saving on groceries, let me hear them! 😊