How To Really Change Your Grocery Budget

how to really change (1)

 

I posted this several years ago, but goodness they're such good reminders and still work for us!  I have to confess that as I’ve gotten busier I have occasionally purchased (*gasp*) pre-packaged snacks, but this morning I was in the kitchen filling up my Dollar Tree containers for the kids. (And our grocery budget has gone up to $80-$90 per week as our kids have gotten older and I don't have quite as much time to coupon.) I'd love to hear what other tips you all have for living frugally, beyond just clipping those coupons.

 

I’ve had friends ask me how I keep our grocery budget between $40 and $50 weekly (we have a family of 5, and this includes all toiletries, diapers, paper products, etc.) First, I think I’m a little genetically predisposed to living frugally. If you visit my Dad’s house he’ll probably tell you to use only half of the 2-ply toiletpaper – I think he’s kidding but I’m not completely sure!

 

Also, my husband provides very well for our family so that I can stay home with our kids, and I hate to see his hard earned money wasted on consumable groceries that don’t last.  So I work really hard to spend as little as I can on groceries, because I’d rather have money to do the things we really enjoy, like giving, fun things for our home, and vacationing (we love that one!)  Here are a few things that I've found work to pinch a few extra pennies in our home.

 

1. Constantly try to think of ways to use less.

We rarely use paper napkins (I have a huge stash of cloth ones) and we use rags instead of paper towels as often as we can (my hubby used to hate this one, but he's finally come to a place where he sees the value in saving on these!)

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The dishwasher doesn't run until it's completely stuffed (saving on dishwasher detergent, water and energy), and I use half a dryer sheet instead of a full one or a very small amount liquid softener (even that’s a luxury, when I’m being really cheap I just use vinegar!)  It's rare that I even use disinfectant wipes to clean because they’re just too expensive, instead I buy cleaners at a really good price (less than $.50-$1 per bottle) along with good ole’ fashioned rags.  I also try to use grocery sacks (the plastic ones) as often as I can for trash bags so that I use fewer garbage bags (I can never seem to find a good garbage bag deal!)



2. When it comes to snack foods, skip the snack-sized bags.

 

My kids have to take a snack to school each day, so I usually stock up on the very cheapest snacks I can find (they’re getting a little tired of Chex Mix, but it’s just so stinkin’ cheap!) and pack it in small plastic containers that I found at the Dollar Tree so I don’t waste Ziploc bags. I also sometimes bake homemade muffins or snack mixes and they have those for snacks.

 

My kids don’t get often get juice boxes or water bottles, instead they get plain old tap water in re-usable plastic bottles. (I did pick up some of the BPA free ones in the fall, so I feel a little less anxious about that whole plastic thing!) We really do stick to milk and water in our house and very occasionally orange juice when I find a great deal on it.

 

3. Stock up on meat when you see a good price on it.

When I find chicken breast or ground beef for less than $1.99/lb., I buy as much of it as my grocery budget can afford.  I also stock up on any basic pantry items when they’re really cheap, such as pasta, canned goods, frozen veggies, and frozen bread.

 

If I have leftovers of meat that won’t get eaten, it gets frozen to re-use in another meal. It really does hurt me to see food wasted, so I constantly think of ways to eat up everything we cook (another one that my hubby doesn’t always enjoy, but he’s willing to sacrifice to reach our long term savings goals!)

 

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***BONUS TIP***
Make a menu plan and grocery list. (I use Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan and grocery list this week and *LOVED* it. 

While I've always made a menu plan and grocery list, using Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan is new to me but I love it. After one week I'm hooked and highly encourage you to try it out. (Her special sale ends tonight and is $10.50 for a 3 month subscription – hurry before it's gone if you think it will help!)

Normally I make my own menu plan which takes a solid 30-45 minutes, so I love that she does all the work for us. (Especially for $3.50 per month or $.87 per week – well worth $.87 to save myself 45 minutes of time!)

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I chose the Whole Foods Menu Plan because we're working on a healthier 2016, and the list was pretty simple to follow. (I loved that you got all three menu plan options though for one price!)

 

I sometimes worry that my kids will have way too much to talk to their therapist about after growing up with this penny pinchin’ mama, but every once in a while I see glimpses of penny pinchin’ even in them. They love it when I come home with a new fun freebie (the free Nesquik was a big hit last week!), and they’re always excited to sample something new when I find a coupon on an item we haven’t tried yet.

 

I really hope to teach them that we don’t always need everything all the other kids have, even when we sometimes could afford it if we chose to. And along the way maybe they’ll learn that we’re called to use wisely what God gives us, and to share with others, hopefully creating lasting, meaningful joy (you can’t get that in a juice box, even though my 2 year old would disagree!)

 aldisamscostcoDownload the Ultimate Aldi, Costco & Sam's Club Price Comparison Sheet to easily compare prices before heading out to the store. 

 

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Looking for more ways to save on your grocery budget in 2016? Here you go:

These are a few things that work for our family, but I know they won’t work for everyone.  I also know that a lot of you do way more than this to save money – do you have other penny pinching tips that help your family?  I’d love to hear them ~ leave a comment to share

 

 

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Comments

  1. I have gone back to hanging my laundry on the clothesline like my Grandmother did and I also use lots of rags in place of papertowels.
    All my leftover veggies, such as greenbeans,etc go into a freezer container for soups down the road, leftover rice is mixed in with my dog’s food (helps their tummy) if there is not enough for another meal. After a certain time in the evening, we turn all the lights out and just watch the tv in the dark and never do we leave a room without checking that all the electrical appliances are off and unplugged. I also have gone back to making my own biscuits and homemade goodies, again like Grandma did….She truly was a very wise woman and I am so Thankful that she and my Grandfather taught me so much! This year, I will start my own garden and am learning to dehydrate and can food.

    • Wow Carol – those are some great ideas! It’s interesting to think of how much we live with SOOOO much, and how we can pare down things if we choose too!

  2. I would love to hear more about what homemade snacks you make. We love snacks, but they are expensive and I would love to get away from prepackaged stuff.

    We save money by using cloth diapers, except at night. Since we have two in diapers, it really is worth it. Our dishwasher is currently out of service so we do all dishes by hand. I coupon a lot. My husband picks up most of the groceries on his way home from work so I don’t have to use gas. This year we are going to start a garden. We mostly have simple dinners.

    I love reading about how to be thrifty!

  3. When my kids were in school they used to love cinnamon toast as a snack (spread margarine on bread, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake until crunchy) or peanut butter toast. They also liked cereals like frosted miniwheats (since I wouldn’t let them eat sweet cereal for breakfast). Raisins, homemade granola bars and such were also hits. Since my oldest has problems with processed foods I made almost everything from scratch and that saved a fortune and it was easy to plan on have extras for lunches and snacks.

    • Love all the tips. One word of caution – do not eat margarine! Pure poison. Please Google for all the info. Cheers!

  4. I 1st want to say I love your site and read it daily. (my husband thinks I am addicted and I tend to agree!)

    I am a newly stay at home mom (full time student). My 5, 4 and 21 month old do my shopping runs w/ me. My rule “if it’s not on the list we can’t buy it” A lady in line thought I was brillant when 1 of my kids was asking for something and I handed him my list he says “yeah, like that would be on your list, his sister says we can’t get it then. HA!

    sometimes I think “poor kids” then I think, hey maybe they will learn they can’t have everything.

    • I LOVE the idea of having everything on the list and letting them know nothing else is allowed – what a great idea! I’ve had the same thought about my “poor kids” and then I take a look around my house and realize they’re doing just fine 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. This is one of the best ways that I have found to save a lot of money on our food budget- my son takes his lunch every single day! Here in Madison I think it’s about $40 a month for hot lunch, For $40, I can make several month’s worth of healthy, delicious meals that I know he will enjoy. He’s in 5th grade, and his best friend told him that he wish his mom would bake cookies for him 🙂

    Another frugal thing we do- non grocery related, is to go to the library! With all the books that are required for him to read, we would have to spend at least $30 a week just to keep up his AR goal!

    • I am AMAZED at how expensive school lunch is, but my kids do eat it 2-3 times a week (which is just silly, I know better!) Thanks for the reminder Tammy, and love the library idea. . . it’s great for free movies too! 🙂

    • I used to let my kids choose one day per week to get school lunch. Each Sunday we would look over the school lunch menu and choose one day. That reduced my school lunch cost a lot, and it kept me from paying for school lunches that my kids really didn’t like anyway.

      • I do this with my daughter too. She goes to a private school, and we sacrifice a lot for her to go there. They don’t have a cafeteria but you can order out from different restaurants. I let her pick one meal a week to order, since sometimes it can cost $6 or $7 a meal! That way, she doesn’t feel left out and I don’t have to pay $45 a week for lunch! A lot of the kids at her school do this too.

  6. Thanks for all the tips newspapers are also get to clean mirrors and windows and work great in garden to keep down weeds lately I have began to make my own cleaning products for a fraction of cost.

    • We use them in the garden to keep away the weeds also, but I forget to use them for the windows … great tips! 🙂

  7. Can tell this one is from 2011. With $1.99 ground beef mentioned. I wish!

    • I know – those were the days! 🙂

    • If you have a college or university near you with an agriculture department, you may be able to buy meat from there at discounted prices. Our nearby university has ground beef on sale for 1.99 a pound right now when you buy a 40 pound box.

  8. I shop my grocery store first thing in the morning because that is when they mark down meats. I can usually get anything from ground beef to shrimp for 50-70 percent off. It is how I stock our deep freezer. I also coupon on top of their closeout prices (which I am always on the lookout for). That throws quite a lot of things free. I do not buy frozen juice or bottled juice. I already buy fresh produce (at Aldi) so we juice them. Better for you and way cheaper.

    • Great tips Mischka – thanks for sharing!!! Meat markdowns can save SOOOOO much – I once found chicken breasts for $.89/lb. and bought 20 lbs worth. And buying fresh produce at Aldi helps so much too!

  9. Daisy Moats says

    When I make my grocery list, I base it off a menu I make for 2 weeks –but just for dinners cause we usually eat the same things for breakfast and lunch. I also base my menu off my coupons. My husband is in the army and we are stationed over seas in Germany. So I can use my coupons 6 months past their expiration date.which has helped us SO much! I have already saved over 150 this month alone and its only Jan.15th! =)

  10. Debra DeBord says

    I try to make some things from scratch, like biscuits. No frozen premade biscuits for me, the cost of one bag just about equals one bag of flour. One bag of flour will yield a lot more than the 12 frozen biscuit in the bag. I make chocolate syrup too. It takes 5 minutes to make (I know what’s in it) and it cost me about 35 to 40 cents to make the equivalent to a can of Hershey’s syrup in a can. I rarely see great coupons for chocolate syrup. I made around 32 napkins, on the sewing machine, so we don’t use paper napkins or paper towels. I do buy paper towels, but only when I can get a roll for 50 cents or less and then I make it last. I use cotton drying towels in the kitchen and a hand towel dry to wet hands. I also have not bought garbage bags in almost 10 months. I use large shopping bags or thrift store bags. Since I recycle what I can, like cereal boxes are used for craft projects when card stock is called for (but not for making cards) and reuse good size glass jars, my garbage is small. It’s amazing if you calculate how much I would have spent on garbage bags, napkins and paper towels!

  11. Saundra Goldrick says

    When my kids were little they were allowed too pick one box or bag of cereal. When the bag got down to not enough for a bowl I would add it to a canister. I would add things like peanuts marshmallows pretzels leaver popcorn. This was used for a snack mix for them…they loved it!! Also right now I have a canister for the crushed or stale crackers chips pretzels and grind them for my garlic potato chip chicken.

  12. Rosemary Guyton says

    I really hate to buy paper towels but my husband refuses to use rags or hand towels. He will only use rags for working on the vehicles. He swears that using the hand towels have more germs. I’m not believing it. I do wash them in the washer and dryer. I guess that since he can fix just about anything that this offsets the cost. Couponing is a great thing. Even if you don’t have coupons we can all shop the sales to help save.

    • My husband prefers paper towels too Rosemary! I do keep some on hand now and use them for certain things, and like you am so thankful for sales so that we can at least get really good prices on them (gotta love coupons!) 🙂

  13. Love all of these wonderful idea's ! After looking at all of these post's I've just realized that I'm actually saving alot more than I realized by doing things I've always done…Ha, imagaine that. My son takes his lunch every day (he doesnt like the school lunches) I almost always bake something homemade, very rarely do I ever by pre packaged baked goods. I make my own laundry deteregent which lasts SO much longer than commercial brands and gets my clothes cleaner without the chemicals. I use vinegar for so many things from adding to the laundry …it comes out softer and smelling fresher, to washing windows, and using it to prevent clogged drains. Love, love, love your post's !!!

    • Love that Mich! It’s funny how those little things can really add up – thanks for sharing (I keep saying I’m going to try homemade laundry detergent one of these days but just am not there yet – I’ve heard that’s a huge money saver though!)

    • How do you make your laundry detergent?

      • We make our own detergent also. 1/2 cup Borax, 1/2 cup washing soda, 1/3 cup dawn dish soap blue original. Add some water and heat until dissolved. Then we poor it into a gallon sized vinegar bottle with cold water ( make sure you put a little cold water in before you poor to prevent melting) to fill the rest of the bottle. We use a half cup for each load and have no problem with HE cause it isn’t high sudsing. We do wash our washer with vinegar and a bit a bleach once a month to keep it clean.

        • I have tried homemade laundry soap in the past and it doesn’t work. BUT, Dawn is an excellent cleaner and YOUR recipe sounds promising. Currently, I use Dawn in the laundry for oil food stains. You just put a bit on the oil stain and throw it in the washer. Works like a charm. I might have to mix some your recipe up. When it comes to laundry detergent I am a Tide person. I try to get away from it and I always come back. Except for some oil stains (which I use Dawn on), Tide takes out all of the stains in my clothes without pretreating. I haven’t found another soap that can do that. I’m a pig, if I wreck just 1 item of clothing every 2 weeks, that is 26 items wrecked per year which costs me more then just buying Tide and avoiding all the drama. But, currently I have 4 different brands of laundry soap in my basement as I venture on my endless quest to replace Tide ……lol I like Simply Tide but, I think more clothes are coming out looking more worn….balls on my clothes etc. It is possible because I think they put something in laundry detergent that protects the clothes from getting balls on them and it’s possible Simply Tide doesn’t have that ingredient. Then again, I might just be nuts.

  14. What do you use to make laundry detergent? Very interested in this as I have tons of clothes and a child with skin allergies and we have to buy the more expensive free and clear stuff.

  15. Rebecca Morgan says

    If you make your own laundry detergent how does that work if you have a washer that uses the HE detergent?

  16. Glenda Sullivan says

    I invested in the meat grinding attachment for my mixer. When chicken goes on sale I grind it up to use in place of ground beef.

  17. most of those too! (recently blogged about several of them). I’ve actually grown to prefer rags to paper towels – they work better! I clean almost everything with vinegar and water. Also, if anything I’m cooking for dinner one night can be doubled and frozen, I usually do that. it often saves money and cuts down on waste because I can buy bigger containers (that are often less expensive per unit price, i.e. chicken broth, canned tomatoes, etc…)and it’s basically no more work up front. Plus, it gives me a freebie night later when i don’t feel like cooking, which means we eat out less. i call it ‘double and freeze.’ pretty original 😉 haha!

  18. During the winter I make lots of soup. I always have some kind of soup or stew in my fridge. Its great for lunches or a quick dinner. I also tend to make extras for dinners, My husband takes the extra to work for his lunch and we also have a “left over night ” twice a week. Its usually on our busiest nights.

  19. We love, love, love Zaycon for our meats – especially their boneless, skinless chicken. It’s not only cheaper most of the time but it’s a lot fresher.

  20. Making your own cleaning products is cheaper than even $0.50/bottle!

  21. My entire grocery shopping experience changed once I started meal planning and following a list. And ONLY get what is on that list. Cut my bill dramatically!

  22. Great tips here. I shared this post in my links post today!

  23. I have also vowed to save money and eat better in 2016. I have ditched the paper towels and I made my own out of flannel. It soaks up spills really good and it works well when hubby eats ribs and chicken wings. Lol I also make my own laundry soap, dishwasher detergent and I use wool dryer balls in place of fabric softener and dryer sheets. I also make my own puppy treats and deodorant. I cancelled cable and Internet last summer and we use an antenna and watch movies and use our mobile data. I am always looking for more ways to save and homemade items I can use to save money.

  24. i do 1-2 ‘cook-ups’ per week, and i normally get 4 main meals per cook-up. i buy my meat in bulk at aldi and divide it into portions and freeze. i buy the majority of my vegetables frozen. my main dishes are sauce and rice, sauce and pasta, and meat and vegetable dishes. when i do my groceries i stick to a list, as i have ‘grandmother syndrome – buying 1 item = 1 trolley full’ lol. i find i save a lot of money by doing this, and when i really think about it, i dont really need the item not on the list. i have to go to 2 grocery stores as one doesnt sell what i want (a particular brand of catfood). on occasion i will scour the supermarket catalogues and buy eg. coffee for half price etc. by having my meals pre-made, i get home from work and can eat within minutes, as i take the meal out the night before to defrost and put it in the fridge when i go to work in the morning. it is great when you are starving! 🙂

  25. I have to have gluten free dairy free products. How can I save then?

    • 3 of my kids have to eat gluten free so I make all our meals gluten free. We mainly eat a meat, vegetable, and potatoe for dinner, just change the combinations. It is super simple and healthy. I get almost everything at Aldi and shop the sales, no couponing. I make a gluten free all purpose flour that is a combination of mostly white rice flour and some brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. I get it at natural grocer, it is half the price of Aldi gf flour and that is the cheapest I’ve found. I use the flour to regularly make pancakes, banana muffins, cinnamon roll muffins, corn bread, and we also found a really good yeast bread recipe and chocolate cupcake recipe. I use Pinterest to find great recipes that are simple. We snack on fresh fruits and veggies, I buy whatever is on sale or we pop popcorn. We can have dairy so we also do cheese and yogurt. But a lot of the things I mentioned are also dairy free. It definitely is harder if you can’t eat gluten or dairy. My advice is to eat fresh foods and try to get them on sale! You just won’t be able to save as much as others but do what you can and be happy with keeping you body healthy!

  26. Elaine Morris says

    I use vinegar and Dawn to clean my tub and shower. Very inexpensive and does a much better job than the expensive chemicals in the store.

  27. Robin McIntosh says

    I use paper towels for everything. Hand washing dishes, Wiping down counters. With a good disinfectant that has bleach. My reasoning salmonella, Then typhoid fever. Just to say the least. A rag just smears the germ all over the place.

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