6 Steps to Drastically Reduce Your Grocery Budget – All of the easiest ways to dramatically cut your grocery budget. We went from $1,000/month for 2 people to $350/month for 6 people! It’s insane!
True story: when my husband and I were just starting to get serious about our budget, we were spending almost $1,000/month on food… for 2 adults and 1 little baby (who really didn’t count toward our food bill).
I’m almost embarrassed to tell you those numbers… but it was our reality.
We were so lost and desperate to find a way to be able to actually eat without digging ourselves into debt.
That’s when someone told me about meal planning and I think I laughed in their face. Who has the time for that?!
Well, eventually we dug ourselves deeper and deeper into this hole of grocery spending, and I was ready to try anything to get our spending in check.
I gave meal planning a show and it was honestly everything that I needed. It changed the way we budget, the way we eat, and the amount that we spend on food… by A LOT!
We went from spending $1,000/month on food to spending less than $50 per person per month. In less than 3 months, I got our budget down to $150 per month on groceries.
That’s an $850/month savings! That’s a mortgage payment, or a fully-paid vacation, or 2 really nice cars payments, or diamond earrings, or a new couch, or those gorgeous new shoes you really want… all right there in my budget!
If you ever wonder why I keep telling you about your grocery spending, it’s such an easy place to get control of your money and see an immediate difference. (Don’t we all like to have an easy win?!)
Related post: 7 Super Easy Ways To Make Your Grocery Budget Last
There are 6 Major Ways to Drastically Reduce Your Grocery Budget.
1. Stop eating out (or plan the times you eat out and adjust your grocery budget accordingly).
Eating out can instantly kill a great grocery budget. $10 at Chipotle or $60 at a nice sit-down restaurant could buy half a week’s meals at home. You can eat just as well, (or likely even better) by planning to eat home.
Start by packing easy lunches for work.
Make it a habit to pack your lunch after dinner.
Even if you think you’ll have the motivation to do it in the morning, doing it the night before is a great habit to get into).
Plan to spend a set amount for a monthly date night.
Or our favorite: a Saturday morning coffee date when we go to the playground with the kids. (Dates don’t always have to be on Saturday night!)
Related post: The Trick to Keep Grocery Spending Under Control
2. Start batch cooking or freezer cooking.
This is such a game changer to drastically reduce your grocery budget! I get it: you’re busy and exhausted. You don’t have time to cook all of your meals for a month in a day. You don’t have any free days.
Do you have an hour to save yourself the trouble of cooking eight dinners? I bet you do! There are so many ridiculously easy freezer cooking options that will save you a fortune! Here are a few of my favorites:
- Taco dinners: Make some ground beef with taco seasoning and freeze a small portion size in a container. Then freeze small baggies of cheese, salsa, tomatoes, even guacamole. Put all of those little bags into one big bag and you have a meal all set to be thawed and eaten quickly.
- Pancakes: Make 40 or even 80 with an electric griddle (you buy these as low as $31 on Amazon) and almost no extra effort. We freeze the leftovers in packs of 3 wrapped in wax paper then place the wax paper packets in a gallon freezer bag (or several). Then just microwave from frozen in the wax paper for 90 seconds.
- Slow cooker meals: Gallon bags filled with a raw slow cooker recipe that you can just thaw and dump in a slow cooker for a super easy dinner. Things like baby back ribs, stew, chili, chicken dishes etc. We use these planning packs to make these and super easy freezer meals.
- Check out my “Freezer Cooking and Meal Planning” Pinterest board here for more easy ideas.
- Bagels freeze perfectly and make easy breakfasts!
Don’t write off once a month freezer cooking though.
At some point, you should really try this. In the end, if you’re looking for a ridiculously low grocery budget, few dishes during the week and no kitchen clean up, this plan’s for you!
There are even websites out there that will do the “prep” work for you, I’ve used Eat at Home meals and loved their program. I would recommend it to anyone that wants to save time and money.
Related Post: How to Live on One Low Income
What is “batch cooking?”
By batch cooking, you’re grabbing the best price you can find and buying in bulk. To make it easy, if chicken thighs are on sale for $.99/pound at your local grocery store, instead of buying pork, ground beef, steaks, and chicken like usual, we’re going to buy 30 pounds of chicken thighs.
Some of that chicken we’ll freeze plain, some we’ll make into super easy slow cooker freezer meals, some we’ll make into frozen bags of prepped stir-fry packs, and some we’ll cook right away.
Then next week, when they have a huge sale on ground beef, we’re going to do the same, and buy tons of that beef to mix in with our chicken thighs.
Related post: How Much Should I Budget for Groceries?
3. Pay less for more, using a method that works for you.
There are 4 basic ways to pay less for more.
- Coupons (specifically coupon matching)
- A discount grocery store (like Price Rite, Amelia’s, Grocery Outlet, and more)
- Sale cycles
- Aldi (I have no idea how to classify Aldi except as “AMAZING!”)
Strategic couponing can be a great way to reduce your spending, but most people don’t have the organizational skills to make this successful (like me! 😉 ). I suggest Ibotta, which is easier and still adds a few hundred a year back into your budget.
You can read more about Ibotta here.
Now check your local area to see if you have a grocery depot or a bread depot. This is a fantastic place to find great deals.
We bought 5 pounds of pepperoni at our local discount grocer for about $3. They expired in a month. We took them home, packaged them out and froze them in dinner sized portions. Those pepperoni have been pizzas for quite a while!
Always check expiration dates and don’t buy things you don’t need (like the 10 boxes of chocolate wafers that were expiring in a few days that I convinced my husband we had to buy because they were only a quarter).
Aldi is a pretty safe bet (they aren’t selling items close to expiration dates) that requires almost no work. Aldi is a grocery store that sells their own products at much cheaper prices than a regular grocery store.
It’s a little unique in that you have to “rent” your shopping cart for a quarter and pay for grocery bags, but the savings are well worth it. If you have an Aldi within an hour, stock up there on staples once a month and fill in with dairy etc. at the local stores.
You can find out if you have an Aldi close to you here. They’re all over the east coast but expanding rapidly!
Related post: 5 Side Hustles That Pay For My Groceries (and More!)
4. Stock up on the basics.
I live by my stockpiles. They save me a ton of money, but much more important is how much time they save me! No more running out to grab something you’re out of. You always have more in stock!
Make a list of the basic things you use. Be honest with yourself about what you use. My stockpile list will be different from yours.
Don’t buy a ton of flour and sugar if you aren’t a baker. Buy what you use. Canned tomatoes, refried beans, boxed pasta, Ramen… whatever you always need on hand, make sure that you have a nice stockpile. Stock what you use a ton of and will buy again if you run out.
ONLY BUY WHAT YOU USE AND LOVE! Sorry for the caps, but that was super important.
Even if you see a good deal on cereal that you’ve never had before, don’t stock up on it. If you pay $1/box, buy 10, and hate it, you just burned up a $10 bill.
Make a list of things that you use routinely, like, and that will never go to waste in your house.
My list includes: chicken thighs, ground beef, shredded cheese, tortillas, hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, duck sauce, rice, canned fruits and veggies, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, spices, flour, soy sauce, sugar, chocolate chips, dry beans, frozen veggies, baking soda, cocoa powder, white cooking wine, seasoned rice vinegar, and pasta.
Keep the items from your list in your pantry at all times. Get them at the best possible price and never worry about running out.
As a bonus, these can make what I call “back up pantry meals”. I can make stir fry, pizza, pasta bakes or macaroni and cheese based on what’s in my pantry alone. If something goes terribly wrong with my dinner plans, I don’t need to order pizza… I’m covered.
Related post: Money Saving Hacks from an Extreme Cheapskate
5. Start having meatless Mondays (or a list of super cheap meals).
Protein is almost always the most expensive part of your meal. If you go meatless just one dinner a week, it can really add up in savings over the course of a month.
Our favorite meatless dinners are…
- broccoli cheddar cheese soup
- macaroni and cheese with butternut squash mixed in (a Eat at Home recipe!)
- cheese tortellini or spaghetti with pasta sauce
- meatless tacos with beans, rice, cheese and enchilada sauce
If you can’t get your hubby into this idea, don’t tell him. (I’m going somewhere with that!) Pizza doesn’t need to have pepperoni to be delicious. Soup doesn’t need to have chicken to be yummy. Just ask how he feels about pizza or baked potato soup instead of calling it “Meatless Monday.” My husband has unknowingly been having meatless Mondays for years! It’s all about trying to sell him on the dinner itself, not the title. 🙂
Related post: How to Save for the Newly Frugal
6. Throw out junk food and start making homemade snacks.
This is the very last step. You’ve already seen a complete transformation in your grocery budget if you’ve done the above steps but you can go even lower. Chances are you still buy snack food.
Things like cheese sticks, cookies, brownies, chips, popcorn, and trail mix. These are all things that you can make at home.
Granted, you need a little time. It takes about 30 minutes to bake a batch of cookies (although my personal philosophy is to spend 40 min and bake 3 batches to freeze). By replacing the high-cost of convenience foods and packaging or making them yourself, the savings add up quickly.
Not to mention the benefits of losing all of the unpronounceable ingredients. You can buy large containers of snacks and then package them individually, or make them from scratch at home.
Also, if you find yourself buying water bottles while you’re out running errands, get into the habit of bringing around your refillable water bottle with you. This $9 one-time cost will save you from needing to buy a $2 each time you go to the grocery store as well as the cost of buying a pack of water bottles each week.
Here are a few of our favorite snacks:
- carrots and pita with homemade hummus
- yogurt (bought in a large tub or make it yourself)
- cheese cubes
- popcorn made on the stove with coconut oil
- chocolate chip cookies
- fruit (super easy)
- trail mix that you mix yourself (so that you can add as many M&Ms as you want!)
- ants on a log (celery, peanut butter and raisins)
Follow those steps and you’ll see how easy it can be to drastically reduce your grocery budget.
Remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself grace if you end up caving and ordering Dominos at 11 pm.
We’re looking for a transformed grocery budget and a completely different way of feeding your family as an end result, not perfection every single day along the way. Just start, don’t give up, and don’t get upset with yourself.
Keep taking steps in the right direction. Once you learn the skills, you have them for life.
Are you up for a grocery challenge?
- Plan 1 meatless (or cheap) meal each week; less than $5 per meal for the whole family.
- Check to see if you have an Aldi within an hour or a discount grocer in your town (just Google “discount grocery store near [your zip code]” and you can see any near you).
- Sign up and use Ibotta (this is a cash rebate on groceries and it’s 100% less time than clipping coupons).
- Schedule a freezer cooking session and put it in your schedule book. Aim for simple cooking like the Eat at Home plans.
Don’t stress out if you don’t see immediate results! This is a process that will take some time. But if you stick to it, you’ll see your budget go down dramatically!
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What’s your biggest grocery struggle?