My Budget Boot Camp Day 14: The Grocery Bill

Well my friends, we’re finally at the end of my boot camp to whip that budget into shape! To re-cap all the hard work that’s been going on this month around here, so far I’ve disclosed my budgeting practices regarding:





Health Insurance

Auto/Home/Life Insurance

Cell Phone/Cable/Internet

Gas/Car Maintenance

Discretionary Spending

Toiletries/Paper Products/Cleaning Supplies

Today I’ll wrap up with the last, and arguably the most complex, category of my budget: the grocery budget.

Just Me and My Grocery Budget

Based on the prolific amount of services out there devoted to helping people lower their grocery budgets, I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s a pretty hot topic for a lot of people these days. I wish I had some secret up my sleeve for lowering the grocery budget that involves minimal effort. Sorry, no secrets. If you want to save money, the grocery budget is a great place to start because there is typically a lot of wiggle room and potentially some big pay-offs, but it also takes a bit of elbow grease and sometimes even sacrifice. But hey, I’m no stranger to sacrifice these days.

Mike and I started out the year optimistically shooting for $115/month. Recently we’ve had to jump that to $140. I figure with Mike burning a ton of extra calories at work every day he pretty much counts as 1.5 people at least (although you couldn’t tell by looking at him). Plus Olivia has the appetite of a 13-year-old boy, sooo…

Anyway, $115 wasn’t cutting it. I still think it could cut it, but working part-time and running the house full-time plus trying to be as available as possible to my sweet daughter and husband just doesn’t lend itself to full-blown grocery money saving extravaganzas, although I do, actually, really enjoy grocery shopping.

That said, I do follow a few of the tricks of the grocery shopping pros, my favorite pros being:

Crystal at Money Saving Mom

Savings Lifestyle

Erin at Five Dollar Dinners

Their tricks?

  • Pay Cash- We take our grocery budget money out of the bank at the beginning of each month and that’s it for the month! I know for a fact paying cash has decreased my monthly grocery bill by about $60 since I have switched to cash from plastic. Hmm…
  • Couponing– I cut ’em out of magazines, print them offline, cut them out of newspaper inserts, get them off of boxes, wherever.  Don’t know where to find coupons? Money Saving Mom has a list of 10 great places to look. The above bloggers do a fabulous job rounding up deals and matching up coupons to those deals for specific stores each week. Half my work- done. Sometimes it feels like cheating, they make it so easy to find great deals at the grocery store.
  • Menu Planning– I typically make my own meal plan at the beginning of each week. I’m somewhat of a “creative” cook. I make stuff up and experiment based on what I have and what I can get for cheap, and I have a husband who will pretty much eat anything I make him. But, if you are not so adventurous, Erin at Five Dollar Dinners is really good about putting out a weekly meal plan with a printable grocery list to carry to the store.
  • Freezer Cooking- I’m working on this one. Actually I’m working on ALL of these, but I’ve just now started catching on to the idea of freezer cooking. I basically double batches of food I am making if it will freeze well and then, voila, I have an “instant” meal that is way more healthy and way cheaper than the frozen dinners at the store. In fact, next week we’re going to eat exclusively out of the freezer. Mama’s going on a little dinner making vacation!
  • Freezer StockingAnd besides meals, I’ve been known to load my freezer up with butter, cheese, bread, meat, fruits, and vegetables that I find on super sale. Check out The National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website for a list of what you can freeze and how to do it.
  • Gardening- This year I’m starting a garden! We eat a lot of produce around here, and it is pretty expensive, so I am excited to try out my green thumb a little. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully there is some extra to freeze for winter!
  • Go in with friends on Co-ops and Farm Shares- Last year I want to Local Harvest and signed up to receive a box of fresh veggies from a local farm just up the road every week during the growing season (about 5 months). The cost break down was about $25/week, but we ended up splitting with some friends and it was definitely plenty! I have also found farms that sell organic meat (no hormones and chemicals added!), fruits, and eggs. Some friends of ours actually went in together and bought a whole cow’s worth of beef!
  • Make It From Scratch– You know what I’ve discovered? You can make just about anything at home- even crackers and chips. It’s almost always cheaper, and it is pretty much guaranteed to be healthier for you because you don’t have all the added chemicals and preservatives. We save tons of money by not buying many packaged snacks, and I can make just about any type of snack using a fairly short list of ingredients I try to keep stocked in my pantry. Besides snacks, I make bread, tortillas, and desserts, and we rarely eat processed breakfast cereal anymore thanks to my baked goods. To save time- I typically take a couple of hours every Saturday to do a bunch of baking. We eat half of it that week, and the other half goes in the freezer for the weeks that just get too crazy.
  • Don’t Buy Convenience- I know, I know. They say time is money. But guess what? I’m not getting paid to be a homemaker and we’ve gotta pay the grocery bill sooo… I don’t buy anything convenience. I don’t buy frozen meals. I don’t buy canned beans. I don’t buy baby carrots. It means a little more work and thought goes into my meals, but it definitely saves me money. What’s an extra 5 minutes spent chopping a bag of carrots?

How about you? Do you have any tricks for trimming the grocery budget? Do you make your own and/or grow your own food? If you haven’t tried any of the above tricks for trimming the grocery budget- pick one and try it!

Go To: My Budget Boot Camp Day 15


7 thoughts on “My Budget Boot Camp Day 14: The Grocery Bill

  1. Pingback: My Budget Boot Camp Day 13: My (Green) Trick for Saving Money While Keeping Me and My House Clean « The Debt Free Family

  2. Pingback: My Budget Boot Camp Day 4: Budget Basics and My Outline « The Debt Free Family

  3. Pingback: Confessions of a Real Life Grocery-Shop-Aholic « The Debt Free Family

  4. Pingback: Stuff I’ve Gotten for FREE Using Coupons « The Debt Free Family

  5. just found your blog through your comment on $5 dinners 🙂 Groceries are definitely a hot topic nowadays, especially with rising food costs. We’re a family of five that’s also working on getting out of debt, and for quite a while our grocery budget was $200 a month. It was definitely tight! However, now that we’ve recently paid off a major debt, we’ve adjusted our budget, and our grocery budget is now $400 a month. We’re also transitioning to an organic, whole foods diet, and I’m starting to buy a lot of our food locally. It’s a challenge to fit it all in but somehow it always works out 🙂

    • Hey Sara! Wow- were you able to buy a lot of organic whole foods on the $200 budget? It’s certainly been a challenge, but we’ve managed to do pretty well all things considering. We do a lot of “rationing” though- appropriating different sized portions per week and sticking to it to make it last! I can’t wait until we are debt free and we have more room in the budget to spare!

      • When my grocery budget was that low I didn’t buy organic, but I was cooking and baking everything from scratch, which eliminated things like hfcs. I also was able to fit in things like real butter, natural peanut butter, some whole wheat flour etc. Now that I have the bigger budget we’re able to eat mostly organic, and more recently meat, cheese, and eggs from a local farm. But we got to this point in baby steps-as we paid off more debt we bumped up our grocery budget in small amounts.

        If your interested in healthy eating I have lots of blogs on my blog roll that focus on this (I’ve got like 70 blogs on my list lol)-I actually just added yours 🙂 One of my favorite bloggers is Heavenly Homemakers-she’s my healthy living mentor 🙂 Penniless Parenting is another great one too. If you haven’t visited these yet I can give you their blog addresses, or they’re on my blog role.

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