“How much do you spend at the grocery store each week?”
It’s a question I see often on Facebook, usually in one of my local mom’s groups. I think we ask because we’re curious how other mamas run their household. And, of course, how exactly we are all managing to keep our families fed when the cost of milk seems exponentially greater than it was a few years ago.
I am by no means a coupon queen or deal expert, but I have found a system that seems to keep us on budget while still keeping the cupboards full. Here’s my tips for spending about $100 a week at the grocery store for a family of four*.
- Use cash. This is probably my greatest tip. Each week I get one $100 bill and that’s the budget. When we first switched to a mostly cash-based budget I would withdraw $400 and keep that in my wallet for my monthly grocery shopping. Costco made that a problem and by the 20th I was usually out of grocery money. By spacing it out to a weekly allowance I seem to do much better at staying on track.
- Shop the kitchen first. When I sit down to make our weekly meal plan, I aim to plan a meal or two out of ingredients we already have. This helps me to maximize money I’ve already spent and not waste food we have at home.
- Buy in bulk … but not everything. Do not let Costco fool you. You do not need 12 cans of black beans, or at least, I don’t! Learn exactly what your family uses in bulk and choose to save there. For us, that is things like granola bars, cheese, yogurt and chicken.
- Don’t waste. This is a hard one for me. I seem to always be finding something tragic stuffed in the back of my refrigerator. But, planning meals around leftovers is one of my big commitments in the coming months. This way, the zucchini I buy for a grilled side will also make an appearance as a risotto mix in and then shredded up for morning egg scrambles. If I’m extra diligent and mindful I always spend less because I waste less.
- Shop strategically. Aim to buy most of your groceries around the perimeter of the store … produce, dairy, meat. Once you turn into the aisles the cost of each product goes up due to being shelf stable, pre-packaged and branded.
- Find a food mentor. This is something new I’m trying and I love it! I consider myself mediocre on the healthy scale when it comes to feeding my family and I want to be better! So, I narrowed in on a few mama friends who are more skilled in the food arena and am gleaning tips from them. With $100 a week for groceries I have a lot of freedom and learning from others is key to my doing better. One thing I’ve learned is the benefit of canning when our favorite fruits are in season (this will save me money in the winter when my kiddos are begging for peaches) and Meatless Mondays (a weekly tradition where a meal doesn’t include meat, but rather another protein like beans).
- Don’t take your kids shopping. I know, I know. Sometimes this can’t be helped. But, I promise, I always spend less when the kids aren’t with me asking for special cereal, exotic fruits and end-cap temptations.
- Meal plan. I’ve mentioned this a few times, but the act of sitting down and planning out what you’re going to eat each week helps stretch that $100 for sure. I will be honest though, sometimes, when my creative well is running dry and Pinterest seems too overwhelming I’ll meal plan as I shop (alone, of course). BUT, I only do this at discount grocery stores. Grocery Outlet is one of my favorites. Often the organic options there are outstanding and a perfect kick start to my meal plan.
- Prioritize. Every family is going to be different so let go of the comparison game and decide what is most important to YOU. Spend you money there. Do you want local organic beef? Do you prefer the convenience of specific products so lunch packing is easy? Do nectarines need to be on hand no matter the price?
Now it is your turn! How much do you spend on groceries each week? What tips do you keep in mind to stay within budget?
*Just for an accurate scope, our family lives in the Pacific Northwest and consists of my husband who takes lunches to work most days, me … a pregnant mama, an adventurous eating preschooler and her very picky little brother. Also, when I say grocery money, that includes everything I buy at the grocery store — food, toiletries and cleaning products. It does not include diapers or wipes.