Groceries on a Budget

Through the years we’ve had times of plenty and times of sparsity. Whatever our financial season, we always try to stick to a grocery budget. Since my husband gets paid only once a month, this is especially important to plan out. With some creativity and organization, I’ve figured out a few hacks that work for us to keep our grocery bill down.

Hack #1: Buying in bulk. With my weekly grocery list in hand, I went to Costco and spent time going up and down each aisle and comparing prices. I made a Costco list of things that were cheaper to buy in bulk that I was buying every week at the grocery store. (AnyList app is my life-saver!) At the start of each month (when payday hits) I do the Costco shopping–and I do not go back to Costco for the rest of the month (a big money-saver cuz you know you can never leave Costco with just the one thing you went in for, right?!) Here’s my Costco list:

Grated cheese (comes in 2 bags and lasts us 2 months. I freeze one bag while using the other), American Cheese, String Cheese and Individually wrapped Baby Bell Cheese, Eggs (we eat eggs every morning so getting 48 eggs for $3 is a STEAL), Butter, Eggo Waffles, Spaghetti, Macaroni & CheeseGold Fish Snacks, Bread (2 loaves for $5 compared to 1 loaf for $3.50!!! We get 6  loaves each month and I keep the bread in the freezer until use), Fruit & Yogurt Squeezie Pouches, Cereal, Some Extras: gum, kids vitamins, probiotics, canned chicken, toilet paper

Hack #2: we eat meat sparingly, as meat can be a pricey item. I buy a bag of frozen chicken breasts at Trader Joe’s or Costco to last the month. I buy ground turkey at Trader Joe’s and try to get two meals out of it (ie tacos and spaghetti). Chicken drumsticks are very inexpensive, so they’re a good budget-friendly option. I rarely buy beef or fish (instead we get our fix when we go out for a date!)

Hack #3: I make just enough for our family. We’re not big on left-overs anyway. And throwing extra food away is a money-drain. So I almost always cut recipes in half. Instead of using a whole package of penne and having left-overs, I use half a bag. If a recipe calls for premium apple-smoked bacon, I plan another meal that week that will use up the bacon (or I just get a cheaper bacon). I tweak recipes too. If a recipe calls for one obscure ingredient, I substitute it for something cheaper that I may already have. I get creative.

Hack #4: I regulate snacks. If it were up to my kids, they would snack all day long, especially my toddler who immediately wants a snack anytime she gets bored or upset. My kids would eat me out of house and home if I wasn’t on top of snacks! So we stick to a routine of late morning snack and afternoon snack. And that’s it. I also portion out snacks into snack-size Ziploc baggies. Once a week (usually after I’ve grocery shopped) I portion out snacks and arrange them in a ‘morning snack basket’ and an ‘afternoon snack basket’ kept in the pantry. They know to pick only one snack baggie and if they want, they can add a string cheese or Baby Bell cheese or a fruit. This keeps them from polishing off a box of wheat thins or a bag of popcorn in one snack sitting! We’ve saved a lot of money this way. (It’s also taught my kids not to use food to satisfy other issues like boredom, hurt feelings, or cravings).

Hack #5: Meal planning! I’m telling you, it makes a huge difference. For more on meal planning, check out my Jan 14 post.