Several years ago my husband and I cut our monthly expenses in half. We randomly set a grocery budget of $400 a month for the two of us based on what we were spending.
Now we’ve grown to a family of four and REDUCED our grocery budget to just $330 a month.
I’ve learned over the years that guessing and assuming when it comes to the budget won’t work. Coming up with a number for a frugal grocery budget cannot be random. In fact, it must be strategic!
There are several factors to take into account before working with a frugal grocery budget. Don’t worry though – I’m here to walk you through it!
Why Make a Frugal Grocery Budget
The simple reason to create a frugal grocery budget in the first place is to save money.
What you do with the money you save is entirely up to you. Our “one-day” dream was to buy a house with cash, and you know what? We did it!
Maybe your dream is to pay for your kid’s college so they don’t have student loans. Or save up for a new-to-you car. Or to build an emergency fund in case the breadwinner loses their job.
Whatever the reason, the biggest reason to make a frugal grocery budget is to save money. The secondary reason is that food doesn’t have to cost so much!
When you set your heart and mind to it, you’ll get creative and you’ll think of ways to get more out of your grocery budget. You’ll soon realize that you can eat VERY well by not spending a lot of money – it’s all about being strategic!
I’ve shared the exact strategies I’ve learned from the years of working within a frugal grocery budget in Grocery Budget Bootcamp. However, I want to give you the basics of how to make a frugal grocery budget because I believe it’s absolutely vital to share with others.
How to Make a Frugal Grocery Budget
You absolutely cannot, in any way shape or form, create a frugal grocery budget NOR work within a budget if you’re dead set against it. It simply will not work.
So mentally prepare yourself first. Commit to making a food budget – no if’s, and’s or but’s allowed. There will be a cap on your spending. If you reach the bottom of the money jar before the month is over, you’ll have to learn to make do with what you have.
But take heart: eating well with only your pantry at hand is not an impossible task. We have gone 33 days without spending any money at all.
The whole family needs to be on the same page with the grocery budget as well. Sit down with the family to explain why it’s important to have a grocery budget, and how it will allow you to achieve your greater money goals together. Explain how it will help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, and how to be more mindful when grocery shopping.
Soup nights, leftovers and meat-less meals go over much easier to manage when the family knows the reasoning behind them.
2. Add Up Your Current Spending
This step takes a little bit more time. To figure out what you SHOULD spend on groceries, you need to figure out what you ALREADY spend on your grocery bill.
For the next month, keep every single receipt you spend on food, from the grocery store and dining out. We’re not going to account for that in the final budget tally, but seeing how much you spend eating out is very insightful while making your budget.
Now be careful – you might be tempted to cheat. A tall cup of coffee from Starbucks or a bag of popcorn while shopping at Target seem harmless, but it’s still food and it still counts!
Be sure to keep track of ONLY your grocery expenses. A grocery budget should not include household items like cleaning supplies, toiletries, or paper goods. (You need a separate budget for toiletries, and following these tips can help shave your budget down AND cut down on chemicals in your household.)
At the end of the month, add up all the receipts for a grand total. This total is your starting point. From here on out, your first goal is not spending more than that on groceries. Your second goal is to lower your spending.
3. Start Cutting Back
This is the bulk of the process and it doesn’t happen overnight, so be prepared for the long haul.
There are many ways to reduce your grocery spending, like monthly meal planning with seasonal produce, cooking from scratch, buying in bulk and using coupons and rebate apps (although I have chosen not to use coupons anymore). But here are some “out of the box” ways you can cut your spending:
- Categorize your spending. Do this according to the foods you bought and eliminate anything that didn’t fall into a major food group.
- Stop buying food when you’re doing other things. (i.e. a bag of popcorn while browsing Target, coffee from Starbucks while running errands)
- Conduct a pantry inventory. Include your fridge and freezer inventory. This is so you can see how much food you ALREADY have before you go shopping again.
- Avoid food waste. Throwing away food is like throwing away money. You can even avoid waste by using up food scraps.
- Stretch cuts of meat into more meals. Stretch chicken into 7 meals, a pork loin into 7 meals, and 2 pounds of ground beef into 8 meals! Cutting back on meat means you are eating more fruits and veggies. This, in turn, means you’re eating healthier!
- Keep your pantry stocked with real foods. Keeping real food on hand helps you have the ingredients you need to make a tasty meal. Then you’re not tempted to buy junk or eat out.
- Start a price book. You can save a lot – HUNDREDS of dollars a year.
- Focus on reducing one food group. Start with coffee, cheese, milk, dairy, vegetables or meat.
- Substitute expensive items for things that cost less. Making food substitutions is the first thing I have my Grocery Budget Bootcamp students do. Many save up to $100 the first week!
4. Refine the Process
This is where the rubber meets the road. Do you want to save money? Then do it.
Hold yourself accountable. Don’t make excuses and just keep trying! If you go over budget, find ways to make up the extra money and keep going!
There’s no way you can completely overhaul your kitchen and eating habits overnight. If you want the changes to be successful, they must be done in baby steps and slowly over time.
When you’ve reached this point, take a look at the types of foods you spend the most money on and start there. It is possible to eat healthy food and shop frugally, even if you factor in specific food for food allergies.
What is a normal grocery budget for a family?
I get this question A LOT. And honestly, there is no right answer! You cannot compare your budget to another family’s budget, including mine. What I spend for a month for my family is going to be different from you.
Here are some of the reasons why:
- People have different preferences and dietary needs.
- They have different family sizes or appetites (teenagers are big eaters and eat a lot more than toddlers!).
- The cost of living and/or food varies across the US.
YOU have to determine what your grocery budget will be. If the steps above aren’t enough to get you started, use this guide to determine how much you should spend on food.
It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to keep up with a frugal grocery budget, but it can be done and it is SO worth it! There is a light at the end of the tunnel and your efforts will bear fruit. I promise! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other…
Do you need some help with your grocery budget TODAY? I created a resource to help you start saving money on groceries NOW. See if My Grocery Budget Toolkit is right for you! -> CLICK HERE