Regular visitors to Patty Cake’s Pantry will know that I recently completed my $25 per week grocery budget experiment. I was inspired to try this by a blog post written by Amanda from The Fundamental Home. Since I live in Southern California, I wondered if it would be possible to replicate her success. As usual, I convinced my friend, Angie, from Kitchen Southern Hospitality to join me on this challenge. We both struggled, at times, with adhering to our strict budget, and we both had to think about what we really needed to purchase in order to be able to feed our families each week. It was definitely a challenge for both of us.
One of my biggest concerns was whether or not I would be able to afford enough meat for our family. Our household contains 3 very definite carnivores who I knew wouldn’t be happy without meat for their evening meals. This was what worried me the most as I began this challenge, but I was reminded of a great meat haul that I made a few weeks earlier by Baker’s Man. I had come home with nearly 20 pounds of meat for about $13.00 a few weeks earlier. That haul included 10 pounds of chicken leg quarters which I purchased for 1/2 price ($2.74), and two racks of ribs which were also on sale for 1/2 price ($5.04 for one, and $4.97 for the other.) This encouraged me to continue with my experiment.
After spending the past few weeks trying to spend only $25 per week on groceries to feed my family of five, I though I would share some of the things that I learned about saving money on groceries. The first thing I would like to say is that it is definitely possible to feed a family of five for only $25 per week. It’s not easy, but it is possible. I realize that most people won’t want to have such a strict grocery budget. In fact, according to the USDA, the average family of four spends between $560 and $1,286 per month. The price difference depends on the age of the children in the household and whether the person is on a “thrifty” or “liberal” spending plan.
Regardless of your monthly grocery budget, if you’re interested in saving money on your groceries, I have a few tips that may help you.
12 Money Saving Ideas for your Grocery Budget
1. Know why you want to save money
This might not make sense to some of my readers, but I will attempt to explain. For any money saving or budgeting plan to be successful, you need to be committed. You need to have a reason for saving money, and you need to really want to change your spending habits to achieve a particular goal. It might be that you want to save money to pay off debts, or you might want to save up for something special. Whatever your reason, you need to really want to achieve a particular goal if you want to successfully make the changes in your grocery budget and stick with your plan. Without a reason, you may simply feel like you’re being restricted and resent your new budget. In our case, I wanted to be able to pay extra on some debts, so I was extremely motivated to try and stick with my $25 per week grocery budget. Doing so, freed up $59 per week that could be funneled toward that debt. (Our usual grocery budget is $84 per week.)
If you have a list when you go to the store for groceries, it helps to keep you focused on what you need. Studies show that shoppers who use a list spend less money. Having a list also helps to ensure that you buy everything you will need for the coming week, and will help to any extra trips to the store which can end up costing you more in the long run. It’s rare for someone to run into the store to buy a gallon of milk and come out with only a gallon of milk. The milk is always in the back of the store for a reason.
It’s a well know fact that if you’re shopping when you’re hungry, you will spend more. You will purchase more items that aren’t on your list because they look good, and you’re hungry. People spend 25% more when they shop while hungry. Even science proves that shopping while hungry is a bad idea. As for shopping while thirsty, I was both hungry and thirsty the week I went to the store and went seriously over my grocery budget.
4. Use Coupons and Shop Sales
I confess that I am not much of a couponer, but there are some amazing sites that can help you find coupon deals. There are also Facebook groups devoted to couponing. There are even Facebook groups dedicated to coupons at specific stores. Just search on Facebook for these groups. I don’t use coupons very often, but I’m a big fan of shopping sales. I look forward to the weekly sale papers that come in my mailbox every Tuesday. I look through them to find which of our household staples are on sale that week. I often plan our meals around the best deals that our local stores have for the week. If you study the sales at your grocery store, you will see that there are cycles for the sales of certain items. You can even shop in multiple stores to get the best price for your money. Years ago, I would do my grocery shopping on Sunday on the way home from church. Our church was on the other side of town, and I passed 4 different grocery stores on the way home. Armed with the sale papers and lists, the kids and I would run in, grab the sale items and head to the next store. If you are attentive and shop carefully, you can save a lot of money on your groceries by shopping sales.
Often, when you go to the store early in the day, you can find meats and dairy products that are close to their expiration dates marked down for quick sale. The earliest morning shoppers will be able to grab these deals and the savings. Stores with bakeries in them often mark down any baked goods left over from the day before early in the morning, and I have occasionally snatched up loaves of bread, and other baked goods for as much as 50% off of their regular prices. At one of our local discount stores, people are lined up in the morning by the refrigerator case and purchase discounted lunch meat and dairy products. Many of these items are sold out before any are actually placed on the shelf by the store employees. I have found items early in the morning at these stores for 20% of what I would pay at other stores. Shopping early in the day is definitely another opportunity for saving money.
6. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for holidays or special occasions
When you wait until the last minute to purchase what you need for the Holiday, or other special occasion meal, you will be rushed and plagued by a feeling of urgency. When you are doing this, you might be tempted to buy an alternative item, at a higher price, just to get the shopping finished, but this can end up costing you more money. If you plan ahead, you can shop sales, and purchase the items you need for the best prices, and that will save money.
There are several chain grocery stores in my area. All of them have good sales, but there is one store that consistently has the best prices for many of the staple items that I purchase on a regular basis. That is the store where I do 75% of my weekly grocery shopping. Occasionally, I will pick up a few specialty items at one of the more expensive grocery stores in town, but I’m generally loyal to that one store.
8. Don’t Shop
I haven’t tried this, but some of my friends have. Instead of going grocery shopping, use one of the online grocery shopping services where you order all of your groceries online. Then, all you have to do is drive to the store and have the groceries loaded into your car. This can prevent you from any impulse buys when you’re in the store and can ultimately save you money, and time. Check your local stores to see if this service is available. It can be a real life saver if you have to shop with a bunch of kids in tow. They always seem to toss extra items into the cart.
9. Shop After Season Sales
I know that people are used to doing this for clothing items, but some food items can be purchased after season and stored for later use. The seasonal sprinkles for cakes and cupcakes always go on sale for 50 to 75% off after the season. Often, they have an expiration date that’s good after the next year’s holiday. The stores just don’t want to keep them on their shelves. After the first of the year, canned pumpkin is frequently marked down, and it can be added to soups, casseroles, and stews. Other items that are frequently marked down are holiday colored food storage containers or bags. These can be stored in the pantry until the next year. Check your store shelves and clearance racks early in the morning after holidays for deals that you can bring home.
Before you head out to the store, check your fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what you already have on hand. Pay special attention to the items in your fridge that need to be used up soon. Plan your meals, and your shopping list around what you already have on hand, and prioritize those fresh, perishable items to be used first. This will save you money.
11. Have a Plan
If you know what you plan to make during the week, it can help to decrease impulse buys. If you have a plan, it’s easier to make a list and not waste money on things you don’t need. You can read about the result of not having a plan in one of my previous posts in the $25 grocery budget series.
12. Use What you Buy
This should go without saying. If you buy groceries that you don’t need, or use, they will go to waste, and food waste is one of the biggest wastes of grocery money. Did you know that the average American household wastes between 10 and 40% of the food they purchase? I don’t know about you, but I work too hard for my money to throw away 10 – 40% of what I spend on groceries. Make an effort to use every morsel of the food you buy, as well as leftovers from meals. This will save you a lot of money on your weekly groceries.
Each of these money saving tips became very apparent during the 6 weeks I attempted to spend only $25 per week on our groceries. Give them a try, and see how much money you can save. Angie, from Kitchen Southern Hospitality, recommends cutting back on your grocery spending whenever you need to save a little, or a lot of, money for something else.
Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about our money saving tips. Which of these do you think will work the best for you?
Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.