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How I Slashed $400 off My Real Food Grocery Budget in One Month

How I Slashed 400 Off My monthly grocery budget pinterest

I used to revel in sharing my grocery budget on the blog – like a proud parent showing off the kids’ gymnastics trophies, I loved showing how low we could keep our spending while eating real food.

I loved finding the deals, watching the bottom line, and helping to inspire you all to eat real food on a balanced budget – two of the four pillars of Kitchen Stewardship® in action!

As I blogged and our family grew and my real food priorities increased, our food budget grew, and grew, and then nearly doubled (eek!) in 2012.

Then 2013 came around.

It was quite embarrassing to share the 2012 food budget, ringing in at around $800/mo. for a family of 5, two of whom were under 5 years old.

So embarrassing, and so packed with excuses, in fact, that I couldn’t even bring myself to share what happened in 2013 and 2014, when the budget – which can really no longer even be called a “budget” but more a “record of what we already spent” – topped $1000/mo. just for food.

That’s not “I spent $1000 on food.” That’s

I spent OVER $1000/mo. on food in 2014 for 3 kids and 2 adults (one of whom was pregnant and eating a lot of cheese, but STILL!).

#ouch

It’s pretty humbling to have come from spending $350/month six years ago to nearly tripling that as our family size has not even doubled.

What the Heck Happened to Our Grocery Budget?

Cut Your Grocery Budget in Half with these 3 Simple Strategies

My explanations are ranging from rising grocery prices, more organic food, avocados, discovering Costco, and simply not caring what I spent. Four-dollar raspberries at the farmers market were my splurge money. I didn’t even try to keep track…but once I crunched all the numbers for 2014 and we headed into this new phase of our lives when my husband quit his corporate job, I knew I had to be (much) more careful.

Cutting an entire income is no laughing matter, and no matter how busy I was, I had to do more.

I had to make more from scratch.

I had to buy the less expensive options.

And I had to get intentional instead of head-in-the-sand about our food expenditures.

I started working through my friend Tiffany’s Grocery Budget Bootcamp course because hello – clearly I needed someone else to help whip my grocery budget back in shape!

I had to start over, get back to my roots, and trim the fat (but not the coconut oil or butter!!) from our grocery spending. Winking smile

I made some deliberate targeted changes, took a tiny bit more time in the grocery store, and I saw immediate results.

In fact, even after spending an average of $837.86 each month for the first quarter of the year, then $1190.76 in April as we finished our Whole30,

My May grocery budget was only $536.19

That’s almost cut in HALF!

Summer has rebounded a little bit with an average of $842.50 each month, but that includes my annual Costco membership renewal, our once-a-year all-kid birthday party dinner, all the strawberries and blueberries we’ll eat all year, and a weekly CSA, delivered.

My $850 CSA for 18 weeks was quite the splurge – I haven’t gotten quite the volume I was hoping for, and springing for the add-on membership with fruits has sort of built in my four-dollar raspberries, so to speak. I guarantee my grocery costs would be less without the CSA, but I do enjoy having it delivered to the house!

RELATED: Reducing your grocery budget with habit changes.

Fist Pump and Making Tiffany Proud

Real Food Real Budget Cover Grocery Budget Bootcamp

When I was running my numbers total for May after the first few Grocery Budget Bootcamp lessons, I was nearly trembling with excitement.

I felt like I had done well, but I wasn’t sure – I can lose track of things like time and money quickly, and I didn’t want to be vastly disappointed.

When my online accounting program finally spit out the grocery number, I was elated. I totally jumped up out of my chair and pumped my fist in the air with a whoop worthy of a home team football game! (And I would know, we live a block from the field so it’s LOUD here every Friday night!!)

I messaged Tiffany right away because I was worried about her – she seemed a bit shocked at my $1000+ number, and I needed to put her poor mind at ease. Winking smile She is a great cheerleader and was very proud of me!

Now lest you think any grocery budgeting thingy online is all about coupons, processed foods, and cheap commodities, let me put your mind at ease.

Because her strong belief in real food and a few picky eaters (and if you have any, you know how they can inflate a grocery budget), Tiffany’s shopping habits are probably a lot like yours – the outside perimeter of the grocery store. (I know many of us are blessed enough to be able to shop at local farms and markets, but most of the strategies can still apply.)

When Tiffany asked me what I had changed, my answer was simple:

Mindful shopping, carefully choosing a few cheap meals each week, doing a mini price book for the first time in a few years, and Aldi.

Today I’m finally excited to talk about grocery budgets again – here are the THREE simple habits I adopted in one month to slash our budget nearly in half.

Learn The Secrets To Getting A Healthy Meal On The Table Faster

Simple Ways to Save: Drastically cur your grocery spending in 3 easy steps

Grocery Budget Bootcamp enrollment is closed for now, but Tiffany will be opening up enrollment for a new session soon.

If you want to be notified when the next session starts, just click over and enter your email. In the meantime, when you sign up to be notified, she’ll send you her FREE download Simple Ways to Save teaching you how to properly navigate the grocery store and avoid pitfalls in order to save more money on groceries with very little work (actually, ZERO work!).

This free resource is designed to help you cut your grocery spending right now, so you don’t have to wait to save money. It’s yours for free, when you sign up here!

1. Mindful Shopping: Think About Each Purchase

Assorted Peppers including Bell Peppers

For a few years, I’ve shopped with one goal in mind: get out of the store as quickly as possible!

Since May, I’ve been much more intentional (and it only adds a few minutes per trip).

As I stand in the store in front of a grocery item, I ask myself a few pointed questions:

  • Do I need it?
  • Will I use it (quickly enough)?
  • Is it the best price I know of at the stores I frequent?
  • And the clincher: Can the same purpose be served by another, less expensive item?

The first three are pretty self-explanatory, but that last one might need a bit more.

Let me give you an example: For our kids’ extended family birthday party last year (we celebrate them all at once) I made tacos with all the fixings. This year, we had a baked potato bar with all the fixings.

It doesn’t take an accountant to look at the price of ground beef vs. potatoes and determine that I chose a different food to throw a less expensive party this year.

Those kinds of decisions can be made with or without a party.

Feta instead of goat cheese for a salad. Cabbage instead of lettuce. Green onions instead of bell peppers to add crunch to a salad.

Omitting the cheese on top of a sandwich or burger. Canned salmon instead of filets.

All that brings me to the next point:

2. Plan Your Meals with Budget in Mind

Christmas Eve Mass

Our church is adding on to accommodate massive growth in our parish. Every Sunday we have to get out temporary chairs for the overflow, and on Christmas and Easter, forget it – if you’re not a full hour early, you’re standing up (photo above – we were only 45 minutes early).

For the capital campaign, the church needed us in the congregation to pledge a whopping 1.75 million dollars.

Wow.

We sat down with our pledge card and prayed about it, and then I got practical.

For a capital campaign, you’re not supposed to borrow from Peter to pay Paul – meaning that any giving is beyond your regular tithe, so it has to come from somewhere else in the budget. We looked at how we fund our kids’ college accounts, how we overpay on our own mortgage, and of course, the food budget.

I decided to do the following for the next 3 years and give the savings to the church:

  • Not pay for any new clothing for myself.
  • Not buy any dark chocolate or fancy Costco chocolates – I’m almost through my stash and will be asking for dark chocolate for Christmas!! Take note, family members!
  • We cut out two of our half gallons of raw milk for a savings of $15/week.
  • I decided that since I know academically that commercially farmed organic chicken is only a little step up from conventionally farmed chicken YET is over three times the cost, that I’m forfeiting organic chicken for a while. I’ll still get whole chickens from farmers when they’re available, but I’ve had trouble sourcing those lately, regularly. So we’ll cut down on our overall consumption of chicken and skip the $6/lb. organic chicken breasts at Costco. They’re a convenience food for sure – and every so often I’ll just make a compromise and grab some inexpensive split chicken breasts or bone-in thighs at Aldi.
  • One meal a week is a beans and rice meal – I figure if we spend less than $5 on a dinner, that’s at least a $5-10 savings over our norm, so over 3 years, that could be as much as $1500 for the campaign.
  • One meal a month would be cream of potato soup and salmon patties.
Salmon Patties

That was just part of our thinking, but it’s the part that counts – do we need it? Can we use it? Could a less expensive item serve the same purpose?

I realized that while I knew how to shop the lowest price (or so I thought – wrong again!) and buy in bulk to save money, I had NOT been intentionally meal planning specifically for budget meals. I would go along and plan what sounded good, what was in season, what I could think of off the top of my harried, over-busy head.

But I bet we would go a few weeks without a meatless meal sometimes, and there’s no doubt that skipping meat or cutting down on meat, while not necessary for health, certainly helps the budget. A lot. Especially when your grassfed ground beef just went up to (cough, cough) $8/lb.

Processing the thoughts about how to shave the budget to give to the church helped realign my thinking overall – I needed to plan meals with the consideration of how much they’d cost, not just how doable they would be for me on a busy day. Summer schedules and traveling did change that a bit, but I’m excited to get back to normal in the school year and see how the budget changes again. (August was actually under $300 if you don’t count the CSA extrapolation!!)

3. Compare Prices

Cherry Tomatoes

Got an Aldi near you?

I’d shopped at Aldi many times before but hadn’t made it a priority much recently. I like to hit ONE store per week, which was usually Meijer (a Midwest big box store) and then Costco once a month or so, and the Farmer’s Market in the summer as much as possible.

But since Tiffany’s Grocery Budget Bootcamp dedicates an entire lesson to doing a price book, I jumped back in. The price book isn’t new to me, but it was something I hadn’t done anything about for YEARS. A friend of mine has a super comprehensive one in a Google doc that she can access from her phone wherever she is, and when I ran into her once at Costco, the answers to “what’s the better deal?” surprised me.

It was time to check some of our staples.

What I found surprised me again!

I expected that Aldi would have much better prices on most basic stuff, actually, but it was quite the mix in my Costco vs. ALDI grocery price comparison:

  • Costco kicks patootie on all stores on both block and shredded cheese.
  • Aldi is the produce master 100% of the time…well, except for salad lettuce. And cherry tomatoes.
  • Costco came out ahead in the frozen fruit category though. And fair trade coffee.

It was totally a worthwhile exercise, and Tiffany made it easier with ready-to-go printables. I didn’t price out everything (per her advice!)…but it was enough to make some changes in what I buy where.

I go to Aldi almost every week now! Here is a little love ode to my new favorite store and WHY real foodies can totally shop at ALDI! 😉 

Do You Need the Step-by-Step Help?

ou can eat healthy food for less than you think Grocery Budget Bootcamp

I’m certainly not the one to call for wardrobe guidance, nor the one to ask what color lipstick is best for your skintone… but I can help you with your grocery budget.

I hope my 3 simple steps ROCKED your world already – but if your budget needs even more help than that, let me refer you to my friend Tiffany (since my relapse rate isn’t really much to be proud of – yet).

Here’s a question for you from Tiffany:

I have a feeling that if I asked you how much you’re spending on groceries, you’d be embarrassed to admit the monthly total. (Am I right?)

me: Yes!!!!

Here’s how Tiffany can help: Grocery Budget Bootcamp teaches you how to eat real food on a budget, step-by-step.

It lasts for 8 weeks and no matter which package you choose, you get the following PRIME features:

  • 13 Core Lessons – These help you determine what foods are most important to you and how to re-frame your approach to planning and shopping, so you can find the best deals on the foods you love most. As a bonus, it will feel like you’re sitting at your kitchen table with a friend, chatting about what changes you need to make.
  • 150+ Pages of Worksheets – You can’t make change in any area of your life without a little bit of work, but the done-for-you worksheets make it easier. They help you identify what areas you can improve on, what changes you could make and how to make these changes sustainable in the long term.
  • Access to a Digital Library with 35 Printables
  • Lifetime Access

If you decide to go PRIME PLUS you also get: 

  • 13 Core Lessons Videos and Transcripts – Not everyone learns by reading, so Tiffany has made videos for every single lessons as well.

If you decide to go PLATINUM you also get:

  • 11 Bonus Videos
  • Access to a Digital Library with 70+ Printables
  • Downloadable 50+ page recipe eCookbook From Scratch
  • Exclusive PLATINUM-only Facebook Group
  • Live Weekly Teaching Sessions with Tiffany
  • Live Monthly Q&A Masterclass Coaching Sessions with Tiffany

Think about how quickly the investment will earn itself back. The average member saves $200 in the first month alone, but some members have reported savings of up to $1000 before the class is over! That’s the entire cost of the class, and then some!!

The best part though, is that the savings doesn’t stop when class ends. Keep using the system from Grocery Budget Bootcamp and your savings will continue to grow.

Think about what you’d do with an extra $2400 a year… Challenge yourself to multiply the investment try to save $250 during the course of the makeover. If I can do what I did in May, you can totally do this!

Back to Tiffany:

I promise that if you commit to the course and learning what changes you need to make, I’ll blow you away and we’ll together rock your grocery spending.
I was spending over $1000/mo. on food for 2 adults and 3 kids. Implementing 3 simple habits and some mindful shopping helped me slash $400 in just one month.

I Bet Your Biggest Question Is…

My family eats fairly healthy and avoids processed foods. I “shop around the perimeter of the store” and buy a lot of organic foods. I find there are not many coupons I can use. Will your plan help me cut costs at the store? Is your program designed to help shoppers like me?

Tiffany’s answer:

We shop very similarly! I shop the perimeter, don’t use coupons and I’m committed to buying a good bit of organic foods…. But I’m able to do all of this on a budget BECAUSE of the system I teach in my course.

I won’t tell you what you can or cannot eat, rather this course is more about changing your mindset and methods of shopping. I’ll also teach you how to stack proven money-saving techniques in such a way that you will plan faster, shop faster and spend less on food – week after week!

Let’s encourage each other – what’s one thing you’ve done to slash your own grocery budget? What is the hardest part of food spending? We know we’re not alone!!

Learn The Secrets To Getting A Healthy Meal On The Table Faster

Simple Ways to Save: Drastically cur your grocery spending in 3 easy steps

Grocery Budget Bootcamp enrollment is closed for now, but Tiffany will be opening up enrollment for a new session soon.

If you want to be notified when the next session starts, just click over and enter your email. In the meantime, when you sign up to be notified, she’ll send you her FREE download Simple Ways to Save teaching you how to properly navigate the grocery store and avoid pitfalls in order to save more money on groceries with very little work (actually, ZERO work!).

This free resource is designed to help you cut your grocery spending right now, so you don’t have to wait to save money. It’s yours for free, when you sign up here!

 

Disclosure: I’m an affiliate of the GBB…but I’m also a member. (Remember those old commercials for Hair Club for Men? Ha!)

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

42 thoughts on “How I Slashed $400 off My Real Food Grocery Budget in One Month”

  1. Great stuff. Stretching is tricky. Hubby is diabetic. Low end, but diabetic nonetheless. We have found that among carb foods, beans, rice, pasta, cereals, quinoa, lentils and the like are NOT his friends. Bam. Fruit and even sugar are not quite so ugly. So I try to use more veggies as fillers. Meat. Gotta go heavy on the meat. Other suggestions from any of you? Thanks, Katie.

    1. Hi Karen,
      For sure, any restrictive diet starts to kill the budget. I’d say as proteins go, eggs are going to be your least expensive, so egg/veggie scrambles should be a regular option. And you can just figure out per pound what various veggies cost and lean toward the less expensive ones as your standbys. Sweet potatoes and squash – buy on sale in the fall and keep them around until mid-winter! Making homemade yogurt can also be a huge $ saver on proteins. Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  2. Great ideas! I think I could re-think some of my menus and substitute in a few “budget stretchers” for some of the pricier ones. We have a family of 7 (soon to be 8), and it feels like our grocery budget is forever expanding. Four of our five boys eat as much as most adults I know, and none of them have even hit the teenage years yet. I cringe to think what our budget will look like then!

    One way I try to save money is by gardening, but specifically with the grocery budget in mind. When deciding what to plant, I try to think about what we use regularly and what will save us the most money. So I opt to plant tomatoes, kale, and raspberries instead of carrots, which are pretty cheap per pound, even for organic. We planted dwarf peach and cherry trees over apple because those cost us more organic and we can usually find people to let us pick apples for free. I’m hoping we can add some backyard chickens one of these days too because we eat a LOT of eggs!

    I was also going suggest using a Google Doc spreadsheet as your price book, so it’s easy to update and you can access it anywhere. (Or in my case, your husband can access when he’s out and finds a killer deal on healthy food!) It is sad when I update it and find how much food prices have continued to rise though!

  3. Oh my goodness… More Michiganders! I live in northern Michigan we feed a family of 5 (2 adults, 8, 5, 3yo) for about 500 a month. We have a big garden too which really helps. We follow a traditional real food diet. Most all is organic except our nuts and some of our winter produce,:( Our local family farm sells grass fed 1/2 cow shares for 3.69 lb.( chicken and pork similar price) It might be worth a trip to branch out and make a road trip to find meat sources further from you and stock up for the year. Once a year we stock up on local whitefish(local omega 3 baby!)at a coop. We have a lot of amazing food sources in Michigan!

  4. Do you plan to share your price book? Especially for a person who also lives in the Grand Rapids area and shops at Costco, Aldi, and Meijer 😉 (why recreate the wheel? ha)

  5. Katie, can you share what you buy at Aldi? I have one nearby but they only have few organic items I would buy, not worth the drive. They have some produce I would buy, but again none of it organic.

    Also, would you be willing to share some typical menus? I think my main issue is not shopping with price per meal in mind.

    1. Hi Marta!
      I don’t only buy organic, so that makes a big difference. At Aldi I’ve purchased:
      GF pasta
      rice
      canned salmon
      GF bread occasionally
      frozen salmon
      frozen veggies
      some ice cream and popsicles for summer treats
      bananas, apples, cucumbers, avocados, pineapple, onions, watermelons, green onions, radishes, peppers, more too
      sour cream (great ingredients although not organic)
      goat cheese
      fair trade coffee
      GF cereal and some organic cereal
      organic canned beans
      GF crackers
      mustard, vinegar, pepper, hot sauce, basics like that
      natural applesauce

      Our store has more and more interesting stuff all the time!

      A typical week for me might be:
      Sun – homemade pizza
      Mon – slow cooker meal – whole chicken + baked potatoes + frozen veg
      Tues – beef and cabbage over rice (1/2 pound beef and lots of cabbage!)
      Wed – chicken casserole thing with homemade sauce, using chicken from Monday
      Thurs – leftover rice and the other 1/2 pound ground beef from Tuesday plus steamed veggies and a homemade cheese sauce, all mixed together
      Fri – Blended veggie soup (with broth from Mon) and salmon patties (canned salmon)
      Sat – haven’t had a meatless meal yet, so black bean soup and cornbread or pinto gallo (beans and rice meal)

      Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie

  6. Great ideas. Huge Costco fan. Just wanted to share this- if you have the store Fresh Market nearby, they do hormone free/vegetarian fed chicken breasts and ground chuck every Tuesday for $2.99/lb. way cheaper than Costco!!

  7. i just finished reading this post and was too late for the course. But it’s a conversation my husband and I have had for a while. We have 3 children (8, 5, 2), and my husband started doing the grocery shopping at Trader Joes and Costco on his way home from work when we moved a year and 9 months ago. Because I’m not seeing the prices, I’ve just been adding to the list, oblivious to the cost. And although he hasn’t crunched the numbers, he is sure we’re spending at least a $1,000/month. That was certain while we did Whole30 in July. But I think I’ve trimmed it some since then. One change I’ve recently made is buying Costco’s organic chicken drumsticks at $1.99/lb instead of organic boneless/skinless thighs at $4.69/lb. Then I get the bones for stock – bonus! ???? And we’ve also been making more with beans/ lentils/quinoa since ending Whole30.
    This article has fueled my desire to get serious with meal planning. And I should start looking at the receipts and create a price book of some sort so I get a better handle on our costs overall. Thanks for the internal links so even though I can’t do the course, I can work through some things and get serious about trimming the fat! ????

    1. You bet Debbie, buying bone-in chicken is an awesome way to cut the costs!! I’m sure you’ll make some great changes with just my 3 humble tips. 🙂 We’ll be making a list of folks who are interested in Erin’s course so we can notify them when the next round opens, so if you’d like to be on the list (we won’t use it for anything else and of course there’s no obligation to buy) LMK and you’ll be the first! (We just hadn’t had time to get the signup in here yet this morning.) Glad to be part of your journey!! 🙂 Katie

  8. tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations

    Do like most people in 3rd world countries, stick to rice and beans, or potatoes as the main dish and add a small side dish of meat (if you really have to have it) and veggies and fruit that are in season! Your budget will stay below $400/ month for sure! 🙂

  9. For my husband, myself and our 2 year old daughter we spend about $600 a month on groceries. That includes saving $150 a month to buy a half of a grass-fed cow once a year. I’ve really struggled with the increase in spending but I’m slowly accepting that we can’t expect to eat quality, unprocessed, grain-free food for the same amount that we used to spend on conventional food five years ago.

    Thanks for mentioning the conventional vs organic chicken tidbit. My husband and I were just having that discussion earlier this month. A local grocery store was having a Labor Day sale of chicken legs for $0.19/lb(!) and I was curious what the quality would be versus the “green” option at other stores which runs $2.99 – 3.99/lb. We try to buy from a local farmer but when the budget gets tight and we want variety, it gets hard to resist.

  10. Our family of 7 (Dad, Mom, 3 high school boys, 7 and 4 yr. old boys) have a budget of $600-$800 a month (includes all household and toiletries). I cook from scratch and this budget includes every meal and snack (the kids and Hubbs take lunches with them daily, the maybe once a month In n Out burger run isn’t included)

    We live on the Central Coast of California and do all of our shopping at a small Mexican grocery store (produce), Food 4 Less (milk and meat), Costco (eggs, bulk cheese, butter, olive oil), Winco Foods (for bulk bin items) and a couple times a year order from Azure Standard online and delivered by truck to a drop point for free (organic grains, raisins, nuts, honey, molasses, oats, etc. This online company has awesome bulk prices for the staples) I don’t go to all these stores every week, it depends on the sales and what we need. A couple years ago I would buy day old produce from a local organic farm (I just asked if they had any day old stuff and I would call ahead and order what I wanted and tell them my budget for the week and if they had it, it would go in a box for me to pick up) But, with all food prices rising so much I had to drop this box along with organic milk. I look forward to growing my own one day when we get out of our rented townhouse.

    We eat a variety of beans, organic ground beef and natural (not organic) chicken. Sometimes we go for organic eggs.
    We eat a completely whole foods diets and find that the more I make my own of, the more we can save. I am constantly searching for new ways to save and many ideas are very simple and easy to incorporate.

    I also utilize my freezer and make large batches of meals/muffins, that way there is always a few snack or meal options ready to defrost and reheat. Cutting down on convenience foods, especially snacks are a huge saving. Let’s face it everyone’s busy these days. And I agree with a couple of the above comments about cutting the amount of meat in half, especially in a dish where it’s mixed with something else (like spaghetti or chili) and another one is sugar. I find that using half in a baking recipe is usually sufficient sweetening.

    I hope some of these ideas encourage others that it is possible to eat well/healthy on a budget.

  11. Susan Alexander

    I’m in. I really hope this will help. Our budget is OUTRAGEOUS. Somewhere around $1500/month for 2 adults, and 4 kids ages 2-7. Granted, that includes all grocery-type spending (including paper goods, cleaners, disposable diapers, etc), we have one child with MASSIVE allergies, we eat primarily organic/grassfed, AND my husband eats for 2 – he is an avid Crossfitter who does macro-based eating. His diet in particular is one of our biggest obstacles to cutting costs – he MUST eat a certain ratio of carbs/fat/protein and it’s very high in protein. I cannot cut meat in half because he needs that protein. And he hates beans. That said, I figure even cutting my bill by $5-10/trip will make back the cost of the class pretty quick, so it’s worth it to me. 😉

    1. Susan,
      Special diets are TOUGH for sure – maybe you can sneak beans in where he can’t taste them? How does this look? http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2014/09/12/recipe-connection-gluten-free-protein-packed-white-sauce-with-chicken-and-rice/

      I hope you can trim a little and feel great about it!! 🙂 Katie

      1. Susan Alexander

        Nope, I tried another similar recipe (white bean sauce for chicken chili I think it was) and he knew instantly. Plus for his macro based eating, I have to list all ingredients to him so he can enter them into his program and determine if the ratios fit. :/ So, there’s no sneaking anything by.

        Still, I’m sure there are places we can save money, so I’m interested to see what the class has to say. 🙂

  12. I always smile when I read articles about slashing the grocery budget. Sigh. For me, holding the line is a HUGE deal. That is what happens with physically active teen boys (we have 2 + a 10yo). We simply go through A LOT of food, and spending less than $1200/mo simply isn’t possible. (For health reasons, we need to eat organic meats/dairy, and try to avoid grains as much as possible.)

    One of the best ways for us to hold that line, besides eating an enormous amount of beans is to look at what gets thrown out.–You know, the leftovers shoved to the back, the veggies that didn’t get cut up and served, the milk that spoiled, and make adjustments. All leftovers get stored on the eye level shelf in our side-by-side fridge. Unless of course I need them for “planned-overs”–then they get hidden on the bottom shelf, in the back. Veggies get prepped all at once. We wash, slice, and bag a week’s worth of carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and fruit, all at once. This has almost eliminated our waste.

    1. Kathleen,
      Excellent thoughts! Americans waste like 25% of the food they buy, so YES for sure that’s an awesome place to save. Well done with teenagers!! It’s sooo tough. I didn’t think I could do it at all, honestly, and we’ll see if I can sustain it. 🙂 Katie

  13. This is a timely post. Over the weekend, a friend and I were discussing how much we spend on groceries. My neighborhood has several ethnic supermarkets, where the produce and meat is usually cheaper. My favorite market started carrying imported grass fed ground beef at a regular price of $5.99/lb. It’s still a luxury for me, so I can’t buy too much. We don’t have Aldi stores here, but I am grateful to have Trader Joe’s — where I can buy a pound of organic carrots for 79 cents! Food prices have really gone up in the past few years. I recently bought a used copy of The $5 Dinner Mom (written in 2009 by Erin), but beef prices have gone up so much that some of the meals would now cost well over $5.

    1. Karen,
      Yes, I suppose a 2009 $5 dinner book would not apply anymore! 🙁 We are getting a TJ’s next month, finally, in my metro area, so I’m pretty excited. It will be a drive still so I won’t go often, but it’s nice to have one nearby. I tend to use a half pound of ground beef in many casserole/soup recipes and even tacos, and sub in cooked lentils. Then it’s like ground beef is just over $3/lb instead of $6 since lentils are so cheap. 🙂 Katie

  14. If you shop Costco regularly, you should not be paying for a membership! The cash back feature on the executive membership covers the membership fee, plus a bit for us. Last year, Costco paid US $40 for our membership. Year before that, we bought tires and a couple other pricier items and ended up with over $80 cash back after membership fees were paid.

  15. Andrea Newman

    Great tips! I hear you on the capital complain. Our parish is in the process of completing a $20 million renovation! I’ve noticed lately I haven’t been as great about purposely saving money, and instead seem to just spend whatever it costs for the quality of what we need. Luckily Meijer has quite a good selection of organic items and I also stock up once a month with Azure Standard. I wish our Aldi had a better selection of items that I purchase. I hear so many people who love Aldi, but I just can’t seem to find what I need there.

  16. Meal planning doesn’t work well for us, as my husband likes a say in what he’ll be eating for dinner based on what he feels like eating in the evening (which I think is a reasonable request – why should the family be subject only to my whims?). I check in in the afternoon with him with a dinner idea, and he has veto power – though if he does he knows I appreciate a suggestion for an alternative. So instead of meal planning, this is what works for us:
    Know what your family’s top ~10 meals are, and keep yourself stocked in ingredients for those. Eat each of them 2-3 times per month. Then you’re only throwing in a wild card a few times a month, and I find those are the times when I really spend too much – when I want to try a new recipe and it requires 4-6 ingredients I just don’t keep around.

    Plus, if you know you’ll be eating those a couple times in a month, you can just go ahead and make a double batch when you have time to cook and freeze the leftovers for the really nuts days. And even if you do have to actually make the meal, the fact you make it all. the. time means you can whip it out faster than something you’ve never tried before.

  17. Thank you so much for this post. It was so timely for me! My husband’s workplace finished implementing ObamaCare last month and that has REALLY hurt us financially. The main place in our budget to cut is the grocery bill. I had gotten pretty lazy about it and buying what struck my fancy – not careful about what I as spending. Now I have to be super careful. I like how you called it “mindful shopping”. I’m dusting off my price book too. Anyway, I just appreciated reading your post and having you make these things in my mind more clear. Very inspiring!

  18. I just added up our grocery spending for the first time in 7 years of marriage. We spent about $990 a month. We have a 3, 2, and 1 year old (who still nurses). Yikes!! We live in Canada so no Aldi, and the farmers market is very expensive. But I am looking for ways to reduce our spending! Going to check out the course now.

    1. Dove,
      Sometimes the key to the farmers market is to hobnob with the farmers – they might be able to sell you in bulk for less, or seconds. I asked at my fav fruit stand if they had any seconds hiding in the back, and she showed me about 6 peaches. I said, “A buck?” and she gave them to me, then found 4 more nectarines and just threw them in! Score! 🙂 Katie

  19. Oh my! You don’t even want to know what we spend a month! My fair trade chocolate addiction is pretty bad! 🙂

  20. Hey, Katie…good going! Something we all need to think about more. One thing I discovered a couple years ago, is that I can buy from our local “grass-feed” farm market is beef heart, tongue, and liver for TWO dollars per pound!! It’s not advertised because that beef only has one of each! Of course you have to like those, and I do. What a meat savings over $8-$14 for beef. Planning a real menu was also a huge help and like you said, look at something and plan what you can use to be cheaper without loss of quality food.

    Enjoy reading your blog! 🙂

    1. Yes!! I’ll eat tongue any day, just like a roast. Heart too. I’m struggling with liver though. I get about 10 pounds every time we split up a cow with friends b/c no one else wants it, which is great, and frugal, but I’m the only one who will eat it! I just made some for myself the last 4 lunches in a row…phew…so that about does it for this month! 😉 Katie

      1. Katie, I don’t know how you fix your liver, but try this: slice it very thin (partially freezing it before slicing is the secret), season it with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then dredge it in flour and fry it (I use bacon grease). When done (it doesn’t take long) add lots of sliced onions to the skillet with the liver and cook until onions are limp. Serve with mashed potatoes. Delicious! I like the taste of liver, but not the texture, and preparing it this way takes care of that.

        1. That’s almost exactly how I do it, Mary, and it’s tolerable with lots of ketchup 🙂 but maybe I need to work to slice it thinner. I also soak in either milk or lemon juice overnight to pull some of the bitterness out, and that really does make a difference. Thanks! Katie

  21. I’ve found that a pound of ground beef can be halved in a lot of recipes when extra fillers (mushrooms, onions, etc.) are added. The flavor doesn’t suffer, and I haven’t heard any complaints — even from hubby. Since grass-fed beef isn’t inexpensive, this really helps.

    1. When we make beef tacos we add in cooked quinoa (we worked out way up to about half and half) – it really helps stretch our beef!

    2. I just discovered that mushrooms are great in ground beef too! I can often find them at a reduced price at our store, so I’m looking forward to doing this more often. I haven’t had much success with lentils in ground beef… :/

      When I do tacos, I always add black and pinto beans to double or more than double the amount of meat I started with. The mushrooms are fabulous for spaghetti with meat (-and-mushroom!) sauce!

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