10 Ways To Shrink Your Food Budget and Still Eat like a Queen

grocery store

Spending $300-$400 a week on groceries was an ongoing habit once the twins were born last year. Their births turned our family of four into a family of six, and we knew the grocery budget would go up. We knew in advance we’d need to diaper two babies for years, and judging from the fact that I was only to breast feed my two other daughters for a few weeks (and only then when I supplemented thanks to a very lousy supply on a really great day no matter what I did to improve it), I knew that breastfeeding two at a time would certainly require formula supplements. When the twins were born a few weeks early, they were small. At 3 and 5 pounds, we were forced to supplement with a high-cal formula. Despite the fact that the NICU sent us home with an abundance and our insurance covered a portion, we spent a lot of money on formula.

When the babies finally got to drink regular formula, however, our bill didn’t drop that much when we hit the grocery store. For a long time, we attributed it to the fact that we had two additional mouths to feed and diaper until a friend pointed out that we ended up with hundreds of boxes and packages of diapers at our surprise shower and hadn’t purchased one box of those or even one package of wipes (we are very blessed to say our friends and family spoiled these babies rotten and we did not have to buy a single diaper or wipe until the twins were almost 1). Then they pointed out that we were buying 4-5 containers of formula a week at $25 a container, but we weren’t spending money on actual food for the babies. If we do the math, that’s $125 a week in formul and the other $175-$275 on groceries for four.

What on earth? A week? That’s insane! We knew that was ridiculous. We knew it, especially since we eat a lot of healthy food, and a lot of fresh food. And that meant I was heading to the store an addition one or two times a week to restock things like vegetables and fruit and spending another $40-$60 a trip. We’re looking at almost $2000 a month at the supermarket. It was ridiculous. But we like to eat certain foods. We like fresh vegetables – not packaged vegetables. We like filets, not other steaks. We like fresh salmon – not packaged stuff. We love seafood, but I’m terrified of eating anything packaged so all our crab legs and shrimp are fresh. We like wine – so there was a lot of that. Our kids take their lunches to school, so there was that. But still, we were spending a lot. It made me realize that while we eat like Kings and Queens in our house, we overspend like mad at the supermarket. I decided then at there that with four college educations, weddings, cars and all that good stuff in our future, it was time to start saving money at the supermarket.

I’m proud to say that the twins are now 15 months, and I’ve drastically cut down our grocery bill to about $200 per week (that includes diapers and wipes for twins!) and I’ve done it the simplest and most effective way that I know how. The best news is that it takes very little effort and it’s not at all time-consuming (and the simplest methods are the best methods).

Make a List

It’s so simple and you probably think that it’s stupid to even mention it, but I swear by this list. Making a list that is a comprehensive list through and through has changed my life. What I do is make a list of all the meals we will have at home that week. I then break that list down into ingredients I need to make those meals, cross off anything we already have and then add what we don’t have to my list. And we do a thorough check of the house before I shop. Nothing is worse than picking everything up and coming home only to realize that you forget toilet paper. It’s not that I can’t have my husband stop on his way home the next day for toilet paper, but that means that $7 toilet paper will turn into $20 because he’s incapable of stopping without picking up a little treat for everyone at home.

Go One Time

The trick is to make one trip a week and one trip only. I am so bad about making several trips, and every single one of them costs me at least $50. Even when I run into our favorite supermarket, Publix, for subs after church on Sundays (something that should cost me about $14), I spend $50 grabbing this, that and everything else.

Work with What you Have

When I notice we have an abundance of something (pasta or chicken or something) at some point in time, I’ll make sure to include those in our meals that week so I don’t have to buy so much when I go to the store. It’s an easy way to save money.

Have a Meatless Night

There are some people that do not like a meatless night. I’ve never been a huge fan of meat; l like it, but I don’t have to have it. That means we have meatless nights when I’m feeling lazy or rushed. Those are usually pasta nights. But they mean less money and more creativity in the kitchen.

Learn the Sales

This is one of the biggest things that worked for me to lower or grocery bill without sacrificing quality food. From shopping for the same things over and over again, I know that there are always weeks where a box of 10 Starbucks Bright Sky Blend K-Cups are on sale for $6.99 instead of $9.99, and I know that shrimp is $5.99 a pound instead of $10 a pound and I know that strawberries are buy one get one. I know that there are weeks when our favorite laundry detergent is buy one get one, and when the kids’ go-to lunchables for school are 10 for $10 instead of $1.60. I know these things, so I learned them instead of hoping when I went in. This allowed me to do things like buy all the K-Cups I need to get me through to the next sale. The sale is usually every 3 weeks and I go through 3 boxes of K-Cups a week. I now buy them all at once to get me through to the next sale. I can now spend $63 on 9 boxes of K-cups one week and nothing the following two weeks instead of spending $90 over the course of three weeks. That’s $468 a year I save on coffee at home now. I do that with everything (except meat; I don’t like frozen or saved meat).

Get Coupons

You can find them anywhere. I don’t have any real advice except to get your store’s flyer or mail or whatever they offer. My supermarket (Publix) does online coupons that are digital. I have the app, save the coupons every week and enter my phone number at checkout and the coupons are applied. And my mother-in-law is always finding coupons in the newspaper and giving them to us. I always forget to use them, but I know they’re there.

Plan Ahead

Do you have toilet paper at home already, but it’s on sale this week? Get it now, and save money. You will use it, so it’s a good buy. Doing this for things like that will save you hundreds over the course of the year. I do this on everything, too, including things like Olive Oil when it’s buy one get one. It saves a bundle and lets me continue to eat what I love most.

Know Where to Go

I know that certain things are significantly less expensive at certain stores, so I’ll plan my trips around those things. It helps and it really makes it possible for us to eat all the things we love the most without sacrificing on our favorite brands and our favorite foods. It also lowers the budget, and that’s the most important aspect of any type of shopping trip.

Cook Your Food

We’ve found that cooking at home is far less expensive, and far healthier, than eating out. We don’t eat out as much with four kids since the twins are pretty hardcore about their bedtime. If they go to bed one minute after 6:30, it’s like a switch flips and they go from sweet to monstrous in a moment’s time. When we do eat at home, though, we are guilty of doing things like buying a precooked roasted chicken from the deli instead of roasting our own. We’ve stopped that, found that it’s much better tasting and it’s much less expensive.

Head to the Farmers Market

We love the Farmer’s Market. We’ve found that sometimes we pay a bit more for produce and sometimes we pay less, but it’s far better quality, more delicious and a lot more fun to eat. This is what makes our lives so much more affordable and so much more amazing in terms of what we have in the kitchen.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


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