I recently modified our grocery budget to match the ever rising cost of food. I have upped our budget to $75.00 per week. People continuously ask me to share how I spend such little money on healthy foods. Do I cut coupons? Where do I shop? Do I shop at 100 different stores? How do I buy bulk items?
Below is a breakdown of my system. Keep in mind, this may not work for everyone. Every family has specific needs and your grocery budget depends on certain variables like, family size, income, additional sources of food, etc.
Why We Spend So Little On Food
Let’s face it, $75 per week is NOT a lot of money for food for four people. “Americans report spending $151 on food per week on average. One in 10 Americans say they spend $300 or more per week and, at the other extreme, 8% spend less than $50.” – 2012 Gallup Poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/156416/Americans-Spend-151-Week-Food-High-Income-180.aspx)
My family falls into the “17% of Americans” range when it comes to how much we spend on food. We find $75.00 per week is “our magic number” based on our other monthly expenses and income. We live within our means and eating healthy, fresh foods on a limited budget requires some thinking outside of the box, but it does work
- We rarely eat at restaurants, and if we do it comes from gift cards, or our bi-weekly allowances (this is also our gas money – John usually eats take-out dinner at work twice per month and occasionally grabs some lunch, but it always comes out of his allowance).
- We shop Aldi for most food items and shop other local stores for any remaining items we cannot buy there.
- We rarely use coupons – most of our items cannot be purchased with coupons.
- We use store savings cards, except Aldi.
- Unused money goes into our grocery budget slush fund.
- We make coffee at home, and ditched our Keurig!
Bulk Staple Items
- Bulk items do not typically come from our weekly food budget.
- We purchase bulk items when we have extra money, such as gift money, gift cards, or from our slush fund if there is a really great sale.
- Things we buy in bulk include: rice, beans, oats, frozen veggies, frozen fruits, gluten-free bread (when on sale I stock up big time), gluten-free pastas, ALL gluten-free mixes, hemp powder, protein powders, spices, oils, Braggs, maple syrup.
- Foods grown during the growing season are processed and stored appropriately so we can eat them throughout the year.
Items Bought Weekly
- Almond Milk
- Lettuce / greens mix
- A whole chicken
- Yogurt (coconut or goat)
- Apple Juice
- Orange Juice
- Coconut water
Items Bought Bi-Weekly & Monthly (often on sale)
- Earth Balance
- Butter for making Ghee
- Celery (lasts forever)
- Pasta Sauce
- Rice Chex Cereal
- Some bought granola
- Pre-packaged lunch meat (we buy Applegate farms in bulk at BJ’s Wholesale – they often have high discount coupons)
- Fresh broccoli
- Shredded cheeses, goat cheeses, pretty much any cheese, including my Daiya.
- Coffee by the can
- Powdered goat’s milk
- Canned coconut milk
- Canned chick peas
- Ginger syrup
- Olive Oil (about every two months – I don’t typically buy Olive Oil in bulk)
- Rudi’s wraps
“Splurge” or Specialty Sale Items
- Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
- PB2 Powder
- Coconut milk ice cream
- GF, DF, SF frozen donuts
- Van’s waffles (these go on sale often)
- Pre-made smoothies
- A specialty humus (I almost always make my own)
- Local cider (when in season)
- Beer (John is starting to brew his own now that we have the space)
- Starbuck’s Coffee
- Cookies and treats
- Spinach pancakes
- Sweet potato fries (my family loves Alexia)
Meat is a biggie for most families. If you are carnivorous like us, you love meat.
- John hunts; therefore, we have a chest freezer full of organic, local deer.
- We buy chicken (organic if possible) in bulk when on sale and freeze it.
- Each week I buy or defrost a whole chicken for weekly meals.
- I save chicken bones and pieces to make soup stock and bone broth.
- We purchase organic, nitrate free bacon from Aldi. We go through roughly a pack a week.
Putting Together A Trip
Twice a month, either pay-day or the day after, I go to the bank and withdraw cash for groceries and our allowances. I divide the cash into two. When ready to hit the store I grab my list, calculator, and weekly cash.
What To Buy
I buy our foods based on our weekly food menu. I am an impulse buyer, I always have been, so it is important for me to stick to a strict list. We also eat homemade, nutrient dense foods. This makes it easier to buy less overall. As a general rule, we eat a lot of plant and some animal protein. We don’t rely on cereal and a lot of packaged foods. We buy (mostly) real food.
So, with the above in place, here’s a look at today’s purchases at Aldi.
I spent $55.18.
- 2 almond milks – $4.98 (Almond milk is cheapest at BJ’s – I can buy 1 gallon for about $3.89).
- 1 dozen eggs – $1.55
- 2 packages of organic bacon – $7.78
- 1 bunch of bananas – $.76
- Grapes (2lbs) – $3.98
- Blueberries – $1.89
- Roma Tomatoes (pack of 8) – $1.69
- Broc. Crowns – $1.69
- 1 grapefruit – $.39
- Pesto Sauce – $1.49
- 2 Goat Cheese logs – $3.98
- Whole cashews – $3.99
- Whole Almonds – $4.49
- Frozen Cal. Veggies – $1.09
- 2 lbs frozen strawberries – $3.29
- 2 lbs frozen mango – $3.29
- Extra Virgin, Organic Olive Oil – $2.99
- 2 seltzer waters – $1.18
- 1 jar of salsa – $1.69
- 1 package organic chicken sausage – $2.99
Most of the above are ingredients for our weekly planned meals. I bought 4 lbs of organic apples on sale last week at Aldi; therefore, no apples needed this week. I am thawing out chickens since there are some older ones in the freezer, so I didn’t buy one this week. I have some extra money in my budget to buy some lettuce, kale, and other produce items at Stop and Shop.
So, there you have it. A look into our food purchasing system. The above feeds three people, and assists in feeding a fourth :). It is not always easy, but it is doable. With the right menu planning it is easy to eat healthfully on the cheap.
The Joyful Homemaker