I always get the biggest response on Instagram after I post something about our weekly grocery budget or what we’ve spent on groceries. I get message after message saying “how do you only spend $80?!” or “I spend over $200 on food weekly!” and it blows my mind. But I think it’s because everyone’s situation is so different, and we’re trying to compare apples to oranges. I thought I’d more clearly break down our weekly meal planning and grocery budgeting as well as some insight into where we shop, and how we buy our other needs.
Let’s first clear up some confusion about what I shared. ($80 grocery haul) When I grocery shop, I 99% of the time ONLY buy FOOD needed for our meals for the week. I try not to buy random household staples at the grocery store. We typically only plan 4 dinners, a simple lunch that can last most of the week, and breakfast for Adam and I. Adeline eats breakfasts and lunches at school during the work week (which we pay a pretty penny for!), and Adam’s lunch is paid for twice a week when he’s in the office. On the weekends, we usually eat what we have or go out. (More often than not, we go out on family dates!). We purchase almost all of our other household needs or “other groceries” from Amazon either through Prime or Prime Now, or we pick things up during a Target run. We have an Amazon Prime Visa Rewards Card which earns us 5% cash back on all our purchases, as well as a Target Red Card, which we all know saves 5%. We’re also loyal to our Kroger Card, as it’s the only grocery store we shop at weekly. Things like TP and paper towels we buy in bulk, and diapers/wipes we order as needed, or sometimes my mom will surprise us with a big box. We currently don’t need anything like formula or extra baby things…for now! And, we really don’t keep a ton of snack-y or junk-y food on hand, other than snacks for Adeline. We don’t buy a bunch of soda, water bottles, or impulse buys. (Though sometimes those impulse buys DO sneak in!)
Meal Planning Tips
When I get messages from people who are utterly shocked we only spent ~$80 on food for the week, I think it’s important we remember what this means for us. Like I mentioned above, we’re NOT purchasing food for 3 people for 3 meals X 7 days a week. A SAHM mom with an army of children will obviously spend way more on food because all of their meals are at home. We pay a butt ton for Adeline’s school where she eats breakfast and lunch, so the money is still being spent somewhere. We keep a “dates” budget specifically for eating out on the weekends, and enjoying time together instead of stressing about meal planning, so we typically don’t “plan” those meals either.
When we meal plan, we include a lot of produce, and try to base it around things we already have at home. And as much as possible, we shop the perimeter of the store, because the more you go down those center aisles, the more impulse buys you’ll scoop up and the less fresh your food is! Of course, that’s where we grab our snacks and canned goods, so it’s definitely tough to avoid! I’ve found that making a list with my needs sectioned out by department, helps me whiz through the grocery store quicker and keeps me from getting as distracted by impulse buys or middle-of-the-aisle-stops-thinking-about-what-I-need.
Some of our favorite cheap and easy meals to plan include:
- A meat + 3 style combo (something like chicken, a veggie, mashed potatoes, a roll or a meat and 2 or 3 steamed veggies)
- 1 dish meals (something like chicken, brussels sprouts, roasted potatoes in olive oil and garlic in one casserole dish or chicken, potatoes, and green beans with an italian seasoning packet)
- Fish and veggies (we love baked lemon salmon or grilled salmon, but something like cod is cheaper)
- Brinner (pancakes, bacon, and eggs!)
- 1 casserole (Poppyseed Chicken on rice is always a good one!)
- Grill night (hot dogs, burgers, fruit, chips – easy!)
- Salad night (use a head of green leaf lettuce and add what you already have)
- Panini night
- Taco night
- BLTs for lunches
- Snack plates for lunches
- Crockpot soup or chili for lunches
How We Budget
So let’s start this by saying that when we first got married, we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class then dove head first into paying off debt and utilizing a cash budget and envelope system. We paid cash for our groceries for the longest time, and even though we don’t use cash as much anymore, I think it instilled some great budgeting habits. So, when we grocery shop, we don’t tend to even let ourselves buy much more than what’s on our list, and I tend to feel a little guilty if I do! I remember the days of only having an exact amount of cash in my pocket and knowing that if I picked up that extra bag of whatever, I might not have enough at check out. Point being – figure out what kind of system works for YOU!
I would say on average, we budget $80-100 a week on groceries. On the weeks we meal plan, we tend to stick closer to the $80 range, but when we fail to meal plan and just pick things up throughout the week, it’s closer to $100 or sometimes even more! (Typically my fault!) If we pick up some fun treats from Trader Joe’s, it’s also closer to $100.
For household needs, like TP, paper towels, toiletries, soap, or diapers/wipes/etc. we budget more on a monthly basis, and come out in the $120 range. Since we order most of these things in bulk from Amazon, we don’t buy them weekly in our grocery hauls.
Our “dates” budget is also typically around $80/month, though truth be told, we’ve definitely had plenty of times where we’ve gone over because we were “too tired” to cook or just didn’t want whatever we had planned. #guilty Also, what we don’t use we throw back into savings.
I think our biggest downfall is simply making random purchases that fall outside of the grocery or household item categories. It’s those spontaneous Target runs, or Walmart runs that really add up! Or picking up something fun for Adeline that isn’t necessarily a NEED. We budget an “allowance” for each of us which helps cover some of these random purchases, but for the most part these random purchases tend to just go un-budgeted – something we’re constantly trying to improve! (And I honestly don’t even know what this $ number would be because Adam handles all our budgeting.)
I think we’d both like to get back in the habit of using cash more often, because it truly helps reign in your spending. When it’s gone, it’s gone! You really get creative with your meal planning, and think more seriously about what’s a need and what’s a want.
- Don’t compare your grocery budget to someone else’s.
- Remember everyone’s feeding a different # of people
- Remember that the cost of groceries varies geographically
- Find a grocery store you love and sign up for their loyalty/membership card.
- Shop on Amazon!
- Plan your meals to save money!
- Use cash only
Hopefully that clears up some confusion on our magical $80 grocery haul!
*This also does not include our entire household budget, keeping the rest of it private of course!*
Would love to hear how YOU grocery budget or where you like to shop!