11 In Life

Let’s Chat Grocery Shopping

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.

grocery shopping talk

Some Insight

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.

Takeaways

  • 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!

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Amanda
    March 14, 2018 at 11:12 am

    The kids also both eat breakfast, lunch, and snack at daycare, so we don’t have to pay for those. I agree that our budget would have to be higher if I was a SAHM. Perks of working! haha 😉 We try to stay around $350/month for all of our groceries, and we primarily shop at Aldi. One other tip I would add is to utilize your freezer. Are are a TON of things you can freeze before it starts going bad if you aren’t going to use it right then to keep from basically throwing money away.
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  • Reply
    Lauren
    March 14, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I’m so thankful that you shared this! Makes me feel better about our grocery budget. Im honestly shocked that so many people thought your budget was so low… I spend about $100 a week and I thought we had to be wayyyy on the high end of grocery budgets. Now I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job budgeting, especially since we’re able to get most things organic or natural. I think your point about planning things out and sticking to your plan is key! Thanks again for sharing!

  • Reply
    Autumn
    March 14, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    I have recently started meal planning because, as a single person, I was finding myself eating out EVERY DAY. It was crazy expensive and usually unhealthy, too. Like you, I typically eat the same lunch (or something very similar) every day and I buy only what’s on my list for dinner and snacks. It really has helped me eat at home more and save money.
    I like that you order other household things on Amazon–I may start doing that!

  • Reply
    Virjinia
    March 14, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Meal planning is a HUGE budget saver for me! I’ll have to look into getting all my other stuff from Amazon and see if it works for me. I like to keep my grocery budget low too and I HATE wasting food!
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  • Reply
    Christine
    March 14, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    We do a combination of Publix, Costco, & Trader Joes. And sometimes Aldi now too for fruit/milk, etc. We only buy Chicken when its BOGO at Publix and buy 2 big family packs. We usually just pick up whatever meats and fruits/veggies that are on sale. I like to get the fruit at Costco (only if its a good price) because i have to make breakfast and pack lunch for my almost 2 year old and she eats A LOT OF FRUIT. I also get all the household things from Costco – diapers, wipes, TP, paper towels. I love the kirkland brand. And Trader Joes we just go to town on the freezer aisle for some quality sides that make “plain dinners” much more interesting! and definitely lots of wine from Trader joes! lol. Meal planning DEFINITELY helps in sticking with a budget, for sure.

  • Reply
    Lindsay
    March 14, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    I honestly can’t convince myself to buy grocery store products from Amazon because the last thing we need is grocery stores to stop carrying those products because everyone is buying them online. Yes, I may spend a little bit more at the local store but that might also mean one more person at the local grocery store keeping their job. (Stepping Off Soap Box) … But other than that we stick to about $180 a week for groceries and home goods … yes its a bit more expensive but I wonder if that has anything to do with where we live?

  • Reply
    Kelly Runs For Food
    March 15, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    My goal is usually $100 a week for groceries, but if there’s wine on the list we sometimes go over haha. Since I stopped eating meat I’ve noticed it’s a lot easier to stay under budget. I usually buy one pack of organic chicken breast tenders to cook early in the week for Riley and he can add it to whatever meatless dish I put together. Wine is the killer for us, though, because we do love the good stuff!
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  • Reply
    Katie
    March 15, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Such a good post! We did FP when we were dating too and used cash up until this past year when I started doing online grocery ordering. I like the flexibility of having the money in my account and the online thing helps me avoid impulse purchases!

  • Reply
    The Curious Frugal
    March 16, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Love that you guys took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University! I used to spend so much more on groceries. Then I started meal planning at least some of the time and mainly just being conscious of prices. Before I would just buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store because it was food, even though I was frugal in all other areas of my life. Now I pay more attention to food too, but that took a while to shift.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    March 27, 2018 at 2:24 am

    I love that you explained this detailed! I am definitely one of those people that is like omg I’m spending way more. But just like you said, it’s apples and oranges. I probably spent $80 a week or so on groceries when I lived in Texas too (but that was not feeding a baby much but also including diapers/wipes/formula in that bill). Now we’re in one of the most expensive states for groceries, feeding a toddler who needs ALL the snacks, a baby, and I still get all my household goods and diapers/formula (which Stella uses A LOT of) at the grocery store. I sometimes wonder if a different place for that kind of thing would be worth it. Everyone raves about Costco but I hate bulk stuff because we don’t have the storage for it! Maybe I’ll look into Amazon… I’d love to not lug paper towels with me on my grocery trips!
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    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 27, 2018 at 10:56 am

      Haha! So true! Hawaii is SO expensive!! We are Costco members, but honestly RARELY truly take advantage of it. Mainly because of what you said, buying in bulk just means more stuff in the pantry and where do you put it all??

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