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As I mentioned yesterday in my review of Slash Your Grocery Bill, my husband and I want to focus on lowering our grocery budget while still eating healthy. We want to do this because we’d like to have more money for travel–to visit his family in Japan and my family in Michigan. As our relatives are getting older (and so are we!), we want to travel more, especially while the kids are with us under one roof. (I can’t believe Bookworm will be 18 in just 2.5 years!) Here’s how we plan to reduce our grocery budget.
How Much Should We Spend on Groceries
I love to use the USDA Cost of Food at Home report to learn how much the rest of the country is spending on groceries. According to this guide, if we followed the thrifty plan each week, our grocery expenses should be $194. If we follow the low cost plan, our expenses should be $255.80.
Our Food Intolerances Affect The Grocery Budget
We have quite a few food intolerances in our family, which affect the amount we spend on groceries. Currently, none of us eat gluten or dairy. In addition, I can’t eat corn or sunflower oil (which is in so many processed foods!).
We also choose to mostly buy organic produce. (We buy conventional avocados, oranges, grapefruit, clementines, and broccoli. Otherwise, we buy organic produce.) We also buy 100% grass-fed beef and try to buy a 1/4 side of beef direct from the farmer when we can.
How Much We’re Actually Spending on Groceries
Thanks to YNAB (You Need a Budget), my favorite budgeting software, I can quickly see that we’ve spent $9,859.21 on groceries this year. This averages out to $229.28 per week, which puts us firmly in between the frugal and low-cost food plans from the USDA.
How We Plan to Reduce Our Grocery Budget
Here are the 11 ways I plan to reduce our grocery budget. If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Create a Recipe Book
I don’t own cookbooks anymore. I find all of my recipes on the web. I cook the same recipe a few times, then I take a break from it, and then I forget about it or can’t find it again. Or worse yet, the blog or website that hosted the recipe closes down and the recipe is lost forever!
I plan to combat that by creating my own recipe book. I don’t have a lot of time to do this, but each week I plan to add 1 to 3 recipes to my homemade recipe book.
Create a Price Book
In general, I know what the good deal price is for most of the foods that we buy. However, I don’t know how often the prices go on sale because I haven’t really been keeping track. So, I’m going to create a price book primarily so I can monitor and become aware of the sales cycles for the items we buy most often. Then I don’t have to overbuy when something is at a rock bottom price.
Buy Dried Beans Instead of Canned
I used to cook dry beans all the time, but I’ve gotten lazy (or too busy!), and now I exclusively use canned beans. I’m going to change that by buying dried beans and cooking up a large batch and sticking them in the freezer in smaller batches. This will give me the convenience of canned beans without the higher price.
Have Two Vegetarian Meals a Week
Honestly, this might be the most challenge change to make. I don’t have any trouble digesting beans nor does one of my children, but the other three in our family? Watch out! I can’t rely on beans too much throughout the week. Plus, my husband isn’t a big meat eater, but he does want at least some meat in his meal. We’ll see how this one goes.
Pack Homemade Lunches Instead of Sandwiches
Bookworm has to pack his lunch five days a week for school, and the girls and I have to pack our lunches two days a week for ABA. (My husband makes his own lunches for work comprised of meat, veggies and rice.) Sure, making sandwiches is cheap if you don’t have any food issues, but if you have to use gluten free bread, sandwiches become very expensive!
I’m going to focus on making more lunch meals each weekend that can be packed in a thermos rather than packing sandwiches.
Incorporate Stock Up Food Within One Month of Buying
When I buy food at low or discounted prices, I’m going to make an effort to incorporate those foods in our menu plan within the next 2 to 3 weeks instead of letting them languish in the freezer for someday.
Have a Regular Freezer Inventory
Speaking of freezers, I need to be more diligent about doing a freezer inventory so I don’t buy duplicates of what I already have at home.
Make My Meal Plan Based on What I Already Have at Home
When making my weekly menu plan, I need to make an effort to use what I have in the house first. Honestly, I don’t know why I don’t do this regularly as this seems to be one of the easiest ways to save money on groceries.
Use Online Cash Back Sites
I used Ibotta a few years ago and then stopped. Last week, in preparation for this post and the change to our grocery budget, I experimented with using it again, and I got $16.75 cash back! I will definitely be using Ibotta regularly.
I’ve also heard of Fetch Rewards and CheckOut51, so I will check those out. If you have experience with either, I’d love to hear your opinions.
Have Small Freezer Cooking Sessions Once a Month
Each month, I plan to have a smallish freezer cooking session for about 10 meals. Then I’ll always have a wide variety of meals in the freezer for those days when I don’t feel like cooking or I’m too busy. I’ll try to base what I make for freezer meals on what is on sale and what I already have in the house.
Continue to Research How to Save More
How We Plan to Separate Out Our Grocery Money
I’m planning to budget $200 a week to groceries. That will put us a smidge over the frugal plan ($6, to be exact), but reduce our current grocery spending by $29 a week, adding up to $1,508 a year, which is enough to drive to Michigan!
I plan to use $125 a week for regular grocery needs and $50 a week for stock up items. In addition, I will set aside $25 each week for a grass fed beef purchase and other bulk meat from Butcher Box and U.S. Wellness Meats throughout the year. Whenever I have extra money in the weekly amount of $125 for regular groceries or $50 for stocking up, I will continue to roll that money into my grocery budget so I can use it in future weeks when there are good deals or we’re low on groceries.
I’m curious, if you’re comfortable sharing, how much do you spend per week on groceries? What strategies do you use to help you save money on groceries?