So, why do we have a $200 a month grocery budget anyway? Is it really just all about saving money? The answer might surprise you!
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Our $200 a month grocery budget has been a long source of intrigue! Over the last several years I’ve received many emails and comments asking things like, “How do you manage to live on such a low budget?” “What do you all eat? Just processed, junk food?” “What are your tips to save on groceries?” “Can you please teach me how to shop like you do?” “How do you decide if something is a good price?”
I try to pack my weekly What I Spent & Saved posts as full of tips and helpful information as possible, but I realize that it is still probably hard to get a good grasp of just exactly how I make our budget work. So, in an effort to make things more clear and hopefully help you spend less on groceries as well, I’m doing a series of post that will be all about Our $200 Grocery Budget- the way I shop, the key things that help me save, my favorite money saving tricks and more!
But, before I dive into all the fun specifics of how I shop, I wanted to first address the whole question of why we have a $200 grocery budget in the first place. It’s a question that I assume some of you have, even though you’ve been polite enough not to ask it. 🙂
Why do we have a $200 grocery budget?
When we got married 8 ½ years ago, we had very little money or possessions to our names. But we had a lot of determination to live debt free and wanted to buy a house within a year of getting married. It’s kind of a long story, but thanks to some generous people, the grace of God and lots of hard work, we were able to buy a house 6 months after we got married. We were probably kind of crazy though because we actually borrowed the full $90,000 that we needed for our mortgage! But we had gotten advice from numerous people that we trusted and they encouraged us to do it and we felt like it was the route we were to take. And thankfully, it turned out well for us!
READ MORE: 10 Things We Did to Pay Off Our $90,000 Mortgage in 5 Years
But obviously, that meant we needed to scrimp and save like crazy to make things work! After some fairly animated discussions about what our grocery budget should be (I thought we needed more and my husband thought we needed less), we finally settled on something close to $150. At first I bulked at the tightness of it. It seemed impossible! And then one day I stumbled across a coupon blog (that was back when there was literally only a handful of them) and I was fascinated. Suddenly, I felt like I had some tools to make our too-tight budget work!
Over the next couple of months, I learned all that I could, read everything about couponing and money saving that I was able to find and gradually, the whole thing of keeping our grocery spending under control went from being a hardship to being a fun challenge.
Over the years, because of rising prices and the addition of children to our family, we gradually upped our grocery budget and are now at $200 a month for our family of five.
Do we really need to live that frugally?
In a word, no. While we initially set our grocery budget this low because it truly was pretty much a necessity, that is no longer the case. Our financial situation has gradually improved over the last several years, and while money is tight again with my husband being back in school, we are blessed and in reality, could up our grocery budget if we absolutely needed too.
Why we have chosen to keep our grocery budget low:
1. I enjoy the challenge
I know this might sound crazy, but most of the time I really do enjoy the challenge of making our budget work. Yes, there are days when I’m ready to call it quits and up our budget to $350, but the majority of the time I revel in the thrill of figuring out how to make it work- much like some of you revel in the challenge of training for a marathon or the challenge of solving a puzzle or fixing up an old piece of furniture. To me, it’s almost a game to see what things I can do to save money each week and yet still have a nicely stocked pantry and eat delicious, healthy meals. I’ll admit, if I hated grocery shopping or didn’t find saving money on groceries to be a fun thing, I am almost sure that we would have upped our grocery budget long ago!
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- Checkout 51
2. Allows us to meet other goals
Obviously, if we would up our grocery budget then we’d have to reduce our spending in some other category in order to compensate. By keeping our grocery spending low, it’s allowed us to meet some other goals that we had such as house projects, sending my husband to school without borrowing anything, taking a family trip last summer, saving for a 10th anniversary trip, being able to give generously to others (something that we feel is very important), to name just a few.
3. It helps us live simply
It’s not that it’s necessarily wrong to have lots of nice things or enjoy expensive food, but it’s so easy to get sucked into the American mindset that you need to have certain things in order to be truly happy. The fact of the matter is, nothing can buy you happiness. Yes, it’s true that some things make life easier and more enjoyable, but that’s about as far as it goes. Contentment is so important!
I don’t know if this makes sense to you or not, but by keeping our grocery spending low, we are in a small way, attempting to help us learn contentment. It kind of serves as a regular reminder to us that we don’t need a lot of expensive things to be happy.
Do I think everyone needs to have a $200 grocery budget?
By all means, no! In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I wrote a whole post addressing the subject!
So, there you have it! Now you know why we have a $200 grocery budget. 🙂
And now I’m curious…
What do you find the most challenging when it comes to budgeting for groceries?
Other posts about our $200 Grocery Budget:
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: The Importance of Stockpiling
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: How to Start Building a Grocery Stockpile
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: How a Price List Saves Money
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: How I Plan my Deal Shopping Trips
Hello, my biggest challenge is I have 2 children with auto-immune diseases that have and require special diets, Including mostly raw veggies and fruit, and lean protein. My biggest challenge is #1 staying on a budget, #2 they are always hungry because healthier options are less filling and you eat more. I have a budget of 600.00 per month which I know ….deep breath and gasp!!! I must live within a budget but, cannot seem to make it work as my kids need fresh options not loaded with sugar or carbs & highly processed foods. MY BIGGEST IS A BUDGET THAT GETS WHAT I NEED and well fresh foods do not keep. TIPS. HELP. ANYONE?
Wow, that is a tough one, Lena! From what I know though, $600 for a budget that includes lots of raw fruits and veggies and other special foods doesn’t actually seem that crazy to me. But I realize that it still probably feels rather painful to spend that much!
A couple of ideas that may or may not be helpful. Do you have an Aldi or Lidl nearby? They both tend to be inexpensive and have produce for great prices (and frozen tilapia too!). Also, can they eat frozen produce? It varies some, but some fruits and veggies are actually cheaper when you buy them frozen (thinking cost per pound). And if you see a great deal on fruit such as berries, you can always buy a bunch and freeze them. If you are having a lot of produce go bad on you before you get it eaten, you might want to try these containers. I have similar, a bit more expensive ones, from Tupperware and love them! I feel like they have paid for themselves over the years because of how much longer they keep my produce!
You may be doing this already too, but meat typically freezes well and following the same idea as the fruit, if you find a good lean meat on sale for a decent price, buy extra and freeze it for later use. I save a lot by doing this!
I don’t know what grocery store you shop at, but many grocery stores have digital coupons that you can load to your store discount card. (You can find these on their website. Typically you have to create an account to log in, but it’s super easy.) Many of these coupons will likely not be for things that you buy, but the stores I shop at often offer savings on produce purchases as well as coupons like $2 off $15 meat purchase etc. And of course they have coupons on non-food items too. So it might be worth checking the store’s site each week before you shop to see if there’s anything like that to help you save.
I hope those ideas are helpful or at least maybe get your thoughts stirred! And blessings as you continue to care for your kids and try to figure out how to do it well without breaking the bank. I know health situations make it so much harder!
My husband wants me to lower the budget as well and would love a $200 mark. How many do you have in your family? Where I am buying diapers for 2 kids and formula for 1, how can that be done? Also how do you make it work with cleaning supplies and house necessities like light bulbs etc? Maybe direct me to a post, if you’ve already done one on these type of issues. Thanks!
Hi Nicole! So sorry for the slow response. Your comment somehow got “lost in the shuffle” so to speak and I just now saw it. I’m guessing it had something to do with the fact that our 4th child was born around the time that you commented and things were (and still kind of are!) a bit hectic. 🙂
Ah, as I mention in the post I know all about having a husband that would like to see a lower grocery budget. I hope you can get something figured out!
There are 6 of us in our family now- 2 adults and 4 kiddos (ages 8 to 2 mo.). Yes, diapers can be a big drain on the budget, for sure! Believe it or not, I’ve found that drugstores (especially CVS) are one of the best places to find them for a good price. They often run sales on them and by using coupons I can get them fairly inexpensively. I write more about how I do that in this post and this one too.
As far as the cleaning supplies and household necessities. There are a couple of things that help me here. One is that I make a lot of my own cleaning supplies. I love this Homemade Bathroom Cleaner and it can actually be used to clean more than just bathrooms too! I also have a recipe for homemade Windex that I really like too and it’s super inexpensive. When I wash up our floors I add a teeny bit of Dawn dish detergent and vinegar to water and scrub away with that.
The other thing that helps is that I have a stockpile. The advantage of this is that I stock up on things like toilet paper, light bulbs, dish soap, toothpaste etc. when I can get them at rock bottom prices. This means that I rarely ever have to pay full price for any of those things and over time that saves a lot of money! I talk more about how I do that in this post and this one as well. It’s interesting that you mention lightbulbs because it made me realize that sometimes they actually don’t come out of our grocery budget. If I find a good deal on them at a store I’m shopping at, then I buy them and they come out of the grocery budget. Otherwise my husband picks up a big box of them when he’s at Lowe’s or Home Depot and they come out of our Home Expenses budget.
Something else that is helpful to remember is that it’s easy to think that the little savings don’t matter. But the thing is, they do add up and over time those little savings can make a big difference!
One more thing….if Zaycon Fresh comes to your area, you might want to check into getting meat from them. They have great prices on chicken and it’s a good way to save.
Hope that helps! And if you have more questions, feel free to ask! I’ll try to be a bit more prompt at replying. 🙂
I loved your post! My husband and I decided to become more frugal in order to save as much as possible to buy our first home. In Toronto, housing -and life in general- is quite expensive so we’re trying to do our best to meet our goals. Currently we are following a CAD$100 grocery budget per month (this is for two people, we don’t have children yet) and it’s turning quite well! We eat really healthy food and overall we feel happy about this lifestyle. Curiously, we don’t eat only beans and rice as our friends think, although they are in the menu, of course! Also, we don’t have any food allergies or so, which makes our goal easier to meet.
I’ve found that a great way to save money is by making your own bread and other baked goods, mostly for breakfast. This month we’ve made several batches of bread, buns, banana bread, baked lentil paddies, biscotti, potato cakes and other things that we’ve included in our meal plan.
I don’t stockpile because we don’t have enough storage room in the apartment where we currently live, but this is definitely something I’d like to do in the future.
I don’t use coupons but I do use an application called Reebee which displays the flyers from different stores, this allows me to know where things will be cheaper when I need to do my groceries. Generally I only visit 2 stores. I also use Checkout 51 for cash back.
It’s been an interesting challenge to our creativity for sure! 🙂
Marian, for some reason my commenting system apparently had a glitch and I never saw this comment until today. Not sure what is up! Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment and I loved how you’ve gotten creative in figuring out how to make a tight budget work for you all. You made me realize again, that often when it comes to saving money, half of it is attitude! I guess it’s probably that way about most things in life though, really. 🙂
Love this! Number two is a big reason for me too. Keeping our grocery budget low is helping us reach our other financial goals, and it’s so nice to see tangible results, rather than seeing so much of our money vanish out of the refrigerator.
Yes, if we were upped our grocery budget I know that we’d feel the pull in other areas of our budget. It takes time and effort to have a budget this low, but the savings that it results in is worth it to me!
Hi, I am so interested in how you do this…I would love to be able to save more for our family of five! Just curious, does the $200 monthly budget include everything (toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc) or strictly food for your meals?
Mandy, I’m sitting here feeling embarrassed that it took me so long to reply to you. 🙁 Somehow I missed replying to your comment and I’m so sorry about that.
Yes, the $200 includes everything. I use a lot of coupons and combine them with sales to get maximum savings which helps a lot! I actually am working on a whole series of posts about how I shop to make our $200 grocery budget work. I think you might find those posts helpful….although I’m definitely not done with the series. (I kind of got side tracked with some food related posts and really need to get back to the grocery budget series again! Oops!) 🙂
Hope that helps!