You might remember that we made a goal for this month of spending only $200 for groceries in the month of December for our family of six as we worked to stay within our yearly budgeted goal for groceries. We wanted to challenge ourselves and prove to ourselves that we really could save money on food expenses. Well, we came pretty darn close, coming in at $215.48. Read on to find out how we did it.
You CAN Save Money on Food
Here are the steps we took to lower our grocery bill big time this month:
1. Made a list of super cheap meals.
This was key to our success. Here’s a sampling of what we ate throughout the month:
-Breakfasts: consisted of some version of eggs, alternating with oatmeal or toast. On the weekends, I did one day of made-from-scratch pancakes and one day of eggs/fried potatoes
-Lunches: Consisted of primarily some form of pasta, potatoes, rice or leftovers with a vegetable. Most of the veggies came from the freezer from either garden bounty or what we had in stock.
-Dinners: Primarily some combo of veggies, chicken, beans and rice or pasta, and we had ribs one night which had been in the freezer from the side of beef we purchased last year. We did stir fry one night from veggies we had in the freezer, and we did fajitas one night too. We made homemade tortillas for the beans/rice, fajitas and egg burritos -super cheap. We also did popcorn for dinner about once a week. We didn’t have to buy rice or pasta this month because we buy in bulk during the year, and had enough to sustain us through the month of December.
For Rick’s lunches at work, we bought a few things, but most of the time he took leftovers or sandwiches in.
2. Scoured the ads like a hawk
So we could stock up on super sales for things we needed to eat. This is a key element in learning how to save money on food. For instance, stores had potatoes on sale dirt cheap due to Thanksgiving. We found a sale for 1 10 lb. bag of potatoes for 99 cents, and additional bags for $1.99. We bought 1 for Thanksgiving, and four more for December meals. Here’s a list of everything we bought in each trip to the store. We went “big shopping” at the beginning of the month, and then made several smaller stops throughout the month.
Dec 2014 grocery list
40 lbs of potatoes on sale 7.96
100% juice 19.17
64 oz of chkn breasts 7.98
olive oil 5.18
granola bars 2.00
4 can refried beans 9.00
1 jar salsa 1.98
3 jars spaghetti sauce 4.14
Skippy natural PB 5.72
2 5 lb bags organic flour 11.48
8 loaves white bread 9.44
coffee creamer 5.16
block cheese 25.32
sour cream 4.72
$1 lunches for rick 4
cheese slices 4.48
organic milk: 5 half gallons 17.9
Ritz crackers for Rick lunch 1.99
total 184.64 ( we used 6.89 savings catcher money on this trip also)
sunflower nuts 5 .00
bagels 4 .00
cashews (for stir fry. You can’t have stir fry w/o cashews. It’s a rule.) 3.98
Grand total: $215.48
By hitting the sales, and having a mentality of “Don’t buy it unless you absolutely must have it”, we cut our grocery expenses roughly in half this month!! The “don’t buy it unless you absolutely must have it is vital to keeping a low grocery budget such as this one.
*Note: this budget does not include money we spent on family gatherings such as Christmas/New Year’s Eve. We put those in a separate expense category since it’s largely stuff we would not normally buy.
3. We ate from the pantry
Although we didn’t touch our stockpile food, we did scour the pantry/freezer for anything that we could use to make a meal out of.
4. We got creative and we got humble
Another key to keeping a low grocery budget such as this one was that we got real humble real quick. The perspective we adapted of “this is all we have” (this is one out of the Great Depression, my friends. There were no credit cards then, so what you had in cash was what you had to spend. Period.) makes every meal feel like the blessing it is. Knowing that there were very little funds to last us till the end of the month made us grateful we had a meal to eat at all. It also forced us to get creative, making something out of nothing. This is a skill I got real good at as a child living in poverty but have lost over the years. When faced with limited food resources, use your creative mind to put things together that you wouldn’t normally put together. Create your own casseroles, you know?
Recommended Reading for HUGE Money Savings Every Month: America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams
Conclusion/Summary: The month went good overall. The kids didn’t complain much, except for the uprising near the end of the month when we’d gone several days without milk or fresh fruit. 🙂 Surprisingly, my kids aren’t afraid to tell it like it is, 😉 , so they made no qualms about protesting our low budget when we ran out of the basics. We ate much more pasta than we usually do, which was a definite downside, but it was mostly non-GMO pasta (Trader Joe’s sells it for $0.99 for a 16-ounce bag), which helped lots.
The main thing I learned from this experiment is that we can indeed lower our grocery bill, and I’m betting you can learn to save money on food as well. In 2014 we spent an average of roughly $510 per month to feed our family of six. While this is not a ton of money, we still did this while being lax in our budget/shopping. Imagine what we could do if we’d been half as strict with our budget as we were this month!
While I’m certain we won’t adapt a $200 grocery budget every month in 2015, we are committed to doing better than we did in 2014, leaving even more money on the table to put toward debt.
In our 2015 goals post, we’ll share our plan for kicking our debt to the curb once and for all, and part of that includes a lower grocery budget for our family. We’re ready and willing to get “gazelle intense” in every area in order to reach our dreams.
How will you get “gazelle intense” in 2015 in order that you might accomplish your goals?