Monday, April 13, 2009

How I spend so little on groceries

I get a lot of people asking how I manage to stay very close to or under (for the most part) $100 a month for groceries including tax. I thought I'd write some of what I do so you can decide if you want to go to some of the extremes I go to.
Something to remember is that it took me YEARS to make all the changes in my family's lifestyle that have led up to where we are now, spending and frugality wise. This is not and cannot be an overnight change. It will take at least some months to make changes, find what works for you and lower your spending. Slow and steady wins this race.

  1. I bake my own bread. A few years ago I decided not to spend any more money buying bread, so I called a friend and had her come over and teach me how to make bread. I also invested in a kitchenaid mixer that I found on a great deal. My husband and I committed to using that thing once a week so it earned it's keep and now we use it daily. Some will argue that it is more expensive to make bread, but I disagree on that. I buy all my flour (I buy bread flour), sugar and salt at places like Sam's Club, or on sale and in bulk at other locations. Also, it is consistently about $.50 to bake a loaf of bread from scratch no matter how fancy a bread I am baking. I am currently perfecting hamburger and hot dog buns.
  2. I cloth diaper. Before you run screaming, read my cloth diaper article that is on the sidebar of this blog. Cloth is better for my checking account and the environment. Plus, I have embraced laundry as my best pal and in the winter my electric dryer actually heats my house (look here but search your local stores for much cheaper prices).
  3. I have a large food storage. It is easier to spend less on groceries when I'm only buying large amounts of only a FEW items on a great sale. For example, I bought 60 boxes of cereal last month. I already had a huge supply of cereal, but the sale was great and this topped me off so I won't HAVE to buy cereal until another amazing sale comes by. Same goes for items like mustard, mayo, pasta and juice. I buy when the sale is amazing and I buy enough for a year supply whenever possible. Then if a great sale on the same thing comes up over the year I buy enough to top it off back to my year supply, rotating the items of course.
  4. I have a large toiletries storage. I keep a years supply of toothbrushes, laundry detergent and toilet paper on hand. This stuff doesn't really go bad, so if you have more than a year's supply, no biggie.
  5. I cook from scratch. My husband is allergic to msg and so I am limited in my grocery shopping. So, I've learned to make simple healthy recipes really well. We add a new recipe to the mix here and there and if it rocks we keep it, otherwise... it was fun to try.
  6. I do vegetarian meals weekly. This was hard for my husband especially, but it's getting easier.
  7. I make treats. A lot. I have started baking a treat every day just so my family doesn't miss all the going out to eat goodies. If I have too many goodies going on I just give some away to a neighbor.
  8. I gave up steak and other fancy meats. Sure, for a special occasion we'll get one, but that's it. That was hard for us. We used to have steak every day (Don't judge me, I grew up with beef cattle. If we were hungry we slaughtered a steer). We also don't have a lot of fancy fish and whatnot unless the hubby catches it.
  9. I eat what is in season. I don't buy fresh veggies, I grow a garden and can and freeze it during harvest. I figure if it was good enough for my great great granny, it's good enough for me. Plus, learning the skill of canning was really a lot of fun! My husband is an excellent canner! Also, I am learning which fruits and veggies and keep over the winter month in my garage or shop and I'm planting more of those this next year.
  10. I eat less. By that I mean, if I want to snack I drink something first to see if I'm not just thirsty (which usually I am). I also try not to let myself just eat in front of the tv. I'm still working on that one. I find I eat a lot more than I need to out of boredom.
  11. I breastfeed. Saves me a ton on formula!
  12. I use powdered milk and eggs when the fresh ones are not on sale. I also freeze milk and oj when they are on sale so I have them on hand.
  13. I don't use paper towels. I just cut up rags from old clothes.
  14. I take my leftovers and either freeze them for lunches or I combine them into a new dinner. This one can be dicey as I have made some truly hideous food, but it often works out pretty darn well.
  15. I coupon like crazy at the grocery store. Duh.
Okay there is what I can think of right now. Like I said, I have made a lot of changes and I don't recommend doing the same overnight. But, it is doable. Even if you pick a few, you will see your grocery budget go down. I have also found our family is closer, my husband and I have a stronger marriage and I feel like we are happier and more satisfied the more we frugalize our lives. It's worth the work.


lisha said...

Thanks so much for coming and sharing your wisdom! This will make a GREAT reference for those who missed out. I admire your will power. I am slowly but surely getting there, but I don't know if I will ever make it to your standards.

The Roaming Rolfe's said...

You are so great! Thanks for the tips!

Becca said...

All of this is great stuff, and I loved your final sentences the best, especially the word "frugalize" . . . you're an inspiration!

Fistful of Coupons said...

Well Said!! I too use a lot of the same techniques to save my family a TON. But I havent adventured into the garden area as of yet..maybe next year. Thanks for the great post!
Karrie at

StockpilesRus said...

Thanks from