Jun
26
2013

How Much Should I Spend On Groceries?

by Kimberlee Stokes Affiliate Link Disclosure B

How Much Should I Spend On Groceries--The Peaceful Mom

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Save Money On Groceries!

Each week in this series I am sharing one simple tip that you can implement to start saving on your grocery bill right away.

Many of the tips will be familiar, but if you take the Save Money on Groceries Challenge with us, you will actually take the steps each week instead of just filing them in the “I should do that” file. :) [To join in, just leave a comment saying that you already use the tip of the week, or that you will start this week.]

Save Money On Groceries--Easy Tips from The Peaceful Mom

[Click here to see all the tips in this series.]

 

Today I am answering a reader question.

 

I’m newly married and haven’t mastered the grocery bill yet. I primarily shop sales and target cheaper items.

My question is how much should I be spending on groceries? What would be considered “normal” and what would be considered “frugal”? We spend about $300 a month for the two of us.

 

 

 A:  As you know, there are many factors involved in determining a food budget.

People eat differently. Some purchase only organic produce, include gluten free items or shop at specialty stores. Some people include nonfood items such as toiletries and pet food in their weekly grocery budget. Others may have smaller grocery budgets because they eat out once or more per week, so they are buying groceries for fewer days.

For purposes of this discussion, I am including only food items in the grocery budget, and I am assuming that the groceries are purchased for three meals, seven days a week.

To get an idea of the average grocery spending in the U.S., I checked the Government’s statistics on the USDA website. The USDA’s most recent food cost statistics list the weekly cost for a household of two on the thrifty plan to be $87.30 per week, or $6.24 per person per day. The cost for a family of four with two children under 5 is $127.30, or $4.55 per person per day. (The family cost per person is smaller because the children don’t eat as much as an adult, and the cost is averaged for the four family members.)

For me personally, by using the methods outlined in my Save More-Clip Less: Feed Your Family For Less Without Extreme Couponing ebook, I could easily feed my husband and I for $60 a week, or $4.30 per person per day. I currently feed our family of six including three teenagers and a twelve year old for $125 per week, or $2.98 per person per day. We do have access to fairly cheap in-season produce, but prices on most items are more expensive than other parts of the country such as the midwest.

As for your budget, you could try $60 a week and if find that you need more money in the budget, add $10 increments to the budget until you reach what you think is reasonable for you.

 

Really, the issue of how much to spend on groceries boils down to your personal needs and values. If you have a higher income and believe strongly in purchasing all organic foods, for example, that is what you should do. If you have a lower income and believe strongly that you should eat only organic food, then you will have to make sacrifices elsewhere in your budget to be able to afford the higher cost.

If your goal is to save as much money as possible, there are many ideas you can implement to bring your grocery bill down to a level which is much lower than what the USDA suggests.

 

What do you think? Leave a comment with your family size and weekly grocery amount.

 

Resources

How to Save Money On Groceries When You Are Single and WorkingThis post has some great tips that can help you when feeding only one or two people.

Save Money on Groceries Series-My weekly series with money saving tips.

8 Dinners in 1 Hour: Chicken Plan-A great method to make multiple meals for the week based on sale items.

 

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Sign up here for The Peaceful Mom Weekly e-Notes to make sure you don’t miss any of my money saving tips! PLUS get my $125 Budget Weekly Menu delivered right to your inbox along with my best tips to save money, get organized and enjoy life!

You will also receive my exclusive 99 Ways to Jump for Joy Subway Art Print, my Customizable Organizing Labels and a FREE copy of my Stress Free Meals ebook.

 

New Save More Clip Less eBook  - The Peaceful Mom

For more ideas to save money on groceries, check out my ebook Save More–Clip Less: Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half  Without Extreme Couponing.

Click here to see what others are saying.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Felixco Inc.

I’m linking up at Living Well Spending Less.

{ 121 comments… read them below or add one }

Rae January 12, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I’d like to take the challenge.

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Kimberlee January 13, 2014 at 8:51 am

Welcome Rae! This is actually a series from a few months ago. You can find all of the posts here: http://thepeacefulmom.com/save-money-on-groceries/. I just didn’t want you to be disappointed if you signed up for the emails and didn’t receive grocery saving tips every week. You can also check out my ebook Save More – Clip Less: Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half Without Extreme Couponing here which has lots of practical information to help you cut your grocery bill down to size. Have a Peaceful Day!

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EG January 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

Wow. Even with scrimping and buying chicken only 2x/week and buying reduced (soft) produce, I ring in between 150-250 a week in the most economical grocery here.

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Kimberlee January 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Grocery prices vary widely. The important thing is to make sure that you are not sacrificing your long-term goals by spending more on food than you need to. :)

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Ashley June 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Yes, I share your pain. I live in LA and it costs my husband and me $600/month to eat. He has celiac, I’m hypothyroid with a wheat allergy and IBS, and we are both lactose intolerant. We never eat out because of the risk of cross-contamination of allergens and gluten proteins so everything we eat is made from scratch from very limited ingredients. We eat exclusively fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and chicken. Also, we don’t even buy organic anymore (unless it is on sale and costs basically the same as conventional). I think the restriction of grains from our pantry (no grains are truly safe for very sensitive celiac sufferers due to common agricultural processes) hurts our budget significantly. I find that anything less than $10 per day is insufficient for each of us. We were terribly unhealthy while eating the things that most people rely on as budget-friendly staples (wheat, rice, beans, pasta) due to our unfortunate allergies, intolerances and my husband’s celiac condition. So, I guess that unless you are rich or live somewhere cheap, you better be super healthy and have a digestive system like a garbage disposal to live well on so little.

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Kimberlee Stokes June 6, 2014 at 7:47 am

I agree with you Ashley that eliminating grains can add a lot to your budget. My daughter is gluten free and we eat primarily gluten free dinners for our family, but the cost of groceries here in the south is significantly lower than California from what I have heard. The one thing that has helped me the most is making a detailed menu plan each week and making sure that we use all of the food that I purchase. The important thing is that you are doing what is best for your health, not the actual amount you are spending unless you cannot afford to spend that much. Good for you for taking care of yourself!

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Michelle Wyatt January 31, 2014 at 2:48 pm

When planning budget for groceries do you include toiletries, cleaning products and paper products?

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Kimberlee January 31, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Hi Michelle! I do not include those because I try to make one monthly trip to Walmart for those items. I usually spend between $45 and $60 a month for non-food items.

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Susie February 7, 2014 at 5:41 am

When you are trying to purchase foods at today’s prices, 2014, it is very hard. Whether it be for 2, or family of 5, groceries have gone sky high. We decided to start buying our groceries every 2 weeks (I don’t work) so we started out with one amt., which worked, but then my husband, who mainly handles the money, somehow came up with a budget of $150, every two weeks and told me this is what we have, I can’t go over. That is fine if I wish to eat the exact same things each week, over and over. We are both diabetic and we have to watch what we eat. But, on top of all this I am also expected to cover all household items in there too. Items such as: Laundry soap, dish soap, dishwasher soap, shampoo, bar soap, softeners, air freshener, toilet paper, paper towels, any cleaning supplies, etc… so,, by the time you have purchased those items during the month, for us, I may as well take $25 away from the grocery money right off the bat. That leaves less than $65, each week, for two people. I am not a miracle worker. We do not eat out often at all, I cook pretty much everything everyday. We always end up forgetting something or running back to the store during the week for something. I wanted to see what everyone else was spending on groceries because I feel what I am having to deal with is ridiculous. It’s not that my husband is a butt, it’s just I don’t work so I try my best to save us money, my job, but to have a set budget thrown on me when I am the one who does all the shopping, the cooking, etc… you would think I should have ‘some’ input into the amount of our grocery budget. Wouldn’t you think?

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Kimberlee February 7, 2014 at 8:55 am

Hi Susie! Thanks for joining in the discussion. It sounds like you have a tough situation, but YES, you should have input into the budget. If you sit down and talk with your husband about it and he still will not listen to your concerns, I would try marriage counseling or going to a Financial Peace class. You can find classes in your area at DaveRamsey.com. Hope that helps!

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Cassi April 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Hi Suzi,
I once had same problem with my husband. He’d always ask what did i buy with the money i spent. I finally refused to go to the store and made him go. He went one time…he came home with $100 in cereal and milk, our kids were small (i made him take them too, since i had to). They’d throw stuff out of the cart every couple steps! So, he only made it down one aisle. I must say this worked out more beautifully than i could of expected. He never complained or questioned me shopping again!
Make sure if you do this, your husband has your cleaning supplies on list too. Good luck!

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Kimberlee Stokes April 19, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Haha Cassi – cruel and unusual punishment, but a great way to make your point. :)

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Ashley June 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi Susie,
While you should have input into the grocery budget, I think it’s clear that your husband knows what he makes and what will be left over at the end of the day, so he is playing it safe by giving you a max amount to work with. I am the only provider in our family, and I have to do this as well. It sounds controlling, but when you have one income, you have to remember that there won’t be any extra money coming in to help you if there is an emergency or if you overdraw your account and can’t pay the bills anymore. It your needs are being met and you are just bored with your menu selections (which is perfectly natural and expected), then try picking up some part-time work, babysit for friends and neighbors, or make a little extra money doing things online (small business, blog, data entry, whatever) to supplement the current budget. Even with kids, you can always make an extra $100 or $200 by picking up odd jobs and such in the community or online. You could even start a blog to chronicle your struggles and successes with budgeting for your family. Times are tough, and your reader base would be large, so generating a small income passively through ad-revenue might be exactly what you need.

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Susie February 7, 2014 at 5:47 am

Just wanted to add… one of the reason’s we end up forgetting, or cancelling something, or going back… I make a grocery list each grocery trip but I am usually so worried about not going over our budget I forget things. I can never just fix a meal because I really like it and want it… everything goes by my budget. I finally got him to understand that dog food, etc… shouldn’t be in our grocery bill, but in my opinion neither should any of the household items I listed above. At least not all of them anyway. That isn’t leaving very much for food, to feed 2 people for two weeks. We usually only eat 2 actual meals a day, breakfast and supper. If lunch it’s usually leftovers or a sandwich. We definitely eat our leftovers. With today’s prices… you just need more than that… even for two people.

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Susie February 10, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Thank you for the reply. I was very frustrated when I wrote the above and I believe I made it sound worse than I should have. My husband would do anything for me, buys me things constantly and I can go whenever I wish and all that. I am not a tied up, broken prisoner. lol. I just got very frustrated when it came to groceries because I seemed to not have any input into the situation. After I wrote this I sat down with him and let him know I felt so upset that I found your page and commented. It upsets him when I am upset. I explained that it isn’t that I am wanting to spend a huge amount on groceries, because I do not, it’s just that when you take out all household items, then take out the taxes, there isn’t much left. I can do some crazy things with meals but enough is enough. lol. He wished I’d have told him ALL OF THIS earlier, instead of just losing my cool before. We have fixed this, it is all better, and I credit you having this page and my commenting. It got the ball rolling and now it is great!! Thanks.

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Kimberlee February 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I am sooooooo glad Susie! Thank you for following up and letting me know what happened. I am very happy for you. :)

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Nathan March 17, 2014 at 11:18 pm

My wife tells me that $800 dollars a month isn’t enough for groceries and household items. I tell her it should be fine and we argue about the budget. But I showed her this website and it helped out on how she looks at things. Lets hope it helps.. Im tried of arguing with her about budgeting. We have a family of two adults, and also 5 yr old and 2 yr old.

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Kimberlee Stokes March 19, 2014 at 11:43 am

Hi Nathan – I am so glad that you found the blog! I am sorry that you are having arguments over money. I have a new series that I have just started about how to stop money fights that may help a little. You can find the first post here: http://thepeacefulmom.com/2014/03/13/new-series-stop-money-fights-for-good/.

As far as a grocery budget, everyone’s circumstances differ, but maybe if you sit down with your wife and look at exactly what the situation is, it will help. Let me know if you have any specific questions. Another super helpful idea is to take the Financial Peace class offered by Dave Ramsey. It saved our marriage!

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Jennifer April 7, 2014 at 1:30 am

I am always trying to figure out a good amount to spend on groceries. We eat a lot of frui and vegetables not a lot of meat but lots of yogurt and peanut butter. We try to only buy organic as I think it is important to feed us all as healthy as possible. Makes going to the doctor none exsistant. We are a family of 7 and I just went shopping today. $220. For the week. We shop the dollar area in king snoopers for toilet paper or the dollar store. The dollar store is out place to get napkins, toothpaste, toilet paper for most of the bathrooms. If your kids are like mine they are unrolling the toilet paper as they are going. I find myself less upset knowing it wasn’t the 12.99 a package. We clean with Mrs. Meyers hand soap deluted so kid friendly and cheap to make. Vinegar and baking soda as well. I do wish for more ” Stress Free” meals that most of my kids will eat. I do think I could do better on my grocery bill though. We do only buy what is on sale and make meals from their.

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Kimberlee Stokes April 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

I think you are doing a great job Jennifer. The important thing is to spend your money according to your values and it sounds like you are doing just that. As long as buying organic isn’t wrecking other areas of your budget it’s definitely healthier for your family.

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beth April 7, 2014 at 11:32 pm

I feed my family of six on less than 600 a month. I dont have an option. My family is me and fiance, a 16,15,14,&3yr old.

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Kimberlee Stokes April 8, 2014 at 4:08 am

Hi Beth – It sounds like we have a lot in common with four children and a tight grocery budget. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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Amanda April 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Loving this site! I’m pretty good (at least I think I am) with managing our household budget. My husband does all of the bills and routine payments… and it is left up to me as to how we spend our day-to-day household budget. The main thing that I’ve noticed for me … the more time I spend preparing, the less I spend. The less time I spend preparing and planning, the more I spend. It isn’t always fun to sit down and hammer out a plan… but it makes a world of difference with our budget. I would estimate that, on average, we spend about $150 a week for a family of 5 (2 adults, 11… 6… and 4 year old children), not including paper products and personal hygiene supplies. It goes down considerably June-September, as we grow our own garden.

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Kimberlee Stokes April 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Excellent point that taking time to prepare enables you to spend less. Thanks Amanda!

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Dee April 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm

I’d like to save money on groceries, but I work full time. Outside of work there’s scouts (taking my son and participating/preparing as I am a leader), church responsibilities, and Jazzercise (which really ought to be listed as therapy!). I’ve just discovered your blog so I don’t know what your suggestions are yet, but everything I’ve seen so far takes TIME. It really takes a full-time (or at-least part-time) homemaker to make the home and save money. That’s not really an option for me!

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Kimberlee Stokes April 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Hi Dee – Welcome! You are right that saving money takes time, but I will tell you that the biggest savings I have found come from making a detailed menu plan for the week. If you have an extra few minutes you can base your menu around the sale items for the week, but simply planning your meals and making a grocery list based on those meals and what you have on hand will save you lots of money.

Saving money is also about priorities. If you feel it is important to be involved in all of those activities and you can afford to spend more money on groceries, then do it. If you need to save the money, you might consider cutting back on a few outside commitments so that you can spend a little more time focusing on saving your family money.

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Vicki April 27, 2014 at 8:56 pm

It is hard for a single person with celiac disease and other food allergies to have a low food budget! It is extremely frustrating! I’m taking the challenge, hoping to find ways to reduce my ever rising food budget!

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Kimberlee Stokes April 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Hi Vicki! Thanks for joining in! This series was actually written a while ago, but you can find all the posts here: http://thepeacefulmom.com/save-money-on-groceries/ :)

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Robert May 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I eat primarily a Paleo lifestyle and while it is difficult in the beginning, you will start to see the cost savings as time goes on if you make bulk purchases when prices are low. I purchased a share of a whole cow and hog in the past 12 months and my freezer is full and have completely cut meat out of my budget because it simply is not needed except for poultry. I have a Costco nearby and I am able to get a 10 pound bag for $20.00 that last me over a month.

Now that I have a Costco I am able to get organic produce pretty reasonable priced (in large quantities) and what I cannot get there I can almost always get at a local Asian market for really low prices.

I am not celiac but I believe the Paleo diet for the most part follows a similar protocol. It can be done. I spend less than $250/month for food and household items.

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Kimberlee Stokes May 20, 2014 at 7:47 am

GREAT input Robert! Thanks!

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Robert May 16, 2014 at 11:29 pm

One of the things I have found that greatly reduces my food budget is shopping at a local Asian supermarket about 5 miles from my apartment. The produce there is very cheap. Today I got 4 avocados, 2 red bell peppers, 1 bunch of leeks, 2 cans of Aroy-D coconut milk, and a pound of Shiitake mushrooms for a little over $13.00. I already had a ton of produce from last week so i did not need much. That store regularly has carrots for 59¢/lb, cauliflower for under $2.00/head, broccoli for 99¢/lb, and many other great deals.

This particular marketalso has ground beef and ground pork for $1.69/lb. I do not purchase the meat there because I tend to purchase shares of whole animals to keep my meat purchases down, I would not think there is anything terribly wrong with the meat there if you are on a budget.

I would think many places have similar ethnic markets, just have to find them. I lived here about 2 years before I discovered this place.

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Kimberlee Stokes May 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

That is a terrific idea Robert! I go to a local Hispanic market sometimes and I have also found that the prices are lower for some items, plus we are supporting local businesses which is always a good thing!

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Aunt Beth June 3, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Here’s my situation: I’m the live-in caregiver for my elderly dad. He pays for our groceries. My young niece and her husband (I’ll call them Jane and John, ages 21 and 22) live with us and are on a very tight budget. They have a 10 mo. old and another baby on the way. Although they have their own living quarters, we all share the large kitchen. We also share one refrigerator in the kitchen and one small upright freezer in the basement (no room for another fridge in the kitchen). We prepare some meals together and others separately. John is a very finicky eater and could live on pizzas and huge bowls of cereal. Jane on the other hand likes just about everything her grampa and I do. They pay a very minimal rent to my dad and nothing for groceries, although Jane purchases all of their milk and buys a minimal amount of our combined groceries. Even so, my dad ends up purchasing most of the meats and cheeses–the higher dollar items. As the mother of an infant, Jane qualifies for WIC checks, if you’re familiar with that program, so is able to purchase some grocery items at no cost to them. Here’s where we need the help: How do we budget for groceries and also split the budget in a reasonable proportion for all involved?

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Kimberlee Stokes June 3, 2014 at 7:35 pm

That is a tough situation but I would definitely think that everyone who is eating needs to contribute to the budget even if it is not “even” especially because you are family. I would talk with your dad and see what he thinks is fair. If he doesn’t want them to pay, I would still ask them because that is just part of being a responsible adult. Does that make sense?

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Shannon Leo July 13, 2014 at 11:21 am

I have a family of 6. My husband and I butt heads all the time about our shopping budget. 300.00 is what he sets. Then he gets mad when I go over it. Keep in mind that is what he thinks I should spend on EVERYTHING. Not just food but the household items as well. I spend 100.00 right off the top in formula, diapers and wipes. That leaves 200.00 for food. We have a 9 year old, 6 year old, 3 year old, and 8 month old. That leaves 4 dollars and change for each meal. Not per person, but total. That is also BEFORE I buy any of the non food items. I challenged him to take a five dollar bill to the store (mind you that’s more than I actually have in his silly budget for a meal) and buy the supplies needed to make a meal to feed 5 (since the baby eats baby food) with just that. He came back with Roman noodles and a can of spaghetti-os. We no longer argue about the food budget.

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Kimberlee Stokes July 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Haha! Sometimes it helps to have a visual. :)

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Michelle August 1, 2014 at 1:07 am

I found this forum and am very happy to have found it. My fiancé and I love in Orange County california and just did the numbers for July 2014. Our bills *groceries and household items such as toiletries/laundry supplies/cleaning supplies etc. and expenses for our one cat ALL CAME OUT TO OVER $900.00. My fiancé and I are trying to work together to figure out why our monthly grocery/miscellaneous expenses are increasing. I always go to the same grocery store and am very consistent with our meals. I even went this month to target and used my red card to save 5% every trip. I have used coupons this past month at the grocery store and went to wal mart every trip I could. Our bills have still gone up. Any input to help cut costs? We truly live off of chicken, rice, and coldcuts. We don’t get more basic. I don’t purchase organic or fancy foods.

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Kimberlee Stokes August 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi Michelle! I have heard that California is way more expensive than other areas of the country but you are wise to take a look at exactly where your money is going. Have you seen my Saving Money on Groceries series? Click here: http://thepeacefulmom.com/save-money-on-groceries/. Let me know if you have any questions. :)

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Alison August 5, 2014 at 9:46 pm

We have 6 people in our family. This includes 4 children ages 16,13, 11 and 4. I think our 4 year old eats more than anyone else! I would like to try this

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Kimberlee Stokes August 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Welcome Alison! Let me know if you have any questions. :)

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Mel August 17, 2014 at 11:56 am

I’m really curious about this topic of groceries and budgets. This is always the biggest part of our monthly expenses, besides rent. It’s also the biggest argument we have. I’m envious but also shocked at how some people seem to make it by with under 100 a week on groceries. There’s 2 of us and we spend about 800-1000/month. But our grocery budget category includes non-consumables and dining out also. And we eat a lot of protein and buy the wild seafood or hormone free meats. So maybe our high price makes sense after all. We used to separate it into different categories but when 1 receipt included consumable and non-consumables, it got too complicated to organize. Plus with the dining out part, we used to say that if we are going out to eat, then we will buy less groceries but we learned the hard way that dining out doesn’t affect how much food we buy at the grocery store, so we lump it all together.

One thing that seems to help is by menu planning once a week and sticking to it. We started to make everything from scratch which takes time but seems cheaper in the end.

Still, I want to cut the expenses back even more. You are all very inspiring!

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Kimberlee Stokes August 17, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Hi Mel! Thanks for taking the time to comment. As you can read in the comments grocery spending is very personal. If you do want to cut back you have already taken the first and probably most important step which is to make a weekly meal plan. You can also cut your costs by setting a specific budget amount and shopping with that amount of cash rather than taking a debit or credit card to the store. For more ideas on saving on groceries check out my series here: http://thepeacefulmom.com/save-money-on-groceries/.

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