Now that I’m a full-time mom and we are living off one income, it’s very important for us to stay on budget with groceries and dining out. We are also trying to pay off our house, so staying under budget means we have more money to apply there. After a few months of trial and error, I’ve come up with these 10 ways to spend less than $100 on groceries each week for our family of 4. I’ve been able to meet this goal fairly consistently for several months, so I decided to share. If you follow these steps in order, I bet you’ll have some success as well!
10 Ways to Spend Less than $100 on Groceries:
1. Use a Calendar
What is going on this week? Are sporting events or holidays scheduled? It is ESSENTIAL to get yourself on a regular home calendar so you can begin meal planning. I use a google calendar synced to my iphone and it works well. We also keep a dry-erase calendar in our kitchen so the kids can visualize the month. Once you know what’s scheduled, you can begin meal planning. You can also ensure your dining out doesn’t go over budget, as you only plan to eat-out a certain number of times each week on the calendar. Check out these tips for spending $20 or less eating out.
2. Make a Meal Plan Each Week
Meal planning can be super easy! I use an online recipe database and meal planning tool called PlanToEat.com. This is amazing and I honestly can’t imagine life without it. I used to create my meal plans and grocery lists by hand and I dreaded it every week! Now it only takes me about 10 minutes!! PlanToEat only $4.95/month or $39/year and well worth every little penny. You simply input your recipes (with pictures too, if you want), and it stores them all in categories. You can also add a “Save Recipe” button on your toolbar which allows you to easily click and auto-insert recipes you find online without having to type everything in manually!!
After your recipes are entered, simply click and drag them into the weekly planner! Tip: I created a recipe called Eating Out to insert on days I plan for us to dine out. Even if you don’t use PlanToEat, at least write down the days of the week and what meals you will eat. I meal plan on Sunday–the day before I buy groceries each week.
3. Buy Meat in Bulk
Since we are on a strict budget, I mostly cook dishes with chicken or beef as the main meat. Sometimes we’ll have a meatless meal or a pork tenderloin, but I rarely cook fish, other seafood, steak, or expensive meats. We save those splurges for when we can eat out and have a Buy One Entree, Get One Free Coupon (or other awesome deal).
Instead of buying chicken and beef weekly with our groceries, we purchase them about every 2-3 months in bulk. We purchase chicken at Sams Club and ground beef at our local Farmer’s Market. You can also buy bulk ground beef at Sams Club and separate it into 1 pound bags when you get home (we used to do that before discovering a local farmer whose meat we love). We also budget for “Bulk Meat” separately in our budget so it doesn’t interfere with our regular grocery budget. Buying meat in bulk is a great way to save money!
4. Make a Grocery List (and categorize it)
If you’re using PlanToEat, it automatically creates a categorized shopping list after you finish your meal plan! I love this thing! You can also customize your own shopping list of staple grocery items and simply click on the staple items you wish to insert into your grocery list. Even if you don’t use this program, at least write a list and categorize it yourself for a faster and more pleasant grocery experience…if buying groceries could ever be pleasant. The fewer times you have to go down the same isle, the less likely you are to grab items not on your list.
5. Go Through Weekly Grocery Ads AFTER You Make Your Grocery List
I plan my meals based on what I actually want to eat that week and THEN go through the ads. If I see an item on sale that’s already on my shopping list, I’ll circle the item with marker and then write the item name and sale price with pen on the front page of the ad (at the top). Then I fold all my ads into a nice square and only have to look at my notes on the top margins while shopping. You may find yourself overspending or buying items you don’t really need (or want to eat) if you go through the ads first and then plan your meals based on what’s on sale. $10 for 10 boxes of mac & cheese, anyone?
6. Try Price Matching
You’ve gone through your sale ads, so you know ahead of time what sale items are on your grocery list. Walmart is the best place for price matching, but it can be a dump. We often shop at the nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market. The crowd is cleaner (literally) and it’s much less busy. While shopping, I always put my price matching items at the front of the cart together and place them on the conveyor belt together to help the cashier. They really appreciate this and they never ask to see my ads–they just ask me what the sale price is. I always take the ads though, just in case!
7. Grocery Shop on the Same Day Each Week
Mondays and Tuesdays are likely the least busy. I have a standing “appointment” for lunch and grocery shopping each Monday. You might want to check your store to see when they stock items. I would personally avoid those days because they might be busier. If you keep your days consistent, you will find a routine and might be less tempted by splurge purchases.
8. Eat Before you Grocery Shop
Shopping on a full stomach will make sticking firmly to your list much easier! You won’t be tempted by cravings and you won’t be rushing because you are hungry.
9. Set a Spending Goal
This goes with your budget. Check your monthly grocery budget and divide by the number of weeks in the month. This tells you your weekly grocery budget. Try setting a goal to spend under that amount each week and then celebrate if you do!
10. Follow/Join Our $100 Weekly Grocery Challenge
Each Monday I’ll post an update to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds to share the successes/failures of our own weekly grocery experience! My personal goal is to spend less than $100 per week to feed our family of 4. I’ve been able to do this pretty consistently for several months! Follow along and join in the fun with your comments! I’d love to hear how you’re doing with this $100 Weekly Grocery Challenge too!