Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Budget Grocery Shopping

Do you like grocery shopping? How about menu planning? Do you end up eating out a lot? Or turning to convenience foods because there's "nothing to eat" in the house?

While I do enjoy grocery shopping (I don't get out much otherwise!), menu planning is not my thing. I tend to tackle that issue by keeping my cupboards stocked with basics and loading up on fresh fruit and veggies when they're in season. That means I usually have on hand several meals I *could* make, some fast and some .... not. I try to think about a few things I want to make during the week so I can be sure to pick up a key ingredient. For instance, coconut milk is in the curry recipe I shared a few weeks ago, so I make sure to get some when I want to make that. 

I haven't perfected grocery shopping on a budget. It gets confusing sometimes when I buy craft supplies or diapers or pet food that throw off the budget but really aren't part of the grocery budget. I guess we need to work on that! But let's focus on what I have figured out, not on my failures, mmmkay?

So. Here is how I feed our family of 5 on $80 a week.

Ok, not quite that fast--a few qualifiers first:
  • our children are 1, 3 and 5, not hungry teenagers
  • we're mostly vegan but do eat (certain) eggs - no meat, milk or cheese which can be expensive. We also don't drink coffee or alcohol and try to avoid boxed meals, and highly processed foods like pastries, desserts, even store-bought breads. Here's a post with 7 typical suppers in our house.
  • we eat at home most meals. I'd say we eat out about once a week.
  • only my husband packs a lunch (no kiddos in school), and he gets leftovers.
  • I order $75-100 worth of bulk foods about once every 2-3 months. This is where I get flours, cereals, dates and raisins, nuts and dried herbs.
Keeping that all in mind, on town day I usually hit up two stores. The first is ALDI which has great prices on veggies and fruit, but be careful with this. I've had bad experiences with avocados that don't ripen and apples that are very bruised. After shopping there for several years, I know what I can usually count on to be good quality. For instance, the package of 'stoplight' peppers is over $4 at Walmart but is less than $2 at ALDI. ALDI's juice concentrate is under a dollar and Walmart's is about $1.30.

Next we go to Walmart. Now I know some people prefer to not shop there for whatever reason, but the store in our town is a nice quality, clean store. The people are entertaining, for sure, but it's where I feel I can get the best deal for my money. 

At Walmart I get specialty items like tofu (not pictured), eggs, coconut milk, molasses, some dry goods, pantry supplies as well as personal hygiene items.  

If you're wondering why I don't clip coupons it's because it's not worth my time. Most items we buy aren't the typical ones that you find coupons for anyway. Besides that, it temps me to try new things and make purchases I don't typically have on my list. Once in a while it's fun to try something new, but tell me: If you took an hour of your time to find coupons, then "only" spent $10 to buy $20 of items you don't normally get, who just benefited? The store! Instead, I'll typically find something yummy on an end aisle when it's on sale anyway and limit myself to one or maybe two things per shopping trip. We're still trying new things or getting a treat but not excessively, and I didn't waste an hour looking for coupons! 

Maybe that's just me.

I didn't intend for this post to be a rant against coupons--if you're a couponer, good for you! I'm glad you've found a system that works for your family! 

Just so you know, I realize that not all areas have the above mentioned stores. When I lived in Nevada I shopped at Trader Joe's and Vons. When I lived in Northern California I shopped at Target and Safeway. The point is to try different stores until you find the one or two or three that seem to give you the most for your money! For example, my friend who lives here in Iowa prefers to shop at Target for groceries but uses her Target card so she gets 5% off her purchases. She feels it evens out the possible savings that she might receive by shopping at Walmart or elsewhere. 

One more idea before I get on with my shopping today: give the dollar store a try! I've found great deals on things like soy milk. Who knew? It's also a great resource for party supplies, small toys for prizes (think potty training!), and snack foods like chips, crackers and drinks. 

So what works for you? Did you find anything here helpful? Are you completely confused by some of the dietary choices our family makes? Let me know! I love your comments and questions and appreciate your time spent reading my blog and commenting!

Good luck on your next shopping trip!  


  1. Oh, Ellie- You are a good girl! I do NOT like grocery shopping. I don't think it is the shopping I mind as much as bringing it home and putting it away. lol

    I shop much more carefully than I used once did. I used to use coupons all the time but I don't anymore unless they are attached to the product I am buying. I use Walmart, too, when I want to do a bigger shop. For the smaller ones I go to the grocers a couple of miles away. They are more of a basics store so their produce is just "okay" and there is limited selections there. The plus is that I know where everything is, they are low priced and I know all the people that work there. One of the baggers has a "crush" on me so it is really kind of funny.

    Well, off and running here this morning. New baby came home yesterday and I promised the baked French Onion soup for dinner.

    Hope you have a good day, Ellie. xo Diana

  2. Thanks for sharing Ellie. I also have 3-4 stores where I get different things though it is harder to go to several different stores now that I have a little one in tow. :)

    One thing that I do to help with the budget is make my own laundry soap. Have you tried it? Here is a link to my post about how to make it if you're interested:

  3. I agree with you! I shop at Aldi's too and it is cheaper and way less hassle than using coupons! I have to feed a family of six so it really help!

    Great post!


  4. TOTALLY AGREE!! I shop at multiple stores also...we're lucky to be able to shop at the commissary on base with the great deals BUT the fruits and veggies aren't super amazing so that's when we head to Trader Joe's or Sprouts/Henry's. I make my own laundry soap and we go by a monthly dinner menu which, I swear, helps A LOT!! and i agree with you on the coupons...i tried it and had the same effect...i was buying things that we didn't need and only because i had a coupon...not ok. I've saved more money with no coupons haha


  5. Food is my most out of control budget item. This crew goes through fruit and veggies by the ton, it seems, and I don't feel right trying to cut back their consumption. And I'm trying to make sure my athletes get enough protein. I used to go to Costco once a month, then twice a month, and now sometimes weekly! I can't do coupons either, unless there are store coupons that I don't have to hunt down and go to a lot of effort to save and organize. I found that most coupons are for costlier brands I don't use anyway.



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