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Grocery Game Saved Our Budget

I have never been a great grocery planner.  For years, we went to the grocery almost daily to buy food for that day. This lack of planning also resulted in eating out or getting fast food quite often. After a long day at work, the last thing I wanted to do was go home to cook. My husband had a minor health issue a few years ago. If you’d like to read about it, I wrote a guest post for Budgeting in the Fun Stuff before I even had a blog.

His need for improved eating coincided with our effort to pay off debt and live a more frugal, rewarding life.  We radically changed the way we shop and eat. It has been tons better for our health and wallet, but I still have a hard time meeting my grocery budget.  Ultimately, even if I am using cash, I know I have a debit card to catch me if I spend too much. My husband certainly is not going to complain if I buy too many groceries.  I’m not even sure he knows that you have to shop, but thinks the food just magically appears.  I had no one but myself to  be accountable to, and you can always convince yourself you are doing well.  After all kinds of attempts, I believe that I have finally found a way to be a grocery winner;  by playing the Grocery Game with Canandian Budget Binder.

If you aren’t familiar, click the above link for the rules, but basically here’s how it works. You post each of your shopping trips with your monthly budget along with Mr. CBB. He does a post every week, but you don’t have to shop exactly when he does. He really puts me to shame with his budget of $190 a month for two. We are trying for $350/mo for three people. I’m usually over $400, so this is my baby step for now. If you live in Canada, it is actually a game with real prizes.  Since I live in the U.S., I am not going to win a prize, but if I could reduce grocery spending, that’s a huge win for me.

I have come to realize that by knowing I have to share what I spend, I am much more careful. I even caught an error recently that I would never have seen in the past. If I had seen it, I probably would have just let it go so as not to inconvenience the cashier or people in line behind me.  I’m thinking of getting a t-shirt for shopping that says, “I have coupons, and will take more time in line, you should too!”

As an ode to our family’s better eating habits, I will post my favorite soup recipe. I am not a cook, so if I can make this anyone can.  If you follow Edward at If You Can Read, You Can Cook, I’m going to borrow his title but change it to, “If you can chop, you can cook.”

Cheesy Chicken Chowder

2 cups chicken, cooked and chopped (I like to boil it, then shred it or you can cube it and brown on stove)

2 cups peeled chopped potatoes

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped onion

2 cans chicken broth

1/3 cup flour

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot, add chicken broth, potatoes, celery, onion, carrots and a dash of salt and pepper. Boil until veggies are tender (about  15-20 mins.) In another pan, mix melted butter and milk and heat on low. Gradually stir in flour. When flour is mixed well, pour in cheese. Take off heat and stir until cheese is melted. This is the only hard step for us non-cooks. Make sure you don’t let it get too hot, or the cheese will stick to the pan. Pour cheese mixture into broth and veggies. Add chicken and simmer for 10-15 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.  Makes lots and freezes well.  Enjoy!

How do you stay on your grocery budget? Do you get the evil eye when you pull out coupons?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

28 comments

  1. Wow Kim, this was just lovely to read this morning! Getting our grocery budget down from almost $600 a month has been worth the effort. Although we used coupons before as you can see it was very high for 2 people. We now eat less, and eat very healthy simply by meal planning and using coupons for items that will help us save on grocery items that cost a bit more. Cheers and I’m thrilled to have you on board as are the other Grocery Game Posters! Cheers Mr.CBB
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..What Most Women Want In A Man… and It’s Not Always Money $My Profile

  2. We’re working now on lowering our grocery budget. We do good with eating at home, but we also eat out way too much.
    Michelle recently posted..My Crash Course in Personal FinanceMy Profile

    • It’s very hard not to eat out. I don’t even think it’s the food, but I just like someone waiting on me and doing the cleanup. Planning has to start on Sunday or we really are tempted by Thursday if there is nothing cooked.

  3. Having to share what you spend defintiely keeps you more on budget. My wife handles most of our budgeting and money, and man, can she squeeze a lot out of alittle. SHe’s so good with money, I feel pretty lucky!
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..Teachers on Strike: Should They Get Paid More?My Profile

  4. We coupon a ton. In fact, probably 90% of the things we buy at the grocery store we have coupons for. People can get annoyed about it who are waiting in line, but honestly, they can get over it. We are on pace to save between $1,500 – $2k on groceries alone this year by using coupons. I’m not concerned about someone being frustrated about having to wait an extra couple minutes in line!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Realtors: “Now” is Always the Time to BuyMy Profile

    • I have actually had cashier’s tell me, “not coupons,” but isn’t it their job? Don’t accept them if you don’t want to act nice about it.

  5. I don’t use coupons enough. When I do, I always feel like I’m scoring a secret deal that all the other suckers in the store are missing out on. Win!
    AverageJoe recently posted..Avoiding Sex With Strangers and Other Poor Money DecisionsMy Profile

  6. We’re working on cutting down our grocery budget as well. We do our best to have a weekly meal plan, which is usualy about as fr as we can go. We’ve tried monthly plans before, but life goes nutty and we’re off the plan. In the end, I think it just requires discipline which as we all know is not always easy.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..4 Simple Ways to Limit Losses in Stock InvestingMy Profile

  7. I struggle to keep our grocery budget low as well. In a few weeks my husband and I are going to make a bunch of meals that we can freeze in an attempt to save money.

    Your soup recipe looks delicious. I have lots of chicken broth in the pantry and I was going to hunt for a recipe, but you just provided it. Thanks!!
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..Friday’s Circle of Friends – September 14My Profile

  8. That chowder sounds delish! Accountability certainly can help people reach their goals more quickly. Good luck with the next month…baby steps all the way!
    femmefrugality recently posted..When Appropriate Behavior Yields to StinginessMy Profile

  9. Since I started living away from home, I already had the discipline buying groceries and planning the meal for the whole week. Because I am already tired and stressed, I hate stopping by the grocery every day after work and deciding what to cook for breakfast or lunch or dinner. I hate seeing fast food or reheated meals on my table. This discipline continued until I got married and had kids. i would like to try your recipe. Thanks for sharing!
    Manette @ Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance recently posted..WEALTH BUILDING ADVICE FROM SELLING LAMy Profile

    • A little planning makes a world of difference. Not sure why it took so long to figure that out. My mom never shopped daily. Just a bad habit I got into.

  10. Wow, both of you put me and my bf to shame with your spending. We have to cut our food spending now more than ever. Tomorrow will be my first test at the farmer’s market!
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..LinkLuv Friday You Cheered Me UpMy Profile

    • I can’t say anything to anyone about spending because we’ve been so horrible in the past, but besides knowing I have to account for spending, shopping bi-weekly has helped. Can’t spend if you don’t go to the store!

  11. I find most coups are for brandnames and generic is cheaper even when using coups! However I follow the weekly ads very closely!
    Debtgirl recently posted..Volunteering is the Best Free ActivityMy Profile

    • I stopped getting the Sunday paper for that very reason. Our local stores send me coupons all the time. Lots are for store brands, so those are the main ones I use.

  12. That soup sounds delicious. I think trying to lower the grocery bill is always a great way to save some cash. I need to stop eating out so much so that I can actually lower my budget – I can lower my actual grocery budget all I want but if I go and eat out than it doesn’t make much of a difference. We are not even close to $190/month – we’re probably closer to what you spend, but me and my SO grocery shop separately because he eats so much that he’d make me go broke.
    Daisy @ Add Vodka recently posted..NYC Trip RecapMy Profile

    • Trying to get my husband to stay away from the store is a challenge. He never buys anything actually useful for meals, but is all about the snack foods. I did get him to make a big batch of chex mix this weekend, so hopefully that will work!

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