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Cut Your Grocery Spending

ways to spend less on groceries
I mentioned last month that we were going on grocery spending lock down to reset our food budget and stop the upward creep that was happening. You can’t control the mortgage payment or health insurance costs, but you can take charge of what you eat. There are tons of ways to cut your grocery spending without too much effort.

How Much Did We Spend?

Our grocery spending has been around $500-$600 per month, mainly because I have not been paying attention. I got tricked into buying things we didn’t need because they were on sale, or I would buy something only to come home and see two of the same product sitting on the shelf. I know better.

For October, our grocery spending was $382.68

This is even more exciting than it looks because we had to buy dog food once, and I stocked up on vitamins with a buy one get one free sale. If you subtract out those non grocery costs, we only spent $332.70!

How Did We Cut Over $150 From Our Grocery Spending?

Ate From our Pantry and Freezer

While I think it’s important to keep some non-perishable foods on hand in case of emergency, we did not need most of the stuff that was hanging out in our kitchen. There was a ton of leftover stuff in the freezer. It’s all gone now.

I also had a turkey from maybe last Thanksgiving or Easter? It was a good deal at the time, but it was time for the bird to go. For an entire week, we ate Thanksgiving dinner in October, turkey tacos, turkey on top of salad, turkey flatbread, and turkey burritos. They were delicious. I even made a turkey casserole with some frozen veggies and canned soup. It called for Ritz crackers as a topping, but we only had half a sleeve of partly stale saltines. Why not?

The casserole was not delicious, but we took one for the team. There is still a cup of turkey meat that I had to freeze since I worried that we might start spontaneous gobbing at any second.

I also made trail mix from a variety of half empty containers of stuff, and the kiddo and I baked cookies from scratch. (Brown sugar is not ruined when it’s as hard as a rock) Who says you can’t have snack foods on a budget?

All in all, it was a really good experience and we certainly added some new recipes to our repertoire.

Buy Only What You Need

Aside from the vitamins, I did not look at one single item that I didn’t immediately need. It is hard to pass up sales, and I have no problem with stocking up on things you’ll use, but we were downsizing, not adding this month.

I also do much better when I avoid the middle of the store. Most of what we bought this month was either produce or milk. All the  good processed stuff is in the middle. Out of sight is out of mind. I did buy chips once for a camping trip, and I broke down and bought some Goldfish crackers and granola bars for school lunches and snacks, but only after we’d cleaned out most of what we had first.

Watch Your Meat

Meat can be super expensive. I’ve noticed higher prices on just about everything in recent months. Even the cheapest package of bacon is around $6! The way around this is to either avoid it altogether or buy it on the cheap. The above mentioned turkey still had the price tag of $4.71. Five days of meals for three at under $5 is a great deal.

Also look for meals where meat is more like a side thought. If you have a family of five and serve everyone a steak or chicken breast, that really adds up. If you make tacos or soups, you’ll use about half as much meat and you can substitute cheaper ingredients like beans or veggies without sacrificing taste or nutritional content.

Eat Those Leftovers

We will probably never be 100% efficient with eating, but we do eat just about every leftover that ends up in the fridge. Even if you don’t eat it right away, freeze it for later. By doing that, you can cook less, buy less, and eliminate food waste.

You Can Buy Fresh Produce On A Budget

I did a whole post about this, but as a reminder, you can eat healthy on a budget. You just can’t be picky about what produce you choose. Eat what’s on sale. Lately, our Kroger has had fresh pineapples for $.99 each and grapes for $.99 a pound. I had to take fruit to the my daughter’s Halloween party last week. Guess what I took? For $3, we fed fresh fruit to a class of 17. If I’d bought a pre-made fruit tray for the class, it would have probably been $20.

Maybe We Need a Milk Cow

My daughter goes through milk like water, and I only have one kid. I can’t imagine having a whole brood of them. We’d have to get a milk cow.

Probably besides produce, milk is the most expensive thing we buy. I almost always buy organic. Maybe that’s overkill, but that’s what we choose to do.  I also like almond milk for myself, and it isn’t cheap.

We are not brand loyal and buy whatever kind costs the least, but even with that strategy and with coupons, milk is still expensive. The way to afford organic and specialty milk is to cut out crap from other areas of the budget. By not buying soda and snacks all the time and making more food from ingredients instead of buying processed stuff, we feel OK about spending more for organic.

Nutrition is Most Important

While I’m all about saving money, I won’t sacrifice nutrition for cost. I strongly believe it’s possible to buy nutritious food in affordable ways,but we’ll probably never get our grocery spending much lower than it has been this month. I refuse to make our dinners into cheap, starchy meals. We could have much more rice, potatoes, and cheap pasta to save money, but I will probably always buy better cuts of meat, (on sale of course!), fresh produce, and go organic when it makes sense.

How was your grocery spending last month? Are there things you won’t cut out of your grocery budget?


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/suphakit76

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.


  1. The grocery bill is one thing we really need to reduce, so I greatly appreciate the tips. Those veggie trays are crazy expensive, as I’ve noticed most products that have done the cutting for you are. So it seems just cutting stuff yourself can save a decent amount of money!

    • If you are willing to cut, chop, and blend, you can save tons of money on buying food and in preventing waste. Almost all of our expiring produce goes into stir fry or smoothies.

  2. “My daughter goes through milk like water, and I only have one kid. I can’t imagine having a whole brood of them. We’d have to get a milk cow.” I hear you on this one Kim! Having three on milk gets a bit crazy, especially with our middle child having lactose issues and getting Almond milk for him. We joke we’re going to need two cows in the backyard. Anyway, we follow a number of these things to keep our bill down. It’s just nuts how much you can save by just eating what you have in the house sometimes.

    • I’d love to see two cows in the yard in Omaha. We actually could have a cow. I believe you can have two farm animals or 4 dogs, and there may be some sort of combination that is acceptable to the HOA. Can’t rent your house out though. Tenants would be much worse than goats or pigs, I guess.

  3. Congrats on your grocery total!! We try to keep our spending below $100 a week and unless we are having a family function, we have kept to this. Eating from our pantry and freezer is a big thing for us too. We built them up every few months and then decide to make it a challenge to use only what we have. One week, we spent less than $20 at the store because of our pantry and freezer eating. We have all also gotten better about eating leftovers which is a great grocery saver too.

    • I’m not sure why I keep ending up with stuff we don’t like very much. I guess it’s a case of being overly ambitious with my cooking and never following through.

  4. Nice job Kim! And I love that you did it with an eating style that is similar to my own, so I have no excuse now. 🙂 This month I’m planning on cutting out the luxury unnecessary items like PB2 on my oatmeal every morning. And Im trying to cut back using stevia to sweeten things and substitute cinnamon instead. Just throwing things out there to see what sticks. But this has always been a problem area for me.

    • With all the choices you have, I can see how you’d get spoiled by some of the gourmet food stores. We just have Kroger, Safeway, and Walmart.

  5. Congrats on succeeding in your grocery bill challenge. I too noticed that prices on meat overall have shot upwards! I don’t like to eat meat every day so that has helped to keep our grocery bill in line. DH is a pescatarian so he tends to more fish and drinks almond milk, and both aren’t cheap!

  6. I don’t know how you do it. Every trip to the grocery store somehow costs us $250-$300.

    • That sounds like a lot, but grocery prices seem really high right now, and if you have older kids, I bet it’s hard to keep them fed.

  7. Like you, I won’t sacrifice nutrition for cost and I’m grateful that I’m in a place where I don’t have to either. Doing a lockdown on your grocery expenses and eating what’s in the fridge and pantry is a great idea. I believe in keeping a few items around for emergencies too, but food gets old and needs to be eaten too. 🙂 Where I’ve been trying to pay more attention to is our waste. I try to be mindful, but we’d been getting a little lax lately. We’re all doing a much better job about not letting fresh fruits and veggies spoil.

    • I think with kids, some food waste is going to happen. They just don’t finish everything or their eyes are bigger than their stomachs. I refuse to be a Hoover and eat the leftovers off the plate to avoid throwing it away.

  8. Nice savings!

    I like that you were actually able to eat through your freezer, it must have been pretty tough near the end of the week.

    Oh and if you’re out of crackers for casserole topping, try Rice Crispies, suprisingly awesome.

  9. We’ve been doing 2 main things – never letting leftovers go bad (just wrote about this today) and we bought 40lbs of chicken from Zaycon Foods at $1.88 a lb. We eat tons of chicken, and it’s one of those dishes you can put with tons of veggies and have a very inexpensive and health meal. Plus, all of those veggies stretch the meat!

    • I’m trying to think about 40 pounds of chicken. It’s probably not as much as it sounds like. If you have storage, that’s the way to do it.

  10. Great job cutting your grocery expenses this month! I’ve been meal planning for the entire month then buying all non perishables and items I can freeze at the beginning of the month. One big shopping trip means I can make my weekly trip for produce a quick one. It helps cut down on my temptation to buy things that aren’t on the list.

    • One thing I did when I went for milk or produce was limit myself to what fit in one reusable bag. Once it was full, I had to stop.

  11. My husband and I really need to eat out of our freezer and pantry more often. We have plenty of food for a full month yet continue to buy more. One thing that we should probably do is partition things like toilet paper, Kleenex, detergent etc. from our food category. I have plenty of toilet paper but Target has such sweet sales where if you buy two mega packs they give you a $5 or $10 gift card at the checkout. I usually have a coupon to match with the sale and then use the gift card from the last promotion so it is a pretty hard deal to pass up. So we just keep buying even though we have a six month supply. At least it won’t spoil.

    • I did that for laundry detergent and finally had to stop. I haven’t bought any for months, but it is hard to pass it up when it’s on a rock bottom sale.

  12. I have been thinking of cutting out milk out of my diet for health reasons. It also helps that I spent like $4 on a carton of organic milk because I am just in love with the taste. It saves a couple of dollars here and then.

  13. I think eating out of your pantry and freezer is a great way to give your grocery bill a short-term decrease. I don’t think it’s a long-term fix, but how many people end up throwing away stuff that was forgotten and ends up expiring? I know I do.

    • It certainly is not a long term fix. We’ll have to restock, but it does kind of reset my thinking about groceries. I will remember that casserole when I want to buy something on sale!

  14. “The casserole was not delicious, but we took one for the team.” This is my fave line in the whole post, Kim. Eating on a budget may not always be “fun”, but sometimes you just gotta buck up, you know? AWESOME work on the grocery budget. Way to cut those numbers!!!

    • We were reading Little House in the Big Woods tonight where they eat every morsel of everything because they would starve in the winter if they were wasteful.It kind of makes my casserole seem like gourmet.

  15. Great job, Kim. Cleaning out the pantry is always a good move. We do that from time to time just to avoid food waste!

  16. Awesome job! Now that I’ve switched to working from home, I’ve definitely been trying to clean out my pantry and freezer. We use to eat out so much but I cook much more now and spend about $200 a month for two of us.

  17. Nice job. My grocery budget was within my goal of $500/month so it was a good one for me. I’m trying to get it down to $450/month by making less trips to the supermarket and meal planning.

  18. It’s good to not waste food, but I’m not positive cutting the grocery budget is a great idea. I have a theory that spending more on groceries leads to spending less at restaurants since you can satisfy all your cravings at home.

    • We can eat well for $400 a month on groceries. I did this exercise to stop the creep that’s been happening over the last few months, and we made it a point not to negate our savings by eating out more. I actually can make just about anything I like to eat in restaurants. I just like being waited on and not having to clean up:)

  19. I practice “No Chips Policy”. I save almost $25 a week for not buying any chips or junk food. Imagine the savings I make for a month. I still crave for some, but I just think that’s it’s best to cross it out in our grocery list.

  20. I buy and freeze meat on sale. every Sunday I cook big batches of hamburger, chicken, rice and pasta and refrigerate or freeze in portions. That serves as weeknight dinners for my son and me most of the time. I guess I skimp on myself: I make overnight oatmeal a week at a time and eat that every day for breakfast and bring a lunch of beans and rice with veggies. If i were a foodie, this would be tough, but I am an “eat to live” person.

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