A Realistic Grocery Budget

When I first started staying home, I was given an “allowance” of $80 per week to use on groceries, and I was able to keep the rest.  This was easier than it sounds, because most of our shopping was done at Costco, which did not come out of the allowance. We went as a family to Costco almost every week, got our meat, produce, and and dairy products. The allowance was used on little stuff needed throughout the week.

It worked when we were a family of two plus nursing baby. I was able to keep within the budget and have a little spending money to keep. I spent all my extra money going to Panera and Chipotle. Those were the days.

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Then, the changes began. The baby grew into an eating person. Another baby arrived. We cut our Costco trip to once a month. A third baby came. I stopped couponing.  And somehow my budget has stayed the same. I have, predictably, gone over every single month for years. So I charge things to our shared credit card, and get interrogated about it. I would use birthday and Christmas money from my parents to buy groceries, just to avoid the questions.

Obviously this is not working.

I am trying to find a workable number I can stick to, taking away the whole “allowance” aspect. (I have gotten my frivolous spending under control after years of having basically no spending money. If there is something I would like that seems like a silly luxury, I will just put in on a list to ask for as a gift.)

So…I am thinking $100 per week for my weekly trip, plus a monthly Costco visit of about $200? This comes out to $150 a week. When I look up the average for a family my size, this still seems pretty low, considering it includes paper goods, laundry stuff, cleaning supplies, and the whims of five picky eaters.

But, maybe it should be more than enough? It is $600 a month all together.

Plus it does not include the cost of starting or maintaining the garden, which gives us a lot of produce. It does not include the cost of feeding the chickens, which give us eggs. So those are free inputs for me. I also order diapers and wipes, Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and dish soap, and expensive skin care using our Amazon account, which does not come out of my budget. Also we tend to either go out or get takeout once a week. Again…not out of my budget.

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$100 per week for my weekly trip will still require some changes, because I go over that most weeks.

I already meal plan and cook from scratch. It is chicken and ground beef constantly. I  haven’t bought anything organic in years. I don’t feel that there are that many ways to cut back.

But then I think about the snacks and the treats.

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Some changes I can make to keep to $600 per month.

1. No chips for the children. My oldest doesnt like normal snack food. So like an idiot, I have been buying her potato chips. Then the others want some too. No more. Easy one.

2. Less out of season fruit. These kids eat berries almost every day, all year. Not affordable, or necessary. Apples, little dears. Grapes. Whatever is on sale. I won’t force bananas on them because they are disgusting.

3. A hard one for me… cutting back on Chobani Flips. I will only have one a day, and only get them when they are a dollar. I have been eating 2 or 3 a day.  Spending $80 a month on one person’s yogurt habit seems…totally nuts.

4. The biggest one… waste less food. We throw out quite a bit. Leftovers will need to be eaten. I am always throwing out lettuce. Need to find a way to fix that. Going to try this method.

5. Grow more potatoes. They are kind of expensive at the store, and actually filling, unlike peppers, tomatoes, and um…sunflowers.

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I will not compromise on Boar’s Head deli meat, delicious seasonal beer, or King Arthur brand flour. Certain things are just necessary.

Is this actually a really large budget and I am bring ridiculous? I mean it’s $600 a month, which sounds like a lot! Or is it too low and should I bump it up and eat berries with abandon? And why doesn’t my oldest child eat Goldfish?!

Do you have a grocery budget? Do you stick to it? Does your husband pester you about it? Help me!

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15 thoughts on “A Realistic Grocery Budget

  1. Hey there, Katie! One of the things I try to do is turn my leftovers into casseroles. I had half an onion, leftover baked chicken breast and some green salsa. With some cheese and tortillas, I turned that into enchiladas. I made one pan and froze another.

    We buy in bulk where we can, take advantage of seasonal produce and I try and make what I can from scratch. I think I saw in the comments someone recommending taking a percentage of what you make and turning that to groceries – I’ve seen that work!

    I’m linking to another idea I’ve seen work – a cooking challenge! Maybe this will help? https://sierrabush.wordpress.com/2018/09/03/shelftember-cooking-challenge/

    I hope all that helps!

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  2. No Makeup Mama

    We are a family of five in the chicago suburbs and have a budget of $400/month for groceries – but separate amounts for toiletries and household products like toilet paper. But I think it’s funny that your husband nags you about the money, because in my home, I’m the one nagging my husband for spending money lol even though I’m not the one making it. Good reminder to me to not hassle him too much 😁

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  3. TheFashionedWoman

    I go with the 10-15 percent of our take home pay for groceries,costco and all things home at around $400. We go less than our take-home pay now because our salaries have greatly increased but we are saving hardcore so I have been able to stretch that $400 magic. Lol We have no children but I do have enough to buy for needy pantries and have guests over for supper. I say $600 is a great budget but the keyword here is the actual budget. Not more or less. We have to sacrifice alot and I dont budge on name brand detergents which I buy on sale and good toilet paper. When we were in debt we had to give up alot of things so now I just buy it on clearance or sale prices. Even Costco coupon prices:) I hope this helps and if you did not pick it up by now, our home are big fans of the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover to help with budgeting and goals.

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    • I’ve never really thought about doing a percentage of take home pay! That is a great way to figure out where you “should” be. I’ve heard so much about Dave Ramsey but never actually read the book. I will check it out next time I’m at the library. Thanks for the tips! P.S. Our toilet paper is terrible (Scott’s 1000), and my 5 year old always comments at other people’s houses how much nicer theirs is! Embarrassing.

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      • TheFashionedWoman

        Yeah, Dave Ramsey put our house in order. Our family never talked about money so we were lost but we have been smashing financial goals. I think the hardest for 90 percent of households is the grocery budget so don’t feel alone in that!! Hahaha Time to change the toilet paper! Kids are brutally honest! Lol I think we are finishing Scott’s right now and I don’t think I will purchase again. Lol

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  4. $600 a month sounds pretty realistic, we are a family of 8 and ours is about $900. Depending on if we need to buy something extra like our meat order. Even with menu planning, cooking everything from scratch, buying on sale items and using online grocery shopping I somehow still go over most month. But truth be told, I’m not super strict about it. I have tossed around the idea of adding a little bonus money into it as I can get kinda grumpy about food and sometimes need something a little more exciting than the casserole I had planned that night so we’ll change things up and will grab the yummy ingredients we need and the good ice cream. Plus everything is going up in prices here in Canada so we’ll need to adjust our budget a bit more. Good luck figuring it out😊

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      • Ha sorry about that😉I think though that as long as you aren’t putting yourself in debt feeding your family and that you are comfortable with your eating habits then maybe just try making a couple small changes that don’t make things harder. I tend to think I need to change my world and then it can feel so much harder than it should. If I do small things like put the money we spend eating out into the grocery budget for some more “luxury” food items and maybe decide to make a small change to the menu then I’m much happier than a huge overhaul.

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  5. Thanks for sharing all this! You’re doing a great job! 🙂 I’ve found meal planning, shopping, making meals (and doing dishes, ha!), to be one of the most time-consuming parts of homemaking. Our budget has definitely gone up with each child we’ve added. While we do try to save as much as we can (i.e. one store we go to has Friday sales only on organic produce, so I go there at night to stock up – we’ve had to change our routine around to accommodate this), we also realize that at least for our family, this is an investment in our health, which has allowed us to be able to do more things. Our entertainment budget has gone down a lot since first getting married 🙂 . . . we just have prioritized what is most important to us. Yes, I used to have those cringe moments where I showed my husband what I had spent that month :). The trick for us was being realistic. $600 might be realistic for your family . . . and I think that good quality produce is just going up in value.

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    • Yes…sometimes I think about making more things myself but I already spent a LOT of time cooking and baking! I don’t even buy organic produce, so I think I am really off the rails!

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  6. I do not have a grocery budget and my husband does not pester me about it. But we also don’t track our spending the way we should. We just assume after seven years of grad school poverty that we know how to restrict our spending to needs. Which is sometimes true.

    Have you considered in any way trying to approximate the Chobani Flips yourself, either by buying a big tub of yogurt and mixing things in, or by making the yogurt yourself in an Instant Pot or slow cooker? Or does your part of VA have a Sharp Shopper closeout grocery store, too? That’s where I get any exotic and exciting snacks my kids have, like Gogurts. And if the Gogurts aren’t there, too bad, kiddos!

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    • I should definitely try mixing things in. There is some sort of delicious crunchy sugar in most of them but everything else would be easy to copy. I am afraid of making yogurt. Now I am looking up instant pots. Ahhhhhh.

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