Monday, July 30, 2018

how we spent $500 on groceries for our family of 5 in one month

When I talked about sticking to our grocery budget for July on Facebook, I got a lot of questions about how we managed. I figured I would share here as well for those curious.

To be honest, this just took a bit of discipline and not that much time. The biggest saving grace is probably the most obvious: meal planning. Every week when the Aldi ad came in the mail, I sat down and compared what was on sale to some of our go-to (and some new) recipes. I tried to pick meals that had different flavors but similar ingredients so that when I needed to buy something for one recipe, none of it would go to waste. Once I had my dinners planned (we usually do similar things for lunch - cheese quesadilla, grilled cheese, jelly sandwiches, etc.) I made my grocery list and then checked the pantry and fridge to ensure I wasn't buying duplicates. The last week of the month I actually went through the freezer and planned meals around that because we needed to make space for Elden's requested ice cream birthday cake.

Beyond meal planning, actually sticking to our list was huge.

Since Jon is vegan I don't cook meat often (only when the kids request my fried chicken or burgers, mostly). That means most of our protein comes from beans, pasta, and brown rice--way more affordable than meat. If you have a pressure cooker you can rehydrate dried beans and you would never know they had been dried to begin with. This permits bulk buying and saves even more money.

Sticking to our budget also meant getting creative a few times. Edith wanted a cheese quesadilla for dinner last night but our cheddar cheese block turned out to be moldy. Jon originally asked me to swing by the corner store on my way home from work but when he asked her if he could use Italian cheese we had instead she heartily agreed.

We also tried to only go to the grocery store once per week. The less we went, the less opportunity we had for impulse buys.

From the produce side (since that's such a huge part of Jon's diet and can get very expensive), he eats a lot of potatoes. He also eats a lot of bananas. Our Aldi used to sell bananas for 19 cents per pound but lately they've been closer to 50-70 cents per pound. To get around that, he looks for banana bags at the regular grocery store--you know, the ones with the rogue bananas that are 99 cents a bag. Jon weighed a bag once and I don't remember specifics but I do remember how excited he was (and continues to be, for that matter) to get such a steal on bananas. When there are banana bags he will buy several because he can eat through a bag in two days or less. He also largely buys what's on sale that week and finds ways to turn it into his lunch.

I've also stopped drinking coffee and decided to give up my sparkling water habit. We basically only drink water and the kids occasionally drink milk / we have non-dairy milk for cooking, so cutting out coffee cream, coffee pods and canned beverages helped us save as well.

In case you were wondering how we landed on our budget--we first made a budget pre-kids. I can't remember what the number was, but we basically tried to track what we were spending (the Mint app really helps with this now!) on groceries and cut it by a portion if we were going to be diligent about what we were actually buying. As our family grew we tracked the spending increase and increased our budget as well.

And lest you think we have this budgeting game locked down, we totally busted the budget in other areas thanks to the dining / living / foyer project we took on this month.

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