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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grocery Budget



When my husband lost his job last year our family lost its main source of income. We were forced to budget very tightly and I tried our hardest to make ends meet without having to go into debt. I succeeded but things have remained tight in order to make up for those months without a dual income. In reviewing our finances, I've found that one of the places I spend the most money is on groceries. I'm having a hard time determining a good monthly grocery budget and with a baby on the way, I'd like to start planning for a family of four.

I usually do one large grocery shop every 4-6 weeks. This will include a trip to Costco for a few bulk items like TP, paper towels, meat, diapers/wipes, as well a trip to the grocery store (usually Walmart because its SO cheap) for everything else. Before I do my large shopping trip I plan meals for the month and take with me a list of items that we have run out of since the last shop so I'm not spending money on things I don't need or impulse buys. I feel like I do really well in sticking to a budget for these trips but it's the small trips in between that kill me. I find myself going to the store at least once a week to pick up small items like fresh produce, bread and milk, and somehow end up spending $50-$75.

I really need to try to cut back in this area so answering my questions or giving any advice and suggestions would be great!!

Questions:

~Any ideas on how much a monthly grocery budget should be for a family of four?

~When you budget for groceries, do you count diapers, wipes and formula as part of your monthly allowance?

~Do you include personal items in your budget?

~Do you usually do one or two big shops a month or do you shop weekly?

***Small disclaimer: I don't spend money on the newspaper with ads, clipping coupons isn't really my thing and I don't have time to run from store to store in order to "chase" the best deals so keep that in mind!

5 comments:

Atherley Crack Ups said...

Well if you know my husband, he is a mega budgeter down to the last dime. We are a family of four, with one in diapers. Normally our monthly grocery budget is set at $400, which we don't always end up spending that much.
Like you, we have had some $ set backs with opening a new business.
Looking over the past few months we have cut down our budget to about $250 a month. Of course, my husband was doing the shopping because I was laid up with the loveliness of pregnancy for the last 3 months. And we were more like a family of 3 at that time.

We normally do a big shop to Costco every 4-6 wks. And we normally do a big shop every 4 wks to our local grocery store-we mostly shop at Maceys.
We don't purchase a lot of boxed and canned foods. Although we do keep those items stocked up just in case.
We tend to spend more on fresh produce. And have to restock about every 1-2 wks.
Also, we try to freeze as much as possible so that we don't end up wasting much of the items that we buy-makes for less visits too.
We include wipes and diapers in our budget. But we get those from Costco and don't have to resupply very often.

And when it comes to a little baby, I make my own baby food and freeze it. This definitely is a huge $ saver. I buy baby cereal, but that is pretty cheap. I have never had to buy formula for very long, so I would have no clue how much to budget for that.

Like you, couponing doesn't work for me. But, I do watch the adds that come in the mail for my local markets.

Jessica said...

I have no idea what an average family of 4 spends on groceries. But we spend no more than $400 a month for 3 and we shop weekly.

I do budget diapers and wipes as part of my grocery shopping. And I include personal items like soap, hair care, etc.

I can't go to any of those "bulk" stores without spending way more than I expected. We let our membership laps and I haven't missed it at all.

I can usually find an equal (and sometimes better) deal if I shop the ads.

Even if without coupons, planning your weekly meals around your favorite store's weekly ad can save a ton of money.

I sound like my mother, but I have found her advice to be helpful: buy what's on sale.

Emily said...

I apologize in advance cause this will be long. :)

Mine is a family of five, one is in diapers and I am the only female in the household. (translation, a lot of food is consumed here) We have pretty much been on a food budget since... well we got married I guess. I have done the coupon clipping thing and found myself buying a lot of processed junk (we did save money though, but It affected our eating habits). It also took quite a bit of time to prepare for grocery trips, I have since stopped doing that. I honestly can say that we spend around $250 on grocery bills monthly. Here's what works for us:

I go to Costco once a week and buy things like Cheese, Milk, Eggs. Once a month I buy chicken, ground beef, peanut butter, and honey. I portion out the meat and freeze it all to use throughout the month. I also buy laundry soap and stuff like that as needed, every other month or so.

On a weekly basis I am part of a co-op called Bountiful Baskets, for $15 dollars we get a huge basket of various fruits and veggies and then I plan all of my meals around that. This is where I save so much money, I priced it out once and to buy all of the stuff I get from bountiful baskets at the grocery story would be well over $70 dollars. I'm only paying $15! Plus it gives us such a great variety of fresh food, increasing our intake of veggies and also my creativity as a cook. I also buy my bread through this co-op, it is $10 for 5 loaves of good quality YUMMY wheat bread. Someday I will learn to make my own bread...

Also, I go to the dry pack cannery every six months and buy stuff like Oatmeal, Rice, Sugar, Flour and other staples. It is much cheaper than buying it at the grocery store and that way I am constantly rotating my food storage.
Case lot sales are awesome too, they happen usually every six months.
Plan your menus around what is in season and what you have, that always helps.

Gina Louise said...

It FOR SURE is the "inbetween grocery runs" that kill me too! One piece of advice I got from Becca Hubrich was to send your husband to the store for those last minutes things. They'll get in and get out and stick to the list. If that doesn't work, you can always do green bags to help keep your produce fresh. Follow this link here to see what I mean:

http://eatyourveggiespeas.blogspot.com/2009/06/fave-bananas-for-greenbags.html

Amy said...

This probably isn't directed at me (actually I know it isn't because it doesn't say "Dear Amy" at the top) but I just have to say 1 quick thing. Wait, 2 quick things.

1. Glad I found you! I will now stalk you forever and ever. :) (You were linked on Caprene's blog.)

2. Price matching at Walmart has changed my life. I don't do coupons because I'm lazy. End of story. BUT I did find two grocery stores that sell produce for dirt cheap and I just can't turn that away. Buy Low and El Rancho markets put their ads online (no newspapers) and before I go grocery shopping I check to see what's a steal of a deal that week. 8 cucumbers/$1? yes please. Oranges 8 lbs/$1? Sure thing. Avocados, limes, carrots, apples, and pretty much all of my other "standard produce items" are always cheaper that way and it never takes me more than 30 seconds to look at the ad and see what I want. (If you're interested there are links on the Left side of my blog to the weekly ads)

Wow. That wasn't really a "quick" thing at all was it? Sorry.