7 (easy) ways to save on groceries every month {w/ a bonus tip!}

7 easy ways to save on natural, organic, gluten-free & vegan groceries each month // bring-joy.com #frugal #budgeting

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What’s the hardest spending category for you to stay on budget every month?

For us, hands down, it’s groceries.

I mentioned awhile back, we revamped our budget to reflect our current reality. Not the reality we want, but the reality that actually is.

Part of that was getting honest about how much we spend on groceries each month. As our family has expanded (now a family of 7!), & my kids have grown (along with their appetites), Joseph & I have realized that hey, $500 a month on groceries is not only not realistic, but it’s just not doable in light of our dietary preferences & needs.

I don’t buy all organic, but I do want some organic foods. We eat a lot of rice & beans made from scratch (which saves a ton of money, don’t get me wrong), but since we’re in this get-out-of-debt process for awhile, it’s important for us to have a sustainable, doable budget. Not too strict, but not too liberal either.

Since we decided on $900 a month (which includes household & toiletry items), I feel like a weight has been lifted. Before, I had budgeted somewhere around $600 and every month I was defeated because I overspent by several hundred dollars. Pretty silly.

Do you ever do that?

Create crazy unrealistic, ambitious goals that leave you disappointed because they’re not quite grounded in reality? Yup, I’m guilty as charged.

Other than setting a realistic, sustainable budget that will meet your needs, it’s important to find ways to save on money, & time. No matter if you’re in get out debt mode or not, everyone wants to save money, right? Right.

So here are some ways (that we’ve found) to do that.

7 ways to save on groceries each month
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1. Go grocery shopping 2-3 times a month.

I know this may seem crazy to those of you who go several times a week. But let me explain the reasoning here.With our 5th child, I’ve realized that I absolutely had to streamline my life & routine if I was going to survive. Part of that streamlining process was to set specific days of the month/week for grocery shopping, & stick to it (this is also one of the principles of time management in Amy Andrew’s Tell Your Time).

Not only does this save time & gas, but it saves money as well. Think about it, you’re more likely to spend more with each trip to the grocery store in any given month. I always have a list, but I know that inevitably, I always pick up an extra thing or two that is not on my list.

Since I only grocery shop a few times a month, no problem. But if you’re going 6, 7, 8 or more times in a month, unless you have uber self-control (which I’m sure some of you do, just not me), you’re likely to spend more on unnecessary purchases.

I do a big Costco trip at the first of the month. Then at the middle & towards the end of the month I do trip to a regular grocery store, but only to fill up on perishable groceries (I buy all pantry items at the beginning of the month). I love shopping at Costco, but fortunately, it’s about 25-30 minutes away, so I’m not tempted to do more than one, maybe two shopping trips a month.

 

2. Shop online.

A lot of places offer free shipping. Of course there’s Amazon, which if you have a Prime membership (you can try out a FREE 30-day trial HERE, you get free 2-day shipping on many items, & they recently added a benefit called Prime Pantry, where you can order up to 45 pounds of bulky grocery items per shipment (that don’t qualify for free shipping) & pay just $5.99 in shipping per order (the convenience of not going to the grocery store, plus saving on gas is totally worth it to me!).

If I can’t find it at Costco or Amazon, I shop Vitacost, which offers free shipping on orders over $49. Vitacost is a discount online retailer that specializes in carrying a ton of alternative, natural, organic, & vegan grocery items & supplements. I’ve ordered nutritional yeast, energ-G egg replacer, TVP, & stevia extract, among other items that are harder to find (or much more expensive) at a regular grocery store.

The few herbs & supplements that we use I order from HerbsPro which offers great discounts & free shipping (on orders over a certain amount) on a slew of natural/alternative products. I order some Dr. Christopher herbals–like his kid-e-mune extract, his kid-e-mins formula, as well as one of my prenatals.

 

3. Let your fridge go bare, then “shop” your freezer & pantry before going shopping.

Set your shopping days & try to stick to them as much as possible. Last month I set a goal to stick to our set shopping days. This required planning & self-restraint, but I knew I was successful when we were down to the last week of the month & my fridge was pretty bare (condiments aside).

I keep a well stocked pantry & freezer (you know you can freeze most foods) so it wasn’t hard to figure out meals based on what we had between the two. Sure, I missed having lettuce & other fresh foods, but we always have plenty of frozen fruits & veggies, enough to get by for more than a few days. And in the end, we stayed on budget & ate some pretty decent meals without making those extra trips to the grocery store.

 

4. Make a (realistic) grocery budget, & stick to it. 

If you are consistently going over your grocery budget one of two things may be happening.

First, you may be setting your budget too low. Be honest about your income & other expenses, your dietary needs & preferences as well as your family size & readjust your budget as necessary.

Second, you may be overspending on silly stuff. I find that shopping with Joseph keeps me from getting too many extras that we don’t really need (hello! Costco.). Also, creating a shopping list & sticking (mostly) to it also helps me stay within budget.

 

5. Set a time limit when shopping.

Grocery stores want you to lose track of time & meander the aisles. And for good reason. The more time spent in the store means (usually) that you’ll spend more money. I like to go grocery shopping before I have to be somewhere. This way, I’m pressed to get in, get what I need, & get out, without roaming & sampling & discovering all the things I think I *need.*

 

6. Use leftovers. 

I used to hate leftovers, but now I see them as “budget-stretchers.” If I only have enough leftover soup to make half a meal, I’ll make a batch of rice or quinoa to add to it. I’ve realized my kids don’t have to eat gourmet every meal–they just need to have their nutrient needs met. If it tastes good–bonus!

 

7. Make one or two meals a week, *super frugal* meals.

I could not eat rice & beans every night of the week. But I can two nights of the week! So we do a Mexican night two nights a week where we eat rice, beans, with a side of some veggies. These meals easily feed our family for just a few bucks.

 

{BONUS TIP! Focus on veggies & fruits that are in season. This usually means better prices & better taste. And remember, many of these fruits & vegetables can be washed, cut up & frozen if you can’t eat them in time.}

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Do you struggle with keeping your grocery budget? 
What are some things you do to save money? 
If you don’t mind sharing, how much do you spend on groceries, per person in your family? 

 


Comments


  1. Jenny Link
    on February 23, 2015 at 4:06 pm said:

    Just found this site and I am loving exploring. My husband and I have recently decided to do a cash budget system. We only have student loan debt, no car, no house (we rent), but we are buying our first house this next summer and want to have a pretty large down payment (sorry for the digression) I always am trying to slash different areas of my budget. We have a family of 4 and my grocery budget is $70 per week. I like you, have had to cut back on the organic purchases I make, but we still allow for $80 a month for date night money- including the sitter. Some months we are spot on and others we go over a little.

    Thank you for shooting little stars of inspiration to me today! Excited to learn more about you!

    -Jenny Link

  2. Jessica
    on July 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm said:

    I try and keep it under $250 a month (not including eating out–that’s about $60 a month for once a week at our favorite taqueria). We eat mostly meatless & dairy-free meals and tons of produce. I get all our produce from a local Mexican market (MUCH cheaper than anywhere else! At Savemart, bell peppers are $1.79 each. At the Mexican market they’re about 80 cents each, for example) and staples such as beans, rice, oatmeal, peanut butter, raisins, nuts, seasonings and olive oil at Costco. We also have a friend who has too many chickens for just herself so she shares all her extra eggs so we get those for free. We grind our own flour from wheat berries to make our own bread. Those are just a few ways.

    • Jenny Link
      on February 23, 2015 at 4:20 pm said:

      Just found mexican village here in Detroit, and I’m excited to try the supermarket there! What a great idea. I usually shop at Aldi but this might be a new try for me 🙂 And I WISH WISH WISH I had such a friend to give us eggs. My husband and I don’t egg much dairy but I still make eggs for the boys in the morning. What an awesome thing!

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  5. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on May 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm said:

    I use a lot of these tips- particularly #3, 4, 6 and 7. I am really tight on money right now but also feel like if I don’t make room in my budget for meals/nights out I’ll go crazy. These tips have allowed me to set a grocery budget that allows an outings budget. So crucial! I might try setting a time limit now- that would really curb any spontaneous spending that still exists for me 😉

  6. Joya
    on May 14, 2014 at 10:52 am said:

    These are great tips. I love to go grocery shopping.
    I go to a local natural market for bulk items: beans, grains, rice, nutritional yeast, dates, date rolls (these are a staple)..I also get produce there when I go to stock up on staples. I love their produce because all of it is local and organic – and affordable.
    Trader Joe’s is across town from where I work so I go there about once a month. Whole Foods is a about block away from TJ’s but I try to stay out of there. I’ll blow the budget for sure!!
    I get most everything else at the grocery store but, I LOVE VITACOST! I get coconut oil there and my shampoo and toiletries.
    We do can and freeze alot of veggies and fruit in the summer months so we incorporate those in our meals as well as fresh stuff from the garden in the summer. And vegan gf blackerry cobbler from our wild blackerry patches.
    We have a family of 4 and I budget around 800- for food. We usually hit right around there.

  7. Katy
    on May 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm said:

    Since moving at the beginning of this month I decided to redo how we shopped for food. We had come across a program called bountiful baskets which was great for getting fruits and veggies cheap! But living in Tri-Cities, there isn’t a bountiful baskets option here, but there are FARMER’S MARKETS! Because of my son’s massive list of allergies, I’ve turned a lot to online shopping (mainly Vitacost!). I’ve decided that since they carry pretty much everything we eat (minus the fresh fruits and veggies) that I’m going to do a majority of our shopping through them (and they’re cheaper than going to the grocery store!) and then use the farmer’s markets to get our fresh fruits and veggies. We also just planted our garden so if all goes well, that will help supplement some of our groceries as well. So far this has helped keep our budget WAY down from what we had been spending and I don’t have to worry about fitting in time to shop with baby #2 coming in a few weeks.

    We also have built up our freezer and pantry over the last few months so we’ve been living off that too which has been fun! You definitely don’t have to be reliant on grocery stores anymore to get the most for your money!

  8. Laurie
    on May 13, 2014 at 7:13 pm said:

    These are great tips. I used to struggle with my grocery budget for the same reason you mention: I wasn’t budgeting for my reality, and every month I’d pull money from other categories and feel bad about it.

    I’d probably feel guilty about how much I spend per month, but Cassie on backtoherroots.com recently revealed her monthly budget for 2 people and mine is the same: $900 per month. Whoo, I can’t believe I shared that–I must still have some guilt! That figure does include household stuff, toiletries, “entertainment food” like restaurant meals or takeout, and sometimes cat supplies. I also work near Whole Foods, go by Trader Joe’s on my way to work, and live near an Earth Origins–yep, there was never any hope for me….

    • Janae Wise
      on May 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm said:

      “I also work near Whole Foods, go by Trader Joe’s on my way to work, and live near an Earth Origins–yep, there was never any hope for me….”
      OH my. If I lived anywhere near Whole Foods…I don’t even want to think about it.

      I think it’s much better to be realistic about your spending, instead of under budgeting, pulling from elsewhere then giving yourself the ol’ guilt trip about it.

      I’m glad you mentioned eating out. That’s a separate budget for us. $40 for the family (which is like, *nothing*), & $125 for our dates, but this includes babysitting too, so not much either.

      I actually can’t wait for the day when we can be a bit more liberal with our food budget. I’ll always have a frugal mindset, but I’d love to be able to buy more organic & local stuff.

      Yes, $900 is a lot for just two people, but you both work for it, & why not enjoy the best kind of food if you have the means? Again, I look forward to the day when we can be a bit more lax. For now, we eat well, but there is a lot of creativity & frugality going on behind the scenes.

  9. Meredith @ Unexpectedly Magnificent
    on May 13, 2014 at 6:02 pm said:

    I’ve recently started shopping at Trader Joe’s and it has been a lifesaver. Groceries used to cost the two of us ~$80 a week at a supermarket; now, they’re usually half that! Everything (especially produce) is super cheap at Trader Joe’s. I still occasionally need to go the supermarket to stock up on toilet paper and tissues, but it’s worth it.

    • Janae Wise
      on May 13, 2014 at 6:58 pm said:

      I am far far away from Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods (thankfully!). Someday I hope to live close to a Trader Joe’s as I’ve heard they have great prices.

      It’s funny, I live in a metro city, but since everything is so spread out, I’m really confined to what’s nearby, which is Walmart & a regular grocery store. I also sometimes shop at the commissary on base, which has really good prices.