Happy Monday, people! Are you heading to work for the week? Starting out with a meal prep Monday so you can crush your nutrition goals? This post is a teensy bit long but it’s something I get asked about a LOT so I promise it is packed full of helpful info 🙂
I have written before about Our Dave Ramsey Adventure and how it changed our lives. If it weren’t for budgeting and planning, we would not have had the beautiful wedding we did, and we would probably have struggled a lot more in our marriage.
We started our budget using this worksheet. And quickly learned that according to the suggested percentages we were WAY overspending on food. Based on our goals and initial income, we decided $300 was a good monthly rate for groceries. I shop weekly, so we budgeted that as $75/ week. Just for reference, I was spending probably $100-$120 by myself prior to moving in with Keaton, so this was huge adjustment. However, I have learned lots of tips and tricks to stick to this, and even since doubling my income as a travel nurse we stuck to the same budget which frees up extra money for fun things or more debt snowball-ing! This was also our budget through my competition training, so being on a budget does not equal eating junk!
Here is my best advice, tricks, and general rules when making sure we stick to our grocery budget:
- Meal plan. I write out a list of dinners, then I buy a few lunch items for days we don’t want leftovers. This lets me know exactly what we need going in so I don’t over buy.
- Design a shopping schedule that works for you. Once a week? Twice a week? Some people love Costco or Sams. But these places can add up quickly. Figure those numbers into your budget and decide how many times a month you plan to go. Also, don’t forget to figure in trips to the farmer’s market or specialty stores if you go to those types of places.
- Decide which items you can use for multiple meals or use for a week or two. For example, last week we had lasagna, and I have a lot of leftover ricotta. So, this week I will look for a way to incorporate that ricotta into a different dish. Also-one recipe calls for grape tomatoes and one calls for Roma tomatoes? Can you substitute one into the other recipe? Then you are buying one package of tomatoes instead of two.
- Shop at Aldi. I cannot stress this enough. We have Walmart and Aldi in our town, and Aldi is still probably 25-30% cheaper. And they have knock offs of almost anything name brand you could want. Sure, we’ve got a few things we still buy name brand (Keaton is picky on cereal). But all your basic items liked eggs, milk, produce, and meats will run so much cheaper here. And, their selection is continually expanding and improving. They also have gluten-free and organic lines in most items as well now.
- As you shop more, pay attention to prices and know what a normal vs “sale” rate really is. This will let you know if it’s worth it to buy extra of something or if the sale is just a gimmick. You could also get fancy and make a spreadsheet or chart, but I just keep rough numbers in my head.
- Eat in season. I know, I know, this is typical advice. But guess what–I rarely actually know what’s in season. Know how I figure it out? Price tags. If asparagus goes from $2 to $4 a pound, you can bet it’s probably no longer in season, and it’s time to try a new green veggie. Or go for frozen! Most frozen veggies run $1-$2 a bag and can last for at least two meals.
- Don’t be picky on protein. Buy what’s on sale, or know what a good vs. bad price is. Typically, ground meats run cheaper. Lean is a little more expensive, but this is where you have to balance out cost vs. health goals and sometimes spend a little more. Also, utilize other cheap sources of protein such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and even whole grain breads (the Aldi Fit & Active bread has 6 grams of protein in 2 slices). Eggs are also an incredibly cheap protein source.
- Do not over buy or “stock up” just because something is a good deal. STICK TO THE BUDGET. If you can fit some special sale items into your weekly budget, great. But don’t blow your budget just because something is “on sale”.
- Pick one “snack item” or “treat” for the week. While this can get a little boring, buying three types of granola bars just to have variety literally triples your cost. Instead, buy one box, then choose a new flavor the next week. Same goes for chips, cookies, dips. Budgeting is not always fun, so this is one way you can easily cut back.
- FREEZE. I freeze everything. Leftovers never go to waste. I label and date the baggie/container, and use it on a day I’m feeling lazy. Bread, produce, protein waffles, and protein cheesecake are some of my favorites to freeze. For example, if I make garlic bread we do NOT need a whole loaf. I usually cut it in thirds, and make a $1 loaf last 3 meals. This also helps to keep from eating out on days you’re feeling lazy or don’t want to cook.
A peak inside my freezer:
Learning how to cut back in order to lower grocery costs is almost an art form. It can be frustrating at first, but as much as I love food, I love having more money to put towards debt or to have a little fun with. We eat yummy food, but we don’t stress about grocery trips.
With love and budget shopping,