How to Stay on Budget at the Grocery Store

Have you ever gotten up to the register and when you heard the total you about melted into the floor? Did you look at the bags and wondered what in the world did you purchase to get that total?  I certainly have.  The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was when one weeks worth of groceries cost $240 for a family of 4. We were also wasting a lot of food and I was constantly throwing away old food that had gone bad. I decided enough is enough and it was time to make a change.

The first step to take is to recognize potential pitfalls that wreck your budget.  For me it was gluten-free foods. I was diagnosed last year with a gluten intolerance and so on trips to the store I would get excited when I saw something that was gluten-free and would buy it whether we needed it or not. The other issue that often killed my budget were my kids going shopping with me.  They would add things in the cart or they would beg for a snack and I would give in.

So here are the steps that I took that helped me stick to a budget.

  1.  Make a list AND stick to that list.  Sounds easy but as stated above it tended to be my downfall.
  2. Bring a calculator and use it.  I use the calculator on my phone so that I have one less thing to keep up with. We always have our phones with us so there is no excuse not to use it.  The calculator is essential because it let’s you know how you are doing while walking around the store.  Getting close to your budget? Decide if you really  need two cereals or can you get away with one.  My kids and I also make it a game.  I tell the kids our budget that we absolutely can’t go over and we try to beat the prior weeks final cost.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try generic but budget for what you really like.  My husband isn’t a fan of the generic brands generally.  You should here him groan when I pull out the store brand ketchup; however sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised and find you like the store brand better.  For example, last week our local grocer had their ice cream on sale.  We normally buy the expensive brand. Since we pick up ice cream last I knew we could afford the more expensive name brand but the kids and I decided to try the stores because it would help us beat the previous week’s total.  Guess what? We all liked it better.  Score.
  4. Use coupons.  I use to get the Sunday newspaper specifically for the coupons.  However, since neither my husband nor I ever read the actual paper we decided to stop our subscription.  Now I go online and look for coupons.  Here’s a link to where I find most of my coupons.   One trick to coupons.  Only print out what you will actually use.  For instance, if you see a great coupon for brand of pizza but you know you will never actually buy the pizza what’s the point of wasting the printer ink.
  5. Have a specific brand that you really love? Go to their website and see if they have a coupon.  I’m finding about half the time they do!
  6. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon.  My Grandmother always use to say if you aren’t going to use it or don’t need it, then it’s not a deal.

By following these tips my family has gone from spending $240 to on average $150 per week.  That’s a massive difference.  Since I have been doing this I have found myself wondering what I was spending my money on before that cost so much.  Now before you jump to the conclusion that we must just be eating only noodles and processed foods let me just say that we generally have a fresh protein like chicken, hamburger or steak, a starch like rice or mashed potatoes and two fresh vegetables for dinner.  I typically don’t buy organic and just really scrub the vegetables.  It’s just one of the sacrifices we had to make to stay on budget and honestly I’m OK with it.

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2 thoughts on “How to Stay on Budget at the Grocery Store

  1. Two of my grandchildren live at my house half the week and I take them with me to buy groceries – or I USED to!!! They are always adding extras. I hear “but Mimi, please, I really need this”!! And when Grandpa goes along all they have to do is touch it and he will ask them if they want it!! Well of course they want it!! So budgeting is near and dear to my heart!! Great tips!!

    1. Thank you so much! Oh yes, when guys come along to the grocery store it always makes things more expensive, lol. I found being brutally honest with the kids and letting them know that A. we can’t afford their extras or B. if we purchase their random treat now we can’t do x later. It seems to have reached them. I was raised by two savvy money individuals but they never discussed money with me. I guess that generation didn’t speak about money so I had to learn everything the hard way when I was living on my own. I have always discussed money with my kids so that they will feel more prepared.

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