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How I Maintain a $50 per Week Grocery Budget for a Family of Seven

January 16, 2013

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Out of necessity this past summer, I began to pare down our family grocery budget. In the past, we’d shopped primarily at our local chain grocery store, coupons on hand, after scouring the sales sheet for the best bargains (this is on a good week. Let’s face it, there are plenty of weeks where there is no planning involved, whatsoever).  What had worked for our family of seven for a while, it seemed, just wasn’t working anymore.  My kitchen is pretty small, yet the limited cupboard space I had still had plenty of boxes and cans of food from … goodness knows when.  And I was constantly pitching spoiled or freezer burned leftovers from the refrigerator and freezer.  Nope. Not working anymore.

The changes I made didn’t seem terribly significant at the time – they really boil down to better menu planning, buying less (yes! Less!) and changing where I shop.

First we went through the cupboards and threw away anything that was really old or had no chance of being eaten.  I rearranged my cupboards according to what was useful and what we could use in meals.  The remaining items I left on the counter with a note for the kids: eat these.  Now when I say that I threw out old food, I mean REALLY old. The food that was (sealed in packages) that was just a little old – the kids ate. I am very okay with ignoring ‘best by’ dates on packages, generally speaking.  Sure, the popover mixes that had been in the back of the cupboard forever didn’t turn out great (could have been because 10 year old children baked them …) but they were good enough for them to get eaten for lunch with peanut butter and jelly on.  All the cereals that weren’t getting eaten? Yes, “add some sugar if you want, but that’s what’s for breakfast (or lunch).”  Really, my kids are okay with a few weird meals!  Truly – do what works best for you and is within your comfort level.  But pay attention to what you’re pitching.  It’s pretty sobering, the waste!

The next step we took was to look at what we had remaining, and plan a week’s worth of meals around it, possibly doubling some of the meals (and freezing the extra).  But truly – no more shopping ahead and buying in bulk!  I took my grocery bags and my quarter and headed to Aldi with my list.  The great thing about Aldi (okay there are many great things about Aldi) is that it’s small.  You can cover the store in less than 30 minutes.  Instead of having 15 different brands and varieties of mustard to choose from, there’s one or two.  Problem solved. Put it in your cart and move on.  And there’s no need to stock up (specials on meat/bread aside, as they get discounted when they are close to the sell date) because the price will be the same next week.

Fewer groceries in the cupboards and fridge have meant that everything gets eaten. Less waste means less money going in the garbage, literally!

Now this summer, when we began, we were 1. Eating down the stock pile and 2. Eating out of the garden.  So I haven’t stuck to $50 every week. But that was, and remains, my goal.

With company this fall, and then the holidays, it’s been really hard to stay on track. This week I am regrouping and committing to follow these same strategies again.

How’s your grocery budget working for you? Anyone want to join me?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. bonnyclark permalink*
    January 16, 2013 9:50 am

    * this budget does not include most lunches, or Thursday pm pizza 🙂

  2. January 24, 2013 10:02 am

    I love this post Bonny! Funny, I just wrote a post about saving money and reducing food waste and BUY LESS FOOD was one of my strategies! There’s just no point buying in bulk and stuffing the fridge if food gets thrown away. I’m linking to this from my FB page today!

    • bonnyclark permalink*
      March 12, 2013 8:56 am

      Thanks Meagan! TOTALLY true here! We have very limited cupboard/food storage space. Buying less (and making sure we eat up everything we do buy) was a huge epiphany for me.

  3. Molly permalink
    March 12, 2013 12:12 pm

    I keep trying to tell my husband the secret is to not stock up. Things get forgotten and we spend way more than we need to. With 3 kids under 4 it’s hard to stay on top of thing though. But this next week I am going to give Aldi a try.

  4. kathryn permalink
    December 1, 2013 9:40 pm

    For things you have in the cupboard, you may not like, try to find a different way to use them? On occassion, we have cereal that has gone stale. Instead of tossing it, I smash it up and use in my meatloaf/patties/meatball recipe instead of crackers/breadcrumbs/ etc.
    I had a can of black beans given to me (I never ate them before) so, I added them to my pot of chili con carne. Turns out I do like black beans.

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