I’m going to start this post by disclosing the fact that talking about money makes me squirm. There are so many nuances to budgets and how people spend money that I find it very difficult to truly compare one family’s cost of groceries to another family’s cost of groceries.
That said, I have been asked time and again to at least try. So, this is me trying.
A few disclaimers before we get started:
- My husband’s income has increased over the years. My budget is not as tight as it once was due to that simple fact.
- Our family has no known dietary restrictions; however, my husband buys a lot of convenient health foods that are easy for him to take along wherever he goes.
- We live in a low cost of living area – always have. This fact greatly affects my grocery budget.
Also, if you have the time, I’d encourage you to read this post from 2011 on How to Afford to Feed Your Family. My philosophy behind the things I say in that post really hasn’t changed and it will give you a good background for how we do things as a family.
How much do I spend on groceries each week?
Short Answer: Between $200-250 a week
Long Answer: I shop at two stores – Aldi and WalMart. I can get almost everything I need at Aldi. WalMart is only for specialty items I can’t get at Aldi and fruit that doesn’t look so good at Aldi. This weekly figure does not include toiletries, and it does not include meat we’ve hunted, or meat and other items we have purchased in bulk. Those are too difficult to figure into a weekly budget for me because they are typically purchased on an “as needed” basis. (more on buying in bulk later…)
What am I feeding my family of 10?
I’ll give you an example from this week’s menu plan and shopping trip. I spent right around $225 on groceries this week. Our menu for the week looks like this:
Breakfast – We do a variation of the DIY Breakfast Station ebook. These breakfast items are always available: toast, cereal, eggs, sausage patties, Greek yogurt, oatmeal
Lunch – Same concept as above. These items are always available – Soup, Salad, Sandwiches. You can read more about how we make lunch easy in this post.
Dinner – The only meal I truly plan – often taken from requests by my family.
Crockpot Hamburgers with grilled onions & frozen peas
Chicken Nuggets and French Fries
Hopple Popple & Salad
Homemade Bierocks (using this dough recipe) & Cauliflower Casserole + Cinnamon Rolls for Daddy’s Birthday
Crock Pot Chicken Bacon Ranch over Egg Noodles
Chicken Spaghetti & Frozen Corn
Baked Chimichangas with all the fixin’s + fry up the leftover corn tortillas from last week
As you can see, there is a mix of homemade and convenience. The convenience foods are for nights when we are super busy and need something fast and easy.
We also have snacks between meals. These typically consist of fruit, crackers, or something my older kids have whipped up.
And often, I have a new recipe or snack to try listed in my menu plan that will require me to buy a couple of ingredients I don’t have on hand.
What we buy a lot of: fruit, bread, eggs – We buy a massive amount of fruit, as that is our main snack. I try to buy what is in season and cheaper, but bananas and apples are almost always on the list. The bread is for sandwiches and breakfast as I am not baking my own bread at this time. (But, if I was, it would be this recipe.) And eggs are just an all around good staple to have – great for breakfast and snacks.
What we don’t buy much of: milk, juice, canned foods – We are not big milk or juice drinkers. We drink mostly water and tea, which are uber cheap. Once upon a time, we ate mostly canned vegetables, but now the bulk of our canned goods are a supply of beans for quick chili makin’, chunk chicken for convenience sake, and tomato sauce. Our veggies are either fresh or frozen because I can afford that now.
What do we buy in bulk?
How do we afford to buy in bulk?
The very nature of buying in bulk is that you are buying mass quantities of something and therefore, it costs more. Here are a few tips for buying in bulk:
*Count the cost – Write down everything you think would be beneficial to buy in bulk for your family. What do you tend to use a lot of that can easily be purchased in bulk. (Remember to read my post on buying in bulk to find ways to store bulk buys.)
Then, start searching for the best bulk price. Check your local stores (including your local supermarket – especially if you live in a smaller town – sometimes they are willing to sell wholesale to you!), check with Azure Standard, check with bulk food stores (you can often find these in Amish and Mennonite communities), check with big box stores, check with Amazon (and don’t forget to compare the Subscribe and Save price – you can always UNsubscribe!)
Now, take a look at those bulk costs in comparison to the best deal you can find on the smaller version. Sometimes bulk is NOT a good deal. For instance, it is a better deal for me to open lots of small cans of tomato sauce from Aldi rather than buy the bulk tomato sauce from Sam’s. I would be paying for convenience if I purchased the bulk item, and this is not something I feel I need to do.
Once you know if the bulk item is a good deal, you can make an informed decision about whether to buy it that way or not. Another thing to note is that bulk takes up space. Be prepared to find places to put your bulk items (under the bed, in corners, in basements, etc), and decide if you really have the room for such items.
*Plan ahead – Once you have your list of bulk items you think would be beneficial and cost effective, you can start planning ahead. Buy the things you need right now, and save the other bulk items for later. Don’t try to stock up on everything all at once. And if you don’t think you can swing the bulk version of an item one month, buy it smaller. We do this a lot. If I can’t get my bulk flour, I’ll buy smaller packages weekly until I have a little more money saved up.
*Be creative – My husband and son hunt, so some of our bulk meat comes from their excursions. Another good way to buy in bulk is to find other families to share your bulk buys with. Go in on the price together and split the bulk item between the two of you. Find out if there are cash discounts at certain stores – sometimes you will find this when buying and processing meat.
Tips for making the budget stretch
*Shop your pantry – When you are making your weekly menu plan and grocery list, always take a look at what you have on hand first. Try to create meals from what you have. This will save you a mint!
*Find your shopping groove – Once upon a time, I shopped monthly. Then, I shopped every 2 weeks. Now, I shop every week. Each of these worked well at the time, and each had their own economics. Shopping once a week helps me to waste less, and I actually feel I spend less as well because I don’t need to run back to the store to get things I have run out of. I live only a few blocks from the store, so there’s no waste of gas, and at this point in my life, I can only seem to manage a week’s worth of meal planning at a time anyway.
*Do your best to never waste anything –
Beyond picking food up off the floor, you can get creative with leftovers, you can freeze all sorts of things, and you can keep your pantry and refrigerators and freezers organized so you don’t miss using up items.
If you’d like to take a tour of my large family freezers and refrigerators, you can find it HERE!
So, there you have it! If you have more questions, feel free to ask, and any input from all you wonderful readers in the comments section will make this post that much more of a resource to others! Thank you!