Before i start off this post - i want to make clear my goal is to share helpful tips to downsize your grocery bill. Not to guarantee everyone's bill will be the same as mine. Many things factor into everyone's lifestyle (location alone. There's no way i'd be spending only $260 if i still lived in Alaska) and budget, but hopefully you find this post helpful in one way or another!
1. Our lifestyle : My family of 5 consists of myself, my husband, and our 3 boys (currently ages 12, 4, and 2). However my husband works A LOT, and is not always home. I, myself, am vegetarian. As the primary cook + purchaser of groceries i do not buy meat which i'm sure saves us a ton (i confess i don't know much about meat, but i've heard rumors it's expensive)
I also do not worry about what my kids "will and won't eat". I make what works for me/our budget/the meal plan. No one is forced to eat it, but everyone needs to at least try it. There's a lot more to that, but we'll save it for another blog post.
2. Eat Seasonally : This is a tip i'm sure you've heard before, but you may not know what actually is in season when. When i was first starting out, this helpful guide was my favorite resource . Even better, recipes are included for each produce item!
I also like to challenge myself to bring home in season produce that we may not be familiar with and figure out how to use it!
3. Meal Plan Before You Shop : There's a few different ways you can do this. Depending on the time of year, i will either hit up the farmer's market's first, bring home what looks good, find recipes that match up with my veggies, and then go out to the grocery store to fill in the gaps. OR i will look at what produce is on sale that week at the grocery store, and meal plan around that.
When it's time to go grocery shopping again, i will always look in my cabinets + fridge first to see what we have left, and what we need to use up. Then i will make my list around those items.
4. Cook From Scratch : This is the one where most people say, "i don't have time". As a mom of 3 + full time business owner, believe me, i get it. I'll never forget what a wise person told me the last time i uttered that phrase, "We make time for the things that are important to us." And it's so true. Cooking from scratch does not have to be a huge complicated thing, and it will save you so much money, not to mention you'll know exactly what you're putting in your body.
The more you do it, the easier it becomes. You learn what you can make quickly when you have less time, and what was so delicious you have to make again on days you are less busy. I generally make dinner from scratch 95% of the time, but lunch and breakfast are often something easy or leftovers.
5. Know Your Pantry Staples : Once you start cooking from scratch you'll soon learn what you use often. You'll then want to buy these things in bulk, either at a place like Sam's Club/Costco and/or utilize bulk bins. You'll be amazed how much savings there are to be found by not buying something pre-packaged. You'll also be amazed on how long you can stretch your next grocery shopping trip by relying on pantry staples.
6. Aldi : Ah, Aldi. How I love thee, let me count the ways. This is my go to grocery store. You can legit fill up your cart for $100. None of the foods will be brand names that you recognize, but they all taste the same, promise. Make sure to bring a quarter (you need it for your cart. don't worry, you'll get it back) + all the bags/boxes you think you'll need to bring your items home, as they do not do it for you.
7. Things I Don't Buy : Besides skipping meat, I generally do not purchase salad dressings, jams, many freezer section items, many prepackaged foods, pancake/waffle mix, instant oatmeal packets, drinks (minus coffee and milk) etc. etc. etc. as these are items i can easily make myself at home for much cheaper.
8. (Optional) Make Friends : We do not purchase eggs as we get them from someone who has chickens. We were given a 32oz jar of honey from a beekeeper last week. Farmer's Market friends will often throw in some free/extra veggies for you to try. Anyone who has a garden (especially if it's their first year and they went totally overboard) will often be giving produce away. Every little bit helps!
9. Learn How to Eat Well with Cheap Foods: I bought this book on a whim one day, and it's pretty great! Focuses on produce + while keeping that budget low! I also make breakfast for dinner once a week (ok...sometimes twice...i love breakfast) as that's a delicious, easy, and inexpensive meal! Making pancakes or waffles? Double your recipe and freeze the leftovers for real breakfast time!
Phew! Did you get through all that? I truly hope you found these tips helpful, but above all remember not to stress yourself out and enjoy the process! I like to make it a little game on how well i can feed my family while being frugal (because i like to use that saved money for other fun stuff), but i will also splurge on occasion when it feels right!
Til next time!