Do You Spend a Fortune on Groceries?

Updated on June 20, 2012
E.P. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
24 answers

We have a family of 5 (M&D, 5yr old, 3 yr old and soon to be 1-year old)...and to be totally honest we spend what seems to be a fortune on groceries. Part of it is the fact that 90% of what we buy is organic, but I don't buy a lot of pre-packaged or ready made foods. I make cookies if we eat them and most of my groceries are fruits, vegetables, fish and chicken. Dairy I know costs a lot as does OJ... but does anyone else feel like their grocery bill is out of control?

I even tend to buy whatever is on sale and plan my meals from there... but it doesn't seem to make a dent!

To top it off, I just got a grocery delivery and spent an extra $9 because I work from home PT and have all 3 kids without help. (As far as I'm concerned it was money well spent! And I rarely ever do that.)

Any advice on how to be more efficient when shopping for groceries? (I should note I don't really have time to look for online coupons, but I do use them what I see one come in the mail or get one with my receipt during checkout).

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answers from San Francisco on

Finally, someone who spends a lot on groceries like me! I have read on this site people saying they spend only a few hundred dollars on groceries for the month. I spend between $650 - $800 per month at the grocery store! Like you, I don't use on-line coupons - I don't have time to sort through and the few times I have, I don't really see coupons for the things I normally buy. If I only bought what was on sale or what I had a coupon for, we wouldn't have anything to eat! Those big couponers make get $1,000 for nothing, but they have 100 packs of the same thing!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

It's always more expensive to eat healthier food.
It's about priorities, I suppose.

Personally, I save more money when I shop with a meal plan for the week. It cuts down on the impulsive buys and the "I-might-make-this-O.-day" items.
Like I said, WHEN I shop with a plan! LOL

Coupons? I only save the ones for things I buy regularly. Look at the extreme couponer shows--they get $400 worth of "stuff" for $12, and still--nothing to eat besides PowerAde and Mentos! LOL (I think that's called a hoarding habit!)

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answers from Los Angeles on

omg yes. the price of beef is rising, and if california doesnt find pickers the cost of fruits and veggies will be more then a gallon of gas soon.

I want to win the lottery just so I can cook like Emeril and Rachel Ray

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answers from Los Angeles on

I am a bargain shopper. My mom taught me. Necessity during the depression taught her.

Our current laws make it more difficult to bargain shop because the stores that have dented cans and other things to discount have to be more careful than they used to be.

That being said, I spend about $25 per person per week on groceries. That $25 includes non-edibles like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. So my budget for my wife and I for the month is $200 or less, mostly less. My best recent month was 5 weeks on $96 for the two of us.

I've described how I do this many times on mamapedia. So have others. Basically here is how you can do it. First, shop the sales. There is an urban myth out there that says you can save more money by doing all your shopping at one store because you save on gas. NOT TRUE ! ! ! Even at $4 a gallon I save money by shopping at the stores that have the cheapest prices. Use Wal-Mart's price match if you live near a Wal-mart.

The first thing I do every week is take all the ads I receive in the mail. I look at all of the things on sale and circle the cheapest prices on each ad. Then I compare the prices and see which stores have the cheapest prices and plan my trip(s) accordingly. (My mom did this and I learned it growing up.)

I have 8 kids. I took them shopping with me almost all the time, although I usually had only six kids with me. Two of them weren't born yet or were nursing or the oldest two were working. I took them with me for two reasons. I wanted to teach them how to bargain shop AND I wanted to get them out of the house so my wife could have some quiet time.

I trained my kids to behave. If you have less than 6 kids to take with you and you can't shop because of them, then you need to discipline them so you can shop. Be a better parent and teach your kids to behave and not "Its all about me."

When I go into a store, the first place I go is to the dented can or bargain bin. I take what is a good deal and leave the rest. Then I go to the meat section and look to see what is marked down. The good deals I buy. The rest I leave for someone else. I make up my menus around what is on sale and what I find marked down. I know which stores mark food down and which ones don't. I start my shopping day with the stores that mark stuff down. If I use jello and jello is $1.29 per 6 oz box, I don't buy any. If I see a sale where they marked down jello in the 6 oz box at $.75 each, then I might buy 6 or 8 or 10 boxes. If however, I find they have marked down the jello to 2/$1, then I'll buy 20 or 30 boxes. Why? Because at 50 cents it is a real good deal and will store in my home real easy. That way, every time I want jello I'm paying 50 cents and not $1.29 per box. I do that with everything I buy or eat. I have a grocery store in my area that marks down hamburger to $1.49 lb, 85/15 grind. If they don't sell it by 12 noon, they throw it away. Hamburger in this area goes for $3.79 to $3.99 lb. If I can buy it for $1.49 lb, I buy all I can or all my freezer will hold. (For father's day, I had a rib-eye that I paid $2.50 a pound for. It tasted just fine and I couldn't tell I hadn't paid $4.99 lb for it if I had bought it on the best sale price that week.) When the stores put rice on sale, I buy it. When they put pasta on sale, I buy it. Rice and pasta stores a long, long time.

I ignore the expiration dates or "best if used by" dates. Its another unban myth that the food is unhealty or poisonous if it is past the "best if used by" dates. I raised my 8 kids on food the grocery stores marked down because it was past the "best if used by" dates. We didn't get sick or die. The "best if used by" dates is another government program that doesn't work and is falsely relied upon by people that are just plain ignorant. (Not stupid, just ignorant) When King Tut's tomb was found, they found wheat in there. According to out government, the wheat was CENTURIES out of date, not just a few days. Scientists took that wheat and found it was still edible. They also found that it was different from modern wheat. They grew this wheat and used it to add drought tolerance and desease resistance to modern wheat. If they had listened to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), they would have thrown it away.

If you want to reduce your food bill, have a garden. If all you have is an apartment and a porch up stairs, you can grow a container garden. If you grow it, you will know if it is organic or not.

And lastly, Organic is expensive. And relying on organicly grown produce to make you healty or keep you healthy is foolishness. I had an aunt-in-law that just died. She was 101 years old. She NEVER went out of her way to eat organic. She bought what ever was on the store shelf and didn't seek out organic or hormone free anything. She lived to be 101. If you really want organic, start a garden. But don't pay twice the price at the store. I recommend the book, "Square Foot Gardening".

BTW, Sams is cheaper than Costco and most of the meats and vegetables/fruits I can buy cheaper when it is on sale at my local grocery store.

If you have any questions ask them here or e-mail me. Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Bellingham on

no, we have a family of five and our grocery bill keeps going down. we buy flour on sale and bake all our own bread, cookies, rolls, cakes, tarts,etc. we buy in season fruit and veg which is cheap, my husband just bought a pasta maker, so we'll be making that too. i buy meat in the 'reduced for quick sale' section, and then freeze it. we don't buy brand products and do most of our shopping at Aldi, which I've found to have good quality.

all this fresh, homecooked food makes me crave a big mac.

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answers from Seattle on

The only way I'm able to save money is to spend time.

My bill for 3 people, all from one store, would have been 1500-2000 a month. Instead, same items, cost 600 a month. But I did that be shopping at 5 different stores on a regular basis, and far more on an as needed basis.

Milk @ QFC/Kroger/Safeway/Target/etc = $4 per half gal ($7 organic)
Milk @ TraderJoes/ WholeFoods = $2 per half gal ($4 organic)

Bread from any of the above = $5
Day old bread from bakery = $1

In our area... That's one of only 2 ways I could save. I cut our bill in half by schlepping to 5 or more stores (same 2mi radius).


+ DD meats
+ Macrina Bakery / Greatful Bread Bakery
+ Valermous Seafood
+ Rising Sun mkt
+ Indian grocery
+ GH Halal market
+ Rogue River Creamery
+ Tillamuk Creamery
+ ...

The OTHER way is via my deepfreeze. Turkey is $8 a pound most of the year. Turkey LUNCH meat is $12. But once a year turkeys go on sale for $0.11 - $0.33 per pound. So I buy 6-12 turkeys and put them in my deep freeze, and defrost 1 every to every other month.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I'm like you in my food shopping preferences and the ways I have found to save some $$$ is.

Buy dried beans not canned. (maybe you already do that, canned beans are my shortcut)

Join a CSA (check out

Have a basic shopping list that I use. It keeps me on track so I don't overbuy. I have a standard weekly list, and then a list for things I tend to get monthly. I divide the monthly necessities so that I buy a few each week and I check the pantry to make sure we really need them. Chasing after sales didn't work so well for me, but having a spending limit for each category of food helped me. Once I got used to shopping off my basic list, it was much easier to get a sense of what I was spending and to not overbuy. Also, get used to the sales cycles at your main stores. Some things go one sale every 12 weeks (the only decent tip I ever learned from Extreme Couponing), so you can stock up accordingly. I also keep a short list of the average price of items we use a lot (it prints out at the bottom of my basic shopping list). Where I live the sale pricing of meats is so deceiving, it helps to know the average price.

Our next move will be to buy meat in bulk from an organic farmer. I don't know why we have waited so long to do it.

We eat great food. It really does cost a lot.

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answers from Sacramento on

I'm with you. It's tough to find coupons for healthy foods, like produce and milk. Coupons tend to be for processed junk.

One thing we do try to do to cut costs is to make sure what we're buying is really necessary and will actually get used that week. We found a lot went to waste and if we really focus on getting it down to the basics, we save a bit.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I'm embarrassed to admit what we spend on groceries . . . we eat gluten and dairy free, and mostly organic. Let's just say I could be driving a darn nice car.

The best thing I did to save money was pay cash. Somehow that made me very aware of waiting/looking for a special, etc. Even Whole Foods puts things on sale.

When I pay with a credit card I spend too much.

I really need to feel the pain of handing over green-backs that are never coming back.

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answers from Los Angeles on

$25 per person per week for groceries sounds about right. I feed 4 and try to keep it to $100 a week or $120 at most.

I go to 2 stores, 3 if you count Costco. But weekly I go to a regular grocery and spend about $70 on cereal, milk, eggs, bread, whatever ingredients i need for my meals. Then I go to my "mexican" grocery for produce and meat. It is just WAY cheaper there (but the middle aisle stuff is not). I spend about $30-$40 on produce and meat.

It helps that i am vegetarian and don't eat meat, and my girls are both bird eaters.

I go to Costco for select paper goods (I have a paper towel addiction) and razors, toothpaste, soap, shampoo. I also get diapers and wipes from costco (rather than spend $15 a week) and adult beverages at costco (hubs and I like a decent beer and that gets expensive buying a 6pack of something good every week) Costco is probably once amonth and thats $100 so I guess figure that into my original 25/per person a week thing.

I do use coupons. I am thrifty. Now that I am busier and don't have time to clip and sort and save coupons, I at LEAST save the Von's ad that comes on Wednesdays, and quickly scan and tear out the coupons in there. Those are only good for that week so it's easy to know if I am buying it that day or not, then I throw it out if I didn't... no filing and storing.

I only buy if it's at "Von's club" price... rarely do I buy regular priced stuff (except for milk, eggs, butter and other must haves)

I don't eat organic. I am way to cheap for that and I just don't buy into the hype (no offense).

I feel like my weekly grocery bill goes up $20 every year or two... cost of living combined with growing family I guess.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I am certainly glad I am not the only one. I look at it this way: couponing is pretty much a part time job. It takes lots of organization and time, not to mention gas money. I already have a job. If I didn't, I would probably scout for deals and coupon, but my spare time is too valuable for me.
We do go in on a cow with a few other people once a year so our freezer has a lot of beef. In fact, my FIL gave us half the beef from a cow he raised,as a Christmas gift. I buy chicken that has been marked down if I can, and always in the big packages because it costs less per lb. A lot of the time I will buy whole chickens because they are inexpensive and we can get about 3 meals out of them.
I always meal plan and make a grocery list.
I buy generic often.
We use a food co-op for our produce, bread and tortillas (Bountiful Baskets)- it is just $15 for 2 baskets of fruit and veggies. I don't beleive they have expanded to California though.
I cook from scratch for most meals.
My biggest thing is focusing on not wasting food since it costs so much. I freeze leftovers if I think they will not be eaten within a few days. I make big batches of soup and freeze half of it. I have read up on how to properly store produce. I clean out the fridge once a week and take stock of what we have so it doesnt get shoved to the back. We rarely throw away bad produce anymore and I have lots of small freezer meals for when I do not want to cook or for a quick lunch.
Even with all that, we still spend a LOT each month but I think I am doing the best I can!

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answers from Minneapolis on

For our family of four (kids ages 2&4) we spend between $800-$1000/mo on food & paper products/hygiene items/etc. My girls drink tons of milk (we buy organic too) and we go so much produce - mostly fruit: at least 2 pints of blueberries, 2 cartons of raspberries & 2 of either strawberries/blackberries PER WEEK along with bananas & whatever seasonal fruit is on special (loving cherries & watermelon). My 2 year old is so picky & berries are one sure-fire food she'll eat so right now, we are paying for it! I did have to stop buying organic for all of that.

I use coupons from the Sunday paper or ones from the mail, but the best way for me to really save $$ is to do meal planning - that way I don't get stuff we don't really need or so I don't buy something just because it looks like a good deal right now.

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answers from Miami on

Well, you don't say what you spend. Do you shop weekly, every two weeks? Do you plan your meals and shop that way, or do you just wing it? I shop every other week, and I plan out my meals for 10 days. Most, if not all of my meals consist of leftovers and we eat at our church once a week. I just went shopping on Saturday and spent $403.00. I plan out my meals and buy only what I need so there is no waste. I use coupons for the items I am buying, whereas some people buy just because they have a coupon. I have a friend from church who helps save coupons for me so I have a bunch I can sort through on any given shopping trip. This last grocery shopping trip, I saved 15.00 with coupons. I buy some organic stuff, primarily produce and dairy. I don't buy a lot of red meats, mostly limited to chicken, seafood, and occasionally, pork. I try to make my meals as healthy as I can, and I do limit the amount of packaged/processed junk. I never buy junk foods like chips, cookies, sodas because (1) it's junk, and (2) I can make homemade snacks like you said, cookies, cakes, etc. BTW: we're a family of 6, on one income. I don't feel my grocery bill is out of control. I try to buy things on sale, I don't mind store brand items at all.

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answers from Cincinnati on

We are lucky enough to be able to recieve food stamps and WIC (we are a family of four grossing 24k a year) since we don't buy any extra I know exactly how much we spend on groceries (unless the milk and cereal we get on WIC is on sale) it is about $350 on food and $130 on formula for my daughter. We would be able to do with less if we needed to and generally have food left over at the end of the month. I found something that helps me alot is that I only shop once a month (except for milk which I get every week, and I buy fresh fruit every 2 weeks.) The trick is to buy things that can be frozen (which is almost everything! With the exception of milk and lettuce and a couple others) Buy what is cheap for your area. For example I know fish was a lot cheaper when I lived in MA then here in the midwest. I only buy fresh veggies if I am going to eat them raw or need them whole (like for making baked sweet potatoes) otherwise I buy frozen. We eat a lot of brown rice because I can get it for 80 cents a lb. I buy meat in bulk (Family packs of chicken thighs and frozen salmon fillets) and freeze it by portion size in zip locks bags. Another thing I have found cost people alot of money is what they think a portion is. Example: I buy a 4 pd chicken and can get several meals out of it. Another person I know says that they buy a 6 pd chicken and it only last one meal. Well a portion of meat is 4 oz. The bones of the chicken only weigh about a lb. So a six lb chicken should last three meals. I cook mine in a crockpot. Then when it comes out I add three cups of chicken broth and one cup of water 3/4 cups shreaded chicken and 1 cup frozen celery, carrot onion mix, salt, pepper, then rice or noodles. That gives me another meal from the chicken. Then I shred the left overs and add it to soup, stir fry, or make chicken salad. That is 3 to four meals from a $4 chicken. We also eat vegatarian several times a week (dried beans are very cheap.) I have tried to do coupons but always forget I have them lol. I don't plan my meals because then I tend to buy something I will only use for one meal. I like to buy things I know will work in numerous meals. oh and buy concentrate juice. It is $1 vs $4 for the already made stuff. And honestly you are already saving by not buying prepackaged stuff.


answers from Los Angeles on

What is a fortune to you? We're a family of 3 and spend anywhere from $150-200 a week on groceries and also buy organic like you. I hate couponing, I don't have time for that since I work full-time and all the couponed food tends to be from conventional markets, which I don't shop at anyway, and for processed food items that I try to stay away from.


answers from Houston on

What is a fortune? We don't spend a fortune on groceries. We buy generic and/or what's on sale if we eat it or it fits the menu.



answers from Los Angeles on

We are a family of 6 and I shop at Costco for certain things and then at the local farm for our produce. We don't buy milk or orange juice. We don't eat dessert. We pick local oranges from an orange grove and juice them ourselves. The only fair we consume is rarely cheese. We don't do cereal, as we try to eat nutrient dense foods and keep processed foods down. I don't need coupons shopping at Costco.

E-meals is a great place, if it's something you'd do. They put out a shopping list with many sale items on it and recipes for each night. You can substitute for organic, but still, they keep it to like $70 worth of groceries each week for a family of 4.

If we go out to dinner, I use the gift cards from once they get down to 80% off. I buy a few, print them and leave them in the car. We can feed our family for $12 at a nice Italian restaurant. Get on their mailing list and then wait for the sale and buy a bunch.



answers from Savannah on

Yes. :( It's gotten a lot more expensive. I'm going back "home" to TX this week and am curious to see if this price hike is because my boys are eating more, because of the economy, or because of where we live. My husband bets it's a little of all 3.....but yeah, I'm spending about $80-100 more per week than I did 2 years ago. Yikes.
(HOWEVER: I count cleaning supplies and "household goods" in with my grocery bill, it's not ALL food).


answers from San Francisco on

I've never had much luck finding coupons for whole, healthy foods, so you're not missing out on anything there.
Do you have a local farmer's market? Not only is the produce fresher it's usually cheaper because you're buying directly from the grower, no grocery store mark up. Plus it's a really fun outing with the family! Our market is really small but they now have not only produce but a fish guy and a gourmet sausage guy.
Also if you have a health food store nearby you can buy a lot of dry goods in bulk, oatmeal, rice, beans, coffee, etc.
You're right though, it is a challenge to eat well on a budget. Still, I'd rather cut expenses somewhere else, we really ARE what we eat :)


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm with you about couponing!

I live in the High Desert and we have an organic co-op, so there has got to be near you. I just found ours, but this is what I've learned:

*Nominal annual fee ($20 here).
*Twice monthly delivery of shares (about $50) or half shares (about $25... family of five would generally be a full share, but with 3/5 being so young, perhaps a half share would be sufficient).
*Everything is organic; as much as possible is also locally grown.

Another option would be to grow your own. If space is at a premium, look into container gardening. If you have slightly more room, give square foot gardening a chance.



answers from Los Angeles on

I don't use coupons because I found those items to cost more.
I found cheaper off-brands.

-I buy generic products.
-have meatless meals at least 2-3 times a week
-I go to the store that I KNOW has the cheapest prices! Some big name
stores are highly overpriced! I do not drive around to different stores.
-Only buy what I need. No impulse buys.
-For OJ, I wait until it's on sale. Might be good to buy a frozen one to sustain you in between sales or do without. Stock up when you can.
-While organic does cost more, I think it's worth it.


answers from Dallas on

It seems like it now that I have switched to eating clean. I go more often, becuase everything is fresh.

Some tips - price matching at Walmart. Gas is the most expensive thing of all, so I am not driving all over Hells Half Acre to save $. You can take the ads to Walmart and get the price matched. People dont think to go do this, but often Walgreens will have a ridiculous price on toilet paper or something. You can get that at Walmart. Also fruit is cheap at the Mexican Mercado. You get the ad for La Fiesta and take that with. These ads can be printed online. I know you dont have much time, but printing the ad and taking it with you is well worth it!

Another help when going healthy, have at least one meatless meal a week. Make the most of beans, lentils, rice, potatoes.
Last night I made a pot of black beans. I chopped all the vegetables that were "on thier way out" and put a cup of brown rice into it. Very healthy and filling. That cost me pennies to make. It was dinner last night, lunch today with a little cheese sprinkled on and some saltines, and will be incorporated somehow into a new meal tonight. I think I might refry them and make black bean burritos.
Must be creative and versatile
Also..... grow your own. Kale and spinach are simple to grow.
Thought of another - CO-OP. You can get into a vegetable co-op and save money on organic produce. You pay 15 or 20 every 2 weeks and get a basket of fruits and veggies.



answers from Austin on

I find there are some compromises I am comfortable making.

I find that sometimes, I can alter what I'm buying a little bit, with a little more research. We are lucky enough to have a grocery store chain that guarantees to never buy milk from farmers that use growth hormones, so I am comfortable buying the store brand milk.

Also, bison sold for meat is not permitted to be given hormones or antibiotics, so sometimes I can save money buying bison, if organic beef is not available for a reasonable price. (The difference being, that the pastureland the bison is raised on is not guaranteed to be organically grown.) Sometimes the bison is more expensive than the other brands available, sometimes not, depending on what is in stock when I do my shopping.

Bananas don't absorb anything through the peel, so I'm lucky the kids like bananas, and I don't have to spend the money buying those organic. I wish I could get organic grapes, but our local stores don't stock them.

Apples and eggs cost me a fortune, too, though.


answers from Santa Fe on

It all depends on where you live and how expensive it is. I hear you. I live in a very expensive area with one main grocery store and one small organic foods store. The closest Costco is 2 hours away in Albuquerque, so with kids we usually are too busy to drive 4 hours on the weekend to shop there and save money. We have some friends that do it. Food is expensive here bc we are a small town near-ish to Santa Fe and Taos and I think these areas drive up the prices...a half gallon of milk is $4. I try to make most things from scratch to save money. I try to use coupons as much as I can. My mom who lives in Houston pays so much less for groceries because everything is so cheap there (housing has the same issue - it is incredibly expensive here to buy a house. The same house would be a fraction of the price in a different area). Honestly, I just have accepted it that food is expensive here and I try not to think about it too much.

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