What's the "Secret" to a Small Grocery Bill??

Updated on June 17, 2014
J.A. asks from Cartersville, GA
25 answers

I have a small family of 4 (2 adults, 1 toddler and 1 preschooler). We do not have any pets. We live in central Indiana and eat moderately healthy. I'm a SAHM, and my kids do not go to school or anything yet. Our weekly grocery/household goods budget is $150. Plus we eat out once a week.

I have a friend who has a family of 3, soon-to-be 4 (2 adults, 1 kindergartener, and 1 on the way. She has 1 cat. And she lives in the same area as me. Her budget is $200 for the whole month! She claims to eat healthy, too. She also says her "secret" is couponing, sales, and shopping at multiple stores.

I shop at one store because it is more convenient, frankly. I do use coupons, but since we eat healthier now it's difficult to find coupons for food - the brands we buy anyway. But I do frequently use coupons when applicable. I also shop sales, too. And I plan meals so we don't buy "extra".

Am I missing something? Or is my friend seriously restricting herself?

I honestly feel like it's much better to spend money on good quality food. And we don't even get "the best". We just buy the best that we can afford.

How much do all of you spend on food? If you have a really low budget for food (like my friend) how do you do it and still eat healthy?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Veruca - I love your responses! You're so bad ass, lol! I agree with you. :)

I have looked into this some. So far I see two camps. #1 is families who look at it short-term. Less money for cheaper food. #2 is families who do without in other areas in order to afford better quality food.

I'm curious if there is a third camp anywhere. Is it possible to save money AND eat good quality food?

Featured Answers


answers from New York on

My grocery bill dropped a lot when I stopped buying processed food. Cooking from scratch and buying things on sale helped a lot.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I have a family of 4 and probably spend at least $800.00/month. I do not shop at expensive "health food" type grocery stores and tend to buy a lot of store brand-name products when I can. When I see a good deal, I do stock up on it which is probably why my bill is always so high. I spend a lot on fruit, meat and quality vegetables because that's what we mostly eat. We honestly waste very little food so I don't feel too bad about spending so much.

I don't know how people do it. I've tried looking at coupons but they are usually for things we don't eat.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Are the two of you including two different things in the grocery bill? Are you picking up shampoo & deodorant while picking up the groceries and she is not?

I used to have a very low grocery bill by shopping the sales at Fresh & Easy, but now that they have changed owners, the deals have gone away.

I find that I save more money by planning ahead of time, rather than picking up the items we are low on.

With that in mind, I take advantage of any items that are on sale, it it can be used over time.

I spend about $75-$95 per week.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Reading on

Well, our family wouldn't survive on $200 per month. We buy organic produce, grass fed and free range meats and dairy, and avoid processed everything. There is very little we buy from the grocery aisles where all the labeled foods are - everything we get sits on the perimeter of the store where it is fresh and as natural as can be. Personally, the ultimate savings from cheap food will just be charged to you in your health in the long run. I spend approximately $150/week for a family of 4 (but we have two very hungry tweens who out eat their parents every day and we pack lunches always.

That being said, people who say it's too expensive to purchase healthy foods are not correct. A 12 oz bag of potato chips, for example, costs around $3, but I can buy a 5 pound bag of raw potatoes for about the same! Apple sauce in little cups cost about 50-75 cents per cup, and yet if I make my own and send it in little sealed containers, it costs less than half that. People don't only want to eat whole foods. They don't want to do the work or change their diet from convenience to homemade. I can guarantee you for every person who says it's more expensive to eat healthy foods, I can show you ten items in their cart that are more expensive than if they just bought whole foods and made something themselves. Usually cheap carts are filled with very cheap (quality) foods.

Eta - thanks! And I just wanted to add - someone mentioned cutting costs other places to be able to afford better food. We buy a lot of our clothes in thrift shops and second hand stores, we do freecycle swaps for things we want, I make homemade cleaning supplies (which cost a ton at the store!). And we drive to vacation spots instead of flying and cook on the road instead of eat in restaurants. It's a trade off.

Check out this blog from the friend of a friend: http://www.wholefoodsonabudget.com

And Ronda - your ignorance is showing. Speaking another language has nothing to do with whether or not someone is legitimately eligible for food stamps. Don't be such a xenophobe. (My family is multilingual but we were all born and raised here, many have served in the military, we all pay taxes and do volunteer community service. But we might slip into another language just to talk about the judgmental xenophobes... You never know...)

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


You too can do it. It's called self-control, budgeting, using coupons and watching what's on sale.

Make a menu for the week. Then go through your sales fliers to see what is on sale. Then go through the coupons and see what you can match to the sales to save even more money.

Use your leftovers. Make one night a week leftover night. Make your husband a lunch every day for work (that right there saves $200 a month - with the AVERAGE being $10 per lunch per week).

Grow your own stuff. If you have a back yard? Start a garden and start growing your own vegetables. That right there will save you a TON of money.

You can make your own chips, pasta and many other things as well. I make our own french fries. Why buy a bag of Ore-Ida frozen fries for $3 or more!! when I can buy a bag of potatoes and make my own fries (and still have enough left over for mashed potatoes and more!) for $3.97 (that's how much a 5lb bag of russet potatoes cost at my grocery store). You can even make your own potato chips with one bag of potatoes.

Steaks? Who doesn't love to grill a steak? My husband and I split one. We buy a larger one, cook it (since we both like it the same way) and split it.

I go to Costco and buy things in bulk - ONLY what we will use, mind you, not just anything. I freeze the hamburger rolls (the bag of 5 1lb rolls) and make my own hamburger patties instead of spending more on pre-made hamburgers.

We allot $400 a month for 4 (2 adults, 2 kids (14 and 12) and one dog. I don't feel restricted. Even when my husband was unemployed for 10 months, we cut our budget in half and still did fine.

If you are going to shop multiple stores? Which is great! Here's my suggestion...plot it out. DO NOT waste gas zig-zagging across town. Make a list for each store. Have your coupons ready and ONLY purchase what you went into the store to purchase. That is the crux of the problem for many...they get sucked into the impulse purchases....and spend more money!!

Hope this helps!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

First off, I think $150/week is pretty darn good! what helps me is to meal plan. I only buy the ingredients I need for the meals I plan. I also cook about 3 larger meals a week and just mix up the sides so we have a home cooked meal every night(for example I'll make 2 chicken pot pies and one night have a salad with it, then next a variety of steamed veggies). I live in a affluent suburb of Chicago(though we are far from affluent!!). I spend about $180/week. I Peapod believe it or not, and save money doing it. My family includes My husband, 3 kids ages 8,5 and 2 and Me! I'm anxious to hear more tips!


First off, I think $150/week is pretty darn good! what helps me is to meal plan. I only buy the ingredients I need for the meals I plan. I also cook about 3 larger meals a week and just mix up the sides so we have a home cooked meal every night(for example I'll make 2 chicken pot pies and one night have a salad with it, then next a variety of steamed veggies). I live in a affluent suburb of Chicago(though we are far from affluent!!). I spend about $180/week. I Peapod believe it or not, and save money doing it. My family includes My husband, 3 kids ages 8,5 and 2 and Me! I'm anxious to hear more tips!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I only buy when it is on sale and/or in season. When it is on sale I stock up. I make use of my freezer and pantry. I plan meals around what is on sale and what I have on hand. I shop the sales at four different grocery stores. I avoid convenience foods. I buy bulk packages of meat and break it down to smaller packages.


I only buy when it is on sale and/or in season. When it is on sale I stock up. I make use of my freezer and pantry. I plan meals around what is on sale and what I have on hand. I shop the sales at four different grocery stores. I avoid convenience foods. I buy

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

We could live dirt cheap, too, if I filled my cart with pasta and tomato based pasta sauce, and we ate lots of it all the time. And cheap white bread. Etc.

But we don't. We do eat out and on the go a lot, but when we eat at home, it isn't starch laden. Usually fresh (or frozen) green veggies, meat (chicken, steak, pork.. not a lot of ground beef, which tends to need a lot of starch along with it for some reason), and a baguette with olive oil for dipping, and maybe a garden salad.
If we ate at home more regularly it would be cheaper. As it is, we miss a lot of at home meals, and fresh veggies (salads and the like) just don't keep very long, so buying in bulk doesn't really work.

I also think that different people can use the same words ("healthy" for instance) and mean completely different things. Even the health professionals can't agree on what "healthy" means. Don't eat fat. Don't eat sugar. Don't eat starch. Eat pasta. Don't eat eggs. Eggs are fine. Avocados are great for you! Fats are bad, stay away. On and on and on...

So before you compare your cart and your bill to someone else's, make sure you aren't just speaking the same language, but meaning the same thing.

What I can do, and do do, is watch sales for things that will not spoil and stock up when they are on sale (and use coupons if they exist). Toilet tissue, personal hygiene products, paper towels, canned tomatoes, frozen veggies (as freezer space allows), etc. Get to know your regular grocery store's sales cycle. Mine routinely puts items on BOGO (and if you only buy one it is half price), and I stock up then, so I don't have to buy it when it is full price b/c I used it all. There is almost always a backup in my pantry. Peanut butter, for example. We eat a lot of it. I buy it only when it is on sale, and I buy more than what I need, so there is always some on hand, so that I can wait until it is on sale to buy it again in the future.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I agree with your philosophy that it's better to spend as much as you can afford on good quality food. I choose to spend more money for organic bread, dairy and the "dirty dozen" produce that tends to have the most pesticides when not organic. We are very busy so we do buy some frozen prepared foods for convenience, but we try to limit that. Cheap meals we enjoy frequently are whole wheat spaghetti/marinara and rice and bean burritos. We use lots of seasonings so that the meals are varied and interesting. We do eat meat, but not every day, which helps keep costs down. I also occasionally do big crock pot meals that last a few days. I go to one grocery store a week. Driving around is not worth it to me. We are a family of 3 - mom, dad and 7 year old going through growth spurt. We average about $125 per week. Plus I go to Costco about twice a year for all canned goods, oatmeal and other staples and spend about $500 a year there. We eat out about once every two months. Here's a good article, much of which we follow:

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

i think most people who spend so little on groceries are buying a lot of junk. Coupons are for processed stuff. If it's been processed, edded to and taken away from and put in a box or foil pouch it's not good for you, has very little real food and often has a coupon.

Like some others here I buy things when they're on sale and I can stock up. Frozen vegetables are usually more nutrient filled than "fresh" in the grocery store. At a farmers market or farm stand they're more fresh than usual - but frozen vegetalbes are frozen the day or day after they're harvested. If you have a small freezer you can buy stuff when they're having great sales. When the good qaulity chicken is on sale I buy 6 or 8 packages. The same with frozen vegetables and ice cream. When I buy chips, cookies, milk, etc. I get the store brand.

BUT I could never eat for $200 a month. My 6'3" son (age 14) wouild like that to be his snack budget!

Ultimately the trick is to buy when they have ridiuclous sales and store/freeze. I don't drive to different stores. If I'm going past Costco I get detergent, toilet paper, paper towels and giant jugs of white vinegar. Otherwise I go to Stop & Shop with my frequent buyer card and get gas discounts and their preferred shopper sales. (I also don't care if they track what I buy. When I was buying Polident and Depends for my mom while she was alive they were giving me coupons for senior-type stuff. that has finally stopped! ) I also go to Trader Joes for things like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, frozen dinners, etc.

Ultimately the question is - do you want to enjoy your food? I do. So I could never live on $200 of groceries a month.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think I'm in the 3rd camp....a little of both. ;)

-We do w/o in other areas.
-Rarely do we eat out. If we do, we choose a place we can all eat out for
a decent price (or share plates).
-I buy organic when I can.
-When I can't (very costly but try to when I can).
-When not buying organic, I can save by buying frozen veggies & fruits.
-For crackers & such, I buy bottom shelf items. They're cheaper. They
put expensive stuff at eye level.
-I tend not to use coupons very often because I have found those coupons are on the expensive items or I have to buy 2 or 3 of them.
-I buy generic when I can (pasta, bars of soap, hand soap etc.).
-I shop at 1 of 3 stores that I know have sales on what I want or offer the
cheapest prices. I don't drive around spending my gas though.
-I no longer buy in bulk from Costco. Their prices have gone up & other
stores have out-priced them on things. I only buy things there that I know
I won't find a better deal at a grocery store (toilet paper, saline solution).
-To stay healthy, I try to keep my family on a well balanced diet. Or I
should say......I do my best. ;)
-We try to eat more fish & ground turkey. Some chicken.
-I like to make all veggie dishes (my family hates this but I think it's best. I
make stir fry veggies & rice, veggie soup, make my own hummus, veggie lasagna).
-I'll pick up a few things at Farmers Markets (pricey but great).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I spend $200+/week so no clue! Sorry.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We spend too much, but something to consider is price per quantity and time vs money, IMO. Friend of mine stocks up on $1 can sales, but he also travels to several stores for his items, and I personally wonder at what point is it a wash with gas and time? I try to shop the store or stores I know carry most of what I want at a price I want to pay. I know that one of our local Safeways will have the organic milks for lunches for $1 or less each at least once a month. When I am in the area anyway for DD's class, I will drop in. I use coupons, and check price per quantity and stock up on things when I know it's a really good sale and things will keep.

If you want to know her tricks, ask to go shopping with her one week. Even if you do not go to all the stores, see how she does it at one store so you know what she's buying and how she's saving.

ETA: I also agree with those that suggest shopping by a list, both so you know what coupons you have and what you really need vs buying a loaf of bread you may not eat in time, and planning at least a rough menu for the week. That will prevent impulse buys later in the week. We also do leftover nights (kids pick what they want as long as it's a leftover and healthy) and we pack all our lunches, even DH for work. We also rarely eat out because Thai take out can be $45 for the three of us (if the sks aren't here).

I have a friend who is a DINK and to lower their taxes, she coupons. Like has a room for couponed stuff she got cheap or free. She then donates those products to a charity that provides makeup and toiletries to women trying to get back on their feet. She can get the donation write off for what she gave them. But I can't do what they show on TV where people take hours and hours to shop and buy massive amounts of things for their huge pantry. That's not good time management for me. I don't have a spare room like my friend does.

On the flip side, I also get a lot of things off freecycle, so what I am not spending on kid clothes or toys or even household items, I can spend somewhere else. Like groceries.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

For me it is buying the high end stuff in bulk. We buy butcher packs at Costco and do our own butchering at home. A bit of work and we had to buy a vacuum sealer but we eat very well. In the summer we grow most of our vegetables and can excess for the winter.

I guess I just don't pay the store to do what I am capable of doing.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Go through your pantry and take inventory of everything you have and list on a sheet of paper. If it is junk food time for it to go.

Look through or at recipes sites on the web and print or save recipes. Check your pantry to see you have on hand to make it and others. Make a list of what is needed to cook and get real food stuff.

Buy in bulk frozen veggies (not canned too much salt) and meat in quantity. Learn how to cook and cook in volume more meals than one and freeze a second for later in the month. Use coupons if you use the food otherwise it will not work. Learn the food pyramid for foods and always include a green vegetable in the meal. Know that potatoes, corn, rice, and dried beans are starch (so corn and potatoes are a no no).

I at one time had a food budget of $400 for the month and I made it work. I made a menu for the month (4 weeks) and an extra week to use up any leftovers or to make something from what was in the frig.

How much do you spend on milk, eggs, butter and bread? Can you go to a bread outlet that sells day old bread and freeze it? If you do use beans look for the benefits out of each type of bean like vitamins. I make a 5 bean chili and it can be meat or non-meat.

It will take you a bit to get into the swing of things but you can do it. You will have to use your crockpot and learn time management so that you have time with the kids and housework but it can be done. Post me if you need more info. I was a SAHM for four years when I did this. I also made bread twice a week. When we wanted cookies or cake, I made them from scratch.

Good luck to you.

the other Suzane

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I have cut down on snack foods.

What really pisses me off is when I am behind people who don't speak English using food stamps for an array of snack foods while I'm watching my pennies.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I rarely find coupons for healthy foods. I did find a store coupon for eggs and cheese the other day, so I stocked up on those. Our bill ends up being about $150/wk for a family of 4. We eat out once a week and eat very few packaged foods. I thought I was doing pretty good. We have friends with no kids who spend $200/wk at whole foods for just the two of them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

I've resigned myself to spending stupid money to keep my family fed and household basics. We are a family of 5. Myself, my husband and 3 kids ages 13, 10 and 5. The 2 oldest are boys. They all eat like a bottomless pit.
Now add that I have to stay brand loyal on many things because of allergies. Yeah, I just hand over my card to pay and ignore what they say it just cost me.
I do what I can to buy sales. Things I use generally aren't on coupons so that's out. I buy bulk at Costco when I can.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on


If you have the room in your budget, and the space in your freezer, pantry, one way to spend less on your food budget, is to buy bulk, or buy lots at the low point of the sale cycle. Assuming you use jarred tomato sauce (which some would poo poo as processed), My market has them priced anywhere from $5.49 a jar to as low as 4/$5. If instead of buying two jars at the high end of the price spectrum I buy 8 at the low end, I am way ahead of the game, aguably having saved, $33.00 (6x $5.49).

There are webpages that pricematch for you, there are couponing apps too. moneysavingmom and favado come to mind. See how that works out for you.

Another thought is, you might use coupons and sales cycles for your personal/ household products so as to create more room in your grocery budget.

F. B.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We budget $350 twice a month, so $700 a month for a family of 5, two of which are rgowing boys and a preteen daughter who eats one day and not the next....plus I shop on a Navy base, so my budget wouldn't go nearly as far if I had to shop in town.

I save the most when I make a menu and plan exactly what I need. I ALWAYS buy an extra pack or two of chicken breasts and hamburger...I never know when I will need it, so it's nice to have a small stock of meats in the freezer.

I go through the house and see what we need and what we don't need. If I have 3 bottles of Windex, I don't need more. If I have two rolls of toilet paper, I need more. The kids like to help and see what we need...plus they like to shop and help save on prices by finding the best deal.

My husband was out of work before and I had gotten it down to $400 a month. We ate a lot of hamburger and very cheap meals. We do steaks occassionally now, more fresh vegetables and fruit (that's probably 30% of my bill), and no soda or anything like that. We just cut out fruit juice, don't buy much in the way of junk, but most importantly....we buy only what we need.

We inventory the pantry, freezer, and cabinet with starch sides before we go...savse us a lot by doing that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on


Sincerely, I do not know how some families find the perfect "recipe" to spend less in groceries. We are 4, two adults, one teenager and one 8 yo-kid, and we spend about $300/week.
I noticed that a grocery bill goes up when you have teenagers; they eat a lot.
(ha!) We like to eat organic, and I try to get non processed foods as much as I can. All of us love fruits and vegetables, and I buy these every single week, sometimes I run out in the middle of the week and I have to get more. I do not use coupons, may be once in a while IF I am lucky and find the products I consume. I stock up whenever I can and find what I want. We consume more fish than red meat and chicken; and I plan a weekly menu every Saturday. I keep in my pantry or fridge certain basic items in bulk like rice, pasta, olive oil, wheat flour, quinoa, variety of nuts, etc, and some frozen vegetables and fruits (mango, blueberries, etc), not all of them since I have my vegetable garden and I get most of our favorites from it. We do not buy lots of snacks, and those seem to be pretty expensive. We do our own snacks from more natural or healthy products, for instance all of us here love chocolate, so we buy real dark chocolate, we melt it with nuts and put in the freezer; we prepare our own blueberry ice cream with real blueberries and no high fructose corn syrup, we prepare our own trail mix, etc. My next step is making my own detergent and cleaning products since I still buy them at a regular store, in the meantime I get the more convenient but harmless product.
As yourself, I would be reading to find more ideas to save!
A. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

We also live in your area, my secrets are a garden and canning. also look at a freezer and put up frozen foods. you can buy a whole or part of a pig or cow. It is a big cost up front but in the long run it is a lot cheaper.

Also let ALDI become your first stop in you grocery line. They have a lot of good food for a lot cheaper than the supermarkets. Then I go to a different Big name store for the other items I could not find.

My last tip is to menu plan. I plan 2 weeks at a time and stick to my list. We have an occasional change in plans but we are usually set and i know what I need to prepare and when. It keeps us from getting boring too.

Hope this helps



answers from Toledo on

Your friend ,ought honestly save grocery money by going to multiple stores. My husband and I have definitely noticed that of the 4 major stores in our area. But what is her gas bill like? And is it really worth the extra time.

We love our local grocery store and do most of our shopping there. But there are some items we refuse to buy there as they are not just more expensive but ridiculously so.

I could make a list of which items to get a which store and make a comparison. But I feel like I do more than enough driving for kids activities. The last thing I want to do is spend anymore time driving from store to store just to save a couple of grocery bucks.



answers from Dallas on

There is NO way your friend eats healthy and only spends $200 a month!!!! That is impossible!!!!! I hope she isn't starving her kid!!!!!!!!!!!



answers from Oklahoma City on

I simply can't afford to buy the "healthy" stuff. I'm lucky if we can buy fresh fruit every week.

We eat mac and cheese quite a bit through the month and a lot of H B Helper. A lot of my budget goes for milk because the kids love it.

We eat what we can. Sometimes it is cheaper to eat out. If you factor in the cost of the cooking process, the multiple foods it requires to make those recipes. Then the time and effort to make the meals. Then you have clean up. Hot water costs money, dish soap costs money, everything costs money and adds to the cost of eating a meal at home.

We can eat pizza for $11 bucks. If we use paper plates then we don't have any clean up.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions