How to Totally Overhaul Your Grocery Budget

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My grocery budget has increased significantly since my children turned one and started eating solid food. Here's how I'm trying to get it under control.

Earlier this year, I was able to keep my groceries to $50 a week. I was pretty proud of this because the average American spends $151 a week on food. We accomplished this because my husband and I were in ultra frugal mode, making tons of soups, going without meat, and in general being grocery budget ninjas.

Then, my twins turned 1 in March and started eating solid foods. Suddenly we had two children on our hands who were eating like full blown adults. We were going through cartons of blueberries and raspberries every week. They were going through a whole loaf of bread every week. And, let’s not even talk about the gallons of milk, the bunches of bananas, and all that delicious mac and cheese and peanut butter and jelly!

I always thought that once the kids started eating solid food, they would eat like babies. However, it’s truly astonishing how much food they can fit in their little adorable bellies. I swear some meals they eat more than I do.

Needless to say, our grocery spending went through the roof especially because we were feeding them so much produce that we rarely treated ourselves to. So, I’ve been trying to find ways to pull back while still giving my kids all that nutritious and delicious food. If you’re a parent or just someone who wants to totally overhaul your grocery budget, here are some tips.

Shop the Perimeter


I have to credit my husband for telling me about this technique. He read it somewhere and since he told me about it, I’ve been seeing it in many different places. The idea is to shop only for fresh produce, meat, eggs, cheese, milk, etc. that you can find on the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid a lot of the packaged, expensive products in the middle of the store.

Have a Plan


I don’t plan out my meals for the month. I’ve tried and failed many times at meal planning; however, I always try to set myself up for success. So, I might have a variety of vegetables ready to go along with a chicken breast or I might have some soup in the crock pot that I start in the morning.

The thing with a plan is that it trains you to eat what you have. When you don’t have a plan and you come home from work hungry with all your meat frozen, you can easily get into the habit of ordering food instead.

So, just because you’re not the perfect Pinterest family with color coded meal plans, you can still think a little bit ahead. This will help you to save money, time, and stress less too.

My grocery budget has increased significantly since my children turned one and started eating solid food. Here's how I'm trying to get it under control.

Be Okay With Inconvenience


I admit, I do buy a lot of the convenience items for my kids whether it’s a huge box of goldfish crackers or a large pack of the organic fruit squeezies. These are simple things that don’t require me to chop or prepare. It also makes a very hungry little child quiet instantly when they are in their high chair screaming!

I admit that these convenience items do cost extra, so in order to cut down the grocery budget, I’ve been a lot better lately about thinking ahead and cutting up fruit in the morning to use all day along with some other snacks and side items that aren’t from a package.

By being okay with a little bit of inconvenience or extra preparation (like shredding cheese instead of buying expensive cheese sticks) I’m able to save a little bit of money each grocery trip. (Editor’s note: We do a lot of the same things to accomplish the same convenience with our three growing, not-so-little little ones. We also shop sparingly from Amazon to help fill-in items and get a better deal.)

Ultimately, it is possible to cut down on food costs every month. This is typically one of the largest categories in people’s budgets aside from their house payment and rent. There are many ways to slim down your grocery spending from spending less on meat to buying less alcohol, but the main tenant of all of these tips is developing new habits and tracking your spending.

If you can get a good handle on your spending patterns when it comes to food and try to notice your habits when you go shopping (like throwing last minute items into the cart) you can definitely train yourself to spend less and save your family a lot of money.


How much is your grocery budget every month? Do you usually stick to it or go over? Do your kids eat as much as mine? What is the one thing/item that makes it difficult to stick to your grocery budget each month?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families. Check out her award winning blog,


  • Hannah says:

    They say that kids stop eating so much around age two, but my son still often out eats me (he’s 2.5).

    I try to come up with a loose menu to help me build a grocery list, but I don’t “meal plan” until the night before when I pull out meat to thaw in the fridge.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I’ve heard the same thing Hannah, though I’m starting to think whoever says that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. 😉 Our two boys, they’re 3 1/2 & 6, will eat anything that’s not nailed down and out eat me most days. It scares me what they’ll be like when they’re teenagers!

    • Cat says:

      Yeah exactly same here – I defrost the meat. I can think that much ahead lol.

  • I am so ready for soup weather! We save a ton of money all winter by eating different soups for days at a time.

  • I found myself spending a lot of money to try to tempt my 5 year old to choose more nutritious snacks. She wants to stick to the same things, and we ended up wasting produce bought for her because she wouldn’t eat it and I didn’t eat it fast enough. I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I could either shop for the family eating habits I have, or waste money shopping for the family eating habits I wanted.

  • Miriam says:

    Hi Cat, great article. I remember when my twins started eating food and what a shock it was too. As they grew, it seemed they ate more and more (and never gained weight!). Now they’re 40 and 6′ tall and they have to watch what they eat; karma is so wonderful.

    There are only two of us now and as I’m retired my income will not go up anymore so I watch what I spend. I’ve been building a 3 month and now going into a 6 month pantry so that (a) I would be prepared if there were a power outage or sudden shortness of food in the stores but more importantly (b) so I can shop only the sales. The only thing I have to buy on a regular basis is fresh vegetables and cream for our coffee. We primarily use cheese in cooking or for melting so I buy it when it is on sale and freeze it in usable chunks. Not great for a sandwhich but works for everything else.

    Other than that – if it’s not on a deep sale I can just pass it up. And I don’t live on boxes or processed food – what I store in my pantry is canned tomatoes, water packed tuna, oil, toilet paper, kleenex, and meat in the freezer etc – the stuff I would buy anyway. The meat buy the way is mostly bought at 30% off a couple days before the ‘best by’ date and packed into meal portions, vacuum sealed and frozen.

  • My old budget has been really out of control since we started the slow-carb diet. I had forgotten how expensive and time consuming meat can be! I definitely want to experiment with some crock pot recipes. And I could totally eat soup for every meal.

  • Money Beagle says:

    If there are things you can stock up on that you know will be eaten and not go to waste, then focus on those when you can get deals. Also, stacking a deal on top of a coupon gives you double savings on such items. It really doesn’t take much work to browse through the ads and cut a few coupons. Even if it’s just 2-3 items like this per week, it can add up big, and set the foundation to expand the practice if you find it making a noticeable difference for you.

  • Janeen says:

    The average person spends $150 per week? Or is that family? I’m either terribly over-average or quite a bit under. Shopping the perimeter has been huge for us. We eat mostly paleo so when we stick with lots of great meats and veggies we do pretty well. It’s when we throw in the snack food that we end up over budget. Or perhaps it’s the wine… wine is paleo, right 😉

  • Jessica says:

    Sometimes I do really well with my grocery spending and sometimes I go shopping hungry and buy all the food. The biggest saver for me has been to have a loose plan. I suck at meal planning, but having a handful of meals I can easily prepare from ingredients I tend to always buy is a big help. I also try to avoid convenience foods most of the time, yet still have a few things stocked to make it easier when I’m busy.

  • I admire people who can plan meals months at a time, because I can’t even stick to a meal plan for a week. There’s usually leftovers that can be had the next day, or children refusing to eat what has been cooked, or me running out of time to cook whatever was scheduled. But it is something I plan to do because it helps save lots on grocery bills in the long run.

    Color coded meal plans? Lol. That sounds too good to be true 🙂

  • You’re so right about having a plan and shopping the perimeter. That’s our approach too and it works really well for yielding healthy, cheap meals. I’ve certainly been eating more during pregnancy, so I think we’re just gearing up for a lifetime of more food with Babywoods ;).

  • We spend about $75 per week for four (the kids are 4 & 2). Sometimes they eat a lot and sometimes they barely eat. Having a garden & raising some chickens definitely helps. Probably our biggest grocery store savings comes from buying whole chickens or bone-in pieces. They are less than half the price of frozen chicken breast. I also save a lot by making 2 lb bags of beans in the crock pot and then freezing in (reused) jars.

  • Being OK with inconvenience is a good way to cut down on most costs. Things are more expensive at Convenience stores because they’re on every street corner. Paying for your own car is convenient because you don’t have to adhere to the schedule of public transportation. Eating out is expensive because it’s convenient to not have to cook. It’s really astonishing how much convenience costs us in our everyday life. 🙂

  • Addi Ganley says:

    Spending less at a grocery store is always tricky when you have to feed kids. Then you TAKE the kids it makes it even harder. 😉
    I like the perimeter idea, that cuts down on unnecessary purchases that you more than likely do not NEED.

    Thank you for this post!

  • I am a big fan of the perimeter shopping!! You rarely ever see dramatic swings in prices of items that will be around until the end of time; however, food with a defined shelf life needs to leave the store ASAP and it’s always to the benefit of a smart shopper’s pockets that it does.

  • Latoya S says:

    We try really hard to stick with $100 a week (2 adults, 1 child). I think the only person in the house with an expensive eating habit right now is ou 5 month old son. From what you just shared, it will become more expensive as he grows;)

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