Grocery Budgets....revealed!

Hear ye, hear ye – the results are in!  Once again, I have posed a potentially taboo question on facebook, only to be pleasantly surprised at the feedback I received.  After several shopping trips of going over my grocery budget, I started wondering if it was time to increase my allotted amount.  I have not been a faithful couponer as of late, and we have depleted most of our stockpile (except for body wash….my husband will be clean for years.  YEARS.).  

A “lazy” shopping trip for me (meaning one where I’m not using coupons) involves going to Walmart for the things Aldi doesn’t carry, Costco for the things that are cheaper there than at Aldi, and Aldi for the bulk of my shopping.  A “mega-shopping trip” involves all 3 of the stores mentioned, in addition to any or ALL of the following: Bi-Lo, Publix, Target, CVS (using coupons at each store).  So, it is not uncommon for us to make 5-7 stops and YES, it takes ALL day, and my (almost) 3 year old is a trooper on these days!   Lately, I’ve been going the lazy route…and I think that’s what was going on with my budget…that and the fact that the afore mentioned 3 year old is eating a lot more (and loves healthy, fresh food) than she was 3 years ago when the current amount was decided upon.  Ahem. 

So, naturally, I posted on facebook to see if any of my friends were interested in sharing their budgets with me.  This was potentially risky, because discussing this sort of thing tends to breed discontentment and dissatisfaction and comparisons,  and just generally ugly reactions, but I’m thankful that immediately after posting the question, I turned over my daily calendar page to read this verse:

“Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”  Luke 12: 29-31

Okay, God….thank you for the reminder.  But…it has been continual – everytime I have been tempted to be discontent, He has been faithful to remind me of what His Word says about His faithful provision for me and my family.  This has come in a multitude of ways – through conversations with other friends who are struggling to feed their families well for little money, friends who are just struggling to feed their families, my husband…who has been diligent to remind me that we all have different priorities and that is OK.  God has placed all of us in different situations, and each of our unique situations has SO. MANY. VARIABLES, that it is almost silly for me to list out what each of us spends for our comparison.  (I said almost.)

What I have taken away from this research is that I need to work harder at stretching the money that God entrusts to me, that I need to be realistic about the fact that we have a LOT of company and in heavy company months my normal amount is probably not going to be stretch-able, and that ultimately it is not even MY money, and I am reminded that I need to be careful to be a good steward.  Each family has to decide what is best for them and what they feel like God is calling them to do, and then trust Him and watch His faithful mercies unfold.

So – here are the numbers that I received…I have tried to keep it as anonymous as possible, and I really appreciate everyone’s willingness to share. 

A = Adult(s)
C = Child(ren)
T = Teenager(s)
E2W = every 2 weeks

2A (South) -- $50 E2W food (coupon master + relying on stockpile + saving for adoption)

2A, 4C (South) -- $150 E2W, food + extras (paper products, cleaning supplies, toiletries, diapers for 1)

2A, 3C (South) -- $150 E2W, food + extras

2A, 1C (South) -- $160 E2W, food + extras

2A, 2C (South) -- $250 E2W, mostly food, focus on very healthy/organic

2A, 3T, 2C (South) -- $250 E2W, mostly food

2A, 2C (South) -- $400 E2W food + extras (includes gas, eating out, non-grocery items)

2A, 4C (South) -- $400 E2W food + extras (diapers for 1)

2A (East Coast) -- $150 E2W, food + extras

2A (East Coast) -- $150 E2W, food + extras

2A (East Coast) -- $250 E2W, food + extras

2A, 2C (East Coast) -- $250 E2W, food (local produce, heritage meat, no proc food, no GMOs)

2A, 2C (Midwest) -- $300 E2W, food + extras (diapers for 2, formula = $60/month)

2A, 3C (Midwest) -- $200 E2W, food only (?)

Like I said – there are LOTS of variables that play into these figures – dining out, types of food purchased, location, priorities, company/hospitality/meal ministry, what this figure actually covers, age of children included, etc, etc.  So – don’t go feeling bad about your number and how it compares to everyone else’s…chances are none of us are starving, right?

In my conversations surrounding this topic, a number of tips/hints have come up and I want to list those here…in random order.  I feel like these are well known, but I realize that sometimes we just don’t think about something or are hesitant to try it, so these are things that real people (my friends and me!) are doing 
and they are working.

*plan menus to include an item multiple times (i/e….a recipe calls for ½ container of sour cream…fix another recipe later in the week to use the remaining sour cream.)  Oh...and menu-planning...a MUST.

*swim diapers can be washed/dried….WHO KNEW?!?!

*eat meatless….there are a LOT of ways to get protein other than meat (think beans, cheese, yogurt, etc.)  Even substituting 1-2 meatless dinners a week helps cut costs.  And, when not forgoing meat completely, meat stretches further if used in casseroles, or just fixing less.   So, instead of fixing 1 piece of meat for each person, maybe try 1/3 to ½…or if a recipe calls for 1 pound, try using ½ pound.

*If you live near an Aldi – SHOP THERE. 

*Check local produce stands – often in-season produce is cheapest there….but make sure to ask where it was grown…sometimes they just buy it at a wholesale place and resell.

*Plant a garden and grow your own.

*Eggs are an inexpensive and excellent protein source.  There are SO many ways to enjoy them!

*Shop wholesale (Costco, Sam’s) when cost efficient.  See my other post on that HERE.

*Buy store brands when possible.

*Use coupons if you possibly can!  Sites like Southern Savers and Time 2 Save take a LOT of the work out of it for you.  If you have kids – put them to work cutting!

*Be creative….have a leftover night in which you clean out the fridge/pantry.  We often do this the night or two before shopping so there’s room for the new stuff.  Just because you’ve never ACTUALLY eaten something together, that doesn’t mean that it might not taste good…give it a try….you might discover something amazing!

*Check out discount bread stores in your area….often they are MUCH cheaper and bread freezes well.

*When you find a good sale, or seasonal produce is particularly cheap, buy a LOT and can/freeze.  A chest freezer (even a small one) is a worthwhile investment.  And cans/jars can be stored under beds.

*Research making things from scratch – this will require more time, but as a SAHM, I prefer to be spending that time with my daughter in the kitchen letting her help me than not being with her.  Some things that I’ve stopped buying pre-made (unless a REALLY good sale or REALLY busy week) are: bread, rolls, tortillas, granola, granola bars, sweet breads/muffins, frozen pancakes/waffles, salsa, taco seasoning, wheat thins, popsicles, etc.  Pinterest is an amazing resource for this sort of thing….just go to the search bar and type in: Homemade (insert item here) and you will be amazed at the results. 

Okay…it’s after midnight and I don’t want to be the grouchy mommy tomorrow, so I really need to get to bed.  But, thank you all for your patience and again for your participation.  I hope this is helpful for you – it has been good for me to be reminded of a lot of things and also to know that I am not alone in my quest for stretching my pennies to care for my family.  God is faithful to provide and He always does….He promises daily bread….not necessarily weekly or monthly, and we have to trust Him in that.  I can testify to His amazing provision and “refilled oil jar” type experiences in my own life and I know He will continue to amaze me with His Fatherly love and protection.  Cling to His promises, ladies, and He will bless your efforts.

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