Over the years, I’ve had a variety of grocery-shopping styles. In the years with plenty of income, it was: no grocery list, just go to the store and throw into the cart whatever looked good. A lot of frozen prepared foods. Pizza delivery once a week for us and the kids. And dinner at a restaurant after church on Sunday. Looking back, I cringe at how much we spent on food.
Then came the lean years, when our income was quite limited. Feeding the family changed drastically. No eating out or pizza delivery, checking grocery store ads, re-discovering coupons, buying the least expensive foods, just eating less overall.
One of the most useful things I’ve learned about grocery-shopping over the years is this: buy enough groceries in one shot to last all week. It does no good to pat yourself on the back for how little you spent at the grocery story on Saturday if you have to make a second run a few days later, or if you go out to eat because you don’t have enough to prepare a full meal.
Consider the picture above, a snapshot of our grocery trip purchases a few weeks ago. Combined with what is in our cupboards and fridge, this is enough for a full week. We have what we need for every food category – meat, fruit, veggies, starches, dairy, desert – plus some non-food items (a graduation card, paper towels, band-aids, toothpaste, oxi-clean, and Drano for a slow sink). What did this cost me? $123.98 for the food items, and $13.20 for the non-food items, for a total bill of $137.18.
Yes, I could have spent less, but if you get too chintzy with grocery-shopping, you find yourself feeling deprived and end up splurging at Starbucks or an ice cream shop. Instead, I got our feel-good desert at the store, on sale. So there you have it – not too little and not too much, just the right amount of groceries!
For more tips on keeping your food expenses down, check out some of my previous posts: