Saturday, April 5, 2014

$400 a month for groceries?!

$400 per month for groceries. Yes, you read that right. Is it possible to spend this much on a family of four? Yes! As long as you are careful and don't overspend, it really is possible.

Why only $400? Well, that's our budget. We have other bills to pay as well. Granted not every extra dollar is going towards debt (because of our erratic medical bills), but we have two kids 4 & 5. There's a lot of times we have to say "no" to toys, candy, movies, trips, etc.

How are we surviving on $400 per month for groceries?

First things first, I do not use coupons. That's right. Absolutely no driving to pay for a newspaper, scanning the inserts for desired items, and cutting until your hand falls off. I tried that. I found I actually spent more money at the stores using coupons. 99.9% of coupons are for processed junk. Granted, I occasionally saved 50%-75% by matching coupons to store sale ads for a certain shampoo and soap for hubby, but I've only been able to do that maybe two times. Therefore, store coupons are not allowed in our house.

How to maintain a grocery budget (of any amount):

1. Look at the family budget and decide what is allotted for groceries. I've heard of people spending $400-$1200 on food per month and wonder where their money is going? Well, duh.

2. Cut out the junk. No soda, no candy, no treats. Period. None of it is good for you! It's called junk for a reason. Plus, you know what you're putting into your body when you cut out the junk.

3. Meal Plan. Now I'm not the best at planning a week's worth of meals, but we try our best to sit down together and plan out what we want to eat. This way no one complains about why we aren't having T-Bones for dinner every night. There's several meal planning websites out there. You'll have to decided which ones you like best. (I'll write more about these later).

4. Check out your local CSA (another post later). These are well worth the price- and the best part. Very affordable! You also get to try new foods. Ours includes fruits and veggies in every week's box. I've never had so many oranges this past winter!

We ordered a the large "food box" and it cost $38.30 per week. They had a smaller box for around $25 I believe. I could be wrong, but still- very affordable for any family. All I had to do was pick it up (or someone else if we were out of town). Fresh organic food per month for a large box: $153.20 per month.

So,  $400 for groceries
     - $153.20
       $246.80 leftover for dairy, grains, household cleaners, etc.  Definitely more than enough to last the month!

5.  Try your best to resist the lure of expensive meats. Meat is the most expensive item in the cart and when you're eating all natural, it's sometimes twice or triple the cost of conventional meat. How to curb the extra cost?
         a. Check out your CSA. We found our farmer's market prices to be astronomical in prices, so we checked out a CSA and were so happy with it.
         b. See if you can split the cost of a cow at a local farm with friends or family
         c. Most importantly, buy only what you need. I noticed the other day that my Sam's Club started carrying all-natural chicken. Now, that's not my top choice for chicken, but it's all we have in our area for fresh/natural chicken. It comes in a twin pack and I plan to use one for a rotisserie chicken and the other, cut it for parts for other meals.
          d. Eat less meat. I know this is really hard for most of us, especially my family, so incorporating more veggies and some grains will do great to fill up the family.

6. Don't stress. It took me a few months to realize how to cut costs and stay on track. Nothing is achieved overnight.

7.  Try a garden- even if you only plant just one plant, it will cut costs. A packet of seeds will cost maybe $2, but if your plant is taken care of, you'll save a ton of money if you get 10+ tomatoes or strawberries off that plant! Plus, it teaches science if you have little ones. Two for one deal!

To recap, look at your budget, cut out junk food, meal plan, check out your local CSA, watch the cost of meat, and don't stress! At first I stressed about eating healthy and staying on budget, but once I figured out what my family likes best, we decided what not to buy (kale, swiss chard), and can focus on more positive things: spending time with the kids and not stressing about a healthy dinner (as my 5 year old daughter calls it). Or supper-as my mother calls it.