How to Make and Stick to A Grocery Budget

I consider myself mediocre at a lot of things.

But grocery shopping is something that I think I AM REALLY GOOD AT.

It hasn’t always been that way though. It was a serious adjustment going from a single girl who lived on McChickens and late night T-Bell to a momma who planned out her meals and could whip up anything in the kitchen.

Nowadays, I can give my self a weekly budget, create a meal plan, hit the grocery store, and ONLY buy what is on my list. Which means I NEVER exceed my grocery budget. I know what you are probably thinking… That that is just not possible, but it totally is.

So how do I do it? Not with coupons (I DO LOVE COUPONS!!! But not for groceries. I don’t need a stockpile of Nabisco products, and frozen dinners that will never get cooked. Coupons are great though for household products, toiletries, and diapers. Be on the look out for posts on how I created my stockpile, and how I haven’t bought one diaper or wipe in my son’s first 6 months and probably won’t need to until he is well over one!), and definitely not with those rebate apps (ain’t no momma got time for that.)

Here is what I do do.

  1. I don’t buy snack food. I know my daughter and husband probably hate me, but honestly buying processed snack food is a waste of money. On occasion, I will purchase a bag of chips or a carton of ice cream, but only if it fits in the budget. I will show you how I create my budget in a moment! What is on my list is food that will be cooked for meals. (TIP: If you are snacky family, head to the dollar tree! I have no problem running in there to grab my daughter some animal crackers to enjoy on her way home from school, but Walmart and grocery store chains overprice packaged items. Or create snack options from what you purchase, for example, cheese slices, veggies, fruit, or yogurt)
  2. I don’t take my children or husband to the store with me. And you shouldn’t either. They will always need those Frozen fruit snacks or 5 different flavors of pop tarts.
  3. I am the only one who does the shopping. I learned the hard way to never send my husband to the grocery store for anything. He would have a simple list and would come home with 20 cans of beanie weenies and 5 cases of coke just because they were on sale… He lost privileges.
  4. I limit options for breakfast and lunch (as well as snacks, but we already went over that). This is easy to do in my family, my husband doesn’t eat breakfast at home, and my daughter is okay with a pop tart in the morning. As for myself I usually eat cereal or an egg. But by only purchasing 1 box of cereal and 1 flavor of pop tarts you are saving a ton! Remember, packaged food is over priced.
  5. I use filler items and small amounts of meat. Filler items are things like beans and potatoes, so I do not have to exceed 1/2 pound of meat or 2 chicken breasts (I prefer to just use one if possible) when cooking.
  6. I buy meat in bulk based on price. Meaning I buy the largest package of fresh chicken breasts, but for the least expensive price. Example: Wal Mart sells a package of chicken breasts that have 6 pieces in it, I buy the least expensive one. When I get home I divvy them up with my food saver. 1 per package.
  7. This is our biggest money saver. My husband harvests an elk for us each September in Colorado. That one elk creates about 120-150 pounds of meat that we have processed into steaks, ground elk, and stew meat. This means I never have to purchase beef. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing a cow or half cow, or sending your husband on a hunting trip every year because it saves us so much money. In our area, you can purchase 1/2 a cow for around 250 dollars processed and everything.
  8. I always know exactly how much I can spend, and about how much I will spend! And I am about to tell you how I do it!








Ok. So this is the breakdown. First I give myself an ESTIMATED weekly budget, meaning what I am comfortable spending. Usually between 30-60 dollars depending on the meal plan. Then I plan out the meals we are going to be eating for the week on the weekly meal plan printable. Once the meals are planned out, based on what we already have in stock, what Aldi has on sale (I price match Aldi’s produce at Wal Mart), and what we ate the week before (I like a little variety and usually do not like to cook the same meal more than once a month).

After the meal plan is created, I go over to the list side and write down all the ingredients that we do not have on hand.

Then, I move over to the budget list (BTW. You can download both of these printables at the bottom!) I start in the NEEDED ITEMS section first. If you are the only one doing the shopping then you are probably pretty familiar with the prices of items at whatever store you are shopping at. I write down all the ingredients needed from my meal plan list first and then the estimated amount I think I will spend (including tax) for example I know spaghetti noodles should not cost me for than 1.25 with tax. Then I write down all the essential items we need, like bread, eggs, milk, and butter. Those items get an estimated amount too. I then add all of those items up and make sure I have not exceeded my TOP budget of 60 dollars. If I have, then I rearrange my meal plan.

I will only spend up to the total amount of items on my list. Meaning my top budget may be 60 dollars, but if the total on my estimated list is only 55 dollars that is all I am going to spend. (You should always estimate high on your items if you are unsure of pricing)

I then move on to the want list. This is the list of things that my husband or daughter has mentioned wanting throughout the week. I write those down with an estimated price as well.

NOW IT IS TIME TO SHOP. As I put items in my cart I am writing down the actual price with my estimated tax on the actual side of the grocery budget printable (yes this takes time, and I am the annoying person in the middle of the aisle, but I don’t really care because it is worth it). After I finish my NEED list, I add up the total. If you are estimating either correctly or high then your total should either come out a spot on or under.

If I am spot on, it is time to check out, if not and I have money left to spend then I move to the want list. I see how much I have left to spend and pick the item that fits in that price range. For instance, I have an extra 5 dollars, my daughter wanted those frozen fruit snacks that have an estimated cost of 4 dollars and my husband wanted ice cream that had an estimated cost of 6 dollars. My daughter wins this week.

I then leave the grocery store feeling accomplished at how great I am at grocery budgeting.

Having this type of budget in line does take some adjusting. Your family will miss not having a million snack options, and their hearts will break when you come home without their Rocky Road, but they will eventually get used to it. And your wallets will thank you when you aren’t dishing out 500 dollars a month on groceries.

How do you budget for groceries in your family? Interested in trying this plan! Grab the printables below. And let me know how it works for you!

Here are your free printables to give it a go!

Meal Plan  and Grocery List and Budget

PS. Interested in more free printables? Click here!<–33 Free Printables to organize your life!

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