These simple tips and ideas will help you know how to create a grocery budget, learn how to stay on a grocery budget, and reduce grocery spending.
Trying to stay on a grocery budget can be challenging. There are times when it may seem like there is never enough money left at the end of the month to purchase the groceries you need.
For some, you are trying to figure out how much money would be reasonable to spend on groceries and how to stick to a food budget. You might wonder how you can reduce your grocery spending.
For others, a grocery budget may seem restrictive and that you can’t buy your favorite things.
Whatever the challenge, your monthly grocery budget can have an impact on your overall financial situation, so it’s important to learn how to stay on a grocery budget.
If you struggle with how to stick with a grocery budget and make it work, or if you’re not sure of how to create a grocery budget, below are 9 tips to help you know how to stay on a grocery budget, create a grocery budget, and reduce your grocery budget over time.
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1. Calculate Your Current Spending
Before you can figure out how to stay on a grocery budget, you need to first know how much money you are currently spending on groceries.
This may take some of your time, but look back at your bank statements for the past 3-4 months and take a monthly average to see how much money you’ve been spending on groceries.
Another option to figure out what your spending on groceries is to track your food spending this month by keeping all your grocery receipts and writing it down on a paper or notebook.
Doing this will give you a good idea of how much money you are spending on groceries.
2. How to Create a Grocery Budget
Now that you know about how much money you spend on groceries in a month, you can create a realistic grocery budget.
Every family is different and has different needs. A grocery budget will be unique to your family situation, where you live, and your dietary needs. So it’s important to figure out a grocery budget that will work for you.
A recommendation and starting point when creating a grocery budget is to budget $125 per family member per month.
For a single-person, start with a base amount of $200. For a two-person household, start with a base of $300. This allows for room in the budget to stock up on sale items.
For my family, our food budget for a family of 5 is $625 per month.
When grocery shopping weekly, break the monthly grocery budget total down into weeks. And each week only spend that amount when you grocery shop. For example, for our family that would be $156 for a weekly grocery budget.
So you might be asking, “What should I include in my grocery budget?”
Some people say that the grocery budget is just that–groceries only.
However, for our family, our grocery budget also includes household and personal hygiene items.
I think it’s completely doable to include household and personal hygiene items in the grocery budget, but every family’s situation is different, so you decide what will work best for your family’s grocery budget.
With any extra money leftover at the end of the month, I also purchase extra food items that I can keep in my kitchen pantry and in my basement food storage.
As your grocery budget allows, try to purchase 2-4 extra items each grocery shopping trip when an item is on sale. This will save you money because it’s on sale, and then you’ll have the item on hand for a dinner another day.
This could also save you from having to run to the store in the middle of the week because you will already have the item in your pantry that you need for dinner.
3. Change Takes Time
It’s not realistic to think you can make a change in your grocery budget for one month, and then you’ll be on track and won’t need to do anything else.
Staying on a grocery budget takes work every month, just like if you were trying to lose weight.
As you practice these principles and work at staying on a grocery budget each month, you will start to get better at it. It will also soon become a regular part of your life, and you will most likely be able to meet your grocery budget goal each month.
So keep trying, keep practicing, and keep going!
When I first created our family’s monthly grocery budget, it took time to figure out how to stay within my the budget. But now that I’ve been doing it for years, I’m able to walk out of the grocery store every two weeks and spend $300 or less. It really has become a regular part of my life.
4. Use Cash When Grocery Shopping
If you want to ensure that you don’t go over the $125 per family per month budget, then use cash only when you purchase your groceries.
As you go through the store and place items in your cart, use the calculator on your cell phone to help you keep track of the price of each item. This will help you to know what the total amount will be when the cashier rings up your groceries. You’ll also know if you need to put something back on the shelf if you go over budget.
When you use cash, it helps you to control your spending. You are also more likely to stick with your list in order to make sure you have enough money to cover the purchases.
And actually having to count out your money makes you think through your purchases more than if you just swipe a credit card. You see where your money is going, and you are more likely to slow down your spending.
Once the cash for the monthly grocery budget has been spent, then it’s gone. You shouldn’t spend any more money on groceries until the next paycheck, when you’ll take out the next amount of money to pay cash for your groceries.
Read all about How to Use a Cash Envelope System here & How Our Family Budgets.
5. Keep Track of and Review Your Spending
Every time you go grocery shopping, keep your receipts and write down how much you spent, where you spent it, and the date you spent it.
You can use an envelope with your grocery cash, a notebook or a grocery planner to do this.
You can also you the free Grocery Budget Tracker printable that I’ve created. Sign up in the box at the top of this post to get it straight to your inbox.
At the end of every week, add up how much you’ve spent for that week.
Now subtract your total monthly grocery budget from how much you’ve spent that week to see how much you have left for the month.
If you are right on track, great job!
If you went over budget and spent more than your weekly grocery budget allotment, then think about and honestly answer these questions.
- Is my monthly grocery budget realistic for my family and our needs?
- What are my current grocery spending habits like? Can I cut back on some of the unnecessary items? Did I buy things that were “wants” and not “needs”?
- Did I make unnecessary and extra trips to the grocery store?
- Can I get creative with my meals this week to make the grocery budget work for the remainder of the month?
Be honest with how you are doing, adjust your spending habits from this point going forward, and keep trying.
6. Plan Out Your Meals & Use What’s In Your Kitchen
Meal planning will help you know exactly what you will eat each week. And if you know what you’ll be eating, then you’ll know exactly what to purchase at the grocery store.
As you are planning out your meals for the week, look in the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what you haven’t used or that needs used before it expires. Create your meal plan based on these items you have on hand.
If you have food you aren’t sure how to use in a meal, then use sites such as Allrecipes and SuperCook. Type in the ingredients you have and it will bring up new recipe ideas with those ingredients. This is a great way to not let food go to waste.
If you have leftovers from dinner, use them for lunch the next day. Plan on making dinners that have good leftovers to eat.
Once a week, pull all the leftovers out of the fridge and eat them for dinner one night. This will save you time because you won’t have to cook, and it will save you money because the leftover food isn’t being wasted.
For more information about meal planning, read these 6 Tips How to Successfully Meal Plan.
Another idea is to double or triple a batch of food you are already making for dinner. Then freeze these meals and use them throughout the month for dinner.
If you want to try some freezer meals that our family loves, check out these 7 Make Ahead Freezer Meals.
And if you need new dinner ideas, check out these 20 Easy Weeknight Dinners for the Family.
7. Use a Shopping List & Buy Only What You Need
As you use up the last of an item in your pantry or fridge, or if you start to get low on something you use regularly in the kitchen, write it down on a shopping list that is either on the fridge or in your phone.
When you arrive at the grocery store, stick with your shopping list and only buy what you need. Don’t put extra items into your shopping cart because it will affect your grocery budget that you are trying to keep down.
A grocery shopping list will also help you to not forget to purchase an item that you need for a dinner that week. The last thing you want to do is have to run to the store in the middle of the week to purchase something for dinner, because most likely you’ll purchase more items than you need and end up going over budget.
Additionally, when you are walking through the grocery aisles with a shopping list and looking for items, you won’t have to wonder if you need to purchase certain items because you’ll know you already have that item at the house.
8. Order Groceries Online
Most grocery stores now have the option to order groceries online to be picked up or to be delivered.
As you add items to your online grocery cart, you’ll be able to view the total amount of money it will cost you before you check out and pay for it.
By seeing the total amount of money, you can take items out of your cart if the amount is more than what you’ve budgeted. This will help you to not go over your weekly grocery budget.
Ordering groceries online also helps to avoid impulse buys at the store. When you’re in the grocery store, there’s a greater chance you will add additional items to your cart as you walk up and down the aisles.
Head over here to see a video with tips on using Walmart Grocery Pickup. Plus, you can get $10 off your first online Walmart grocery purchase.
9. Grocery Shop Less
Studies show that every time you walk into a grocery store, you will end up spending more money than you planned.
Even if you only need to pick up one or two items, you’ll most likely always purchase more items than what you intended to purchase.
This will affect your grocery budget, so d
One way that really helps me to stay on a grocery budget is to actually only shop once every two weeks. So that means I’ll go to the grocery store and spend $300 or less. That will be our food for the next two weeks, and I won’t go to the grocery store again until it’s time for the next grocery shopping trip.
The fewer times you step foot into a grocery store, the less money you will spend, and that’s more money you are saving.
There are other ways how to stay on a grocery budget, but these tips and ideas mentioned will get you started and really help out.
If you want more tips to help you save money and stay on a grocery budget, then check out 21 Tips How to Spend Less Money on Groceries.
Check out these other articles:
How to Create a Budget + Free Budget Worksheet
Why It’s Important to Include Sinking Funds As Part Of Your Budget
6 Ways to Save Money and Increase Your Savings This Year
5 Tips to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
Busy Moms Budget Workbook from Family Finance Mom
Budget Boot Camp from Jordan Page of Fun Cheap or Free
Rob S. says
When it comes to sticking within a grocery budget, writing a list beforehand matters. It helps keep you on track and lessens the risk of spending money on products you don’t need.
Lisa Park says
I definitely agree!