Our $200 a month grocery budget has been a long source of intrigue! Over the last several years I’ve received many emails and comments asking things like, “How do you manage to live on such a low budget?” “What do you all eat? Just processed, junk food?” “What are your tips to save on groceries?” “Can you please teach me how to shop like you do?” “How do you decide if something is a good price?”
I try to pack my weekly What I Spent & Saved posts as full of tips and helpful information as possible, but I realize that it is still probably hard to get a good grasp of just exactly how I make our budget work. So, in an effort to make things more clear and hopefully help you spend less on groceries as well, I’m doing a series of post that will be all about Our $200 Grocery Budget- the way I shop, the key things that help me save, my favorite money saving tricks and more!
But, before I dive into all the fun specifics of how I shop, I wanted to first address the whole question of why we have a $200 grocery budget in the first place. It’s a question that I assume some of you have, even though you’ve been polite enough not to ask it.
Why do we have a $200 grocery budget?
When we got married 8 ½ years ago, we had very little money or possessions to our names. But we had a lot of determination to live debt free and wanted to buy a house within a year of getting married. It’s kind of a long story, but thanks to some generous people, the grace of God and lots of hard work, we were able to buy a house 6 months after we got married. We were probably kind of crazy though, because we actually borrowed the full $90,000 that we needed for our mortgage! But we had gotten advice from numerous people that we trusted and they encouraged us to do it and we felt like it was the route we were to take. And thankfully, it turned out well for us!
(Read more about our story of paying off that $90,000 worth of debt in 5 years here.)
But obviously, that meant we needed to scrimp and save like crazy to make things work! After some fairly animated discussions about what our grocery budget should be (me thinking we needed more and my husband thinking we needed less), we finally settled on something close to $150. At first I bulked at the tightness of it. It seemed impossible! And then one day I stumbled across a coupon blog (that was back when there was literally only a handful of them) and I was fascinated. Suddenly, I felt like I had some tools to make our too-tight budget work!
Over the next couple of months, I learned all that I could, read everything about couponing and money saving that I was able to find and gradually, the whole thing of keeping our grocery spending under control went from being a hardship to being a fun challenge.
Over the years, because of rising prices and the addition of children to our family, we gradually upped our grocery budget and are now at $200 a month for our family of five.
DO YOU REALLY NEED TO LIVE THAT FRUGALLY?
In a word, no. While we initially set our grocery budget this low because it truly was pretty much a necessity, that is no longer the case. Our financial situation has gradually improved over the last several years, and while money is tight again with my husband being back in school, we are blessed and in reality, could up our grocery budget if we absolutely needed too.
But we have chosen not to and here is why:
1. I enjoy the challenge.
I know this might sound crazy, but most of the time I really do enjoy the challenge of making our budget work. Yes, there are days when I’m ready to call it quits and up our budget to $350, but the majority of the time I revel in the thrill of figuring out how to make it work- much like some of you revel in the challenge of training for a marathon or the challenge of solving a a puzzle or fixing up an old piece of furniture. To me it’s almost a game to see what things I can do to save money each week and yet still have a nicely stocked pantry and eat delicious, healthy meals.
I’ll admit, if I hated grocery shopping or didn’t find saving money on groceries to be a fun thing, I am almost sure that we would have upped our grocery budget long ago!
2. Allows us to meet other goals.
Obviously, if we would up our grocery budget then we’d have to reduce our spending in some other category in order to compensate. By keeping our grocery spending low, it’s allowed us to meet some other goals that we had such as house projects, sending my husband to school without borrowing anything, taking a family trip last summer, saving for a 10th anniversary trip, being able to give generously to others (something that we feel is very important), to name just a few.
3. It helps us live simply.
It’s not that it’s necessarily wrong to have lots of nice things or enjoy expensive food, but it’s so easy to get sucked into the American mindset that you need to have certain things in order to be truly happy. The fact of the matter is, nothing can buy you happiness. Yes, it’s true that some things make life easier and more enjoyable, but that’s about as far as it goes. Contentment is so important!
I don’t know if this makes sense to you or not, but by keeping our grocery spending low, we are in a small way, attempting to help us learn contentment. It kind of serves as a regular reminder to us that we don’t need a lot of expensive things to be happy.
DO YOU THINK EVERYONE NEEDS TO HAVE A $200 GROCERY BUDGET?
By all means, no! In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I wrote a whole post addressing the subject!
So, there you have it! Now you know why we have a $200 grocery budget.
And now I’m curious…
What do you find the most challenging when it comes to budgeting for groceries?
Interested in reading the other posts in this series? Here they are!
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: The Importance of Stockpiling
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: How to Start Building a Grocery Stockpile
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: How a Price List Saves Money
* Our $200 Grocery Budget: How I Plan my Deal Shopping Trips