Our $200 Grocery Budget: Why We Do It {a series}

So, why do we have a $200 a month grocery budget anyway? Is it really just all about saving money? The answer might surprise you!

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?

THE HISTORY

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

Comments

  1. Meredith says

    I would love to see your weekly menu plan, like what you did with your weekly haul. I actually find that to be my challenge. I get some great deals and then struggle what to do with it. Or always feel like I have random mismatched ingredients,

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Thanks so much for that suggestion, Meredith! I do post a menu plan every two weeks, but because of the way I shop, I do things a bit differently than most and don’t necessarily plan my menus just from my weekly haul. I plan to talk about that in my next post, so hopefully that will clear things up for you at least a little.

  2. says

    We live on a $200 budget for groceries too! I am with you on the challenge. Plus, I feel like the budget we keep is a way to be more giving and prayerfully more intentional with our money. Great post. Thanks!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Oh, I love hearing from other people that have a similar budget to ours, Kelly! It would be fun to hear some of your tips for making it work. And I love how you put it: “a way to be more giving and prayerfully intentional with our money”. Yes! That is exactly what I was trying to say in the It Helps Us Live Simply point. But I think you summed it all up in a simple phrase. :)

  3. says

    One of the frustrating things for me is that food is more expensive in the UK, and there are not as many coupons around here either. However, I try to glean as many grocery money saving ideas as possible from wherever I can! Thank you for sharing your experiences :-)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Yes, I know I would have a big adjustment if I couldn’t use coupons. I love you how you realize though that you can still save by trying to implement other methods. And really, I think that is so key because every family has different needs and every area has different prices and pros and cons. I don’t know if you’ve read my post on why I don’t think everyone should have a $200 grocery budget or not, but you may find it encouraging. :)

  4. says

    Visiting from the Women with Intention.

    We try to keep our grocery bill at $200 a month as well, everyone told me we were nuts, but for the most part we buy in bulk, like potatoes, or carrots, eggs, etc. Those things that are eaten enough to the point they don’t go bad, but buying in bulk helps. Although there are some months we just have to bump it up.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      I always enjoy hearing from other people that have $200 grocery budgets, Liz! Buying in bulk is definitely one of the ways that we save the most. We definitely would have to up our budget though if I wasn’t able to shop at a grocery store that offers some amazing gas reward deals. Basically, when you buy a certain number of specific items, you earn money off gas. I then roll that money that I save on gas back into our grocery budget. I’m suspicious though that until another year, we’ll need to bump our budget up a bit. Our 3 children are eating so much more than they used to and I can’t imagine that we’ll be able to stick with what we do now.

  5. says

    Your “$200 budget” caught my eye and I am very interested in learning your tips. I am the 3rd oldest of seven children (ranging from 24-11) and growing up we have always loved good deals, coupons, etc. My father is especially good at scanning Kroger for the “orange stickers” (managers special) and combining them with coupons.

    Anyway though, our grocery bill can still be high and I look forward to hearing more about what you do. How to you find coupon blogs you mentioned.

    Thank you.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Ah, sounds like you have a dad like mine! We laugh at some of the stories of things to save money on food back when he was single. My mom isn’t necessarily a spender, but I do think my frugal gene comes mostly from my dad.

      Hi Ruth,

      I’ll be sharing more about what coupon blogs I use in a future post in my $200 Grocery Budget series. The blog that I use the most is FortheMommas.com and she actually covers Kroger too! If you want to look for other blogs, I would Google something like “Kroger coupon matchups” or “Kroger deals”. Hope that helps!

      I’m sure with a family your size, the grocery bill is far from $200. :) My husband is second oldest of a family of 10 and while there are only 5 children still living at home, I’m always amazed at how much food and household supplies they go through!

  6. says

    I know that we could never get down to $200 a month for our grocery budget but I am definitely up for tips and tricks. I signed up for your newsletter to see what I can learn. We have lots of allergies in my family and live in Alaska so food is pretty pricey, but I know we can cut our budget.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      I love your attitude, Stacey! I think attitude is the most important thing when it comes to saving money and from what I can tell, you’ll do pretty well! :)

      Thanks for signing up for my email list too. I currently don’t do a newsletter, but that’s on my list of things to start doing hopefully in the next couple of months.

  7. says

    We also have a $200 monthly budget for our family of 3. We could spend more, but like you, I enjoy the challenge of keeping our budget low and finding good deals! Plus, it allows us to work towards other financial goals by keeping this area low. Besides, as I tell others, cutting your grocery budget is the easiest way to see significant savings in your budget.

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      So true, Kristen, it is an easy way to see significant savings! And honestly, had we not had such a low grocery budget, I know we wouldn’t have been able to pay off our house as quickly as we did. It has just saved us a lot of money over the years!

  8. Caitlyn says

    You may have already covered this, but I’m new to the blog! Where do you find all of your coupons? Do you use any apps or anything?

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Caitlyn, yes, I use coupon apps quite a bit. I also use a few coupons here and there from the Sunday newspaper coupon inserts (I get them free from a neighbor) as well as lots of printable coupons. Probably the easiest way to see all the apps and printable coupons sites is to go to my weekly What I Spent & Saved posts. Near the top of the post, you’ll see a list with all the sources. Hope that helps!

  9. says

    200 a month? I read that four times before my brain computed! Good for you. I don’t think I could do it, and I budget very carefully!

  10. says

    I, like you, enjoy the challenge of seeing if I can do it. I also agree that if we spend less on groceries, we’re able to spend our money elsewhere. Stopping by from Frugal Friday. Hope you enjoy your weekend!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Yes, we’ve been able to meet so many other financial goals simply because of our low grocery budget! Obviously, not everyone is going to want to do it, but it’s definitely been worth it for us.

  11. says

    I’m your neighbor at Tuesday Talk today. This is a great post. I recently started couponing and stockpiling last year and you are right about it being an adventure / challenge. I also love that I have food on hand for those times when the days got ahead of my brain and planning.

    This is a great resource you have here. I’ll have to bookmark and come back later and look around for more tips.

    Embracing the Journey!

    Christi

  12. says

    I don’t know that I could go all the way down to $200/month, but it is so eye opening that it can be done. It makes me realize that I can definitely reduce my budget from where I’m at today!

  13. says

    Hi, I am so interested in how you do this…I would love to be able to save more for our family of five! Just curious, does the $200 monthly budget include everything (toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc) or strictly food for your meals?

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Mandy, I’m sitting here feeling embarrassed that it took me so long to reply to you. :( Somehow I missed replying to your comment and I’m so sorry about that.

      Yes, the $200 includes everything. I use a lot of coupons and combine them with sales to get maximum savings which helps a lot! I actually am working on a whole series of posts about how I shop to make our $200 grocery budget work. I think you might find those posts helpful….although I’m definitely not done with the series. (I kind of got side tracked with some food related posts and really need to get back to the grocery budget series again! Oops!) :)

      Hope that helps!

  14. says

    Love this! Number two is a big reason for me too. Keeping our grocery budget low is helping us reach our other financial goals, and it’s so nice to see tangible results, rather than seeing so much of our money vanish out of the refrigerator.

    Thanks for sharing on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Yes, if we were upped our grocery budget I know that we’d feel the pull in other areas of our budget. It takes time and effort to have a budget this low, but the savings that it results in is worth it to me!

  15. Marian says

    I loved your post! My husband and I decided to become more frugal in order to save as much as possible to buy our first home. In Toronto, housing -and life in general- is quite expensive so we’re trying to do our best to meet our goals. Currently we are following a CAD$100 grocery budget per month (this is for two people, we don’t have children yet) and it’s turning quite well! We eat really healthy food and overall we feel happy about this lifestyle. Curiously, we don’t eat only beans and rice as our friends think, although they are in the menu, of course! Also, we don’t have any food allergies or so, which makes our goal easier to meet.
    I’ve found that a great way to save money is by making your own bread and other baked goods, mostly for breakfast. This month we’ve made several batches of bread, buns, banana bread, baked lentil paddies, biscotti, potato cakes and other things that we’ve included in our meal plan.
    I don’t stockpile because we don’t have enough storage room in the apartment where we currently live, but this is definitely something I’d like to do in the future.
    I don’t use coupons but I do use an application called Reebee which displays the flyers from different stores, this allows me to know where things will be cheaper when I need to do my groceries. Generally I only visit 2 stores. I also use Checkout 51 for cash back.
    It’s been an interesting challenge to our creativity for sure! :)

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Marian, for some reason my commenting system apparently had a glitch and I never saw this comment until today. Not sure what is up! Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment and I loved how you’ve gotten creative in figuring out how to make a tight budget work for you all. You made me realize again, that often when it comes to saving money, half of it is attitude! I guess it’s probably that way about most things in life though, really. :)

  16. Nicole says

    My husband wants me to lower the budget as well and would love a $200 mark. How many do you have in your family? Where I am buying diapers for 2 kids and formula for 1, how can that be done? Also how do you make it work with cleaning supplies and house necessities like light bulbs etc? Maybe direct me to a post, if you’ve already done one on these type of issues. Thanks!

    • ThriftyFrugalMom says

      Hi Nicole! So sorry for the slow response. Your comment somehow got “lost in the shuffle” so to speak and I just now saw it. I’m guessing it had something to do with the fact that our 4th child was born around the time that you commented and things were (and still kind of are!) a bit hectic. :)

      Ah, as I mention in the post I know all about having a husband that would like to see a lower grocery budget. I hope you can get something figured out!

      There are 6 of us in our family now- 2 adults and 4 kiddos (ages 8 to 2 mo.). Yes, diapers can be a big drain on the budget, for sure! Believe it or not, I’ve found that drugstores (especially CVS) are one of the best places to find them for a good price. They often run sales on them and by using coupons I can get them fairly inexpensively. I write more about how I do that in this post and this one too.

      As far as the cleaning supplies and household necessities. There are a couple of things that help me here. One is that I make a lot of my own cleaning supplies. I love this Homemade Bathroom Cleaner and it can actually be used to clean more than just bathrooms too! I also have a recipe for homemade Windex that I really like too and it’s super inexpensive. When I wash up our floors I add a teeny bit of Dawn dish detergent and vinegar to water and scrub away with that.

      The other thing that helps is that I have a stockpile. The advantage of this is that I stock up on things like toilet paper, light bulbs, dish soap, toothpaste etc. when I can get them at rock bottom prices. This means that I rarely ever have to pay full price for any of those things and over time that saves a lot of money! I talk more about how I do that in this post and this one as well. It’s interesting that you mention lightbulbs because it made me realize that sometimes they actually don’t come out of our grocery budget. If I find a good deal on them at a store I’m shopping at, then I buy them and they come out of the grocery budget. Otherwise my husband picks up a big box of them when he’s at Lowe’s or Home Depot and they come out of our Home Expenses budget.

      Something else that is helpful to remember is that it’s easy to think that the little savings don’t matter. But the thing is, they do add up and over time those little savings can make a big difference!

      One more thing….if Zaycon Fresh comes to your area, you might want to check into getting meat from them. They have great prices on chicken and it’s a good way to save.

      Hope that helps! And if you have more questions, feel free to ask! I’ll try to be a bit more prompt at replying. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *