How Can I Save Money When My Grocery Spending is Always Out of Control?

How often do you check up on your budget with the expectation that you’re doing well just to find your budget trashed – all because of the food/grocery category? Is your grocery spending outrageous! What did you even eat that costs so much?

Please tell me that you’re actually doing a budget? If you’re not – you need a plan. Read this post to get started.

Even with a budget/plan, keeping your grocery spending under control can be a challenge. My wife and I had this problem. But we figured out how to save ~$200 per month while still eating well! You can too!

There were three changes we made that allowed us to gain mastery of the food category in our budget.

By the way, I was not willing to sacrifice my tasty dinners for “beans and rice” like a certain other financial guru espouses. Maybe it stems from eating black beans and rice as a kid, but I like my roast chicken and steak. So we really do eat the good stuff, and it’s not as expensive as you think.cut your grocery spending

1. Stopped Shopping at BJ’s Wholesale Club

Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are the most popular bulk foods store in the United States. They are fantastic marketers. They know how to get you to spend money. Have you ever heard someone say, “You can’t leave with less than $250 worth of stuff”?

What they mean is – it’s easy to spend large amounts of money in a single trip. That’s exactly what we were doing. Everything seemed like such a great deal.

I’m sure if you meticulously planned your purchases you could save money by buying in bulk. After all, the unit prices are lower when you buy in bulk – usually.

But what ended up happening was – we bought other items as well – because they were a great deal. And we rationalized it by assuring each other that we would use those items eventually. We regularly spent $250 every two weeks. And we still had some produce and other groceries to buy. We had to spend even more money. When I broke it down, we spent $165 a week on food/groceries.

So we decided to stop shopping at BJs. It was as simple as that.

2. We set a Limit and Used Only Cash For Groceries

This is the only category in our budget where we use cash. This has enabled the grocery shopper in our family (not me – if you were wondering) to have a well-defined limit. If all you can spend is the cash in your pocket, you can’t overspend your budget.

We set a limit of $120 per week. I understand that some may spend more or less, but this has worked well for our family of 5. The point is to not overspend – because you can’t.

I will admit – It was a struggle until we implemented the third change.grocery carts

3. We Eat the Same 7 Meals for Dinner Every Week

This is meal planning – once. I used to hate meal planning. When I was a kid, my Mom would sit us down, and ask for meal suggestions for the next two weeks. We knew if we didn’t offer any we’d end up with black beans and rice or bananza barley casserole, so we racked our brains to come up with tasty meals. We usually only came up with five or six, and had to eat the other meals anyway. And the meals we did suggest? They were usually the same every meal planning session. Spaghetti was often mentioned. And hamburgers . . . everyone seems to love hamburgers.

Some of you may not be able to this, but just go through the exercise. Think through all the meals that you eat for dinner. How many of them do you “love”? We’re talking about the ones that you can’t wait to go home and eat, not the meals that are just filler or ho-hum.

If you honestly think about it, there’s probably only five or six meals that you make that you really love to eat. Start making only those meals. You don’t really like the other ones anyway.

We eat the same meal now every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. And on Sundays I get my steak or roast chicken.

Implementing a change like this allows the grocery shopping to be much simpler. My wife almost doesn’t even need a grocery list anymore. She buys the same ingredients every week. This has allowed our budget of $120 per week to stay reasonable.

Conclusions

If you’re keeping track – Our grocery spending went from $165/week to $120/week. A savings of $45/week!! This equates to ~$200 per month. And for my money, we still eat well. It’s been a win-win!

Our grocery spending has become more predictable and certainly under control. You can do this too. If you plan the meals in your family, why not try to make the same meal on Mondays and see if anyone even notices. You’ll save money, and still eat well!

What do you think? Could you eat the same 7 meals every week? What do you do to control your grocery spending?

Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading and sharing.

-Chris

Author

Chris is the original Cash Dad. He's a father of 3 and a mechanical engineer by trade.

6 Comments

  1. We use cash for our grocery budget as that is also the only way we have been able to put a hard limit on how much we spend.

    As far as eating the same 7 meals… you may be onto something there.

    • Chris Reply

      Cash is IMO the easiest way to limit your spending. There’s just something about handing over bills vs a card.
      And we’ve been doing the 7 meals for over a year now and it’s been great!? Thanks for the comment.

  2. This past year I got into food prepping big time! (We are talking 30-40 freezer meals at a time). I was a little overboard at first, then learned what my family and I would like to eat from frozen, vs. what we should prep Sunday for the week. I’m big on leftovers, perfectly happy eating the same meal 7 days in a row. My family = not so much. So, my lunches are taken care of eating the same thing every day, and then we try and make an effort to make a night meal that will serve as their lunch the next day, and go from there. Crock pot is frequently used!

    • Chris Reply

      That’s great. Meal planning always seemed to be too much of a hassle for my wife and I. Crock pot meals are great though. One of our 7 meals is a crock pot meal.
      Thanks for stopping by. ?

  3. Dear Chris,

    We often eat meals that resemble the meals from the week before but I’ve never actually thought of PLANNING it that way. I always just have certain staples on hand so that I can make our favourite meals when dinner time comes. Lately, I’ve found that deciding what to have for dinner takes up a fair amount of my mental brain power during the day and it’s weighing on me.

    Since reading this post, I’m going to pick our 5 favourite meals (allowing two days for leftovers). Then, depending on our schedule, I’m going to look at our calendar and plan our meals a week early. Then, I know what’s for dinner before I even wake up in the morning.

    Thanks for the idea.

    Besos Sarah.

    • Chris Reply

      Great! Chalk one up in “I don’t have to worry about that” column. It’s worked famously for us.
      Thanks for the comment and for stopping by. ?

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