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Monday, September 28, 2009

{Ask Me Anything} Grocery Budget

I figured it was a good week to cover this frequently-asked-question since I just made a large shopping trip.

The most common question related to my grocery spending is:

"Do you have a grocery budget?"

I have received a lot of mixed responses from readers regarding my grocery spending. Some flat-out criticize me for spending more than $XX amount a week, some have told me that my grocery "deals" aren't thrifty enough for their liking, but overall I get a lot of support from moms, who like me, focus on a healthy kind of frugal. (Sorry, I'm not interested in living off of Pop-Tarts. I'm not saying I never eat "junk" but it's more of a dessert.)

I think the important thing to remember is to do what works best for your family. There once was a time when I had no self-control in a grocery store and would spend $150 easily. I had no menu plan, I didn't use coupons, I went in without a list (gasp!). I began with a weekly grocery budget to get it under control and, once my mentality changed so did our grocery bills. Now I am very reserved and budget-minded when I am in the store. I still aim for quality but it needs to be thrifty, too.

I don't have a set amount that I spend every week. I do, however, tend to spend anywhere from $35 - $70 a week depending on what's on sale and what we have going on for the week. Some weeks I don't shop at all. Some weeks I make a couple of small trips. It varies with our family, but I don't set any strict guidelines for myself. I know that I'm not careless with my spending so I don't really "control" it. Does that make sense?

I don't like to limit myself to a set amount for several reasons:
  1. We don't eat out. Maybe once every 2-3 months.
  2. We have get togethers where I need to make things for crowds.
  3. We like to eat a lot of produce (good amount of organic), which is usually a hit or miss in the store.
  4. I know I can still feed my family healthy meals for less than $70 a week, which I feel is a responsible amount for a family who doesn't eat out.
When I plan my grocery trips, I always begin with what produce is on sale, especially the organic stuff. (I plan my meals around this.) If the Arizona heat has blessed us with something growing in our garden, we'll count that in. If we grab some goods at the Farmer's market, we'll plan around that. But I never walk in to a store with an envelope of $40 in spend. I know a lot of families who do this and I think it's a great idea if you are training your brain and starting to budget. Again, it just doesn't work for me.

I do my best to buy organic because that's what's important to us, but I am getting a bit more flexible if there is a noticeable discrepancy in the cost. If, for example, organic grapes are only .10 more a lb. then I will go ahead with organic. If, though, it is twice as much then I will likely go with the non-organic version or I will skip it altogether. (Follow this guide for which foods are most important to buy organic.) I do, however, buy organic milk and mostly cage-free, grain fed eggs which tend to be a lot higher. There are a few other items that are staples for us that are usually higher because of the quality and we're OK with that.

Again, the important thing to remember is to do what works best for your family. If that means creating a budget of $XX amount to spend every week, then stick to it. I do believe that you can eat healthy and still be frugal -- even if you do splurge on the occasional sweet treat or slightly overspend one week.

So, I guess the not-so-simple is "No." I don't have an actual budget -- if I spend $30, I'm fine. If I spend $60, I'm good. If I know we are eating healthy foods and I'm doing my best to be thrifty about my purchases, then I just shop.


Do you have a question about couponing, shopping, saving, meal planning, homeschooling, or even about me? No matter how big, small, or trivial it seems, someone else probably has the same question, so ask away! As long as it's respectful, I'm an open book so "Ask Me {almost} Anything!"

Just drop me a line and I'll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.


  1. What region of the US do you live in? I am in California and a weekly food budget of $70 seems so low.

  2. Becky, I live in AZ. CA is a bit higher with their prices, so I would definitely be paying more if I lived there for sure. I know when we had friends visiting from CA they were saying that the prices are much cheaper here.

    The best bests are to shop the sales, match with coupons, eat less meat and stockpile as much as you can that way you never have to pay full price!