If you are trying to lower your budget, you need to get familiar with three expenses: housing, transportation and food. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spends 63% of all budget expenditures on those three costs. Here at My Family Finances, I’ll help you to lower all three, but today we are going to focus on simple habits that will lower your grocery bill.
The average family spent $6,129 in 2010 on the grocery store and eating out. Monthly, that works out to a food budget of $510.75 and a monthly grocery bill of $302. By no means are these high numbers, especially since the average family was calculated at 2.5 persons and those numbers work out to each person eating for $6.81/day.
If you want to lower your own family’s grocery spending you are going to need to know the best places to cut.
Spend 10 Minutes Grabbing Coupons Online
Couponing is no longer about sitting with a newspaper and scissors while you spend hours building a coupon collection that you’ll later struggle to navigate. These days, you can get the Red Plum insert by going to their home page. It takes seconds to review and print.
A quick inquiry at a search engine also brings useful results. Thanks to the internet, you can spend 10 minutes before you shop, saving a few dollars.
Know What Meals Cost the Most
It’s not just about how expensive it costs to make the meal. It’s also about serving size. Homemade pizza doesn’t seem expensive until you add up all the costs and realize that it doesn’t make for many portions.
One of the most expensive meals my wife and I make is homemade spaghetti sauce. Yet although we spend about $20 to make it, it serves about 25 people. Per serving, it’s one of the tastiest, least expensive dish we make.
Substitute Without Sacrificing Quality
Quality is in the eye of the beholder. While I could make all kinds of suggestions of substitutions I think don’t lose quality, without a doubt, there would be many people who disagree with me. That’s why I encourage everyone to find their own substitutions.
What are some substitutes that have worked for me? Switching from albacore to chunk lite tuna (saves $.20 per can). Buying a raw roasting chicken instead of a pre-cooked bird (About $1 a pound). We use cottage cheese instead of ricotta in our lasagna (Garfield would be appalled).
Buy in Bulk When It Makes Sense
Oddly, buying in bulk does not always save my family money. For some reason, when my wife buys peanut butter in bulk, our expenses go up. It’s not that she isn’t getting a better unit price. It’s that my family chows down on more peanut butter when there is a full cupboard.
I’ve found buying in bulk can save you money depending on the product. In some cases, having a bigger stash entices even more usage. Also, buying in bulk often results in throwing away spoiled food. You also have to be wary of large membership fees for warehouse stores like Sams Club and BJ’s. This isn’t to say that we don’t save a ton of money buying in bulk, but you have to pay attention to whether certain bulk grocery purchases are actually saving you money.
Our stock of canned tomatoes has saved us several dollars. More recently, we’ve been purchasing bulk vegetables. The move has lowered grocery expenses by several dollars every month.
I could never put all the ways to save money at the grocery store in one article, but these are the steps that have saved my family the most. I hope that they work for your family too.
Get all the financial wisdom of My Family Finances sent to your email daily! Subscribe to My Family Finances by Email
I actually find homemade pizza to be relatively cheap, especially considering the frozen pizza options. I’ve usually got everything on hand for the dough – flour, yeast, salt – and we pick up toppings at the grocery store weekly based on what sounds good. This week it’s green olive and sausage pizza, so we bought diced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, sausage and green olives. So tomatoes: 1.87; olives: 3.50 (a huge jar, several servings worth); sausage: 4.50; cheese: 2.25. So for around $12, we’re going to have a great pizza comparable in price to a frozen California Pizza Kitchen pizza. I think the value in homemade pizza is there, personally.
Thanks for your thoughts Lindsay! I’m glad you brought pizza up, because I’ve found the same thing. In addition to fresh ingredients and lower price, I’ve also found that adding toppings fills you up more so that you don’t need to eat several pies to feed your family.