My guess is that most of you who clicked on this are spending too much on your groceries every month; am I right? We have 3 kids who eat like adults and two health conscious, food loving parents. The amount of food we eat is the only thing more astounding than the amount it costs us. We also have made a decision to eat sustainably & local when possible. We get all of our meat from a local meat share and shop at farmers markets and Whole Foods Market primarily.
We recently decided to try our hand in monthly grocery shopping to see how it would affect our budget. After a few conversations and posts on Instagram, I’ve had numerous requests to share our success in monthly grocery shopping. We are in month three and it has saved us, on average, just over 30% monthly.
Here is the thing though… it isn’t the monthly grocery shopping routine alone that has reduced our bill. Sure, loosely planning meals for the month and going less frequently accounts for a portion of this huge savings. However, what really changed our bottom line number substantially was reverse engineering the budget.
Let me walk you through my process. But before I do, I need to clarify, everyone’s budget is different and that’s ok. Also, the types of foods we eat and where we get them is what works for us, it’s not right or wrong, better or worse. I’m not claiming this is where or how everyone should shop. We choose not to sacrifice on certain things but you may save even more than we do, depending on where you live or shop. If this is something that speaks to you, read on… I assure you it will change your perspective on your grocery spending.
So, when I decided to try my hand at shopping monthly, I planned a month of meals and then guesstimated what the spend for the month would total. Let’s say, for average’s sake, it came out to $900 a month. This was way more than I wanted to spend. I scratched my head wondering why the, let’s say $600 goal budget, was getting crushed month after month. I had thoughtfully planned meals and they were simple but healthy. When we kept spending way more than I wanted, and close to that $900 I had estimated, I did a little math (total academic nerd at heart here) to figure it where I was going wrong.
Let’s assume a month has 30 days & we have 5 people in our family. Since at least one kid, on any given day, may eat a little less and my husband or I may eat a little more, I’m assuming it averages out to 5 people for which I need to budget.
Then how many meals per person? Well, on a typical day we eat 3 meals and 2 snacks. We may eat more one day or less, but this is a solid average. I’m going to assume that the 2 snacks daily each cost equivalent to 1/2 a meal. This means 3 meals + 1/2 +1/2 =4 total “meals” per person, per day for which to budget.
5 people*4 “meals”=20 meals per day * 30 days= 600 “meals” per month. Are you following me?
Ok, ready to see why we always blow our budget?
If I am trying to spend $600 a month. That means I can spend $1 per meal slot above. In other words, per person, I can spend $1 Breakfast, $0.50 AM Snack, $1 Lunch, $0.50 PM Snack, $1 Dinner Per day. $4 per day, per person.
How many meals did you plan that cost $1 a person? There are plenty of healthy, nutrient-based meals that fall in this range, even with the best quality ingredients, but there are plenty that are not. Additionally, when you only drink fair trade coffee that costs $14 per week or seltzer that costs $10 per week, your daily spend is reduced that much more.
Here is another example… do you ever buy Annie’s, Kraft or another boxed macaroni and cheese for your kids as a simple and cheap option? I had planned, when going through this process, to have 2 boxes on hand for emergencies. They cost $3 usually at Whole Foods. For us, our kids finish a whole box and still need a veggie side with it. We tend to add frozen peas, serve with a salad or roasted broccoli. Let’s assume I spend $1 on organic broccoli for them + $3 box of macaroni & cheese. That’s $4 for the meal… for 3 of them and my husband and I still haven’t eaten. To stay on our budget, he and I would have $1 to pay for a whole meal. Convenience foods, meat and snack foods for the kids tend to absolutely crush a budget when you really break it down.
In conclusion, I’m a big believer in monthly grocery shopping. I will outline that exact process soon but I wanted to get you thinking about what you are planning to make and why that may be why you can’t feasibly spend what you hope to each month.
In order to have a very successful go at this, I rewrote our month of meals to those that were least expensive but still nutritious. It was doable, but the things I thought were cheap to make weren’t always in line with our goal budget.
There you have the first half of why we now spend 30% less on our grocery bills… we backtracked and looked at what we could actually spend in order to hit the budget. You may want to change your budget if you have that option, or change your staple meals and snacks if you don’t have wiggle room in your budget. Either way, don’t assume you can’t spend smarter and not sacrifice quality.