Is Your Monthly Grocery Budget Too High? 6 Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Is Your Grocery Budget Too High?

While some readers may be more concerned with figuring out ways to increase average return on investments in their 401(k) or 403(b), or finding ways to increase their income so they can pad their emergency fund, the truth of the matter is that many of us need to start at ground zero: learning how to save money and spend what we have wisely.

I’ve run into a myriad of situations where a family’s grocery budget is extremely out of whack, and furthermore, is the main culprit as to why they struggle making ends-meet on a monthly basis.

While a monthly grocery budget will vary widely based on income and family size, I’d estimate that it can cost a family anywhere between $200 and $1,000/month to put food on the table and ease the appetite of the gorillas dressed in teenager costumes.

So, if you feel your grocery budget is way too high or if you need to save more money on groceries, implement these 6 easy tips.

6 Ways to Save on Groceries

1. Cut the Snacks

I was a growing kid once-upon-a-time; you know, one of those gorillas dressed up in a teenager’s costume that ate their single mother out of house and home. I played sports, burnt thousands of calories a day, and grew like a weed to 6’4″ tall.

Sure, I needed to eat (a lot of) food, but it doesn’t justify all of the crap that I really put into my body. The sodas, chips, pickles, pieces of block cheese, and other food that my mom bought to “hold me over until dinner” weren’t really necessary.

The truth is that people eat from anxiety, boredom, and sometimes merely out of lack of discipline. While there is nothing wrong with a little snack food, the more you have stocked up in the house, the more that’s going to be eaten.

Cut back on how much extra food you buy and be amazed at how well the family manages. If they burn through the 3 bag of chips before the weeks out: tough cookies.

2. Plan a Menu

We personally were able to save $100/month simply by getting organized and creating a weekly meal plan. Unfortunately this takes discipline, effort, and a time commitment. Understanding this, my wife and I will get together on Saturday or Sunday morning, look at our calendars, and create a menu accordingly.

By creating a meal plan and a grocery list accordingly, you ensure yourself of buying only what you need. Going grocery shopping with a list is a great way to save money and shop on a budget! It helps you avoid roaming down isles (like so many of the people I see) and randomly picking up anything that may look good.

If you struggle with allocating time or creating a full-blown menu, use a service like eMeals. They charge you $5/month and create a weekly meal plan for you with an associated grocery list. How sweet is that? No, I do not get paid anything for promoting them.

3. Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market

Here in Kansas City we’re fortunate to have a few local farmer’s markets along with a HUGE one downtown. My wife and I love to browse the selection at the downtown market and see the harvest that the 60+ vendors have brought out for the day.

We’ve found that you can save money on nearly every vegetable (and most fruits) imaginable by shopping at the farmer’s market! I’d estimate that we save $20 a month on our grocery budget.

4. Clip Those Coupons

We’re not big on coupons, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a great way to save money on your monthly grocery budget. With all of the newspaper ads and coupons at sites like,,, and, you can easily knock a few dollars off your grocery budget.

5. Buy Store Brand Products

This is particularly where my wife and I save the bacon. Between creating a menu, having a grocery list that matches that menu, and buying store brands, we’ve been able to keep our grocery budget at a very affordable level despite eating mostly fresh foods.

Store brands have gotten WAY better over the years and I personally can’t tell a difference in taste between the store brand and name brand (for most foods).

If you’ve yet to switch to the store brands, start saving some money and get your monthly grocery budget in check by saving at least $20-50/month. Del Monte is just not worth that much to me.

6. Cut the Meat

Our friends often wonder how we’re able to grocery shop while buying mostly organic, fresh food for under $250/month (for 2 of us). I acknowledge that we could spend less on groceries, but our goal of our grocery budget isn’t to save as much money as possible, it is to eat as healthy as possible while maintaining a budget.

The way we’ve been able to go about that is by eliminating meat. A few months back we tried to start the China Study diet (basically going vegetarian), but we failed miserably. The problem wasn’t our menu and grocery shopping, the challenge came with fast food and visiting/hanging out with friends and family.

Regardless, cutting meat out of your meals or limiting it to a once a week “treat” is a great way to save A LOT of money on your monthly grocery budget (especially if you have gorillas dressed in teenager costumes).

Do you give much thought to your grocery budget or to meal planning? When you grocery shop, is it without a plan or have you worked on ways to save money?

About the Author

By , on Oct 5, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of

How to Become Rich e-Course

Budgeting 101


  1. Scott says:

    Hey I am totally on board with the menu planning. We recently started using “The Fresh 20”. It’s a paid subscription, but we found a Groupon and paid $20 for a whole year. Each week you get menus, prep instructions, and an itemized shopping. It helps us stay on our budget and we’re eating healthier.

  2. Great tips! I started buying store brand products when I bought my house to save money. I really couldn’t tell the difference, so I kept doing it.

    I’d make breakfast for dinner a few times too which helped me avoid buying meat, which as you’ve said is a costlier item.

  3. Whereas I am able to cut down on eating out, entertainment and other trimmable expenses, I find my grocery budget is the hardest thing to trim down on. I do buy store brands, visit the local farmer’s market to get fresh produce and meal plan whenever I can. I don’t use coupons because in Canada, they just don’t seem to be readily available. I’m almost hunting and pecking for them and a lot of the times, the products don’t apply to me.

    I find although I am a petite female, I eat quite a lot, mostly due to the fact that I work out a lot. Thus, I buy a lot of food. My day job is physical too and often long days, so I pack a lot of snacks. I’ve been trying to eat less meat, but sometimes I just crave meat! lol

  4. “Gorillas dressed in teenage costumes” … I love it.

    To save money on meat, we’ve been purchasing 1/4 or 1/2 cows from a local grass fed beef company. (We end up freezing it and using it as needed) The meat is organic and superb, and we also save some $$ in the process.

  5. Michelle says:

    I know exactly what you’re talking about with the gorilla in a teen costume! I have an 11-year-old boy costume that my little gorilla wears. That kid can put some food away. Of course, I’ve always been the same way…and I’m not 6’4…just had a quick metabolism as a kid. Good thing too, because I ate a TON! My son always thinks he’s hungry, and since he’s not overweight and he is a growing boy, I always let him eat something when he says he’s “starving” but maybe we should work on helping him with his choices when he’s so famished in between meals. I’m thinking that when he destroys an entire $2.50-$3 bag of chips, it’s probably not as cost-effective as if he would have just eaten a little more of the home-cooked meal I made for dinner.

  6. Andy Hough says:

    In my current situation, I eat out almost all the time and hardly buy any groceries. Hopefully, that will change in the next couple of months and I’ll be buying more groceries than restaurant food. Back when I did mainly grocery shop I used many of the strategies as you to keep my bill low.

  7. I definitely need to start planning a menu for weekly meals. I usually just go to the store and buy what I think we need. I usually end up buying things that we never use or I need to go back to the store to buy something else mid-week. I’ve recently started using lists, which are really helpful. They help to keep me on track.

    I’ve definitely going to check out Emeals, that looks really good and helpful, thanks!

  8. Coupons, coupons, coupons, you don’t have to modify your daily menu in order to cut back the budget. Coupons are wonderful and there’s always someone outthere who has your preferred product on special. Take a little effort but well worth the savings.

  9. I’d like to add: expand your soup recipes! We’ve reduced our weekly spending to about $90 so far but this week we made a huge pot of really awesome soup (with bacon) and it lasted for 2 and a half days. For variety, we mixed dinners up with different salads and baked bread and it was awesome! The soup itself had very basic ingredients like cabbage, carrots etc.. so it was very cheap. We must have “used up” no more than $40 this week (leftover groceries will be used next week). Soups are da bomb, make em ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. John says:

    Looks like I’m guilty of all but the first one – snacks. I’ve been thinking of reigning in my grocery spending but as a bachelor that loves food it sure is tough. Planning meals is my first step cause when I do that and cook at home my spending does go down.

  11. BUT STORE BRAND CEREAL < NAME BRAND! Other than that, I completely agree. We're rockin' eMeals, and Michelle clips coupons and such. Our grocery budget is definitely a place that has cost a lot in the past, but now it fits snugly in our budget ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Good suggestions Andy. One of my mantras is that the most expensive food is wasted food, which fits with your Plan a Menu. I think it’s also helpful, to the extent possible with our busy lives, for the same person to do most of the grocery shopping. One quickly learns what’s really a good price. An amateur is easily suckered by something at a “sale” price that’s routinely priced lower at the other neighborhood market. One other I’ll throw in, is try to avoid processed stuff and instead cook from scratch. Again, a challenge for busy families, but cooking from scratch is always cheaper and, more importantly, healthier (unless you add a half-stick of butter to everything!).

  13. Planning out your weekly menu can really help save on the cost of food that you really don’t need. I will admit that we don’t plan. We just like to fix whatever we are in the mood for that day. Big thanks for mentioning my coupon website ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Andy says:

      I didn’t know you owned that site until a few weeks ago! It’s pretty awesome how popular it is; great job with that!

  14. Just don’t go to the store. Since I’ve been playing the grocery game at Canadian Budget Binder, I only go every 12-14 days as opposed to 5-7 like I used to. I can’t get out under $50 ever, but if I don’t go as much it’s auto savings. We have also learned to clean out what we have. We used to eat what we liked. Now we have to get a litte more creative.

    • Andy says:

      Hmmm…this is an interesting theory and I’m not sure I buy it. Just because you go to the store less often doesn’t mean you’re buying less groceries. Regardless of the trips you make to the market, you still have 3 meals/day and 7 days/week, therefore 21 meals to buy food for. Maybe if you don’t go as often then you cut down on the crap you buy (the stuff that isn’t necessary or on your list)…but we’ve been able to get around that simply by being disciplined with our eating and when we go shopping (and sticking to our list).

      This theory is like the people that try to “hurt the oil companies” by organizing an event where TONS of people don’t buy gas on one day. Well, just because you didn’t buy gas on Monday doesn’t mean you need any less gas for the week/month…so the oil companies know you’re going to come on Tuesday to fill up regardless. They didn’t lose any money in the process.

  15. Great post. I love store brands…we save a boatload with them, and in most instances, the quality is equal to name brands.

    We have done a rethink about buying meat….we buy more not less, and better quality too. The savings for that shows up in eating out less frequently for about a third of what we would pay at a restaurant (for 3).

    • Andy says:

      That’s a very good point, Thad! If you go to restaurants to eat meat, then buying it yourself and cooking it at home is a great way to save! We don’t eat meat very often (at home or at restaurants) so it’s something we’re able to save even more on! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Michelle says:

    Meal planning definitely helps! We do this every week. While our food spending is still a little high, it is somethin that we are working on.

    • Andy says:

      If your grocery budget is too high it’s likely due to too much meat or too much eating out. Cut those things back and you’re likely to save a lot of money.

  17. What people forget is that finding ways to save more money is like giving yourself a raise! The further you can stretch the money you are already making, the less you have to rely on returns:)

    Our weekly menu is always very flexible. If you are willing to eat store brands and what is on sale, you can save thousands of dollars a year!

    • Andy says:

      Our weekly menu isn’t very flexible simply because all of the fresh produce we buy. We also haven’t done very well at sticking to our menu as of late either because we’ve been so busy. ๐Ÿ™‚ Time to get back on board!

  18. I didn’t realize you lived in KC Andy, we’re in Omaha. Great tips by the way, we use many of them. We strictly stick to our budget and nomrally has a nice amount left over at the end of the month, which allows us to pad our grocery savings.

    • Andy says:

      Creating a grocery budget is a great part, but it’s often difficult for some to set one or even understand how much they SHOULD be spending each month on their groceries.

  19. These are great tips which I practice myself. I would just like to add another tip. Make a list and make sure what you put on the list are things that you need. Write down how much you need after inspecting your supply. That way you never end up with too much supply of something that could perish. Also, if you have a list and stick to it, you avoid grabbing things in the grocery that you’re not sure you need.

    • Andy says:

      Thanks for mentioning that, CD. I did talk about creating a list specifically designed around the menu within the post, which I think it what you’re trying to say. After making that list though, you should compare it to your inventory and make sure you’re not buying something you already have.

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