4 Things I Do to Keep Our Grocery Budget at $200/mo. for a Family of Four

**Finally got our Menu Plan posted…you might enjoy checking it out too!**

When we first got married five years ago we had less than $1,000 cash to our names.  Needless to say, money was tight but we were determined to find a way to get ahead.  It was at that point that my husband suggested a grocery/household budget of something like $100/mo.  I balked and insisted it was impossible.  I didn’t mind being frugal but neither did I feel like eating PB&J sandwiches twice a day!  And besides, I felt like I was already doing my best to try to shop smart and even so our grocery bills were somewhere closer to $200.  And that was just for groceries alone; toiletries and household supplies came out of a different budget category. So we had this little area of tension- him thinking that we shouldn’t need to spend so much on food and me thinking I was doing as good as I could.

It wasn’t until about a year later when I discovered the world of coupons that I really got into trying to keep our grocery budget low.  Suddenly it became a game, a challenge.  I realized that if I got creative I could probably trim our grocery budget significantly.  It took a bit of time and a lot of learning but eventually my husband was wowed by the change in our budget (and probably in my attitude too!).  And to be honest, I was amazed myself.  I was now spending less on grocery, toiletries and household items combined than what I had been before on groceries alone.

Here are a few of the things that I’ve learned that have helped keep our grocery/household/toiletries budget at $200/mo. for a family of four.  (Just for reference sake our family consists of two adults who are pretty big eaters, a 3 1/2 yr. old boy with an appetite as big as mine and a 7 mo. old baby girl who at this point is exclusively breastfed.  If you want to see more specifics of what I purchase check out my weekly spending posts.)

UPDATE: This $200 also includes all toiletries, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, diapers/wipes, paper supplies and any sort of item like that.

1. Choose to do Without
While choosing to do without is not really popular or even always a fun, it honestly is probably one of the biggest ways we save.

Some of the ways we do without are:

  • Vince takes sandwiches in his lunch almost every day to work.  But he has insisted that he doesn’t need both meat and cheese so most days he just has a meat and lettuce sandwich.  At first I felt bad but he really doesn’t mind and the savings of not buying all that cheese does make a difference.
  • Speaking of cheese, we hardly ever eat cheese just by itself.  I use it in cooking but we rarely have it just to eat as a side or snack.  Do we not like cheese?  No, actually we all love cheese!  But it is something we’ve decided to consider a luxury around here to help keep our spending low.
  • Orange juice is a splurge item that I get only when I can buy it for $0.99 or less.   Again, we all love orange juice but it’s not something we need to have and we can easily eat fruit and get our recommended serving that way much cheaper.
  • We don’t buy lots of snack foods.  Talk about a fast way to jack your grocery spending up- this is one of them!  We actually don’t eat many snacks and if we do they tend to be more things like raisins, nuts, fruit or homemade cookies, energy bites and granola bars.  I still buy chips and crackers sometimes if I can get them for a great price but they are not things that we always have on hand.
  • We do several different things to save money on meat.  But one of the big ways that we save is simply by not buying expensive cuts.  In fact I have a maximum buy price of $2.00/lb. for meats (and actually for cheese too) which means that we don’t often eat things like bacon or steaks.  But so far we haven’t suffered and I think we still have a great variety!

One of the side benefits to choosing to do without some things is that you learn to appreciate what you do have even more.  For instance, because our sandwiches typically consist only of meat and lettuce suddenly a sandwich with meat AND cheese becomes a real treat and we enjoy it immensely.  Somehow I think doing without helps us appreciate some of the little things in life more fully.

2. Don’t be Brand Snobs
When I began using coupons I started realizing that I could save a lot if I chose to be open minded about trying brands than I didn’t typically use.  You don’t have to be very smart to figure out that if your usual brand of spaghetti sauce typically costs $0.99 on sale but you can get another brand for just $0.50 using a coupon that you are going to save a bundle!  I’ll be honest, there are still a couple of products that I am a brand snob about but overall I purchase whatever I can get for the least amount of money.

3Cook from Scratch
I grew up in a home where my mom cooked mostly from scratch so I was used to this.  And fortunately I enjoy cooking and baking.  But it was still convenient to buy pre-packaged things to save time.  It didn’t take me long to realize that it also was often a quick way to blow money.

Yes, cooking from scratch might take a bit more time but with a bit of planning ahead I’ve learned that it can be relatively fast too.  One of the things I do that helps save time is to cook up large quantities of ground beef and chicken and then put it in the freezer in smaller portions.  That way whenever I need a pound of ground beef or 2 cups of chicken for a recipe, I’m saved the time of having to cook it up.  I also often make double recipes of a dish and then freeze half of it.  Making twice as much of something doesn’t take much longer at all and when I have an usually busy day it’s so handy to be able to just pull dinner out of my freezer.  I also apply this same principle to baked things like bread, rolls, cookies and biscuits.

And you might be surprised how easy it is to make things like cream soup, Bisquick, Salad Dressing, Shake and Bake and pie crusts from scratch.  It’s probably not as hard or time consuming as you think!

Want to see what kinds of things I cook?  Check out my recipes on my blog or on Pinterest.

4. Have a Price List
This might seem a bit silly but it does really help.  By keeping track of which stores have the lowest prices on certain items I have been able to save a lot.  And it also helps me know when something is a good stock up price too.  Keeping a price list takes a minimal amount of time and effort, but it really does pay off.   If you want more tips check out my post Save Money by Using a Price List!

Learn how to shop for a great meal:

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Obviously grocery budgets will vary greatly and not all of you will be able to spend only $200/mo.  What I do to cut costs might not work for you and what you do I might find to be frustrating.   However I’m convinced that we can all find ways to trim our grocery spending.  We’re at the start of a new month. I encourage you to challenge yourself to find ways to trim just $10 from your grocery spending this month.  Get creative! Think outside the box.  It just might be easier than you think!

Do you think we’re crazy?  What things do you do to cut grocery costs?  I’d love if you would share!

Image credit: Shutterstock- To Buy List with US Dollars

And, for advice on cooking beef or poultry, use our free interactive Roasting Guide. Or search for delicious, healthy recipes for the whole family in our Recipe Finder.

How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget

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Back To The Thrifty Frugal Mom
  1. by Casey Davis

    On May 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I quit my job 17 months ago when my daughter was born. Things have been especially hard financially, but I didn’t realize how much money I have been blowing until really studying our budget lately. With a VERY picky toddler who has an established list of foods that she will eat (including pricey gerber grabbers) I have found it hard to be frugal when it comes to feeding her. I will accept your challenge budget only $200 for the month. Going from about $120 a week should really be exciting. My challenge won’t be so much about how to afford fancy kid treats, but how to make what we can purchase fun and delishious enough to win my daughters approval! -sidenote…I have no stockpile untill you’re counting 9 rolls of toilet paper left over from my last purchase!

  2. by Lydia Beiler

    On May 3, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Casey, wow, you are really up to a challenge aren’t you, what with not having a stockpile and all! Your can-do attitude is awesome and it’s making me smile. I’m anxious to hear how you do and hey, even if you spend $300 you’ll still be doing better than usual! And if you are like me, just being mindful about trying to spend less will help a lot. Best wishes on finding things that will get that daughter eating. :)

  3. by Heather

    On May 7, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I also use salvage grocery stores. The kids love going there too. The prices are cheaper. You just have to check your labels but most things are just fine. I’ve gotten a whole cart of groceries for $45.

  4. by Lydia Beiler

    On May 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Heather, great idea! If you have one of those close I highly recommend shopping at it. There was a bent & dent (as they are called around here) close to where we used to live and I got great deals shopping there (and didn’t even have to worry about coupons!). Unfortunately the closest one is about 1/2 hr. away.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. by Mimi

    On May 8, 2012 at 6:13 am

    A great huge money saver is the bread machine. But use it only on the dough setting to mix and knead and rise and bake your rolls or bread in the oven. You can get 10 kilos of flour at costco for $6.00. You always have fresh bread or rolls for sandwiches. You can make big rolls for beef or turkey burgers or chicken on a bun. You save a ton and don’t have to run out to the bakery or grocery store so much and frees up space in your freezer if you were buying bread in bulk and freezing and bread never freezes very well.

  6. by Lydia Beiler

    On May 8, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Mimi, thanks for sharing! I agree that making your own breads is a great way to save money. I don’t have a bread machine but do have a Bosch mixer which basically just does the kneading like you said. And I’ve found that freezing rolls works pretty good. I just reheat them a bit before I serve them and they taste almost like fresh baked ones. I think many folks think that making your own breads and rolls takes a lot of time but really there are a lot of great simple recipes that don’t take long at all to make.

  7. by maega

    On June 13, 2012 at 8:06 am

    $200.00, I am in awe. We keep organic, with the “dirty” ones and meat. Any thoughts on cutting costs there? It is hard to find coupons when you basically eat veggies and a little meat…

  8. by Lydia Beiler

    On June 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Maega- Thanks for commenting! Obviously eating organic is going to cost a bit more and while I do some organic here and there I don’t do that much. I’ve been thinking of switching to more organic produce especially though and think it is a great idea! We are able to get our beef from a local farmer and it is SO much better than what I used to buy at the store. Just wish I could find a place to get chicken too.

    Anyway, here are a couple of thoughts for you. Did you read my post on saving money on meat? Just things like cutting back on meat can help immensely with it’s expense.

    Also check out my post on coupons for organic items. While they aren’t as plentiful as other coupons, they are there. Just recently Earthbound Farms had a $0.75 coupon good on any produce item. I was able to get a lb. of organic carrots for about $0.50! Oh and another option would be to grow a few of your own plants. We live in the city but I am having fun experimenting with growing a few things in containers. It’s fun and cheap too!

  9. by Jolene

    On July 5, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I sure wish we could do that in Canada! I literally spend hours a week planning shopping lists and menus to spend as little as possible on groceries. I plan each week based on what I can get the cheapest. Unless we ate only stuff like Kraft Dinner it is absolutely impossible to spend less than $600 to $700 a month on groceries for a family of 4. I’m a HUGE cheapskate, I buy the cheapest of everything I possibly can, I actually eat very little myself(one meal, a couple of snacks and coffee is more than enough for me in a day). We eat the cheapest cuts of meat we can get from the cheapest places you can get it, I buy only the cheapest produce(except potatoes, we don’t eat starch or carbs), the only dairy we have is milk for the kids and once in a while cheese. Last month was the cheapest month I’ve had in a long time and it was still over $600, I could only keep it that low because I cooked a turkey I’ve had in the freezer since Easter and it fed us for a week. I cook from scratch, I don’t waste(a turkey doesn’t just feed us turkey, I make broth from the bones and use the bits of meat that come off while making broth in soup).

    I do all the things suggested in this article, and have for years, but it’s so expensive here that all that does is make it possible to spend under $200 a week for a family of 4, definitely not a month :( . Of course I also have 2 teenage boys, not sure what the writer has, but even trying hard to control themselves because they know we don’t have much money, huge growing boys eat more than your average person….and we grow ours very big lol.

    Oh, and coupons up here? Yeah, forget about that unless you eat junk food and processed stuff. Coupons are few and far between and almost never for good stuff. I used to do couponing when we lived in the US for a bit, I could get almost $500 worth for $40 after coupons, up here it’s 50 cents here and there and never anything on meat and produce. I’m definitely jealous of the low food prices and coupons in the US lol, because I know it’s possible to do this down there(of course I wouldn’t get that low myself like I used to because we don’t eat processed stuff anymore).

  10. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 6, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Jolene, yes, I know that it’s harder to save in Canada. Not only are your prices higher, like you said, you don’t have nearly as many coupons.

    It sounds to me like you are doing a great job though and could teach me a few things about being frugal!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  11. by Nicole K

    On July 9, 2012 at 5:07 am

    We live overseas right now, so shopping at our military commissary is definitely the cheapest option. The downside is not being able to shop around. I’m always trying to cut the grocery bill…are there some good sources online for coupons? We really can’t stock up on items either, since British homes are small and not known for having much storage!

  12. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 10, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Nicole, sorry for the slow reply. Yes, there are several main sources for online coupons: Coupons.com, Coupon Network, Smartsource, Redplum.

    You can also often find coupons at the manufacturer’s website as well. Also, I frequently do posts with links to new coupons, so you can watch for those too.

    Hope that helps! Hope you can enjoy your experience living overseas!

  13. by Savannah

    On July 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for this post. We’re also in Canada, though we must be in an area with a lower cost of living than Jolene (we’re in Eastern Ontario) because we don’t need to spend anywhere near that much for our family of 5 (though maybe we have younger kid with smaller appetites.)

    We’ve been trying to save money on groceries lately by eating out of our pantry more, and although we recently had to stock up a bit, it’s been helping! Planning meals by what we already have (even if it’s not our favourite all the time) and by what’s on sale really makes a difference. We also eat a lot of frozen veggies instead of all fresh. I now also am starting to get a few things from the garden.

    One area that we struggle with is snacks..crackers and stuff for the kids. And my husband loves his Pepsi…

    I do cook from scratch most of the time, but I have gotten out of the habit of making bread. Every time I did, it seemed I’d be the only one eating it, and it would end up moldy. I don’t bother with coupons because they’re not worth my time here, trying to find decent ones for things we’d use. It’s cheaper to just buy off-brand stuff instead of using a 50 cent coupon for the name brand.

    Again, thanks for the post!

  14. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 10, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Savannah, yes, eating out of the pantry helps a lot. We’ve been doing that lately too and like you said, it might not always be our favorite food but it sure keeps costs down! And we are still eating plenty good. Good point about the frozen veggies too. They are almost always less expensive and just as healthy….as for your garden, I’m jealous. :) We live in the city and so I don’t have room for much. I did plant a zucchini and pepper plant and am soon going to be able to enjoy them.

    As for the bread, did you ever try freezing it? It does dry it out a bit but we don’t mind it. But maybe it’s not worth it for your family either. Sometimes you have to do what works for you even if it isn’t the most money conscious!

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. by Carissa

    On July 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned price matching yet! A lot of grocery stores are starting to accept competitors prices. I use that almost exclusively on produce and it’s amazing how much I save just by getting cucumbers at .39 instead of .50. It’s also nice because you get a lot of variety if you buy what’s on sale. Thankfully, my Walmart does price matching (and sometimes double coupon Tuesdays!) so I can get most everything in one stop at the lowest price. There are some great websites out there for people just starting out couponing. I love grocerysmarts.com because they also have an app for your phone so I can just mark everything I need and have it available at the cash register without bringing ads or lists!

  16. by Carissa

    On July 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Also, I have tried freezing my bread dough rolls and have trouble getting them to rise after. Do you have a failsafe recipe for dinner rolls you freeze? I’d love to try it

  17. by Julie

    On July 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    If you want bacon, try buying the “Ends and Pieces”. It is much cheaper and is very good bacon. You have to be ok eating some not so normally shaped pieces of bacon, but for the savings we think it is worth it!

  18. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 12, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Carissa, price matching is a great idea! I honestly haven’t done too much of it because I rarely shop at Walmart. (Mainly because I think we honestly have the absolute worst Walmart in the country- shelves that are barely stocked, unfriendly employees, LONG lines at checkout- and I just got tired of it all. Every time I went there I ended up leaving frustrated because they didn’t have some of the things I went for and I spent so much time standing in the checkout line- sometimes as long as 15 min!) But it is an excellent way to save both money and time. And I didn’t know that Walmarts ever do double coupons. Now THAT would tempt me. :)

    I’d love to learn more about money saving apps. Unfortunately I don’t have a smartphone so I’m a bit out of the loop on that. We keep considering getting one but so far the cost hasn’t out-weighted the advantages.

    As for freezing bread. I should have clarified that I freeze already baked bread/rolls. My whole wheat bread get just a tiny bit dried out from freezing it usually but it hasn’t seemed to affect rolls too much. In fact with already baked rolls I often put them frozen in the microwave and warm them and they taste like fresh baked! I know that there are people who have success freezing unbaked dough but I’m with you. Every time I’ve tried it the rolls don’t want to rise. I wish I could figure out a way to make it work!

    Julie- I certainly wouldn’t mind eating abnormally shaped bacon if it’s cheaper! I’ll have to check out your suggestion. Thank you!

  19. by Nisha

    On July 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t have kids, it’s just the two of us at home. I started using coupons since last year when I moved to US, and started using the price match option this year. It feels good to know that in every shopping trip, I save at least 10% of the bill.

    Like you, I buy whatever looks like the cheapest option, unless there’s a certain brand or product I prefer over another. Things that I can buy in bulk that won’t go bad, such as paper towel, is a good saving. I always remember to check expiry dates on food items, that’s where most of the money gets wasted when they get expired sooner that I could use.

    I cook from scratch too but I don’t cook double & freeze meals regularly. I prefer eating fresh & healthy food everyday, but I do make & freeze ginger/garlic/green chili pastes that are $3/8 oz in stores. I make my own fresh plain yogurt at home every day within few cents that’s $3/2 lbs outside. Planning meals also helps me avoid spoilage & wastage of groceries.

    This is a good post & you have a great blog. Thanks for sharing!

  20. by Gwen

    On July 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you for your article! We have been working on trimming our grocery budget as well! One thing I’ve found especially helpful is to make freezer meals. I take one week per month and spend an entire naptime (2-3 hours), making 30 breakfasts & 30 dinners. It brings down our costs to $5 per meal for our family of 5…

    My only question for you is, we are mindful of the processed food that comes into our home because of the food additives like MSG as well as GMO ingredients that can/will have harmful effects on our health. How do you find coupons or sales for fresh produce like tomatoes, for example. I’d rather make our own tomato sauce & salsa than purchase it. Not finding sales or coupons to make grocery items from scratch has been my greatest struggle with couponing. I spend so much time trying to find the best value without a great savings for that time spent. Do you have any tips or suggestions?

  21. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 14, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Nisha, sounds like you’ve picked up the coupon thing fast! One thing about the exp. dates. Did you ever know that many items are still good past their expiration? For many things it’s simply a “best if used by” date.
    And hey as far as the preference to eat fresh food- we all have our preferences and things that we just aren’t willing to give up. Just simply by cooking from scratch and making your own yogurt and pastes you’ll save a bunch. And yes, meal planning helps immensely. It’s something I do some but should do more! Thanks for sharing!

    Gwen, funny how we are all different. Nisha was just commenting about how she dislikes freezer meals and you are saying you love it. :) I have to confess I’m with you but wow, it sounds like I should have you come and give me some lessons. I definitely don’t have a system down that makes me as efficient as what you are!

    I’m with you on the non-processed, healthier foods. I do still buy some “unhealthy” things but keep moving further and further away from them as I’m able. Finding coupons for produce gets tricky. Earthbound Farms has been having some great organic produce coupons lately. (Look at the bottom of the page. The link says save on lettuce but the coupon is good for ANY Earthbound Farms produce.) I don’t know where you shop but I do know that Walmart carries some of their produce and I was able to get a 1 lb. bag of carrots there the other week for less than $1 with the coupon. Sometimes the grocery store I regularly shop at (Giant of Pa.) also offers coupons like $1/$5 of produce which is great. Other than that, the only suggestion I have is to see if you can find a local produce farmer/orchard to purchase things from. I don’t know where you are located and if that is even an option. I’m blessed to live in an area where there are lots of produce farms and orchards (rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) nearby and I’ve found that I can often purchase big baskets of tomatoes, apples, peaches, onions, peppers etc. for MUCH cheaper than I would pay for them at the store or even at a farmers market. We then either eat/use them fresh or I process them and then can or freeze them. I love it because I know what is in my food and also can usually save quite a bit.

    I don’t know if you try to make granola, breads and cook up dried beans or not but again, I’ve found it cheaper to buy things like oatmeal, flour, sugar, beans, and rice in bulk. I know many grocery stores have bulk sections and I’ve heard of people that purchase from LDS storehouses too, so that might be another option.

    Oh and one more thing that might help is to use a price list….it’s saved me an awful lot of headache and might help you save time trying to figure out where to get things for the best price.

    I hope that helps you out at least a bit and please, feel free to ask more questions if something doesn’t make sense! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment!

  22. by michelle

    On July 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Lydia – thanks so much for ideas i hadnt thot about before. and THE cheapest way for vegetables is to have a garden. you can grow tomatoe plants inside an apartment by a window if you don’t have any outside room at all. i’m a lazy impatient gardener and i buy plants every year,plant em and forget them. yes i have to dig around the weeds to get the harvest but it is how i am, LOL! even with going the plant route (which is alot more expensive than seeds) we get our yield anytimes over. i’m lucky that i have property and can an 8×8 (which really isnt a ton of space) garden. but one thing we did while we lived in a subdivision with itty bitty lots in our back yard instead of flowers and bushes we did our flower beds (lining the fence) as our garden (almost all vegetable plants have pretty flowers before they yield). but if u r an apartment dweller most plants can be grown inside in containers as long as they are by a window for sunlight. hope this helps!

  23. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Michelle, yes, you are right. Growing your own is probably the cheapest way to get good veggies. We live in the city and I’ve tried unsuccessfully to grow a couple of different things and only this year am having any success. Thanks for the suggestion and the encouragement to keep at it!

  24. by Kristy

    On July 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I do many of these same
    Things. I also find that just simply planning for
    2 weeks at a time and plannin out our dinner meals we stay under $200 and that includes a beef meal, tilapia, couple of chicken meals, and nice salad meal, and shrimp. We just alternate every grocery trip to have one pricier cut of meat each time instead of two or three expensive meats/meals.

    I dont do coupons and I still stay on budget with a family of four and two growing boys!

  25. by Rachel

    On July 15, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Just a tip, buying blocks of cheese and shredding them yourselves can be cheaper than buying the bagged, even on sale. An 8 oz block of cheese costing $3 or so will shred to about 2.5 cups of cheese, which could cost an extra dollar more if you bought it pre-shredded. Also, we feel it has a nicer taste and texture as it’s not tossed in cornstarch to keep it from sticking. You do have to use it immediately because of that, but we don’t mind and since we buy some of our cheese at bulk foods stores like Costco, we save additionally since for about $6 we get 24-32 oz of cheddar or colby jack cheese.

  26. by Linda

    On July 15, 2012 at 9:55 am

    It’s so interesting to read that you were upset about sandwiches sans cheese! I don’t care for cheese in my sandwich, so I guess I’m lucky!

  27. by Pam

    On July 15, 2012 at 10:18 am

    One way I’ve found to really save a lot on produce is to buy through a co-op. If you live in the western US, the one I participate in is Bountiful Baskets. For $15 I get enough fruit and veggies to last a family of three (one toddler) just over a week. Since we don’t know what exactly we’ll be getting week to week, it is fun to learn how to use new items.
    If you have space, growing a garden helps a lot too-even a potted tomato and some herbs can help cut back a bit.

  28. by Valerie

    On July 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Because we eat mainly organic, are obessional about food quality because we have food allergies/gluten issues, I was afraid of what I was going to read… but no !this is smart advice !
    It wouldn’t be possible here in Western Europe where I spent around 400 euros/month (almost $500) for a family of three (detergents & stuff incl) even if I am careful but not cutting on quality.
    I think more and more people realize or are going to realize that cooking/baking from scratch is the best way to save on money.
    in our household the food budget is the last one we’re trying to reduce though, because quality food is and will always remain the essential. Technology & clothes for instance come first when we talk about budget, however a lot of young people around us tend make different choices…
    Anyway good job, and thank you for sharing

  29. by Jessica

    On July 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Thanks for the ideas. We recently moved to a new state for a new job. Well its been hard for us to stay on a budget. The best thing I found was a local lady that sells fruits and veggies for extremely cheap. I mean the last time I went to her, I paid $6 for tomatoes, cantaloupe, cucumber, onions and much more. Our other way we try to save money is our local farmers market. They even sell frozen fresh whole chickens and fresh eggs along with every type of veggie. Hopefully with your tips we can cut our budget down even more.

  30. by candice

    On July 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Until recently i have just grabbed what i needed and left, shopping with four kids really makes you want to get it and go. I was in walmart the other day and the cashier said “i saved you quite a bit on your pork chops” (i knew about the price matching but had never had anyone automatically do it for me),i asked “how much did they ring up?” she said $3.58, i know my mouth dropped because the original price was $11.58. Needless to say i always check the competitors adds before i shop now, it’s so easy so there is no reason not to do it. I kick myself for not doing it before. :)

  31. by Jacque

    On July 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I have been known to write my grocery list in the order I walk through a store. I find this keeps me from forgetting something and having to go back. Subsequently I don’t impulse shop as badly. I also limit my grocery shopping to every two weeks to limit the temptation. Finally, I have discovered the hard way that if I grocery shop while hungry I Always come home with unnecessary goodies.

  32. by Mab

    On July 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Honestly I don’t see what’s so special about this. You are just cutting stuff out. I’d've more impressed if it were something different. I want to know that I can save & still be able to enjoy the foods we enjoy. I have a family of 5 & I save a lot by shopping at Walmart & buying stuff in bulk at sams & Costco for stuff we eat a lot of. I use cupons & price match when I can –i also buy store brands, many times they taste better than the actual brand. but I’m not going to starve my family to save a few bucks.

  33. by Dawn

    On July 17, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Definetly no fresh market or whole foods !lol

  34. by Bettie

    On July 17, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Where do you find meat for less than $2/lb???? Even hamburger at Walmart here is $3.99 a lb. Chicken isn’t much cheaper. We buy when it is on sale and I usually buy hamburger in bulk at costco and split it into 1 lb segments then freeze but even that isn’t much cheaper than $3/lb. We go a lot of nights without meat because it’s so expensive.

  35. by Mendy

    On July 17, 2012 at 9:01 am

    One thing I do is to buy generic. This doesn’t always save $ if you have coupons but it definitely helps! I also shop at ALDI which may not be in every town but it is a lifesaver! Their produce is amazing and really inexpensive. If you have one close, I recommend checking it out! While I do not spend $200 a month, I am striving to find ways to spend as little as possible. Plus, I have a family of 5 with me being the only female! Great tips though.

  36. by Nikki

    On July 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    You are certainly braver than I am! I don’t think I could live without cheese, but being a vegetarian, I probably need it anyway. ALDIS is a great low cost store, if you have one near you. Also, check out Crazy Coupon Lady’s website.. Her coupon database alone is worth checking out. Farmer’s markets are always a good option too.
    I spend nearly $600/month, but feed 2 adults and 6 kids (2 and older).

  37. by Bridgett

    On July 17, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    This is perhaps the most moronic blog post I have ever read in my life. No, I take that back this is the dumbest collection of words I have ever read from left to right which allegedly formed a semblance and or collection of paragraphs. “Choose to go without”. Really, thank you captain obvious and Ms. “boycott cheese”. Are you serious? No shit. Like all of us with an education higher than 6th grade haven’t figured out that a steady diet of ramen noodles vs. filet mingon or the like would save us a dime or two. “Don’t be a brand snob”. I have to take this moment to thanks you for enlightening me about the wonders of generic brand foodstuffs. I have a family of five and I thought for a moment when I started to read this that there would be something that would actually help me. Rest assured if I spent $200.00 a month for groceries, not only would my family be eating macaroni and cheese with wieners…but we would have to polish off the box as well and perhaps use them to wipe our asses as well. You’re an idiot….

  38. by Lynne

    On July 17, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I have 4 daughters 7 and under, a dog, a husband and my grocery bill is in the $800 and that includes all paper products, formula, diapers, wipes. It’s sooo much money – this week I had $130 cash I went to our Food Lion and got everything I could mind you we will be eating spaghetti, salads, soups, and eating from our garden. I won’t need to shop for another week :)

  39. by raye

    On July 18, 2012 at 2:58 am

    Wow, for my family of 6, two adults, n 4 boys, I spend 700 monthly on groceries. I don’t do coupons cuz the generic brand is usually cheaper then buying brand with coupons. I do lots of bulk shopping at Sams club n price match at Wal mart. I do check weekly ads n will shop at Safeway using my club card. Fortunately my family has a farm that we grow veggies that we freeze, dry n can that last til next season. the one thing I don’t do is the “do without” tho. Meat is something we don’t do without, especially hvn 5 males in the house. But we do our best n $700 is our monthly limit n it works. I just wish I could find fresh veggies coupons in the winter tho, would be great.

  40. by Leslie

    On July 18, 2012 at 7:20 am

    This is great! I often feel like people are looking at me in the store b/c I’ve got my detailed list and calculator out. It’s so good to see more and more people seeing that you don’t have to spend lots of money on food (most of which we shouldn’t eat anyways!)

  41. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 18, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Kristy- Great idea! And you’re doing a great at keeping your budget low too!

    Rachel- Yes, you are right- unfortunately I dislike shredding cheese and so that is one area I splurge in.

    Linda- Funny how we are all different! Like I said at the end of my post. We each have to find what works for us.

    Pam- I don’t have much experience with co-ops but from what I know they are typically a great way to save. I’m experimenting a little with container gardening this year. Hoping to save at least a little.

    Valerie- You are welcome! The important thing is that you do what works for you while using your money wisely.

    Jessica- Yes, I love buying produce from local farmers. I save a lot that way! All the best on trimming that budget!

    Candace- Wow, what a nice cashier! I haven’t done price matching much at all but I plan to give a whirl today.

    Jacque- Good ideas! Thanks for sharing!

    Mab- Thanks for sharing your opinion. I said in my post that doing without is NOT popular but it is an easy way that we choose to save. And we definitely aren’t starving. In fact we eat very well- better than we did when we were first married and I didn’t coupon or get creative about saving.

    Bettie- You asked about saving on meat. I did a whole post on the subject and you might find that helpful. As for how I find meat for $2/lb. or less. I do this a couple of ways. For one, when I’m getting low on meat each week I peruse all the store ads in my area and watch for meat sales. If I do this I can almost always eventually find meat for $2 or less a lb. It often comes in larger packs but I just separate it into smaller portions and then freeze it. We also don’t eat lots of expensive cuts of meat. We eat a lot of chicken, ground beef, some roasts, ham, sausage and sometimes bacon. I also try to watch for meat coupons to get bacon and sausage esp. cheaper. Here’s an ad for a store in my area this week that I can get ham and chicken legs and boneless, skinless chicken breast for $2/lb. or less. Hope that helps!

    Mendy- Yes, I LOVE Aldi and definitely recommend them! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Nikki- Oh, we don’t live without cheese, we just don’t eat it all the time. Actually I use it a lot in cooking and we do enjoy it occasionally by itself too. Sounds like you do well at keeping your budget pretty low while feeding that family of yours! Way to go!

    Bridget- Thank you for sharing your opinion. I’m sorry that you found the post to be of no help to you. I did want to point out that I didn’t say that by being brand snobs you were to buy generic brand items but that you were willing to purchase another brand of a product IF it was cheaper…and often that is simply another name brand. In fact, I rarely purchase generics. Blessings as you continue to strive to use money wisely!

    Lynne- Love how you got creative in saving! Great job!!

    Raye- Actually, I can often get brand items for quite a bit cheaper than generic items by using coupons. The trick is combining the coupons with sales. But if you don’t want to do that then just buying generic is a good option. Envious of your home grown veggies! Maybe some day I’ll have more space to do that!

    Leslie- Yes, I know the feeling of people looking at you oddly because you are using a calculator! :) And ditto to the “most of which we shouldn’t eat anyways!”. Thanks for the encouragement!

  42. by Leslie W

    On July 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Um, if I had a child who was exclusively breastfed, it would cut my budget a ton. Actually, you are feeding 2 people and 1 small child. Maybe you need to re-title your blog. When you can feed 2 adults, a 10 year old and an 11 year old for $200 a month, then maybe, just maybe, there will be some credibility.

  43. by Annie

    On July 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Sorry, but this is just not realistic for people who live in states where the cost is incredibly high. Finding meat here under $3 a pound is difficult. Hamburger runs at $2.99. Chicken? $2.50 – $4 per pound, even whole. Vegetables? Frozen is cheaper.

    Also, coupons are only viable options for people who live in areas where they are accepted, where they are given, and where they are capable of being used in bunches.

    What you should have suggested was growing your own vegetables (something you can do whether you have a yard, patio, balcony, or window), making your own cleaning supplies such as laundry detergent, visiting farmers markets where the produce is always cheaper and fresher because, while this works for you, for the majority of the country, it’ll simply become a lesson in futility.

  44. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 18, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Leslie, thanks for your comment. Actually I don’t say this but my grocery budget includes all cosmetics, toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers (and my son still uses them at night too, so it’s not just for the baby) and the like. So does that give more credibility?

  45. by Marissa

    On July 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Just once I would love to read a savings article written by mother’s of teenagers. In addition to feeding my own 2 children there may be 4-6 additional teenage stomachs to fill at any one time.

  46. by Danielle

    On July 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    We get multiple news papers to get multiple coupon inserts each week. Then we use them when the item is on sale using the website grocerysmarts.com

  47. by Katie

    On July 19, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Sorry for all the complainers who stopped by here. You’re just sharing what has worked for your family. Some people save money by cutting out certain items, other people find different places to scrimp. Since we choose to buy high quality meat (pasture fed, no hormones), one area of savings is to use 3/4 lb for every 1lb that a recipe calls for. This way I can get 5 servings for the price of 4 and we don’t really notice the slight difference.

  48. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 19, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Marissa, no I don’t have teenagers but the principles I wrote about apply to anyone. Did you see my comment at the end of the post? Here it is: Obviously grocery budgets will vary greatly and not all of you will be able to spend only $200/mo. What I do to cut costs might not work for you and what you do I might find to be frustrating. However I’m convinced that we can all find ways to trim our grocery spending. We’re at the start of a new month I encourage you to challenge yourself to find ways to trim just $10 from your grocery spending this month. Get creative! Think outside the box. It just might be easier than you think!

    Danielle, yes, that is a great way to save! Aren’t coupons awesome?

    Katie, thanks for your kind words! I think some people forget what politeness is. :) Yes, I shared what has worked for us and even said that at the end of my post. I love your creative way of saving on meat! I do some organic meat but haven’t switched over totally. We love meat but I’ve always been surprised at how most of the time we don’t think about it if I cut back a bit on it in recipes. Have you ever tried swapping out beans for some of the meat. I’ve done this in Mexican dishes and some we actually liked better that way.

  49. by Deborah

    On July 20, 2012 at 12:22 am

    I like the teenager comment. We have a family of 5 including 3 teenage boys who eat as much as they play baseball and football. I have been able to take a few evenings a couple times a month and make snack foods that they like and put them in the freezer–burritos, breakfast pockets, granola, lots of chopped veggies (I do have a large garden)to name a few. They like being able to grab something quick and since I don’t keep chips and junk in the house I’ve got to replace it with something. My weekly bill is way over $200 but thats OK when I know I am teaching them healthy food habits. 1 of the boys even helps me cook the stuff I freeze for them:)

    I do appreciate the pointers though. I do alot of those things and the boys help me, so I know they are learning also.

  50. by Deborah

    On July 20, 2012 at 12:24 am

    OOPS–I mean my MONTHLY bill!! LOL

  51. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 20, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Deborah, yes, no doubt my bill would be over $200 if I had teenagers too! I love your idea of taking a couple of evenings a month and making them good, wholesome snack food. I bet in the long run you actually save money because it’s more filling and healthier. And way to have them help and learn. I love it! Thanks for sharing!

  52. by Daniel

    On July 22, 2012 at 11:45 am

    One thing we do in our household is keep a veggie garden, I’m not sure if anyone mentioned it yet? If you live in a home with a yard, it can save you even more in your grocery bills, and the food is minutes fresh (instead of days or weeks), the nutrient factor is much better too. Even if your ground is not workable like ours isn’t, it only cost about $150 to build 2- 4×8 garden boxes, which includes the cost of dirt. If you want to be even cheaper with your materials you can use an old bed frame. My wife is by no means a green thumb, all it takes is a little smart plant layout and some watering every now and then.

  53. by Chantel

    On July 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I live with my boyfriend we have a dog and a cat
    And I was noticing that we were spending an insane
    Amount of money on food and we were wasting so
    Much of

  54. by Shane

    On July 23, 2012 at 2:30 am

    $200 a month w/ coupons, sounds like a lot of packaged foods and/or lots of meatless meals. That’s all I ever see coupons for when it comes to food. We shop on the ends of the store and we don’t eat processed foods. It’s great to save all you can but this stuff is going in your body and your kids bodies. Food is not where I try to cut costs other than shopping the weekly flyers

  55. by Heather

    On July 23, 2012 at 7:05 am

    With a family of four (9 & 11 yr old boys), we spend more than triple this $200. I’m not brand specific, but I am QUALITY specific, and I don’t see how it’s possible to spend $200 a month if quality, nutritious food is your focus, not just cheap food.

    I won’t buy foods with hydrogenated oils, artificial dyes, sodium benzoate, nitrates, BHT, BHA, or TBHQ in the ingredients. All of those ingredients cause health problems, so it’s a pay now or pay later mentality to me. I can get cheap food, but what health issues will I pay for later? Heart disease (hydrogenated oils)? Cancer (nitrates)? And who knows what health issues those dyes and petroleum-based preservatives cause, but they cause behavioral issues for my kids, something the UK has long recognized but the US refuses to.

    My grocery cart is pretty empty until I hit dairy and produce, and I’ve yet to find frequent coupons for fresh fruits and veggies and quality dairy products (i.e. yogurt that’s *real* yogurt – just milk and live cultures without all of the unneeded additivies.)

  56. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 23, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Daniel, yes, vegetable gardens are a great way to save! Sounds like you are a pro at figuring out how to make it work! Bet you save a lot! We live in the city and while we do have a small yard we prefer to keep it as yard so that our children have a place to play. I did plant zucchini in one corner though and also a pepper plant in a pot. They are doing pretty good and I’d like to try to do more next year. We have a flower bed bedside the house that I think I’m going to make into a veggie garden.

    Chantel, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Shane, first of all, thank you for being polite in your criticism! I agree with you that it is important to be careful about what you eat. I’m convinced that it affects our health more than we know! Actually though, we don’t eat a lot of packaged food. I make almost all of our food from scratch. Yes, we might eat the occasional packaged food- things like Saltines, flour tortilla, salsa and the occasional cold cereal, chips or hot dogs. But most things I make myself or we just don’t eat. In fact I make our bread, granola, yogurt, homemade Bisquick, pickles, cookies, many of our snacks and more. And we typically do only 1 meatless meal a week. One thing I don’t mention here that does save me a lot is the fact that I can and freeze a lot of veggies and fruit. I buy it in bulk amounts and then preserve it. That helps save us a lot of money!

    As for coupons only being for packaged food- that is a very common misconception. I just bought organic carrots at Walmart for just $0.37/lb. thanks to coupons! And if you purchase things like toothpaste, soap, razors, trash bags, toilet paper, cheese, sour cream, and bacon then you could be saving lots with coupons. I always or often can get those things for great prices and sometimes free by combining coupons and sales. The key is to find a money saving blog that does coupon match-ups for the store you shop at and to also be willing to get things like toothpaste and cosmetics at drug stores. Feel free to take a look at my weekly spending summaries for detailed posts about my weekly purchases.

    All the best to in using your money wisely!

  57. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 23, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Heather, thanks for sharing. As I said at the end of my blog post:

    Obviously grocery budgets will vary greatly and not all of you will be able to spend only $200/mo. What I do to cut costs might not work for you and what you do I might find to be frustrating. However I’m convinced that we can all find ways to trim our grocery spending. We’re at the start of a new month I encourage you to challenge yourself to find ways to trim just $10 from your grocery spending this month. Get creative! Think outside the box. It just might be easier than you think!

    As for the yogurt, have you considered making your own? It’s easy and really yummy too!

    All the best as you save in ways that work well for you and your family!

  58. by Heather

    On July 23, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Yes, I have tried making our own yogurt. And I have looked over some of your weekly purchases. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I see this trend repeatedly in grocery saving blog posts. The amount of fresh vegetables and fruits is seriously lacking in the pictures I see in these type blog posts. I think it misleads the public in what you can realistically spend AND each family member get somewhat of their daily fruit and veggie requirements.

    Each family makes a personal choice over nutrition and how that’s defined, so to those their own, I suppose. I still think it’s misleading and can skew the public’s idea of what healthy eating realistically means when only one or two fruits/veggies are pictured as a weekly food purchase.

  59. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Heather, I don’t feel like you were disrespectful at all. In fact you were very kind in both of your comments while still maintaining your opinion. Thank you for that!

    I actually agree with you in that a lot of money saving blogs do seem push the processed foods and don’t show many fruits and veggies. And I can see how you think it misleads the public and doesn’t help promote healthy eating habits. I suppose one of the risks of doing a blog like this is just that. People who just drop by don’t see the whole picture of what you purchase or promote. In fact, we eat lots of fruits and veggies but I probably haven’t done a good job of showing that.

    Here’s why you don’t see many fruits and veggies in my weekly spending posts. I buy a lot of my fresh produce at our local farmers market or local road side stands and use cash to pay for that. So instead of showing pictures of those purchases I often just list the money under Misc. and explain that the money will be used for fresh fruit and veggies. I also buy large quantities of blueberries, peaches, pears, peas, green beans, strawberries, and corn and either freeze or can them to eat through out the year. I sometimes will freeze peppers too and use them on pizzas and the like. This saves us a lot of money and esp. when I freeze the item maintains it’s nutrients. I also purchase large quantities of apples that I make into applesauce and tomatoes that I make into tomato juice, pasta sauce and even salsa sometimes. Last year I froze/canned 3 bushels peaches, 300 ears corn, 35 qt. green beans, 40 lb. blueberries, 6 bu. apples, 2 bu. tomatoes, 75 qt. strawberries etc. I really like this too because I know where most of these come from and I know what I am putting in them when I preserve them.

    Hope that helps you understand why you don’t see more fruits and veggies in my pictures. We eat a fair bit of fresh fruits and veggies and eat lots of frozen and canned but I obviously need to do better at conveying that. Thank you for pointing that out! Going forward I will try to do better at posting pictures of our fresh fruits and veggies and sharing more about my canning and freezing too.

  60. by Marie

    On July 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Soemthing thats really helpful. We have a budget thats about 80- 100 dollars a week. Not including diapers and stuff. just food. I have an App. thats called OUt of milk. its a grocery list/pantry list and todo list. ITs awesome you can keep track of the prices as you shop around. Keep check of your pantry and move things around with ease. Best thing is that you can know how much you are going to spend before you get to the store. its makes budgeting a breeze. I know its for the android.

  61. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Marie, that app sounds like it would be really useful! I keep debating about switching to a smartphone but so far haven’t been able to justify it. I know there are a lot of money saving apps available though. And if and when I do switch I want to check this one out. Thanks!

  62. by Megan

    On July 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Great advice! I can not believe a couple of the very ugly comments I have seen on here. The small things you mentioned are what makes a difference and often people just don’t think about it. I love coupons and they do make a huge difference and we do not spend a lot of time hunting bargains or cutting coupons, it feels great to save money! I also wanted to share a couple of things we do to save even more. We use cloth diapers, now before you say gross I was not aware of how amazing cloth diapers are, I pictured the old safety pinned diapers and that is not the case. I love the cloth diapers (bumgenius are my favorite) and if you are diapering a little one you should definitely look into it. We also make our own laundry detergent, it works better than the name brand stuff we were spending $15+ on every couple weeks. We now spend maybe $11 every 4-5 months! All natural and environmentally friendly tips.

  63. by Trimming the Fat | YourModernMommy

    On July 26, 2012 at 10:57 am

    [...] $200 to feed a family of four challenge! I saw a post this morning and it talked about feeding a family of four on $200 a month. It includes diapers and [...]

  64. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 27, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Megan- Sounds like you are a great money-saver! :) I know cloth diapers are supposed to save a lot of money, but for some reason, I just cannot bring myself to use them! Maybe one of these days I’ll get brave enough to try them. We also live in an area where we have to pay for our water and I’d have to often dry them in the dryer so I’ve wondered if I’d actually save that much. And homemade detergent is huge savings!

  65. by Lorie Ann

    On July 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Another way to help cut your weekly grocery bill is to have 2 meatless meals a week! We have pasta 1x a week and either burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, or in the winter soups.

    I spend about $100 a week on groceries. I cant get it any lower. $10 of that is water for my son. He is medically fragile amd is on a special formula that has to be mixed with sterile water.

    It alao helps to hit up your farmers market and buy what is in season :)

  66. by lorie ann

    On July 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Also could you please post a weekly meal plan? Curious to see what $40-50 a week offers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  67. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 28, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Lorie Ann, yes, meatless meals are great budget slashers! And I know some people say their farmer’s markets are pricy, but I get some great produce for great prices at ours.

    As for the meal plan…I’ll consider it. I confess that I don’t often plan my meals out ahead of time. It’s one of those things that I do for a while and then I let go. But maybe I can still do something to help you see what we eat. We really do eat a lot of variety but we don’t mind casseroles so we eat a fair bit of them. I also can and freeze veggies and fruit which lowers my expenses.

    It sounds like you are mindful of your spending and please don’t feel like $100/wk. is too much! Areas vary widely in food prices, people have different food tastes, some moms simply have absolutely no time to make bread, yogurt etc. I offer my weekly spending summaries and this post as a way to encourage you to be mindful of what you spend. Not to say, if you are spending more than I am, you are spending too much!

    Thanks for your input and blessings as you care for your family and consider how you spend your money!

  68. by Kendall

    On July 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Really? You are not going to save that much money by not eating cheese, and really??? Why don’t you just give up salt and sugar and meat. Why don’t you just eat carrots and lettuce. Why not??? There is fine line between trying to save money and forgetting to enjoy the small things, like cheese.

  69. by Kayla

    On July 28, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Hey all!
    There are a bunch of thrift stores out there such as Price Busters/Dollar store/Dollar Tree where you can buy generic brand of Gerber’s Graduates and other delicious snack foods that are actually shockingly good for a good price too. I’ve noticed that grocery stores such as Cub foods with a card/points program saves you a decent amount on top of coupons (usually, check store policies first! Don’t be that person…)Also keeping tabs on coupons for in season produce will save you lots.
    Going to a farmers market and buying in bulk will usually warrant you a lower price, especially if you establish a good rapport with the farmer. I also buy bread in bulk and freeze it. Never be afraid to check out your local bakery and offer to buy bread at the end of the day before they throw it out. Do not underestimate the power of having a kind sparkly personality when looking for discounts. It will get you so far, and never ever forget to thoroughly thank people for helping you out. They will remember you and it will likely become a regular thing as well as make good friends in the process. Networking ftw ;)
    Invest in good storage tupperware/bags and set the fridge temp around 36 degrees to prevent spoiling for longer.

  70. by Lauren

    On July 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Great ideas! I am impressed that you are able to save so much on groceries. I am a couponer, and I wanted to say that although they are rare, there are sometimes coupons for meat and produce. One good place to check is the Whole Foods website where you can print coupons. There is also a monthly book of coupons at the service desk (this is true for a lot of grocery stores).
    One way I save a lot on meat and produce is by going to “ethnic” grocery stores. For example, there is a mexican grocery store a few blocks away and they regularly have tomatoes, onions, and peppers(many varieties) for 3-4 lbs/$1. It is also the cheapest place to go for herbs, both dried and fresh. The meat is very good there as well, the cuts are a little different, but everything is very fresh and cheap!

  71. by Celine McIlveene

    On July 30, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I’m amazed that not many are willing to supplement their food budgets with a small garden. Anyone can do this and get so much food in return. There is something you can plant in a flowerbed or in a container on the porch or back steps. Children love making things grow and you will too. I started a garden many years ago on my second story apartment balcony and had tomatoes,peppers,onions,cucumbers. Now I have a large garden plot that feeds our extended family and I have learned to put up this bounty by using the Internet for instruction. My pantry is impressive and it is doable to anyone. It takes organization and planning. $200 dollars a month is still a great goal and attainable to many .Lydia, thanks for sharing your passion for savings with all of us.

  72. by Christine

    On July 31, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Really? You spend more wasted time clipping coupons and buy stuff you don’t need than what you really save. My husband gets coupons. Yea, we save some, but most of the time the coupon are for things we don’t usually buy and never for meat which is the biggest $$$$ of our grocery bill. We just bought meat on sale but still cost us $25. Coupon clipping is a full-time job and I already have a full-time job I don’t need another and I’m going to school. So, really? I’m all for saving money, but I don’t need to spend all my free time searching for coupons and buy stuff I don’t need or my family won’t eat.

    I like the making from scratch it’s so much better than store bought.

  73. by Kimberly Primeau

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    My 19 yr old daughter and I spend about 150-170 per month on all household, hygiene, and grocery items.(1)If we don’t need it we don’t buy it.(2)Check reduced meats first for any cuts 2.00 per lb or cheaper. (3)NO MEAT OVER 2.00 and since many meats in “family” sizes are cheaper we break them up in meal size portions and freeze(4)Purchase 10 lb bags of chicken leg quarters no more than 6.50 per bag [again break up into meal size portions and freeze] (5) Buy very low priced sale items in bulk [no need to buy them again soon] (6)Eat what is on sale (7) Frozen veggies can be measured out in exact serving sizes. No waste and cheaper in the long run. (8) Turn leftovers into casseroles (9)ALWAYS check prices of items we always use. I started buying one brand of tissue cause it was cheaper. A month later it was way more expensive.(10) Can tomatoes in the summer purchased for $10 a box. Canned whole tomatoes can be chopped for salads or sliced for sandwiches. I also can salsa,tomato sauce and paste.(11) GENERIC! (12) Reuse and re-purpose milk jugs, plastic bags, freezer bags, foil, tooth brushes for cleaning tools, etc. Freeze leftover cornbread for cornbread dressing later.A freezer, if you don’t already have one, is a great investment. Freeze bread “ends” for bread crumbs later.Always drain and retain broths, gravies, and sauces. [ex. If you cook veggies on the stove freeze the flavored drippings to make soups later. Only use powdered milk to cook, made up as you need it. CROCKPOT and season dry beans instead of buying cans. Mash pintos for re-fried beans; kidney beans for red beans and rice or chili etc.; EGGS- Inexpensive PROTEIN STAPLE replacement for meats. Make waffles and pancakes toaster size from scratch and freeze. Buy roll sausage only, freeze it slightly cut into patties and freeze. We know hunters and can often get venison. If marinated in beef soup base after soaking in ice water in the fridge for 2 days it can taste just like beef. Peppers and herbs can be grown in a small pot on a counter top. Pop your own popcorn on the stove. We don’t buy paper towels or plates. Plenty of junk paper comes in the mail for doing windows and mirrors.And two plates to wash is much cheaper than buying paper ones. Utilize Baking soda for all its properties. Antacid, tooth paste, carpet deodorizer, added to cheap laundry soap for a better fresher clean, etc. We will splurge a couple times a month with a pizza (Little Ceaser’s $5 Hot-n-Ready) or take out. We can afford to now. But I will NEVER give up my Dawn dish soap! LOL Nothing like it! Hope some of this helps someone.

  74. by Amber

    On August 1, 2012 at 11:57 am

    If you use kroger and have a card you can load coupons onto you card! Saves time hunting for coupons and messing with expired ones, and you can just print your list of coupons from the site

  75. by Michelle

    On August 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    I make my own laundry soap to save on the cost. A box of Borax, Washing soap are only a few dollars each and felz naphtha soap is only $1 a bar so I can make 2 1/2 gallons for about $1.50. We also don’t really use paper towels because they are expensive and wasteful when a washcloth or towel would work just as well.

  76. by Meaghan

    On August 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    I’m currently a family of one unless you count my two fur babies who only need about $7 worth of cat food a month. I started shopping weekly based on a menu rather than monthly a year ago because I realized I was wasting so much money eating out because I didn’t want to eat any of the food in my house! I’m not much of a coupon shopper because I don’t have ready access to a big paper with coupon inserts in it but I do look at the circular for a local grocery chain online to see if they have any items on my shopping list for the week. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing the price list. I can keep most of the regular foods I buy in my head but it wouldn’t hurt to have it written down somewhere so I can know for sure when I check the online circular.

    I’m hoping to have enough money next month to get a stand mixer so I can start making my own bread. I eat more bread during the school year because I’m a teacher. I’ve also been wondering if buying a roasted chicken (on sale) or a whole chicken to roast myself and then freezing some of it and keeping some for sandwiches would be cheaper than buying a $3 container of lunch meat once a week that’s loaded with sodium and preservatives.

  77. by Amy

    On August 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Aldi’s is very cheap (owned by same guys that own Trader Joe’s). No coupons needed. We also grow veggies and trade w/friends and family. Freeze veggies, so you can eat in the winter. I don’t skimp on anything and spend $220/month for a family of 4 (more like 5 with a preteen).

  78. by Leah

    On August 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I buy a good portion of our toiletries and cleaning supplies online at sites like (Referral Code: TED594), (Referral Code: LEAH1981), and . A lot of sites have great deals, including free shipping.

  79. by Danielle

    On August 5, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Great article!! My husband and I were usually spending anywhere from $800-$1000/month in food, including any Yale out. We would do a weekly grocery of $150, but be at the grocery store 3-4 times a week getting ingredients for specific meals at a cost of $20-$40 a pop!!! I went on mat leave in February when our second son was born (#1 is 8 years old now). We had to cut back our spending to account for the reduced income. We live in Canada, so I’m off for a year, BUT we are lucky enough to live in a border town – Walmart Supercenter and BJ’s are about 15 minutes from us in New York state. The one thing that saved us was getting a whiteboard calendar and sticking it up on the freezer and making a monthly meal plan. I inventoried our freezer and cupboard and went from there. We buy most of our meat once every 2 months at Costcol – chicken, sausages, beef loin, and pork loin. It’s about $80, but lasts us about 2 months. Our weekly bill is now $75-$85!!! Because of the meal plan, I always know what we need for meals, so no more skipping out to the store in between grocery shopping days. My husband also takes leftovers or sandwiches every day to work. Our dinners include pizza night every Friday, but we buy two frozen pizzas for ten dollars instead of spending $30 in Yale out, and we still get a treat! Every meal has veggies, either salad or a prepared vegetable. I buy the cold, day old rotisserie chickens once a week, and make chicken ceased salad, chicken quesadillas, or chicken salad sandwiches…etc, then throw the carcass in the slow cooker with onions, carrots, and celery to make stock to make rice and soups. Also, to save money and still be able to splurge on desserts, we buy cake mixes on sale for a dollar and make them when we crave something sweet! The only thing we buy in Canada is pop and water, because we don’t charge a deposit per bottle an usually have lower costs. I Loved your post!! :)

  80. by Jessica

    On August 5, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Just curious but where do you get the money to buy so much fruit in bulk in a $200 budget.

    You said last year you froze these items: “3 bushels peaches, 300 ears corn, 35 qt. green beans, 40 lb. blueberries, 6 bu. apples, 2 bu. tomatoes, 75 qt. strawberries” Taking the absolute cheapest prices I can imagine for these items the total would be around $450 (and that’s being really, really generous with pricing assuming you’re almost getting a wholesale type of rate) And that doesn’t take into count how much you would spend on supplies to freeze that amount of food.

    That’s more than 2 months of your entire budget. Even if you assume that stretched these bulk purchases over four months you would’ve only had around $85 for everything else you needed in a month. No offense, but that doesn’t make sense to me. If you pair that up with the fact that I never see meat that cheap, I just don’t know how this idea is even a little possible.

    Also, do you increase your budget for holidays? I know I easily spend double my grocery budget at Thanksgiving and Christmas both because of cooking those meals and because we give cookies and treats as gifts.

  81. by Maria S.

    On August 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Hi. I shop at costco where I get a big bag of organic carrots for 5.49 and organic spinach large plastic container for 4.00. Then go to whole foods to get cage free eggs 2.39 (cheaper than Walmart) and almond milk 2.99 almond breeze brand (cheaper than Walmart). Whole food brand cheese is 1.99 the small pack and I freeze it for later. When I need it I take it out and shave it it saves time shredding it. I buy 2 whole chickens one organic and the other grass fed. I skin it and boil it with celery onion, celery, garlic and sea salt fill the pot with water. Once it’s done I de-bone the chicken and fill ithe pot back up with water and celery, garlic and onion and s salt to boil the bones for about 8 hours on a very slow rolling boil and it makes a very nutritious calcium drink. It is loaded with other good nutrients for digestion. Look up bonebroth on the website. I only get ‘clean’ list fruit but only get a couple of kinds per week. I will possibly get one watermelon and peaches only. Next week I might get apples and oranges only, etc. I juice each night in case they don’t eat their veggies. I don’t buy juices, sodas, snacks etc bc they are too expensive. I buy cereal from the kind you pour your own bag from whole foods. I get coconut oil bc you can cook, bake, and also take it by itself. Coconut oil is a healthy fat so it’s good brain food. I buy hemalayan salt from costco, it’s healthy and a
    So has added vitamins. I buy organic turkey bacon and cut it up into tiny little strips to scramble it with eggs each morning. I make a pot of beans and rice each week for sides . Maybe also make mashed potatoes. I am on a budget and also have 5 kids. 2 girls (one out of the house) and 3 man eating boys plus one husband. I don’t buy anything extra but we do take the boys out to eat on the weekend. Nowadays there is too many chemicals in foods. You can’t even buy corn tortillas without Red40 and Yellow food coloring and other strange chemicals, it’s ridiculous. I buy whole foods brand (365) on the shower gel and shampoo (2.99 each). I make our own deodorant! Look up on the website: mommypotamus.com and she will tell you how. I buy organic goat milk fresh from the farm. It’s delicious and the kids just drink it. Buy it freeze it or drink it right away. I make pancake mix from scratch and use the goat milk in it. Thanks for all of your ideas, they are helpful.

  82. by Teri

    On August 6, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Thank you for the tips! I think they will be very useful :)

  83. by Lydia Beiler

    On August 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Whew! Life has been busy and I’ve just not had the time to keep up with all these comments. But here goes…

    Kayla- Great ideas! Love the networking idea and yes, “sparkly” personalities go a long way in helping strike a deal. And we love our Tupperware too!

    Lauren- Thanks for the Whole Foods tips. Wish we had one of them around here! Several people have suggested the ethnic grocery store idea. I really need to try that once life slows downa bit. I’m curious what I’d find.

    Celine- Thanks for your kind words! And yes, gardening saves a LOT of money. Wish I could hear more about how you grew those things on your balcony. I just started experimenting with growing some things in pots this year and want to try more next year.

    Christine- I definitely don’t agree that coupon clipping is a full time job. At most it takes a couple of hours a week. And also, there actually are coupons for meat- not as many but they are out there. It is obviously up to you how you use your time and money. If you choose to not use coupons, then you’ll just have to pay more. I have found it well worth my time to use coupons! The savings have been amazing and we honestly do not eat much processed foods at all. And yes, things from scratch taste so much better! Thanks for commenting!

    Kimberly- I’m super impressed! You obviously are a true money saver. Maybe you should start your own blog. :) I’m tucking away a lot of your ideas to use when I can. Thanks so much for taking the time to share them!

    Amber- Yes, coupons loaded to store cards are AWESOME! Have you checked out Saving Star?

    Michelle- Good ideas! I know lots of people have had great success with homemade laundry detergent. We have really hard water and I used it for a while but finally switched back to bought. And yes, rags are awesome!

    Meaghan- Congratulations on saving for a stand mixer!! We love our homemade bread and I know you will love being able to make yours too. The roasted chicken thing sounds like a great way to save. You could even make chicken salad from it.

    Amy- Impressive budgeting! :) And thanks for agreeing with me that $200 can indeed feed a family of 4! Oh and we love Aldi too!

    Danielle- What an amazing difference in your budget! Way to go!! Your attitude of deciding to do what it takes to make it work is impressive. I love your meal plan idea. I confess that I don’t really meal plan. I’ve tried it several times but just don’t stick with it. However, I have enough of a stockpile of groceries (bought inexpensively when they were on sale etc.) that I just figure out what I’m going to make for dinner with what I have on hand, so I guess it’s a similar principle.

    And I’ve run out of time…the baby is awake and needs attention. :) I will try to respond to the rest of you tomorrow!

  84. by Monica

    On August 7, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Lydia, just wanted to let you know I love your column and think you’re doing a great job. I’m a mother of a 9 month old, so mainly I am buying for my husband & I, plus diapers and baby food for the little one. We live in one of the most expensive areas of the country. Some of your pointers help me, some don’t work for me, and others just inspire me. We are already doing a lot of what your family does, but your column at least gives me an idea here and there, and a sneak peek into how someone else is saving. Also, if you ever find a smart phone deal that is worth it, please let us know as we’re in the dark ages on that one, too. :) Thanks for encouraging your readers!

  85. by Marie B.

    On August 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Loved this post and I hope to start saving money with some of your ideas! Yesterday, I actually made my own powder detergent and it was easy and inexpensive! Plus, the clothes were brighter than normal! Go figure! I can hardly wait to share my ‘discovery’ with others! Thanks for sharing!

  86. by jane

    On August 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    to the canadians. would it pay to drive to buffolo and stock up every few months? good luck

  87. by Janelle

    On August 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I know a few mentioned buying bulk. I would really watch that, sometimes you’re paying more! If you look at the price tags in Walmart, for instance, it breaks down how much you’re paying per ounce (example). I went to buy a bigger jar of honey and it was $0.02 more per ounce! I was shocked. And after wondering how that could be, my only conclusion, packaging.
    Good article. I am gluten free though (allergy), groceries for cheap is really tough. I rarely buy gluten free foods and mainly cook from scratch. And I have always found, the healthier you eat, the more you pay. Which stinks. I hate the thought that people can’t afford healthy food.

  88. by Lydia Beiler

    On August 8, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Jessica- You can check out my weekly spending summaries to see just what all I purchase and also my monthly spending summaries too. Basically I try to not spend all of my monthly budget each month. Over time I’ve been able to build up a stockpile of basic things that we use and so I can wait until prices hit rock bottom before I buy many items. This has saved me a lot of money. I also am blessed to live in an area that has great prices on produce and fruit. After living here 5 yrs. I’ve slowly learned where the cheapest prices are and buy most of my things directly from the farmer or orchard. Again this saves LOTS of money. If you keep following my weekly and monthly spending summaries this summer you’ll read more about what I pay etc. As for supplies to freeze that amount of food…I’m guessing you were talking freezer bags, which I hardly use. I use freezer boxes
    , an investment I made the first year we were married. Each year I have to buy a few more but the expense is minimal since you can reuse them.

    So yes, it does probably take up about 2 month of my budgeted amount of money. But I try to stay under budget in the spring and winter which gives me extra space. In fact, right now I’m under budget $107 for the year. (Look at my monthly spending summary.) As for the meat, again, maybe I live in an area that has meat cheaper than what your area does, but I’m guessing if you watch you might be surprised- at least from what I’ve read from other bloggers. In order to get meat for that price I typically do a quick ad scan of all the grocery stores in the area. When I see chicken, ham, or beef for a great price I’ll stock up and put most of it in my freezer. Just last week I would have been able to get bacon ends, boneless, skinless chicken breast, and pre-made ham loaf all for well under $2.00/lb. This week isn’t as good. All I see are various kinds of pork for right around $2/lb. Again, watch my weekly spending…you’ll see that it is possible.

    And no, I don’t increase our budget for the holidays. Again, I try to plan ahead for those expenses. For instance, if I know that I’ll be hosting family over Christmas I watch for ham on sale ahead of time and then freeze it. Although I admit, usually my mom or mother-in-law does most of the hosting for our families. I typically take some food to help out and sometimes we might have some family stay with us over the holidays so there is extra food there but it’s not like I’m making several meals for 30 people. That would make a difference and I maybe would have to increase my budget a bit then. I’m with you in liking to make cookies and some candy and snacks too for us to enjoy and to share with others. So for those I try to stock up on butter (which freezes nicely), peanut butter, chocolate chips, and anything else that I know I’ll use a couple of months ahead if possible. This saves me from having to purchase those things at regular price.

    I hope that makes sense and answers some of your questions!

    Maria S.- I love how you are finding the lowest prices possible and making organic, healthy foods work for your budget. I do as much of that as possible and hope to continue to make more of those changes to organic, healthy things.

    Teri- You are welcome!

    Monica- Thanks for your encouragement! I like how said, “Some of your pointers help me, some don’t work for me, and others just inspire me.” I think you got the gist of what I was saying- take what you can, ignore what you can’t do, and find ways to save that work for you! And I’ll try to post if I find a good smartphone deal! :) Actually, someone told me Walmart has a good plan but I haven’t had time to check into it.

    Maria B.- Yay! Glad the homemade laundry soap worked out. Isn’t it fun to make your own stuff, especially if you know it’s saving you money too? I always feel so domestic and frugal. :)

    Jane- I suppose if they are not too far away from Buffalo or another American city that just might not be a bad idea. I have relatives that live about 2 hrs. from the American border and they make a shopping trip occasionally to the border for clothes because it is that much cheaper for them.

  89. by Hannah

    On August 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I don’t know if someone has said this already, but something that I have grown up with as a tried and true method for saving is making a HUGE pot of soup. My mother took care of my brother and I all year round with a ton of soup for not too much money. Usually it was sandwiches during lunch and then a hearty and filling soup for dinner. AMAZING! Soup can be made with any ingredients and can be a very good way to spread out the produce you have. It is healthy and easy to heat up during the week. If you supplement soup for one meal a day or in addition to something small every day it can keep you full, give you the vitamins you need to sustain a heavy work schedule, and really help you with budgeting. Then you don’t even have to plan one of your meals every day! (That and Stratta… eggs, milk and any ingredients you can think of).

  90. by Julie

    On August 9, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I was going to read through all the comments after I read your post, but when they started getting so mean-spirited, I had to stop. Honestly, I don’t see how you can read that hateful drivel! Why don’t people just read and move on if it doesn’t fall into their “posting guidelines”? Sheesh…
    Anyways, you go, Lydia, and keep up the good work and ignore the ignoramuses! You seem like a level-headed, can-do kind of woman who is trying her best. Good for you!

  91. by Caitlin

    On August 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Have you ever tried buying meat wholesale? We actually raise and sell pigs for butcher for $150. Depending on the size of the pig butchering price can be $200-$350, a little costly for a one time payment but it lasts a long time , feeds my family of 3 for 14 months, and when compared to store prices is MUCH cheaper, and healthier, there are no dyes to make it pinker, no CO2 or nitrogen injected into it for “tenderness” they arent feed lotted and pumped full of steroids hormones of antibiotics just good old pork that has the most wonderful taste as its organic. You can buy cows the same way and they feed for a lot longer than that. They are quite a bit more expensive than a pig but you get all kinds of cuts-the butcher will ask you how you want it so there is no compromising on quality for price. I found myself complaining the other day because all we have in the freezer right now is steak: round, sirloin, rib etc. but we are very fortunate that we have all the space for our cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and my gigantic garden-its nice to know we will never do without in the meat department. Meat is one of the most expensive things to buy at the grocery store, and the quality is nothing compared to getting it farm fresh-you will never go back to store bought after you’ve had the real thing. I’d suggest getting in touch with a local rancher, that way you know where your food is coming from and you get a great deal on good food for your family.

  92. by Shawna Trimmell

    On August 11, 2012 at 12:53 am

    There is a website called la.com/grocerydeals. It’s lists all the grocery stores in this area and shows what their deals & prices are and tell you what things to stick up on. It even shows you what coupons to pair with the sales to get it for the best price. I also do all my grocery shopping at Walmart because they do price matching. Since I started using this website and price matching and coupons I have increased my savings each week. I’m now up to about $40 in savings per week! It sure feels great to save money!

  93. by Amy Lyn Thompson

    On August 11, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    I’d like to hear more about how you do this savings with providing quality ingredients following the dirty dozen rule? I’ve tried cutting coupons, but frankly, they’re for crap no human should consume; HFCS, processed, overly sugared GMO foods. I can’t sacrifice quality and health over cost for my kids.
    I admit to not having time to stock up around sales, but a how-to would be great.

  94. by Billie

    On August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I find it quite hard to find cuts of meat for less than $2.00 per pound. It is very difficult to find anything other than whole chicken or chicken legs/thighs for less that $2.00 per pound. Our 73/27 ground beef here is over that!!

  95. by Nicole

    On August 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Buying your fruits and vegetables at your local farmer’s market is a lot cheaper also. Plus the fruit and vegetables aren’t damaged, so therefore there is more of a nutritional value when eating them. There are many coupon sites that will post daily deals on items. Ask friends for their unwanted coupons.

  96. by Des

    On August 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Which grocery stores do you recommend shopping at, frys, Bashas, safeway, walmart, etc? I never know which place is cheaper overall.

  97. by Sarah Daniels

    On August 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I enjoyed reading your article. I just wanted to point out that some of your ideas are also good for losing weight and staying healthy. Not only do you save by cutting out unnecessary food, you also learn to go without all of those snacks!
    On that note, I am currently working on an article to combine staying healthy, weight loss, and saving money into an easy to follow system.

  98. by Renee M.

    On August 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I think I’d rather be an inmate than to live at your house…. “here kids, is your slice of toilet paper for the day”….”Save some of this pickle slice for tomorrow!!”

  99. by Christan

    On August 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks for this post! I’m looking for anything that can help me “fine tune” my budget. Even if I’m already following a couple of your suggestions (some I’ll still have to try!) I appreciate the reminder to keep my priorities in line. :-) I haven’t managed to read all of the comments (there are a TON!)so maybe some of this has already been said but here are a few other things I’m doing to try to shave my budget… 1) produce: I like coops and farmers markets whenever possible. It helps costs AND you usually get a better quality. One of my favorites is http://www.bountifulbaskets.org/ They have locations practically everywhere (good for my military family because I can rely on it when I move) and people are encouraged to start new locations if there isn’t one near you. 2) gardening to help produce: I have a black thumb! lol but I’ve found a lot of online sources to be really helpful. my fav. 2 are: http://www.squarefootgardening.org/ (teaches you the layout to make your garden more productive in less space) and http://www.smartgardener.com/ (this site is pure genius!) Seriously, you type in your zip code, number of people in your household, etc and it compiles your garden FOR you based on what grows well in your area. It’s free (unless you buy “extras” which I never do) and it sends reminders on what to do for your garden and when. It’s ALMOST gotten me to feel like I have a green thumb! 3) other costs (paper and toiletries) I’ve seen someone mention Costco… it can be really great to get a friend to “share” with so you can buy in bulk, split the amount (and cost!) and not have an entire closet full of JUST TP. lol Also, Switching cloth napkins, rags, floor cleaners, etc can save you the cost of paper towels and mop refils. I used to have a swiffer and instead of buying refills, I covered it with a regular wash cloth. I think it worked even better that way (as a wet or dustmop). And lastly, there are a TON of recipes online for DIY home made toiletries… everything from makeup remover, to laundry soap, to hard water removers. A little research (pinterest is a good start!) can save tons of money on your non-edibles. That’s all I have so far but I’m working in the direction of lowering my budget. Next I plan to get over my fear of couponing and try to learn how to make them help me!

  100. by Mina

    On August 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Cheese and OJ are musts in my house! But you’re right, they are expensive. While yes, eliminating them may save money, I would despise my lunch everyday if it were a meat and lettuce sandwich with no chips! And my picky 2.5 year old eats cheese at least twice a day. I know you were just giving examples though and every family/diet is different. I spend about $100/week for 2 adults and a toddler. Usually the meat and booze are the cuprits of high bills. But those are things we want to enjoy.

  101. by Danielle

    On August 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    There are two things I do to save although it’s just me. One is check the per pound price of different items, I think that was mentioned but it’s usually found in a much smaller print on the price tag. The other thing I do is check the expiration date especially with things like sour cream, most of the time I’ll get the slightly more expensive one because I know it won’t go bad before I can use it all.

  102. by Amanda

    On August 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I spend about that for an actual family of four (mom, dad, 5yo and 7yo boys). One thing I do is I never buy juice. Ever. Milk or tap water, that’s it. Juice, or even non-juice, flavored drinks are pricey, and pretty much worthless. Even 100% juice really does nothing for you (or the kids) but add calories. Milk or tap water, and never had one complaint.

  103. by Brittany

    On August 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I spend $200 a month for our family of 3, and we are vegetarian at home. Dry beans and lentils are very inexpensive and easy to cook with. I buy all my canned goods at a “scratch and dent” store once a month. We eat oatmeal with fruit for breakfast pretty much every day. It is much more inexpensive and better for you than any cereal you can buy! But one of the main ways I save is by shopping at Aldi. It is a nationwide chain and if you have one close you must try it!

  104. by Susie

    On August 17, 2012 at 10:51 am

    My husband has been without work for a while now and we have had to learn to pick and choose what was really needed and what was not. It is amazing the things you can live without when you have to. One of the things I do is pay cash for my groc. I decide how much I can spend put that much in my wallet or pocket, make out a menu for 2 weeks(thats how often I go to the store) and make a list of what I need. I take a calculator with my list into the store and I use coupons and buy store brands on most things.I keep a running total of what is in my basket as I shop and if I have gone over I put something up, and if I have a little extra then I get something that I had left off my list that we needed.It is doable and after you do it a while it gets easier and you hardly miss the things you use to get and take for granted. Then when you do run into a little extra and can splurge those things are so nice to have….

  105. by Lydia Beiler

    On August 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Whew! Catching up on comments once again. :)

    Hannah- Great idea! We love soups and eat lots of them in the fall, winter and spring. And yes, breakfast things like eggs, strata etc. are excellent money savers. (And if you make a big pot of soup and don’t eat it all and are tired of the leftovers, most soups freeze well and it’s so handy to pull out for a dinner some night when you are busy!)

    Julie- Thanks for your encouragement! Not sure either why folks enjoy being so unkind. I don’t expect everyone to agree and I realize that some of the things I do won’t work for everyone, but still…is it really necessary to get nasty about it? Blessings to you!

    Caitlin- Excellent suggestion! We have actually bought beef this way from a friend but I haven’t found anywhere to get chicken or pork reasonably priced although I keep watching and hoping something will turn up. And I wholeheartedly agree that farm fresh meat does not compare to store bought. We’ve been using the farm fresh hamburger we bought from our friend for over a year now. I recently was able to get a lb. of ground beef free through a promotion at a local grocery store and about ended up throwing it out! When I fried it up it just didn’t have that “fresh” smell, there was lots more fat and the taste was nowhere near the farm fresh ground beef we are used to. It reaffirmed my belief that farm fresh beef is one of those things that I ‘m willing to pay more for!

    Shawna- That’s awesome! Way to save! Yes, there are quite a few blogs out there that do store coupon/sale price matchups. I always recommend googling the name of the store you shop at with the word deals and you’re bound to find someone who lists the deals for the week along with the coupons you can use to get them. Saves you a lot of time and money!

    Amy- Well, you might think this is terrible but I don’t always buy organic produce. I do when I can, but not always. I just did a post about 7 ways that I save on produce that you might enjoy reading and that will give you more details there on how I save on fruits and veggies. The idea that coupons are only for unhealthy foods is kind of a myth in my opinion. Yes, there are LOTS of coupons for processed, unhealthy food that we don’t typically eat, but there are also lots of coupons for cheese, yogurt, meat (yes, you read correctly!), organic brands like Kashi and Earthbound Farm, cosmetic supplies and more! I won’t say I never buy foods that are what you called unhealthy but as a general rule I don’t purchase processed foods. I also try to avoid HFCS as much as possible. As for a how-to on stocking up around sales, that’s a great suggestion. I’m hoping to do a post about it eventually…seems I always have a mile-long list of posts like that to write up. :) But just a quick basic idea: as you have wiggle room in your budget, buy items that you see on sale for a great price that you regularly use. This is where having a price list comes in handy. You can look what you pay for it regular price and decide if it’s a good enough deal to stock up on. Over time, you’ll start figuring out what rock bottom prices are for the items you regularly use and then wait to stock up on them until they hit those rock bottom prices. For instance, every couple of months I get sour cream for less than $1 (for a 16 oz. container) by combining coupons with sales. When I see it priced that low I buy as much as I think I’ll use before it expires. This saves me from purchasing sour cream at $1.25 or more and those savings add up!

    Billie- Do you buy bulk packages, that is packages of 10 lbs. or more? That is often how I can get my meat for less than $2/lb. I also wait until it is on sale. We live in what I would consider a higher priced area but by watching meat sales/prices at several stores I don’t usually have any problem finding meat for less than $2/lb. Obviously though, areas are going to vary in price. You can still follow the principle…just set your “to buy” price higher, say at $2.75/lb.

    Nicole- All your suggestions are excellent! The thing of asking friends for their coupons is one that is a huge money saver. If they are throwing out their coupon inserts anyway, someone might as well be using them to save! :)

    Des- I live in Pennsylvania and we don’t have any of the stores you mention, with the exception of Walmart. Where you shop is going to be dependent on a couple of things. Do you use coupons regularly? Are you willing to use coupons? If so, then I’d recommend finding a blog such as this one that does the coupon matchups for the stores you shop at. (Click “Store Deals” at the top of the page.) Then all you have to do is check to see what items are a great deal that week, print your coupons and shop. If you don’t really use coupons I recommend a place like Aldi or Save-A-Lot if you have them. If not, Walmart might be your best bet. Personally, I like to shop between a couple of stores. I look to see what the best deals are at each and then do my shopping accordingly. Some weeks I don’t shop at all if there’s nothing that seems like a great deal.

    Sarah- Yes, you are right. And I sure don’t mind that side benefit. :)

    Renee- Thanks for the laugh! My kiddos eat quite well and honestly, I think having them do without a few things that you might think of as a necessity is actually good for them. It teaches them that they can’t have everything they want in life and it makes the times we do have those things special and helps them learn to enjoy the little things in life. I know it’s not the American mentality of “I deserve everything” but honestly, I don’t want them to ever develop that mentality either!

    Christian- Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your excellent suggestions! I’m slowly getting over my fear of gardening (we also don’t have much space) and am enjoying getting some of my own produce. I also really like the idea of “sharing” bulk purchases from Costco. Hope you can get over that couponing fear soon and start reaping the savings! :)

    Mina- You said, “I know you were just giving examples though and every family/diet is different.” Yes! And I think it’s okay if you choose to enjoy your cheese and OJ. We all have our different ideas of what we are willing to sacrifice. My challenge is just to think of areas that maybe you can sacrifice or cut spending in.

    Danielle- Yes, checking the price per lb. is a great quick way to make sure you are getting the cheapest item! And the expiration date checking is a great point too. We go through things fast enough that I don’t worry too much about that usually, but I do still try to check them.

    Amanda- Great work! What a terrible mom, not letting your kids drink juice! Just kidding. :) We pretty much just drink water around here too with the occasional milk and juice thrown in. Honestly, we feel much healthier that way.

    Brittany- I’m always looking for more ways to work in legumes. They are such a great inexpensive source of protein! Love, love, love Aldi and scratch and dent stores too. (Just wish I had a scratch and dent closer to me. I go to them when I can though!)

    Susie- Your can-do attitude totally inspired me…so much so that I shared your comment with my Facebook followers. I hope that your husband can soon find steady work again- that has to be hard! But I love how you are making it work and are learning to enjoy the little things in the midst of it all. Many blessings!

  106. by Valerie

    On August 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    As others have commented, I really think the “Family of Four” part of your title is patently false. You should change it to “Family of Three” because you aren’t using your grocery budget to feed your fourth family member. Until my youngest son starts eating regular food all the time, I keep his food budget (including his cereal and what I used to make his baby food) separate from the family budget as well.

    As for the rest, I don’t think cheese is realistic (for us). I tend not to eat cheese on my sandwiches (eliminating at least 100 calories as well), but my husband can’t stand no-cheese sandwiches. Plus, our daughter doesn’t consume a lot of meat, so we use cheese (and yogurt) as alternative protein sources. She hates the usual vegetarian sources like beans, but we can also sneak it in with things like chocolate/vanilla soy milk (which is usually more expensive).

    We typically survive on just milk and water for drinks (aside from the staple of coffee). We do allow ourselves orange juice, but we go through it very slowly. Milk can vary in price significantly by location. We lived in a suburb of Philly before and were paying over $4/gallon. Now, in Ohio, milk frequently goes on sale for $2.28/gal, which is not actually much cheaper than the usual price.

  107. by Jennifer

    On August 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I gave up on coupons since we eat a high protein and low carb diet. I also do my best to keep my kids away from processed foods. I don’t know if you are into “extreme couponing” but the concept really bothers me. I ran into a friend at CVS who bragged to me about how her cart full of items cost her next to nothing. Really? Truth be told, the only reason people can do this is because most everyong else is paying full price. Obviously, we cant all use coupons this way, or there would be nothing available to buy. It’s stealing in my opinion!

  108. by Nicole

    On August 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    I would be really curious to hear more about how you manage to do this. Maybe a monthly grocery list or store receipts.
    We grow the majority of our food and live on potatoes, carrots, and onions the majority of the winter and eat a lot of fish and wild game. I don’t include any of the food that I make for my blog in our food budget, but yet I still can’t keep it below $800 a month without feeling like we are seriously sacrificing our health. There are only two of us and I still can’t imagine spending only $200 a month on groceries.

  109. by Lisa

    On August 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    A great way to save on your grocery bill is to do a meatless day or two every week. Picture an omelette with tomato sauce and grated cheese, fresh veggies with hummus and pita bread, yogurt and fruit…either fresh, or in a smoothie with wheat germ added, popcorn (not microwaved, but kernels popped with oil in a pan) for a snack, poached eggs topped with diced tomato and spinach, huevos rancheros (eggs, tortillas, refried beans, avocados, sour cream, scallions, and salsa). The possibilities are endless.

  110. by Molly

    On August 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    First, great article.
    Second, great job not becoming bitter like some of the commenters. I know it’s hard not having much money, but there’s no shame in it. Being mean? That IS bad thing.

  111. by labbie1

    On August 25, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Aldi
    They have the basics at about 50% less than the grocery stores and have a double your money back guarantee. Honestly, we have found that most of their items are just as good as what we have bought elsewhere.
    When I was pregnant with our son, I was forced by health issues to quit working during 6 months of the pregnancy. Going from 2 incomes to one was very hard, but when I did give birth, we had been living on one income for 6 months so we determined to continue so that our son could be raised at home.
    We used a lot of money saving ideas–My hubby took his own lunch each day.
    My hubby liked to bowl, so he became the secretary for the league which paid for his bowling.
    I made my own baby food (which is healthier and better tasting anyway) by using a blender that we got at a garage sale for $1 and freezing in ice cube trays and putting into containers in the freezer.
    I gave up paper towels and just used cloth dish towels–most of which I obtained at garage sales, thrift stores or auctions for very cheap! I don’t think I paid more than 10 cents for any towel or dish cloth! I got whole boxes of dish cloths and towels at auctions for $1! I used the cute ones in the kitchen and used the others for cleaning.
    I used (and still do!) blue dawn and vinegar for cleaning. Cheap and really effective! (mix 1/2 cup blue dawn in 32 oz spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle up with white vinegar–spray and wipe–and this REALLY shines a metal sink!)
    Heat 1 c white vinegar to HOT (doesn’t have to boil) and add 1 c blue dawn. Spray on shower, let sit for a couple of hours and just wipe down with a wet rag. Sparkling shower and NO soap scum or mineral deposits!
    Love my magic eraser for windows and mirrors. Just wipe with magic eraser and dry with towel. Sparkling!
    The Works toilet bowl cleaner is under $1 and works the best I have ever found on EVERY stain from water, rust and minerals!
    Keeping cleaners down to just basics is a KEY to savings!
    I make my own laundry detergent which works very well at the cost of about 5 cents or less per load of laundry.
    I hang my laundry out on the line. You can purchase an umbrella clothesline for about $50 (I have seen them very cheap at garage sales too!) which will hang a LOT of clothes in a very small space, or just string some line between trees or posts. About 85% of electricity used in a home is dryer usage. And the sun sanitizes!
    I make my own auto dishwasher detergent at the cost of 5 cents or less per load.
    I could go on and on. My son is now 30 years old, but I have kept many of my money saving ways–because they REALLY WORK!
    Kudos to all of you who have taken the challenge to make the budget work and stay out of debt!

  112. by Amy

    On August 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    While I agree that the family of 4 title is a bit misleading, I enjoyed your article and tips. But, even more so, I applaud you on being polite to the mean spirited people on here. I am constantly amazed by how tactless people can be. Bravo on being the bigger person!

  113. by Vicki

    On August 26, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Where can I find directions for making laundry soap?

  114. by Leah

    On August 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    I am more impressed by your politeness to the trolls than anything. Good tips in the blog, great example of being a nice person in the comment follow-ups.
    I’m nowhere near your skill level, but something I found helpful was using my grocery store’s weekly sales paper and my available coupons to make my menu for the week (and grocery list at the same time). I have a store card and they often mail me great coupons for the items and brands I buy regularly; I rarely clip coupons. My husband is a hunter and we rarely buy meat other than chicken; we’re still eating venison and wild hog that we had processed locally last fall… it was a one-time expense that really paid off.

  115. by Amy Smith

    On August 27, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I love the comments here because they are giving me new ideas. My husband has said for years that I am able to “make a penny squeal” and has been amazed at my abilities to keep everyone satisfied with items I feed them and bring home. When I worked 3rd shift in a grocery store, I was the one changing the sale prices on the shelves every Saturday night. This gave me an advantage of knowing where every item in the store was, what was on sale, how to understand to read the price per ounce comparing it to the item next to it to know which was the better deal. When my shift was over on Sunday morning (when the sale started) I would do my shopping. For $20 ( down to the penny) I was able to purchase enough grocery items to fill at least 5 bags. I was able to tell the cashier before she hit total what the amount due would be. I do not use coupons (that’s another story) I learned from my mother how to live on a tight ( very tight) budget but she would use coupons and was a ” refunder”. I found my own way of doing it. I look in every cupboard freezer and fridge to see what is needed and what can wait till next time. I give myself an amount to keep it under. Then as I go through a store, I keep a tally in my head of what is in the cart and what is left in the budget. When I get to the end and there is money left I ponder if anyone at home has done something to assist me to deserve a special treat. If not, the leftover money goes towards the next shopping bill. I am a mother of 2 teenagers. I am teaching this to my daughter who in 2 years will be going to college. She makes a list, I give her the amount to stay under, and so far she has only had to forgo an item once at the checkout. And believe me, when people who have to maintain a special diet due to allergies ornother health conditions (which 3 out of 4 of us fit that category here in this house) it is a challenge. Personally I like challenges,, keeps me on my toes.
    Another tactic that she came up with to keep me under budget is she climbs in the cart, giving me less room, thus saving even more money. Keeps it fun but woman, pushing your 16 yr old in a cart gets you some strange looks!

  116. by Amy

    On August 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Does anyone know how this can be done on an organic diet? I was recently diagnosed with a few different medical conditions and am switching to an organic diet at the recommendation of multiple doctors. Organic is so ridiculously expensive though!

  117. by Candis

    On August 29, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Being able to cook from scratch is by far one of the things that always saves me. Also, learn what things can easily turn into multiple things for instance potatoes and bisquick. You can do so many things with those two! lol

  118. by Megan Loden

    On August 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I must admit, I didn’t read all of the comments in this article. But some of the comments I read were ridiculous. Our family of five includes myself, my husband, our twin 8 year old girls and our 5 year old son. We spend between $50-$60 per week on groceries. We eat meat almost every single night and have fruits and veggies daily. I shop in every department in our grocery store. Our snacks are yogurts, fruit and cheese (when it’s cheap) and I make pretty much all of our meals from scratch. The thing people keep forgetting are toiletries and cleaning products. I buy these almost exculisvely from Walgreens or Target to combine sales and coupons and often get them for free, if not super cheap. I have not paid for toothpaste, razors, shampoo, deoderant, and many other things like that in well over a year. When you take these things out of the budget entirely, it is very possible to feed your family a well-balanced diet on $200 a month people! I buy only meat that is on sale at rock bottom prices and stock up so I don’t have to eat chicken for weeks at a time. Chicken seems to be the cheapest in my area by far! And for the people who have commented about not feeding our kids….My kids get three meals and a snack every single day, which is more than I got when I was a kid and i survived!
    Thanks for the tips in this article and for all the fresh ideas coming out of the comments!

  119. by Terri

    On September 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I would love to only spend $200 a month on groceries. Sad to say I have Celiacs Disease so that means a loaf of bread cost me $5.00 or more, and pasta which might only cost at most .50 with a coupon, cost me $3.00. While my family is more than willing to eat Gluten Free, I don’t want them to miss out on everything. Here’s my challenge….eat Gluten Free on $200.00 for the month!

  120. by Cherry Odelberg

    On September 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Sounds like you have it figured out. As a frugal old lady, I think these ideas are great. Drinking water as the beverage of choice is huge. I use popcorn as a snack. And I am still wondering how you keep a $2.00 per pound limit on meat – although I suppose you can stock up on chicken and ground beef when it comes on sale.

  121. by Jennifer (The Craft Patch)

    On September 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    It is so refreshing to hear someone talk about the novel concept of “going without.” So many people want to save money without changing the way they live. My husband jokingly calls me the cheese Nazi because I agree with you… it’s a luxury! Thanks for a refreshing post on saving money. We are definitely like-minded!

  122. by Stargazer

    On September 7, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Wow I’ve never seen brand-name spaghetti sauce for 99 cents or generic for 50 cents – not even the dry envelope type.

  123. by Moviegoer0005

    On September 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I find clipping coupons only saves pennies on the dollar, and they’re usually for unhealthy foods…sugary cereals, cake mixes, candy, and such. Also sometimes you’ll buy a product that you normally wouldn’t buy, just because you have a coupon.

  124. by Lydia

    On September 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    First of all, I am shocked at the rudeness of some of these comments. People are really taking it personally that some of these tips may not work for them. To the people who are saying that you can’t eat healthily for this little money: that’s just not true. As soon as I read the comment about the author living in Lancaster, PA, I knew she was getting a ton of healthy food for this little money because I live in the same area. My family spends $350 a month feeding a family of 5 (the youngest being a 17 year old boy). We buy almost all organic, and nothing with corn syrup, MSG, or artificial colors, as well as avoiding GMOs where possible. One tip I have for the people concerned about getting healthy food for cheap is to learn about what foods contain a lot of pesticides. Some foods are definitely better organic while others, which don’t hold onto pesticides are virtually the same when grown organically or not. You might as well buy non-organics for those foods because it makes no difference for what goes into your body. Things like yogurt or breads are cheaper and healthier when made yourself. Also, making your own cosmetics, toiletries, and household cleaners can be a cheaper and healthier method than buying them.

  125. by rachel

    On September 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

    TO those who need to buy a lot of veggies and organic:

    After you have a spending and purchasing history at Kroger ( with your card) for a couple months they start to send you coupons for items you purchase such as Fresh Organic Spinach, carrots (their brands) soy milk etc. Haven’t seen a coupon for the vegan cheese yet though..
    I purchase everything at a local Krogers. I buy Kroger brand veggies and almost everything else, because it’s cheaper than the name brand even WITH a coupon for a name brand (and mine doubles coupons)

    I eat dairy free, but i need to buy butter, cheese (for pizza) milk and icecream alternatives and kroger sells them.

    I have purchased the just add water pizza crust, half size can of tomato paste and make my own homemade pizza. After the second time of making my own sauce and crust (just water down, add garlic powder and pizza seasoning) I was able to prepare and cook it all in less than 20 min. and the sauce is usualy enough to make 4 9×7 deep dish pizzas so i keep it in the fridge. I use the “veggie shreds” cheese spinach and tomato slices for the toppings and it is so very delicious

  126. by Christi

    On September 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Didn’t read through all of the comments so I apologize if this is a repeat but Costco has saved me a lot of money – between toiletries, baby formula, diapers, and course food. You may have a large purchase but depending on the items, it may last for months. Their produce is decent and cheaper than buying in the grocery store. English cucumbers are 3 for a little over $2. You would pay almost that for 1 at the grocery store. My kids drink organic milk and I can get a 3 pack for the cost of what you would spend on 2 at the grocery store. To offset the membership cost, they offer a 2% rebate at the end of each year. So depending on how much you spend throughout the year, you can easily get the cost of the membership back. Or you can split the membership with someone else so its only half the cost and with 2 people shopping for their families, you’ll make back the 2%. BJ’s is similar but the difference is they actually accept manufacturers coupons; Costco doesn’t but have their own coupons – like $4 of laundry detergent.

  127. by Jessica

    On September 12, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I really like your ideas and I would LOVE to cut our grocery/supply budget. However, we are having a difficult time because our entire family is on a gluten free/dairy free diet. I was wondering if you could suggest how to cut costs in this situation? We are spending about $800-1000 a month and on a single income this is really tight. I would love any tips or suggestions you might have! Thanks!!!

  128. by Lexi

    On September 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I just want to say that I think a lot of these tips are helpful and it is nice that we can go here and get new ideas as well as share what works for us. I think some of the posts on here are incredibly rude and uncalled for. If you don’t like what is being said here, don’t read it! I don’t know why some people feel the need to be so negative, thus bringing others down. Keep up the good work!!!

  129. by Erica

    On September 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    You have GOT to be kidding me. In order to eat healthy, my active family of 4 eats on $250/week! There is NO WAY we could ever eat healthy with this budget. My crisper drawers are full to the brim with fresh lettuce, carrots, celery, peppers, peaches, strawberries, apples, nectarines…you get the point. These are absolute staples to healthy cooking, and made from scratch cooking. A normal meal consists of fruit and grains for the kids for bkfst, PB&J with snap peas, carrots, and strawberries for lunch, whole grain pasta or brown rice with sautees veggies or tomato sauce (variations of that type) or a LEAN CUT of meat based meal or two per week (my meatloaf is loaded with veggies and oatmeal not only to add healthiness to it, but also it will feed everyone). My husband always takes leftovers to work with him, never a measly sandwich. He is very athletic and I’m afraid he would starve to death, as would my children if they only got a cheap hotdog and generic mac and cheese for dinner. Not to mention the extra doctor bills we would pay annually for the unhealthy lifestyle. However, don’t get me wrong! I am a very frugal stay at home Mom who shops almost all generic (except coffee, ketchup, and peanut butter!)in order for us to buy our healthy produce and good cuts of meats or fish but I will never sacrifice that to buy processed or boxed food to save money. Also, we never go out to eat or go to the movies because we spend our money at the grocery store…but we always play basketball, football, swim, ride bikes or take a walk EVERY SINGLE night. Together. As a family. That, my fellow Mommies…is priceless.

  130. by Kathy

    On September 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    When I had a growing family, I had a good friend and neighbor. We would “share” our meals. Her leftovers would sometimes become my meals with just a few side dishes and vice versa. It was a good way to stretch the budget, and the family got different meals each night. I also had pot luck on Fridays. I would save even the tiniest bit of veggies, meat, etc. and make a meal out of it. On days when the meal was meager, I would try to have a great dessert. Water was with meals, and tea and sodas were for snacks.

  131. by Pam

    On September 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    What kills my food budget is the yogurt. My son can eat five of those small brown cow yogurts in on sitting and some weeks that is the only thing I can get him to eat, I try and load up when they are on sale. The other hard thing is so many foods have terrible ingredients and the healthier options can be pricier. In the last year I have started to make as much as I can from scratch and getting a lot of things from Costco.

  132. by Lydia Beiler

    On September 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Loving all the great ideas you are sharing! I’m learning things and I like that. :)

    Jessica- I don’t have experience with gluten-free or dairy-free living but I’m sure that makes it challenging to save. However, many of the ideas I post about here on my blog can still apply. Things such as reducing the amount of meat in recipes, saving on veggies, using coupons, doing without etc. will all help save. I thought too that you might enjoy the website Gluten Freely Frugal. She posts lots of gluten free deals. Hope that helps you out at least some!

    Pam- I hear ya! We love our yogurt and I used to feel like I was blowing money on it all the time. I started making my own yogurt a couple of years ago and was amazed at how simple and delicious it is. Might be something you want to try!

  133. by Erin

    On September 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    One thing I do is bring a calculator and add each item I put into my cart. I also bring only cash. Two weeks ago, I was able to get two weeks’ worth of groceries for $88. Of course, it helped that Meijer was having great sales, but knowing that you only have $100 cash with you really makes you think, “Do I really need that?”

  134. by Erin

    On September 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Forgot to mention, we don’t buy boxed dinners or processed foods either, everything from scratch! Eating healthy on $200 a month is possible!

  135. by Erin

    On September 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Forgot to mention, I don’t buy boxed dinners or processed things. We eat very healthy. It’s possible with $200 a month. I don’t buy all organic, but when I do, it’s things like strawberries and salad greens…things you don’t have to peel skin off of.

  136. by Patti Jo

    On September 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I didn’t read all the comments but I find it hard to believe that you can buy OJ for 0.99 or spaghetti sauce for 0.99 cents.. I live in FL and I can’t get OJ for less than $2.50… I do try to buy one get one free items and stock up the pantry and try different brands. Here in my area of FL we never have double coupons. AND I have to say I could NOT live without cheese LOL.. But I enjoyed the article.

  137. by ShelahN

    On September 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    A huge issue that most of us ignore or are ignorant of, is that the use/overuse of coupons, specials, rebates, price-matching, etc. only serves to drive up high prices of food/merchandise. (I speak for here in the States) These types of gimmicks are what draw consumers in and only serve to fuel the growing epidemic of over-priced food/merchandise and the demise of small, varied businesses and farmers which is ultimately directly related to the health of our nation.
    As a people, we must say no to this craziness, buy what we need (many times doing without) and not allow our greed and insensitivity to hurt our fellow man. Think local, think simple, being willing to spend [probably] more (unfortunately organic and/or local is usually more expensive), so that we do our part in counteracting the downward spiral of our nation. Remember, we do not stand someday before men, but God. And if even our idle words will be weighed, how much more our thoughtless actions. We need to think beyond ourselves. Let the ‘sin’ of over-priced food/merchandise rest with the merchants, not sharing the blame by our actions.
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to rant here, but we really do need to ‘wake up’ on this matter. The bottom line is Not the almighty dollar, but God Almighty.

  138. by Elidet

    On September 26, 2012 at 6:12 am

    I’ve been using coupons since January do many of these things.

    Because of this, I have been able to quit my job, live off my husband’s income, still save for my daughter’s college fund, and help pay my husband’s cancer bills.

    My job includes now making the grocery budget on less than $40 a week for three people. At times, I have paid $5 a week!

    We eat lots of fruits and veggies, we don’t eat processed foods, and a lot of coupons I use are for really great brands on makeup, shampoo, razors, toilet paper, etc.

    Two Tips I would like to add:
    1. Use reusable cloth napkins! We used to use a roll per week.

    2. Use Scrubbing Bubbles 2 in 1 Kitchen Sponge.
    It is washable, comes in a two pack. You can just toss it in the dishwasher or in the washing machine. Never buy a sponge again.

    These are small changes, but that is one less item you have to buy weekly or monthly, and you can use that savings for more fruit.

    That is how I managed to have a $5 week once, because I only needed to buy the minimum.

  139. by Marie

    On September 29, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I honestly *and I have to be honest here* laughed the entire time I read this. I meal plan bfast,lunch and dinner. We eat a maximum of 4 things out of a box/can per week so the cooking from scratch is covered. I spend aproximately $200 a week on food, only food. I refuse to eat cheaper cuts of meat just because they are cheaper… guess why they’re cheaper?? More fat which actually equals LESS meat. Cheese is our main source of dairy so we buy three or four varieties every two weeks. I’d rather my children eat a stick of cheese than a cookie (homemade or otherwise) I buy no less than 4 types of fruit and 5 types of vegetables RAW every week. No frozen unless it is smoothie fruit. We don’t do bread outside of lunch sandwiches, bagels, or english muffins (homemade egg and ham sammies) I buy organic local milk,eggs,meat etc and will not sacrifice my family’s health for my budget. I won’t fall pray to the coupon craze either… all that does is make prices keep going up and force local stores to close.

  140. by FELICIA

    On October 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I want to thank you for your suggestions. All to often I myself don’t even pay attention when I’m shopping. I buy what I want … and count myself fortunate to be able to do so. I do want to be mindful of my spending habits … so I will take your info to heart.

    To the women who posted the snarky comments … Haters gonna Hate … how sad that your lives are so miserable.

    I commend you Lydia for responding with such grace.

  141. by Hannah

    On October 15, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Do you ever wonder if your family is getting the nutrition they need or worry that your encouraging people who “go without” will cause health risks for them?

  142. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 15, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Hannah, I guess I’m puzzled as to where your question comes from. No, I do not worry about that. We eat a healthy and balanced diet with lots of protein and with fruits and veggies too. I realize that not everyone will want to try to spend just $200/mo. on groceries and really, that is okay. As I stated in my post, my goal is to just encourage you to think of new ways that you might be able to cut your spending if you are looking at doing that. Thanks for stopping by!

  143. by Mitzi

    On October 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I love this post! I try to save as much as I can on our groceries. I never, ever shop without a very detailed grocery list, and I start planning my menus a week in advance making sure I have all of the ingredients on my list. I also check to see which store has the best deals on meat.

    I also “cherry pick”. Fortunately, I have four major grocery stores all within about two miles, making it easy to take advantage of all of the sales.

  144. by Sabrina

    On October 19, 2012 at 11:26 am

    There are some really cranky women on here, Jesus God. If you don’t want to save money and you want to get all up on your high horse about how YOU care SO much more about your family because you only buy organic grain-fed whatever, then whatever. You just look like spoiled, ridiculous bitches.

  145. by Nikkimom

    On October 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Coupons to me force you to buy multiples while you really only need one. I use a meat market and purchase family packages. Cutting out cheese isn’t much of an issue, but living in an urban area fruits and vegetables is priced extremely high. I think I will look into a balcony garden and making my own laundry detergent.

  146. by tippau

    On October 20, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Here’s an idea! Don’t have a kid you can’t afford to feed (that baby’s going to want real food eventually), and go get a job to add to your income so you won’t have to eat like refugees.

  147. by Michelle

    On October 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I just gotta say, I cringe at the idea of meat that costs less than $2 a pound. At that level, what you are buying is almost certainly factory-farmed, antibiotic- and hormone-laden, and questionably processed. I imagine it’s probably also fattier, as generally cheaper meat has more fat. Cheap cold cuts are usually laden with tons of nitrates (which cause cancer, no question – look it up), sodium, and preservatives. There are long-term health consequences to eating cheap meat, especially for kids. There was just an article in the news today talking about how what used to be called “precocious puberty” in boys and girls – development before age 11 or 12 – is now normal. This is a case where saving money now may very well cost big down the line, when people develop health problems. We are not vegetarians in our house but we eat meatless several times a week and only buy small amounts of organic meat, dairy and eggs for these reasons. (We eat organic fruit and veggies as much as we can.) I think it would be better health-wise to go vegetarian than eat cheap meat. People’s choices are their own but people should also inform themselves about the food they buy before they buy it. Food is not healthy or safe just because the supermarket sells it. There are multibillion-dollar agribusiness corporations that actively try to hide information about chemicals in food. I am not a tinfoil-hat wearing paranoid, but I had my eyes opened to all of this several years ago and changed our food, and it changed our family’s health. I am not a millionaire either, far from it. There are organic farms almost everywhere now that can provide access to responsibly-farmed meat at lower prices than people may think. Please inform yourself and make the best, not just the cheapest, choices for your family.

  148. by Lisa

    On October 21, 2012 at 7:55 am

    I love your ideas but what I enjoy most is the way you handle the comments. WOW!! You have amazing patients and charisma. Do you have a bog? If not you should. You inspire me with your comments to negative readers. I wish I could be that tactful. Blessings to you.

  149. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 22, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Nikkimom, actually buying more of one even if you don’t need it can often be a smart way to save. If the item is cheaper than what you would normally pay and it is something you will use eventually it often makes sense to go ahead and get it while you can get it less expensively. (See my post here to read more about that.) I’m sure living in an urban are does drive up your produce prices but I love your idea of growing things in pots. I’ve done some of that this year and had pretty good success. And was amazed at how easy it was! Thanks for commenting!

    Michelle, you have a good point and I appreciate the polite, gracious way you stated it! I can see how it would seem that any meat that we get for $2/lb. or less must be cheap quality. On the contrary, I am rather picky about the meat I buy and will rarely purchase meat at our local chain supermarkets. We do have several family-owned grocery stores in the area and that is where I buy most of my meat. Their meat is much better quality than what I can get elsewhere and by buying it in large packages (usually 10lbs.) I can get reduced prices. I admit though, that most of it is still not labeled antibiotic and hormone free, although I do get that when I can. I keep considering spending more for meat that is, but so far have not felt like it was what we should do. I also have bought beef from some friends of ours who are farmers. And yes, it is noticeably better than store-bought beef! I agree with you that our family’s health is very important and that what we eat affects that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and helping me and my readers consider that!

    Lisa, thank you! I have been amazed at how rude some people can be online! I wish that there were more people like Michelle (the person who commented before you) who were willing to share their thoughts and opinions in polite and gracious ways. Honestly, I think we all are more apt to listen to people like that! And yes, I have a blog. This IS my blog. :)

  150. by Cassia

    On October 23, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I have to say this article is fantastic. When my husband and I first got married we didn’t have a budget, and about a month ago we finally sat down (more like he sat ME down :) ) and said enough. It’s only 2 of us (and 2 dogs) we were spending more then $450 a month on groceries and household products and 9 times out of 10 never eating at home and all the food going to waste. We haven’t hit the coupon stage though we have discussed it. We are both so forgetful we never think to grab them and then they expire. A way we have cut costs is by making certain items from scratch. Mac and cheese, fries are the main ones. I was a brand snob, and still am with certain products. But other then that I have competely switched to generic. We buy in bulk, and since we eat a lot of the same things I know which stores I can go too where those items may be cheaper. I mainly shop at Kroger and get my produce at a farmers market in another city about 20 minutes from Dallas. The only meat we keep in the house are beef and chicken. We also buy those in bulk, though when I buy them I don’t really pay attention to the price because I’m buying enough for about 3 weeks worth. We cut out about most of the junk food, except for the items we feel we have to have. And when we are grocery shopping and see an item we have started to ask if we really need that item, if it will be used and when. I know not all people cam do this but its helped. Our budget is $300 a month and we never go over and rarely use all of it. Maybe with this I can cut it more :) Oh, I know some people don’t have this kind of luxury but we have an “allowance” each week and we use that to purchase any cosmetic items or products we might want.

  151. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 24, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Cassia- Congratulations on cutting your budget by $150/mo.! That doesn’t happen without some work and planning. Love how you were willing to give in and make some sacrifices to save…and sounds like you haven’t minded them much at all! Funny how that works. I remember thinking it was going to be awful to have to cut out certain things and change the way I shop and in reality I have hardly minded at all. And can I encourage you to try coupons? I really think you would find it an easy way to save even more! Blessings to you!

  152. by Andrea

    On October 25, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I never leave comments on blogs, but I just wanted to thank you for your article! And despite the negative comments, I have actually learned some tips from the commenters(sp?) Isn’t that what it’s about anyway, sharing tips. Thanks to one of the readers, I have found a salvage grocery store in my area, and will be checking it out this weekend.

  153. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 25, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Andrea- thanks for commenting!! Yes, I love when other people share how they save–we can all learn so much from each other. Have fun checking out that salvage grocery store! :)

  154. by Rick

    On October 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Lydia thanks for this post. I spent too much on Grocery like $500 and we are only my wife and I. I have to do something to change that because it is killing me. Now I’m planning to start a blog about how to get coupons I hope with that I can find good deals to save more money.

  155. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 26, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Rick, best wishes on trimming your budget. You can do it! And yes, coupons are a great way to save and one that I use a lot. Hope the blog goes well!

  156. by Holly

    On October 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I don’t know honestly how you’re able to only spend 200 a month. We try every month but everything adds up especially when you’re starting out. I just made a chili batch and even tho I have a spice rack that was given to me as a present I still had to go out and buy chili powder paprika cumin and kosher salt. If there’s a coupon for a spice I’ve never heard of it. I grew up with my mom (a housewife) cut coupons for years and soooo many coupons I see are ones for products I don’t ever buy. Is there a place that is unknown for coupons? Also I’m not sure where you live but I do know prices vary across the nation and I know we’ve (where I live) been mentioned in national news for grocery prices comparable to NYC and Chicago. My dads a baker so Ive heard about production costs my whole life. This year he can’t even make pecan pies to sell (everything’s from scratch it’s a real polish Hungarian full line bakery) or he’d have to charge an obscene amount of money to make any profit. His supply costs are most than they’ve ever been. Personally I think grocery costs are directly linked back to our “recession” and the fact that the federal government is to involved. Small businesses that have been family generation businesses for years are suffering yes because of health care premiums and taxes but because of supply costs too!

    I admire what you’re doing. But through watching our local media and hearing business talk from so many friends and family in the “food industry” I’m convinced our area has been hit the hardest. And yet… We are called ground zero IN the battleground state (you can probably guess where I live). Not to make this political at all. But our grocery prices and the direct hit to both sides of my families (immediate and in laws) small businesses through many things but including groceries and supplies I think is unparallel to other parts of the country. And this is coming from someone who has half of her family living in orange county, ca. Our prices here are comparable to there.

  157. by Melissa Rampy

    On October 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing these ideas. I’m sorry for all of the rude comments. Know that there are more people benefiting from your post than the opposite!

    That said, I have my husband, my pregnant self (which definitely increases the appetite!!), a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and an 8 month old (and I cannot breastfeed so we have to do formula). I only go grocery shopping on payday – every 2 weeks. On Thursday I plan a menu for the next two weeks and then do the grocery list for all food items and hygiene, cleaning, etc products. I MUST keep it at $180 or less for 2 weeks worth. I also know what prices are before I go. Sometimes I have to re-do my menu a couple of times to make it work, and we eat a lot of ground turkey ($2.58/lb), but we rarely have to do meatless meals.

    Then on Friday night after the kids are in bed I go to the store while my husband stays home with them (we only have 1 car so I can’t go during the day). This seriously limits where I can shop. I’m also in a small town with very few stores around. I also do not have access to coupons. Our budget is so tight I can’t even afford the Sunday paper(!), and we don’t have a printer to print them off. So, to save money I shop at the Dollar Tree along with my Wal-Mart. They are next door to each other and 5 minutes from my house so I save gas too! Everything there is $1.00. The only thing to be careful about when shopping there is that some of the things they sell can be gotten for less than $1.00 at Wal-Mart if you’re not picky about brand (dishwashing liquid).

    I also cannot make my own laundry soap because my middle daughter is allergic to EVERYTHING!! – even the homemade. However, I did find a (powder) soap that lasts us about 6 weeks (doing at least 2 loads a day, sometimes more – think bedding)! It fills my 5 gallon bucket and only costs about $8 a bag! It’s called Roma. So, for those who cannot make their own, it’s worth looking into!

  158. by Lydia Beiler

    On November 1, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Holly- when you are starting out it will take more money. As you said, you don’t even have a lot of the spices you need and for the next while, when you go to make meals you are going to need ingredients that most of us already have in our fully stocked kitchens. So please, don’t be too hard on yourself for spending more than that! As for spice coupons, actually there are often coupons for McCormick spices. Right now for instance there is one in the Sunday coupon inserts from back in October and there are frequently printable coupons for them too. However, I find it cheaper to still buy generic spices. If you have any bulk food stores in your area I’d recommend checking it out as often they have spices and herbs for much less than you can get them elsewhere. Or check out stores like Save-A-Lot or Aldi. I find coupons at sites like coupons.com, Redplum.com, Smartsource.com, SavingStar.com and various sites for organic coupons. I’m sorry for hard times you and your family are facing. I do know that food prices seem at an all time high here too. I’m sure it must be discouraging to be in the bakery business right now…but from scratch, Polish, Hungarian pastries sound awfully good! All the best to you!

    Melissa- Thanks for your encouragement! Sounds like you know how to stretch your hard earned money. A couple of suggestions: could you buy meat in bulk to save? I can often find ground turkey in 10 lb. packages for less than $2/lb. I just repackage it into smaller bags and freeze it. As for coupons, could you get coupons from a friend or relative who gets the Sunday paper and doesn’t use them? I do that with several people and it really helps me out a lot! The other thing is price matching. Were you aware that Walmart price matches? It might be worth doing that with some of the better deals at your local stores. You could take a couple of minutes and check their flyers online and then note the prices and items you want to match. It does have to be item for item though…so no store brands. And you are right that you have to be careful at Dollar Tree. Sometimes what seems like a good deal for $1 really isn’t! I’ve learned that the hard way a time or two. :) And thanks for passing on the laundry soap tip– I’ll keep that in mind! I didn’t actually like the homemade stuff that well. Blessings!

  159. by Jen Born

    On November 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I created a website to track how much I pay for things at the store so I can find true bargains: click here for free access!

  160. by Tierney

    On November 7, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I think the hardest thing for me is making a budget and making a grocery list and keeping to it. I do shop frugally but when i am at the store and i go down a aisle I find my self saying OH i forgot to put that on the list or even oh yea know I am pretty sure we are running out of that. I usually spend about 150-250$ depending on the month… :(

  161. by Lydia Beiler

    On November 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Tierney, I hear ya! I found it hardest when we first started budgeting and I didn’t have any flex. As I kept on though I was able to stay under budget a couple of months and that gave me some flex money so that if I see a great deal at the store I wasn’t aware of, or if I saw something I thought we needed I could get it and not go over budget.

    Could you maybe try to just go bare bones for a month…see if you can live off your pantry, fridge and freezer as much as possible…and try to get ahead in your budget a bit. Sometimes for us, a month of sacrificing like that pays off big time in the end and gives us more wiggle room in our budget allowing us to get ahead.

    You might think that you’ll just spend more the next month…and you might. At the same time if you have extra money in your grocery budget you can stockpile on items when they are at rock bottom prices allowing you to save more over time.

    Hope that all makes sense. :) And honestly, $150-$250/mo. is pretty good I think. Course I don’t know your family size but even for just 2 adults, that still is doing pretty good.

  162. by LeeBee

    On November 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Wow! Can’t believe some of the language on this site! If you don’t like it, don’t use it, but why do you have to be so hateful! My goodness! Since I did breastfeed, I know that when you do, you eat more than when you don’t, so really it is 4 people! I have two little girls 8 and 10. Are you saying that because I’m not raising 3 big strapping boys my opinion on this page about saving money doesn’t’ count? Come on people, it’s just a blog about how you might be able to save a little money, and though I am sure I won’t be using some of this because cheese is one of my family’s 4 basic food groups and my husband would run from the house screaming like a lunatic if we didn’t have it, I am sure I will think of some of these helpful hints next time I go shopping or plan a meal! I live in Portland Oregon, trust me, meat isn’t that low here, but she’s offering some help to some people who might need it. Like I said, I have two kids and a hubby and just with 4 people our groceries are right about $900-$1200 a month. Insane! But I know I can save some with these helpful hints!

  163. by Shelli Aderman

    On November 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    I consider myself pretty frugal, but we also keep a Kosher home, so chicken at $2.99 per pound is a bargain! I also buy a lot of organic, especially dairy, and that’s something I’m not willing to compromise on. And we live in a very urban area, and I’m pretty proud of averaging $550.00 per month for a family of four.

    My biggest annoyance is that generics are usually cheaper than the brand name, so coupons don’t make much sense to me, but I still clip them!

  164. by April

    On November 26, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Love the idea of making sacrifices. If you are serious about saving money, paying off debt or are seriously poor, you have to make sacrifices.
    We are very fortunate to receive beef from family who own cattle. Would it be cheaper for some of you to purchase a portion of beef or pork and store it in your deep freezer?
    I shop at Aldis and Shop n Save (on the one day a month they advertise spend $50 on groceries and save $10). Because those stores are twenty minutes away and gas is pricey, a friend and I carpool and split the gas cost. Our kids love the car ride together and we get some grown up time to chat too. I realize this wont work when our families grow, but for now it’s saving us some cash.

  165. by Lydia Beiler

    On November 27, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Shelli- Yes, if you are doing Kosher, organic, want to eat lots of fish or meat in general you are definitely going to spend more. And that’s okay! We all have our differences in what we find important. I think your $550 is really good for doing all of that! Way to go! :)

    As for the generics being cheaper than the brand name….I suggest you rethink that a bit. Yes, the generics are often cheaper. But if you watch for the brand names to go on sale and then use coupons on the item you often can get them for less than you can get the generic brands. There are lots of blogs that do store sale/coupon matchups and I highly recommend checking them out. To find one that covers the store(s) you shop at, Google the store name and then something like coupon matchups or just coupons. You should be able to find one. Then every week you just can glance over the deals and see if using coupons on your name brand items is worth it or not.

    April- Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, making sacrifices is one of the easiest ways to save money…but probably one of the most unpopular too!

    We also often get beef from farmer friends…it’s SO much better tasting and we’ve found it to be a bit cheaper too. Love your carpooling idea! Great ingenious way to save and have fun at the same time.

  166. by Rose

    On November 27, 2012 at 10:29 am

    To save money we buy in bulk. I know it might sound crazy to spend MORE money to save money BUT it means we go shopping every 4-6 weeks for pantry and freezer foods. I always look at the cost per unit to decide if it’s worth it and stock up on items. For snacks i buy the biggest box that is economically sound and portion off the snacks in ziplock bags. I then go to a butcher and buy HUGE portions of meat have him cut it how we like it and freeze dinner size potions. It usually means getting boneless chick for under $2 a pound or sirloin between $3-6 as well as loin chops for $2 a pound which is at least $2-4 a pound less then the local grocery store and 2x better quality.

  167. by Lydia Beiler

    On November 28, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Rose- Yes, great suggestion! I buy in bulk for some things and it definitely does help save. Like you said, checking the cost per unit is a good idea since bulk is not always cheaper. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  168. by Quick Hits of the Week « A Bodey in Motion

    On November 29, 2012 at 11:08 am

    [...] budget under $500 a month (including toiletries), but then I read Lydia Beiler’s savings tips that keeps her families groceries under $200 a month. Holy crap. I still think we do a great job, but obviously there’s room for [...]

  169. by Food Stamps - Take The Challenge

    On November 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    [...] Rather than doing all of this painful research and averaging over months etc… look at this. http://www.parents.com/blogs/thrifty…amily-of-four/ This is an employed woman, who keeps her grocery budget for 4 people, under $200 per month. I [...]

  170. by Taylor

    On December 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Great post! I’m a big fan of couponing, although I haven’t been able to drop our budget that much. I’d like to add that there are some grocery stores that make couponing a little more exciting (Gawd, I sound like a dorky suburban mom!) I live in Publix heaven (if you’re not in Florida/Alabama/Georgia/South Carolina, I pity you.) Publix rocks at BOGOs. They also allow you to use coupons on the items that you’re getting free (both store AND manufacturer). For instance, they recently had my favorite cleaner – Fantastik with Oxy Clean – on BOGO. I had two coupons for $0.50 off 1 bottle. I used the two coupons when I bought the two bottles of cleaner, which usually runs $3 each. I wound up getting both bottles of cleaner for $2. Check to see if your local grocery store has similar offers because this is a great way to clear up your budget to spend money on items that you consider luxuries. =]

  171. by jodi

    On December 31, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    My husband and I shop at the big box grocery store where we live. Sometimes we shop at stores that sell everything at discount. We don’t buy name brands either. We use coupons if possible. We can not double coupon in my state. I make everything from scratch even our bread. We don’t buy junk food and we tend to stay away from premade food. We do buy a lot of fruits and vegetables. We also buy a lot of things in the bulk section of our grocery store. Not only are we saving money but were saving ourselves from having to buy things in boxes. We’ve switched to storing all our dry food in jars. We feel so happy about that! :)

  172. by haeley

    On January 1, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Honestly I am sick of couponing. The coupons are not as good as they were even a year ago and almost all of them are for junk food we dont even eat. I am going to cancel my paper subscription and just use what I am given by the store and with my club cards. I found I saved the most money by far just by buying what we need, planning meals according to the weekly sales. I think I am just going to go back to that and stop all the crazy stocking up and deal chasing. I am sick of wasting gas and time!

  173. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 2, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Taylor- LOVE using two coupons on BOGO deals. We have a couple of stores that allow that too and wow, does it ever help!

    Jodi- Sounds like you are also eating rather healthy too which is savings in the long run!

    Haeley- I agree with you that there aren’t as many good coupon/deals as there were several years ago and I think that is in part due to the Extreme Couponing show. :( I do think though that there are still plenty of great coupons that aren’t for junk food. What about coupons for yogurt, sour cream and cheese? This week I can get Yoplait Simplait yogurt for free from Weis thanks to a $0.50 coupon from Coupons.com. Last week I was able to get Heluva Good sour cream and cheese for $0.50 and $1.00 respectively with $0.50 coupons from the manufacturer’s website. I do think there are still good deals to be found although they aren’t as plentiful. And if you felt like you saved enough with just watching sales and planning menus around that then by all means do so! Find what works for you. Personally I would still recommend finding a blog that does store coupon matchups for whatever store you plan to shop at so that you can still use any printable coupons that are available or the items you plan to purchase.

  174. by Bobbie

    On January 4, 2013 at 12:28 am

    I’m impressed! It’s just me and my fiancé and we can’t live off $200 a month we have tried. But I have set my mind I am going to try to figure out how. We have to have special grocery list because he is a diabetic and requires certain foods but he also had gastropresis which counter acts with the foods he has to have due to diabeties. For ex. Diabetics are suppose to eat wheat bread but gastropresis he can’t have it. Goes for fruits and veggies too. He is suppose to have certain fresh fruits and veggies but he can’t have them with the gastropresis. So when it comes to 3 meals a day and 3 snacks a day it makes it difficult. And when your on a limited income saving money helps. Thank you for sharing

  175. by Robin

    On January 4, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for your tips! My husband and I are both private school teachers, which means we make even less than public school teachers,and we have three kids, ages 3, 15 and 17. We try to keep our grocery bill to $400 a month. I use coupons, but have had to keep my shopping to only one or two stores because of limited time. It has been freeing to cut diapers from our budget! That’s a major savings!

  176. by Linda

    On January 5, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I’m in the time of my life now that I am past what most of you ladies are going through – raising kids and staying on a food budget – THANKFULLY! However, here are a couple of tips from this “old-timer”…..FIRST

  177. by Linda

    On January 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    not sure what happened there!
    FIRST – invest in a big freezer. We bought one with our first tax refund, used for $125, it is still going strong and we have been married 29 years! SECOND – farmer’s markets and/or gardens. As much as you can in the spring and summer buy or grow and put up fresh vegies and fruits. When our kids were growing up, we made jelly/jams, froze tomatoes, beans, corn, peas, and fruit for pies and ice cream. You can still buy a bushel of beans or tomatoes for a good price at farmers markets or local farmers. THIRD: Cook a big ham once in a while – when it is on sale. Have it for a meal, make sandwiches for lunch for a week, use it in a couple of casseroles, and put the bone in the freezer for soup. FOURTH: I would keep a large freezer container in my freezer. When I had even a spoonful of vegies left after dinner, or some chicken broth left, or the juice from cooking vegies, it went in the container. When I got ready to make soup, in went the contents of the container!Hope these help someone!

  178. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 5, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Bobbie- oh wow, that sounds complicated! And I’m sure it makes it much harder to eat on a low budget. But his health is definitely more important than any amount of money! Hope you can figure out some ways to cut corners a bit and save some more!

    Robin- I have a brother and a few friends that are private school teachers so I’m a tiny bit familiar with the low pay. I know it is not easy to live off what they make! Yes, diapers are a budget killer….but it’s been part of our budget for the last 4 years so I hardly know any different!

    Linda- So glad you finished commenting! I was really wanted to hear what you had to say and you left me hanging! :) Sounds like you’ve learned a lot about being thrifty. A freezer that still runs after 29 yrs? Well, they sure don’t make them like they used too! And I say a big, hearty AMEN to all four of your points. Our freezer has been one of the best investments we made. And #4? I just started doing that and love it. Such a great ways to keep food from spoiling. Thanks for sharing and please come back some more!

  179. by Shelli Aderman

    On January 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I wish I could get our budget down that low! I feel pretty good, however, keeping a kosher, organic home, with 2 kids and 2 adults, and 1 cat to an average of $550.00 per month. And that’s in a big, urban municipality.

    I honestly don’t think there’s anywhere else to trim!

    And honestly, I do coupons, but I rarely use them, as the store brands are usually cheaper!

  180. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 11, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Shelli, I think that doing organic for $550 is pretty decent, since organic does cost more. If you are up to it though, I’d like to challenge you to see if you can’t trim at least $10 off this month. I’m pretty convinced that all of us, myself included, can save more if we put our minds to it and often the ways that we can save are more obvious than we might think. :) You might find my post on 6 Ways to Save Money without Using Coupons helpful.

    As for the coupons thing, I know what you are saying but the key to saving a lot with coupons (and getting things cheaper than store brand) is to combine a coupon with a sale. Doing often makes the name brand less expensive than the store brand. I’d suggest finding a blog that does coupon matchups for the stores you shop at…it makes using coupons so easy. (Just Google the store name and coupon matchups to find a blog.)

  181. [...] The article quoted many more domestic abuse victims—all single moms—in what I think is an attempt to make you feel guilty. You’re a savage if you don’t want to help women who are beaten by men and have no money. The author is indignant that Georgia doesn’t let these women go instantly on the dole. Those who have money should give to those who don’t. “Two hundred and thirty-five dollars, what the hell is that supposed to pay?” wonders Renea Buck, a Savannah grandmother caring for her daughter’s two children. [$200 a month can feed a family of four] [...]

  182. by Leanne

    On January 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    We have a budget of $200/wk for my family of 5 – me, hubby, 14 y/o son, 7.5 y/o daughter, and 5 y/o son who tries to eat like my 14 year old, and I’m expecting! We *NEVER* spend that much and rarely ever spend HALF that much. I coupon some, shop ads, and stock up (as much as I’m able with just a fridge freezer and small pantry) with a sale. The myth that you can’t buy “good” food with coupons is a complete load of crap. I think the biggest problems people have is that they don’t want to shop around and they don’t know how to best use coupons. Kelloggs cereal is on sale for 1.99 a box wyb 5 this week at one of my local grocery stores. I have a coupon for $2 off my produce purchase if I buy 2 Kelloggs cereals. I also have a $1/3 Kelloggs cereal coupon. My store also has ORGANIC apples and pears on sale for 99c/lb. BONUS – Chocolate Kelloggs mini wheats are free of HFCS. By couponing the right way, I can get 5 boxes of cereal and one pound each (3 medium size)ORGANIC pears and apples for $9. They also have split chicken breast for 99c/lb, so I’ll buy 10lbs of it and boil it with celery, onions, and carrot then debone the chicken and freeeze it AND the stock. If I drive down the street a couple of miles, a local “farmers market” type grocery store has tomatoes, oranges, and 9 types of apples on sale for 49c/lb and all natural chicken breast (boneless/skinless) for 1.99/lb. For $10 I can get 3lbs of chicken, and 2lbs each tomatoes, oranges, and 4 lbs of apples, but I’m not done. They also have green onion bunches on sale for 49c ea so I grab 2 of those, green bell pepper and cucumbers for 49c ea so grabbing 2 each of them as well, and celery, spinach and romaine bunches are only 99c ea so I’ll grab one of each of those as well. For $35 (or 17.5% of my weekly budget) I’ve just bought enough meat for 13 meals, made at least 10 cups of chicken stock (I bought carrots a few days ago, 1.25 for 2 lbs using a store coupon – so no expense for that this week), 5 boxes of HFCS free cereal that can double as a treat for school lunches, 1 lb ea ORGANIC apples and pears and 2 lbs of oranges, all of which can be used in lunches or for snacks, plus another 4 lbs of apples that I can easily turn into applesauce using my crock pot. In addition, I have 2 lbs tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, green onion, and 2 bell peppers, or all the fixings for a couple of salads plus I’ll likely have some sliced pepper, cucumber, and tomato left to snack on, not to mention the celery! Other good sales this week? A 10lb bag of russet potatoes for 1.99, blackberries 10 6oz containers for $10, large avacados 10/$10 (note: you DON’T have to buy 10 to get the deal), fresh broccoli/cauliflower/green beans/yellow squash all 99c/lb, Hormel lunch meat 2/$6 (nitrate and nitrite free). I’ve also got things still in my pantry/freezer/fridge that I won’t, or shouldn’t need, to buy this week like more cereal, steak, pork chops, bags of frozen veggies, flour, sugar milk, eggs, real maple syrup (sounds like breakfast for dinner may be in order!) etc. I can spend another $50-65 on other items just to increase the stock I have at home or use it on other items we might want or need like TP, shampoo, yogurt, bananas, fruit juice, more fruits/veggies, whatever! It takes me about 1 hour/day or 1 day a week to prepare for the next weeks shopping trip. It’s totally worth a 50% or more savings on my grocery budget.

  183. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Leanne, you explained so well how to stretch a budget. Sounds like you shop much like I do. Your comment just gave me an idea for a post. People are always wondering how to do it and maybe if I did a post like this it would help them. Or perhaps I should just use your comment. :) Thanks for sharing!

  184. by ashley

    On January 12, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Say you spent that $200 just on food (no cleaning products) and say you bought nothing for your children….that would still only leave you and your husband with roughly $1.13 per person per meal. Imagine what would happen to that $1 after we factor in your kids needs and your cleaning products! I’m sorry but you need to show proof before you state how much you spend because what you claim doesn’t work mathematicly.

  185. by Abby

    On January 13, 2013 at 7:17 am

    This is a great post. I attempted couponing once before, and pretty much hated it, for all of the reasons others have stated – it seemed like it was for packaged junk that I didn’t want, and I had trouble finding a couponing site that matched coupons & sales at my fav store (Meijer). Well, after reading this I was inspired to try again, so today I will scour coupons online and in the paper, and I also find a coupon site that I will try following.

    I also realized I *really* need a price list. I spent yesterday scoping out some different stores in the area – a Mexican grocery, a scratch and dent, and GFS. Overall, I was unimpressed with any one store as Aldi prices were just as good or better, but I found a couple items that were good deals at each place and wrote them down.

    I am intrigued by your $2.00/lb price limit for meat AND cheese. Are you still finding those prices this year?? It’s been easy to find chicken breast under 2.00, but not ground beef. I could do without beef altogether but my son loves it for Mexican dishes. I’m already using the trick of using less meat overall and adding in quite a few beans.

    I’ve been watching sales for months. The best I could find anywhere was $2.29 for 10 lbs of 80% at Gordon Food Service. Not bad.

    And cheese?!? How on earth do you find cheese for $2.00/lb?? Best I’ve found was like $3.50, but I haven’t been watching it as closely as meat.

    Anyway, I’m 3 months into my budgeting, and I’ve made tons of improvements but I’m currently spending $300 just for two of us. But I love a challenge and after reading this, I definitely want to get it down closer to $200.

  186. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 14, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Ashley- Never thought about how little our $200/mo. actually makes our per meal cost. As for the proof, I actually do post what I buy weekly on my blog and I’ve also done a couple of menu plan posts too. Both of those are linked to in my blog post, so feel free to check them out. I don’t know what other proof you want unless you want to come live with us for a while! :) And as I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I do save a lot of money by making my own bread, yogurt, granola, baked goods and even things like Bisquick and cream soups. I also do a lot preserving. Last year I preserved 331 qts. of fruits and vegetables. That included strawberries, blueberries, peaches, applesauce, green beans, corn, marinara sauce, tomato juice, vegetable soup and more. Those things, while creating more work, really do help lower our grocery budget as well as help us eat healthier. Does that make sense?

    Abby- Love your attitude in relation to trying to trim your grocery budget. Go for it! You can do it!

    I found this site that looks like it has decent Meijer coupon matchups. I also have a friend that does couponing at Meijer. If you’d like I can ask her what blog she uses to help her out.

    As for the price list, most of my prices are from Aldi too. However, using coupons I can often get items for less than Aldi prices. And if you are in an area where Meijer is that might also mean you live in Amish country? (Ohio or Indiana?) If so, check around for some Amish owned bulk food stores. Often you can get baking supplies like oatmeal, chocolate chips, brown sugar and much more- even cheese and meat sometimes- for less than Aldi.

    Yes, my buy price for meat and cheese has stayed at $2/lb., although it is getting harder to find. Around here a couple of stores put bulk packs of 10 lbs. or more of ground beef on sale for under $2/lb. occasionally. I also recently was able to purchase some from friends of ours who are farmers for $2/lb. Cheese is a bit more of a challenge but again, I can find 5 lb. bags of shredded cheese for $2/lb. or under occasionally, usually at a grocery outlet type store. When I find them I usually get a couple of bags and separate them out into smaller portions and freeze it. I get blocks of cheese for $2/lb. by using the coupon on the Heluva Good website and combining it with sales. Often our stores here put the Heluva Good cheese on sale for 2/$4 and I use the $0.50 Heluva Good coupon on it. Our stores double the coupon to $1.00 off meaning I get 8 oz. of cheese for $1. There have a been a couple of times in the last year where I’ve spent $2.25/lb. for cheese but that was rare.

    All the best to you!

  187. by Abby

    On January 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I like that coupon site a lot, thanks! Already it helped me find a coupon for a free gallon of milk that I didn’t know about. Maybe couponing won’t be so bad after all :)

    I do live near a large Amish community in northwestern Indiana, about 45 min east of me. My mom’s family were raised on a farm, and some of them still farm, so they know good meat (but none in this area raise beef cattle or I would try to buy from them). I asked my grandma where she buys meat, and she gave me the names of a couple family owned shops. Although even the Amish owned shops have websites they generally don’t list their prices or have sales flyers online. I called one in Shipshewana, and their bulk price for 80/20 ground beef is 3.50/lb(grain fed hormone free), and their cheese is similarly pricey. Not surprising as I guessed my grandma would be very interested in quality but not so much price. It seems like a higher end place.

    But, there’s a bulk grocery just down the street from there, and I just remembered that I found a great deal on cheese and soaps there a few years back. Haven’t been that way in a while, but I might just have to make a day trip out of it since it’s a somewhat touristy town and would be fun to visit in the middle of a boring winter.

    Thanks for the tips on the cheese, too. I will keep my eyes open for a deal.

  188. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Abby- free milk? Whoa, I’m jealous! :)

    We have relatives that live near Shipshewana and I know there is a store there (H&S maybe?) that they like to go to. We were there with them once and I remember being fairly impressed with some of their prices although if I remember correctly, it is one of those hit or miss places- they get random things in and so sometimes they have decent prices and sometimes not. If you’d like I can email them and ask.

  189. by Jessica Samson

    On January 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    What is a salvage grocery store?

  190. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Jessica- Glad you asked. Some people call them Bent and Dent stores. Basically they are stores that get various products and sell them for really low prices. Sometimes the items are dented up (which is why the big name stores reject them) or they may be outdated. Other times the item is in perfect condition but was just rejected by a store for whatever reason so the salvage grocery got it. Some states have laws that don’t allow these types of stores I believe so there might not be any in your area. If there are, I’d highly recommend checking it out!

  191. by Abby

    On January 17, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Yes that’s the place! E&S Sales in Shipshewana. If you think you can find out more by email that’d be awesome!

  192. by Devin

    On January 18, 2013 at 12:33 am

    I get all of the sale flyers from local grocery stores Find coupons to match some of the stuff with and the head out to the trenches of wal mart. I also use a calculator the whole time my budget is larger but I’m feeding 2 teens and 2 adults and the occasional drop by friend and family members

  193. by christina

    On January 19, 2013 at 3:32 am

    I have been couponing for about 2+years now. I have 3 boys that I feel like they never stop eating. I sat down one day and realized that I was spending about $800+ at the grocery store and about $300 on going out to eat. No wonder we couldn’t afford anything. I have since created a stockpile that could last us 6 months or so and have cut our grocery budget down to $400 a month. If I do not spend the complete $400 then I put the remainder of the money into a savings account. I spend about 2-3hrs each Sunday morning planning my grocery list and my coupons and keep a detailed list of every item I have. Did I mention I work part time overnights and am in school full time days and my kids play every sports known to man.

  194. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 24, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Devin- “the trenches of Walmart”- love it! Yes, price matching is a real time saver and my calculator is one of my best friends when I’m grocery shopping too! Thanks for sharing!

    Christina- That is amazing

  195. by Lori

    On January 24, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    We have several stores in our area who offer “Pick 5″ deals.. In produce, it is obviously, produce items, great selection, pick 5 (packages) of salad mix/tray tomatoes/apples/citrus/etc for $10.
    Pick 5 in meats can be sandwich meats (1 lb pkg) /ground beef/chicken/pork/BBQ/bulk hot dogs/bacon/sausage/cheeses/economy size bags of frozen veggies/fries/etc…for $19.99
    If you buy 2 pick 5′s in meats, and one in produce that’s $50 (plus tax). of course you will need some other items, but this is a start. We stocked our fridge/freezer/pantry WELL last night with several Pick 5′s…

    Hope this helps :)

  196. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 25, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Lori- Never heard of that but sounds like a great way to save. Kind of the buying in bulk concept, which I love doing. Thanks for sharing!

  197. by Kara L.

    On January 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I have a family of 5 plus two dogs (one large one small) and a cat. My girls are soccer playing gymnastic enthusiastic 9 and 11 year olds. Our boy is 3 years old and growing. I recently decided to stay home and have had to find ways to cut costs. Having only one income has forced us to cut everywhere from activities to electronics…..groceries being the biggest spot…..We do have our own garden but can only beneift it from it in the summer and early fall months. We don’t eat a lot of packaged foods just because of the cost and seeing as how I’m home now I do have time to prepare more meals and plan ahead for snacks and such….We are military however we live of base and our comissary is about half an hour from our home. I like to shop at winco and buy what I can in bulk. I have always been under the assumption that generic brands are cheaper than buying name brands with a coupon but have recently wanted to start comparing store adds and learing how to use coupons to their full advantage. This is my goal for the year, use more coupons (as opposed to none!) and I love you suggestion to slash $10 from our grocery bills! Like you said, these are just the techniques you use and of course it isn’t reasonable for everyone to live on a $200 a month grocery bill. I think what is moronic are the people that think it necessary to voice that “fact”. Although you placed a(n) (unecessary) disclaimer on your blog stating that you’re well aware that your way of life isn’t for everyone, i didn’t expect so many people to have actually NEEDED thus disclaimer. Im for one glad I read your blog because although I can’t adjust my lifestyle to every tip you gave in your blog

  198. by Ashle

    On January 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

    We have a famly of four who are big eaters as well. We have two in pullups/diapers, 2 large dogs, a cat, and a ferret. I manage to do our monthly groceries and toiletries for under 250 a month..Most of the time it is right around 200. I’m lucky if I can find any meat around here for $1.89/lb or less. Most meats around here start at 2.20/lb. It’s getting harder to keep to my budget. I have found that making a lot of the stuff we use has helped a lot. We make our own yogurt, bread and ricotta cheese. We tend to get sliced cheese at BJs. 2.99/lb plus coupons on landolakes makes it super afforable for us. We also make most of our own cleaning supplies to cut those costs. Frankly, they just work better! Our local dollar store tends to carry nice food products. We also scan the discount sections of the grocery stores first to find any markdowns on items we need. I tend to be able to get various 8oz bricks of cheese for 50 cents each, quarts of Silk for 99 cents, and various kinds of real fruit juice for $1.29.
    Thanks for the great read! :)

  199. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 30, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Kara- Thanks for your kind words! And thanks for taking what you could from my post and leaving the rest…that’s what I mean for people to do. :)

    Ashle- Love hearing from others who have low grocery budgets and learning how they do it. Yes, it is getting harder as food prices rise to stick with our budget too. I would love to find great things in our discounted food sections but unfortunately I rarely do…it’s typically just junky stuff or things we would never ever use. That sounds like an awesome way to save!

  200. by Crystal

    On January 30, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I ran across your blog and am so curious to know if you find that you are still keeping to the same $200 budget in 2013? We have seen grocery prices in our area (rural NC) increase by nearly 200% on some grocery items (bread, dry pasta, beef)and our family is now lucky to keep our food-only budget under $800 per month. In all fairness, we are feeding two teenagers, two adults and a six-year-old, but we are struggling with rising grocery prices and an income that is not increasing. We bake our own bread, have our own chickens that provide eggs, and we cook every meal from scratch. We do not see a tremendous savings using coupons – we use them for toiletries and staples, but if it’s not something we would buy anyway, we do not purchase just because there’s a coupon. I would love to hear from anyone that has posted what they are doing to satiate teenage appetites without going broke on food alone. I would also love to hear if you have made any changes based on the rising cost of food since you wrote this.

  201. by Lydia Beiler

    On January 31, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Crystal- Good question! Yes, I am planning to keep my $200 budget in 2013 but there are a couple of caveats. We are going to be gone from home for 6 wks. due to my husband’s job and the place we are going to be at provides housing and food for us so our expenses during that time will be very minimal. We thought of cutting back our grocery budget a bit (say by $8/mo.) but decided to leave it since food prices are rising and since our children are both eating more. They eat a lot now; I can’t imagine what I must be like when they become teenagers!

    One of the big ways I save aside from using coupons is by stockpiling. Over time that really does help you get ahead in your grocery budget. And I also feel like I need to put a plug in here for couponing. Yes, sometimes it is more expensive to buy and item with a coupon but often I can get things much cheaper and even free- just last week I got tuna free with a coupon/sale. I recommend finding a blog that does coupon matchups for stores in your area (google the store name and coupon matchups and you should find something) and just checking that every week before you go shopping. You might be surprised what bargains you can get and the great thing is, the blogger will do the work of finding the deals for you! Hope that helps and feel free to ask if something doesn’t make sense!

  202. by Debbie Davis

    On January 31, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    I wanted to tell you I enjoyed reading your post. I have a family of 7. Five children ages 6 to 17. I work hard to keep my grocery bill at $75 a week. When I have enough money I do spend $100 a week. It takes a lot of work and planning, but it can be done!

  203. by Lydia Beiler

    On February 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Debbie- Wow, that’s doing really good for a family of 7 with those ages!

  204. by Rose

    On February 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I’m sorry, but I have to say this post made me cringe, and it also made my husband cringe when I told him the logistics of it. A cheese-less sandwich? Cheese is really a luxury that you “choose to go without”? A “luxury” is going out to a five star restaurant or a movie theater without the kids. I mean, I know what they say about people that assume, but your husband must be extremely whipped or lying to your face to avoid a blowout when he says he wants just meat and lettuce on a sandwich. I mean, come on.

    I’m not entirely sure why I felt so sick to my stomach when reading your menu plans; it possibly has something to do with the fact that you think hotdogs are an acceptable dinner option (even if they are “no fillers” variety — if that’s even possible), or that you serve your family “ham loaf.” This sounds like food you receive in prison for lunch. A real dinner has some substance. The lettuce salad just made me sad. A latte is not a snack, that’s a caffeine boost, and most people need it to wake up in the morning. Unless that’s another luxury, in which case, don’t let me slow down your flow!

    I hate to say, but unfortunately when your children grow up, they’re not going to be on board with this all the time. Kids go to school, or to friend’s houses, and they may eat tons of stuff there that they “choose to go without” at home and wonder where that food had been all their lives. Sorry, but depriving your family to save a few dollars? That’s just a shame. I’m also guessing stingy religion and “waste not” plays into this as well.

  205. by Lydia Beiler

    On February 1, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Rose- Thanks for sharing your thoughts. So, what do you eat for dinner and snacks? I’d love to know how “real” people eat!

    Actually, we really enjoy the way we eat and don’t feel deprived at all. Both my husband and I grew up eating very similarly to how we eat now and we still CHOOSE to eat this way. If you’ll notice, the point of my post was not to say that everyone should eat like we do, or that the way we eat is the best. The point of this post was simply to get your mind rolling with ways that you might not think of to shave some money off your grocery budget. The things that you choose will likely be different than ours and that is fine. We’ve chose these things so that we can live debt free….to me that is worth a few sacrifices here and there. But you may not agree and that is up to you.

  206. by Kelly

    On February 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I like the idea of using coupons for grocery shopping but am struggling on where to start. Do you have any helpful hints on where to find free grocery coupons? Thanks for any help you can offer!

  207. by Lydia Beiler

    On February 16, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Kelly- That’s a great question! If you look at Weekly Spending Summary posts you’ll see a list of all the common coupon sites at the top. In addition, if you are looking for coupons for organic products I have a post with links to a bunch of websites that offer coupons for that.

    If you are interested, I recommend finding a website that does sale/coupon matchups for the grocery store(s) or drugstore(s) you shop. The website will list the items that are on sale for that week and pair them with coupons and tell you where to find each coupon (what website or which newspaper insert). It saves a lot of time since you don’t have to do all the work of searching for the coupons and deals yourself. To find a website google something like coupon matchups and the store’s name.

    If you do start couponing, don’t feel bad taking it slow. It takes a bit to get the hang of it and if you try to jump into it too fast it’s easy to get overwhelmed quickly.

    Hope that helps and feel free to ask any other questions- I love helping people save! :)

  208. by Kate

    On February 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    The biggest challenge I find is bringing the whole family on board with the challenge.
    When I lived on my own I had a monthly budget of $1200 my rent was $815 and my bus pass was $98. This left a grand total of $287 for entertainment, food, miscellaneous items. I easily spent this $200 and only ever ate 1.5 to 2 meals a day. Often a smoothie would count as dinner. There was a lot of soup, a lot of meatless meals, and often a dinner out would mean pasta with whatever I could find in the cupboard for the last few days of the month.

    Fast forward to today where I have a husband 3 cats and 2 small dogs and my grocery bill is $6-800. My husband insists on 2 full meals a day plus 2-3 snack and 5-6 cups of coffee a day. I don’t get to eat the way I normally would because I am focussing on what he will eat.

    My question is where do you account for the cost of all the fresh stuff you stockpile/can? Does this factor into the $200/month?

  209. by How to Create a Budget | Well Kept Wallet

    On February 26, 2013 at 7:42 am

    [...] your financial goals. If you are looking for ideas, see this post by Lydia at Parents.com called 4 Things I do to keep our Grocery Budget at $200/mo. for a Family of 4.3. Enter Those Totals on a Piece of Paper – What Kim and I used when we were paying off our [...]

  210. by Lydia Beiler

    On February 26, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Kate, yes, sometimes getting the rest of the family on board can be a challenge. In our situation, I was actually the one that had to come on board and it took me a while to really be okay with it and embrace it. Funny thing is, now I’m the one that is the more tight-wad of the two of us!

    First off I say kudos to you for honoring your husband in his preferences. That is worth far more than lots of money. Have you talked candidly (and by that I mean not accusingly) about the situation? Is there anything that he would be willing to do to come on board a bit?

    Yes, our $200/mo. does include the fresh fruit and veggies that I can and freeze. I simply try to not spend the full $200 during the months of the year that I’m not buying food to can/freeze. This gives me some extra spending money once canning season hits and I’m spending a lot on produce to preserve. One thing that does help is that we live in Amish country and there a lot of produce growers around. I’m often able to get large quantities of produce straight from the grower for excellent prices.

    Does that answer your question? Is there something else that would be helpful to know? Feel free to ask!

  211. by Abby

    On March 2, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Well, I did it… sort of! February’s grocery expenses came in at $198. That’s for myself, my 13 yr old son who eats more than many adults, and chicken for the cat (that’s all she eats) and dog (who eats chicken mixed w dog food). I did a lot of couponing. Last trip, I got about $50 work of food for $9.70, and the woman behind me said “wow, you know how to shop”, and the cashier was pretty impressed, too. That felt nice :)

    That’s groceries ONLY, though. I spent an additional $30 on my son’s school lunch, $10 on takeout food, $23 on household & cleaning items and $10 on pet supplies (most months it’s more like 65 but I didn’t have to buy dog food last month).

    Still room for improvement!

  212. by Lydia Beiler

    On March 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Abby- I am so impressed and proud of you! You just spent $100 less than normal and that is amazing! Even if you did spend more on other stuff you still made progress and the thing is, I have a stockpile which helps me not have to spend as much anymore. I assume you don’t have that. And just so you know, I don’t include any takeout food in our grocery budget….that comes out of another budget category. We don’t eat out much but it does happen occasionally.

    Thanks for letting me know how you did!

  213. by Abby

    On March 10, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Thanks for the encouragement. Another question… when is the right time to invest in a chest freezer? I’m assuming you must have one just based on your purchases and how much you say you’re freezing.

    I *finally* got a great deal on 80/20 ground beef at $1.99/lb, so I stocked up and bought almost 20 lbs. I also found cheese at Gordon Food Service. Mozzarella was $2/lb and cheddar was just a little more, so I stocked up there too. Now my teeny fridge freezer is completely full. I probably would have bought even more beef if I’d had more room, since it was the best deal I’ve seen in the 6 months that I’ve been watching.

  214. by Lydia Beiler

    On March 11, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Abby- Yes, we do have a chest freezer. Two of them actually!

    If you can afford it I highly recommend getting one. We’ve found that ours take very little electricity (less than $10/mo. from what we can tell and they are both OLD) but they save us a bunch because we can stock up on meat and other things at rock bottom prices, freeze lots of fruit and veggies when they are in season (which is healthier and cheaper) and it helps us avoid eating out since we have access to lots of food right there. We got both of ours used and have had good success with them. (I’m thinking of answering your question in more depth in this or next weeks Reader Q&A post, so stay tuned.)

    Yay on the inexpensive meat and cheese! Isn’t it fun?

  215. by Brianna

    On March 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I wish those prices were realistic where I live.

    $3.99/lb for the worst cuts of meat is still a bargain here. No local butchers or anything. We only eat meat once a week as a result.

    As much homemade as possible…breads, sauces, jams, etc and I learned to preserve and can to make things last longer. Quite literally I went shopping on Saturday and spent $60 for a family of three and that will only last us a week (DH, pregnant me, and a 6 year old)…and all I bought was produce and a gallon of milk. No organics, no “fancy” stuff, and got it at a farmers market that beats every grocery store price by at least $2 per item.

  216. by Lydia Beiler

    On March 20, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Brianna- Yes, I know some areas it’s really hard to find meat for that price, although I think in most areas it’s more possible than people realize. If you’re store does big packs of ground beef/chicken it’s often up to $1/lb. cheaper than buying it in smaller packages. Also, I often get breakfast sausage and bacon cheap with either or both coupons and Buy One, Get One Free sales. I do have a freezer though so that does allow me to stock up and be able to save more. I’m sure though in areas where you don’t have many stores even these ideas are a bit harder to implement. (Have you read my post on 6 Ways to Save Money on Meat? It might help give you some more ideas.) Kudos to you on being willing to do what it takes- eating meat just once a week- to live within your means! And yes, making homemade is such a money saver. I also preserve and can. Isn’t it fulfilling to know that you KNOW where that food comes from?

  217. by Maggie

    On March 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I think this is a great list with helpful tips, but one thing that I have trouble with myself is the brand snob thing. After trying to save by buying the cheap store brands, I recently stopped after looking at the ingredients and realizing that they are full of cheap ingredients and fillers–high fructose corn syrup in canned beans, sauces and condiments in place of sugar, corn starch in yogurts, etc. This extends to organic versions, as well, like Safeway’s O brand. I know you’re pointing out to use coupons where you can and not stick to one brand, but I think it’s important to be aware what the difference is between more expensive brands and the cheap knockoffs. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  218. by Lydia Beiler

    On March 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Maggie- Excellent point! I make a lot of my own things so I haven’t noticed that as much but I too get annoyed at how much junk companies put in our food. I didn’t realize though that the generic and name brand ingredients would vary so much. A good reminder to check labels! And yes, sometimes it’s worth it to pay more- at least if your budget allows.

  219. by Melissa

    On March 24, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Great article!! Common sense stuff that we some times need to be reminded of. We are a family of 4 with two having health issues that require them to have at least 2500 calories a day, and getting that makes much food into a 3 & 4 year old requires some creativity but i am able to do it for around $100 a week including toiletries and cleaning supplies. I buy meat from a local farm (aka my parents farm) and make a lot of stuff from scratch. My husband works for the local grocery store and according to him a lot of the “generic” items are still made by the name brand companies. I do a lot of casseroles since i work full time and my husband works nights, so they are easy to pull out of the freezer and throw in the oven!!! Going meatless for one meal a week sounds like a great idea and i plan on trying that next week! The proteins can easily be replaced with something else!! I am very impressed with your ability to take the nasty comments in stride and applaud your composure!!!

  220. by Kellee

    On March 25, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Hey Lydia, great job with your posts and your polite responses to everyone. I like that you mention to cut out things that are not important TO YOU, which is going to differ for everyone. Lots of folks that have posted seem to have great ideas! I have found a lot of helpful information through Pinterest and books from the library over the past few years that I have used to help our family save money. The most important thing is to stay organized, which can be hard for just about everyone, and takes a lot of creativity and commitment. I can’t always keep it as frugal as you are doing (shuttling husband to two jobs on the night shift and special needs kid back and forth to doctors appointments usually throws me off the bandwagon at least once a week :) , but I always continue to try. I like gardening and it pays off well for us in the summer months (look into container gardening as there are lots of ways you can grow food in a small space and still give your kids room to play…digging in the dirt is fun!). Our local grocery store also offers gas rewards and coupons that you can load onto your card each week, which help. We do some of the stuff other folks have mentioned too, like using rags/cloth napkins instead of paper products, making homemade cleaners and detergent, and other stuff to cut down those big household product expenses (we cut sponges in half and use bags from store bought apples/oranges/onions or easy to grow luffas for scrubbers). One thing we also do to save money, though not on groceries, is not use a dryer. It started out because we didn’t have one in our place and now we are used to our low electric bill…the dryer is the second biggest energy eater after the fridge! We have clotheslines/clothes racks in our basement and line dry outside when it’s warm. Finally, the best thing ever for my food budget has been not taking my kid to the store with me when I shop. Not only can I get things done faster, but I can actually follow my list and get out of there with my sanity to actually get home to cook :) . Keep up your good work, I will continue to look for more great tips from you!

  221. by Kellee

    On March 25, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Also, have you tried grinding your own meat? If you have a Kitchen Aid or other upright stand mixer, you can get a meat-grinding attachment and do it yourself…then you know what goes into your ground beef as well and can use the cuts you want. Or use chicken or pork which is cheaper to buy per pound than beef.

  222. by Angela

    On March 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    So I have a couple of tricks that help a little:

    I buy whole milk and mix it half and half with water. I find it tastes the same as 2 %.

    Similar to that, I buy a premium brand orange juice at a sale price and mix it half and half with water and then add either sugar or artificial sweetener to taste, depending on one’s personal preference. With the artificial sweetener approach, you get what people pay $4-5 per 2L for, called Trop 50.

  223. by Lydia Beiler

    On April 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Melissa, wow, trying to get kids that young to eat that many calories WOULD take creativity. Kudos to you! Yes, I’ve learned too that many of the generics are made by the name brands. I still remember when I worked at CVS and we found a package of CVS brand batteries that had Energizer batteries inside. :) Yes, making stuff from scratch saves a lot and sounds like you are really organized if you do freezer meals like that a lot. How’d the meatless meal work out?

  224. by Lydia Beiler

    On April 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Kellee, loved reading all your tips. Sounds like you are one money savvy lady! Yes, staying organized is key and it’s something I don’t always do well at either. I’ve definitely improved during the 6 years we’ve been married thanks partly to my super organized husband’s help but I still fall off the bandwagon frequently too. :) Do you have tips for container gardening? I’ve tried a little bit of it with minimal success. I often wish for a bigger space so I could have a small garden. Yes, I’ve learned that not using the dryer saves a lot too. I do use it throughout the winter months for towels and I also dry most of my other stuff for about 15 min just to get the worst of the wrinkles out but that’s it. We have a drying rack too (love it!) and a retractable clothesline. I really discovered first hand how much a dryer costs when I decided one month to start using my dryer more as a way to save time (it does take time to hang up the laundry after all). I was super busy and thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. Well, we nearly fell over when we got the electric bill. Crazy how much more it was! And no, I’ve never ground my own meat, although that is a great idea.

  225. by Lydia Beiler

    On April 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Angela- Yes, adding water to whole milk is a great idea. I’ve done it occasionally in the past although currently am not since I feel like our children need all the nutrition they can get from the whole milk. Never thought of doing that to OJ too. Interesting!

  226. by Madame Joy

    On April 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Most impressive, although I do worry about the quality of inexpensive foods these days. I wish I could have my own garden, but first I have to learn how!

  227. by Lydia Beiler

    On April 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Madame Joy- Yes, it’s always important to watch food quality. I encourage you to try the gardening thing. We don’t have room for much but I’ve did a few pots last year and also a zucchini plant. This year I’d like to try more. I don’t know much about it either so I just ask people and google whatever I want to know more about!

  228. by Kindle Lover

    On April 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    And I thought I was doing great not buying a box of cereal if it was over $2.50! We have been wanting to make our own yogurt and will have to try your method. Also, we are going to experiment with making our own bagels, freezer jams, and peanut butter for breakfasts. We recently moved from a big house in a small town with limited shopping venues to a small apartment in a big city right next to a Winco and other shopping venues we’d been missing. Now, more than ever, I need to cut our grocery bill into a fraction of what it was. I will be exploring your website further, thank you.

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