Why We Need to Stop Comparing Grocery Budgets to Save Money

Can we talk for a minute about grocery budgets? There are a couple things I want to say about grocery budgets and why we need to stop comparing grocery budgets.

Having a grocery budget is important but no one can or should have the exact same grocery budget. Your grocery budget shouldn’t be the same as mine. We all need different grocery budgets and we all need to stop comparing grocery budgets to save ourselves money. I hope you know that, but if you need the reminder, here’s why.

My family looks different than yours.

My family eats differently than yours.

I shop at different stores than you do.

I live in a different area with different prices than you.

Even if we lived in the same town and had the same number of people in our family, our grocery budgets will still look very different for all these reasons above and more.

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Here’s the thing about grocery budgets.

Grocery budgets are important. If you are looking to save your family money, a grocery budget is one of the first places I recommend looking to trim expenses. You can shop the sales and save your family a lot of money in the grocery store – whether you use coupons or not. And yes, you can still buy good food on a budget!

Here’s the thing about my grocery budget.

My grocery budget is low. As of 2017, it’s currently set at $260. This feeds our family of four – my husband and myself, a 3 year old boy and a 1 year old. My grocery budget covers food, diapers, toiletries and paper products. You can see what I purchase at the grocery store each week here. Since we live on my husband’s teacher income, keeping our grocery budget low is one way that we stretch our pennies. 

According to the USDA food chart, my family (on the thrifty plan) should be spending $557.1o a month on groceries. I still think that’s high. Although, not as high as the liberal plan which says we should be spending $1088.88 on groceries each month! Really? Yikes! I encourage you to take a look at the USDA chart and see where your family falls. It’s really interesting to view.

How is this possible, then, that my budget is so low? Several things impact my grocery budget.

I like to grocery shop and so do my kids. I like to cook. I like to look for the best deals. I don’t mind going to two stores if the deals merit it. I have a grocery stockpile that allows me a lot of flexibility in what I am cooking and buying any particular week.

I have an extra freezer where I can stock up on good perishable deals, like meat and dairy. We don’t have any dietary restrictions in our family. I cook a lot from scratch but we do eat processed food.

I’ve been shopping on a budget all my life. I’ve been perfecting my frugal grocery skills over the past 13 years, since I graduated college and accepted my first teaching job on my own. I use coupons and stack deals with a coupon app. 

I don’t share all this to discourage you but rather to encourage you not to compare yourself! 

When we stop comparing our grocery budgets, it gives us the freedom to set the budget that works for our family at this particular season of life. Feel free to look at other grocery budgets if it encourages you to save money, but if it frustrates you, then stop! You don’t need that pressure to save money. You will save more money if you compare yourself to you and track your own progress. 

I know that wives and moms are hard on ourselves. We want to do the best we can for our families. If we stay at home, we tend to be even harder, knowing this is our job and wanting to stretch our one-income as far as we can.

Give yourself grace! We all have to start somewhere. My advice is to take an honest look at your budget and set an amount for groceries that is right for you. Then, if you want the challenge, start working to slowly and gradually reduce that amount. Pick one area to focus on and start there.

If you want to know all my grocery budget tips, you need to check out Crystal Paine’s Grocery Ebook! It is the best grocery guide around (and a cheap one too!) that describes my process exactly. Seriously, I could have written this book! It is that similar to what I do. If you want to find the best deals to build your stockpile on a budget, read Crystal’s ebook and watch the savings stack up! It is an in-depth guide to all things groceries.

Our grocery budgets need to be different for our families. 

Once we stop comparing our budget to others, we have the freedom to tweak our budget as it works for our family. That’s what I want to remind you (and myself) of today.

Want to know more about shopping on a grocery budget? Here are some tips to help you.

I’d love to hear what your grocery budget is currently for your family at this particular time. Let’s encourage each other in the comments so we can see how we’re all saving even as we spend at different amounts!

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  1. We are a family of 4, my husband and I, a 6 year old girl and a 3 year old little guy. I try to keep up at roughly $150/week for all household goods. That groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers and dog items. Our little dude has a dairy intolerance so buying him almond milk and veggie cheese is for sure more expensive than regular dairy items. The great thing (I think) is that these items usually have a longer shelf life so I am able to stock up fairly well when those items that he tolerates best go on sale. He also has extremely sensitive skin so this means Pampers and Aveeno purchases in our house.
    Something else that we add in to our budget is feeding and caring for our 2 dogs. Between food, treats, flea and heartworm preventative medicines and a recently added supplement for our older dog’s arthritis this can certainly be a big addition to a budget.
    I think the only time I get really frustrated with our budget are those times where it feels like everything runs out at once. Diapers and dog food all at once can hit a budget hard. But I just try to save more the next week (plan fewer meat focused meals, make fewer snack food purchases at the store) and watch it all even out at the end of the month.
    And I’m excited for the day when diapers are no longer a necessary item on my budget.

    1. Great additions to the discussion, Leslie! It sounds like you have found a great way to make sure the necessary purchases fit within your budget. Good point about shelf lives! And yes, when everything runs out at once, that is indeed frustrating. Good job about balancing things. Oh, and I too, am looking forward to the day when we’re not purchasing diapers – although then, our food costs will probably increase for our growing boys! 🙂

  2. I burst out laughing at the ‘recommended numbers” from the USDA food chart! I mean that’s likely many family of four’s MORTGAGE payment!!! How can they possibly spend that on groceries??? I don’t know that I could, perhaps if we went out to eat or ate lobster and steak often.

    We are a family of four now, with kids off to college, and spend close to $100 a week, but the kids are often home and we entertain. Sales and deals are how I afford to entertain so regularly.

    Great points, as always! Blessings to you and yours!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds the USDA numbers entertaining, Christina! If I DID have that money to spend at the grocery store, I don’t know where I’d spend it! Ha. I can think of other places to spend it. My kids are already turning into good eaters, so I know our budget will continue to increase as they grow. And entertaining is definitely a good reason to spend money at the grocery store! 🙂

  3. This is so good! It’s way too easy to compare and start judging others or ourselves. I like how you mention that there are so many different variables that affect our grocery budgets BUT that saving money on groceries is also probably one of the easiest areas to trim if you are looking for ways to find more money in your budget.

    1. Thanks, Lydia! I know you and I think so similarly on this topic! 🙂 And I always encourage people to look for ways to save on their grocery budget because it really is easy to do, if you are willing to invest a bit of time.

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