Grocery Shopping on $250/month!

My husband is always talking to people about budgeting and they are always shocked when he gets to the part about how much we spend (or rather, don’t spend) on groceries! So I decided to do a breakdown of our weekly purchases to show how its possible to shop for our family of three (two adults and one child) on $250 per month. 

I shop almost exclusively at Aldi, with a couple exceptions, which I’ll explain later. I find Aldi to suit our needs perfectly right now, providing good quality food at a price that allows me to stretch my $50-60 a week to the maximum. It simplifies my shopping trip since I know where everything is, the stores are comparatively small, and you generally only have a few different choices to make for each item (as in, there aren’t ten different brands of ketchup to choose from).
I also desire to feed us good, healthy food, and while most of what I purchase isn’t organic and could be way better, it works for us for now, and we are kind of in the mode of doing the best we can with what we have. We eat well, we eat simply, we stay healthy. 

Here is a list of the things I generally purchase every week (these items do vary from week to week based on need, price, and availability):

1 jar salsa
1 bag sunflower seeds
1 jar peanuts
1 bag salted rice cakes
1-2 dozen eggs
2 half gallons unsweetened almond milk
1 bag black beans and/or pinto
1 bag jasmine rice
1-2 bags gluten free spaghetti 
2-3 canned crushed tomatoes
1 jar unsweetened applesauce
1 block cheddar cheese
1-2 bag romaine lettuce
1 package broccoli heads
1 head cabbage
1 seedless cucumber
1 bag large carrots
1 package roma tomatoes
1 bunch bananas
1 bag russet potatoes
1 package green or multi colored peppers
1-2 containers hummus
1-3 bags frozen veggies
1-2 packages ground turkey (the Fit&Active kind)
chicken breasts (amount varies by sales) (usually 1 package)

Irregular purchases (purchased as needed, when they’re on sale, or if I have extra money):

olive oil
coconut oil
tea and coffee
peanut butter
salad dressing
mozzarella cheese for pizzas
ice cream
turkey sausage
granola bars for Kyle
sweeteners (honey, maple syrup)
lemon juice
anything extra or special needed for church dinners, family events, etc.

Also, this is a list of things I NEVER (or very rarely) purchase (due to price and personal diet restrictions):

sliced or pre-shredded cheese
bags or salad mixes
cakes or cookies
dairy milk
pre-made frozen meals
most canned goods
wheat flour

Now, how do I make this happen practically in life? 

-I cook as much as I can from scratch.
-I watch for meat to go deeply on sale or else we don't eat much of it.
-I keep our dairy consumption LOW. 
-I don’t buy a lot of snack foods. We might do a bag of tortilla chips to go with our tacos, or something. The most I do is peanuts, granola bars, and rice cakes on a regular basis.
-I keep us almost exclusively gluten and sugar free, but don't buy a lot of the premade GF/SF alternative products on the market.
-I shop at discount grocery stores about once or twice a month where I find some fun specialty items like peanut butter, GF pasta or flours, fruit, salad dressings, and other things I don’t buy a lot of or on a regular basis.
-I shop with CASH. This really helps me stay on target, because there’s no accidentally spending more and just being ok with it. I know I only have what’s in my wallet. Plus parting with cash is always harder than just swiping plastic. It really makes you think about it more!

-I know I can’t spend like I’m in congress at the beginning of the month or I’ll have nothing left at the end of the month.
-Once the money for the month is gone…ITS GONE! So that means no surprise lunch dates, pizza orders, quick trips to the store, or ice cream runs. 
-I work with what I have left when I’m at the end of my week or month. If that means I end up creating the world’s craziest smorgasbord from stuff found in the back of my freezer and cupboards, then so be it. We’ll survive.

-Make good meals with simple ingredients. You can do a lot with beans and rice.
-We don’t need meat at every meal!
-If you think you don’t have time to cook everything from scratch every day, spend one day cooking ahead for the week. Make a big pot of chili or soup or a batch of rice/beans/veggies and separate out into containers and stash in the freezer. It doesn’t take that long, helps prevent wasting fresh produce, and prevents you from impulse buying meals every day.

Meal Ideas!

-Bananas are cheap, and you can peel and freeze them for a quick smoothie addition! Great with milk, peanut butter, and a bit of cocoa powder.
-Fry a couple eggs and wrap in a tortilla.
-Buy some oats, butter, and honey and find a simple recipe for homemade granola. 

-salads (cook your meat and chip up all your veggies ahead of time!)
-cut veggies and hummus
-leftover taco mix in tortillas
-some of the soup or stirfry you prepared and stuck in the freezer

Supper: (this is a pretty good snapshot of what we regularly eat during the week for suppers)
-chicken salads
-tacos (I make my taco mix of 1/3 meat, 1/3 beans, 1/3 rice, and spice with cumin and chili powder and a jar of salsa. It makes the meat go MUCH further!!)
-pasta with meat sauce (I often add black beans to the sauce)
-potatoes, meat, and veggies in the crockpot
-spiced beans and rice
-stirfry veggies over rice (with beans if I’ve run out of chicken)
-black bean burgers with salad and rice
-cold pasta salad with chicken or beans and veggies
-homemade pizza on occasion

Other household budget items!

There are several other things I also purchase at Aldi to help with our budget! Its almost impossible to talk about having a small grocery budget without talking the bigger picture of keeping other household expenses small as well. So these are the things I have found great to buy at Aldi. I also love that it helps keep my number of stores to shop at down to a bare minimum!

Our monthly budget for baby stuff is $20-25 and for household needs (paper products, cleaning stuff, laundry, etc) is $20.

-Toilet Paper. The thinnest stuff they have because its like $5 and we are literally just throwing it away so I refuse to pay more for it!
-Paper towels. I really only purchase them to make homemade baby wipes with, because its way cheaper than buying them, and I would really like to eliminate this purchase by creating a stash of cloth baby wipes. Use of paper towels is limited, as I try to use cloth towels more often than paper. I do occasionally buy a pack to help out with our kitchen supply so my sister-in-law isn’t stuck buying all the paper towels for the house.
-Diapers. The Little Journey brand at Aldi is fantastic, cheap, and since I personally cloth diaper most of the time, I generally only need them for nights and being away from the house. And they are easily half the price of almost any other brand out there! 
-Cleaning Supplies. I generally only need to buy dish soap, dishwasher detergent, and occasionally sponges and disinfecting wipes. I do the rest of my cleaning with baking soda ($.49/box) and vinegar ($.79/bottle). 
-Menstrual pads. I personally despise this expense. I use a Lunette menstrual cup which I love, so I only use 1-2 pads a day as backup during my cycle. I would really like to make cloth pads since I use so few of them, and eliminate the cost and waste here. 
-Toothpaste. I make my own with baking soda and coconut oil (I add other things to the mix as I have them, such as essential oils, activated charcoal, and diatomaceous earth). 

There are a few things I do not purchase at Aldi, because they are cheaper elsewhere, or unavailable at Aldi. 

-Laundry detergent. Unfortunately this is cheaper at Walmart. I also prefer to use scent free detergents, which are more readily available at Walmart, and less expensive. 
-Salt. I perfer to use good sea salt and the kind at Aldi is too expensive for me, and I can’t purchase it in the quantity and style I want. I go to my local health food store where I can get a large bag for $.89/pound, so I end up with a big bag that lasts me 3-4 months for around $3. 
-Vitamins, supplements, and body care. We like to do an order through every few months for any vitamins, herbal supplements, probiotics, and essential oils we want, plus our shampoo and body soaps.

And that about covers it! I will say that this budget of ours is purely by choice, since we have pared down all our expenses as much as we can so as to be able to put large amounts in our savings towards a home of our own. I know people who have lived on even less out of necessity!

We do allow ourselves the freedom to change our budget when we need to. For example, last month when my sister came to stay with us, we chose to increase our budget by $50 for the month so that we could feed us all more easily. We also had a big family meal and out of town company for a night that we wanted to prepare food for, so that little bump up helped lower my stress level and the need to stretch things even further than normal.

We also give ourselves a little bit of spending money each month that we both often use for “treats” such as ice cream or lunches with friends or just anything we want that doesn’t fit into other budget categories. I generally use mine for ice cream and clothes!

Having a budget gives us the freedom to not be broke all the time! We love having the peace of mind given to us by purposefully telling our money where it will go each month, instead of living paycheck to paycheck and wondering where it all went. Through discipline and patience, we are able to save for the bigger purchases we want, be debt free, never spend down to the last few dollars in our checking account, have a cash emergency fund of approximately 4-5 months living expenses, and still eat well and have fun!

If you ever have any questions about budgeting, need inspiration or encouragement, or need help starting a budgeted life, you can google Dave Ramsey for tons of great information! You can also contact me and Kyle, and we’d both be thrilled to talk with you!



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