The question of what we eat on a small grocery budget has been asked multiple times over the past several years. I am always taken aback by the question because what we eat is very “normal” to us. We don’t typically think of our diets any different than our neighbors, until we start looking inside of everyone else’s shopping carts.
First off, I want to say what works for us may not work for your family. However, that does not mean you couldn’t change a few things you eat or how you shop to save a significant amount on your grocery budget.
Adapt What You Eat
Each time we move, which happens frequently because we are a military family. We learn new ways to save money. Resulting in our diets changing ever so slightly to maximize savings.
When we lived in Washington, we could buy delicious and affordable beef from my uncle. But now that we live in England, meat is twice the cost.
We had to dramatically cut down on our meat consumption. However, we shop at Aldi where you can get AMAZING prices on produce! Now we supplement our meals with tons of veggies to make the meat stretch further.
Our living situations also dictate how we save money. Here in England we have a tiny, and I mean TINY, freezer and very little cabinet space for food storage. In the U.S. we had TONS of space! In the U.S. we took advantage of sales and produce from our garden by freezing and storing a lot of food to save money.
Here in England, I am not working and we have a lot more time on our hands. We are able to cook absolutely everything from scratch, which saves lots of money! We simply did not have time when living in the U.S. when we both worked full-time and our weekends were filled with home improvement projects.
What Do You Eat?
Getting back to the main question, we eat very “normal” American meals.
- Tacos & Fajitas
- Pasta Dishes: Spaghetti, Lasagna, Cajun Chicken Pasta, Stroganoff, Goulash
- Chicken Breasts – Lime, Lemon, Parmesan, etc.
- Buffalo Chicken Wraps/Salad
- Asian Inspired Meals – Orange Chicken, Cashew Chicken, Chicken Yakisoba, Stir Fry
- Casseroles – Green Bean, Teriyaki Chicken, Black Bean
- Soups – Chicken Noodle, Taco, Potato, Vegetable
- In the summer we grill beef and turkey burgers
As you can see, very “normal” American meals. Nothing too fancy, but plenty of variety. We do splurge from time to time on fish or a pricier cut of meat. We also try to add in new to us recipes here and there to prevent burn out on “rice and bean” meals. Check out more delicious Budget Friendly Recipes on my Pinterest board.
How Do We Really Save Money?
I don’t think the question should be what do we eat on a small grocery budget, but “how” we eat on a small grocery budget. The “how” has so many more possibilities of budget reducing strategies.
- Eat a minimum of one “cheap” meal each week, usually a soup or casserole.
- Eat only one meal a week where meat is the main course.
- Left Overs! We only cook 3-4 meals in a week to cover all lunches and dinners.
- Portion Control! You can make a large casserole and it could last your family 1 meal or 3 meals depending on the portion sizes. Supplement the meal with a less expensive side, like a veggie or pasta/rice.
- Less Meat, more Veggies. Filet your chicken breasts when it is the main course. Use half the amount of ground beef and stretch it with beans, onions and veggies.
- Cook from Scratch. We make so many of our sauces and salad dressing from scratch. They take minutes and are a fraction of the cost.
- Snack on fresh produce and skip the highly processed and expensive “snack foods,”
- Don’t be a brand snob. Yes I agree, there are a handful of store brand items that are nowhere near brand name. However, majority of store brand items are just as good at a fraction of the cost… think pasta, tomato sauce, canned veggies and beans.
- Shop with a meal plan and grocery list. STICK TO IT! This will help avoid food waste, which will save you $$$. Trust me! The average U.S. family of four wastes $640 each year in food! That’s more than $50/month!!! If you live in the U.K. it’s not any better, wasting £470 a year in the average household.
- Limit the number of times in a month you go into a grocery store. We are all guilty of picking up one or two things not on our list. If you go to the grocery store every couple of days, that really adds up!
- Limit buying disposable paper goods (paper towels, plates, plastic wrap, sandwich bags, etc.). Instead use reusable products like storage containers.
There are so many different ways to trim down your grocery budget. The key is to slowly add new ways to decrease your grocery budget each month. Give yourself a challenge to trim $5 off your average weekly grocery shopping trip. That will save you $20-$25 each month ($260/year)! Once that is comfortable, trying trimming your budget by another $5/week.
What Do You Think:
How Do You Save on Groceries?
Have You Been Successful Trimming Down Your Grocery Budget? How?