The latest issue of Woman’s Day magazine proudly ran an article outlining how you could feed a family of four three meals a day for a week for 99 dollars. I read the article and realized that I did not care for most of their meal suggestions and smugly thought to myself – “I don’t spend much more than that and I don’t even think much about it.” Of course, eating well is one of the great delights in our house – we would rather drive beat up old cars (and do, in my case – my van is over ten years old) than pass up buying steaks when we want steaks or give up organic milk and other organic products. But a lot of what we eat day to day is pretty cheap, and we don’t go out a lot, so I expected my costs to be pretty reasonable.
Well, today I was doing bills and thought I would have a look at our average grocery spending for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 teenagers – often referred to as “the pit” and “pit, jr.”) and I was a bit surprised at what I found. I spend about $250 per week on groceries, including meals out. So much for my smugness.
So, I got to wondering, what does the average spending for an American household with 4 essentially adult eaters look like? I did a little internet searching and was at least gratified that though I don’t get anywhere near the Woman’s Day article total, I still come in lower than average. Here are some sites I found for reference:
But my question is – are we doing all we can to cut costs while still keeping the quality at a level we are happy with? I’d like to know what some of your strategies are for reducing your grocery costs. Here are some of mine:
- Aldi’s – this is a Midwest chain, but I think most states have something like it – the bare bones store with low advertising, mostly store brands, and low overhead. I try to buy most of my canned goods here as well some cereals – no one can beat their price on Bran Flakes – my breakfast of choice. Usually their fresh fruit and veggie quality is also good and mostly seasonal with reasonable prices. I try to get out here once a month and buy things like chicken broth and tomato sauce by the case.
- Sam’s Club – this is probably a wash since we do buy a lot of overpriced convenience items here and it takes a lot of savings to balance the annual membership fee. But if you can be careful about waste and check unit prices, I like them for things like frozen chicken breasts, fresh meat, lunch meat, fruit, and some dairy. Their half and half is way cheaper than the grocery store, but organic milk is cheaper at Kroger and Meijer. Oh, and their roasted chickens are cheaper and much larger than the grocery stores and we like to pick up baked pizzas sometimes from the snack counter (order on your way in, pick up hot pizza on your way out).
- Bread outlet store – like Aldi’s, I try to spin by the bread outlet once a month and freeze what I buy. They are not nearly as cheap as they used to be, but most loaves are less than a dollar as are bagels, which is much cheaper than anywhere else.
- I have resumed trying to coupon again and actually get some good grocery deals at CVS and Walgreens. I find some of the coupon matching sites helpful to match up with what I’m looking for or find items to stock up on that turn out to be free or very cheap after coupons and/or rebates (I only get these items if they are things we actually use). I tried The Grocery Game for a trial period and found it interesting, but just didn’t feel I would keep up with it enough to pay the full fees. I get almost as much help through the Coupon Mom site, though they don’t have Meijer.
5. I do try to scan the sale flyers weekly and stock up on things I know we use when they are on sale. One of my favorite buys is when local stores run large pork loins for less than $2 a pound. They usually sell them in large packages pre-sliced into boneless chops and maybe a couple small roasts. At home, I re-bag everything into Ziplocs for about 6 meals from a $20 roast.
6. One area I have been working on is reducing waste. Recently, a large can of Nacho Cheese went neglected in our garage fridge for several months until I ended up throwing it out – there goes about 7 dollars into the trash. All of us have been better this summer about eating up leftovers and I have been trying to thin out the contents of pantry and fridge so that we can SEE what we have. I think that’s half the battle against food going bad.
I would say that reducing my grocery budget is not my top priority but I do my best to get the best price on the things I want and need to buy. But maybe I can do better. I know meal planning would be helpful. I have done that in the past, but have been too busy since I started working again. Maybe it’s time to give it a try again.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment.