Grocery Shopping for Four on $100 a Week



I was preparing my pantry for the apocalypse! Via Shutterstock

Recently took I over grocery shopping from my husband and I’ve developed a totally new grocery shopping philosophy to save money! I no longer believe in stocking up on every grocery sale available.

I’m saving $100 in a month by NOT stocking up on groceries.

When I came home from my first grocery trip, I proudly showed my husband all the yummy food I had brought home. “How much did you spend?” “$132!” He looked pale. I frowned. He said nothing. The next week, I lugged home our groceries and again proudly displayed all the yummy food. “How much did you spend?” “$215.” He looked pale. I frowned. “What?” “I only spend $100 a week.” The number echoed in my head. When he did the grocery shopping he only spent $100 a week on groceries? In the words of Barney from How I Met Your Mother, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Here’s how I’ve limited my weekly grocery bill to $100 for a family of four.

  • I keep a running tally of my bill in my head, adding the numbers with each new item I place in my cart.
  • I limit our meat purchases. I’ve been cooking more rice and beans, which is cheap and incredibly healthy!
  • I’m only buying what we’re realistically going to eat in the coming week.
  • I skip extras like deli meat, unless we are having special lunch visitors (like my in-laws).
  • I only buy one pound of butter a week. If we run out, we run out! I suspect we were eating WAY too much butter before because we could always pull another pound from our stock up pile in the freezer.
  • I try to save at least $30 for the dairy aisle. Milk for our toddler and ourselves, yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, block cheese, juice, and bread all come in the final aisle. Budget buster!

There are a lot of benefits to my no stockup system.

  • I’m saving at least $20 per trip – sometimes a whole lot more!
  • My cart is not so full every week so checking out is quicker.
  • I don’t have to lug as many bags into the car, then into the house.
  • It’s quicker to put everything away.
  • We’re eating less meat, which I generally consider healthy. Instead, I’m cooking rice and beans about once a week, one of my cheap dinner recipes.
  • I’m more aware of throwing food away because I’m so careful with each dollar I spend.
    Do you set a dollar limit on your grocery trip?

12 Responses

  1. Jennifer

    March 3, 2014 10:57 am

    I am all about being frugal at the grocery store! I usually do my shopping on Saturday or on Sunday, but save some for Tuesday after work, as many items are already marked down for Wednesday’s usual bargain day. I cringe when I spend any where near $100 at the store each week, especially in one trip. I’m a planner, so making a list (and checking it twice or even thrice) is standard procedure for this budget-minded mom.

  2. Sarah H.

    March 3, 2014 11:05 am

    We do have a budget of $250 per week for a family of 9/10 (depending upon whether son is home from college). This includes a newborn (diapers, but 100% nursed, so BIG savings there) and 2 or three teenaged boys. Yes, it is a struggle to keep it to that amount every week!

    • Bargain Babe

      March 5, 2014 1:46 pm

      @Sarah H I can’t image how you feed so many hungry people for $250 a week. I’d love to know your secrets!!! Are there certain products that you stay away from? For instance, do you buy dried beans instead of canned? Do you can your own food? What cuts of meat do you stay away from? Do you reduce the meat portions to save?

  3. Jen Y

    March 3, 2014 3:02 pm

    I set a $ limit as well, $87 a week for two adults. That’s really high for me actually – I could cut back to probably $50 if I had to – but we ARE debt-free, in the empty nest & enjoying the fruit of being frugal over our lifetime together. We eat very well on that amount. I do a lot of cooking & rarely buy processed or prepared foods. It’s much cheaper to eat that way.

    I don’t stock up anymore either since it’s just the two of us. I do stock up on a few things though – honey is the main thing. We use a lot of honey & it’s expensive so I stock up with sales. We also have a meat budget. Though I do buy most of our meat with my weekly shopping, if there is a sale I know there’s money in the meat budget to stock up when I want to.

    I also go through my fridge once a week & use up foods before they go bad. I get pretty angry at myself when I let something go bad. :o)

    • Bargain Babe

      March 5, 2014 1:47 pm

      @Jen Y Good for you! I enjoy eating lots of yummy high quality food, but sometimes I balk at the price and stick to cheaper foods, like rice and beans, which I try to cook once a week.

      I stocked up on honey a while ago and now my extra bottle is starting to crystallize! I guess we don’t use as much honey as I thought we did.

      What is your meat budget each week?

      • Caroline

        March 19, 2014 12:57 pm

        If your honey is in a glass container, you can put it in a pot of simmering water. It’ll get rid of the crystallization. 😉

        Hot water in a bowl should work nearly as well if the container is plastic. It might be a longer process though.

  4. Julie Hills

    March 3, 2014 11:37 pm

    I recently started meal planning for the week and it has slashed my grocery budget! Every Sunday I figure out what we’re eating for the weekdays (usually including one “freezer/pantry” night when my husband’s away, and trying to limit meat to 2-3 nights tops). Then, I make a grocery list for the recipes, noting what we have in the pantry already. If we have a pantry item, I put it on the list with a star and only buy it if it’s on sale. If it’s not on sale, I just use the one we have in the pantry and I leave the item on the list for the next time I see it on sale to restock (I use the Reminders app on my phone for a grocery list so I don’t have to re-write one every week… anything I don’t buy just stays on there. If I see a great sale on something for our freezer/pantry stash I buy ONE now (instead of five… having a tiny freezer helps!) so we’re always stocked on weekends when we feel lazy or in an emergency.

    Even my Costco trips are dictated by what we actually need for cooking AND have space for. No more loading up a Costco cart and spending $300 to get out the door. Realistically, having a toddler I have to shop with REALLY helps me move faster through the store and decide “no” if I’m on the fence about something! With two adults and one toddler, we have spent around $50 each week for our weeknight groceries, plus I did a $60 Costco trip today that should last the month. Bear in mind, though, the baby and I eat dinner leftovers for lunch, and my husband usually eats out at work (no lunches keeps our grocery bill down. I wish my husband would take his lunch more but it’s one of his few remaining pleasures now that I’m not working so I try to be careful about making him feel too deprived when I know he’s working hard to cut costs everywhere else!).

    • Bargain Babe

      March 5, 2014 1:53 pm

      @Julie Hills I love that you plan your meals every week! I’ve never done that, aside from eyeballing the freezer meat and thinking ahead of what we could make. We always have 2-3 meat options in the freezer, plus 1-2 starches, and a mix of fresh and frozen veg. Then I figure out what to make for dinner that night depending on how much energy I have, how much time I have to cook, and what our evening plans are. Cooking based on the pantry instead of planning before trips does limit me, so there’s another advantage of planning ahead.

      I’m going to check out your Reminder app! I make a new list every week, and it would be nice not to have to recall which items were on my stock up list. Thanks for the tip!

      Oh, and when you said you eat meat 2-3 times a week, I’m assuming you eat vegetarian the other nights? Or do you eat leftovers? I’ll often stretch a serving of meat into two dinners…so far nobody’s noticed! If you eat vegetarian 4-5 times a week, bravo! What are your favorite vegetarian meals? We’re big on protein but get tired of beans all the time.

  5. Jeannie

    March 6, 2014 7:49 am

    Like Julie, I plan my meals for the week in advance to keep the grocery list as lean as possible. My husband takes our dinner leftovers for lunch, which is a win-win: he gets a yummy lunch, our savings account grows because he’s not spending on lunches out (a friend of his at work saw John microwaving a leftover dinner and joked about John making “another gourmet meal”…which made me proud!) One tip I would pass along that I recently figured out: I always felt wasteful if I made a meal that included just a bit of an ingredient (e.g. a teaspoon of tomato paste, a shallot). I call those “oddball” dinners. I recently took the time to comb through the favorite recipes in our regular dinner rotation and grouped them according to common ingredients. That way, when I figure out the weekly menu, I can make a few dinners that week using up the “oddball” ingredient rather than wasting it.


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