The Grocery Budget Makeover

SOS!  It’s a cry for help and she needs your input!

Shandra from Tennessee writes,

I need to come up with a way to fed my family for $75 a week. My kids are 13, 12 and 8 years old.  I clip coupons and I make many of the $5 Dinners…but I still spend $200 almost every week.  Can you help me? What suggestions do you have that will help?

More information about Sandra’s situation:

Currently spends: $200/week

Needs to spend: $75/week

Grocery Stores: Kroger and Walmart

Normally buys: milk, eggs, butter, bread, chicken nuggets and chicken breasts, bananas, apples, tea, sugar, koolaid, chips, fruit drinks, lettuce, shredded cheese, cereal, sausage, salad dressing, tomatoes, crackers, ramen noodles, tissue paper.

Buys when needed: I buy soap, shampoo, paper towels, deodorant, makeup, plus the ingredients for the meals I have planned.

Lunches: My son packs his lunch: chips, chicken nuggets and a juice (he has something wrong with his taste buds and is limited to what he eats), the girls eat at school, my husband has a salad every day for lunch if he is in the office.

Breakfasts: I usually do without breakfast, the girls have pop-tarts, husband eats cereal and my son eats pancakes or sausage.


Three Tips from Me

  1. Get coupon match-ups from Southern Savers or Coupon Katie for the stores in your area. Check the Frugal Map to find the coupon match ups for the stores in your area.
  2. Don’t buy shampoo, etc when you need it. Buy it BEFORE you need it. Get it when it’s on sale with a coupon, paying little to nothing for it. Then you have it on hand and don’t have to pay full price the week you need it.
  3. Encourage more variety in the kids’ diets. If you can make more of a variety of meals and send different lunches around what is on sale each week, you’ll be able to save even more.

What suggestions do you have? Any tips or tricks you would like to share that could help her spend less at the store?

Will you help Sandra makeover her grocery budget?!?

If you are in need of a Grocery Budget Makeover, send me an email and we’ll do what we can to help!


  1. says

    Teenagers and Pre-teens are like human vacuums when it comes to food, and feeding them for as little as possible its tough! My recommendation is to make as much as you can from scratch instead of buying pre-made. Set aside a day a week to put together food for the whole week. You kids are old enough that they can help! Replacing chicken nuggets and pop-tarts with homemade versions can save you a bundle! Not to mention teach your kids a valuable life skill…how to cook for themselves! Remember, just because you have a coupon, it doesn’t mean that you are getting the cheapest price. Check out the store brands and do the math! Keep track of prices of your most purchased items in a price book and purchase those items for your stockpile when they are at their lowest price! Good luck and happy shopping!

    • Tamieka says

      @JodieMo, My friends are always amazed at how much money I spend on groceries. For a family of four I spend $160/month for groceries. My tricks are cooking as much as possible from scratch, using a calculator when shopping and using coupons. I always save the treats for last. Buy all the necessities first. It’s important to have a system in place. DON’t bring your kids!

  2. says

    When buying cheese, I’ve often found that when you buy pre-shredded cheese you are paying extra for someone to shred it for you. Get an inexpensive box grater if you don’t already have one and shred the cheese yourself!

    I 2nd not taking the kids (or the husband) on the shopping trip. I usually spend about $10 less when I go alone! I also 2nd making your own chicken nuggets. Some shake n bake (the store brand) or some bread crumbs can go along way!

    Oh, and I don’t buy anything name brand unless I have a coupon which makes it cheaper than the store/bargain brand. Also, if you have a BJ’s or Sam’s near by stocking up on meats to repackage and freeze and buying products in bulk can also cut back on your budget.

  3. says

    Stock pile. Once you have a month supply of everything, you can then have the luxury to buy only rock bottom prices (buying only when things are on sale AND w/ a coupon). Also, an extra freezer saves us thousands! We can stock up when meat is on sale and THAT is the most expensive thing on our grocery list:-)

  4. says

    I would say stop buying processed foods. They are expensive and are full of empyty ingreds. Incooperate more whole grains. I feed my family of 4 on $40-50 a week. We don’t eat hardly anything processed and most everything is natural. I get al l my tolitries free at CVS and Walgreens. I either get shampoo, face wash, make up, baody wash, toothpaste, etc. free or for less then a dollar.

    I am also in TN. Where are you located? I am in East TN area. Love to help you get on track. I shop Kroger mostly for groceries.

    • Shandra says

      I am also in east Tn. I live in Maryville and I am open to any and all help. We only have 1 income coming and with growing teenagers it’s hard. My e-mail

  5. Rhonda Hall says

    I do alot of crock pot dinners which usually leaves enough leftovers for lunch the next day…
    Also, roasts can be stretched into 3 meals:
    1:with potatoes, carrots
    2..shredded beef sandwiches
    3.. with noodles
    Make a menu plan for the week off of grocery store ads and eat what’s on sale
    also, buy koolaid instead of fruit drink pouches
    buy a big bag of chips and seperate into baggies for lunches.

  6. Robin says

    Confirm that your Kroger doubles or triples coupons – it may be cheaper to buy some things there using coupons than at Wal Mart. Also, make sure you get on the Kroger mailing list using your shopper card. I often get coupons in the mail from Kroger, sometimes for free high value items like lunchmeat!
    Check out free sites like There are forums for various stores so you can learn about great deals. You don’t have to check daily, maybe just once a week or whatever your schedule permits.
    I stock up when I find a good price on something we use. I may not need all those boxes of Pop Tarts immediately, but if I know we’ll eat them before they go bad and I find a great deal it’s worth the hassle to store them for awhile.
    I also plan weekly menus around the deals I get, I try not to be brand-loyal except when taste/quality is noticeably different, and I try to go to the store only once a week.

    Good luck!

  7. bandcmommy says

    walmart price matches to Kroger’s prices, just take the ad in.
    Cut back on the juice boxes and by the frozen concentrate and a reusable container., maybe have them drink water every other day? buy in bulk. cut back on processed foods, because they provide noo nutritional value your kids will not feel satisfied and always be hungry.. which means bigger grocery bill. Make sure your teens aren’t eating because they are board.

  8. says

    instead of chicken breasts and chicken nuggets – buy a whole chicken (or sometimes you can buy cut up chicken on sale – check the prices) and make your own. Baked chicken with roasted veggies is delicious and leaves leftovers (remember soup!) Some kind of meat is usually on sale every week – e.g., chicken the first week of the month, pork the second week, etc. Buy what’s on sale and plan your menu around that.

    Make your own salad dressing (and whatever else you can find time to make)

    Look for sales on staples – sometimes the drug store has the cheapest price on things like milk and eggs – or if you belong to a warehouse store the prices may be cheaper (so long as you don’t make impulse purchases :))

  9. Lauren says

    I would start cooking breakfast several days a week – cereal is expensive. (I imagine poptarts are too!) Oatmeal, cream of wheat, egg and toast – better for your family AND cheaper. I would try and make a few loaves of bread every week too – or try and find an outlet. There is a bread factory in the next town to me, with a little factory store attached, and they sell their bread there for 70 cents a loaf. I can’t make it cheaper than that. And remember – the trauma/complaining as you switch to healthier (and cheaper) homemade food seems awful, but really doesn’t last that long. A couple of weeks, and your family will have adjusted! You can do it – good luck!

    • Karen says

      If you wait for sales like the one that went on at Safeway last weekend you can get cereal for FREE. I only buy the healthier varieties.

  10. Makenzie says

    Also you eat a lot ofproduce. I wouldlook into bountiful baskets or farm boxes. They take what’s in season from local growers and sell it in bulk to the public. I pay $16 for a laundry basket full of fruits and veggies. Or you could do your wn garden if you have space.

  11. says

    When we were going through REALLY hard times we had to drastically lower our food bill. I looked at what we would normally bought and cut out things that weren’t necessary. (like kool aid, store bought bread, name brand stuff, luxury fun items – especially the kids stuff like fruit drinks, fruit snacks, etc.). I also plan my meals around what is on sale. When meat goes on sale I buy extra and freeze it so that way I don’t have to buy it when it’s full price. I also looked at how much food we were throwing away in the form of left overs. I started cutting my recipes in half or whatever I knew my family would eat, or I would make a full batch and freeze half. Good luck finding things that work for your family.

  12. says

    $200 a week to $75 a week instantly could be a huge shock to the system. Set step down goals. This week, $150, next week $125, etc., until you get to your goal. It will give you time to adjust and start thinking about ways to be more creative. If you just cut, you risk feeling deprived.

    No kids, no hubby, have your list, coupons and everything ready, and stick to it. And take only your budgeted amount in cash with you. No credit card or debit card, so you MUST stick with it.

    Good luck!

  13. Candace says

    We have saved money making as much as possible from scratch: salad dressing, granola/muffins/oatmeal/smoothies/etc for breakfast, and bread. Some recipes, like bread, can be time consuming, so I set aside time on the weekends. It’s worth it for us to save the money, though.

  14. says

    Each Saturday or Sunday, make a double batch of muffins and freeze at least half of them to use later in the week. These make great snacks and filling breakfasts while being really affordable.

    I would suggest cutting back on beverage purchases. When I was pregnant with my daughter, my doctor talked to me about how beverages other than milk and water were just adding empty calories to my day. I changed from drinking juice to eating an apple or orange and drinking water; more nutrition and less sugar/calories! I also noticed how much money I was saving by doing that – almost $10/week.

    Good luck!

  15. Aaryn says

    These suggestions are great. I agree that you should try to minimize processed foods — just empty calories and lots of unpronounceable ingredients that you don’t need. We make our own salad dressing and it’s really yummy and inexpensive. Compare the prices on produce at the two stores you shop at, and buy the best deals at each store. I shop at Kroger and Target and I make my list on Sunday for what I need at each store based on sales. Also, figure out when your Kroger marks down items. For example, I can find great specials on milk/eggs/produce on Sunday morning. The manager’s specials are usually half price, so they’re a great deal. I went shopping yesterday and got milk, cottage cheese, artisan bread, sour cream, and yogurt all half price and with 5-10 days til expiration!

  16. says

    We are on a strict food budget right now, too, so I know exactly how you are feeling. I rarely, if ever, buy anything processed anymore-we just can’t afford it. I did, however, sit down with my husband and daughter and asked them what they really had to have. My husband is happy if he gets his pop every once in awhile and my daughter is happy if she gets healthy processed cereal sometimes. I try to only buy items that are dense in nutritional value-real fruit instead of juices, homemade granola bars instead of store-bought cookies, yogurt instead of pudding or jello. I’ve also found that if there is junk food in the house, we will all reach for that first instead of the more healthy options, but now that I don’t buy that stuff much anymore, we eat more fruit, fresh veggies, or yogurt. Your kids will adapt. It may take a little while but they will. My family did.

  17. Cathy says

    I can relate to having a son who has limits to what he eats. I’m not sure if you’re buying his pancakes frozen, if you are you should make these from scratch, freeze them then mircowave every morning. I do this for mine and find it is much more affordable than the frozen and I put what I want in them. I will puree carrots, sweet yams and navy beens and put them in the mix and he doesn’t even taste the difference. For lunch buy the chips in a large bag and put them in the tiny zip lock plastic containers for him. I prefill mine when I get the bag and sit them in the pantry so the “snack size” is ready for him to grab and pack. His prepackaged juice is cheeper (I find) in concentrate form and just put in a reusable container. As I’ve already seen above make the chicken nuggets from scratch. This also can allow you to put other stuff in the breading such as grated parmaseam cheese, you can make breading out of the bread ends of you loaf or out of plain crushed corn flakes (sometimes you can find these on sale and get for almost free with coupons). Good Luck!

  18. says

    If your kids have microwave access for their lunches, make extra at dinner time and send leftovers for their lunches. Lunch type foods (chicken nuggets, etc. are a HUGE money sucker.) One “convenience” type food that I use for my husband’s lunches is yogurt cups. Using coupons and sales I can often get these for free or $.50 for a 4 pack. Stay away from anything more expensive than that because it adds up all too quickly!

  19. says

    I second cutting out the processed foods. You have kids that are old enough to help you shred your own cheese and save money by buying it in bulk/a block. Also check if by using coupons are you spending more money by purchasing something just because you have a coupon for it that you normally wouldn’t buy otherwise. Another way I cut my food bill is to get away from cooking the typical American High Hunk of meat, pile of veggies, pile of a starch per person and do stir fry meals that are bits of meat, veggies, served on a starch (rice or noodles) per person. That really helped me save and helped us eat healthier. Also make just ONE meal and everyone eat it. No special meals or food for picky eaters. They will complain and refuse to eat it but will come around once they realize their pouting and crocodile tears isn’t going to get them a special meal for dinner.

  20. Beth says

    Set aside time each week to bake and cook! Homemade bread is easy and cheap: try this to start Poptarts are glorified pie crust aand jam: try this Find a farmer’s market or farm stand for produce, especially now that spring is here-it is often cheaper, locally grown and in season. (this link has a neat farm market finder-just plug in your zip code Chips can be made homemade in your microwave, and taste way better than anything I have ever pulled from a bag – try . (the method described at that link works for corn tortillas and sweet potatoes too!) Most importantly, SHOP WITH CASH. Set your budget, take that amount of money to the store and no more. Use a notebook and calculator as you shop.

  21. Nicole says

    Try cutting out kool-aid and shredded cheese – water is a cheaper, healthier substitute for kool-aid, and shred your own cheese – way cheaper! (and juice boxes ONLY for school – never for at home).

  22. Shandra says

    Thanks for all your advice ladies! I would like to say something though, my son will not eat anything else, I’ve seen lots of suggestions to make him eat whatever we do. That has been tried time and time again and it Does Not Work. He will simply go without anything for days. Dr. says don’t do that and he’ll start trying things when he is ready. keep the advice coming though I’m taking notes..

    God Bless

  23. says

    I suggest checking out another site in addition to this great site. I love $5 dinners but also use She actually has a menu when you have only so much money to spend with recipes and such. It is a great resource.

  24. Amy says

    If you have an Aldi store near you, you can get stuff like bread, produce and basics (flour, canned goods, etc) often for half of the price of the regular grocery store or Walmart. $10 a week at Aldi takes care of all the bread and produce we need for the week.

  25. says

    Buy shampoo, etc. in the largest size possible and then decant it a shower organizer. I have one that has three pumps for shampoo, conditioner, and Other (sometimes body wash other times a medicated shampoo. It depends.) It keeps the bathroom clear of bottle clutter and since one squirt dispenses only so much, it keeps us from using too much at a time and the product lasts a bit longer. Also I can sneak in shampoos I get on sale because the family can’t tell that it isn’t Name Brand XXX and get mad – they just get clean!

    Have you tried making your own household cleaners? I thought that cleaning with vinegar right out of the bottle was crazy at first, but it really does work! It’s the best thing for cutting through soap scum. I also make my own laundry detergent. I have an HE washing machine and the detergent is expensive, never has coupons or store brands, or goes on sale. I also didn’t find a powdered one I liked and started making my own. I save serious $ doing it and have started finding new uses for Borax – one of the ingredients. It’s an inexpensive cleaner and a box lasts a long time.

  26. Lisa says

    My Grandmother who lived through the depression used to call those small amounts of leftovers from a meal “the profit.” You never throw them out. She put a plastic quart size container in the freezer and would put any and all leftovers into that container. When it is full you make soup or stew. I still do this. We put in veggies (all kinds), bite size pieces of meat, pasta, rice, even macaroni and cheese….whatever you have left. No two soups are the same. I don’t make a lot of soup in the summer; so by the time fall arrives I have a several “free” meals. If you prefer you can just put in veggies and pastas and keep your meats separate.

    I also make my own bread and seasoning mixes…taco seasoning, dry onion soup, ranch dressing, condensed soup mix, etc. by putting together all of the dry ingredients and storing them in reusable containers.

    I didn’t see that you buy laundry detergent. I make my own and save. I make 10 gallons of laundry detergent for $1.90. It is easy and works great.

    • Shandra says

      how do you make your own? the reason I haven’t bought laundry detergent is because i got some buy 1 get coupons a couple of months ago and i ended up with 6 bottles and I still have 3 left..

      • Lisa says

        There are several recipes on the internet for liquid and powder versions. Here is the recipe that I like the best. I use Fels-Naptha bar soap. You can use Ivory for a mild detergent. Or any bar soap works. I have heard of folks using the small slivers.
        4 Cups – hot tap water
        1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
        1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
        ½ Cup Borax

        – Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

        -Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

        -Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

        -Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

        -Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

        -Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

        -Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

        *Arm & Hammer “Super Washing Soda” – in some stores or may be purchased online here (at Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent – It must be sodium carbonate!!

        I also use white distilled vinegar as the rinse agent in my dishwasher. I just put it in the dispenser once a month.

        • Jill says

          I went to, and neither “super washing soda” nor “arm & hammer” brought up this product…??? Does Walmart carry it?

      • Lisa Ganser says

        I am not sure if WalMart has washing soda. You can also check the swimming pool section. Sodium carbonate is also used in pools. I found mine at a local grocery store in the laundry section. I found the Fels Naptha soad with the bar soaps in Health & Beauty. A quick search online brought up this website – – however, I have never ordered anything from here.

        Good Luck!

  27. Jen says

    Well, good luck with all of it. We have a little boy in our extended family who also has eating issues, and the same deal–he eats what he eats, and the doctor says to let him be–the kind of tactics that work on picky eaters in general aren’t appropriate for him. You have my sympathy–it’s tough! So we can help you–would he eat other versions of what he likes (homemade chicken nuggets, or different brands or shapes) or is what you need ways of finding what he does like inexpensively?

    Also, where are you on the cooking spectrum? Are you a pretty experienced cook? How about baking? How much time do you have available? You can save a ton of money by cooking, but I might suggest different things for, say, my best friend who is a terrific scratch baker versus my sister who can just about assemble a crockpot meal.

    In terms of shopping, I went through a very similar situation last year (lost 50% of my income.) The things I found most useful were 1) shopping with both electronic and paper coupons. I shop at a Safeway that doesn’t double, but a lot of times you can get e-coupons (they go on your club card) and combine them with paper. I think Kroger and Safeway are part of the same conglomerate, maybe, so you might be able to get the same deals. Just go to the store website and click on coupons and the info will be there, along with links to the e-coupon sites they work with. 2) I subscribed to a couple of coupon blogs that have weekly posts highlighting the best sales at Safeway and links to printable coupons. Way less work than having to figure it out myself, plus they also highlight coupons for high-value or free items that are on the manufacturer’s website, Facebook, etc. 3) I found a few local places to shop that had especially good dealsn that I had never shopped at before. For me, that was Grocery Outlet, Trader Joe’s (for some “fancy basics” like couscous), and a local produce stand that was much cheaper than either the grocery store or the farmer’s markets (which around here sell mostly fancy organic produce–fun for a treat, but not great for budgets). Other places you might look that we don’t have are Aldi’s, and also Angel Food Ministries (just google) that does bulk buying. But I also found that the super-fancy grocery store was the one with free, no purchase required coupons for certain items. So you just never know! 4) I figured out where the clearance sections were at the various grocery stores. One more expensive store had the BEST clearance sections–produce and bakery as well as meat and a wider variety of pantry goods, way better than my usual, overall less expensive store. And always take your coupon box, you never know what brands might be on clearance.

  28. says

    Agree with all of these suggestions! Look to see what’s on sale at your grocery store – usually they’ll have deals on chicken breasts (make nuggets from scratch) or pork. Definitely make salad dressings from scratch! Just a little oil and vinegar will do.

  29. Julie Gillen says

    I’m also in East TN – here are a few thoughts I had:

    – I agree w/ the poster that said going from $200 per week to $75 per week is quite a jump – I’d try to do in in baby steps if you can (not sure if your financial situation will allow that) – I was spending $175 per week, now it’s down to $100 per week and I did it slowly – would still like to get it lower, but I’m making progress so that’s what counts
    – Add CVS to your shopping if you can – I save a ton watching their sales/ECB deals
    – Since you have some picky eaters to deal w/, are their things you and your husband could do without? Having kids does complicate matters, but I know there are things I changed for us that made a difference

    Just some thoughts! Good luck!

  30. Kimberly Parkes says

    Perhaps you could find a local farmer who raises animals that you could purchase by the half or whole. It is a larger amount of money upfront but it would allow you to eat all type of cuts at a fraction of the cost from the grocery store. Plus its always on hand! We are in PA, but we sell beef at less than $2.50 a pound. Steaks, roasts and ground meat are all the same price and make some very decadent 5 dollar meals.

  31. says

    Haven’t read through all the comments, so sorry if I’m repeating! :) A few thoughts (and I’m sure you’ve gotten a ton of other good advice, too!) —

    Have you seen the book “Family Feasts for $75 a Week”? The author has a blog, too — here’s a link to the “frugal” section of her site: She has TEN kids, so I bet she’d have some great tips for feeding a large family! :)

    Some of my favorite ways to trim our grocery bill:
    – Stretch meats as far as possible. One family pack of hamburger, for instance, can be 3-4 meals for our small family (two adults, one toddler). I can make a lasagna with part of the meat one night, tacos the next, and then maybe hamburgers or sloppy joes or something. These packs are routinely on sale, so I can get one for $5-6… meaning $2 or LESS for the meat for a meal!
    – Repurpose leftovers. Chop up leftover turkey and make turkey corn chili. Make meatball subs one night and then use the leftovers to toss on top of spaghetti the next. Put leftover pot roast on sub rolls and melt some cheese over it to make a sandwich. Check out Robin Miller on the Food Network site (her show is “Quick Fix Meals”) for some great ideas for this!
    – Never ever waste money on prepackaged/pre-prepped items that I can do with little time/effort at home. Ex: I started making my own breadcrumbs from the crusts of bread that I was just throwing away… store them in a bag in the freezer and then dry them out when I have a batch large enough… throw them in the food processor and save in air-tight container. Other examples would be things like using your own spices on hand rather than buying pre-mixed varieties, don’t buy the pre-assembled pot roast in the meat case but put your own together instead, etc.
    – Plan your meals ahead for at least the week. Go according to what is on sale and/or what you already have in stock. Of course, apply regular coupons and electronic coupons (check out and for these — they work at Kroger!) where you can. I try to think strategically for my week’s meals. I always try to have a couple nights a week that yield leftovers to send with DH for lunch (no extra cost there), do at least one super cheap meal a week (such as waffles and eggs, taco salad, etc.), and plan in a good “order”… for instance, I might make chicken BBQ pizza on Wednesday, so then on Mon or Tues, I would have grilled chicken for dinner and use the leftovers to cut my time for dinner prep the night I make pizza. Does that make sense?
    – Extra freezer space!!! I can’t tell you how much this has saved me in the last couple of years! We bought a deep freeze for the garage about two yrs ago off Craigslist for like $75. TOTALLY worth it! This allows me to buy in bulk, split large packages of meat and such into one meal portions, cook ahead and freeze to still allow us to eat healthy and cheaply even on busy nights (this was AWESOME when my daughter was first born and cooking was the last thing on my mind! :) ), buy things like bread and shredded cheese ahead when they’re on a killer sale AND using a coupon (they thaw just fine!), prep things like cooked shredded chicken (buy a couple whole chickens and throw them in your crock pot with whatever seasonings you like) stored in ziploc bags (again, GREAT for quick meals and super versatile!), etc. I really would never be without an extra freezer again! :)

    One other article to pass on… this just came in my BabyCenter email last week and I thought it was good:

  32. Kelly says

    My tips:

    1. Stock up on butter when it’s on sale — it doesn’t go bad.
    2. Buy chicken when it’s on sale and make your own chicken nuggets — all it takes is some egg flour and seasonings.
    3. Buy the tea and juices when it’s on sale. Stop wasting money on Kool-aid you can buy canned juices and replicate it just as well if not better.
    4. Shred the cheese yourself — the cost of the grater will be much less than buying it each week.
    5. Sausage can be frozen — no need to by that weekly.
    6. Instead of continually buying ramen noodles, buy some egg noodles and seasoning packs from the international aisle of your grocery store. It tastes great.
    7. Tissue paper is always cheap in the drugstores (usually .99 cents/box).
    8. “soap, shampoo, paper towels, deodorant, makeup…” — these things should all be bought before you need them.
    9. Just change your mindset — plan your meals around your ingredients, not vice versa.
    10. Stock up on the salad dressings when they are on sale since your husband eats it everyday.
    11. Pop-tarts are not necessary or nutritious. Try this instead: On the weekends have a baking day, you’d be surprised how many easy slow cooker or breadmaker recipes there are on the Internet for easy breakfast meals.
    12. Cereal should only be bought on sale with coupons – otherwise you are most likely gravely overpaying.
    13. If you are buying pancake batter/mix skip that and make your own instead. All you need to do pancakes are: flour, baking powder, milk, salt, vanilla extract/essence, and egg. It is one of the most dummy-proof things to make because you just throw everything in a bowl and stir. (A very kid friendly recipe, by the way.)
    14. And finally, as a fellow breakfast skipper at times myself, you might want to curb that habit. By skipping breakfast you eat more throughout a given day than you would have if you had eaten breakfast in the first place. It’s true. (This one has actually be proven scentifically too!) An added perk is that this will not only trim your budget, but also your waistline too. :-)
    15. For produce, try local places before you head to the supermarket — they are often much more reasonably priced.

    I hope these tips helped you and I wish you the very best with your budgeting.

  33. Jill says

    Wow, lots of great suggestions. I also have to reduce my spending, so this is a good refresher for me!

    First, I would take inventory of what you have. When I started doing this I discovered 6 bottles of bbq sauce, 4 bottles of ketchup, 3 soups in random places in the kitchen. Also take stock of what is in the depths of the freezer :-)

    To avoid complete child uproar, I would probably keep buying pop tarts but only every other week and start experimenting with homemade granola bars, breakfast muffins or smoothies on the “off pop tart” weeks. I make a big batch of granola to keep in the freezer and take out as a need it. As far as other snacks & cereal, I try not to have excess variety open all at once.

    I write my groc list with room on the side and bottom. I write the price of the item and keep a running total of where I am compared to my mark. The room on the bottom is for the things that find their way into the cart that are not on the list. It keeps me in check.

    I would also suggest a goody fund. My husband and I both get $25-30 per month to spend. The kids (4,3,1) get $10,10,5 per month to spend on a “goody”. It keeps our extra spending in check but we still get a little something on grocery trips.

    Good Luck!

  34. says

    The smartest thing I ever did to make the most of my time and my budget was to join e-mealz. Seriously…you can choose either Kroger or Walmart for your meal plan and it not only plans your meals, but uses the current store sales to do it. On top of that meal plan, I use Southern Savers to match up coupons and search the Couponmom coupon database to see if there are any coupons for those items on the e-mealz list. Add a few staples and some lunch-type items to your shopping list that e-mealz generates and you’ve saved serious time and money. Definitely worth the $5 a month fee for the service!

    Good luck!

  35. Beth says

    I’ve been loving these ideas! They’re great! My biggest piece of advice as you are on your journey and find new ideas and tips: stick with what works for your family. You’ll learn all sorts of new ideas and can drive yourself crazy trying them all, so follow the golden rule: keep it simple! :)

    Even if you do not have a lot of space, you can plant basics in containers. Erin has some fun container gardening tips here!

    Check out – this site has helped me more than any other.

    Buy whole chickens – I often find them for $.87 / lb!

    If you have a wholesale club in your area, it might be worth checking into. For example, where I live, milk is $3.19/gallon at the grocery store, but at my wholesale club, it’s $2.59/gallon. You could even go in on a membership with a friend!

    Learn to bake. I’ve been stepping WAAAAAAAAY out of my comfort zone and baking lately. It’s saved our family a lot of money, and we know the ingredients in our food.

    Finally, if you have an ALDI, RUN, don’t walk! We had one where we used to live, and oh how I miss it! It was a fantastically frugal place to shop!

    Best of luck and keep us posted!

  36. Kristine says

    Definitely check out Angel Food Ministries if it’s available in your area. It may not always be exactly the meals you wanted, but it’s a lot of food for about $25. Then you can use the rest of your budget to get the things you have to have for your picky eater, etc.

  37. Stephanie says

    With the kids, you will need to say take it or leave it every once in a while. Talk to his doctor about his taste buds and figure out what he can’t eat, and what he is just turning his nose up at to be contrary. For legitimate health problems, there are an army of cookbooks out there designed to deal with them. There is celiac disease in my family, 1,000 Gluten Free Recipes is a wonderful resource – if you have celiac disease in the family. If not, don’t spend the money. There must be 1,000 diabetic cookbooks out there – if you need them. Prepared food for health problems are insanely expensive. I try not to buy them. I do make my own microwave meals sometimes.

    I can’t eat certain things. But I was not raised in a environment where I controlled my mother’s menu planning. I was NEVER forced to eat any one dish on the table I did not like aside from taking “one bite”. I was also NEVER allowed to complain at the table. I have disabilities, there are things I can’t do – but I try not to make everything revolve around me. If the rest of the family is going on a nature hike, I won’t hold them back because I can’t walk that far. I will see them at dinner. If I can’t eat it, I say “No, Thank you.” He will have problems in social relationships and in keeping good paying employment if he doesn’t learn to bend in social situations now. As someone who has been a supervisor at two different businesses, you would be surprised at how many kids raised in middle class homes with college degrees don’t understand how important being flexible in relationships is, they are so sure of the opportunities they should get and deserve – they don’t get along, do what they don’t want to do, compromise, or bend.

    Ask the kids for their favorites. Tell them you want to know for your grocery list. Don’t be surprised when you make a meal a child asked for as a favorite and got told they didn’t want it after all. The last time that happened to me my response was the next meal was breakfast but somebody was going to be polite while the adults ate or else. It is rude to request a meal and then turn around and refuse it. If the adults want it, they may have to learn to deal with it every once in a while – particularly when you have adult company as guests. At a graduation party a coworker attended, the 15 year old son of one family member whined and complained about everything – all night. The family that hosted the party was pretty offended. He wasn’t being made to eat anything on the buffet, nobody cared. There were 100 people in the house and everybody had to listen to him – all night.

    I can’t stress enough how hard it will be for the kids you are raising to think the world will always accomodate their issues 100% of the time. No business will. Most people won’t.

    You will not be able to drop down to $75 overnight. But one way you can transition to that goal is look at what you turn over a lot of that you can store for long periods of time. Toilet paper is one example. Rice and dried beans keep for two years stored properly, so does pasta. Can you make a list of staples and cleaning supplies that you know you will need? Some needs are very predictable. If you have a favorite brand of toilet paper, figure out a three months supply. White flour and sugar keep, so do most canned goods. Spices are good for much longer than any food snob will admit, and can be purchased in one year quantities, if stored properly – away from heat and direct sunlight. If you calculate seasonal needs and look at your storage capacity – you can get killer deals. Bulk buying can save you a fortune. Only store what fits in your pantry. A deal isn’t a deal if it makes your home feel less comfortable. I have a hall closet for linens, cleaning supplies, and paper goods. If it is full, I don’t buy. That will limit spending, no room, no buy.

    Make a list of your favorite staples. There are a lot of websites where you can download forms – or maybe your computer carries spreadsheets and forms. Make a little kitchen notebook. I did this because a health issue changed my diet radically. I cleaned my kitchen and found a 7 year old brick of Velveeta. You will need many trash bags. You can clean kitchen walls and shelves with distilled white vinegar, it degreases, and the smell goes away when it dries. I felt good when I had all this done, but it was a royal pain. The kids could have a contest to see who could find the most cans past the expiration date. Inventory what is left. A sheet for canned goods, a sheet for dry goods, one for the freezer, and fridge. Once done, you can look at your inventory when planning, as opposed to rooting through cabinets. I found five containers of chili powder! I gave some to my sisters.

    The internet will help alot. The food network posts all its show recipes, and there is Recipezaar, where regular folks post thousands of tips and recipes. There are a ton of other recipe sites out there. If you see a certain cut of meat for a terrific deal and you don’t know what to do with it, you can look it up. Chuck roast is a terrific deal when on sale, and has wonderful flavor when handled properly. It is shoe leather if you don’t know how to deal with it. If your husband likes to take salads to work, leftover beef is a wonderful topping. If the kids get a yen for something, try to google it.

    Once you have your inventory, you can plan your stockpile. This is a pain now, but once you have it as a habit, it will save you time. I keep a few lists in my purse in an envelope, just in case. With your stockpile list, watch for sales. When you see a good deal for a needed item, then buy. Generics are usually okay. There are exceptions, I don’t like Kroger tuna. Many store brands are pretty good but never buy ten cans of something on sale, taste it first. I look at the coupons in the Sunday paper, there are certain name brands I like to get deals on. I then check the sale circular to the neighborhood Kroger, 2 miles from where I live. Time is money, and you don’t necessarily want to keep a price book and waste precious family time visiting every store in a 500 mile radius looking for cheap milk, when the money spent on gas makes is not worth it. A little planning will help you make the trip once a week. I do not go from store to store to store to store. I do know what is close to me very well – two grocery stores, two drug stores, a hardware store, and a seasonal farmers market – open from June to October. It’s enough. I’m not keeping a price book and going from place to place trying to buy everything below cost – that lacks honesty. It also wastes time. You don’t need to go all over town. Trying to defraud merchants of an honest profit is not being frugal.

    Do you have a months worth of receipts hanging about? Add them up by category. See what percentage is beverages and snacks. I worked with people I swear spent $100 a week at Starbucks, and our business had free coffee in the kitchens on all five floors of the building. Then they drank half the cup they paid for and poured the rest out. When you write down the dollar amounts – it will shock you as much as it did me. Fruit juice and koolaid have no more nutritional content than soda does, and is no healthier. When I was a child (some years ago – laugh), we had a glass of milk with breakfast and water the rest of the day. We got soda in restaurants – and considered it a treat.

    List your favorite recipes. Ideally, a dozen of each category. Beef, Chicken. Vegetable, whatever. Put your lists in your little kitchen book. You can plan menus you know your family likes when you see the sale circular. Krogers has a few terrific bargins in the meat department per week – I plan around it. I bought the corned beef with the plan of having corned beef hash.

    Once you have your inventory and your list of preferred items, the sale circulars, and the coupon circulars, you should be able to map out a weeks menu. Go to the store without any of them. They will try to pull you off the list. Prep work can be done in advance. Things can be prepared in advance (like lasagna or shepherd’s pie) and you can make two meals at once. The slow cooker can be used to make breakfast, oatmeal with dried fruit can be made in it while the family sleeps. Plus, you can look up what are called breakfast casseroles. Prepared the night before, they are cooked in the morning. Muffins and breakfast sandwiches (fast food knock offs) are also easily prepared in bulk and frozen for later use. Stuff like that can make your life a lot easier.

    The kids need to help in the kitchen. Don’t take them to the store, but when the shopping is done. Cleaning, setting the table, planning, budgeting, menu selection, and coupon clipping is all a part of the process. Home economics is micro economics. Besides, the more help you get, the less stress on you. Plus, challenge them to put together a weekly menu plan and stay on budget. It is a way to teach them about money and time management.

    There is low cost software. Mastercook, 30 Day Gourmet, The Dinner Solution. I own none of them. I might like to buy The Dinner Solution sometime. You will have to ask other people how helpful they are. I can’t tell you. I still make lists with paper and pencil.

    It know it seems like a lot, but an inventory will help you make long term plans. Once you get over a few initial humps, you will find a weekly planning session saves time. You can stockpile without being a hoarder. But you do need to eat breakfast, too. It really is important to eat when you get up.

    If you have specific questions, I own hundreds of cookbooks and it is a serious hobby for me. I could help you with specific items. The more thinking you do, the less spending you do. The initial process is a terrible headache. I promise there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  38. chante says

    I also have a tight grocery budget. I would suggest buying dried beans, they are filling, real food, cheap and can stretch your recipe. I too, love hillbillyhousewife. Going from $200 to $75 a week can be done. Good luck.

  39. Kelly D says

    I think you just have to plan ahead. I have 7 kids and used to spend quite a bit, because I wasnt planning ahead(and relying on pre packaged foods). Thats what led me to 5 dollar dinners(I was searching for ways to save money and feed my kids better). Now for my family of 9 my budget is about 120.00 a week(diapers, cleaning items and personal items included).I use coupons, but most importantly I look at the Krogers flyer online and plan my meals around whats on sale. I also started making so many more things from scratch(homemade ranch dressing last night). Some nights you are not going to please everyone, but at my house you eat what is for dinner, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.No special orders!! And on the weekends I bake muffins and homemade bagels for breakfast to last the week!Good luck!!!

  40. says

    There are so many good tips here! I didn’t read EVERYTHING, so I hope I’m not repeating others, but oh, well!

    The first thing that came to mind is to plan your meals around what you already have rather than planning your menu and then shopping for the ingredients. For example, I already have chicken, noodles and carrots, so I’m making chicken noodle soup tonight. I just had to buy the celery and onion.

    AND, I know that many people have said that the processed food that you already buy is expensive, and to cut that to save money. HOWEVER, the stuff you listed is stuff I get for free! I don’t usually pay more than 25¢ a box for brand name cereal, shredded cheese has been SUPER cheap (25¢ – 50¢ a bag for Kraft), crackers (Wheat Thins, Saltines, Nut Crisps more recently) are free, and fruit drinks are free. If you are couponing and stocking up on those items (in a major way . . . like buying 40 boxes of cereal at one time and filling your freezer with shredded cheese), then your grocery budget WILL go down. No reason to cut those items out!

    Hang in there and set small goals!! And DON’T take the hubby or kids with you. AND, use cash. Always use cash so you have a really good grasp on what you are spending.

    • Jaime says

      @Kelleigh @ Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs,

      Sorry if this is a silly question, I bought a chunk of cheese on sale, and plan to put it in the food processor and grate it. Do I just throw it in a bag and freeze it? I saw online somewhere that I should add cornstarch to it, but I am not sure….

      • says

        @Jaime, I’ve never actually shredded a brick of cheese for the freezer. I do have about 5 bricks of cheese in my refrigerator right now (mmm . . . Tillamook cheese!!), and they don’t expire until September 2010 or Feb 2011. I figure that I will use it all by then, so I’m not going to freeze it. I usually freeze the pre-shredded bags, just to save refrigerator room. I throw them in as-is, but I should probably put them in a freezer bag first. However, I haven’t had any problems!

        AND, I’ve never heard of adding cornstarch. Be aware that cheese that has been frozen might have a funny consistency when you thaw/cook with it. Of course, with my pre-shredded cheese, it is so finely shredded that I don’t have an issue with that!

      • Jennifer says


        I shred cheese first and flash freeze it (I think Erin has a tutorial on how to flash freeze on this website). Then I put it in freezer bags, that way the cheese doesn’t all freeze together in an unmanageable lump and I can just take out what I need for a recipe.

  41. says

    I don’t know if this will help, but if you have an Aldis in your area, that has really helped me. We just had a baby about 7 months ago. I wasn’t completely realistic about how much more that would add to our budget. I used to spend about $80 a week for just my husband and me, and that included almost all of the extra necessities like soap, shampoo, etc. Now I have to figure in diapers, wipes, and formula too. I was shopping at places like Dillons(Kroger) and WalMart. I found that I spent so much more at Wal Mart b/c everything was so spread out that I found things in between that I really didn’t need. Our budget now is right around $100 a week including all of the baby stuff that we need like diapers and stuff like that. I have found that going to Aldis has helped. It is all generic stuff, but is really good and way less than what I had been doing. I try to find as many things there that I can off of my list and then get everything else at Wal Mart or Target SuperCenter. I go to target for the baby things, b/c that is the kind of formula that our daughter is using. I also get a lot of coupons from Target. Usually when I go there and buy diapers, I get another coupon for the next time I need to go. So far this has worked for my family and has really saved on our budget. Good luck!!! I hope this was helpful.

  42. Dawn says

    I haven’t seen any suggestions for shopping at Dollar Stores! They have plenty of decent canned, boxed, and bagged foods – plus some even carry cold stuff like MILK! If you’re going to be checking out new places to shop, I’d suggest checking out one just new spot a week so it’s not overwhelming. And then going back to the ones that work meet your needs.

    Menu planning is very helpful for us – and I adjust the ‘month’ plan each week before I go shopping based on what’s still hanging around from the previous week! If you’re concerned about the kids having issues with the menu changes, I’d encourage getting them involved with coupon clipping, cooking, and suggesting family dinners. A few changes at a time are usually easier for everyone to deal with! Have fun with it!!

  43. Clara says

    I also highly recommend Aldi if you have one available. We save 25% or more than we would spend at Walmart even with coupons. Aldi does not take coupons. Another place to save on both groceries and hygienic products is Big Lots. I can shampoo, soaps, lotions, etc at greatly discounted prices. Another source is to look for any food salvage stores in your area. When I lived in Amarillo, I would frequently shop at a store by the name of Panhandle Salvage. Bread .10 cents, cans of tomato sauce less then 5 cents. My money budget went a long way there.

  44. says

    We drink water and milk pretty much exclusively around here–juice is a treat, usually with pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Also, maybe this is a bit ‘old-fashioned’ but, canned fruits and veggies are a LOT cheaper than fresh, especially for the out-of-season stuff. I know not everything is available in canned versions, but replacing a few things per week in this way could save you $5-10 pretty quickly. I discourage snacking in general around my house, but if the kid is starving, they usually just get a simple graham cracker or maybe a couple of plain crackers with peanut butter. Popcorn is a cheaper alternative to chips, especially if you pop it on the stove instead of getting the microwavable stuff.

    I have 8 kids, by the way, and try to stay under $500/month. Granted, none are teenagers yet, so I know that will change! Like someone else said, I try to build my meals around a starch or cheaper protein like eggs (breakfast meal, quiche, strata). We do a lot of pasta, casseroles with pasta, potatoes in some form, or rice. Then the meat and veggies are added in. I still only use a 1.5 lb package of ground beef when making a meal–same as I did when I ‘only’ had 4 kids. Now I just add an extra jar of spaghetti sauce to go over pasta, or an extra can or two of beans in chili. Small pieces of meat go further, so try making meals with that in mind. Instead of serving whole chicken breasts, cut them into halves or thirds before cooking and fill in the missing meat with an extra side dish.

  45. says

    I wish I was given $75 a week to spend on groceries!!!!!!
    I could make it go a long way between sales and coupons.
    Stocking up when you can is very important.

    one of my weeks of $75 would go to buy food from the Angel Foods ministry. For the $75 I could get the basic package for $30, the extra meat package for $23 and the fruit and veggie box for $22.

  46. says

    I am not a mommy, furthermore I would never judge another woman even if I was a mommy so please take my comments the way in which they are intended… with brotherly (or um sisterly?) love.

    I am feeding a very, very picky eater. He is my 30 year old husband. So I understand what you are dealing with. He wants all packaged food all the time but my budget can’t support that. He would eat poptarts every morning if they were in the house. Instead I stock my freezer with homemade muffins. I take out a muffin, wrap it in a paper towel and microwave it for 30 seconds. One of my favorite healthy recipes is http://www.moneysavingmom ‘s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

    Another thing that I do to stretch my money is to make planned leftovers. For example recently on my blog I did a series where one night I roasted a chicken and then I made chicken stock while I slept, chicken noodle soup in 30 minutes or less and then chicken salad (although I never posted that recipe). Cooking that way helped me stretch a chicken that cost less than $3.00 into three meals (plus a lot of leftover chicken noodle soup and chicken salad).

    I am not trying to be harsh but I wish that my husband’s tastes had not been indulged as a child. Is there any other way that your son will eat chicken? Would he eat sliced chicken in a sandwich because then you could use leftover roasted chicken for that. Whole chickens are some of the cheapest meat that you can buy- that is why I am so hung up on them! If he won’t eat chicken any other way, then I would suggest that you make your own chicken nuggets but that is a big old pain.

    I also agree that you need to start CVSing if there is one in your area. I don’t remember the last time I bought toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, lotion, etc. Those things seem small but they really add up.

    You’ve gotten some great advice from the other commenters and I hope that you will be able to get your grocery budget where you need it to be. I am sure with a little work you will be able to. $75.00 a week is very reasonable.

  47. says

    I don’t think there is anything new I can add, but just wanted to say that I live in KY and also shop at Kroger, and I definitely think you can do it on $75 a week. Maybe not at first, but it’s a great goal to work toward. I can almost always get free or really cheap (brand name) toiletries, yogurt, granola bars, cheese, tuna, cereal, and more because I shop the sales, and use coupons. Also watch for meat markdowns. Kroger almost always has great meat markdowns. When I find them I STOCK UP on meat that will last me a while. A couple of months ago I came home with 25 lbs. of lean organic hamburger that had been marked down to $1.20/lb. I froze it all and use as needed. Sure I spent most of my week’s budget on meat that week, but three months later I still don’t need to buy hamburger. I do the same with chicken and beef too. And Kroger is awesome with produce markdowns as well.
    I usually blog about my Kroger adventures if you need a little inspiration.

  48. Teresa says

    I spend about $100 a week for our family of 5, our kids are 12, 15, and 17 (and let me mention the 15 year old eats about as much as 4 normal people). I don’t buy individually packaged foods, rarely buy processed foods such as frozen pizza or chicken nuggets. I do buy a couple of “treats” every week such as a bag of potato chips or cookies so my family doesn’t feel deprived, but I typically buy them at ALDI for less than $1.30 a bag. I don’t shop like your average shopper; I buy what’s on sale for super cheap at my local grocery store, and then plan my NEXT week’s dinner menu using those items (not counting the produce type items of course!). I don’t make meals that have expensive ingredients in the recipes. I also know the cheapest prices my local stores offer, and buy those items when they reach the price I’m willing to spend, not necessarily when they happen to advertise those items ($2.50 for a box of cereal? That’s not much of a sale!!)

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