Five Benefits of a Strict Grocery Budget

Five Benefits of a Strict Grocery Budget

There are nine more days left in the month, and I have about $50 left in my grocery budget to feed my family of six.

This has been a tough year financially for us, with decreased income and unexpected medical expenses. We’re also sick and tired of spinning our wheels to get rid of our debt. So, over the summer, my husband and I came up with a strict budget. There’s no wiggle room. We’ve got to stick to it.

The biggest single expense that we have control over is our grocery budget. I’ve almost always had a grocery budget. But, more often than not, I’ve treated it as a ballpark figure to shoot for, not a hard and fast limit. Now, I need to treat that figure as an absolute, not just a guideline! It’s been a challenge, but one I’ve actually found I’m enjoying over the last couple of months! Instead of being frustrated by our lack of funds, I’m choosing to focus on the positives of a limited food budget.

So, I thought it would be fun to share five benefits of having to be so strict with our food dollars right now (besides the main benefit of staying within our means and paying all our bills, of course! πŸ˜‰ )

1. Less waste!

When every dollar counts, I’m much less likely to let food go to waste. We’ve learned to eat even the little bits of of leftovers and are much less likely to just leave things sitting in the refrigerator and go buy something else because nothing we have sounds appealing.Β Many times I’ve planned meals and then we’ve decided to do something else – either eat out or make something different (often requiring a trip to the store to pick up a few ingredients). More often than not, items I purchased to make a particular meal would then sit and not get used. There’s been much less of the “buying things and never getting around to using them” syndrome.

2. My refrigerators stay so much cleaner!

This is a direct result of the first benefit! We’re eating things up instead of leaving containers of this and that sitting in the fridge until they’re unidentifiable! The shelves in both my refrigerators are staying clear and things are much easier to find!

3. It forces me to be creative.

I think this one is my favorite. It’s a fun challenge to try to find a filling meal to make with what I have on hand, instead of finding a meal I want to make and then going to buy what I’m lacking to make it. There have been several occasions where I needed to come up with dinner at the last minute and I was lacking one or two ingredients for some of my old standbys. In each case, I found something new and different that worked with what I had, and everyone enjoyed a change from the norm! This has been the case with breakfast and lunch too, which I don’t usually plan ahead. We’ve all gotten more creative about using what we have on hand to come up with a filling meal.

4. It makes my weekly meal planning even more intentional.

Instead of going through recipes, choosing what sounds appealing and making a grocery list based on that (i.e. “Spaghetti sounds good this week! What do I need to buy to make it?”), I take stock of what I have on hand first and then search out recipes that utilize those things, buying only what I have to. Maybe it sounds like a subtle change, but it makes a big difference in the bottom line!

5. It makes us realize how much food and money we tend to waste and how much less we can get by on.

When we eliminate the “out” of going to pick up take-out or “just a few things” at the store and force ourselves to use what’s on hand, it’s amazing how much less we spend, and how we’re able to feed ourselves on what’s in the pantry and freezer without going to the store! We’re getting by onΒ muchΒ less than a typical budget for our family size, and we’re still able to purchase our good grassfed meat and raw dairy (see the links below for more thoughts on how we afford to eat “real food” on a small budget) ! I could easily spend nearly double what we do, and many do, without even blinking.

I know that this season is temporary, but even when things aren’t as tight as they are now, I’ll continue to be intentional and frugal with our food dollars and enjoy these benefits. Appreciating what we have and reducing wastefulness are good stewardship, no matter what your financial situation happens to be.

It does take planning, discipline, and creativity, but it’s worth it!Β 

More on eating healthy “real food” on a limited budget:

Do you have a set grocery budget? How closely do you stick to it?

Linked with Titus 2 Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, Hip Homeschool Hop, Welcome Home Wednesday, Raising Homemakers, Works for Me Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Hearts for Home, Thrive @ Home, Simple Lives Thursday, Fellowship Fridays, Friday! Friday!


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  1. What as great post, Kara. We also have a very strict budget. I believe its the one category in the budget that we really have lots of control over and can save the most. Last night we made this,, using the chicken thighs from the meat co-op. oh, my you guys need to try it. It’s just chicken, butter and seasoned flour. I didn’t have paprika so I substituted a seasoned salt I had on hand.
    Angi Schneider recently posted…Handmade Christmas 2013 link up {infusions, extracts and sugars}My Profile

    • Thanks Angie! Yes…it’s the one area that I feel like we have the most control over. The recipe sounds delicious, and I have a bag of chicken thighs from meat co-op too…I’m going to have to try it! πŸ™‚

  2. Hi,

    I am horrible at sticking to my budget. I know I need to and that doing so would release a lot of pressure elsewhere, but I get tired and I have a bad attitude. I really end up with a bad case of the “I don’t wanna”s. Not a good idea for an over 40 year old and I would really like to change it. If you have any other tips I would love to hear them.

    Best wishes
    Jen in Oz

    • Hi Jen! I understand. I’ve been there, and I still have those days! My best advice is to focus on how staying within budget is a blessing to your family, and to look at it as a fun challenge to see how little you can spend and how creative you can be at using what you have! Having friends, in person or online, who are trying to do the same and can encourage you helps with motivation and attitude too! The posts I linked to at the end of this post have more practical tips for shopping, menu planning, etc.

    • Hi Jen,
      Years ago the one thing that I had to do was to go into the store with nothing but cash. No checks, Debit Cards etc… Then once you run out of cash you are done. I would strategically place things that I was ‘hoping’ to purchase at the end so if my calculations were off we didn’t end up leaving the store without milk or flour. Anyway it worked for me. Blessings friends, Kyle ….visiting from Raising Arrows πŸ˜€
      Kyle Su recently posted…Trim Healthy Mama Menu Plan: Vanilla Pumpkin Spice Latte (FP)My Profile

  3. Great points! Our grocery budget isn’t that much and I have money put aside this month for buying some apples so we’ve really been having to stretch this month and I can relate to all of them. πŸ™‚ The fridge is cleaner/emptier, using what we already have etc.

  4. I think it’s awesome that you’re trying to get out of debt- life is so much freer once you are! And you’re right- groceries are an area where most of us waste far more than we “need” to.
    Jamie @ Coffee With Us 3 recently posted…Domino Bugs – A New Domino GameMy Profile

    • Thanks Jamie! We can’t wait to get there! πŸ™‚ So true. It’s tricky to strike a balance between being frugal and not sacrificing the healthiness/quality of the food…seems like many tend to one extreme or the other.

  5. We have a pretty tight grocery budget right now too. I agree with you on the fact it makes you more creative. I blog a lot about food so I have to be really creative so I can try out new recipes for my blog but not blow us out of the water. One of my my favorite books is called Miserly Moms, she talks a lot about ways to save money on your grocery bill. One of her ways was to make a meatless meal night. I used to think that was silly until I found out first hand how much money it saved us.
    I enjoyed reading this post! I found you on Fellowship Friday link up by the way- and I am so glad I did!
    Amber Neal recently posted…Easy Computer Programming for kidsMy Profile

    • I read Miserly Moms years ago and got some great tips from it! I try to do a meatless night every week or so. Another good, frugal meal is “breakfast for dinner”! We do that one really often too! I’m so glad you stopped by, Andrea! πŸ™‚

  6. I have been meal planning for years now. That way I know what groceries I need to get for the week as far as dinner is concerned. Then it’s just the lunch stuff and any snacks. It’s so much easier and I’ve cut down our grocery bill big time! We also found It’s a Christian based budgeting program. It’s so awesome because it links our smartphones with our computer and all you have to do is put in your purchases. Now… if only we could put in our purchases every time!! LOL
    Andrea recently posted…At the WellMy Profile

    • I agree, Andrea. Things go so much smoother when I do my menu plan! Letting it slide always costs me time and money. We use YNAB too…isn’t it a great program?! πŸ™‚

  7. I have increasingly seen our food budget sky rocket out of control for simple lack of doing the things you talked about here. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation!
    Angela recently posted…When You Long for True FellowshipMy Profile

    • You’re very welcome, Angela! It really is SO easy to let it slide…I’ve been guilty of it plenty of times! Thanks for stopping by. πŸ™‚

  8. When so often we feel victimized and powerless at the grocery store, setting a limit and sticking to it restores the power back into our hands — and that’s a good feeling. I’ve often said our limited budget will probably help us live much healthier lives, because we don’t have the money to spend on rich cuts of meat (or sometimes meat at all), junk food, and processed food. These are a few more benefits you can add to your list πŸ™‚

  9. This is so true. We just finished our own 4-week challenge to eat well (maybe even better than usual) while spending two-thirds less than usual. I was really surprised by some of the benefits of trying this. Less food waste, sure, but I became way more resourceful than ever before. I thought I was pretty frugal, but I rarely question whether I should replace something when it runs out. Last month I did. When I ran out of cinnamon I ground some cinnamon sticks myself. And I used the unripe orange that had fallen off our tree in place of lemons. They’re pretty good. I wrote about what I learned here:
    It’s amazing how periodically going without makes things seem more plentiful, not less.

    • I love the challenge you did, Sarah! I can really relate to what you say about it making you more resourceful, and how it makes things seem more plentiful. It really does make us appreciate what we have! Thanks so much for stopping by and giving your input! Off to check out your link. πŸ™‚

  10. We don’t have a grocery budget – I couldn’t even tell you right now what we spend on groceries. I do try to buy most things on sale. Several of my friends have said they’ve noticed a big decrease in their grocery bills when they started menu planning, so I should do that (just have to find the time to start!). Thanks for sharing – I’d love to cut back on our expenses, because even a little bit adds up over time, as you say. πŸ™‚
    Bonnie Way recently posted…Advice for New MomsMy Profile

    • Oh yes, I agree with your friends! I see a HUGE difference in my grocery spending when I plan my meals versus when I don’t! And really, it doesn’t take as long as you’d think! I encourage you to give it a try. Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie! πŸ™‚


  1. […] Kara from Home with Purpose with “Five Benefits of a Strict Grocery Budget” […]

  2. […] a deal22. Buy a quarter or side of beef23. Buy produce from local farms24. Creatively use whatever ingredients you have25. Don’t buy convenience foods26. Cook more cheap staples27. Don’t waste food […]

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