Add to that families with food sensitivities (us!) and the extras that come along with making sure everyone has what they need to eat can be other costs to squeeze in. Keep in mind, this budget DOES NOT include our family nutritional supplements. That is an additional cost.
I have 5 tips I stick to in order to keep us at or under the $500 grocery bill every month.
Tip #1: Purchase your meat in bulk
If you happen to be carnivores like us, meat is an important portion of our diet. I did marry quite the carnivorous partner, so it’s non negotiable for us. The first thing I did when I realized how much meat we’d go through was to create boundaries around how and where we purchased our meat.
I purchase meat only from our local natural foods co-op and that is only if our own stocked up supply is out (or I didn’t pull something out in time to thaw). When I purchase from my co-op I know where the food comes from and my butcher can answer any question I may have, from where it came from to how I might prepare it.
We purchase 1/4 grass fed (mostly) organic beef from a farmer just 40 minutes west of us, which puts him about an hour west of the Twin Cities. Not too shabby for an annual pick up if you ask me. This costs us less than $500 PER YEAR. That breaks down to around $2.99/ lb., for steaks, soup bones, ground beef, roasts, you name it.
We also purchase our poultry in bulk as often as possible. Sometimes the farm doesn’t have any chickens to offer because they got eaten up by coyotes or the sly fox themselves. When this happens we default to the co-op. I purchase the family packs there as often as possible because I like the bigger chicken pieces for crock pot cooking or to make soups and stews out of . Grilling them is also really easy after a tasty marinade.
Tip #2: Buy in Bulk
People around me are probably so tired of hearing me talk about this, but it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, or at least I think so.
Buying grains, flour, nuts, seeds, and even pasta is much cheaper when purchased in bulk. The only disclaimer I’d make here is gluten free pasta is typically MORE expensive when purchased in bulk for some reason.
Occasionally I’ll buy granola or trail mix in bulk if I’m in a pickle, but typically those are also less expensive if purchased individually and then thrown together at home.
Meal planning may seem overwhelming to some, but I guarantee it is a huge help if you’re working with a budget or just trying not to fill the cart with unnecessary items.
If you take 15 minutes to sit down and get your head wrapped around the upcoming week it will be an easy task. Realistically we don’t need a new meal for all seven nights of the week.
I find myself planning for 4 meals, then planning what we’d like to snack on during the week and look at what we need to bake for the week.
I also keep a running list in my kitchen of items I am out of, whether it be spices, flour, jam, produce (at least what I ALWAYS keep on hand for produce) or whatever it may be. I make certain those items get on my list from week to week so I don’t run into the extra cost of completely restocking my pantry in one fell swoop.
Tip #4: Watch those Sale Items
When sticking to a budget we need to remember that though the sales are enticing on the endcaps, they can be our demise. Is it necessary to spend $22 on the whole case of rice chips (which IS saving us money in the long run) or can we get by with purchasing just a few extra bags instead. If it is something like a case of diced tomatoes I might consider it. I just really have to ask myself what season it is and will I use that up in the next 4-6 weeks.
Purchasing items on sale will be adding to your list and will push it over your budget limit for the week, so if I see something I know we use a lot of, I will purchase double or triple but no more (and I certainly wouldn’t do it for every sale item I saw that day!)
Tip #5: Stick to Your List
Whether it be a sale on the endcap that grabs you or you remembered that grandma is coming in two weeks and she loves your shrimp bisque…keep items you need for further in the future
for upcoming shopping trips. Shopping when you are not hungry and when you’re littles aren’t along will make for a more peaceful and easier trip (typically) and one that isn’t as costly. If you are toting little people, lay down the rules before you get out of the car so they understand you are purchasing items on the list ONLY. Remind them that today you will purchase the sweetest of the apples or the most plump raisins or their favorite cheese (or whatever a staple is that they love and you will be buying anyway) to whet their appetites.
I always love to swap ideas with other mamas, so what ideas and tips do you have to share for keeping your grocery budget under $500 when purchasing natural and whole foods?
Nichi Hirsch Kuechle supports moms during pregnancy, birth, postpartum and beyond as a Parent Coach, Craniosacral Therapist and Birth/Postpartum Doula in Minneapolis. She publishes a weekly e-zine called Natural Family, which offers tips, ideas and resources for growing healthy babies. She also teaches a variety of live and virtual workshops. You can get Nichi’s New Parent Tool Kit, for free, by going to: http://www.MyHealthyBeginning.com.