Spending less than $50 on groceries a month seems like a ridiculous and daunting goal to achieve. I’m here to tell you that it CAN be done! I will break down the rules that we follow during our $50 on grocery months and help you save BIG!
If you were a follower of Hello Brownlow in July 2018, you’ll remember that was our first $50 grocery challenge. Now that I am a stay at home mom (SAHM) for the first time, our budget is shrinking again. I love staying home with Little Guy and have found a new love for making everything from scratch.
With a smaller budget, that urge to make everything from scratch has kicked in. In order to spend less than $50 on groceries a month there are several actionable items to remember before you head to the store.
Take Inventory of Your Pantry
I see you hiding back there barley. Take a good look at what is actually in your pantry and cupboards. Like my long forgotten barley, I’m sure that there are a few sneaky boxes or jars of food that are lurking in the back corner. Of course you’ll want to check the expiration date on everything but most shelf stable items are good for months past the “best buy” date on the package.
Whenever I take pantry inventory, I like to go one cabinet at a time and categorize each item. My categories are:
- grains (rice, oats, quinoa, etc)
- canned goods (veggies, soups)
- beans (being vegan, this is a big one for us)
- snack items (crackers, chips, etc.)
- condiments (curry paste, pesto, ketchup, etc)
Depending on your diet, you may have several different categories or less categories than I do. This is just step one in spending less than $50 on groceries a month.
Go Through Your Recipes
We have 9 cookbooks plus a binder that houses our printed recipes from the internet. Our family recipes are in a traditional recipe box that I keep stored away.
I’m the crazy person that likes reading whole cookbooks in one sitting (I love the pretty pictures mostly). This comes in handy when I’m coming up with a monthly meal plan. I also utilize Pinterest when looking for cheap meals. You can also review my 10 super cheap vegan meal list here!
When you look at the recipes in your repertoire, look back at your pantry inventory. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have most of the ingredients on hand?
- Will this recipe last for one dinner or for two (left overs)?
- How much will I spend on ingredients?
Let’s get those recipes you found in order! Take those recipes that you found or thought of and put together the ones that take similar ingredients.
A good example of this for us would be stir fry and curry (recipes here). Both take rice and ginger. While neither are very expensive, we can cook the rice in bulk to use for both meals and purchase stem ginger only once.
Review my meal planning post for more details on how to get everything in order!
How to Win at Meal Planning
Make a List and Check it Twice
You’ve taken inventory of your pantry, you’ve looked at your recipe book, you’ve made a meal plan… time to purchase what you need!
Spending less than $50 on groceries does take some strategy when going to the store. Please make sure you have a list and DO NOT deviate from it!
I frequent two stores: Aldi and Sprouts. Aldi I shop at for my pantry staples like rice, canned veggies, coffee, etc. I know that Aldi will have the cheapest price on those items. If I need produce, I can generally by exactly what I need at Sprouts without buying too much. Sprouts has excellent produce that is on sale with the seasons. If you don’t have a store like Sprouts, I highly suggest Aldi or another “bargain” type store (Crest, WinCo, etc).
Before I shop, I will look at the weekly ad to view the sales. If a recipe calls for something that I know can be expensive at times I will either substitute that ingredient or choose another recipe all together. I will jot down my list and write the price out next to each item. In writing out the price, getting an estimated total, and calculating tax I can ensure that I will stick to my $50 monthly budget!
Also check out rebate apps like Saving Star for rebates on items you are already going to buy!
What if I have a big family?
This is one of the questions I see quite often. We have a family of three. Our 6 month old eats a puree of whatever veggies we are eating that week plus formula. So the cost of those veggies is very little. I haven’t calculated in the cost of formula to our grocery budget since we have a dedicated “baby” category.
The number I like to estimate is $50 for every two people. So if you have a family of 6, you could set a goal of $150 per month.
I hope that you all are able to take away some valuable points from this post on how to keep your grocery budget less than $50 this month! Let me know what ideas you have to keep your budget low and what your favorite frugal meals are in the comments.