Grocery Budget Tips – How to Spend Less Than $50 on Groceries a Month

Spending less than $50 on groceries a month seems like a ridiculous and daunting goal to achieve. I’m here to tell your grocery budget CAN be $50! I will break down the rules that we follow during our $50 on grocery months and help you save BIG!

Hey Friend! I’m glad you’re here looking for inspiration on how to spend less on groceries every month. This original post was written in 2018 – way before grocery prices increased to what they are today! Every tip in this post is still very valid and can still save you money in your grocery budget. BUT! I have written a whole new post on how to save money on groceries for 2022 right over >>> HERE!

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 grocery 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.

How to spend $50 on groceries - Tips to slash your grocery budget

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)
  • pastas
  • canned goods (veggies, soups)
  • beans (being vegan, this is a big one for us)
  • snack items (crackers, chips, etc.)
  • nuts
  • condiments (curry paste, pesto, ketchup, etc)
  • spices
  • baking

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.

For a more in depth discussion on taking pantry inventory, visit my post HERE. You’ll also find a FREE printable!

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    Frugal Foods

    To keep your grocery budget under $50, you’ll need to have a variety of frugal foods ready to go in your pantry. These foods are not only cost effective, but easy to cook with as well.

    Frugal foods include:

    1. Brown/White Rice
    2. Oats
    3. Pasta
    4. Dry Beans
      • Black Beans
      • Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
      • Red Beans (Kidney Beans)
      • Pinto Beans
      • Lentils (Red or Brown)
    5. Canned Beans
    6. Pasta Sauce
    7. Popcorn (snacks)
    8. Peanuts
    9. Canned Tuna
    10. Peanut Butter
    11. Apples
    12. Bananas
    13. Carrots
    14. Potatoes
    15. Sweet Potatoes
    16. Canned Tomatoes
    17. Frozen Vegetables
    18. Baking essentials such as:
      • Granulated Sugar
      • Brown Sugar
      • Baking Powder 
      • Baking Soda
    19. Variety of Spices such as:
      • Onion and garlic powder
      • taco seasoning
      • bullion cubes

    We love frozen veggies and fruit. They’re easy to grab and add to any recipe. Aldi has great prices on bag of frozen veg. At our store, they start at just $0.89!

    For more on frugal foods and what to make with them, check out >>>

    Go Through Your Recipes

    We have 4 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?

    Related >>> How to declutter recipes and cookbooks

    Recipe binder - how we eat on just $50 a month!

    Meal Planning

    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!

    Use Rebate Apps

    Apps like Ibotta have amazing rebates on just about everything you buy. There are often bonuses AND free groceries around the holidays!

    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.

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    1. This is great advice! I’m usually doing good to keep our grocery bill to $50 a week. I might need to re-evaluate and give this a try!

      1. Let me know how it goes!

    2. There is no way a family of 6 can eat on $150 a month and get all the nutrients they need to not only grow but stay healthy.

      1. I totally get where you’re coming from. However, $150 for a family of 6 would be an “emergency mode” budget. So you’d have to make some sacrifices in order to stay within that dollar limit. For example, we went without meat, dairy, and eggs. Instead we purchased grains, beans, lentils from the bulk section of our grocery store which are very inexpensive. Vegetables and fruit were only purchased if they were on sale or were already very inexpensive – like sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, apples, bananas, oranges, etc. Frozen veg was also a good choice for us. Having a plant based diet for us is not only healthy, but it is inexpensive.
        American families spend a lot of money on processed foods, so cooking from scratch is a great place to start saving money. As is using what is already in your pantry.
        But again, every family is different. You may have someone in your family that has a certain dietary restriction that just cost more to feed them. And that’s okay! The goal of this post was to show that you can knock out a lot from your grocery budget by being frugal, using what you have, and being conscious of food waste.
        Have a great day!

    3. Thanks for adding your response to that last comment. I was wondering the same thing. But I thought that might be what you meant. After seeing your post, I am totally going to challenge myself. Appreciate you recommending the stores. I know we will not be at even $50 per person per month, because I will be including meat and produce but still, I am inspired to do better!! Thanks for posting.

    4. I have 5 kids and have been shopping for years and can definitely tell you there’s no way in this economy you have feed 6 people on $150 a month.

      1. Hi Jerri! That’s exactly why I wrote an updated post for 2022-2023. It’s linked at the top of the blog post 🙂

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