If a trip through the supermarket checkout lane leaves you with sticker shock or if you're looking for ways to spend a little less each month, creating a cheap grocery budget may be just what you need. Finding a balance between how much you're willing to spend and what you're willing to give up food-wise is a pretty personal decision, but a realistic budget will help you stick with a spending plan once you've made those choices.
Keep a record of your grocery-store spending for at least a month to get a sense of how much you spend on groceries each week. Include stops at the gas station market to pick up milk and soda, farmers-market spending and other food purchases as well as your regular grocery-store shopping.
Figure out your average weekly grocery spending by adding up the totals from your records and dividing them by the number of weeks you recorded. For instance, if you spent $800 for four weeks of groceries, your average grocery cost per week is $200. Use this figure to determine how much money you want to cut from your budget.
Make a menu every week, but don't get too specific. For instance, instead of planning to have grilled chicken breasts with tomatoes and green beans, plan to have chicken and vegetables so you can pick up the cheapest cuts of chicken and least-expensive produce once you're shopping.
Plan to have at least one or two vegetarian menus each week, based around whole grains, beans or legumes, recommends Cooking Light magazine. Vegetarian meals are typically cheaper than meat-based ones.
Browse coupon circulars and grocery-store websites for sales on items you frequently buy, and plan meals to include these foods, recommends Good Housekeeping.
Build your shopping list from your menu plan and store circulars, and bring only the amount of cash you want to spend to the store with you -- no credit cards. Limiting yourself to the cash in your pocket will help force you to stick with your budget.
- Bring a notebook to the supermarket or start a list on your smart phone to keep up with price fluctuations in products that you buy most frequently, recommends Good Housekeeping magazine. Over the course of a few months, you'll learn to recognize when one of your regular pantry items is at its best price so you can stock up.
Holly Roberts is an award-winning health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in health, lifestyle and fitness magazines. Roberts has also worked as an editor for health association publications and medical journals. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature.