Saving Money on Groceries – How We Only Spent $200

Saving Money on Groceries

No matter how you slice it, in order to save money, you have to cut expenses. It’s the unfortunate truth of the world we live in. So many people have come to me exclaiming: “But there’s only so many things we can cut!” And for the most part, they have cut a lot from their expenses. They’re learning to live without shampoo, without cable, without the “luxuries” we normally allow ourselves. However, the area in which people struggle the most to save is when it comes to food. Saving money on groceries is HARD.

Why?

That’s pretty simple: food is an essential item. We need food to survive. We cannot simply cut food from our spending because it would be detrimental to our health.

It’s true. There isn’t a ton we can do to get rid of the expense. However, saving money on groceries is entirely possible and I’m about to tell you how my wife and I spend less than $200 per month for food. Here goes!

Saving Money on Groceries - www.diyjahn.com

Saving Money on Groceries

 There are many strategies to help with saving money on groceries, but I promise this won’t be a list of places to go cut coupons. Okay, I know that coupons could probably save me a ton of money. And I also understand that if you use them right, you can legitimately get free groceries.

The amount of time it takes to get the coupons, learn how to use them, and then drive around to multiple different stores is a turn-off for me though. I can’t help it. I’m sure that I will get to that point someday, where I’m not working a full-time (plus some) job and running my blog while still trying to work some side hustles to pay off debt. I’m sure I’ll get to the point where coupon cutting is worth the time for me.

That time simply isn’t now.

So, I’m here to say, for all you other busy, go-getters, for all you SAHMs / SAHDs, for all you entrepreneurs, for all you college kids, and for all you anybodies out there who simply don’t have the time to devote to coupon-cutting, there’s another way.

Last month, my wife and I spent less than $200 for groceries. This month? It should be the same – if not lower. How are we doing this? How do we feed ourselves, our dog, and buy housing supplies / cleaning supplies / hygiene products all for under $200?

It’s not that hard. Let’s break it down into three steps:

Saving Money on Groceries means Learning to Make it Yourself

One of the biggest things I notice when I am talking to people about budgets is that they complain that everything is simply too expensive. While I agree that inflation has sky-rocketed the prices of everything we purchase (it’s really hard to say no to that one, right?), I also think that people are paying for convenience more than they like to admit.

A friend of mine came to me and asked how I spent so little on food for the month. I responded with by explaining the three steps in this blog – I live without, I plan ahead, and I learn to make things myself. That’s when I was met with the response that makes me chuckle every time:

“Well, you still buy the basic essentials right? Bread, pasta, veggies, meat, milk…”

The list goes on, but you get the point. Without fail the items “bread,” “pasta,” and “milk” are always on this list. Why? Because our culture has become overwhelmed with convenience. We have been led to believe that convenience is a staple.

I do buy the “staples” but these are very different on my end than on yours. My staples include yeast and flour for bread and pasta, a box of dry milk which is priced astronomically cheaper than the refrigerated milk, and baking soda and vinegar to cover all of my cleaning supplies and hygiene products (for the most part). Basically, I’ve learned to make it myself and it has made all the difference.

Still not sure? Check out these posts for cost analysis and how-to:

Making Homemade Bread can Save You TONS $$

Homemade Pasta can Help You to Save $100 at the Store

Homemade Cleaning Products for a Cleaner Home (& Essential Oil Usage)

Why We Took the No Poo Challenge (& Homemade Shampoo / Conditioner)

Saving Money on Groceries means Living Without

The next thing people say when they ask about saving money on groceries is: “What about treating yourself?” Then they’ll go on to tell me about how they work such-and-such long, hard hours a week for their money and they deserve to eat this expensive food.

Which brings me to one of the most complicated points I strive to make: It is difficult for us, as humans living within this day and age, to live within our means. 

Why? Well, I could talk about that for another whole blog post, but I won’t. If you want to hear some of my why, I talk about it in another blog post HERE about How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt for GOOD.

So, whether you deserve to eat fancy, expensive food all the time isn’t really the question anymore. Now it’s about whether you should treat yourself once in a while. Well, here’s my thoughts on this: I want steak. I love steak. Steak is on my top one lists of favorite foods that I can’t live without. In fact, meat in general is just one of my favorite things ever. Yet it’s expensive and I am in debt. So, what does this mean?

Simple: If we want to spend less on groceries and pay back our debt quicker, we have to give up some of our wants – even if that means having more meatless meals and eating steak less often.

Now, I want you to know that it’s okay to treat yourself once in a great while, but don’t go overboard and use your “fun” money to pay for it. Remember: if it’s not in your budget, it’s not worth it.

If you’re interested in more on this topic, visit this post on Huffington Post:

Should You Live in the Moment or Pay Back Debt?

Saving Money on Groceries means Learning to Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is the most essential way that I can tell you to start saving money on groceries. Keep track of the food you have in your home. Experiment with the food you already have at home and create meals you never imagined. When you run out, plan ahead before you buy more groceries.

Creating a meal plan means that you are more likely to stick to your budget for many reasons. First of all, you are less likely to eat out if you have a meal planned and ready to be made at home. Why? Because it’s easy. One of the top reasons that we grab fast food on the way home from work is convenience, right? We all know it doesn’t taste quite as good as home cooking, so that’s the main reason. So, if you have the food ready in a convenient way, you’re less likely to spend the money on fast food – even if that means doing some meal prepping over the weekend.

Second of all, if you plan your meals ahead and shop for those meals, you’re less likely to make grocery store trips. My wife and I go shopping once every two weeks and pick up the groceries we need for two weeks worth of menu planning and it works for us. The thing is: when you don’t shop for specific meals, it’s easy to say you’ll just run out and grab something to finish the meal which leads to more spending.

Both of these reasons prove the importance of planning ahead, but if you don’t believe me, check out this example:

Let’s say you decide make breakfast for dinner one night on a whim. You get off work and head toward home, but you realize that you don’t have all of the ingredients. You have three choices at this point:

  1. Go home and try to find something else for dinner (GOOD choice, but unlikely because we are conned into believing that convenience is necessity)
  2. Go to the store, head to the back to pick up your ingredients, see a bunch of other things you “need,” spend $30 by the time you leave the store.
  3. Head to the nearest fast food place and buy food for your family for $30.

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Planning ahead can make all the difference.

Plus, I’ve got this great post on how to make a really cute menu board to plan your meals, check it out HERE: Stylish DIY Menu Board

Saving Money on Groceries - www.diyjahn.com (1)

Saving Money on Groceries

Overall, remember that it’s important to work on saving money on groceries, but it probably won’t happen all at once and that’s okay. Start with learning how to make something from scratch, then try something new, and work your way up from there. Above all, remember that you can do this. Mindset is everything.

Saving money on groceries isn’t that hard when you implement these steps. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Learning to make things from scratch – like shampoo, bread, pasta, and more!
  • Learning to live without – you may want to treat yourself once and a while and that’s okay, but don’t go overboard.
  • Learning to plan ahead – make a menu for your meals and stick to it!

Follow the Frugal Friday Linkup HERE!

Would it be helpful if we shared our meal plans at some point?

Let us know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: Some of DIY Jahn posts contain affiliate links. While I do earn money through Fronto, Ibotta, and other companies, and bonuses for referring people, all of my opinions on the company are 100% honest and my own. Also, please note that recipes, fitness tips, and financial tips are not given by a professional. To understand what this all means for you, click here.

53 Replies to “Saving Money on Groceries – How We Only Spent $200”

  1. Interesting POV…honestly I totally get caught up in my “staples” and that I deserve it! I think I will start slow and just start making bread…thanks for the inspiration!

    1. It’s so easy to get stuck in that idea, but starting small is the only way to get out! And making your own bread is a great way to start (and delicious). Enjoy it! Thank you for the comment, Diana!

    1. If you let me know what you’re interested in making, I can certainly help you to figure out how to make it easy! 🙂 Until then, sale items are like gold! Thank you for reading and commenting, Rachel!

  2. Bravo bravo bravo!!! Love this post! And kudos to YOU. Grocery budgets are always hard – ya gotta eat, but spending a TON can happen so easily. I too make a lot myself (condiments, sauces, fruit purees, chips) and it’s helped tremendously. Now if only I had my own cow and a few chickens 😉

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Chrissa! Groceries ARE hard, but you’re right, making a lot yourself can make it much easier. It certainly would help to have a cow and chickens 😛 But I don’t think I could take that on at this point in my life. Maybe in the future – lol! Thank you for reading 🙂

  3. Wow this is amazing. My problem is the convenience for sure. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ll have to try out some of those cleaning products cause those items really add up.

    1. Definitely, January! The cleaning products are so expensive, but making them yourself isn’t that hard. In fact, you can make some of them in only a few seconds (less time than a trip to the store). Check out my post on it and see what you can do! I bet it’ll save you some money 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. This is a great post. A lot of the things you mention are things we do as well, and it does make a huge difference in grocery costs. A suggestion I’ve received is to shop for ingredients, not food. If it’s already made, it’s going to be more expensive. Not to say that I don’t buy some… sometimes a lot… of ready made foods, but I try to limit them and make what I can as much as I can.

    Also, I would love to see your menus!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Cat! I’m so glad that you found this post helpful and that you’re already doing these. They make a huge difference. I love your suggestion – shop for ingredients, not food – it’s so true. If it has ingredients listed, it’s probably already “food” not ingredients. Thanks for sharing that! 🙂

      I’ll share my menus in the next few posts! Thanks for asking to see them 🙂

  5. $200 a month is pretty good! Ours is about double that, but there are 6 of us (4 are kids but still, sometimes the three older ones eat as much as I do!!). We don’t really eat that much bread anyway, but when we do we buy $1 loaves from Win-Co, they’re actually really tasty and I’ve compared the nutrition facts to other loaves and it’s pretty good. I definitely agree that that homemade bread is the best!

    1. That’s awesome! It sounds like you’re doing really great at feeding your family – 6 people for $400 is awesome, especially considering that we are at $200 with our two people 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Justine!

  6. Great post! Planning ahead definitely makes a huge difference – I have just started doing this consistently over the past month and it’s been a life saver (time and money).

    1. Thank you, Bree! So glad you found the post helpful. Planning ahead is really one of the greatest ways to save money on groceries. I’m glad you’re using it 🙂

  7. Love your no-nonsense style. We are VERY tied to convenience in this culture. I’m one who will pay a little more for it, myself — but you bring up some very good points. 🙂 Thanks for linking up at Frugal Fridays!! 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing, Ann! It’s definitely easy to stick with convenience. I used to do it all the time! 🙂 Glad you found the post helpful and thanks for letting me linkup!

  8. There is no way I can go with spend $200 a month. I meal plan, make everything from scratch, and eat at home breakfast lunch and dinner. My last week’s grocery bill was $160. I will not skimp on quality of my food. My family and I are a very organic plant strong family and for meat we only eat organic chicken and turkey. We rarely have dairy. Just not sure how you would be able to feed a family for $200 in a month…Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Jenn, I completely understand! I bet your family is also larger than mine which would contribute to your bill. I hope you find some ways to spend less without skimping on quality! THanks for commenting 🙂

  9. What about time vs money, though? I can spend an hour making bread or I could spend $3 at the store. You might cut your bill in half but you’re spending hours each weekend cooking and prepping.

    I’m all about eating clean and cooking from scratch when possible, but sometimes it’s not so much that convenience = more money, but rather convenience = more time (which could then lead to more money). 🙂

    1. You’re very right! Sometimes convenience gives you more time which can lead to more money and in that case – if you’re spending an hour to earn some money working I have a few points. First off, you probably wouldn’t have worked during the hour you were cooking anyway. Likely, you would have spent that time watching television, playing games, or just relaxing. I’m not saying that’s bad, but in that case time doesn’t necessarily equal money. Second, if you are working for your money hourly, let’s say you get $12, but after taxes it’s more like $9. Would you really want to spend a third of your hour’s wage on food when you could spend less than 1/9th?

      But if you’re working a crazy busy job and when you get home you go to bed within an hour after, it’s probably best to go with convenience or to meal prep during your day off.

      Definitely a great point to think about and I appreciate you furthering the conversation! 🙂 Thank you for your comment, Amber

    2. I cook from scratch, but with time management I cook once per week some food in the idea to spend less time in the kitchen. In plus I go less to supermarket (once per month) so I gain time from there too.
      For example, I bought a big quantity of ugly tomatoes: I cook Sunday and a part become tomatoes soup (to eat 3 days) and the other part is tomatoes sauce for pasta and I use it Friday. Or I cook bread once per week, 2 breads, one in the freezer cut in 2, to take out at the end of the week.
      For broth I cook once per month (I collect all the bones from the month, and keep in the freezer). For meat – I do a grill once per week (or put in the oven and I have for next 1-2 days).
      I boil once for several days lenses, chickpeas.
      I complete these with salads: 15 min per day; I boil 1 egg on place, I slice the vegetables, I prepair maioneese in 30 seconds.

      Finally, I spend less time in the kitchen and less time at shopping and less energy to cook and less water to wash all the dishes. And of course, less money. It is easy? well.. it is just time management.

  10. Oh my goodness, how do you find TIME to make staples, though?
    I mean, my boyfriend and I can do about $300-400/month, but that’s because we don’t prepare everything from scratch, although we are good about having home cooked meals (slow cooker = my best friend lol) .

    So is there a way you two “choose” meals? I was doing strict clean eating for a while, and it’s a shame, but fresh fruits and veggies are sooo expensive!

    On another note, I did write a post on how I make a bit of extra money on the side, if you’d like to check it out. I felt like it relates pretty well to your “frugal friday”‘ one. 🙂

    1. Thank you for commenting, Cherish! Finding the time is DEFINITELY the hardest part. We also use our crock pot a lot, but if you grab a bread machine from amazon, the bread making is exponentially easier and less time consuming, too! 🙂

      To answer your question, I choose meals based on what I already have and the cheapest way to make it work. For example, I’ve had this bag of red beans and a bag of quinuia lying around for a while now. I decided it was finally time to get them out of the cupboard so I looked up a recipe. Turns out, all I need is an onion and some chicken stock – those are cheap additions to create a meal with what I already have! 🙂

      I’ll definitely check out your post! Thank you for reading and commenting, Cherish! 🙂

  11. Nice post! We regularly spend between $200-$300 a month on groceries, which is pretty budgeted. But, I totally agree that most families don’t prioritize between needs and wants very well. We are all sometimes guilty of getting stuck in the mindset of entitlement about buying what we can’t afford. I lived without credit cards for the first year that we were married. I basically forced us to live exactly within our means for that first year and although it was hard sometimes, we got on the same page about what lifestyle we could really afford. We now have credit cards, but we don’t carry a balance and I am totally prepared to take them away if we get a little too comfortable with them.

    1. It’s so easy to get stuck in that mindset, unfortunately. We all feel that we are entitled and it’s so easy to rely on credit cards. It sounds like you and your spouse have your finances really put together and that’s so great! So glad that you liked the post and commented, Marislynn 🙂

  12. Saving money on groceries was very difficult at the start. Ok, now, 4 years it is easy: these are easiest money not spent 😀 . Why I didn’t read you at the beginning?? With your advice is easy easy!

    The smell of the bread is in my house, in 10 minutes I will cut a slice of it. To make bread in house reduced not only the price of the bread but the amount of items bought every times from the “Boulangerie Francaise” visited by me, my husband, my girl 🙂 so I recommend to all the people to give a chance for homemade bread. I just eat more bread 😀

    1. LOL! “Why didn’t I read you at the beginning?!” You make me laugh. 🙂 I’m so glad you find my advice helpful now though! (and I’m glad, too, I love reading your comments!)

      The smell of bread is the best thing in the entire world, I think, so I’m glad that you’re enjoying it. Eat all the best – it’s the best part of the day! 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

  13. Great tips. I live alone so for me it’s not saving money on groceries it’s making sure to eat the groceries I buy and fight the desire to just go grab food after a long day. I have been getting better at this because I’ve given up bread and most carbs during the week so I stay home and make healthy alternatives. It’s so easy to waste money on food either way. I also shop with a list!

    1. Giving up carbs can definitely help you to save money – it also is harder to eat healthy when you’re out and about so it’s good to stay home! 🙂 Glad that you found this post helpful, Dia and thank you for the comment!

  14. Im a work from home mom of three toddlers so time for me is everything. I find that I save the most meal planning and couponing. It only takes 30 minutes per week and it allows me to buy the basics for cheap and somtimes free.

    1. That’s great!! Meal planning and couponing make a huge difference in cost. For 30 minutes a week, definitely worth it! Thank you for reading and commenting, Brittany 🙂

  15. I am very interested in all that you have said. I just wonder if all of that really adds up? If I baked my own bread i would have to buy all of the ingredients and a bread pan. If I made my own pasta same thing plus a pasta maker.
    Also, how do you like your shampoo and conditioner? I have very curly dry hair and I don’t think I would do well with a homemade version. I’m not trying to be vain, but I would be scaared to try something and have my hair come out looking like a clown.

    1. Great questions, Valerie! Thanks for asking. So, as for the pasta and bread, it does take a little bit of startup cost – you’re right. If you look at my posts on them, you’ll see that I did a cost analysis for the ingredients. You save so much money each year by doing these that the initial costs of breadpan, etc, would be recouped within a few months or even weeks. Also, a bread pan isn’t necessarily necessary – you can make french breads or loaves that would just sit on a cookie sheet. You can also roll pasta with a rolling pin instead of a pasta maker. I hope that helps! 🙂

      As for the shampoo and conditioner – I LOVE using baking soda and vinegar. My hair feels better than ever. I also have thin, straight hair so I don’t know for sure. I’ve heard people who have some success with just water washing or apple cider vinegar – for those with curly, dry hair. I’ve also heard success with rubbing some coconut oil into their hair after showering. I hope that helps! 🙂 I completely understand concerns when it comes to washing hair _ I was terrified too, when I started. 🙂

      I hope these help you!! Thank you for your comment and your great questions, Valerie

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