In our previous attempt at a plant based diet we ended up with a massive grocery bill. So much so that we figured the plant based lifestyle was too rich for our blood and threw in the towel after a few weeks.
This time around we set a $200 budget which was pretty close to what we were already spending each week on groceries. After tallying up all our food purchases for several months it averaged $200 a week. That is how I came up with our initial dollar amount.
With that in mind I set about meal planning and to my surprise we were consistently coming in about $50 UNDER our weekly budget! We felt like we were eating really well and were very happy.
Recently we have been unexpectedly slammed by some pretty hard times. I wanted to see if I could tighten up our grocery budget just a little more. Shaving an extra 25 or even 50 dollars a week off our grocery bill would be very helpful right now.
The goal I set for myself was to feed us on a weekly budget of $125 . We have some hearty appetites in this house so I knew it was going to be a challenge. I also wanted to see if I could stock up on a few sale items each week. I am a big believer in food storage!
To my surprise I have been able to meet my goal each week give or take a couple dollars. I am also only shopping at 3 stores and not using coupons.
The first thing I did was make a price list spreadsheet.
I didn’t want to be wasting our gas running around to every store in the metro area so I stuck with the 3 stores closest to us that consistently have the best prices.
We save all our receipts so I was able to make a pretty large list to begin with. I mainly did this so I would have a general idea of how much we would be spending before we even set foot in the store.
Plan, plan, and plan some more!
Meal planning that is. I keep us on a pretty tight meal schedule of 3 main meals and one snack each day. I plan something for each meal and snack every day. If I am planning on serving leftovers, I make sure I mark that down as well.
Our lunches are usually leftovers or PB&J, this seems to be most cost effective. It is cheaper (and easier) to make a meal large enough for lefovers than it is to make a completely different meal. If I don’t have leftovers, we all eat PB&J or PB&banana (PB&B is my FAVORITE).
Use what you have.
Go through EVERYTHING in your pantry, fridge and freezer and list out what you have on hand before you start meal planning. Be sure to include those items in your upcoming meal plan.
Get creative and make something new-ish out of them or find simple recipes that include them. Every Saturday we have a “use it up” day where we eat any leftovers, or look for any lonely items in the pantry to use up before I restock them.
If you need help with this check out My Fridge Food it is my go-to resource when I am stumped on what to do with some of my rogue ingredients.
Shop the sales flyers and stock up on things you use.
For the most part, I only buy things that are on sale. One of the stores I shop at puts out HUGE 10-16 page sales flyers every week. Most weeks they even include their store brand in the sales.
I try my best to stock up on 1 or 2 non-perishable items each week from the sales flyer.
Skip exotic, high dollar ingredients and alter recipes to fit your budget.
The problem I was running into when I started looking for plant-based recipes was that a lot of them called for expensive, hard to find ingredients. Or the recipes had SO MANY ingredients I couldn’t possible fit that into our budget!
When that happens I usually try to find less expensive alternatives to what a recipe calls for or make-do with stuff I already have.
One my favorite swaps is using finely chopped walnuts in place of sesame seeds in falafel since I always have walnuts on hand. I buy the store brand brown rice rather than the fancy basmati that is 2-3 times the price and use dried herbs instead of fresh.
If it looks like I am going to spend more than I want I adjust my meals by either excluding an item from a recipe or swapping out a meal with fewer or cheaper ingredients.
Simple swaps like such as these won’t make much difference in your end product and will save your budget.
Choose frozen produce and freeze the fresh if you can’t use it quick enough.
Frozen is significantly cheaper than fresh produce and it is just as healthy, if not more so. Most fresh produce items will freeze well so chop it up and freeze it for later before it goes bad. Just don’t freeze high water content veggies like lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes they don’t survive the freezer.
Focus on filling, high energy foods.
We eat a lot of beans or lentils and brown rice because they are SO filling, easy to make in bulk and pretty tasty all without breaking the bank. Whole wheat pasta with cauliflower cashew cream sauce is another filling favorite. Fruit topped oatmeal is a breakfast staple in this house.
Focusing on foods that have a “stick to your ribs” quality not only saves my budget but also my sanity. Nothing makes me nuttier than having kids that are always bugging me for a snack.
Stick with what you know your family will eat.
Don’t get too creative if you have picky eaters. The goal is to feed everyone, not toss dinner in the trash because no one would touch it. I do try new recipes, but only twice a month and again nothing too crazy.
If you need some tips on changing the way your family eats check out this it is the step-by-step guide to how I drastically changed what my family eats without causing an uproar.
Much of this will hold true for an omnivore diet as well. I think the biggest difference is that I can’t really find coupons to cut the cost of a plant based diet so I had to really hone my planning and shopping skills.
I have several other tips and tricks but I will save those for later, this is getting super long! I hope this helps you cut the cost of your grocery bill a bit!