The price of groceries is constantly changing. But how do you survive when grocery prices in your area increase, or when you have changes in your family size?
Leigh from Burlington NC asked about our grocery budget.
I have all three of your books, and in your grocery book, you said that your grocery budget was around $350 per month. But as I’ve listened to interviews and your videos on YouTube, I have heard you say that your monthly grocery budget increased. Would you mind detailing some of these changes in your budget?
How Grocery Prices have Changed our Grocery Budget
When we walk into the grocery store these days, we’re hit by Grocery Sticker Shock! It’s hard to believe how expensive grocery prices have become.
Our grocery budget for many years when all five kids were at home was $350 per month.
With food prices increasing and five adults in the house, our budget had to change a little. We increased it 11% in the last 10 years. But as we became empty nesters, we changed our grocery budget again.
This chart from Business Insider and the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows how grocery prices have increased.
As Empty Nesters, We’re Still Feeding Others
Now that the kids are all grown and we’re empty nesters, we’ve cut our grocery budget back to around $300. That’s a lot of money for just two people, but we aren’t just feeding us.
We’re still feeding lots of other people; our kids come to visit often, we host events at our house and we’re regularly making meals to share with friends, or to take to someone mending from a medical surgery.
What Hasn’t Changed with Our Grocery Expenses
What hasn’t changed is the way we manage money, We still use our budgeting system. We save a pre-determined amount of money from each paycheck for specific “budget accounts” within one checking account. You can read more about the system in our first book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money.
In 2014 we raised the amount of money we allocated to our food account by $40 per month (to $390) due to grocery price increases. Not only were we feed adult children who worked out on a consistent basis, but we were feeding their boyfriends and other friends they brought home. Everyone was welcome at our table as long as we had advance notice! The increase in our grocery budget also occurred because most of the other items in the grocery store have increased by 10 to 30 percent over the past few years.
And those things that have stayed the same price have been put into smaller packages — ice cream for example. This is a “sneaky” way for manufacturers to raise the price of groceries without increasing the sticker price.
Our Food Budget Today
In 2016, our last child left the nest, and we scaled back our food budget. We’re now setting aside $300 per month for groceries. Buying and cooking for just the two of us is definitely a change. We still stock up on sale items and use our freezer to store the deals we get. Our new budget amount seems to work okay with today’s grocery prices.
How We’ve Changed Our Shopping Habits
When the kids were all home and we were running around between work and kids activities, we only shopped one time per month. As the kids have left home, we’ve changed our grocery shopping habits.
We’ve started doing an intermediate shopping trip (in the middle of the month) to supplement our “big shopping trip” at the end of each month. This change was precipitated by a decision to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
We haven’t changed stocking up on sale items and buying produce items that are in season.
Buying in-season produce is a great way to reduce what you spend on groceries. For example, when grapes are in season and on sale, they’ll cost around $.79 per pound in our area. When they’re not in season, they cost more than $2 per pound. Buying grapes on sale and in season saves 60 percent! That’s a huge savings!
Couponing Has Changed
Since grocery stores have stopped offering double coupons, we rarely use coupons for groceries. Annette doesn’t always have the time to clip, sort, purge expired ones and use them.
Coupons can still save you money on groceries, but not like they used to when stores were doubling them. We do take advantage of “store” coupons, the ones that are sent to your home and generated mostly from your loyalty card. Kroger/ Fry’s is an example of this.
Saving on Groceries with Ad Match
We are still doing Ad Match at Walmart to get the best loss leader prices.
We’re still stocking up on storable/freezable food when it hits a rock bottom price. Recently cherries were 99¢ a pound here and we bought about 10 pounds, de-pitted them and froze them.
We also found a killer deal on Top Round for $1.33 per pound – bulk cut – and we bought about 40 pounds of it.
Our goal to live within our means. And methods for doing it have remained the same over the years. We’ve adjusted our food budget and our shopping strategies to deal with higher grocery prices.
But honestly, there are still so many options for reducing what we spend on groceries that we can survive grocery price increases without stressing.
If you want to track grocery prices for specific items get our Free Grocery Price Tracker here.
What grocery prices have left you with sticker shock?