Why Your Grocery Budget Isn’t Working

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Do you wonder why your grocery budget isn't working for you? The reason may surprise you.

Each and every time I announce to a group that we have a 64 dollar grocery budget, I get at least one person that says “well, I know I couldn’t do that.” Most recently, I’ve been getting the “you now have another mouth to feed. That budget won’t last.” Oh, thanks! There’s always a myriad of reasons why these nay-sayers think they can’t do it: special diets, no discipline, and even where they live becomes an excuse. Well, I’m here to tell you, there are other reasons why your grocery budget isn’t working.

You don’t use portion control

It happens to everyone. You know that when you make spaghetti, you need at least 2 pounds of ground meat. If think if you don’t have enough, the whole meal is ruined. When I share how to stretch one chicken into 7 meals, I constantly hear people stating that their family finishes a whole roast chicken in one meal. But, why? No one thinks about the proper amount of protein needed for each family member, or how you can lower that by using a few tips and tricks.

Try This: Use alternate forms of protein. Hide minced mushrooms in your spaghetti sauce. Add a sunny-side up egg to your fried rice. Slice up roast chicken in the kitchen, and only serve half of the meat at the dinner table. Utilize portion control when shopping and cooking, and you’ll immediately save.

You don’t factor in snacks and desserts

Yes, you need snacks. Yes, desserts are perfectly fine to add to your budget. In fact, these two items are needed in order to keep your budget low. Healthy snacks help to get families through the day without having to use up items reserved for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dessert was the big secret to our family becoming debt-free in under 2 years.

Try This: Keep dessert simple, like sautéed cinnamon apples with whipped cream, but always offer dessert at least 3 times a week. It stretches a meal, and kids are more prone to eating all of their food if you offer them a dessert, no matter what it is. Make homemade snacks, like granola bars, or popcorn made on the stove.

You don’t shop seasonally

One of the easiest ways to stay within your budget is to buy what is in season. This sounds so simple, but many of us forget to shop in this way. Items that are in-season will cost less, and will be fresher.

Try This: If you or someone in your family is a picky eater, only purchase the in-season items that they will eat so food doesn’t go to waste. Also, in-season produce should be frozen for future use, and to help lower your grocery budget in future weeks.

Related: How to Have a Positive Financial Mindset

You shop by recipe

I blame this one on Pinterest. We see a pretty picture, an awesome recipe, and then rush to the store to buy all the ingredients. Nope, don’t do that. Buy what’s in-season and on sale, then find recipes that will accommodate what you’ve purchased.

Try This: Use the website supercook.com to find recipes that will use the items you’ve purchased on sale.

You accept defeat

This is the most maddening part of chatting with friends and family about their grocery budgets. Like I stated above, they immediately announce that there is no way they could have a lower budget. If you think you can’t, then you won’t. Let yourself win. This is a tiny battle in the war of being debt-free, so see it as such.

Try This: Create a grocery shopping process that will encourage you to save. Shop at a store you enjoy being in, set a time limit for how long you’ll shop, and encourage yourself to stay under budget. If you end up saving a couple of dollars, let everyone know! Celebrate those small victories.

Are you struggling with keeping your grocery budget down? Why do you think your grocery budget isn’t working?

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 11.17.14

    I’ve been a victim of the “don’t factor in snacks and desserts” issue – as well as the soda too. What I do to make sure I stay on budget is to whip out my cell phone calculator when I’m shopping and keep track of the total that is in my cart. I know (within a dollar or two) how much my total will be when I roll into the checkout lane. If it’s over budget, I start putting stuff back on the shelf.

  2. 11.17.14
    Smcqueen said:

    These are really good tips and reminders. My challenge has been not factoring in snacks, desserts and using Pinterest 🙂 Also, my husband has a demanding physical job, so he needs a heavy breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner. Trying to keep him healthy and full of energy also challenges my budget. My goal is too make as much of the food I can, and limit juice drinks to weekends, water during the week unless I make a pitcher of homemade tea or lemonade. It’s a lot of work, but every bit helps!

  3. 2.2.15
    Liz said:

    I found this through the Penny Hoarder blog. I try to cook everything from scratch and shop seasonally but I cheat and our grocery bill is still way too high. Biggest thing for me – shopping for the recipe. I hadn’t even thought long-term about how much money that costs me!

    Great insights, thanks!

    • 2.2.15
      Amiyrah said:

      You’re welcome, Liz. Thanks for visiting!

    • 2.4.15
      Amiyrah said:

      You’re very welcome, Liz! Yes, that shopping for a recipe really can hurt a budget, especially if it’s something that you’ve never created before. I’m so glad you liked the post!

  4. 2.4.15
    Lanee said:

    I actually shop for a household of 6 , me being the only female in the house feeding my husband and boys ages 10-17 can be extremely challenging. But what I do is I buy a lot of ” pantry items” ( dry pasta, tomato sauce, flour, sugar, canned creamed soups (used as sauce), bags of potatoes, crackers etc. in large bulks which allows me to not only keep my grocery bill low ($300 a month) but to not have to worry about food going to waste and I’m able to create my own recipes and desserts.
    Another helpful hint is to never group shop while your hungry!! When I shop on an empty stomach I tend to spend more because everything looks good enough to eat and buy lol!!

  5. 2.4.15
    Lanee said:

    I meant to never GROCERY shop on an empty stomach 🙂

  6. 7.19.15
    Elena said:

    We are big fans of savings. Thanks for sharing.

  7. 11.6.15
    Liz E. said:

    Thanks for your tips! I just changed my grocery budget (for me and my husband) to $30 a week. We’ve been on this budget now for three weeks and it’s amazing! I feel I actually get more for my money than when I was paying twice as much. We’ve restructured all of our finances to save for the things we really want (house, classic cars) and I’ve noticed that since we’ve made those adjustments of “telling” the money where to go – it goes to bills, it stays in savings, and we still have some fun money. Woo hoo! Thanks again for your helpful advice! I love saving money!

    • 11.6.15
      Amiyrah said:

      I’m so happy for you and proud of you, Liz! Keep up the good work.

  8. 1.11.16

    Love these tips! You’re spot on about dessert. I get complaints here that I don’t serve it often enough, but I do tend to serve it on nights that I worry that I don’t have enough food with the meal. I should make effort to serve it more often.

    • 1.11.16
      Amiyrah said:

      It’s my secret weapon, Jamie! On the nights where I know the meal is balanced but not enough for seconds or thirds, they get a fun dessert. There are never complaints 😉

  9. 1.11.16
    Liana Baez said:

    Thanks to all your suggestions, I’ve been able to lower my grocery and I’m loving it!
    Working on re-adjusting our budget to eliminate some debts. God bless you!

    • 1.11.16
      Amiyrah said:

      Yay Liana!