Good Food for Little Cash: Grocery Shopping on a Budget of $250

by Krista Davis on October 4, 2012

Grocery Shopping on a Budget of $250Groceries can be one of the largest expenses in a budget. In the beginning of my marriage I would use coupons and drive around looking for sales on food, but honestly, I don’t have time for that or the passion to spend my day couponing. I prefer to have my grocery list, stick to it, and compare the prices at the only store I go to, on the day I choose to go shopping. Now, I don’t always buy the cheapest items. There are many items I prefer to buy organic, such as chicken, eggs, chicken broth, and fruits and vegetables when I can get them. So, how do I spend less than $250 a month on groceries? It’s simple, I prepare ahead of time, making my menu for the month, writing my list of ingredients, see what ingredients I already have, and determining how much of everything I need to buy to fit just my menu. You don’t want to go through all that trouble? Well, let me help you.

First, let’s look over the rules for planning our menu and grocery shopping:

  1. For breakfast we either eat eggs and toast, cereal, or your most budget friendly choice, oatmeal.
  2. For lunch, except on days off, we eat left overs or make sandwiches.
  3. Boxed snacks only cost extra money and don’t provide any needed nutrition. We usually snack on fruit, veggie sticks (we prepare ourselves), yogurt, or a whole grain treat, like Wheat Thins.
  4. Always look through your fridge and pantry before making a shopping list, so you don’t by extras.
  5. When buying fruits and vegetables it is usually always cheaper to buy the whole produce, the kind you would find in a garden. (Don’t buy baby carrots that are almost double the cost of regular long carrots, just cut them up yourself.)
  6. Always look at the price per ounce and how much you are actually getting in a package.
  7. Don’t buy soft drinks or sports drinks. The extra sugar and caffeine can cause extra health and dental expenses. Stick to water and tea. And if you need sports drinks due to strenuous physical activity, make your own.
  8. Buy everything that won’t go bad quickly, or you can easily freeze at one time.
  9. Separate meat into portions and freeze what you don’t need for the next couple of days.
  10. Eggs, rice, beans, and pasta are the cheapest ways to make a meal.
  11. It is cheaper to make a meal from scratch than to buy a frozen one or one from a restaurant, plus it is healthier.
  12. I can’t stress this enough. Follow the proper portion sizes. Try using smaller plates when serving meals and not going back for seconds. We technically only need a certain amount of food, but people tend to over indulge, which also means we are not only making our waist line bigger but we are also eating away our money. Instead of eating the food all at one time, eat a proper serving size and save the rest for another meal. This will help you stretch the groceries bought.
  13. Have your menu written on a calendar and stick to it.

Now, let’s look over the menu (28 dinners and 10 lunches for the weekends). The number in the bracket is how many times that meal will be made throughout the month. (You can view recipe instructions by clicking on the recipe’s name.)

[1] Stuffed Peppers (this makes 16 halves)

[3] Bean and Cheese Burritos

[1] Bean and Bacon Soup

[2] Broccoli Mac and Cheese

[6] Tuna and Crackers (Mix one can of tuna with up to 2 Tbsp. of Mayo and use salt and pepper to taste per person.)

[3] Spaghetti with Garlic Olive Oil Sauce

[2] Cheesy Mexican Skillet

[3] Crockpot Chicken Fajitas

[2] Homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

[2] Scrambled eggs and toast

[2] Pulled Pork Sandwiches

[2] Naan: Indian Flat Bread (Used with two of the salads.)

[4] Salad (Use ½ head of lettuce, spinach, plus veggies and fruit of your choice.)

[3] Grilled Chicken and a veggie.

[1] Eggs and Bacon

[1] Burgers

[2] Empanadas

 

To make this menu you will need these groceries, the ones in blue can be bought at the beginning of the month and stored or placed in the freezer, while the rest will have to be considered on a weekly basis:

  • Parsley
  • Cumin- 7 Tbsp., 3 tsp.
  • Chili powder – 5 ½ Tbsp., 8 tsp.
  • Salt – 4 tsp.
  • Sea Salt – 2 tsp.
  • Pepper- 4 tsp.
  • Oregano – ½ tsp.
  • Cayenne pepper – 1 tsp.
  • Paprika- 2 Tbsp., 2 tsp.
  • Garlic Powder – 1 tsp.
  • Crushed Red Pepper – 3 tsp.
  • Flour – 4 cups, 6 Tbsp.
  • Brown Sugar – ½ cup
  • Sugar – 4 tsp.
  • Baking Powder-1/4 tsp
  • Active yeast – 2 tsp.
  • 1 lb. unsalted peanuts
  • Sandwich Meat
  • Chicken breast – 7 ½ lbs.
  • Eggs
  • Ground Beef – 3 lb.
  • Pork Shoulder – 3 lbs.
  • Ground Turkey – 16 oz.
  • Bacon – 8 slices
  • Tuna – 12
  • Peas -1
  • Green Beans – 1
  • Corn -1
  • Rotel -6
  • Soy Sauce – ¼ cup
  • Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce – 2 cups
  • Sriracha HOT Chili Sauce – 1 cup
  • Crushed Pineapple – 2
  • Crescents – 2
  • Lime Juice
  • Small Green Chili- 3
  • Small Black Beans- 3
  • Butter Beans – 1
  • Kidney Beans – 3
  • Chicken Broth – 4
  • Crackers – 2
  • Mayo – 1
  • Miracle Whip- 1
  • Honey-3 Tbsp.
  • Chips – 2
  • Olive Oil – 1 cup 13 Tbsp.
  • Brown Rice – 4 cups
  • Dijon Mustard – 2 Tbsp.
  • 16 oz. can chunky salsa
  • Carrots – 10
  • Bell Peppers- 17
  • Garlic clove- 12
  • Medium Yellow Onion – 16
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli florets – 5 cups
  • Basil
  • Fruit – for each week, kiwi, cantaloupe, oranges, grapes, etc.
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower – Great for snacks since it is so large.
  • Low-Fat Cheddar – 14cups
  • Butter- 8 Tbsp.
  • Milk – 3 ¾ cups
  • Sliced Cheese (Buy based on the number of sandwiches you believe your family will eat in a month.)
  • Plain Yogurt- 6 Tbsp.
  • Flavored Yogurt
  • Bread (The number of loafs you need for sandwiches and toast. The extra loafs can be frozen.)
  • Tortillas – 42 individual tortillas
  • Rainbow Twirl Pasta – 2 lbs.
  • Spaghetti – 1 ½ packages
  • Buns (16 plus the number needed for hamburgers. Extra buns can be frozen.)

 

I hope this helps you cut down your grocery expenses. Try to follow the rules and create a menu that fits your family’s tastes. What are some of your tips for grocery shopping and menu planning on a budget?

Next Financial Tip: How to Get Started Couponing

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Written by Krista Davis

Krista Davis

Krista is a self-proclaimed “health nut” and eco-friendly enthusiast.

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Cheesy Mexican Skillet

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel October 7, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Thanks Krista! You have no idea how much this helps me out. :)

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Krista Davis October 7, 2012 at 5:00 PM

You are very welcome Daniel! Make sure you subscribe here and join our Facebook page. Let me know if there are any recipe types you would like me to create that are healthy and budget friendly. Thanks for your comment and support!

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