We have been budgeting (and spending every bit) $880 for groceries. By that I mean anything you can buy at the grocery store (food, paper products, pullups, toiletries, etc.) That doesn't include the feed for the dog and chickens. I don't know what the average grocery bill is in east TX but this is our biggest expense and even if it is for a family of 6 it seems like an awfully lot of money to me.
I've been looking online at other blogs to get ideas. I have menu planned before and it always helped but I never stuck with it. I only did a weekly menu which meant shopping every week. I have tried couponing and it's just not for me, no matter how much I could save. (Go all you couponers!) So.... what I'm trying out for the month of January and plan to stick too is this:
I created a 4 week menu plan that begins with this Monday. Each day of the week has the same theme all month. For instance, we will have chicken every Thursday. This makes it easy when meal planning. I am also going to buy in bulk either at Sam's Club or at Brookshire's when they have sales... another thing monthly menu planning will help with. Yesterday I bought all the meat, snacks, potatoes, and non-perishables we will need for the month as well as some perishables we'll need for the first week or so. So I should only have to go to the store for our weekly gallon of milk and some fresh veggies here and there. I know shopping less often will help cut down the bill too. Oh.. and going ALONE! It is so distracting and easy to put more in the buggy than you need when you have 4 sweet little helpers with you! Haha! :)
Another thing I'll do is watch the sales. Even if it's not on the menu this month but it's on sale and something that we DO use regularly and is non-perishable or freezable, then I'll buy it and put it in he menu. Our local grocery store has an awesome Buy 1 Get 1 for a penny sale that always has loads of stuff that we use.
I'm also trying out some "off" brand items and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. I need to get back to making my own bread. I already make my own seasoning mixes (like taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix) and that is cheaper and healthier. We also have a garden that we are trying to get most of our produce from... we will plant a bigger garden next season because this garden wasn't quite enough. I'll also have more meatless meals since we really do eat WAY more meat than we need and it'll save us money.
One last thing I'm doing is making a price list. I put everything I bought yesterday in a spreadsheet with the number quantity, the total price, and he unit price. I also dated each item and put which store it was at. I'll do this for a while so I can get an idea of who really has the cheapest regular price and so I will know when a sale really is a good sale. Once I've tracked everything for a while, I'll just check every once in a while to see if it's still current. Along with this, I'm keeping track of how often I have to buy things. After a couple months of all of this, I will have a better idea of what our budget should be. I'm really expecting to spend a lot less than $880 a month but I just don't know how low is realistic.. I want to save money but still feed my family healthy food!
If there is any interest, I'll post my monthly menu and our daily themes. Please share your ideas, too!