Sunday, February 9, 2020

Are Your Family’s Grocery Expenses Thrifty or Liberal?

How can you figure out if your family’s grocery expenses are reasonable for the size of your family?


Every month, the  U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) releases four budgets, which results in a food purchase formula with four price ranges: 

Thrifty Plan, Low-Cost Plan, Moderate-Cost Plan and Liberal Plan, and these figures are updated monthly.

The U.S.D.A. has been doing this for years based on what Americans really eat and based on accepted nutrition recommendations.

Here is the latest chart for December 2019:


Using the December 2019 chart, with my family, I could expect to spend $75.90 per week or $328.70 a month on the “Thrifty” food plan.

But based on my records, I’m actually spending about $250 a month for two people in my home, which averages out to $125 a month per person. 

Now, how do we manage such a low grocery bill?

For starters we have a lot of frugal tips in our toolbox such as drinking water, and making tea or lemonade and koolaid to cut down on expensive soda pop. (I do keep Sprite on hand for medicinal purposes)

We make home baked cakes instead of commercially made ones, oatmeal made from old fashioned oats rather than instant packets. 

We shop the Crash and Burn sections of the grocery stores and will buy food with the yellow mark down stickers if it fits within my budget. 

We eat meatless meals, such as Bean & Cheese Enchiladas, or homemade Veggie Burgers, or Red Beans & Rice

We eat leftovers or reinvent them into a new dish. For example, we turned leftover mashed potatoes into Potato Pancakes.

We make soups, which can be very economical depending on what ingredients you use. 

We shop at discount grocery stores such as United Grocery Outlet, Save a Lot, and Aldi

We look for and buy discounted groceries at all the places we shop including the flea market. 

We peruse the sale ads online and make a list of items on sale and then stock up on those. We keep a price book to check prices. 

Another way you can save money on food is by using grocery rebate apps like IbottaCheckout 51, Dosh, and Coupons.com. Just Google the grocery store app and read about them and do your research first.

We re-purpose food scraps to make other things like vegetable, chicken, or beef broth. 

We utilize The Pantry Principle, which you can read about here. We keep a well stocked pantry of food bought at the lowest price and we cook from scratch.

We search for recipes that are cost friendly. We scour yard sales, used book stores, and flea markets for economical cookbooks. 

One online resource you can use is the online cookbook located here:  Recipes and Tips for Frugal Healthy Meals. 

There are multiple ways you can reduce your grocery budget and I've only scratched the surface here. 

Your way of saving on groceries may contain other ideas I've not mentioned here such as growing some of your food in a garden. 

Let's share ideas with each other. 


Belinda
~ Living within our Means ~
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27 comments :

  1. I always felt the USDA costs were a bit high, but I suppose in some parts of the country it might even be low so I imagine they need to find a happy medium.

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    1. I agree, Mary Lou. I think everyone needs to find out what works for them in their area. I remember when Carol from CTonaBudget used to tell e that our Aldi prices were sometimes lower than hers. i

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  2. We are spending less than the thrifty amount, even though our grocery bill is significantly more than yours. We are also feeding two teen boys. Our grocery budget is $625, and the thrift amount is $680. So, we are close.

    We do all of the normal stuff: make things at from scratch, but ingredients not prepared food, we also do keep prepared food at home however, to avoid eating out on crazy days. We don't use coupons, but do keep an eye on price & stock up when things are on sale

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    1. Those are all great ideas to save on your grocery bill. I do keep a few convenience foods here too for those days when I don't feel up to cooking.

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  3. Those charts always crack me up. Like you I never spent close to even the thrifty ledger. I always wondered what they expected us to buy?

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    1. Maybe steak and lobster, which I don't buy. LOL

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  4. 9 ounces of lettuce on a shopping list? ROFL. Hit my funny bone. Recipes and Tips worth my time, as is your article. Definitely geared to learn kitchen frugality but too many carbs for me. I would skip sugar desserts in favor of more vegs and fruits. Each must choose what works in the kitchen. Good reading. Thanks.
    -memphis metro

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    1. You're welcome,Anna. Thank you. I would definitely go towards more fruits and veggies too. Lately I've been on a cucumber, baby carrot, and celery kick with cucumber ranch dressing. Yum

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    2. Cucumber, carrot, and celery kick sounds yummy to me. During the 90's, I drifted into a veggie habit for about 5 years. Although I prepared meat for others, I found myself gagging at my stove as I cooked. Then one day, my fork again carried meat to mouth. No rhyme nor reason to not eating meat.
      -memphis metro

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    3. Interesting, Anna. I love and could eat veggies all the time.

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  5. I use the USDA thrifty as the max for all our eating, including meals out. Last year I still had over $1000 We didn't spend.

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  6. We are not spending even up to the thrifty amount. And, we eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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  7. I fluctuates between thrifty and low cost. I have to pay more attention to USDA budget amounts.
    I buy organic and free range eggs, and organic vegetables and fruits for juice so sometimes it can get expensive. I try to use coupons and other store savings, it's not always successful.
    I'm not a big meat eater, or soda drinker, so that helps. :)

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    1. Not being a big meat eater or soda drinker does help a lot. We don't drink much soda at all except for the occasional Sprite. Every little bit helps.

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  8. The thrifty plan says I should be spending $518.90 per month for the 3 of us.
    I "have" spent that much in an odd month or two over the years(the last time was May 2018 and I was feeding 4 folks not 3)but it is outside my comfort zone financially to do that month/year in and month/year out. Since Daughter left(thrifty plan says $684 mo. for us on 4 people)we've been trending below $364 per mo. average.

    There are just so many ways you can control what you spend on food products it's beyond me how anyone can spend the levels of money the government indicates! Must be why so many struggle in other areas financially....by listening to government advice and not taking easy actions to avoid hemmoraghing money on food!

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    1. $364 per month is a great amount for three people, Sluggy. I agree with you on the hemorrhaging money on food. It is unreal what some foods cost at the grocery store. There is always a better way. :)

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  9. Food storage and buying when things are at their lowest price is what helps me most. There are months I spend much more than the average, but there are months I spend virtually nothing at all. My budget is based on my yearly total rather than monthly because when I find ground Chuck deeply discounted I will be buying 50 sounds and freezing it. The same goes for bushels of fruits and veggies in the summer. Some local farmers sell their funny looking veggies very cheaply.

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    1. That is similar to what we do as well. Buy in bulk when the price is right. It's a great way to save money.

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  10. We are also below the thrifty plan. We do a lot of the things that you do to keep our costs down. I always thought that they should mandate classes for people that are on food stamps to teach them cooking and shopping. It would help stretch their money further.

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    1. That would be a great resource for food stamp recipients, Marybeth.

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  11. You are doing wonderfully well with your budget. I must see what I can do in order to get a bit more control over ours. Prices here in Canada are pretty much double what yours are.

    God bless.

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    1. Thank you, Jackie. I feel for you all having double the price of groceries. That would make it so much harder to budget. God bless you too. :)

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    1. That's great! We can all learn from each other. :)

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  13. Well the Thrifty plan says we should be spending $120 per week for our family of 3 - which we do. However, that includes household & HBA. We eat organic meat and lots of fresh produce. I have a great super cheap produce market and utilise coupons, sales and all those cash back sites to help lower our costs. I've been working at lowering our weekly budget to $100 per week and so far, it's a win!

    I mainly cook from scratch and usually cook double/triple batches to freeze. This helps so much when we're sick or busy, because we don't have to run out to buy food.

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