How We Do Groceries

Simple Meals and Grocery Savings

As you’ve probably deduced from our He Says/She Says series, Johnny and I have disagreed a lot over the span of our almost six-year marriage. Grocery shopping is no exception. Before I got married, grocery shopping meant buying whatever caught my eye in each aisle… no lists, no meal planning. If the song playing over the store’s speakers made me think of summer, I bought ice cream. Johnny was on the other end of the spectrum. He bought cheaply to an unhealthy degree. Burritos and ramen were his go-to college meals. It made his kidneys cry a little — stone tears.

Neither of our grocery store ways were sustainable, so we established new habits as a married couple. A few of you have asked how we keep our food budget low and what kinds of meals we fix on a typical night. Well, ask and you shall receive. Here are our grocery shopping methods:

Where We Shop

I love coupons. But with working full time and taking care of Baby Girl, I don’t have time to incorporate couponing into our grocery shopping routine. Instead, I do most of my shopping at Walmart. And anytime I can buy generic without sacrificing the quality of the food (pasta, canned fruits and veggies, dairy, meat) I do so. Walmart isn’t winning any awards for its shopping ambience, but it’s still worth the savings to us. Every two weeks we also get a huge produce order from a co-op with our church and the state farmer’s market. That way we’re getting farm fresh produce and not having to scavenge through Walmart’s “fresh” stuff. We also do a Costco haul every couple months. From there we get the essentials: ground beef, frozen chicken breasts, etc. We also buy household necessities in bulk there, such as paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and shampoo.

Baby Girl WalmartBaby Girl’s first encounter with The People of Walmart

How We Shop

I prefer to do only a couple big grocery trips per month. It helps me to see the big picture with our budget, and I can plan out two weeks’ worth of meals, which takes a lot of stress off during the week. Many of the meals have overlapping ingredients, so I’m also able to buy in bulk and have supplies for longer. I make a list of every single item I plan to buy. From dinner ingredients to snacks to produce, it’s written on that list. Having an itemized list helps me stay focused and not overspend. Otherwise, I’m known to empty the candy aisle into my cart.

What We Eat

We keep our meals pretty simple in this house for a couple reasons: 1) I don’t have much time to cook (does anyone?), and 2) I don’t find any particular joy in cooking. Except when I have a couple girlfriends over and we can talk and cook. Then I could do it all night. Also, Johnny and I aren’t very picky or particular about our meals, and neither of us has food allergies. If something resembles food, we’ll eat it.

Our menu during the week goes a little like this: 4 simple dinners, 2 less simple dinners, and 1 dinner out. Nine times out of ten a dinner out means getting takeout and bringing it home. The meal is always less than $20, and we can have a fun date night at home with a movie. We go and sit down at a restaurant once a month at most. And since “simple” and “less simple” are vague explanations, here are a few examples of our typical homemade dinners:

Simple Dinners

Less Simple Dinners

Most of the simple dinners are pretty self explanatory. And these dinners call for basic ingredients, which tend to be cheaper. No fancy meals in this house except on special occasions. I linked to the ones that can be found on my Pinterest account (let’s follow each other!) if you’ve got a hankering to try them out. Also, most of those meals make enough for multiple dinners for us, which also helps to cut down on costs.

And that is how grocery shopping is done in the OFB household. This is what works for us but is by no means the only way to save on groceries. But it’s a heck of a lot better than eating ramen every night.

How do you save on groceries? Is your grocery shopping style similar to ours, or is it a whole other beast? Spill the beans.

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  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies April 11, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Ours is a lot of repeats. I usually make one or two batches of food each week for each of us, which we eat throughout the week for lunches and dinner. We supplement with quick things like sandwiches or other snacks. It’s not perfect, but I don’t think I could stomach having to cook every night, especially when most of the time it’d be cooking two meals since Mr. PoP is carnivorous.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      That’s awesome you guys have found a system that works for the two of you. After a long day of work, cooking a complex meal is the last thing I feel like doing, and it sounds like you feel the same way! Whatever keeps things simple, easy, and cost effective is well worth it.

  • Reply Marlene April 11, 2013 at 8:26 am

    I love coconut and curry, what recipe do you all use? Most of the ones I have tried were horrible, lol. Love your posts!!!

    • Reply Carla April 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

      We make curry with a few cans of coconut milk (depending on the quantity you want), some curry paste (check the ethnic foods aisle), veggies of choice (carrots, peppers, potatoes), and meat of choice (pork, chicken). Super simple and super cheap. It also works well in a crock pot.

      • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm

        Carla, our curry recipe is very similar to yours! I’ve never tried it in the crockpot, but that’s a great idea!

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks, Marlene! I got the recipe from a friend, and it is pretty much just what Carla was saying. Johnny and I love it. Here’s the recipe:

      Red Coconut Curry

      2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
      1/4 medium onion, sliced
      1 large carrot, sliced
      1 potato (I used an Idaho), diced
      1 can coconut milk (around 14 oz)
      1 1/2 Tbs red curry paste
      2 Tbs brown sugar
      1.5 tsp salt
      cooked hot rice

      In a large saucepan, whisk coconut milk and 1.5 Tbs curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen curry paste). Simmer over medium heat for 5 mintues, stirring often. Add brown sugar and salt to taste. Add vegetables and 1/4 cup water. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked. (There’s probably a better way to do this, but I microwaved the carrots and the potatoes first to make sure they were cooked enough before adding them to the curry. Put the sliced carrots and diced potatoes in separate cereal bowls, add a little water, and microwave them separately until softened. Drain the water before dumping veggies into the curry sauce.)

      In a large saucepan, saute chicken and onion in a little olive oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add chicken and onion to curry, stir together (when I’m in a hurry, which is most of the time, I just boil the chicken earlier in the day and then shred it and add it to the curry).

      Serve with rice. Makes 3-4 servings.

      • Reply Marlene April 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm

        Thanks so much I’ll be trying your recipe this next week. Sounds quick and easy which is what I loook for after working all day.

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl April 11, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I usually try to make 1 or 2 meatless dinners a week, and I make a lot of simple dinners like Chicken sandwich, chicken&pasta salad, but I also like to make more time consuming meals, but that are still pretty frugal.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      It sounds like you’ve got a good method figured out for yourself! It’s great how many different methods there are for keeping meals frugal!

  • Reply Rob April 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Well, having seen various funny net pictures from time to time of “the people of Walmart”, like Baby Girl, I too probably would have that same expression on my face if I ever saw them (minus that mouth thingie, of course – lol).

    As for grocery shopping, since we’re retired empty nesters, with our kids having grown up and moved out, our food bills are now a lot smaller. We tend to check the weekly flyer food specials and load up that way, while still buying fresh vegetables and fruit as needed and when in season. We never impulse buy, however, always working from a planned written shopping list. At times though we do make a monthly trip to Walmart, Costco, etc (especially around holiday seasons, like Christmas) to bulk purchase, given the shopping variety that we find there at those times.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      I’m sure Johnny and I will be like you and your wife once our kids are grown up and out of the house! I don’t see us ever just impulse buying now that planning and budgeting is so ingrained in how we shop. I’ve heard budgeting described as a lifestyle, and I’m starting to think that’s really true!

  • Reply Sarah April 11, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I’ve really been working on trying to frugalize our grocery shopping, since I tend to assume I’m saving so much by cooking at home vs eating out that I don’t really pay attention to what we spend at the grocery store. But it can really add up, especially when I’m not organized and have to make multiple trips per week. I love your idea about planning two weeks at a time to minimize shopping trips. Right now if I buy a large quantity of meat or something, I freeze it, but sometimes it gets lost in the black hole of the freezer and ends up getting tossed a year later, covered in freezerburn.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      Cooking from home is a great way to save, but you’re right—grocery costs can still add up fast! Something that helps when I buy a large quantity of ground beef is dividing it into ziploc bags and freezing it. I put 1lb in each bag, which makes it so easy to thaw and use.

  • Reply Brian April 11, 2013 at 9:32 am

    We go once a week so that we can get fresh fruit/veggies and dairy. It also keeps me from stockpiling too much crap in my fridge and not being able to find what I am looking for. I know it is usually a guy thing, but if I can’t see it in the fridge without moving something, then it doesn’t exist.

    In general I am the cook so we tend to get things I enjoy cooking. We don’t do a lot of stocking up on items except for chicken boobs when they are really cheap per pound. Now that summer is here we will grill a lot more which means more delicious steaks (my dad has a habit of paying me in amazingly tasty grass fed beef when I watch their house and take care of their cats when they go on vacation).

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      Oh, that’s a great form of payment! And if you’re the one cooking, it’s you who gets to decide what grocery shopping method works best for you. We are in the market for a grill so we can start grilling a couple times a week during the summer. And Johnny will gladly take over those dinners, which is a win win for me!

  • Reply HS April 11, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I’ve been reading lots of PF blogs lately in an effort to effectively budget and pay down my own debt, and I love yours! It’s tough to find well-written, but still entertaining, blogs.

    Groceries is one of my favourite topics. I absolutely love cooking, but don’t have time to do it every night. So, I set aside one night a week and cook up two recipes that will make enough for dinner and lunch for the rest of the week (or that freeze well). I get a local veggie delivery once every couple weeks and will often plan my meals around what’s in the box. And then I visit the grocery store for the rest of the ingredients. Meal planning like this helps to manage the unnecessary grocery buys, and keeps me eating healthy. Many people may find eating so many leftovers boring, but I try to combat that by trying new recipes every week. Having to work around what’s in my veggie box often helps with that!

    I am a big fan of making big batch meals that freeze well – chilli, stew, soup, lasagna – and then I’ve got a healthy meal if I come home exhausted and there are no leftovers in the fridge.

    I don’t eat much meat anymore, which I think helps with the bills. I tend to buy it less often, but spend more money on better quality meat and fish.

    I also make a lot of things myself rather than relying on often unhealthy ready made items – things like sauces (tomato and pesto), broth, pastry shells for things like quiche etc. It’s a lot easier than people think, much healthier, MUCH tastier, and I think cheaper. I also avoid canned beans and take the time to soak, cook, and freeze dry ones. The only thing I really buy canned anymore is tomatoes in the middle of winter.

    I keep an “inventory” of my freezer and pantry items so that I don’t have to go digging through the freezer and cupboards to find out if I have something. This helps to avoid food going bad in the freezer, and buying stuff when you don’t need it.

    For those of us not working three jobs to make ends meet, it seems to be a matter of priorities. People seem to have enough time to watch two hours of TV a night, yet don’t have time to cook for themselves…

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 10:53 pm

      Thanks, HS!

      I love hearing about how others make groceries work! You’ve got an awesome system. I love the idea of keeping an inventory of my cupboards. You have no idea how many times I’ve gotten home from the grocery and said to Johnny, “Welp, looks like we already have this, this, and that.” Thanks for the great tip!

      • Reply HS April 12, 2013 at 7:35 am

        Wish I could take credit for that, but I read about it at another blog:

        She’s got two great resources for it – I just printed them out and I keep them in my binder of online recipes and make sure to update it every time I cook and shop. It’s a bit finicky, but I find it saves time and aggravation in the long-term. Once all this stuff becomes habit, it’s no big deal.

        And that’s another tip I have – I subscribe by email to food blogs I love. So I often get emailed posts with recipes I think I’d love to try – and then I do. I print out the recipe, make notes on it as a I cook (if I liked it, what I would change etc.) and then put it in a binder, in which I separate all the sections with post its (I’m very high tech) – breakfast, mains, salads, sauces, desserts, etc.. A makeshift cookbook. I’ve found tons of healthy, easy meals that way.

        Speaking of which, if anyone wants a relatively healthy dessert, an awesome one is chocolate pudding made with avocados! In a blender or food processor, mix together the following and enjoy!

        2 ripe avocados (the riper the better)
        1/3 cup cocoa powder
        1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
        1/4 cup coconut milk
        1 teaspoon of vanilla

        Seriously creamy chocolate taste, without any unhealthy fats (the fat in the avocado is good!) and refined sugar. The internet is full of amazing ideas, you just need to do a little digging 🙂

  • Reply Elvin Peria April 11, 2013 at 10:30 am

    In our household, we used to buy in bulk. However, when we noticed that we have high spoilage rate, we decided to just outsource buying and cooking our food. We saved a lot of money (for not throwing left overs – mostly spoiled food) and energy (for not cooking) that way. We just buy the food that we can eat for the day.

    Also, this gives us the flexibility of buying the food we want to eat for that particular day.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      That sounds like an ideal method for meals! I think that option would be fairly pricey where we live, and I don’t even know if it’d be an option at all. That’s great you’re able to get such a convenient service for a good price!

  • Reply My Financial Independence Journey April 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I do all of my shopping once a week, with a list. I also keep a few quick meals ready in case I don’t have the time or interest to cook one night.

    I gave up on bulk buying. I live alone and can never use things up before they go bad.

    And I hate coupons. I just don’t have the time or the interest.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      I really think lists do a lot to help cut down on spending. And we also have some quick meals that I didn’t list…. of the frozen variety. Those are for the really, really busy nights!

      And even with two of us, bulk buying can be overkill sometimes. We have a bottle of vitamins that will NEVER be used up.

  • Reply Ellie April 11, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for a grocery post and meal ideas! Around here, we generally cook 4 dinners/week and rely on left- overs to fill out lunches and dinners for the remainder of the week.

    I am trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into the mix to bring down the cost of groceries. If anyone has any good vegetarian recipe resources, I’d love to hear them!

    Lastly, and this won’t be for everyone, but my husband has started making our own bread using “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.” This saves some cash and the bread is SO MUCH BETTER than store bought. The only problem is that I’m not racing any marathons and have no reason to carbo-load every time a loaf comes out of the oven. Willpower.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Oh, I’m intrigued! How cool that you have homemade bread all the time. Johnny would love that! (And maybe I could convince him to do it, too!) I would be the same as you… I made banana bread over the weekend, and I’m pretty sure I ate the whole loaf other than one slice that Johnny had. Oh dear!

  • Reply Miranda April 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Our grocery/eating out situation is the part of our budget that could really use a makeover. We are really bad about cooking most nights of the week, even though we love to cook. We eat way too many takeout/fast food meals. I think our problem is that we want something fast and easy and even though we logically know that it only takes a few minutes to whip up a sandwich, we end up grabbing dinner on the way home anyway because of the perceived convenience. Another reason is that we love to cook together but hate to cook alone. So because our schedules are so different, we only have a couple of evening off together during the week (my husband’s days off are usually Tues./Thurs.) so those are date nights and we like going out to restaurants on date nights. What we really need to do is have a whole day of prepping crock-pot freezer meals so we can stop swinging by Little Caesar’s so often. I’ve also considered using a meal planning service like Emeals too…

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 11:24 pm

      When you’re both so busy, it’s tough figuring out a method that works time-wise and budget-wise. I work from home, which makes it a little easier to prep meals during the day. But when I worked in the office, I would stick something in the crockpot on low in the morning and let it cook all day a few days a week. And we had casseroles a lot, since those can just be thrown together and popped in the oven. But I’m with ya… cooking by yourself is no fun.

      Also, we tried emeals a couple years ago, and some of their meals were just not very good. I’d have a week’s worth of meal plans, but only 2 of the meals seemed like something we’d actually enjoy. Their recipes may have improved since then, but just wanted to let you know our take. It’s cheap, so it’s probably worth trying one month to see how you like it!

      • Reply Miranda April 12, 2013 at 9:08 am

        Oh great thanks for the tip!

  • Reply Laurie @thefrugalfarmer April 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

    We shop similar to how you do it, except that we go 1 time a month for our big shopping. We do make small trips two or three times during the month for fresh fruits and veggies, but that’s about it. Lots of pasta, potatoes and rice to keep things cheap, and oatmeal and/or eggs for breakfast. For meat, we buy a half cow, and that hooks us up for several months at about $4 a pound for steaks, roasts and burger: organic at that. Other than that, we don’t buy much meat. Simple stuff, I know. We’ll probably step it up a notch and eat healthier once the debt is gone.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm

      When we have more room or a second freezer, your meat buying method seems like the way to go. I’ve only heard great things about buying beef that way. And Johnny and I love us our steaks and burgers, so I think we’d be a good fit for that method. 🙂

  • Reply Meghan April 11, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Great post! I think this is where those of us in to finance can really differ. I’m a household of one and making food instead of eating out has been well…expensive. I’ve lost 35 pounds over the past 10 months and I’ve found that for me, it’s easier to keep it off by going out. I’d never have the ingredients to make that healthy salad at home. Also I just loaded up at the grocery store to try to talk myself in to cooking and now I’m hungry ALL the time! The key to keeping the lbs off is to not eat pasta, rice, bread (at least for me), and I think I have 7 different kinds of starches in the house right now – the bread at the store looked so good! Plus it takes so much energy to cook. And finally, if I am going to buy food at the grocery store and invest the energy in to trying to create something, I feel like it has to be organic. I can’t justify buying the spice packet with MSG or the ketchup with high fructose corn syrup. Therefore I do a lot of shopping at Whole Foods. That financial hit is hard to take. I think it’s cheaper to go to Chipotle!

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Way to go on the weight loss! That takes some serious discipline and motivation.

      You’ve just gotta do whatever food buying method works for you. Unfortunately, eating healthy and organically is relatively expensive, which is super lame. You can still find a way to make it work for you and your budget by cutting back on other non-food expenses. And then taking a list when you shop is always helpful in making sure you don’t buy unnecessary stuff. If eating healthy is your priority, you should definitely stick with it!

  • Reply JMK April 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    We do one main grocery trip every weekend at a discount type grocery store. A+ for prices, C for atmosphere, but that’s fine with me. I normally hold back some of the weekly budget to do a quick midweek stop at a different store to pick up any special sale items they have, plus replentish the produce if necessary. My DH has recently taken up a low carb diet (read as more meat, and no cheap rice/pasta) and it’s seriously impacting our budget. Teenaged son is an eating machine and has gone all health concious, which is of course a good thing, but again, wholly budget killer! Filling a teenaged boy with pasta and pizza is relatively inexpensive, but his favourites are now salmon and pork tenderloin. At least he hasn’t sworn off carbs because he loves pasta and rice and can burn them off running.

    My normal weekly routine is:
    1. scan the freezer and make a list of the meat options already on hand.
    2. check the fridge and match up any remaining veggies from last week with one of the frozen meats
    3. check the pantry for appropriate potato, rice, pasta options.
    Some weeks there are already 7 easy dinner combinations on hand from stocking up in previous weeks. If not, then I look through the flyers for a sale item to fill in the missing protein/veg/starch item.
    4. From the flyers, I add to the list any great sales to stock up on (chicken, ground beef, pasta/sauce, cereal).
    5. We generally keep a supply of frozen veggies, canned fruit, rice and pasta on hand. Once the weekly fresh stuff is gone, these come into play.
    6. Every week I seem to buy the same assortment of breakfast and lunch items which we don’t put on an official meal plan, but seem to have figured out sensible quantities (cereal, milk, eggs, yogurt, bread, sandwich fillings (egg, tuna, salmon, PB, occasional deli meat). If tuna cans are on sale I’ll buy 20 and not buy them again for a couple of months. We recently finished off the last of 6 boxes of corn flakes bought on sale at Christmas (too bulky to store, so I probably won’t overdo like that again).
    7. When I’m in the store working through my list, I also check for unadvertised sales or instore marked down items (fruit, meat). We like homemade apple sauce, but it’s a waste to make if from perfect apples when you can regularly get slightly imperfect ones at 75% off. When I find meat on sale (usually expiring the next day), I either toss it in the freezer, of switch the meal plan and have it that night.

    I generally don’t freeze complete meals, but we do buy 10 lbs gound beef on sale and cook it all up plain and freeze it in 10 individual bags. We all have recipes that start with “brown a pound of ground beef”… so this saves a lot of time. Two minutes in the microwave and no grease to deal with on a busy night or when you think you are too tired to cook. You can have a pasta and meat sauce dinner on the table in 20 minutes- the length of time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. We also normally cook extra of some part of the meal with the plan to use the excess the next night. Not really leftovers in the normal sense. On a roast chicken night, we cook two chickens, not just one when we’re at it. The oven is already running, so no extra energy or effort is needed. The extra meat becomes chicken enchiladas, chicken salad sandwiches, or goes into a stirfry/fajitas. On pasta night we always cook extra and then make a pasta based caserole or salad a day or two later. It saves time and electricity to not keep cooking the same meal components over and over during the week, and it never feels like leftovers because it’s a completely different meal.

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 11:48 pm

      You have got meal planning and grocery shopping figured out!! Seriously, you do a great job at maximizing your grocery trips and the food you buy on those trips.

      I love the idea of cooking the ground beef before freezing it! That would cut down on a lot of meal prep time during the week. I also need to get better at bulking up when items are on sale… I love having tuna sandwiches for lunch (Johnny not so much), but canned tuna is kind of expensive so I don’t buy it very often!

      And the nice thing with diets is that they don’t last forever, so hopefully your budget won’t be taking a hit much longer! 😀

  • Reply Lisa D April 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Oh my gosh that face!!! Sooooo precious! I have a feeling I looked similar to that after entering Walmart on a Saturday afternoon….NEVER AGAIN. Groceries are a tough one for me, financially speaking. I am a bit of a food-snob. Not for brand names but quality, freshness and nutrition are super-important to me. I feel like I save a lot of money by not buying things like cookies and chips (although my snacks of choice are nuts and fruit which probably are more expensive, but not per nutrient). And being a vegetarian saves me money too! Chickpeas are much cheaper than chicken. I try and plan meals weekly, eat leftovers, and not eat out too often but I don’t keep a super close eye on my grocery budget (although I probably will start once I’m back on a more regular schedule). I’m really jealous of your CSA. I loved mine but probably won’t be able to get one again til next season. There were some weeks where I used to compare the prices of what everything would have cost at the farmers market to the bounty I got in my haul and do a little happy dance for all the money I saved. Plus CSAs support local farmers and seriously force you to eat your veggies!

    • Reply Joanna April 11, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      I hear ya, Lisa. Saturday at Walmart is just plain torture. I always come home with a horrific experience to tell Johnny. It sounds like you’ve found a good balance between saving money and still eating healthy! I’ve been thinking about trying chickpeas as our main protein in some upcoming meals to see if they’re a good meat substitute for us. It’d be awesome to save some money that way.

      And we’ve really enjoyed the CSA… it’s our first time trying it, and it definitely forces us eat healthier! I love having a constant supply of fresh fruits and veggies.

  • Reply JW_Umbrella Treasury April 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    We’re pretty similar. We live our CSA (starts again next month!) and tend to get bulk items from BJ’s about once every two months. One way we’ve really cut down is to limit what type of beverages we buy. We were never big drinkers, but we both love iced tea. Gosh, that stuff is expensive. Now we make it ourselves for a lot less.

    Meal planning has helped us a lot. We also roast a chicken every Sunday, then use it for lunches throughout the week. Saves us time and money. And we’re totally fine eating leftovers. Some things, like soups and stews taste better the second day!

    • Reply Joanna April 12, 2013 at 12:17 am

      Oh, I love your idea of roasting a chicken every Sunday! I’ve actually never roasted a chicken before, so that’s the only thing holding me back from trying it. I’ve roasted a turkey before (for Thanksgiving), so if it’s similar, I could probably muster up the courage to try it! It’d be awesome to have that prepared meat throughout the week.

  • Reply Casey April 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I need to get better at making dinners from cheaper ingredients most of the week and then doing something specialty once a week. Since I love to experiment and cook I spend the majority of my money on food.

    • Reply Joanna April 12, 2013 at 12:19 am

      If it’s something you love doing, maybe some of your food spending could count toward money you would spend on some other hobby. If you cut back on another area of your budget, you can still keep experimenting and cooking to your heart’s content guilt-free! 🙂

  • Reply Executioner April 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Lots of meat on your list.

    The wife and I subscribe to a CSA for 26 weeks out of the year. We get fresh/local/organic veggies and fruits for around $33/week. It’s almost always more food than we can eat in a week, so we end up storing/freezing/dehydrating a portion of it, which lengthens the amount of weeks per year we can eat the food.

    We’ve compared the cost of an equivalent amount of food in the grocery store and we are getting a significant savings (up to 50% in many cases).

    • Reply Joanna April 12, 2013 at 12:24 am

      Yep, we have no qualms with the level of carnivore that we’ve reached.

      Our cost savings for our CSA is pretty significant, too. We’ve really loved doing that the last several months!

  • Reply Chris April 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I’m a bachelor, so shopping is less of a science and more of a crap shoot. I go to Wal Mart and buy generally the same stuff every week. I spend roughly $40 on food every week. Since I’m a bit eccentric about my diet I usually get the green giant vegetable steamers, chicken/turkey, and fruit. The steamers are the easiest meal in the world. Just add protein and boom you have broccoli and chicken! Or green beans with almonds :). I only buy the steamers that don’t have sauce. So broccoli, green beans, and spinach are about it.

    I also participate in a food coop called Bountiful Baskets ( it’s pretty cool. $15 gets you a bunch of fruits and vegetables that would normally run close to $40 from Wal Mart! It’s nationwide, you should check it out.

    • Reply Joanna April 12, 2013 at 12:30 am

      I’ve never tried the steamers but that sounds like a pretty quick and healthy option. Unfortunately, quick meals in our house usually mean pretty unhealthy meals, so we could definitely go for improving that aspect!

      I don’t think they have Bountiful Baskets in our state, but one of my friends in Utah uses it, and she loves it. We really like the local food co-op we use… it’s a no brainer: cheaper and a billion times fresher than Walmart’s produce.

  • Reply Chris April 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    My wife and I use the stockpile approach we learned from couponing. You might not need it now but if the price is right stock up! This has helped with paper goods and non-perishable grocery items.

    For dinners, we try to use the slow cooker as much as possible. Since we both work, having a meal ready when we get home is a huge help. Plus, the ingredients for most slow cooked meals are pretty cheap. I actually cooked one myself:

    • Reply Joanna April 12, 2013 at 12:31 am

      Yeah, I’d like to start trying to stock up on sale items that I know we’ll use. That seems like such an obvious thing to do, and yet I’ve never really tried it.

      Slow cookers are the best invention ever. And I swear you can stick anything in the crockpot and it automatically tastes amazing.

  • Reply Beth Sheridan April 11, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    I love simple meals the most, since I have a 2-year-old, and we eat a LOT of tacos! They are so super easy! I buy a lot in bulk, but buy more paper products in bulk rather than groceries, I think because I buy so much fresh produce, which is harder to buy in bulk.

    • Reply Joanna April 12, 2013 at 12:36 am

      I’m sure simple meals are a lifesaver when you’re the mom of a toddler! Tacos are so easy to change up, which is what I love about them. You can fill them with meat, fish, or chicken. And then use lettuce or cabbage, and different cheeses and sauces… the possibilities are endless.

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone April 12, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Oh my goodness! People think I’m crazy that I do most of our grocery shopping at Target! But it’s so much more reasonably priced than the other grocery stores! 🙂 Every once in awhile I splurge at Trader Joes, but usually it’s Target and Costco for us. How funny that you are so similar!

    • Reply Joanna April 15, 2013 at 1:10 am

      I hear ya, Becky! Reasonably priced is the way to go! I’m not looking for a special shopping experience — just some inexpensive food for the fam!

  • Reply Jennifer April 12, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I have been couponing for the last 18months for 6 of those months my parents paid me to do their grocery shopping because I was still saving them money. Now that I have moved back home its my contribution. I also moved about 10 boxes of food, cleaning and personal hygiene products home.
    I spend $50 per week for 3 adults. I shop at 3-6 store depending upon the sales. The three main ones all share a corner so I am not driving a lot for a single item.
    We eat a lot of ground turkey dishes, sandwiches for lunches and cereal for breakfast.

    • Reply Joanna April 15, 2013 at 1:13 am

      That’s awesome, Jennifer! You must get some incredible deals to be spending so little on all three of you. I don’t know much about couponing, but I’d love to go with someone like you who knows their stuff and learn more about it!

      • Reply Jennifer April 15, 2013 at 11:16 am

        Finding the deals is like putting together a complex puzzle especially when I go to all 6 stores (Walmart, Aldi, Dillons, Homeland, Target and Dollar Tree or Family Dollar). The $50 budget limit is definitely the border of the puzzle and at times challenging. It probably helps that I can tell you the price of the things that we buy every week that rarely go on sale like cheese and milk and chips for lunches. I start with our needs and then go from there trying to find the best deals and buy only them.
        Here are some of the blogs I follow: (Kansas blogger who posts about all of the local deals, she actually is the one who taught me how to coupon) (this is a walmart blog devoted solely to Walmart deals) (this blog is devoted solely to Target deals) (this blog has an excellent beginner’s tab, they have produced a book on how to coupon [which is 98% of the info in the beginner’s tab] they also do matchups for a large variety of stores.

  • Reply Jennifer April 14, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Our grocery shopping strategy is to try and buy extra of items we know we will use when they are on sale. This took a little bit to get food built up in the cupboards but over time it has made it so we rarely buy anything that isn’t on sale except for milk. We try to buy produce that is in season and freeze extra when we find a really good deal.

    • Reply Joanna April 15, 2013 at 1:15 am

      A few other commenters mentioned that they do something similar to you Jennifer, and it seems like such a smart idea! I’d really like to start incorporating it into how Johnny and I shop!

  • Reply Debt Girl April 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I tried to be Betty Crocker but it failed miserably. We were wasting money buying ingredients for recipes we never had time to make! And I was driving my husband insane with complicated grocery lists! It wasn’t until I met with a nutritionist that things got better. The nutritionist told me to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid): divide your plate into three quadrants, half of the plate veggies, the other half divided into protein and grains. Easy peasy.

    Now when I go grocery shopping, I toss a couple of frozen meats, bags of beans, steamer veggies, and some sort of rice/pasta in the cart and am on my way!

    • Reply Joanna April 15, 2013 at 1:18 am

      I love that approach! It really does sound like a really easy way to have cheap, healthy meals! Johnny and I will have to give that a try the next time we make a big haul.

      Also, been there done that with trying to be all Betty Crocker, too… If a meal takes more than 30 minutes to make, it ain’t gonna happen!

  • Reply Lauren April 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I have to have a list when I go grocery shopping, plus I write it out in the order of the aisles. Keeps me focused, but I don’t think a trip goes by that I don’t have to remind myself that “it’s not on the list”. I’ve recently tried to get us on a weekly menu plan, and I like your system of simple and less simple dinners. Though Friday night will always be pizza night in our house. 😉

    And on a side note – that pic of your baby girl? Too cute!

    • Reply Johnny April 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      I’m super list-oriented. The few times Joanna has trusted me to venture to the grocery store alone, I organized it by store sections too.

      Thanks, Lauren! I’m sure she’ll be glad that we documented her first visit to Walmart. 🙂

  • Reply Kelly from Dixie Dollar Deals May 27, 2013 at 1:47 am

    I learned how to coupon about a year and a half ago. It has changed my life. I went from buying much of our groceries and all of our diapers and drugstore needs from Costco to using coupons and sales at the drugstores to get many things much cheaper. For awhile I had two kids in diapers so learning how to save on diapers alone was a huge benefit. I have spent $76.70 at Rite Aid this year for 88 items – so I’m now beating dollar store prices for everyday items like diapers. I no longer shop at Costco at all and save hundreds of dollars each month by not shopping there. I wish I would’ve learned how to do this when I was a newlywed and before we started our family! For groceries I use coupons and price match at Walmart. I also plan on trying out the local farmers market for produce this summer.

    Love your blog! Keep up the great work.

    • Reply Johnny June 4, 2013 at 12:37 am

      It’s high time for us to get on the couponing wagon. We just have a really hard time finding a spare minute to do much else at the moment. We’re in awe of your drugstore haul for the year. That’s incredible! We’ll definitely be studying up on your blog and correct the errors of our ways.

  • Reply Jenna July 24, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I am so impressed that you can keep your grocery budget so low – my husband and I struggle to keep our total food/drinks budget under $550 a month, but I suspect that this is in part due to the fact that I love to cook and ingredients for new recipes can add up fast and accidentally.

    • Reply Johnny August 1, 2014 at 1:20 am

      We’re admittedly pretty boring when it comes to food. Don’t get me wrong, food is cool and Joanna loves trying a new recipe, but we’re definitely not foodies. So that helps. But if cooking or fine dining is something you enjoy, that’s totally cool — just make sure it plays nice with your budget. And if doesn’t, find other areas to axe to make it happen.

  • Reply Melody August 11, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Hi there! Just discovered your blog, getting some valuable ideas/info so far. About a year ago, my boyfriend & I moved in together, and while we’ve gone through the normal challenges of learning to live together, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. For a good chunk of the past year, he’s traveled during the week so food hasn’t been a huge issue. When eating out (which we do mostly only on weekend), we have a pretty solid turn-taking system down, so that isn’t so much of a concern. Lately, though, I’ve felt the grocery/food spending is a little lopsided in that I am doing most of the cooking and buying of anything we make at home. Granted, he was living off frozen pizzas and anything you can cook on a George Foreman before we moved in together, and I also have Celiacs disease, so I’m aware my cooking habits are more expensive, but I’m feeding him too. I’ve tried to bring it up a few times that I feel like I’m spending a ton on groceries and feeding him (but his food can’t feed me since it will make me violently ill), but it doesn’t seem to get anywhere. How did you transition into the “groceries as a couple” phase of life? We don’t have a shared bank account for things like this at this point, but something I’ve thought about.

  • Reply Leilah Korbines February 1, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Hey, I really enjoyed this post! My husband and I have been married for a year and a half and we are still working out our budget. Our grocery category seems to take up much more of our budget than we’d like, so we’ve been trying to find ways to cut back. Could you give and example of a week or month’s worth of groceries and their costs to help me (and others) see how much you spend and what you buy?


    • Reply Joanna February 8, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      It seems to be a struggle for everyone — seriously! I’ll see if I can compile a post of what we buy and eat in the next few weeks. Meal planning, more than anything else, helps keep us on track because it keeps all of our grocery shopping very intentional.

  • Reply Tara July 16, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Hey! My husband and I are just getting on the budget bandwagon (he’s not super on board, but I’m trying…). I cannot believe how low your food budget is!! Anyway, we both love food- buying it, cooking it, eating out. We make almost all of our meals at home, make coffee and lunches to go. We do take out MAYBE once a week. We are big fans of brunch/breakfast out instead of dinner. But our budget is a bust- we shop every week and cannot leave without spending $150 (for two adults and a toddler). We eat a LOT of fresh fruits and vegetables, and try to eat a lot of organic. This seems to cost a lot more. I’m really at a loss for how you make $250 work. I guess you said it before- foodies need a bigger budget for food? Maybe you are right. I guess we will just have to shift our priorities.

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