If you’re scrimping and saving, having an awesome grocery budget list is a necessity. Making a grocery list is pretty easy, just make a list of all the food you want. Making a budget takes a little bit more effort. Creating a list to fit your budget is even more challenging. There are a few steps to take before creating a grocery budget list. Here is what we have been doing for our grocery budget list.
For a year now, we have been grocery shopping and meal prepping together. We’re conscious of how much we spend in all respects and keep a weekly grocery budget of $100. It’s definitely doable. We’re not just eating instant ramen for every meal either. Budgeting and planning are truly key to creating a grocery budget list saving money in the long run. We also save time by using similar lists every week
Make a Budget
Making a budget is the first step to saving money on your weekly grocery bill. When we first started grocery shopping together, we didn’t have a specific budget because we hadn’t shopped for two people and didn’t know how much that would cost. I was spending around $80 a week just for myself before Evan moved in. After a couple of trips, we figured out that it would take around $100 a week.
We do work out and eating enough is important, so we don’t want to reduce our budget too much because then we’d end up trying to eat less to save money. Overall, we keep our budget at $100, but we don’t always stick to it. We also buy household items like dish soap, laundry detergent, hygiene products, etc. at the grocery store, so that causes the amount we spend to fluctuate each week. Overall we’re generally between $90 and $120
Pick Inexpensive Stores and Products
$100 works for us because there’s just two of us, we buy generic often, and we shop at Walmart, which is pretty inexpensive. Back in Irvine we used to shop at Grocery Outlet, but there aren’t any near here. We knew people who were always broke and pretty bad with money. They would get food delivered despite living close to tons of restaurants. They shopped at a higher end grocery store, but didn’t even get high quality food a lot of the time. More often they just got staple foods and frozen meals. That’s not what you should be doing if you’re trying to make smart financial decisions. Unless you have specific dietary or health restrictions that necessitate shopping at health food stores, it’s much more cost effective to grocery shop at just regular stores. I’m gluten free and I can find tons of food at regular stores.
Generic products like cereal, canned goods, and cleaning products are generally not noticeably different than brand name ones. They’re typically much cheaper though. They can take some trial and error though. For example, generic Ziplocs don’t work well. If you find there is a significant quality difference, it sometimes makes more sense to go with the brand name product. That doesn’t happen too often for us though.
Plan Meals Ahead
We go grocery shopping every Saturday. To make it easier, we pick our meals for the week and edit our grocery list on Friday night. We typically get food out once a week although lately we’ve been getting second dinner, so it’s a little cheaper as we’re not super hungry. If we do get lunch or dinner out, we plan it in so we don’t have extra meals or so we have an extra meal for the next week. Knowing which meals we’re making for the week allows us to have our grocery list done before shopping. This takes some rigidity because if all you have is food for three different meals, you can’t change your meals plans for that week.
It works for us, but if you like having flexibility in your meals, it may be a challenge. We meal prep our lunches (read more about what we use in our post Meal Prep Basics, and our lunch recipes in Instant Pot Chicken and Rice), and eat the same thing for breakfast everyday except Saturday. So dinners are really the only meals that change for us. This leads us to our next point.
Use the Same Recipes
Using the same recipes is along the same lines as planning meals ahead. They’re a pretty helpful way to make your grocery budget list easier. We have around 10-12 dinner recipes we rotate through. We usually use 2-3 recipes each week. I have some of them memorized, so we don’t have to look them up when meal planning and making the grocery list.
As I said, we use 2-3 recipes a week, which means we eat a lot of leftovers. We only cook dinner a couple times a week and the rest of the time we’re just reheating. I know some people like to eat a different meal every day of the week. For two people on a limited budget, that doesn’t make sense. If we were a family with a few kids then it would work, just because one recipe would only last one or two meals. If you’re trying to save money on food, being ok with eating leftovers can really help.
Use an Editable Grocery List
We have a printable grocery list in our resource library. To be completely honest, we don’t use it because we don’t have a printer. The easiest way to do a grocery list we’ve found is just in iPhone notes. We keep the list the same, sometimes adding in new foods when we have a new recipe. But we just uncheck the things we need, so we don’t have to write out the grocery budget list each week.
If you go to the same store each time, you’ll learn the layout and where all the foods are. If you organize your grocery budget list by location in the grocery store, it’s a lot more efficient. Instead of going back and forth between aisles or being like “oh crap I missed the peanut butter 3 aisles ago”, you just grab what you need from each area. Ours is a little out of order because right now the aisles are restricted to one way and that puts some stuff out of order on our list. We’ve figured it out for the most part though.
There are several key steps to creating a grocery budget list. You have to incorporate your budget into your grocery list. Fine tune your meals, planning, and foods you need to fit your budget. Accept that sometimes you can be under or over by a little depending on just a couple of ingredients. It happens though and it’s a lot better to have a budget and to be slightly off, than to have no budget and buy everything you want. Our meals aren’t always exciting, but we eat pretty healthy and stay on or close to our budget.