How to Feed Your Family of 4 for $250 a Month

by Andi

A few years ago while my husband and I were in graduate school and living on a tight student budget, we sat down to carefully look at our monthly expenses because we felt like things were quickly spiraling out of control. We were living in Washington D.C., and although it is a notoriously expensive city, we knew we could make changes to make things easier.  As we analyzed where all of our money was going, we realized that a big chunk of it was going towards groceries every month.  We made an ambitious goal to only spend $250 a month on groceries.  It took a little trial and error and practice, but I'm proud to say that we found a way to make it happen every single month.  And guess what?  We didn't starve. We didn't feel like we were going without.  Yes, we had to be careful about what we bought, but once we got used to it, it really wasn't that hard.

I was talking with some of my girlfriends a few weeks ago about groceries and one of the girls asked the group to share how much we spend a month.  When I told everyone that we've managed to keep our budget to $250 a month even since adding two children to our family, they were surprised and asked me to share some of my tips and tricks with them.  Since this month's theme is all about balance, I thought I would share how I balance my budget with you!

Here are my top 5 tips to keeping the grocery bill low:

  1. Price match at Walmart.  Let's face it: Most of us live fairly close to a Walmart, and although it's not the fanciest place to shop, it's by far the least expensive.  Personally, I think this makes the biggest impact on your monthly grocery bill.  I've estimated that I save at least 30% on my groceries by price matching.  For example, above is my receipt from my most recent trip to Walmart.  These groceries would have cost me $36 but I saved over $12 by taking a few extra minutes to price match. Imagine if you would do this before each shopping trip—the savings would really add up!  You can do it right at the register and don't even need the ads from the competitor's stores with you.  It really is so simple and will make a huge impact on your bill.  There are lots and lots and lots of great websites out there that explain how to price match at Walmart in more detail. 
  2. Stock up when the price is low. If you pay attention, you'll soon learn what a good price is for the items that you frequently buy, like meat, produce, milk, eggs, bread, cheese, laundry detergent, paper towels, etc.  There are awesome websites like grocerysmarts.com, that can help you spot the great deals in your area.  The site compiles all the ads from your local grocery stores and ranks each item by an okay, good, or great price.  When you find a great price on everyday items, buy a bunch!  
  3. Make your freezer your best friend.  When I stock up on great deals, I come home and freeze whatever I think we won't be able to use before it expires.  Keep a running list of what is in your freezer and pantry so that you always know what you have on hand.  A huge money waster is buying items that you realize you already had once you get home from the store. Related to this, when I'm making my weekly meal plan, I think, "What do I have in my freezer/pantry/fridge that I need to use up?"  I search for recipes that use these ingredients instead of making meals where I need to buy all new ingredients.
  4. Wait. If a box of crackers is $3.69 but you've seen the same box on sale for $1.99 in the past, wait.  Grocery sales are cyclical, so if you are patient, chances are those crackers will be on sale again in a week or two.  You probably don't need them right now anyway.
  5. Be disciplined. It's easy to throw items into your cart on impulse, but stick to your list.  I bet you'd be surprised at how much you spend per month on little extras.  Also, avoid the temptation to stop at expensive stores that may be conveniently located. If you need to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home from work, sure, stop at whatever store is closest.  But don't buy your whole grocery list at the overpriced store down the street just because it's in your neighborhood.

I hope this is helpful!  I'd love to hear what tips you have for reigning in your grocery bill and bringing balance to your budget.
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  1. Such great tips, Andrea! The biggest factor I've found in saving money on groceries is planning my meals. I find I save even more when I only buy exactly what I need for each meal that week. We are able to feed our family of 12 {eleven eating since the newborn nurses} for $600 a month utilizing the same tips you've mentioned and planning our meals.

    P.S. Those are some super cute shopping buddies you have there!

    1. Wow, I'm super impressed by what you're able to keep your monthly budget to, especially for having such a large family! You're my hero! And I agree, meal planning is huge.

  2. Love it! I do lots of these things too! Our grocery budget is $300 for our family of 4 (Nathan eats as much as I do) and we are able to keep within that- about $275 most months and still buy treats (cookies, donuts, etc).

    I also love caselot sales for things we use alot of.

    I really like Smith's sales too- they have online coupons you can load right to your card, and I can earn money of gas too.

    1. Case lot sales are awesome. I usually wait to stock up on staples until then. Good for you for already doing a lot of these tips! :)

  3. Agreed on the meal planning - it makes such a big difference. Our budget used to be $200 when it was just the two of us, then went up to $250 after a while, and now it's at $300. With that, we're able to buy tons of fresh fruit and a good chunk of our produce at the farmers' market.

  4. That's amazing! I spent $220 at the store TODAY. I definitely need some help in this department. We are spending WAY too much on groceries.


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