Today I’m welcoming Julie from Happy Frugal Mama to share some tips with you! She lives in Maine where groceries are anything but cheap and has some great ideas for all of you who live in a more expensive area and still want to stick to a reasonable grocery budget.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You see a post for how to feed a family on $50/week. You get all excited and click on it only to discover that they live in a low cost of living area. Or they have access to free meat/produce that the average person does not.
If you’re like me, you do still find some helpful information in the post but you leave a little discouraged because you know there’s no way you can feed your family for so little a week. Where I live, a gallon of milk is around $4.50. The cost of groceries is just so high here!
It can be a struggle to feed a family in a high cost of living area when on a tight budget. I have learned some tricks and tips to keep my grocery budget around $125/week most weeks. That cost does include household supplies as well (paper towels, diapers, cat food, etc.).
Here are some ideas to help you keep your costs low but manageable as well!
Stock up on sale prices
Yes, I’m sure you’ve already heard this but it is especially true when you live in a high cost of living area. A large part of this is knowing your prices. For me, when I can find boneless, skinless chickens breasts for $1.99/lb, I buy 2-3 family packs. Same when I can find 85% ground beef for $2.99/lb. Those are my stock up prices. Your prices might be different. If it is a really, really good sale, you might spend more than $125 on groceries that week but you’ll likely spend less the following week.
Stocking up on sale items goes beyond meat. Keep an eye on your family’s staples. Baking supplies, certain drinks/snacks, etc. Make sure you buy enough to get you through until the next sale. Most things go on sale every six weeks or so. Some things have longer sale cycles, some things have shorter ones. I always make sure I stock up on baking supplies during the holidays. Flour and butter freeze quite nicely.
Plan your meals around what is in season or on sale. This means you won’t likely have strawberries, watermelon, or raspberries in winter. Occasionally our store does have imported strawberries on sale in winter but I only buy one package as they still aren’t an excellent price. It’s just enough to have a treat and a break from our typical winter fruit. Winter our fruit is usually things like apples, oranges, pears, and bananas.
Frozen produce is a great way to have summer produce in the winter and vice versa. Frozen berries may not be all that great to snack on but they do make excellent smoothies.
Shop outside your traditional stores
You will likely still get the majority of your items at the grocery store and Walmart/Target but keep dollar/discount stores in mind. We get all of our paper products at Dollar General. I can’t beat the prices there anywhere else, especially when I have a coupon. Discount stores like Big Lots are another great opinion. They may not always have the same brands all the time but you can usually find alternatives.
Whenever you are in a discount store, scan the food and baby sections (if applicable). A friend once found organic quinoa baby puffs for $1. That product is usually $2.99. Just be careful that you aren’t spending extra money at these stores because of the deals you can find. Shop with a list, even if that list is just in your head of things that you family usually buys.
Coupons will be your friend if you live in a high cost of living area. (If you’re new to coupons or want a refresher course, I created a coupon guide just for you). You will want to keep an eye out both on coupons for the things you use regularly and things you want to try/special treats. Often a coupon is the reason we will get a treat of special cookies or a new beauty product. Be sure to also pay attention to sales. Whether your stores double coupons or not, pairing a sale with a coupon is one of the easiest ways to save money.
Don’t forget to also incorporate couponing smartphone apps into your couponing. You can often pair a paper coupon with an app, making the savings that much greater. Certain stores also have their own app where they will offer deals. Check if your stores have any apps.
This one isn’t so much a shopping tip but does help stretch the money. Be careful to not waste food. Plan for a leftover night once a week if you have more than can be eaten for lunch the next day. If you have leftover rice, you can freeze it for another time or you can make something like rice pudding. Leftover mashed potatoes can be turned into potato pancakes. Leftover vegetables can be frozen for a later soup or stew. Just get creative with what you have for leftovers to be sure not to throw any away. Yes, you will still have some waste, but put effort into having as little waste as possible.
Living in a high cost of living area doesn’t mean you can’t still keep your grocery bill lower. It does mean it will be higher than some sample grocery budgets you see online but you can still make it work for your family. You will need to be focused and diligent but feeding a family of four on $125/week is possible!
How about you?
- Do you live in an expensive area? What tips do you have for lowering your grocery budget?
Julie is a mom and wife who lives in Maine. She blogs about frugal living and motherhood at Happy Frugal Mama, where her main goal is to help you love life on a tight budget. She loves coffee, Netflix, and a good milkshake. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.