Since I no longer work full time and stay home with our daughter, we certainly don't have as much disposable income. That translates into - I have a budget and I have to live within said budget. At first, it was very hard. I was used to grocery shopping with no thought given to how much I spent in a week. After awhile, it became much easier. But, right after Christmas 2006, I changed my eating habits. I was determined to shed some of the weight that had piled on. And, I have shed some of it and have managed to find a new way to grocery shop on a budget AND still eat healthy.
I'd say my average grocery bill is $60 a week for our family of three. Sometimes, I can get buy with just $20 (eggs, bread, milk, lunch meat - filler products if you will). Other times, I might take what I didn't spend the week before and apply it towards my grocery trip for the week - particularly if there's a great price on meat. Since we have an extra freezer, I make use of it by stocking up on meat when it's on sale, and I still have some extra money in my grocery budget for the month. Recently (well, if you count early April as recent), chicken breasts were buy one, get one free. I bought family sized packs - four in all and spent $20 on it. Then, I split the breasts into smaller freezer baggies. We still have some of that chicken left in our freezer.
One thing that also helps to extend the life of a meat product is to dice it up and put it into the dish, rather than serve the entire breast. You can do this with casseroles, pasta dishes, stir fry, etc.
I also eat a lot of vegetables. Not all fresh, mind you, as that would certainly take my budget through the roof! Rather, I buy tons of frozen vegetables - brocolli, cauliflower, spinach, etc. I can usually find these for $1 per bag or less. The great part is that they won't go bad, so long as you seal up the bag and they're cheap. You can get more out of those bags of vegetables than you can out of a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I use these frozen veggies in so many different ways - making egg white omelettes stuffed with vegetables for instance. My favorite way, though, is to add vegetables to pasta dishes. While pasta is cheap, (even whole wheat that I buy) the serving sizes are actually quite small. In order to feel full, I throw in a ton of vegetables and make myself a rather large dish instead of a small plate. I don't feel deprived and I'm getting in my vegetables.
I do buy some fresh fruits and vegetables. I wait, though, until they are in season. No, I don't get to eat watermelon in the winter, but I do enjoy them in the summer. I also make use of our farm stands along the sides of the roads. I love that this supports local farmers, but I also love that it means I know that what I'm buying is truly fresh, afterall, it hasn't been trucked across the country. And, it's usually a bit cheaper than buying the same item in the grocery store.
Some people seem surprised that I can keep my grocery bills so low. The trick is, not to buy processed foods. I could buy all Lean Cuisines, baked chips, and sugar free-fat free icecreams, but that adds a serious amount of money to my weekly total. Instead, I buy those items with much moderation. I stay away from Lean Cusines and instead buy the bakep chips and ice cream for my husband. I enjoy them as well, but if they weren't in the house, my husband would simply walk to the convenient store and buy the full fat versions. Still, even buying those items in moderation, I can keep my food budget in check.
One other way that I'm able to cut my budget is to have our own garden. I realize it isn't possible for some people to have a full garden, but if it is, it's a great way to cut down on your grocery bill. If you can't do a full garden, you might consider trying to do some container gardening.
I look in the sales flyers each week to see what's on sale. I check which coupons I have and try to incorporate the two together. I'm not a loyal shopper to any one store. Sure, I have my favorites, but I'd rather get a great price on some meat than shop in a certain store. I plan ahead, planning from those sales flyers what we'll eat for the week. Perhaps in a future post, I'll take your through the planning to the final product. I can highlight what I decide to buy based upon the advertisements and planning my menus, all the way to the final grocery store run, complete with receipt.