It probably sounds crazy, especially with the price of food and gas and everything else going higher, but really, it can be done. Groceries for two people for $40 a week.*
I have been brainstorming ways to cut back on our average of three grocery-store runs a week. And those little card-swipes here and there at fast food places because we have no food in the house. It's time to apply some method and the best way I could think to do it, is to budget myself $40 in cash a week for groceries. If we end up buying a little more one week because of a sale on meat or stocking up on long-lasting staples such as rice or butter, then the next week we spend a little less on items that pair with the previously bought staples. Plus, any time I have cash in my hand, I am way more conscious of what is in my cart, and more critical about what makes it in. Will we really finish off that bag of salad, or would we end up eating carrot sticks instead?
Here are some thoughts on shopping list items and how I (and you!) can incorporate them into meals.
Milk -> One gallon a week, maybe even every week and a half. We use it with cereal and some box-mixes for cornbread or mac-n-cheese. We also drink it by the glass, so we will have to learn how to cut back on the moo-juice and drink more water. Less calories though!
Eggs-> Buy, and eat lots of them! I'm more of a hard boiled girl myself, even by themselves or with crackers and some veggies. Any time you can eat breakfast for dinner, (eggs, biscuits, grits, bacon etc.) you will keep the grocery budget low. Most breakfast foods are super cheap, and simple to cook, so stock up on those basics.
Bread -> You can usually find bread cheap just about anywhere, but T.W. and I have had the hardest time finishing a loaf of cheap bread. It's just not satisfying in taste or texture to me! I may start trying to bake bread in the crockpot soon and see if we have a better taste for home made bread. (Honestly, who doesn't!?) It should come out at about the same price or cheaper for a loaf of home made as it does for the store bought.
Sandwich meats -> We get ours from Aldi. Some of it isn't that great, but they have some more 'deli fresh' selections in the plastic tubs. Depending on your priorities on groceries you can spend more or less here. We tend to buy meats less often, so it's not a big deal if it doesn't make it in the cart every week.
Soups -> The best way to stock up for lunches at work/school. If I can only remind T.W. To take them with him! The days of Ramen-esque meals are still with us right now. Just watch the sodium count on the labels! Some stores like whole foods and earth fare sell lower-sodium dry mix noodle soups for fairly cheap that are health(ier).
Rice -> A poor man's best friend. All over the world. And there's a reason! It fills you up, it goes with nearly everything, and can be incorporated as a filler in some things to beef up a meal from lunch-like to a full dinner. I will sometimes cook a cup of it for myself with just butter and salt for a quick dinner when T.W. is in class. I'm also lazy most nights after getting home from work. Can you tell I'm easy to please?
Meats -> Typically we don't eat a ton of meat. I recently bought two porkloins on a buy one get one free special at Harris Teeter, and put one in the freezer, while making the other one last for three different meals. Ground beef is usually the meat I buy the most, either at Trader Joes prepackaged by the lb, or at Food Lion in 2 lb "tubes". I'll cook half and freeze the other half. Tacos, "greek pitas" and spaghetti are all cheap ways to have meat but also make it go a long way so you have leftovers for lunches. Buying meat frequently will probably take you over your $40 a week budget, but if you even it out the next week it's not so bad.
Vegetables/ Fruit -> Buy in season. If you can buy in bulk even better. I usually buy the bag of apples instead of picking them individually. Trader Joes (if you live near one) has the best and cheapest bananas, and if you buy frozen vegetables for incorporating into casseroles and such you really won't notice too much of a difference. They're definitely better than canned fruits and veggies, which I try to stay away from.
Cereals/Breakfast food -> T.W. and I are usually pressed for time by the time we get ready and have to head out the door. I just get a bowl of cereal most mornings, or an english muffin with (guess what?) butter. I will sometimes change it up and use peanut butter. Ha-ha! At any rate, we are not super concerned about processed foods. Perhaps we should be, but at this point in our lives we are more concerned about the state of our bank account than the preservatives in our snacks.
If you are super conscious about the fake in your food try buying oats, nuts and dried food in bulk (another shopping trip that might break the $40 for one week) and make your own granola, or buy cups of yogurt for $.85 at Aldi and mix in some oats or that more expensive oatmeal brand so you can make it last longer. Breakfast bars can be of course, a breakfast item, and also an afternoon snack. The more you can make food items do double triple or quadruple duty (like eggs) the better!
All things considered, (personal taste, the amount you actually work out and how often you cook full blown meals) you should aim for $40. Of course, life happens. You may want to bake a cake for a friend's birthday, or you may have a rough day at work and want a pint of icecream to help you cope. By all means, don't feel guilty when you want to grab those extra items. If you average $40 a week, you will have saved so much money that little extra purchases here and there won't kill your budget. If the norm is frugal, occasional (reasonable!) splurges are perfectly ok. Life isn't one big punishment!
I know couponing is a whole other thing that can bring your cart's total down a good bit. I just don't take advantage of it. That will be my next project. Clipping coupons for toiletries and other essentials!
Just curious, do you all get creative with your grocery shopping? Have you found helpful ways to keep to a budget? Leave a comment, I'd love to know what they are!
* This post is in no way an exact how-to. These are just ideas for getting your grocery budget down. Also, I don't strive to buy organic. It's just a fact that organic is more expensive, and therefore not an option for us right now. Someday maybe we will be able to afford more food from Whole foods, but for now it's Aldi and other cheap grocery store alternatives. ;)