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Monday, March 11, 2019

The Very Low Grocery Budget

A blog friend wrote to me over the weekend, asking for suggestions for managing a shrinking grocery budget. Without going into details of my friend's situation, I replied, "yes, this is something to which I can very much relate."

About a week ago, I found out that our income would be cut significantly. We have about 2 months advance notice, but I believe that this is no time to delay implementing changes. So, for the foreseeable future, we have cut our food-only grocery budget to $125 per month. To give perspective, my grocery spending had hovered around $225 to $250 per month for the last year. Essentially, right now we have to halve this area of spending. When we sat around talking and asking ourselves if we could do this, the answer was that we don't have any choice right now. So, yes I believe that with God's help, we can do this. What I said to my family was that there would always be plenty of food in the kitchen. It may not be their first choice, but it would be healthful and as delicious as I could make it.

In the coming few weeks, I'll share some of the changes that we have implemented to help reduce our costs. The first is something that has been evolving in our house over the past year and a half and will now be an official part of our plan. You may know, my young adult daughters live at home. Both of them are working currently, and as such, they each have some disposable income. They buy their own "special" foods. If they want a food item that is not on my regular list or within my budget, they know to buy it themselves. This may be chips, chicken nuggets, all-beef hot dogs, pizza rolls, or a particular brand of cookies. They pay for it, and it is theirs. Yes, our cabinets, freezers, and fridge have packages labeled in Sharpie with names, and we all respect each other's property. I believe that this has been a really good experience for them. The two of them are learning to shop smartly and weigh whether or not a particular food-want is truly worth it. So, that was one of my first suggestions to my friend, as I know she has a 17-year old at home who has a part time job. Giving pizza, burger, soda money to her teen could be something that she could let go of. When I was a teen, if I wanted something that my mother wasn't planning on buying for the family, it was up to me to buy it for myself with babysitting money in the early years and part time job money later on.

How we stand right now -- we pretty much depleted our surplus stores of food in February, so I'd say we are close to the position of any other family with a sudden loss of income. I have shopped at 2 of the 3 stores in which I plan on shopping for the month of March and have spent about $87 of the $125. I came across an unheard of price for ground beef a week ago, at 85 cents per pound on mark down, with my Senior discount and stacked with a coupon. This is my stock-up item for the month. I bought 21 pounds at that price. Choosing one especially low-cost item for the month and stocking up on it was my second suggestion to my friend. Had it not been for the ground beef, I would have chosen a 50-lb bag of pinto beans as a stock-up item. I'll save that for next month when my budget is replenished.

Speaking of -- I must go tend to my pot of beans. That's all for now. Hope you are well.


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your upcoming reduced income. I think you are smart to start saving more on food now. If anyone can pull this off,it's you! And you're right, that is an amazing deal on ground beef.

    I will be praying for you to be able to keep up with the mental and emotional energy it will take for you to adapt to your new budget.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you. I'm hoping that by saving beginning now that we can put a little aside for when the reduction takes place. And thank you for your prayers. I really, really appreciate that.

  2. It seems that isn't the first time your family's budget has taken a hit since you have been sharing on your blog. So sorry to hear it. If anyone can handle it, you can, but I know it gets very tiring being so vigilant.

    I have a question. How does the revenue from the ads on your sidebar work? Do you get credit for hits to the sites or does there have to be a purchase? I don't buy much, but I'd be happy to visit sites if that would help.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      no, this isn't the first. Good memory. In 2013 our income was cut by 30%. We never fully recovered from that cut. This one will take us even lower than that one did, so I am a little worried. I remind myself that it's all in God's hands, and that helps with the worry. But, you're right, it can be wearisome. We're going to be okay. In the end analysis, my problems are 1st world problems. Feeling sorry for myself because I can't have everything I want is just a waste of time.

      As for the ads, there are 2 kinds, here. Amazon and the others. The Amazon ones require a purchase through the link (not necessarily what's advertised, though). The others require visiting the sites. It's kind of you to offer to visit the sites, but if you have better things to do, I can relate! Thank you, though.

  3. I can relate to a sudden loss of income. We experienced that when my dad passed away suddenly last fall. Although we received only reimbursement for his food and personal expenses, one of the expenses we jointly shared was supporting our adult grandson through his college years with non tuition expenses. It's been an adjustment to see our savings go negative for the first time in a very long time. Next year should go back to positive, I hope. I have drafted a lean budget for ourselves through December, but I am not good as you are about sticking to it. Our food budget is $275. And for the past two months we have overspent, however, we did stock up on $2.50/lb round beef roasts and clearanced holiday treats. The beef is tough, but OK if marinated first. I like that cut because it is very lean.

    Your daughters are wonderful, and you have taught them well. I am frugal, but very loose goosey about adhering to budgets. I view money as a tool, to be used proactively, and that has always provided me the rationale to spend more than foreseen. But the one thing I also do without fail is examine every dollar spent at the end of the month on a spreadsheet, listing each purchase, date, store, quantity and price. This is when I discuss with my husband about the virtue of making each purchase, the pros and cons of whether we would buy it again. So I am ok about not keeping firm budgets. Seems like a lot of work, but when done timely it is not. This spreadsheet is the basis for all sorts of recordkeeping like my bargain unit price sheet so I know a bargain when I see one.


    1. Hi YHF,
      I think you hit upon part of the difficulty that this situation presents -- seeing the savings going down when for many years it has only gone up. That's disconcerting, I think because there's this fear that our savings will enter a free fall. Console yourself with knowing that you are giving your grandson a huge boost in his financial life by supporting him through college. So many students are needing to take out significant student loans, or choose to sacrifice study time in order to work to pay their rent or buy food. It's wonderful that you are helping your grandson this way. It sounds like you have a good plan for the rest of the year's budget/spending.

      I think about you and the loss of your dad often. I can imagine that there is an empty place in your life and home with him gone. There is a lot of grief to work through when you lose a parent, and I think it's even more difficult when you had been living with that parent and spent time with them daily. I keep you in my prayers.

    2. Thank you so much for keeping me in your prayers because this past year has been especially difficult. It seems these days we are not at peace on a personal as well as universal level. Everything suddenly seems an uncertainty. I read your comment to l&l about worldly problems, and I understand maybe what your worries could be. I'm hoping everything works out for you too, and there will be world peace in our future. After all, the great thinkers of our past viewed conflict as part of the process as we work toward dominance and unity. One way or the other, unity is the way forward. I was reading my notes on the subject many years ago, from a book on color and design, written by Maitland Graves, c1951. Wish I took better notes (pre computer days) because I don't know who that great thinker was, possibly Plato? Anyway that's the principle in art and in life as well.


  4. Lili,

    Thank you for being very real and honest. That's what I love about you and your blog.

    When I was growing up, I also had to pay for any "extra" items that I wanted. My son does that now but he does get to eat our meals with us. The two girls live on their own and buy everything with very little help from us. We help a little because one lives in another country and the other is in grad school in another state with no job.

    We are trying to reduce our monthly spending on food but when we find a deal, we do stock up so our monthly totals aren't actual for the month. Hubby is a bit of an impulse buyer so I have to be very deliberate to NOT shop on weekends with him.

    Is your reduction for a month only or a couple of months? Praying for you, my friend.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Your arrangement with your son is like that with my daughters. We have daily family meals, and they can choose anything they want from the kitchen for their lunches and breakfasts. But if they want something different from what's there, they know to buy it. It's sort of a lead in for when they are on their own and buying all of their own foods. And I think we'll do the same as you when they are on their own, and help a little if they need it, such as working a rewarding job that doesn't necessarily pay very well, or if they go on for more schooling.

      While I love have company when I shop, I think I'm more likely to stick to my list when I'm by myself. I get what I need and get out of there.

      Thank you for your prayers. I truly appreciate them. The period for our income reduction is indefinite until we find another way to bring in more money (I'm looking for work in my field, too).

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  6. I just found your blog today. We have had our income cut by over 50% when I left full time employment last year. My anxiety was skyrocketing. I find myself worried about money quite often. I did take a part time job.
    I will pray for you. Will you pray for me?

    1. Hi Lee Ann,
      Welcome. I hope you can find some ideas to help your situation, here. I fully understand the money-worries. I am working at turning it over to God as much as I can. Your part time job should be a help, financially and keeping your mind occupied so you worry less. I will pray for you and appreciate any prayers you can give for me. What I have seen in my own life is that God shows me ways to get through these difficult times. He provides! Just tonight, the 4 of us went out for the free ice cream cones at Dairy Queen. I had planned on using the last of this month's budget to buy ice cream for my family. Just a couple of days after I had thought about buying a small container of ice cream, I "stumbled upon" the DQ website and found out about the cone free day. When I didn't know how we'd afford much meat this month, I "stumbled upon" a large amount of ground beef marked down to an unreal price (I stacked a coupon plus a Senior Discount and paid 85 cents per pound). I say that I stumbled upon these deals, but I know that I was led to them. I tell you this to give you hope. You will get through this. Saying a prayer for you.


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